The pandemic has increased the time children and teenagers are spending online. But experts warn that it is leaving children vulnerable to a host of negative consequences, like bullying, addictions and cyber predators.
The pandemic has increased the time children and teenagers are spending online. But experts warn that it is leaving children vulnerable to a host of negative consequences, like bullying, addictions and cyber predators.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry went through new provincial modelling data today, showing that people must reduce their number of contacts to bring transmission down. “Right now, the rate of infectious contacts, the contacts we’re having where the virus can be transmitted to others, on average in the province is somewhere around 55 to 60 per cent. That is too high,” said Henry. “We need to get down to 40 per cent or less. We had done that consistently, we were able to do that last March, we did that in November when we put in restrictions again, and I want to remind people: the restrictions that we put in that worked in November are still in place.” She suggested people may be feeling a sense of complacency around continued restrictions on social gatherings, but added that “we need to pay attention again.” “The people that you are seeing every day, whether at work, whether running errands, going for a walk, it’s likely that without you or them knowing it, somebody in your community, in your connections, has COVID, may not be aware of it, and is potentially infectious. The more people you see, the higher that likelihood would be. Right now, we have a lot of transmission in communities across the province. “Even if we can see people outside our household, we shouldn’t right now. And if we do, it needs to be the same small group of people. We know that outside is lower risk—it’s not zero, but it is lower risk. So have that small group of people that you meet with, that you need to support you, meet them outside, keep your distance. If you’re going to be in close contact, wear masks, even if it’s outside.” Henry said about 60 per cent of cases in the province are likely a variant of concern, particularly the B.1.1.7 (U.K.) and P.1 (Brazil) variants. In the Vancouver Coastal Health region, about two-thirds of variant cases are the P.1 variant, while in the Fraser Health region about two-thirds of variant cases are the B.1.1.7 variant. A study in Vancouver Coastal Health schools conducted between September and December indicated that of 699 school-based cases, only 55 were acquired in schools. Henry said schools don’t appear to be a major driver of community transmission. She also announced 1,205 new cases in B.C. today, bringing the province’s total to 116,075 cases since the pandemic began. Of the new cases, 301 are in the Vancouver Coastal Health region (including Richmond), 730 in the Fraser Health region, 38 in the Island Health region, 69 in the Interior Health region, 66 in the Northern Health region and one in a person who lives outside Canada. The latest local data shows there were 266 new cases in Richmond between April 4 and 10. There are 10,052 active cases, a record high and the first time the number has risen above 10,000 in four months. The number of people in hospital with active cases continues to rise, with 409 reported today, 125 of whom are in critical care. A further 16,217 people are under active public health monitoring. Henry said there has been an increase in people aged 40 to 59 ending up in hospital, as well as an increase in the 60-79 age group. Hospitalization rates in those between 20 and 39 remain relatively low, although there has been an increase in people of that age becoming sick with COVID-19. Three more people have died as a result of COVID-19, and 12 active healthcare outbreaks continue across the province. To date, 1,235,863 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered. For the latest medical updates, including case counts, prevention, risks and to find a testing centre near you: http://www.bccdc.ca/ or follow @CDCofBC on Twitter. Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel
OTTAWA — The government House leader has asked the Speaker of the House of Commons to investigate a photo leak of a Liberal MP caught naked on camera during a virtual sitting of Parliament. Pablo Rodriguez said Thursday the incident involving Quebec MP William Amos was "mean-spirited" and has been "life-changing" for him. He suggested there could be serious implications for the person who took and shared this intimate image on Wednesday. "Taking a photo of someone who is changing clothes and in the nude and sharing it without their consent could very well be criminal," Rodriguez said. A screenshot shows Amos standing unclothed behind a desk between the Quebec and Canadian flags with what appears to be a phone covering his private parts. During virtual House of Commons sittings, only those who speak are shown on the public feed. Therefore, Amos's fellow MPs could see him on camera but he did not appear on the main screen. Bloc Québécois MP Claude DeBellefeuille, the party whip, raised the incident in a point of order after question period Wednesday, as she called for parliamentary decorum. "It may be necessary to remind the members, especially the male ones, that a tie and jacket are obligatory, but so are a shirt, boxer shorts or pants," DeBellefeuille said in French. "We have seen that the member is in great physical shape, but I think members should be reminded to be careful and control the camera well." In a statement Wednesday, Amos said he had returned from a jog and was changing into his work clothes, and did not realize his camera was on. "This was an unfortunate error," said Amos, parliamentary secretary to Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne. "I sincerely apologize to my colleagues in the House of Commons for this unintentional distraction. Obviously, it was an honest mistake and it won't happen again.'' Thursday morning, Rodriguez opened the House of Commons by blasting the unidentified person who leaked the nude photo of Amos to media, asking if they had given any thought to the ramifications on Amos's personal life when they shared it. He called it a case of "callous disrespect." "Did they think of (Amos's) family, children, friends and the fact that the internet is forever? Are we really at the point in our politics that it is acceptable to try and destroy the reputation and humiliate a colleague because someone finds an unfortunate error and unintentional mistake to be funny?" Rodriguez said. "Our politics have taken a very dark and destructive turn if this is the case." Neither MPs nor staff are allowed to to take photos in the House of Commons when it is sitting — a rule that has been extended to include virtual sittings. This includes taking screenshots of the public and non-public video feeds, Speaker Anthony Rota ruled in September 2020. "For taking screenshots, it is the same as being in the House. If a member takes a picture, they are taking a picture, and posting it just adds to that. Members are not permitted to take photos in the House," Rota said in an exchange on Sept. 29. Rodriguez has asked Rota to launch an immediate investigation to determine who took the controversial photo so the House of Commons could then decide on a next course of action. Rota said he would take the matter under advisement. In another statement posted to Facebook on Thursday, Amos thanked people who "sent messages of moral support and encouragement in the aftermath of this most regrettable situation." He described the past day as having been difficult, both personally and professionally. "It is most unfortunate that someone shared, without my consent, a photo in which I was changing my clothes," he said, adding that he expects the Speaker to investigate. Procurement Minister Anita Anand also expressed concern over the shared image. Amos was scheduled to appear at an announcement with Anand Thursday morning, but she said he is instead "taking a day" and noted that he has apologized for the incident as an accident. “I do, as a member of Parliament, have concerns that we should all, as members of Parliament, be respecting the rules of the House of Commons as well as any additional applicable law,” Anand said when asked about the incident. Amos was described by Liberal government whip Mark Holland as an "upstanding member of the House" who made an honest mistake. "His screen was on while in the middle of getting dressed. It could have happened to any of us," Holland said in a statement. "We must know who is responsible for leaking non-consensual images from a private video feed. We must also be assured that the video taken by this person is deleted so that further violations of privacy and decency are not possible." This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2021. Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — The Alberta Teachers’ Association wants the province to immediately scrap its draft education curriculum for young students and to start over. Association president Jason Schilling says most of his members feel teaching what's being proposed for kids in kindergarten to Grade 6 could damage their development. “This curriculum is fatally flawed,” Schilling said Thursday. “Many of the teachers believe that putting it before children will cause harm. We cannot allow that to happen.” Schilling said the plan is not developmentally appropriate for young kids, is jammed with random facts, and too loosely structured with concepts well over students’ heads. He said it pushes Eurocentric history while giving short shrift to francophone and Indigenous cultures and perspectives. He noted that since the curriculum was introduced by Education Minister Adriana LaGrange two weeks ago, more than 20 school boards have said they will not pilot it in classrooms this fall. They include the public school boards in Edmonton and Calgary. Schilling pointed to a survey of teachers released last week that revealed an overwhelming call for the draft to be overhauled. The proposal has also faced accusations that parts of it have been cribbed or lifted verbatim without citation from Wikipedia and other sources. Advocates, including LaGrange, say it takes a common-sense approach that includes basic concepts, such as multiplication tables, along with real-life skills for the information age, including how to budget and computer code. LaGrange spokeswoman Nicole Sparrow said in a statement that the Alberta government "has been very clear that we want feedback from Albertans on the draft curriculum. "Teachers have been very involved and will continue to be involved in the curriculum development process. Alberta’s government brought together more than 100 Alberta teachers, many who are members of the teachers’ union, to review the draft K-6 curriculum and provide feedback." Schilling said the participation was short and secret. “We had 100 teachers who met for two days that had to sign a non-disclosure agreement," he said. "We have no idea what they said, what they saw, and if the feedback they provided to government was actually taken into account and is reflected in the draft.” He acknowledged teachers can face disciplinary measures if they do not follow lawful direction, such as implementing a curriculum, but added there is a higher principle at stake. “Teachers who believe this curriculum is flawed and potentially damaging to student learning have the professional responsibility and moral right to refuse to participate in any voluntary piloting.” Schilling said he hopes school boards will respect such refusals, but declined to say specifically what the teachers association will do, legal or otherwise, should co-operation turn into confrontation down the road. “We’ll have to cross that bridge when we get to that point, but my hope is that we don’t.” The K-6 curriculum is part of a broader overhaul. A new learning plan for Grades 7 to 10 is to be in place in the fall of 2023, and one for Grades 11 and 12 in September 2024. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2021 Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin says his government does not plan to have settlement talks with Northern Pulp, despite a warning from the company that it might sue the province if the two sides can't agree on the terms of an environmental assessment for a new effluent treatment facility. The company said in an affidavit recently filed in a B.C. court that it intends to submit a revised proposal for the new facility next month. It added litigation may be necessary to resolve disputes if common ground can't be found. Rankin said Thursday the company is showing interest in finding a way to resume operations and he's waiting to see what unfolds. "If litigation ends up happening, then we'll participate in that," Rankin told reporters at Province House. 'Potentially not achievable' The premier said he has no details about the potential proposal and described the timelines outlined in court documents as "questionable." "We thought that it was potentially not achievable, but that's for them to answer," he said. In February, a community liaison community established in the wake of the mill shutdown said if company officials were serious about restarting and building community trust, they should withdraw an application for a judicial review and the proposal that is currently before the province. The court documents provide no details about whether this new plan would include using a pipeline to send treated effluent into the Northumberland Strait. That was part of an earlier proposal — which to date has not been approved — that caused a firestorm of protest from the Pictou Landing First Nation, fishing and environmental groups and many others living in Pictou County. The mill shut down at the end of January 2020 when it failed to get approval for its proposal and it could no longer use Boat Harbour as its treatment lagoon. Old proposal remains on the books Rankin said the province is considering filing its own affidavit with the court to identify where government officials see challenges with what the company is suggesting, including the idea that the project could be ready for an environmental assessment decision by the end of June 2022. Like the premier, Environment Minister Keith Irving said he's heard nothing from the company about the proposal. In fact, Irving said the company has not officially abandoned its original proposal, which is subject to a deadline of April 22, 2022, to complete an environmental assessment report. "That's still the information that we have at the department," he told CBC News. "If they submit any alterations to that, then we'll make a judgment on what's appropriate timelines." Feds should do the assessment Tory Leader Tim Houston, whose riding includes the Pictou Landing First Nation, said if a new plan comes forward, the evaluation process needs to be clear from the start. He recommended a Class 2 environmental assessment, which would require a report and a formal public review that could include hearings. NDP Leader Gary Burrill agreed on the need for a stringent assessment, but said he doesn't think the evaluation should be left to the provincial government. "If there is an effluent treatment facility proposal, we can only go forward on the basis of the very highest standard available of arm's length, independent review — and that is a full-scope federal environmental assessment," he said. Northern Pulp's court filings suggest they view their new submission as being classified as a "modification to existing infrastructure," something that would be subject to a 50-day review, which could be extended at the environment minister's discretion. MORE TOP STORIES
BERLIN — New polls Friday bolstered Bavarian Governor Markus Soeder's bid to be the candidate of Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right bloc in fall elections, showing a wide margin of popular support for him over Armin Laschet, the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia. Laschet is the leader of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, and has rallied the party's leadership behind his bid to run as chancellor. Soeder, the leader of the CDU's smaller Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, has resisted pressure to resolve the matter immediately, however, saying it needs to be discussed with people beyond senior party officials. Soeder has emphasized his superior poll ratings, and two new surveys further boost that argument. One, conducted this week by the infratest dimap agency for ARD television, showed 44 per cent of Germans, and 72 per cent of union-bloc voters, preferred Soeder to Laschet. By contrast, 15 per cent of Germans and 17 per cent of union-bloc voters preferred Laschet. The poll of 1,174 people had a margin of error of plus or minus two to three percentage points. Perhaps more important as the bloc considers whom to choose, was an INSA poll done this week for Bild newspaper and released Friday. It indicating that with Laschet as the candidate the union bloc was polling at 27 per cent support, one point below its current ratings as measured by the agency, while with Soeder it sat at 38 per cent support. INSA's poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Laschet has dismissed the importance of the polls, noting that the elections are months away and that he has overcome poor numbers in state races in the past. After a meeting on Tuesday of the two parties’ joint parliamentary group in Berlin, both men emerged to say that the talks were productive and that they hoped to have a decision by week’s end. There was no indication early Friday, however, that any announcement was imminent. Germany’s parliamentary election on Sept. 26 will determine who succeeds Merkel, who isn’t seeking a fifth term after nearly 16 years in power. The Associated Press
