One dead, 11 injured in east German gas blast

Firefighters work at the site of an apartment building explosion in Blankenburg

BLANKENBURG, Germany (Reuters) - Gas canisters were found in an apartment where a blast occurred early on Friday in the eastern German city of Blankenburg, killing one person and injuring 11 others, one of them severely, the city's mayor said.

The deceased victim was believed to be a 78-year-old man who was renting the property where the cannisters were found, officials said at a press conference, though this could not be confirmed until the body had been retrieved.

Another victim had been taken to hospital with severe burn wounds. Several police had been treated for smoke inhalation.

"We were all confronted with a picture of devastation when we arrived," mayor Heiko Breithaupt told a news conference held in a nearby school, recounting his arrival shortly after the explosion at 9 local time (0855 GMT).

Police said that their earlier belief that war munitions had been found on the scene had not been borne out on closer inspection.

In an indication of the scale of the blast, one fireman told reporters that on rushing to the scene after the blast he found three people lying unconscious on the road outside.

The blast had torn through one section of the five-storey building, causing damage on both the street and courtyard sides. The 50 people living there would all need to be rehoused, Breithaupt said, adding that the building's structural stability was currently being checked.

Officials believed the gas cannisters, which may have been used to supplement the house's district heating, had caused the blast. Police were being assisted by specialist explosives teams.

The area around the property was sealed off and nearby residents were evacuated, including children at a local nursery. None of the children were hurt, police said.

Photos showed a communist-era residential block with smoke rising from blackened, twisted window-frames on the second floor.

Blankenburg is a city in the hilly Harz district, in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt.


(Reporting by Reuters TV, writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Toby Chopra)

  • Russia not welcome at G7, Canada's Trudeau says
    News
    Reuters

    Russia not welcome at G7, Canada's Trudeau says

    Canada does not support Russia's return to the Group of Seven, proposed by U.S. President Donald Trump over the weekend, because Moscow continues to flout international law, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday. "Russia was excluded from the G7 after it invaded Crimea a number of years ago, and its continued disrespect and flaunting of international rules and norms is why it remains outside of the G7, and it will continue to remain out," Trudeau said during his daily news conference. Trump said on Saturday he would postpone a Group of Seven summit he had hoped to hold next month until at least September and expand the list of invitees to include Australia, Russia, South Korea and India.

  • Security footage retrieved from highrise where Toronto woman fell to her death
    News
    CBC

    Security footage retrieved from highrise where Toronto woman fell to her death

    Ontario's police watchdog says it has reviewed security camera footage and interviewed the officers who were at the Toronto highrise where 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet fell to her death — after what her family says was a 911 call that went terribly wrong.But neither the footage nor the interviews will be made public, for now. "While the investigation is ongoing, the details … will not be released in an effort to ensure the memories of other potential witnesses are not tainted," the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) said in a news release Monday.The SIU said it has interviewed six officers and four civilian witnesses. It expects to interview the family later this week.  The update comes after thousands of people took to the streets on Saturday to demand answers about the death of Korchinski-Paquet, who was black, and to protest the deaths of an unarmed black people at the hands of police.Questions have swirled since Korchinski-Paquet's death with her family, community advocates and various politicians asking what exactly happened in the moments leading up to her 24-storey fall from the balcony of her family's apartment.An online petition calling for transparency in the investigation has amassed over 161,000 signatures.Concerns about role of raceKorchinski-Paquet's relatives have said they worry race played a role in her death too, citing the cases of Andrew Loku in 2015 and of D'Andre Campbell who was fatally shot by police in nearby Brampton, in April, after what the SIU called a "domestic situation." Campbell's family said he suffered from mental illness."The family is extremely concerned that in recent times people with mental health distress issues across North America are ending up dead after interactions with the police," their lawyer Knia Singh said last week. A CBC News investigation found black people made up 36.5 per cent of fatalities involving Toronto police, despite accounting for just 8.3 per cent of the city's population, in the period from 2000-17.Korchinski-Paquet was an active member of her church, a talented gymnast and proud of her Ukrainian and Nova Scotian roots, her family's lawyer said.In the past five years, however, she began experiencing epilepsy, with the family sometimes requiring help from police, according to Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders.Saunders has said police were called to the apartment where Korchinski-Paquet lived with her family on May 27 by multiple reports of an assault.Two of those calls stated that a knife was involved, according to the chief, but the family has said there was no assault underway or knife present when police arrived.Korchinski-Paquet, her brother and mother met police in the hallway of their apartment, Saunders said, and "words were exchanged" between her and officers.  Not long afterward, she asked to enter the apartment unit to use the bathroom. Police followed her inside, but did not allow her mother or brother to enter, the family has said.Within a minute or two, Singh said, the family heard a commotion inside the apartment. "Mom, help. Mom, help," were the final words her mother would hear her say before they heard silence, according to the family. Police officers confirmed minutes later Korchinski-Paquet was dead. In the immediate aftermath, Korchinski-Paquet's mother and cousin took to social media in a series of emotional video statements pointing fingers at police, saying they believed she had been pushed. Singh has since said those accusations would not be part of the family's official statement, but that they would instead wait for the evidence before coming to any further conclusions. Calls to fund body camerasAt a news conference last week, Korchiniski-Paquet's mother, Claudette Korchinski-Beals, said she'd sought help from the police for her daughter before, but that never had so many officers turned out as they did Wednesday. The family's lawyer has said five to eight officers were present.Toronto's police chief revealed Friday police did not send a crisis intervention team to the scene. Saunders said weapons-related calls take the highest priority, so front-line officers respond to them first. "There's no way I would put a nurse in the middle of a knife fight," he said. The chief would not say if any of the 911 calls about Korchinski-Paquet referenced mental health, but did say there was some discussion about seizures.Korchinski-Beals has said she asked officers to take her daughter to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.Saunders has said police are not "legally permitted to discuss the incident" because of the SIU investigation underway, urging calm and warning of "opportunists" seeking to fill in the blanks with misinformation. The SIU is an arm's-length civilian oversight agency that investigates deaths, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault involving police.The chief has also said the death might be "a textbook case in which body cameras should be provided," saying he'd like to see the technology begin to roll out in the third-quarter of the year.Meanwhile Ontario's Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca issued a letter to Premier Doug Ford calling for the province to provide funding to any police force prepared to deploy body cameras, adding the privacy commissioner should be consulted to ensure the use of the cameras adheres to guidelines.CBC News requested a response from the premier's office on Del Duca's letter, but instead got a written statement from the provincial solicitor general's office saying only that it's up to police departments to decide whether to deploy the devices."Police services and Chiefs of Police have the authority to use the tools and resources they deem necessary to ensure community safety in the jurisdictions they serve," Stephen Warner, spokesperson for Solicitor-General Sylvia Jones, wrote Monday night. "We have confidence in police services to make the appropriate decisions and take the necessary steps to keep their communities safe, as well as maintain trust and accountability," the statement read.Ford addressed the protests in the U.S. and in parts of Canada in his daily briefing Monday saying, "racism and hatred have no place in our province.""We must acknowledge this pain," he said. "Many of these issues are deeply rooted. They stem  from a history of racism and abuse … but it is only by facing them, it is only be working together that we can begin to address them.

  • Edmonton police launch review after officer posts photo of drug arrest
    News
    CBC

    Edmonton police launch review after officer posts photo of drug arrest

    The Edmonton Police Service is reviewing an incident in which an officer posted a photo of two officers posing with a shirtless and handcuffed man who was arrested while allegedly high on drugs."This fine young man was so thrilled with the service we provided him that he wanted to commemorate the moment with a picture," stated the caption on the photo posted to EPS Const. Mike Roblin's Instagram account on May 9. "Just kidding, he was so high he thought he was on Mars," read the caption, which included the hashtags summertimepolicing and dontdodrugskids.Dr. Haquike Virani, a specialist in addiction and public health at the University of Alberta, said the posted photo of the posed prisoner was "heartbreaking, disappointing, repulsive, infuriating.""Disappointing because I do know some police officers who are sincerely trying to understand and help people who are struggling with substances [abuse], poverty or homelessness," said Virani, who also has an inner-city clinic.Virani said incidents like this will make it more difficult to reach out to "excluded populations.""This is not the type of thing that helps us earn their confidence and trust. And I worry that it will push those folks further out to the margins and not give us access to help," he said.Virani said if anyone in the medical profession did something similar there would be serious consequences. He said the officer who posted the photo had no concerns about publicly ridiculing a person with addiction issues."It makes me concerned about what happens when we're not looking," he said. "And that resonates with the stories that I hear from patients who have had encounters with police officers."Lawyer calls for formal investigationEdmonton criminal defence lawyer Tom Engel called the photo and behaviour of the officers "despicable.""They seem to try to use the cover that they are warning kids not to use drugs," said Engel, whose law firm specializes in police misconduct cases. He is also the chair of the policing committee of the Criminal Trial Lawyers' Association of Alberta. "But that is not really what is going on here.""They have sought to deliberately humiliate this person and to make a mockery of him.""This is just despicable behaviour by these two officers and it portrays a despicable attitude. It is something that the chief of police has to root out in the Edmonton Police Service."Engel said the officers in the photo, who have not been identified, would never dare post a photo of anyone "who they thought could stand up for themselves or have anybody who would stand up for them."Edmonton police conducting reviewThe photo has been deleted from Roblin's account, but a citizen captured it and complained to the service's professional standards branch on May 11.The citizen recently contacted Engel because they believed the EPS was not taking the complaint seriously.Engel said the fact that Roblin blacked out the person's face before posting it reduces the breach of his privacy, but it doesn't eliminate it because the man himself, and others, may still recognize who he is had they seen the posted photo.EPS spokesperson Patrycja Mokrzan confirmed that its professional standards branch had been "made aware of the post" on May 11.But Mokrzan did not refer to it as a complaint. Instead, she said "the concern has been assigned to the named officer's work area for review and determination of the appropriate outcome. This concern is still being reviewed and has not yet been concluded."Engel said EPS is attempting to avoid dealing with the matter as a formal complaint that would require the chief to direct a full disciplinary investigation. A formal investigation would also be subject to potential future review by the provincial Law Enforcement Review Board if the complainant did not agree with the chief's ruling on the matter.Engel said it is unacceptable to deal with this informally because Roblin has a disciplinary record. Officer has disciplinary recordA judge found Roblin guilty of assault causing bodily harm for a 2015 incident in which a fellow EPS member was punched at a wedding party and suffered a serious concussion.The judge granted Roblin a conditional discharge, but he later pleaded guilty to discreditable conduct at an internal disciplinary hearing on Jan. 31, 2017. Roblin is also one of several officers now being investigated by the professional standards branch for conducting a search without a warrant of the property of a well-known inner-city slum landlord and convicted drug dealer.In 2019, the Law Enforcement Review Board ordered the police to re-investigate after it found the original investigation was substandard.Engel said if Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee doesn't deal with this as a formal complaint under the provincial Police Act, which would require a proper investigation and transparent reporting of its findings, then the provincial director of law enforcement "should step in and take over the investigation.""I don't know what kind of training or what kind of culture [these officers] come from within the police service," Engel said, "but I think the chief has to deal with this very harshly."If you have information about this story, or information for another story, please contact us in confidence at cbcinvestigates@cbc.ca@charlesrusnell

  • Israeli defence chief says he's preparing for consequences of West Bank annexations
    News
    Reuters

    Israeli defence chief says he's preparing for consequences of West Bank annexations

    Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said on Monday he ordered the military to step up preparations for Israel's pending annexation of parts of the West Bank, a plan that could stoke Palestinian violence. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to begin cabinet discussions on July 1 on extending Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, occupied territory that Palestinians seek for a state. Gantz's directive appeared to indicate that the centrist politician had either signed on to the move, or at least believed it would be inevitable, given right-wing support in the Netanyahu-led coalition cabinet.

