Writer and director Noah Hutton created a special handbook to create an equitable and compassionate work experience for cast and crew of his film "Lapsis." (Feb.18)
Writer and director Noah Hutton created a special handbook to create an equitable and compassionate work experience for cast and crew of his film "Lapsis." (Feb.18)
LONDON — Buckingham Palace said Wednesday it was launching an investigation after a newspaper reported that a former aide had made a bullying allegation against the Duchess of Sussex. The Times of London reported allegations that the duchess drove out two personal assistants and left staff feeling “humiliated.” It said an official complaint was made by Jason Knauf, then the communications secretary to Meghan and her husband, Prince Harry. He now works for Harry’s elder brother, Prince William. The palace said it was “clearly very concerned” about the allegations. It said in a statement that the palace human resources team “will look into the circumstances outlined in the article” and would seek to speak to current and former staff. “The Royal Household has had a Dignity at Work policy in place for a number of years and does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace,” it said. American actress Meghan Markle, a former star of the TV legal drama “Suits,” married Harry, a grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Their son, Archie, was born the following year. In early 2020, Meghan and Harry announced they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said were the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. They recently bought a house in Santa Barbara, California, and are expecting a second child. The bullying allegations were reported four days before the scheduled broadcast of an Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan, which is anticipated to draw a huge audience. It also comes less than two weeks after the palace announced that the couple’s split from official duties would be final. A spokesman for the duchess said she was “saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma.” In a 30-second clip released by CBS Wednesday night, Winfrey asks Meghan how she feels about the palace “hearing you speak your truth today?” “I don't know how they could expect that after all of this time we would still just be silent if there was an active role that the firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us,” Markle says. “And if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, there's been a lot that's been lost already.” The Associated Press
By the end of March, Indigenous Services Canada should have received a letter from Sawridge affiliate members (SAM) requesting a new band be created for them. They “would like to split away” from the Sawridge Indian Band (SIB). Ceno Loyie-Clark, who is leading the charge, says SAM have never been allowed full membership in SIB. “I’ve been standing on the gate for 30 years,” said Loyie-Clark. “There’s 475 of us on the edge. None of us have ever lived there.” Loyie-Clark, like the others, are registered Indians affiliated with the Sawridge First Nation located in northern Alberta, but they are not included on SIB’s membership list. SIB has about 45 members. Membership in SIB became an issue back in 1985 when Bill C-31 was passed. That bill amended the Indian Act to, among other things, allow the status of Indian women, and that of their children, to be reinstated after it was lost when marrying non-Indian men. At that time, then-chief Walter Twinn had built a band-owned business empire as a result of oil and gas discovered on Sawridge land. Two trust funds were created to control the band’s income and two days before Bill C-31 was passed, Twinn locked the band’s assets in those trust funds. Court documents in 2019 estimated those funds to be in excess of $140 million. In numerous court cases since 1985, Twinn and SIB argued they were not opposed to the women and their children regaining Indian status, but that they would not be told by the government who was a member of their band. To that end, SIB used Sect. 10 of the Indian Act, which states “a band may assume control of its own membership if it establishes membership rules…” to create its membership list. It’s the same argument SIB has used to exclude people who received Indian status under Bill S-3. That amendment to the Indian Act addressed the inequities of how Indian status is passed on, or not passed on, to cousins in the same family or to children born out of wedlock to Indian women. With SIB determining its own membership criteria, Loyie-Clark says his hand was forced. Despite his mother being a first cousin to Walter Twinn, Loyie-Clark is still not a full member of the band. Although he admits, he was “never that stupid” to try and get his band membership. To become a member is a lengthy, impossible process, he says, which involves “knowing who lived in your home when you were a baby,” and includes other detailed information like employment, medical and legal histories. “The government allowed (SIB) to set up the racist band application process that goes against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the government has allowed this to go on for 35 years,” he said. Since SIB won’t accept the affiliate members as full members, Loyie-Clark says more than 70 SAMs will be asking ISC to utilize Sect. 17 of the Indian Act, which allows the minister to constitute new bands “from existing Band Lists, or from the Indian Register, if requested to do so by persons proposing to form the new bands.” “The minister may let us have some of the land (on Sawridge First Nation) because there’s two chunks of land that nobody’s living on, but we’re never going to get any of the money,” said Loyie-Clark. “We’re not going to ask for any of the money or for land. There’s enough land in northern Alberta.” It’s Loyie-Clark’s intention to implement an Indigenous lease transformation program that he designed “for me and my cousins” that makes use of depleted oilfield leases. Loyie-Clark says the timing is right for such a venture. Last year the federal government committed $1.7 billion to Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan for orphan well clean up and site reclamation. As far as Loyie-Clark is concerned, these sites don’t belong to any existing band as part of any traditional territory. However, Sect. 17 of the Indian Act states, “Where … a new band has been established from an existing band or any part thereof, such portion of the reserve lands and funds of the existing band as the Minister determines shall be held for the use and benefit of the new band.” “They would have to carve out space for themselves within the confines of that piece of land. That’s the only jurisdiction the federal minister has. Otherwise the province of Alberta has jurisdiction over the land outside the reserve,” said Rob Louie, who at the request of Loyie-Clark is supporting SAM’s endeavours. Louie is president of Band Members Alliance and Advocacy Association of Canada (BMAAAC), a newly created organization that offers its services free of charge to band members who have concerns about alleged unethical behaviour of leadership. “The affiliate members do not need legal representation to form their own band as this is a political matter that will be resolved in the political arena,” said Louie. However, BMAAAC is supporting SAM’s efforts with legal research and Louie will be setting up Zoom calls for tripartite negotiations between SAM, the federal government, and SIB. “We are throwing our full support behind those 400-plus affiliate Sawridge members so that they, too, may form their own band and become masters in their own house. Currently, they are living in a two-tier membership system: have and have-not. And the 400-plus affiliate members of Sawridge have not seen any benefit, whereas 42 regular members have,” said Louie. Should SAM be successful in forming its own band, benefits will include core funding from Indigenous Services Canada and eligibility for grants other First Nations have access to, including money for coronavirus pandemic measures, says Louie. The best case scenario would see negotiations taking one to two years, he adds. “Because we’re not dealing with a lot of people and because the terms and conditions of the new band aren’t that onerous—basically they’re just saying we want a clean break—there’ll just be an issue about the amount of land, the quantity of the property of reserve land that would form under the new band,” said Louie. The process will only be completed once a vote is held and the majority agrees to the separation terms. That is not something current Sawridge Chief Roland Twinn anticipates happening, “because you have to give up a part of your reserve.” “I don’t know what the Indian Act says about (the vote) because there is clearly a difference between membership and affiliation and when it comes to referendums it’s the membership not the affiliation that votes on referendums, as I understand it,” said Twinn. Twinn says membership sits at around 45 and “it’s been a couple of years” since a member was accepted. In information on the five steps of forming a band, as outlined on the ISC website, it is noted “most new bands have come into being from a band division. Some have involved both status and non-status Indians, following the general rule that registered members are the majority.” Twinn told Windspeaker.com that he was unaware of SAM’s intention to approach ISC to create a new band. Louie says Twinn has not yet been officially notified. However, Loyie-Clark says he has been talking “unofficially” about his plan to people living on reserve “because they’re all my cousins.” Loyie-Clark says he is initiating this action now as a form of reconciliation and “repairing the relationship.” It’s something he would like to see be done “pleasantly.” “It’s terribly unjust what’s going on…so let’s do this peacefully. Otherwise we’re going to be fighting… At the end we may end up with absolutely nothing and we don’ have a (First Nation) …. This is supposed to be for the future generations not just us,” said Loyie-Clark. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