An Iqaluit man under the protection of Nunavut's public guardian is being forced into homelessness while government officials struggle to figure out how to help him and who should pay for that help, according to a case at the Nunavut Court of Justice. The Inuk man in this case, whose identity CBC is withholding, has schizophrenia and an intellectual disability. He was placed into the care of the public guardian according to an order under Nunavut's Public Guardianship Act in November last year. Those who fall under such protective orders do not have the capacity to make some basic life decisions for themselves. Last month, the man left Iqaluit's men's shelter in order to attend a court appearance in Kinngait. When he got back, the shelter was full. A couple days later, his defence lawyer noticed bruising and scratches on his face. The man reported the injuries were a result of frostbite due to homelessness. Legal aid lawyers quickly filed documents with the court demanding the public guardian secure temporary housing for the man under its care. But the guardian's office filed its own court documents refusing. It says it contacted numerous facilities in Iqaluit, none of which could house the man. It added that it is not its responsibility to house people under its care, especially in light of Nunavut's longstanding housing crisis. If it were their responsibility, the public guardian argued, it would have a long line at its door of people looking to be placed in its care for housing purposes. And the budget approved by the Legislative Assembly for the Office of the Public Guardian does not include such housing costs, the office argued. But Beth Kotierk, the man's legal aid lawyer, argued that the government cannot allow a person in its care to go homeless while it figures out which agency should pay for their care. Jordan's Principle should apply: legal aid lawyer In documents submitted to the court, Kotierk argues that Jordan's Principle should apply in the man's case. That principle was approved by a motion in the House of Commons in 2007, two years after five-year-old Jordan River Anderson died. The child, who was from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba, died while different levels of government argued in court about who should pay for his care. The principle named in his honour aims to prevent a similar situation from occurring. Although the man in Nunavut's public guardianship case is not a child, the same principle applies, Kotierk argued. The case went before Justice Paul Bychok on April 1, but due to administrative errors by legal aid lawyers, the case was dismissed without prejudice, which means it can be brought to court again. It was scheduled to go before the court again in late May. But the discovery of a case of COVID-19 in the capital suspended operations at Nunavut's Court of Justice on Thursday, and it's not clear when the case may be heard again. In the mean time, Kotierk said Nunavut's legal aid agency is working to secure a hotel room for the man.
A poll commissioned by CBC News shows that only 16 per cent of Albertans say they are 'highly impressed' by Premier Jason Kenney’s performance, in part because of his handling of the pandemic, but also because of the province’s struggling economy.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper is working with former leaders of three major intelligence agencies — the Mossad, the CIA and MI5 — in a Canadian private investment company. AWZ Ventures invests in Israeli cybersecurity, intelligence and physical security technologies. Despite the many prominent individuals behind it, the company remains low-profile in Canada. The head office of AWZ (pronounced Oz) Ventures is at 20 Eglinton Ave. West in Toronto, on the 10th floor of an office tower at the corner of Yonge Street. Stephen Harper with AWZ Ventures founder Yaron Ashkenazi (right) and EnsureDR CEO Uri Shay (left).(Business Wire) Harper is one of AWZ's partners and president of its advisory committee. A glance at the company's website shows that, along with the former prime minister, AWZ has assembled an impressive list of leaders from the counter-intelligence and business worlds. According to his bio, the company's founder and managing partner, Yaron Ashkenazi, served for a decade in the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) VIP Protection Division, leading teams that protected several Israeli prime ministers. Edward Sonshine, founding partner of AWZ and chairman of the board, is the founder of RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust, which owns the building that houses AWZ Ventures. Former Conservative public safety minister Stockwell Day is also involved with the company. Then-CSIS director Richard Fadden waits to testify before a committee on Parliament Hill on July 5, 2010.(Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press) AWZ Ventures has recruited former executives of the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. They include Haim Tomer — who spent more than 30 years with the agency, serving as head of Mossad's intelligence, counter-terrorism and international divisions — and Gary Barnea, a former deputy director of Mossad's special operations division. Richard Fadden, former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and a former national security adviser to Harper, also works for the company. Fadden sits on AWZ Ventures' advisory committee. In an interview with Radio-Canada, he described the business philosophy of founder Ashkenazi, who he said reached out to him after attending a conference where Fadden was a speaker. Former Mossad officials Haim Tomer and Gary Barnea.(AWZ Ventures) "Yaron has had a lot of contact with the Israeli security community. But more to the point, Israel is very successful in developing new technology, both for the private sector and for government," said Fadden. "He decided — you'll have to ask him — but I think he decided it would be a good way to make some money while promoting some companies from his home country." Ashkenazi turned down Radio-Canada's request for an interview, saying the company is "extremely occupied with a few major deals." "We are keeping a 'below the radar' position at this point," he added. Harper, who joined the company in 2019, did not reply to Radio-Canada's interview request. The company's website says AWZ Ventures was launched in 2016. According to Ontario government records, it was incorporated in 2013. Two major figures from U.S. and U.K. intelligence circles are also part of AWZ Ventures — former CIA director James Woolsey and former MI5 director general Stella Rimington. "I think they are like many other investment, venture companies on the planet. They picked an area where they think they can make some bucks," Fadden said of AWZ Ventures' leadership. James Woolsey was the director of the CIA under President Bill Clinton.(Reuters) The company manages $130 million and has invested in 17 companies, according to its website. All of those companies have been Israeli so far, said Fadden. "A lot of this technology is useful in fighting terrorism and that was my main interest," he said. "Some of the technology that has been developed helps develop a sense of what's going on, on the one level on social media, so you can accumulate information. But mostly it's defensive." As an example of AWZ's targeted investments, Fadden cited an investment in what he calls "cybersafe control mechanisms for trains or planes. The idea is to simply develop technology that protects whomever from attacks, mostly cyberattacks these days." Israel is not a NATO member, nor is it part of the Five Eyes — the intelligence-sharing alliance that includes Canada, the United States, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. Fadden said he's comfortable with helping to advance technological development in Israel, a friendly country. "We have a very firm policy that there are a number of companies that we do not invest in, that we do not sell to in any shape, way or fashion," he said. "For example, we don't deal with China or Russia, just to pick two." The companies that have benefited from AWZ Ventures' investments include NanoLock — which has developed a remote tool for protecting internet-connected devices from unauthorized access — and Assac, which has come up with an "anti-tapping, anti-hacking and threat management product available for the emerging corporate smartphone security and encryption market," according to AWZ Ventures' website. The Israeli cyber-tech sector continues to grow at a record pace despite the pandemic, according to the Israel National Cyber Directorate (INCD). The Israeli government agency said the sector raised $2.9 billion in 2020 — an increase of more than 70 per cent over the same period in the previous year. The sum of investments in such technology in Israel has reached 31 per cent of the value of such investments worldwide, according to INCD.
