A year ago, we had no idea what was in store for us. And as we wrap up 2020, Minna Rhee takes a look at some of the ways we can get a head start on 2021.
A year ago, we had no idea what was in store for us. And as we wrap up 2020, Minna Rhee takes a look at some of the ways we can get a head start on 2021.
While Ontario and Quebec are the epicentres of COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada, people in First Nations are being hit the hardest in Western Canada, where they make up half the number of hospitalizations in some provinces. The rising curve is alarming federal officials, who urged the provinces during a press conference in Ottawa on Wednesday to continue prioritizing Indigenous populations as they roll out vaccines. "So what we're saying to Canadians, to Indigenous Peoples, is now is not the time to let down your guard," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said. "This is not the time to ease public health restrictions." As of Jan. 19, Indigenous Services Canada was reporting 5,571 active cases on reserves — most of them in Prairie provinces: British Columbia: 580 Alberta: 1,312 Saskatchewan: 1,196 Manitoba: 2,241 Ontario: 93 Quebec: 144 Atlantic: 5 Indigenous Services Canada has reported 13,873 confirmed COVID-19 cases on reserves since last March. More than 90 per cent are in Western Canada: British Columbia: 1,348 Alberta: 4,459 Saskatchewan: 3,525 Manitoba: 3,643 Ontario: 428 Quebec: 462 Atlantic: 8 First Nation leaders and health experts say there are several reasons why infections are increasing in First Nations in Western Canada, including overcrowding, gatherings, people letting their guard down, relaxed restrictions and people driving in and out of communities with road access for goods and work. Lack of housing With COVID-19 caseloads rising all across Canada, the pandemic is emerging in places where it wasn't before, said Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist at Temerty Faculty of Medicine and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "It's quite concerning that COVID is starting to break into these communities," Banerji said. "They've held the forts for so long." Banerji researched respiratory infections in Inuit communities for over two decades. She said the main risk factors facing First Nations are poor access to health care services, underlying ailments, food insecurity, poverty and overcrowding. Banerji said she fears that when people get sick in First Nations, they can't find places to self-isolate. Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair of Opaskwayak Cree Nation, 628 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, said his community needs 600 more houses. "When you have people living under one roof, anywhere from six to as high as 14 members living under one roof on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, you can see how quickly that spread can happen," Sinclair said. "We're second-class citizens living in Third World conditions in a first world country." Opaskwayak Cree Nation has had success in preventing and controlling outbreaks by enforcing curfews and monitoring who enters and leaves the community with border patrols paid for by Indigenous Services Canada. The highest funding requests the department has seen for the Indigenous Community Support Fund — which was created to help communities fight COVID-19 — have been for perimeter security, said Valerie Gideon, associate deputy minister of Indigenous Services. Close to 350 First Nations across the country have closed their borders to non-essential travel, she added. But even with the added layer of security in some places, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says 50 per cent of all active COVID cases in Manitoba are First Nations members. Call for stricter provincial measures Relaxed provincial measures are also being blamed for the rise in First Nations cases. The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan is calling on the province to close bars and liquor establishments. "We believe alcohol in the bars is a contributing factor," said FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt, who recently recovered from COVID-19. "When you're on alcohol, you're more likely to lose your inhibitions, share drinks and not keep those social distance practices in practices and in check." Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs' Organization in Manitoba is urging the provincial and federal governments to enforce tougher rules to limit travel. Daniels said he thinks caseloads are rising because of people going back and forth from First Nations to urban areas. "I think until COVID is completely wiped out, they should be taking the strongest approach possible," Daniels said. Daniels said nearly 80 per cent of the 34 Anishnaabe and Dakota communities he represents are trying to control the spread of COVID-19. Concern for loss of elders Dr. Shannon McDonald, acting chief medical officer at the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia, said there isn't enough rapid testing available to test everyone who needs to travel to B.C. First Nations, and some tests can't detect infections in their first few days. "It only takes one person to come in and spend time with people in the community," McDonald said. McDonald fears the pandemic could take a particularly heavy toll on First Nations communties. "I always worry about our elders," McDonald said. "Our elders are our knowledge-keepers, our language holders and they are the human libraries, culturally. So communities are very sensitive to that, but individuals who are choosing not to adhere to public health advice are putting those individuals at risk and I really worry about that." Lawrence Latender, a member of Dauphin River First Nation, has felt first-hand the impact of COVID-19 during an outbreak in his community 250 kilometres north of Winnipeg. He recently lost seven neighbours and friends to the virus, including two aunts and an uncle. "I don't know if I had time to really grieve because it's one thing after the other," Latender said. "It's like you're focused on one death and then you're, well ... 'OK now I got to focus on this one. Ok, this one is gone, now I got to focus on this one.'" Letander, his wife and two young sons also tested positive, but have since recovered. Indigenous Services Canada says that, so far, there have been 120 COVID-19 deaths in First Nations. But with 169 Indigenous communities now administering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and more doses on the way, there's hope the chain of transmission will break.
