Where there was water, there may have been life. That’s why NASA is sending Perseverance rover to Jezero Crater on Mars, once home to a lake fed by a river. It’s now bone dry, but 3.5 billion years ago, this Martian lake was big and wet. (Feb. 17)
Where there was water, there may have been life. That’s why NASA is sending Perseverance rover to Jezero Crater on Mars, once home to a lake fed by a river. It’s now bone dry, but 3.5 billion years ago, this Martian lake was big and wet. (Feb. 17)
TORONTO — A fire at an encampment in downtown Toronto left a man dead Wednesday morning and renewed calls for changes to the way the city treats its homeless residents. Toronto Fire deputy chief Jim Jessop said the fire occurred around 6 a.m. in Orphan's Green park. He said an wooden structure was engulfed in flames when crews arrived. "There are fire- and life-safety risks associated with these types of structures and these types of activities when living outside," Jessop told reporters. Police have not identified the man who died in the fire, which a spokesman with the Office of the Fire Marshal said is being investigated. Jessop said there was a 250 per cent increase in fires at encampments in 2020 compared to 2019. The city said there were 249 fires in encampments last year and one man died in a tent fire. There have been 27 encampment fires thus far this year, the city said. Lorraine Lam, an outreach worker with Sanctuary Ministries Toronto, said many people living outside have nowhere to go. "This is a huge failure by the city," Lam said. "These encampments are last resorts, no one is celebrating living outside and this points to the deeper issue of the housing inaffordability crisis." Encampments have popped up throughout the city since the pandemic hit last year. Hundreds left the shelters for fear of catching COVID-19 and many do not want to return. Last year, the city said it helped move 1,300 people in from the streets and more than 3,200 people have been permanently housed from the shelter system. Advocates say there are about 1,000 people living outdoors, while the city said it recently counted about 300 tents or structures. "What we really need is more housing," Lam said. Mayor John Tory said hundreds of supportive housing units, where people can access mental health and addiction services, will be available later this year with funding from the federal government. "We (also) have thousands of affordable units in the pipeline, some under construction, some almost ready for occupancy, that we didn't have two years ago," Tory said. "We have this as the top issue after the pandemic, I would say, in the entire city.," Lam said the recent cold snap has left those living outside with few options to warm up. On Tuesday night, the temperature hit a low of -16C at 3 a.m., according to Environment Canada. While the city has four warming centres, Lam said they don't usually open until 7 p.m., which discourages many from going. She said some of the homeless in encampments had been warming up at Union Station downtown, but were recently told by security to leave. Benches and chairs have also been removed from the transit hub, which Lam said was a move to discourage the homeless from gathering there. City spokesman Brad Ross said seating has been removed at Union Station to ensure physical distancing is maintained. "Everyone is welcome at Union Station, but like any public space, the city has an obligation to ensure those spaces are safe for all," Ross said. Mary-Anne Bedard, the city's general manager of shelter, support and housing administration, said municipal workers visited Orphan's Park around 2 a.m. last night to see if anyone wanted to leave the encampment and go somewhere warm, but they did not get a response. "It is important to note our Streets to Homes teams were out all night long," she said. "They had 73 interactions with people who were staying outside, and 10 of those people accepted assistance." There are seven shelters in with COVID-19 outbreaks with 115 people testing positive for the virus. A COVID-19 variant has recently made its way inside a shelter, the city said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 17, 2021. Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
Just in time to draw beachgoers for the second summer of the plague, Grand Bend is swapping out giant murals along its Lake Huron shore to bring in new ones for what will become a rotating art display. “The idea is to bring arts and culture out in the forefront . . . it’s my way of painting the town,” said Teresa Marie, executive director of the Grand Bend Art Centre. “Bright, fun, feel-good art is very important right now.” The pavilion on Grand Bend’s main beach was first embellished with 15 murals in 2018 as part of the art centre’s Beach House Mural Project, but Marie always intended to swap the art out every few years — with 2021 marking the first switch. “These murals will reflect what’s happened,” she said. “We’re going to do this again so that it presents art of the time . . . it’s not permanent.” She said communities often spend too much money on massive, permanent murals. Instead, the art centre is focusing on temporary pieces that can be sold later on, which in turn funds future works, creating a self-sustaining project. New this year, the project is aiming to install more interactive pieces and sculptures, including some on Main Street. Applications are open for artists to submit their portfolios until Friday before the art centre requests design proposals from selected artists. Artists are paid between $750 and $8,500 for their pieces, depending on the size and medium. Marie said the project is a boon for local artists, many of whom have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. “It gives artists an opportunity,” she said. “Most artists love to have their work in the public . . . If they get seen they’ll get more work.” While the current pieces have been well received, Marie said the change will help keep the artwork “new, fresh and current” as the beach town prepares to welcome droves of tourists this summer, just as it did last year. “It’s been fun while it was there, but it’s time for something new,” she said. “Then it’ll be time for something new again.” email@example.com The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
The RMs of Edenwold and Lajord, the towns of Balgonie and Pilot Butte, and other neighbouring communities around Regina are Uber happy a ridesharing firm has taken out a licence to operate in their communities. Uber is the first company of its kind to sign on locally after several municipalities in the area recently established bylaws to allow ridesharing firms to pick up passengers in their communities via a regional business license. “We are very excited this is getting started now,” RM planning and development manager Jana Jedlic said. “We thought we were a couple of weeks out, but that it’s up and running today is great.” In order to use Uber, people will need to download the Uber app to their smartphone and connect a payment method through the app. From there, you can request a ride, a driver in the area will accept the ride request and electronically inform you when they will arrive. Your fare is then calculated and charged to your Uber account. “We are pleased to offer a safe and affordable option to help local residents get where they need to go, when they need to,” Uber Canada general manager Matthew Price said in a press release. “And for those with a clean driving record, a flexible opportunity to earn money on their own.” Until more drivers from the new service area sign on and qualify to drive for Uber, Regina drivers will service the area, which could lengthen wait times in the short term. There is also one catch. The nature of the regional business license granted to Uber means the company’s drivers can pick you up from any of the participating communities, and take you anywhere. However, to make it a round trip, the community you travelled to must also have a bylaw allowing ridesharing, or you’ll have to make other arrangements to get back to your starting point. For example, should someone call Uber for a ride from Emerald Park to a community within the RM of Francis, which does not have this bylaw in place, they could not legally return to Emerald Park by the same means. While White City is not yet a part of the municipal partnership initiating ridesharing, negotiations are reportedly underway, and Jedlic added that other communities in the area may be approached about participating in the regional license as well. “The catalyst for us for this project is you in the business community,” Jedlic told the White City-Emerald Park Business Association on Feb. 10. “You are looking for transportation options, and that will help you attract and retain staff in your businesses. Among our partners, others had other interests. Some wanted options for independent elderly residents, others wanted to curb drinking and driving.” Both drivers and riders are subject to COVID-19 protocols, mandating mask use, and participating in contact tracing should there be a possible transmission of the virus. Keith Borkowsky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Quad Town Forum
The icy blast across much of the U.S. injected more confusion and frustration into the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination drive Wednesday just when it was gathering speed, snarling vaccine deliveries and forcing the cancellation of countless shots around the country. Across a large swath of the nation, including Deep South states like Georgia and Alabama, the snowy, slippery weather either led to the closing of vaccination sites outright or held up the necessary shipments, with delays expected to continue for days. In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio said doses expected this week were delayed by weather elsewhere in the country, forcing the city to hold off making 30,000 to 35,000 vaccination appointments. One public health expert said the delays were unacceptable. “Having vaccine centres take snow days is just going to back things up more than they already are,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “The virus doesn’t take snow days.” Adalja said people in charge of vaccination efforts must find ways to be more resilient to weather, “just like mailmen can deliver the mail through sleet or snow.” He suggested clinics use better contingency plans. The goal, he said, must be “a continuous assembly line of vaccines going into people’s arms.” Jo Dohogne of Bartlett, Tennessee, said she scheduled two appointments this week to receive her second dose of the Moderna vaccine, but both were cancelled because of poor weather. Dohogne, 75, who has multiple sclerosis, said she felt left in the lurch as the six-week mark for her second dose approached following her first vaccination on Jan. 14. “I’m just stressed … it’s just like this is taking up my entire life,” Dohogne said. After her appointment for a vaccine on Saturday was cancelled, Dohogne said a neighbour's friend has been helping her navigate the vaccine enrolment process. But with no word on when she can get her second shot, Dohogne said she is “just frustrated and stressed.” In Washington, White House COVID-19 co-ordinator Jeff Zients said that in places where vaccination venues have been closed, like Texas, the government is encouraging sites to increase their hours once they are open. “We want to make sure that as we’ve lost some time in some states for people to get needles in arms, that our partners do all they can to make up that lost ground,” he said. Some shipments of the vaccine made by Pfizer were delayed in the South because of the bad weather, but the company was unaware of any vaccine spoilage, said spokesman Eamonn Nolan. Pfizer’s vaccines, which must be kept frozen at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 34.4 degrees Centigrade), are shipped with dry ice in temperature-controlled containers that last up to 10 days unopened. In southern Nevada, officials reported that the winter storms had delayed a shipment of Moderna vaccines scheduled to be administered as second doses this week. The U.S. is vaccinating an average of 1.7 million Americans per day against COVID-19, up from under 1 million a month ago. New figures from the White House show a steady increase in the pace of vaccinations over President Joe Biden’s first month in office. Much of the increase, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, comes from people receiving their second dose. The pace of first-dose vaccinations has been largely steady over the past several weeks, hovering around an average of 900,000 shots per day. Biden is on track to blow past his goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office — though the pace must pick up even further to meet his plans to vaccinate nearly all adults by the end of the summer. The White House also said the government will ramp up genetic analysis of coronavirus samples from around the country to gain information on where more infectious and potentially deadlier mutations may be spreading. In the face of frustrating delays, some people showed remarkable persistence. Fran Goldman, 90, of Seattle, told The Seattle Times she walked 6 miles (9.7 kilometres) round trip in the snow to get her vaccine. Goldman said that after much effort, she had finally secured a slot for Sunday morning, but on Friday and Saturday a strong storm moved through, filling streets with snowdrifts. Goldman dressed in fleece pants and threw a few warm layers over a short-sleeve shirt so that the nurse could get to her arm easily. “It was not easy going. It was challenging,” she said. She made it to her appointment, just five minutes late. In other developments, Pennsylvania is facing a temporary shortage of second shots of the Moderna vaccine after providers inadvertently used them as first doses. More than 100,000 people may have to reschedule their appointments. ___ Noveck reported and from New York and Naishadham reported from Phoenix. Medical Writer Linda A. Johnson contributed from Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania, Jeff Martin from Atlanta and Michelle R. Smith from Providence, R.I. Suman Naishadham And Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — The voice of Canada's legal profession says security, privacy and access to justice should be preserved as the courts modernize through expanded use of technology. In a report released Wednesday, a Canadian Bar Association task force says the legal system must build on innovations — such as virtual hearings and electronic filing of documents — adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But it stresses that new measures and technology must be rolled out in a way that enhances access to justice and does not unintentionally inhibit it. Canada's justice system was already wrestling with case backlogs in the courts when the pandemic hit last year, closing courthouses and pausing many trials. Courts were forced to look at different ways of working and accelerate steps toward modernization that many felt were long overdue. Hearings are now commonly held via video conference to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. The task force report, "No Turning Back," recommends courts and tribunals permanently implement video or telephone proceedings for a wide variety of hearings — especially procedural, uncontested, shorter and less complex matters. It says the public should be able to remotely view hearings, trials and motions through internet video platforms. The task force also urges continued use of electronic means, such as online portals and email, to file court documents Remote proceedings, electronic filing, payment of fees by telephone and virtual witnessing of wills have generally been welcomed. However, a common concern is that complex, sensitive matters with many witnesses and experts are more difficult to conduct remotely, the report says. "This is largely because counsel cannot support their client in person and credibility assessments can be less amenable to online proceedings." Enthusiasm for the proliferation of electronic court documents, recordings and webcasts must be balanced with "sober thought about their implications," particularly the unintended disclosure of personal information in unanticipated ways, the report adds. While such information has always been formally public, in keeping with the open-court principle, the internet now allows "an audience of incalculable numbers" unprecedented and indiscriminate access to bits and pieces of sensitive and personal information, it says. "In this context, unrestrained disclosure can chill access to justice as individuals hesitate to forward their claims for fear of eternal shaming, being denied housing or employment and other unintended but common side-effects of online posting." The report also recommends: — Justice-system partners, including court and tribunal administrators, government officials and the bar association, establish a working group to share information on best practices on the security of video conferencing; — Courts, tribunals and other dispute-resolution bodies carefully examine whether and how justice system data can be made available in a controlled and secure environment to enhance access and improve the system; — That these bodies establish robust practices and procedures to safeguard sensitive data. Addressing the bar association's annual meeting Wednesday, Justice Minister David Lametti applauded the legal community's efforts to innovate. But he noted some obstacles, saying many people have trouble using technology to take part in hearings because they're simply not used to it. Lametti serves with Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner on a committee looking at the longer-term effects of the pandemic and how to address them. In pre-recorded remarks, Wagner told the bar association meeting that many of the recent technical solutions have brought the added benefits of increased flexibility, efficiency, lower cost and better access. "This is a reckoning it is possible to modernize our justice system. And it would be irresponsible to not seize this opportunity," Wagner said. A lack of access to justice has profound effects on people's lives, erodes trust in the legal system and reinforces existing inequities, he said. "As leaders, we can encourage our community to be proactive and creative, pitch in and try new things to change our justice system for the better." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 17, 2021. Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press
The RCMP have charged the leader of the Canadian Nationalist Party after he posted an allegedly anti-Semitic video on YouTube. Travis Patron, 29, of Redvers, Sask., has been charged with wilful promotion of hate in connection with a video titled Beware the Parasitic Tribe. The video refers to "inside manipulators" who infiltrate the media and the central bank. The RCMP began investigating after the video was flagged by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network in June 2019. Since then, police have received four additional reports of new videos and flyers issued by Patron. Police are still investigating those reports. The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center had raised alarms about Patron's videos, stating that the language he was using was dangerous and hateful. "He's promoting some of the most vile and dangerous anti-Semitic tropes in history," said Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, director of policy with the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center. Kirzner-Roberts said Patron "refers to Jews as parasites. He accuses Jews of being invaders, of controlling the media, the banking system." "He has called for the removal of Jews from Canada. This is ethnic cleansing he is calling for, it's a crime against humanity," she said. "We are pleased the RCMP have finally decided to lay charges against Mr. Patron." Kirzner-Roberts said she hopes the charges will send a message. "If you promote hatred or genocide against Jews or any other people in our country, you will face justice." She said there is "unparalleled growth of anti-Semitic hate online" and that there is evidence of "escalating numbers of hate crimes being committed against the Jewish community." Patron appears in court via phone Patron was arrested by the RCMP on Monday and made his first court appearance on Tuesday via telephone at the provincial court in Weyburn, Sask. He appeared in a Regina court on Wednesday afternoon, also via telephone. His next court appearance will be on April 14 in the town of Carlyle, Sask. Patron posed a question to Provincial Court Judge James Rybchuk on Wednesday. "I am respectfully asking if charges have been formally laid and if so under what authority. Your administration does not have the authority to proceed on these matters," Patron told the court. "I feel otherwise," Rybchuk said. The executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, Evan Balgord, said the charges should have come sooner. Taking "601 days to lay charges for this offence ... is far too many," he said. "We have rang the bell at every level. It is past time he's charged." Balgord's group filed the criminal complaint against Patron. He alleged that since then, Patron has continued to promote hate. "It's about time he's rotting in a jail cell." Criminal charges don't affect party's status Patron founded the Canadian Nationalist Party in 2017, and it became an officially registered party in 2019. A spokesperson for Elections Canada said a party's status is not affected if its leader is charged or convicted of a crime. However, a person who is incarcerated cannot run for office. Balgord called it the first "Neo-Nazi party" in Canada since the 1930s and said being a registered party gives Patron access to donations and voter information. "It means that, in part, federal public funds were going to support his party as part of a contribution rebate program. It also means Elections Canada handed him a copy of the voters' list, which means Travis Patron had access to the name, address and date of birth of every Canadian." The president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) commended the RCMP for "responding to Travis Patron's use of social media to promote hate against Jewish Canadians." "Patron's lengthy rant about 'swindlers,' 'snakes' and 'inside manipulators' — as well as a subsequent reference to Jews and 'the synagogue of Satan' — make his anti-Semitic agenda crystal clear," Shimon Koffler Fogel said. Fogel said the CIJA and others reached out to Saskatchewan's justice minister last July "urging him" to provide the required consent for Patron's prosecution. Meanwhile, Patron is facing a separate charge of assault causing bodily harm. He is scheduled to appear in court in Regina next month. And on Feb. 9, Patron lost an appeal against the City of Saskatoon. He argued that he should be able to represent the Canadian Nationalist Party in court. The party now owes the city $1,500.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Watchdog groups want the Biden administration to reconsider a decision by a U.S. agency not to conduct a more extensive environmental review related to production of the plutonium cores used in the nation’s nuclear arsenal. The renewed request comes as federal installations in New Mexico and South Carolina face a deadline of making 80 cores per year by 2030, with the first 30 due in five years. With jobs and billions of dollars in spending at stake, the effort to modernize the nation's nuclear arsenal has enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress over the years, especially among New Mexico Democrats whose districts stand to benefit from the economic windfall. The Biden administration has taken swift action to reverse some policies by the Trump administration but has yet to say whether it plans to push ahead with making more plutonium cores. It does say that work is being reviewed. Nuclear Watch New Mexico, South Carolina-based SRS Watch and California-based Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment sent a letter to the U.S. Energy Department last week, asking that a rigorous environmental review be done before production is ramped up at Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico and the Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina. The groups have cited provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, saying plutonium core production would significantly increase the amount of radioactive and toxic wastes generated at the two locations and that the collective environmental effects need to be considered. “We are hopeful that a review of programs with significant environmental impacts under NEPA will return to normalcy with the new presidential administration,” said Leslie Lenhardt, an attorney with the South Carolina Environmental Law Project, which is representing the groups. She said the Energy Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration have a new opportunity to revisit their Trump-era refusal for a more thorough environmental review. The nuclear security agency said in an email to The Associated Press that the issues raised by the groups were considered during previous public participation opportunities. The agency opted last fall to prepare a supplemental analysis of an environmental review done for Los Alamos more than a decade ago despite criticism that ramping up production at the lab goes beyond those initial plans and should be reexamined. A separate review was done for Savannah River. National Nuclear Security Administration spokeswoman Ana Gamonal de Navarro said the decisions were consistent with the agency's legal obligations and there has been no guidance to revisit the decisions amid the presidential transition. But she also noted that it's common for programs and activities to be reviewed under new leadership. “NNSA’s approach to plutonium pit production will be included in this review process,” she said. “Until such a review is completed, NNSA will continue its current overall pit production timeline and strategy.” U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez's office said the New Mexico Democrat feels strongly that the federal government should do everything possible to protect the health and wellness of Los Alamos employees and the rest of the community. "They must ensure that the public has confidence in the lab’s safety and all environmental impact decisions are done according to the law, science and are in the best interest of New Mexican families and stakeholders,” said Maria Hurtado, a spokeswoman for the new congresswoman. The city of Santa Fe and Santa Fe County in January passed resolutions seeking further study. Watchdog groups have raised concerns about contamination if new plutonium warhead factories are established in New Mexico and South Carolina that resemble the Rocky Flats facility in Colorado, which had a long history of leaks, fires and environmental violations and needed a $7 billion cleanup that took years to finish. The mission of producing the plutonium cores began at Rocky Flats in the 1950s and was eventually moved to Los Alamos in the late 1990s. Dogged by safety problems and concerns about a lack of accountability, production at Los Alamos has happened in fits and starts over the years. It's been shut down at times, and only a handful of prototypes were made in fiscal year 2019. The cost of the work also has spurred criticism. A 2019 analysis by the Congressional Budget Office estimated that expanded pit production plans could cost up to $9 billion over the next decade but that the estimate was very uncertain. The Government Accountability Office last year pointed to National Nuclear Security Administration and independent studies that have cast doubt on the agency's ability to prepare the two planned factories in time. Susan Montoya Bryan, The Associated Press
A grassroots campaign on P.E.I. called My Old Apartment aims to help tenants ensure they aren't paying too much rent with advice on how to challenge illegal rent increases. The hope is the mostly pre-written letter campaign will help fight illegal rent increases and help new tenants get overpayments back. It was started by social justice advocate Darcie Lanthier. She made up cards with two blank spaces on the front for people to fill out: the date they left a rental and how much rent they were paying. She wants people who move out of apartments to get in touch with the new tenants to make sure their rent doesn't go up too much. "It's really the only way you can find out if you're paying too much rent is if you get that information from the previous tenant," Lanthier said. "Otherwise, the landlord might just re-rent the apartment for two or three hundred dollars a month more than it was before, which is an illegal rent increase." Lanthier said she believes it's a big problem on the Island. Many people may not realize that even if tenants change, the rent can only increase the amount set by the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (IRAC). For 2021, landlords can raise the rent one per cent. They can apply to IRAC and ask to raise it more if they can show increased costs with the property. If people realize they have been paying more than the allowable increase, they can file a complaint with IRAC. If IRAC finds the concern valid, rent could be reduced to the amount allowed under the rules and people may be eligible to get overpayments back. The cards being sent out have a detailed description on how tenants can navigate the process. Government action Green MLA Hannah Bell, Official Opposition critic for social development and housing, said it's a good start, but they are pushing to get a public registry to list P.E.I. rentals. "I put forward a motion in the house in 2019 for a rental registry and it passed in the house," said Bell. "In fact, the now minister of social development and housing spoke in favour of it at the time but we don't have one and nothing has happened since that motion because of course that is non-binding." In a written statement to the CBC, government officials said the province is currently looking at revamping legislation and a registry may be part of that. More consultations are planned for this spring with the plan to have an updated draft to the P.E.I. Legislature in the fall. Officials say a new Rental of Residential Property Act will have better protections for both tenants and landlords. Costs up all over CBC spoke with a few landlords over the phone for this story. It is unfortunate that rents have gone up for tenants over the years but it is a reflection of the environment that we're in. — Albert Cohen They said many people don't understand the costs they face to maintain their buildings — labour, taxes and property costs have all gone up. Albert Cohen owns between 20 and 30 rental units on P.E.I. including apartments, townhouses and single-family homes. "It is unfortunate that rents have gone up for tenants over the years but it is a reflection of the environment that we're in," Cohen said. "Housing prices have gone up incredibly in P.E.I. and Charlottetown specifically in the last five years, and that is one of the major driving costs of rental prices." He said for him, the cost of property insurance has, in some cases, gone up 15-20 per cent a year. Cohen said it is important for the government to find a balance so that rents are reasonable for both tenants and property owners. "Because if the property owners can't charge enough rent, then, you know, they're not going to come in and supply rental housing to the market," Cohen said. "Then there's going to be even fewer rental houses or rental apartments available to people which could have, you know, the opposite effect of what the regulators want." Some of the landlords CBC spoke with said they're often vilified unfairly and that most follow the rules. The My Old Apartment campaign, Lanthier said, is for those that don't follow the rules. She said she has set up a Twitter feed to get the word out. Hundreds of cards have been printed and Lanthier said she is offering to pay to mail them too. More from CBC P.E.I.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price says "the path for diplomacy remains open" with Iran despite reports that the country is threatening to not abide by protocols set under 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. (Feb. 17)
The Odessa Community Centre will not be opened early for those waiting for school bus rides, village council decided at its meeting on Feb. 9. There had been a time when children waiting for the bus in the morning were allowed to be inside the building before normal operating hours. However, a combination of poor behaviour on the part of some of the youth and a lack of supervision for the children have led to the doors being closed. “I know it’s a question of supervision, but who’s going to supervise?” Mayor Larry Lockert asked. “We have tried this a number of times over the years and then something always happens,” Coun. Annette Gaetz said. “It keeps getting abused.” The consensus of council was that if children are going to be brought to the bus stop early and it’s cold outside, the parents should stay with their children in their cars. Elsewhere in the village there has been an issue of people pushing snow piles over culverts that are needed for spring melt drainage. Village council is asking residents to keep snow away from these areas, as well as back lanes, where snowpack in winter can cause overland flooding in the spring. The RM of Francis also sent a letter to the village council asking if they would be interesting in forming a regional emergency measures organization. Council agreed this would be a good practice, as pooling resources from smaller communities into a larger EMO would give all involved a better service when it’s needed. “I think that’s a great idea, compared to everyone having their own (EMO), when nobody has time, volunteers and resources, and we are already sharing services,” Coun. Jonathan Kress said. Keith Borkowsky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Quad Town Forum
The Village of Montmartre will file an application to take part in this year’s Communities in Bloom competition, village council decided at its Feb. 10 meeting. Filing the application does not guarantee it will be included in the competition as the communities involved are ultimately chosen by a national Communities in Bloom committee once applications are reviewed. In concert with the application, council approved a YES Plant Ranch quote for hanging plants throughout the village to the tune of $1,500. Decisions on the flower colours and arrangements will be left to YES Plant Ranch as they “have good taste,” Coun. David Little said. The village will also have a Dutch elm disease survey done on trees within its borders by Living Tree Environment at a quoted cost of $1,480. While it is a change in company name from the previous service provider, the work will be done by the same person as in the past. “They have given us so much more information on what they are going to do in that quote, such as the mapping (of problem trees),” said village administrator Dale Brenner. “Services will include a complete survey of all private and public American Elms by his crew in municipal boundaries, collection of samples when deemed safe and necessary from all symptomatic trees, data collection of all elm wood violations. They will let us know if someone has a wood pile (of elm wood) because you can’t have elm wood cut up for firewood. Now that we know Dutch elm disease is here, we have to do this. This will be an annual thing.” Brenner said it is likely one or two trees per year will be removed from the community until Dutch elm disease is more under control. Council also approved the remaining payment of $31,600 for 14.84 acres of land needed for its sewage lagoon expansion. And Montmartre will further take part in the 2021 Saskatchewan Blue Cross Go Out and Play Challenge, as a fundraiser for a bike park at Kemoca Park. The participation will involve people logging in and reporting their physical activities from March 1-10. Keith Borkowsky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Quad Town Forum
Seismic upgrades are a crucial element of school safety, particularly when it comes to older buildings. Recently, upgrades have been completed at Cook, Tait and Ferris elementary schools and at Boyd secondary. All four projects involved structural upgrades, improvements to wall and floor finishes, and updates to building systems, says board chair Sandra Nixon. “As a result of these upgrades, the district continues to achieve its goal of providing safe and inspiring learning environments that support the educational journey of each and every student,” says Nixon. Schools requiring seismic upgrades were identified by the province’s Education Ministry in 2004. This list was updated in 2011 under the provincial seismic mitigation program. Once the ministry supports a project, the district has to obtain approval from the board, and then routes the proposal back to the Education Minister for funding approval. “Typically, a seismic upgrade involves the strengthening of substructural elements (building foundations and floor slabs) and superstructural elements (walls, columns, suspended floor structures, roofs) to improve a building’s resistance to a major seismic event,” says communications and marketing director David Sadler. Additional non-structural upgrades also involve ceilings, lighting and plumbing lines, as well as cabinets that could tip over. Typically, a seismic upgrade takes anywhere from a year and a half to four years, depending on the project’s size and complexity. “The elements of seismic mitigation are typically the same for a large school, just more area to cover,” says Sadler. And while upgrades are taking place, staff and students can expect some noise, partial closures of some spaces, and potential relocation of classes to temporary accommodations while their classrooms are undergoing work. “Site construction management staff and trade contractors have been prequalified and fully understand and adhere to the rules and regulations around working in an occupied school environment in a safe and courteous manner,” says Sadler. In January, funding was announced for seismic upgrades at two more Richmond schools. Upgrades are also underway at Steves, Mitchell, Tomsett, Maple Lane, and McKinney elementary schools. Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel
LOS ANGELES — CBS' reboot of “The Equalizer” with Queen Latifah took advantage of its post-Super Bowl series premiere to continue its strong showing in prime time ratings with its second episode. The revenge drama came in third place and had a major, and inevitable, drop after drawing 20 million viewers in the most coveted of all time slots after the network's airing of the “Super Bowl." Its 8.2 million viewers last week put it behind only old ratings standard bearers “NCIS” and “60 Minutes," according to figures released Wednesday by the Nielsen company. “The Equalizer," with Latifah in the title role, is a remake of CBS’s 1980s series that was more recently the source of two films with Denzel Washington. It helped give CBS all five of the top five shows. “FBI” ranked fourth, “Young Sheldon” fifth. For the week, CBS was the most-watched broadcast network, averaging 5.2 million viewers in prime time. ABC had 3.8 million, NBC had 3.2 million, Fox had 2.9 million, Univision had 1.3 million, Ion Television had 1 million and Telemundo had 990,000. Coverage of the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump kept MSNBC and CNN closer than usual, but Fox News Channel was still the week's top cable network, averaging 2.5 million viewers. MSNBC had 2.49 million, CNN had 1.97 million, TNT had 1.2 million and HGTV had 1.1 million. ABC’s “World News Tonight” led the evening news ratings race with an average of 9.5 million viewers. NBC’s “Nightly News” had 8 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 6.1 million. For the week of Feb. 8-14, the 20 most-watched programs, their networks and viewerships: 1. “NCIS,” CBS, 9.8 million. 2. “60 Minutes,” CBS, 9.4 million. 3. “Equalizer," CBS, 8.2 million. 4. “FBI,” CBS, 7.7 million. 5. “Young Sheldon,” CBS, 7.6 million. 6. “Chicago Fire,” NBC, 7.5 million. 7. “Chicago Med,” NBC, 7.3 million. 8. "American Idol, ABC, 6.9 million. 9. “911,” Fox, 6.87 million. 10. “Blue Bloods,” CBS, 6.5 million. 11. “Chicago PD,” NBC, 6.3 million. 12. “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 6.1 million. 13. “The Neighborhood,” CBS, 6 million. 14. “Magnum P.I.,” CBS, 5.8 million. 15. “FBI: Most Wanted,” CBS, 5.6 million. 16. “America's Funniest Home Videos,” ABC, 5.97 million. 17. “911: Lone Star,” Fox, 5.6 million. 18. “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune,” ABC, 5.57 million. 19. “Bob Hearts Abishola,” CBS, 5.54 million. 20. “The Bachelor,” ABC, 5.52 million. ___ Follow AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton Andrew Dalton, The Associated Press