TORONTO/OTTAWA (Reuters) -The Canadian province of Ontario expanded and extended a stay at home order on Friday and said police will be given new powers to stop and question people who leave home as expert advisors warned that new cases of COVID-19 will continue to soar, overwhelming hospitals. Ontario also announced restrictions on non-essential travel from neighbouring provinces starting Monday and said non-essential construction, including building projects at malls, hotels and office towers will shut down as of Saturday to deal with a raging third wave. "The reality is there are few options left," said Premier Doug Ford.
VICTORIA — The B.C. government is investing $2 billion in a low-interest loan program for builders of affordable housing. Housing Minister David Eby said Thursday the financing will be offered to private developers and community groups through the province's HousingHub program, a division of BC Housing. The funding will target projects for renters and buyers with average household incomes of $75,000. Eby said the loans will be provided at below-market rates and in return, developers will commit to passing the construction savings on to residents through more affordable rents and housing prices. The loans will be repaid once construction is complete, allowing HousingHub to reinvest in more units, he added. Finance Minister Selina Robinson said the funding is part of Budget 2021, which will be unveiled in full next week. "For far too long, housing in British Columbia was viewed as a commodity and a tool for building wealth, rather than a basic necessity of a home," said Robinson, who was the housing minister before taking on the finance portfolio. "The simple truth is, affordable housing is life changing." In order to ensure the savings are passed on to the residents, each developer must make a 10-year commitment around affordability. The agreements signed are unique to each project, Eby said. Financing rates will depend on factors like a developer's credit rating and relationship with banks, he said. BC Housing has already received about 90 applications from builders interested in accessing a loan, he said. "There's lots of demand and competition for the funding," Eby said. Applications will be prioritized based on maximizing affordability, such as the number of units and the price per unit offered to tenants or buyers, he said. Developments will also be assessed through a geographic lens to ensure the benefit of the program is felt across the province. "There's really not a community in our province that isn't facing some aspect of the housing crisis, although it looks different in different communities," Eby said. Paul Kershaw, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia's school of population and public health, said the HousingHub is a positive and important program. The program has seen private developers partner with non-profits to deliver the housing, which is an effective way to ensure the supply is affordable for middle-income households, said Kershaw. But increasing supply should be complemented with other policy measures if the government truly wants to dampen the escalating housing market, he said. "Anything being built and offered anew in a setting where ... home prices continue to rise on average is going to erode the affordability that the provincial government is aiming to bring in by offering these low-interest loans," he said. Complementary measures could include similar low-interest loans aimed at strengthening other parts of the economy, such as small businesses, he said. British Columbia is in an unhealthy situation when 18 per cent of B.C.'s economy is real estate rental and leasing, but only two per cent of the population is employed in that sector, Kershaw said. "It is a massive gap and as a result, that's why there's big growth in that industry but it's not generating earnings that are spread out to a whole bunch of people," he said. The Opposition Liberals said skyrocketing housing prices during the pandemic show the NDP government's housing plan is failing. The party referenced a report from the B.C. Real Estate Association that found the average home price in the province increased by 20.4 per cent last month compared with the same time last year. At the same time, active residential listings dropped by 24.4 per cent as the housing supply sunk to the lowest level seen in decades, it said. "It’s clear that the NDP’s supposed solutions for affordability have had no meaningful effect on the housing market," housing critic Ben Stewart said. "Young British Columbians are still watching their dreams of home ownership fade away, while this government takes an undeserved victory lap.” — By Amy Smart in Vancouver. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2021. The Canadian Press
A 20-year-old Saint John man who stabbed his friend six times and left him on the side of the road to bleed to death was sentenced Friday to 8 1/2 years in prison. Tyler Gamblin was originally charged with second-degree murder in the death of 29-year-old Nathan Gallant but pleaded guilty in January to the lesser charge of manslaughter. Before sentencing Gamblin on Friday, Justice Darrell Stephenson said the attack on Gallant was without "significant provocation." He described it as an "abrupt, brutal, largely unprovoked attack." He also pointed out that Gamblin's immediate reaction was to try to conceal the body and then flee the scene. Stephenson said he also accepts the defence position "that things have not been easy for Mr. Gamblin." He noted that Gamblin didn't have a stable childhood, has been diagnosed with a number of learning problems and can't read or write. The judge gave Gamblin credit for pleading guilty and for apologizing to Gallant's family last week during a sentencing hearing. Members of Nathan Gallant's family leave the Saint John courthouse last week. From left are his aunt, sister, father and grandmother. (Roger Cosman/CBC) Although the family did not want to be interviewed, they emailed a statement to CBC on Friday afternoon. They insist that Gallant and Gamblin were not friends. "Friends do not kill each other. Friends help one another. "No amount of time will bring Nathan back but what hurts more than only getting 8.5 years is Nathan never made it to his 30th birthday, and Tyler will be walking the streets again before the age of 30. Is that justice?" Nathan Gallant's family said all he wanted in life was to find his soul mate and have a family.(Submitted by Kyla Gallant) They also said Gallant's family and friends meant the world to him. "All Nathan wanted in life was to find his soul mate and have a family. He wanted to be a father more than anything." Victim left in the ditch The court heard that Gamblin stabbed Gallant six times in the ribs, dragged him by his arms into the woods, and asked his ex-girlfriend to help hide the body — all after a day of drinking and "smoking weed" together. According to an agreed statement of facts, Gamblin was at home with his ex-girlfriend Bryanna McGaghey on July 8, when he contacted Gallant to ask if they could hang out. At around 5:30 p.m., the trio, along with Bailey Basque, who was driving, headed to Fairfield, near St. Martins. Along the way, Gamblin and Gallant were "bickering and arguing" about McGaghey, according to the statement of facts. While at their destination, they started getting physical and play wrestling. Nathan Gallant, 29, was stabbed six times in the ribs. (Submitted by Kyla Gallant) On the way back, Gallant, who was in the front seat, was "intensely staring" and smiling at McGaghey, who was seated in the rear, behind the driver. Gamblin told police on July 23 that Gallant was harassing McGaghey. When Gallant continued, Gamblin said he "snapped" and stabbed him. Neither McGaghey nor Basque saw it happen, but Basque pulled over because of the arguing and told everyone to get out of the vehicle. Basque drove off to get help. When he returned, he found Gallant's body in the ditch. Gamblin hid in the woods that night and eluded police for 15 days before being arrested in Woodstock with the help of a Crime Stoppers tip.
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — La Soufriere volcano shot out another explosive burst of gas and ash on Friday as a cruise ship arrived to evacuate some of the foreigners who had been stuck on a St. Vincent island coated in ash from a week of violent eruptions. The explosions that began on April 9 forced some 20,000 to flee the northern end of the eastern Caribbean island for shelters and contaminated water supplies across the island. Friday morning's blast “wasn’t a big explosion compared to the ones that we last weekend, but it was big enough to punch a hole through the clouds," said Richard Robertson, lead scientist at the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Center, in an interview with local NBC radio. “Probably got up to 8,000 metres (26,000 feet)." During a comparable eruption cycle in 1902, explosive eruptions continued to shake the island for months after an initial burst killed some 1,700 people, though the new eruptions so far have caused no reported deaths among a population that had received official warning a day earlier that danger was imminent. Meanwhile, British, U.S. and Canadian nationals were being evacuated aboard Royal Caribbean Cruises' Celebrity Reflection from the harbour in the Kingstown, capital of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The ship was due to arrive Saturday in Dutch Sint Maarten. Dozens of foreigners toting luggage descended from tour buses and cars at the port terminal in Kingstown and patiently waited in a line that began in the parking lot and reached deep into the terminal. They included students from the Trinity School of Medicine along with stranded tourists, including families with young children in arms. “As of right now, we are being evacuated for our safety and to keep the island as safe as possible," said LLeah Ransai, a Canadian student at Trinity. "Between the school, the government and the embassies of the US and Canada, we’re being evacuated now.” The U.S. Embassy said those aboard would have to make their own travel arrangements home. It also noted in an official statement that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recommended against travel on cruise ships because the chance of getting COVID-19 and said people who had been in close contact with suspected COVID-19 cases were barred from the trip. All aboard were supposed to have a negative rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours of boarding. Meanwhile, thousands of locals were stuck n emergency shelters with no idea when they might be able to return home. Levi Lewis, 58, a retired public servant from the town of Fancy, said the eruption had left him trying to get by with practically nothing. “I just reusing clothing cause i didn't walk with much," he said. "Plus water is an issue, so I’m trying to conserve it still.” “I want to go back home, or to whatever is left of it," he added. A few people, however, never left, defying evacuation orders. Raydon May, a bus conductor in his late 20s who stayed in Sandy Bay throughout the eruptions, said he had always planned to stay if the volcano erupted and was trying to protect properties in the community while making occasional trips outside the evacuation zone to pick up water and supplies. He said so much ash had fallen that the roofs of houses were collapsing under the weight. “One roof might get on like three truckloads of sand," he said. “We trying to help ... but we can’t help everybody.” Kristin Deane, The Associated Press
OK, we get it. Ontario's guidelines on social gatherings are not clear, and perhaps at times to the benefit of those who want to skirt around rules. Can you gather with five friends outdoors to exercise? In your backyard? At a park? Or is it just five members of your household? There's no wonder people are confused, because three different documents from the Ontario government point out different rules and recommendations. According to the province's official order in council, a gathering can only happen when it's allowed by law. The legal document doesn't mention the five-people rule at all. Neither does an Ontario government news release dated April 7, which states that people are asked only to leave their homes for essential purposes. But then there's province's information web page called, "COVID-19 public health measures and advice", which simply states under its events and social gathering limits: "Outside: 5 people." Here's some clarity this week from Stephen Warner, spokesperson for the Ontario solicitor general's office: "individuals can gather in groups [of] no more than five people, only for the reasons enumerated in the stay at home order." What are those reasons? According to the province's rules, the outdoor gathering limit of five people applies to organized public events or social gatherings that are allowed by law — wedding receptions, for example. Funerals and other religious gatherings are also reasons people are allowed to gather. Indoor rules for these events are capped at 15 per cent capacity of the space. For wedding ceremonies, funerals and other religious gatherings, strangers or friends can gather as long as they physically distance and wear masks. Wedding receptions, however, are capped at five people outside. There are more fine-print essential reasons you may possibly need to gather during the order, but the main rule is: stay at home. Don't gather with friends You can't gather with anyone you don't live with indoors. If you live alone, you can gather with one other household indoors or outdoors. For more clarity, the province states people can exercise outdoors with household members within their communities. That means your household members can gather in a group of five outdoors, whether that's for exercise or in your own backyard — but not with friends. The regulations state you can still use outdoor areas such as backyards or balconies, or common areas like building courtyards or lobbies if they're open. After reading this, if you need more certainty, here's what the province's legal order document says: "For greater certainty, nothing in this order permits an individual to gather with other individuals if the gathering is not permitted by law."
Ontario will step up enforcement powers for police and extend its stay-at-home order to a minimum of six weeks in a bid to stem the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases, but won't institute paid sick days — despite modelling showing that cases will remain high through the summer without additional support for essential workers. Speaking at a twice-delayed news conference on Friday, Premier Doug Ford announced the stay-at-home order first instituted on April 8 for four weeks will now be extended until May 20. Effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday, outdoor gatherings will be prohibited except for members of the same household or one other person from outside that household who lives alone. Police will have the authority to ask anyone outside their residence to indicate their purpose for leaving home and provide their address. That includes stopping vehicles and potentially issuing tickets of approximately $750. Non-essential construction will be shut down and outdoor amenities like golf and playgrounds will be restricted. Retail capacity will be limited to 25 per cent in all settings where in-store shopping is still permitted. Inspectors will also visit law offices, accounting firms and other such locations to confirm that only essential workers are in the building. Effective 12:01 a.m. Monday, religious gatherings, weddings and funerals will be limited to 10 people, whether indoors or outdoors. Also beginning Monday, Ford said, there will be checkpoints at provincial borders with Quebec and Manitoba with exceptions for essential travel. 'We're losing the battle' "I've never shied away from telling you the brutal, honest truth," Ford said. "We're losing the battle between the variants and vaccines ... We're on our heels." Ford, along with Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, told reporters the stricter measures are necessary because of a lack of vaccine supply. However, health experts have repeatedly said vaccines alone cannot stop the surge of the virus. WATCH | Ontario expanding COVID-19 restrictions, tightening borders: "Without stronger system-level measures and immediate support for essential workers and high-risk communities, high case rates will persist through the summer," Ontario's COVID-19 science advisory table said Friday. The province did say it will boost vaccine supply by 25 per cent in hot spots, but did not provide details on when that boost might take place. In a statement, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association decried Friday's new measures as "rights slashing by Queen's Park" and suggesting they could lead to a court challenge. "It's a Black Friday," CCLA executive director Michael Bryant said, adding random police checks are unconstitutional and will result in a "rash of racial profiling." Unifor, Canada's largest private-sector union, also issued a statement urging the province to legislate paid sick days and fast-track vaccinations for all workers deemed essential. No worker should be asked to risk their health and their life for their job. - Naureen Rizvi, Unifor "Workers are scared, and are looking to the province for leadership. Instead, Doug Ford is playing politics amid the crisis, and workers in essential jobs across the province are still waiting to be put on a fast-track to vaccination," said Jerry Dias, Unifor's national president. The union says it first wrote to the premier at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, calling for the measure. "Yet as we enter this unprecedented and alarming stage in the pandemic, the provincial government continues to ask essential workers to put themselves and their families at risk," said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario regional director. "This is unconscionable, no worker should be asked to risk their health and their life for their job." Ontario could see more than 10,000 new daily cases by end of May Ford and his cabinet met late into the evening Thursday and again on Friday morning to consider further COVID-19 restrictions to combat a worsening third wave that is pushing the province's health-care system to the breaking point. The meeting came ahead of the scheduled briefing from the province's COVID-19 science advisory table, which contained stark new forecasts for the weeks ahead. Revised modelling suggests Ontario could see more than 10,000 cases per day by the end of May with the current measures in place and 100,000 vaccinations per day. A six-week stay-at-home order with an average of 100,000 vaccinations per day "is the only way to flatten the curve," the modelling shows. Additional public health measures could lower cases to about 2,000 cases per day, but that best-case scenario would require considerably stronger measures and increasing vaccinations to 300,000 per day. Ontario reported 4,812 more cases of COVID-19 this morning, the most ever on a single day, marking three straight days of new peaks. Admissions to hospitals climbed to 1,955, while the number of people being treated for COVID-related illnesses in intensive care rose to 701, both all-time highs since the pandemic began. According to Critical Care Services Ontario, a government agency that compiles a daily report for hospitals, 74 more people with COVID-19 were admitted to ICUs on Thursday alone, again the highest number ever on a single day in the province. Public health units also reported the deaths of 25 more people with COVID-19, bringing the official toll to 7,664. The seven-day average of deaths is up to 21.7 per day, a new third-wave peak. The seven-day average for daily deaths reached its highest point of more than 60 in mid-January, before most residents of long-term care and retirement homes had been vaccinated. Health Minister Christine Elliott said this week that the province is trying to open up hundreds of additional ICU beds in coming days and weeks. Sources said Ontario intends to make a formal request to the federal government for more than 600 critical care staff to support front-line efforts in hospitals. "We have received Ontario's draft letter," said Mary-Liz Power, spokesperson for federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair. "We are currently in discussions with the province to determine how best we can support them with more resources," she said, adding that the federal government is working closely with all provinces and territories to help support them amid the pandemic. In Toronto, where the pressure on health-care providers has reached a crisis point, multiple hospitals are preparing for a continued influx of patients in the weeks ahead. Sunnybrook Hospital, where a field hospital was constructed in a parking lot earlier this month, says it will be prepared to begin accepting patients as early as Monday. The unit has capacity for up to about 80 beds, and a spokesperson for the hospital said it will largely cater to patients who have already been in hospital for some time and their COVID-19 symptoms have subsided. Transfers to the field hospital will free up critical care beds in the city, the spokesperson said. A field hospital was built in the parking lot of Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto earlier this month. A spokesperson said the temporary facility will be ready to help patients next week.(Evan Mitsui/CBC) Meanwhile, tents are being set up outside the emergency departments of Toronto General and Toronto Western hospitals to limit overcrowding in waiting rooms at the two facilities. On Thursday night, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he had spoken with the mayors of Toronto, Brampton and Mississauga — cities home to many communities severely impacted by COVID-19 — about further supports that could be available, particularly with respect to vaccinations. At a news conference in Ottawa this morning, Trudeau added that the Canadian Red Cross is "standing by" to assist Ontario with its mobile vaccination clinics. WATCH | Ottawa will do 'whatever it takes to help' Toronto with COVID-19: Trudeau Shortly afterward, Ford's press secretary Ivana Yelich released a statement seemingly rejecting that offer. "While we appreciate the Prime Minister's offer, unless it is matched with an increase in supply, we do not need the Red Cross at this time for the administration of vaccines in Ontario. We do not have a capacity issue, we have a supply issue." That's despite Ontario pleading with other provinces Friday to send nurses and other health workers as it buckles under surging COVID-19 infections. In a letter to all provinces and territories, the Ontario government notes it is short thousands of nurses. This week has seen three major health networks in Toronto temporarily shut down vaccination clinics due to a lack of stable supply. Public health units collectively administered 115,634 doses of vaccines yesterday, also a new high for the province. As of yesterday evening, a total of 341,933 people have gotten both shots. Ontario has now used 3,644,038, or 75 per cent, of the 4,852,885 doses of vaccines it has received from the federal government to date. More than 700,000 of those total doses arrived in the province this week.
Michael Brisson hasn't been vaccinated against COVID-19, but it hasn't been for lack of trying. The 66-year-old lives in Emerald Woods, the neighbourhood with Ottawa's second-highest rate of COVID-19. Tucked just south of Bank Street and Hunt Club Road, local landmarks include a mosque, a Shawarma Station and Sawmill Creek Elementary School, named after the narrow stream that flows through the community. The neighbourhood falls within the K1T postal code, and has therefore been designated by the province as a COVID-19 "hot spot," where since last week residents as young as 50 have been eligible to receive a dose at one of the city's public vaccination clinics. But when Brisson, who doesn't own a computer, tried calling Ottawa Public Health (OPH) last week to book an appointment, he gave up after waiting nearly an hour on the phone. "I've gone to several pharmacies nearby, and they don't provide the service. And they're telling me, 'Well, go online, go online," Brisson said. "Well, I don't have online." Michael Brisson, 66, says he hasn't been able to book a vaccination appointment.(Jean Delisle/CBC ) Already at high risk due to his age, Brisson lives in a 12-storey apartment building where he said not everyone keeps their distance, especially in the elevator. Brisson doesn't own a car, and said even if he had been able to book an appointment, it would take him an hour to get to the nearest OPH vaccination clinic by bus. "I don't have time and it's inconvenient," he said. Immigrants, single parents According to the Ottawa Neighborhood Study, 51 per cent of the 5,600 people who call Emerald Woods are racialized, predominantly immigrants and refugees. Five per cent don't speak English or French, and the median annual income is less than $25,000. One-quarter of the neighbourhood's residents are single parents, many with school-age children who are suddenly home indefinitely. Sumaiya Hirsi, 11, worried about infecting her family after two classmates tested positive for COVID-19 at the end of March.(Jean Delisle/CBC) Sumaiya Hirsi, 11, hasn't attended class since March 29, when her entire Grade 5 class at Sawmill Creek Elementary School was sent home after two students tested positive for COVID-19. Hirsi, who shares a four-bedroom rowhouse on Bridle Path Drive with her mother, her aunt and four older siblings, worried about infecting her family. "I had to stay upstairs until I got my test [results] back. I could have infected my mom and her daycare. My siblings all work," said Hirsi, who normally shares a bed with her mother, a child-care worker. Stephanie Mitra, 33, who has lived in Emerald Woods for four years, said the neighbourhood's high infection rate comes as no surprise to her. "I think there are a lot of younger and ... essential workers, people who don't necessarily have sick leave or even have the ability to stay home," Mitra observed. Stephanie Mitra says many of her neighbours are essential workers who don't have sick pay.(Jean Delisle/CBC) Mosque steps in OPH said it's using neighborhood census data to improve access to vaccines for residents who have been disproportionately affected by the virus, and in the case of Emerald Woods, has enlisted the help of the neighbourhood mosque. Masjid ar-Rahmah — the Mosque of Mercy — has previously hosted virtual seminars with doctors to answer residents' questions and concerns, and is currently a COVID-19 testing site. Now, in a neighbourhood with no community health centre of its own, the mosque will become a vaccination site during the holy month of Ramadan. Hindia Mohamoud, executive director of the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership, said that's the kind of initiative that will get results, because people in the city's hardest-hit neighbourhoods are often least likely to have the time or resources to get vaccinated. "The focus on hot spots doesn't necessarily result in vaccination of the most vulnerable," Mohamoud said. "We have to bring the vaccination to them." (CBC)
Peel police are investigating after a man was found dead in a park in Mississauga Thursday morning. The body was discovered in Elmcreek Park at 8 a.m., near Morning Star Drive and Goreway Drive, police say. According to Peel Regional Police spokesperson Const. Danny Martini, there were no obvious signs of trauma. She said the body has been taken for an autopsy and police are waiting for the results from the coroner. Meanwhile, Ontario's police watchdog invoked its mandate following an altercation between police and a man a short distance from the park near Morning Star Drive and Goreway Drive earlier Thursday morning. Police were called to the intersection around 5 a.m., Martini says, following reports that a man was threatening to shoot people. When officers arrived, they became involved in an altercation with the man, Martini says. He was taken to hospital as a precaution and the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) was called in. The man has been charged with uttering threats. Peel police say this incident is separate from that of the man found dead in the park.
The head of one of the largest First Nations groups in Saskatchewan says he is angered after seeing the violent arrest of an Indigenous woman by a security guard in Saskatoon and is now calling for the security guard to be fired. Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), which represents First Nations across the province, says the incident, which was captured on video, is just one instance of violence Indigenous women face. He said it's a symptom of a larger issue in the province. "Had that been a non-First Nation woman, shoplifting or not … do you think he would have done that to that extent and assaulted her? Never," Cameron said in an interview with CBC News. The altercation took place at the FreshCo on 33rd Street West in the city's Mayfair neighbourhood on Wednesday and has spurred a strong reaction online, with many saying the security guard in the video used excessive force. What led to the incident is not entirely clear. 9-minute video The nine-minute video, recorded by a witness, shows a man who identifies himself as the grocery store security guard trying to force handcuffs on the woman. The guard can be heard accusing the woman of stealing. Bystanders plead with him to let her go and let police handle it. The altercation escalates and the woman punches him. He continues to try to detain her and throws himself on top of her and says he is the one who is hurt as she climbs into the driver's seat of her parked van. Witnesses can be heard saying they can see both individuals are bleeding. Cameron said if the security guard had concerns about the woman's actions, he should have taken a photo of her and recorded her licence plate number. "He took the law into his own hands, and that's wrong," he said. Cameron said he was disturbed watching the video because he feels the woman was being assaulted and was in distress. Cameron said if he had been there, he would have kicked the man "right in the face." "He had no right to do that to her," he said. "Let the city police handle that. That's what he should have done. Instead, he took it upon herself to almost break her arm, throw her to the ground with her bare knees on hard pavement." GRAPHIC WARNING | FSIN calls for guard to be fired: In a post on the store's Facebook page, management indicated they have ended the contract with the third-party security firm in question. While Cameron said that's a good first step, he says the security guard should be fired. "He has no right and he doesn't deserve the privilege or honour to work in that type of environment," he said. Cameron says the FSIN will not identify the woman until she is ready. They say it should be the security guard who is charged, and the FSIN says it will assist the woman if she plans to pursue civil action. "We're going to do everything we can to advocate for her," he said. After speaking with her Thursday, Cameron said the woman is traumatized and in pain as a result of the incident. "She is battling PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. She was crying … She's obviously distraught and now she's going to the hospital, or a health centre, to get treatment," he said. "She's in pain. She has stomach pains and obviously her arm and her knees. She's in pain." Security guard suffered 'minor injuries' CBC News spoke to an official with Emergency Security Management, the security company that employed the guard, but they said they were unable to comment on the situation because it is still under investigation. In a statement on Thursday, Saskatoon Police Service confirmed the woman was charged, saying officers were called to the area at around 4 p.m. CST for a report of shoplifting. "Upon arrival, Police located a 30-year-old female being detained by a loss prevention officer. A previous altercation between the two individuals had taken place, resulting in minor injuries to the LPO," the statement said. "He was treated on scene by paramedics. The female refused medical treatment and was taken into Police custody. She was charged with Theft Under $5000 and Assault." Police say the incident is still under investigation. They said they are aware of calls for the security guard to be charged, and "all details of the incident will be taken into account as the investigation continues." GRAPHIC WARNING | Violent arrest captured on video: Store owner 'horrified' A statement on FreshCo's Facebook page detailed the dismissal of the security company. "At FreshCo, the safety and well-being of our customers and teammates is our top priority. We have decided to end our relationship with our third party security vendor as the behaviour shown on April 14th outside our store is not tolerated or a representation of our values," the statement said. "We continue to cooperate with officials as this incident is currently under investigation. We are also working closely with our teammates and supporting them as they work through this investigation." Another statement from the store's owner, Chris Fowler, indicated the incident itself was disturbing to him as a Indigenous store owner and a member of the community. "I wanted to address the situation yesterday. First of all I'm beyond shocked and horrified. As Métis owner and a father of two daughters this should of not happened ever," he said in the post. When reached by phone, he referred interview requests to the media relations department of Sobeys, the parent company of FreshCo. In a statement to CBC, Sobeys said the company has ended its relationship with Emergency Security Management, as the behaviour captured in the video is "not tolerated or a representation of our values." "Creating a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment for our customers and our teammates is very important to us. Our Franchisee partners share in these values," the statement said. Sobeys is co-operating with police and working to support staff, it said. "Our Franchisee has taken the time to reinforce our protocols in situations with his store team. As you can imagine, many are very upset by this situation — including our Franchisee and his store team."
