Hello, royal watchers. This is a special edition of The Royal Fascinator, your dose of royal news and analysis. Reading this online? Sign up here to get this delivered to your inbox. The revelations just kept coming Sunday night as Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, gave Oprah Winfrey — and a worldwide television audience — their view on why they had to leave the upper echelons of the Royal Family. The reasons were many, but amid all they had to say, there was one statement that stood out and seems particularly serious for the House of Windsor: Meghan's declaration that a senior member of the Royal Family had worries about the colour of the skin of their first child before he was born. In an interview Monday on CBS This Morning, Winfrey said Harry told her neither Queen Elizabeth nor Prince Philip were part of conversations about Archie's skin colour. "I think it's very damaging — the idea that a senior member of the Royal Family had expressed concern about what Archie might look like," Carolyn Harris, a Toronto-based royal author and historian, said in an interview late Sunday night. Meghan told Winfrey the concern had been relayed to her by Harry, and when questioned further on it, Harry refused to offer more specifics, saying it's a "conversation I'm never going to share." And that, Harris suggests, speaks to the seriousness of the matter. "It's very clear that Harry didn't want to go into details feeling that it would be too damaging for the monarchy." WATCH | Royal Family expressed concerns about son's skin colour, Meghan tells Oprah: It will take time to digest the impact of all that Harry and Meghan had to say to Winfrey. But some early comments in the British media this morning suggest Harry and Meghan's account will have a profound impact. "They have revealed the terrible strains inside the palace. They have drawn a picture of unfeeling individuals lost in an uncaring institution. They have spoken of racism within the Royal Family. This was a devastating interview," the BBC's royal correspondent, Jonny Dymond, wrote in an online analysis. "But Harry describing his brother and father as 'trapped,' and Meghan revealing that she repeatedly sought help within the palace only to be rebuffed is a body blow to the institution." 'A damning allegation' The Guardian reported that Harry and Meghan telling Winfrey of conversations in the Royal Family about Archie's skin colour is "a damning allegation that will send shockwaves through the institution and send relations with the palace to a new low." Many themes and issues developed over the two-hour broadcast, which sprinkled lighter moments — they're expecting a girl, they have rescue chickens and Archie, age almost two, has taken to telling people to "drive safe" — with much more serious concerns, including the lack of support they say they received, particularly as Meghan had suicidal thoughts. WATCH | Meghan had suicidal thoughts during royal life: "A theme that emerges again and again, and it's something that Harry explicitly states in the interview, is the Royal Family being concerned with the opinion of the tabloid press," said Harris. "This may very well have influenced decisions not to speak out about the way Meghan was being treated and that may have influenced some other decisions as well." One of those might be the question of security, something that was of considerable concern to the couple when they learned royal support for it would be withdrawn. "The Royal Family has frequently in the past received bad press regarding minor members ... receiving security,"said Harris. 'Negative headlines' "There were a lot of negative headlines regarding Beatrice and Eugenie continuing to receive security and their father's [Prince Andrew's] insistence they receive security despite being comparatively minor members of the Royal Family who do not undertake public engagements representing the Queen." There was also a sense out of Sunday's interview that issues that troubled the Royal Family in the past may still be a worry now. "Even in the 21st century after all of the problems that the Royal Family encountered in the 1990s with the breakdowns in the marriages of Prince Charles and Prince Andrew … there still doesn't seem to be a consistent means of mentoring new members of the Royal Family," said Harris. Meghan said she had to Google the lyrics for God Save the Queen, and was filled in at the last minute about having to curtsy to Elizabeth just before meeting her for the first time. Queen Elizabeth, Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, pose for a picture at a Buckingham Palace reception following the final Queen's Young Leaders Awards ceremony in London on June 26, 2018. Both Meghan and Harry spoke warmly of the Queen during the interview Sunday night.(John Stillwell/Reuters) Throughout the interview, Harry and Meghan repeatedly expressed respect and admiration for the Queen, if not for how the Royal Family as an institution operates. But there is considerable murkiness around just who may be responsible for some of the more serious issues they raised. "We know they respect the Queen and have a good personal relationship with the Queen. We know that Meghan had a conflict with Kate but says Kate apologized and Meghan forgave her and she doesn't think Kate's a bad person," said Harris. Lacking 'specific details' "But when it comes to who made racist comments about Archie's appearance or who was dismissive directly of Meghan's mental health, [on] that we don't have specific details." High-profile royal interviews such as this — particularly one by Harry's mother Diana, in 1995 — have a track record of not turning out as the royal interviewees may have intended, and it remains to be seen the lasting impact of this one. Harris sees parallels with Diana's interview, as she "spoke frankly" about a lack of support from the family, and felt that she had been let down by Prince Charles. Meghan spoke with Winfrey before they were joined by Harry.(Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese/Reuters) Harry talked of hoping to repair his relationship with his father — "I will always love him but there's a lot of hurt that happened" — but said he felt really let down, and noted a time when his father wasn't taking his calls. Harris expects the interview will prompt further critical scrutiny of Charles, and Harry's older brother Prince William. The relationship with William has already been under intense scrutiny, and is clearly still a delicate matter for Harry, who hesitated noticeably before responding as Winfrey pressed him on it. "Time heals all things, hopefully," Harry said. How Buckingham Palace responds to all this remains to be seen. Generally, the public approach in matters such as this is silence, and a determination to be seen as carrying on with regular duties. Whether a member of the family might make a more informal comment — say in response to a question from someone at a public event — also remains to be seen. WATCH | Meghan says Royal Family failed to protect her and Prince Harry: But from what did emerge Sunday evening, there is a sense that whatever efforts the House of Windsor has made to put a more modern face on the monarchy, they appear not to have yielded the fruit that might have been hoped. "There's been some elements of modernization, but it's very clear that the institution has difficulty adapting to the needs of individuals who marry into the Royal Family," said Harris. "It's clear that Meghan came away from her experiences feeling that she was not supported or mentored in her new role." Sign up here to have The Royal Fascinator newsletter land in your inbox every other Friday. I'm always happy to hear from you. Send your ideas, comments, feedback and notes to firstname.lastname@example.org. Problems with the newsletter? 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OTTAWA — Newly released documents show Statistics Canada considered delaying this year's census until 2022 over pandemic-related health concerns that could erode the quality of data relied on by policymakers across the country. An agency document noted the plan for the 2021 census was developed in a "normal operating context" where tens of thousands of staff and temporary hires would interact with each other and Canadians. In a pandemic, the document noted, that plan had "a high probability of failure." The behind-the-scenes look at how Statistics Canada rethought this year's census operation is contained in 50 pages of internal reports and presentations obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act. The agency ultimately decided to forge ahead with the census for this year using a plan that relies more heavily on Canadians filling out census forms online than on face-to-face interactions. Jan Kestle, president and CEO of Environics Analytics, said the census needed to go ahead as planned this year to get a baseline reading on how families, communities and businesses are faring to guide decision-making for a post-pandemic recovery. "It's not like we're in a period where there's something weird for a month. We have lived for a year (with the pandemic) and we're going to live with the implications of this for a long time," she said. "Having a census that's as good as it can be, is extremely important to the economic recovery, and the health of Canadians." Census results can help reshape electoral ridings and determine federal funding to provinces for health care, and to cities for infrastructure. Local officials use the census to decide where to plan new transit services, roads, schools and hospitals. A census takes seven years between the start of planning to the release of data. "This is a large piece of machinery that does not turn on a dime," said Michael Haan, an associate professor of sociology from Western University, and director of the school's Statistcs Canada Research Data Centre. "If they were going to shift courses by perhaps extending the census for a year, or whatever they may have chosen to do, they needed to have those deliberations well