ATLANTA — After weathering criticism for certifying President Donald Trump's narrow election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, Republican officials in Georgia are proposing additional requirements for the state's vote-by-mail process, despite no evidence of systemic fraud or irregularities. Two state Senate committees held hearings Thursday to begin a review of Georgia’s voting laws. Republicans are zeroing in on a plan to require a photo ID for ballots cast by mail. Voting rights activists and Democrats argue that the change isn't necessary and would disenfranchise voters. Biden beat Trump by just over 12,500 votes in Georgia, with Biden receiving nearly twice as many of the record number of absentee ballots as the Republican president, according to the secretary of state's office. A recount requested by Trump was wrapping up and wasn't expected to change the overall outcome. Trump, who for months has sowed unsubstantiated doubt about the integrity of mail-in votes, has also made baseless claims of widespread fraud in the presidential race in Georgia. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff have vehemently rebuffed those claims, stating unequivocally that there is no evidence of systemic errors or fraud in last month's election. Yet Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans who have been publicly lambasted by Trump, have joined the push to require a photo ID for absentee voting. “Voters casting their ballots in person must show a photo ID, and we should consider applying that same standard to mail-in balloting,” Kemp said in remarks streamed live online. Kemp faced accusations of voter suppression during his successful 2018 run for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, an election he oversaw as Georgia's previous secretary of state. He vehemently denied the allegations. Kemp faces reelection — and a possible rematch against Abrams — in 2022. Raffensperger also has suggested allowing state officials to intervene in counties that have systemic problems with administering elections and broadening the ways in which challenges can be posed to votes cast by residents who don’t live where they say. The photo ID idea has support among several members of the state legislature, including Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan. “I don't think there should be different standards for the same process,” Dugan said in an interview. Republican House Speaker David Ralston has been skeptical of voting by mail, telling a local news outlet in April that increased mail voting “will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia.” Political analysts have said that typically more Democrats than Republicans use mail-in ballots. Ralston later said he was not talking about his party losing an advantage but the potential for fraud. “We must do everything in our power to ensure votes are not stolen, cast fraudulently or plagued by administrative errors,” he said in a statement this week. Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said in an interview with The Associated Press that currently anyone who knows someone’s name, address and date of birth can request an absentee ballot on that person’s behalf. She said that while signature matches provide some security for mail-in ballots, the process should be shored up. One way to do that could be to require a person's driver's license number or a photocopy of a separate form of ID, she said. “We need to secure all avenues that we can of absentee ballots so we never have a candidate run around this state again saying the election was stolen because of absentee ballots,” she said. While Republicans seem ready to press forward with the photo ID requirement during the upcoming legislative session, Democrats and civil rights organizations are raising alarms. With no evidence of widespread fraud or other problems in the election, it doesn’t make sense to talk about measures that could ultimately prove to be barriers to voting, said Andrea Young, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. “What is the problem that you’re trying to solve?" she asked. “The rule should be first, ‘Do no harm’ when it comes to democracy, and whenever there are more restrictions being put on a process, you run the risk of disenfranchising Georgia citizens.” Young says adding a photo ID requirement for absentee voting would be harmful because “we know that these barriers have a different impact on African American voters, on younger voters and, in this instance, on seniors who have certainly earned the right” to vote. State Sen. Jen Jordan, an Atlanta Democrat, echoed Young’s concerns, saying Republicans were offering solutions in search of a problem. “What this says to me is that they just don’t want people voting," Jordan said. “And they specifically don’t want Democrats voting, or people that don’t support their chosen candidates voting, and they’re going to try to make it as hard as possible." Democrats and voting rights groups have for years sought to decrease rejections of absentee ballots in Georgia, arguing that minorities have been disproportionately affected. Absentee ballots are sometimes rejected because signatures on the outer envelope are deemed not to match signatures in the voter registration system, or because the envelope is not signed at all. An agreement signed in March to settle a lawsuit filed by the Democratic Party spells out a standard process that must be used statewide to judge the signatures. That agreement has been the subject of much of Trump's online ire, and he has incorrectly said it “makes it impossible to check & match signatures on ballots and envelopes.” Ben Nadler And Kate Brumback, The Associated Press
An outbreak of COVID-19 on the third floor of the rehab unit of Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH) has grown to 23 cases, according to the hospital.In a news release Wednesday, the hospital said that six patients and 17 healthcare workers have tested positive for the virus. It added that it's still waiting on some test results from the weekend.The hospital first declared an outbreak at its rehab unit on Sunday."In consultation with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, HDGH has paused all admissions to our inpatient Restorative Care programs. Both Windsor Regional Hospital and Erie Shores HealthCare are aware of this," the release reads. "This includes CMC, Palliative and Rehab. We will also be pausing all transfers out to Long Term Care etc. This will be assessed every 24 hours. Further, we will be cohorting all COVID-19 positive patients on the third floor of our Rehabilitation Unit."In an interview with CBC's Afternoon Drive, HDGH President and CEO Janice Kaffer said that two of the patients had been transferred to acute care at Windsor Regional Hospital, three are still at HDGH, and one has been discharged.In spite of the outbreak, Kaffer was optimistic it could be addressed."[The outbreak] has put some additional strain on all of us," she told Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre. "But our people are stepping up, they're continuing to come into work, and we're doing the best we can."She said the the investigation by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit with respect to the origins of the outbreak continues."Our focus at the hospital has been addressing the outbreak, containing it, and making sure our staff and our patients have the supports and that the needs are met across the hospital," she said.Kaffer said HDGH has about 20 test results pending from the affected area, and that testing across the hospital will continue this week.She added that they're expecting to see some positive results among the 1200 staff at the hospital that will be from community spread, and not related to the outbreak.The hospital said the outbreak is not affecting outpatient and mental health programs. Those will will be continued so long patients and clients wear personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times, and that patients who require a family member to be present for their care only have one visitor, who is expected to follow all instructions given by staff."It is important to note that Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare is and remains a safe place for outpatient and mental health visits," the release said."During this difficult time, services at this time will not look the same. Individuals should expect delays and should anticipate that they are expected to wear an approved mask."
