SYK earnings call for the period ending December 31, 2020.
President Joe Biden on Saturday said his administration would make an announcement on Saudi Arabia on Monday, following a U.S. intelligence report that found Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had approved the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Biden administration has faced some criticism, notably an editorial in the Washington Post, that the president should have been tougher on the crown prince, who was not sanctioned despite being blamed for approving Khashoggi's murder.
(Submitted by Gerald McKenzie - image credit) First Nations in Saskatchewan have continued to be hit hard by COVID-19 in the first two months of 2021. According to Indigenous Services Canada, during the first seven weeks of 2021, there were 2,779 new cases in reserves in Saskatchewan — more than in any other province. By comparison, in that same time period, there were 2,290 cases on reserves in Manitoba and 2,389 in Alberta. In a Wednesday news release, Indigenous Services said it is "closely monitoring the number of COVID-19 cases reported in First Nations communities across the country." However, there is some good news — active case counts are declining, and there has not yet been a confirmed case of any of the new coronavirus variants of concern on reserve. Vaccine deliveries are also ramping up, and as of Feb. 23, Indigenous Services reported that more than 103,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Indigenous communities throughout Canada. In Saskatchewan, as of Feb. 14, the federal department estimates that vaccine uptake in First Nations communities was at or above 75 per cent. Indigenous Services also said it is working to support the vaccine rollout for Indigenous adults living in urban areas. "ISC is working closely with [the] National Association of Friendship Centres, as well as provinces and territories, First Nation, Inuit and Métis partners, and other urban community service organizations to support planning efforts," the department said in its news release this week. "This includes working to identify barriers, challenges and opportunities for increasing vaccine uptake and ensuring the vaccine is available in culturally safe and accessible locations." According to the department, vaccine clinics for Indigenous adults are currently being planned for Saskatoon and Regina.
(Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press - image credit) Health Canada's approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India's version to prevent COVID-19 in adults follows similar green lights from regulators in the United Kingdom, Europe Union, Mexico and India. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, called ChAdOx1, was approved for use in Canada on Friday following clinical trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil that showed a 62.1 per cent efficacy in reducing symptomatic cases of COVID-19 cases among those given the vaccine. Experts have said any vaccine with an efficacy rate of over 50 per cent could help stop outbreaks. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, said the key number across all of the clinical trials for those who received AstraZeneca's product was zero — no deaths, no hospitalizations for serious COVID-19 and no deaths because of an adverse effect of the vaccine. "I think Canada is hungry for vaccines," Sharma said in a briefing. "We're putting more on the buffet table to be used." Specifically, 64 of 5,258 in the vaccination group got COVID-19 with symptoms compared with people in the control group given injections (154 of 5,210 got COVID-19 with symptoms). Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto's University Health Network, called it a positive move to have AstraZeneca's vaccines added to Canada's options. "Even though the final efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine appears lower than what we have with the mRNA vaccines, it's still reasonably good," Hota said. "What we need to be focusing on is trying to get as many people as possible vaccinated so we can prevent the harms from this." Canada has an agreement with AstraZeneca to buy 20 million doses as well as between 1.9 million and 3.2 million doses through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX. WATCH | AstraZeneca vaccine overview: Canada will also receive 2 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the government announced Friday. Here's a look at some common questions about the vaccine, how it works, in whom and how it could be rolled out. What's different about this shot? The Oxford-AstraZeneca is cheaper and easier to handle than the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which need to be stored at ultracold temperatures to protect the fragile genetic material. AstraZeneca says its vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions (2 to 8 C) for at least six months. (Moderna's product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures for 30 days after thawing.) The ease of handling could make it easier to administer AstraZeneca's vaccine in rural and remote areas of Canada and the world. "There are definitely some advantages to having multiple vaccine candidates available to get to as many Canadians as possible," Hota said. Sharma said while the product monograph notes that evidence for people over age 65 is limited, real-world data from countries already using AstraZeneca's vaccine suggest it is safe and effective among older age groups. "We have real-world evidence from Scotland and the U.K. for people that have been dosed that would have been over 80 and that has shown significant drop in hospitalizations," Sharma said, based on a preprint. Data from clinical trials is more limited compared with in real-world settings that reflect people from different age groups, medical conditions and other factors. How does it work? Vaccines work by training our immune system to recognize an invader. The first two vaccines to protect against COVID-19 that were approved for use in Canada deliver RNA that encodes the spike protein on the surface of the pandemic coronavirus. Health-care workers Diego Feitosa Ferreira, right, and Clemilton Lopes de Oliveira travel on a boat in the state of Amazonas in Brazil, on Feb. 12, to vaccinate residents with the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures, which facilitates its use in remote areas. In contrast, the AstraZeneca vaccine packs the genetic information for the spike protein in the shell of a virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. Vaccine makers altered the adenovirus so it can't grow in humans. Viral vector vaccines mimic viral infection more closely than some other kinds of vaccines. One disadvantage of viral vectors is that if a person has immunity toward a particular vector, the vaccine won't work as well. But people are unlikely to have been exposed to a chimpanzee adenovirus. AstraZeneca is working on reformulating its vaccine to address more transmissible variants of coronavirus. How and where could it be used? Virologist Eric Arts at Western University in London, Ont., said vaccines from Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, which is also under review by Health Canada, and Russian Sputnik-V vaccines all have some similarities. "I do like the fact that AstraZeneca has decided to continue trials, to work with the Russians on the Sputnik-V vaccine combination," said Arts, who holds the Canada Research Chair in HIV pathogenesis and viral control. Boxes with AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine are pictured at St. Mary's Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Health Canada says the vaccine is given by two separate injections of 0.5 millilitres each into the muscle of the arm. "The reason why I'm encouraged by it is I think there might be greater opportunity to administer those vaccines in low- to middle-income countries. We need that. I think our high-income countries have somewhat ignored the situation that is more significant globally." Researchers reported on Feb. 2 in the journal Lancet that in a Phase 3 clinical trial involving about 20,000 people in Russia, the two-dose Sputnik-V vaccine was about 91 per cent effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with COVID-19. WATCH | Performance of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine so far: There were 16 COVID-19 cases in the vaccine group (0.1 per cent or 16/14,964) and 62 cases (1.3 per cent or [62/4,902) in the control group. No serious adverse events were associated with vaccination. Most adverse events were mild, such as flu-like symptoms, pain at injection site and weakness or low energy. Arts and other scientists acknowledged the speed and lack of transparency of the Russian vaccination program. But British scientists Ian Jones and Polly Roy wrote in an accompanying commentary that the results are clear and add another vaccine option to reduce the incidence of COVID-19.
OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced scoring attack in a 6-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon at Canadian Tire CentreJuuso Valimaki, Mikael Backlund, Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan, Andrew Mangiapane and Matthew Tkachuk scored for the Flames, who ended Ottawa's three-game win streak.Drake Batherson, Colin White and Brady Tkachuk replied for the last-place Senators. Ottawa (7-15-1) remain in the NHL basement with 15 points.Calgary (10-10-2) moved into a fourth-place tie with Montreal in the North Division with 22 points. The Canadiens were scheduled to play the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night.The Flames opened the scoring four minutes into the game. The speedy Johnny Gaudreau zipped around a couple of Ottawa players before sending a backhand saucer pass to Valimaki for the one-timer.The Flames scored again 37 seconds later as Backlund flipped a rolling puck past a handcuffed Matt Murray.The Sens goalie stopped 27-of-33 shots on Saturday.Perhaps in an effort to spark his teammates, Austin Watson fought bruising Flames forward Milan Lucic on the ensuing faceoff. Lucic, who had a 35-pound weight advantage, won the decision.Calgary took advantage of some sloppy defensive play ahead of its third goal. Josh Norris turned the puck over deep in the zone and Lindholm snapped it in at 11:05.Batherson extended his goal-scoring streak to five games with a power-play effort at 13:05. He beat David Rittich with a wrist shot from the faceoff circle.Another Senators' defensive lapse proved costly early in the second period as Chris Tierney coughed up the puck down low. Gaudreau fed it to Monahan for the power-play goal at 4:02.A Calgary shorthanded goal followed at 9:36. Mangiapane hit the post with a redirect attempt before tapping in the rebound. White responded 40 seconds later by scooping a loose puck off the faceoff and snapping it past a screened Rittich. The netminder posted 31 saves in Calgary's win.The lone goal in the third period came when Brady Tkachuk scored on the Ottawa power play at 10:00.The Senators dumped the Flames 6-1 on Thursday night. The teams will face off again Monday in the finale of Ottawa's five-game homestand. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting its sixth death from COVID-19 as the province continues to battle an outbreak of a virus variant first detected in the United Kingdom. Health authorities say the latest death was a man over the age of 70 in the Eastern Health region. The province also recorded four new confirmed cases in the same region, including two females and two males with one between the ages of 20 and 39 and three between the ages of 40 and 49. Officials say contact tracing is underway and anyone considered a close contact has been advised to quarantine. Newfoundland has been in lockdown since Feb. 12, when officials first announced an outbreak in the St. John’s area was fuelled by the mutation of the novel coronavirus. The province has 271 active cases of COVID-19 and there are currently 10 people in hospital with six in intensive care. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2022. The Canadian Press
Thousands of flag-waving marchers demonstrated Saturday in Tunisia's capital in a show of support for the majority party in parliament. The demonstration follows political tensions between Tunisia's president and its prime minister, Hichem Mechichi. Mechichi has sought to reshuffle his Cabinet but has seen some of his proposed ministerial appointments blocked by President Kais Saied. Marchers in Tunis chanted “The people want national unity.” The demonstration was called by the Islamist Ennahdha party that holds the largest block of seats in Tunisia's parliament. Tunis,Tunisia, The Associated Press
MILAN — The fedora Humphrey Bogart wore in “Casablanca” may have secured Borsalino’s place in fashion and cinematic history, but it will be something like the cow-print bucket hat that will help ensure its future. The storied Italian hatmaker still makes its felt hats by hand in a Piedmont region factory, using the same artisanal techniques from when the company was founded in 1857 and some of founder Giuseppe Borsalino’s original machinery. It is updating its offerings for next fall and winter, with a focus on customization and youth-trends. The new collection displayed during Milan Fashion Week takes inspiration from the Arts & Crafts design movement in mid-19th century Britain. Hat pins with leaf and floral motifs allow women to uniquely shape the hats, to take up an oversized brim, say, or to create an elegant fold in the crown. A leopard fedora can be paired with a long chain, to wear over the shoulder when going in and out of shops, while a clochard has an optional leather corset. “You cannot change a hat so much,’’ Giacomo Santucci, Borsalino’s creative curator, said. “You can change the attitude of the hat.” Unisex styles, including baseball caps, berets and bucket hats, come in updated new materials - including a spotted cow print, black patent leather and rainproof nylon. Such genderless looks are becoming an increasingly important part of the collection, Santucci said. “The hat is no longer a tool to cover yourself, but to discover yourself,’’ he told The Associated Press. The company, which relaunched three years ago, was in the process of scaling up production from 150,000 hats a year to a goal of half a million when the pandemic hit. “To be honest, it is such a small company, in a way it is very simple to react,’’ said Santucci, who is also the current president of the Italian Chamber of Buyers. “The smaller you are, the more reactive and prompt." Beyond new styles, that means getting people talking. Santucci, who was Gucci CEO during the Tom Ford era, created a new film for this season, featuring Milanese women who chose hats to match their styles, striding through the centre of the city. Last season’s film featured dancers from Alessandria, site of the original Borsalino factory, dancing through the factory floor. "My strong belief is that fashion is becoming more and more a discussion,'' Santucci said. New social media platforms like Clubhouse are giving people the chance to create a limited and select group to discuss relevant topics, which Santucci said has been key during the isolation imposed by the pandemic. He also has pursued collaborations with ready-to-wear brands, including Borsalino X Valentino. “Brands are changing. It is getting closer to entertainment, to give people the chance to engage with the brand, to understand it better. Not only to understand what was done in the past, but to really interact and to have the chance to be part of the same community,’’ Santucci said. Colleen Barry, The Associated Press
