Britney Spears’s bid to remove her father, James Spears, from the conservatorship of her estate has been declined by a Los Angeles court.
Britney Spears’s bid to remove her father, James Spears, from the conservatorship of her estate has been declined by a Los Angeles court.
BUENA VISTA, Ga. — Across the grounds of a south Georgia courthouse, scores of masked and socially distanced voters bowed their heads in prayer for the 260,000-plus Americans who have died from the coronavirus.Then Democratic Senate hopeful Raphael Warnock took the microphone, promising to push for more economic aid for businesses and people affected by the pandemic and touting Democratic plans to combat long-standing racial and wealth disparities highlighted by the crisis.A day earlier, Vice-President Mike Pence campaigned with Warnock’s opponent, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, and her fellow Republican senator, David Perdue. But in heavily Republican north Georgia, there were only scant mentions of the public health calamity that helped lead to President Donald Trump’s defeat: aid programs that passed Congress months ago and a vaccine that is still weeks — or months — from mass distribution.“Before the end of this year, we’re going to see 40 million vaccines all across America,” Pence predicted, attributing the possibility to “the leadership of President Donald Trump.” His crowd -- distanced only in certain seating sections and many not wearing masks -- roared as the vice-president added a kicker: “We’re in the miracle business."It's two starkly different worlds on display in Georgia, where the national political spotlight is shining on twin Senate runoffs that will determine which party controls the chamber at the outset of President-elect Joe Biden’s Democratic administration. Republicans need one more seat for a majority; Democrats need a sweep on Jan. 5.For Republicans, the pandemic is secondary in a runoff blitz defined by dire warnings about what it would mean if Warnock defeats Loeffler and Perdue falls to Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff. Democrats, meanwhile, are more than eager to discuss COVID-19 and its economic fallout. The messaging differences bleed over to the two sides’ public health protocols, as well. The approaches largely track the fall presidential campaign, when Trump wanted to talk about anything but the virus, while Biden centred his pitch around Trump’s handling of it.The November results in Georgia explain why neither side is deviating. Biden clipped Trump in the state by fewer than 13,000 votes out of more than 5 million cast. But Perdue led Ossoff by about 100,000 votes, finishing just short of the outright majority Georgia requires to avoid a runoff. Warnock led Loeffler in a separate special election. Both sides share a common conclusion: Each party has a pool of potential voters approaching 2.5 million. It’s just a matter of which side can coax more to cast ballots in a second round.Republicans’ reprisal will depend again — in part — on generating enthusiasm via in-person campaigning, even as coronavirus cases spike nationally. Trump has announced plans for a Dec. 5 rally in Georgia, after weeks of speculation about whether he’d come amid his continued refusal to concede to Biden. As with the president’s October blitz of rallies, there’s no suggestion that his Georgia event will include social distancing or require masks, as recommended by public health officials.Neither Perdue nor Loeffler echoes the president’s mockery of public health standards. But so far in the runoff campaign, they’ve held multiple indoor events with no social distancing and without compulsory masks. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, appearing with Loeffler, drew hundreds of suburban Republicans to the Cobb County GOP headquarters, surprising organizers and crowding the facility to the point that some voters left without attempting to enter.Florida Sen. Rick Scott drew a similar throng to a restaurant in suburban Cumming for an event with both Georgia incumbents. Days later, Scott said he had tested positive for COVID-19 and had been exposed the same day he travelled to Georgia. Loeffler later announced her own positive test, as well, though consecutive negative tests followed in subsequent days, leading her to end a brief quarantine.Loeffler acknowledges the pandemic in her standard speech by highlighting her and Perdue’s votes for the spring economic relief package.Warnock and Ossoff counter with almost exclusively outdoor or virtual campaigning. Warnock has, however, held outdoor photo lines that do not involve social distancing.“We’ve seen no real national public grieving because it is the kind of death that doesn’t show up in one fell swoop,” Warnock said in Reynolds, where he campaigned under an outdoor picnic canopy. “We see no real recognition of what is happening. ... Meanwhile, we’re having a debate about science. Wearing a mask is somehow a political statement? No, it’s not a political statement. It’s common sense.”Ossoff launched the second round of campaigning with a statewide tour of drive-in rallies similar to those Biden used after Labor Day. Ossoff went into isolation in July after his wife, an OB-GYN, contracted COVID-19. His ads frequently show him greeting voters in masks.The two Democrats have also criticized Loeffler and Perdue for well-timed stock trades after a series of private congressional briefings on the then-burgeoning pandemic.“While you were sheltering in, she was sheltering her investments,” Warnock said in Buena Vista.A recent Ossoff ad says Perdue “profited from the pandemic” instead of “preparing our country.”Senate ethics officials and the Justice Department have found no legal wrongdoing in either Georgia senator's financial activity.Ossoff also has sought to tie Perdue’s loyalty to Trump back to the pandemic. The president has spent weeks asserting baseless claims of voter fraud in Georgia and other battleground states Biden won, without Perdue disputing the claims.Trump's foot-dragging on an orderly transition, Ossoff said in an interview, has hampered Biden’s ability to organize a governmentwide coronavirus response.“What Sen. Perdue should be doing, if he had the people’s best interest at heart and not just his own,” Ossoff told The Associated Press, “is encouraging the president to recognize reality.”___Associated Press writer Ben Nadler contributed to this report from Atlanta.Bill Barrow, The Associated Press
À l’heure où la propagation du virus gagne du terrain en Alberta, la collaboration entre les représentants du gouvernement provincial et ceux du service de soins en santé fait défaut pour lutter contre la pandémie, comme l’indique CBC. Cette semaine, la chaîne nationale en anglais a révélé des tensions en se procurant certains documents confidentiels et des enregistrements audio. Ubaka Ogbogu, professeur associé en droit à l’Université de l’Alberta, a eu accès à ces documents stipulant que des recommandations faites par la médecin en chef, la Dre Deena Hinshaw, avaient été ignorées par le premier ministre, Jason Kenney. Il explique aussi que les agissements de « certains membres des opérations du cabinet du premier ministre interfèrent avec les activités de certains membres de l’équipe de soins en santé. Le gouvernement pense que les Albertains doivent être responsables d’eux-mêmes ». Or, des membres de l’équipe médicale ont exprimé leur mécontentement auprès des membres du cabinet, expliquant que cette méthode d’autoresponsabilisation auprès des Albertains était inefficace, chiffres à l’appui. En effet, dans les transcriptions auxquelles M. Ogbogu a eu accès, certains collaborateurs de l’équipe de la Dre Hinshaw se disaient stressés et fatigués par le nombre croissant de cas. Il explique aussi, sans entrer dans les détails, que la Dre Hinshaw aurait agi différemment à propos du port du masque et des tests pratiqués dans la province. Le manque de collaboration entre les deux parties paraît pour lui évident, démontrant que le gouvernement priorise l’économie. Division au sein des représentants Noël Gibney, médecin urgentiste, dit ne pas être étonné par ces révélations. « C’est ce que nous soupçonnions depuis un certain temps », déclare-t-il. « Cela explique pourquoi le gouvernement de l’Alberta prend des décisions aussi dangereuses », ajoute-t-il. M. Gibney était l’un des 79 médecins qui avaient signé une lettre au premier ministre, voilà plusieurs semaines, le pressant d’établir un confinement total à l’instar du Manitoba. Selon le médecin, la situation de la Dre Hinshaw est délicate. « Je la vois comme un otage de M. Kenney. Elle est dans une situation où elle doit accepter la position du gouvernement ou démissionner. C’est là où elle est rendue en ce moment », dit-il. Cette fuite dans les médias est le signe aussi, selon lui, d’un désaccord au sein même de l’équipe de lutte contre la COVID-19, et pas seulement avec les représentants du gouvernement. « L’équipe de santé publique n’est pas unie. Certains membres sont en désaccord avec ce que le gouvernement fait, mais aussi avec la Dre Hinshaw, qui ne conteste pas assez, selon eux,ce qui se passe », résume-t-il. Rupture du lien de confiance Dans son point de presse de jeudi et sur son compte Twitter, la médecin en chef, elle, n’a pas caché sa déception devant cette fuite dans les médias et le sentiment de trahison qui l’habite. « Je suis déçue que des conversations internes confidentielles aient été diffusées, ce qui constitue une violation du serment public et du code de conduite. Ces réunions devraient être un espace sûr, où les fonctionnaires peuvent avoir des conversations et des débats francs et continus », a affirmé la Dre Hinshaw. Lors de son point de presse, elle a aussi précisé que ces indiscrétions feraient l’objet d’une enquête. Un coup d’autant plus rude à accuser pour la médecin en chef que la fuite de ces informations provient directement de l’un des membres de son équipe. Elle dit pour le moment ignorer qui en est à l’origine. Un comité consultatif de la COVID-19 Pour le moment, le Dr Noël Gibney et le Dr James Talbot, ancien médecin hygiéniste en chef de l’Alberta, coprésident un comité consultatif de la COVID-19 qu’ils ont formé avec l’Association du personnel médical de la zone d’Edmonton. Cette initiative regroupe plus de 1700 médecins actifs. « Nous avons des membres représentant un certain nombre de spécialités qui participent à l’intervention contre la COVID », précise-t-il. Ils souhaitent, par cette démarche, « répondre aux actions (et à l’absence d’actions) du gouvernement provincial ainsi qu’informer continuellement le public et les médias sur la lutte appropriée à mener contre cette pandémie mortelle ». Contactée par Le Devoir au sujet de ces divulgations dans les médias anglophones, Christine Myatt, l’attachée du premier ministre Jason Kenney, a renvoyé la balle à la Dre Hinshaw. « La Dre Hinshaw a longuement abordé ce sujet lors de son point de presse », a-t-elle dit. En date du 27 novembre, l’Alberta comptabilisait 14 217 cas actifs de COVID-19 et 519 morts liées à cette maladie.Hélène Lequitte, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Devoir