A transport truck contracted by Canada Post to carry mail and parcels caught fire Monday morning, just after midnight, in Smiths Falls, the Crown corporation confirmed. A spokesperson from Canada Post said the truck caught fire at the post office on Church Street. Nobody was injured, but most of the truck and its contents were destroyed. Smiths Falls Fire Prevention Officer Lieutenant Randy Normandin said the blaze started at 12:38 a.m. Monday. The fire department responded with eight men and one truck. Part of the reason there was only one truck is the post office is across the street from the firehall, Normandin said. An investigation is underway into the cause of the incident. Customers are being notified by letter of the incident. Any customer who believes they have not received mail are asked to contact the sender. Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is again being accused of discrimination in how it treats migrant farm workers. Haldimand-Norfolk is already infamous in farming circles as the only jurisdiction to put a cap on how many offshore workers can quarantine together in a bunkhouse, a controversial policy upheld after a lengthy court battle last year. Now medical officer of health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai has decreed that newly arrived farm workers self-isolating in hotels cannot leave their rooms. While federal rules allow “limited and monitored outdoor time” for returning Canadian travellers staying at isolation hotels, the latest directive from the health unit confines migrant workers to their rooms for their entire 14-day quarantine. “I think any time people are treated differently than a Canadian, that’s discrimination,” said Leanne Arnal, a farm worker advocate and member of the Norfolk Seasonal Agricultural Workers Community Committee. “If we were to lock a dog in a room for 14 days — I don’t care how nice the room is — you’re going to have the police there. You’re going to have a community of upset people. So why are we keeping the farm workers in there for 14 days? Even criminals can go outside and get a fresh air break.” Nesathurai defended the new restriction as necessary to contain the more contagious variants of COVID-19. “This past summer, an outbreak among Haldimand-Norfolk’s migrant worker community led to hundreds of infected individuals, multiple hospitalizations, and a death. The Haldimand-Norfolk experience shows that some workers arrive in Canada carrying COVID-19, and this can have deadly consequences,” he said. “The risk is not theoretical. We’re trying to keep as many people safe as possible, given the resources that we have.” Nesathurai said the policy also protects other hotel guests and staff, and farm workers can take smoke breaks or get fresh air on their balcony, “if available.” Not every room has a balcony, Arnal noted, adding that all workers are tested for COVID-19 before leaving their home countries. Norfolk County Mayor Kristal Chopp said she was “perplexed” by the new rule. “As chair of the board of health, I have consistently supported Dr. Nesathurai, even when there were rules I didn’t agree with. He’s a medical professional and I am not,” Chopp said. “However, when I see rules that now are not treating the migrant workers the same as Canadians, I do start to question that, when Canadians themselves are entitled to be able to get some fresh air while they’re in quarantine.” Kevin Daniel from Trinidad and Tobago, who works at a farm in Simcoe, said he “strongly believes” the new rule discriminates against migrant workers, who cannot protest the conditions set out by the health unit due to their precarious employment status. “What they tell us to do, we have to comply with it,” he said. Daniel will be spared another quarantine because he remained in Simcoe over the winter after being unable to fly home thanks to border restrictions. But he said he is still feeling the debilitating mental effects of spending two weeks in a hotel room after a COVID-19 outbreak at his farm last November. “It was very terrible, the experience I had being locked up those 14 days,” said Daniel, who said he continues to suffer from insomnia. “I experienced it in the quarantine, and when I came out, I would be up until 3, 4 o’clock in the morning. It’s a consistent problem that I have,” he said. Daniel said allowing workers daily outdoor exercise would not alleviate the anxiety of quarantine, but it would help. Arnal helped Daniel’s employer manage that quarantine. She proposed having workers use a dedicated stairwell to safely spend time outdoors in a secluded yard. “(Nesathurai) said ‘absolutely not,’ with no reason for it,” Arnal said. “Using the variants as an excuse right now — what was his excuse in November, when there were no variants?” Nesathurai contends the health unit does not have enough staff to monitor workers’ outdoor breaks, but Chopp said the farmers themselves would pay for supervision. According to Nesathurai, the health unit has asked Ottawa “numerous times” to take over the migrant worker self-isolation program, most recently in a March 1 letter in which he warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that federal inaction would “likely contribute to more workers becoming infected.” Arnal sees this rule as the latest in a string of questionable health unit decisions — such as issuing ID cards she considered “racial profiling” — that demonize farm workers, who she said spend most of the year in Canada and make an incalculable contribution to the national food supply and local economy. “They are not a risk, they are at risk, just like the rest of us,” she said. J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
The top public health officials in Southwestern Ontario pulled in hundreds of thousands in overtime pay last year for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. At least two of the region’s medical officers of health received more than $100,000 each in overtime, including Middlesex-London’s top public health doctor, Chris Mackie, and Haldimand-Norfolk’s Shanker Nesathurai. The overtime pay is part of a provincial program to compensate local health units for extraordinary expenses incurred relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It was one of the initiatives set up by the province to recognize some of the frontline healthcare workers,” said London city councillor Maureen Cassidy, who chairs the Middlesex-London board of health. “They’ve asked us to keep a tally of all the overtime hours and the dollars for every one of our employees who have worked overtime directly related to the COVID-19 response," she said. Between March 22 and Nov. 14 of last year, the health unit had 47 staff log overtime ranging from 44 to 716 hours. The global pandemic was declared in mid-March. Mackie, the London area's medical officer of health, logged 611 overtime hours during that period, earning a payout of $100,072. His base salary in 2019 was $300,000. “That reflects the leader of an organization that has gone from five days a week, 8:30 to 4:30, to seven days a week, 8:30 until some days, 10 at night,” Cassidy said about the overtime pay. The total staff overtime spending at the Middlesex-London Health Unit was $730,000. Cassidy said public health staff are making “incredible sacrifices” in their personal lives while battling the pandemic. As Haldimand-Norfolk’s medical officer of health, Nesathurai logged 1,100 overtime hours, worth $160,000, on top of a base salary of $240,000. Joyce Lock, the medical officer of health for Oxford and Elgin counties, received just more than $62,000 in overtime pay “for hours worked over and above the regular schedule as well as unused vacation,” according to Larry Martin, Southwestern Public Health’s board chairperson. “The Ministry of Health has provided provincial health units with clear guidelines for allowable COVID-19 expenditures eligible for reimbursement,” Martin said in a statement. “(Lock’s) employment contract . . . allows for overtime payments in specific circumstances – such as those that have unfolded over the course of what is now a year-long pandemic response.” Lock’s salary in 2019 was $288,000. The base salaries of medical officers of health are paid by local health boards based on member municipalities' professional salary scale and benefits policies. Whether an individual medical officer of health is eligible for overtime pay, and how they're compensated, depends on each board’s contract and municipal policies. In Ontario, overtime is paid at 1.5 times the regular pay rate. Most managers and supervisors, usually paid a salary rather than by the hour, aren't typically paid overtime. “In September 2020, public health units were provided with an opportunity to request additional one-time funding from the ministry for COVID-19 extraordinary costs incurred,” Anna Miller, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, said in an email. “Examples of eligible COVID-19 extraordinary costs included overtime for staff if local board of health policies related to overtime allowed for this.” Meanwhile, Lambton’s medical officer of health, Sudit Ranade, did not receive any overtime pay as the County of Lambton’s overtime policy sees employees take time off in lieu. Shari Sterling, executive assistant for Lambton County’s public health services, said Ranade has “some banked hours” but did not specify how many. Lambton submitted $848,429 to the province for reimbursement for COVID-19 extraordinary costs, including staff salaries, accommodation, supplies, equipment and communications. Health units in Huron-Perth, Chatham-Kent, Windsor-Essex and Grey-Bruce did not immediately respond to Free Press requests about overtime expenses during the pandemic for medical officers of health and other staff. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation slammed the overtime pay. “Ontarians hand over nearly half – 45 per cent – of their household income to governments every year in taxes, yet we're still a province struggling with hallway healthcare and chronic problems in long-term care,” said Jasmine Moulton, the federation’s Ontario director. “Then you see governments handing out six-figure top-ups and seven-figure severances to top health officials, and you start to see where the problem truly lies." Moulton said 355,300 Ontarians lost their jobs last year amid the pandemic. “This story is further proof that we're not all in this together." email@example.com Twitter.com/MaxatLFPress Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
