Noise ticket violates Edmonton street preacher's charter rights: advocacy group

EDMONTON — A legal advocacy organization says it will be representing a street preacher who was issued a ticket under a noise bylaw that the group alleges goes against his freedom of expression.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms says Dale Malayko, a retired firefighter, was given the $250 ticket last June when he and a colleague were preaching at an Edmonton street corner in an area popular with pedestrians on the city's south side.

Malayko, who stands on a wooden box with mounted small speakers that are connected to a wireless mic, was fined after a nearby business owner made a noise complaint, the group said.

"Noise bylaws are legitimate and serve a useful purpose, such as ensuring residents get a good night's sleep, instead of being woken up at 3 a.m. by their lawn-mowing neighbour or a dog that never stops barking," James Kitchen, a lawyer for the justice centre, said in a statement Monday.

"But (police are) abusing Edmonton's noise bylaw in an attempt to pander to complainants who seek to silence forms of expression they disapprove of."

The justice centre said it is taking Malayko's case pro bono and will argue that he is not guilty because he was "peacefully expressing himself in a manner and place that is protected by the Constitution."

It also argues that unlike street performers, Malayko doesn't ask for money from passersby and offers Bibles to those who want them.

"(Edmonton police) officers have a long history of issuing baseless tickets — that are not justified by the facts — to Dale and other street preachers, all of which have previously been dropped by city prosecutors."

Malayko's three-day trial is set for the first week in April.

The group, which is also representing other street preachers, sent a letter to Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee in November shortly after his swearing in, expressing concern about officers allegedly targeting them.

"This pattern continues to repeat itself, thereby violating the charter freedoms of our clients and also causing them great inconvenience," the letter read.

The Edmonton Police Service said it was declining to comment because the case is before the courts.

Cherie Klassen, executive director of the Old Strathcona Business Association, said in an email she wasn't aware of how many shops and restaurants have had issues with street preachers.

"Noise on the avenue overall is often an issue for both patrons and businesses in our area," said Klassen, whose association has about 600 members in the area.

"It's tough to say whether or not the street preachers contribute to this."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2020

Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press

  • Tech companies may leave Alberta over Kenney's devotion to oilpatch
    Business
    CBC

    Tech companies may leave Alberta over Kenney's devotion to oilpatch

    The Alberta government's decision to commit billions of dollars to support the Keystone XL oil pipeline came as a surprise when it was announced last week, despite the government working with TC Energy for about six months, according to officials.What was unsurprising about the announcement was the continued unabashed support by the government for the province's oilpatch, which some tech sector companies say is driving them to consider leaving Alberta.Premier Jason Kenney's campaign promises during last year's election included setting up a $30-million "war room" to attack those who criticize the industry on social media or elsewhere, urging oil companies to sue environmental groups like Greenpeace for defamation and, like U.S. President Donald Trump, pulling back regulations on oil and gas companies.> 'What is Alberta doing to become a successful player in the 21st century?' \- Trent JohnsenOnce in power, the UCP quickly made good on those promises, while also cutting property taxes for natural gas producers, providing a loan to clean up oil and gas wells and sending Kenney himself to London and New York to try and attract investment back into Alberta's energy industry.In recent weeks, with the oilpatch on its knees because of plummeting fuel demand during the pandemic and OPEC countries flooding the globe with oil, the Alberta government announced it's granting extensions for oil and gas leases for one year and paying the industry's regulatory levies.The Globe and Mail recently stated "A single talisman has defined Jason Kenney's time as premier of Alberta: oil."The deep devotion to the oil and gas sector is why some technology companies in the province are now looking to relocate elsewhere."It's frustrating as hell," said Trent Johnsen, who has been involved in Alberta's tech sector for about 30 years, including as the founder of Hookflash Inc. and president of Shift Networks Inc. He has also been involved with Innovate Calgary and the Creative Destruction Lab, and currently, he's the founder and chief executive of Liveweb.io, which provides live video messaging services for companies to interact on their web sites with customers."We're betting exclusively on oil and gas," he said. "What is Alberta doing to become a successful player in the 21st century of the new economy?"The billions of dollars of support for the Keystone XL project seems to be the last straw for Johnsen, who now wants to leave the province. In general, he said the majority of Albertans believe the quality of life and future of the province is predicated on fossil fuels."Not only am I actively looking to relocate my family and business, I am also going to publicly work with other technology companies in Alberta to help them move to more technology ecosystem, future-friendly cities," he said. "My customers are in the U.S. and Europe. It doesn't matter where we live and work. We can go anywhere."Johnsen said Alberta is moving backwards by cutting funding to organizations like Alberta Innovates and eliminating important tax credits.The UCP faced criticism by some in the tech sector last fall for its decision to eliminate the Alberta Investor Tax Credit, which was introduced by the previous NDP government and provided a 30 per cent tax credit to investors who put money into specific industries such as clean technology and digital animation. The Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit and the Capital Investment Tax Credit were also wiped out, among other programs.Those tax credits made a difference, he said, and are a better approach than choosing to support a single company, like a profitable pipeline developer."They shouldn't be investing a billion dollars directly in anything. They should be making policy, where there is a billion dollars for the market to find its highest way to return. That's the structure of an investor tax credit, where the government says 'we're not picking any winners,'" he said. 'Like swimming upstream'Trying to grow a tech company in Alberta can feel like swimming upstream because of the lack of provincial support, according to Anthea Sargeaunt, founder and chief executive of 2S Water, an Edmonton company developing technology that detects metals in water in real-time."We expect the Alberta government to support oil and gas. That's what they have done up until now," she said. "But, there is a lot of new industry coming up that could really make a massive difference to Alberta's economy. We don't have to be tied to this perpetual oil and gas chain."Growth of her business has slowed because of the elimination of the tax credits, she said."It's been a difficult slog. Those tax credits were a really important part of our offering for investors. Knowing the government was supporting them coming in, was helping them take the risk," she said.So far, Sargeaunt said she has received more financial support from the federal government than the provincial government. Relocating her startup elsewhere is a possibility."It's a conversation we've had and will continue to have. It's a tough decision to make and we don't want to necessarily make, but we want our business to succeed more than we want to stay in Alberta at this point. That is something we are pretty seriously looking at."The provincial government did form a working group to develop ways to support tech companies in the province. Economic Development Minister Tanya Fir is currently reviewing the group's report and recommendations.Fir was unavailable for an interview, but in an email, her spokesperson said the tech sector will be a key part of diversifying Alberta's economy.Ninety-two per cent of Albertans think the province should do more to encourage the development of the technology sector, according to a recent poll by CBC News. The survey of 1,200 Albertans was conducted between March 2 and March 18, 2020, with a margin of error of +/-2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The government has often pointed to its decision to cut the corporate tax rate as a move that will help reduce costs for all industries in the province and compensates for the loss of some tax credits.Some in the tech sector dispute that argument since many startups don't turn a profit for several years.There are differing viewpoints in the tech sector right now between those who want to relocate and those who want to keep the faith and stay in the province, according to Johnsen."There's a lot of smart people who are trying to remain believers [in Alberta], but when you have provincial political leadership, with a singular focus, on a legacy industry — I honestly feel like we're trying to keep coal mines," he said.He wants to see the oil and gas industry be successful, but said other industries in the province should receive the same support."We should be all-in on diversification and we'd be wildly successful," he said.

  • Celebrities reveal new sides during virus, but face backlash
    Celebrity
    The Canadian Press

    Celebrities reveal new sides during virus, but face backlash

    Portia de Rossi has been teaching herself how to cook during the coronavirus lockdown. It's been an eye-opening experience for the actress — and for her fans.She's cut herself and been burned, yes. She's also discovered she doesn't like some Indian flavours and that her longtime wife, talk show host Ellen Degeneres, isn't a fan of curry and garbanzo beans.“We’re learning a lot about each other in quarantine!” she admits on Instagram.We are indeed learning a lot about each other these days, and that's especially true with our celebrities. Social distancing has meant they have no army of publicists or glam squad. They're bored and unfiltered — and often incredibly relatable.Cardi B recently inexplicably ran headfirst into a massive Jenga tower and a daffy Madonna sang her hit “Vogue” into a hairbrush but changed the lyrics to include fried fish. Hillary Swank learned to crochet — and now has a new knit hat to prove it. Ariana Grande showed off her natural hair and Marlee Matlin put on her old Oscar-winning dress. “I’m losing my mind but what else is there to do?” she wrote.Stuck inside, Justin Bieber reverted to a childhood objective. Clad in a onesie and a winter hat, the singer attempted a round of “ The Floor Is Lava ” in his massive living room, leaping onto cushions, chairs, foot stools, two skateboard and a roller. The video has been seen over 9 million times.“I think now people need the human touch even more, and I think celebrities really understand that,” says Neal Schaffer, a social media strategy consultant whose new book is “ The Age of Influence.” "People want to relate to real things, real people.”While some influencers and stars continue to post a flood of flattering, carefully stage-managed images with every hair in place, others are indeed mirroring us — unshaven, unwashed and not ashamed.“When I drink, I get really, really brilliant ideas,” the singer Pink confessed recently. "And last night, I got an idea — I can cut hair.” She then reveals some choppy, shaved spots on her head.Celebrities, it turns out, really are just like us: They get drunk and do stupid stuff, too. And they're like us in another way, too: Pink later announced that she also had contracted the virus.The coronavirus has also unlocked places we never expected to go, like Selena Gomez's bathroom and inside Broadway star Adrienne Warren's bathtub. We've gotten to inspect Rosie O’Donnell's messy garage/art studio.Theater icon Patti LuPone was taking part in a livestreamed benefit led by O’Donnell when theatre fans grew enchanted by something they'd never seen before: Lupone's cool basement. They could see a colorful, light-up vintage jukebox and a wall rack stacked with cassette tapes.So LuPone leaned into the interest, later making little video tours on Twitter that include her subterranean one-armed bandit, a massage table, mementos, her desk and a pinball machine. “I have so much to show you,” she says.Yuval Ben-Itzhak, the CEO of Socialbakers, a social media marketing company, has noticed the trend and encourages it. He suspects fans will reward the more honest of celebrities at the other end of this crisis.“By giving their audience a glimpse into their lives — from showing their homes, their families or themselves looking casual, like people typically do at home — celebrities are likely to actually increase their engagement,” Ben-Itzhak says. “Users seem to really engage with natural, authentic-looking content, especially right now. It gives a feeling of 'We're all in this together.'”We may be all in this together, but we're not equal. After all, celebs may be just like us, except they're usually much richer. The new intimate view we have of the famous reveals a chasm: Bieber's living room is large enough to fit several regular living rooms. Not everyone can self-isolate on a yacht.A few weeks into the virus' onslaught in America, some commentators had soured on the shenanigans of celebrities. “I don't care what celebs are doing in their mansions,” one wrote on Instagram. Another posted a warning: “Funny how irrelevant they become when real problems curse us.”The first real sign that celebrity exposure was curdling was when “Wonder Woman” star Gal Gadot led a sing-along of "Imagine" with such stars as James Marsden, Zoe Kravitz, Amy Adams and Mark Ruffalo. Pushback came quickly, with some commentators calling it “cringeworthy” and “out of touch.” They asked for donations, not songs.Akshaya Sreenivasan, a social media marketing expert at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, says as the COVID-19 crisis drags on, celebrities are bound to face more online hate.“Even Oprah is not going to be immune,” she says. “The big guys in Hollywood are going to be shredded to pieces, especially if they continue to post on Instagram, ‘Oh my God, I’m so bored. I'm drinking martinis in my private pool.'”Sreenivasan anticipates some celebs will lose followers if they continue posting without sensitivity to the losses outside their mansions. And she thinks many will open their wallets to compensate for all the years of Instagram glam. “They need to do something to protect that brand,” she says.There's also danger if celebrities unartfully choose to profit off the virus. Social media experts warn that this may not be the time to be pushing products for gain.Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson walks toward that line when he relentlessly floods his Instagram account to highlight and hype the brand of tequila he owns."You really need to be sensitive to your audience, and you need to be very careful if you want to walk that line,” says Schaffer. “It is a dangerous subject. A celebrity is only as good as their community. It can work against them as quickly as it works for them.”Despite this new and unvarnished look at celebs and the pushback it has triggered, Sreenivasan is skeptical that anything will really change once normal life resumes.“We've had this conversation forever,” she says. “We're going to move on until the next problem comes, and we'll have this inequality conversation again.”——Follow AP Entertainment Writer Mark Kennedy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwitsMark Kennedy, The Associated Press