Manitoba Education is seeking back-up for its remote-learning hub from staff who work in the province’s 37 public school divisions. “The province issued a call to school divisions for staff who might be interested in working with the Manitoba Remote Learning Support Centre as part of a team,” a spokesperson for the department said in a statement Friday. Division participation is voluntary, but the spokesperson said interested administrators are expected to identify staff, resources and best practices for the support centre. The team of staffers, which is separate from the teaching positions the province is currently hiring for, will help create the centre’s bank of distance-learning lessons and assessment resources, the spokesperson added. The Brandon School Division confirmed Friday one of its staff members will work with the hub once it launches. In a statement, assistant superintendent Mathew Gustafson said BSD joined a group of other divisions to create the Westman Consortia to provide remote learning for students with medical exemptions this fall. The new centre will provide additional resources the division “will explore and utilize as the centre evolves,” Gustafson said. Also Friday, the Hanover School Division indicated one of its instructional coaches will help develop the centre, but will remain a division employee. When reached Friday, superintendents at Seine River, Seven Oaks and Prairie Spirit divisions indicated they had no plans to redeploy staff to support the centre. “We’d much rather keep our students connected to their home schools,” Brian O’Leary of Seven Oaks wrote in an email, in which he noted current programming keeps students connected to their classrooms. Earlier this month, the province announced plans to hire 100 teachers to staff the $10-million support centre for teachers and parents doing remote instruction. The Manitoba Teachers’ Society, among other critics, have questioned how the province will find qualified applicants, given schools are struggling to cover substitute requests because of public health directives to stay home if symptomatic and COVID-19 exposure quarantine periods. The province confirmed Friday it will accept applications from outside Manitoba. The centre is expected to launch next month; the education minister suggested it would be up and running this month when he unveiled the project, but the province extended the job application deadline to Dec. 2.Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Gambler First Nation first came to The Brandon Sun’s attention in May. An off-reserve member, Darlene Gerula, sent the Sun an email describing a variety of issues with leadership she felt placed on-reserve members’ lives at risk. Among these concerns was the use of Akwaton multipurpose wipes, the product of a company the leadership at Gambler was hoping to purchase. Health Canada recalled the wipes in late June because the product both expired in 2015 and contained polyhexamethylene guanidine hydrochloride, an ingredient not approved for use in Canada. In the months since Gerula’s email, the Sun has met and spoken numerous times with several Gambler members and heard their stories. This is part one of a three-part series. GAMBLER FIRST NATION – Gambler First Nation is in the midst of an ongoing and ever-growing invisible crisis. “If I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t believe it,” said band member Darlene Gerula in one of many interviews with The Brandon Sun. Gambler First Nation has a membership of just under 300 people, of whom roughly 70 live on reserve. There are 42 houses. Two of those houses were built this year – the first builds the reserve has seen in eight years. Approximately two dozen long-time on-reserve band members — elders and young people alike — have reported mistreatment at the hands of a leadership that includes Chief David Ledoux, his wife Rose and their daughter, Kellie, one of two councillors. This leadership has refused to answer any questions from members or from the Sun. Allegations of mistreatment include homes being padlocked, homes left for years in disrepair (making them essentially unlivable), water withheld, threats of electricity withheld, health services withheld and repeated attempts at seizing houses to offer them to off-reserve members and supporters. Gambler has hired a team of lawyers to handle its court actions. Both prior to and after receiving Gerula’s email, the Sun repeatedly attempted to contact the band to visit and learn about the community. When we did place a call, we were told to communicate by email. Six emails have gone unanswered. We also communicated by Facebook Messenger, to no avail. For a brief time, we received statements from a marketing firm that acted as liaison. That firm is no longer involved with Gambler. The leadership has actually been in question for two years, with current Chief, David Ledoux, remaining in power against the band’s own custom election laws. The band has its own electoral process under the First Nations Elections Act, rather than the Indian Act. Gordon Ledoux, who won the second 2018 election as called by the band’s election committee, died Nov. 8 in hospital, while the matter remains in a judicial review before a federal court. Indigenous Services Canada continued to deal with David after Gordon’s election. “Because Gambler First Nation’s custom code process is outside of the electoral provisions of the Indian Act, the department does not play a role as to how the community’s leadership is selected or how governance disputes are resolved, although the department can offer support through mediation or facilitated meetings on request,” stated Indigenous Services Canada spokesperson Leslie Michelson. “When a governance dispute arises in a community that selects its leadership under its own community (or custom) process, the dispute must be resolved in accordance with the community’s own rules, or through the courts. If ISC receives conflicting governance reports, it will record election results by community agreement or at the direction of the courts.” On paper, and in public, all appears right at Gambler. The First Nation is developing an urban reserve in Brandon and has a settlement of more than $300 million with the federal government coming down the pike. Gerula and her husband, Greg Wakin, first met David and Rose at an NDP fundraiser and were initially impressed. “He was a Christian. We thought, pillar of the community,” Gerula said, adding it was her brother, Vern Kalmakoff, who arranged for the couple to attend, as he was unable to. That original meeting took place shortly after Gerula’s treaty status was reinstated in 2015 — her grandmother had married a non-Indigenous man and was stripped of her status. Kalmakoff and Gerula are John “Falcon” Tanner’s direct descendants. That ancestor was a white man, kidnapped by an Ojibwa tribe, who then married two Indigenous women during his lifetime, history tells. He is an integral part of Gambler’s origin story. A Falcon grandson, Atakawinin (”The Gambler”) Tanner is the First Nation’s namesake. The Gambler’s brother Joseph Tanner is Kalmakoff and Gerula’s great-grandfather. Another grandson, John Tanner, established Tanner’s Crossing, which is now known as Minnedosa. David came to power at Gambler in 2012 after he transferred back to the reserve. He took over from his brother, Gordon, who had to resign for health reasons. By several accounts, David arrived at Gambler with very little, his family in tow. During the summer of 2014, 14 band members occupied the band office following a meeting that saw a quorum of on-reserve band members vote to oust David. At the time, band member Donna McGillivary said, “We want to be heard and bring it into the open about how we are being treated here.” There is a culture of nepotism on the reserve, McGillivray said at the time, and David is using intimidation tactics to silence people who oppose him. Concerns about using off-reserve members — who were unaware of what was taking place on the reserve — for votes surfaced then, as they did during the 2018 election. The band office is now in Russell, inaccessible to band members without vehicles. McGillivary declined to speak with the Sun for this story. When Gerula’s great-grandfather, Joseph, died, Kalmakoff and Gerula’s great-grandmother married Felix Ledoux. David Ledoux’s mother, Nellie, was also a first cousin to their grandmother. The families at Gambler are so interlinked that the band’s custom election laws once stated only a blood descendent of John “Falcon” Tanner could be elected chief. A Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision in 2015 abolished that practice after Sharon Tanner, who married into the family, filed a complaint when she was barred from running for chief. That decision also found that David firing her from her position as an economic development officer with the band was an act of retaliation. Gerula and Wakin knew nothing of what was happening on the ground at Gambler. Gerula and Wakin are linked to the Brandon land project, an urban reserve project along 18th Street North in Brandon. The couple said David and Rose asked for help to form businesses and generate some revenue for Gambler. The couple found the properties and developed the relationship with the City of Brandon, they said. In 2019, the couple accepted an invitation from David and Rose to head out to Gambler to work. Wakin, retired from 30 years as a Winnipeg Police Service officer and a former owner/operator of two restaurants, took on the role of health director in May of last year. Gerula — herself a businesswoman who successfully owned a trucking company with her former husband of almost 30 years — volunteered at the health centre. The experience was intended to be a return home of sorts for Gerula, and her little grandson joined them. Her son, an information technology professional, also joined them during the summer and volunteered his services. “It’s Darlene’s family,” Wakin said. “It’s her family place of origin. We thought it would be good to get to know the community — try to fit in.” A house David promised was not forthcoming and the couple spent their first month living at a hotel nearby, at their own cost, then above a woman’s garage in neighbouring Russell, 15 minutes away. They continued to eat out, as they did not have access to a kitchen. Luckily, they kept their place in Winnipeg, Gerula said. On the reserve, Gerula and Wakin soon became concerned about the misappropriation of funds, the public shaming of staff and general conditions they witnessed at the reserve. “We kept thinking it would turn around, but every day it just got worse,” Wakin said. As an example, Gerula offered the story of a school bus. Using federal funding, David bought a full-sized 72-seat school bus, which he then traded in for a semi-truck. There are approximately 15 school-aged children at Gambler who attend school in nearby Binscarth. The semi now sits unused. Gerula also recounted how she came across a grant for a couple hundred thousand dollars to bring fibre-optic internet to the reserve. The area sometimes goes days without connectivity or with poor connectivity. But the deadline was short. “I’d asked Kellie and Rose for information. Then they disconnected my email. I called them. ‘I have a proposal I’m working on. The deadline is now tomorrow.’ They said, ‘Yeah, yeah we’ll get it up and running,’” Gerula said. At a staff meeting where staff members reported on what they were doing, Wakin mentioned the proposal Gerula had worked on and how the opportunity was now lost. “Rose started yelling at me. I’d never been treated with such disrespect or abuse in my life. And my life as a child was no walk in the park. I’ve never in my life been treated like this,” Gerula said. “She started yelling that I had no right to be sending emails, who do I think I am. We’re talking — yelling and spitting. Yelling at the top of her lungs in front of the entire staff. When she was done yelling at me, her daughter-in-law started yelling at me.” Gerula looked over to her husband and told him she couldn’t do it anymore. “I left. I was crying. I can’t do this. I’m volunteering.” Wakin immediately resigned. The couple left the reserve in September of last year. They’ve since been advocating for Gambler members. As has Kalmakoff. “I just want what’s right for the members,” Gerula said. “The homeless to have a home. Those with medical conditions to have their needs met. Those hurting to get help. I know you can’t help everyone, but those who want help.” A visit to the reserve by the Sun on Oct. 16 painted a picture starkly and shockingly different from the public image. On the drive to Gambler from Brandon, Kalmakoff, who is an off-reserve band member and long-time Brandon businessman, owner of Vern’s Appliance Sales Service & Parts Ltd., spoke of the travails many members are experiencing. His greatest concerns were Gordon, who at the time was extremely ill, growing more ill, and had been refused health care on the reserve, and Sean Ledoux. Both are David’s brothers. He also had concerns about Roxanne Brass, a sister to all three. Gordon also won a human rights case against Gambler First Nation in 2018, for which David testified as Chief, and retaliation was one element cited in the decision. Gordon’s story, “Housing feud between brothers at Gambler First Nation,” appeared in the Sun on Oct. 3. Gordon suffered from many ailments, even as he had been couch surfing with relatives on the reserve for several years. He had severe diabetes, with ulcers in his feet and legs. He had five heart attacks. Half his stomach was removed at the age of 17. “He is often comatose when he goes into hospital and doctors expect him never to make it,” Brass said in October, weeks before her brother’s death. “Gordon always surprises the doctors and miraculously survives. He is the strongest man I know that keeps surviving.” Gerula said Gordon and Brass called her when Gordon was denied foot care on-reserve. “I spoke with the nurse. She told me she did do his feet, and Mackenzie (Olynyk, health director) told him not to come back,” Gerula said. “The nurse said if anyone at Gambler needed foot care it was Gordon.” With the refusal of medical care he had no way to get to dialysis, Gerula said. “We have two medical vans that are supposed to transport members to their medical appointments. He was denied that. With no way to get to dialysis, he stopped the treatments. He could be a burden. Roxanne works a couple hours away. She couldn’t drive him.” Gerula, to whom Gordon gave permission to advocate for him specifically, said Gordon was mortified the last time he went to get foot care on the reserve. “With the health director telling him not to come back, telling him she could and would refuse all his health care needs … he didn’t want to be a burden on everyone. Treatment would be two-to-three times a week. With no treatment or help from Gambler … how does he get there,” she said. “The nurse was also setting up physio so he could walk. The health director denied that. He was tired of fighting for everything.” Gordon’s death gutted Kalmakoff. He’d come to admire Gordon, and Kalmakoff couldn’t believe Gordon was giving up. “I didn’t know that the end was so close. Friday (Nov. 6), I went to see him. I heard he was really, really sick. He was beat. They beat him. They friggin’ beat him. They have two $80,000 health vans that are sitting there most of the time,” Kalmakoff said, adding David used them as his personal van. “I used to see him all over the place and they weren’t on health business. That’s what they’re designed for, to take people to the medical centre or to the hospitals, run them back and forth. For him (Gordon) to be denied that, it’s nothing short of a crime.” Gerula and Brass told Kalmakoff that Gordon planned on stopping treatment and just go to the other side. “They said that he wanted everybody to accept it. He was worried about what I thought, what I was gonna think.” Kalmakoff feels he could have turned it around, told Gordon to snap out of it. “Then even bring him home. I would have kept him at home. Gave him a ride myself,” he said. “He was too good of a person. Not only that, he was so valuable to our cause. It doesn’t have to be that way on Gambler. It really doesn’t. A little bit of decency ... If David had a little bit of decency, it would be a lot different. But he just has none. Now, he’s putting the boots to Sean. And there’s nothing we can do about it.” Kalmakoff appeared uncomfortable speaking negatively about anyone during his conversations with the Sun. He winced as he tried to explain what he knew of how David treated people, especially David’s own family. But his anger at how many on-reserve members are being treated proved greater than his discomfort. Parts two and three of this series on Gambler First Nation will appear in the Sun in the coming weekMichèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
Bio-based plastics, most of them compostable to some degree, are proliferating across Canada. Yet millions of compostable cups, containers and bags will probably still end up in landfills. It’s a crisis driven, in part, by bad communication. Bio-based plastics are not made equal. Some break down easily; others need months in an industrial composting machine before they disintegrate into organic compounds. And they’re classified through a labyrinthine system that leaves everyone — from manufacturers to waste managers to consumers — confused. “Differentiating between the different definitions, that in itself is a project,” said Belinda Li, director of innovation at Simon Fraser University’s Food Systems Lab, which is leading a research project on biodegradable plastics. In practice, that means most conscientious Canadians trying to dispose of their plastic waste appropriately have two choices: The recycling bin or the trash can. Over 90 per cent of the world’s plastics are produced from fossil fuels, accounting for roughly six per cent of global oil consumption. Bio-based plastics have emerged in recent years as an alternative against this backdrop — but what falls in that category is broad. According to research by Li’s team, the term is used to describe everything from plastics made from plants to plastics that can be broken down into their molecular parts by composting and plastics that are both plant-based and biodegradable. That’s largely because, in Canada, the words used to describe bio-based plastics aren’t consistently regulated, Li explained. For instance, a coffee cup lid could be labelled as “biodegradable” or “compostable,” but what those words actually say about the whether the plastic can be broken down into organic matter is inconsistent. “If you have something that’s certified organic (for example), it’s actually certified” according to standards set by the federal government, she explained. “With bio-plastics, none of that exists right now. You can label something as anything you want — compostable, biodegradable, plant-based.” While there are several third-party certifications available to bio-based plastics manufacturers, being certified is voluntary, she said. And each certification standard also has different requirements on how long it takes for plastics to disintegrate and the kinds of technology needed to actually break them down. And often, those standards aren’t actually reflected in municipal waste management systems. “The conditions that the tests have are really hard to replicate in the field,” she said. For instance, plastic that meets the ASTM D6400 standard — one of the more common classifications for compostable plastics — assumes the plastic will spend at least 180 days in an industrial composter. “(For) a lot of composting facilities, their process isn’t that long. They need to get their stuff through faster than that because they just don’t have the (space),” she said. “So there’s a mismatch between the types of tests being done to show compostability and on-the-ground compostability.” As a result, many municipalities across the country — including those in Metro Vancouver — will remove bio-based plastics from the organic waste stream, even if they’re technically compostable. The lack of consistency is also tricky for manufacturers, said Jay Ashworth, director of sustainability at Associated Labels and Packaging, a Vancouver-based packaging company. Certifying products as compostable is an arduous, expensive process, he explained, and it’s frustrating when their products — everything from compostable clamshell containers to standup pouches — can’t actually be composted by consumers. “There’s no process for recycling or composting (bio-based plastics),” he said. That’s problematic, as these kinds of plastics won’t break down as they are designed to in the anaerobic conditions found in landfills. “For a compostable package to be compostable, it actually needs to go in the compost.” Still, change might be coming. Last month, the Trudeau government announced a plan to overhaul Canada’s plastic waste management system. The proposed legislation would create Canada-wide plastic waste management standards — an early step towards a more consistent and effective system, said Li. Yet, until a new system is created, there aren’t many bio-based plastics Canadians can assume will be composted if they end up in their organic waste bin. “Those really thin green bags that are used for people to put their food scraps in are probably (most) acceptable to more (composting) facilities because they’re really easily identifiable, and they tend to break down faster than say, a compostable fork or hard clamshell (container),” said Li. But not everywhere, including in Metro Vancouver. Marc Fawcett-Atkinson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Brandon Sun readers requested specific questions be asked at COVID-19 news conferences with chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin and Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer with Shared Health. QUESTION: I’ve heard that home care attendants from a small rural community in the Prairie Mountain Health region will be forced to go to Brandon to help at Fairview Personal Care Home. These attendants will apparently be living at a nurses’ residence for a period of time — two weeks. These same attendants visit actual homes in their community, rather than facilities. Can you confirm this is this the new plan and, if yes, how is this protective for those who need home care? SIRAGUSA: I know conversations have been going on with the Prairie Mountain Regional Health Authority. I know that they were trying to find a way to have home care support the personal care home, which is not an unreasonable place to redeploy them. Also, as you know, being from Brandon, the travel distances are challenging, so trying to accommodate work at a different place and provide accommodations or support the workers’ family life and work life. I think those conversations continue to happen. I haven’t received formal confirmation that a decision has been made at this time. QUESTION: Why have officials shut down outdoor activities for kids such as sledding and skating on outdoor ponds, especially if they were sticking to small groups of two-to-three kids? ROUSSIN: Outdoor group sizes are five. So if you were out on a pond with less than five people or going for walks or anything … We shut down recreational facilities, outdoors, right now, just because we wanted to decrease the risk of large amount of people gathering. If you had an outdoor hockey rink we would expect only five people to be on it at a time, right now. So outdoor recreation facilities have been shut down just for the short period. But, still, there’s a lot of outdoor recreation that can occur. The group size limits are five. Do you have a question about something in your community? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Readers Ask.Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
Fraser Health has ordered an elementary school in Surrey, B.C., to close in response to an outbreak of COVID-19.So far, 16 people have tested positive at Newton Elementary School, according to a news release from the health authority.The Surrey School District has been told to close the school for two weeks to break the chains of transmission. It will reopen Dec. 14, according to a letter to parents from school district superintendent Jordan Tinney."We recognize that this has been a stressful time as you wait for further information and appreciate the fact that this closure will cause disruption and inconvenience for many. The safety of our school community is of utmost importance and we appreciate your patience and understanding," Tinney wrote.His email explains that a school outbreak is declared when a significant number of infections are likely to have occurred at a school — beyond one classroom or cohort.The Fraser Health region has been the epicentre of B.C.'s second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 911 new cases confirmed across the province on Friday, 649 or 71 per cent were in Fraser Health.
A remote Vancouver Island First Nation wracked by an outbreak of COVID-19 also had the additional burden of a storm-caused power outage dumped on its shoulders today. Ehattesaht First Nation is under a lockdown with nine active COVID-19 cases as of Nov. 26, on their reserve near Zeballos Coun. Ernie Smith told community members in a Facebook update that 11 cases had been recorded in the community of about 500 since last week, two of which have recovered. He asked members to “stay home” and continue isolating. “We don’t want to spread this virus any more than it has,” said Smith in the video update. In addition, a storm caused power outage in the area earlier today. In a Facebook update on Ehattesaht First Nation’s page band manager Darlene Smith told members that BC Hydro is en route and that they were working to get some generators brought in. Smith also said volunteers from Zeballos were cooking soup for the community members affected by the power outage. Island Health’s medical health officer Charmaine Enns told community members of Zeballos, Ehattesaht and Nuchatlaht today in a notice letter, that additional cases of COVID-19 have been detected through the increased testing that took place during this past week. “Most if the new cases are accruing in individuals who have already been identified as a close contact and were already self isolating at home. This is very encouraging as the cases are in people we expect. It reinforces that the public health measure to have cases and close contacts self-isolate is effective in reducing transmissions within the community,” she said in the statement. Enns also said that several COVID-19 cases have completed their infectious period and are considered recovered. On Nov. 20 community members of Ehattesaht and Nuchtlaht community of Oclujce were notified about a visitor who spent time at Zeballos Elementary Secondary School testing positive for the virus. Contact tracing by BC Centre for Disease Control began on Nov. 21 after members were told to self-isolate. READ MORE: Visitor to Zeballos tested positive for COVID-19 READ MORE: Zeballos closes public service areas ahead of second wave Binny Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Campbell River Mirror
The federal government is laying plans for the procurement and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, inking contracts with seven potential manufacturers and saying six million doses could arrive in the country in the first quarter of 2021. The most recent development from Ottawa came Friday when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tapped former NATO commander Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin to lead the national distribution effort. But various provinces have started spelling out their plans as well. Here's a look at what they've said so far: —Nova ScotiaThe province's chief medical officer of health says he will release a detailed plan for the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine once Ottawa shares more information. Dr. Robert Strang said Friday there is no certainty yet about the availability of a vaccine, but expressed hopes an initial supply will trickle into Nova Scotia early in the new year.Strang said a detailed provincial plan, to be released once the federal government has shared more specifics on its end, will include tight control of the supply and clear rules dictating who can be first in line for immunization. He said he's waiting for more federal guidance on issues ranging from priority groups to transportation and storage logistics. —QuebecThe province will be ready to start rolling out its vaccine plan as of Jan. 1, say senior politicians. Premier Francois Legault said Thursday that public health officials have already settled on the list of priority vaccine recipients, but did not release details. Legault said the province is also working to put the necessary infrastructure in place to support a vaccine rollout. That includes obtaining fridges capable of maintaining the extremely low temperatures needed by one of the most promising potential vaccine options, currently in development through pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.Quebec has also tasked assistant deputy health minister Jerome Gagnon, and former provincial public health director Dr. Richard Masse to oversee the province's vaccination effort. —OntarioPremier Doug Ford is among those leaders calling on Ottawa to provide more clarity as officials scramble to develop a provincewide vaccination strategy.Early speculation on the number of doses the province could receive was put to rest earlier this week when federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said such details were still in the works. But Ford has forged ahead, naming former chief of national defence Gen. Rick Hillier to oversee the province's vaccine rollout. Hillier said on Friday he hopes to have a plan developed by year's end, while Ford urged Ottawa to provide detailed information on potential vaccine delivery. "We need a clear line of sight into the timelines of the shipments," Ford said.—AlbertaThe province's top medical official has said she expects to receive 680,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine early in the new year, a figure not yet confirmed by the federal government. Dr. Deena Hinshaw has also said a number of hurdles and unknowns remain as the province works to devise its vaccination scheme. "These (vaccine) numbers, of course, depend on many factors,'' Hinshaw said on Nov. 18. "They depend on the final pieces of the trials that are underway going well. They depend on ensuring that the safety and the effectiveness of the early vaccines can be assured. All of those checks and balances must be cleared."On Friday, Hinshaw said the province is working with Ottawa to get vaccine, but it is "a bit of a moving target" on when vaccines might be available."But our goal is that whenever vaccine is available, we will be ready to start immunizing individuals on that highest priority list."—British ColumbiaProvincial health officials announced on Wednesday that a vaccine strategy for the province is already in the works. Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province's top doctor, said Dr. Ross Brown of Vancouver Coastal Health will join the group working to organize the logistics around the distribution of vaccines.Henry said front-line workers as well as those in long-term care homes will likely have priority for vaccinations.She cautioned that while the province has contracts with vaccine makers, there can be challenges with offshore manufacturing."It's very much focused on who is most at risk and how do we protect them best," Henry said. "There's a lot of discussion that needs to happen."Henry said the province hopes to have vaccines in hand by January.—YukonPremier Sandy Silver told the legislature on Wednesday that the territory has been in discussions with various levels of government on a vaccine rollout plan. He said the goal will be to provide vaccines to elderly people and health-care providers.Silver said rural and remote communities should also get priority status in northern regions, a fact he said he's emphasized with federal authorities. The premier said he has joined the other provincial and territorial leaders in pushing for a national strategy to distribute the vaccine. “How confusing would it be for 13 different strategies right across the nation?” he said. Silver said the Pfizer vaccine could cause logistical problems for remote communities because of its cold-storage requirements, but those issues may not apply to other vaccines under development. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2020.The Canadian Press
