The Weather Networks Nathan Coleman has more from Nova Scotia.
The Weather Networks Nathan Coleman has more from Nova Scotia.
WASHINGTON — Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm won Senate confirmation Thursday to be energy secretary, joining President Joe Biden's Cabinet as a leader of Biden’s effort to build a green economy as the United States moves to slow climate change. The vote was 64-35, with all Democrats and 14 Republicans, including GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, voting yes. Granholm, 62, served two terms as governor in a state dominated by the auto industry and devastated by the 2008 recession. She has promoted emerging clean energy technologies, such as electric vehicles and battery manufacturing, as an answer for jobs that will be lost as the U.S. transitions away from oil, coal and other fossil fuels. Granholm, who was sworn in late Thursday, is just the second woman to serve as energy secretary. She tweeted her thanks to senators and said, "I’m obsessed with creating good-paying clean energy jobs in all corners of America in service of addressing our climate crisis. I’m impatient for results. Now let’s get to work!'' Sen. Joe Manchin, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Granholm has the leadership skills, vision and compassion needed at the Energy Department to “develop innovative solutions for the climate challenge'' while preserving jobs. Granholm is committed to working every day “to ensure that we don’t leave any workers behind as we move towards a cleaner energy future,'' said Manchin, D-W.Va. During her confirmation hearing last month, Granholm pushed her plans to embrace new wind and solar technologies. But her position caused tension with some Republicans who fear for the future of fossil fuels. “We can buy electric car batteries from Asia, or we can make them in America,” Granholm told senators. “We can install wind turbines from Denmark, or we can make them in America.'' Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee, said Biden “seems to want to pull the plug on American energy dominance. So I cannot in good conscience vote to approve his nominee for secretary of energy.'' Barrasso and other Republicans have complained that a freeze imposed by Biden on oil and gas leases on federal lands is taking a “sledgehammer” to Western states’ economies. The moratorium could cost tens of thousands of jobs unless rescinded, Barrasso said. He and other Republicans also bemoaned Biden’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, saying thousands of jobs will be lost and a friendly source of oil left idle. Granholm assured lawmakers that creating jobs was her top priority — and Biden's. “We cannot leave our people behind. In West Virginia, and in other fossil fuel states, there is an opportunity for us to specialize in the technologies that reduce carbon emissions, to make those technologies here, to put people to work here, and to look at other ways to diversify,'' she said at her Jan. 27 hearing. During her introduction as Biden's nominee, Granholm described arriving in the U.S. at age 4, brought from Canada by a family “seeking opportunity.” She said her father found work as a bank teller and retired as head of the bank. “It’s because of my family’s journey and my experience in fighting for hardworking Michigan families that I have become obsessed ... with gaining good-paying jobs in America in a global economy,” she said. In other action Thursday on Biden's Cabinet nominees: SURGEON GENERAL Surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy said Americans must not lose track of opioid addiction and other health emergencies amid the intense national focus on overcoming the coronavirus pandemic. He told senators at a hearing that “we cannot neglect the other public health crises that have been exacerbated by this pandemic, particularly the opioid epidemic, mental illness and racial and geographic health inequities.” After dipping slightly, opioid deaths have risen again, the result of street formulations laced with the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Murthy told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that the overdose rescue drug naloxone should be even more widely available and that medication-assisted treatment must be expanded. Murthy, who was surgeon general in the Obama administration, has drawn opposition from gun rights groups because of his assessment that gun violence is a public health problem. But he tried to dispel notions that he would launch a crusade against guns. He told Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., that while he supports government studying the problem, “my focus is not on this issue, and if I’m confirmed it will be on COVID, on mental health and substance use disorder.” TRADE REPRESENTATIVE Biden’s pick for U.S. trade representative promised to work with America’s allies to combat China’s aggressive trade policies, indicating a break from the Trump administration’s go-it-alone approach. Katherine Tai told the Senate Finance Committee that rebuilding international alliances would be a priority, as well as "reengaging with international institutions? to present Beijing with “a united front of U.S. allies.? Tai did not address whether the Biden administration would drop former President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum or whether it would revive the Obama administration's Asia-Pacific trade deal, which Trump killed. BUDGET DIRECTOR Another key Republican lawmaker came out against Biden’s embattled pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, raising further questions about her viability. Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters he won't support her nomination. He and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski were two Republicans seen as potentially gettable votes for the White House, as Grassley had previously said he’d had good conversations with Tanden. Murkowski has yet to say how she'd vote. With a handful of other key centrist Republicans coming out against her in recent days, Tanden’s path to confirmation hinges largely on Murkowski and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., neither of whom have made their positions known. The White House was forced to search for a Republican to support Tanden after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced his opposition last week. Lawmakers have largely cited Tanden’s controversial and at times harshly critical tweets about members of both parties in explaining their opposition to her. ___ Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Paul Wiseman contributed to this report. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
The City of Terrace is reaching out to the Office of the B.C. Ombudsperson in the wake of councillor Jessica McCallum-Miller’s resignation and allegations of systemic racism. At a Feb. 25 committee of the whole meeting, councillors unanimously agreed to direct staff to review its current policies and pursue an independent review by the ombudsperson’s office, which investigates complaints about public agencies in B.C. Should the B.C. Office of the Ombudsperson decline the invitation, city staff have the flexibility to look into other bodies to conduct an independent review. “We unfortunately live in a society where systemic racism exists, accusations of systemic racism need to be taken very seriously, I think that having a conversation about systemic racism and the ways we can all improve and work towards diversity is important and timely,” said councillor Sean Bujtas during the meeting. McCallum-Miller, the youngest and first Indigenous councillor in Terrace’s history, resigned on Feb. 22. She said in a Facebook post that she questioned whether truth and reconciliation was a priority for council. “It is my personal belief that systemic and internalized racism as well as sexism had played a role in the inability of my colleagues to respect and understand my personal and diverse perspectives,” McCallum-Miller said in the post which was addressed to the City of Terrace. In the post, McCallum-Miller said she attempted to have council partake in cultural awareness training twice, and felt unheard and spoken over. Carol Leclerc, Terrace mayor, said during the committee of the whole meeting that council voted unanimously to partake in cultural education training from the Kitimaat Valley Education Society, which operates the Kitimat Valley Institute (KVI) on March 9, 2020 but that the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled the session. “Right after that, COVID came, we did not know how long COVID was going to be, we wanted to do this face-to-face so we thought we would just hold off on our cultural awareness training and it wasn’t able to take place,” she said. In January 2021, councillor James Cordeiro proposed the training again and staff arranged for council to take Diversity and Inclusion virtually through KVI on March 18. Diversity and Inclusion is a six hour workshop with an instructor using the Microsoft Teams platform. “It wasn’t long after that councillor McCallum-Miller decided that she would like to put out to the rest of council that it be a Tsimshian cultural training session and there was some discussion that happened over email about the notice of motion that was going to come to our Monday meeting on February 22,” Leclerc said. “Unfortunately councillor McCallum-Miller brought in her letter of resignation on February 22 and the notice of motion for the Tsimshian portion did not reach the council table at that time.” Terrace council is committed to participating in cultural education training on March 18 with the Kitimaat Valley Education Society if the time slot is still available. Leclerc said she has reached out to Kitselas First Nation Chief Councillor Judy Gerow and Kitsumkalum First Nation Chief Councillor Don Roberts about McCallum-Miller’s resignation. City staff are working with Saša Loggin, project director at the Skeena Diversity Society, part of the Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network, to bring a presentation to council at an upcoming meeting. Ben Bogstie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Interior News
