Canada's health officials spoke about the recent change in guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on the time between two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and how that may contribute to vaccine hesitancy in Canada.
WASHINGTON — Worried about continuing threats, the acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police appealed to congressional leaders Thursday to use their influence to keep National Guard troops at the Capitol, two months after the law enforcement breakdowns of the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection. Yogananda Pittman told the leaders in a letter obtained by The Associated Press that the board that oversees her department has so far declined to extend an emergency declaration required by the Pentagon to keep Guardsmen who have assisted Capitol officers since the riot. Pittman said she needed the leaders' assistance with the three-member Capitol Police Board, which reports to them. She said the board has sent her a list of actions it wants her to implement, though she said it was unclear whether the points were orders or just recommendations. The letter underscored the confusion over how best to secure the Capitol after a dismal lack of protection in January and biting criticism for law enforcement's handling of the invasion. And it came came as authorities spent the day on high alert, primed for a “possible plot” by a militia group to storm the building again, two months after Trump supporters smashed through windows and doors in an insurrection meant to halt the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory. The list in the letter to lawmakers included a partial removal of the imposing fence encircling the Capitol grounds starting Monday and a drawdown of the Guard to 900 troops from the current 5,200 remaining in Washington. Police want to keep the fence indefinitely. In her letter, Pittman said she would ask for a drawdown of the deployment “based on the threat environment and physical and operational security capabilities.” Earlier Thursday, The Associated Press reported the Pentagon was reviewing a Capitol Police request to keep up to 2,200 Guardsmen at the Capitol another 60 days. A statement from the police said Pittman had formally made the recommendation to the Pentagon. A similar dispute had erupted between the Capitol Police and its board before Jan. 6 and even as rioters were storming the building. The Capitol Police Board, comprised of the House and Senate sergeants at arms and the architect of the Capitol, is charged with oversight of the police force. Steven Sund, the now-former Capitol Police chief, has testified to Congress that he wanted to request the Guard two days before the invasion following reports that white supremacist and far-right groups would target the building to disrupt the certification of Biden's election victory over outgoing President Donald Trump. Paul Irving, who served on the Capitol Police Board as House sergeant-at-arms, denied that Sund asked him to call the Guard. Sund has testified that he asked repeatedly for the Guard to be called as rioters stormed the building, breaking police lines and running over officers unequipped to hold them off. He ultimately called the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard just before 2 p.m., who in turn testified that the request for help was delayed by the Defence Department. The request was not approved until after 5 p.m., as hundreds of rioters marauded through the building and left without being arrested. Five people died in the riot, including a Capitol Police officer and a Trump supporter shot by police. On Thursday, despite the warnings of new trouble, there were no signs of disturbance at the heavily secured building. Nor was there evidence of any large group heading to Washington. The most recent threat appeared to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory, mainly promoted by supporters of QAnon, that former Trump would rise again to power on March 4 and that thousands would come to Washington to try to remove Democrats from office. March 4 was the original presidential inauguration day until 1933, when it was moved to Jan. 20. But Trump was miles away in Florida. In Washington, on one of the warmest days in weeks, the National Mall was almost deserted, save for joggers, journalists, and a handful of tourists trying to take photos of the Capitol dome through the fencing. Online chatter identified by authorities included discussions among members of the Three Percenters, an anti-government militia group, concerning possible plots against the Capitol on Thursday, according to two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Members of the Three Percenters were among the extremists who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. But federal agents found no significant increases in the number of hotel rooms being rented in Washington, or in flights to the area, car rental reservations or buses being chartered. Online chatter about the day on extremist sites was declining. U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, was briefed by law enforcement about the possible threat and said lawmakers were braced for whatever might come. “We have the razor wire, we have the National Guard. We didn’t have that January 6. So I feel very confident in the security,” he said. But those measures aren't permanent. Some states have threatened to pull their Guardsmen amid reports that some troops had been made to take rest breaks in parking garages or served spoiled food. Other Guardsmen have said they have been given good meals with accommodations for those on vegan or halal diets. In Michigan, which sent 1,000 troops, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she did “not have any intention of agreeing to an extension of this deployment.” Meanwhile, Trump continues to promote lies that the election was stolen from him through mass voter fraud, even though such claims have been rejected by judges and Trump's former attorney general. He repeatedly told those lies on social media and in a charged speech on Jan. 6 in which he implored thousands of supporters to “fight like hell.” Many of those supporters eventually walked to the Capitol grounds and overran officers to breach the building. Trump was impeached by the House on a c harge of incitement of insurrection but was acquitted by the Senate. So far, about 300 people have been charged with federal crimes for their roles in the riot. Trump's election rhetoric continues to be echoed by many national and local Republicans posting online messages about voter fraud and questioning the legitimacy of Biden's victory. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki cited “a years-long trend of false narratives fueling violence.” “On the specifics of today’s threats, the FBI and DHS have warned that the threat of domestic violent extremism, particularly racially motivated and anti-government extremists, did not begin or end on January 6 and we have been vigilant day in and day out,” she said Thursday. ___ Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo, Alan Fram, Mary Clare Jalonick, Colleen Long, and Lisa Mascaro in Washington, and Amanda Seitz in Chicago contributed to this report. Lolita C. Baldor, Lisa Mascaro And Nomaan Merchant, The Associated Press