WASHINGTON — Three new senators were sworn into office after President Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines late Wednesday, overcoming Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member. It's traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president’s administration. On Thursday, the new Senate majority leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he hoped Biden's nominees for the departments of Defence, Homeland Security, State and Treasury could also be swiftly confirmed. “To leave these seats vacant does a disservice to America,” Schumer said at the Capitol. Schumer introduced all six new Democratic senators — the “majority makers” — who he said represent an “expanding Democratic majority." Four are from the West and two from the South. They are a diverse group bringing several firsts to the Senate, along with Schumer's rise as the first Jewish majority leader of the Senate. The three who joined on Wednesday — Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Alex Padilla of California — took the oath of office from Kamala Harris, a former California senator who is first woman to be vice-president, and the first Black woman and Asian-American to hold that office. Warnock, a pastor from the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, is the first Black senator from Georgia. Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, is Jewish and also the now youngest member of the Senate, at 33. They won run-off elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans, to lock the majority for Democrats. Padilla, a the son of immigrants from Mexico, becomes his state's first Latino senator, tapped by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term. They join a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote. “Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.” Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump. Congress is being called on to consider Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID recovery package, to distribute vaccines and shore up an economy as more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus. At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of Trump, charged by the House of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College tally and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will need to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees. Yet as Washington looks to turn the page from Trump to the Biden administration, Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is not relinquishing power without a fight. Haines' nomination was temporarily blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., as he sought information about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is holding back the Homeland Security nominee, Alejandro Mayorkas, over Biden's proposed immigration changes. McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands, chiefly to preserve the Senate filibuster — the procedural tool often used by the minority party to block bills under rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation. At her first White House briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s desire to have his Cabinet confirmed and in place is “front and centre for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place Thursday or Friday. Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the COVID relief package, but left the details of the upcoming impeachment trial to Congress. The Senate can “multitask,” she said. That’s a tall order for a Senate under normal circumstances, but even more so now in the post-Trump era, with Republicans badly split between their loyalties to the defeated president and wealthy donors who are distancing themselves from Republicans who back Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is expected to soon transmit to the Senate the House-passed article of impeachment against Trump, charged with incitement of insurrection, a step that will launch the Senate impeachment trial. Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate. It’s an arcane fight McConnell has inserted into what has traditionally been a more routine organizing resolution over committee assignments and staffing resources, but a power play by the outgoing Republican leader grabbing at tools that can be used to block Biden’s agenda. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s priorities, but not all rank-and-file Senate Democrats are on board. Schumer has not agreed to any changes but McConnell is taking no chances. For now, it will take unanimous consent among senators to toggle between conducting votes on legislative business and serving as jurors in the impeachment trial. The House last week impeached Trump for having sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight like hell” during the tally of Electoral College votes to overturn Biden’s election. __ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. ___ This story has been updated to correct that Sen. Tom Cotton represents Arkansas, not Oklahoma. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
The province’s police watchdog has cleared a Peel police officer of criminal wrongdoing in the shooting death of Jamal Derek Francique Jr. a year ago as his family says they plan to launch an independent investigation. In a Wednesday news release, Special Investigations Unit (SIU) director Joseph Martino said there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the Peel Regional Police officer committed a criminal offence when he shot and killed Francique as he tried to evade police during an attempt to arrest him. The officer fired several shots at the car Francique was driving “to ward off what he believed was an imminent risk to his life,” Martino wrote in his report on the case. “The subject officer had cause to believe that Francique was determined to escape police apprehension regardless of the risk to the health and safety of officers on foot” as he drove his Acura within metres of them, the report said. According to the report, one of several witness officers jumped out of the way of the car, saying she feared for her life. In a news conference responding to the decision, Knia Singh, the family’s lawyer, said he will be launching an independent investigation and analysis of the findings, calling the SIU biased toward police. “The family has been greatly affected by this report confirming the inability to rely on the SIU to hold police accountable,” Singh said, adding that report had inconsistencies that show the “SIU is not conducting thorough, accurate investigations.” Francique’s father Derek Francique, who had been waiting more than a year for answers on his son’s death, said the decision is another example of police and the SIU failing the families of victims. “This report has left my family in further disbelief in the SIU and the police force,” Francique said in a statement. “We will show that the police and the SIU unit have consistently let down communities and families. Our family will get justice for Jamal.” Francique Jr. was shot at around 7:44 p.m. on Jan. 7, 2020, after members of the Peel police street crime unit went to the area near Southampton Drive and Aquinas Avenue in Mississauga to arrest him for breach of conditions related to a drug investigation. The SIU said Francique had visited his girlfriend in the days before the shooting, breaching a court order. The officers found him in a blue Acura TSX and, when officers approached the vehicle, he drove at them, the report said. The subject officer fired several shots at the windshield of the vehicle, hitting Francique in the head. He died in hospital three days later. According to the report, the location of the bullet holes in the Acura — three in the driver’s side of the front windshield and one just in front of the sunroof — suggest it was moving in the officers’ direction throughout the gunfire, the report says. In his conclusion, Martino wrote that while he accepted the subject officer had the option to withdraw from the situation, he had only moments to make a decision in a highly fraught situation. “The officer’s decision may not have been the only one available in the moment, but neither was it unreasonable,” Martino wrote. To that, Singh said all other options but lethal force should have been used. In a statement, Peel police Chief Nishan Duraiappah called Francique’s death a tragedy that all involved wish could have been averted. “Family and loved ones are left behind with questions and the officers involved are forced to deal with the realities of the stress these outcomes cause,” he said. Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