  • Ontario confirms 379 new COVID-19 cases as testing declines, protective equipment shortage persists
    Health
    CBC

    Ontario confirms 379 new COVID-19 cases as testing declines, protective equipment shortage persists

    The province reported another 379 cases of COVID-19 Tuesday but saw a continued decline in testing since the start of the month, with a drop from 6,200 test results on April 1 to just 2,568 today.The province's total number of confirmed cases is now 4,726. The official tally includes 153 deaths, though CBC News has compiled data from local health units and counted at least 193 deaths throughout the province.Of those confirmed cases, 1,802 are considered resolved. More than 500 health-care workers in the province have tested positive, representing about 11 per cent of all of the confirmed cases in Ontario. Another 691 people are awaiting test results. The number of tests Ontario has completed daily has dropped steadily over the past week — a worrying trend, according to doctors who argue that widespread testing is the only way to get an accurate picture of the spread of COVID-19 and a crucial tool to make sure those who are infected don't transmit the virus further.The number of tests "is definitely not the curve we want to see flattening," tweeted Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa.Province not trying to limit tests, health officials sayThe province's Ministry of Health had targeted conducting 5,000 tests per day by the end of March, increasing weekly to reach a goal peak of 19,000 tests per day by the third week of April.Ontario now has the lab capacity to run 13,000 tests per day but the province's COVID-19 assessment centres are only submitting about 3,500 tests daily, said Hayley Chazan, director of media relations for Health Minister Christine Elliott in an email."This surplus in capacity means that we can now look at testing more people, particularly priority populations, including health care staff, residents and staff in long-term care and retirement homes and Indigenous communities," wrote Chazan."We expect to have more to say about a new testing strategy that makes full use of this capacity shortly."Ontario has administered a total of 81,364 tests, more than any other province, said Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health. Williams said testing centres aren't at capacity, and urged anyone with symptoms, or who may have been exposed to someone with the virus, to get tested.  "We have been encouraging people with any of those [symptoms] to go forward and get assessed ... We aren't trying to limit that." 51 outbreaks at long-term care homes, 3 more at Ontario jails Of the 614 total current cases that have required hospitalization: * 233 are in intensive care units. * 187 are on a ventilator.There have been a total of 51 outbreaks at long-term care homes in Ontario. Markhaven Home for Seniors, a long-term care home in Markham, Ont. confirmed on Tuesday that two more deaths related to COVID-19 have occurred at its facility, bringing its total deaths to six. Meanwhile, the province confirmed that three Ontario jails experienced outbreaks between March 20 and March 27:  * One inmate tested positive at Monteith Correctional Complex. * Three inmates and one staff member testes positive at Toronto South Detention Centre. * One staff member tested positive at Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre. One outside contractor also tested positive at South West Detention Centre.Another five inmates at Grand Valley Institution for Women, Canada's largest prison for women, also tested positive for the virus last week.Cannabis stores to partially resume business Ontario passed an emergency order to temporarily allow legal cannabis retails to reopen, according to Jenessa Crognali, spokesperson for the province's attorney general Doug Downey. Last week, cannabis stores were forced to close after being taken off the province's list of essential businesses. Under the emergency order, the shops can now offer curbside delivery and pickup service. Maple Leaf Foods employees in Hamilton, Brampton test positive Workers at Maple Leaf Foods plants in Hamilton and Brampton have also tested positive for COVID-19, the company said in a news release on Tuesday. "We informed all of our employees the same day we learned of the positive test results," the release read. "These cases are the first two to occur among Maple Leaf Foods' 13,000 employees." The company said infected staff, one at each plant, are staying at home and anyone who was in contact with them has been directed to self-quarantine for two weeks.First Ontario-produced masks ready for use, Ford saysFord announced that the first made-in-Ontario face masks are ready, one day after he warned that the province would run out of personal protective equipment in one week.Ford was at Woodbridge's manufacturing facility in Vaughan Tuesday where the first 1,000 Level 3 masks have been produced.The company hopes to eventually produce one million a week and have them certified as N95 masks to be used in all health-care settings.Meanwhile, a shipment of badly needed medical masks is expected Tuesday.At a news conference Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford called the news from 3M about the deal it reached to continue supplying masks a welcome one, after U.S. President Donald Trump earlier tried to compel the company to halt distribution outside that country. But Ford also said, "There's still a lot of work to be done to secure enough PPE for the province of Ontario." Ford has said the province is still facing a major shortage of key supplies and could be out of masks in less than two weeks, even with the new shipment.The premier said Monday a shipment of about 500,000 masks had been held up at the Canada -U.S. border, but was expected in the province by the end of the day. For now, domestic supply is ramping-up and the first made-in-Ontario face masks are ready for use.Ford said Tuesday that Ontarians cannot solely rely on the global supply chain, adding "we need the federal government to come through" on its supply, at the same time underscoring the need for the province to produce its own supplies.Faulty masks recalled Meanwhile, the City of Toronto is recalling thousands of poorly-made surgical masks that were given to front-line workers.In a news release on Tuesday, the city said a recently-purchased order of 4,000 boxes containing 50 masks each — equivalent to more than $200,000 — do not meet "specifications the city requires for such masks." Some 62,600 masks had already been distributed to long-term care homes on March 28. The city is now investigating to determine how many employees were caring for patients while wearing the masks and whether there was possible exposure to COVID-19.Williams said all shipments of masks should be inspected to ensure they are up to par with the province's requirements. "We have to investigate to see how it got into the field," he said Tuesday.  New online portal matches skilled workers with employersFord also announced the launch of a new online portal to match skilled front-line workers with employers who need positions filled. The province says the Health Workforce Matching Portal will allow health-care providers with a range of experiences —including retired or non-active health-care professionals, internationally-educated health-care professionals, students, and volunteers with health care experience — to join in the province's fight against COVID-19. "The portal will match the availability and skill sets of frontline health care workers to the employers in need of assistance to perform a variety of public health functions, such as case and contact management," the province said in a news release.Asked to what extent the new measures will include internationally-trained professionals, Health Minister Christine Elliott said those people may or may not be called on specifically to practice medicine depending on their skills, but that the province needs "all hands on deck."The sort of experience gained during COVID-19 will be important in helping internationally-trained professionals obtain their Ontario credentials, Elliot said. But as for whether any long-term changes could be coming to the credentializing process, she said: "That's something we will have to take a look at once we're through this."Warnings for first respondersOntario's first responders will now be warned before they go to a site where they will come into contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19.Health Minister Elliott says the alerts will ensure the health of those working on the front lines.The information disclosed will be limited to the person's name, address, date of birth and whether the individual has had a positive test result.Layoffs at the ROMThe Royal Ontario Museum is temporarily laying off some employees, while others — including executives — are taking a 20 per cent pay cut amid the COVID-19 outbreak.In a memo sent to staff, ROM director and CEO Josh Basseches said that the institution will likely not reopen to the public until the end of June, or possibly later.The museum will continue to pay full and part-time staff through April 10.Donation bins overflowingWith donation bins overflowing and in some cases surrounded by illegally dumped garbage, Diabetes Canada has issued an open letter to community leaders and elected officials to help raise awareness about the issue.The association, which stopped donation pickups on March 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said the bin situation is "posing a serious health and safety issue."Meanwhile, Ford made what for many little Ontarians will be a highly anticipated add to the list of essential workers in the province: the Easter Bunny. The bunny will be expected to comply with all existing orders and while authorized to deliver chocolate, candy and other treats, cannot do so in parks, playgrounds or any other outdoor areas where Ontario has prohibited groups from gathering.

  • Group of First Nations want Supreme Court to hear appeal on Trans Mountain
    World
    The Canadian Press

    Group of First Nations want Supreme Court to hear appeal on Trans Mountain

    VANCOUVER — A group of British Columbia First Nations is seeking to challenge the federal government's second approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project in Canada's highest court.The Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Ts'elxweyeqw Tribes and Coldwater Indian Band say they have each filed applications with the Supreme Court of Canada.They are seeking leaves to appeal a Feb. 4 decision by the Federal Court of Appeal that found cabinet's approval of the pipeline project in June 2019 was reasonable under the law.While some court processes are paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic, deadlines for leave to appeal applications at the Supreme Court remain in effect.The First Nations say they have fought and challenged the project through every federal court and now they want to take it to the next step.In a video news conference Tuesday, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish leaders said they're challenging the adequacy of Indigenous consultation leading up to the second approval of the oil pipeline project.Tsleil-Waututh Chief Leah George-Wilson said the Appeal Court's decision represents a setback for reconciliation."If unchallenged, it could change the way consultation and consultation cases happen in Canada, making it less meaningful for protecting our inherent constitutionally protected Aboriginal rights," George-Wilson said.The decision relied on a finding that cabinet's determination of its own consultation process was adequate, and the First Nations argue the decision should have been made at an arm's length, she said."Cabinet is not an expert in consultation and as owners of the project, they were unable to objectively assess the adequacy of their own consultation," George-Wilson said.The Federal Court of Appeal overturned cabinet's first approval of the pipeline expansion in 2018, citing insufficient consultation with Indigenous Peoples and a failure to take into account the affect on marine animals. After another round of consultations and a second look at how marine life would be affected, cabinet gave the project a green light.Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada decided not to hear five challenges from environment and Indigenous groups from British Columbia, which included the Tsleil-Waututh and the Squamish First Nations.Some of those groups challenged a Federal Court of Appeal decision in February not to hear their request to consider whether there had been sufficient consultation.Squamish Coun. Khelsilem said the First Nations are under increased pressure during the pandemic but construction on the Trans Mountain pipeline is still proceeding.While community members are asked to stay inside and avoid contact with one another, major resources projects have been allowed to proceed."For the nations it's challenging that the governments are asking us to be on lockdown for weeks or months while at the same time pushing projects through our territories," said Khelsilem, who goes by a single name."It creates an uneven playing field where we are not able to respond to the scale and scope of the requests for comment and consultation because our offices are closed and our staff are dealing with a crisis situation."The Squamish Nation, which has about 4,100 members centred around the Burrard Inlet and Howe Sound, believe the seven-fold increase in tanker traffic from the Trans Mountain expansion poses too significant a risk to their traditional territory."We are very disappointed to have to go to court over this over and over again with this government but we are doing this in the best interest of our community and our nation," Khelsilem said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 7, 2020.The Canadian Press