LIVERPOOL, England — Liverpool’s woeful home form is developing into a full-blown crisis after Chelsea’s 1-0 victory on Thursday inflicted a fifth straight league loss at Anfield on the Premier League champions — the worst run in the club’s 128-year history. With Liverpool's title defence already over, this was billed as a battle for a Champions League place and Mason Mount’s 42nd-minute goal lifted Chelsea back into the top four. Chelsea’s previous win at Anfield, in 2014, effectively ended the title hopes of Brendan Rodgers’ side. This one was a blow to Liverpool’s chances of a top-four finish under Jurgen Klopp. Klopp’s side is four points adrift of Chelsea and with Everton and West Ham also ahead. Liverpool has now gone more than 10 hours without a goal from open play at Anfield. The hosts failed to register an effort on target until the 85th minute and Georginio Wijnaldum’s weak header was never going to beat Edouard Mendy. They have taken one point from the last 21 on offer at home since Christmas and scored just two goals, one of which was a penalty. None of Liverpool's established front three — Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane or Roberto Firmino — impressed but the sight of Salah, the Premier League’s leading scorer, being substituted just past the hour mark was baffling. The Egypt international certainly thought so as he sat shaking his head, having been replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Chelsea, by contrast, looked full of threat with Timo Werner — a player Liverpool was interested in but decided it could not afford last summer — a constant problem. Despite one goal in his previous 17 league outings, he caused problems with his movement, drifting out to the left then popping into the middle to give Fabinho a real headache on his return to the side. The Brazil midfielder, replacing Nat Phillips after he became the latest centre back to pick up an injury, was partnering Ozan Kabak in Liverpool’s 15th different central-defensive starting partnership in 27 league matches. Faced with a statistic like that, it is perhaps understandable why there was a lack of cohesion at the back and Werner should really have profited. He fired one early shot over and then failed to lift his effort over Alisson Becker, back in goal after the death of his father in Brazil last week. Even when Werner did beat Alisson, VAR ruled the Germany international’s arm had been offside 20 yards earlier in the build-up. Liverpool’s one chance fell to Mane but Salah’s first-time ball over the top got caught under his feet and Mane missed his shot with only Mendy to beat. Chelsea was still controlling the game and caught Liverpool on the counterattack when N’Golo Kante quickly sent a loose ball out to the left wing, from where Mount cut inside to beat Alisson having been given far too much time to pick his spot. All five of Mount’s league goals have come away from home. Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel spent the first five minutes of the second half screaming at his players to press harder and play higher up the pitch but Liverpool’s players were equally vocal when Firmino’s cross hit the raised arm of Kante from close range. No penalty was awarded. Andy Robertson cleared off the line from Hakim Ziyech after Alisson parried Ben Chilwell’s shot as Chelsea continued to look more dangerous. Klopp’s attempt to change the direction of the game saw him send on Diogo Jota for his first appearance in three months, along with Oxlade-Chamberlain. Jota’s first touch was a half-chance from a deep cross but he was not sharp enough to take it. Werner, meanwhile, was doing everything but score as Alisson’s leg saved another shot as he bore down on goal. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
The owners of a house in northeast Calgary that police were called to 115 times last year alone have been slapped with a court order mandating that it be boarded up for three months. The Alberta Sheriffs' Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) unit obtained a court order on Thursday giving it the authority to change the locks and put up a fence around the property at 5504 Centre Street North, the province said in a release. Police responded to many incidents at the house in Thorncliffe-Greenview last year, including reports of robbery, breaking and entering, possession of a controlled substance and theft of a motor vehicle. SCAN has fielded more than 30 complaints — the largest number it has ever received — and letters from people in the community detailing criminal activity associated with this property. "Recently at this location, a woman sustained a wound to her thigh after being attacked with a machete, and a male suffered serious injuries after taking a bullet to his face," the province said in a release. Alberta Health Services has also issued several orders declaring the property unfit for human habitation, most recently on Jan. 21. Nobody is allowed on the property without permission from the sheriffs until the closure ends on June 2. During the 90-day closure, sheriffs can give the owner and a realtor access for the purpose of showing it to potential buyers. If the owner does not sell the property, the court order gives authorities the option of applying to court for a five-year ban on renting the house and a five-year community safety order. "This is precisely the sort of situation that the SCAN unit was created to fix: a location where criminal activity and violence has become a seemingly everyday occurrence," Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said in the release. "Law-abiding Albertans should not have to tolerate such a level of chaos and danger in their communities."