B.C. municipalities are pushing the federal and provincial governments for better flood-control infrastructure that doesn’t damage fish habitat or restrict access to recreational sites. In a Feb. 19 vote, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities executive endorsed resolution NR16, Flood Risk Mitigation Through Green Infrastructure and Natural Assets, which calls for the restoration and protection of salmon habitat compromised by outdated flood control systems. The resolution notes the side channels, tributaries and sloughs of B.C.’s large rivers hold deep value to First Nations, in addition to providing exceptional recreational fishing, boating and swimming sites that may no longer be safe or accessible. Submitted by the Lower Mainland Local Government Association, the resolution specifically asks the two higher levels of government to fund and incorporate nature-based solutions for effective flood management while still maintaining the recreational, cultural and ecological benefits of these sites. The non-profit Watershed Watch Salmon Society campaigned heavily in favour of the resolution. They released a statement calling the resolution’s potential impact a win-win-win for B.C. salmon, local jobs and flood mitigation. “This decision helps hold the province accountable on this issue,” the statement reads. “Last summer, the Select Standing Committee on Finance recommended fish considerations when upgrading for floods as part of the province’s 2021 budget. This UBCM vote demonstrates the growing concern of British Columbians for struggling wild Pacific salmon and underlines the Province’s responsibility to invest in flood solutions that consider fish and their habitats.” The resolution will now be sent to the governments for their response. Resolution NR16 builds on a resolution passed in 2018, Resolution B119 – Upgrade Flood Infrastructure to Consider Fish and Access to Fish Habitat. The UBCM executive cast their votes Feb. 19 in a special session to address remaining resolutions from the September AGM, held virtually due to the pandemic. Quinn Bender, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Rupert Northern View
TORONTO — Ontario will extend the interval between doses of COVID-19 vaccines to up to four months after a national panel recommended doing so, paving the way for an acceleration of the province's immunization effort. A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province welcomed the updated guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization released late Wednesday afternoon. The recommendation came two days after Ontario sought advice on dosing intervals in an effort to speed up its rollout, which has been criticized for being slow. "This will allow Ontario to rapidly accelerate its vaccine rollout and get as many vaccines into arms as quickly as possible and, in doing so, provide more protection to more people," Alexandra Hilkene said in a statement. The province said it will soon share details on an updated vaccine plan that accounts for the new dosing recommendation as well as expected supply of the recently approved Oxford-AstraZeneca shots. Earlier Wednesday, Ontario said it plans to administer the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to residents aged 60 to 64. Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said the targeted use of the vaccine will help cut illness and death across Ontario. "We know that from age 60 and up there are, unfortunately, more hospitalizations when someone gets COVID," she said. "By focusing in on those parts of our population that are more vulnerable, what we ended up actually doing is tamping down and curbing transmission." Jones said the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot will not be administered through mass immunization clinics but through a "different pathway," although she did not elaborate on what that would be. Ontario said earlier this week that it was following the advice of the national vaccine panel that recommended against using the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot on people aged 65 and older due to limited data on its effectiveness in seniors. Jones also said the government has signed an agreement with the province's pharmacists' association to have COVID-19 shots administered in pharmacies in the coming months. Ontario has so far focused on vaccinating the highest-priority groups, including long-term care residents and certain health-care workers. The province has said it aims to start vaccinating residents aged 80 and older starting the third week of March, though the timeline is subject to change. Some public health units, however, have moved ahead with vaccinations for the general population, starting with people aged 80 and older. Those units are taking bookings for immunizations through their own web or phone systems as a provincial portal remains under development. Ontario has administered a total of 754,419 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine so far. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Wednesday that the government should follow the advice of its science table which said last week that thousands of cases could be prevented if the vaccine rollout was based on neighbourhood as well as age. "It just seems logical to me that there's an opportunity there when it comes to AstraZeneca," she said. Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said the government must clearly communicate its updated plan soon. "I'm just pleading with the government, if you want public confidence, then give us a clear transparent plan," he said. "Let us know that there might be adjustments, I think the public is going to understand that." The province reported 958 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and 17 more deaths from the virus. There are 668 people currently hospitalized, including 274 people in intensive care and 188 on ventilators. Meanwhile, Ontario is expected to determine later this week if a number of COVID-19 hot spot regions will move back to its pandemic restrictions framework. Toronto, Peel, and North Bay remain under strict stay-at-home orders that are set to expire Monday. The top doctors in Toronto and Peel both said Wednesday that they want their regions to re-enter the framework next week in the strictest "grey lockdown" category. Toronto's medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen De Villa, said lifting the order is reasonable but precautions still must be taken. She says moving to the grey category, which allows retailers to open at 25 per cent capacity, is better than placing the city in the second-strictest red category, which allows indoor restaurant dining and personal care services. Peel's medical officer of health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, said positive trends are reversing due to a growing number of virus variant cases and he’s recommending a return to the grey-lockdown zone to preserve the progress that has been made. “This does permit a gradual reopening of certain sectors in our community,” Loh said. “I know it may be hard to hear for some, but our indicators still remain somewhat precarious and it makes it difficult to recommend any other level.” -with files from Holly McKenzie-Sutter and Denise Paglinawan. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press
JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi’s largest city is still struggling with water problems more than two weeks after winter storms and freezing weather ravaged the system in Jackson, knocking out water for drinking and making it impossible for many to even flush their toilets. Residents in the city of 160,000 are still being warned to boil any water that does come out of the faucets. “I pray it comes back on,” Jackson resident Nita Smith said. “I’m not sure how much more of this we can take.” Smith has had no water at home for nearly three weeks. Smith is concerned about her mother who has diabetes. Her mother and most of the other older people on her street don’t drive, so Smith has been helping them get water to clean themselves and flush their toilets. A key focus of city crews is filling the system's water tanks to an optimal level. But, public works director Charles Williams said Wednesday that fish, tree limbs and other debris have clogged screens where water moves from a reservoir into a treatment plant. That caused pressure to drop for the entire water system. “Today was not a good day for us,” Williams said. He said about a fourth of Jackson's customers remained without running water. That is more than 10,000 connections, with most serving multiple people. City officials on Wednesday continued distributing water for flushing toilets at several pick-up points. But they're giving no specific timeline for resolving problems. Workers continue to fix dozens of water main breaks and leaks. The crisis has taken a toll on businesses. Jeff Good is co-owner of three Jackson restaurants, and two of them remained closed Wednesday. In a Facebook update, Good said the businesses have insurance, but he’s concerned about his employees. “We will not be financially ruined,” Good wrote. “The spirits of our team members are my biggest concern. A true malaise and depression is setting in." Mississippi's capital city is not alone in water problems. More than two weeks have passed since the cold wave shut down the main power grid in Texas, leaving millions in freezing homes, causing about 50 deaths and disabling thousands of public water systems serving those millions. Four public water systems in Texas remained out of commission Wednesday, affecting 456 customers, and 225 systems still have 135,299 customers boiling their tap water, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Also, 208 of the state’s 254 counties are still reporting public water system issues. Bonnie Bishop, 68, and her husband, Mike, 63, have been without water at their Jackson home for 14 days. Both have health problems. She's recovering after months in the hospital with the coronavirus. She's home but still in therapy to learn how to walk again and deals with neuropathy in her hands and feet. She has not been able to soak her feet in warm water, something that usually provides relief for the neuropathy, or to help her husband gather water to boil for cooking for cleaning. Mike Bishop just had elbow surgery. The first week the couple was without water, he still had staples in his arm and was hauling 5-gallon containers from his truck, his wife said. Bonnie Bishop said she told him not to strain himself, but he wouldn’t listen. They feel they have no choice. On Monday, the couple drove 25 miles (40 kilometres) to Mike’s mother’s house to do laundry. Jackson's water system has not been able to provide a sustainable flow of water throughout the city since the mid-February storms, city officials say. The system “basically crashed like a computer and now we’re trying to rebuild it,” Williams said at a recent briefing. The city's water mains are more than a century old, and its infrastructure needs went unaddressed for decades, Democratic Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has said. “We more than likely have more than a $2 billion issue with our infrastructure,” he said. Jackson voters in 2014 approved a 1-cent local sales tax to pay for improvements to roads and water and sewer systems. On Tuesday, the city council voted to seek legislative approval for another election to double that local tax to 2 cents a dollar. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves would have to agree to letting Jackson have the tax election. “I do think it’s really important that the city of Jackson start collecting their water bill payments before they start going and asking everyone else to pony up more money,” Reeves said Tuesday. Jackson has had problems for years with its water billing system and with the quality of water. Melanie Deaver Hanlin, who was without water for 14 days, has been flushing toilets with pool water and showering at friends’ homes. She said Jackson’s water system “needs to be fixed, not patched.” “That’s the issue now — poor maintenance for far too long," Hanlin said. "And Jackson residents are paying the price.” ___ Associated Press writer Terry Wallace contributed from Dallas. Martin reported from Marietta, Georgia. Jeff Martin, Leah Willingham And Emily Wagster Pettus, The Associated Press
Pembroke -- Three new cases of COVID-19 in Renfrew County and district were confirmed on Tuesday, bringing the total of confirmed cases since the pandemic began to 349. The Renfrew County District Health Unit (RCDHU) reported on Monday two individuals were in hospital in intensive care and another individual was in hospital. At that point 29 people were in isolation with confirmed cases of the virus. Last week Dr. Robert Cushman, acting medical officer of health for the RCDHU, issued a stern warning to county residents following a large number of cases identified in the Arnprior and McNab-Braeside area after a gathering in the community which saw a large number of people infected and several businesses affected. “RCD has been classified as a Green Zone for weeks now, which will likely change if cases continue to rise,” he warned. “Businesses are finally getting the chance to open again, to employ their workers, and to serve their customers delayed needs. The last thing we want to do is to jeopardize our status and clamp down yet again on the economy, or possibly implement more stringent rules in the Arnprior area.” Last Friday, the RCDHU confirmed nineindividuals that reside in the Town of Arnprior and five that reside in the Township of McNab-Braeside tested positive for COVID-19 in a period of a week. The health unit noted there were 37 high-risk contacts and six local businesses affected. According to the health unit, many of these cases attended the same social gathering, and several others are considered close contacts of those that attended the gathering. RCDHU has directed all persons and business impacted to self-monitor and/or self-isolate until exposure and risks have been assessed by the contact tracing team at RCDHU. “This will continue to be followed by further testing and investigation, which could lead to more cases over the coming days,” Dr. Cushman said. The health unit was supported by the mayors of the affected communities in asking for continued vigilance and adherence of COVID protocols among area residents. “I really encourage the residents of Arnprior to take this virus seriously and not let your guard down,” Arnprior Mayor Walter Stack said. His comments were echoed by Mayor Tom Peckett of McNab/Braeside. “With the new variants of concern spreading in other regions across Ontario, we want to ensure that we are taking all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep our community, family and friends safe,” he said. The county currently has one long-term care home in outbreak. Miramichi Lodge in Pembroke has seen three confirmed cases of the virus. The health unit has completed 65,633 tests since the pandemic began and although almost 350 cases have been identified so far there have been zero of the more contagious variants identified in the county and district. COVID testing continues in the county with tests on Thursday in Laurentian Valley, Cobden and Deep River. Friday tests are being done in Arnprior, Horton and Barry’s Bay. Testing is done by appointment and anyone needing a test must call RCVTAC at 1-844-727-6404 to schedule a testing time. Those requiring a test are reminded to wear a face mask or covering, arrive at their scheduled time and bring their health card and proof of address. Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader
WHITEHORSE — Yukon's premier says COVID-19 vaccine uptake has been "fantastic" as just over half the territory's residents have received their first dose, but he's concerned about rising numbers of variants elsewhere in Canada.Sandy Silver says the territory is focusing on meeting its goal of vaccinating 75 per cent of the population to reach herd immunity before lifting current restrictions despite zero cases in Yukon. He says a clinic for everyone aged 18 and over opened in Whitehorse this week and mobile clinics are returning to smaller communities to provide second shots to people over 60.Silver says as of Monday, 11,503 Yukon residents had received their first shot while second shots were administered to about half that number.He joined chief medical health officer Dr. Brendan Hanley in saying numbers on vaccine uptake would not be provided for specific areas to prevent pitting communities against each other.Hanley is urging residents to continue taking all precautions as clinics go "full tilt" in the territory. "If cases, and particularly variants, lead to increased COVID our risk of importing variants will go up day by day," he says.Seventy-one Yukoners have recovered from the illness and one person has died since the pandemic began.Hanley, who received his shot on Wednesday, says 850 people were immunized in the mass clinic on Tuesday. Yukon and other territories have received a higher allocation of vaccine doses because remote areas have limited access to specialized care."While we recognize that immunizing the territories is the right thing to do for Canada this incredible opportunity should provide us with extra motivation to step up and get a vaccine," Hanley says.However, he says "vaccine hesitancy is a reality" and it will be important to address people's questions so they're comfortable being immunized in order to protect everyone.Hanley says despite four weeks without any active cases, the restrictions will remain because the territory is in a "nebulous" time and on guard against variants."This is a huge consideration for us because regardless of whether we have zero or 10 cases right now we are always managing risk of importation," he says."Vaccine uptake is so critical to getting to a place where we can be much more confident about being able to propose a solid framework for opening up."This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio — At the beginning of 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was working on plans to battle algae blooms in Lake Erie, crack down on distracted driving, and figure out a way to save an Ohio minor league baseball team. The largely popular first-term Republican governor accepted an invitation to give the commencement address at Miami University in May. The 2022 election was a long way off, but some Democrats were already exploring challenges to DeWine. Then came the first week of March, and with it a decision by DeWine that set the stage for a year of politics that today seems like something viewed from the other side of Alice in Wonderland's looking glass. On March 3, without a single reported COVID-19 case in the state, DeWine laid down strict attendance limits on the annual Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, a supersized gathering founded three decades ago by Arnold Schwarzenegger that typically brings 20,000 athletes from 80 countries to compete in events including professional bodybuilding and a strongman competition. Annual economic impact on the city: more than $50 million. “That was really, at least for me, the beginning of the pandemic,” DeWine said earlier this week, adding: “It’s hard to believe that it’s been an entire year.” Nine days later, with the virus spreading rapidly elsewhere but with just five confirmed virus cases in Ohio, DeWine ordered schools closed for three weeks, becoming the first governor nationally to make such a move. The closing of gyms and theatres followed shortly, and then statewide stay-at-home orders. What came next was a year of surprising political turmoil for a career politician who many initially believed had met his moment. DeWine, who's held multiple state and federal offices, now faces reelection in 2022 amid fierce criticism from the very Republicans whose party he spent decades helping to build. DeWine's actions against the virus won him early praise, not just from public health professionals but also from business groups and even restaurant owners hammered by the shutdown who acknowledged his actions could save lives. Soon DeWine, Health Director Dr. Amy Acton and GOP Lt. Gov. Jon Husted were a daily fixture for many Ohioans, the 2 p.m. routine dubbed “Wine with DeWine” by cooped up Ohioans teasingly prone to day-drinking by the pandemic. Acton became a folk hero in her own right, inspiring