The Grand Chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) said he was "disappointed" to hear the federal government acknowledge it would not meet the deadline it set for itself to end all long-term boil water advisories in First Nations.The announcement was made on Wednesday by federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller, who instead announced more than $1.5 billion in long-term funding to help build "a sustainable system that ensures that First Nation communities have access to safe drinking water now and for generations to come."Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler welcomed the announcement of more money for long-term solutions, but said the announcement still doesn't address the needs of people today."It's disheartening for our communities, including Neskantaga [First Nation]. You know, their members are still here in Thunder Bay at a hotel. We don't know when the repatriation process will begin. And it's not just Neskantaga in NAN territory. We have a total of  boil water advisories impacting communities, including my own community of Muskrat Dam since 2004," said Fiddler."So it's something that we've been living with for a long time now."It was during the 2015 federal election that Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau promised to end all boil water advisories on First Nations within five years — which later translated to March 2021. The government even created a website page to track their progress.But during a briefing on Wednesday, senior officials with Indigenous Services Canada said they expect 22 First Nations will still be under a boil water advisory beyond the spring of 2021.The federal minister added the goal of March 2021 "was made to drive forward actions to address drinking water issues and … this approach has worked.""Over 600 water and wastewater projects have been initiated in First Nations communities; 97 long-term drinking water advisories were lifted and importantly, 171 long-term advisories were prevented [by resolving the issues before a short-term advisory turned into a long-term one]," Miller said.He added that the long-term funding will help end all boil water advisories, cover ongoing maintenance costs and improve the training and retention of water plant operators in communities.Fiddler said moving forward, the federal government must commit to doing this work in close collaboration with First Nations."We will feel a bit more comfortable about all this when we see all these commitments in writing and a commitment to work with us in a way that reflects true partnership."
Husky Energy is getting $41.5 million from the Newfoundland and Labrador government to keep the idled West White Rose offshore oil project going, particularly to "protect the option of re-starting" in the next year — although there is no guarantee that will happen.The announcement came Thursday morning in a news conference that involved Premier Andrew Furey, provincial Energy Minister Andrew Parsons, federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan and Husky senior vice-president Jonathan Brown. The money is coming from the government's Oil and Gas Industry Recovery Fund, and is the first project to get financial help from that source.The $41.5 million is half the total project cost. Husky Energy will be kicking in the other half. Furey said the work related to the project will happen in 2021, and it will mean 331 jobs. Specifically, there will be 169 positions in project management and engineering, and 162 tradespersons at the Port of Argentia and a fabrication facility in Marystown.The money keeps the project — one of Newfoundland and Labrador's biggest offshore operations — alive for now.> The signal you've received from Husky today is that they're planning to move forward. \- Andrew FureyIt's known as "warm suspension," and it's only an option, not a certainty, that the project will fully re-start."Everyone wants a crystal ball, but of course we don't have one and we don't have that certainty," Furey told reporters following the conference."But I think the signal you've received from Husky today is that they're planning to move forward. They recognize the value of this project."'One heck of a Christmas surprise': O'ReganO'Regan called the announcement "one heck of a Christmas surprise for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and their families."He said the announcement was not merely a "government handout" but instead called it a "strategic investment" in the offshore oil industry, which was thrown into turmoil this spring when the COVID-19 pandemic caused oil prices to plummet. "We believe in our workers, we believe in this industry and we believe in its future," O'Regan added. O'Regan acknowledged there will not be an entirely smooth road in the coming months. "Spring is coming and the vaccines are coming, but we have a hard winter ahead," he said.A 'first step back in the right direction,' says Husky VPBrown, Husky's senior vice-president for the Atlantic region, said the announcement will put the project in a better position for a 2022 restart, allowing project capability and skilled workers in the province to be retained."This is the first step back in the right direction for the White Rose project," Brown said. "But one of many steps still ahead."Brown said the announcement is positive news in what has been a "year of tough decisions" on the project, which has suspended construction until 2021.He said work in Marystown will continue on projects like life boats, helipads and a flare tower, while the maintenance and preservation program will continue in Argentia.Opposition, NDP looking for guaranteesFollowing the press conference, NDP Leader Alison Coffin voiced concern over the project's continued precariousness, citing the agreement's reliance on unnamed "conditions.""We've been given no idea of what those conditions are," she told reporters Thursday."Do we have to put even more money into this? Are the conditions that the price of oil has to go up?...We have no guarantees."PC Leader Ches Crosbie echoed a similar sentiment, saying Furey "should be moving heaven and earth" to restart the project. He also questioned the number of new jobs to come from the announcement."What we're hearing is that the 331 jobs that they're claiming, more than half of those ... are already in existence," he said. "So the actual number of jobs created by all that money is not what they're claiming it's going to be."Coffin said the money could have been better spent diversifying the economy, opening more work opportunities for those who may not be able to re-enter the oil and gas sector."I think there are better ways to spend this money, to ensure that the workers who need to go back to work have employment," she said.Latest development in a roller coaster ride for workers, projectThat Oil and Gas Industry Recovery Fund was announced Sept. 25, with the federal government allocating $320 million for the N.L. government to support direct and indirect employment. Furey appointed a task force with the same name, chaired by Bill Fanning and Karen Winsor, who were also on hand for Thursday's announcement. The announcement is the latest development in a saga that started in April, when Husky announced it was stopping construction on the project, as the global pandemic battered oil markets. Hundreds of workers were laid off.At the time, the project was nearly 60 per cent complete.In October, Husky said construction was cancelled for 2021 as well.That news came just days after Cenovus Energy announced it would buy Husky Energy in a deal worth nearly $4 billion. In a statement, Cenovus said regarding Husky's operations in the province "the WWR [West White Rose] project is key to extending the life of the White Rose field. As we have said before, all options are on the table and accelerating abandonment remains a possibility."When asked about Cenovus walking away from the project once the merger is complete, Brown said it's too early to know. He said his team is committed to continuing the West White Rose project."I think that really understates the level of commitment that we've already shown to the project," he said. "The responsibility everyone feels to completing the project and the effort … don't underestimate the importance of that."He said a review of Husky's East Coast operations that the corporation had announced in September are also still ongoing."We have to create a path forward," Brown said."Yes, I'd love to have a decision tomorrow, but I'd also like … the economy to stabilize, the oil prices to improve, because they'll provide a better basis for that decision."Take that decision too early, it might not be the one you want."Husky has been asking both the federal and provincial governments for money to save West White Rose, but both governments have rejected the company's pitch to buy a stake in the project.Newfoundland and Labrador, through its Crown corporation Nalcor Energy, already owns a five per cent stake in the project.Read more stories from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