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is looking at easing many of its COVID-19 restrictions as the province's pandemic indicators continue to improve. A set of proposed changes released Thursday includes doubling capacity limits in stores and restaurants, as well as for personal services, to 50 per cent. Seating at restaurant tables would still be limited to members of the same household. Indoor religious services could operate at 25 per cent capacity instead of the current 10 per cent. Indoor arcades and outdoor amusement parks could reopen with capacity limits. The few facilities that would have to remain closed include theatres, concert halls and casinos. The cap on outdoor gatherings would rise to 10 people from five. And instead of households being permitted to only designate two people as visitors, the province could allow two-household bubbles so entire families could get together. "Manitoba's case numbers, test positivity rate (and) health-care-system admission rates continue to trend in the right direction, which allows us to consider reopening more services cautiously and safely," said Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer. The proposed changes could take effect as early as March 5 and are subject to public feedback before any final decisions are made, he said. Changes could also be phased in. Health officials reported 70 new COVID-19 cases and one death Thursday. Three cases from unspecified dates were removed due to data correction for a net increase of 67. The province's case count has dropped sharply since a severe spike in the fall when Manitoba led all the provinces in the per-capita rate of new infections. The strain on intensive care units has eased and the test positivity rate has dropped from 13 per cent to 4.3. The proposed changes could also mean big shifts for sports enthusiasts and players of video lottery terminals. VLTs would be allowed to operate again as long as they were two metres apart or separated by physical barriers. Indoor gyms and fitness facilities could offer group classes again, although with a 25 per cent capacity limit. Roussin said there is a risk in such indoor settings. "There is risk involved with all these things and we're weighing the benefit ... to having businesses open, the benefit for people (of) physical activity," he said. "It's very cautious and 25 per cent capacity, I think, gives us that ability to have people spaced out quite a bit." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021 Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WELLINGTON COUNTY – County of Wellington councillors had some thoughts on the possibility of losing the School Resource Officer (SRO) program in light of a soon-to-be completed review by the Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB). The UGDSB has been undergoing a review of its police presence through a task force since last year, after receiving questions and concern from the community over treatment of BIPOC students. During Thursday’s county council meeting, Coun. David Anderson said while giving a report on the Police Services Board meeting that Robin Ross, board trustee and task force member, mentioned to him the Wellington County OPP had been very forthcoming with information relating to this program compared to other police departments. Anderson thanked Wellington County OPP detachment commander Insp. Paul Richardson for giving this information and his support for the program. “It’s amazing what these officers are doing for our kids and keeping in touch,” Anderson said. “They’re really helping a lot of kids who need help in our school system.” Minto mayor George Bridge asked how far along this review is because he’s concerned about not having police officers in school. Richardson said this question was timely as he was recently sharing data with UGDSB members to help with their recommendations expected soon. “We certainly value our relationship with the students and the schools and we want to be part of the lives of youth in this community,” Richardson said. “We’re hoping those recommendations support that.” Mapleton mayor Gregg Davidson, also formerly a Halton Region police officer, said in his experience SROs are a necessity. “I remember when this program started...when I was policing and it certainly made a difference,” Davidson said. “It made a difference in the crime in the schools and the lives of the students themselves.” Coun. Doug Breen said as a high school football coach in Guelph, he has seen this program benefit students going down a bad path but acknowledged there is room for improvement. “I absolutely understand concerns with the program and I’m sure if we dig deep enough we’d find some horror stories," he said. “I hope there are things we can do to keep making it better but to knee-jerk throw it out for political reasons I think is a very bad idea.” Coun. Diane Ballantyne, a teacher at Centre Wellington District High School, countered some comments made at the meeting. She said other people’s experiences with police are not the same as those on council. “Questions about the SRO program are not just about 'politics,'” Ballantyne said. “They are about the lived experiences of racialized communities which, again, is not reflected around this particular horseshoe or is our lived experience. I trust the board is gathering input and insight from a variety of diverse voices and they will come to the conclusion that is going to best serve the students in the UGDSB.” The task force is expected to bring forward a recommendation to the UGDSB by the end of March. Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com
On Thursday, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller responded to an auditor general report from earlier in the day that stated AG Karen Hogan was "very concerned and disheartened" that the Liberal government was unable to meet its commitment to ending all boil water advisories for Indigenous communities. Miller accepted the AG's recommendations and went over the water advisories that have been lifted, as well as the finances secured to work ahead to end all the advisories.
(CBC - image credit) A second worker from the Olymel meatpacking plant in Red Deer has died after a weeks-long battle with COVID-19. Henry De Leon, 50, worked at the plant for 15 years. His family told CBC News he died from COVID-19 on Wednesday night, after three weeks on a ventilator in an Edmonton hospital. A father of two adult children and grandfather of three, De Leon tested positive on Jan. 28, his family said and the company confirmed. He was hospitalized first in Red Deer, then transferred to Edmonton, where he died. His death has not yet been linked to the known outbreak at the plant, which ceased operations earlier this month in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19. The city of Red Deer hit a new record for COVID-19 cases this week, with 574 active cases as of Wednesday. Alberta Health Services declared an outbreak at the plant on Nov. 17. A spokesperson for Alberta Health said the department has only been notified of one death linked to that outbreak, the Jan. 28 death of Darwin Doloque, 35. "If a second death is reported to Alberta Health, we will publicly report it," spokesperson Tom McMillan said in a statement. He was always happy De Leon's daughter described him as "the happiest and most caring guy," and said he was "the best dad we could ever ask for." Like Doloque and many other employees at Olymel, De Leon immigrated to Canada. He came from the Dominican Republic, and his friend and former neighbour, Patricia Marcado, said he dreamed of returning there in retirement. Marcado said his friend was full of joy and love for his family. "He was a very happy guy," she said. "He cooked, he cleaned. He did everything for his wife. He was the best husband ever, the best dad ever." Patricia Salazar worked with Le Deon for 15 years and spent lunch breaks with him at the same table with other friends — some Canadian, some from El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. De Leon's wife, who also works at Olymel, would often join them. "We always sit together at the same table with his wife and other friends," Salazar said. "He was very, very happy all the time." She recalled De Leon showing off photos of his grandchildren, and said De Leon and his wife were "all the time together, wherever they go, in the plant or outside."
OTTAWA — Federal auditor general Karen Hogan delivered a stark warning Thursday that government mismanagement is threatening to leave the navy and coast guard without the ships they need to defend Canada and protect its waterways. The warning is in a new report that offers a scathing assessment of the state of Ottawa’s multibillion-dollar national shipbuilding strategy nearly 10 years after it was launched. Hogan and her team found delays across the board in the construction and delivery of new ships for the Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Coast Guard even before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Those delays are threatening to create gaps as the navy and coast guard vessels those ships are supposed to replace are near retirement, or in some cases have already reached that stage. Those include the navy’s three destroyers and two support ships, while the coast guard has had to do without some research vessels and icebreakers because its existing ships are docked for repairs. Hogan's report says the government has mitigated some of the short-term effects but Canada is already feeling the pinch as ships retire or are forced into extended maintenance. “The delivery of many ships was significantly delayed, and further delays could result in several vessels being retired before new vessels are operational,” the report says. “National Defence and the Canadian Coast Guard have implemented measures to maintain their operational capabilities until new ships are delivered, but interim capabilities are limited and cannot be extended indefinitely.” The report added that it had not assessed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but noted that shipyards have either closed or reduced their workforces due restrictions, which will further threaten schedules. The auditor general’s report came one day after the parliamentary budget office estimated that building 15 new warships — just one part of the strategy — will cost $77.3 billion, about $17 billion than the government’s stated price. Both reports are likely to raise fresh questions about the shipbuilding plan, which was launched in earnest in October 2011 when Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax and Seaspan Marine in Vancouver were selected to build dozens of navy and coast guard vessels. The government is now working to add a third shipyard to the program, Chantier Davie in Quebec City, to build a series of icebreakers. “The delays that we saw in this audit should really be seen as a shared responsibility,” Hogan said. “There were delays in designing and determining capabilities that were needed. Then there were delays in production.” Procurement Minister Anita Anand defended the strategy, saying shipyards have so far delivered four ships and created thousands of jobs. She also insisted that the government was on track after facing some early challenges that “were not yet informed by actual build experience at the shipyards, and expertise in Canada was still developing.” “I am of the view that the shipbuilding strategy has been, by and large, successful,” Anand said. “I don't think it is a mistake when you see the contribution to the Canadian economy ... and the actual vessels that have been produced.” But Conservative defence critic James Bezan held up the report as evidence of the Liberal government's mismanagement. Hogan acknowledged the complexity of building new ships but said that was “compounded” by the shipbuilding plan’s other objectives: creating a Canadian shipbuilding industry and boosting the economy. To that end, nearly a decade after the strategy was launched, the auditor said the government did not know if the two shipyards in Halifax and Vancouver had even reached a state where they “met international ship-construction standards to enable efficient ship production.” Officials also had not assessed whether the shipyards — or even the government departments involved — had enough staff to implement the shipbuilding plan and deliver the new ships on schedule. “We noted instances where such staff shortages caused shipbuilding delays,” the auditor’s report says, adding the government only drew up a draft human-resources plan for the shipbuilding strategy in December 2019. Hogan’s report also catalogues some of the changes to the schedule and cost of the various individual projects in the plan, which is supposed to deliver dozens of new vessels over 30 years. That included several amendments to the contract with Seaspan Marine for three fisheries-science vessels for the coast guard, which saw the delivery schedule pushed back by two to three years. The report revealed the Vancouver shipyard “sustained significant financial losses” during the construction of those vessels, the last of which was delivered in October, due to a significant underestimation in the time and effort needed to build them. “This not only threatened the strategy’s overall objective of creating a sustainable marine industry,” the auditor general’s report says, “but also put the renewal of the federal fleet in peril.” Seaspan spokeswoman Amy McLeod suggested Thursday that the Vancouver shipyard had overcome those problems. “In very close collaboration with our government partners, Seaspan Shipyards and its (national shipbuilding strategy) ecosystem are firing on all cylinders and delivering ships, jobs and economic benefits across Canada.” Irving Shipbuilding did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Hogan also raised concerns about building a polar icebreaker to replace the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent. The new ship was pulled from Seaspan’s order book in 2019 and the government has not decided where it will be built. The auditor general did suggest departments have started to learn from some of their earlier mistakes and expressed a cautious hope those lessons would ease some of the problems. “But there was little room for further delay,” Hogan’s report says. “Delaying could result in a loss of capability to deliver essential government programs.” As an example, she noted that the last of the navy’s existing Halifax-class frigates is due to retire in 2047 — only one year before the last of 15 new warships is scheduled to arrive. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Ontario's explanation that ongoing tests are delaying the launch of its vaccine-booking web portal doesn't carry water for experts, who said Thursday that the province should have begun those trials months ago. The website – set to launch in mid-March when residents aged 80 and older can start getting vaccinated against COVID-19 – has already been piloted, but the government said it won't go live until the province is sure it can withstand the large volume of requests expected. Experts said, however, that the government should have been able to have the site up and running earlier. Similar sites are already up and running in provinces such as Quebec and Alberta, though the web portal for the latter crashed Wednesday when 150,000 people visited it at once. It's since been restored. Elsewhere, such as in Nova Scotia and British Columbia, the websites won't launch until March. Nancy Walton, a professor of nursing at Ryerson University with a specialization in mobile technologies, said Ontario has had plenty of time to plan its vaccine rollout and could have launched the web portal well in advance of the appointments that will be booked through it. "Rolling out that plan and setting up an online portal with a call centre ahead of time seems reasonable," she said. There are a number of things the government must take into account when building such a system, not the least of which is accessibility, she said. People who are not particularly tech savvy – including those who are older and didn't grow up around computers – should be able to navigate the system intuitively, she said, noting that could tack on time to the development process. Eyal de Lara, a professor of computer science at the University of Toronto, said the site also has to be accessible to people with disabilities – and specifically must work with screen readers used by people who are blind. That tends to be lower on the to-do list for private corporations building websites, rightly or wrongly, he said. The province's site also should be accessible to people who don't speak English or French as a first language, he noted. From a technical standpoint, he said, concerns about the site crashing are legitimate but can be dealt with. "It's not an impossible task, of course, but it is a complex task," de Lara said, pointing to initial problems with the Obamacare website launch in the U.S. as an example. That site wasn't engineered properly to be able to handle a huge influx of traffic, he said, making it impossible to use. Ontario is right to put time and effort into widescale testing of its web portal, though it could have started on that process sooner, he said. The province also has to make sure the site is incredibly secure, given the sensitive nature of health-care information, not to mention privacy laws. "It's a potential target for attacks, and actually doing a proper security review takes time," de Lara said. "This type of application is not something that you can just put together in a couple of weeks... It's clearly a task that will take several months to do." The head of the province's vaccine task force, retired general Rick Hillier, said his team is "furiously working" to test and refine the website so it can launch on March 15. Health Minister Christine Elliott said Thursday that the government wanted to ensure the system won't crash when it goes live. "We don't want to rush to failure," she said. Elliott also said it "will probably take another short while" to get vaccinations started for those aged 80 and older after they book their appointments through the portal as the province has to first vaccinate those in the highest-priority groups, such as long-term care. The province also plans to launch a phone line alongside its web portal in mid-March. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
REGINA — Saskatchewan's top doctor says the presence of more contagious variants makes testing even more important to stem the spread of COVID-19. Dr. Saqib Shahab says the province needs to keep its daily cases low and people must follow public-health advice to try to prevent more infectious variants from taking over. "We need to use testing more, even more now, because of the variants of concern," he said during a briefing Thursday. The province says thousands of rapid-testing kits from Ottawa will be deployed into long-term care homes, schools, detox facilities, shelters, as well as to first responders. The province is also looking to hire a third-party provider to help any groups that may be unable to use the kits themselves. Shahab says some people have delayed getting tested and gone to work with symptoms, which has led to outbreaks. Testing will help the province's caseload decrease because tests can help break chains of transmission, he said. Cory Neudorf, a public health and epidemiology professor at the University of Saskatchewan, said provinces are at a critical point in the pandemic. He said vaccine rollouts for the most vulnerable are in their early days and the risk is that variants could drive up spread before many older residents are immunized. Two weeks ago, the Saskatchewan Health Authority gave an update to physicians that included a discussion on community spread with some point-in-time modelling. A senior medical which warned that confirmed cases in the province could double to 50,000 by mid-April, if certain indicators didn't change, such as the reproductive figure for how many people one person with COVID-19 infects. The Saskatchewan Health Authority said Thursday that calculation was based on an earlier case count. It said as of Feb. 20, the reproductive figure has been below one. That means case growth is less than it was when the town hall estimate was given. “It’s a slightly less possibility than it was a few weeks ago, but it’s still possible that we would be seeing a resurgence by mid-April. Whether or not it gets to 50,000 cases, I don’t know," Neudorf said. Neudorf does point out that caseloads have begun to stabilize and drop in the past few weeks in parts of the province, including around Saskatoon and in the south. The province on Thursday reported 211 new infections after only 56 on Wednesday — the lowest count in months. The total number of confirmed cases since the pandemic took hold last March sits at slightly over 28,000. Shahab said it's a positive sign that pressure on the health system has dropped. There were 165 people in hospital and 18 in intensive care Thursday. But Saskatchewan, with a population of 1.1 million, still reports having the highest rate of active cases per capita in Canada. It also has two cases of the variant first identified in the United Kingdom with no known links to travel. Shahab has said this is the third week in some time in which seven-day averages of new daily cases are below 200. He also said the province's test positivity rate is about seven per cent, down from 10. Still, health officials say more testing is needed because it's higher than five per cent. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
VICTORIA — British Columbia's provincial health officer says the province isn't at a point where restrictions can be lifted due to concerns about the potential for rapid spread of COVID-19. Dr. Bonnie Henry says she understands the desire from B.C. residents to see restrictions lifted, such as the limit on social gatherings, but it can't happen yet. There are 395 more cases of COVID-19 and 10 new deaths. Henry says B.C. has seen its rolling seven-day average of cases rise, and there's potential to see rapid growth in the number of cases if residents "are not careful." On that front, B.C. is ramping its screening for variants of concern, with the aim to test 100 per cent of COVID-positive samples to see if they are likely variants that should be sent on for further testing. Henry also spoke of the challenges she's faced during the pandemic, including death threats and the impact they have had on her family and co-workers. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — Is it Mr. Potato Head or not? Hasbro created confusion Thursday when it announced that it would drop the “Mr.” from the brand’s name in order to be more inclusive and so all could feel “welcome in the Potato Head world.” It also said it would sell a new playset this fall without the Mr. and Mrs. designations that will let kids create their own type of potato families, including two moms or two dads. But in a tweet later that afternoon, Hasbro clarified that the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head characters will still live on and be sold in stores, but under the Potato Head brand. In a picture posted on Twitter, the “Mr.” and “Mrs.” names are less prominently displayed at the bottom of the box, instead of the top. “While it was announced today that the POTATO HEAD brand name & logo are dropping the ‘MR.’ I yam proud to confirm that MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD aren’t going anywhere and will remain MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD,” the company tweeted. The tweet came after news of the brand name change exploded on Twitter, with people asking if Barbie will change her name next. “I think Hasbro needs to drop the “Bro” and just be “Has,'” another person tweeted. Hasbro appears to want to have it both ways: expand the brand, while not killing off its most iconic characters, which appeared in the “Toy Story” films. “They are looking to broaden the franchise,” said Robert Passikoff, founder of marketing consultancy Brand Keys. “You take the focus of what is essentially one character and now allow it to be a platform for many characters.” Kimberly Boyd, a senior vice-president at Hasbro, said the intention of the brand name change was to be more inclusive and to have the characters still live within the Potato Head universe. “It created a lot of excitement," she said about the reaction. GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy group, applauded the more inclusive Potato playset. “Hasbro is helping kids to simply see toys as toys, which encourages them to be their authentic selves outside of the pressures of traditional gender norms,” said Rich Ferraro, GLAAD’s chief communications officer, in a statement. Many toymakers have been updating their classic brands in recent years, hoping to relate to today’s kids and reflect more modern families. “It’s a potato,” said Ali Mierzejewski, editor in chief at toy review site The Toy Insider, about the new playset. “But kids like to see themselves in the toys they are playing with.” Barbie, for example, has tried to shed its blonde image and now comes in multiple skin tones and body shapes. The Thomas the Tank Engine toy line added more girl characters. And American Girl is now selling a boy doll. Mr. Potato Head first hit the toy scene in 1952, when it didn’t even come with a plastic potato — kids had to supply their own vegetable to poke eyes, a nose or moustache into. Hasbro, which also makes Monopoly and My Little Pony, bought the brand and eventually added a plastic spud. Joseph Pisani, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Democratic-led House passed a bill Thursday that would enshrine LGBTQ protections in the nation's labour and civil rights laws, a top priority of President Joe Biden, though the legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate. The bill passed by a vote of 224-206 with three Republicans joining Democrats in voting yes. The Equality Act amends existing civil rights law to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identification as protected characteristics. The protections would extend to employment, housing, loan applications, education, public accommodations and other areas. Supporters say the law before the House on Thursday is long overdue and would ensure that every person is treated equally under the law. “The LGBT community has waited long enough," said Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., who is gay and the bill's lead sponsor. “The time has come to extend the blessings of liberty and equality to all of Americans regardless of who they are and who they love." Republicans broadly opposed the legislation. They echoed concerns from religious groups and social conservatives who worry the bill would force people to take actions that contradict their religious beliefs. They warned that faith-based adoption agencies seeking to place children with a married mother and father could be forced to close, or that private schools would have to hire staff whose conduct violates tenets of the school's faith. “This is unprecedented. It's dangerous. It's an attack on our first freedom, the first freedom listed in the Bill of Rights, religious liberty," said Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La. The House passed the Equality Act in the last Congress with unanimous Democratic support and the backing of eight Republicans, but Donald Trump's White House opposed the measure and it was not considered in the Senate, where 