  • Health
    CBC

    What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. on April 7, 2020

    THE LATEST: * A total of 1,291 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in B.C. * 805 of those cases have recovered from the illness. * As of Tuesday afternoon, 138 patients were hospitalized, including 66 in intensive care. * 43 people have died. * 23 long-term care homes now have cases. * The Vancouver Park Board is banning cars from Stanley Park and encouraging cyclists to stay off the seawall.Health officials are urging British Columbians to stick with physical distancing measures, as the evidence mounts suggesting B.C. is starting to flatten the COVID-19 curve.The number of patients hospitalized fell to 138 on Tuesday, down from 149 on Saturday. However, four new deaths have been recorded, bringing the province's total to 43.And the daily rate of new confirmed cases appears to have slowed. On Tuesday, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 25 new cases, bringing the total number of confirmed patients to 1,291 to date, with 805 recovered.With several religious holidays approaching, including Easter, Passover, Ramadan and Vaisakhi, Henry once again urged British Columbians to observe their faiths through virtual celebrations."Please, now is the time to pay attention to our seniors and our elders," Henry said. "We protect them by connecting safely from a distance."On Tuesday morning the Vancouver Park Board announced it is banning cars from Stanley Park effective Wednesday. Cyclists are being asked to start using Stanley Park Drive, which will be entirely car-free, and avoid the seawall to put more space between themselves and pedestrians.More than 25 staff have been assigned to crowded areas of the park to remind people to stay two metres apart. Employees have issued 1,600 warnings to date, for people who aren't staying far enough away from others in public.Breaking the chains of transmissionHenry and Health Minister Adrian Dix have cautioned against easing up on strict physical distancing measures that have kept most British Columbians at home for the past few weeks."We have to continue to break these chains of transmission. We have to continue to work very hard as a community and a health system, especially in the weeks to come," Dix told CBC's The Early Edition on Tuesday."So, on one hand there's positive news ... on the other hand, we have 39 deaths and every day there's a death from this is a very, very sad day for everybody."The most recent death in B.C. was a man in his 40s who died outside of hospital, marking one of the province's youngest deaths and only the second in the community. The B.C. Coroners Service is investigating, as it investigates any sudden or unexpected death in the province."It's an extraordinarily sad case and difficult case. All of these, every single one of them, is reviewed — both for the implications for COVID-19 and the implications for health care," said Dix."In cases such as this, which is different than other cases, we need to learn. We need to see, if anything, what we could have done better in responding to the case. We owe that both to the family of the person who died and to the whole system."Dix said for privacy reasons he could not confirm whether the patient was in contact with health-care professionals before his death.On Monday, Henry said she also continues to be concerned about new community outbreaks popping up, including in places like long-term care homes and correctional facilities. She has confirmed that a new outbreak had been detected at Mission Institution."These hotspots are concerning. They can quickly challenge our response," Henry said. "We must be steadfast in holding the line."The Vancouver Park Board is announcing new measures Tuesday morning to encourage physical distancing at Stanley Park. The park is one of the city's biggest tourist attractions, drawing millions of visitors every year.800K applications for CERBThe Canada Revenue Agency its opening applications for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) on Tuesday to those born in April, May and June.The agency said roughly 800,000 people applied after applications opened for the first time on Monday.More than two million Canadians lost their jobs in the last half of March as businesses across the country were forced to close or reduce their operations to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.Top stories todayImportant reminders:Health officials widely agree the most important thing you can do to prevent coronavirus and other illnesses is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. The World Health Organization said more than 80 per cent of COVID-19 infections are estimated to be mild.What's happening elsewhere in CanadaIn Canada, all provinces and territories except Nunavut have cases of COVID-19, with the total known case count surpassing 16,660. Quebec and Ontario have been hardest hit, followed by Alberta and British Columbia. Nova Scotia on Tuesday reported its first COVID-19-related death.The numbers, which are updated at least daily by the provinces and territories, are not a complete picture, as they don't account for people who haven't been tested, those being investigated as a potential case and people still waiting for test results. For a look at what's happening across the country and the world, check the CBC interactive case tracker.What are the symptoms of COVID-19?Common symptoms include: * Fever. * Cough. * Tiredness.But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.What should I do if I feel sick?Stay home. Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.What can I do to protect myself? * Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean. * Keep at least two metres away from people who are sick. * When outside the home, keep two metres away from other people. * Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. * Masks won't fully protect you from infection, but can help prevent you from infecting others.More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.

  • COVID-19 in Quebec: Legault points to stable intensive care numbers as positive sign
    World
    CBC

    COVID-19 in Quebec: Legault points to stable intensive care numbers as positive sign

    * Quebec has 9,340 cases and 150 deaths attributable to COVID-19. There are 583 people in hospital, including 164 in intensive care.A total of 150 people have now died from COVID-19 in Quebec, but Premier François Legault says the small increase in the number of hospitalizations, particularly in intensive care, is encouraging.In all, Quebec now has 9,340 confirmed cases. Of those, 583 people are in hospital, an increase of 50 cases, and there are 164 people in intensive care, the same as a day earlier. "It's the good news of the day," Legault said at Tuesday's briefing."This doesn't mean we can ease our efforts. We cannot spoil all that we've accomplished in the last few weeks."Legault acknowledged some caution is required when assessing the hospitalization numbers because not every sick person in a long-term care home (CHSLD) is being transferred to hospital.But even if that were the case, the rate would still be lower than the province anticipated, he said.  The main area of concern remains CHSLDs, many of which are struggling to contain the virus. Nearly 45 per cent of the people who have died were residents at a long-term care home.Health Minister Danielle McCann said doctors and nurses who aren't needed at their usual jobs, given the closures to certain clinics and services amid the outbreak, are being redeployed to CHSLDs."We're doing everything we can to protect the elderly," she said.On Tuesday, public health experts with the Quebec government released their projections, estimating that between 1,200 and 9,000 people could die of COVID-19 by the end of April.The province released two scenarios:The optimistic scenario projects 29,212 confirmed cases, with as many as 1,404 people in hospital at once and 1,263 deaths by April 30.A second scenario projects 59,845 confirmed cases, with as many as 3,208 people hospitalized at one time and 8,860 deaths.Arruda had been openly reluctant to unveil the data, but the province has been under pressure to follow in Ontario's footsteps.Modelling revealed by public health officials there last week showed they expect COVID-19 could kill 3,000 to 15,000 people over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, the ramifications of which could last up to two years.Earlier in the day, Legault warned the most dire scenarios could be alarming to the public. But he said if Quebecers continue to follow the social distancing guidelines those will be avoidable.Legault and Arruda were not at the briefing detailing the projections, which were presented by Deputy Health Minister Yvan Gendron and an epidemiologist and government consultant, Richard Massé. The premier said he wanted to ensure the projections are not viewed as political."I think the answers, the figures, the forecasts they have to be done by expert not by politicians," he said.Outbreaks continue to grow in long-term care homesHundreds of seniors' and long-term care homes have reported cases of COVID-19, and there are outbreaks at several locations. In Laval, the long-term care home CHSLD Sainte-Dorothée has reported 105 cases, nearly half of its resident population. Eight people have died. At Montreal's hospital specialized in geriatrics, Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal, there have been nine deaths attributable to the disease and 52 patients who have tested positive for the virus. Hospitalizations in Quebec, Ontario and B.C.Quebec has been hit harder by the pandemic, experts say, because of an earlier March break, with more travellers coming or returning to the province in late February and early March.CBC journalists compared the growth in the number of hospitalizations in the three major provinces the pandemic has spread widely: Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. Quebec has seen the sharpest rise, while B.C.'s curve appears relatively flat.

  • Gatherings restricted, schools closed: What's being done to fight COVID-19
    World
    The Canadian Press