The number of families seeking holiday help has increased in Cape Breton, including people who are finding themselves in need for the first time.With fundraising impacted by the pandemic, resources are spread particularly thin this year, said Maj. Corey Vincent of the Salvation Army.The Christian organization will support 900 families in Cape Breton this Christmas — an increase of about 25 per cent. "These are families that have never sought help before or assistance," said Vincent. "They're unfamiliar with Christmas assistance because they've been able to provide for their families in the past, but because of COVID and unemployment, they've just been stressed to the max." Kettle campaign down $14KThe pandemic has brought a wide range of challenges for the Salvation Army on the island. Partnering organizations have been unable to sponsor as many families this year. Another blow has been dealt to the well-known kettle campaign, which Vincent said is down by $14,000 compared to last year. "That worries me," said Vincent. "But in previous years, we've always noticed that in December a lot of people who give, they're giving more. "I'm very, very confident that the people of Cape Breton will step up to the plate." Each year, volunteers with the Every Woman's Centre in Sydney help by purchasing gifts and other items for families sponsored by the organization's adopt-a-family program.Louise Smith-MacDonald, executive director of the centre, said the extra help contributes to about half of the Christmas items purchased. "Our unknown was whether people were going to feel comfortable in going out and shopping for the family that they adopted," she said. "It worked out absolutely wonderful. People took their families, they shopped, they shopped early."Providing meals a necessityMembers of the Sydney Sunrise Rotary Club decided early that fundraising from last year would be spent on COVID relief.The club recently donated $2,500 each to the Glace Bay food bank and Loaves and Fishes in Sydney. "We did a little bit of research and for us, we felt the money was best put to help with food insecurity," said Michele McKinnon, the club's public relations chair. "That's where we saw our money could perhaps benefit most people."McKinnon expects next year giving will be impacted by the pandemic's cancellation of two major fundraisers for the club. Cape Breton poverty visibleVincent, who has been ministering with the Salvation Army for almost 20 years across Canada, said poverty is more visible in Cape Breton compared to other areas where he's lived."Every day we're seeing clients coming through our facility that are basically living on the edge," he said."We see a lot of working-class poor where they're getting hours, they're working — but it's just not enough to meet the demands."MORE TOP STORIES
Since marijuana was legalized in Canada in 2018, Windsor-Essex has seen an influx of cannabis growers in the area, most raising crops in a highly controlled environment, such as under greenhouse glass and wild bright lights, designed for year-round farming.But 7 Farms Down, a company in Merlin, Ont. in the Chatham-Kent region is going the old fashioned route — it will grow their crops outside in the field.Jason Guttridge, one of the owners of the company, said after four years of bouncing around the idea with his brother and trying to make it a reality, they finally received their cultivation license on Friday. "I can't say it was easy because it definitely wasn't, but I think it would be worth it in the long run to bring a different product onto the shelf," he said.Guttridge said he and his team come from an agricultural family and are already familiar with traditional agricultural practices, and will apply those harvesting techniques to grow "small-batch, handcrafted outdoor cannabis.""There's a lot of proven agricultural techniques that are already kind of readily available to us. I don't really have to go reinventing the wheel," he said.He said growing outdoors has many benefits compared to growing in a greenhouse, including reduced costs, and "free sun and rain."Pests also becomes less of an issue when growing outside because he says "there's going to be beneficial insects around.""For every insect that's out there, there's an equal and opposite insect that wants to take care of itself," he said. "We grow well and we're adaptable. So, you know, whatever Mother Nature wants to throw at us, we're pretty confident that we can, you know, contend with it."'New, growing industry,' says company ownerWhen asked about how his neighbours feel about him growing cannabis, Guttridge told CBC News that he's just trying to give "a little bit of success to a small community.""There's a lot of opinions, but what I'm trying to do here, you know, is 100 per cent by the books. We jump through every hoop to get through Health Canada. I'm trying to build something positive for my local community where I was born and raised. And we can bring some economic activity here," he said."At the end of the day, this is a new, growing industry."Small-batch, handcrafted outdoor cannabisGuttridge said the company expects to grow less than five acres of marijuana this spring."It isn't so much about how much can we plant and how much can I put out like from a production level, but how high of a quality can I put out? So, you know, we might be able to fit a thousand plants in an acre, might even be able to fit 1,500 plants in an acre at the end of the day. That isn't my main concern," he said."My main concern is, you know, how much high quality product came out of that acre. So that number will change."He hopes his company's products will be hitting shelves by late summer or fall of next year.
Don never thought he'd end up homeless, but that's what happened to the 58-year-old earlier this year. The St. John's man — CBC is withholding his surname — said that for most of his adult life he had steady employment and a place to live.But Don got divorced and had difficulty holding down a job due to mental illness. When Newfoundland and Labrador went into lockdown in March, he had just moved out of his apartment. "I was about to move from a rental property I had, and at the time, with the pandemic," he said. "I really had nowhere to go.… I was never homeless in my life until this year." Don has been living in a shelter for seniors on Prince of Wales Street in St. John's since then. It's called Connections for Seniors and it's a shelter for people over the age of 55. Co-founder and executive director Mohamed Abdallah said the eight-bed facility has been full since it opened in early 2018. Abdallah said he and his co-founder saw a need in the community and went into action."I remember we said, 'Let's not complain about it and let's start to do something about it.'"To date, the organization has helped more than 450 people, and running it has become Abdallah's full time job.The people who come to the shelter are also given meals and transportation to appointments. Abdallah called it a "wrap-around service" to help people navigate the health-care system and find permanent housing. For him, helping seniors is also about respect."We still need our seniors' experience. We still need their wisdom, we still need to respect our elders," he said. Demand rising Older adults, like Don, without proper housing are not alone.Thousands of seniors in the St. John's area are in need of more affordable, and accessible, housing, says Elizabeth Seigel, director of information and referral services at Seniors NL.Seigel said in 2019 she got about 500 calls from people who needed a place to live, some of them urgent. "Quite often it does mean that people are living in 'not great' situations. Sometimes they go into rooming houses. We've heard cases of elder abuse because people are sort of forced into situations that they wouldn't otherwise be in." When people get older their housing needs change, said Seigel. Income can change, especially if one loses a spouse. "They can't live in their house anymore because of accessibility, mobility.