As they often did during nicer weather, Wayne and Michael Cherrington were preparing to sit and sip wine from the enclosed balcony of their fourth-storey suite, one night in October 2018. But their peaceful evening tradition was interrupted by tragedy. "My God Wayne, she doesn't see them, she's going to hit them," Michael, 78, remembers calling out in the moments before a vehicle hit 85-year-old Doreen French and her daughter in the parking lot of the Heritage Park Towers housing complex in south Edmonton. French died 12 days later in hospital. Marion Rickett-Beebee, a nurse who assisted clients in the apartment complex, is accused of careless driving under the provincial Traffic Safety Act. She is not facing criminal charges. The Cherringtons appeared remotely during the second day of the trial on Wednesday, testifying back-to-back about the events of Oct. 18, 2018. They say they saw French and her daughter, Patricia Wilton, walk toward the south tower on the roadway of the parking lot. A barricade and pipes were blocking part of the sidewalk at the time. Wilton said during her testimony Tuesday they were walking to visit a friend in the south tower. They stepped onto the parking lot road to avoid the obstacle — that's when they were hit by an SUV. Wilton said she suffered a number of injuries, including a broken right femur and a fractured vertebrae. The Cherringtons said the black SUV did not slow down prior to impact. "I remember that very distinctly" Wayne, 79, said. "That was my first reaction, to look at the back of that vehicle and see if the brake lights were going to come on. "They didn't." 'I turned away' Defence lawyer Darin Slaferek questioned the couple's recollection during cross-examination, referring to the shock of the event, the amount of time that had passed, and conversations since between them. He pointed out the black SUV must have hit the brakes at some point. Wayne said he did not see the actual moment of impact. "I turned away," he said. Slaferek also challenged Michael on her assertion that she could see the driver looking at the passenger's seat and not the road prior to impact, referring to photos taken from her fourth storey suite and the partially-tinted windows on the vehicle. At one point he asked whether Michael was trying to help her deceased friend and her daughter. "I'm trying to tell you what I saw the best I can," said Michael, who said there are many details of the day she cannot recount. "The only thing I can totally and completely remember … is when the car hit those two girls." The trial is set to continue for the rest of the week.
The Charlottetown Islanders are one of the best teams in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season, but right now they have no way to show it. The Islanders' games this weekend against the Cape Breton Eagles have been cancelled due to travel restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Islanders haven't played since the Atlantic bubble was suspended in November, and it's uncertain when they'll play again. New Brunswick, which has three teams in the league, has 317 active cases of COVID-19 and has tightened restrictions. "We're in a state of flux right now in terms of when we'll return to play," said Islanders coach and general manager Jim Hulton. "This week's announcement of the cancellation is just kind of a continuation of what we've gone through, probably a little bit easier since we haven't played since the end of November." The Islanders have only played against the other five Maritime teams this season, but their record of 12-2 is good for a share of first place in the 18-team league. They bolstered their lineup with a series of recent trades, including ones in which they acquired high-scoring centre Patrick Guay and Braedon Virtue from the Sherbrooke Phoenix. As they continue their 14-day isolation periods, other members of the team began practising again Wednesday after the holiday break. The players said while not being able to compete is difficult, they continue to focus on training. Defenceman Noah Laaouan said morale remains high. "You definitely get a lot closer, you probably spend a lot more time together around the rink and stuff like that because a lot of the time those are the only people you really get to see with all the restrictions and stuff like that." A spokesperson with the league said it's looking at resuming games between P.E.I. and Nova Scotia teams and plans to make a further announcement later this week. Hulton said all they can do is wait and be ready whenever the next game comes. "I think the one thing this pandemic has taught all of us is to be flexible and be fluid with your planning and I think our team has been a great example of that," he said. "We've had a number of players just finishing their mandatory quarantine after returning from Christmas, so the extra practice time is a good thing at this time." More from CBC P.E.I.
A secret North Island treasure has been lost to fire. A small cabin maintained by a local couple, and staunchly protected by those who know and love it, was found burned to the ground earlier this week. The small cabin was off Hecht Beach. It used to be a trapper’s cabin, and is on crown land. The local couple took responsibility for it, maintaining a sort of schedule of people who would request to stay overnight. There was a small stove, mugs and basic cooking gear, a bed platform and a small table. The windows overlooked the Pacific ocean, often crashing violently into black volcanic rocks on the beach. Images of the burnt cabin have been shared on social media, with loads of people commenting with memories and expressing sadness at the loss. Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Zoë Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Island Gazette
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden returned the United States to the worldwide fight to slow global warming in one of his first official acts Wednesday and immediately launched a series of climate-friendly efforts that would transform how Americans drive and get their power. “A cry for survival comes from the planet itself,” Biden said in his inaugural address. “A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear now.” Biden signed an executive order rejoining the Paris climate accord within hours of taking the oath of office, fulfilling a campaign pledge. The move undoes the U.S. withdrawal ordered by predecessor Donald Trump, who belittled the science behind climate efforts, loosened regulations on heat-trapping oil, gas and coal emissions, and spurred oil and gas leasing in pristine Arctic tundra and other wilderness. The Paris accord commits 195 countries and other signatories to come up with a goal to reduce carbon pollution and monitor and report their fossil fuel emissions. The United States is the world’s No. 2 carbon emitter after China. Biden's move will solidify political will globally, former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday. “Not a single country in this world, however powerful, however resourceful one may be, can do it alone,” said Ban, speaking virtually at a briefing in the Netherlands for an upcoming Climate Adaptation Summit. “We have to put all our hands on the deck. That is the lesson, very difficult lesson, which we have learned during last year," as Trump made good on his pledge to pull out of the global accord. The current U.N. secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, welcomed Biden’s steps, saying the U.S. reentry to the climate agreement means countries producing two-thirds of carbon pollution have committed to carbon neutrality. Biden signed other directives to start undoing other Trump climate rollbacks. He ordered a temporary moratorium on new oil and gas leasing in what had been virgin Arctic wilderness, directed federal agencies to start looking at tougher mileage standards and other emission limits again, and began revoking Trump's approval for the Keystone XL oil and gas pipeline. Another first-day order directed agencies to consider the impact on climate, disadvantaged communities, and on future generations from any regulatory action that affects fossil fuel emissions, a new requirement. Human-caused climate change has been linked to worsening natural disasters, including wildfires, droughts, flooding and hurricanes. However, there was no immediate word on when Biden would make good on another climate campaign pledge, one banning new oil and gas leasing on federal land. After Biden notifies the U.N. by letter of his intention to rejoin the Paris accord, it would become effective in 30 days, U.N. spokesman