    Gatherings restricted, schools closed: What's being done to fight COVID-19

    The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every province and territory. Canada's chief public health officer and her provincial counterparts are encouraging people to wash their hands, give each other space and wear a mask if they are sick or a homemade one if they believe they could have been exposed to the virus and are not showing any symptoms.Ottawa has put money into health-care research and the economy. It has also put restrictions on international travel and is mandating 14-day quarantines for travellers returning to Canada to try to limit spread of the novel coronavirus.Classes are suspended or cancelled at schools throughout the country.Each province and territory also has its own emergency measures to detect cases and prevent spread of the virus.Here's a look at some of the ways different jurisdictions are responding:British ColumbiaB.C. declared a provincial state of emergency on March 18, a day after announcing a public health emergency.The measure gives the province authority to take any action necessary to protect people and communities, including charging people who ignore public health orders.The province has also prohibited reselling essential supplies such as food and cleaning material.All parking fees at B.C. hospitals have been cancelled during the pandemic to ensure safer access for patients and staff.Officials have prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people in one place, including restaurants, schools, places of worship, theatres, casinos, sports arenas and outdoor venues.Some provincial parks are closed.Officials have also issued fire restrictions as the wildfire season begins.Premier John Horgan says he is extending the state of emergency through the end of April 14.\---AlbertaAlberta declared a public health emergency on March 17.The province has given law enforcement agencies full authority to enforce orders and issue fines for violations.There are restrictions on mass gatherings of more than 15 people, both indoors and outdoors at places of worship, weddings or funerals. Any gathering must allow people to keep the two-metre distance from others.All non-essential businesses have been ordered closed, including personal service providers, clothing stores and furniture stores.Albertans are prohibited from attending public or private recreational and entertainment facilities. Restaurants have been ordered closed, except for takeout or delivery. Casinos are closed.Vehicle access to provincial parks and public lands is prohibited to visitors.Albertans who have been ordered to quarantine cannot leave their property for 14 days. That also bars people who live in apartments to use the elevators.There's also a new restriction on visitors at nursing homes, long-term care facilities and hospitals — although exceptions could be made if a child is in hospital or a woman is about to give birth.\---SaskatchewanPremier Scott Moe declared a provincial state of emergency on March 18.It directs all orders from the chief medical health officer be followed and gives police the authority to enforce them.Public gatherings are limited to no more than 10 people.Nightclubs, bars and lounges are closed, but they are allowed to provide takeout food or alcohol.Recreational and entertainment facilities are closed. Personal service providers such as tattooists, hairdressers, estheticians and relaxation masseuses cannot operate.Dental, optometrist, chiropractic and podiatry clinics are closed — except for emergencies.All employees at long-term care facilities are having their temperatures checked and are being monitored for COVID-19.Health officials say there's no evidence that domestic livestock or pets can be infected with or transmit COVID-19, but it has not been ruled out. They suggest anyone with the virus avoid contact with animals, as well as people, until more information is available.\---ManitobaThe Manitoba government declared a provincewide state of emergency on March 20.The province has limited public gatherings to no more than 10 people, down from an earlier limit of 50.It includes any indoor or outdoor spot, places of worship or family events such as weddings and funerals.Non-essential businesses have been ordered to close. Salons, spas, bars and other establishments will be closed starting Wednesday. Restaurants can remain open for takeout or delivery only.The closures do not affect health-care facilities, government services and other institutions.Bingo and gaming venues as well as wellness centres and gyms are closed.The province is also letting people hurt by the COVID-19 economic fallout avoid penalties and interest on some utility payments and property taxes. There's also a freeze on all rent increases until at least May 31.No visitors are allowed in long-term care facilities and hospitals. There could be exceptions in hospitals for compassionate reasons.\---OntarioOntario declared a state of emergency on March 24.All business except those deemed essential have been shut down.All industrial construction except for essential projects, such as hospitals, has been halted.All bars and restaurants, except for takeout and delivery, have been closed.Also closed are recreational facilities, public libraries, private schools, licensed child-care centres, movie theatres and concert venues.Any public events of more than five people, including parades, events and services at places of worship, are prohibited.Provincial parks are closed.The City of Toronto has also shut down playgrounds, sports fields, off-leash dog parks, skateboard parks and picnic areas. Parking lots attached to parks are closed.Ontario has extended its declaration of a provincial emergency until at least April 14.\---QuebecQuebec declared a public health emergency on March 13 and renewed it a week later.The government has reduced non-priority services and prohibited indoor and outdoor gatherings.Officials have ordered police to set up checkpoints, severely curtailing access to eight remote regions. The restrictions have since been extended to ban all non-essential travel to much of cottage country north of Montreal, and to Charlevoix, northeast of Quebec City.Quebec has also prohibited non-essential visits to hospitals, residential and long-term care centres or between children in foster families and their biological families.Designated clinics have been opened for anyone displaying symptoms.To give retail employees a break, stores are closed on Sundays in April, with only pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores and takeout restaurants remaining open on those days.Montreal's mayor has also declared a state of emergency to help authorities better manage the spread of COVID-19 among the city's homeless.\---New BrunswickA state of emergency was declared in New Brunswick on March 19.Businesses serving food and beverages have been restricted to takeout and delivery. Lounges and clubs are forbidden from allowing customers to enter.Customers are not allowed to enter retail businesses, unless they serve food, medication, fuel or other essential supplies.Many health services — such as chiropractors, dentists and optometrists — are prohibited from seeing patients in person unless absolutely necessary.No gatherings larger than 10 people are allowed and residents are urged to stay home as much as possible. They are also asked to delay non-essential errands.Any unnecessary travel into New Brunswick is prohibited.All playgrounds in the province are closed, but some public parks and walking trails remain open as long as physical distancing measures are followed.\---Nova ScotiaThe province of Nova Scotia declared a state of emergency on March 22 and it has been extended to April 19.It set out a 14-day rule for self-isolation and self-quarantine for people returning from outside Canada.All schools and daycares are closed. Long-term care facilities and care homes are closed to visitors.Casinos have closed and no business is allowed to operate a video lottery terminal.Restaurants are restricted to takeout and delivery service only. Drinking establishments are closed.There are also restrictions on health professionals such as chiropractors and dentists.Two mobile assessment centres have been established to do community-based testing.\---Prince Edward IslandPremier Dennis King declared a public health emergency on March 16.It included an order to Islanders to refrain from attending any public gatherings and a closure of libraries, child-care facilities, gyms and schools.Hospitals have restricted visitors — although one visitor is allowed at a time to see patients in palliative care, intensive care, neonatal intensive care, obstetric and pediatric units.All long-term care facilities continue to fully restrict visitors.Measures also include fines for anyone who doesn't comply with a direction to self-isolate.The public health officer recommends people who are self-isolating stay on their own property when outside.The government is working to open an out-patient clinic to allow for increased testing and to ease the load on hospitals.Officials have also deferred provincial property tax and fee payments until the end of the year.\---Newfoundland and LabradorThe province declared a public health emergency on March 18.It includes the closure of most businesses — with the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and other stores considered essential.Gatherings of more than 10 people are not allowed. That includes funerals and weddings.Grocery stores and big box stores will be allowed to open this year on Good Friday, which is normally closed as a public holiday, to prevent them from becoming too busy as people shop for Easter weekend.Anyone arriving from outside the province is required to self-isolate for 14 days.Health officials have the authority to restrict the rights and freedoms of people in a time of crisis. People who violate orders face fines.\---YukonYukon declared a state of emergency on March 27.The government has placed enforcement officers at the Whitehorse airport and at its boundaries to get details of travellers' self-isolation plans, their contact information and to look for any symptoms of COVID-19.Yukon residents with COVID-19 symptoms must quarantine at their arrival destination, and those without symptoms are ordered to self-isolate for 14 days when they get home.Yukon has asked everyone arriving in the territory, including mine workers, to self-isolate for 14 days.The government has closed bars and limited social gatherings to 10 people or less.Recreation facilities, libraries, museums and visitor centres are closed. School classes are suspended until at least April 15.Long-term care facilities are closed to visitors and volunteers, while all non-urgent or routine services, including lab tests, X-rays, physiotherapy and occupational therapy are suspended.All dentists must also suspend non-urgent treatment until further notice.\---Northwest TerritoriesThe Northwest Territories declared a public health emergency on March 18, which has now been upgraded to a state of emergency.It requires anyone who arrives in the territory from outside its boundary to self-isolate for 14 days.Travel through all points of entry into the territory — both air and road — is prohibited.The orders exclude essential service workers such as medical professionals or emergency services.The territory has asked that all indoor and outdoor gatherings be cancelled — regardless of size or number.Many businesses, including tour operators, gyms, museums and theatres, have been ordered to close.The government has said it will help Indigenous families who want to head out on the land as an alternative to physical distancing. It will provide a $2.6-million grant to help families buy the proper gear and supplies to head out to fishing and hunting camps.\---NunavutNunavut declared a public health emergency on March 20, and it has been extended until April 16.It has no known cases of COVID-19, but it has restrictions in place.There is a mandatory 14-day self-isolation period at one of four locations in southern Canada for any resident that wants to return to Nunavut.Critical employees who need to return to work must apply for an exemption.All non-essential medical travel has been cancelled.Public gatherings, including at playgrounds or parks and at religious, cultural or spiritual services is prohibited.School staff in Iqaluit are working to ensure students in the capital of Nunavut don't go hungry because of closed classrooms. They're continuing to provide breakfasts to children in a way that follows physical distancing rules.\---Sources: Provincial and territorial government websitesThis report by The Canadian Press was first published April 7, 2020The Canadian Press

  • Ontario has enough health-care protective gear for one more week: Ford
    Health
    The Canadian Press

    Ontario has enough health-care protective gear for one more week: Ford

    TORONTO — Premier Doug Ford said late Monday he was pleased a U.S. manufacturer of medical equipment had reached a deal with the White House to continue sending desperately needed masks and respirators to Canada.Ford had warned earlier in the day that Ontario would run out of personal protective equipment for health-care workers in one week due to a combination of delays in global shipments, domestic manufacturing lag time and U.S. restrictions.President Donald Trump and his administration had ordered U.S. manufacturers of such equipment, including the Minnesota-based 3M, to prioritize domestic orders, leaving Canadian officials working to press for an exemption. A shipment of hundreds of thousands of Ontario-bound masks were held up over the weekend by U.S. officials, and Ford said earlier in the day he was in contact with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer."I want to thank 3M and officials on both sides of the border for their support to ensure Canada’s continued access to vital PPE. We are stronger together," Ford tweeted late Monday.But there are several factors leaving Ontario's supply of masks and other protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic "strained," Ford said earlier in the day."We're exhausting every avenue available to us, turning over every single stone, but the hard truth is our supplies in Ontario are getting very low and the more new cases we get the more demand is placed on our resources," the premier said."How fast this virus spreads is up to all of us," Ford said, urging people to stay at home except for essential trips such as groceries and medical appointments.Even if and when the delayed mask shipment arrives in Ontario, that only buys the province another week, Ford said.Various Ontario manufacturers are retooling to produce personal protective gear, but those supplies are weeks away from being ready, Ford said. Ontario is "desperately" counting on shipments the province has placed through the federal government's bulk purchasing program, he said. Ontario has codes for all of the types of protective equipment such as masks, surgical gowns and face shields, Ford said."Right now they're all red," he said.Ontario reported 309 new COVID-19 cases Monday, including 13 new deaths. There have now been a total of 4,347 cases in the province, including 132 deaths and 1,624 patients who have recovered. The total number of cases reported Monday represents a 7.7 per cent increase over the previous day's total — a lower percentage increase than in previous days. Ontario's chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, said he would like to be optimistic about that, but cautioned it is only one day of data."I'd like to be encouraged but...I would not be jumping to any conclusions at this stage," he said.There are outbreaks in at least 46 long-term care homes, including the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon — a 65-bed facility that has reported 26 COVID-related deaths, including three on Sunday. Nearly 30 staff members have also tested positive.At least 451 health-care workers in Ontario have tested positive for COVID-19, representing about 10 per cent of all cases in the province. In Windsor-Essex, where some health-care staff also work in neighbouring Detroit, 44 per cent of local cases are in health-care workers.St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton declared a COVID-19 outbreak Monday after three of its health-care workers in the special care nursery tested positive.One had no direct contact with patients or families, while the other two had either limited contact or contact while wearing a protective mask and neither were symptomatic while caring for the babies or family, the health unit said in a statement."Contact tracing is underway to ensure all babies, family members and staff/physicians who had direct contact with the positive health-care workers are tested and appropriate measures will be taken to limit transmission," the statement said."No babies or parents in the unit are symptomatic. All are being monitored closely"The hospital has created a designated space for infants who may have been exposed, and the unit is being deep-cleaned, the health unit said.Ontario issued an emergency order Monday to allow police, firefighters and paramedics of obtain information on whether someone they are coming into contact with has tested positive for COVID-19."First responders put their lives on the line every day to protect Ontarians and they are at great risk of being directly exposed to COVID-19 as they fulfil their frontline duties," Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a joint statement."We must do everything in our power to ensure the health and well-being of those working on the front lines and provide them with the tools they need to do their jobs and keep Ontarians safe."There are now 589 people in Ontario hospitalized with COVID-19, with 216 people in intensive care and 160 of them on ventilators.A backlog of pending tests that was once at nearly 11,000 now stands at just 329.The Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority said Monday that Eabametoong First Nation, also known as Fort Hope First Nation, is the first far north remote community with a case of COVID-19.This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 6, 2020.Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

  • As Schitt's Creek bids farewell, fans cling to its levity and 'humanity'
    Entertainment
    CBC

    As Schitt's Creek bids farewell, fans cling to its levity and 'humanity'

    It has earned multiple Emmy Award nominations and a celebrity following that includes singer Mariah Carey and NBA star Steph Curry. Schitt's Creek wraps its sixth and final season tonight, and its rare dose of good-natured comedy has many fans turning to the Canadian sitcom for respite during particularly dark times."It's a show that's really about the power of community and the power of acceptance," said show co-creator and star Dan Levy. "I think those are messages that mean more than ever before."WATCH | Dan Levy shares how he and the Schitt's Creek team will be celebrating the series finale.Zia Ahmed, a self-professed superfan in Toronto, echoes the feeling. "You have all these characters thrown into this dire situation in their lives. And now they're trying to make the best out of it, and find humour."Ahmed, 49, and his American-born husband, Scott Weidler, 60, say they're trying to do the same, like so many people who are forced to remain inside their homes to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But they've noticed their attitude to the show has gone from simple entertainment to creature comfort."Before the pandemic, we weren't so focused on watching it right away when [a new episode] came out," said Weidler. "But I think these last few weeks, we've been like, 'Oh, it's coming, it's coming!'"Meme-worthy charactersThe CBC comedy follows the once-wealthy Rose family in a riches-to-rags plot. Patriarch Johnny (played by Eugene Levy) used to be a video store mogul alongside soap star wife Moira Rose (Catherine O'Hara), before bad managers drained them dry and forced them to move to a small town. Their grown but emotionally stilted children, David and Alexis (Dan Levy and Annie Murphy, respectively), come into their own as they're forced to mingle with common folk and get real jobs.What the Roses have lost in fortune, they end up gaining in relationships.The characters' quirks, from David's emotional detachment and germaphobia to Moira's outlandish outfits and inexplicable accent, have provided endless GIFs and one-liners, some of which have landed on T-shirts ("Ew, David!") and coffee mugs. In one of the show's most famous lines, David says (while under his bed covers), "I'm trying very hard not to connect with people right now." But it's clear the series has done the opposite.The comedy has drawn a cult following, which began in Canada and gradually migrated south of the border after the series became available on Netflix in 2017. It gained prominence as a much-needed distraction in some American households."It's a comforting and wonderful show about love and humanity and friendship and community," said L.A.-based Variety editor Kate Aurthur. "Something people really wanted and needed after the 2016 election."'It's moved the bar'As the series evolved, the writing became more confident and the zingers landed more naturally in subsequent seasons. The New York Times, which called the series "drab and overwritten" when it debuted in 2015, began championing it several years later as "funny and light and loopy."WATCH | Dan Levy discusses what makes Schitt's Creek such an open-minded place"It's not humour at anyone's expense," said Murphy. "It's kind storytelling. And I hope it can be a model going forward to promote more of that."Murphy and other cast members have become familiar faces at awards shows and on the U.S. talk show circuit, having appeared on the couches of Ellen, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon, among others. And in the face of COVID-19, as studios were forced to shut down production, the series has made myriad "what to watch" lists while in quarantine."The ensemble, the meaning of the show, the representation of LGBTQ characters, these are revolutionary things. I think it's moved the bar," said Aurthur, adding that O'Hara's portrayal of Moira Rose will go down as "one of the great characters in television history."A documentary called Best Wishes, Warmest Regards, which captures the making of the sixth season, will air right after the finale to give fans a glimpse of the cast and their camaraderie on set."I've been telling people that we're not necessarily saying goodbye," said Dan Levy. "We're just saying farewell for now. But the magic of TV is that these characters live on…. All we're really doing is closing a chapter on this story."And that means in every respect.He added: "I think we saved the best Moira 'look' for last."The series finale of Schitt's Creek airs on CBC Television and CBC Gem April 7 starting at 8 p.m./8:30 p.m. NT.

  • P.E.I. residents struggle to apply for EI as COVID-19 claims swamp phone lines
    World
    CBC

    P.E.I. residents struggle to apply for EI as COVID-19 claims swamp phone lines

    Priscilla Handrahan says for the past month she has been trying repeatedly to get through to Service Canada to file for employment insurance. Handrahan, a resident care worker at Maplewood Manor in Alberton, is applying for sick benefits. She can't file her claim online, as she has to speak with an agent, but she can't get through on the phone, and the COVID-19 pandemic has closed her local Service Canada office."I've been trying since March 7. Like I said my phone is my lifeline. It's there just ringing and ringing and after probably an hour it will say connection failed," said Handrahan.  "So, I call again and it's the same thing. I set my alarm and get up in the middle of the night just in case someone is working and I let it ring and let it ring.… I have absolutely no idea what to do next because I need to get a doctor's note to the EI."Handrahan said fear is setting in. She has to live on her Canada Pension, which is $318 a month. Her bills are piling up, including rent, electricity and internet. CBC News contacted Service Canada on Wednesday, April 1 to ask about the wait times and whether additional staff had been allocated to answer the calls. In an email, the government office said it is "currently receiving a high volume of requests" from the media but would respond as soon as possible. To date, CBC News has not received a response.In one week last month, half a million Canadians applied for employment insurance, compared to just 27,000 for the same week last year, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Many more are expected to make claims this week.'Virtually impossible to reach out'Egmont MP Bobby Morrissey said Handrahan is not alone. His office is fielding dozens of calls daily. Morrissey said he'd like Service Canada to have local agents answer the calls, to reduce the backlog of calls going to the national call centre."It's virtually impossible to reach out to Service Canada at a time when Service Canada is really needed," said Morrissey. "I know the problems my staff are facing. We're facing the same in trying to reach out to Service Canada on behalf of constituents to get their issues resolved."  Morrissey said he has contacted his federal Liberal counterparts in hopes of coming up with a solution. He said the problems Islanders are having getting through to Service Canada are leading to frustration and hardship.  'This is simply wrong' "I've had constituents who were dependent on a sick EI claim and that requires validation and documentation, and they have not received a payment from EI in a couple of months. This is simply wrong."  Pam Corcoran of Woodstock is also trying to reach out to Service Canada. She also has a sick claim, so she too needs to speak to an agent. Corcoran works at a call centre. She said she's immune compromised so her family doctor put her off work because of COVID-19.Her stress level, she said, is going through the roof. "We tried and we tried and we tried and we tried pretty well all day," said Corcoran."We were on hold so long that the handset went dead." 'I need my EI'Alfred Culleton of Elmsdale said he's been trying for three weeks to reach Service Canada without any luck."I have two phones going at the same time. I've been trying. My wife's been trying," said Culleton, adding that he gets in the queue but then the call gets cut off.Culleton said it's having an impact on his finances."I got to rely a lot on my family for the time being to borrow money from them until everything gets set up," he said. "I'm sure they don't have a lot of money either but we just have to get by. Fortunately, my wife she's still on EI right now, but that will be running out soon." Handrahan doesn't know what the solution is, but she said the federal government needs to be able to find a way to get these calls answered.  "I know they are swamped and I know they have their work cut out for them and I do feel bad for them, but where does it leave the small people?" she said."I don't know. I don't know how we are going to fix this. I need my EI."COVID-19: What you need to knowWhat are the symptoms of COVID-19?Common symptoms include: * Fever. * Cough. * Tiredness.But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.What should I do if I feel sick?Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.How can I protect myself? * Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. * Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. * Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.

  • Application process opens for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit
    Politics
    Global News

    Application process opens for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit

    More than half a million Canadians applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, on the first day the program was opened. It's a $500 per week payment available to those who have lost their job due to the coronavirus crisis.

  • Fear of COVID-19 is growing, suggests new poll of Canadians
    World
    The Canadian Press

    Fear of COVID-19 is growing, suggests new poll of Canadians

    OTTAWA — A new poll suggests a growing number of Canadians are frightened of the prospect of contracting the novel coronavirus.Sixty-four per cent of Canadians said they were personally afraid of becoming ill with COVID-19, compared to 57 per cent two weeks ago.They appear even more concerned for their loved ones, with 76 per cent of respondents saying they were afraid someone in their immediate family would become infected.Those fears are a little less pronounced in Quebec, despite being the province with the highest number of cases — 57 per cent responded they were afraid for themselves and 69 per cent said they were afraid for family.The poll, conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies between April 3 and 5, surveyed 1,512 adult Canadians and 1,000 adult Americans randomly recruited from its online panel.Leger's internet-based survey cannot be assigned a margin of error because online polls are not considered random samples.The poll suggests that as more people feel alarmed about the virus, the issue is also becoming more personal.While no one polled lived with someone who had contracted the virus, 11 per cent said they had a friend, family member or acquaintance who received a COVID-19 diagnosis — up from four per cent two weeks ago.Meanwhile the vast majority, 94 per cent, said they have not personally experienced any symptoms, which the poll listed as a cough, sore throat, fever or difficulty breathing.Their trepidation doesn't stop at their family's health.Ninety-three per cent of Canadian respondents also considered COVID-19 a threat to the country's economy.Seventy-nine per cent said it is a threat to the health of the Canadian population as a whole, with the same number saying it threatens day-to-day life in their community. Just over half of respondents deemed the pandemic a threat to their personal finances.Still, the poll suggests Canadians are largely and increasingly satisfied with the measures being taken by governments to fight the disease.That's particularly true at the provincial level, with 82 per cent approval. The federal government has seen an increase in approval, with 72 per cent satisfied, up from 65 per cent two weeks ago.Fewer Canadians now believe that the pandemic has been blown out of proportion, with 83 believing COVID-19 is a real threat compared to 77 per cent two weeks ago.The last few weeks have seen serious moves by all levels of government to bring in stringent physical distancing measures to limit the spread of the virus, as well as the introduction of several relief programs by the federal government to ease the financial burden of the virus for individuals and businesses.That stands in contrast to the United States, where there are 330,891 confirmed cases of the virus according to figures provided by the Centers for Disease Control on Monday.There, 26 per cent say that the disease has been blown out of proportion while only 13 per cent in Canada believe the same.What hasn't changed is the fact that most people in Canada — 67 per cent — still believe the worst the virus has to offer is still ahead.This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 7, 2020.Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

  • As callers wait days to hear from Telehealth Ontario, province says to call your family doctor
    Health
    CBC

    As callers wait days to hear from Telehealth Ontario, province says to call your family doctor

    The Ontario government is instructing people to call their primary-care physician, if they have one, instead of its Telehealth system after widespread complaints that the wait time to speak to a nurse is several days."For people to call their own family doctor is probably a more timely way to deal with it," said Health Minister Christine Elliott on Monday.She said the aim is to get the average wait time down to a day. "Waiting three days is not acceptable." 4 days, 10 hoursA London, Ont. woman is worried for anyone who needs health advice in a more timely manner after calling Telehealth last week with stomach pains and a fever. "I though it maybe was my appendix," said Rhea Lip. After trying several times to get through to an operator, she was finally told her wait for a call back from a nurse was four days and 10 hours. "I was really shocked," she said. "People who call Telehealth depend on ... getting a nurse's opinion, especially at times like this." Several people online also complained of long wait times, both for COVID-19 and other health questions. The Ministry of Health told CBC News the current average wait time for COVID-19 related calls is approximately 23 hours, while the average wait time for other inquiries is about 60 hours, or two-and-a-half days. That's after adding 336 nurses and 106 intake staff to answer incoming calls.In early March, the average time for a call back from a registered nurse was 52 minutes, an increase from 36 minutes in February. As of April 4, the service had received 79,000 COVID-19-related calls. The Ministry of Health said it's working with Telehealth Ontario to help address the increased daily call volumes and reduce callback wait times. Self-assessment and virtual visits While Ontario officials initially asked the public to call Telehealth about COVID-19 symptoms, the province's chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams said it's now advising people to call their family doctors because of several moves the government has made.These include the creation of an online self-assessment tool, which has had more than a million hits since it launched March 23. The province also approved physician billing codes for phone consultations, while others are doing virtual appointments. That includes Dr. Sohail Gandhi, president of the Ontario Medical Association and a family doctor in Stayner, Ont., just south of Collingwood. "I'm personally grateful when [patients] contact me," he said. "I'd rather patients get information from me than someone else, because I know them." Gandhi suggested all patients contact their family doctor first, since their physicians have knowledge of a patient's history. He said the workload has been high, but manageable since some non-essential appointments have been put on hold for now. As for the roughly one million Ontarians who don't have a family doctor, Williams suggests those patients don't have much of a choice. "Telehealth is still available. It's still a good place to call for advice and direction."