… It's hard keeping up with snow clearing, that sort of thing," Said Seigel.After January's massive blizzard, Seigel's office got even more calls."We heard from so many people who said, 'I just can't do it anymore,'" she said. Many new options There are a number of new facilities being built — and opening up this fall — specifically for seniors, on the Northeast Avalon. Seigel said that proves the need is rising, but added some of them come at a great cost — probably $3,000 to $4,000 if you include food, she said."People have to realize that that's for a certain segment of the population, and the other segment of the population probably doesn't have a place to go." Seigel said many of the lower-cost and subsidized options have significant wait times. For example, she said, the 54 independent living cottages at St. Luke's in the west end of St. John's can have wait times of up to 10 years.Subsidized units from Newfoundland and Labrador Housing can be a one- to two-year wait said Seigel, but seniors don't have that kind of time. "When people decide to move, it's because they need to immediately," she said.Shelter expansion Abdallah hopes to help more seniors who need immediate shelter. Connections for Seniors is working with the City of St. John's to provide more supportive housing units in the near future. That's the kind of solution that Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O'Leary is pushing for. She said the city operates more than 450 units in its non-profit housing division.O'Leary told The St. John's Morning Show that many of those are geared toward seniors, such as the two-bedroom apartments at Riverhead Towers on Hamilton Avenue, 11 units on Campbell Avenue and a newer building on Convent Square. She said there is an application process and that wait times vary, but it's longer for the most affordable units.O'Leary said demand for affordable housing is rising."We have a long way to go in terms of serving the needs of people with housing insecurity in the community — and with the pandemic, we are seeing more and more people moving in this direction." She said the city is working to make land available and hopes to partner with more organizations, and the private sector, to build more affordable homes. As for Don, he said things are looking brighter. He said he's close to securing a unit from NL Housing thanks to Abdallah and the staff at Connections for Seniors."It looks like I'm on the road to recovery and finding my own place through them helping me," he said. "They don't turn their back on you. I think it's amazing."Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
A group representing francophone and Acadian communities on P.E.I. is encouraging Islanders to write to their MPs about modernizing the federal Official Languages Act. Société acadienne et francophone de l'Île-du-Prince-Édouard (SAF'Île) says the 50-year-old act is out of date and that's creating inequalities in the way Islanders receive French-language services. "If we say that we are a bilingual country, then the federal government really needs to put the means and resources to live up to it," said Isabelle Dasylva-Gill, executive director of SAF'Île (formerly the Société Saint-Thomas d'Aquin).Lack of bilingual workforce Dasylva-Gill said one of the big issues is a lack of a bilingual workforce to provide services in areas such as child care, education, and health care. And that affects francophones trying to access services in their first language."If you want to register your child for French-language daycare [on P.E.I.], well most of the time there is a huge waiting list," said Dasylva-Gill."Because there are not the resources available to be able to have a spot."When that happens, said Dasylva-Gill, parents must put their kids into English-language daycare, which can lead to assimilation.Dasylva-Gill emphasized that the act also affects anglophones on P.E.I., in particular parents who want their children to have equal access to learn French through an immersion program. "If you don't have the resources to provide those programs, that's where the act is not living up to the demand," Dasylva-Gill said. Group says act not accountable enough She said that if Islanders feel they are not getting equal treatment under the act, it's hard to know where to speak up about it. "The mechanisms that are in place are not reliable enough to make sure that the act actually is respected by the federal institutions."The act also includes targets for bilingual immigrants who can work in the health care and education sectors.> As a society, we have a responsibility to make our voices heard — Isabelle Dasylva-Gill, SAF'Île"Year after year, there is less than two per cent of immigrants that settle outside of Quebec that are French speaking," said Dasylva-Gill. She said it's an asset for all businesses to be able to employ more bilingual workers, which helps the economy. "Really, it's the act of all Canadians when you think about the bigger picture." SAF'Île wants Islanders to send a letter to their MP about modernizing the Official Languages Act, and it has a template on its website. "As a society, we have a responsibility to make our voices heard," said Dasylva-Gill.More from CBC P.E.I.
Laboratories testing for COVID-19 in Nova Scotia are now equipped to handle as many as 5,000 tests per day.It's a number that has yet to be reached, but the amount of daily tests has been creeping up since the start of the second wave earlier this fall, reaching a record high of 4,138 reported Tuesday."We're adjusting our capacity essentially in real time as the pandemic shifts," said Tim Mailman, senior medical director for the pathology and lab medicine program at Nova Scotia Health.Epidemiologists tracking the spread of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia predicted about two weeks ago that demand for testing would grow to 5,000, said Mailman. That's double the daily tests the province could handle in mid-November, so the labs started shifting resources."It's been a complex logistical system to ramp up in a short period of time, but we've managed to do it," said Mailman.Once centralized at the QEII Health Sciences Centre microbiology lab, some regional hospitals around the province are now processing tests, and Mailman said there are plans to bring more locations on board.The next level of growth would be for 7,000 tests per day — something that's been talked about, but isn't yet in the works. For now, Mailman said Public Health has asked the health authority to stay ready for 5,000 daily tests.Lab technologists highly sought afterThe biggest obstacle to growing lab capacity is the availability of trained lab technologists. While the health authority has been able to recruit more clerical staff, technologists have been harder to find."The biggest challenge has been human resources. There's been a long-standing Canadian shortage of medical lab technologists. It's a very highly sought after specialty," he said."There are no unemployed lab technologists in the province — at least, none that want to be working."With that dearth of workers, the health authority has scaled back on lab activity not related to the coronavirus to accommodate the surge in COVID-19 swabs coming in. Some testing that is considered routine has been put on pause or is only going ahead with a special request from physicians.Routine testing is one of three broad categories used in provincial labs. Mailman said the other two categories — urgent testing, which physicians need completed within a matter of hours to properly diagnose and treat patients, and stat testing, needed within minutes — won't be affected by COVID-19 protocols.Included in the routine category is screening for some sexually transmitted infections. Dr. Joyce Curtis, medical director of the Halifax Sexual Health Centre, said that leaves the possibility of an uptick in STI spread — although it isn't a top concern for her."We can always do presumptive treatment," Curtis said.By Mailman's estimation, limiting some routine lab work will be no more than an inconvenience."For the vast majority of Nova Scotians, the scale backs will be invisible," he said.New instruments on the wayNew testing equipment from the national microbiology lab in Winnipeg is en route to Nova Scotia, according to Mailman, which won't necessarily make a big mark on capacity, but will offer an important refinement to the province's testing practices.The instruments test for over 20 respiratory viruses at once."So as we approach flu season, that's going to be quite helpful because those platforms will allow us to distinguish COVID from the common cold, from influenza," said Mailman.Not every possible COVID-19 case that comes in for testing will go through those instruments; they'll likely be reserved for those who are admitted with symptoms, or people who need to be screened before surgery.MORE TOP STORIES
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A mysterious object temporarily orbiting Earth is a 54-year-old rocket, not an asteroid after all, astronomers confirmed Wednesday. Observations by a telescope in Hawaii clinched its identity, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The object was classified as an asteroid after its discovery in September. But NASA’s top asteroid expert, Paul Chodas, quickly suspected it was the Centaur upper rocket stage from Surveyor 2, a failed 1966 moon-landing mission. Size estimates had put it in the range of the old Centaur, which was about 32 feet (10 metres) long and 10 feet (3 metres) in diameter. Chodas was proven right after a team led by the University of Arizona's Vishnu Reddy used an infrared telescope in Hawaii to observe not only the mystery object, but — just on Tuesday — a Centaur from 1971 still orbiting Earth. The data from the images matched. “Today’s news was super gratifying!,” Chodas said via email. “It was teamwork that wrapped up this puzzle.” The object formally known as 2020 SO entered a wide, lopsided orbit around Earth last month and, on Tuesday, made its closest approach at just over 31,000 miles (50,476 kilometres). It will depart the neighbourhood in March, shooting back into its own orbit around the sun. Its next return: 2036. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press