Saskatchewan Indigenous leadership are calling on Toronto-based uranium mining company Baselode Energy Corp. to stop surveys on Birch Narrows Dene Nation traditional territory in the far north unless consent is given. A permit was issued last month by the province to Baselode for access to land near Turnor Lake, on the edge of the Athabasca Basin and traditional territory of the Birch Narrows Dene Nation, while consultations with the community were still ongoing. The company set up camp and began conducting surveys on Birch Narrows resident Leonard Sylvestre’s trapline in an area traditionally used for such activities by the community. Birch Narrows Dene Elder advisor and trapper Ron Desjardin said it felt like an invasion. “I don't like what they did. They were very disrespectful, unfortunately. If they had any sense or any knowledge of what goes on in our country regarding Indigenous issues they would have stepped back, they would have not chosen to do this, but they went ahead anyway.” Having presented Baselode with a cease and desist order, Birch Narrows officials set up a blockade when they found that the company was not respecting promises to stop surveys, but took it down and are now patrolling the area regularly. “They threatened us if we set up a blockade ‘an illegal action’ and never mind the fact that they were on somebody's trapline,” Desjardin said. “They threatened us with legal action and they were trying to make it look like ‘oh our people, they're not safe.’ They even went to the RCMP saying ‘we want to ensure that our people are going to be safe.’” That mentality, Desjardin said, feels to him like the company is treating them like they’re “savages.” “That's what really ticks me off,” he said. “We're still viewed that way.” Birch Narrows is currently dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and Baselode crews went through the reserve, where they had left some equipment on their way to the survey site, Desjardin said. Baselode Energy Corp. President and CEO James Sykes said in a written response that his company believes a “near-term solution is achievable” and will look to “continue with its exploration activities in due course.” “Upon learning of the Community’s objections the Company has paused on-site work to continue further consultation with the local communities,” Sykes said. “Since applying for permits in October 2020, Baselode has proactively engaged in a positive and constructive dialogue consistent with the duty to consult and accommodate process. We share the common goal of a desire to proceed with mutually beneficial objectives, environmental considerations, and economic development opportunities.” Sykes said there have been mischaracterizations of the circumstances that the company deems to be inaccurate. “We have no further comment at this time as we choose to continue our ongoing positive dialogue directly with the community,” Sykes said. Baselode did send further comments through a law firm in Regina. The letter accused Desjardin of saving his allegations for “long after” they left the site. They alleged that he “has a history on this file of making inaccurate and inflammatory statements as part of his crusade and the illegal blockade.” The response came after the Herald asked specific questions about an interaction between a contractor and people staffing the checkpoint. The Herald is continuing to look into the interaction. The letter said Baselode is a “highly respected publicly traded exploration company” that has “built a reputation for going above and beyond in its interactions with indigenous people.” Ministry of Environment spokesperson Chris Hodges confirmed that Saskatchewan Minister of Environment Warren Kaeding met with the Birch Narrows Dene Nation to discuss the situation. “Minister Kaeding had an opportunity to discuss the matter further with Chief Jonathan Sylvestre of Birch Narrows Dene Nation and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations. The Minister encourages that all parties involved continue to communicate and work together in a respectful and safe manner,” Hodges said. The ministry said it recognizes the lands in question have been used traditionally by the community but that “deliberately blocking public Crown lands is illegal” and can be a public safety issue. In addition to having two separate meetings with the community on Jan. 20 and on Feb. 9, the province said Baselode engaged by way of a radio broadcast describing the proposed mineral exploration and gave an opportunity to pose questions. The ministry confirmed that Baselode made a presentation available to the public and leadership through the distribution of flash drives and a printed report. Previous attempts to meet were postponed due to COVID-19 outbreaks and a funeral. The ministry said it wants both parties to work together to “build a positive and mutually beneficial relationship so that opportunities can be discussed and evaluated.” ‘Bad business’ called out by leadership Desjardin said the core issue is that Baselode was under the impression from the province that consultation with Indigenous communities is optional and that permits issued by Saskatchewan are sufficient to begin operations. He said the problem hinges on a lack of clarity around the duty to consult — a responsibility that ultimately lies with the Crown as opposed to industry. “When Canada came up with this whole duty to consult they told the territories and provinces to start doing business a different way. They were given this mandate to accommodate Indigenous rights and there were some clear guidelines, Desjardin said. “The Saskatchewan government turned this around and they've given this responsibility to industry. Industry now is in a conflict of interest because they want those resources. There was a failure to meaningfully address our concerns and too much reliance on industry to address the concerns.” He said provinces develop their own consultation protocols in line with what Canada expects and “Saskatchewan is way behind.” “Consultation and accommodation is not a means to an end nor an end in itself. There needs to be an opportunity to advance reconciliation for the purpose of improving relationships because that's what's lacking right now.” Birch Narrows Dene Nation Chief Jonathan Sylvestre said that resource developers need to understand that provincial permits don’t override the rights of First Nations or the consultation process and the community expects to be involved prior to any resource development or extraction on their traditional lands. “First Nations must be meaningfully and properly engaged on issues that have the potential to adversely impact our rights. It’s been especially difficult to meet deadlines during COVID- 19, while our efforts are keeping our communities safe — not on rubber stamping resource development activities in our territories,” Sylvestre said. The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Chief Bobby Cameron said Saskatchewan has no authority to authorize permits without engaging with First Nations and without providing the opportunity to give input. “Stay off our lands unless