Alex Saier said. Rejoining the Paris accords could put the U.S. on track to cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 40% to 50% by 2030, experts said. “There’s a lot we can do because we’ve left so much on the table over the last four years," said Kate Larsen, former deputy director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality during the Obama administration. Biden has promised that the needed transformations of the U.S. transportation and power sectors, and other changes, will mean millions of jobs. Opponents of the climate accord, including Republican lawmakers who supported Trump's withdrawal from it, have said it would mean higher gas prices and higher electricity prices — even though wind and solar have become more affordable than coal, and competitive with natural gas, in generating electricity. “The Paris climate agreement is based on the backward idea that the United States is a culprit here, when in reality the United States is the leading driver of climate solutions,” said Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican. Republican senators are expected to introduce legislation that would require Biden to submit the Paris plan to the Senate for ratification. It’s not clear whether the narrowly divided Senate would have the two-thirds votes needed to ratify the agreement, which was never approved by Congress. Supporters say congressional approval is not needed. Most of the pollution-reduction goals set by the agreement are voluntary. The climate deal is based on each nation setting a goal for cutting carbon pollution by 2030. Other countries submitted theirs by last month. The U.S did not. Saier said America just needs to submit its goal some time before November climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland. A longtime international goal, included in the Paris accord with an even more stringent target, is to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. The world has already warmed 1.2 degrees (2.2 degrees Celsius) since that time. As of 2020, U.S. emissions were 24% below 2005 levels, but that reflected the extraordinary economic slowdown stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, said climate scientist Zeke Hausfather, energy and climate director for the Breakthrough Institute. There are two big areas where climate policy deals with day-to-day American life. One is electricity generation, and the other is transportation. Market forces have made wind and solar cheaper than dirtier coal, fueling a quiet transformation toward cleaner fuels, and that’s expected to continue so that eventually nearly all of the nation’s power will be low or zero carbon, Larsen and other experts say. What happens to cars, trucks and buses will be far more noticeable. Several experts foresee the majority of new cars purchased in 2030 being electric. ___ Knickmeyer reported from Oklahoma City. Borenstein reported from Kensington, Maryland. Associated Press writers Matthew Daly in Washington, Michael Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, and Frank Jordans in Berlin also contributed to this report. ___ Follow AP’s climate coverage at https://www.apnews.com/Climate ___ Follow Ellen Knickmeyer on Twitter at www.twitter/ellenknickmeyer and Seth Borenstein at www.twitter.com/borenbears. Ellen Knickmeyer And Seth Borenstein, The Associated Press
The United Nations Office for Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs said on Wednesday it has halted programs in Venezuela that provide cash transfers to the poor via local nonprofit organizations. The U.N. office known as OCHA is asking the government of President Nicolas Maduro to establish clear rules regarding cash transfers. "We're working with pertinent authorities so that the (cash transfer programs) are in line with the country's financial/banking regulatory framework with the aim of reactivating them, guaranteeing the safety of humanitarian workers and continuing to support ... vulnerable people," OCHA said in an email.
TORONTO — Declining new COVID-19 case counts in the two provinces hardest hit by the pandemic offer some hope that newly imposed restrictions are working, some experts said Wednesday, while stressing the need to maintain strict public health rules. Quebec and Ontario, which account for the bulk of the country's COVID-19 cases, have both seen new infections trend downwards compared to last week's totals, weeks after each province enacted a series of more stringent pandemic measures. The shift in numbers is "promising," and suggests not only that the measures are having some effect but also that people are being more compliant, said Dr. Jeff Kwong, an epidemiologist with the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "There's a glimmer of hope, but we need to keep up the current restrictions so that we can see things go down further," he said. "Because we really need to bring it down further before we can safely reopen anything." Dr. Camille Lemieux, who is the medical lead for an Ontario COVID-19 assessment centre, said the lower numbers are also partly due to the fact that people have fewer excuses to get together now that the holidays are over. But she said some of the lockdown measures are making a difference, while others — such as closing schools — may not have that much of an impact on daily infection numbers. "So this is a combination of timing... and the measures, in my opinion," she said. The key is to avoid lifting restrictions in a way that allows transmission to resume while so few people have been vaccinated, she said. "People may have to live with some more restrictions — more than they want, for longer than they want — until we get enough people vaccinated," she said. Quebec marked a fourth consecutive day with fewer than 2,000 new cases, reporting 1,502 on Wednesday. Premier Francois Legault suggested the shift may stem from the provincial curfew imposed nearly two weeks ago, which requires residents to be home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. The measure, which will remain in place until at least Feb. 8, was put in place in an effort to reduce transmission of the virus as hospitals face increased strain due to the pandemic. However, health experts warned it's too early to know whether the change can be attributed to the curfew, with some noting it is only one of a series of restrictions implemented to bring down case counts. Ontario, meanwhile, recorded 2,655 new cases on Wednesday, higher than Tuesday's count but a decline from last week, when it saw around 3,000 new cases each day. The province announced Wednesday that schools in only seven public health units in southern Ontario will reopen to in-person learning on Monday, with the rest continuing with online-only lessons. In-person learning was put on hold across the province for the first week of the winter term, a measure that was later extended to Jan. 25 for all schools in southern Ontario. When Ontario declared a state of emergency last week, it also extended online learning for schools in five hot spots until Feb. 10. Health officials across the country are also having to deal with an impending pause in deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. In Manitoba, health officials said Wednesday that no vaccine appointments are being cancelled, though the province will receive roughly half the doses it expected over the next four weeks. The province has also seen daily numbers drop recently in most areas except the north, reporting 153 new cases on Wednesday. Officials are considering loosening some of the measures related to stores and public gatherings in southern and central regions sometime this week. The federal government has said Canada won't receive any doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week after the company advised it is slowing production at its Belgium facility to make upgrades that will eventually boost its output. Ottawa further noted it can't tell provinces how many doses they'll get over the next month as a result of the changes at Pfizer. Canada was scheduled to get 417,000 doses over the next two weeks, and now expects to receive about 171,000. The federal government also moved Wednesday to extend restrictions on international travel into Canada from countries aside from the U.S. until at least Feb. 21. Proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test is required for any air travellers five years or older boarding an international flight to Canada, and anyone coming into the country must follow isolation or quarantine rules. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version gave an incorrect number for new daily cases in Quebec.