young girls to dress up like doctors and to conduct their own living room briefings. The good mood didn't last long for some. Democrats sued after Acton, acting on DeWine's orders, postponed Ohio's March 17 primary just hours before voting was set to begin, thrusting the state's presidential election into chaos. In April, DeWine walked back a statewide mask mandate after a single day following intense opposition from Republican constituencies, including many businesses. While keeping masks mandatory for business employees, he finally issued a statewide mandate in July that remains in effect. A DeWine spokesperson said Wednesday there are no immediate plans to lift it despite the decision by Texas and other states to end their mask mandates. On April 13, dozens of lockdown protesters shouted outside the Statehouse Atrium and briefly pounded on its windows as reporters covered the governor’s daily briefing, which had been moved to increasingly larger spaces to accommodate social distancing rules. As virus deaths rose and national divisions grew, Republican lawmakers pushed back with multiple bills against the GOP governor's public health orders, leaving Democratic legislators to defend Acton and DeWine. One legislator started a movement to have DeWine impeached. The bespectacled, graying 74-year-old persisted, concentrating during his briefings on conveying the status of the pandemic and buoying the state's spirits. He praised ball teams, music groups and schoolchildren, celebrated frontline workers and small business owners and brought on First Lady Fran DeWine to share recipes, activities for parents to do with their stir-crazy children and tips for making a festive mask. He and the first lady also livestreamed themselves receiving the first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. In June, it appeared his strategy was working. DeWine's approval rating spiked 31 percentage points from the previous year, to 75%, in a Quinnipiac University poll released that month. Approval for his coronavirus response was even higher, at 77%. What's more, the numbers carried across party lines and marked an all-time high for any Ohio governor in all the school's polls of registered voters going back to 2007. Around that same time, though, Acton had had enough, quitting abruptly amid a torrent of conservative criticism of her that included armed protesters outside her suburban Columbus house. The 55-year-old is now exploring running as a Democrat next year for an open U.S. Senate seat. With his amiable virus expert gone and criticism growing, DeWine augmented his bi-weekly briefings with two primetime speeches to Ohioans, on July 15 and Nov. 10, pleading for people to wear masks and socially distance themselves to slow the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, a faction of far-right conservatives grew angrier and louder as the months passed. They refused to wear masks as DeWine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised. They rebelled against stay-at-home orders, business closures, curfews and other safety measures. Some GOP governors were opening their states in response, leaving DeWine in an increasingly shrinking club of Republicans willing to embrace some continued restrictions. Less than a week after his November speech, DeWine found himself in the upside down political position of being praised by Democratic President-elect Joe Biden on the same day he was trolled on Twitter by former GOP President Donald Trump, who suggested that DeWine needed a primary challenger. DeWine plans to seek reelection next year. Some critics of the governor’s response within the party want the road kept open for him to face a GOP primary challenge; early potential candidates include central Ohio farmer Joe Blystone. In the meantime, that minor league baseball team survived for now and DeWine continues to push clean water issues and a crackdown on distracted driving. DeWine vetoed a legislative clampdown on his public health orders in early January, but today faces a similar bill headed for his desk. As he has throughout the past 12 months, DeWine said last month that lawmakers must focus on the bigger picture. "What we have to make sure we have to get right is how a future governor — not a Mike DeWine — a future governor can react to an emergency,” he said. ___ This story has been corrected to show that a central Ohio farmer has filed to challenge Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in next year's GOP primary. Andrew Welsh-Huggins And Julie Carr Smyth, The Associated Press
Pembroke – It’s back to the drawing board for the County of Renfrew Official Plan(OP) with a few changes still needed at the committee level and then back to Renfrew County Council before more distribution to municipalities and an eventual public meeting. “I’m not prepared to have this endorsed to commenting agencies until the council of the County of Renfrew is satisfied,” said Admaston/Bromley Mayor Michael Donohue last Wednesday at a virtual county council meeting after pointing out some of the changes councillors were told were made were either vague or not outlined in the document. One issue was the OP amendment councillors had received as part of their packet had undergone additional tweaking by staff. While some areas of concern were eliminated others were being studied on a case-by-case basis and Mayor Donohue said one concern was the document needed to be clearer before it was passed on to municipalities and other agencies for comment. “Agricultural land is deserving of protection or it is not,” he noted. The result is this Official Plan amendment, which is very much a living document, will not be approved very quickly. The most contentious issues appear to be the agricultural designation of some properties as well as the deer yards in Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards, but many of the other areas which had created concern and angst in the community have been resolved. These include the one kilometre development buffer around urban communities and some of the mapping which is now just being used as a guide instead of triggering an automatic study. Mayor Donohue’s resolution to send it back to the Community Development committee and then return to county council was overwhelmingly endorsed by the mayors and reeves. This is despite the fact county staff, including CAO Paul Moreau, re-iterated the intent had never been to approve the document but rather to keep the commenting process ongoing. “This is a resolution that keeps the process moving forward,” the CAO said of the original resolution to send the draft amendment out to commenting groups. Director of Development and Property, Craig Kelley, had the task of outlining the changes made to the Official Plan amendment, including several which were not in the document councillors had before him. He stressed the intent by county staff was to help the county grow. “We are development friendly, but it is just a matter of working within the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS),” he said. Some of the changes he highlighted included secondary dwelling units being allowed on properties. “We’ve heard of many folks who want to bring additional family members to the area,” he said. “It does allow an additional housing unit outside the primary dwelling.” This could keep a family on the farm for example in a separate home. This will all be subject to local zoning by-laws by lower-tier municipalities, he added. The fringe development issue, where the county had recommended any development within a kilometre of urban centres be restricted to allow for the possible expansion of water/sewer services, has all but been removed. While the councillors had the information in the packet it would be narrowed down to 500 metres outside an urban limit, Mr. Kelley said staff now recommended the removal of this policy. “We talked about one kilometre or 500 metres,” he said. “We understand the tone against. At this time, we’d like to remove this proposal.” However, he said this is an issue which still needs to be considered. “When it comes to development in the fringe, we will work with the proponent and the municipality to see if it is the best fit,” he said. A growth friendly change was small housing developments on private roads which would also be for small housing groupings on private roads, he said. As well, the aggregate layer is now considered information only and does not constrain development. One issue of ongoing contention is the designation of new agricultural land in Horton Township. Mr. Kelley said staff needs direction on this. “We have to strike a balance between the PPS and what county council would like us to do,” he stressed. “We are seeing rural growth. We get it.” The planning department is receiving between two and three inquiries a day and is quite busy, he added. Warden Debbie Robinson said it is important not to focus on a confrontational environment with the Official Plan amendment. “It is not council against staff,” she said. “We are trying to work together.” Renfrew Reeve Peter Emon said residents need to recognize the county has to work within constraints set out by the province. “The County of Renfrew cannot just rip up the Provincial Policy Statement nor can they ignore the Planning Act,” he said. “We are bound by that.” He said the changes made to the plan made it “a pretty positive day. We managed to whittle down a number of contentious issues. I am a lot more hopeful today than I was six weeks ago.” Constraints on Development Horton Mayor David Bennett said while he was glad to see some things removed from the plan, like the buffer around rural areas for development, he still had major concerns about the designation of agricultural land in his township. He said his municipality has hired a consultant to study the agriculture designation. He pointed out there is no supporting documentation showing why this land was designated as prime agriculture. “It is very difficult to drive across Horton and say this is number one land,” he said. “There is no justification for a lot of that.” If the land remains designated as agriculture it will be impossible to do development there, he said. “We see this as the future for Horton,” he said. “The highway was our economic growth. When you look at the mapping, agriculture has put a rope around growth.” Understanding why some properties were designated as agriculture is baffling to him, he said. “The government flew over on a 747 and saw a piece of green land and decided it was agricultural,” he said. Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards Mayor Janice Tiedje was also outspoken in her concerns. Agreeing with Mayor Bennett, she said she was happy to see some changes to the plan including the removal of the development barrier outside urban centres. “I’m very happy to hear by the stroke of a pen you removed the one kilometre buffer from the village,” she said. Her issue continues to be the map which shows most of her municipality designated as a deer yard. This covers about 80 per cent of the township, she said. “You took a little bit away,” she admitted. “But I have to show objection to that habitat in my township. I cannot justify to anybody the need for that.” North Algona Wilberforce Mayor James Brose said he also has an issue with mapping. He pointed out there were areas identified as agriculture which should not be classified as such. “My concern is it further restricts our opportunity for development in our municipality,” he said. “We are looking to create opportunities for developers. “If we restrict further it hinders our opportunity for development and to keep our taxes at a reasonable level,” he said. Council then proceeded to vote on the move by Mayor Donohue to have the document sent back to the committee level. Mayor Tiedje asked for a recorded vote. While the vast majority of council agreed to send it back, some argued for continuing the process by having the document distributed for more comments now. “This is not a perfect document,” Reeve Emon admitted, saying it was important to get the information out and then focus on the irritants. “Part of our struggle is it has been so prolonged,” he said. “I’d like to keep moving if we can because we have had some successes.” In the end, council agreed to send it back to the committee level. Warden Robinson told the Leader later there had been some widespread concern because the document shown in the packet to the councillors was not what was presented on Wednesday. “So, staff were asked to clean it up a bit and go to committee and back to county,” she said. As well, there might be the opportunity to already hear from the consultant hired by Horton looking into the agricultural lands. Warden Robinson said council wants to have a workable document. “We are taking this seriously,” she said. “Once we have a reasonable draft, we will send it out, but it has to go to the province for comments.” While the county has been given some discretion, this is not a carte blanche to do whatever it wants, she stressed. “We still have a Provincial Policy Statement we must adhere to,” she said. “We need to use working which allows some flexibility to grow. We don’t have the ultimate authority to scrap the Provincial Policy Statement.” Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader
The owner of a Calgary cafe has started a letter-writing campaign aimed at convincing city council to reverse a decision that will result in the eatery being evicted from a historic building in Eau Claire. The city, however, says its decision is irreversible — and has been in the works for a long time. The 1886 Buffalo Cafe has been running out of the historic Eau Claire Lumber Company building for about 40 years. Next month, however, the city will not be renewing its lease, in order to undertake some long-anticipated area refurbishment. City councillors said the cafe owners were given notice in 2017 that the city would need to move the building to do some major flood work, and as part of the redevelopment that was happening in Eau Claire. But owner Joanna McLeod told CBC News she feels the city led her astray with confusing communications that made her think they'd be able to stay in the building longer. It prompted her to start a letter-writing campaign and petition in the hopes of saving the cafe. "I just think there's a lot of missing information for the city's aspect," she said. "We've been the best tenants for 40 years … and we would really just love to stay in that building." 'Timeline of assurance' McLeod said they were in negotiations with the city to renew its lease in 2018. At the time, they were on a month-to-month lease, she said, because of the developments that were planned for Eau Claire. The cafe owners were told the revitalization of the area would have the cafe moved closer to the river, and in the same building. In February 2020, McLeod said, she was offered a five-year lease by the city that went unsigned after a realtor told her the language wasn't typical for a commercial lease, and the cafe owners wanted a few details changed before they committed. According to the city, the lease was rescinded in November 2020, after the tenant failed to sign and the city received confirmation of $8.6 million in funding from the province to proceed with the Eau Claire Plaza reconstruction project. But McLeod said there are documents and emails that showed a "timeline of assurances given to us by the city, and kind of leading us down a path of security with them." The owners were blindsided, she said, when they were eventually given notice by a leasing agent that they had 90 days to vacate the premises. And thinking they were going to be staying in the building, McLeod said they invested money into the place. "Had we known that it was a possibility that we wouldn't be able to continue business out of that building … we would have chosen to do business a little differently," McLeod said. Development plans not a secret, councillor says If the decision isn't reversed by the city, McLeod said, she is hoping they will be compensated for the business decisions they made "under bad faith." However, Coun. Druh Farrell told the CBC that while she is very sympathetic with the owners, they have known for a very long time that these developments were in the works. "It's not a secret, and the information has been shared with council, and we've been working on this for a number of years," said Farrell, who represents Ward 7. Significant changes are coming to the area, including essential flood work, that will be very disruptive — but there is a commitment to restore the building and put it in a new designated location, Farrell said. It will be available again in 2023. "There will be no reversing this decision," Farrell said. Still, McLeod is hoping the city might budge. "We're imploring them to change their mind. It's a building that's not only close to our hearts, it's a building that's close to many hearts," McLeod said. "It's just such an iconic piece of Calgary."
The man they call Father T now has the appropriate headwear to be Chaplain Father T. Father Thomas Dorward was given the white helmet last week that signifies him as the Fire Rescue Chaplain of the Rideau Lakes Fire Department. "It's wonderful to be recognized by your peers and by the township and village," said Dorward. Fire Chief Scott Granahan considered it to be "absolutely an honour" to entrust the helmet to Dorward. "We sometimes look past the roles that are often supportive," said Granahan. "But I don't forget, nor does our Deputy (Chief) forget, that we have that ability to pick up the phone and have somebody that can not just help, but also bring us back to where we need to be. "He's been just an absolutely amazing resource, not just for our members in the community, but also for our members' families." Dorward, who began serving with the fire department shortly after moving to Westport in 2002 following retirement, made the decision last year to step back from being a full-time responding volunteer firefighter. "As they say, 'time marches on,'" said Dorward. "It seemed the right time to step down from the rigours of firefighting." "We really wanted to keep him in our family, so that’s where this little bit of a change to him becoming a face within our command team came from," said Granahan, who is chief of the just over 80 other members of the fire department. There are many roles of a Chaplain within a fire department. Some include offering support and assistance at emergency incidents, conducting or assisting with fire department funerals or memorial services and acting as a confidential listening ear to personnel and family members. Granahan said the role is vital, as one call cannot drag into the next. "He offers such a level place to focus to get our members and our department as a whole back to where they need to be," Granahan said. Before his run with the township's fire department, Dorward's previous work experience included serving in the Canadian Forces medical services, an emergency EMS responder, and a full-time Toronto International Airport Emergency Services and volunteer firefighter. The last job he held before retirement was as security director for the Toronto District School Board. "It seemed a natural fit to be able to utilize the skills I had learned to serve our new home community," said Dorward on why he joined the volunteer fire department after he and his wife Brenda moved to Westport. When Dorward moved to Westport, he was a Religious Brother in the Order of Saint Andrew. Upon joining the fire department, he assumed the dual role of firefighter-chaplain. Soon after completing his studies, Dorward was ordained as a priest. Something that both Dorward and Granahan stressed was that Dorward's role as fire chaplain is not limited to Rideau Lakes. "With our mutual aid services and partners… this isn't a service that is limited to our own membership. It is something that is absolutely available to everybody in the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, Lanark and beyond," said Granahan. "There's been issues where a chaplaincy was required in other departments," said Dorward. "It's like any other fire department resource. If another department requires it, all they have to do is ask. "We're there for everybody." Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
Although Alek Minassian was found guilty of all counts in the Yonge Street van attack, the judge has set a Canadian precedent by considering autism a “mental disorder” under the Criminal Code. Kamil Karamali reports.
