Check out this mind-blowing footage of Mount Etna erupting in Sicily. Incredible! Full credit to: @LunaDangelo3 on Twitter
Check out this mind-blowing footage of Mount Etna erupting in Sicily. Incredible! Full credit to: @LunaDangelo3 on Twitter
Canada added a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine to its pandemic-fighting arsenal on Friday, approving Johnson & Johnson's product a week after it was authorized in the United States. That gives Canada four distinct vaccines — along with Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca — and it adds flexibility to the country's plan to immunize the majority of its residents by September. Health Canada includes a fifth vaccine, Covishield, which is a separate brand name for doses of the AstraZeneca product made at the Serum Institute of India. The U.S.-based Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for emergency use on Feb. 27. Canada has already secured 10 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine through previous negotiations with the company, with the option to buy another 28 million. The 10 million pre-purchased doses will be delivered before September, but they're not expected to start flowing into Canada until at least April. Here's what we know about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine: HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT? Johnson & Johnson announced promising results from its Phase 3 clinical trials at the end of January, suggesting its vaccine reduced severe COVID-19 disease by 85 per cent, and prevented 100 per cent of COVID-related hospitalization or death. The vaccine had a 72 per cent efficacy in preventing COVID infections after 28 days in the company's U.S. trials. The efficacy dropped to 66 per cent when averaging in results from other global trials, including a South African study that factored in more transmissible variants of the COVID virus. An FDA report last month said the vaccine was 64 per cent effective in preventing infection in South Africa about a month after the vaccines were administered. Pfizer and Moderna showed 95 per cent efficacy in their respective trials, but those were both tested against previous dominant strains of the virus and didn't account for the variants that have popped up since. Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca also had zero hospitalizations and deaths in their trials. The FDA report said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was similarly effective across age, race and people with comorbidities. The agency added that effectiveness appeared to be lower (42.3 per cent after one month) in people over 60 with comorbidities such as diabetes or heart disease. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THIS VACCINE? The potential ease of distribution offered by a one-and-done shot, and its ability to be stored in a regular fridge are among its biggest strengths. Vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca all require two doses. Johnson & Johnson's vaccine can be stored in a regular fridge for up to three months, the company says. Pfizer's vaccine initially required ultra-cold storage temperatures between -60 C and -80 C, though Health Canada said this week it could be stored in a regular freezer for up to 14 days. Moderna's vaccine can also be stored at regular freezer temperatures while AstraZeneca can be stored in a fridge. WHAT KIND OF VACCINE TECHNOLOGY IS USED? Unlike the mRNA technology used in Pfizer and Moderna's products, Johnson & Johnson is a non-replicating viral vector vaccine similar to AstraZeneca's. That means it uses a different harmless virus, which can't copy itself, as a vector to give our cells the instructions they need to make the coronavirus's spike protein. The immune system recognizes the protein and makes antibodies, which then allow us to fend off attack from the same virus if exposed in the future. WERE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS NOTED? No specific safety concerns were identified in participants of the trials, regardless of age, race and comorbidities. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, said in a press conference Friday that almost 20 per cent of participants in the Johnson & Johnson trials were 65 years of age and older, and "no differences in safety or efficacy were seen compared to the younger groups." The FDA said the most common reported side effects were headache and fatigue, followed by muscle aches, nausea and fever. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
NASA's Mars rover Perseverance has taken its first, short drive on the surface of the red planet, two weeks after the robot science lab's picture-perfect touchdown on the floor of a massive crater, mission managers said on Friday. The six-wheeled, car-sized astrobiology probe put a total of 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) on its odometer on Thursday during a half-hour test spin within Jezero Crater, site of an ancient, long-vanished lake bed and river delta on Mars. Taking directions from mission managers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles, the rover rolled 4 meters (13.1 feet) forward, turned about 150 degrees to its left and then drove backward another 2.5 meters (8.2 feet).