A district-wide drill in the Winnipeg School Division next week won’t focus on fire, bus evacuation or lockdown safety measures — but rather, how to learn remotely in a pandemic. K-12 students enrolled across 79 schools in central Winnipeg are expected to participate in a mock critical (code red) scenario Tuesday morning. Students are to arrive at school as usual, unless they are participating in remote learning or self-isolating, as per COVID-19 public health rules. “The practice, much like a fire drill, is to help our schools identify if we’ve missed anything in our planning for going to remote learning due to a red level at either a school or across the division,” Radean Carter, WSD senior information officer, said in a statement to the Free Press. Carter said WSD wants to ensure it is providing the support both teachers and schools-at-large need, so the drill is an opportunity to see what more the division can do to help. While students will be focused on curriculum throughout the day, some time will be devoted in the morning to make sure they know how to access remote learning. “There’s an assumption that kids are digital natives, but educators will tell you that that is different from asking a kid in a timely manner to log in to the Google Suite, access documents, save and upload them properly, and so on,” said Margaux Miller of Tech Manitoba. Key computer skills students need to learn in order to become digitally literate include typing, device troubleshooting, and how to save files safely and so they are easily accessible, Miller said, adding such skills are expected to be interwoven with other lessons at school. Miller oversees the DigitALL program, which offers Manitobans training on digital literacy and various online platforms. Since the spring, upwards of 1,300 teachers — from WSD and elsewhere — have participated in DigitALL’s introduction to Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom course. While these training opportunities were available before the pandemic, Miller said there’s no doubt COVID-19 has put the importance of digital literacy, as well as the digital divide, in the spotlight. Some families have experienced severe lags online because multiple students are participating in livestreams at a time, while those without reliable internet have been given worksheets. Divisions have set up Wi-Fi hotspots to address divides, but Miller said there needs to be a longer-term solution: affordable, reliable and accessible internet for all. The Canadian government, Information and Communications Technology Council, and Tech Manitoba are planning to release a collaborative report on the implications of connectivity on tech-equity and education in Manitoba next month. On Tuesday, WSD is anticipating glitches and troubleshooting, which won’t all be resolved in one morning, Carter said. She noted the purpose of the drill is to allow students to get familiar with signing in and navigating virtual learning. “At the same time, it gives us an opportunity to reduce the anxiety that comes with a sudden flip to remote learning because students have had the opportunity to try it out, ask questions in person and become more familiar with the process,” Carter added. At least 6,400 students in Winnipeg schools are doing temporary remote learning, in addition to hundreds of others who have been approved for distance lessons on the basis of medical exemptions. Aside from Steinbach-area schools, which are currently in the most severe level of the pandemic response system, Manitoba schools remain in the restricted (code orange) phase.Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Friday’s provincial COVID-19 update held a sweet spot, despite the sad news 14 more Manitobans, aged 50 to 110, succumbed to the virus. Once chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin completed his somber announcements of yesterday’s numbers and repeated his daily messaging that Manitobans need to follow public health orders and stay home, Lanette Siragusa shared a story and images with the press and other viewers. Students from two schools showered health care workers in their area with messages of appreciation this past week. “I would like to begin today by thanking the Grade 8 students at H.C. Avery Middle School in the Seven Oaks School Division, who are led by their teacher Caitlyn Bartecki. I also want to thank Linda Andres’ Grade 3 class at Happy Thought School in Lord Selkirk School Division,” said Siragusa, provincial lead of health system integration and quality and chief nursing officer with Shared Health. “These messages provide a much-needed boost to staff morale, at a time when they are feeling stressed and tired and sometimes scared. Knowing their work is appreciated by some of our youngest Manitobans is a great motivator. I would like to sincerely thank these students for the creative way that they’re showing their support for health care workers, and please know that we love it very much. Meanwhile, Roussin was eyeing the weekend with concern. “The weekend is coming up,” he said. “There’s always those urges to get together with others or to run non-essential errands. My ask to you is to stay home.” Roussin said his message has been clear and unwavering. “We need to stay home as much as possible. This is the only way to ensure we’re decreasing our amount of contacts. We have to ensure we’re going to bring these case numbers down.” He said it’s not forever, but it’s what we need right now to reduce the strain on the healthcare system. “Pandemic exhaustion is very real, and it can exasperate feelings of anxiety and stress and depression,” said Siragusa. “We want Manitobans to know that we continue to do everything possible that we can to support support these issues, including expanding our virtual appointments. We are here to help if you need us.” Roussin also announced a new contact-tracing tool. “This is a form that will be available at the testing site to Manitobans to list their contacts at that time,” he said. The form can be filled out at the time of testing so that there isn’t a delay in recalling contacts. “For those who do end up testing positive, we’ll have a record already in place, which will expedite further the contact investigation. It will help Manitobans track who they came into contact with, as well,” said Roussin. Another bit of sweet news is that due to the critical red public health orders in place, the early worst-case scenario projected by the province is not happening. “Those projections were calling for 800 cases a day starting November 22nd and 1,000 cases a day in the first week of December. So we can see that the restrictions have changed those outlooks,” said Roussin. “We’re going to continue to rerun the modelling over time.” New projections for December, based on the current context, are not yet available. “I can say, I think it was December 6, we were projecting 1,000 cases a day, under those old models. We were tracking at the worst-case scenario. We were tracking as if we had no public health restrictions on and no-one was adhering to public health messaging,” Roussin said, “We can see our numbers now — certainly not where we need them to be — but they didn’t grow at that worst-case scenario amount.”Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
It seems many in Saskatchewan are taking advantage of the great outdoors this fall.With COVID-19 cases rising in the province, indoor gatherings are significantly restricted. That means outdoor winter activities normally passed over in previous years are seeing a boom in popularity.Some retailers are reaping the financial rewards as a result, and they're also finding it difficult to keep their shelves stocked.Fat bike popularity resurges after years of slow salesJason Williams normally plays basketball or volleyball with indoor recreation leagues at this time of year. But those activities are on hold, so he's invested in a fat bike to stay active.The bicycles, which have thicker tires than a regular bike to navigate rough terrain, are ideal for Saskatchewan winters because they easily handle ice and snow. Some tires also come with studs, which make it easier to grip the ground."It's something to do in winter that's a lot of fun and able [to be done] around here," said Williams, who rides his fat bike to and from work each day.He's just one of many people who have invested in the bikes this winter.Freddy Vandelinden co-owns Dutch Cycle in Regina. After years of declining fat bike sales, Vandelinden has sold out his entire stock. He's now ordering for 2022 — one year earlier than he would normally start ordering."I think it speaks to mental health and the ability to absorb some fresh air and get your endorphins going," Vandelinden said. "It's an attraction."He noted bike sales in general, according to bike industry news site Bicycle Retailer, have been up 40 per cent over last year.Cross country ski sales glide into big year Trevor Norgan, manager of Fresh Air Experience in Regina, knew this would be an unprecedented year for sales when skis began flying off the shelves of his store at the end of the summer.He believes the store has doubled, or possibly tripled, its sales over last year."By October we were pretty much sold out, having to reorder," said Norgan.He noted snowbirds are a big part of his clientele."They aren't going down to Mexico or Phoenix anymore. So they need something to do during the wintertime."As ski sales increase, cross country ski clubs are filling up. "We have more members signed up at this point in time than we've ever had for an entire year," said Saskatoon Nordic Ski Club president Gail Motsi. Lessons for adults and youth are now fully booked up, even though the club added additional sessions.On top of the pandemic, Motsi thinks the early November snowstorm — which dumped over 40 centimetres of snow on Saskatoon — is what's driving popularity this year.Families get creative with at-home solutions Cohen Morin has played hockey almost his entire life. But with the recent suspension of sports in the province, the 15-year-old from Nipawin knew he needed somewhere to keep playing the game he loves.Morin built a rink in his backyard last year, but it was too small."There was no boards, so I couldn't shoot the puck around," said Morin. "If I did miss, the puck would just go into the snow."With the rink getting more use this winter, he decided to go all out. He took home pallets from the grocery store where he works and within a couple of days, increased the rink size from just over 18 square metres to just under 56 square metres."I think I hit the maximum with that rink, 'cause it barely fits in our yard right now," he said.He plans to maintain the ice so that he and his brother — and maybe a couple of friends, if rules permit — can play all winter.Some sports feeling the winter bluesWhile some sports are benefiting from the pandemic, not all have seen a record-breaking season. Some hockey skate shops say their sales are way down."I'd say we're doing maybe, at very best, 30 per cent of a normal year," said Paul Craig, who manages Rangers Skate Shop in North Battleford. "It's got us just about shut down."He says parents are keeping kids out of hockey programs as a precaution this season. Even though outdoor rinks remain open for people to skate recreationally, he hasn't seen people buying skates for that."I haven't had a single customer in here today. Last year at this time, myself and … my assistant were just run off our feet."
Adam Skelly, the owner of Adamson BBQ, has been released on bail after spending one night in police custody. Erica Vella reports.