given consent by the First Nation.” FSIN Vice Chief Heather Bear said Indigenous connections to the land, water, animals and environment are paramount. “These kinds of bad business practices won’t be tolerated anymore,” Bear said. “Resource exploration and extraction within our territories presents our treaty hunters and gatherers with real problems, especially when it impacts their ability to exercise their Inherent and Treaty rights to hunt, fish, trap and gather.” The province said the ministry approved phase 1 of Baselode’s project on Jan. 27 and issued a permit for preliminary exploration, authorizing a survey with “very low impact” on the environment. Surveyors can access the area on snowmobile or in a snow-cat and collect ground gravity readings on foot to decide where to propose drilling. That information would then be given to the community. The next phase of exploration, for which a permit has not been issued, would involve core sampling after undergoing the consultation and community engagement process. The province said the Turnor Lake community and Baselode Energy are discussing plans for a comprehensive traditional land study in the area that it says falls outside the duty to consult process which focuses on how a community currently uses the area. According to the province, engagement with Indigenous communities by industry is separate from duty to consult obligations held by the province in this context and those discussions don’t influence the permitting process or timeframes. Meadow Lake Tribal Council Tribal Chief Richard Ben said the province needs to provide already underfunded First Nations with the financial resources to be able to participate at the table “in a meaningful way.” “Otherwise, many First Nations will be left out of the process. We can’t undertake studies at our own expense in order to be consulted on resource development within our territory,” Ben said. The Government of Saskatchewan First Nation and Métis Consultation Policy Framework, drafted in 2010, states that Saskatchewan “does not accept assertions by First Nations or Métis that Aboriginal title continues to exist with respect to either lands or resources in Saskatchewan.” Desjardin says that’s insulting. He said while lip service is paid to engaging with First Nations, those words don’t ring true when they’re contradicted in policy. “The duty to consult document is outdated. How can a document support us on one hand and then tell us that on the other hand ‘you've got nothing here.’ It’s a weak document, it’s a contradictory document and it’s a patronizing document. It's not serving its purpose, not doing what it's supposed to do,” Desjardin said. ‘Cultural survival’ depends on wildlife habitat Desjardin said his community has long relied on an abundance of caribou and moose, who feed in muskeg areas such as the proposed exploration site near Harding Bay. Canada’s Species at Risk Act considers woodland caribou as a threatened species. Saskatchewan has not yet finished its habitat assessment for the Boreal Shield and Desjardin wants that data to be available before development happens in the area. “The provinces and territories agreed to come up with a solution, to come up with plans to address this. Saskatchewan is really late. Our area was supposed to be done in June of this year. And that's what I've been pleading with the ministry saying, ‘hold off, hold on, let's find out where the caribou are at.’ How can you make a meaningful decision if you're not basing it on scientific data?” Desjardin said. “We’ve proposed setting aside that whole area as a preserve to save those caribou because they do mean a lot to us. It's our grocery store. That's what it is. We’d like everything to be put on hold. Give us at least a year so that we can do our own research and we can find out where we’re at with everything that we want and then let’s talk.” The ministry said it initiated the duty to consult process with the Indigenous communities of Turnor Lake Oct. 27 last year for Baselode's proposal for mineral exploration on “unoccupied, public Crown land” about 50 kilometres northeast of the community. The process was extended so the community had more time to discuss the project and voice concerns to the ministry. The province said those concerns included impact to caribou, impact to trapping, the development of a new trail to the exploration site and a heavy haul ice road for equipment. Early concerns expressed about the new access roads were addressed by changing the program to a heli-assist, which reduces overall impact, the ministry said. Desjardin said the government and industry need to realize that there are “deeper issues” with the unique habitat of that area. “We are fighting for our cultural survival. That’s what we’re doing right now and that’s why we feel so strongly about this. Do we want a uranium mine in the middle of that knowing the possible consequences if anything ever happened with our watershed? Of course not. Do we really want something that’s going to lead to the demise and extinction of our caribou in that area? No, we don’t,” Desjardin said. “This is something that you need to listen to. We’re not totally against industry. We know people need jobs. But we’d like a say. Listen to us, this is why we don’t want it there.” ‘Speaking from the heart’ to build good partnerships Desjardin said companies that have built successful partnerships with Birch Narrows have gone through the full process of a meaningful consultation. “They sat down with people, they listened to the pros and cons, they addressed each of those issues as well as they could. They didn't hide anything and they were transparent,” Desjardin said. He said Baselode should follow the example set by NexGen Energy Ltd., another uranium company that operates in the Athabasca Basin. “When they drafted a benefit agreement here with Birch Narrows they chose not to call it an impact benefit agreement, they chose to call it a mutual benefit agreement and I thought that was awesome because they didn't rush. It took time,” Desjardin said. “They didn't come and say, ‘Okay, here's our timeline. We have until December. Please make a decision now.’ Basically, that's what Baselode did to us. We're saying ‘No, you have to fit into our timelines.’ We live here.” Desjardin said the issue is part of long-standing unresolved Indigenous grievances in Canada. “It's all about relationships. Canada and the province have to stop hiding behind their documents and their policies. We're speaking from the heart. We don't hide behind policies and documents because this means something to us. It might not mean much to somebody living in Saskatoon but it does to us,” Desjardin said. “It's a dichotomous relationship because we're going down this line and we're not bridging any gaps. Everyone's on their own. No wonder we've got all these issues. We need to bridge that gap and start respecting each other.” Citing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action Desjardin said it’s important to establish and maintain a mutually respectful relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. In order for that to happen there has to be awareness of the past, acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes and action to change behaviour. “Saskatchewan is falling short on the action part,” Desjardin said. “I like what Chief Dr. Robert Joseph (a Hereditary Chief of the Gwawaenuk First Nation in British Columbia) said. Like he said, I want you to dream and imagine what reconciliation would look like in 20, 30 and 40 years from now on,” Desjardin said. “When we are reconciled, we will live together in harmony, be gentle with one another, we will be caring and compassionate. When we are reconciled every person living here will live with dignity, purpose and value. That's where Canada and Saskatchewan need to go.” Michael Bramadat-Willcock, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Northern Advocate
It's a year of change at the Canadian women's curling championship in the Calgary bubble. The field was padded to 18 teams this year for the first time. There are no spectators at the Markin MacPhail Centre due to the pandemic. The Page system was dropped in favour of a three-team playoff. Coaching benches are at opposite ends of the ice rather than beside each other. Traditional post-game handshakes are verboten with some players tapping brooms instead. Curling fans and athletes are still thrilled to have the sport back on the domestic stage after a long absence. The Scotties Tournament of Hearts — the first of six events to be held in the protected "bubble" environment — has been a success entering the final weekend. Championship pool play continues Saturday and the playoffs are set for Sunday. Many classic traditions specific to the Hearts are on hiatus for 2021. The HeartStop Lounge, a party barn with entertainment, food and drink, is obviously idle this year. The annual women's curler banquet and full-field group photo should also return in 2022. And in a change to a long-standing routine that Hearts competitors have held dear since 1981, many teams will not receive jewelry this year. Longtime event sponsor Kruger Products decided it will only award jewelry to the four teams — P.E.I., N.W.T., Yukon and Newfoundland and Labrador — who were able to play provincial/territorial playdowns. The nine provincial teams who accepted invitations after the pandemic forced the cancellation of their respective association championships are out of luck. "Players/teams that were acclaimed entry into the 2021 Scotties and any alternate players that were not part of a winning provincial/territorial team are unfortunately not eligible to receive jewelry," said Kruger corporate marketing director Oliver Bukvic. "This is a very unique year, with many changes due to COVID, and we will recognize the winners who earned a berth in the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts." That's a change from last season when Nunavut — the other territorial entry in the field — received jewelry despite not playing down. Jewelry is not given out to defending champions (automatic entry) or wild-card teams (entry via ranking). Unlike the nine pandemic-affected provincial entries, Iqaluit was able to host championships this year. However, women's playdowns weren't held because the Nunavut team — which did not receive jewelry this year — was unopposed for a second straight season. Bukvic didn't comment on previous setups but said this year's plans came down to eligibility. "We look forward to next year when we'll hopefully be back to normalcy and we'll be able to recognize all of these provincial and territorial winners with their jewelry for winning their playdown," he said. First-year players who are eligible for jewelry receive a gold necklace with a four-heart pendant. A diamond is added to the pendant for each of the next four appearances. After that, a tennis bracelet is awarded with a diamond addition for every return to the Hearts. "We knew that that wasn't really on the table this year, which is fine," said Alberta vice Kate Cameron. "I think we were really excited to have this opportunity to even be here right now. "I think given the state of the world and everything we're going through and then being selected to represent Alberta, I think was something that we were really honoured to do. So I think we're just happy to be here." The jewelry is a significant perk for all teams who receive it, but particularly those who finish on the low end of the event payout structure. Teams cut after the preliminary round receive $2,500 apiece. The winning Hearts team receives $100,000 of the $300,000 total purse. Curlers who reach the podium will still receive traditional rings. The champions have rings set with a diamond, the finalists with a ruby and the third-place team with an emerald. The Hearts finalist receives $60,000 and the third-place team receives $40,000. Other championship pool teams receive $15,000 apiece. Kruger is celebrating its 40th year of Hearts sponsorship this season. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021. Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter. Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press
HALIFAX — Nova Scotia is reporting four new cases of COVID-19 as stricter rules take effect to stop the spread of the virus. Provincial health officials say three of the most recent cases are in the Halifax region and are close contacts of previously identified patients, while the fourth case in eastern Nova Scotia is related to travel outside Atlantic Canada. The latest infections bring the total number of active cases to 39 as new measures to control the virus take effect in Halifax and some neighbouring municipalities. Nova Scotia's chief medical officer Dr. Robert Strang says while the number of new cases is low, he remains concerned that some recent cases do not have an obvious source of infection. He says the new restrictions will act like a "circuit breaker" to stop the potential spread of a new coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom. The new measures include closing restaurants and bars by 10 p.m. as well as restrictions on visitors to long-term care homes. All sporting games, competitions, tournaments and in-person performances have been banned, though sports practices and training or arts and culture rehearsals can continue with a cap of up to 25 people without spectators. Nova Scotians are also being asked to avoid all non-essential travel within the province, especially to and from the Halifax area. Premier Iain Rankin reiterated the need for stricter restrictions despite the low number of new cases on Saturday. "While today's case count is lower than the last two days, I am still greatly concerned about the trend we have been seeing in recent case numbers in Halifax," he said in a statement. "We must follow the public health restrictions to reverse the recent trend. No matter whether you live in Halifax or elsewhere in the province, I encourage you, even if you don't have symptoms, to book an appointment at one of the primary assessment centres or drop into a pop-up testing site." The new measures cover areas of the Halifax Regional Municipality up to and including Porters Lake, as well as the communities of Enfield, Elmsdale, Lantz, Mount Uniacke and Hubbards. The new rules took effect at 8 a.m. Saturday and will be in place until March 26, with an extension possible. Meanwhile, the province has also changed rules for rotational workers. They will now be required to undergo three COVID-19 tests during their modified 14-day quarantine. Irving Shipbuilding, one of the largest employer's in the province, temporarily suspended production at the Halifax shipyard for the day Friday after a member of its workforce tested positive for COVID-19. The company is holding a pop-up testing site to test its employees this weekend. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021. Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press
Mexican authorities hope most of the asylum seekers living in a major encampment on the border will be allowed to enter the United States by the end of next week, according to a Mexican government source. The migrant camp in Matamoros, Mexico, just across the river from Brownsville, Texas, is currently home to just under 700 migrants, according to the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR). The majority are asylum seekers who have been waiting in Mexico as their cases wind through U.S. courts under a program implemented by former President Donald Trump.
(Furrukh Ikram via YouTube - image credit) Peel Regional Police say a man has been arrested after allegedly stealing a tow truck and fleeing from officers on Friday. A video of the arrest surfaced online and shows the moments leading up to it. A spokesperson for Peel police told CBC Toronto that they received a call around 11:15 a.m. on Friday about several men fighting. At some point, a tow truck was stolen, they said. Police located the tow truck in a nearby residential neighbourhood. A video of the incident posted on YouTube by the user Furrukh Ikram shows the tow truck reversing out of a residential driveway in what appears to be a Brampton neighbourhood before a police cruiser catches up and rams into the side of the truck. Several other cruisers then arrive to box in the vehicle on each side. Police officers exit their cruisers and begin pounding on the driver's side of the truck yelling, "Get out!" while the the vehicle appears to continue attempting to flee. WARNING | The following video contains graphic images and audio It is unclear whether police used Tasers in their efforts to stop the driver, but crackling can be heard in the video. After a couple of minutes, police can be seen forcibly removing the man from the truck and placing him under arrest. Police say the man was taken into custody and transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has invoked their mandate following the incident, police said. The SIU is an independent agency that investigates incidents involving police that result in serious injury or death as well as allegations of sexual assault. Police say a 35-year-old man has been charged with theft under $5000, theft of a motor vehicle, flight from a peace officer and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.
MONTREAL — Quebec's premier issued a caution about a growing number of COVID-19 cases tied to variants of concern on Saturday, but also expressed optimism that an escalating vaccination drive could offer relief from a situation that began playing out in the province exactly one year ago. In a letter posted to his Facebook page, Francois Legault said he feels great hope now that vaccinations of the general population have begun in some regions and are scheduled to start in the Montreal area on Monday. "We should receive around 175,000 doses of vaccine per week in March and therefore we will move quickly," Legault wrote. "We still have a few critical weeks ahead of us, especially because of the spring break and the new variants." New infections in the province have been stable, with another 858 confirmed cases and 13 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus being added to the overall tally on Saturday. The number of people in hospital dropped by 21 to 599, according to Health Department figures, with seven fewer patients requiring intensive care for a total of 112. As the province heads into March break week, authorities reported 984 presumptive variant cases, an increase of 110 suspected infections compared to Friday's figures. The province has 34 confirmed variant cases with 30 of them identified as the B.1.1.7 mutation first detected in the United Kingdom. The Legault government has frequently pointed to last year's spring break as the reason the pandemic initially hit Quebec much harder than other provinces where the break occurred after preventative measures were put in place. One year later, government officials said the more transmissible variants cropping up in the province represent the most pressing concern. "At the start of the spring break, I invite all Quebecers to be extra careful," Health Minister Christian Dube said on Twitter. "Although the data is encouraging, the virus is still circulating and cases of variants continue to increase." It was one year ago Saturday that Quebec authorities convened an evening news conference to report that a 41-year-old woman returning from travel to Iran was the province's first presumptive COVID-19 patient. The positive test confirmed by the provincial lab was re-confirmed the next day by the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. Since the pandemic was declared last March, the province has reported 287,003 confirmed infections and 10,385 deaths, with 268,645 people recovered. There are currently 7,973 active cases in the province. Quebec administered 15,902 doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Friday for a total of 418,399, roughly 4.3 per cent of the population. Legault noted after vaccinating those 85 and older, the province hopes to quickly get to those over 70 before expanding to the entire adult population. The province expects to begin delivering second doses as of March 15. Quebec has already provided a first dose in long-term care homes and vaccinated 200,000 health care workers. Legault urged Quebecers to avoid gatherings as the province picks up the vaccination pace. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021. Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
Award-winning Canadian film director Tyler Simmonds has suffered from mental health issues since his teenage years. He decided to use his craft to push for dialogue and discussion on mental health and mindfulness — especially within the Black community.