60 votes will be needed to overcome procedural hurdles. Democrats are trying to revive it now that they have control of Congress and the White House, but passage still appears unlikely in the evenly divided Senate. This time, Republican Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and John Katko and Tom Reed of New York sided with Democrats in voting for the bill. The Supreme Court provided the LGBTQ community with a resounding victory last year in a 6-3 ruling that said the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applied to LGBTQ workers when it comes to barring discrimination on the basis of sex. Civil rights groups have encouraged Congress to follow up that decision and ensure that anti-bias protections addressing such areas as housing, public accommodations and public services are applied in all 50 states. Biden made clear his support for the Equality Act in the lead-up to last year's election, saying it would be one of his first priorities. Democratic Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Penn., said the Equality Act is needed to end “the patchwork of state laws” around gay rights and create “uniform nationwide protection.” “It's been personal since my baby sister came out to me almost 40 years ago," Scanlon said. “For many people all across this country and across this House, that is when the fight hits home." The debate among lawmakers on Capitol Hill also become personal. Rep. Marie Newman, D-Ill., whose daughter is transgender, tweeted a video of herself placing a transgender flag outside her office. Her office is across the hall from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who was recently blocked from serving on two committees because of past comments and tweets. “Our neighbour, @RepMTG, tried to block the Equality Act because she believes prohibiting discrimination against trans Americans is “disgusting, immoral, and evil.” Thought we’d put up our Transgender flag so she can look at it every time she opens her door.," Newman tweeted. Greene responded with a video of her own in which she puts up a sign that reads: “There are Two genders: MALE and FEMALE. “Trust The Science!" “Our neighbour, @RepMarieNewman, wants to pass the so-called “Equality” Act to destroy women’s rights and religious freedoms. Thought we’d put up ours so she can look at it every time she opens her door," Greene tweeted. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., pointed to the exchange to advocate for the bill Thursday. “It breaks my heart that it is necessary, but the fact is, and in fact we had a sad event here even this morning, demonstrating the need for us to have respect," Pelosi said, at one point pausing and taking a deep sigh. “Not even just respect, but take pride, take pride in our LGBT community." Gay and lesbian members of Congress spoke about how meaningful the bill is for them. “Look, we're not asking for anything that any other American doesn't already enjoy," said Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H. “We just want to be treated the same. We just want politicians in Washington to catch up with the times and the Constitution." Leaders at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote lawmakers this week to say they had grave concerns about the bill. Among the concerns they raised is that the bill would expand the government's definition of public places, forcing church halls and equivalent facilities to host functions that violate their beliefs, which could lead to closing their doors to the broader community. Republicans cited an array of consequences they said could occur if the bill passed into law, from eliminating the existing ban on the use of government funds for abortion, to allowing transgender people into women's shelters and transgender youth into girls sports. Democrats likened the effort to past civil rights battles in the nation's history. Cicilline challenged Republicans, “I hope you will bear in mind how your vote will be remembered years from now." Some of the nation's largest corporations are part of a coalition in support of the legislation, including Apple Inc., AT&T, Chevron and 3M Co., just to name a few of the hundreds of companies that have endorsed it. After the vote advocacy groups weighed in, with the Human Rights Campaign describing the vote as “bringing us closer to ensuring that every person is treated equally under the law." Meanwhile, the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom called on the Senate to “reject this dangerous bill — for the good of all Americans.” Kevin Freking, The Associated Press
Keegan Messing headlines the Canadian team for next month's world figure skating championships in Stockholm. The worlds, March 22-28, cap a rocky season for Canadian skaters that saw both Skate Canada International and the national championships -- from which the world team normally would have been chosen -- cancelled due to COVID-19 protocols. Skate Canada Challenge was held as a virtual event last month. Messing was the only Canadian to compete on the Grand Prix circuit this season, winning bronze at Skate America in Las Vegas. Canada was only allotted one spot in men's singles at the worlds, which went to Messing. Madeline Schizas and Emily Bausback are the two women's singles entries. Canada has three ice dance teams in Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen and Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha. Canada also two pairs entries: Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro and Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud. Montreal was set to host last year's world figure skating championships but they were cancelled just days before they were set to start. The worlds were one of the first major international sports events cancelled amid the global pandemic. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
“We must do everything we can,” Dr. Shahab said, in trying to and make sure that transmissions of the variants of concern is minimalized. Two individuals in Regina who tested positive for the variant B117, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, could not be linked to any personal travel.As seen in other jurisdictions, the first cases of the new variants could all be linked to travel and then it shows up as community transmission. The presence of these variants is cause for concern, because they present as having a higher rate of transmission. Samples of tests from Regina are going to be sent off for further testing since Regina is presently seeing an uptick in cases while the rest of the province is trending downward. Dr. Shahab reiterated the importance of people staying home at the first sign of any symptoms and seek a test. More importantly perhaps, is to continue to stay home even if the test results are negative but symptoms continue. People need to not assume that they are free of the virus, a second test should be done to confirm that in cases where symptoms persist. SHA CEO, Scott Livingstone, admitted at the Thursday, February 25, 2021 press conference that the present system of contacting people is not effective. The lists that are being generated through eHealth and vital statistics are not necessarily finding all those individuals in the 70+ age group to put on the list in the first place and utilizing public health personnel to man the phones is not an effective use of manpower. The online appointment booking system and telephone call-in centre which were originally planned to be utilized once Phase 2 vaccinations began will now be utilized for those individuals 70 years of age and over and thereby reducing the stress and concern expressed by those who have not received a telephone call when there was a clinic in their vicinity. These should be up and running within roughly ten days. This will also serve as a bit of a trial run for the Phase 2 rollout. The limited amount of vaccine is also compounding the problems with the vaccine rollout. Dr. Shahab expressed the hope that once vaccine supplies become stabilized there will be a large uptake of the opportunity to be vaccinated and this will take the sharp edge off the pandemic. Those at high risk are still awaiting vaccination and therefore it remains crucial for the rest of the population to stay vigilant in mitigating the spread to protect them. It comes back again to testing. More people need to get tested sooner. Some people still appear to be waiting to get tested and this could get the province into a bad situation quickly with the variants of concern in the province. Last summer Premier Moe set a goal of 4000 COVID-19 tests being done every day, yesterday about 2100 were processed and about 3100 today. Also included in the announcements today was the distribution of 700,000 rapid point-of-care tests. Until now the Medical Laboratory Licensing Regulations required a laboratory license for any site collecting specimens or conducting testing. Health Minister Merriman stated earlier today that the Regulations have been amended to exempt point-of-care COVID-19 specimen collection and testing sites which now allows these so-called rapid tests to be used in more sites around the province. Merriman said, “We know that testing plays a crucial role in helping curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus and now with the variants of concern surfacing in our province it is more important than ever that testing is expanded to make it easier, quicker and more convenient to access.” The rapid tests will be available ambulance, fire, police, dental offices, schools, shelters, detox facilities, and group homes as well as at long-term and personal care homes and participating pharmacies. Scott Livingstone stated that since some of these may not have the capacity to use the tests on their own, the SHA and the Ministry of Health are working on a tendering process for third-party providers to deliver testing at these locations and ensure that training and support is in place to “use these testing resources to their full potential.” Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder
MONTREAL — As Quebec began booking appointments Thursday for its expanded COVID-19 vaccination campaign, the province's health minister said he's in favour of vaccine passports for those who have been fully inoculated. Christian Dube was asked at a news conference whether such passports could be used to allow access to entertainment venues or restaurants. He said yes, drawing a parallel to the time of the H1N1 flu when people were required to provide proof of vaccination before boarding flights. "We're in digital world, I do not see why we could not have a QR code, like on a boarding pass when we fly," Dube said. “For me, a digital vaccine passport is normal, and we have teams that are looking into it." He said he has heard from businesses that would like to be able to check for proof of vaccination before letting people in. The notion of vaccine passports has been debated around the world as vaccinations have increased, but it has also raised ethical issues about possible discrimination. Quebec solidaire member of the legislature Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois criticized Dube's response and urged the government to tread carefully. “The potentially discriminatory effects of a 'vaccination passport' are considerable," Nadeau-Dubois wrote on Twitter. "It's not just about taking a plane or dining out, serious questions arise about access to housing, the right to work, to name just these two examples.” Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec's director of public health, said he would not want such a passport to be seen as a free pass. “One of the dangers is that we say we’re vaccinated and we end up in a free-for-all,” Arruda said. "We know it'll protect you, it'll decrease your risk of complications, but it won't necessarily stop transmission to someone else." So far, only about four per cent of Quebecers have received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Dube said Moderna has confirmed a shipment for March and the province expects to receive 700,000 doses in total, so it will be able to begin providing second doses as of March 15, falling within the 90-day limit the government set out in January. Inoculation is set to ramp up next week with vaccinations for anyone 85 and up in the Montreal area beginning Monday and elsewhere on March 8. In the Montreal suburb of Laval, some people in the designated age group were already getting shots Thursday. Dube tweeted at the end of the day that close to 100,000 people had signed up for appointments on the first day, and he said there were just minor issues with the online platform and phone booking system. Also Thursday, Quebec announced it will require elementary school students in regions hardest hit by COVID-19 to wear masks when they return from next week's March break, as the cases of the more transmissible COVID-19 variants continue to rise. Across the province, the number of suspected cases of coronavirus variants jumped to 772, an increase of 170. The number of cases confirmed through sequencing increased to 34, including 30 of the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the United Kingdom. Arruda said that during the fall, outbreaks were seen mostly in high schools. But since Christmas more cases are being detected in primary schools. The Health Department said students in Grades 1 to 6 will wear pediatric procedural masks at all times inside classrooms and on school transport in Quebec's red pandemic-alert zones, which include Montreal and Quebec City. The new health orders comes into effect March 8, when students return from break. The province will be providing masks to the students, as it has done since Jan. 18 in high schools, where masks are mandatory. In elementary schools, only students in Grades 5 and 6 were previously required to wear masks in class. Health officials said certain students with special needs will be exempt from the new health order, and it won't apply when children are outside playing. On Wednesday, Montreal's public health director said 40 per cent of cases linked to variants in Montreal involve children, with another 20 per cent involving people in their mid-30s to mid-40s, believed to be parents of young children. As of Wednesday, there were 2,403 active cases in schools and 907 closed classrooms across the province due to COVID-19. Twelve schools were listed as closed or partially closed. Meanwhile, Quebec reported 858 new COVID-19 cases and 16 more deaths attributed to the virus. Hospitalizations declined by 22 to 633 and there were eight fewer patients listed in intensive care, for a total of 122. Quebec has reported 285,330 confirmed cases and 10,361 deaths attributed to the virus, with 266,879 people listed as recovered. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — A former Canadian soldier who killed three family members and himself in 2017 received sporadic mental health treatment immediately after he left the military in 2015, a fatality inquiry heard Thursday. The provincial inquiry in Nova Scotia learned the Canadian Armed Forces had arranged for therapy to continue for Lionel Desmond after he was medically discharged. But the lack of structure outside the military created new challenges for the mentally ill veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Psychologist Mathieu Murgatroyd, who worked at the Operational Stress Injury Clinic in Fredericton, was tasked with providing the former corporal with treatment from June 2015 to October 2016. The psychologist said there were problems from the start because Desmond, then 32, often cancelled appointments or didn't show up. Plans for therapy were derailed by the fact that Desmond spent much of his time travelling between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, where he was trying to re-establish a relationship with his wife, Shanna, and his young daughter, Aaliyah. "In terms of commitment and engagement, it was interfering with the therapy process," Murgatroyd testified. "We were concerned with this inconsistency." Murgatroyd said it was clear Desmond needed help. In 2011, while posted to Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick, Desmond was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression. That was four years after he served as a rifleman during a particularly violent tour of duty in Afghanistan. Earlier this week, mental health professionals contracted by the military told the inquiry that Desmond initially responded well to treatment, but that he suffered a relapse in May 2013 when military colleagues subjected him to racist comments about his African Nova Scotian heritage. Murgatroyd testified that Desmond appeared guarded and distant when they first met in June 2015 at the federally funded clinic, which receives referrals from the Department of National Defence, Veterans Affairs Canada and the RCMP. "Based on his presentation, the risk was more elevated in terms of spiralling down," Murgatroyd said. As well, he said Desmond made it clear his relationship with his wife, Shanna, was in turmoil. "There were moments when they seemed to be doing better, but for the most part, strained," he said, adding that Desmond had increased his alcohol consumption to deal with stress. Murgatroyd recalled that during their first treatment session, Desmond complained about nightmares, night sweats, daily intrusive thoughts, disturbed sleep, chronic pain and "homicidal thoughts without intent." "He hardly gets out of his house because of his paranoia," Murgatroyd noted after an early therapy session in 2015. Desmond said he had suffered a number of head injuries while serving in the military, and that he worried about a possible brain injury. The inquiry has heard the former corporal did not disclose this concern while he was in the military. Though Desmond was under Murgatroyd's care for 16 months, the psychologist said his therapeutic plan never got off the ground. "We were just putting out fires rather than working on any real intervention," he said. He said it appeared Desmond's source of psychological distress eventually shifted from his combat-related PTSD symptoms to an angry "fixation" with his wife's handling of their finances and concerns that she may be cheating on him. Murgatroyd said Desmond told him about gruesome nightmares he had that suggested his wife had been sleeping with another man, whose head was later found on the floor. The psychologist agreed when asked if Desmond's dreams were having an impact on his perception of reality. Murgatroyd said that helped explain why Desmond would later revoke his consent to allow the clinic to share information with his wife. Eventually, staff at the clinic decided therapy for Desmond wasn't an option until he was properly stabilized. They recommended he should take part in an intensive treatment program at Ste. Anne's hospital in Montreal, which has an in-patient operational stress injury clinic. By April 2016, Desmond had agreed to go to Ste. Anne's, having recognized that his relationship with his wife was deteriorating amid talk of divorce, Murgatroyd said. The following month, Desmond reached "an all-time low," Murgatroyd said, adding that his patient was distressed about the state of his finances and the idea his wife was manipulative and could not be trusted. "With things spiralling down, he was looking for help." Desmond arrived at St. Anne's on May 30, 2016, but he left less than three months into a six-month program, even though he had reported he was enjoying his stay there, Murgatroyd said. The inquiry has heard that Desmond returned home to Upper Big Tracadie, N.S., in August 2016. Evidence presented to the inquiry has shown Desmond received no therapeutic treatment for the next four months, even though Murgatroyd and Veterans Affairs Canada were making arrangements for treatment in Nova Scotia. Staff at Ste. Anne's had recommended Desmond receive an in-depth neuro-psychological assessment and more treatment, but that never happened. On Jan. 3, 2017, Desmond bought a semi-automatic rifle. Later that day, he fatally shot his 31-year-old wife, their 10-year-daughter and his 52-year-old mother, Brenda, before killing himself in the family's home. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. — By Michael MacDonald in Halifax The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Lawmakers pressed the acting U.S. Capitol Police chief Thursday to explain why the force wasn't prepared to fend off a violent mob of insurrectionists even though officials had compiled specific, compelling intelligence that extremists were likely to attack Congress and try to halt the certification of Donald Trump's election loss. Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman conceded there were multiple levels of failures that allowed hundreds of pro-Trump rioters to storm their way into the U.S. Capitol, overwhelming outnumbered officers and breaking through doors and windows. However, she denied that law enforcement failed to take seriously warnings of violence before the Jan. 6 insurrection. Three days before the riot, Capitol Police distributed an internal document warning that armed extremists were poised for violence and could invade Congress because they saw it as the last chance to overturn the election results, Pittman said. Her testimony drove home a seeming disconnect between the intelligence and the preparation. Lawmakers, who were witnesses and potential victims last month as well as investigators now, are trying to get answers to why this symbol of American democracy was overrun so quickly by a mob whose plans were online and known. Reports aside, the assault was much bigger than expected, Pittman said. “Although we knew the likelihood for violence by extremists, no credible threat indicated that tens of thousands would attack the U.S. Capitol, nor did the intelligence received from the FBI or any other law enforcement partner indicate such a threat,” she said. Later, under questioning by the House subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Tim Ryan, Pittman said that while there may have been thousands of people heading to the Capitol from a pro-Trump rally, about 800 people actually made their way into the building. Pittman's testimony provided the clearest and most detailed picture so far that Capitol Police were so concerned by the intelligence that they took extraordinary measures, including giving assault-style rifles to agents guarding congressional leaders and having other officers waiting with evacuation vehicles for top lawmakers to flee the Capitol, if needed. On Jan. 6, however, as the invaders wielded metal pipes, planks of wood, stun guns and bear spray, the vastly outnumbered rank-and-file officers inside the building were left to fend for themselves without proper communication or strong guidance from supervisors. The officers weren't sure when they could use deadly force, had failed to properly lock down the building and could be heard making frantic radio calls for backup as they were shoved to the ground and beaten by rioters, with some left bloodied. Five people died, including a Capitol Police officer and a woman that police shot. While Pittman said in her testimony that sergeants and lieutenants were supposed to pass on intelligence to the department’s rank and file, many officers have said they were given little or no information or training for what they would face. Four officers told The Associated Press shortly after the riot that they heard nothing from then-Chief Steven Sund, Pittman, or other top commanders as the building was breached. And officers were left in many cases to improvise or try to save colleagues facing peril. One officer said the department did not hold planning meetings with rank-and-file officers prior to Jan. 6 as it does with routine events like holiday concerts. The officer and others who spoke to AP were not authorized by the department to speak publicly and were granted anonymity. Thursday's hearing highlighted specific intelligence failures. Lawmakers focused not only on the Capitol Police force's own advance assessment of threats but on why senior department officials never reviewed a report from the FBI that warned about concerning online posts foreshadowing a “war” at the Capitol. That warning made its way to investigators within the police force and to the department's intelligence unit but was never forwarded up the chain of command, Pittman said. Even if it had reached the top officials, Pittman argued, Capitol Police wouldn't have done anything differently. Before she was named acting police chief — Sund, the former chief, resigned after the riot — Pittman was the assistant chief in charge of intelligence operations. “We do not believe that based on the information in that document, we would have changed our posture, per se," Pittman said. “The information that was shared was very similar to what U.S. Capitol Police already had, in terms of the militia groups, the white supremacist groups, as well as the extremists that were going to participate in acts of violence and potentially be armed on the campus.” Ryan, a Democrat from Ohio, said the internal report that the protests would be focused on the Capitol, and then the FBI memo firming that up “should have elevated the response, and it didn’t.” “And that’s where, you know, leaders get paid for judgment. And that was some bad judgment,” Ryan said. “And they also get paid to have nerve, and courage, to make the tough decisions when those tough decisions needed to be made.” The panel’s top Republican, Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler, said the top Capitol Police officials “either failed to take seriously the intelligence received or the intelligence failed to reach the right people.” The issue was also raised of whether police were hampered by a reluctance by higher-ups to call for National Guard troops to help. The police force is overseen by a separate body — the Capitol Police Board — which includes the sergeants at arms of both houses. Sund said at a separate hearing on Tuesday that then-House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving was concerned about the “optics” of the guard defending the Capitol, a contention Irving denied. In her testimony, Pittman denied that race played a role in the failure to heed warning signs. Images of white rioters moving unimpeded through the Capitol evoked comparisons to the far more heavy-handed response of law enforcement to Black Lives Matter protests and other marches and rallies. Pittman noted that she became the department’s first Black chief when she replaced Sund. Pittman is not only facing pressure from congressional leaders, but also faces internal criticism from her own officers, particularly after the Capitol Police union recently issued a vote of no confidence against her. Ryan stopped short of saying Pittman should be fired but said there are “some real questions about the decision making that was made.” He said there are “a lot of concerns” among Republicans and Democrats on the committee about her leadership and noted the lack of trust on her force. ___ Merchant reported from Houston. Michael Balsamo, Mary Clare Jalonick And Nomaan Merchant, The Associated Press
A new educational resource looks at British Columbia’s long history of racist policies and the resiliency of the many Indigenous, Black and racialized people who have been affected. The open-source booklet Challenging Racist British Columbia: 150 Years and Counting was released today by co-publishers the University of Victoria (UVic) and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). The 80-page document is being made available as Black History Month wraps up and as B.C. approaches its 150th anniversary of joining Canada this July 20. “In 1871, this province joined the Canadian federation and, ever since, communities of Indigenous, Black, and other racialized peoples have waged protracted struggles against the dispossession of Indigenous lands, institutionalized discrimination, and the politics of exclusion,” the report begins. “They have won many victories, yet, 150 years later, we are witnessing yet another uprising against systemic racism.” The booklet was written by a group of academics and activists from diverse communities, who link historical events to recent anti-racism movements — around Black Lives Matter, the Wet’suwet’en blockades and more. One of the report’s authors Christine O’Bonsawin, a historian from the Abenaki, Odanak Nation, says the goal of the report is to educate people in so-called B.C. about the many injustices that haven’t been widely discussed in schools. O’Bonsawin is faculty of UVic’s History and Indigenous Studies departments, and the university’s former director of Indigenous Studies. “An important role of historians is to connect the past with the present,” she