  • B.C. teachers raise alarm about going back to classes after COVID-19 cases in Quebec schools
    News
    CBC

    B.C. teachers raise alarm about going back to classes after COVID-19 cases in Quebec schools

    As students from across British Columbia head back to class on a voluntary basis today, some teachers say their employer is giving them little choice but to return to work in what they call an unsafe environment. This comes after at least 41 staff and students in Quebec tested positive for COVID-19 in the first two weeks after elementary schools outside the Montreal area reopened."I find it really unfortunate and very offensive, actually, because I think parents have the right to know [that] we can't ensure that your kids are going to be socially distant all day in a classroom," said one teacher from the North Vancouver School District.CBC News has agreed not to name the teacher as she fears speaking out could cost her her job.She has mapped out her class with measuring tape and says there's not enough space for kids socially distance in it. Other than directional tape on the floor, she says, there's no other means to help kids keep a safe distance.Staggered schedulesThe North Vancouver School District told CBC News that while the directive to stay two metres apart should be followed, "it may not be feasible and is not expected at all times in the school setting."The district added that classroom composition has been arranged "in thoughtful ways" with staggered schedules to reduce density with more time outside.B.C.'s Ministry of Education said limits on the number of children "should help kids social distance." For kindergarten to Grade 5, up to 50 per cent of students are allowed in the school at once. In higher grades, the limit is just 20 per cent.The ministry added that some classrooms will need to be amalgamated to make up for some teachers not returning. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has dismissed concerns about schools reopening. "We know how to deal with this, we know that it is not easily spread, and we know we can prevent it by putting in place the measures that we have in our schools."  Teachers seeking accommodationsTeachers who do not feel safe returning say they feel there's little choice. The North Vancouver teacher says her employer is providing little accommodation even for those who are immune-compromised. That means instead of being able to work from home, teachers who feel unsafe to go back or who cannot access childcare, in some cases must go on unpaid leave or use sick days. Nicole Jarvis, a teacher at the École Salish Secondary School thinks reopening is a good idea but doesn't think everyone should be forced to return to the workplace."I am deeply hoping that colleagues who have requested work from home accommodations will be granted so," Jarvis said.It's something the B.C. Teachers Federation also has concerns about."It's been a bit of a struggle, because the reasons why people are seeking accommodations [are] different under a pandemic, including child care being closed because because of COVID-19," said Terri Mooring, president of the B.C. Teachers Federation.Mooring added that the problem of teachers being granted accommodation in a timely manner is that there is a much larger number of teachers seeking it in a very short time period. But she said that "it is incumbent upon the employer to provide accommodations to members with appropriate medical information from their doctor to the point of undue hardship." B.C. School Trustees Association president Stephanie Higginson says not every person who doesn't want to return to work will be accommodated."It's just not possible, nor would it be the responsible thing to do," said Higginson.She stresses that public health officials and scientists have deemed B.C. classes safe to return to. No budget increaseThe Ministry of Education said there will be no budget increases to support teachers or custodians for the June reopening, however according to Higginson and Mooring, districts are getting creative.According to Mooring, since the pandemic hit and schools closed, some now have a surplus after needing fewer supply teachers and fewer bus drivers, for example. She says some of that surplus can be used for additional custodians and cleaning supplies.Other districts have moved custodial schedules.  "We've switched the shifts so our night-time cleaning staff is doing the cleaning in the day and then we'll have more of a skeleton crew on at night," said Jarvis, who is also a union representative with local 36 of the BCTF.She also added that teachers can ask the custodians for cleaning supplies if they want to do extra cleaning in high-traffic areas. Teachers won't be provided with personal protective equipment, according to their employer, but they are able to bring their own, saying provincial health guidelines say that hand washing and surface cleaning are more effective at combating the virus.

  • SpaceX crew captures jaw-dropping view of space station during approach
    Science
    Rumble

    SpaceX crew captures jaw-dropping view of space station during approach

    The SpaceX Crew Dragon 'Endeavour' captured jaw-dropping views of the International Space Station during its approach on May 31st, ,2020. Credit to 'NASA/SpaceX'.

  • Woman sentenced in toddler's death says sorry to 'every single person' she hurt
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Woman sentenced in toddler's death says sorry to 'every single person' she hurt

    EDMONTON — A woman who was sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison for her role in the death of a toddler found outside an Edmonton church says she's sorry to everyone she hurt.But she could not explain why she did what she did."I don't know why," Tasha-Lee Mack said between sobs at her sentencing hearing Monday in the Court of Queen's Bench. "It was like an out-of-body experience."I don't know why I did it. It's not me. I love kids."Mack, 28, was convicted last November of manslaughter for the death of 19-month-old Anthony Joseph Raine, who was found dead outside Good Shepherd Anglican Church in April 2017. His father, Joey Crier, was found guilty of manslaughter in a separate trial.Mack was sentenced Monday by Justice Rob Graesser."There is no doubt that the act that killed Anthony was brutal," he said in delivering the sentence.Graesser said Mack was convicted for failing to take steps to protect Anthony and in failing to take him for medical attention."These were not fleeting things," he said.Mack's trial had heard that Anthony, who was being cared for by her and Crier, went from being a chunky, happy boy to "skin and bones" in a matter of months.Court was told he suffered abuse before a fatal blow to his head and his abandonment behind the church.There was no evidence Mack struck Anthony, but Graesser said the woman consciously decided not to seek medical advice and instead spent hours "finding a place to dump Anthony dead or alive."Crown prosecutor Monica Sabo asked for a 10- to 12-year sentence, while defence lawyer Ajay Juneja suggested his client's sentence should be six years because she has severe psychological issues.Prior to being sentenced, Mack spoke to the court for at least 20 minutes."I understand what I did was wrong," she said. "The only way to make up for it is to make sure it never happens again. I have learned my lesson."Mack then apologized."I am sorry to every single person I've hurt," she said. "I really mean that."Earlier Monday, court heard victim impact statements from Anthony's family — including his mother, Dalyce Raine.Raine said in her statement that she doesn't think she'll ever be able to forgive the people responsible for her son's death."I entrusted the care of my son to Joey and I thought he was in good care," she said in her statement.Raine, who said Mack and Crier took so much from her, questioned why Crier didn't bring Anthony back to her."I wish I could see his face and see his smile one more time," she said.Raine said she doesn't wish hate on Mack or Crier, but she said they deserve to be behind bars."You should not be able to be free," she said in her statement. "I don't think I'll ever forgive you people for what you did."Raine and other family members said Anthony's death divided their community."It hurts and it beats me up inside," she said.Crier has not yet been sentenced, but a judge has said he will reduce Crier's overall sentence, because he has been assaulted in jail and spends much of his time in segregated custody.Mack's sentence was reduced by a year due to difficult conditions in the remand centre. She also received credit for time served, meaning she has five years left in her sentence.Both Mack and Crier were initially charged with second-degree murder.This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2020Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

  • Temporary foreign worker dies due to COVID-19 as disease hits southwestern Ontario farms hard
    Health
    CBC

    Temporary foreign worker dies due to COVID-19 as disease hits southwestern Ontario farms hard