  • 'Uncharted times': Planning for wildfire season amid the COVID-19 pandemic
    World
    CBC

    'Uncharted times': Planning for wildfire season amid the COVID-19 pandemic

    For the last four years, cities and towns near large forests and woodland across Alberta have known spring brings increased wildfire risk. This year, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is throwing a wrench into any plans to deal with wildfire season.As of Monday afternoon, the province had more than 1,300 confirmed cases and 24 deaths, according to the government's official tally.In High Level, a town of 4,000 roughly 740 kilometres north of Edmonton, the sports complex has previously served as an evacuation centre for other nearby communities. But it won't be used this year, as Alberta Health Services has taken it over as an assessment centre for COVID-19 cases in the region. "It's just a collision of, I don't know what to call it, the perfect storm, because we don't have places to go," said High Level Mayor Crystal McAteer. "If we do have a fire where people have to evacuate, how do we keep people separated from the people that may have been infected?" she added.There are blazes burning to the north and south of her jurisdiction since spring 2019. They have been under control since last June.Fires already burningWhile it may seem unusual to think of fire planning while snow blankets much of Alberta, two weeks ago, the province's wildfire app showed five fires burning in the province, represented by green icons to indicate they were all "under control." By the end of that week, there was a sixth.Last year, one of them, the Chuckegg Creek fire, scorched more than 331,000 hectares, causing residents of High Level and neighbouring areas to flee their homes for two weeks."They're all very afraid of the coronavirus reaching our community," said McAteer of her residents.She is now looking for alternative arrangements to the sports complex, in anticipation of an influx of people fleeing fires coming to her town for refuge. One possibility is nearby campsites, vacant for now. McAteer says they were used by firefighters last year, but the fire crews could move to hotels this year, since the businesses are shut down due to the pandemic.That would work only if High Level itself did not have to be evacuated again. There was "very little snow" in High Level this year, McAteer said. While much of Alberta's southern parts had a summer of rain in 2019, drought-like conditions remained in place for the north. A fire like the Chuckegg Creek fire could play tricks, like it did last year. "In some places it goes 20 feet underground, and it just smoulders and smoulders, and then flares up when the conditions are right, especially if we have high winds." How to evacuate the whole town?"I guess we're all in uncharted times now," McAteer said.It would be hard to send entire communities to bigger cities, she added, as there is COVID-19 in the larger centres such as Edmonton, Slave Lake and Grande Prairie. "These are the places where we would normally go to."She is considering talks with the Northwest Territories, only a two-hour drive north, but the territory has currently shut down its inter-provincial border as a precautionary measure to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Slave Lake and Peace River are also adapting to facing a wildfire season coupled with a pandemic.Peace River has previously used its ski shelter as a physical evacuation centre, but this year, it said it would use the phone and the internet to help evacuees access food and shelter in the community, as the COVID-19 risk is too high.  Meanwhile, Alberta Wildfire issued a news release at the beginning of March to alert news outlets wildfire season had started and was expected to last until October."Be a boy scout, be prepared, is always a good model," said Mike Flannigan, who teaches wildfire science at the University of Alberta. "In a week or two, we could go from snow to sweat and fires could be popping up all over." Flannigan said it is impossible to predict the intensity of this year's fire season, but trends of the last few years provide a clue."On average, we are warming," he said, citing British Columbia's record-breaking fire seasons for 2017 and 2018. "Alberta, 2019, it was the second-busiest fire season since 1981." Firefighter staffing levels a concernFront-line workers are also contemplating what a busy fire season could mean if they are dealing with a public-health pandemic. "Usually, you have someone backing you up [on a 65-mm firehose]; it's very hard to do on your own," said volunteer firefighter Josh Lambert, who helped subdue the Chuckegg Creek fire last year. WATCH | Firefighters spray edges of the Chuckegg Creek fire with water:Lambert said fire crews do their best to follow public health recommendations, but there are some activities you cannot conduct when standing two metres apart from anyone else at all times."You're going to be crewed in a truck where you have to sit right beside people," he said. "Everything is getting cleaned after we get in and out of firetrucks. Everything is cleaned right after we get back from a call. Extra personal protective equipment is required as well, just to be as safe as we can." Lambert, who also lives in High Level, said he is optimistic the town has learned lessons from last year that will help it mitigate the impacts of any large fires. But he does have concerns about getting deployed to other communities. "If there was any other department, that's when you get worried, because there's a cluster of a bunch more people," he said. More than 300 fire service members in isolationMeanwhile, the Alberta Fire Fighters Association, which represents 3,200 firefighters, has staffing concerns."[The pandemic] is going to tax the system in ways we've never seen," said association president Brad Readman.In previous years, firefighters from other provinces have flown in to help crews in Alberta, and vice-versa, as needed. That may be complicated by travel restrictions, flight cancellations and layoffs at Canada's major airlines."Unless you lived through the Spanish flu, this is uncharted territory for all of us," he said. A few firefighters in Alberta have tested positive for COVID-19. At the time of the interview, Readman said 316 members of the AFFA were in self-isolation either due to recent travel or cold-like symptoms. That could mean a shortage of firefighters if wildfire season becomes intense."Fires don't stop during a pandemic," he said. "Life still goes on even when there is a medical pandemic."Readman was looking for firefighters and other front-line health workers to get tested in a separate stream than the rest of the general population, in order to make sure they could be back at work as quickly as possible. The association has asked the provincial government for accelerated testing so they are not lining up with the rest of Albertans.Alberta Health Services spokesperson Tom McMillan said testing has been prioritized for front-line workers, including doctors, nurses and firefighters.But AHS is not considering creating an entirely separate stream. "We have accelerated testing to ensure that health-care workers who need testing get it as soon as possible," McMillan wrote in an email. Province exploring 'various scenarios'CBC News asked for an interview with Paul Wynnyk, Alberta's deputy minister of Municipal Affairs, who is also in charge of the provincial operations centre overseeing emergency response, but spokesperson Timothy Gerwing said he was unavailable.In a statement, Gerwing said the province's emergency management professionals "are capable of managing several emergencies at the same time."Gerwing also wrote the same professionals would work with chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw "to inform any potential measures to keep Albertans safe" in the event of community evacuations, and are in constant contact with the health department as well as Alberta Wildfire.The government's Alberta Wildfire page acknowledges the pandemic is a particular concern, and says it is drafting a response plan.Monday afternoon, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney provided a glimpse of what that plan could include.He said there would be fire bans put in place in wilderness areas before this weekend as a preventative measure;  helicopter surveillance flights; and fire watch tower staffing would start earlier than normal."To be blunt, we are quite concerned about the possibility of managing this pandemic and then having a lot of wildfires at the same time like we did last summer or spring," Kenney said.Wildfire smoke-related air pollution could target the same vulnerable populations with respiratory problems and other underlying health conditions that are particularly susceptible to the virus. There may be one silver lining yet, according to Flannigan. Though global warming means fire seasons are generally stretching in length and intensity, he pointed out most wildfires are still the results of human activity. "If parks are closed and people are still in a stay-at-home policy, then there are still not too many people out camping," he said."If there are fewer people out and about working or recreating, then there is less likely to be human-caused fires," he said.

  • 'So lovely': 10,000 Easter flowers showed up on doorsteps of Hamilton area homes
    Lifestyle
    CBC

    'So lovely': 10,000 Easter flowers showed up on doorsteps of Hamilton area homes

    Laurie Brady returned home from walking her dog on Saturday to find a large pot of magenta flowers on her doorstep — a gesture that put a smile on her face. "What a nice thing for people to do," Brady said. "It's so nice to see the kindness of strangers and generosity."Brady, 47, said she and other residents in the Kirkendall neighbourhood came upon the potted surprises on Saturday afternoon. A friend of hers in East Hamilton said she also got a delivery. The flowers, which included hydrangeas and chrysanthemums, came with a note from the Ravensbergen family. They operate Ravensbergen Greenhouses in Smithville, Ont. "We have plants that currently don't have a home and we would like to spread some cheer to you and your family," reads part of the note. 'Smiles and warmth'Many people took to the organization's Facebook page to express their thanks and share photos of the flowers. "It's heartwarming," said the greenhouse's general manager William Ravensbergen of the Facebook posts they received from locals. "(We) couldn't operate as a normal store, (there was) no place for our product anymore and we felt we had to get these plants into homes, otherwise they would be thrown into a compost pile," Ravensbergen said. Half the donation was sponsored by a Stoney Creek-based company that wanted to remain anonymous, and the rest were donated by the Ravensbergens. The deliveries were handed across lower Hamilton and Dundas by volunteers from Blessings Christian Church, Grace Valley Church and Mercy Christian Church. In total, 10,000 plants were distributed across Hamilton, Beamsville and Smithville. Lia Hess, who used to be in the greenhouse industry and also received a bundle of flowers, said she instantly thought of how much the greenhouse industry must be struggling in these times. "This coronavirus could not have happened at a worse time for these people because they've been working all winter," Hess said."This is your only time. This is the only time you have to make money and you will never get these sales back. So my heart just goes out to them," she added. On the plus side, Hess said this sort of "goodwill gesture" will definitely attract new business their way in the future. "For them to do an advertising ploy like this, I think, is creative, innovative, (it) puts their name out there and yeah, makes people happy too."

  • 'There is fear here': St. Lawrence mayor concerned after 1st COVID-19 case found in long-term care
    U.S.
    CBC

    'There is fear here': St. Lawrence mayor concerned after 1st COVID-19 case found in long-term care

    The mayor of St. Lawrence says news of the first COVID-19 case in a long-term care facility in the province has hit his community hard as they wait for further testing."There is a fear here," Paul Pike told CBC News. "In this community we have one store and one post office and so on … So people are scared to certainly be around other people."The case was announced at Monday afternoon's provincial COVID-19 briefing. Health Minister John Haggie said the patient was at the U.S. Memorial Hospital, which also has a walk-in emergency department, a family practice and a pharmacy. The emergency department will shift to the Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre, about 30 kilometres north of St. Lawrence, temporarily. Eastern Health said in a news release on Monday emergency services are expected to resume April 20, at U.S. Memorial. The person's exposure to the virus spans a time when single visitors were allowed inside the facility, but it's not clear if the virus was passed on from a visitor or staff member."There is a sense of shock and most people are really surprised that we had a case here because the hospital has been closed to visits since the 28th of March," said Pike. "We felt that with all the precautions put in place and the measures by Eastern Health that hopefully we would avoid the situation that we are in today."The staff at the facility and the other patients neighbouring the positive case are in the process of being tested for the virus and are waiting for results.Concerns over staffing and spreadPike said all the patients are in isolation as much as possible but the biggest issue he predicts in the foreseeable future is inadequate staffing. "There is going to be a lot of staff that aren't going to be able to go to work for 14 days and that is going to become a real issue."Pike is also concerned about surrounding communities because of how transient the healthcare workforce in St. Lawrence is. "People who work in St. Lawrence, for example, might work in Burin the next day … because of the nature of their positions.""All communities now need to be very careful on the Burin Peninsula." Although the mayor said he is concerned about the residents in his community and the facility, he believes the majority of people in the town have been taking the virus seriously and are abiding by the social distancing rules.Pike said the town is expecting more information from the province in the next 24 hours, but for now he is asking people to be safe."It's a virus that we really don't know a whole lot about. I think we are doing what we can."Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

  • What it's like for couriers who keep delivering so you can stay home
    Business
    CBC

    What it's like for couriers who keep delivering so you can stay home

    Most customers don't want to see Bob Rodkin anymore.Instead of dropping off food for Uber Eats in person, he's been told to put it on front porches, at doors or in building lobbies. Every so often, he'll get a wave through the window."You deliver a pizza to somebody and they say just leave it on the front step ... it's just a cement step that's covered in dirt," he said. "And you want me to leave your food on there? And that's better than me handing it to you?"It's become standard delivery practice as the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies. Couriers like Rodkin, 59, have taken on new level of responsibility, continuing to go out and deliver so people can stay at home.It's different while picking up too.Restaurants are making couriers grab their deliveries at drive-thrus, front windows or wait for it to be brought outside when it's ready. Others only allow a few people inside for pick-up, with barriers in place and employees practising physical distancing.That's made it hard for Rodkin, a grandfather who also just started working an Ajax grocery store, to find places to go to the bathroom and wash his hands while picking up food."I don't order delivery food ... I'm not sure that I'd be comfortable," said Rodkin, who delivers around Oshawa and Whitby, east of Toronto. "If you can order groceries and get the groceries and make it yourself, you're better off ... there's just fewer hands touching everything."Some sick pay promised but no sanitizerCouriers are in a unique position to catch the virus and infect others while moving packages between many different places and people.Brice Sopher worries about getting sick but said he needs to keep delivering so he can pay rent."It's very hard to do when one really hasn't gotten a lot of support from the companies that they work for," said Sopher, who bikes for Uber Eats and Foodora in Toronto. "Both [companies] continue to insist that business goes on."Uber Eats and Foodora have promised couriers some sick pay for up to two weeks if they get COVID-19 or are forced into self-isolation. Another food delivery company, Skip the Dishes, has stopped allowing cash. All three apps are allowing "contactless" delivery.But Sopher said he hasn't gotten any hand sanitizer, disinfectant or gloves, something he wants the companies to provide. He's been bringing his own and sanitizing his gloves every 15 minutes or so.Sopher also wants couriers to have the option to self-isolate voluntarily, while still getting pay.He was involved in the push to allow Foodora couriers to unionize. Ontario's labour relations board ruled in February they were eligible to join a union, the first app-based workers to win that right in Canada.Currently, he's trying to figure out a way to get money to colleagues who can't work and food to couriers who might not be able to afford it. He also wants the province to reconsider couriers' designation as essential."Delivering sushi to someone in a condo isn't an essential service," he said."If we were delivering food to people that had mobility issues or ... equipment to frontline health workers, that would make us an essential service."'Terrifying ... but it's exciting'Others have already pivoted.Cathy Conroy runs On the Road delivery service in Walkerton, Ont., usually driving long distances for companies. But office closures have meant she's now mostly doing local food deliveries for people who are scared to go out.She's offered to pick up food, do grocery runs or even get the mail for people.How safe it is to eat delivery?Experts say the risk of getting COVID-19 from delivery and takeout is low but have advice: * Get couriers to leave food at the door. * You can reheat the food. * Wash your hands before and after you eat."It is kind of terrifying ... but it's exciting to help people, to feel like you're really making a difference," she said. Conroy's being careful; her family has a history of health problems like heart and lung issues, which makes them more vulnerable. She's decided to start wearing masks and has been sanitizing constantly.When she drops off a delivery at a house, she'll leave it at the door step and wait in her van to make sure it doesn't get stolen.That's kept her busy, but it's also helped her keep stress down and focus on something other than the pandemic."If I'm sitting around more thinking about it, than I'm more stressed. That's just the way I am."This is part of a series looking into the unexpected front-line workers of this pandemic, the people in every day, low wage jobs (like grocery store workers) who are keeping things running while many stay home. If you have a job or a person you think should be profiled, get in touch at haydn.watters@cbc.ca.

  • 'It needs to be done:' Staff keep Iqaluit school breakfast program going
    Lifestyle
    The Canadian Press

    'It needs to be done:' Staff keep Iqaluit school breakfast program going

    IQALUIT, Nunavut — School staff in Iqaluit have banded together to ensure that students in the capital of Nunavut don't go hungry because of closed classrooms.In a territory with some of the highest rates of food insecurity in the country, they're continuing to provide breakfasts to school children."Some kids really rely on it," said Jason Rochon, a Grade 3-4 student support worker at Joamie Ilinniarvik School. "Every day, it's getting bigger and bigger."Rochon has been helping run a breakfast program and food bank at the school for a few years. When the decision was made March 16 to shut down classes over the COVID-19 pandemic, his first thought was to start packing bags of food for kids to take home with them."I could just tell by the amount of food they were taking that they really wanted to have it," he said. "I thought, 'Well, it's not going to last them forever.'"Nobody was doing anything about the lack of a breakfast program. I just talked to my friends and we decided to do something."What they arrived at was breakfast-in-a-bag — a simple meal of cereal, milk, cheese, yogurt and a piece of fruit tucked in a paper bag to minimize the need for contact.The first morning, they served about 180 kids. The next day, it was 200. On Monday, it was 412 — their biggest day yet.The operation has grown large enough to require its own warehouse. It serves people from two sites.The breakfast program serves a real need in Iqaluit. Poverty, limited employment opportunities and the high price of food that has to be transported from the south keep families hungry.A 2014 study found 60 per cent of children in Nunavut lived in food-insecure households. Three-quarters of children in severely insecure homes regularly skipped meals.Food programs are a feature of all Iqaluit schools, open to all students so none are singled out for needing them.All the breakfast program workers are volunteers. Rochon said each bag costs about five dollars.The money comes from wherever he can find it. Friends have donated, as have people in town. The Nunavut land-claims organization has promised $25,000.They even received $6,000 from people in Greenland who had sent the money to help with food security issues when Iqaluit's biggest grocery store burned down last year. Right now, Rochon said, there's enough money to keep the program going until April 20."If the school closures are extended, I'm going to need to look for funds. If I've got funds, I'm happy to feed people because it needs to be done."The food comes from the south, ordered through a local grocery store.As yet, Nunavut has no confirmed COVID-19 cases. Still, workers at the breakfast program are careful. Everyone wears gloves, people line up two metres apart and only one member from each family can attend.The protocol has been approved by health officials, Rochon said."People have been very respectful. We don't want to get shut down." The need is great, he said. On Monday, crews handed out 200 bags of food in the first 20 minutes."As soon as 9 o'clock hits, we're just swamped," he said. "It's just go, go, go."I think everybody in town knows that the little kids need food and they rely on our breakfast programs."This report from The Canadian Press was first published April 7, 2020— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

  • Alcoholics Anonymous wrestles with challenge of physical distancing
    U.S.
    The Canadian Press

    Alcoholics Anonymous wrestles with challenge of physical distancing

    When the International Convention of Alcoholics Anonymous was cancelled to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it became clear the fellowship had to start getting creative.The conference, originally scheduled for the first weekend of July, would have seen nearly 50,000 members meet in Detroit to share experiences and lessons in their shared struggles with addiction. But restrictions on public gatherings forced the cancellation of that event, as well as weekly meetings in countless communities."We just went, 'Oh my God, this is real. Like, this is really real,'" said one AA member, who is also the alternate general service delegate for Area 82, which serves Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador."We were hopeful that this wasn't going to be too long and then we got an email from General Service Office saying that the international world convention was cancelled," she said.Alcoholics Anonymous groups often meet in legion halls, churches, or other public meeting spaces. Those buildings have been closed by public health officials across Canada to help the slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.Finding alternatives to in-person meetings has been a challenge.The teleconferencing app Zoom has become a popular alternative because it allows people to call in from a land line.However, for the first few weeks of physical distancing, AA was posting the co-ordinates of its Zoom meetings online and making them open to the public, which led to several incidents of online "trolls" posting graphic photos in the chatroom or harassing participants in other ways.Passwords have since become the norm. But in a decentralized organization where anonymity is a central tenet, it's hard enough to get the word out about online meetings, let alone passwords."I was in bed and my phone started ringing and it didn't stop ringing for about three hours because people were trying to figure out how to find passwords for meetings because we didn't have passwords the day before," said the AA member who, as a service delegate, had her number posted on the area website. "That was a little learning curve."Another challenge is that AA works on the principle of attraction rather than promotion.Members not only remain anonymous, but abide by the idea that the organization should have no opinion on outside issues. AA also never endorses or offers financial support or prestige to any outside organizations.That makes it exceptionally difficult to announce that all meetings have moved online. Even for one member to be interviewed for this article, it required a vote by local members that then had to be approved by AA's General Service Office in New York.In the Atlantic region, AA has reached out to doctor's offices, hospitals, and detox centres where addicts might wind up. Public service announcements have also gone out on community cable channels and radio stations.The general service delegate says that to simulate the socialization of in-person gatherings, the Zoom meetings usually open 30 minutes early and people stay on long after the formal portion of the meeting is done."We miss hugging and handshakes. And, you know, Joe always brought cookies," she said. "But we're trying our best."This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 7, 2020.John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

  • Mental health task force created to provide aid for Canadian athletes during stoppage
    Sports
    CBC

    Mental health task force created to provide aid for Canadian athletes during stoppage

    Not being able to train regularly can not only affect the physical conditioning of high-performance athletes, but also impact their mental health.Structure and routine were important components for athletes as they prepared for this summer's Olympics in Tokyo. With gyms shuttered, pools closed and training facilities dark due to COVID-19, their normal lives have been turned upside down.Not only has training been interrupted, so has social contact with fellow athletes and coaches. Having the Tokyo Games postponed a year added another layer of stress and confusion."In terms of motivation, in terms of isolation, in terms of anxiety . . . I think it has been a really challenging time for a lot of athletes, especially if they're not getting access to the support that they need," said Rosie MacLennan, a two-time Olympic gold medallist in trampoline."For a lot of us, something that is so significant in our daily life has been taken away. Also, that goal that was four months away is all of a sudden 16 months away. And while there's clarity and a date, there's not much clarity for a lot of athletes on how they'll qualify or when they'll be able to train normally again."To answer the questions and concerns of high-performance athletes, a mental health task force has been created involving several of Canada's major Olympic sport groups."The group has really been put together to asses the needs and do some strategy and planning around the different things that are required," said Dr. Karen MacNeill, a psychologist who has worked at Olympic Games as the lead mental health counsellor for the Canadian Olympic Committee.Groups involved in the task force include the COC, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Own the Podium, the various national sports organizations, the Canadian sports institutes spread across the country, and Game Plan, an athlete wellness program designed for national team athletes."One of the biggest things is consistency and alignment and communication," MacNeill said.WATCH | Kylie Masse more appreciative of her sport during stoppage:Frank van den Berg, a mental performance consultant with the Canadian Sport Institute Calgary, said there are mental repercussions from not being able to train regularly."Through exercise, endorphins are released into the bloodstream," van den Berg said. "It helps us feel better. It may also kind of ward off some anxious thoughts."It may have some positive effect on how we look at ourselves, our self-esteem or how we think about ourselves."'Getting those endorphins going again'Swimmer Brent Hayden retired after winning a bronze medal in the 100-metre freestyle at the 2012 London Games. He remembers the withdrawal he felt from a lack of training."My wife would tell you that my mood changed and I was not a pleasant person to be around for a while," said Hayden, who has come out of retirement and hopes to compete in Tokyo next year."How I combatted that was getting back into the gym on a regular schedule and just getting those endorphins going again, so my brain chemistry was back to what it used to be."Athletes dealing with closed facilities and social distancing must reset their expectations and goals, van den Berg said."It's like when an athlete is injured and is not able to do what (they're) normally doing," he said."The emphasis needs to be on maintenance of fitness and taking care of your body in good ways. The emphasis and focus should not be on getting stronger or peaking for competitions, because they're not there. Everyone needs to kind of tone it down but stay active and take care of their body in different ways."Mental fitnessMacNeill said one of the messages being impressed on athletes is "controlling the controllables.""Of course, you're feeling down," she said. "Of course, you're feeling sluggish. That's part of it."Athletes are being urged to train the best they can at home. They can find social contact by doing virtual workouts online with teammates.MacNeill even encourages athletes to treat the current situation as training for coping with problems they might face in competitions."There's no better training ground right now because there's uncertainly, because there's unpredictability, because there's stress, to build your resilience and mental fitness," she said.MacLennan said the program has been valuable."They're continually expanding what they have to offer. A lot of athletes are making use of the program and I think it's hugely critical."

  • 'Cast aside': Student job seekers say they've been forgotten in federal pandemic plan
    World
    CBC

    'Cast aside': Student job seekers say they've been forgotten in federal pandemic plan

    Keihgan Blackmore, a McGill University law student, had plans to spend his summer in New York after a prospective research position opened up at a tech startup. That was before the city became an epicentre for the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world."After completing the interview, I received notice that they had cancelled the position because of the coronavirus outbreak," he said.He's now struggling to afford next year's $10,000 tuition fee — a plight shared by many students in Canada who've seen lucrative internships or mainstay retail or restaurant jobs disappear as the economic contagion spreads.But unlike other workers, students like Blackmore say they can't necessarily rely on the government's aid measures."I don't feel supported by the government at all," said Mikaela Mailly, a third-year political science and history student at McGill. "I feel like students have been cast aside."The government's showcase economic measure, the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB), applies to people who lost their income due to the pandemic for at least 14 consecutive days in the last month. Students who don't have a minimum annual income of $5,000, or who have not worked consistently throughout the academic year, won't qualify for the transfer, which promises to give applicants about $2,000 a month.Trudeau says help for students is coming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged these concerns at his daily news conference Monday and said his government is working to fill the gap."And I know there's also lots of university of college students wondering what kind of job you'll get this summer," Trudeau said Monday morning. "You need support now, and work is underway to get it to you as soon as possible."At another news conference later in the day, Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos said students who have lost part-time jobs in restaurants and retail are still eligible for a range of government aid, including an automatic six-month, interest-free moratorium on student loan payments.Duclos also noted the government's wage subsidy would help students and new graduates."Those wage subsidies are very substantial," he said. "They will encourage and support businesses toward either rehiring or hiring students that will otherwise lose their jobs."Students rally and sign petitionsBut students like Alex Gold-Apel say they fear they'll be the last ones to benefit from this wage subsidy."I think that that answer is a bit mis-targeted," he said. "Students, in that case, will be competing with everyone else for those jobs, and most employers will not prioritize a new hire or a student over existing employees."Gold-Apel, a second-year master's student of public policy at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, has written to federal ministers asking them to adopt measures specifically to help students. He's also joined students who have signed an online petition.Gold-Apel said one option the government should consider is providing a guaranteed basic income to all."It is the easiest and probably the quickest way to ensure that all Canadians get the support that they need," he told CBC. "There is a gap that needs to be addressed."CERB forcing some to say no to workContract workers and freelancers in the so-called "gig economy" also may struggle to access government benefits.Philip Sportel works in Toronto's film industry, creating visual effects. Since the pandemic began, he said, his income has dropped to 10 per cent of what he usually earns.Since the federal benefit rules require that applicants be out of work for two weeks before applying, Sportel said he turned down a $300 paycheque for a recent small animation gig."I had to email them saying, 'Sorry, I can't invoice you or I won't get my government benefit,'" he said. "Which felt super wrong."He and others have also signed a petition asking the federal government to allow people to earn extra income to supplement the CERB.Toronto employment lawyer Lior Samfiru said he supports the idea."If you create a benefit that encourages people not to be employed, not to seek work, not to do whatever they can to contribute to the economy in this situation, then that is counter-productive," Samfiru said. "We want to incentivize individuals to work in whatever way possible. We have all these individuals in a new sector, in the gig economy, [and] they provide an important service."On Monday, Trudeau said his government would continue to fine-tune its aid package to help workers — particularly employees in long-term care facilities or seniors residences — who would earn more if they were on CERB than they would working."That's why we're looking carefully at how we can increase their pay a little bit, so they do better off remaining at work, rather than going off work and receiving the CERB," Trudeau said.

  • Global lockdowns might reduce CO2 emissions but won't halt climate crisis, scientists say
    Science
    CBC

    Global lockdowns might reduce CO2 emissions but won't halt climate crisis, scientists say

    The normally traffic-clogged streets of big cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are empty. Shopping malls are shuttered. Restaurants sit in the dark.This isn't just the case across Canada, but across the globe. Worldwide shutdowns over COVID-19 are having a deep economic impact, but they're also having an unintended positive outcome: a reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.This may seem like a silver lining in a time of such crisis and uncertainty. Global temperatures have continued to rise, resulting in the current climate crisis, and any reduction of CO2 emissions would seem to be good news. But this decline in emissions won't mean much when it comes to the big climate change picture.A decline in CO2 emissions has been observed in China — an estimated 25 per cent — and similar drops are expected in northern Europe, where countries like Italy have been under lockdown for more than a month. But it's a drop in the bucket, scientists say.That's due to two main factors: one, there's a difference in CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations of CO2; and two, any declines are expected to be short-lived.Playing catch-upDeke Arndt, climate monitoring chief at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information, is responsible for climate-monitoring analysis. He and his team release NOAA's annual State of the Climate, a look back at global climate trends. And what he's seen is a steady rise in global temperatures."The warming we see is still trying to catch up to the increased levels of greenhouse gases that are now in the atmosphere. And they will be catching up for many years," Arndt said. "Short-term variances or short-term departures from the trend, even in the downward sense ... don't reverse what we've seen and what we will continue to see for years to come."WATCH | Time-lapse of increased CO2 concentrations up to 2019Katharine Hayhoe, a Canadian climate scientist at Texas Tech University Climate Science Center, stressed that the amount that CO2 emissions decline in this current period will barely be noticeable in the longer term. That's because of existing CO2 concentrations."Atmospheric CO2 is the cumulative effect of all of our emissions over decades to centuries," she said. "Imagine if you were putting a block on a pile, and you'd been doing that every single month for 300 years, and then you don't put a block on the pile, and you say, 'Oh, there's a big difference in the pile.' But the naked eye can't even see that difference. So that's the difference between concentrations versus emissions."Drop likely to be short-livedAnother factor to consider is that the reduction in CO2 emissions is likely to be short-lived — once cities or countries lift their lockdowns, they're once again open for business, with the potential for industries to ramp up production in an effort to overcome their financial losses.Indeed, that effect has already been observed in China. As well, though other parts of the world — including Canada — might see a drop in emissions during lockdowns, it may not be quite as dramatic as what was observed in China. "I certainly expect global CO2 emissions to go down in 2020. My sense is that emissions will go down a few per cent, but I would add a very large uncertainty around that," said Glen Peters, research director at Norway's Center for International Climate Research, in an email."The biggest challenge is that we are only one-quarter of the way into the year, and we have to make big assumptions about what happens for the next nine months of the year."He added that even if emissions were to go down a whopping 50 per cent, if they go back up to pre-COVID-19 levels, it would have "virtually no effect on climate."Impacts on renewable energyHayhoe said she's also concerned about the impacts the global shutdowns will have on renewable energy. "The industrial slowdown affected the production of renewable energy technology like batteries and electric cars and solar panels," Hayhoe said. "Many of the stimulus or bailout packages might focus on industries that currently produce a lot of carbon emissions, and not have any requirement for them to change or alter the fact that they do so."Some scientists hope that this lockdown might result in businesses changing the way they work, perhaps allowing more people to work from home, resulting in fewer CO2 emissions. But others have concerns."The problem is that this has been forced upon people, and potentially in a bad way," Peters said. "People are forced to work, home-school, not go out, etc., and this may give them a bad experience of working remotely."Hayhoe said there are big questions in our future when it comes to changing our way of life and work."The question is, will we use this as an excuse to continue to cling to the past? Or will we use this as an opportunity to rethink our future?" she said. "That there is the multi-trillion-dollar question."

  • Walkerville artist paints mural in honour of front-line COVID-19 workers
    U.S.
    CBC

    Walkerville artist paints mural in honour of front-line COVID-19 workers

    The Walkerville Tavern on Wyandotte Street E. was broken into on March 26. The front window was smashed, and because the bar was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the owners decided to board up the front window to protect the bar.But kitchen manager George Rizok wasn't about to leave it at that.Rizok — who's also an artist — transformed plywood into canvas, in the process paying tribute to health-care professionals and others working on the frontlines of the pandemic."It was a great honour to do something like that. I'm just glad people are enjoying it," said Rizok.The mural depicts health-care workers, as well as custodial staff, police, delivery people and grocery store workers.The health-care professional that features prominently in the middle of the mural is Bella Riccardi, one of the employees at the tavern who also works as a respiratory therapist in Kingston, Ont."Honestly, I teared up when I recognized it was her," said Cara Kennedy, the owner of the bar.Kennedy posted pictures of the mural on Facebook, adding that Riccardi was shocked and touched by the piece.> It was a great honour to do something like that. \- George Rizok, Kitchen Manager, Walkerville TavernAccording to Kennedy, Ricardi was moved by the fact that Rizok even painted the earrings that Ricardi always wears."To me, that's a tribute that George recognized and wanted to give to her," Kennedy said."It's a form of joy. It's something that can put a smile on people's faces."The Walkerville BIA has tapped Rizok to create more murals throughout the district with similar themes."I just want to thank everyone who is working to keep us safe," said Rizok.

  • Finding ways to socialize while keeping distant? Loopholes not worth the risk
    Health
    The Canadian Press

    Finding ways to socialize while keeping distant? Loopholes not worth the risk

    Setting up lawn chairs in driveways for socially-distant neighbourhood parties. Talking to one another from apartment building balconies. Driving to parking lots to chat from cars parked two metres apart.People have been finding innovative ways to keep socializing with friends and neighbours while trying to respect physical distancing measures during the COVID-19 outbreak.While it may seem harmless enough, some experts say those social distancing loopholes are probably not worth the risk."As humans we will always find ways to kind of push limitations, to figure out how we can work around problems," microbiologist Jason Kindrachuk said in a phone interview with The Canadian Press."But that's where, as far as public messaging goes, we need to keep reiterating the sheer importance of social distancing, why we're doing this in the first place."And how many risks are we willing to take that may potentially result in spreading this virus?"The coronavirus is transmitted by respiratory droplets, which are released into the air when infected individuals breathe, talk, sneeze or cough. The droplets will generally travel about two metres before they hit the ground, said Kindrachuk.That means keeping a safe distance, at least two metres or six feet away from someone else, is one of the most effective methods we have for halting the spread.Kindrachuk, who's also an assistant professor of viral pathogenesis at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, said maintaining a two-metre distance while trying to socialize can be easier to do in some cases — like talking to a neighbour from your backyard deck with a fence serving as a physical barrier.When you're outside with nothing standing between you and the person you're socializing with, however, the barrier becomes much easier to blur."If you're on two driveways, are you actually six feet apart? Are you going to take as many precautions or are you going to start to maybe reduce some of your concerns, just out of out of basic comfort?" Kindrachuk said. "If you're in that group, are you certain that every person there is maintaining that physical distance?"Because we're dealing with a virus that transmits invisibly, right? And potentially from people that may not be showing signs of infection."Dr. Gerald Evans, a physician and chair of the division of infectious diseases at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., believes some social distancing loopholes can be safe, provided distance is actually maintained.He added that having those activities outdoors, where there's "a huge dilutional effect that disperses droplet particles," can also help in limiting the spread of the virus. "Being inside is a different story," Evans said. "And clearly, if somebody was sick, that would be a totally different story too."Evans said extra precautions would still need to be considered when trying to keep distant while socializing outdoors, like ensuring any object around you — a chair, cooler, drink glass — also remains two metres apart from any other person."What you wouldn't be able to do is share anything," Evans said. "If you were sitting in a lawn chair and you were about two or three meters from your neighbour, the droplet effect isn't there. But if you were perhaps holding a glass in your hand with some lemonade or beer in it, you certainly don't want to have that object near your neighbours because yes, those objects can also be contaminated by those droplets."Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease expert with the University Health Network in Toronto, said trying to find any kind of social distancing loophole isn't wise.He said public health messages from federal, provincial and municipal officials in Canada are all aligned, and some cities across the world are now imposing fines on those not following social distancing measures."It is very clear what you can and can't do," Bogoch said. "You can go out for exercise and go walk the dog, but otherwise, just stay apart. Stay at home."Maybe it's technically not wrong, but it's certainly not in the spirit of what we should be doing."Kindrachuk said even something like going to drop off baked goods or a home-cooked meal at a friend's doorstep could potentially be dangerous.Keeping distant, and limiting the number of surfaces touched by multiple people, is the best approach, he said."I think the medical and scientific community as a whole, we want people to understand and appreciate why physical distancing is so important, especially because we don't have a vaccine," Kindrachuk said. "Our only real ability to curb transmission of this virus is by reducing its ability to spread from one person to another."If we want to get this completely contained, we need to do everything we can to stop the virus from being able to transmit."This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 7, 2020.Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press

  • Toronto man who is blind getting little help due to coronavirus social distancing rules
    News
    Global News

    Toronto man who is blind getting little help due to coronavirus social distancing rules

    Danny Gundy is blind and says he is having a tougher time navigating the streets of Toronto as people keep their distance. Tom Hayes has more.