tells IndigiNews over the phone. “No doubt it’s a booklet about justice, and it’s about racism and oppression, but we wanted to prioritize activism, resistance and resilience.” The booklet’s authors say it’s meant to be utilized by teachers, scholars, policymakers and others doing anti-racism work. O’Bonsawin says those behind the report are doing outreach to provincial education organizations to ensure that it does. “One of our guiding objectives was that we hoped this would be useful for teachers to support the K-12 Indigenization process,” she says. “We wanted to make sure this was a public document that was accessible to all.” The document is divided into six sections covering various stories from the Indigenous, Black, Chinese, South Asian and Japanese communities. It spans from 1871, when B.C. joined Canada, to the present day. It includes historical photos, poems, and profiles of key people and organizations. Another of the report’s authors Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra — coordinator of the South Asian Studies Institute at the University of the Fraser Valley and co-curator of exhibits at the Sikh Heritage Museum — says it counteracts inaccurate information about B.C. history. “This book offers a bold, honest, historical correction to the false narrative that Canada is exempt from white supremacy and racist nation state formations,” Sandhra says in a statement. “And for that reason, this book is the exact resource needed in this pivotal moment where an anti-racist movement continues to take shape. It is a resource for activists, students, educators, community professionals — it is a resource for all.” President of the BC Black History of Awareness Society, Sylvia Mangue Alene, says the booklet showcases how racism must be challenged. “In this booklet, subjects have answered in a very clear way what needs to be challenged, and that is racism,” she says in a statement. “Racism is challenged because we believe that there are better ways to treat people and that is with respect and inclusiveness in all aspects that life has to offer.” With B.C.’s 150th anniversary approaching, report co-author John Price, a historian at UVic, adds that it marks the ways in which activists and communities have been standing up to racism since the province’s formation. “Hopefully it serves as a wake-up call to governments that no longer should they engage in divide-and-rule policies. 150 years is long enough,” he says. The booklet’s other authors are Nicholas XEMŦOLTW̱ Claxton, Denise Fong, Fran Morrison and Maryka Omatsu. According to the resource website and accompanying press release, an interactive digital version of the resource “providing direct access to primary and community-based sources,” as well as an accompanying 20-minute video, will be released sometime this spring. Cara McKenna, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
NEW YORK — Christian Siriano opened his second show of the pandemic Thursday with two ladies in bed, models who emerged flawless in black one-pieces, then dressed for all to see before hitting the runway. It was a dreamy, colour-saturated show during a tough time for fashion inspiration, Siriano said. He created an alternate reality inspired by a recent jaunt to Aspen, Colorado, to visit family for the first time in a year. While most designers have gone fully digital during an expanded New York Fashion Week that has stretched the traditional calendar, Siriano remains committed to the runway. “If you take this away, and the glamour, then it's like I'm just at the office talking about money all day, and that's not what I want,” he told The Associated Press after the fall-winter show attended by about 75 in-person guests. “I wouldn't want to do this job if I couldn't have this world.” In this world, shared on Instagram Live, there were looks for hidden parties and cocktail hours in the Colorado mountains, and silky evening dresses in fuchsia and chartreuse. There were cutouts, and ruffles and lace for ombre and peekaboo impact. And there was Siriano muse Coca Rocha camping it up for the cameras in a voluminous black gown with a plunging neckline — after she woke up to start the show. Siriano included two thrifted pieces he previously designed and found on the site thredUP, including a black fringe coat he made about seven years ago. He was pleasantly surprised it held up, both esthetically and through its well-worn years. The other look was a plunging silk crepe dress in fuchsia washed many times. “You shouldn't do that because it's silk, but it looked so cool. It looked worn but new. Hopefully it will show people we can do this in fashion,” Siriano said of the growing reuse movement. He partnered with thredUP after creating the universal logo for thrift, in the shape of a coat hanger. As for his newly created clothes, there was an “homage to the lodge” in plaid lames and cashmeres, melting into sunset-drenched oranges and pinks inspired by his Colorado vacation. He threw in some creams in a snakeskin print and bright winter whites, including a white jacket worn with loose fuchsia trousers for day. Siriano carried his check lame print from a trouser set to a strapless cocktail gown to a loose, long-sleeve top with a plunge. There were psychedelic swirls of orange and brown in a pantsuit and an evening dress with a high slit. What if, heaven forbid, he's forced to design a third collection in a pandemic come the September show cycle, trying to wrangle staff working remotely while sourcing materials. “Honestly, I don't know," Siriano said, "because I love doing this but it's very hard to do in a pandemic. The logistics are a challenge, but we're just going to move on and hope for the best.” Leanne Italie, The Associated Press
(Al MacCormick/CBC - image credit) The classroom never looked so good, as COVID-weary students contemplate a return to in-person learning this fall at the University of Prince Edward Island. "I would definitely love that. I do prefer in-person classes more," said Vadya Singh, a third-year chemistry major. Singh was among the few and scattered students on campus Thursday. Mid-term exams now underway have turned the already quiet campus into an even emptier bastion of solitude during COVID-19 shutdown. "We did pretty good online learning. It was an adjustment for the COVID-19 but I would definitely love to go back to in-person," said Singh. 'A lot of hope' A ray of hope has arrived. University administrators announced Wednesday via email to students and staff that UPEI's fall academic semester will see a return to a "more normal academic experience with as much in-person, on-campus learning as possible." What that means come September, remains to be determined. "Those are questions we really don't have an answer to," said Kathy Gottschall-Pass, interim vice-president academic and research. "With what's been happening in the world with vaccines, we obviously have a lot of hope. When we think that there are variants out there that gives us less hope. "Our goal is to be somewhere between true, normal, the way the world used to be, and where we are right now." UPEI's interim vice-president academic and research, Kathy Gottschall-Pass, says it's important for the school to try and return to normal. Administrators have yet to pin down how large classes will be and how risk reduction strategies, including physical distancing and the wearing of masks, will be applied to the campus's widely divergent classrooms, lecture halls, seminar rooms and laboratories. Plans include a continuation of online learning for some courses, in-person classroom instruction for others, and "hybrid" combination of the two, as needed. But the push is on to get people back in the classroom. "The goal is to see where we can move," said Gottschall-Pass. "We know what normal has looked like in the past. We were always an in-person institution. So we know how to do that." 'Move in the right direction' UPEI's student union has raised concerns that students from off-Island will shoulder the cost and stress of being required to self-isolate for 14 days when they return to class in the fall. "It's a positive move in the right direction," said Malak Nassar, student union vice-president academic and external. "But we have huge concerns around students from off-Island." With help from the province, UPEI said it may put students up in residence rooms or in a local hotel, if required to self-isolate. "We'll take our guidance from public health as to what we need to do in order to keep our students safe," said Gottschall-Pass. UPEI's summer sessions will remain primarily online, the statement says. Universities across Atlantic Canada are looking at more in-person learning, according to the Gottschall-Pass. "Because things have been so much better here than in other parts of Canada, it's a little easier for us to be thinking more optimistically this fall." Holland College said its plans for the fall semester will be announced next week. 'In class is better' Outside the W.A. Murphy Student Centre on Thursday, two members of the UPEI Panthers men's basketball team were talking about what September might hold. "We're still here training and working hard for next year," said Kamari Scott. "Hopefully it'll be a season next year." "Being in class is better," said teammate Glen Cox. "You learn a lot more." The school's course catalogue for the fall semester will specify which courses are delivered in-person, online, or as a "hybrid" combination. New and first-year students are able to register for fall classes starting March 9. Returning students can register beginning June 1. More from CBC P.E.I.