Once again, the West Parry Sound Pool project is making waves in Whitestone’s online community. Following a question-and-answer document posted on the municipal website on Feb. 25, a Whitestone ratepayer named Bruce Morris shared the link with Whitestone Community Chat on Facebook where it soon drew discussion. “Even after all of the knowledge of how the majority of ratepayers are against the project and all of the data to show why it is a waste of time and money, I guess the mayor has decided to create this draft of fiction,” wrote Morris in the comments. Another ratepayer stated that the Q&A document was not impartial and should be dismissed. “The will of the majority of Whitestone ratepayers must be taken into consideration not the will of Parry Sound and some members of council,” said Sue Krusell. Whitestone’s councillor Joe Lamb was quick to comment on the Facebook post stating that he did not agree with the document being published as is. “I was asked for input on these questions and answers,” wrote Lamb. “I will post separately my input to the mayor.” The document says that it is answers to questions raised by Whitestone ratepayers regarding the proposed West Parry Sound Pool and Wellness Centre project and the municipality’s participation in the project. In a separate post on the Whitestone Community Chat, Lamb posted his opposition to the Q&A document posted on the municipal website. “Mr. Mayor, in addition to my earlier comments, I have reviewed each one of the 25 questions and ‘your’ responses,” said Lamb. “I must reiterate these are just your responses, they simply cannot be ‘from council’ because they are absolutely misleading.” It is not known at this time when Whitestone will make a decision on its involvement in the West Parry Sound pool project however it has been stated that the municipality will hold another public meeting before it makes its decision. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
Si Le Bic est réputé pour son cachet et ses restaurants, l’histoire de ce village est intrinsèquement liée à la mer. C’est que rappelle le Comité du patrimoine naturel et culturel du Bic dans sa toute nouvelle publication Le Bic, une histoire maritime, un livre d’une soixantaine de pages qui couvre 500 ans d’interactions entre les humains et les flots du Saint-Laurent dans ce coin de la province. En effet, les Premières nations qui fréquentaient la région avant l’arrivée des Européens étaient déjà des marins aguerris qui s’adonnaient à la pêche ou à la chasse au phoque. Les Mi’gmaq construisaient notamment des canots d’écorce, parfois équipés d’une voile. Plus tard, au 17e siècle, le havre du Bic s’impose comme une escale pour les bateaux européens remontant l’estuaire du Saint-Laurent vers l’important poste de traite de Tadoussac, qui en profitent pour faire du troc avec les Autochtones, chaudrons contre fourrures. Quelques colons s’installent dans la seigneurie créée en 1675 pour vivre de la pêche, mais c’est surtout les navigateurs qui seront à l’origine de l’essor du Bic, dès 1730. Ces spécialistes de la dangereuse navigation laurentienne vivent dans le village et prennent en main les bateaux venus d’Europe à partir de l’île du Bic, se rendant indispensables au commerce transatlantique. La chaloupe puis la goélette sont leurs moyens de transport de prédilection pour rejoindre les navires. L’activité est périlleuse et nombre de jeunes hommes perdront la vie dans les eaux du fleuve : 133 se noient entre 1815 et 1855. Les activités de navigation finiront par disparaître au 20e siècle, et si l’on cherche encore le bord de l’eau quand on vient au Bic, c’est avant tout pour les activités de villégiature. La construction navale y est toutefois encore présente, à travers l’atelier des chaloupiers Daniel St-Pierre et Pierre-Luc Morin. Gratuit pour les Bicois Les résidents du Bic peuvent se procurer gratuitement l’un des 1500 exemplaires du livre en présentant une preuve de résidence à la bibliothèque Émile-Gagnon. Les autres personnes intéressées par cette épopée maritime peuvent l’acheter sur le site du Comité du patrimoine naturel et culturel du Bic ou à la librairie L’Alphabet de Rimouski. Il s’agit du deuxième ouvrage du comité, dix ans après le Guide des maisons traditionnelles du Bic. Le livre a demandé des années de travail et pas moins de huit personnes ont travaillé bénévolement à son élaboration, que ce soit à la recherche d’informations historiques et d’images, à la rédaction ou à la coordination. Deux ententes de développement culturel du ministère de la Culture et des Communications, la première avec la Ville de Rimouski et la seconde avec la MRC de Rimouski-Neigette, ont permis de financer ce projet. La coprésidente du Comité du patrimoine naturel et culturel du Bic, Linda Lavoie, pense que ce type d’ouvrage est un bon moyen de sensibiliser la population à l’importance du patrimoine, ici et ailleurs. Vendredi après-midi, elle allait poster un exemplaire à destination de Vancouver, signe que l’histoire du Bic, qui s’inscrit dans celle plus longue de la colonisation et du développement de ce continent, intéresse bien au-delà des frontières du Bas-Saint-Laurent. Rémy Bourdillon, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Mouton Noir
Tay residents could have multiple ways to cast their ballots in next year's election. Council, at its recent meeting, was leaning toward a combination of mail-in, online and in-person methods for the 2022 municipal election. However, no decisions were made since a staff report is still pending. There is no urgency around the matter, said Cyndi Bonneville, township clerk. "The bylaw to authorize is required on or before May 1 in the year of the election," she said, adding, "staff is recommending council make a decision well in advance of the new year so staff can budget and implement the method council approves." Coun. Jeff Bumstead had questions around the problems faced by online voting systems. "Thinking back to the last election, we got our results but other municipalities that had online voting did not. Any thoughts on that?" he asked staff. Daryl O'Shea, general manager, corporate services manager of technology services, said the issue then was due to the supplier. "They had a third-party arrangement with a data centre hosting provider where they had purchased unlimited bandwidth and capacity, so they could have millions of people connect to their server at the same time," he said. "Unfortunately, the