Almost a year into B.C. adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) the Nuchatlaht First Nation (NFN) is calling on the province to honour its legislation with regards to an ongoing land title case. The Nuchatlaht called on Premier John Horgan, Attorney General David Eby and the newly appointed cabinet ministers to “correct the long-standing government policy that Nuchatlaht abandoned their territory,” to abide by legislation to uphold the UNDRIP, and to drop its legal argument. Since Jan. 2017, NFN has been legally pursuing a land claim for territory including Nootka Island, along the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. “British Columbia’s lawyers have stalled the case by raising absurd—and expensive—arguments that the Nation abandoned their territory in an effort to disprove continuous use of the land,” read the statement. Nuchatlaht house speaker, Archie Little told the Mirror that “the case is a classic example of how the province does not understand how our chiefs owned and operated the land.” NFN’s chief (Tyee Ha’wiih) Jordan Michael’s lineage can be traced back to the 1700’s, said Little, adding that their ancestors have owned the land for thousands of years. The nation claims it was forced out of its traditional territory on Nootka Island, and the land was licensed by the province to logging companies without the consent of the First Nation. Western Forest Products runs its operations there now. “British Columbia is trying to silence the Nuchatlaht Nation so that it can do whatever it wants to our land,” said Michael and added,“We will not be silent while our cultural sites are destroyed, salmon creeks are degraded, and old growth forests are clearcut.” The Nation issued the statement in response to Horgan’s new cabinet, sworn in yesterday, which includes a new Minister for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Murray Rankin. READ MORE:Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team After taking office yesterday, Rankin also tweeted yesterday about the significance of being sworn in on the anniversary of Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act passed in B.C. in Nov. 26, 2019. “There’s a great deal of work ahead in order to move reconciliation forward. As a first step, we’ll be establishing a Secretariat, in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous peoples, in order to ensure that new legislation and policies are consistent with the UN Declaration,” said Rankin in a tweet. With Rankin’s appointment to the cabinet, and Horgan emphasizing on the importance of relationship between First Nations and the province, NFN wants to bring to light this historic case once again before the province, said Little. “We have some hope that they will do the right by us, correct their ways and understand where we’re coming from,” said Little. NFN’s attorney, Jack Woodward, said the province “now has an opportunity to advance the project of reconciliation by giving new instructions to Crown counsel to put aside the distasteful defense of abandonment used by previous administrations against First Nations.” “Now is the time to build on the promises made in UNDRIP, which were adopted as part of B.C. law in 2019,” said Woodward in the statement. Binny Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Campbell River Mirror
With the onset of COVID's second wave in Nova Scotia, the picture of who is getting sick in this province has changed. "It is focused in that 18 to 35 demographic," Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said Thursday in a briefing."That is just the nature of this virus when you get it in an age demographic where social activity is an important part of the way they live."All age groups had cases during the first wave, but the focus turned to outbreaks among seniors as COVID-19 spread from the community to staff and residents in the province's nursing homes. The first waveJust over half of Nova Scotia's COVID-19 cases from March to the end of September were people of prime working age, between 20 and 59 years old. A further 21 per cent fit into the 60 to 79 age bracket, and 17 per cent were over 80 years old. About 10 per cent were 19 and under. Overall, 61 per cent of the cases were women and 39 per cent were men. The outbreak at the Northwood long-term care facility in Halifax alone accounted for 345 cases between staff and residents. Smaller outbreaks were reported in at least seven other long-term care or seniors facilities around the province.More residents in long-term care tend to be women, as women have a longer life expectancy than men. Staff in long-term care are also more likely to be female. Experts in aging and long-term care have said this is one reason why the first wave showed an uneven gender split that was weighted toward women. The second waveAt this point in Nova Scotia's second wave — which Strang said began at the start of October — the age and gender split looks very different.Between Oct. 1 and Strang's briefing on Nov. 24, a full 71 per cent of COVID-19 cases fell in the 20 to 39 age bracket. Trailing that group were people between 40 and 59 years old, who made up 13 per cent of the cases. Ten per cent of the cases were 0 to 19 years old, and seven per cent were 60 to 79. No cases had been recorded in the 80 and older age bracket as of Nov. 24.The gender split has also switched, with 55 per cent of cases in the second wave being male and 45 per cent female. What's to comeThe second wave is not over and it is still possible that older age groups or nursing homes could get hit hard again, which is why the province has set up isolation units in six long-term care homes and hospitals. Younger adults are less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19, although it can happen. "If you look at the vast majority of our positive cases in the last several weeks, they've been young adults," Strang said."Lots of social life, going out to work.... as we're testing contacts, there's been a number who've been asymptomatic. But there's also been many who have very mild symptoms." And that can be problematic. Strang said the very fact that young people are experiencing mild symptoms — or none at all — makes them excellent transmitters of a virus that isn't going away any time soon.MORE TOP STORIES
BRUSSELS — Please leave a chair empty at this year's family Christmas dinner as a precaution, or face the possibility of having that chair empty forever. That's the stark dilemma Belgium's prime minister has set to urge smaller festive family gatherings, as Europeans battle with containing the surging COVID-19 pandemic over the holiday season. Alexander De Croo argued that the country's long-running, costly efforts should not be thrown away for the sake of a few warm and fuzzy hours exchanging gifts under the Christmas tree. “I would not want the progress of the past four weeks to be wasted because of four days,” he told legislators this week. Europe's nations are struggling to reconcile cold medical advice with a tradition that calls for big gatherings in often poorly ventilated rooms, where people chat, shout and sing together — providing an ideal conduit for a virus that has killed over 350,000 people in the continent so far. These weeks it is the No. 1 cause of death in the European Union. Yet the desire for contact with family is such that all the horrible realities can be briefly sidelined. In France, it took a letter addressed to Santa Claus to put it in perspective. A year of pandemic and lockdown had weighed so much on a 22-year-old student, that as a grown adult he rekindled his youth and wrote again to the jolly children's saint. “For the end of this year, I’d simply like the family whose name I proudly bear to be reunited, and things to progressively return to normal," wrote Alexis — Santa letters don't usually involve a surname. If families have not lost close ones to the pandemic, many have been unable to meet for much of the year when distancing had to do the job that, hopefully, vaccines will do in 2021. Often grandparents could not see their grandchildren, and family functions — even weddings or funerals — required minute planning and heart-wrenching choices on who would be excluded. Hence the groundswell to hit the pause button, even for just a few days. Britain, with the continent's highest death rate at 57,031 yet a Christmas tradition unlike few others, could not resist the temptation of relaxation. People are currently barred from visiting other households in much of the U.K and there are travel limits to high-infection areas. All that will go overboard for five days over the holidays, when up to three households can form a “Christmas bubble” and members can move freely between them. Cabinet Minister Michael Gove spoke of the need to “offer hope for families and friends who have made many sacrifices over this difficult year." At the same time, hospital and care home staff across Europe feel that their many sacrifices could be in vain if rules are eased too much. After all, this fall's resurgence followed similar relaxations over the summer. Although the European Union has no direct say in national Christmas restrictions, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, a former doctor, urged caution until vaccines become widely available. “We must learn from the summer and not repeat the same mistakes," she said. "Relaxing too fast and too much risks a third wave after Christmas." But even in her native Germany, led by the ultra-careful Angela Merkel, social considerations will prevail: A current restriction that limits private gatherings to five people from up to two households, not including children, will be allowed to double to 10 people over Christmas. Karl Lauterbach, a lawmaker from Merkel's coalition and epidemiology professor at the University of Cologne, said that “Christmas is of greater importance to people, therefore the planned easing of restrictions at Christmas is the right course.” But many of Europe's scientists disagree. Steven Van Gucht, a virologist with Belgium's government health group Sciensano said Friday that Germany's Christmas rule is not about a reunion of 10 people. “It is about hundreds of thousands, millions of meetings of 10 people,” he warned. "And the impact can be enormous." So what can be done? Some counterintuitive suggestions emerge. Christmas dinner is possible — but with the core family in the dining room and grandparents in the kitchen, argues Dr. Remi Salomon, from the Paris hospital authority. “Don’t eat with them. If I give the virus to Grandma and Grandpa, that’s the worst thing of all. How would I live with that afterward?” he told France-Info network. “If we let go too quickly, the virus will circulate again too quickly.” That's why Belgium's De Croo spun his dark allegory of empty chairs from his legislative pulpit. His nation of 11.5 million has been hard-hit, with over 16,000 deaths already. The country barely managed to keep its health system afloat by imposing curfews and closing bars, restaurants and nonessential shops. Like Belgium, Italy, where the pandemic initially struck hard in Europe, is taking a hard line at Christmas. And a prime tradition is up for debate: Midnight Mass. The government is reportedly seeking to negotiate with Catholic officials to hold Christmas Eve religious celebrations earlier, before the 10 p.m. national curfew, though there’s also a proposal to extend the curfew to at least midnight around Christmastime. The Vatican hasn’t released its Christmas celebration schedule, but Pope Francis has celebrated Midnight Mass starting at 9 p.m. anyway for several years, and this year he's expected to do so before just a handful of worshippers. What Christmas Eve will look like in Austria is still unclear, much depending on the success of a massive testing program in coming days. In Oberndorf, home of the world's most famous Christmas carol, they hope its lyrics will not be taken too literally. “Silent night! Holy night! All is calm." So does the rest of Europe. ____ Angela Charlton and John Leicester in Paris, Dave Rising and Frank Jordans in Berlin and Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed. ___ Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Raf Casert, The Associated Press