HONOLULU — The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center cancelled a tsunami watch Thursday for Hawaii that was issued after a huge earthquake occurred in a remote area between New Zealand and Tonga. The agency previously cancelled a tsunami warning it had issued for American Samoa. The magnitude 8.1 quake struck the Kermadec Islands region. The quake forced thousands of people to evacuate in New Zealand but did not appear to pose a widespread threat to lives or major infrastructure. It was the largest in a series of tremors that hit the region over several hours, including two earlier quakes that registered magnitude 7.4 and magnitude 7.3. The Associated Press
ATLANTA — Georgia moved closer Thursday to the possible repeal of an 1863 law that lets private citizens make an arrest, more than a year after the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man chased by white men who said they suspected he had committed a crime. House Bill 479 was approved unanimously by the chamber's Judiciary Committee and could soon move to the House floor for a vote. Georgia's current law was enacted during the Civil War and allows citizens to arrest someone if a crime is committed in their presence or they have “immediate knowledge” that a crime has been committed. Critics say it has long been used to justify lynchings of African Americans. Gov. Brian Kemp has endorsed the bill, saying Arbery’s death on Feb. 23, 2020, shows it’s time for the law to be changed. “Some tried to justify the actions of the killers by claiming they had protection under an antiquated law that is ripe for abuse,” Kemp said last month. The bill would remove from state law the broad powers granted to ordinary citizens to make an arrest, while allowing store and restaurant employees to detain those suspected of stealing. Licensed security guards and private detectives also would be able to make arrests. A previous version of the bill limited the time a person could be detained before police arrive to one hour, but that was changed to stipulate a person could be held for a “reasonable” amount of time. The father and son who armed themselves and pursued Arbery, Greg and Travis McMichael, weren’t arrested or charged until more than two months after the shooting. The first outside prosecutor assigned to the case cited Georgia’s citizen arrest law in a letter to police arguing the shooting was justified. The McMichaels’ lawyers have said they pursued Arbery suspecting he was a burglar, after security cameras had previously recorded him entering a home under construction. They said Travis McMichael shot Arbery while fearing for his life as they grappled over a shotgun. The McMichaels were charged with murder. Video of the fatal encounter was taken by William “Roddie” Bryan, a neighbour who joined the chase and also was later charged with murder. Prosecutors have said Arbery stole nothing and was merely out jogging when the McMichaels and Bryan chased him. They remain jailed without bond. The Associated Press
It's the little touches that help to make a place feel more like home, and while the Out of the Cold Warming Centre isn't a permanent home for any of its visitors, it is proof that little things can still make a big difference. The warming centre has recently come into possession of a pair of guitars for those who visit to make use of. The idea itself came from Out of the Cold's Dave Ashworth, who is also a prominent local musician, and he put out the call on social media to help make the idea a reality. "I started here last November," Ashworth explained. "What really happened was one of the staff said 'hey, one of the guests that comes in plays guitar.' He was going to bring down his guitar that he has at home, and I was going to bring mine whatever night this guest came in, and I thought it would be nice to have something here a little more permanently, so that's when I thought I'd use the power of social media and put it out there, and it works. People have a genuine desire, I think, to help out or donate whatever they might have." Once the call went out, there were a few false starts and missed connections, but eventually Ashworth managed to secure one acoustic and one electric guitar for those visiting the warming centre to play, which he said are comforts to people who might not otherwise have an instrument to play on. "It's a universal language," he said. "Music is good in good times and in bad times." The call for instruments must have struck a chord with people in the community, as Ashworth noted there were plenty of people offering to make donations in one form or another, either of instruments or of monetary donations that could be put towards musical accessories like wall hangers for the guitars. "Businesses helped out too and gave us some discounts on strings," Ashworth said. "A number of people donated. I had one guy, and this was kind of unique, but he was on the Borderland Musicians and Enthusiasts Facebook page, and he offered to send an acoustic guitar. I started talking to him and asked if he was from here, and he said 'No, I'm from Saskatchewan, I'm living out north of Red Deer right now.' He was willing to send it, but we started considering shipping costs and the length of time we're going to be open [this season] so I thought for this year we're good." So far Ashworth said there have been a handful of occasions where guests have played songs together, with others lending their voices or picking up a tambourine to play along. But the instruments are also there for solo use, allowing anyone at the warming centre to pick up a guitar and keep themselves company. "Even in the last week we had a new guest come in and he grabbed it the first night and wanted to play it," he said. "He got it in the morning too. It's nice to see. If it wasn't here then you might not even know some of these people have a musical background. It's been very laid back." The Out of the Cold Warming Centre might be full up on instruments right now, but Ashworth says as the program continues there's always a chance it could grow in some way. He also added that the centre could still do with a donation of another guitar strap and a small practice amp for their electric guitar, should anyone still be looking to help support the initiative. Still, Ashworth said he's grateful to all of those who did reach out to him with offers of instruments or other donations to help provide a little bit of music and a creative outlet to those in need. "I think you want to provide any opportunity you can to dive into things they might not normally have access to," he explained. "Maybe for various reasons they don't have a guitar at home, or don't have any instruments, and this is an option for them to come in and use. We encourage all the guests to just relax and treat it like your home, be respectful and we'll be respectful in return. They seem to enjoy it. Like I said earlier, music is a feel good thing. The feedback has been really good so far." Ken Kellar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times