BRUSSELS — A senior legal adviser said Thursday that the European Union’s top court should reject Hungary’s attempts to overturn a European Parliament action aimed at holding the country to account for what lawmakers consider to be a breach of the bloc’s values.Advocate General Michal Bobek recommended that the European Court of Justice “dismiss Hungary’s action as unfounded.” Advocates General routinely provide legal guidance to the ECJ. Their opinions aren't binding on the Luxembourg-based court, but are followed in most cases.The EU parliament launched a procedure in 2018 to force Hungary’s EU partners to sanction the government in Budapest over concerns about the country’s constitutional and electoral systems, the independence of its judiciary, corruption and conflicts of interest, as well as fundamental rights concerns.The “Article 7” procedure was contained in a resolution that was adopted in a 448-197 vote, while 48 lawmakers abstained. Hungary argued that had the abstentions been taken into account, the vote wouldn't have achieved the required two-thirds majority.In Bobek’s opinion, a person who abstains from a vote asks to be counted as neither in favour nor against a proposition, and to be treated as if they weren't voting at all. He also said that EU lawmakers had been informed more than a day before the poll that abstentions wouldn't be counted as votes cast.It’s the first time the parliament has launched such a procedure. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, has also taken similar action against Hungary. If four-fifths of Hungary’s 26 EU partners agree “there is a clear risk of a serious breach” of the bloc’s values, Budapest could lose its voting rights.The EU’s treaty says the bloc “is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.”The Associated Press
Here's the latest for Thursday December 3rd: California considers strict new COVID rules; Trump repeats electoral fraud claims; NY bar owner arrested for breaking coronavirus rules; Landslide in Alaska.
A fishing tournament organizer and TV personality has brought his business to New Brunswick after being fined $9,000 and losing his Ontario fishing licence for not reporting the nearly 200 dead bass he threw into a dumpster.Ben Woo was convicted of failing to abide by the terms and conditions of the licence allowing tournament organizers to transport fish to be weighed and measured before they were returned live to the water. After the incident, Woo relocated to southern New Brunswick, where he's continued to organize fishing tournaments under the name B1 Fishing, including two in partnership with the City of Fredericton. According to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, 195 dead bass were found after Woo's tournament on the St. Lawrence River near Gananoque on July 15, 2019. Of that number, 188 were in plastic bags at the bottom of a dumpster. It's one of the largest fines handed out, and one of the most serious violations the department has recorded. "This was by far the most heinous one I've ever seen," said Greg Bourne, a staff sergeant who has been with the Ontario ministry for 21 years.Bourne said anglers called in the tip about the fish-dumping on the opening day of the two-day weekend tournament. "People who were at the tournament called our communication centre and complained that there seemed to be a lot fish dying at this bass tournament," said Bourne. Bourne said someone was dispatched on the second day of the tournament to check it out but was reassigned to another call. An officer didn't make it to the marina where the fish were being kept until the day after the tournament ended. But anglers also contacted Bruce Tufts, a professor at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., head of the Freshwater Fisheries Conservation Lab, and the biologist who helped craft Ontario's guidelines for handling fish during tournaments. They sent him photos of the fish — some already dead — in the tank where they were kept after being measured and weighed. Tufts said the pictures bothered him so much he barely slept that night. "I called my lab manager at 6 o'clock in the morning and said 'This is really bugging me, there's got to be a ton of dead fish down there,'"Tufts, along with some of his students and another angler, got permission from the marina owner to search the area for what they suspected would be a large number of dead bass. They were later joined by a conservation officer from the Ministry of Natural Resources. "We started finding dead fish in the bushes," said Tufts. "We found a few dead fish in the water." Tufts said a marina employee pointed them to a dumpster. "In the bottom, there were 17 bags of smallmouth bass that were the biggest, best, broodstock in our fishery," said Tufts.According to both Tufts and Bourne, the fish died as a result of lack of oxygen and inadequate water temperatures in the holding tank where they'd been placed after being weighed.The Ontario ministry requires that if more than five per cent of the fish caught during the tournament die while in the possession of the event, the government must be immediately contacted. "We believe the organizer was negligent in the way he handled the fish, and that's what resulted in the deaths of so many," said Bourne.Tufts said the fish were double-bagged, and other garbage had been piled on top. Woo originally faced 11 charges, including giving a false statement to a conservation officer, but in the end pleadedguilty to one: failing to abide by the terms and conditions of a licence. Move to New Brunswick Woo and his family moved to Tracyville, about 28 kilometres south of Fredericton, last year.The former Montreal resident is prohibited from holding a fishing licence in Ontario, but that does not bar him from fishing in other provinces. He said his move to New Brunswick was for personal reasons and not an effort to circumvent the Ontario penalty. Inthe wake of his conviction, he said, he's no longer hosting fishing tournaments."Absolutely 100 per cent done with that," Woo said this week. "And to be very transparent that not only due to this, but it's also due to COVID."But Woo and B1 Fishing did host tournaments this past summer and he was scheduled to host an event in Fredericton as recently as October. That event was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.Until his recent conviction, Woo had also been partnering with the City of Fredericton on tournaments.The City of Fredericton hosted two B1 Fishing tournaments in 2019. Both took place after the Gananoque tournament, but the city said it worked with the Department of Natural Resources to ensure proper fish handling. "However, we will not be working with Mr. Woo on future tournaments," wrote Bobby Despres, Fredericton sport tourism co-ordinator. "Protecting our natural environment is the city's top concern and we want to work with organizers who are fully committed to this principle." Woo also has a working relationship with the New Brunswick Department of Tourism. The fishing show he hosts, Fish East, is set to premiere this month on the Wild Television Network and the website states: "Woo sets out to explore the East Coast through a nine-episode series filmed exclusively in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia."The government of New Brunswick is listed as a partner with the production. Woo denies hiding fishWoo claimsthe only thing he did wrong was to not immediately contact the Ontario government after more than five per cent of the fish caught died on the first day of the tournament. He said he filed a report with the ministry on the Tuesday following the tournament, then resubmitted a more detailed report the following Friday. He said his only option was to throw the fish in the garbage. "What would be the other option, take them off-site? I'm not sure where we would have put them," said Woo. "Or do we go and announce to everybody 'Hey, we have 200 dead fish here, what do we do?' I'm not sure that would have been the politically correct thing to do. There's no precedent here." "We panicked," Woo wrote on the B1 Fishing Facebook page when explaining why fish were thrown in the garbage. He denies trying to hide them. Woo thinks whatever killed the fish is still uncertain. Water quality blamed "This was an anomaly," said Woo. "It never happened before; it's never happened since."Woo points the finger at the venue, the river water quality, as one of the factors in what happened to the fish."But certainly, there was no negligence on our side of things as far as the procedure or the fish handling is concerned," said Woo. Woo said he takes full responsibility and regrets what happened.