Retailers in Manitoba are finding new loopholes within mandated public-health orders to peddle non-essential products, just in time for the busy holiday sales this weekend. But speaking to reporters Friday, chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the province doesn’t want to penalize large businesses for exploiting apertures in prescribed restrictions just yet — even if they are directly contravening them by pushing merchandise out the door through new ways such as drive-thru services. It’s a repeat of what happened only a week ago, epidemiologists and commerce stakeholders told the Free Press, when code-red restrictions were heightened to prohibit the in-person sale of non-essential items to begin with. This time, however, they said the provincial government has had enough time to act and make appropriate changes before mass turnouts at retailers. “We’re acting on good faith,” said Roussin, as bargain-loving Winnipeggers didn’t let pandemic restrictions keep them from their Black Friday shopping missions. “We’re not going to be issuing fines on this right now.” News of in-person bargains travelled quickly Thursday and overnight, with hordes of shoppers lining up Friday morning, as early as 5 a.m. Parking lots were also quick to fill up with cars chock full of customers hoping to purchase discounted non-essential items, including electronics, toys, jewelry, makeup and clothing. At Walmart, a new drive-thru service has been introduced, with individual locations either designating specific lanes for cars or asking people to park anywhere before a salesperson approaches them. Without requiring any advance notice or appointments, customers were able to place orders with a sales associate and pick between several items before paying for them with credit and debit cards or cash. “It’s like I’m legit shopping for my stuff the way I would inside the store just by being outside,” said Gina Torros, a Winnipegger who waited in advance to get into the drive-thru outside the Empress Street Walmart to buy a new TV. “It’s really cool, kinda like the pandemic doesn’t really affect this type of full shopping experience.” Asked whether Walmart’s new services are allowed under current public-health rules for the province, Roussin said it is “completely against the spirit of the orders.” He said only remote purchasing of non-essential items (through curbside pickup or delivery) is permitted. “Just because we are not fining them doesn’t change our overall message,” added Roussin. Walmart declined to comment further on how it will adapt its new drive-thru services to be applicable under provincial restrictions. A spokesperson said the retailer, however, plans on continuing drive-thrus in Manitoba until at least Dec. 13, with discounted flyer items open to customers every Friday, Saturday and Sunday leading up to it. Meanwhile, customers at the Real Canadian Superstore and Costco have been sent online flyers with discounts for in-person sales — resulting in plenty of traffic lined up at several of their parking lots in the city on Friday. Martin Groleau, vice-president of marketing at Costco Canada, told the Free Press those lineups are “not necessarily our fault.” “Yes, we’re offering discounts for Black Friday, but they’re not being offered in Manitoba stores,” said Groleau, who is also the director of membership at the company. “We are certainly not selling non-essential items either, please know that.” The provincial government said a Costco on McGillivray Boulevard was handed a $5,000 fine for selling non-essential items to customers, in a news release on Friday. Groleau said he did not want to comment on that, and that he “still stands beside” his statement. At Manitoba Liquor Mart locations, “hot buy” discount programs also caused some lineups. But a spokesperson said that wasn’t necessarily because of Black Friday specials. “We are not running any Black Friday specials — any and all discounts in our stores are the same as you would find any day or week of the year,” said Andrea Kowal, director of public affairs at Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries, in a statement. “The only advertising campaign we are doing right now... is actually to discourage busy stores — it encourages customers to not shop at peak times and think about using home delivery.” Cynthia Carr, an epidemiologist and health policy expert based in Winnipeg, said “all of this put together could easily cause COVID-19 transmissions. “While I can’t speak to exactly the socio-economic or health reasons which Dr. Roussin is thinking of,” she said in an interview, “I can certainly say there’s already enough ways for people to access purchasing items if they need to — and maybe, a stern order would help preventing businesses from finding such loopholes.” “It certainly is much safer just to stop this from happening altogether.” Chuck Davidson, president of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, said public health should “move beyond messaging” for business owners and allow for restrictions, instead of “continuously telling them what to do without rules to govern it.” “If you want to prevent it, you should,” he said. “But I don’t think you can blame businesses for finding creative ways to survive during this time until you’re going to. It’s the only time of the year they can be making up their pandemic losses.” Roussin said Friday the onus is on customers flocking to stores, however. “There are two sides to this — it’s a supply and a demand,” he said. “But, no matter what these stores have set up, there shouldn’t be a demand. Manitobans should be staying home. “They should be responsible for going shopping for non-essentials when that is not our messaging.”Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Newfoundland and Labrador needs to chart a future away from its offshore oil industry to avoid a "chaotic crash out," says the author of a new book about Canada's oil-producing provinces that sounds alarm bells about what lies ahead.Fossilized: Environmental Policy in Canada's Petro-Provinces dissects Alberta's, Saskatchewan's and N.L.'s oil and gas industries, with author Angela Carter — a Newfoundlander whose father worked in the offshore — examining their environmental track records and looking at how prepared, or not, those provinces are for a world rapidly shifting toward greener priorities."We've got to make a plan for managing the wind down of the sector. If we don't create a managed decline plan, we are going to have a chaotic crash out, and it's going to be really painful for the people in this province, and the governments that we're depending on to try to bring us services," Carter said in a recent interview with CBC Radio's On The Go.In many ways, chaos has defined the sector's past year, with 2020 feeling like a constant scramble to find footing on a storm-slicked ship's deck.There's been a global price war, pandemic-related upheaval, layoffs and stalled projects. As awful as 2020 has been, the year's unpredictability could be a harbinger of what's to come for the offshore, warns Carter."The coming decade is likely to be very difficult," Carter writes in her book.Carter, a University of Waterloo professor originally from Conception Bay South, splits her time between Newfoundland and Ontario. Several of her family members work in the oil industry, and she dedicated Fossilized to her father, who was a pipefitter in the offshore and helped build the Terra Nova platform.That vessel went into service in 2002, and 18 years on, a lot has changed.Speaking to CBC, she said the time is now to take a hard look in the mirror, as economic and environmental signs grow ever stronger of a swifter shift away from fossil fuel production."We have based our economy and we've staked our future on an industry that is no longer consistent with climate stability. We are at a really risky place right now," she said.Rewind to the Nineties While thoughts of transition may be trickling into the provincial government's consciousness — and we'll get to that — the offshore oil industry, as Carter points out, has had overwhelming public sector support, despite strong signals elsewhere of changes ahead.Take 1997, for example.The Hibernia platform's production began to great fanfare in November of that year — complete with toasts and streamers the day oil first flowed. That came just weeks before the Kyoto Protocol dominated global headlines with its signing on Dec. 11. (Canada signed on, and later dropped out of, the Kyoto agreement to reduce CO2 emissions.)"This is really telling and I think it's really important to think about that, that moment," Carter said of the offshore's kickoff just as countries began to attempt collective action against climate change.VIDEO: From 1997, see how the 'first oil' discovery at Hibernia was celebrated in St. John's:In the years following, oil revenue buoyed provincial coffers and signs of prosperity popped up, from new restaurants to infrastructure investments to the coveted status in 2008 as a "have" province — that is, joining the ranks of provinces that no longer received equalization payments.While the cash rushed in, Carter says it's been a trickle compared to other jurisdictions' royalties."This is very complex and economists themselves will argue over this. But Newfoundland and Labrador, when you compare what our take is —what we get out of the sector compared to other countries, and Norway is a premier example — it is much less," she told CBC, pointing to statistics that show Norway earns as much as 72 per cent of the value of its extraction efforts, compared to N.L.'s 16 per cent.The initial boom's blush has certainly faded, but one thing has been a constant: Carter says offshore environmental initiatives to regulate the offshore were, and are, slim.The word "dearth" comes up a lot in her writing about the provincial and industry environmental policies, from a "dearth of protections for marine areas," to a "dearth of environmental expertise" on the industry regulator's payroll, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB).Carter notes between 2005 and 2015, "Newfoundland had the largest share of emissions originating from large industry" among the provinces, and that provincial emissions policy was crafted "in close, frequent consultation" with industry players.To extract, or not to extractNewfoundland and Labrador's oil is often touted as being one of the least carbon-intensive in the world — a metric that looks at the amount of emissions created just to bring it to market — a claim that stands up in scientific analysis.