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Spacewalking astronauts completed the first round of prep work Friday for new solar panels, part of a major power upgrade at the International Space Station. NASA’s Kate Rubins and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi installed mounting brackets and struts for the improved solar wings due to arrive in June. They also tightened some sticky bolts that hampered Sunday’s spacewalk and left some duties undone. Toward the end of the seven-hour spacewalk, Rubins reported a mark on the index finger of her right glove, where she had earlier said there was some peeling and perhaps a tiny hole in the outer layer. “I don’t know what to think about the glove. But it’s just kind of a pinpoint hole,” she told Mission Control. Rubins said she was “mildly concerned” about going too far from Noguchi because of her glove, and he accompanied her back to the hatch. Mission Control called it quits at that point and told the astronauts to skip extra chores. A NASA spokesman at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Rob Navias, said Rubins' suit pressure held perfectly throughout the spacewalk. “At no time was she in any danger,” he said in an email. At Mission Control's request, crewmate Victor Glover took photos of the glove while Rubins was still in her spacesuit. NASA is enhancing the space station’s power grid to accommodate more astronauts and experiments, now that SpaceX is launching crews and Boeing should be too by year’s end. The eight solar panels have degraded over time; the oldest were launched 20 years ago. The six new solar wings — smaller but more efficient — will fit over the older ones and boost the station’s power capability by up to 30%. Boeing is supplying the panels, which will be launched in pairs by SpaceX over the next year. As the spacewalk ended, Mission Control congratulated Noguchi for having the longest gap between spacewalks: 15 1/2 years. His previous three spacewalks occurred in 2005, during the first shuttle flight following the 2003 Columbia disaster. This should be the last spacewalk for the station’s current residents, whose half-year missions are coming to a close. Rubins will return to Earth in mid-April in a Russian capsule, along with two Russians. Noguchi, Glover and two other NASA astronauts will fly SpaceX back in late April or May. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press
TORONTO — Canadian actor Patrick J. Adams is defending his "Suits" co-star Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, as she and husband Prince Harry square off against media critics and the British Royal Family. Toronto-raised Adams has posted a series of tweets praising Meghan and admonishing what he calls "the endless racist, slanderous, clickbaiting vitriol spewed in her direction from all manner of media across the U.K. and the world." Adams also criticizes the Royal Family in his tweets, which end with him telling Meghan's detractors to "find someone else to admonish, berate and torment," adding she is way out of their league. Meghan and Harry, who live in California after stepping back from royal duties, are set to speak about life at Buckingham Palace in a TV special with Oprah Winfrey on CBS and Global on Sunday. Teaser clips from the two-hour prime-time interview show Meghan saying "the firm" — a nickname for the Royal Family — is playing an active role "in perpetuating falsehoods about" herself and Harry. Harry also talks about his fears that history would repeat itself after his mother, Princess Diana, died in a car crash while pursued by paparazzi. Meghan, a biracial former actor who is pregnant with the couple's second child, has faced relentless criticism in the British press since marrying Harry in 2018. As Sunday's interview clips circulate, new accusations have surfaced against her in the Times of London, with a former aide accusing her "bullying" Royal Family staff in 2018. Buckingham Palace said Wednesday it was launching an investigation into the allegation. The royal rift comes as Prince Philip, Harry's 99-year-old grandfather, recovers from a heart procedure in hospital. Adams and Meghan played a couple working in the legal world on "Suits," which was shot in Toronto from 2011 to 2019. Adams said Meghan "was an enthusiastic, kind, co-operative, giving, joyful and supportive" friend and colleague, and remained so as her "fame, prestige and power accrued." "She has always been a powerful woman with a deep sense of morality and a fierce work ethic and has never been afraid to speak up, be heard and defend herself and those she holds dear," Adams wrote on Twitter. "Like the rest of the world, I have watched her navigate the last few years in astonishment." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
A bingo hall in Charlottetown has come up with a plan to entice customers who may never have played bingo before. Kiwanis Bingo Country on Riverside Drive is closed during current COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, but hopes to reopen soon to players old and new with a private room, a bingo starter kit and a tutorial. "It's often considered a game for a senior class of individuals — it's not widespread through the younger demographic," said Kyle Hambly, the manager at Bingo Country, speaking with Mainstreet P.E.I.'s Angela Walker. "We don't see a lot of new players." He said the game is about 100 years old and is well known across North America and Europe. Because it requires concentration, he said it tends to not be a social game, but Bingo Country wants to change that. 'Have a little fun' So the hall has developed an introductory package in a private room that people can book. Their bingo "starter kit" includes the room, bingo cards, dabbers, and a drink from the canteen. My hope is to see the game stay alive. — Kyle Hambly "It just creates an atmosphere where they're not in the rest of the bingo hall ... it enables them to speak with each other, to learn, to laugh, to have a little fun," without disrupting other players, he said. A staff member will be on hand to explain how to play including more complex games such as bonanza or "hot ball." The package includes promotional "bingo bucks" to entice players to come back. They did a few successful test runs earlier this month, Hambly said. "My hope is to see the game stay alive," he said. "Bingo is a fading activity, and unfortunately it doesn't need to be that way." The bingo hall is currently closed because P.E.I. is in a period of COVID-19 circuit-breaker restrictions, and will open when public health authorities allow. "My hope is that we can reintroduce the game ... and people will use it as a form of entertainment," Hambly said. More from CBC P.E.I.
NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo's health department confirmed reports late Thursday that members of his COVID-19 task force altered a state Health Department report to omit the full number of nursing home patients killed by the coronavirus, but insisted the changes were made because of concerns about the data's accuracy. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, citing documents and people with knowledge of the administration’s internal discussions, reported that aides including secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa pushed state health officials to edit the July report so it counted only residents who died inside long-term care facilities, and not those who became ill there and later died at a hospital. It's the latest blow for Cuomo, who's been besieged by a one-two punch of scandals involving his handling of nursing home deaths and accusations that he sexually harassed two former aides and a woman that he met at a wedding he officiated. Cuomo had apologized Wednesday for acting “in a way that made people feel uncomfortable” but rejected calls for his resignation and said he would fully co-operate with the state attorney general's investigation into the sexual harassment allegations. Federal investigators are scrutinizing his administration’s handling of nursing home data. Top Democrats in the state have said they want those investigations to conclude before they make a judgment about Cuomo's conduct, but in the wake of Thursday night's report, a few state lawmakers renewed calls for the governor to either resign or be ousted. “And Cuomo hid the numbers. Impeach,” tweeted Queens Assembly member Ron Kim, who said Cuomo bullied him over the nursing home response. The July nursing home report was released to rebut criticism of Cuomo over a March 25 directive that barred nursing homes from rejecting recovering coronavirus patients being discharged from hospitals. Some nursing homes complained at the time that the policy could help spread the virus. The report concluded the policy played no role in spreading infection. The state's analysis was based partly on what officials acknowledged at the time was an imprecise statistic. The report said 6,432 people had died in the state's nursing homes. State officials acknowledged even then that the true number of deaths was higher because of the exclusion of patients who died in hospitals, but they declined at the time to give any estimate of that larger number of deaths, saying the numbers still needed to be verified. The Times and Journal reported that, in fact, the original drafts of the report had included that number, then more than 9,200 deaths, until Cuomo's aides said it should be taken out. State officials insisted Thursday that the edits were made because of concerns about accuracy, not to protect Cuomo's reputation. “While early versions of the report included out of facility deaths, the COVID task force was not satisfied that the data had been verified against hospital data and so the final report used only data for in facility deaths, which was disclosed in the report,” said Department of Health Spokesperson Gary Holmes. Scientists, health care professionals and elected officials assailed the report at the time for flawed methodology and selective stats that sidestepped the actual impact of the directive. Cuomo had refused for months to release more complete data. A court order and state attorney general report in January forced the state to acknowledge the nursing home resident death toll was higher than the count previously made public. DeRosa told lawmakers earlier this month that the administration didn't turn over the data to legislators in August because of worries the information would be used against them by the Trump administration. “Basically, we froze, because then we were in a position where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice or what we give to you guys, what we start saying was going to be used against us while we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation,” DeRosa said. Cuomo and his health commissioner recently defended the March directive, saying it was the best option at the time to help free up desperately needed beds at the state’s hospitals. “We made the right public health decision at the time. And faced with the same facts, we would make the same decision again,” Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said Feb. 19. The state now acknowledges that at least 15,000 long-term care residents died, compared to a figure of 8,700 it had publicized as of late January that didn’t include residents who died after being transferred to hospitals. The Associated Press
TORONTO — Inspector Graham Gibson never bought into the argument that autism prevented Alek Minassian from knowing that killing unsuspecting pedestrians on a crowded sidewalk was morally wrong. But despite the strong case he built as the lead detective in the Toronto van attack case, Gibson had nervously awaited the verdict unsure of the outcome. "You never know which way it will go," he said with relief after a Toronto judge found Minassian guilty earlier this week on 10 counts of murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. Throughout the investigation and especially on verdict day, Gibson said he thought about the families that lost loved ones in the attack. "There will never be closure, but this is something that will help them," he said. It has been long haul for Gibson since that bright, warm day on April 23, 2018. After several delays, the Minassian trial was set to begin in April 2020, but then the pandemic hit and it became unclear when, or how, it would happen. Court eventually decided to proceed via videoconference, and the eight-week trial began last November on Zoom. Minassian offered investigators and forensic psychiatrist who assessed him a number of motives for his deadly rampage. He said he was infatuated with a mass murderer and the forefather of the so-called "incel" movement — males who are involuntarily celibate and hate women because they will not have sex with them. The attack, he told police, was retribution against the world because as an "incel" he saw himself at the bottom rung of society. He later told a psychiatrist he didn't really hate women, but then told another doctor he wanted many women to die that day. Other motives he gave included notoriety, a strong desire to commit a mass killing, loneliness and worry about failing at a new job. Gibson said a few of those motives rise above the others. "You have somebody who sets out to murder people in the name of being an incel, who is a misogynist and he wanted that notoriety," he said. Gibson was on duty when the first reports of a major incident started coming into the Toronto police operations centre around 1:30 p.m. that day three years ago. Multiple pedestrians had been hit, apparently deliberately, by a man in a van driving along the sidewalk. Some, dispatch heard, may have been killed. Gibson left the police headquarters and rushed to the scene on Yonge Street - one of the busiest in the city. The crime scene stretched for 2.5 kilometres, he recalled. Eight people had died on the sidewalk or road and their bodies remained there. Two others died later in hospital. Many others were injured. The city was in a panic. "It was 100 per cent overwhelming," Gibson said. "It's referred to as scene shock. Your mind starts to race and you wonder, 'how am I going to get this chaos under control?'" He had to draw upon his many years of experience investigating homicides in the city, including one of the city's worst mass shootings. It was a hot summer night in 2012 when Gibson got the call for a shootout in the city's east end, on Danzig Street. Two people died that night and 23 others were injured when two gangs fought at a barbecue dinner. "That was a chaotic scene," Gibson said. "I had seen scenes like this before, not to the extent of the attack." But on the day of the van attack, Gibson was far from alone. Toronto police sent 16 homicide detectives to the scene, a quarter of the entire squad. Scores of officers from traffic services were there to reconstruct the attack, along with while forensic identification officers and coroners, including the province's chief coroner, Dr. Dirk Huyer. The pressures were immense, and sometimes diametrically opposed. "You have people who've been severely and graphically injured, and out of respect for the families and for the deceased themselves, you want to remove them from public site as quickly as you can," he said. "It's very distressing for the community and for the public. But then you know there's certain things that you need to do to make sure that you're recording what happened appropriately for court." Minassian admitted to planning and carrying out the attack, leaving his state of mind at the time of the attack as the only issue at trial. "I'm very, very relieved for the families," Gibson said after the guilty verdict. "I think it's a good win for them." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
TUCSON, Ariz. — Busloads of asylum seekers have started to arrive in Tucson, Arizona, for the first time since President Joe Biden began reversing border policies implemented by former President Donald Trump, city officials said. Less then 200 people arrived this week, most from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, after being released by Border Patrol in Yuma, The Arizona Daily Star reported Friday. Tucson officials say asylum seekers are staying a couple days in the city before travelling to live with friends and families in other cities while their asylum claims are processed. Councilman Steve Kozachik, who helped lead efforts to care for asylum seekers in 2019, said the city is “on the cusp” of seeing a large increase in migrants The Border Patrol released thousands of asylum seekers in 2019 to volunteer-managed shelters in Tucson, many of whom came from countries in Central America. The Daily Star reported then that some migrants spoke about fleeing gangs that were trying to recruit their children, widespread corruption and other issues. Hundreds of volunteers worked to support those seeking asylum until the Trump administration cut off access to the shelters in 2020, forcing migrants to spend months waiting in border towns like Nogales, Mexico. Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said the main difference now is the pandemic, which has forced asylum seekers to follow additional requirements such as taking rapid COVID-19 tests and adhering to space restrictions. Huckelberry said the Casa Alitas shelter, the main housing effort in Tucson that collaborates with the city and Pima County, held 250 people in 2019 and is now restricted to 65. Diego Piña Lopez, program manager at the shelter, said so far resources are not strained at the shelter, but volunteers are preparing to reach capacity. Huckelberry said county officials have asked for a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency like one that is being used in San Diego to rent hotel rooms for asylum seekers. It has not yet been approved. Kozachik said housing migrants could provide much needed business to hotels and restaurants struggling as a result of the pandemic. He also called for a “productive response” from several federal lawmakers, including Democratic U.S. Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema. Last month, Sinema and Kelly sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking for resources to help asylum seekers and to develop a strategy for coronavirus testing. Republican Gov. Doug Ducey also sent a list of questions and concerns. Sinema will “continue working in a bipartisan way to secure our borders, protect our communities, and ensure migrants are treated fairly and humanely,” her office said in a statement. Kelly spoke directly with Biden and has urged DHS to put the necessary federal resources and communication in place at the border, his office said in a statement. The Associated Press
TORONTO — When animating Disney's new film "Raya and the Last Dragon," Vancouver-raised Benson Shum says he honed in on the subtle details to ensure cultural accuracy. Available in theatres and on Disney Plus with Premier Access on Friday, the epic adventure follows a Southeast Asian-inspired warrior and her pals as they battle an evil force in the fantasy world of Kumandra. It's the first Walt Disney Animation Studios film to have a Southeast Asia-inspired setting, and Shum says the filmmakers made research trips and used three expert consultants from the region to make it authentic. They also brought in professional Southeast Asian martial artists, and spent time with a group Disney called the Raya Southeast Asia Story Trust, which included anthropologists, architects, dancers, linguists and musicians. "They did a ceremony sort of thing and we sat around and watched what they did, how they sat, how they positioned themselves when they were sitting," the Los Angeles-based Shum said of the Story Trust. The ceremony helped the team add specific details to a scene in which different tribes are sitting together on the floor as Raya's father speaks to them. "I tried to bring in gestures that I thought I would see Asian or Southeast Asian people do, and one thing I learned was that pointing is actually considered rude," said Shum, who is of Chinese heritage. "So instead of pointing with a finger, like 'look over there,' we might do a gesture where we're using our whole hand." A scene in which Raya takes off her hat and places it on a cape before entering a temple was also informed by the experts. "We were told from the cultural consultants that you would never place hats on the floor, you would always put it on something else," said Shum, who joined Walt Disney Animation Studios as an animator in 2012. Kelly Marie Tran voices Raya alongside Awkwafina as Sisu, the legendary last dragon in Kumandra, which is broken up into five ancient lands. Don Hall and Carlos Lopez Estrada directed, while Paul Briggs and John Ripa co-directed. Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim wrote the screenplay. The story is one of trust and unity as Raya tries to repair fractures in the tribes of the once-harmonious society of humans and dragons. "It's just cool to be animating an Asian warrior princess, daughter of a chief," Shum said. "And bringing something from myself into the film was really fun." Shum said the part of himself that related to the material was the sense of community and coming together. "We gathered at my grandma's house every single Sunday growing up," said Shum, who has also worked as an animator on films including "Wreck-It Ralph," "Frozen" and its sequel, "Big Hero 6," "Zootopia" and "Moana." "Even if there was no event happening, it was just the fact that we were all eating together. And that was something that was really special to me. I didn't necessarily appreciate it when I was younger, but looking back, every week all my cousins, my aunts and uncles were all (together). "It was a big family, and to be able to see that in a film where they're coming together and they're eating together and it's a very Asian thing to do...that was really nice." Shum said there are about seven or eight Canadians working at Walt Disney Animation Studios and the list "keeps growing." He and his colleagues are used to sitting next to each other while working, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to create "Raya and the Last Dragon" remotely from home. "It's the first film that we've done fully from home, and it was nice to see it all come together," he said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
Following several months of discussion, Dysart et al council officially approved its 2021 budget on Friday morning [Feb. 12]. In what was a third draft of the document, councillors settled on implementing a 1.16 per cent tax levy increase to the municipal portion of homeowners’ 2021 property tax bill. According to Barbara Swannell, the township’s treasurer, that will equate to an additional $3.41 per $100,000 of assessment for residential property owners. While the same levy increase will be applied to commercial and industrial units, the dollar increase will be a little higher. Taxes on industrial properties will go up $5.86 per $100,000 of assessment in 2021, while commercial properties will see an increase of $5.06 per $100,000 of assessment. According to the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation [MPAC], the organization tasked with carrying out property assessments across Ontario, the typical residential property in Dysart was assessed at approximately $193,000 in 2016. Using these totals, the typical ratepayer will see an increase of $6.58 on the municipal portion of their 2021 tax bill. Taking a look at the final document, Dysart is slated to spend just under $17.2 million over the next year. Much of the debate on Friday centred around how much money Dysart would place into its reserves. Carrying a surplus of $545,660 from last year’s budget, township staff recommended council allot $300,000 towards reserve funds to help cover unexpected costs with washouts, brushing, snowplowing and sanding/salting. Ward 4 Coun. John Smith didn’t like that idea, instead suggesting the municipality take the bulk of those funds, around $225,000 and redistribute them to another reserve fund with the idea the money will be used to fund various road projects in 2021. Rob Camelon, Dysart’s director of public works, noted the municipality had an extensive backlog in its ditching and brushing programs that would require attention soon. It was Smith’s hope that the additional $225,000 would help to complete prep work on roads slated for paving over the next few years. Following the budget’s unanimous passing, mayor Andrea Roberts commended staff and council for a job well done in managing to tackle several key issues this year, while keeping tax increases to a minimum. “I feel we’re really, really making progress here in Dysart. I am very proud of this budget today,” Roberts said. “This is the most important thing that we do… and staff, and council, have done a good job balancing priorities [this year].” Mike Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Haliburton County Echo
FREDERICTON — New Brunswick's child and youth advocate is promising a thorough review of mental health crisis care in the province with a public report issued by July. Norm Bosse received his mandate this week from Health Minister Dorothy Shephard following a Fredericton teenager's suicide that generated a public outcry. The family of 16-year-old Lexi Daken says she went to Fredericton's Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in mental distress last month but waited in the emergency department for eight hours without getting help. She took her own life days later. "I commit myself and my staff to a tireless effort in these next few months to ensure that Lexi's loss is memorialized," Bosse told reporters Friday. "Was this death preventable? We must learn from these tragedies in order to avoid future loss of life." Bosse said his first task will be to review recommendations of previous reports and to find out from government why they can't be implemented immediately. "This review will focus on why the solutions put in place for youth mental health don't last. For example, where is the psychiatric nurse capacity put in place at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital seven years ago? Why do children and youth continue to be denied life-saving services?" he asked. Bosse offered his condolences to the Daken family and commended them for going public with their loss. Chris Daken, Lexi's father, said the crisis in mental health care isn't only about his family's loss. "This isn't just a fight that we started in the last couple of weeks. We know there are parents, brothers, sisters, groups that have been fighting for mental health change in the province for several years," he said in an interview Friday. "We've been very open about our grief and the loss of a child. I guess our hope is that the government is very open in their investigation into the cause." Daken said he won't comment on the review process until he has a chance to meet with Bosse next Tuesday. There had been calls by the leader of the Green party and others for a full public inquiry — something that was rejected by the health minister. Bosse said he's been involved in two public inquiries, and both cost millions of dollars and took years to complete. "I don't have two or three years to do this," he said, noting that his term as child and youth advocate ends July 31. "We need to do something right now. Let's get it done." Bosse said he'll listen to everyone who wants to be heard on this issue, and his consultation plans will be finalized in the coming weeks. He acknowledged that some previous reports to government on the issue have been allowed to collect dust, but he doesn't think that will happen this time. "I am absolutely certain this report will make a difference. This is going to be more than just a report that's going to be shelved. This is going to be a very profound overview of the system," he said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 5, 2021. Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press
Toronto police say they have suspended an officer following his arrest for an alleged indecent act in Whitby, Ont. Police in Durham Region said Tuesday that they received reports of a man committing an indecent act near an arena in Whitby. The force says a witness tried to confront the man but he drove off through a nearby parking lot. Police say they found him in his car and he was arrested. They say the 33-year-old is charged with committing an indecent act in a public place and dangerous operation of a conveyance. Toronto police say the officer has been with their force for six years and has been suspended with pay. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
A majority of Dysart et al council felt this was an inopportune time to get into a thorough review of the municipality’s ward boundaries, that despite one councillor’s claim that the current divisions have “glaring issues.” Township clerk Mallory Bishop brought a report on the issue to council on Feb. 9. She stated any review process would take between six months to a year to complete, and would require extensive input from the community. The current borders were drawn up following the original amalgamation of Dysart, according to Deputy Mayor Pat Kennedy. The issue was last considered back in 2015, when Dysart’s previous council decided against launching a review. Despite being such an important matter, Bishop informed council there was nothing within the Municipal Act guiding when a municipality should explore the possibility of changing its ward boundaries, noting it was entirely at the discretion of the sitting council. Most members felt, with the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, that this particular discussion should be delayed. “We should take a look at this once life starts to settle back down to something even close to normal,” Kennedy said. Mayor Andrea Roberts noted that if council were to hold off now, the debate likely would not take place during this current term. The next municipal election is slated for Oct. 24, 2022. Even so, she agreed that, given the present circumstances, it would be prudent of council to leave this issue alone. “It’s a big undertaking, and we have an awful lot on our plate right now and COVID-19 is making everything that much harder and that much more stressful,” Roberts said. “Unless we had a glaring issue, I wouldn’t suggest this is something we would make as a priority right now.” Ward 4 Coun. John Smith didn’t share that opinion. He pointed towards the statistics provided by Bishop, which highlighted a huge discrepancy in voter population between the township’s five wards, as evidence that Dysart does in fact have a glaring issue that he feels should be immediately rectified. Wards 2 and 4 alone make up around 55 per cent of the total voter count across Dysart, based on data the township collected during the last municipal election. During that vote, Ward 1 had 1,608 registered voters; Ward 2 had 3,886; Ward 3 had 1,873; Ward 4 had 3,522; and Ward 5 had 2,637. Bishop’s report noted that effective representation, as set out by the Supreme Court of Canada, states that population should not be the only factor in determining boundaries and that other factors such as natural geography, community history, community interests and minority representation should also be taken into consideration. While Smith acknowledged that point, he argued a ruling put in place by the Supreme Court in 1991 should supersede it. “The Supreme Court did emphasize [during that ruling] the importance of the first priority, which is relative parity of voting power,” Smith said. “A system that dilutes one citizen’s vote unduly as compared to another citizen’s vote runs the risk of providing inadequate representation for citizens who vote.” He added, “They can never be equal – people die, and people move, but Elections Canada took that ruling from the Supreme Court and, at the time, concluded that population count from district to district should never vary by more than 25 per cent… Four out of our five wards are more than 25 per cent variance to the average of around 2,700 residents per ward. “It seems to me that kicking this can down the road is just perpetuating a problem that hasn’t just existed here for a year or two, this is a problem that has existed [dating back to at least 2006]. We have a long-term problem here. Doing nothing is just not acceptable… If we’re going to be living by the rules of democracy, representation by population and so forth, we need to act on this,” Smith concluded. Ward 2 Coun. Larry Clarke suggested it might be worth holding off on this discussion until Dysart receives information from the federal 2021 census, set to take place later this year. Kennedy feels there’s another factor that needs to be considered before Dysart even thinks about a review. “The other elephant in the room here is county council. They have to determine whether they’re going to move forward with amalgamation,” Kennedy said. “You may only have one vote here in Dysart if that goes through.” Council opted to simply receive the report as information, essentially delaying any review. Mike Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Haliburton County Echo
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Friday that COVID-19 vaccinations of Phase 1 priority populations were nearing completion, and that the province was gearing up for Phase 2 of its rollout plan, with a focus on vaccinating seniors, people in congregate settings and those who can’t work from home.
Some of Mattawa’s accommodation business owners are putting their heads together to start fixing the damage caused by COVID-19 pandemic restrictions this winter. Discrepancies in the provincial support grants and who could operate – made worse by conflicts over the snowmobile trail closure – are on the agenda for a meeting of minds Monday. News today that the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit is moving out of the grey zone and into a reopening stage won’t erase the ground lost in market and reputation. Among the frustrated owners are Jenn Demille of Nature’s Harmony Eco-Lodge and Claire Ortiz of the Mattawa Adventure Camp, both of whom were denied provincial support despite not being able to host overnight guests. “It’s all ridiculous,” Demille said, referring to how their business was denied funding support twice due to technicalities. If it wasn’t for being able to offer day-time activity passes and run their tubing park “we’d be sunk by now, we just kept our heads above water.” She said the 2021 Ontario Small Business Support Grant was designed for those who impacted by restrictions imposed by the provincial lockdown in mid-January. The Health Unit deemed them to be a provider of cottages and cabins, so they couldn’t host overnight guests. But the grant program denied their application because they were considered a renter of lodges, which were able to accept guests, as were motels and hotels. “We have escalated this discrepancy to the highest level possible and it is currently with the Federal Review Board,” Demille said. “And we can't get any further explanation other than the fact that we shouldn't be affected by the order. “We have spoken with someone from the Premier Line and the Cabinet Office - everyone agreed that there is 'grey' in the legislation and that there is not a clear black and white answer,” she explained. “The issue is in the interpretation of the legislation – are we a "lodge" or are we a provider of cabin/cottage rentals. Since we are a multifaceted facility, the grant body considers us a "lodge" and therefore denies us any relief.” Last summer, Demille said she and her husband Tzach were denied funding support because they are not incorporated and could only apply under one name despite being partners, reducing the formula result. Ortiz and Wilm Smulders also couldn’t have overnight guests and were denied funding support, but they didn’t bother with the appeals process. Their frustration focuses on the prejudicial decision to allow motels, hotels, and lodges to take guests when they could not despite everyone following the same protocols for safety. “It’s not really fair,” Ortiz said, noting the discrepancy was all the more frustrating when the snowmobile trails reopened recently. Some of their former guests had to stay at a nearby motel and questioned why the Adventure Camp was refusing them. She said her cottages and camps, with separate entrances and parking, are likely more safe to rent than motel rooms where they have shared entrances, parking and in the case of hotels, shared elevators. “They are putting out these rules without really thinking, they should make rules that are fair for everyone,” she said. Nicole Grigorov of the Mattawa River Resort and Cardinal Restaurant received the support grant said they are meeting this weekend to discuss how they can move forward as a group. Grigorov said divisions in the community resulted from the need for business owners to operate, under whatever safety measures that are necessary, and the fear residents had of viral spread by visitors despite precautions. “We are all getting mixed messages from all levels of government,” Grigorov said. “People need to hear our frustrations … Mattawa has a bad reputation due to snowmobiling now and our guests may never come back.” The Health Unit closed the snowmobile trails in the area, partly due to Mattawa residents raising concerns in early January that riders were gathering together in groups and not following distancing or mask protocols. Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli couldn’t comment on the specific funding application denials without more specific information but noted that 82,000 businesses were paid $1.2 billion through the support program. They don’t have, however, a count for how many businesses were denied the small businesses support grant. Fedeli’s office also noted that short-term rentals were permitted if the individual was in need of housing, including previously made reservations. Demille said they were told by many people they could have accepted guests by working around the rules or ignoring them but they wanted to respect both the rules and concerns for safety. “As a result of the 'unclear' wording in the legislation, which is subject to interpretation - there are businesses, like ours, that are slipping through the cracks and receiving conflicting information,” she said in follow up letter to the Health Unit and forwarded to the MPP’s office Friday morning. Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada. Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca
A Vancouver homebuilder has set up a tiny house in the Downtown Eastside to demonstrate how the simple building could be used as part of the solution to homelessness. Bryn Davidson designed the “tiny townhome” and built a prototype in December, after floating the idea of putting up to 10 of the structures on a typical residential lot to provide temporary housing for people who might otherwise be living in tents. After building the prototype, Davidson started looking for a place to set it up. Working with Sarah Blyth, the founder of the Overdose Prevention Society, Davidson found a home for the tiny townhouse at Chapel Arts, an arts space at 305 Dunlevy Ave. right across from Oppenheimer Park. No one will be living in the structure, but the plan is to use it as an artist’s studio and as a demonstration site for city councillors, non-profit organizations, builders, developers and others who might be interested in taking a look inside. “We really hope that the city can look at this as a way to collaborate with community groups and the building industry,” said Davidson, who is the owner of Lanefab Design/Build. “Because there are a lot of people who really want to do something. And the city’s typical approach to providing housing really doesn’t leave many ways for people to contribute.” Large tent cities have become semi-permanent features in many Canadian cities, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, homelessness has risen. Last May, the provincial government attempted to remove tent cities from Vancouver and Victoria by buying or leasing hotels and motels. But while hundreds of people were housed, the initiative didn’t eradicate large encampments. In Vancouver, a tent city was removed from Oppenheimer Park, but another camp quickly formed in nearby Strathcona Park. In October, Vancouver city council approved using $30 million of city funds to buy or lease hotels and motels to quickly house people. It’s also using $51.5 million from the federal government. Council opted for that approach over options like creating a managed camp or setting up a tiny home village. But so far just one 65-unit hotel has been purchased and it will be eight months before it’s ready to house people. Another city council motion from Coun. Pete Fry asked city staff to look at what zoning and building code regulations would have to change to allow tiny homes. But Davidson doesn’t expect to see any actual changes to the building code or zoning until summer 2021 at the earliest. Vancouver city staff have voiced concerns about fire safety and livability in the small homes, which don’t have their own bathrooms or kitchens. They’ve also warned that there are few sites in the city that would be suitable. Davidson’s response is that a tiny home would be warmer and safer than a tent, and it’s not meant to be a permanent housing solution. Davidson’s prototype has plywood walls, a platform for a bed, and a loft space above that could be used for storage or a second bed. Skylights and several small windows bring in lots of light from outside. He’s also installed a mechanical ventilation system that keeps the air circulating, bringing fresh air in and drawing the old air out. The structure can also be hooked up to electrical power to provide light and heat. Davidson says the tiny townhome is designed as a taller building to make use of a small footprint and be put next to other homes in a row-house configuration. Davidson’s idea is to put a group of the homes on a site with shared bathroom and shower facilities. The prototype cost around $20,000 to build, but Davidson thinks that could be brought down to around $15,000. Much of the cost of setting up the village would come from preparing the site and setting up the infrastructure to support the village. Davidson says the next step is to find an appropriate site and the right community partners to set up a demonstration village. “We’d need the city to be on board and say these are the requirements in terms of fire safety or whatever else, and be part of the team,” Davidson said. Jen St. Denis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government will keep its spending focus on emergency aid and won't talk about long-term health-care funding until after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. He says Ottawa needs to keep supporting those hit hard financially by the pandemic, having sent billions in aid to businesses and individuals, as well as to provinces. Speaking at a midday press conference, Trudeau says that short-term view can't yet give way to longer-term concerns about the effect COVID-19 is having on the Canada's provincially run health-care systems. On Thursday, the country's premiers reiterated their demand for a handsome increase in the unconditional transfer payment the federal government sends provinces and territories each year for health care. The federal government this year will transfer to the provinces nearly $42 billion for health care, under an arrangement that sees the amount rise by at least three per cent each year. Premiers argue that amount doesn't keep pace with the yearly cost increases of about five per cent, which would mean Ottawa would have to add $28 billion this year to cover just over one-third of national costs, and about $4 billion annually thereafter. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — A judge has ruled that an Alberta pastor will remain in jail until his trial this spring because religious beliefs are not above public health orders. James Coates with GraceLife Church, west of Edmonton, has been in jail for more than two weeks and was appealing his bail conditions. Coates is charged with violating Alberta's Public Health Act and with breaking a promise to abide by conditions of his bail release, which is covered under the Criminal Code. GraceLife Church has been holding services that officials say break public-health orders on attendance, masking and distancing. Queen's Bench Justice Peter Michalyshyn said in his decision Friday that public health laws remain valid and the pastor will stay in jail for eight more weeks until his trial begins in May. "The law that Mr. Coates clearly intends not to be bound by remains valid and enforceable against him. Mr. Coates's strongly held religious beliefs and convictions do not overcome those valid and enforceable laws," Michalyshyn said. Coates has said his religious convictions mean he cannot abide by a bail condition that he not conduct services. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor and said in a news release that it was disappointed with the judge's decision. "Pastor Coates is a peaceful Christian minister," said centre president John Carpay. "He should never have been required to violate his conscience and effectively stop pastoring his church as a condition to be released. Charter freedoms do not disappear because the government declares regular church services to be outlawed while allowing hundreds of people to fill their local Walmarts." Coates's lawyer, James Kitchen, told the judge on Thursday that a determination on whether Coates's charter rights are being violated should be made before he is jailed. "We are putting the cart before the horse, doing things backwards. This is a matter of deep, deep personal conscience and personal beliefs. He is compelled to obey the God he loves ... as are his congregants." The public-health prosecutor, who asked the court to address her only by her title because she is concerned for her safety, argued that the pastor's release is a danger to the public. The judge noted that Coates did not want the publication ban that is normally imposed on bail hearings. The church has continued to hold weekend services, even though Coates is in custody. Many gathered for a service last Sunday, as RCMP and Alberta Health Services monitored the situation. "Observations were again made that the church held a service beyond the designated capacity,'' the Mounties said in a news release. In an affidavit, Coates's wife Erin Coates told the judge that since he was taken into custody at the Edmonton Remand Centre, he has lost weight and can't sit for too long because of pain in his neck. "The days since February 16 have been very stressful for our two sons, aged 11 and 18," she said. "Many congregants of GraceLife rely on James for counselling regarding marriages and personal problems such as addictions. I have observed that many children at GraceLife Church are heartbroken that James is in jail. They are confused and concerned about him." More than 50 people were gathered outside the Edmonton courthouse on Thursday and prayed for Coates. Some held a banner that read #freejamescoates. The judge noted that dozens of others had tuned into the bail hearing online as well. Police fined the church $1,200 in December and a closure order was issued in January. Coates had been addressing the province's health restrictions in his sermons. He told worshippers that governments exist as instruments of God and there should be unfettered freedom of worship. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. --- This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press
A local performing arts theatre is looking to raise money to keep the lights on, doors open, and music live. The Mary Webb Centre for the Arts, located in the Village of Highgate, is a century-old round church with near-perfect acoustics. On any given night, music performers would play in front of sold-out crowds. The shows would engage and inspire performing and visual arts in partnership with the local community within a historic and architecturally significant heritage venue. Originally built as a Methodist Church in 1898, the Mary Webb Centre has always conquered adversity. From having the building burning down in 1917, to being rebuilt in 1918, to current-day challenges of furnaces no longer working, replacing a roof, stage and windows were redone, the centre has always found a way to keep the lights on. In April, the Mary Webb Centre for the Arts Board closed the doors and effectively stopped all programs taking place there. This includes scheduled performances by the WSO 14 Piece String Orchestra, Danny Michel, Paul Anthony and his CASH tribute, “Talent at the Webb,” and the Hotel California tribute to the Eagles and the Jim Cuddy Band (of Blue Rodeo fame). The last event at the MWC was one year ago, on March 7, when Rant Maggie Rant performed to a full house, back when most were still wondering if COVID-19 was something to be concerned about. However, with no visitors since then, there has been no revenue from shows, community events or the art gallery. With the shutdown of the live entertainment industry and without the revenue from concerts and art sales, the Mary Webb Centre’s budget has quickly become a challenging one to balance. “Numerous applications have been submitted to various government grants, but oddly and frustratingly, there seem to be no programs that a not-for-profit without paid staff can access,” said the centre’s Music Director and Chair of the Board of Directors, Peter Garapick. Nearly a year into a global pandemic, the Mary Webb Centre for the Arts is launching a collaborative campaign, Weave a Webb of Support, where everyone can help out a little to make a big difference. Weave a Webb of Support aims to familiarise donors with the centre’s ongoing expenses, even when the doors are closed. “The Mary Webb Centre for the Arts is very grateful for the community’s incredible support throughout the past year,” said Garapick. “The Mary Webb Centre is fully appreciative of these kind and gracious offerings. Thank you.” The Weave a Webb of Support campaign summarizes the 18 monthly and annual expenses and displays the cost per month for each. Supporters may choose an expense and the number of months for which they would like to pay. In total, there are 18 expenses and 12 months in a year, meaning 216 opportunities for donors to help pay the annual $30,000 a year worth of bills. Donors can make a contribution via cheque, eTransfer or in-person with cash. Those interested in donating are encouraged to visit www.marywebbcentre.ca for more information. Donations over $20 merit a tax receipt. In the meantime, during the past several months, many volunteers have spent several mornings working on the grounds of the centre. Together, they have trimmed all the dead and low lying branches on the trees in the back, cleaned up all of the brush around the trees and put it all through a chipper, spreading all the resulting material around the plants and rocks in the rock gardens at the front and sides of the centre. “Once restrictions are lifted, these volunteers will be ready to keep the centre as virus-free as possible so we can hopefully get back to what they do best, run concerts, morning and afternoon programs and other special events,” said Garapick. Garapick added at its recent meeting, the Marketing Committee has put forth many exciting ideas for the future. “We will let you know all the details as soon as we can. And of course, our wonderful art gallery is anxiously waiting to have in-person visitors, but everyone can virtually visit it now through our on-line marketplace on the Webb Site,” said Garapick. Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News
This week's surprise decision by Saudi Arabia and other top oil producers to broadly stick with output cuts despite rising crude prices was influenced by events in an unexpected place - Italy. "Take a look at what is happening in Milan today," Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al-Saud told a news conference on Thursday after a meeting of OPEC and its allies. Restrictions on movement destroyed up to a fifth of oil demand last year and led OPEC and its allies - known as OPEC+ - to make record output cuts.