An Ottawa cancer patient who spoke out about being "terrified" he would contract COVID-19 in hospital after sharing a room with a positive patient, has now tested positive.Adrian Lloyd, 52, was notified Nov. 26 that one of his roommates at The Ottawa Hospital's General campus contracted the illness. It was the same day Ottawa Public Health declared an outbreak on his ward, 5E.On Wednesday, Lloyd's own fears were realized when he himself tested positive following an earlier negative result."I am afraid and also angry," said Lloyd by phone after learning he has COVID-19."Hospitals are supposed to be a safe place and this is why there's been several times, I've had fevers and things, and haven't come into the hospital."In a statement to CBC News, The Ottawa Hospital said patient safety is a top priority. "When a COVID-19 outbreak occurs in hospital, all appropriate infection prevention and control protocols are diligently followed. This includes strict contact tracing and monitoring of all patients for symptoms," said a spokesperson for the hospital."Any patients who test positive for COVID-19 are immediately placed on a COVID-19 cohort unit. The hospital also has auditing practices in place to ensure that these infection prevention and control protocols are maintained. Staff will continue following these protocols, in order to keep everyone safe."Roommate should have been 'whisked off'Lloyd has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and was admitted to hospital nearly two weeks ago after he developed a fever while undergoing chemotherapy treatment.During his stay, Lloyd said he shared a room with a man whose bed was less than six feet away from his, coughed continuously at night and was not told to wear a mask. "As soon as he started coughing like that he should have been whisked off to a private room," said Lloyd, who believes he got COVID-19 from the roommate.As of Wednesday, six patients and two staff members have tested positive as part of the ongoing outbreak on ward 5E. One of the patients who tested positive has died, according to Ottawa Public Health.Lloyd, who was supposed to be released from hospital by now, said Thursday must stay in a COVID-19 ward for 20 days while he recovers.So far, his symptoms are mild but he worries they may worsen."At nighttime sometimes, I'll have a bit of a dry cough but I keep telling myself it's because the air here is very dry," he said.
It's been two days since a Sussex-area woman became trapped inside her home after rising water surrounded her property earlier this week.And she's still waiting for help."I have no way out of here," said Mary Ann Coleman from inside her house.The 63-year-old lives on Creek Road in Waterford, about 90 kilometres east of Saint John. Her driveway, which links her property with the main road, was "washed out" by the heavy rains overnight Tuesday. At around midnight Tuesday, the culvert a few metres from her house was dammed by fallen trees and debris, causing the area to flood and her bridge to float away, she said."The water levels were higher than I've seen. I moved here 40 years ago," Coleman said. "I'm in complete, complete, desperate situation here … I'm stranded."Part of her driveway was made from the metal frame of a pulp truck and anchored with concrete abutments. It created a 20-foot bridge over Trout Creek.Coleman said she only had two hours of sleep overnight Tuesday. She said the creek between her house and the road is about a metre deep, it's rushing quickly and is 20 feet wide."I had some rest last night but I'm still pretty anxious," she said Thursday afternoon.Premier notes 'severe' damage in Sussex areaAt a COVID-19 news briefing on Thursday, Premier Blaine Higgs used his opening remarks to address the situation in the Sussex region and offer his condolences to residents."My thoughts are with everyone who is affected by the heavy rainfall," Higgs said. "Thank you to the emergency services who have helped the people in need. I'm thankful for the unbelievable community spirit that the people of New Brunswick and emergency services have shown."Higgs noted that the damage is still being assessed, but is "severe" in the Sussex and Sussex Corner areas.He said 30 households have received accommodation and support from the Canadian Red Cross, which has also offered flood cleanup kits for residents.Province isn't stepping inColeman said she called the Department of Transportation, which told her to call the Emergency Measures Organization, but EMO told her to call 911. She called 911 and was directed her back to EMO. She said she doesn't know what to do next."That's just stunning to me," she said. "I think everybody should be worried about that."Geoffrey Downey, a spokesperson for New Brunswick's Emergency Measures Organization, said he couldn't comment on individual cases like this one.Meanwhile, Department of Transportation spokesperson Mélanie Sivret said the department "recently became aware of this incident," and is looking into it.Coleman, who describes herself as an active person and cycles every morning, has been trying to stay busy. She's been working from home, talking to people on the phone and she's been trying to keep her wood fire going so she doesn't lose heat.Luckily, Coleman grows some crops in her garden so she's been relying on vegetables for the past two days. "There's not too much anybody can do."Coleman said she believes the flooding was caused by a new culvert built by the provincial Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, which was previously too big to be blocked by debris. It was rebuilt in 2019, she said. Coleman said she wants the department to "take responsibility." 'It's my mom'Coleman's daughter, Jessica Coleman, has been calling and texting her mom several times a day. On Wednesday, she went down by the river with her two kids to see her mom. The sound of the water rushing was so loud, all they could do was wave. After this year, it's one of those things that tops the cake," she said. "I have no idea when she will be able to leave."She said what's making it more difficult is trying to get answers and figuring out what can be done for her mother. She said she'd like to see a temporary walking structure put in place and a permanent fix after."It's my mom, and she's in her 60s, and she's there on her own."Advice from EMOThe province's health and safety inspection teams are in the Sussex area and cleanup is underway. New Brunswick's Emergency Measures Organization spokesperson Geoffrey Downey urged residents to clean up "as soon as possible.""The longer it sits the worse the damage gets."Although water levels have gone down, some roads in the area are still closed, and residents should only return to their homes when it's safe to do so.Residents whose homes have been damaged should register with the province at 1-888-298-8555 to receive a free inspection. The damage report line program allows residents, tenants, small businesses and not-for-profit organizations to receive information and register their flood-related damage.Damage assessments will be reviewed, and health and safety inspection teams may be dispatched if required.Residents are also reminded to: * Contact their insurance companies immediately to report damage. * Take photos of damage to their homes or properties. * Keep receipts of any repairs and replacement purchases. * Log the number of hours of work undertaken for residents who are cleaning their own properties, or family members or those who have assisted in the cleanup of their property.