in advance of the census moment." Waiting until 2022, after the widespread distribution of vaccines, could lead to a more "normal" operation , officials wrote in one document, adding that results would better reflect typical trends rather than "an atypical year of widespread societal disruption." But it would also miss some impacts of COVID-19, including connecting detailed income data from the Canada Revenue Agency to different neighbourhoods to see the full effects of pandemic aid programs. "We have a bit of a sense of this already, but nothing as accurate and as complete as the census for giving a true picture of how much hardship the (Canada Emergency Response Benefit) may have saved us," Haan said. In July, officials said no to adding any pandemic-specific questions to the census form because it was "not the right vehicle" for collecting the information. As well, adding a question on short notice could be problematic since every question has to be thoroughly tested. "When you introduce new subject matter into a questionnaire, you run the risk of changing the way people respond to other questions," Haan said. It also takes the agency months before it can release the data for public consumption, meaning the information could be far out of date by 2022 given the fluidity of the pandemic. Statistics Canada's plan for this year's census relies more on online responses and telephone follow-ups than going door-to-door, opening up the internet option to everyone in the country for the first time. Geoff Bowlby, director general at Statistics Canada responsible for the census, said the agency expects about eight in every 10 people to respond to the census online. Enumerators going door-to-door will be masked and get responses from outside the home rather than inside as in previous census cycles, Bowlby said. Hundreds of workers hired as administrators for enumerators are going to work from home rather than temporary office space, he added. Some work can't be done remotely, such as in the scanning centres that turn paper returns into digital data. Bowlby said the agency has adjusted the number of workers in the facility, split them into cohorts, and put in a health and safety plan that includes the provision of N95 masks. "At the end of the day, we do expect to have high response to the census and that data will be of high quality, the same quality that Canadians expect from the census, and it will be a safe operation," he said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 8, 2021. Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
COLUMBIA, S.C. — In his first public address since the end of the Trump administration, former Vice-President Mike Pence is travelling to South Carolina, set to speak to a conservative Christian non-profit in the state that plays a crucial role in the presidential nominating process. Next month, Pence will keynote a dinner hosted by the Palmetto Family Council, a Pence aide told The Associated Press on Sunday. The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity due to a lack of permission to discuss the plans publicly. The Palmetto Family lobbies for what it considers to be “biblical values,” such as heterosexual marriage, and most recently helped push through a ban on most abortions in South Carolina. That law is now being challenged in court. Pence, who since leaving the administration has been doing work with the Heritage Foundation and Young America's Foundation, has not indicated if he plans a future run for office, but his choice of making his post-administration debut in South Carolina helps set down a marker for a potential 2024 presidential bid. The state holds the first presidential primaries in the South, and candidates of both major parties typically spend more than a year in the state ahead of those votes, introducing themselves and trying to secure support. As vice-president, Pence made numerous trips to South Carolina, meeting several times with Gov. Henry McMaster for coronavirus-related forums. He also recently campaigned in the state for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace. Throughout his political career, beginning as an Indiana congressman-turned-governor, Pence has long advocated for restrictions on abortion and has voiced support for the overturn of Roe v. Wade. The speech to Palmetto Family is advantageous for Pence in a state that Republican candidates use as a proving ground to test their “pro-life” mettle. The Pence aide described the former vice-president's speech as one that will focus on traditional conservative talking points but will also tout what Pence sees as the accomplishments of the Trump administration. According to Dave Wilson, president of Palmetto Family, Pence will speak to between 450 and 600 guests at a ticketed, sponsored dinner at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center on April 29. Wilson told AP that he considered Pence a “prime person” to address the organization due to the “level of faith” the former vice-president embodied while in office. “Vice-President Mike Pence ... is very reflective of the ideas, policies and direction that we at Palmetto Family want to see in South Carolina: bringing faith to the forefront and growing the next generation of conservative leaders for our state,” Wilson said. ___ Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com.MegKinnardAP. Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press
TORONTO — A group including all four of Ontario's main teachers unions is urging the provincial government to offer free menstrual products in all publicly funded schools. The group, led by the Toronto Youth Cabinet, made the call in an open letter to Education Minister Stephen Lecce on Monday. It says some Ontario school boards -- such as the Toronto District School Board and the Waterloo Region District School Board -- have taken action on their own, but the group is calling for the province to expand that to all 72 of Ontario's boards. The group notes that British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island offer free menstrual products to all students. The letter says menstrual products are a necessity, not a luxury. It says a lack of access to period products can lead to students missing school and work. "Every woman, girl, trans man and gender non-binary person should be able to focus on their education and be active participants without having to worry about inadequate access to tampons, pads, and other menstrual products," the letter reads. The group, which also includes the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Ontario Student Trustees Association, is calling on the province to fully fund the initiative and ensure it's in place by the end of 2021. "These products must not only be free of charge, but be provided in ways that also protect privacy, are barrier free and easily accessible, are consistent in delivery and availability, and are non-stigmatizing," the letter reads. A spokeswoman for Lecce said the ministry knows that a lack of access to period products "creates significant stress in students' lives," particularly in lower income communities. "We remain open and committed to finding innovative solutions to help girls and young women access menstrual products and support their social-emotional well-being," Caitlin Clark wrote in an email. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 8, 2021. The Canadian Press
BANGKOK — Prosecutors in Thailand charged 18 pro-democracy activists with sedition on Monday, while lodging additional charges of insulting the monarchy against three of them. The sedition charges, which carry a maximum penalty of up to seven years in prison, stem from an antigovernment rally in September, though details on the alleged offences were not immediately clear. The three charged with violating the lese majeste law, which outlaws criticism of senior members of the royal family, are Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa and Panupong Jadnok. Thai authorities have stepped up their legal offensive against those involved in a student-led protest movement that is pushing for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and his government to step down, the constitution to be amended to make it more democratic and the monarchy to be reformed to make it more accountable. The latter demand is the most radical and controversial because the monarchy has rarely faced any public scrutiny and is considered by many to be an untouchable pillar of Thai identity. Those found guilty of violating the law against criticizing or insulting key royals face up to 15 years in prison per offence. The protest movement has struck a chord with many Thais but alienated others, especially royalists shocked at its criticisms of the monarchy. The movement began to lose steam late last year amid differences among its factions, and because of a resurgence of the coronavirus in Thailand. Prosecutors last month charged four protest leaders with lese majeste and they were denied bail. Jatupat, who was imprisoned for violating the lese majeste law in 2017, said that if he and the other activists charged Monday are unable to post bail they will keep fighting from jail. “The movement outside will surely continue no matter what happens,” he said. Jatupat on Sunday completed a nearly 250-kilometre (155-mile) walk from Thailand's northeast to Bangkok's Democracy Monument. Along the way, he campaigned and talked to people about ousting Prayuth, amending the constitution and abolishing the lese majeste law. According to the group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, at least 382 people, including 13 minors, have been charged in connection with the protests, which picked up momentum last summer. At least 60 of those people have been charged with lese majeste. ___ Associated Press writer Bill Bredesen contributed to this report. Chalida Ekvitthayavechnukul, The Associated Press
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Chloe Zhao's success — she's the first Asian woman and the second woman ever to win a Golden Globe for best director for her film “Nomadland” — has not been met with universal applause in her country of birth. The Beijing-born filmmaker, now a leading Oscar contender, instead finds the news of her success overshadowed by a nationalist backlash regarding her citizenship and her identity. Censors have removed some social media posts about the film, which has raised questions about whether it will still be released in China. Over the past week, Chinese web users questioned whether Zhao, who was educated in the U.K. and the U.S., was still a Chinese citizen and if she could be counted as Chinese given a critical comment she made about the country in 2013. Even as some celebrated her win, others dug up two interviews where Zhao said things that they considered an “insult to China.” Now publicity about the film has been removed from social media, and at least two hashtags related to it have been disabled. Searching for the hashtags “Nomadland has a release date” and “No land to rely on” (the film's Chinese title) on popular microblog platform Weibo results in a message: “According to the relevant laws, regulations and policies, the page is not found.” A post on Weibo from the government-backed National Arthouse Alliance of Cinemas that had featured a poster for the film no longer displays the poster. On Douban, a popular app where many urban Chinese users discuss books, films and TV shows, the official Chinese poster for the movie as well as a release date in China were deleted Friday, according to Variety. The app's landing page for the movie, with comments and its English-language poster, remain visible. At the heart of the controversy are two quotes from previous interviews done by Zhao. Online users circulated screenshots from a 2013 interview with Filmmaker magazine where Zhao said, “It goes back to when I was a teenager in China, being in a place where there are lies everywhere.” The interview no longer shows the quote, but archived versions of the webpage showed the original. The second quote came from an interview Zhao did with an Australian website, news.com.au, in December last year where she said “the U.S. is now my country.” Although the news site updated the story on March 3 to say they had misquoted Zhao, and that the article “has been updated to reflect she said (the U.S. is) 'not' her country," the uncorrected version of the story was the one circulating widely on the Chinese internet. It is unclear if the film will still be released in China. It was slated to be released on April 23, according to Chinese media. The China Film Administration did not immediately respond to phone calls seeking comment. The online debate has been split. Nationalist commentators say Zhao betrayed her country, calling her “two-faced” and saying she left the country based on her father's wealth as a former CEO of a state-owned enterprise. Other observers called for the debate to remain focused on her movie, which follows the story of a woman who lives in a van after the company that was the economic engine of her town in Nevada shut its doors. A popular film critic, Chu Mufeng, praised Zhao and her film on his Weibo where he has 3 million followers, noting that “not only was she the first ethnically Chinese female director to win best director, she was also the first Asian woman.” However, one of the top comments underneath his post said: “An American female film director, thanks, don't praise her too much.” Chu responded to the comment, saying, “If an ethnically Chinese chef was great at cooking, would you ask him where he was from? Treat a good movie as if it's a feast, all you need to do is enjoy.” ___ Associated Press researcher Chen Si in Shanghai contributed to this report. Huizhong Wu, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Before posting a selfie with her COVID-19 vaccination card on Twitter, Aditi Juneja debated whether to include an explanation for why she was eligible for a shot. “The first draft of the tweet had an explanation,” says Juneja, a 30-year-old lawyer in New York City. After some thought, she decided to leave out out that her body mass index is considered obese, putting her at higher risk of serious illness if infected. A friend who disclosed the same reason on social media was greeted with hateful comments, and Juneja wanted to avoid that. The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. is offering hope that the pandemic that has upended life around the world will finally draw to an end. But as distribution widens in the U.S., varying eligibility rules and unequal access to the coveted doses are also breeding guilt, envy and judgement among those who’ve had their doses — particularly the seemingly young and healthy — and the millions still anxiously awaiting their turn. Adding to the second-guessing about who should be getting shots is the scattershot feel of the rollout, and the sense that some might be gaming the system. Faced with a patchwork of confusing scheduling systems, many who aren’t as technically savvy or socially connected have been left waiting even as new swaths of people become eligible. The envy and moral judgements about whether others deserve to be prioritized are understandable and could reflect anxieties about being able to get vaccines for ourselves or our loved ones, says Nancy Berlinger, a bioethicist with the Hastings Center. “There’s the fear of missing out, or fear of missing out on behalf of your parents,” she says. Stereotypes about what illness looks are also feeding into doubts about people's eligibility, even though the reason a person got a shot won't always be obvious. In other cases, Berlinger says judgements could reflect entrenched biases about smoking and obesity, compared with conditions that society might deem more “virtuous,” such as cancer. Yet even though a mass vaccination campaign is bound to have imperfections, Berlinger noted the goal is to prioritize people based on medical evidence on who’s most at risk if infected. Nevertheless, the uneven rollout and varying rules across the country have some questioning decisions by local officials. In New Jersey, 58-year-old software developer Mike Lyncheski was surprised when he learned in January that smokers of any age were eligible, since he knew older people at the time who were still waiting for shots. “It didn’t seem like there was medical rationale for it,” says Lyncheski, who isn't yet eligible for the vaccines. He also noted there's no way to confirm that people are smokers, leaving the door open for cheating. The suspicions are being fueled by reports of line jumpers or those stretching the definitions for eligibility. In New York, a Soul Cycle instructor got vaccinated after teachers became eligible in January, the Daily Beast reported, and later apologized for her “terrible error in judgement.” In Florida, two women wore bonnets and glasses to disguise themselves as elderly in hopes of scoring shots. Hospital board members, trustees and donors have also gotten shots early on, raising complaints about unfair access. It's why some feel obligated to explain why they were able to get the vaccine. In an Instagram post, Jeff Klein held up his vaccination card and noted he was given a shot as a volunteer at a mass vaccination hub. “I definitely mentioned it on purpose, because I didn’t want people to get the wrong idea,” says Klein, a 44-year-old musician in Austin, Texas. As she waited for a shot in Jacksonville, Florida, 33-year-old Amanda Billy said it could be frustrating seeing people her age in other states posting about getting vaccinated. She understood that state rollouts vary, but felt anxious because she has a medical condition that makes COVID-19 “very real and scary.” “I’m just happy for them that they got it. But also, I want it,” she said in an interview before getting her first shot. Others are finding they are opening themselves up to criticism when sharing news that they got a shot. Public figures in particular might become targets of second-guessing by strangers. In New York, local TV news co-host Jamie Stelter posted a photo of herself after getting the first shot earlier this month. Many replies were positive, but others noted that she didn’t look old enough or that she must “have connections.” Afterward, Stelter's co-host Pat Kiernan weighed in and tweeted that the “you don't look that sick to me” commentary she received was “evidence of the hell that COVID has placed us in.” For Juneja, the decision to get a shot after becoming eligible wasn't easy, given the struggles she knew others were having securing appointments because of technology, language or other barriers. But she realized it wouldn't help for her to refrain from getting vaccinated. “It’s not like with other types of things where I could give my spot to someone else who I think is more in need,” she says. “We are sort of all in this situation where we can only really decide for ourselves.” ___ Candice Choi, a reporter on The Associated Press' Health & Science team, has been covering the pandemic and vaccine rollout in the United States. Candice Choi, The Associated Press