NEW YORK — One of the women who accused New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexually harassing her at the workplace said she was motivated to come forward after another woman contacted her sharing similar allegations and following the Democratic governor's name being floated as a potential nominee for a cabinet position in President Joe Biden's administration. “I woke up the next day, and the governor was being floated for attorney general, the highest law enforcement position in the U.S.,” former Cuomo aide Lindsey Boylan told Harper's Bazaar in an article published Thursday. “And I didn’t think about it at all … I began tweeting about my experience.” The 36-year-old Boylan, who worked for Cuomo's team from March 2015 to October 2018, first tweeted about an abusive workplace environment in the administration. She said it was after the unnamed woman reached out to her with a story of being harassed by Cuomo that she decided to come forward with her own story of sexual harassment in a series of Twitter posts in December. Boylan elaborated on her accusations in a Feb. 24 Medium post in which she said Cuomo once suggested a game of strip poker and on another occasion kissed her without her consent. Two additional women have made accusations against the 63-year-old Cuomo since then. Charlotte Bennett, 25, a former low-level aide said Cuomo quizzed her about her sex life and told her he would consider dating “anyone above the age of 22." Anna Ruch, 33, told The New York Times that Cuomo put his hands on her face and asked if he could kiss her after meeting her at a September 2019 wedding. Facing calls for his resignation, Cuomo said Wednesday he would remain in office but apologized for acting “in a way that made people feel uncomfortable.” He said he would co-operate with an investigation headed by state Attorney General Letitia James, a fellow Democrat. Boylan told the magazine that she has been in touch with Bennett but not Ruch, adding that Ruch's story made her feel “nauseous.” She said another factor in her own decision to name Cuomo as a sexual harasser was a Cicely Tyson interview she watched after Tyson's death. The pioneering actor cried telling the interviewer about an experience of sexual harassment 50 years earlier, Boylan recalled. “I always thought that if I was ever going to tell my story, it was going to be many, many years from now,” Boylan said. “But the Tyson interview really resonated with me. It shows you how much abuse affects people.” Cuomo, who is in his third term as governor, was believed to be a contender for attorney general before Biden selected federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, who has not yet been confirmed. Karen Matthews, The Associated Press
LONDON — Banksy appears to have thrown his support behind a campaign to turn a former prison in the English town of Reading into an arts venue, a town spokesman said on Thursday, after the street artist confirmed that artwork that appeared on a red brick wall of the prison was of his making. The elusive artist confirmed the picture was his when he posted a video of him creating it on his Instagram account. The monochrome picture shows a man escaping using a rope made of paper from a typewriter. It appeared Monday outside Reading Prison, famous as the location where writer Oscar Wilde served two years for “gross indecency” in the 1890s. The prison closed in 2013, and campaigners want it turned into an arts venue. Britain’s Ministry of Justice, which owns the building, is due to decide mid-March on its future. In his Instagram video, Banksy is shown stealthily stenciling and spraying paint to create the artwork, titled “Create Escape.” The footage is juxtaposed with an episode of a traditional art instruction video called “The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross.” The campaign to turn the former prison into an arts venue has won the backing of actors including Judi Dench, Stephen Fry and Kenneth Branagh. A spokesman for Reading Borough Council said it was “thrilled that Banksy appears to have thrown his support behind the council’s desire to transform the vacant Reading Gaol into a beacon of arts, heritage and culture with this piece of artwork he has aptly called ‘Create Escape’.” “The Council is pushing the Ministry of Justice, who own the site, to make suitable arrangements to protect the image,” the authority said. The Associated Press
Newfoundland and Labrador's minister responsible for the status of women says there's been a recent increase in calls to the province's domestic violence help line but there are services available to help women living with violence. Lisa Dempster says the increase in calls is concerning, but she's encouraged that women are reaching out for help, despite the public health restrictions in place. "While we are in lockdown, you do not have to feel you are locked down at home with an abuser, so we do know that there's been some increase in calls," she said. Dempster didn't give specific details about how many more calls the line is receiving. The domestic violence help line was launched in June. When someone calls or texts, the system will automatically detect the region they're in and connect them with a trained professional at the nearest transition house. If necessary, they can then be connected to services, like women's centres or police, for further help. Non-profit groups said they saw a significant increase in domestic violence calls during the early stages of the pandemic. We know that some of the calls coming in are more focused on physical violence. - Lisa Dempster Dempster said the pandemic has had a greater effect on women, and restrictions can create added pressure for women living with violence. As a result, the types of calls the line is receiving has also changed, she said. "Prior to the pandemic, we would get various calls to the line, could be around financial abuse, different types," she said. "But right now — and we know the pandemic has been really difficult for many people and it's not impacted all of us equally — we know that some of the calls coming in are more focused on physical violence." During an election, the government is in caretaker mode, but Dempster is still the minister, and she says has been checking in with staff in the department at least once a week. She said the increase in calls began within the past week. "Yesterday, maybe, when I learned there had been an increase, I felt compelled to get out, to do my part to hopefully reach some women that are in unsafe situations," she said. Help available for women experiencing violence The