Huge swaths of northeast B.C. forests could be chopped down and ground up to make wood pellets to send overseas if the province approves a proposed logging licence transfer in Fort Nelson, B.C. Over one million cubic metres of intact forest every year could be logged for export, according to a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report published on Wednesday. Last November, B.C.’s largest forestry company, Canfor, quietly announced an agreement with Peak Renewables to sell its forest tenure in northeast B.C., pending approval from the province. Canfor held onto the tenure since closing its two Fort Nelson mills 13 years ago, putting around 600 people out of work. If the licence transfer is approved, Peak Renewables would build the largest pellet plant in the province. Ben Parfitt, resource policy analyst for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, said the plant would, at best, employ around 60 people, while logging roughly the same amount Canfor logged when it employed 600 people. (Parfitt is also a freelance contributor to The Narwhal.) Wood pellets are typically made with a combination of wood waste — unwanted or unusable trees cut down to access higher-quality wood — and by-products from mills like wood chips and sawdust. But Peak Renewables plans to log whole trees purely for pellets. Producing pellets is quicker and simpler than processing trees for products like plywood and lumber, which means it offers less value in terms of employment. Gary Fiege, president of the Public and Private Workers of Canada Union, which represents forestry workers, said the tenure transfer would be a mistake. “We want to see more emphasis put on value-added manufacturing, as opposed to going to the bottom of the pile for our fibre, so to speak,” he said in an interview. “We need more value, not just in terms of the wood itself, but in what it brings to the communities and to the workers of this province.” The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Conservation North and Stand.Earth are urging the province to delay its decision and consider transferring the tenure to the local First Nation. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests told The Narwhal in an emailed statement the tenure transfer would potentially create jobs in the community and growth in the local economy. The month-long public comment period was set to end on Feb. 19, but the ministry extended it to Feb. 26 after The Narwhal told the spokesperson people were concerned the period was too short. Neither Canfor nor Peak Renewables responded to interview requests prior to publication. In 2019, the province increased the amount of logging allowed in the Fort Nelson area to 2.58 million cubic metres per year, an increase of 58 per cent. According to the report, the province justified this in part by the lack of logging for more than a decade after Canfor shuttered its mills. Parfitt said this created an incentive for Peak Renewables to make a proposal. According to the report, the company would cut about 100 square kilometres of aspen and spruce forest every year. The aspen would be processed in Fort Nelson for pellets and the spruce trucked south to mills (including mills owned by Canfor) for processing. Conservation North director and ecologist Michelle Connolly told The Narwhal the need to protect primary forests — forests that have never been logged — is urgent. “We’re really concerned that these pellet plants would basically turn into vacuums for primary forest,” she said in an interview. She added that it’s not about stopping forestry, but said more care needs to be taken when considering where and how logging takes place, given how little primary forest is left in the province. Fiege said he’s not against pellet production, but logging Fort Nelson forests to fuel a single pellet plant is not the best use for the trees. “There’s got to be a better way.” Parfitt points out that the premier’s recent mandate letter to the new Minister of Forests, Katrine Conroy, includes a directive to lead a transition from “high-volume to high-value production.” “If the government agrees to this transfer … that goes completely counter to the mandate that our forests minister has been given by the premier of the province,” Parfitt said. He said instead of approving the logging licence transfer, the province could strengthen its relationship with the Fort Nelson First Nation and revitalize the local economy by declining the transfer, buying out Canfor and turning over the management of the forest to the nation and its non-Indigenous neighbours. “This is a golden opportunity to do that, precisely because there has been no forest industry presence of any note in the region for well over a decade. This would be a time to actually give the Indigenous people in the region a strong mechanism for charting a new course.” Matt Simmons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
Roch Carrier’s beloved The Hockey Sweater is the classic story of the persecution a young boy in Quebec faces after his mother mistakenly replaces his Montreal Canadiens jersey with the detested sweater of the Toronto Maple Leafs. With public health measures upending the regular seasons of multiple sports, athletes across the province probably would have welcomed the chance to wear a rival team’s colours if it meant getting the chance to play again. That chance unexpectedly has been given with the provincial government’s Feb. 8 easing of restrictions. Originally, Step 1 of the government’s Path Forward plan included restaurants and indoor fitness activities to reopen. School athletics and performance activities were also allowed to resume. The province abruptly added a return to organized community team practices, which was announced Feb. 5. The news was certainly welcomed, even though a return to youth sports was not anticipated until Step 3. The result left user groups scrambling to organize and get information out to athletes and their families. During the Feb. 9 meeting for Crowsnest Pass council, however, the typical mid-March removal of the ice raised questions on whether maintaining the rink made sense economically. With no peewee or bantam teams and only a small group of midget and novice players, Coun. Lisa Sygutek wondered if keeping the ice in for limited figure skating and hockey practices was economically responsible. “Is it feasible for the taxpayer to forfeit that kind of money for a month and a half?” she asked. Other municipalities in southern Alberta like Cardston, Claresholm, Nanton and Fort Macleod, Coun. Sygutek continued, had removed ice from their arenas to save costs. A motion was temporarily put forward for the Crowsnest Pass Sports Complex to do likewise, but it was rescinded after Coun. Doreen Glavin suggested more information was needed. “I’d like to wait until at least we know what the user groups are doing,” said Coun. Glavin. “I understand it’s a cost, but we’re not going to save on wages because they’re going to be working somewhere else, so it’s just the matter of running the ice plant.” Information on potential use of the arena was initially lacking due to the abrupt inclusion of sports to Step 1. In fact, community services manager Trent Smith was at first absent from the meeting in order to arrange with various user groups what facilities would be needed and how practices would be conducted. After a brief recess was called to bring Mr. Smith from his office to the meeting, the decision to rescind the motion was soon deemed to be the right call. “We just started on this yesterday, but we do have tentative bookings and confirmed bookings,” Mr. Smith said. Thirty-nine hours of ice time had been booked for the next two weeks: 24 for figure skating and 15 for hockey. Both programs were actually in need of extra hours, since the government regulations limit on-ice attendance to 10 skaters, which includes players and coaches. Hockey organizers had also expressed interest in booking weekend times, should they become available. Keeping the ice for youth organizations, Mr. Smith said, was the right decision to make. “They were trying to work out plans much before this new announcement.” Schedules for figure skating and hockey can be found online at http://bit.ly/CNPfigure and http://bit.ly/CNPhockey. Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
The trading app popular with young investors currently allows customers to buy, sell and hold cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin on its platform, but users cannot withdraw their assets to transfer to other wallets. In January, Robinhood had temporarily disabled a feature on its app that allowed users to buy crypto securities instantly due to volatile market conditions sparked by a trading frenzy in shares of GameStop Corp . As part of a series of tweets https://twitter.com/RobinhoodApp/status/1362143073510121472, Robinhood said on Wednesday it does not currently invest in cryptocurrency or use any customer cryptocurrency for its own benefit.
LOS ANGELES — The board overseeing the Los Angeles Unified School District has cut $25 million from the budget for school police and will use the money to help fund an achievement plan for Black students. The plan approved by the school board Tuesday will cut 70 sworn officers, 62 non-sworn officers and one support staff position from the Los Angeles School Police Department, leaving the force with 211 officers, the Los Angeles Times reported. The newspaper said the board’s decision came after a yearlong push by activist students and community members that was intensified by national protests over racial injustice and police brutality last summer following George Floyd's death under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. The overhaul also bans the use of pepper spray on students in the nation’s second-largest school district. “Investments and behaviours must be different if we want outcomes to be different,” board member Mónica García said in a statement. “Black students, parents, teachers and allies have demanded that we interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline.” The $25 million diverted from school police and other money from the next school year’s general fund budget will create a $36.5 million fund for the new Black Student Achievement Plan, which is aimed at 53 schools that have high numbers of Black students and below-average proficiency in math and English, among other concerns. Most of the money will be used to hire “climate coaches” at secondary schools and support staff, including school nurses and counsellors. A school board report said the coaches “will provide students with an advocate on campus who is trained and focused on implementing positive school culture and climate, using socio-emotional learning strategies to strengthen student engagement, applying effective de-escalation strategies to support conflict resolution, building positive relationships and elevating student voice, eliminating racial disproportionality in school discipline practices, and understanding and addressing implicit bias.” Board member Jackie Goldberg said the plan was developed in collaboration with students and community organizers. “I have heard the concerns of Black students who have felt targeted by school police," Goldberg said. "I believe there are creative ways to keep our schools safe that don’t rely on having an officer stationed on campus.” The Associated Press
TORONTO — Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson’s legendary career is being celebrated in a Heritage Minute.Historica Canada released the newest clip, timed for Black History Month, in its ongoing series that highlights influential figures from across the country.The minute-long video chronicles the seven-time Grammy winner's rise from a working-class Montreal family to becoming a world-renowned piano virtuoso.It touches on his encounters with greatness, such as being dubbed “the man with four hands,” and acknowledges the racism he faced at jazz gigs in the 1940s.Peterson died of kidney failure in 2007 at the age of 82.Both the English and French versions of the Heritage Minute feature end narration by Black Canadian pianists. Oliver Jones appears in the English version while Gregory Charles handles the French.The Heritage Minute is written by Brynn Byrne and directed by Aaron Yeger, known as co-writer and producer of the acclaimed 2015 film "Sleeping Giant."Historica Canada also produced a companion video exploring the history of Little Burgundy, a Black working-class community in Montreal and the jazz culture within it. The separate clip is narrated by Peterson’s daughter Celine Peterson, who was consulted about her father's Heritage Minute from its inception.Peterson says her father received many honours throughout his career, but she believes he would be especially proud of seeing his story in a Heritage Minute.“I think this is one of the ones that would really overwhelm him," she said.“People all over the world are familiar with the Heritage Minute, and it’s such a monumental form of recognition."Peterson, who serves as producer of the Kensington Market Jazz Festival in Toronto, says the debut of her father’s Heritage Minute during Black History Month is significant.“A huge part of my dad's story was racism, first at home and then around the world,” she said, pointing out that it was especially prominent early in his career as he travelled the southern United States.“He told the story when I was young about driving up on a KKK meeting when they were going from city to city. Hearing him talk about it is still haunting for me today. Maybe even a bit more so now than it was before.”Peterson's Heritage Minute is an especially cinematic one, which raises the question of whether his relatives have considered granting the rights for his story to a production company for a feature film."In the past, there have been some conversations but nothing that has necessarily been the right fit," his daughter said."Having his story told in that capacity would be natural, to a certain extent. It needs to happen, it's just a matter of when and by whom."--Watch the Oscar Peterson Heritage Minute: https://bit.ly/3bgpHHmThis report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 17, 2021. David Friend, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the narration by Black Canadian pianists was for the full Heritage Minute. In fact, the pianists contribute only the end narration in both English and French.
A 24-year-old released in January after contracting COVID-19 at Saskatchewan Penitentiary (Sask. Pen) in Prince Albert described a recent outbreak at the institution as “inevitable.” Former inmate Chastin Hall said he was incarcerated on April 20 for violation of parole and breaching a curfew. Although his warrant expired on July 24 last year he was held on remand because of other matters before the courts and released on Jan. 21, he said. Hall said keeping inmates longer than their original sentence also contributed to crowded conditions at the penitentiary - facilitating the spread of the virus. “I got tested three times at the beginning and I came back negative. After the fourth time, I came back positive for it, because they just kept me on the range, and they didn't let me leave the range or anything. They just left me there and I got it eventually,” Hall said. “The spread was inevitable because of how many people they have locked up in a small place.” Hall said personal protective equipment (PPE) wasn’t used properly and that inmates testing positive for the virus were not quarantined. He said inmates who had tested positive for the virus were being “moved around” in the general population. Hall said inmates should not have been transferred between institutions while the virus was spreading. “It was only a matter of time because they were still doing transfers when there was COVID. And there wasn't supposed to be anything like that going on. That's how it was initially brought to the penitentiary was an inmate transfer coming from Manitoba,” Hall said. “You're there 24-hours and the guy next to you is only maybe three or four feet away from you so it's spreading, and the air only circulates the air that's already inside the jail. So, it just spread through the air.” He said he was made to use the same mask for a month and that inmates were not taught how to properly use face masks and described nurses not changing their PPE when moving from areas where inmates with COVID-19 were being kept. “There's a specific way that they're supposed to teach people how to take off their masks and every piece of material that you have on you to dispose of properly. But they never teach anybody that. I didn't even know that until I got out. They're not enforcing anybody wearing masks or anything,” Hall said. “You’re supposed to use a new mask after a few uses - only having it for so long. But I had a mask for a whole month because they didn't give me another one.” Public health declared an outbreak at the Sask. Pen on Dec. 12 that remains listed by the Saskatchewan Health Authority as active. The federal institution followed suit, having announced an outbreak at the penitentiary on Dec. 15. As of Jan. 25, the CSC said that there were no longer any known active cases of COVID-19 among inmates at the institution, signalling an improvement to the situation among inmates and staff. Congress of Aboriginal Peoples national vice-chief Kim