configuration switch at that facility had a bandwidth limit in place and there was a technical configuration error. I'm most certain that error won't happen (again), maybe different problems may happen in the future. "We do use similar providers and rely on internet technologies to do tabulation, so even with non-online voting methods, we could run into circumstances causing delays." A staff report outlines that voting by mail costs $56,238, an amount that includes vote-by-mail kits, software support and postage. Other costs, including advertising and labour, were not listed in the report. The report was also missing costs around online/telephone voting. Further to a costing request for online voting, Mayor Ted Walker said, council could consider a combination of approaches. "The results of (a recent) survey were in favour of in-person and online," he said. "We can even do a combination where we could have internet voting as our advanced vote, right up to and including election day. We could also have opportunity for people to come in and vote in-person at the polling station if they want." Coun Paul Raymond agreed with the combination approach. "I don't think we're going to have one voting method," he said. "I think we're going to have to accommodate different groups of people and what they're accustomed to. One thing the pandemic has provided is a lot more use with technology. People are a lot more comfortable with it" The report listed some pros and cons of the mail-in and telephone methods. Vote-by-mail: Pros Cons Telephone/Internet voting: Pros Cons Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
A 17-year-old classical pianist and martial arts expert’s eyesight hangs in the balance as his mother begs for access to treatment for his rare disease retinitis pigmentosa. The teenager has a small window of opportunity: the treatment will stop or reverse a form of blindness, but only works if he has a certain amount of vision. They are fighting “like crazy” before he becomes ineligible for treatment and hoping for the government to step in soon. This is but one of the many stories shared by Durhane Wong-Rieger, president and CEO of the Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders (CORD). Feb. 28 is Rare Disease Day, and with one in 12 Canadians affected by a rare disease — two-thirds are children — Wong-Rieger talked about the burden felt by patients and families. “Rare diseases do affect a lot of people. There are between 6,000 and 7,000 rare diseases. Some will affect one in 2,000, some will affect one in a million, some are so rare that we only know maybe two people (affected) in all of Canada,” Wong-Rieger said. Some well-known rare diseases include cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, sickle cell disease and Tay-Sachs disease. Many rare diseases are genetic due to a misprogramming of a person’s DNA, according to Wong-Rieger. Fifty per cent of rare diseases are non-spontaneous mutation: like cancer. “There are more people that have a rare disease than all cancer combined,” Wong-Rieger added. During newborn screenings in Ontario, where babies’ heels get pricked for a blood sample, only 36 rare diseases are tested. “Most children may seem normal, and will reach certain milestones, up until a certain age. Then they don’t progress or lose function,” Wong-Rieger said. On average, Wong-Rieger said it takes up to four to seven years to get a correct diagnosis for a rare disease, with parents getting from one to 14 misdiagnosis. Sometimes, treatments will make the child worse, or the misdiagnosis delays the treatment and the disease progresses. Wong-Rieger advises parents to keep a diary of symptoms to show physicians. “The federal government has promised $1 billion in 2019 to set up a rare disease program. We’re hoping before the end of this year, we will see this program in place and get the therapies available to patients who need them,” she said. “We want to make sure government is accountable. Canada is far behind than most of the European countries when it comes to (supporting those suffering from) rare diseases,” Wong-Rieger said. For more information, visit www.raredisorders.ca. Yona Harvey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Smiths Falls Record News
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York's new coronavirus-era dance rules aren't exactly “Footloose” strict, but don't plan on cutting loose and kicking off the Sunday shoes with just anybody. The state says that when wedding receptions resume next month, guests will be allowed to hit the dance floor only with members of their immediate party, household or family seated at the same table. Even then, the rules say, dancers must wear face masks and stay within their own “dancing areas or zones” — spaces that should be at least 36 square feet (3.3 square meters) in size and positioned at least 6 feet (2 metres) apart from other dance zones and tables. There's no switching dance zones, either. Happy couples can still take a twirl for a ceremonial first dance, and other couples can join in, but they must all stay 6 feet apart. Live music performers and other entertainers are allowed, but if they're unmasked or playing a wind instrument, they must be separated from attendees by 12 feet (4 metres) or an appropriate physical barrier. Gov. Andrew Cuomo previously announced that weddings can begin again on March 15. Venues will be restricted to 50% of capacity, up to 150 guests, and all must be tested for coronavirus beforehand. The Associated Press
EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs will be without star centre Auston Matthews when they take on the Edmonton Oilers Saturday. Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe says Matthews won't play due to a wrist injury that he's been dealing with for much of the year. Matthews has 31 points (18 goals, 13 assists) in 20 games for the Leafs this season. Toronto (15-4-2) will get some other key pieces back in the lineup — forward Joe Thornton returns from a lower-body injury, defenceman Jake Muzzin slots back in after missing two games with a facial fracture and goalie Jack Campbell is available after dealing with a leg injury. The Leafs currently sit atop the all-Canadian North Division, but the Oilers (14-8-0) are just four points back. Saturday's game kicks off a three-game series between Edmonton and Toronto. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021. The Canadian Press