EDMONTON — Five Black Muslim women, all Somali-Canadians wearing hijabs, have been attacked or threatened in Edmonton in the last 10 weeks. The city's Al-Rashid Mosque began offering Muslim women self-defence lessons following the attacks. The classes are full. Trent Daley is a member of Edmonton's Anti-Racism Advisory Committee. He says someone approaches him or his network on a weekly basis about an assault. Most victims are Black and Muslim women. "There's been a notable marked increase (in assaults) following the pandemic. It's so pervasive right now," Daley says. "It's full of racial epithets, full of disgusting language targeting them based off the scarf that they wear and the identity they presumed that this person has. It's dehumanizing." Calgary police say they received 80 hate crime complaints between January and November 2020. Cheryl Voordenhout with the Edmonton Police Service says it received 60 reports of hate crimes last year. So far in 2021, three of seven hate-crime related investigations have involved Somali-Muslim women. On Dec. 8, a mother and daughter were violently attacked in the Southgate mall parking lot. A week later, near the same mall, another woman was subject to racial slurs as someone tried to hit her head with a shopping bag. In February, a man made racial comments and became aggressive toward a woman at the University of Alberta transit centre. The same day, a man came up behind a woman walking in a popular neighbourhood, pushed her to the ground and made threats to kill her and tear off her burqa. The latest attack happened Feb. 17. The National Council of Canadian Muslims said a man approached a Black Muslim woman wearing a hijab at the Century Park transit station, swore at her and threatened to kill her. Political leaders, including Premier Jason Kenney, have spoken out against the attacks. But the CEO of the national Muslims council says condemnation is not enough and government leaders at the local and provincial level need to take action. "Anti-Black racism is a real problem in Alberta," says Mustafa Farooq. "Black-Muslim women tend to face greater challenges than almost anyone else, because racism and gendered Islamophobia are real problems. "We can look, for example, at street harassment bylaws. We can look at ways in which anti-racism initiatives are being funded. We can look at hate crime units and their advocacy in dealing with these challenges." "So much can be done immediately, but it's not happening." Daley added that recent rallies and marches in Edmonton and Calgary in opposition to COVID-19 measures are examples of how the pandemic has exacerbated racism in Alberta. Some participants were seen carrying tiki torches, which many say are a symbol used by white supremacists. Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee said the police service is doubling down in its effort to work with the Somali community to address racially motivated assaults. "We've got to listen to what they need and then we've got to figure out how we can ... actually get some of the changes that they need," he said at a news conference Tuesday. McFee also alluded to the suspects in the assaults possibly having mental-health issues. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021 ___ This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This story has been edited. An interview subject was removed from the original version because of concerns raised about her safety.
Wall Street slumped on Thursday and global stock markets declined after U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell repeated his pledge to keep credit flowing until Americans are back to work, rebutting investors who have openly doubted he can stick to that promise once the pandemic passes. Benchmarket U.S. Treasury yields rose toward last week's highs as Powell spoke, and the dollar hit a three-month high. With COVID-19 vaccines rolling out and the government fiscal taps open "there is good reason to think we will make more progress soon" toward the Fed's goals of maximum employment and 2% sustained inflation, Powell told a Wall Street Journal forum.
WASHINGTON — Defence Department leaders placed unusual restrictions on the National Guard for the day of the Capitol riot and delayed sending help for hours despite an urgent plea from police for reinforcement, according to testimony Wednesday that added to the finger-pointing about the government response. Maj. Gen. William Walker, commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, told senators that the then-chief of the Capitol Police requested military support in a “voice cracking with emotion” in a 1:49 p.m. call as rioters began pushing toward the Capitol. Walker said he immediately relayed the request to the Army but did not learn until after 5 p.m. that the Defence Department had approved it. Guard troops who had been waiting on buses were then rushed to the Capitol, arriving in 18 minutes, Walker said. The hourslong delay cost the National Guard precious minutes in the early hours of the Jan. 6 rioting, with Walker saying he could have gotten personnel into the building within 20 minutes of getting approval. As it stood, the support did not happen until the evening. The delay also stood in contrast to the swift authorization for National Guard deployment that Walker said was granted in response to the civil unrest that roiled Washington last June as an outgrowth of racial justice protests. A senior Pentagon official who testified, Robert Salesses, said then-acting Defence Secretary Chris Miller wanted to take time to understand precisely how National Guard troops would be used at the Capitol and what assignments they would be given. Mindful of criticism that the response to the demonstrations last spring was heavy-handed, military officials were also concerned about the optics of a substantial National Guard presence at the Capitol, and thought such visuals could inflame the rioters, Walker said. “The Army senior leadership” expressed “that it would not be their best military advice to have uniformed Guardsmen on the Capitol,” Walker said. The Senate hearing was the latest in a series dedicated to the government's preparations and response as a mob of then-President Donald Trump's supporters laid siege to the Capitol. Taken together, the hearings have spelled out the challenge law enforcement officials face in sorting through an ocean of unverified tips but also highlighted how police inadequately prepared for the Trump loyalists; that FBI warnings about the threat of violence did not reach top police officials; and that requests for aid were not promptly answered. “Anytime there's an attack, we in the FBI want to bat 1,000, and we want to not ever have this happen again,” said Jill Sanborn, the bureau's top counterterrorism official and one of the witnesses. “So we're asking ourselves exactly the questions that you're asking: Is there a place that we could have collected more (intelligence)? Is there something we could have done?” Meanwhile, the Capitol Police disclosed the existence of intelligence of a “possible plot” by a militia group to breach the Capitol on Thursday. The revelation, coming as the acting police chief was testifying before a House subcommittee, differed from an earlier advisory from the House sergeant-at-arms that said police had no indication that any such violence was planned. Much of the focus at Wednesday's hearing was on communications between the National Guard and the Defence Department. Walker, for instance, described what he said were “unusual” directives he was asked to follow, including needing approval to relocate troops from one traffic control point to another. As chaos escalated on Jan. 6, then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund asked him for National Guard help in a frantic call and then again on a call with Army officials, who said they did not “think that it looked good” to have a military presence. “The response to the request took too long, so I think there needs to be a study done to make sure that never happens again,” Walker said. “It shouldn't take three hours to get a “yes” or “no” answer to an urgent request." That account was consistent with the recollection of Robert Contee, the acting chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department, who told lawmakers last week that he was “stunned” by the delayed response. Contee said Sund pleaded with Army officials to deploy National Guard troops as the rioting escalated. Walker’s testimony, however, conflicts a bit with timelines that were put out and discussed by senior military and defence leaders in the weeks after the riot. According to the Defence Department, Walker was called at 3 p.m. by Army officials, and was told to prepare Guard troops to deploy. That call was designed to give the Guard notice of the impending deployment so they would have time to move troops from their traffic posts to the armoury where they would get new orders, protective equipment and weapons. The Pentagon said Miller, the acting Defence secretary, gave verbal authorization for the Guard troops to deploy at about 4:30 p.m., and that at 5:02 p.m., 154 members of the D.C. Guard left the armoury, heading to the Capitol. The Capitol Police had also indicated days earlier that they would not seek National Guard help, and in letters to Walker, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser laid out the city’s request for help and made it clear there would be restrictions on the Guard members. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said during a break in the hearing that senators “certainly will have questions” for Miller and for former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. “Whether that’s going to require testimony or not, I don’t know, but it’s definitely going to require an opportunity to ask them questions about their view, from their perspective, of why this decision-making process went so horribly wrong,” Blunt said. At last week's hearing, officials in charge of Capitol security blamed one another as well as federal law enforcement for their own lack of preparation as hundreds of rioters descended on the building, easily breached the security perimeter and eventually broke into the Capitol. Five people died as a result of the rioting. Thousands of National Guard troops are still patrolling the fenced-in Capitol, and multiple committees across Congress are investigating Jan. 6. The probes are largely focused on security missteps and the origins of the extremism that led hundreds of Trump supporters to break through the doors and windows of the Capitol, hunt for lawmakers and temporarily stop the counting of electoral votes. Lawmakers have grilled law enforcement officials about missed intelligence ahead of the attack, including a report from an FBI field office in Virginia that warned of online posts foreshadowing a “war” in Washington. Sund has said he was unaware of the report at the time, even though the FBI had circulated it to others in the department. Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the report was disseminated through the FBI’s joint terrorism task force, discussed at a command post and posted on an internet portal available to law enforcement agencies. Though the information was raw and unverified, Wray said, it was specific and concerning enough that “the smartest thing to do, the most prudent thing to do, was just push it to the people who needed to get it.” ___ Associated Press writers Ben Fox, Michael Balsamo and Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report. Eric Tucker And Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
More people visited Kelowna and stayed overnight in 2020 than the year before, but that has not translated into more revenue for hotels and other businesses in the region, according to Tourism Kelowna. Tourism Kelowna's latest data indicates nearly 1.9 million overnight visitors stayed in the city last year — five per cent more than in 2019 — but the hotel occupancy rate for the year was down 24 per cent. The data also shows incoming travellers were up 25 per cent year-over-year in June since the B.C. government started encouraging within-province travel, but dropped nine per cent year-over-year in December after the government banned non-essential travel across regions and provinces in November due to the escalating daily COVID-19 cases. "Those numbers actually align with the different stages of the health restrictions," Lisanne Ballantyne, president and CEO of Tourism Kelowna, told Chris Walker, host of CBC's Daybreak South. Tourism Kelowna believes many travellers stayed at short-term rentals instead of hotels. The organization painted a bleak picture of the state of local businesses in a report presented to city council on Monday — 65 per cent of businesses it surveyed reported a winter revenue plunge of more than 20 per cent, compared to the same period a year earlier. The survey also found 76 per cent of businesses are expecting a drop in revenue this spring. Ballantyne says hotels and other businesses are slated to earn less due to public health protocols. "If you're a restaurant and you're adhering … to all of the health and safety precautions, you've automatically knocked out close to 50 per cent of your seating capacity," she said. "The same things are happening in other tourism businesses as well." Tourism Kelowna's report says because tourists have spent less in the Central Okanagan city, the organization has set its budget for this year at $2.7 million, a whopping drop from the $4.7 million budget it had for 2020, pre-COVID. Change of strategy Ballantyne says with various travel restrictions still in place, Tourism Kelowna will have to change its marketing strategy to focus on travellers from within the region. "We traditionally market externally, of course, trying to bring people in, but we're finding now we're having to change some of our tactics to talk more to a regional audience, to keep the money at least circulating here in the province," she said. Ballantyne also says her organization encourages local tourism businesses to join the B.C. Small and Medium-Sized Business Recovery Grant Program announced in late December, because over 70 per cent of them haven't applied for the money. Tap the link below to hear Lisanne Ballantyne's interview on Daybreak South:
When the Hilton Garden Inn Fredericton was opened in 2018, the expectation was its rooms would be packed every spring and summer with thousands of convention attendees from across the country. But, for the second year in a row, it looks like the COVID-19 pandemic has put a stop to that. With restrictions on travel and gatherings continuing for the foreseeable future, that's put a chill on large national and regional conventions, and that's a cause for concern to Celine Bertin, general manager at the Hilton Garden Inn. "April, May, June, are big convention months, however, August is probably one of the biggest convention months, along with September, October and very much November as well. "So with that said, we're a convention hotel and a corporate hotel... so, yeah, [there being no conventions] does affect us in a big way." Bertin said the hotel's plan hinged so much on catering to convention attendees, that its was located next door and attached to the Fredericton Convention Centre. "If there wasn't a convention centre, frankly, we wouldn't be downtown." Trevor Morgan, general manager of the Crowne Plaza in Fredericton.(Submitted by Joanne Barlow) The Crowne Plaza is directly across the street from the centre, and typically hosts convention attendees in its rooms and at its pub and restaurant. That won't be happening this year, and that worries Trevor Morgan, its general manager. "The bottom line is we won't be able to replace that revenue, so we do anticipate running significantly lower revenue and occupancy through that period because of the lack of that business," Morgan said. More help needed for businesses The likely loss of the 2021 convention season is just the latest blow to an industry already particularly hard hit by the pandemic, said Carol Alderdice, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick. Carol Alderdice, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick.(Submitted by Carol Alderdice) "It makes such a big difference to hotels and restaurants when conventions are in town. It keeps them busy and it keeps them alive, and that's just not been happening. "That's why we've had to count on federal support to keep them going." Alderdice said that aid has been well used, but more is needed. She said the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which provides up to 75 per cent of employee wages for eligible employers, should be extended to the fall, and raised to cover 85 per cent. She also wants to see an extension to the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy, which helps tenants pay the rent if their business or non-profit has lost revenue due to the pandemic. In a media briefing Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said those two programs, which were originally set to end next week, will be extended to June. CBC News did not receive a response from the Prime Minister's Office about whether it would also increase the pay-outs offered under those programs. Hopeful for recovery The Fredericton Convention Centre accommodated 34,000 convention attendees and generated an estimated $12.9 million for the local economy in 2019. Instead of convention-goers, for 2021 the convention centre will be hosting lawyers, plaintiffs and defendants, as the Department of Justice has agreed to rent the space to act as the Fredericton Court of Queen's Bench to allow enough space for physical distancing. The Fredericton Convention Centre on Queen Street.(Daniel McHardie/CBC) While the agreement has softened the blow for the convention centre, Cathy Pugh, its general manager, said the loss of the season is hard on the industry. "We were the first hit, the hardest hit, and it will take us the longest to recover," Pugh said. "But we are hopeful that we will start to recover. It will take a couple of years. We'll start seeing groups coming back in 2022 and then hopefully in 2023 it will continue on the upswing, and we're hopeful that we will return in 2024 to pre-pandemic numbers or thereabouts." Jeremy Trevors, a spokesperson for the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture, said convention activities related to catering and meeting facilities typically account for about $30 million in revenue generated in New Brunswick annually, while another $80 million is earned in room bookings related to conventions. Trevors said the department hopes bookings for small meetings will re-emerge in the late spring, but that remains contingent on COVID-19 public health protocols, which will dictate what can and can't be done. "We look forward to working with the New Brunswick Hotel Association and destination marketing organizations to plan recovery for this area of business," he said.