Beaudin had pointed to disproportionate numbers of Indigenous people incarcerated at the penitentiary and likened the conditions to a “death sentence” for inmates. He called on the CSC to release all inmates held for non-violent offences and to ensure any infected inmates are given separate living quarters from other inmates. “I also urge that those kept caged in Canada’s colonial federal penitentiaries be given access to the programs, contact with loved ones and volunteers, and supplies required to come out of this crisis alive,” Beaudin said. “Inaction will signal to Indigenous peoples that our lives do not matter, and that the federal government remains unable to move past colonialist legacies.” The rate of Indigenous incarceration within provincial correctional facilities in Saskatchewan hovers around 76 per cent. At the Saskatchewan Penitentiary, which is a federal facility, the number is around 65 per cent. According to data available from the annual report of the office of the correctional investigator (2018-2019), “Indigenous offenders are overrepresented in the number of incidents of attempted suicide, accounting for 39 per cent of all such incidents in the last 10 years.” The latest annual report of the Correctional Investigator of Canada was tabled in parliament on Feb. 18. In his latest report, Correctional Investigator of Canada, Ivan Zinger said problems in the workplace environment and corporate culture of the CSC creates adverse conditions for inmates. Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair’s Press Secretary Mary-Liz Power told the Prince Albert Daily Herald in December that the federal government had implemented a number of protocols to contain the spread of COVID-19 in its facilities. “No segment of society has gone untouched by COVID-19. Our government is focused on protecting and supporting all Canadians, including inmates and correctional staff,” Power said. “We know the unique vulnerabilities facing correctional institutions during this public health crisis. In response to COVID-19 cases in federal institutions, Correctional Services Canada (CSC) has put in place extensive infection prevention and control measures across all institutions, at all security levels.” Those measures include mandatory masks for inmates and staff, physical distancing measures, active health screening of anyone entering an institution, contact tracing and increased and enhanced cleaning and disinfection at sites. Rapid testing is also in use for both staff and inmates, she said. Since the beginning of March, the overall federal custody population has declined by over 1,300 inmates. Those transferring into Saskatchewan Penitentiary are screened for COVID-19. Inmates transferring into the institution are medically isolated for 14 days after arrival, Power said. “They have the support of medical staff as well as unit staff during their isolation. They are housed in a separate unit during their isolation. CSC works closely with local public health experts to guide their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have already strengthened their infection prevention procedures to protect staff, offenders, and the community.” Power said that additional personal protective equipment was also made available for inmates and staff, as needed. Hall said inmates began to lose hope as the virus spread around the penitentiary and because of not being allout outside for a bit of fresh air during the day while on lockdown. “They're just keeping guys locked in their cells. Even guys that are recovered already are only getting so much time out of their cell - like a half hour per day. That’s 23 and a half hours locked down in a cell. And the way that they're treating everybody is they just stopped coming around doing wellness checks,” Hall said. He described the death of a friend from the virus who he said was refused when he requested to be quarantine and said he had to witness multiple suicide attempts by prisoners who became overwhelmed by conditions during the outbreak. “There were a couple guys that killed themselves. When my friend hung himself there was no guard to come and help him or anything and I had to yell for a guard. It took us like 15 minutes, and he was hanging for that long. He survived though. Just barely. “I could see my other friend; he was only about eight cells down from me. He hung himself and the nurses had to come resuscitate him and take him to the hospital,” Hall said. “There's my one buddy, Charles Francis, he was telling them, ‘I'm really vulnerable, I'm in my 50s.’ He was telling the nurse and he said that ‘I don't want to catch COVID.’ “He eventually caught COVID after we all caught it and he went to the hospital; he was there for about a month. Then they came by one day and just told us that he passed away. If they’d handled it better, he would have been here still.” Spokesperson Kelly Dea Dash said that CSC provides its own health care to inmates and has “dedicated health care professionals in its institutions, including nurses and doctors, who are closely monitoring everyone in medical isolation.” “The health and safety of our employees, offenders, and the public remains our top priority during this public health pandemic,” Dash said. Dash said inmate movements were kept to a minimum and that CSC modified routines to ensure proper physical distancing and reduce possible transmission within different ranges in order to limit transmission as much as possible. “Given the closed living environment, positive inmates and close contacts are medically isolating in their cells. During the isolation period, inmates have access to health care staff as well as institutional staff,” Dash said. “In addition, health care staff are completing wellness checks throughout the day.” The CSC said that although inmates were self-isolating in their individual cells, they had daily access to telephones, showers, and time out of their cells while physical distancing measures were maintained. Inmates are also able to request telephone visits with Elders and Chaplains, Dash said. “Saskatchewan Penitentiary has also provided inmates with wellness packages that include individual activities and snacks. Meals and medications are being delivered to inmates.” But Hall said the narrative put forward by the federal government and CSC doesn't reflect his experience at the penitentiary at all. When Hall tested positive, he was kept in the same cell on the same range with healthy inmates. He said he was given a box of juice and an extra granola bar every once in a while, but that staff rarely checked to see how he was doing while he was sick. “They barely came around. Even when I told him that I wasn't really feeling that great. That I couldn't really breathe,” Hall said. Hall felt like he was ‘forced’ to contract the virus because he was kept in the same block as sick inmates while he was healthy. The cells are only divided by bars, he said, allowing air to circulate freely between them. When he was finally released after recovering, guards walked him through the general population and out the front door, Hall said. “The way that some people say that they handle things is a lot different than what they really do and it's putting a lot of lives at risk. It doesn't matter what that person did, they are still human. I believe that our human rights matter and that nobody should be forced to get COVID or to just suffer and watch your friends pass away because of it.” Hall, who is a member of the Big River First Nation, lamented the high rates of Indigenous inmates at Sask. Pen. He said many have become so used to prison life that they are unable to function outside the system or go back to their home communities and feel safe. He said better programs are needed to reintegrate prisoners into society once released. “All they know is jail, and they feel scared when they come out. So, they want to go back right away because that's all they know. There’s a lot of guys like that,” Hall said. Hall had some words for the friends he left behind at the penitentiary. “Stay strong, keep your head up. And when you get out make a difference. Instead of making a statistic and ending up back in jail. You can create a better life for yourself.” Michael Bramadat-Willcock, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Northern Advocate
Protesters in Madrid and Barcelona clashed with police for the second night in a row on Wednesday.View on euronews