The red phase of COVID recovery won’t stop Rev. Chris VanBuskirk from holding his church services. Neither will the cold. Red phase rules mean faith gatherings are now allowed only online or through drive-in services. During the pandemic, VanBuskirk, the minister for St. George’s Anglican Church in Moncton, has already had to don a coat and a touque for a service, and has led his congregation from the back of a cube van at least once. He's preparing to do this more often after southern New Brunswick was plunged into red this week by soaring case numbers. While the church has had drive-in services sparingly throughout the pandemic, they will now be held every Sunday, he said. There will also be online services that he will preside over from indoors. Services for the homeless continue, he said. For the 30 or so people who have been attending drive-in services, many feel like they are part of a group by doing it, an essential feeling when isolation is such a big part of preventing the spread of COVID, he said. Rev. Lloyd Bruce of the Sackville Pastoral Charge of the United Church of Canada, said his church is also getting creative to retain the feeling of community. “Virtual community dinners are in the works for Wednesday evenings,” he said. Also planned are Zoom Coffee & Conversations and Zoom Beer & Hymns. Rev. Richard Jackson, pastor of First Moncton United Baptist Church, said his church had already switched to online only services during the orange phase, and will continue to use that format. Services themselves are only part of what faith leaders do. Pastoral care, which offers support services in homes, hospitals and other venues, is riddled with additional challenges in the more restrictive orange and red phases. Bruce said he has been making “driveway visits”, having phone calls and holding office hours over Zoom. In crisis situations, he has met with people following appropriate safeguards. Driveway visits, which he noted are a bit less popular in the winter than they were in summer, demonstrate something pretty important, he said. “It’s making the effort to go and be present that reminds someone they are important.” . VanBuskirk said for those who are shut-ins, pastoral care has been extremely difficult in some cases. “There are some I have only been able to see once or twice since the pandemic started,” he said. “In some cases it is difficult to talk on the phone,” VanBuskirk said, noting some may have memory or other physical or cognitive issues that are negatively impacted by him not being able to engage in-person. As a minister, he was allowed to visit just one person each day in hospitals during yellow phase, so he went just about every day. But in red phase, things are more restrictive and spiritual leaders can only visit those in palliative care, said VanBuskirk. Bruce, also a denominational chaplain at The Moncton Hospital, said, “It’s been challenging,” but added that he respects the goal of keeping everyone in the community as safe and healthy as possible by implementing such measures. Bruce said he is blessed to have a supportive team, but while it might seem like church leaders have boundless energy to keep creatively pivoting throughout the pandemic, they don’t. Many in leadership roles are also struggling right now, he said. “It’s exhausting trying to constantly come up with creative ways to foster community,” he said. Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal
Faster broadband access is coming to 200 homes and businesses in Chisholm. Ontario is providing $267,473 to upgrade the infrastructure while Spectrum Group is providing $127,368 and the township is kicking in $29,719 to support the project. “Reliable broadband service is certainly needed for life in the 21st century and today's announcement is a step toward making broadband improvements for our rural businesses, families, and individuals,” said Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli when making the announcement Wednesday. “Now, more than ever, the residents of Chisholm are relying on the internet to access services, working from home and connecting with their loved ones.” Chisholm Mayor Gail Degagne said the improvements are needed and timely due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing more people to work from home. “Broadband is a priority with council and staff, especially now with the pandemic,” Degagne said in the media release. “There is an increase of people working from home and students doing online learning which has made high-speed internet an essential service now more than ever.” The project is led by the Blue Sky Economic Growth Corporation, which helps communities and service providers improve broadband access. This investment is part of Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan. On November 4, 2020, the Ontario government announced its investment of $680 million on top of its existing commitment to improve connectivity in the province, leading to a historic investment of nearly $1 billion over six years Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada. Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca
BEIJING — The U.S.'s accusation of genocide against China touches on a hot-button human rights issue between China and the West. In one of his final acts as secretary of state, Mike Pompeo declared Tuesday that China’s policies against Muslims in its Xinjiang region constitute “crimes against humanity” and “genocide.” The same day, British lawmakers narrowly rejected a proposal aimed at China that would have barred trade deals with any country deemed to be committing genocide. The far western region of Xinjiang is home to the predominantly Muslim Uighur ethnic group. China denies human rights violations and says its actions in Xinjiang are necessary to counter a separatist and terrorist threat. ___ WHY IS CHINA ACCUSED OF GENOCIDE? Pompeo cited forced birth control among Uighurs, which an Associated Press investigation documented last year, and forced labour, which has been linked by AP reporting to products imported to the U.S., including clothing, cameras and computer monitors. “I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state,” Pompeo said in a written statement, using an alternative spelling for Uighurs. ___ WHAT IS CHINA'S RESPONSE? China strongly defends its human rights record and policies in Xinjiang, saying its constitution and laws treat all citizens equally. It denies imposing coercive birth control measures or forced labour, saying those behind the allegations are lying in an effort to smear China’s reputation and impede its development. Xu Guixiang, a deputy spokesperson for the Xinjiang branch of the ruling Communist Party, told reporters last week that birth control decisions were made of the person’s own free will and that “no organization or individual can interfere.” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Wednesday called Pompeo a “doomsday clown” and said his designation of China as a perpetrator of genocide and crimes against humanity was merely “a piece of wastepaper.” ___ WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? The genocide designation does not trigger any immediate repercussions, but requires the U.S. to take it into account in formulating policy toward China. It puts pressure on President Joe Biden to maintain a tough line against China. He and members of his national security team have expressed support for such a designation in the past. Antony Blinken, Biden’s choice to be secretary of state, said Tuesday that the Trump administration was right to take a tougher stance on China, but that it had approached the matter poorly by alienating U.S. allies and not fully standing up for human rights elsewhere. ___ HOW WILL CHINA RESPOND? China may wish to avoid an early skirmish with the Biden administration, saving its invective for Pompeo and calibrating its response based on the possibility of tensions easing now after they flared under Donald Trump. As with most sensitive issues, China has heavily restricted foreign media access to Xinjiang and sought to limit any domestic discussion to official pronouncements. Still, the “parting shot" from the Trump administration will likely further stress the relationship in the near term, said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China. He said the already slim chances of reducing China-U.S. tensions have been further limited in the coming weeks and months. ___ WHAT HAPPENED IN LONDON? Lawmakers rejected by a 319-308 vote an amendment to a post-Brexit trade bill that would have forced the British government to revoke bilateral trade agreements with a country if the High Court of England found that it had perpetrated genocide. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab last week called the amendment “well-meaning” but ineffective and counter productive. A significant number of rebel Conservatives backed the proposal, as did Jewish, Muslim and Christian community leaders. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to continue facing vocal calls within his Conservative party for a stronger and more coherent policy on China over its alleged rights abuses and violations of international norms. The Associated Press
The siblings have always had a powerful bond.
Regina police are investigating the city's second homicide of 2021, after a man who was assaulted died. On Tuesday, police responded to the 1700 block of Quebec Street following a report of an attack. Police and emergency medical responders found the victim with injuries that were described as serious. The man was taken to hospital, where he died on Wednesday, Regina police said, and they are treating the death as a homicide. His next of kin have been notified. Police described him only as an adult male in a news release Wednesday. "Police will release the victim's name publicly, but wanted to give the family some time before doing so," the news release said. No other details have been provided at this time. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Regina Police Service at (306) 777-6500 or Crime Stoppers at 1 (800) 222-8477.
A teen BMX star who died in a fish farm accident near Port Hardy in 2019 was inadequately trained, WorkSafe BC concluded in its report on the incident. Aidan Webber was 18 years old and had been working for Sea Roamer Marine Services for nine months when he died in an accident on March 10, 2019. WorkSafe BC investigated and found that Sea Roamer’s safety training and supervision was lacking. It also pointed to inappropriate tie-up points at the Mowi-owned pen at Robertson Island where the incident occurred. Webber was deckhand on a barge being docked at the fish farm. While the tugboat master was maneuvering the boat into place, Webber jumped from the barge to the walkway of the pen to tie a mooring line. The walkway did not have docking cleats, but required a line to be fed through a small hole at the base of a stanchion (like a fence post) holding the underwater net in place. This often required the deckhand to have their back turned to the barge while securing, the investigator found. While Webber was bent over tying the line, the barge, still with forward momentum, slid onto the walkway crushing Webber into the stanchion. He died of his injuries before reaching Port Hardy despite attempts to provide first aid. The firm’s representative told WorkSafe they did not have written procedures for deckhands for mooring or docking vessels. As well, there were no formal orientation procedures or records, and that all training was done informally during work operations, the report stated. Workers under 25 years old are also specifically required to receive extra safety orientation and training, which the investigation found was not followed. RELATED: Teenager dies in workplace accident off the coast of Port Hardy Webber’s mother Nicole is frustrated that with such clear violations, there wasn’t even a fine. She manages a long-term health care facility, and knows how tightly safety regulations are enforced. There seems to be different safety requirements for marine industries, she noted. “In health care if you don’t fix an issue in your workplace that impacts workers, WCB is so quick to fine the health authority. I have no idea why this company doesn’t have the same kind of consequence.” Adding to the difficulty of a tragic situation, Webber’s father Jim works at Sea Roamer too. He was part of the crew that trained Webber. Nicole does not blame Jim for the poor training; she blames the company and the industry. “The company didn’t have the policy and procedure in place for my husband to train my son properly and safely,” she said. “After he was killed, my husband repeatedly said Aidan did what he was trained to do. Aidan was trained to work quickly and efficiently.” Nicole Webber wants to see a fulsome safety orientation be developed for marine workers. “Aidan was more than a fallen worker, more than a BMX prodigy. He was the most amazing, loving, bright light of a human being. He was joyous. He really represents the best in humanity. I’m just so sorry for Aidan that his life was cut short … because of an industry’s oversight, really,” Nicole Webber said. Sea Roamer has not yet responded to requests for an interview, nor has Mowi. Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: email@example.com Zoë Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Island Gazette