Nova Scotia first responders have had a hand in creating a new website intended to help their colleagues recognize when they need mental health support.Debbie Fortune and her husband, Jason, have both been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder while working as paramedics in Cape Breton.Fortune said her husband left his job in 2012, and it took years for him to get a diagnosis and proper treatment.There weren't many PTSD resources available to civilians, she said, so the couple went to a military support group and were surprised to find people with different jobs had the same experiences."That was one of the turning points for us, to just feel like we're not alone," said Fortune."People understand this, and we're not failures. We're injured and that's OK. We can deal with an injury. When you don't know you have an injury, where do you begin to try to get better?"PTSD not always easy to recognizeIt's easy enough to identify an injury when someone has broken a bone or is bleeding, she said, but PTSD is not immediately obvious to the person with the disorder.It is also complicated and can't always be tied to a particularly bad incident, Fortune said."It's often not those very traumatic experiences," she said. "It's more of those sad moments, the day-to-day things that you witness being in people's homes."The couple had ups and downs even after Jason's diagnosis. Fortune said she and her husband separated for a while, but eventually got back together after his care improved.It was a shock when her own diagnosis came just this summer.While getting help was easier, Fortune said she struggled to even acknowledge she had the disorder.'I should have known'"It was very unexpected," she said. "I should have known. I was well versed in the symptoms. How could I possibly have this?"Fortune is currently off work, but said she is getting help and plans to return to her job in January.She was among a group of police officers, firefighters, nurses and experts in workers compensation that helped create a new mental health website allowing first responders and their loved ones to identify when help is needed."I am hoping that my experience with my own diagnosis and my own journey to try to heal, is something that I can say to people, 'There is a way back,'" said Fortune.Janet Hazelton, president of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, was also on the committee and said there is still stigma around mental health and it may be more prevalent among first responders.She said the number of workplace claims for mental health from first responders has increased, demonstrating the need for the new website."It doesn't hurt just to check in through the website and you can talk to counsellors or you can do it virtually," Hazelton said. "First responders need to understand that it's OK. It's OK to acknowledge that a traumatic event has affected your mental health, and you need to be not ashamed to seek help."Fortune said Nova Scotians have had a particularly hard time this year with COVID-19 and the mass shooting. While the website is geared toward first responders, it has information and tools that anyone can use."There are going to be people that are affected by that, and not necessarily because they're a first responder," she said.MORE TOP STORIES
Whitefish River First Nation says the community voted not to ratify the Anishinabek Nation Governance Agreement (ANGA). The ANGA is a self-government agreement between the Anishinabek Nation on behalf of its member First Nations and the Government of Canada. Those who choose to ratify the agreement will have the power to enact laws on how they wish to elect their chief and council, how their First Nation government will operate and be managed, who their citizens will be and how they want to protect and promote the Anishinaabe language and culture. “First drafted in 1995, this governance agreement reflects the vision those past chiefs had for a better future,” said Whitefish River First Nation Chief Shining Turtle (Franklin Paibomsai) in a letter written on Dec. 1. “Today, the agreement includes provisions for self-government and funding for language, citizenship, elections and band support. It’s a good agreement – but it did not resonate with you.” Members of the Whitefish River First Nation community voted online from Nov. 1 to 30, by mail-in ballot, or in-person at the Administration Office on Nov. 28. The results were tallied on the evening of Nov. 30 – out of 314 total votes cast, 167 individuals voted “no” to ratifying the agreement and 145 individuals voted “yes.” This was the First Nation’s 2nd ratification vote on the ANGA. “Voting on agreements such as this one can be tough, and there may be strong feelings all around,” said Shining Turtle. “Know that those feelings are there because we as a community are passionate and committed to building a better future for the next seven generations. On that, we can agree.” The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. email@example.com Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
France will on Thursday start investigating dozens of mosques suspected of fomenting Islamist ideology to combat the rising threat of religious extremism, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said. The government has launched what it calls an unprecedented action against "separatism" following several Islamist attacks in France this autumn, including the beheading of a teacher who had shown his class caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad. Darmanin said 76 mosques out of the more than 2,600 Muslim places of worship had been flagged as possible threats to France's Republican values and its security.