    A temporary foreign worker from Mexico who came to Canada to work on a farm in Ontario died on Saturday due to COVID-19, as farms in the southwestern part of the province become a major driver for a spike in new cases. The 31-year-old man had no underlying health issues, said medical officer of health for the Windsor Essex County Health Unit, Dr. Wajid Ahmed. "Any of these workers who are self-isolating, our team gets in touch with them on a regular basis, almost daily, and we do provide them with translation service," said Ahmed. "We do provide them with some written information in their own native language to help them understand all the details, what's next step to do, how to reach out to us, to EMS or to call for help if they need any of these things, and we do monitor symptoms."The man was self-isolating in a hotel room before he called emergency services and went to the hospital, said Ahmed. In the last few weeks, workers who were not able to safely self-isolate in bunkhouses provided by their employers were moved to hotels, the health unit reported. Steve Laurie is responsible for the facilitation of temporary foreign workers to Woodside Greenhouses Inc., the pepper farm in Kingsville, Ont. where the man worked. Laurie, who said the man's name is Bonifacio Eugenio-Romero, said he took the man to the hospital on May 21 for treatment and a COVID-19 test after he said he had a fever. By May 23, the test came back showing the man had COVID-19, said Laurie, and all migrant workers who the man worked closely with were put into a hotel. Laurie said the man was put into a room by himself.On May 25, Laurie said the health unit tested the 22 other workers at the facility. Of those, two came back positive, two need to be retested and the remaining were negative.By Saturday, Eugenio-Romero had trouble breathing and was taken to hospital by EMS, both the health unit and Laurie confirmed.Laurie said 30 minutes later, the man died, leaving his co-workers upset and worried. "They're rattled," he said. "It's been a wake-up call for a lot of them."Laurie added workers would sometimes hide their symptoms so as to not miss pay, but that the company did daily wellness checks which included checking for a fever. "It's definitely been scary," said Laurie. "You hope these things won't happen to you or anyone you know."In a statement to CBC News, the Ministry of Labour said it is investigating the death. The Consulate of Mexico in Toronto said it is working with Eugenio-Romero's family for the repatriation of his body.Workers feel 'unsafe,' says union representativeSantiago Escobar, national representative for the United Food and Commercial Workers union in Canada, said he received a call about one month ago from workers at Woodside Greenhouses who said they were concerned because they had a lack of information and proper equipment to protect them from getting infected. He said he provided workers with pamphlets in Spanish to help educate them on protecting themselves.But Escobar wants the public to know which farms are under an outbreak — something the Windsor-Essex health unit will not do. "I don't know why they don't want to be open about this information, but we have spoken about these issues in the past and we think we have witnesses that employers are not providing enough information and personal protective equipment and also these workers are not able to practice social distancing," he said. Escobar said overcrowded housing units and a failure to meet provincial and federal standards for housing make the spread of the virus very easy. "Unfortunately we're witnessing that a lot of employers are not complying with the regulations they are supposed to follow," he said, adding many workers from the Windsor-Essex region have reached out because they do not feel safe at their jobs. Chris Ramsaroop, an organizer for the advocacy group, Justice for Migrant Farm Workers. said both levels of government must be held to account for "decades of inaction that have only intensified poor working and living conditions.""This death and the countless workers who are sick is not simply a tragedy it's negligence by politicians who sacrifice the needs of vulnerable workers while appeasing the interests of the regions powerful agricultural lobby," Ramsaroop said in an email to CBC News.Farms hit hard by COVID-19The news of the man's death comes after major spikes in the numbers of COVID-19 cases popped up at farms in the southwestern Ontario region. In Windsor-Essex, 175 — about 18 per cent — of all COVID-19 cases have been among farm workers from 17 different farms in the region. The Windsor Essex County Health Unit would not confirm which farms or businesses the workers were at, saying the public was not at risk because of these outbreaks. A farm operation in Norfolk County, south of Simcoe, declared a COVID-19 outbreak this weekend, after 85 migrant workers tested positive for the virus.The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit said Sunday that five workers have been hospitalized and approximately 25 others who tested positive are showing symptoms of the virus.The migrant workers are employed by Scotlynn Group in Vittoria, a major producer of sweet corn, watermelon, asparagus and pumpkins. Many workers are from Mexico.A farm in St. Thomas, Ontario Plants Propagation, had 20 people associated with it test positive this past week and is still waiting on test results for others. In that case, two health units are involved in contact tracing, as the workers lived in London but travelled daily to the Elgin County farm. Chatham-Kent's health unit reported 145 cases of COVID-19 for that community, with the majority of them linked to an outbreak at Greenhill Produce. There are now 101 workers at Greenhill Produce who have tested positive for COVID-19. An outbreak was investigated at the end of April, when about 40 cases of the disease were discovered among workers at the greenhouse operation, which also grows peppers. The health unit said those cases were contracted locally, as many of the workers had been in the country anywhere from a few months to one year. Only six of those cases are still active, according to CK Public Health. Another 95 workers have recovered.During a news conference Monday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he would address the issue of infection among migrant workers with public health officials, both to ensure the workers get tested to keep them safe, and to keep the supply chain safe.When asked if the province would consider increasing inspections and changing laws regarding communal living in cramped bunk houses, Ford said "that's something we can put on the table.""I've been there and seen the congregate living on these farms. Can we do it a month or so? I just don't think that's a reality," said Ford."What we can do is go in and test frequently. I think it's critical that we do. First, we'll do a test and another test in a week and continue testing to keep those people safe and keep the food and supply chain safe as well."The premier added that more information will be provided in the coming days."We'll be asking public health and Ontario health to start going in there and focusing on the migrant workers that are here. There's quite a few of them."Feds fast-track foreign workers' permits to fill labour gapsLast month, the federal government began fast-tracking approvals for temporary foreign workers already in Canada, to make them available to fill labour gaps in critical sectors such as agriculture and health care during the pandemic.The government is allowing workers who meet certain qualifications, to start work as soon as they secure new employment while they wait for their new permit to go through, cutting down the time it takes for approvals from ten weeks or more down to ten days or less.The goal is to help employers in the agriculture, agri-food and health care sectors meet urgent needs for additional employees during the global health crisis.At the time of that decision, immigration lawyer Eddie Kadri told CBC News he applauds the move but says caution also must be taken to ensure the health and safety of the workers."It's a Band-Aid to stop the bleeding," said Kadri. "But we have to make sure that these workers are safe in the plants that they are working or the farms that they are working. Not only when they are in quarantine for 14 days but when they are on the job site."Many farm owners were worried in the spring that they wouldn't have the labour needed to harvest crops, fearing the work shortage could lead to a food supply shortage as well.

  • Man sentenced to 1 year for selling crack to undercover RCMP
    News
    CBC

    Man sentenced to 1 year for selling crack to undercover RCMP

    One of the minor players caught up in an RCMP drug investigation in Yellowknife has been sentenced to a year in jail.Brandon Topilikon, 28, was sentenced in territorial court on Friday. He had earlier pleaded guilty to trafficking cocaine and numerous breaches of his release conditions.Topilikon was among 15 people charged in a 2018 RCMP investigation called Project Gloomiest, though he was far from being a target of the investigation.The RCMP say the main target was Toufic Chamas. Late last year the Edmonton man was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail for cocaine trafficking and firearms charges. Others arrested in the same investigation have yet to go to trial.Bad choice of buyerAccording to a statement of agreed facts read out in court during his sentencing on Friday, in March of 2018 Topilokon initiated a cocaine transaction in front of Centre Square Mall. He approached a man and asked if he wanted to buy any "hard or soft," meaning crack cocaine or powdered cocaine.The man he approached was an undercover RCMP officer. The officer agreed to buy a gram of crack, which Topilikon sold to him for $60. Topilikon also told the officer he owed another $20 for a phone number the officer could use to buy additional cocaine.In the months since, Topilikon has been released and re-arrested for violating the terms of his release, only to be released again. In addition to the drug trafficking charge, he was being sentenced for failing to obey his release conditions six times.A background report prepared for the sentencing indicated Topilikon, who is Inuit, suffered many of the same disadvantages growing up that other Indigenous people have suffered. His father was never part of his life. From a young age, he was left to take care of his mother, who had from schizophrenia. He stayed with relatives who abused alcohol and lived in three foster homes.Just before being sentenced Topilikon said that drug and alcohol addictions were his "normal.""I hate it," he said. "I despise it every day."Topilikon dabbed away tears as his lawyer talked about the situation in which his incarceration has left his two children. He and his partner were also taking care of two of her younger siblings.Judge Garth Malakoe noted Topilikon was selling to support his own drug habit, and suffers from disadvantages from his childhood through no fault of his own."If the stars align and Mr. Topilikon can avoid the old normal, as he says, and replace it with a new normal that focuses on parenting and working and dealing with his mental health issues then I think he can lead a productive life that does not rely on criminal activity," said Malakoe during his sentencing.After serving his jail time, Topilikon will be on probation for two years.His legal troubles are not over yet. Topilikon is accused of an April 10 knifepoint robbery. He's accused of robbing a man of his backpack. He's scheduled to appear in court on that charge June 16.

  • Unprecedented weekend hunt for COVID-19 shattered testing records in N.B. and elsewhere
    Health
    CBC

    Unprecedented weekend hunt for COVID-19 shattered testing records in N.B. and elsewhere

    Determined to contain an outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in northern New Brunswick and to calm an anxious local community, provincial health officials unleashed testing resources in the Campbellton area over the weekend they had long claimed to possess but had never been able to demonstrate.Over three days ending Sunday, 4,293 individual samples were taken and processed from around the province, three-quarters of those in health zone 5 around Campbellton in the heart of the recent outbreak.  It was nearly triple the number of tests New Brunswick has carried out during any other three-day stretch of the pandemic and the 2,290 samples processed from tests collected on Sunday now stands as a single-day record surpassed only by Canada's largest provinces."These professionals are all doing an incredible job," said Premier Blaine Higgs during a special briefing Sunday afternoon about those involved in the unprecedented testing effort,"We are showing we can deal with these situations quickly when they do occur. That is going to be critical moving forward."People in the Campbellton area have been uneasy since the diagnosis of a new case of COVID-19 on May 21, which at the time was the region's first in more than five weeks. That was followed by 11 more cases over the next 10 days, all related to a local doctor who had contracted the virus outside the province and did not self-isolate upon return.  Testing for everyoneA large number of potential community and health care contacts made by the doctor and others convinced public health officials to open testing to anyone in the local area concerned about themselves.  "We were looking very widely," said New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell Sunday. "We had people coming out in great numbers."Nearly 3,000 people eventually appeared at makeshift testing centres at arenas in both Campbellton and Dalhousie, in addition to others being tested in nearby health care facilities. In the end more than 10 per cent of the population of Zone 5 had a test by the end of the weekend.Medical personnel, aided by reinforcements from Ambulance New Brunswick and the Extra-Mural nursing care program managed the surge of nervous locals who openly expressed appreciation for the effort being made."Everything is going fast. People are doing a great job here. We're lucky we have this here in Restigouche," said Junior Michaud, one of hundreds who lined up on Friday for his test.Significant achievementThe execution of more than 4,200 tests in three days across the province, including 3,132 from Zone 5 is a significant achievement, especially given the scarcity of evidence prior to the weekend New Brunswick could mount a testing effort that large, particularly in that zone.Previously, the most tests New Brunswick had processed in a single day was 586, back on April 17, one of what had been a string of mediocre testing achievements by the province At the beginning of the pandemic it took New Brunswick 12 days to test its first 1,000 people following the March 11 diagnosis of the first case, seven days longer than it took Nova Scotia.    In early April, Higgs warned that despite lower testing numbers than the Canadian average the province had only limited supplies left and could run out "within about five days" if testing increased to 1,000 per day.Then in May, testing in New Brunswick fell below the "minimum" threshold of 2,300 to 2,500 per week set earlier in the month by Dr. Russell, with tests particularly light in Zone 5.  Although sitting along the Quebec border, it was averaging just 80 tests per week in May prior to the discovery of that first new case in Campbellton May 21.Despite that spotty testing track record Dr. Russell had been confidently claiming for several weeks the province could handle a heavy load if necessary.Demand not seen beforeIn mid-April, when Nova Scotia processed more than 1,400 tests in one day compared to 250 in New Brunswick, Russell insisted the same could be done in the province, if circumstances required."We absolutely can test at that level, we just haven't had the demand,"  said Russell.In retrospect, that was an understatement.  The 2,290 tests collected and processed in New Brunswick Sunday, is higher than any single-day total achieved by any province in Atlantic Canada and more than some other larger provinces including Saskatchewan and Manitoba.The premier gave widespread credit for making it happen."I am grateful to all the people who have been working behind the scenes to set up additional testing sites including Extra-Mural and ambulance New Brunswick," said Higgs  "The team at Campbellton Regional Laboratory led by Mr. Yves Goudreau has been rapidly testing and co-ordinating the delivery of an unprecedented amount of samples. They are working closely with the lab team at Georges L. Dumont hospital in Moncton which is led by medical microbiologist Dr. Louise Thibault."  No member of the public who presented themselves for testing during the weekend was found to have the virus.

  • Murder conviction stands for former fugitive who fled to Vietnam, rules province's top court
    News
    CBC

    Murder conviction stands for former fugitive who fled to Vietnam, rules province's top court

    The first-degree murder conviction of a former fugitive who fled Calgary ahead of his trial stands after the province's top court dismissed Nathan Gervais's appeal. Lukas Strasser-Hird, 18, was swarmed, beaten and stabbed to death outside a nightclub in 2013. After fleeing the country in 2016, Gervais was eventually arrested and returned to Canada in 2018. He was convicted of first-degree murder in May of last year.The Alberta Court of Appeal called the killing a "tragic event" and ruled Court of Queen's Bench Justice William Tilleman did not err in finding the victim was forcibly confined during the attack, which led to the first-degree murder conviction for Gervais.Gervais was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.Defence lawyer Alain Hepner says he will consult with his client before deciding whether to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada. Appeal arguments were made in early May by Hepner and prosecutor Julie Morgan. Gervais asked the province's top court to substitute an acquittal, order a new trial or substitute a conviction of second-degree murder.Nov. 23, 2013In 2013, Strasser-Hird was just back from a year in South America.At the Vinyl nightclub, he overheard someone call the bouncer a "dirty spic" and confronted the group, which included Gervais, over the racist remark.Outside the bar, Strasser-Hird was surrounded and shoved around until a bouncer grabbed the teenager and brought him back inside.Then, staff at the night club led Strasser-Hird out the back door, where a group of angry men were waiting for a second attack.Gervais confessedThe trial judge called Gervais's actions "predatory and calculated." Before waiting in the alley for his victim, Gervais had fetched a knife from his car, which was parked across the street from the bar. As he was kicked, punched and stabbed, the victim begged for his life, according to witnesses. Following the attack, Gervais confessed to several people that he had stabbed Strasser-Hird.In 2016, just before Gervais was to go on trial alongside four others, he fled Canada. Franz Cabrera and Assmar Shlah were ultimately found guilty of second-degree murder, while Joch Pouk was found guilty of manslaughter. A fourth man was acquitted.In February 2018, Gervais was arrested in Vietnam and returned to Calgary to face his murder charge.

  • Ontario man, 68, connects with Newfoundland family he never knew
    News
    CBC

    Ontario man, 68, connects with Newfoundland family he never knew

    The pandemic is keeping some families apart right now, but an Ontario man who was adopted has found new family he never knew before, and they're just as happy as he is to have finally connected.Rick Betts was born in 1952 to Hazel Pennell, a Newfoundland woman living in Ontario, who put him up for adoption.Over the years, Pennell had lost touch with her family in Lark Harbour. Until they heard from Betts this spring, they didn't know she had had a child.He and some newly-found first cousins have now spent hours talking on the phone and over video, and they've been learning more about each other."It was an emotional connection that we had. It just opened up the floodgates," said Betts."We knew nothing, and now we feel we know everything. So it's been fabulous."Looking for yearsBetts' story goes back to the early 1950s when he was placed in foster care after he was born. He remained there until he was adopted at eight months old.He said he had a great life as a child with his adoptive parents and his sister, who was also adopted. It never occurred to him until years later to even look for his biological parents."I had always known that I was adopted. It was never a family secret or anything like that," said Betts.But, after his adoptive parents both died young, in their 50s, and he and his wife, Sandee, had children of their own, Betts started to think about his family medical history and he began a search in the early 1990s.Betts was able to get some information from the Children's Aid Society in Toronto and from the adoption unit of the Ontario government, including his mother's name and birth date. He also knew that she was from somewhere in Newfoundland, but that she was no longer living there. Hazel Pennell's last known address was Florida, and the government was unable to locate her.> It's a whole new place to belong. \- Rick BettsBetts spent a lot of time doing internet searches for birth, marriage, and death notices to try to find some reference to his birth mother but — since there are a lot of Pennells in Newfoundland and he didn't know which community she was from — he was unsuccessful.The Ontario adoption unit was able to find Betts' biological father in 2001, and it obtained and passed on some information about the man's medical history, but the elderly gentleman did not wish to make a connection. Betts said he was understanding of that.Genetic testing makes the linkBetts' search for his biological mother did not progress further until DNA test kits became available a few years ago. Even then, there was no breakthrough until this spring, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and through the help of a total stranger who had also had DNA testing.Rosemarie Whalen of Clarenville, who is searching for her biological father, had her DNA come up as a match — possibly third cousins — with Rick Betts on the AncestryDNA database.Her husband, Jamie Whalen, contacted Rick Betts to find out where he fit into his wife's family tree, and Betts shared with him what he knew about his mother's identity.Through the course of his research on behalf of his wife, Whalen had poured over dozens of obituaries of possible family members, and he thought he remembered Hazel Pennell's name."It just happened to stick out. Every death notice that I used to read, every name would stick in my head, and I knew that, yeah, there is a death notice there somewhere that [included] a Hazel Pennell in it," said Whalen.Whalen found the funeral notice, for a Pennell from Lark Harbour who had a sister named Hazel, and he sent it to Rick Betts.Within days, in late April, Betts had connected with two newly discovered first cousins from Newfoundland. They are the children of his biological mother's brother, Freeman."This is like a huge tree that's got to get put together," said Betts."It's a whole new place to belong."New details about a long-lost relativeIt turns out Betts' relatives in Newfoundland are just as pleased as he is to finally get some answers about Hazel Pennell.Since the late 1980s, Betts' first cousin, Brenda Eldridge, had tried to locate her father's long-lost sister, who had left Newfoundland as a young woman, only returning once for a visit."My grandfather always kept an 8-by-10 photo of her in his living room. He always talked about her," recalled Eldridge.But Hazel Pennell didn't stay in contact, and the family didn't know that she'd had a baby, nor anything else about what happened to her, including whether she might possibly still be alive.Eldridge said connecting with the son of her Aunt Hazel has been emotional."It seemed like it was a dream come true," said Eldridge. "And, to find out that we had another cousin, we were ecstatic," she said.Eldridge said her 89-year-old father, Freeman, was surprised but also pleased to learn that his sister had a son, and they're in the process of arranging a video conversation between him and Betts. "My Dad is over the moon," said Eldridge. "I think he often wondered where Aunt Hazel was, and what happened to her. Knowing that we have a piece of her in Rick, he's pretty excited."Too late to meet his motherUnfortunately, there will be no reunion between Betts and his biological mother, as Hazel Pennell died more than four years ago in Florida.Through new information he was able to piece together in May, Betts has identified his mother's last place of residence and has found her funeral notice.Hazel Depaola was 93 when she died in October 2015. Her obituary does not mention her maiden name of Pennell, but it does state that her place of birth was Lark Harbour, Newfoundland. No children are listed in the funeral notice, so there are no brothers or sisters for Rick to meet.Betts was glad to learn that his birth mother had eventually married and appeared to have had a good life which included work in the hospitality industry, travelling, and a love for animals, all according to her funeral notice.And, even though he didn't get a chance to meet his biological mother, Betts feels the search was still worth the effort, and he's anxious to come to Newfoundland to meet his new cousins when pandemic restrictions permit him to do so.Eldridge is also eager to meet Betts. She said if it wasn't for COVID-19, she and her brother would have been on a plane to Ontario by now: "I'm excited to meet him in person. I feel like I already know him, and I'm just so happy that we've connected."Betts said he believes learning about his existence is helping his birth mother's Newfoundland family understand why she didn't stay in contact, as the early 1950s were a different era when having a child outside of marriage had a stigma and shame attached to it."It sounds like there was a lot of holes and information they just didn't know about," said Betts. "I'm glad that I was able to fill in some of those gaps for sure. And it's very exciting, meeting all these relatives."'It takes just one person'Even though it took Betts nearly three decades to find the missing link that led him to his birth mother's family, he encourages other people searching for their roots to not give up.For Jamie Whalen, who provided that missing link, and whose wife is still searching for her family roots, Betts' story gives him hope."I mean, after 30 years looking for your mom, it just takes one person, after 30 years, to help."Betts said his story proves that a long wait can eventually pay off.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Ex-ministers, ambassadors call on Trudeau to push back against Israeli annexation plan
    News
    CBC

    Ex-ministers, ambassadors call on Trudeau to push back against Israeli annexation plan

    Four Chretien-era cabinet ministers are among 58 former Canadian diplomats and politicians who added their names to a letter calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government to show stronger resistance to a proposed Israeli annexation of a large part of the occupied West Bank.Among the signatories are former ambassadors to Israel who served under both Liberal and Conservative governments, as well as many other diplomats who represented Canada's interests in the Middle East."We are writing to you as retired Canadian diplomats, proud of Canada's historical commitment to multilateral institutions and its reputation for supporting the rule of law," the letter begins."As you know, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced publicly his intention to 'annex' in the coming weeks a significant amount of land that Canada, and the international community, recognize as occupied Palestinian Territory ..."Territorial conquest and annexation are notorious for contributing to fateful results: war, political instability, economic ruin, systematic discrimination and human suffering."In an email response to CBC News' request for comment on the letter, Global Affairs Canada spokesman Adam Austen said "Canada remains firmly committed to the goal of achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. We have long maintained that peace can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties."He added: "Canada is very concerned that Israel moving forward with unilateral annexation would be damaging to peace negotiations and contrary to international law.  "This could lead to further insecurity for Israelis and Palestinians at a critical time for peace and stability in the region."That marked the first time since Israel announced its annexation plan that the government of Canada has taken a strong public position against it.July deadlineIsrael is currently under a unity government formed as a compromise between rivals Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, after three elections in one year failed to produce a governing coalition.Netanyahu and Gantz — the alternate prime minister and defence minister — have developed a complex formula to govern together despite the major policy differences between them.Gantz has expressed reservations about unilateral annexation, which also has been rejected by a large part of Israel's security establishment — former military generals and senior officers of the Shin Bet internal security service. But he has agreed not to stand in the way of the initiative after July 1, and Netanyahu has continued to say that he will proceed to annex about 30 per cent of the land between Israel's internationally-recognized border and the Jordan River.Netanyahu told an Israeli newspaper last week that he intends to proceed with his plan despite the opposition, saying it's in the interests of Israel.Israel, claiming historical and religious links to the land, describes the territories to be annexed as "disputed" rather than occupied, and has implanted a large number of settlements there. It has often argued that Israel needs the Jordan Valley to have more defensible borders in case of war."All the plans offered to us in the past included renouncing parts of Israel, withdrawing to the 1967 borders and dividing Jerusalem while allowing refugees to enter Israel," Netanyahu told the news publication Israel Hayom."This plan offers the opposite. We are not the ones required to give up [territories], the Palestinians are."In their letter, the former diplomats remind Trudeau that the acquisition of territory through military conquest is illegal, and that the UN Security Council voted on eight occasions between 1967 and 2016 to forbid it in the case of the occupied territories of the West Bank."We would like to urge you to publicly acknowledge Canada's commitment to multilateralism and the rule of law by issuing a statement that Canada reaffirms its position in support of all relevant UN resolutions ..." says the letter."As you are no doubt aware, many of our allies have already spoken out opposing the Israeli proposal ... As former Canadian diplomats, we urge you to protect Canada's good name in the international community by speaking loudly and clearly on this issue."'It justifies a protest'The letter follows a statement from the Prime Minister's Office on annexation that some of the former diplomats said they found weak and non-committal.The Trudeau government frequently presents itself as a champion of law and a rules-based international order. But the letter shows that many within Canada's foreign policy establishment, including former Liberals, aren't confident that the government will take action to uphold international law and UN Security Council resolutions if Israel chooses to go ahead with the annexation plan.Former Liberal foreign ministers Lloyd Axworthy and André Ouellet signed their names to the statement. So did Chretien-era justice minister Alan Rock, former minister of citizenship and immigration Sergio Marchi and former ambassador to Israel James Bartleman (who was also lieutenant-governor of Ontario), as well as more than two dozen former ambassadors.Many of the ambassadors — such as Michel de Salaberry, who served as ambassador to Iran, Egypt and Jordan — have years of experience representing Canada in the Middle East.John Allen was Stephen Harper's first ambassador to Israel, serving from 2006 to 2010. He also signed the letter."I think it justifies a protest," he told CBC News."Other important countries, especially those in the European Union, have already spoken up quite vociferously about their opposition to annexation. There really hasn't been a statement by the Canadian government, either the prime minister or the minister of foreign affairs."Allen said annexation is poses a threat not just to peace and the international rule of law, but "also to Israel and its future as a Jewish and democratic state."He said that if annexation proceeds, it is likely to provoke the collapse of the Palestinian Authority.Israeli Embassy reactsThe Trump administration has given a green light for the annexation under a Mideast "peace plan" drawn up by President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.A joint U.S.-Israeli team has been in Israel and the occupied territories working on an annexation map for several weeks.Ohad Kaynar, chargé d'affaires at the Embassy of Israel in Canada, told CBC News that "the comprehensive U.S. Peace Plan is the only viable peace initiative currently on the table trying to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel has accepted its foundations, despite concessions which will be required on our behalf. However, the Palestinians have rejected it outright, once again closing the door on any option to negotiate a peaceful future."While it is dismaying that diplomats would choose to attack Israel rather than try to facilitate dialogue between the two sides — or at the very least urging the Palestinians to return to direct peace negotiations – Israel will nevertheless remain committed to the U.S. peace plan, in hopes that we eventually find a way to resolve our differences."'Radio silence'Ferry de Kerchkove was Canada's ambassador to Egypt from 2008 to 2011; he also signed the letter. He said the Trump plan is unlikely to bring peace any closer."Traditionally, Canada has been in the forefront of trying to help a real peace process," he told CBC News. Under Trudeau, he said, "there's been radio silence on that issue."The former diplomat said the Trump-Kushner proposals oblige Canada to step forward to defend a rules-based international system."Now we've reached a stage where President Trump has arrogated to himself the right to legislate beyond and over international law and the international community by decreeing what Israel can have and what rump state the Palestinians can have ... it really is a call for the international community to say this is totally unacceptable," he said."We think collectively it's time for the prime minister to tell it how it is and take a much fairer approach to the Palestinians and Israel."De Kerchkove said that the difference between the Trudeau government's reaction to the proposed annexation of the Jordan Valley and its reaction to Russia's annexation of Crimea is "just a sad reality that we have to witness and deplore."

  • News
    The Canadian Press

    Military: 2 dead after shooting at North Dakota air base

    A shooting early Monday has left two airmen dead at the Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, the military said. The base’s emergency services members responded to the shooting, which occurred at 4:30 a.m., a statement from the military said. The air base's commander, Col. Cameron S. Pringle, told reporters the two airmen died while in a dormitory, but he did not give details about what led up to the shooting, KVRR-TV reported.

  • Ontario councillor who took New Brunswick road trip claims he stayed in private home
    News
    CBC

    Ontario councillor who took New Brunswick road trip claims he stayed in private home

    A Peterborough, Ont., city councillor who entered New Brunswick despite COVID-19 border restrictions now says he stayed at the private home of an acquaintance in the province.Stephen Wright told CBC News Monday afternoon that what he calls a research trip lasted 10 days and he decided to try it because of inconsistent answers from provincial officials about whether he would be admitted to the province."I erred on the side that that was information that I needed to find out in doing part of my job and [I] took the necessary precaution that I kept myself safe, and anybody that I ever would have come into contact with, safe as well."An initial news report in the Peterborough Examiner newspaper described the road trip as lasting a weekend and quoted Wright saying he promised New Brunswick enforcement officers at the border that he would stay in his car during the entire trip.But Wright told CBC Monday that he was misunderstood when he spoke to the paper about the length of the trip.And he said he gave the officers an address and a phone number where they could reach him during his stay in the province.That was at the private residence of an acquaintance who had been working at home for several months, he said."I won't reveal where in the province I stayed because it seems there are enough people who want to do some public shaming. But no, I had friends who had made arrangements for a place for me," he said."Where I was staying, I had no contact with nobody else there, either," he added. He called it "a separate self-contained unit" apart from his acquaintance with "no shared living area or bathroom."Wright said he didn't tell enforcement officers at the border that he'd be staying at a private residence where someone was already living because "that question wasn't asked."Wright is a member of a regional economic recovery task force in the Peterborough area and said he wanted to come to New Brunswick to see how restaurant reopenings were going.He said Monday he did not enter any New Brunswick restaurants but assessed the success of their openings by looking at how many cars were in their parking lots and drive-thru line-ups.He said he chose not to check downtown restaurants without parking lots.Investigation underwayPremier Blaine Higgs said at a media briefing Sunday he wanted to know more about how Wright was allowed into the province, given a ban on non-essential visits."It is under full investigation because it does not seem like a legitimate reason to come into the province," he said. "We will evaluate just what questions were asked but more importantly what answers were given."Public Safety spokesperson Geoffrey Downey said Monday afternoon the investigation is ongoing "and we will be reviewing our records and following up with the City of Peterborough to determine if this was work travel authorized by the City."Trip not at council's directionAshley Webster, a spokesperson for Peterborough Mayor Diane Therrien, said the trip "was not at council's direction or the mayor's direction" and the city didn't pay for it.Wright confirmed he paid for the trip himself. He said he has sometimes funded his own research into issues to get "the other side of the argument."The deputy minister at the public safety department, Mike Comeau, said on Twitter Monday afternoon that crossing a border "often involves officers having to decide whether to believe what a person is telling them. It's inherent to border control."'Beyond disrespectful'News of Wright's trip frustrated New Brunswickers living elsewhere in Canada who've been trying to get permission to enter the province to visit relatives with life-threatening illnesses or to bury loved ones who have died."I'm floored. I can only surmise that somebody decided that this person was important and should be allowed to come in," said Lesley Shannon, a British Columbia resident originally from the Saint John area.She wants to travel to the province for the burial of her mother Lorraine, who died in April. A house has been rented for her and friends are prepared to drop off groceries so she can heed the rules to self-isolate for 14 days before the burial, she said."I think the reasoning [for letting Wright in] is shocking," she said.Shannon's mother has to be buried by early July because the cemetery does not have cooling in its vault.  "We've been told that's a non-negotiable situation."With a two-week isolation period and the scarcity of flights during the pandemic, she said her window to attend the burial is closing fast.Yet the province isn't showing her the same flexibility it showed Wright when it let him in to count cars in restaurant parking lots, she said."To me it's beyond disrespectful that my mom would have to be buried without me being there when I'm perfectly capable of being there."Questions about consistency, compassionDave Perry, an Ottawa resident originally from New Brunswick whose father is in the oncology unit at the Saint John Regional Hospital with life-threatening leukemia, said he was also stunned to read about Wright's trip."I'm just not seeing much consistency in terms of how the province determines who's allowed in, and not much compassion in the compassionate policy," he said.Both Shannon and Perry said they've been frustrated seeing the province make allowances for temporary foreign workers and university students to enter the province, but not grieving relatives."The process for figuring out the process for trying to do this is not good," Shannon said. "It's really terrible, to be honest."Perry said: "I'm just looking for a mechanism where, if I need to, I can get home to see my family."Shannon said she could have flown home before her mother's death on April 13 because the province hadn't yet stationed enforcement officers at airports to screen incoming flights.But she heeded advice not to come and now "it looks like I'm going to pay the price for doing what our provincial and federal government officials begged us all to do."Wore protective equipmentWright suggested that New Brunswick's limitations on interprovincial travel are unconstitutional, something that some experts and advocacy groups have also raised. But he said he didn't travel to the province for the sake of making a point.Wright said he always paid for gas at the pumps and used gloves, N95 masks and hand sanitizer while in New Brunswick.He said he had contacted business organizations in the province to get information about how the recovery was going but they didn't respond and he decided to travel here himself to see things firsthand.

  • Family says 'back and forth' between N.S., Ottawa over shooting probe 'unreal'
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Family says 'back and forth' between N.S., Ottawa over shooting probe 'unreal'

    HALIFAX — A Nova Scotia family has made a passionate appeal for the federal and Nova Scotia governments to end the "back and forth" over which should lead a public inquiry into a recent mass shooting.Darcy Dobson, the daughter of a licensed practical nurse who was among the 22 victims, writes in an open letter that she, her father Andrew and her five siblings "formally request the start of a public inquiry into the mass shooting on April 18 and 19."The letter notes that with few answers provided more than 40 days after the tragedy, families aren't able to heal properly, and adds "the amount of information being kept from us is deplorable."Premier Stephen McNeil has said he wants Ottawa to lead a public inquiry because the areas of key jurisdiction — such as the protocols followed by the RCMP — are federal.However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hasn't committed his government to overseeing an inquiry, saying only it will "work with the government of Nova Scotia" to get answers.In an emailed statement Monday, Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey said the province is working with Ottawa to determine the best mechanism to provide victims' families with answers."This is a matter of both federal and provincial responsibility, and the province is working with the federal government to take action and move this forward together," Furey said."We believe this joint approach will yield the best results. Individuals, families, communities, and Nova Scotians impacted by this tragedy deserve no less."Dobson's mother, Heather O'Brien of Truro, N.S., was killed by the gunman on April 19 as she drove along a highway in Debert, N.S.The letter from the 30-year-old daughter is signed by the entire O'Brien family and says, "the back and forth about who's responsible for an inquiry is unreal."It says mistakes were made at both the provincial and federal levels, adding, "We need answers to heal, we need answers so we can find a way to live in this new normal that we've been forced into."The letter adds that authorities should be trying to learn from one of the worst mass killings in Canadian history."What's the hold up in the inquiry? Why hasn't this happened yet? Where are we in the investigation? Was someone else involved? Why can't we get any answers at all 40 days in?!" it asks."The fact that any one of us has to ask these questions is all very concerning and only makes everyone feel inadequate, unimportant and unsafe."Please for the people of our province, for the people of our country, for the people who have lost someone so dear to their hearts, find a way to let us start to heal."Dobson writes in her letter that her mother had taught her children to push strongly for what they believe in."This is why we are standing up. We are requesting you give us the information we all deserve."She also says other families may soon be joining hers in publishing requests for an inquiry to be called.In recent weeks questions have been raised about why the RCMP didn't issue a search warrant for the gunman's home in Portapique, after reports of domestic abuse of his spouse and possession of illegal firearms seven years ago. Last month, Brenda Forbes, a former neighbour of Gabriel Wortman — who was shot and killed by police on April 19 — said she reported an account of a 2013 incident of domestic violence by Wortman against his common-law spouse to the RCMP in Truro. She said she reported witnesses telling her that Wortman had strangled and beaten his common-law partner, and she said she told police there were guns in the house.Police have said Wortman's rampage began late on the night of April 18 with the domestic assault of the same woman, who managed to escape and hide in the woods after the gunman assaulted her at their residence in Portapique. The RCMP said in an email Friday it is still looking for the police record of the 2013 incident and declined further comment.Last week saw more revelations the Mounties had received detailed warnings about Wortman.A newly released police bulletin revealed that in May 2011, a Truro police officer had received information from a source indicating Wortman was upset about a police investigation into a break-and-enter and had "stated he wants to kill a cop."The officer goes on to say he was told Wortman owned a handgun and was having some "mental issues" that left him feeling stressed and "a little squirrelly."Thirty-three Dalhousie law professors have called for an inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act — which allows for broad terms of reference — arguing the province is responsible for the administration of justice.Other legal experts have said another option is for a joint federal-provincial inquiry, as there are overlapping issues of provincial and federal jurisdiction.This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2020.Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

  • Beijing could bar exit of dual Canadians from Hong Kong amid protests: lawyer
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Beijing could bar exit of dual Canadians from Hong Kong amid protests: lawyer

    OTTAWA — A Canadian legal activist is warning the federal government to grant asylum to democracy activists in Hong Kong and expanded settlement to those with links to Canada before China prevents them from leaving.The warning came Monday from Avvy Go, the director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, which has already helped bring Hong Kong pro-democracy activists to Canada.There are 300,000 Canadians of Hong Kong descent in China, and Go says if Ottawa doesn't act now to accommodate those who want to leave, Beijing will prevent them from leaving in the future."The time to act is now. As China continues to crack down on the democracy movement in Hong Kong, it may soon find ways to prohibit Hong Kong activists from leaving that city, period," Go said Monday at a joint video press conference hosted by Amnesty International."Even with those who are Canadian citizens, China may refuse to recognize their dual citizenship status and deny their exit from Hong Kong."MPs from the four major Canadian political parties and one independent senator stood in solidarity with the proposals Go put forward at a virtual press conference convened by Amnesty International.Canada, along with the United States, Britain and Australia, have condemned Beijing's imposition of a new national security law that they say violates Hong Kong's freedom from Chinese communist interference."This is the Beijing government's most breathtaking, threatening and callous attack yet ... discarding any pretence of fulfilling China's international promises made when Hong Kong was handed over in 1997," said Alex Neve, the secretary general of Amnesty's Canadian branch.Go called on the federal government to implement several immigration and asylum measures, to help people get out of Hong Kong before it is too late. They are:—Expediting family sponsorship applications by Canadians with spouses and parents in Hong Kong.—Expanding family-reunification sponsorship programs beyond parents and spouses.—Issuing more temporary-resident permits, work visas and student visas.—Granting refugee status to democracy advocates, and offering them stepped-up resettlement options.Last year, Hong Kong residents took to the streets in mass protests against a proposed extradition law from Beijing that was eventually abandoned.During that unrest, Go's clinic received requests from Canadians of Hong Kong descent whose relatives participated in pro-democracy protests, she said.Since Beijing announced the new security law, the clinic is getting calls from Canadians who are worried about their families even though they may not have been involved with the democracy movement, said Go."These are our people. And as parliamentarians dedicated to promoting and protecting democracy, we cannot stand by silently. I endorse all of the actions," said Independent Sen. Marilou McPhedran.McPhedran said she has travelled across Africa and seen the effect of China's massive development spending, an influence-buying effort that many analysts say is a power play by Beijing's ruling communist party."The weaponization of economic support is something that we need to understand better as we look at what is happening in Hong Kong," said McPhedran."The violation of the Hong Kong Basic Law, which is the essence of what China is saying it is going to do, is in fact a precursor to threats to democracies in many other countries as well."Conservative MP Kenny Chiu, who was born in Hong Kong, said the people of his homeland respect human rights and the rule of law, and they are prepared to commemorate Thursday's anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre that saw the Chinese army kill scores of pro-democracy student protesters in 1989."We're witnessing in Hong Kong basic dictatorship in disguise, exerting its power out of fear for these values," said Chiu.This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2020.Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

  • Amid protests, Trump talks of war  -  and reelection
    Politics
    The Canadian Press

    Amid protests, Trump talks of war - and reelection

    WASHINGTON — Embracing the language of confrontation and war, President Donald Trump on Monday declared himself the “president of law and order” and signalled he would stake his reelection on convincing voters his forceful approach, including deploying U.S. troops to U.S. cities, was warranted in a time of national tumult and racial unrest.Trump made his Rose Garden declaration to the sound of tear gas and rubber bullets clearing peaceful protesters from the park in front of the White House. It created a split screen for the ages, with his critics saying the president was deepening divisions at a time when leadership was crucial to help unify a fractured country.The president’s forceful turn to a partisan posture was reminiscent of the us-vs.-them rhetoric he has often used when under pressure, including in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. He has responded to the violence with a string of polarizing tweets, one starkly laying out the political stakes by underscoring the approach of Election Day.“NOVEMBER 3RD,” was all it said.Trump vowed to deploy the U.S. military to America’s own cities to quell a rise of violent protests, including ransacking stores and burning police cars. He offered little recognition of the anger coursing through the country as he demanded a harsher crackdown on the mayhem that has erupted following the death of George Floyd.Floyd died after a white Minneapolis police officer pinned him down and pressed his neck with his knee as the man pleaded that he couldn’t breathe. Violent demonstrations have raged in dozens of cities across the nation, marking a level of widespread turmoil unseen for decades.The political ground beneath Trump has greatly shifted in the spring of this election year. He was supposed to be running on a strong economy, but now he’s facing a pandemic, an economic collapse and civil unrest not seen since the 1960s.Indeed, some around the president likened the moment to 1968, when Richard Nixon ran as the law-and-order candidate in the aftermath of a summer of riots and captured the White House. But Trump is the incumbent and, despite his efforts to portray himself as a political outsider, he risks being held responsible for the violence.Trump emerged after two days out of public view in the White House to threaten to deploy “thousands and thousands” of U.S. troops. Then he made a surprise walk through Lafayette Park to a Washington house of worship known as “The Church of the Presidents” that suffered fire damage in the protests.That brought a quick condemnation from Episcopal Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde.“The president just used a Bible and one of the churches of my diocese as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for," she said. But he had his campaign moment.In a video teleconference Monday morning, Trump scolded governors.“Most of you are weak,” he said. “It’s like a war. And we will end it fast. Be tough.”“You have to dominate” and “if you don’t dominate you’re wasting your time,” Trump said, demanding the protests be swiftly crushed, even as some warned that such an aggressive law enforcement response could lead to an escalation of violence.The president urged governors to make more use of the National Guard, which he credited for helping calm the situation Sunday night in Minneapolis. He demanded that similarly tough measures be taken in cities that also experienced spasms of violence, including New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.“You’re going to arrest all those people and you’re going to try them. And if they get five years or 10 years, they have to get five years or 10 years,” the president said. “So I say that, and the winners dominate.”Trump’s exhortations came after a night of escalating violence, with images of chaos overshadowing largely peaceful protests. The disturbances grew so heated Friday night that the Secret Service rushed the president to an underground White House bunker previously used during terrorist attacks.Some West Wing officials and political advisers have acknowledged that some of the president’s tweets have not been helpful, and they have been pushing Trump to acknowledge the pain of the peaceful protesters without lumping them in with the agitators he says are responsible for the violence.But another faction within the administration, including longtime law-and-order proponent Attorney General William Barr, has encouraged Trump’s instincts to focus on the group violence. The hope is such a posture can help Trump draw a contrast with Democrats who have been less vocal in their condemnation of the unrest.The West Wing had been mostly empty over the weekend. Many staffers were told to stay home to avoid the protests, chief of staff Mark Meadows was out of town celebrating his daughter’s wedding and senior adviser Jared Kushner was marking a Jewish holiday.Among the options being discussed in the White House: a new criminal justice reform package, a task force that would include Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and a listening tour of African American communities, according to people familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity because nothing had been finalized.Democrats hammered Trump, accusing him of stirring the unrest.“Hate just hides. It doesn’t go away, and when you have somebody in power who breathes oxygen into the hate under the rocks, it comes out from under the rocks,” said the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, former Vice-President Joe Biden, speaking at a church in Wilmington, Delaware.Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Trump “struggles to summon even an ounce of humanity in this time of turmoil.”“The president has reacted to the pain and anger in the country by playing politics and encouraging police to be tougher on protesters by bragging about his reelection prospects and his personal safety inside the White House,” Schumer said.Long drawn to displays of strength, Trump and his advisers believe that the combative rhetoric and promises to send the military into cities will reassure voters, including senior citizens and suburban women, concerned by the lawlessness.Eager to change the narrative of the election, just five months away, from a referendum on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump and his aides see a cultural war issue that could captivate his base.Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition and a close ally of the president, said, “In the same way that he became the unlikeliest of champions for evangelicals and the faith community, he has it in him to do the same thing for the minority community.”Much as he has with the pandemic, Trump has tried to scapegoat the nation’s Democratic governors and mayors, much to their dismay.During the teleconference, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker bluntly told Trump that “the rhetoric that’s coming out of the White House is making it worse.”___Lemire reported from New York. Suderman reported from Richmond, Virginia. Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Darlene Superville, Kevin Freking and Michael Balsamo contributed reporting from Washington.Jonathan Lemire, Jill Colvin And Alan Suderman, The Associated Press

  • Business
    The Canadian Press

    120 workers test positive for COVID-19 in outbreak on farm near Simcoe, Ont.

    NORFOLK COUNTY, Ont. — Premier Doug Ford pledged Monday to ramp up testing for thousands of migrant workers across Ontario after a number of new farm outbreaks were reported in recent days.Ford attributed a spike in Ontario's positive COVID-19 cases to the farms, saying more than 80 migrant workers have tested positive for the virus.The premier said he has seen first-hand the communal bunkhouses where workers live, which advocates say can contribute to the spread of the virus."I will definitely be addressing this with public health to make sure that we get all the migrant workers tested to keep them safe, to keep the supply chain and the food safe," he said. "We're on this."Approximately 20,000 migrant workers come to Ontario each year to work on farms and in greenhouses. Many of the workers come from Mexico, the Caribbean and Guatemala and when they arrived this year they were required to self-isolate for 14 days.Outbreaks that have affected dozens of migrant workers have been reported in Chatham-Kent, Windsor-Essex, Niagara Region and Elgin County.On Sunday night, the mayor of Norfolk County said 120 workers at a local farm have tested positive for COVID-19, with seven of them having been admitted to hospital."We have always understood that this was a risk that our community could face and our health unit has been preparing for this possibility," Kristal Chopp said in a statement. "Other communities in Ontario and across the country have also faced similar situations with on-farm outbreaks."The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit said over the weekend that 85 migrant workers were affected and the Mexican government liaison had been notified.The health unit said it is working with the farm, owned by Scotlynn Group, and its clinical staff are developing a plan to evaluate and monitor symptomatic workers.The company said in a statement that it has executed an isolation plan to stop the spread of the virus. It also said that with a large number of workers not available, it is looking for additional help with an asparagus harvest.Last month, advocates for migrant workers said the province should ramp up inspections of the farms and the bunkhouses workers live in.Ford said the province may have to consider making changes to the communal nature of the bunkhouses in the future, but it would be hard to take that action during the pandemic."It's something we can put on the table," he said. "Can we do it in within a month or so? I just don't think that's reality. But what we can do, we can go in and test frequently. I think it's critical that we do."Chris Ramsaroop with the advocacy group Justice for Migrant Workers wrote Ford last month and asked him to increase Ministry of Labour inspections of the farms, including of migrant workers' cramped living quarters, and bolster cleaning practices.He's not surprised there have been more outbreaks in those settings and urged Ford not to wait to take further action to protect the workers."This ...should have happened months ago, these proactive inspections and orders should have been implemented on these agricultural operations," he said. Ramsaroop said COVID-19 testing should be expanded to everyone in the province, not just migrant workers."We are concerned that migrant farm workers will be stigmatized by any specific testing," he said. "It is our understanding that most cases of COVID-19 are a result of community contact."NDP labour critic Wayne Gates said Ford's promise of testing for migrant workers should be applied across the board to all front-line workers.The province should also offer financial support to ensure companies provide migrant workers with proper work and living conditions as well as personal protective equipment."You know, at the end of the day, we have to protect our food supply, but we have to make sure that workers are safe while we do that," Gates said. "Whether you're somebody from Mexico, Jamaica, or Ontario, every life is valued."This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2020.Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press

  • Korean community fights sale of its only nursing home to firm with 115 COVID-19 deaths in 3 facilities
    News
    CBC

    Korean community fights sale of its only nursing home to firm with 115 COVID-19 deaths in 3 facilities

    Hae Kee Min says one of the best decisions she ever made was getting her husband a bed at Rose of Sharon Korean Long-Term Care Home after caring for him on her own for 22 years.  Her husband was paralyzed in a car accident in 1994 and Min, 82, cared for him for as long as she could by herself. Seven years ago, she needed extra help and put her husband on the waitlist for a bed at Rose of Sharon. The couple waited for more than three years, but Min says it was worth it."Since then, my husband is so settled. He likes it here and I am so happy," she said in an interview in front of the home near Bathurst Street and St. Clair Avenue West.Min is also the president of Rose of Sharon's resident family council and says she, along with other family members and the larger Korean-Canadian community, is deeply concerned that Rykka Care Centres is poised to take over Rose of Sharon.Rykka, which is an operating partner of Responsive Group, has seen a combined 115 COVID-19-related deaths in three of its homes. Responsive Group operates 11 long-term care centres and three retirement homes in Ontario.Rykka purchased Rose of Sharon in December, eight years after the home went into receivership. The sale is conditional on Ontario's Ministry of Long-Term Care approving the licence transfer, which many in the community are strongly against, given the company's handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.Rose of Sharon hasn't had one confirmed COVID-19 case, according to its administrator and management company Assured Care. Both declined to comment on the sale.Since the pandemic, the province has taken over two homes owned by Rykka, Eatonville and Hawthorne Place, which were also included in a scathing report by the Canadian military. The two homes and a third, Anson Place, have been named in lawsuits alleging negligence in protecting residents and staff from COVID-19.The allegations in those lawsuits have not been proved in court."It has become evident that Responsive Group has horrendous management deficiencies," said Dr. Donald Kim, a kidney specialist and volunteer who promotes health among the Korean-Canadian community."It may be an experienced seniors' housing operator, but that experience is, in fact, deplorable," Kim added.Min says she was more scared than worried when she learned how Rykka was dealing with COVID-19 and is pleading with the province to reject the transfer of the licence."Please do not let it happen. This is not right," Min said, holding back tears.Ministry still reviewing transferOntario's Ministry of Long-Term Care says it received the application to transfer the licence last month and is currently reviewing it. No decision has been made.A spokesperson for Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton says the review will align with the requirements of the Long-Term Care Homes Act, and will include public consultation."The public consultations are for anyone — including long-term care home residents, families, staff and other community members — to provide their opinions on a proposed licensing transaction relating to a long-term care home," Gillian Sloggett wrote in an email. The public consultation process for Rose of Sharon hasn't started yet.In a written statement to CBC News, Rykka Care Centres and Responsive Management Inc. (RMI) says it understands the purchase is occurring during an "unprecedented moment in Ontario's history."Rykka is ensuring homes have the resources and tools needed to provide a "comfortable and enriching environment," the company says."Most of the homes that we manage have been successful at keeping COVID-19 at bay," the statement reads. Rose of Sharon is the only long-term care home dedicated to serving the Korean community in Ontario, according to Kim. It focuses on Korean culture, serves traditional food, organizes Korean activities and the staff speak the language.Kim said there are about 100,000 Koreans in the GTA and only 60 beds at Rose of Sharon. With a waitlist longer than seven years, he says many non-English speaking Koreans are in homes where they can't speak or understand the language."I just feel very sad about that," he said."In comparison to the availability of long-term care to the mainstream society at large and other ethnic and cultural groups, it's really obvious that Korean-Canadians are really under-serviced." Will be 'carrying on the traditions' at home, Rykka saysThe community is worried the focus on Korean culture will be lost if Rykka takes over the home, and is concerned it won't keep the Korean-speaking staff."It's not qualified to provide culturally sensitive care as it already permits abusive and inappropriate behaviour in non-culturally specific homes," Kim said. Min worked as a personal support worker for 28 years in Toronto long-term care homes and says Rose of Sharon is the only one she'd send her husband to."This is one of the best ones, I know, inside and out."In its statement to CBC News, RMI says it's committed to providing a comfortable home for residents that offers the care and attention they deserve."We look forward to carrying on the traditions of this unique residence, continuing to provide excellent care and services to the Korean community," the statement reads.A history rooted in cultureThe concept for Rose of Sharon, named after Korea's national flower, began in 1986 through a provincial request for proposals for more ethno-cultural long-term care beds in Ontario.By 2010, construction was nearly complete, but the builder ran into financial difficulty related to retirement residences within the home, not the long-term care portion.Rose of Sharon went into receivership in 2011 and a closed bidding process began in 2017. The Korean-Canadian community sprang into action and appointed the non-profit Arirang Age-Friendly Community Centre (AAFC) to buy the home.In three months, $3.5 million was raised, mostly from the Korean-Canadian community, but the group lost out to Rykka. Kim is on the AAFC board and gets emotional when he talks about the community coming together to raise an "unprecedented" amount of money in an effort to save the home and look after its seniors."It is our hope of creating a new future on solid footing led by members raised and educated in Ontario," he said, his voice breaking."The Korean community very much wants to have a chance to reacquire Rose of Sharon to use that as a springboard to expand its seniors programs."

  • What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 2
    News
    CBC

    What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 2

    Recent developments: * Families in Ottawa are trying to figure out what to do if there's no camp this summer.  * Ottawa Tourism is getting $5.2M in federal funding but local businesses say this season's already a bust.What's happening today?Ottawa families that rely on camps for kids are trying to come up with viable back-up plans this summer. The city and many municipalities are in a holding pattern, awaiting further direction from the province on whether it will relax closure orders affecting summer camps.Businesses that rely on tourists say the federal government's injection of $5.2 million into Ottawa Tourism offers a little consolation at a bleak time for the industry, where losses are mounting in the hundreds of millions.Ottawa will become the first city in Canada to officially require passengers and staff on its public transit system to wear masks.The city's transit commission approved OC Transpo's plan yesterday to make mandatory the wearing of non-medical masks or some other sort of face covering to stifle COVID-19's spread. Rules take effect starting June 15; however, people who do not wear a mask will still be able to board a bus or train.How many cases are there?There have been 1,962 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa and 244 deaths linked to the respiratory illness, as of the latest Ottawa Public Health data available Monday. There are more than 3,100 known cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec.Nearly 2,400 people in the region have recovered from COVID-19.The deaths of 50 people in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark counties and 36 more in the wider region have also been tied to the coronavirus. Confirmed cases are just a snapshot because, until recently, not everyone could be tested in Ontario. Also, not everyone with COVID-19 will go to get tested (potentially because they are asymptomatic) and results take time to process.What's open and closed?Ontario is in "stage one" of its three-stage reopening plan. When ready, its next stage should bring more offices, outdoor spaces and gatherings back.On May 31, the farmers market at Lansdowne Park reopened for pre-ordering and pickup-by-appointment. Drive-in movie theatres and batting cages in Ontario also opened Sunday.In Quebec, malls, campgrounds and Airbnbs, courts and services such as dentist offices and hair salons reopened Monday. National parks and historic sites across Canada, which includes Rideau Canal lockstations. Backcountry camping at Ontario Parks sites and recreational camping on Crown lands in Ontario is open.The City of Ottawa has cancelled all summer day camps and is providing refunds or credits. The city said it hopes to set up a different type of camp format, similar to what the City of Gatineau is doing, but didn't release any plans Monday.Many parks are now open with limits, such as not using playground equipment or gathering.Quebec elementary schools outside Montreal are open. Schools for its older students and all Ontario schools are closed through summer.The closure of overnight camping and some day-use activities at provincial parks and conservation reserves will continue until at least June 14.Post-secondary schools are moving toward more online classes this fall, with Ontario promising a fall plan for younger students by July and Quebec hoping to have students back in class full-time.Distancing and isolatingThe coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. People don't need to have symptoms to be contagious.That means physical distancing measures such as working from home and staying at least two metres away from anyone they don't live with.Ottawa Public Health now wants people to think about how to safely do certain things and recommends people wear a fabric or non-medical mask when they can't always stay two metres from strangers, such as at a grocery store.Anyone who has symptoms or travelled recently outside Canada must self-isolate for at least 14 days.Specifically in Ottawa, anyone waiting for a COVID-19 test result must self-isolate at least until they know the result.The same goes for anyone in Ontario who's been in contact with someone who's tested positive or is presumed to have COVID-19.People 70 and older or with compromised immune systems or underlying health conditions should also self-isolate.What are the symptoms of COVID-19?COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a dry cough, vomiting and the loss of taste or smell. Less common symptoms include chills, headaches and pink eye. The Ontario government says in rare cases, children can develop a rash.If you have severe symptoms, call 911.Where to get testedIn eastern Ontario:In Ottawa any resident who feels they need a test, even if they are not showing symptoms, can now be tested.Tests are done at the Brewer Arena from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., seven days a week, or at 595 Moodie Dr. and 1485 Heron Rd. those same hours on weekdays.Testing has also expanded for local residents and employees who work in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit area.There is a drive-thru test centre in Casselman and assessment centres in Hawkesbury and Winchester that don't require people to call ahead and others in Rockland, and Cornwall that require an appointment.In Kingston, the assessment centre at the Kingston Memorial Centre is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for anyone with symptoms. Napanee's test centre is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily for people who call for an appointment.The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark unit asks you to get tested if you have a symptom or concerns about exposure.It has a walk-in site in Brockville open seven days a week at the Memorial Centre and testing sites in Smiths Falls and Almonte which require an appointment.The public health unit in the Belleville area is asking people to call it at 613-966-5500, their family doctor or Telehealth if they have symptoms or questions.If you have no symptoms, you can arrange a test in Bancroft, Belleville or Trenton by calling the centre, or in Picton by texting 613-813-6864. You can also call Picton's number as a backup.You may also qualify for a home test.Renfrew County is also providing home testing under some circumstances. Residents without access to a family doctor can call 1-844-727-6404 if they have health questions, COVID-19-related or not.If you're concerned about the coronavirus, take the self-assessment.In western Quebec:Outaouais residents should call 819-644-4545 if they have symptoms. They could end up being referred to Gatineau's testing centre.First Nations:Local communities have declared states of emergency, put in a curfew or both.Akwesasne has opened a mobile COVID-19 test site available by appointment only. Anyone returning to Akwesasne who's been farther than 80 kilometres away is asked to self-isolate for 14 days.Anyone in Tyendinaga who has symptoms can call 613-967-3603 to talk to a nurse.Pikwakanagan's council planned to let businesses reopen as of May 29. Kitigan Zibi is keeping schools closed through the summer.For more information

  • COVID-19 in Toronto 'could have been much worse,' city says, as number of deaths top 800
    News
    CBC

    COVID-19 in Toronto 'could have been much worse,' city says, as number of deaths top 800

    COVID-19 could have claimed more lives in Toronto if residents had not heeded public health directives, the city's medical officer of health said on Monday."While COVID-19 has drastically altered our lives and tragically we have lost too many of our friends, family members and other loved ones to this virus, as I have stated before, thus far we have averted what could have been much worse," Dr. Eileen de Villa said."If you hadn't done your part, we could have been experiencing tragedies similar to what we've seen in other parts of the world. But we are not out of the woods yet and we need to remain diligent and focused as we move forward."At a city hall news conference, De Villa reported that Toronto has 164 new COVID-19 cases as of Sunday afternoon, bringing the cumulative total in the city to 11,338.A total of 828 people have died of COVID-19 in Toronto and a total of 379 people are in hospital, the city reported on its website on Monday. Of the people in hospital, 83 are in intensive care units and 65 are on ventilators.A total of 8,630 people have recovered, an increase of 184 from Saturday. "There is more testing and we should expect to see more cases," de Villa told reporters.The city has had a cumulative total of 149 outbreaks at long-term care homes, retirement homes and hospitals.The Toronto Board of Health is set to meet next Monday and De Villa said she plans to recommend ways to improve the city's response to the pandemic at the meeting."A critical component of our work will continue to be case investigation and contact management and follow-up," she said."Although these are actually two distinct areas of public health activity and are often described in the popular media as contact tracing, these aspects of our public health response are amongst the most important when it comes to containing the spread of COVID-19."The board of health will also discuss Toronto's ongoing opioid poisoning crisis, which she said has been made worse by the pandemic. De Villa said the "dual public health crises" are having a significant impact on people who use drugs."Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures that were implemented to promote physical distancing, which was necessary to contain the spread of COVID-19, have forced harm reduction and other services that people rely upon to significantly reduce their service offerings or their service hours," she added.Washrooms opened at Trinity Bellwoods, Christie PitsThe new numbers come as city staff begin to reopen washrooms in public parks across Toronto while the pandemic continues.Mayor John Tory, who also spoke at the news conference, said city staff opened washrooms in Trinity Bellwoods Park and Christie Pits on the weekend.The city will open washrooms at another 50 sites by Saturday, with the remainder to be opened by the middle of the month. The city has about 200 washrooms in public parks.Toronto Public Health (TPH) is recommending all washrooms in parks should receive a "deep clean" once a week. TPH says water fountains and water bottle-filling stations should also open this week but should be cleaned and disinfected daily.Tory said the city is advising park visitors to wear face masks when using public washrooms and to wash their hands before and after using the public toilets. He said there will be signs in place to encourage physical distancing.Toronto to receive $166M from federal gas tax fundMeanwhile, Tory said the city will receive $166 million from the federal gas tax fund, according to the federal government. He said the money will be received in a lump sum by June 10."We had been planning to receive this funding before COVID-19 struck, so the fact that it is still coming and coming on an accelerated basis, is good news. This announcement is a good start, but it does not represent the comprehensive response needed for cities, including the City of Toronto, and it is not new money," Tory said.Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is rushing $2.2 billion in expected infrastructure funding to Canada's cities.Trudeau said sending gas-tax funds months sooner than planned should ease municipalities' cash flow concerns, which is why the government is sending the money in one shot.Speaking outside his Ottawa residence, Trudeau said the money can be used for construction projects to meet local infrastructure needs and put people to work.Toronto alone says it's facing a $1.5-billion shortfall this fiscal year and will need to slash services unless the other levels of government step in and help.City, United Way to work on homelessness planMeanwhile, the city has formed a partnership with United Way Greater Toronto (UWGT) to develop what it calls a "COVID-19 shelter interim recovery strategy" that will help the city and its agencies deal with homelessness over the next six to 12 months.Tory said the city and the United Way have also formed a new task force of organizations involved in helping people experiencing homelessness.Until June 30, the task force will consult community providers, Indigenous communities, heath sector organizations, regional municipal governments and members of the public about what the city can do to slow the spread of COVID-19 in its shelter system.The city and United Way will host virtual meetings, conduct surveys, and organizations discussions with health, housing and shelter organizations. The task force will focus on, among other things: * Lessons learned from the city's pandemic response. * Continued infection prevention measures needed to protect vulnerable individuals experiencing homelessness. * Capacity of the city's shelter system and best practices for programs that provide services to homeless people.Enforcement team talked to 7,200 residents about closuresToronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, head of the city's emergency management office, told reporters that the city received 94 complaints on Sunday about people using outdoor amenities or not practising physical distancing in parks and bylaw officers issued eight tickets.In May, the city's enforcement team have talked to more than 7,200 people in city parks about closures to slow the spread of COVID-19 and public health measures.Toronto Public Library opens more drop boxesOn Monday, Toronto Public Library reopened 53 more library branch drop boxes that will accept borrowed library materials. Residents will be able to schedule when they can pick up reserved materials starting next Monday.The library reinstated drop box service on May 25 at 17 library branches and have expanded it to 70 branches. Right now, drop boxes are only accepting borrowed library books, magazines, DVDs, CDs and audio books.While residents are encouraged to return borrowed items, the library says it is not mandatory. Residents can continue to hold on to materials until branches reopen and they will not be charged fines during the pandemic. Library customers can continue to place holds online through the library's website.Rainbow flag raised at city hall to kick off Pride Month Mayor John Tory, Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, who represents Ward 13-Toronto Centre, and Jad Jaber, a member of Pride Toronto's board of directors, proclaimed June as Pride Month in Toronto and raised the rainbow and transgender flags at a ceremony at city hall.The ceremony kicks off Pride Toronto's 2020 Virtual Pride Festival."Toronto prides itself on being not only the most diverse city in the world, but a city that is embracing of everyone, no matter what their religion, their skin colour or their sexual orientation. Raising the flags today is important for that exact reason," Tory said.Tory said the festival, which runs from June 1 to 28, is a virtual celebration showcasing the history, courage and diversity of Toronto's lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, queer, questioning and Two-Spirit communities. The event will culminate with the Virtual Pride Festival Weekend from June 26 to 28.

  • Alberta introduces bill to create own parole board like Quebec, Ontario
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Alberta introduces bill to create own parole board like Quebec, Ontario

    EDMONTON — Alberta has introduced a bill to create its own parole board.Premier Jason Kenney says it's time the province takes more control with a board staffed by members who better recognize community concerns, particularly in rural areas facing rising crime rates."Personnel is policy," Kenney said Monday prior to introducing the bill."The personnel we will be choosing to make up the Alberta Parole Board will be people who are coming from communities that have been facing this crime wave over recent years."They're going to be a lot more sensitive to the public safety imperative than we believe the federal parole board has been."Kenney said members would also know better the crime trends in their regions and the supports available to parolees. He said there are too many reports of inmates being released on parole and reoffending."Too often that's because of a revolving door justice system where criminals are arrested, convicted and are back out on the streets revictimizing more Albertans and causing frustration for our police and law-abiding citizens."The federal government controls the parole system and would continue to make parole decisions for inmates serving sentences longer than two years.For those serving terms under two years, the new Alberta board would make decisions on eligibility and conditions upon release.If the bill passes, the system would begin operating at the start of next year at a cost of $600,000 a year, Kenney said. Some of that money would come from the federal government, he said.Quebec and Ontario already operate their own provincial parole programs.Alberta has undertaken a number of initiatives, including hiring more prosecutors, to address rural crimes, which have jumped in recent years.In a 2017 report, Statistics Canada said rural crime rates on the Prairies were at least one-third higher than in urban areas.NDP justice critic Kathleen Ganley said the bill affects a proportionately small amount of prisoners.Ganley labelled it a public relations deflection from more substantive efforts to reduce rural crime, from paying for and hiring more police to dealing with affordable housing, poverty and other root causes of lawless behaviour."I don't anticipate (the bill) will have an enormous impact," said Ganley."This is more for show than it is designed to actually impact the issue of rural crime."This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2020Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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