Parks Canada issued a statement Wednesday that it is willing to meet with members of the Kawartha Nishnawbe First Nation community who have put up a blockade to stop construction to replace the Burleigh Falls Dam. On Jan. 13, members of the first nation community established a blockade, putting a halt to the repair work being done to the dam — which is owned by Parks Canada — because no consultation was made with the nearby community prior to the start of construction. According to Parks Canada’s statement written by David Britton, director of Ontario Waterways, the dam at Lock 28 of the Trent-Severn Waterway is one dam in a chain of dams and an integral part of the water management structure of central Ontario. “Engineering inspections in recent years have identified the declining condition of the Burleigh Falls Dam. A significant void at the base of the dam undermines the dam’s structural integrity, and is cause for concern regarding both public safety, and the protection of properties and species, including an important Walleye fishery,” Britton wrote. “Concrete strength inspections have showed deterioration beyond what is deemed acceptable. These factors indicate that the dam is at or nearing the end of its useful life, and requires a major intervention. Parks Canada is proceeding with a full replacement of the dam, following the current phase of construction that will first stabilize the existing dam.” The protesters have said they do not dispute that the dam needs to be replaced but they wanted to be consulted before the construction began. Britton said the federal government is committed to working to advance reconciliation and renew the relationships with Indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, collaboration and partnership. “Parks Canada has offered to meet with the Kawartha Nishnawbe on the Burleigh Falls Dam replacement project both in 2016 and more recently to understand their concerns regarding the potential impacts of the project. Parks Canada remains available to do so and hopes to connect in a meaningful way through this process,” Britton wrote. Parks Canada has met with Curve Lake First Nation and the other Williams Treaties First Nations on the first phase of the project and has arranged mitigation measures, including on-site monitors, to address their concerns, Britton added. “Parks Canada continues to meet with Curve Lake First Nation and the other Williams Treaties First Nations on the upcoming phases of work for the Burleigh Falls dam replacement project and are working together to develop fisheries monitoring and mitigation plans,” he wrote. Originally the Trent-Severn Waterway had planned to rehabilitate the dam, but could not find a contractor that could do the work, so a decision was made to replace the dam. Parks Canada plans to complete the work by 2024. Kawartha Nishnawbe members could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Marissa Lentz is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner
Approximately 100,000 Ontarians will head back to school as early as January 25. Those living in COVID-19 hotspots such as Peel, Toronto, York, Hamilton and Windsor Essex will remain learning online. Morganne Campbell reports.
CALGARY — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is calling for the federal government to impose economic sanctions against the United States in response to newly inaugurated U.S. President Joe Biden's "gut punch" decision to tear up the permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline expansion. "As friends and allies of the United States, we are deeply disturbed that one of President Biden's first actions in office has been to rescind the presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline border crossing. This is a gut punch for the Canadian and Alberta economies," Kenney said at a news conference late Wednesday. "Sadly, it is an insult directed at the United States' most important ally and trading partner on Day 1 of a new administration." Kenney said he was upset the U.S. wouldn't consult with Canada first before acting but saved his strongest criticisms for federal Liberals, whose statements in response to Biden's actions Kenny characterized as too accepting. "If the U.S. government refuses to open the door to a constructive and respectful dialogue about these issues, then it is clear that the government of Canada must impose meaningful trade and economic sanctions in response to defend our country's economic interests," he said. The lack of a strong response sets a precedent that could allow other members of Biden's government to call for other "retroactive" permit revocations for existing pipelines, Kenney said. Part of Keystone XL has been built but it is not complete, nor is it operating. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed disappointment at the news on Wednesday. "While we welcome the president's commitment to fight climate change, we are disappointed but acknowledge the president’s decision to fulfil his election campaign promise on Keystone XL," he said in a brief statement that outlined previous efforts to make a case for the project to the incoming administration. Biden's first phone call with a foreign leader will be with Trudeau, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday, noting that she expected the Keystone decision would be among matters under discussion. Earlier in the day, TC Energy said Biden's action overturns extensive regulatory reviews that found the pipeline would transport needed energy in an environmentally responsible way and bolster North American energy security. The Calgary-based company also warned the move would lead to the layoffs of thousands of union workers and comes despite the company's commitments to use renewable energy to power the pipeline and forge equity partnerships with Indigenous communities. The Biden decision was condemned by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. "This action is killing thousands of Canadian and American jobs at a time when both economies badly need private investment," said CEO Tim McMillan in a statement. Meanwhile, environmental groups applauded Biden's move. "Killing the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all is a clear indication that climate action is a priority for the White House," said Dale Marshall, national climate program manager for Canada's Environmental Defence. "We should take heed when the biggest customer for Canada’s oil kills a pipeline that is already under construction. The Keystone XL pipeline never made sense for either the U.S. or Canada." Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said it's "incredibly troubling" that TC Energy has suspended work on Keystone XL. Federal Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole called the cancellation of the permit "devastating." "We need to get as many people back to work, in every part of Canada, in every sector, as quickly as possible. The loss of this important project only makes that harder," O'Toole said. The Business Council of Canada and the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada said in news releases they are disappointed. “Pulling the plug on a major project, hours after taking office, is a rocky starting point for resetting Canada/U.S. relations,” said PCAC president Paul de Jong. The association, whose member companies employ thousands of Alberta and B.C. construction workers, said the pipeline would have generated as many as 60,000 direct and indirect jobs in Canada and the United States. "Canadian oil will be an important source of North American energy for decades to come, and will play a critical role as Canada and the United States work together to transition to a low-carbon economy," said Goldy Hyder, CEO of the Business Council of Canada. TC Energy approved spending US$8 billion in the spring of 2020 to complete Keystone XL after the Alberta government agreed to invest about US$1.1 billion (C$1.5 billion) as equity and guarantee a US$4.2-billion project loan. Kenney has said the province has about $1 billion at risk if the project is killed. The 1,947-kilometre pipeline is designed to carry 830,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Hardisty, Alta., to Steele City, Neb. From there it would connect with the company's existing facilities to reach the U.S. Gulf Coast — one of the world's biggest oil refining hubs. TC Energy announced a plan Sunday for the Keystone XL project to achieve net-zero emissions by spurring an investment of over US$1.7 billion in communities along the Keystone XL footprint to create about 1.6 gigawatts of renewable electric capacity. The Calgary-based company has also struck a deal with four labour unions to build the pipeline and has an agreement in place with five Indigenous tribes to take an ownership stake. Some 200 kilometres of pipe have already been installed for the expansion, including across the Canada-U.S. border, and construction has begun on pump stations in Alberta and several U.S. states. TC Energy said it will stop capitalizing costs, including interest during construction, effective Wednesday, and will evaluate the carrying value of its investment in the pipeline, net of project recoveries. It says this will likely result in "substantive" mostly non-cash writedowns in its first-quarter financial results. The company remains committed to growing earnings and dividends through its investments in critical energy infrastructure even without Keystone XL, said Francois Poirier, who took over as TC Energy CEO at the beginning of the year. “Our base business continues to perform very well and, aside from Keystone XL, we are advancing $25 billion of secured capital projects along with a robust portfolio of other similarly high-quality opportunities under development,” Poirier said in a statement. Biden was vice-president in 2015 when Barack Obama rejected Keystone XL for fear it would worsen climate change. Then-U.S. president Trump approved it again in March 2019. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:TRP) Dan Healing, The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says the province has begun giving second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine with priority for residents in long-term care homes. Dr. Deena Hinshaw says adjustments are being made on the fly to make sure everyone who has received a first shot gets the booster in the recommended time frame. Timelines have been put in flux because of delays in shipments from Pfizer-BioNTech, which produces one of two vaccines approved by Health Canada. Hinshaw says health officials are working to get residents of long-term care and supportive living facilities their second doses within a month of the first shot because they are at high risk. She says “everything possible” will be done to find second doses for others no later than six weeks after their first shot. Alberta has given more than 95,000 doses to those considered a high priority, including care-home residents and front-line health workers. “We are also looking within our available supplies to be able to provide the second dose to all others who have received their first dose within the maximum allowable window of that 42 days,” Hinshaw said Wednesday. “We are needing to adjust plans.” Alberta Health says missing the window does not mean the first dose will be ineffective. “Evidence is still emerging on all the vaccines,” said department spokesman Tom McMillan in a statement. “There is evidence that the immune response begins to develop within two weeks of the first dose and continues to develop after that. But it is not known how long any protection from a single dose lasts.” McMillan said the expectation remains that Alberta will be able to deliver the second dose within the window. But if not, current recipients “would not need to begin the series over. They would simply receive the second dose as soon as available,” he said. Premier Jason Kenney said earlier this week that no new first doses would be offered for the time being. Hinshaw reported 669 new COVID cases on Wednesday, with 10,565 active cases. Some 744 people were in hospital, 124 of them in intensive care. There were 21 more deaths for a total of 1,484. Alberta first began delivering doses in mid-December from two suppliers, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. Canada was to get more than 417,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week and next, but is now to receive just over 171,000 this week and nothing next week. Both vaccines require two doses several weeks apart for full effectiveness. The delay has also forced the province to put off implementing its next phase of priority vaccinations: Indigenous seniors over 65 and other seniors 75 and older. Alberta remains under lockdown measures, which include a ban on indoor gatherings. Bars, restaurants and lounges can offer takeout or pickup service only. Retailers are limited to 15 per cent customer capacity, while entertainment venues, including casinos and movie theatres, remain shuttered. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
SURREY, B.C. — RCMP say a man wanted in connection with a murder investigation in Winnipeg and a kidnapping and assault probe in Surrey, B.C., has been arrested after months on the run. Mounties say Dyllan Petrin was picked up Tuesday after police learned he had been hiding out in Vancouver. They say Petrin cut off his electronic monitoring bracelet last May while he was out on bail, and he was later identified as a suspect in a murder in July. Police in Winnipeg say the B.C. man faces charges of first-degree murder in relation to the shooting incident. Members of the Surrey RCMP strike force team, Lower Mainland integrated emergency response crew and Vancouver police assisted in the arrest. Surrey RCMP Supt. Elija Rain says the arrest would not have been possible without strong collaboration among the various law enforcement agencies. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. The Canadian Press