HELENA, Mont. — The Montana senate narrowly defeated a bill Thursday that would have allowed the state to resume lethal injections. The decision directly affects Ronald Smith, originally from Red Deer, Alta., who has been on death row since 1983. All executions have been stayed in Montana since 2015 because the state requires the use of an ultra-fast-acting barbiturate, which is no longer available. Montana's house of representatives passed the bill that would have amended protocol to include any substance in a lethal quantity sufficient to cause death. But the senate voted it down 26-24, with seven Republicans joining 19 Democrats. "There's a lot of smiles around here. We've been working behind the scenes trying to convince enough of the senators to vote against the legislation," said Sam Forstag, legislative program manager for the American Civil Liberties Union. "This means the injunction prohibiting executions in Montana will remain in place." Forstag said Montana is one of three states that just hold legislative sessions every two years, so the matter won't arise again until 2023. "It's not over yet but for now we're getting a break. Hopefully, Montana will eventually get in step with other states who have abolished it." The state's attorney general can try to have it brought back for another vote within 24 hours, but Forstag said that would be unlikely. The civil liberties union and other organizations, including the Montana Catholic Conference, have been campaigning against the death penalty for decades. They appeared before the latest hearings in the house of representatives in February. "This is great news. We're very pleased with the vote and hopeful for what this might also mean for our future efforts to abolish the death penalty in Montana," said Matt Brower, executive director of the Conference, the public policy arm of the state's Catholic bishops. "Bringing the bill back this session appears virtually impossible." Smith, 63, has been on death row for 38 years. He and another man, high on LSD and alcohol, shot and killed two young Indigenous cousins near East Glacier, Mont., in 1982. When Smith was first charged with murder, he refused a plea deal that would have sent him to prison for life. He later pleaded guilty and asked for the death penalty, then changed his mind and said he wanted to live. Five execution dates have been set over the years. Each has been overturned. Smith and Rodney Munro admitted to marching Harvey Mad Man, 23, and Thomas Running Rabbit, 20, into the woods by a highway. They shot them in the head with a sawed-off .22-calibre rifle. Court heard that Smith and Munro wanted to steal the victims' car. Smith also said at the time that he wanted to know what it was like to kill someone. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2021. — By Bill Graveland in Calgary The Canadian Press
The federal government is buying more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech as it moves to offset reduction in supply from another producer. And while it offered to help Ontario distribute its shots, the hot-spot province turned down that assistance as the premier piled on more restrictions on Friday. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday a contract with Pfizer for eight million additional doses of its vaccine hours after Canada said Moderna would slash its deliveries in half through the rest of April. The increase in Pfizer supply is coming at a time when COVID activity is rapidly spreading in parts of the country, including Canada's most populous province. Trudeau said the federal government will provide more relief to Ontario, including deploying the Canadian Red Cross to help with their mobile vaccination teams; setting up additional hospital beds in Toronto and Hamilton; and sending equipment and drugs. "In many places, numbers are higher than they’ve ever been before," Trudeau said. "And far too many hospitals are already stretched far too thin. ... So we're going to do whatever it takes to help." Ontario logged a record 4,812 new cases on Friday and 25 more deaths related to the virus. Its science advisers presented stark new projections predicting daily infections could soon approach 20,000, and that extending stay-at-home orders and administering 100,000 vaccine doses per day would be needed to flatten the curve. Premier Doug Ford struck a dire tone as he announced a suite of severe measures to supplement the extension of the province's stay-at-home order for another two weeks. "We're losing the battle between the variants and vaccines," Ford told a news conference. "We are on our heels. But if we dig in, remain steadfast, we can turn this around." New restrictions include stricter limits on interprovincial travel, outdoor gatherings, businesses and religious services, and shutting down non-essential construction. Police are vested with special powers to enforce public health protocols. Ontario also made an appeal to other provinces to send health-care workers to alleviate pressure on its hospitals. However, the premier seemed more tepid about Trudeau's offer to help with the vaccine rollout. Spokeswoman Ivana Yelich said the gesture was appreciated, but the province would not need the Red Cross to help administer vaccines "unless it is matched with an increase in supply." "This isn't a capacity issue," Ford told reporters, "it's a supply issue." Data from the federal government shows Ontario has received more than 4.8 million vaccine doses. The provincial data shows 3.6 million have been administered as of Thursday evening, suggesting 1.2 million doses are still to be used. Earlier Friday, the Canadian Medical Association said further restrictions must be considered in regions experiencing rapid rates of COVID-19 transmission, including a "total lockdown" in Ontario. "That means anything that's truly not essential ... needs to be closed completely for a period of time," said Dr. Katharine Smart, the president-elect of the CMA. "These half-closures and half-measures and not working." Rapid growth in COVID activity continues to be seen as variants of concern escalate in parts of the country. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief medical officer, said the ramped-up vaccine rollout has been positive, however, with seven million residents inoculated this week. "Vaccines are reducing severe illness, death and outbreaks in high-risk settings and populations that were targeted in that initial phase of vaccination," she said. "These benefits are building, and they will be the bridge that takes us all to greater safety." Health Canada said Friday that it's reviewing a submission from Pfizer-BioNTech to expand the use of its COVID-19 vaccine to young people aged 12 and older. Canada's expanded contract with Pfizer will kick in next month, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said, with the first four million of the new eight million doses arriving in May. She said two million more doses will come in June and July, respectively, and Pfizer is also moving another 400,000 doses from the third quarter into June. Canada's initial shipment of approximately 300,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will also arrive during the week of April 27, Anand said, to be delivered to the provinces at the beginning of May. The increased Pfizer doses help offset another production delay from Moderna, which will ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million. The company also told Canada that one to two million doses of the 12.3 million scheduled for delivery in the second quarter may be delayed until the third quarter. "We are disappointed, and while we understand the challenges facing suppliers in the current global market for vaccines, our government will continue to press Moderna to fulfil its commitments," Anand said in a statement. Moderna said in a statement there has been a "shortfall" in estimated doses from the European supply chain, and that it will be "making adjustments" to expected delivery quantities in a number of countries, including Canada. Trudeau said he was "concerned" about the delays and production challenges facing Moderna, but added that Pfizer has been reliable. He said its doses will make up the "bulk of vaccines being given to Canadians in the coming months." Quebec reported 1,527 new COVID cases on Friday while Manitoba reported 127. New Brunswick had nine new cases and Newfoundland had three. Meanwhile, the CMA released a statement calling for "extraordinary" measures, including sharing provincial health-care resources and dropping the per capita approach to vaccine distribution, to address the COVID-19 crisis unfolding in several provinces. The CMA said it wants the federal government to consider re-prioritizing its vaccine distribution strategy to focus on urgent areas instead of distributing to provinces on a per capita basis. Trudeau said conversations with provinces about vaccine allocation have been "ongoing." "We're happy to continue to work with the provinces on adjusting (vaccine distribution) as the provinces see necessary," he said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
While British Columbia's latest COVID-19 modelling shows a "levelling off" in some key data points, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, stressed that with variants of concern spreading, people need to continue to diligently follows the public health measures in place.