Judy Havers says she used to like going outside, getting coffee at Boston Pizza, watching animals in the park and, most of all, feeding the feral cats she's nourished and taken comfort from for the last six years. That's all out of reach now. Havers, 60, is a resident of Providence Place, a Moose Jaw care home dealing with one of the many COVID-19 outbreaks hitting Saskatchewan's extended care homes.Havers is not infected, unlike four other residents and seven staff confirmed to have tested positive at the home, according to a statement management gave CBC News six days ago. "But we're all under lockdown," Havers said over the phone Wednesday from her single room, where she's been largely cooped up in her wheelchair for days.The isolation imposed by COVID-19 has taken a toll on her mental health, Havers says — quickened her already short temper, fed her depression, even given her the shakes because of how powerless she feels. "Sometimes I get really lonely because there isn't anybody to talk to," she said. "I find it very, very constricting being in the room all the time. "I miss going outside." 'Zero chance' of lower numbers by Christmas: profOn Tuesday, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe offered a ray of hope for care home residents and their families. Moe said people might be able to visit loved ones in care homes for two or three days during the holiday season, provided the rate of COVID-19 transmission decreases over the next two weeks and depending on the advice he receives from Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province's chief medical health officer."This is the goal," Moe said of Christmas visits, before adding another caveat. "People need to adhere to the measures that are in place [now]."Moe said care-home staff face the risk of transmission every day they go to work, but that they lessen that risk by wearing appropriate personal protective equipment and being cautious."The same may be true, potentially, for families that would want to visit in a long-term care," Moe said.He pointed to Quebec, where "there's going to be a little bit of a different standard so that families would be able to come together for those few days."Kyle Anderson, an assistant professor in the college of medicine at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, said it took Quebec about six weeks from the implementation of its new restrictions to start seeing active case numbers go down."There is zero chance Saskatchewan will have lower active case numbers on Christmas than we are right now, and right now we have seniors dying daily," he said."We need to commit to these measures, not look for ways to circumvent them."Anderson has been closely tracking the daily number of new COVID-19 cases. He created a video that shows the surge in cases among Saskatchewan seniors beginning in mid-November — right around the time outbreaks in care homes began, he said. "We need to keep our vulnerable safe for the next three or four months," Anderson said. "This might seem like too much to ask of us, and ask of them, after such a hard year, but we do the hard things now so we can enjoy the bountiful harvest at the end of the season. This is the Saskatchewan way."'I'm afraid it will spread'At Providence Place in Moose Jaw, Havers said that while it would be nice to see someone in person, she's wary of allowing visits again. She said some residents at her care home are worried about further COVID-19 spread."If it was too much of a risk for us, I'd just as soon not see anybody and stay safe," she said of Christmas visits. "I have some pre-existing conditions and I'm just really afraid of getting COVID in here. I'm afraid it will spread like it did in those homes back east."The day before Moe's comments, Health Minister Paul Merriman said people should plan to see their loved ones at Christmas. It's just a matter of whether they'll do that in person or virtually, he said. Merriman was asked if family members who test negative might be allowed to visit homes."The problem with a negative test is somebody can be negative, tested in the morning and could have picked it up on the way," he said. "We want to make sure that the individuals in that home are safe."> If it was too much of a risk for us, I'd just as soon not see anybody and stay safe. \- Judy HaversOn Thursday, Dr. Shahab said that every time the province relaxes restrictions, "you see a bit of a rebound" in cases.He said the province has seen outbreaks in many different settings, but that those in long-term care homes are the most "high risk out of all the outbreaks that we're seeing in terms of impact on residents and staff and families." Outings restricted for last 2 weeksHealth officials declared an outbreak at Providence Place on Nov. 18, according to an update sent to families that day.The day before, the Ministry of Health announced it was halting visits to all long-term care homes except for people visiting patients in end-of-life care. Providence Place said at the same time it was suspending all outings for its residents, a decision it would revisit in four weeks.Havers said she gets some fresh air because she still goes to a hospital three days a week for dialysis. She keeps in touch with a sister living in Nanaimo, B.C., via texts and FaceTime.But it's hard watching other people face the full brunt of restrictions, she said. "You see the residents [whose] family was here every day … giving them extra attention, washing them, talking to them, bringing them treats, whatever," she said. "Now, all of a sudden, even if they have dementia or Alzheimer's or something, I think they still realize that they're alone. It's not their fault, but I don't think they understand that."As of Thursday, the outbreak numbers at Providence Place were stable among staff and residents, said Georgia Hutchinson, the facility's executive director. "Our spiritual care, recreation and other redeployed staff are focusing on supporting and assisting our residents to cope with the effects of isolation in the outbreak," she said. "The SHA does provide mental health supports to our residents as they are required."On Tuesday, Moe was asked why he would get people's hopes up about visits given recent modelling from the Saskatchewan Health Authority that projects a continued rise in COVID-19 cases."It may not be possible," Moe said. "But is it my place to provide hope and to provide opportunity, to provide some targets for the people of the province to work towards between now and December the 25th? "I think it is."
Christmas Cheer, a 50-year-old annual effort created to help people in Sackville at Christmas time, is low on money.For decades, the charity has been making sure about 250 families have food and presents at Christmas time.But while the charity has operated in much the same way for decades, the pandemic is making fundraising difficult.Elizabeth Wells, president of the Sackville Community Association, the charity that organizes Christmas Cheer, said the group has typically relied on word of mouth and an annual mail out to past donors to stir up the approximately $35,000 raised each year."We don't have any kind of administrative support, we don't have a website, so we're just relying on the community to know that this is what we do every year," said Wells.But this year, the charity finds itself thousands of dollars behind. The group is asking for help from people in Sackville who can afford to do so."We are finding that our donations are a little bit slower coming in because, as people have moved away or have become deceased, we don't have the means to get in touch with new people in town," said Wells.Word doesn't spread as easily when people stay home"We don't really have the means to have a much larger communication strategy than we have, we have a Facebook page," said Wells."I'm concerned because the word isn't out yet."The local paper, the Sackville Tribune Post always did a story each year about their efforts leading up to the holidays. But it laid off its staff at the start of the pandemic, something Wells said was valuable publicity."It just reminded people who aren't necessarily getting a letter that the campaign was still going," said Wells.The charity was formed sometime around 1970, when the churches in the town got together to pool resources in one charity.Formed to help 'wayfarers' with a hot meal, a shower, a bus ticket"We dealt with wayfarers who were looking for a bus ticket or an overnight or a meal as well as Christmas cheer," said Wells."So we would help those people but that is all dried up as well, as people don't have the money to even be a wayfarer anymore."Aside from Christmas Cheer, the charity also helps kids in need by providing school supplies and summer camps, and is there for people who are just having a hard time, no matter what time of year.> "We're the only game in town for this particular purpose. We have a food bank and that's it. "> > \- Elizabeth Wells"If they run into trouble with fuel oil or a bill, they can't pay medical expenses or a cab to get to Moncton for a medical appointment," said Wells.To find individuals who may need help at Christmas, the group puts up signs at the local food bank and calls anyone who has previously received help.People can also refer a family they think might need it.But unlike in bigger centres where services are often duplicated, Wells said, "we're the only game in town for this particular purpose.""We have a food bank and that's it. "Andrew Swanson, senior pastor at Main Street Baptist Church, said it's nice to have a place to send people in need. "We know of a lot of people who come through asking for neighbours or grandchildren or people that they know who may not be able to celebrate Christmas the way that other people might," said Swanson.He said the group does a good job maintaining people's privacy, which can be especially important in people feeling able to receive and ask for help in a small town."This is flesh and blood, helping people that are right near us and so that's a beautiful thing," said Swanson. Anyone wishing to give money can drop off a cheque or cash to the Sackville Branch of the Royal Bank. Toys and gift cards can be dropped off at the Sackville United Church between noon and 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.