minister urged women not to stay in an unsafe situation at home because of the public health restrictions in alert levels 4 and 5. "To women who are struggling with violence in their lives today, I want you to know that help is available," she said. "There are services right across this province, and when you feel you are ready and you feel that it's safe for you to reach out, there are organizations waiting to help you." Dempster said transition houses across the province are open and have room to accept women in need. She said, on average, the transition houses are now at about 55 per cent capacity. "While we've made good strides and we're moving in the right direction, certainly there is progress that can be made," she said. "We're grateful that we have fared better than many other provinces. Still, we have our own issues — all is not well and we need to get out and we need to talk about those. We need to hear from folks out in the community and we need to put whatever services in place that we can to support them." The province's domestic violence help line is 1-888-709-7090, and can be reached by call or text, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
CHARLOTTETOWN — Health officials in Prince Edward Island are reporting one new case of COVID-19 today. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison says the case involves a man in his 60s who is a close contact of a previously reported infection. She says the man initially tested negative but was retested after developing symptoms. Morrison is reminding all Islanders to get tested if they experience any symptoms of COVID-19 and to isolate until the results come back. Prince Edward Island has 23 active reported cases of COVID-19. The province has reported a total of 138 infections and no deaths linked to the virus. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
From spring through fall, it’s not unusual to find Beck Aurell swinging from limb to limb through the crowns of Island oak, maple or poplar trees. Gear similar to a rock climber’s holds her safely in the tree and she carries a pruning saw or chainsaw at her side. “I might be the only female bodied climbing arborist on PEI,” Beck said, explaining that arborists are tree workers with specialized skills and certifications. They typically focus on managing and taking care of trees in residential areas. She was most recently employed with Laird Tree Care out of Cardigan. While Beck identifies as gender non-binary she is perceived by most as female and is comfortable with she/her or they/them pronouns. This puts her at odds with the majority of people she has worked with in Canada and around the world. Beck loves outdoor, hands-on work and any day she can help preserve the life of a tree is a good day in her opinion. She said making her way into a male dominated field of work wasn’t particularly easy but there were a few things that lifted her up into the treetops. “My dad was very helpful,” she said. Beck’s father owns an arborist business in New Brunswick and encouraged her to challenge herself by climbing in her teens. “It was something fun we did together and he never questioned if I could do it.” While the average arborist seems to be a tall bulky or lean guy, Beck has found smart techniques and tools tend to level the playing field. With a 5 foot 2 inch tall female body, she is stronger than some might expect. Beck said sometimes customers meet her with surprised comments like “Oh, are you doing the work?” or “Where’s the foreman?” when she is the team lead for the day. “It might be hard to believe, but it doesn’t actually take a 6-foot bulky man to transport logs from point A to B, to work hard all day, or to do the work we do efficiently,” she said. Luckily most customers meet her with supportive comments. “Customers that are older women especially seem supportive, I think it might be because they’ve seen so much change over the years.” Beck said local queer and some feminist communities have been a tremendous source of support and their ideas have helped her the whole way through. “Queer communities tend to share the idea, if it feels right for you, break gender expectations without fear or embarrassment, with pride,” she said. “They’ve really showed me there are different ways to be a person that don’t fit specific gender roles.” Beyond that, seeing female arborists in the industry when she worked in Sweden or at events (like women’s arborist skills camps in the US or in iternational arborist climbing competitions) reassured her that she could succeed in this line of work. Co-workers who have welcomed her into group environments and given her the opportunity to do what she is capable of without underestimating her abilities have also played a helpful part. “Most of my co-workers have been great,” Beck said. “Most don’t think twice about having me on the crew and working together, especially once they see I am capable and reliable.” “This means a lot because sometimes it takes a minute for some of the guys to settle with the idea that I’ll be climbing and working on the same level or even as a leader with them. “Sometimes when a crew shows up on a job they’re not expecting a blonde woman in her 20s to be the foreman and there seems to be a bit of an ego thing that can go on. “Sometimes there is some pushback but for the most part, it’s no problem.” Beck said her crew on PEI has been an excellent and fun team to work with. She has some advice for anyone considering a field of work that may seem unusual for their gender. “Don’t be afraid to break expectations and don’t underestimate yourself,” she said. “And if you can’t find anyone supportive, give me a call.” Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic
As the 2021 Canadian federal budget is drafted, the Foundation for Black Communities (FFBC) has submitted a proposal to have money set aside for Black-led charities. During an open call for prebudget recommendations from the Department of Finance, the foundation submitted a proposal for the federal government to allot $200 million to FFBC, to kick start an endowment. The organization plans to supplement it by raising $100 million from the private and philanthropic sector, and with an endowment model, be able to provide sustainable resources to Black community organizations. Working group member Liban Abokor said he hopes their proposal will be considered, especially with the rise in commitment to support Black Canadians and anti-racism efforts. “If we think about Canada’s plan to build back better, (we want to ensure) that includes Black communities,” said Abokor. In addition to funding anti-racism efforts through a four-year plan, much of the funding provided to support Black Canadians federally has been for business and entrepreneurship loans. Just over $220 million was earmarked by Ottawa and