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Monday said the city's government “fully welcomes” changes to the city’s electoral system that will substantially increase central government control over Hong Kong politics and exclude critics of Beijing. Chinese authorities have said the draft decision before China's National People’s Congress would mean the largely pro-Beijing committee that elects Hong Kong’s leader would also choose a large part of the legislature to ensure the city is run by “patriots.” The Election Committee would also have the right to vet candidates for the Legislative Council, weeding out any people suspected of being insufficiently loyal to China and the ruling Communist Party. Currently, half of Hong Kong’s legislature is directly elected by voters, although the mass resignation of opposition legislators to protest the expulsion of four of their colleagues for being “unpatriotic" means the body is now entirely controlled by Beijing loyalists. “There are loopholes in the electoral systems, there are also flaws in the systems in Hong Kong,” Lam said at a news conference after she returned from the National People's Congress in Beijing. “I fully understand that this is not a matter that can be addressed entirely by the government.” “I’m glad that the central authorities have, again, exercised its constitutional powers to help address this problem for Hong Kong,” she said. She declined to elaborate on the views she had shared with the central authorities regarding electoral reforms, and said many pieces of legislation in Hong Kong would have to be amended. The NPC, China’s ceremonial legislature, will all but certainly endorse the draft decision, though it may not take immediate legal effect. The planned electoral changes have drawn criticism in Hong Kong and abroad, including from the United States. On Friday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price denounced them, saying, “These are a direct attack on Hong Kong’s autonomy, Hong Kong’s freedoms, and the democratic processes, limiting participation, reducing democratic representation, and stifling political debate in order to defy the clear will of the people of Hong Kong and to deny their voice in their own government and governance." On the same day, China rallied its allies at the U.N., with Belarus — a country whose security forces have cracked down brutally on opponents of longtime authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko — speaking in support of the changes. “That a large number of developing countries have once again joined hands to raise their voices for justice at the U.N. Human Rights Council fully reflects that facts speak louder than words and will always prevail," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a briefing on Monday. “China’s determination to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests is unwavering." Unconfirmed reports say the legislation will also expand the size of the Legislative Council from 70 to 90 and the Election Committee from 1,200 to 1,500. Seats on the Election Committee now reserved for directly elected district counsellors will also be eliminated, further cementing Beijing's control over the body. Lam also said she could not confirm whether legislative elections — already postponed last September for one year, ostensibly because of the coronavirus pandemic — would be further deferred due to the electoral reforms. She said central government authorities are “very sincere and very committed in trying to move towards the objective of universal suffrage,” which was promised to Hong Kong under the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution that was drawn up when the British handed Hong Kong to China in 1997. Universal suffrage would give Hong Kong voters the right to vote for the city’s leader, although only candidates approved by Beijing would be allowed to run. Hong Kong has in recent months cracked down on dissent, and most of the city's prominent opposition figures — including pro-democracy activists and former lawmakers — are in jail or in exile. About 100 people, most of whom are pro-democracy activists and supporters, have been charged under the city's sweeping national security law since it was implemented in June. The NPC imposed the law on Hong Kong, bypassing the Legislative Council, saying it was necessary to restore order after increasingly violent anti-government protests in 2019. The legislation criminalizes secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces to intervene in the city's affairs and terrorism. Zen Soo, The Associated Press
First lady Jill Biden says nearly two dozen women the State Department is honouring for their courage made an “intentional decision” to persist and demand justice despite their fear. The 21 women being recognized Monday with the department's International Women of Courage Award include seven from Afghanistan who are receiving posthumous honours. The first lady says that the women's stories make it easy to think of them as “mythical heroes or angels among us” but that they're also humans who want to enjoy life's simple pleasures. “Some ofthese women have spent their lives fighting for their cause. Others are just starting out on a journey they didn’t ask for,” Biden says in remarks prepared for the ceremony, which were obtained by The Associated Press. “Some were called to service, and some couldn’t escape it,” Biden says. “They are fighting for their own lives and for their children. Theywant to right the wrongs of our past, tobuild a brighter future for everyone. Theyaren’timmune to fear. No one is.” Biden says that in the course of ordinarylives, each of the women made “an extraordinarychoice.” “You see, courage isn’t really found,” Biden says. "It doesn’t conjure away our doubts. It’s an intentional decision made.” The ceremony is being held virtually and not at the State Department because of the coronavirus pandemic. The 14 living awardees are from Belarus, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, Iran, Myanmar, Nepal, Somalia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Venezuela. “These womenmade an extraordinary choice, to persist, to demand justice, to believe that, despite the obstacles and fear they faced, there is a future worth fighting for," Biden says. Monday is International Women's Day. Touching on the past year, the first lady says the pandemic shows “how the things that connect us — our love for family and friends, our hope that we will be together soon — transcend language and distance.” She says that diplomacy, “at its best, is a recognition of this connection” and that the United States, under President Joe Biden's leadership, will support women around the world. “We will make the choice to lead, to be bold and to lift up the women and girls everywhere who light our way,” Biden says in her prepared remarks. “For 15 years, we have honoured women around the world who have made the extraordinary choice to fight for something bigger than themselves.” “Today, we recommit to being worthy of that courage, to understanding that our lives are tied together in immeasurable and powerful ways and to choosing, every day, to honour that connection,” she says. “We will stand with you as we build a brighter future for us all.” Darlene Superville, The Associated Press
Haut-Madawaska's newest families have arrived after a long journey from Togo. The rural community in northwestern New Brunswick welcomed 43 new residents from the west African nation this weekend. The newcomers stepped off a plane in Moncton late Saturday night, before travelling by bus to an Edmundston hotel. After two weeks in self-isolation, they'll begin moving into their new apartments. Mayor Jean-Pierre Ouellet said the aging community is excited to welcome the 13 families and help them settle in. He's briefly spoken to some of the new families over the phone. "They're a little bit stressed but they're very happy to move to our area," he said. "For them it's a real challenge and they're ready to accept that challenge." Ouellet said the newcomers were recruited to work at one of the region's largest employers, the Nadeau Poultry Farm Ltd. The company travelled to Togo to find and interview prospective employees before the start of the pandemic. The rural community — with a declining population of about 3,700 — has seen more than 100 newcomers arrive in the past two years. It's located about 20 kilometres southwest of Edmundston. More jobs than people Haut-Madawaska's declining population has created challenges for large employers in the area. The area is home to three poultry processing companies, a buckwheat flour plant, and several facilities that manufacture cedar shingles and other wood products. Saint-François-de-Madawaska, one of the villages within the municipality, is referred to as the province's "chicken capital." Jean-Pierre Ouellet is the mayor of Haut-Madawaska, a rural community in northwestern New Brunswick.(Bernard LeBel/Radio-Canada) Ouellet said young people are leaving to study or find different employment opportunities, then parents follow to be closer to their children. "We have more jobs available than we have people available to fill those jobs," he said. The City of Edmundston and Haut-Madawaska were chosen by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for a three-year pilot project. The region is trying to develop a model for integration and retention for minority francophone communities. A representative for Nadeau Poultry travelled to Togo before the start of the pandemic to recruit employees. (Bernard LeBel/Radio-Canada) "They want to make sure that by recruiting young families that this population growth helps to keep our school open," Ouellet said. "And it will ensure the sustainability of our community." Nadeau Poultry, where some of the Togo newcomers were hired, has about 300 employees. The plant has up to 30 newcomers. A focus on families Haut-Madawska's goal is to improve newcomer retention. Ouellet said many immigrants have come to work for the companies in the region in the past and decided to leave for larger Canadian cities after a few years. But they were mostly hiring single people. Newcomers each brought two suitcases with them. So the community rallied together and collected household goods to help families start their new lives.(Submitted by Jean-Pierre Ouellet) Now, recruitment efforts are targeting families. "When the children will be in school, when they have friends, when they have a role to play in the community, it will be harder for the families … to go live in Quebec, Montreal, Toronto," Ouellet said. The families were supposed to arrive in Canada about six months ago, but the COVID-19 pandemic postponed their resettlement. Residents gathering donations Newcomers could only bring two suitcases on their more than 7,000 km journey between continents. So the town stepped in to help. Donations for the newcomers' apartments quickly filled the basement of a local church. Hundreds of items now await the newest residents of Haut-Madawaska once they begin moving into their apartments. "We have no more place to stock them," he said. "The community's contribution was just incredible." The mayor said people in the community are accepting of the change. "It just brings another point of view and it brings a cultural diversity in our area," he said.
Ontario pharmacists start a COVID-19 vaccine program this week at 330 locations to provide the AstraZeneca vaccine to customers aged 60 to 64 as lockdown restrictions ease in two major regions.
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Monday March 8, 2021. There are 886,574 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 886,574 confirmed cases (30,268 active, 834,067 resolved, 22,239 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 2,489 new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 79.64 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 18,880 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,697. There were 26 new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 245 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 35. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.09 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 58.52 per 100,000 people. There have been 25,159,921 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 1,006 confirmed cases (91 active, 909 resolved, six deaths). There was one new case Sunday. The rate of active cases is 17.43 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 19 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 1.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 201,814 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 141 confirmed cases (26 active, 115 resolved, zero deaths). There were two new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 16.29 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of nine new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 112,416 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,659 confirmed cases (29 active, 1,565 resolved, 65 deaths). There were two new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 2.96 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 18 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been 366,679 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,455 confirmed cases (36 active, 1,391 resolved, 28 deaths). There were two new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 4.61 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 25 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There were zero new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.02 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 242,695 tests completed. _ Quebec: 292,631 confirmed cases (7,100 active, 275,059 resolved, 10,472 deaths). There were 707 new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 82.8 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 4,891 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 699. There were seven new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 79 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 11. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 122.13 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,452,036 tests completed. _ Ontario: 308,296 confirmed cases (10,389 active, 290,840 resolved, 7,067 deaths). There were 1,299 new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 70.51 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,480 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,069. There were 15 new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 87 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.08 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.96 per 100,000 people. There have been 11,205,314 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 32,225 confirmed cases (1,130 active, 30,188 resolved, 907 deaths). There were 56 new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 81.93 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 366 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 52. There were two new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 12 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 65.76 per 100,000 people. There have been 541,269 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 29,709 confirmed cases (1,517 active, 27,794 resolved, 398 deaths). There were 116 new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 128.7 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,062 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 152. There were two new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 13 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.16 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 590,938 tests completed. _ Alberta: 135,837 confirmed cases (4,949 active, 128,974 resolved, 1,914 deaths). There were 300 new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 111.92 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,333 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 333. There were zero new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 28 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.09 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 43.28 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,445,307 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 83,107 confirmed cases (4,975 active, 76,752 resolved, 1,380 deaths). There were zero new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 96.64 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,653 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 379. There were zero new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 25 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.07 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.81 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,969,444 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Sunday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,232 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (one active, 41 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 2.21 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 14,849 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 381 confirmed cases (25 active, 355 resolved, one deaths). There were four new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 63.53 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 24 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,852 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 8, 2021. The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — A new poll suggests most Canadians believe there's still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in this country. The poll results themselves underscore the challenge, with women far more likely than men to say equality remains elusive in a host of fields. Overall, 63 per cent of respondents to the poll, conducted by Léger and the Association for Canadian Studies, said equality between men and women has not been achieved. But female respondents were far more pessimistic: 73 per cent said equality has not been achieved, compared to 53 per cent of men. Overall, a majority said equality has definitely or "to some extent" been achieved at home, in social settings, in the media, at work, in sciences and in politics. Just 44 per cent said the same of sports. But again male respondents were far more likely than women, by as much as 20 percentage points, to say equality has been achieved in those areas. For instance, 80 per cent of men, but just 68 per cent of women, said equality has been achieved, at least to some extent, at home. The same gender gap was evident on the questions of whether equality has been achieved in other settings: social settings (71 per cent of male respondents said it has versus 58 per cent of women), in the media (73 per cent versus 57 per cent), at work (68 per cent versus 50 per cent), in sciences (64 per cent versus 48 per cent), in politics (64 per cent versus 44 per cent) and in sports (48 per cent versus 41 per cent). Similarly, 73 per cent of female respondents said men are paid more than women for doing the same work. Just 49 per cent of male respondents agreed. A majority of women (57 per cent) said public organizations should implement quotas to ensure minimum numbers of women on their boards of directors. Just 34 per cent of men agreed. The online poll of 1,532 adult Canadians was conducted Feb. 26 to 28. It cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based surveys are not considered random samples. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 8, 2021. The Canadian Press
Lebanon's president told the army and security forces on Monday to clear roadblocks after a week of protests over a collapsing economy and paralysed government, but the army chief warned that troops should not get sucked into the political deadlock. President Michel Aoun issued the call to open up the roads across the country after a meeting with top officials while the army's top commander held a separate meeting with military commanders at which he stressed the right to peaceful protest. Army chief General Joseph Aoun also berated Lebanon's sectarian-based politicians for their handling of the crisis, warning of an unstable security situation.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Monday March 8, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 57,567 new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,387,189 doses given. Nationwide, 565,719 people or 1.5 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 6,298.772 per 100,000. There were 316,360 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,938,570 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 81.24 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 4,472 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 24,757 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 47.279 per 1,000. In the province, 1.61 per cent (8,427) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were 5,850 new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 41,470 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 59.7 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,105 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 13,281 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 83.724 per 1,000. In the province, 3.32 per cent (5,273) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were 1,170 new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 15,885 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 10 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 83.61 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 6,657 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 38,676 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 39.631 per 1,000. In the province, 1.48 per cent (14,395) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were 11,700 new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 73,680 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 52.49 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 7,424 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 33,741 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 43.255 per 1,000. In the province, 1.56 per cent (12,142) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were 9,360 new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 56,135 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 60.11 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 16,124 new vaccinations administered for a total of 548,136 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 64.06 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 638,445 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 85.85 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 30,192 new vaccinations administered for a total of 890,604 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 60.63 per 1,000. In the province, 1.85 per cent (271,807) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were 183,460 new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 1,086,745 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 81.95 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,106 new vaccinations administered for a total of 89,728 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 65.162 per 1,000. In the province, 2.20 per cent (30,334) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 124,840 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 71.87 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 1,428 new vaccinations administered for a total of 91,884 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 77.924 per 1,000. In the province, 2.38 per cent (28,011) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were 18,540 new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 93,145 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 98.65 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 7,717 new vaccinations administered for a total of 290,391 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 65.967 per 1,000. In the province, 2.07 per cent (90,937) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were 51,480 new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 326,445 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 88.96 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 311,208 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 60.646 per 1,000. In the province, 1.69 per cent (86,865) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 385,080 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 80.82 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 21,097 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 505.547 per 1,000. In the territory, 18.75 per cent (7,826) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were 16,100 new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 35,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 84 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 60.28 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 19,775 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 438.285 per 1,000. In the territory, 10.10 per cent (4,558) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were 16,200 new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 35,300 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 78 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 56.02 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 13,911 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 359.216 per 1,000. In the territory, 13.28 per cent (5,144) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were 2,500 new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 26,400 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 68 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 52.69 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 8, 2021. The Canadian Press
NEW DELHI — Thousands of female farmers held sit-ins and a hunger strike in India's capital on Monday in protests on International Women's Day against new agricultural laws. The demonstrations were held at multiple sites on the fringes of New Delhi where tens of thousands of farmers have camped for more than three months to protest against the laws they say will leave them poorer and at the mercy of big corporations. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government says the laws are necessary to modernize agriculture. About 100 women wearing yellow and green scarfs sat cross-legged in front of a makeshift stage in Ghazipur, one of the many protest sites. Holding the flags of farm unions, they listened to female farm leaders speak from the stage and chanted slogans against the laws. At least 17 took part in a day-long hunger strike. “Women are sitting here, out in the open, in protest, but Modi doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about mothers, sisters, and daughters. He doesn’t care about women. That’s clear,” said Mandeep Kaur, a female farmer who travelled 1,100 kilometres (680 miles) from Chhattisgarh state to participate in the protests. Multiple rounds of talks between the government and farmers have failed to end the stalemate. The farmers have rejected an offer from the government to put the laws on hold for 18 months, saying they won’t settle for anything less than a complete repeal. They fear the laws will make family-owned farms unviable, eventually leaving them landless. Women have been at the forefront of the protests, which have posed one of the biggest challenges to Modi since he took office in 2014. Many accompanied thousands of male farmers who arrived at the protest sites in late November and have since organized and led protest marches, run medical camps and massive soup kitchens that feed thousands, and raised demands for gender equality. “Today Modi is sending wishes to women across the country on International Women’s Day. Who are these women he is sending wishes to? We are also like his daughters, but he clearly doesn’t care about us,” said Babli Singh, a farm leader. International Women’s Day, sponsored by the United Nations since 1975, celebrates women’s achievements and aims to further their rights. Women often embody what agricultural experts call an “invisible workforce” on India’s vast farmlands that often goes unnoticed. Nearly 75% of rural women in India who work full-time are farmers, according to the anti-poverty group Oxfam India, and the numbers are expected to rise as more men migrate to cities for jobs. Yet, less than 13% of women own the land they till. Demonstrations were also held at Jantar Mantar, an area of New Delhi near Parliament where about 100 women held placards denouncing the new laws and calling for their withdrawal. “Today we are finding ourselves under attack at all fronts. As women, as peasants, as workers, as youth and students," said women rights activist Sucharita, who uses one name. “We are opposed to the laws that have been passed in favour of corporations." ___ Associated Press video journalist Shonal Ganguly contributed to this report. Neha Mehrotra And Rishi Lekhi, The Associated Press
For 13 years, Paul Raso experienced different challenges working as a teacher and vice-principal in one of Toronto's most marginalized communities, but it was the way his school board handled the expulsion of one Black student — and the departure of that student's brother, as well — that Raso says finally pushed him to leave. "I've seen a lot — enough for me to quit.... That was the catalyst," said Raso, who took a leave of absence after the incident, then left his job. One brother was expelled in 2013, when Raso was a vice-principal at Father Henry Carr Catholic Secondary School, in the city's northwest. After that, the boy's brother also left classes due to concerns for his safety, Raso said. In the weeks that followed, Raso pushed for them to both get the chance for a fresh start elsewhere. "We advocated to keep them together. They were brothers. They were supportive," Raso said. But after the expulsion, both were denied entry to another school and, according to Raso, no clear explanation was offered. Raso said that as a result, the brothers weren't able to return to any classroom before the start of summer break. A month into summer break, one of them — who was 15 — was shot and killed in his neighbourhood. CBC News is not naming the boy or his brother at the request of the family. Raso said he's speaking out nearly eight years later because he continues to see problems with the way the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) works with students from marginalized communities, such as the Jane-Finch neighbourhood. Unlike the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), the Catholic board does not collect race-based data on what happens to expelled students — something advocates say is necessary to ensure students from certain communities aren't falling through the cracks. The expulsion Raso — who now runs the not-for-profit Education Involved Advocacy Group — said the expulsion was triggered by an incident in which a coloured bandana was waved in the face of other students. It was interpreted as an incitement of gang violence, he said. The brothers were from the Jane-Finch community but were attending Father Henry Carr in Rexdale — which Raso said is considered a rival gang neighbourhood. After a third student from the Jane-Finch neighbourhood was transferred into the school, tensions began to build, he said. The two brothers who left school were students at Father Henry Carr Catholic Secondary, in Rexdale, a neighbourhood in northwest Toronto.(CBC) "Kids just see numbers," Raso said. "Now there's three kids from Jane and Finch. So no matter what, I think those [three] kids would have been targeted." After the expulsion, Raso said, staff and the school administration worked together with the board's Safe Schools program to determine where the boys should be moved. After extensive consultation, he said, it was determined that Dante Alighieri Academy Catholic Secondary School — southeast of the Jane-Finch neighbourhood — would be a safe and suitable place for them. Raso said the plan was approved by the board's area superintendent and was outlined by email to the then-principal of Dante Alighieri Academy. CBC News obtained a copy of the email, which appears to show the principal's response as simply: "No, thank you," followed by the principal's initial. "I was baffled — just floored. I mean, at this point, just distraught," said Raso, noting that he'd never seen such a response from a school principal. "It's everything that's wrong with the community summed up in one email. So I couldn't let it go." Two months after the boys were denied entry to the TCDSB school, one was shot and killed not far from his house. Email 'taken out of context,' board says CBC News reached out to the former principal of Dante Alighieri Academy about the email sent in response to the request to admit the brothers but did not receive a response. In a statement to CBC News, the TCDSB said the board has a general rule that two people — regardless of whether they are brothers — who are involved in the same misconduct and are expelled aren't sent to the same school. The board would not comment on the specifics of the expulsion, citing privacy legislation, but it maintains the former principal's comments in the email shared with CBC were "taken out of context." The board says there are messages omitted from the exchange. However, it would not provide a copy of them, again citing privacy legislation. The cost of losing education The 15-year-old boy's killing remains a cold case, according to Toronto police, and was one of a string of fatal shootings involving teens in northwest Toronto over the span of a month. While there's no known link between the expulsion and his shooting death, Raso said countless studies have shown the link between school attendance and the minimization of violence. "The more people are engaged, the less they're likely to make poor choices," he said. Abdulkadir Nur — who works with youth in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood at a community hub called The Spot — said school is an important form of stability for youth in the community. And while some might not show it, suspensions or expulsions can take a toll on them. Abdulkadir Nur works with youth at the Jane-Finch community hub called The Spot. He says school is an important part of kids' lives in the neighbourhood, even though they might not show it.(Farrah Merali/CBC) "School may be the highlight of their day, so they may not really have much else to do. Their parents may be working. They may have been looking forward to going to classes, seeing their friends, you know, seeing specific teachers and everything," Nur said. "So I would imagine that they'd have an extremely hard time dealing with that." "Think about the cost of what happens when a child, a young person, a young Black child doesn't get the necessary kind of education that he should be getting," said Carl E. James, a professor in the education faculty at York University in Toronto who holds the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora. "Think about the kind of education that he's not getting, the kinds of opportunities that get him to learn that would inform a trajectory." Race-based data James has studied other school boards in the Greater Toronto Area, and his research shows that Black students are more likely to be suspended from school. In recent years, the Toronto District School Board, unlike the TCDSB, began collecting race-based data on suspensions, which includes a followup on what happens to students after they are disciplined to see if they are able to continue their education. Carl E. James, a professor in the education faculty at York University in Toronto who holds the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora, says his research shows that Black students are more likely to be suspended from school.(York University) "Why hasn't [the TCDSB] been keeping data? How can you continue with students, working with them and addressing the issues, without data?" James asked. The TCDSB says it does track what happens to students who are suspended and expelled and provides them with a number of supports, including the option to attend a long-term suspension program. "Suspended/expelled students continue to receive access to academic and social-emotional supports provided by the board and TCDSB social workers make every effort to contact a student and encourage them to continue with their education," the board told CBC News. Pushing for change Raso said that in his work as an advocate for parents and students in the Jane-Finch community, he continues to see students shuffled to schools where they aren't safe, and he's calling on the TCDSB to take into account the nuances of neighbourhoods and the challenges some students find themselves in. "We've got to deal with shuffling kids around from neighbourhoods that fight. And they either feel the need to stand their ground or feel the need to keep themselves safe," he said. Raso now advocates for youth and parents in Toronto's Jane-Finch neighbourhood.(Farrah Merali/CBC) Raso said he still sees students either denied entry into schools where they could be safe or shuffled into schools where they are unsafe. "There are ways to get innovative with education in these communities. And we're still doing the same thing," he said. "I don't want to go to any more funerals." For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here. (CBC)
OTTAWA — Canada is set to receive 910,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses this week as pharmaceutical companies ramp up deliveries to make good on their contractual obligations by the end of the month. The Public Health Agency of Canada says the country will receive nearly 445,000 shots from Pfizer-BioNTech for the second week running as the companies settle into a rhythm following a lengthy lull in January and much of February. The remaining 465,000 shots are expected from Moderna, as the pharmaceutical firm steps up its delivery schedule from once every three weeks to once every two. The influx of new shots comes as the federal government looks for vaccine-makers to finalize delivery of a total of eight million doses by March 31. That includes 5.5 million from Pfizer-BioNTech — up from the four million originally expected — and two million from Moderna. Canada received 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine last week. The federal government is not expecting any new deliveries from AstraZeneca-Oxford, nor does it anticipate receiving shipments of the newly approved vaccine from Johnson & Johnson until next month. At that point, however, both manufacturers are on tap to deliver millions of shots per month. That includes more than a million doses per week from Pfizer-BioNTech starting in the last week of March and into the following month. "In April, we are anticipating a steep increase in vaccine availability," Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military officer overseeing Canada’s inoculation distribution effort, said last week. “This includes 23 million doses of both Pfizer and Moderna between April and June, and at least 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca Serum Institute of India vaccine arriving by mid-May.” Johnson & Johnson, whose single-dose vaccine received Health Canada approval on Friday, is the fourth inoculation to receive the green light from the regulator. It uses a modified common-cold virus to carry a piece of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 to convince the body to mount an immune response to prevent future infections. Clinical trials found it to be 66 per cent effective against moderate COVID-19-related illness, 85 per cent effective against severe illness, and 100 per cent effective against death. "We can be really increasingly optimistic in our outlook and that is really great," Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said on Friday. Procurement Minister Anita Anand said the government has now confirmed total deliveries of 36.5 million vaccine doses by Canada Day which would be more than enough to get a single dose to each adult Canadian by then. That doesn't include any of the 10 million doses purchased from Johnson & Johnson, and includes none of the 20 million doses coming directly from AstraZeneca. Every vaccine except Johnson & Johnson's is given in two doses, but provinces are moving to implement new guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization stating those shots should be spaced out up to four months apart rather than three or four weeks. Provinces are making the move to get more people vaccinated with a first dose, after real-world evidence showed strong data that one dose is highly effective on its own. Nearly 1.7 million Canadians have now received at least one dose, and the pace of vaccinations has accelerated in the last two weeks. In the past seven days alone, more than 457,000 people were vaccinated, 2 1/2 times as many as in a similar period two weeks before. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 8, 2021. Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