> It's gut-wrenching, what's happening. \- Angela CarterSo, industry and politicians argue, it should continue to be sucked up from beneath the ocean's floor and sold as the world transitions, even as all three of the province's parties pledge to reduce emissions (a pledge that excludes the offshore's contributions to the atmosphere.)The desire to develop disregards volumes of information from scientists about how the majority of the Earth's fossil fuels need to stay in the ground to keep global temperatures from rising beyond a point of no return, she says. "This is a really, really hard message for oil-producing places like Newfoundland and Labrador," Carter said, adding this message about extraction is circulating globally."Two thirds of the reserves that we know were out there, we cannot extract them. We definitely need to stop looking for more." Investors losing interestIf that environmental message is hard, the economic one may be even harder. In 2019, the province pledged to double offshore production by 2030 and get into the natural gas game. But even before the halfway mark of 2020 hit, a top oil exec said that 2030 goal was "extremely jeopardized" by recent events. Just weeks ago, with 17 exploration bids up for grabs, only one was claimed, creating disappointment in the local industry."They are trying to hold on to their right to extract. But all of the justifications for doing so are being undermined, and radically so, actually, by the month," said Carter.The interest isn't just dwindling in North Atlantic oil — 2020 is the most dismal year on record for Alberta oilpatch drilling.And that isn't all due to environmental pressures on the industry, as the world of finance shows increasing distaste for fossil fuels: BlackRock, the world's largest asset firm that manages $7-trillion in funds, announced at the start of 2020 it was pulling out of coal investments and would use climate change to dictate decisions going forward. Why? Clients are asking for it."We are at a really new moment in human history," said Carter.BlackRock's is a big move, but it isn't the first, nor the last. With a change in leadership in the United States signalling a shift toward more climate-friendly policies, Carter says there's more change to come."The question then for Newfoundland and Labrador is, are we going to be a part of this great global transition away from fossil fuels toward low carbon and green energy? Or are we going to be left behind and not able to keep up with what's happening in the world around us?" she said.LISTEN | Political scientist Angela Carter outlines her thinking to CBC Radio's Ted Blades:Those questions are on others' minds, like those at the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association (NEIA) who are working to grow a green economy in Newfoundland and Labrador. But the head of that non-profit group said there are huge opportunities with hydroelectricity and other renewable energy sources — if transmission out of the province can be improved, perhaps via the Atlantic Loop concept that the federal government is floating — but realistically, offshore oil needs to be part of the transition conversation."I think that to close the door on any one industry would be irresponsible," said Kieran Hanley, NEIA's executive director.Hanley notes the offshore has innovated to reduce its carbon footprint, and his group has worked with the industry on such initiatives as a recent knowledge-gathering trip to Norway to keep tabs on initiatives that might be applied back home."I think that everyone has a role to play as we pursue emissions reductions. And the mix of skills, resources and capital that exists in oil and gas are really such a benefit as we look to other industries that we want to develop in pursuit of that energy transition," he told CBC News.Amid layoffs, what's next?The capital that Hanley describes is key in a province where the words "cash-strapped" hardly do justice to Newfoundland and Labrador's fiscal problems. We're staring down a near-record deficit set for 2020, the pandemic has decimated tourism and other economic engines, and oil revenues continue to provide 30 per cent of the GDP, playing a major role in keeping us barely afloat.Added on top is the pain of layoffs in the offshore sector, with people losing high-paying jobs they trained for and hoped would provide long-term stability in a province where so many have had to go elsewhere."It's gut-wrenching, what's happening," said Carter.Take oil industry arguments that it's a job creator with a grain of salt, she said, as between 2014 and 2019, it shed a quarter of its jobs, Canada-wide. "In good times, workers are considered costs to be shed by companies to save money. Where the industry can automate, they will in every case, prefer to have a machine than a worker," she said.But well-trained workers are an asset, and as Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic have honed programs to support the offshore, so too she says could they pivot to retraining programs and green economies."Since the 1960s, we've been giving public money to the oil and gas sector. Now we need to turn all of that effort and that money towards a green and just transition," she said.The talent to transitionThis has been happening elsewhere for years, Carter argues, and it's time to play catchup."We could have been doing that, but we haven't. So now we are a little bit late to the party, but we still have an opportunity here," she said.Carter urges the premier's economic task force, an initiative announced this fall, to consider that opportunity.There are signals that that committee may be up to the task. Its membership includes entrepreneurial heavyweights like Verafin CEO Brendan Brothers and Shorefast Foundation CEO Zita Cobb, who represent successful innovation in the tech and sustainability sectors, respectively. (Verafin's success was affirmed last week in a multi-billion dollar acquisition by Nasqaq.)Moya Greene, who chairs the task force, spoke publicly in early November about the need to transition, and swifter than we have in the past. While the province can do its part to enable innovation, NEIA sees people and private industry — like Mysa, the smart-thermostat company based in St. John's that has become another clean tech success story, as well as the province's first carbon-neutral business — leading the charge for change."I think that's what's going to fuel the transition. It's people who are able, and willing to do, what is required to move the needle," Hanley said.But the raw materials are there, Hanley said, with ample natural renewable resources that could provide a template for the rest of the country, if taken advantage of."What we do here tells the story of Canada's approach to energy transition," he said.Both Hanley and Carter agree any departure from fossil fuels will take planning, and time.That's something scientists warn is in short supply. Report after scientific report shows an increasingly warming world within most people's lifetimes, such as one released in September that found the globe may exceed a temperature limit global leaders set sooner than expected — within the next decade or so — adding another layer of urgency to the challenges that lie ahead for this little province in the North Atlantic.Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Stephen Kozmeniuk knew there was something special when he met Dua Lipa several years ago, even though the British artist was virtually unknown at the time."A lot of it is connection, and whether or not you believe in them," Kozmeniuk said from his studio in Toronto."With Dua, it was just so apparent really early on that her voice is just so distinctive ... she just had something different from everybody else."Lupa has been nominated for six Grammys this year, including record of the year for Future Nostalgia.Kozmeniuk said he has been working on that record for months, starting with a songwriting session in Jamaica. Even though that session didn't produce any tracks that made it on to the final record, Kozmeniuk said everyone could tell they were on to something at that early stage. "It was this spirit that came out of that trip to Jamaica," he said. "It had to be a fun record. It was the antithesis to everything else that was going on, that was so dark and down. She just captured the zeitgeist of where everything was going."Kozmeniuk grew up in Whitehorse and launched his music career as a solo artist but soon found he had a knack for producing. That has led him to work with some big names in the music industry.This is the second time Kozmeniuk has been part of the Grammys. He won an award four years ago when he was part of the team that produced Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly record.This time around, it's a bit sweeter, he said, because he's been involved in the record since the beginning. He likened the experience of being part of Dua Lipa's team to being in a band."When you have worked with somebody so long and you value what they do, you're just extra proud," he said. "And I just know how much work it was for everybody, and it's a good group of people. When you can have a little win with these really talented people, and its always a good time with and you're in the trenches with, it's just extra special."The Grammys will be handed out on January 31.
When Alestine Andre and Ingrid Kritsch started work on a small archeological project in Tsiigehtchic, N.W.T., with Jean-Luc Pilon for the Gwich'in Tribal Council in 1992 to document Gwich'in place names, elders asked them to expand it to cover the entire Gwich'in settlement region.The elders were concerned that the Gwich'in names for places were being lost.The group agreed and travelled all over the Gwich'in settlement region in the N.W.T. and Yukon, working with 74 elders and traditional land users to document the names and create an inventory of heritage sites."They traveled a lot on the land back in that time with elders. They used to do boat trips or Skidoo trips and just do research with elders," said Sharon Snowshoe, the director of culture & heritage with the Gwich'in Tribal Council.The community-based project, Gwich'in Goonanh'kak Googwandak: The places and names of the Gwich'in, resulted in the creation of an online atlas and place name maps launched in 2015. It also resulted in the official recognition of Gwich'in place names.Snowshoe said the government of the Northwest Territories accepted and approved 414 Gwich'in place names while the Yukon government has approved 60 names of 237 that have been submitted. Snowshoe said the council is waiting for the other names to be approved.Governor General AwardThe project also garnered a Governor General's History Award for Excellence in Community Programming, which it accepted during an online presentation Friday.In a press release, Kritsch thanked several of her colleagues from the Gwich'in Tribal Council, Carleton University and MDT Communications who helped create the online interactive atlas and maps."Talk about teamwork and the power of people from different walks in life and skills coming together for a common goal - to ensure Gwich'in knowledge such as this is shared and carried forward into the future," she said.The governor general's site for the award states the project "serves as an important legacy for future generations and provides inspiration for other Indigenous communities who are looking to officially recognize Indigenous place names."Stories behind namesThe online atlas shows the different places in the Gwich'in settlement region and pronounces them when users move their cursor over them.When users use the search function of the website to find places, it provides the background for how the place got its name.One of Snowshoe's favourite is about Vittrekwa River."Vittrekwa River means 'don't cry' [River]," she said.She explained that Neil Colin, a well-known elder in the community who passed away a few years ago, told the story that Old Vittreekwaa cried all the time, day and night after he was born. He and his parents were going through what's now called Vittrekwa River and other people were moving with their dog teams. Old Vittreekwaa's parents saw a medicine man and asked for his help. The medicine man told them, "Right now, I'm calling this river 'Don't Cry Creek.''' "And right there, the kid stopped crying," said Snowshoe.She said the community-based project is very valuable because it uses the language and teaches young people to learn the place names and the history behind them."[It's] a gift from the elders to the young people," she said.