financial institutions to offer business loans to the Black community. Abokor acknowledged that what has been done so far are important steps, but “I think there’s additional investments needed,” Abokor said. There have also been some hiccups fulfilling the federal government’s current offers. Recently, hundreds of Black-led groups were denied Black community initiative funding by Employment and Social Development Canada, with a response that the groups were not sufficiently Black-led. The Foundation for Black Communities was founded by Abokor and other Black people involved in the philanthropic and charitable sector to provide a foundation dedicated to empowering Black-led and Black-focused non-profit organizations. A report it authored late last year found that Black-led charities and non-profit organizations have been getting the short end of the stick when it comes to funding. It found that for every $100 of grant funds dispensed by 15 of the leading foundations in Canada, only 30 cents go to Black community organizations. Social worker Ken Williams has seen the way funding models can be a barrier to effectively serving Black communities. Grants and funding are often provided on a project-by-project basis, which can be unstable. “Young people’s lives don’t work in a one-year cycle or a three-year cycle … a lot of times, you know, you need supports that are ongoing,” Williams said. Williams also said that it can take time for groups to get running, build community connections and “a lot of the times … the funding doesn’t actually assist in that process.” FFBC plans to remove some of these barriers to make funding more accessible to grassroots organizations. The lack of diversity in charitable leadership is significant in Canada. Last month, a Statistics Canada survey revealed that there is a “diversity deficit” among board members in Canadian charities and not-for-profit organizations, even though government funding and public donations are their main source of revenue. Sen. Ratna Omidvar of Ontario challenged the sector to begin keeping demographic data after the racial uproar that began last summer. With the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the country, the 2021 budget will be vital to planning an effective recovery. A Department of Finance official reiterated that the government acknowledges that systemic racism is an issue in Canada and these communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Abokor has seen how local groups have pivoted to support racialized communities, and how needed they will be in the recovery. Who is going to help Black youth who have had their education upended over the past year? Or help women who have disproportionately lost work re-enter the job market? Or support seniors who have had to stay home more out of caution, he asks. “Without investment in Black-led, community organizations, those services aren’t going to be available,” Abokor said. “And if they’re not available ... then I think we should be worried about our community being left in actually a worse off position than we were prior to this pandemic.” With files from Nicholas Keung Angelyn Francis is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering equity and inequality. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: email@example.com Angelyn Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
A pair of provincial candidates running in Labrador have taken it upon themselves to get some voting information translated into the Innu and Inuit languages. Concerns over the mail-in ballots only being available in English were brought up by candidates shortly after the announcement that there would be no in-person voting, and the concerns haven’t abated. Elections NL told SaltWire Network that “when the election moved to vote by mail only, the chief electoral officer sought translation assistance from our jurisdictional partners.” “Unfortunately, the timelines for such a translation process would not have met Elections Newfoundland and Labrador’s timelines for mailing out voting kits.” Patricia Johnson-Castle, who is running for the NDP in Torngat Mountains, has been vocal regarding her concern about the potential disenfranchisement of non-English-speaking Indigenous voters in Labrador. Last week she decided to get some of the basic election information, such as voting deadlines and how to reach Elections NL, translated into Inuktitut and Innu-aimun and to distribute it online and in print. Johnson-Castle said when it became clear that they weren’t going to be able to get the information translated from Elections NL, she looked for people to translate some of the information, which took no time at all. It has always been a concern that ballots are only in English, she said, but past elections involved in-person voting, where people could take family with them to help translate, or avail of local, bilingual election staff. “In person, people could make a plan, but by text, that’s much more difficult for people to do, especially because some of the terms are very technical,” she said. “People in Labrador always have to accommodate for services that should be provided by the provincial government and this is just another part of that.” Lake Melville Progressive Conservative candidate Shannon Tobin has also taken it upon himself to provide translation election materials, specifically about the mail-in ballot. Tobin told SaltWire he had received his on Wednesday and was going to have it translated into Innu-aimun for a video. He said it became a larger issue as the campaign went on, and began when the information at the advance polls was only available in English and people were relying on his scrutineer to provide them with instructions in Innu-aimun. When the changeover to mail-in ballots only was announced, there was an indication at first from Elections NL that it would accommodate non-English-speakers, Tobin said, but then Elections NL said it would not meet the timelines. “It’s something Election NL should have had in place from the start,” he said. “We have governments talking about reconciliation. It needs to go throughout government. It should have been done. They should have been making these accommodations for a while.” He said it is “easily foreseeable” that people would have wanted access to this information in their Indigenous language and it should have been in place before now. Elections NL said it will “commit to seeking translation services to provide materials in Innu-aimun, Inuktitut, Mi’gmaq/Mi’kmaq and French immediately following this election.” Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
Canada's premiers are demanding that Ottawa immediately give them an extra $28 billion for health care this year, with a promise of at least a five-per-cent hike in the annual transfer payment each year thereafter.