Early in the new year, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney stood at a podium taking questions about his jet-setting caucus members enjoying foreign travel during a pandemic. On that day he was unequivocal: The buck stops with him. That phrase stuck with discontented United Conservative Party members already frustrated by many of the premier's recent decisions — and it got them thinking about holding him to his word. January brought a fresh set of challenges for Alberta's UCP government, such as the public outcry over strict pandemic health measures and intense blowback over its coal mining policy. And while top Alberta government officials looked for ways to turn the page, some in the party were musing about whether it was time to turn the page on Kenney himself. "We definitely talked about a leadership review," one constituency president from southern Alberta told CBC News. Other constituency associations were taking a hard look at the premier's track record and having the same conversation. CBC News spoke to nine UCP constituency association presidents and members of constituency association boards from across the province. CBC has agreed not to name some of them as they were not authorized to speak publicly about party matters. Most of those who spoke to CBC said their association boards had talked about whether it was time to look for a new leader. One riding association president said that about 80 per cent of their board expressed dissatisfaction with the party's leadership. Others said that while they'd heard rumblings of unhappiness with Kenney, their own boards had not talked about triggering a review. "I would say that people are sick of COVID. They're not sick of Kenney,'' said Adam Waterman, constituency president for Vermillion-Lloydminster-Wainwright. He estimated that about 10 per cent of his members have considered calling for a leadership review. Members of those constituency boards considering a review said the idea has faded into the background for now, for several reasons: the UCP has no obvious candidate to succeed Kenney, there's little time to get a new leader up to speed before the 2023 election, and internal party disputes could boost the NDP's chances of victory. "Do we change or fix what we have?" one constituency association president asked. 'Death by a thousand cuts' Constituency association presidents said party members will be watching the premier closely this year to see if he can change course. His approval rating has dropped significantly since the election and the party's poll numbers have dropped along with it. "There have been some blunders," a long-time constituency association president said. The constituency presidents expressed concern about recent decisions such as the one to rescind the 1976 coal policy, which protected parts of the Rocky Mountains from mining. The UCP government swiftly reinstated the policy last month in the face of mounting criticism. They also pointed to the confrontational nature of some of the province's interactions with doctors, confusing communication on public health restrictions and the COVID-19 situation in long-term care facilities. Other constituency association members in rural areas said that many members believe public health restrictions to control the pandemic have had a disproportionately heavy impact on their regions and have damaged businesses unnecessarily. "This is the challenge that the premier has ... there isn't one item to fix. It's going to be death by a thousand cuts," one rural member said. Premier Kenney's office said he and the government already have delivered on 75 per cent of their 2019 election promises, despite the added challenges of the pandemic and the associated economic downturn. "The UCP has always been a grassroots, member-driven party and members are always encouraged to be active and have their say," said a statement from Kenney's office. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney delivers remarks at the Indigenous Participation in Major Projects conference in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020.(THE CANADIAN PRESS) Under a new UCP resolution passed at the party's most recent general meeting, a leadership review could happen sometime in 2021 or 2022. But the party hasn't said when that rule will come into effect, or whether it will be applied to this election cycle. Constituency associations can trigger a special meeting for a leadership vote; if Kenney failed to hit 50 per cent support in such a vote, the party would launch a leadership election. Right now, however, no constituency association appears to want to be the first to go public with the idea — in part because of the awkward timing of a leadership campaign in the middle of a public health crisis. All the UCP members CBC spoke to said they've decided to put the idea of a leadership review on hold for now, but many want to see significant changes from Kenney. "We've got work to do, there's no doubt about it," an urban constituency president said. "The leader and MLAs need to make sure they're doing what they can to be more appealing." Some associations have begun to pressure the party to pick a day for the next fixed date leadership review. While many have hit pause on the notion until then, some members are not content to wait — and are actively lobbying others to organize to force a review. The premier appears to be getting the message. Kenney has been holding frequent Zoom meetings lasting an hour or longer with regional, provincial and individual constituency boards since the new year. Even more calls are scheduled for the coming weeks. One constituency president said that his fellow members used to see Kenney only once every few months. Another said the premier been more accessible in 2021 than ever before. Several members said that, during those online conferences with constituency boards, the premier has taken heavy criticism while answering questions and acknowledging the mistakes of the past year. "We are very blunt with him, sometimes crass," one said. "But Kenney needed to hear it." Now, they're waiting to see what he does with the information they've given him. Battles on both fronts "He has a fight on his hands," said Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary. "How do you govern a province in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of escalating budget deficits ... [while] protecting your own flank and trying to protect your own job from within?" Rural constituency associations saw the most intense discussions about a leadership review, while many urban associations discussed it but didn't give it serious consideration, the presidents said. Bratt said Kenney and the UCP need to keep 90 per cent of rural ridings onside in order to secure another majority government. An urban board member said any leader would falter occasionally during a global crisis. "It's always easier to make that decision sitting in your living room. It's not so easy when you're the one who has to pacify 4.5 million people." But some of the constituency association complaints about Kenney predate the pandemic. A board member from the riding of Taber-Warner recently resigned, saying the actions of Kenney and his government often run counter to the founding principles of the UCP. "It's just a continual build here and the bizarre inconsistencies, the turnabout on some of the policies … They look like absolute fools," Brian Hildebrand told CBC News. "When leadership is at odds with the stated principles of the organization, there's a conflict." A rival on the right As rumblings of discontent with Kenney spread within the UCP, the Wildrose Independence Party (WIP) saw an opportunity to expand its circle. One UCP constituency association president said some of their board members have been approached by Paul Hinman, the WIP's interim leader, to gauge their interest in switching parties. Hildebrand also has had conversations with WIP members. Hinman confirmed to CBC News that he's had discussions with people on UCP boards. Sometimes, he said, those conversations have been initiated by the UCP members themselves. Alberta's conservatives have a recent history of dumping leaders who don't meet their expectations. The province has seen six premiers in the last 15 years. Alison Redford resigned in 2014 during a brewing caucus revolt, In 2011, Ed Stelmach announced he wouldn't run again after turmoil in the party (including two MLAs crossing the floor). Even Ralph Klein resigned in 2006 after getting lukewarm support in a leadership review. Kenney ultimately benefits from being the founder of the party, Bratt said. He also pointed out what he sees as a pattern in conservative party mergers — like the one that created the United Conservative Party through the merger of the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties in 2017. "Parties merge when they're in opposition and disintegrate when they're in power," he said. Many constituency presidents said Kenney needs to learn from his mistakes and stay connected to the grassroots. While forcing a leadership review isn't on the immediate agenda, they're not ruling it out for a future date. "Let him do the job and get through it," said one president, "and then we'll see if he's earned the job."
From the crack of the baseball bat in Florida to clinking of cocktails in San Francisco bars, the sounds of spring are in the air as Americans start to return to many of the beloved pastimes they were forced to abandon 12 months ago. Over the past weekend, New Yorkers watched movies on the big screen, San Franciscans dined indoors, and baseball fans cheered on their favorite big-league players as spring training resumed in Florida. "It feels awesome," said civil engineering specialist Matt Skelton, 39, leaving a concession stand on Saturday afternoon clutching a bag of popcorn at TD Ballpark in Florida's West Coast city of Dunedin, seasonal home of the Toronto Blue Jays.