A first-of-its-kind grassroots networking event has a youth social agency in Kamloops confident it has the ear of government, with a summary report forthcoming. Staff from A Way Home Kamloops Society, who have experienced homelessness in their youth, pitched solutions for ending youth homelessness to provincial government representatives and service providers recently at a virtual conference they organized. Aging out of foster care, substance use, mental health, cultural supports, LGBTQ2S+ experiences, education and employment were up for discussion via Zoom meetings. “If even this only plants the seed for change, that’s incredible because there’s still more to come,” said Kira Cheeseborough said, peer navigator for A Way Home Kamloops. A two-day summit with provincial representatives — as originally planned prior to the pandemic — is still expected to take place sometime in the near future, when COVID-19 restrictions ease. At the virtual event, A Way Home Kamloops youth advisors stressed the need to ensure no youth ages out of foster care before safe, appropriate housing and after-care supports are available as a key solution to ending youth homelessness. Another recommendation was to create a provincial plan. “If we can prevent youth from experiencing homelessness, it doesn’t become a pathway to adult homelessness,” Cheeseborough said. The three-hour virtual event drew 57 attendees, with representatives from BC Housing, the Attorney General’s office, the Ministry of Children and Family Development, including Minister Mitzi Dean, and the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, including Minister Sheila Malcolmson. Cheeseborough said a report of key findings and feedback from attendees will be made public in mid-March. Minister Dean said the MCFD is working to improve services and supports for those who are transitioning from government care, noting input from youth and young adults will play a key role in shaping those services. “Hearing directly from young people is critical to better understanding how we can meet their unique needs and I am grateful to everyone who shared their story,” Dean said. Youth Advisor Mel Hedch told KTW she is happy they were able to have the ear of key decision-makers in the field as it means they have a greater chance of improving the situations of homeless youth in B.C. “It was so exciting to have them and I look forward to, in the future, the different summit and conference we’ll have, where we’ll be expanding so much than we already have,” Hedch said. Last year, A Way Home Kamloops organized what was to be a localized event, dubbed the Light The Way Youth Homelessness Conference, but it was expanded in scope to include provincial representatives — something Cheeseborough credits to the work of the organization’s late executive director, Katherine McParland. The event, however, was delayed last summer due to COVID-19 restrictions, which is why the virtual Youth Homelessness Preliminary Summit proceeded this year. “The preliminary summit was an opportunity for the youth advisors to be celebrated in their resiliency and strength, not only through COVID, but in the tragic passing of Katherine McParland. She was an incredible leader,” Cheeseborough said. McParland, 33, died suddenly in Kamloops on Dec. 5, 2020. Michael Potestio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week
PARMA, Italy — Alexis Sánchez scored twice to help Inter Milan win 2-1 at relegation-threatened Parma on Thursday to open up a six-point gap at the top of Serie A. Romelu Lukaku had a hand in both Inter goals in the second half before Hernani pulled one back for Parma. Inter moved six points above second-place AC Milan, which was held to a 1-1 draw by Udinese on Wednesday. Nine-time defending champion Juventus is third but has played a match less. Parma remained second from bottom, six points from safety. Inter had won six of its past seven league matches heading into the game at Parma, scoring 17 goals and conceding just one. It was Parma which had the better of the earlier chances, but Inter broke the deadlock nine minutes into the second half. Lukaku chested down a pass on the edge of the area and tried to turn but the ball ended up ricocheting into the path of Sánchez. Sassuolo defender Riccardo Gagliolo tried to clear his shot off the line but it had already gone over. Lukaku did even better eight minutes later as he powered through from his own half and then rolled a great ball across for Sánchez to drive into the bottom right corner. Parma briefly threatened a comeback when Hernani volleyed in Germán Pezzella’s cross in the 71st. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
MONTREAL — A novel coronavirus variant could cause cases in the Montreal area to explode by the end of April if residents don't strictly adhere to health orders, according to new modelling by the province's public health institute. The modelling released Thursday by the Institut national de sante publique du Quebec and Universite Laval suggested the B.1.1.7 mutation — first identified in the United Kingdom — is likely to become the predominant strain in the province by the middle of next month. People's behaviour, however, will determine the speed of the variant's rise, the institute said. "The extent of the increase in variant cases would depend on adherence to measures during and after the spring break and superspreader events," read the institute's report. "Vaccination coverage for people over 70 and health workers should not be sufficient to control the rise in cases linked to a new variant by May, since they represent less than 20 per cent of the population." The modelling suggested that a "strong" adherence to public health measures both during and after this week's spring break could allow the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths to remain stable until the end of April. A "medium" respect of measures — defined as a 50-to-100 per cent reduction in home visits and increased contacts in workplaces and during sports and leisure activities — could cause cases to rise sharply. Hospitalizations and deaths are expected to follow more slowly because many of the most vulnerable are protected by vaccination, the projections found. The variant is not expected to spread as rapidly outside the greater Montreal area because of the lower level of community transmission. Health Minister Christian Dube described the projections in a Twitter message as "stable, but very concerning," especially in Montreal. "A medium adherence to the measures would have as an impact to bring hospitalizations back to the level we were at in the worst month of January," he wrote. COVID-19-related hospitalizations surpassed 1,500 in January. "That's exactly why we're asking Quebecers not to relax their efforts," he added. Another report released Thursday by the Quebec government health and social services institute found that hospitalizations have stabilized after a sustained drop earlier in 2021. The report by the Institut national d’excellence en sante et en services sociaux indicated hospitalizations will likely remain stable for the next three to four weeks. "Beyond this period, the evolution of this trend could be different with an increasing presence of more contagious or more virulent variants," the report said. The report, which was written Feb. 28 but released Thursday, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic in the province is largely concentrated in Montreal and the surrounding regions, where 85 per cent or more of Quebec's new cases and hospitalizations originate. On Wednesday, Premier Francois Legault announced that restrictions would be eased in much of the province but maintained in Montreal and the surrounding areas, including Laval and the South Shore. While Montrealers will continue to be forbidden to leave their homes after 8 p.m., residents of four other regions including Quebec City will be able to eat at restaurants, work out at the gym and stay out until 9:30 p.m. starting Monday. Despite the risk posed by variants, the report on hospitals suggested that the province's health-care institutions remain in relatively good shape for the coming weeks. It noted that about a third of the regular beds and half the intensive care beds in the Montreal region designated for COVID-19 patients are occupied, and that hospital capacity is not expected to be surpassed in the next three weeks. The report found that while the institute's past projections have generally been accurate, they become less precise when predicting more than three weeks ahead. While the number of confirmed variant cases across the province remained stable at 137 on Thursday, the number of presumptive cases rose to 1,353, an increase of 133. The Quebec government reported 707 new cases of COVID-19 and 20 more deaths attributed to the virus. Hospitalizations have gone up slightly in the province for four of the past five days. On Thursday, they rose by eight, to 626, while the number of people in intensive care dropped by five, to 115. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
Fourteen variants of concern have been identified in COVID-19 cases in the region, that number more than doubling last week from five last Monday to 12 on Friday, and 14 by Monday. The cases are located in Northumberland County and City of Kawartha Lakes, identified as the N501Y variant, and were acquired outside the region, according to the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge district health unit. Dr. Ian Gemmill, acting medical officer of health, spoke to the topic and provided the most updated numbers at that point on Feb. 24 at his regularly-scheduled weekly press conference. At that time, he mentioned five new variants of concern in addition to the three prior cases, but later in the afternoon an additional case had been added. Three more were identified in the health unit’s Friday epidemiological report, an additional two in the March 1 report. “The situation with VOCs can change quickly,” he said in comments shared by the health unit an hour after the press conference. “The source of all of these VOCs are tied to contacts with others outside the HKPRDHU region,” Gemmill said in comments. “The nine VOCs involve three clusters and a single case … and in all these situations, these local VOCs are well under control as the people involved are isolating and limiting their contacts.” In last week’s meeting, Gemmill said he did not have at that time the information about where the cases were located, nor which strain had been identified. When it was noted by a reporter that people are concerned and want further information, Gemmill said: “We need to assume that coronavirus is everywhere,” he said. “We need to assume that the variants could pop up anywhere. So far, they’ve all had the acquisition outside of our area, which means it’s not being transmitted in [the HKPR region]. I agree there’s a public interest in knowing which county it’s in, we’ll get that for you, but I think that people need to behave as though they could be exposed to this at any point. I think that’s a message I have to keep repeating, repeating, repeating, because it’s so key to the preventative measures.” On Feb. 9, the region’s first identified variant of concern was reported. That case was linked to a resident in Port Hope, and later at a Feb. 17 press conference, Gemmill said two of that resident’s household contacts were also identified as having variant cases of COVID-19, noting that those individuals had been isolating. “This is a controlled situation,” said Gemmill at that time. “Since they’ve all been quarantined, I’m not worried particularly about these cases.” Across Ontario, Gemmill said at the Feb. 17 press conference, the proportion of positive cases constituted by the variants of concern are rising, and he was hearing “worrisome chatter” about it being identified in other parts of Ontario. “We have been affected, but in a very minor way, but this is becoming a big issue across the province of Ontario,” he said. The variants are more transmissible than the original virus, and can amplify cases because of the ease in which they spread, which has led to speculation about a potential third wave and lockdown to protect hospital capacity. “Anything is possible, but I’ll be completely forthright with you, the way this variant is behaving, the one [identified in] the U.K. primarily, I’m not sure we’re going to have control of it, so it could theoretically replace the original virus and become the dominant one, and then it’s going to be a lot more difficult to control,” said Gemmill. As of the March 2 HKPRD health unit update, Haliburton County has zero confirmed cases of COVID-19, with one current high-risk contact. City of Kawartha Lakes currently has 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 43 high-risk contacts, and Northumberland County has 17 current cases of COVID-19 and 53 high-risk contacts. “What is worrisome is the continuing spread of coronavirus variants across Ontario,” said Gemmill in Feb. 24 comments. “We are likely to see more of these VOCs in our region, so the need to take public health prevention measures continues to be important until more people are vaccinated.” Sue Tiffin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Minden Times
Canadian prosecutors told a court on Thursday that it was not a judge's role to decide whether national security and geopolitical concerns can be used to strike down a U.S. request to extradite Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Meng, 49, was arrested in December 2018 on a U.S. warrant accused of misleading HSBC about Huawei's business dealings in Iran, putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions.