As Nunavut began it's two-week lockdown to fight the spread of COVID-19, Premier Joe Savikataaq appealed to Nunavummiut to follow the rules, and reach out for help if they are struggling.
As Nunavut began it's two-week lockdown to fight the spread of COVID-19, Premier Joe Savikataaq appealed to Nunavummiut to follow the rules, and reach out for help if they are struggling.
China's embassy in the Philippines has denounced the United States for "creating chaos" in Asia, after a visiting White House envoy backed countries in disputes with China and accused Beijing of using military pressure to further its interests. During a trip to Manila on Monday, national security adviser Robert O'Brien underscored the U.S. commitment to Taiwan and told the Philippines and Vietnam, countries both locked in maritime rows with China, that "we've got your back". "It shows that his visit to this region is not to promote regional peace and stability, but to create chaos in the region in order to seek selfish interests of the U.S.," the embassy said in a statement issued late Monday.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday vowed to defend the democratic island's sovereignty with the construction of a new fleet of domestically-developed submarines, a key project supported by the United States to counter neighbouring China. Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, has been for years working to revamp its submarine force, some of which date back to World War Two, and is no match for China's fleet, which includes vessels capable of launching nuclear weapons. At a ceremony to mark the start of construction of a new submarine fleet in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, Tsai called the move a "historic milestone" for Taiwan's defensive capabilities after overcoming "various challenges and doubts".
MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Miss Vickie's Canada says some of its potato chips that were part of a recall in Eastern Canada earlier this month due to possible glass contamination were inadvertently shipped west. The company says the chips were only shipped to retail customers in Alberta, Brandon, Man., and Moose Jaw, Sask, and that it's working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to co-ordinate a voluntary recall. It says 630 bags are involved, and they have very specific "guaranteed fresh" dates and "manufacturing codes." Consumers who have purchased the chips should not eat them and are urged to throw them out or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. At the beginning of November, Miss Vickie's recalled some chips sold online and in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada due to what it said was "isolated reports of the presence of a small piece of glass found at the bottom of the bag." The CFIA says on its website there have been reported injuries associated with the products. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2020. The Canadian Press
Salt that crystallizes with sharp edges is the killer ingredient in the development of a reusable mask because any COVID-19 droplets that land on it would be quickly destroyed, says a researcher who is being recognized for her innovation.Ilaria Rubino, a recent PhD graduate from the department of chemical and materials engineering at the University of Alberta, said a mostly salt and water solution that coats the first or middle layer of the mask would dissolve droplets before they can penetrate the face covering.As the liquid from the droplets evaporates, the salt crystals grow back as spiky weapons, damaging the bacteria or virus within five minutes, Rubino said."We know that after the pathogens are collected in the mask, they can survive. Our goal was to develop a technology that is able to inactivate the pathogens upon contact so that we can make the mask as effective as possible."Rubino, who collaborated with a researcher at Georgia State University in Atlanta to advance the project she started five years ago, was recognized Tuesday with an innovation award from Mitacs. The Canadian not-for-profit organization receives funding from the federal government, most provinces and Yukon to honour researchers from academic institutions.The reusable, non-washable mask is made of a type of polypropylene, a plastic used in surgical masks, and could be safely worn and handled multiple times without being decontaminated, Rubino said.The idea is to replace surgical masks often worn by health-care workers who must dispose of them in a few hours, she said, adding the technology could potentially be used for N-95 respirators.The salt-coated mask is expected to be available commercially next year after regulatory approval. It could also be used to stop the spread of other infectious illnesses, such as influenza, Rubino said.Dr. Catherine Clase, an epidemiologist and associate professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, said the "exciting" technology would have multiple benefits.Clase, who is a member of the Centre of Excellence in Protective Equipment and Materials in the engineering department at McMaster, said there wasn't much research in personal protective equipment when Rubino began her work."It's going to decrease the footprint for making and distributing and then disposing of every mask," she said, adding that the mask could also address any supply issues.The Public Health Agency of Canada recently recommended homemade masks consist of at least three layers, with a middle, removable layer constructed from a non-woven, washable polypropylene fabric to improve filtration.Conor Ruzycki, an aerosol scientist in the University of Alberta's mechanical engineering department, said Rubino's innovation adds to more recent research on masks as COVID-19 cases rise and shortages of face coverings in the health-care system could again become a problem.Ruzycki, who works in a lab to evaluate infiltration efficiencies of different materials for masks and respirators, is also a member of a physician-led Alberta group Masks4Canada, which is calling for stricter pandemic measures, including a provincewide policy on mandatory masks.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.Camille Bains, The Canadian Press
The staff tested positive last week and Maxwell was checked for the virus on Nov. 18 using a rapid test which was negative, the prosecutors said in a letter to U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan. Maxwell was placed in quarantine at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn for 14 days, said the letter. Maxwell has not shown any symptoms of COVID-19 and will be tested again at the end of her two-week quarantine.
Residents were given proper notice of a vote to remove Fort Simpson's liquor purchasing restrictions, according to N.W.T. finance minister Caroline Wawzonek. MLA for Nahendeh Shane Thompson – also a minister – posted to Facebook on Monday regarding concerns constituents had raised about the plebiscite held on November 12. Specifically, the post related to concerns about how much public notice was provided leading up to the vote and how to contact the official in charge of it. Residents ultimately voted overwhelmingly in favour of lifting alcohol restrictions in the community. Of 730 eligible voters, 240 cast a ballot and 175 of those were in favour of removing restrictions. The Department of Finance, which oversees liquor regulations in the N.W.T., is now in the process of implementing the result, which may take several weeks. Thompson's post relayed a message he had received from Wawzonek addressing concerns. “Based on all of the information I have received to date, I am confident in the integrity of the plebiscite held in the village of Fort Simpson,” Wawzonek's message to Thompson reads. Wawzonek states some residents who attend school away from Fort Simpson believe they did not receive adequate notice of the plebiscite. She concludes, however, that there was sufficient notice within the village, on Facebook, and through the media in the weeks and months before the vote. She adds returning officer Tammie Cazon fulfilled her duties in the Local Authorities Elections Act by providing public notice of the plebiscite, including details on how and where to vote. Wawzonek says Cazon met legislative requirements by posting public notices in five locations – the bank, the Northern store, the Unity store, the Nahanni Inn and Pandaville restaurant. “It is not the responsibility of the returning officer to locate and notify every resident of the community who may not be currently living in the community. That would be an impossible task," Wawzonek writes. "Voters bear some of the responsibility for informing themselves about how to exercise their democratic right to vote.” The final concern regards the returning officer’s email address and confusion about how to reach Cazon. Wawzonek again asserts faith in the process, saying her department confirmed with Cazon only one email address was distributed for voters to use. Proxy voting was an option in the plebiscite but, according to Wawzonek, Cazon did not receive any emails related to proxy voting. The community of Fort Simpson requested the plebiscite after a petition with more than 150 signatures from residents was turned in to the village council late last year, asking for action to try to remove the restrictions. Restrictions are set to be lifted in the coming weeks, though an exact date has not been set. Once the regulations are changed and restrictions lifted, the village is still bound to pandemic-related alcohol restrictions, which limit customers to a maximum of $200 per day at any liquor store in the territory and six mickeys (375-ml bottles) of spirits in a 24-hour period.Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio
High school students defy pandemic, discover joys of voice acting while making animated film version of 'Romeo & Juliet' after original plans to stage a traditional performance this fall were scuttled by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis (Nov. 24)
An opposition lawmaker called on Tuesday for Malaysia to outlaw online hate speech, accusing authorities of downplaying the gravity of an issue highlighted by a Reuters investigation into abuse on Facebook of Rohingya refugees and undocumented migrants. Citing the Reuters report on rising xenophobia online in Malaysia in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic, lawmaker Chan Foong Hin asked the Communications and Multimedia Ministry last week to state its plans to combat such hate speech.
B.C.'s health-care workers are pleading with the public to heed health orders while bracing for difficult working conditions as COVID-19 cases in the province continue to rise.On Monday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced there were another 1,933 cases of COVID-19 over the last three days and 17 more deaths.This comes just over two weeks after restrictions were initially put in place in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health authorities, and a few days after those restrictions were extended to cover the entire province. Christine Sorensen, president of the B.C. Nurses' Union, says nurses are frustrated when they see people continue to gather in groups and not follow the guidelines because that increases transmission and puts additional pressure on the health-care system."It puts greater demands on the staff that also fairly tired, looking for a bit of a rest and a break and really not seeing anything coming in the next few months, particularly with the holiday season coming and people wanting to mix and mingle with their friends and family," Sorensen said. Dr. Kathleen Ross, the president of Doctors of B.C., says the prospect of burnout is looming closer for many front line health-care workers. "Many of us are afraid to go home for fear of infecting our loved ones and many more of us drop our clothes at the door and run to the shower before we even greet our family," said Ross. "We're adjusting to the new normal ... but of course we cannot expect that surge capacity to last forever."And both Ross and Sorensen point out it is not just front line health-care workers shouldering the burden, but additional staff like cleaning crews and maintenance workers who keep the whole health-care system operational."There are lots of unsung heroes in the system, not just in the emergency rooms where there are doctors and nurses taking care of our most acutely ill," Sorensen said. Sorensen says she worries the spike in cases could escalate to point where essential health-care workers are kept on the job even if they've been exposed."[I'm] very concerned [about that]. Nurses are dedicated and they do want to continue working, but if we get enough nurses exposed or sick, we won't have enough nurses to deliver healthcare," she said. Ross says this is a crucial moment."If everyone does their part, if we all step forward and follow the public health guidelines as they have been laid out, then we'll get there. But we have to do it all together."
A B.C. surgeon who called his preteen patient a "loose woman" during an appointment has been fined and reprimanded by his professional regulator.Dr. Bruce Taro Yoneda, an orthopedic surgeon based in Victoria, has admitted that he "engaged in unprofessional conduct by using sexualized language during a surgical consult," according to a public notice posted Friday by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.Yoneda also acknowledged telling the same young patient he would give her a "lube job," and admitted he did not give her a full explanation before he began questioning her about her menstrual cycle.The college's inquiry committee, which investigates complaints against doctors, "was critical of the registrant's admitted conduct and concluded that his use of inappropriate language displayed a lack of insight," the notice says.As part of a consent agreement with the college, Yoneda has been fined $7,500, received a formal reprimand and has had his registration as a doctor transferred to "conditional" status. He's also agreed to take courses in clinical communication and professionalism.
Many Islanders reacted to news of P.E.I. opting out of the Atlantic bubble by sharing the sentiments of Premier Dennis King — it's unfortunate but necessary.King announced that as of 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, non-essential travel in and out of P.E.I. would not be permitted, though he did allow for some flexibility for people rushing to get home.Opposition leader Peter Bevan-Baker of the Green Party tweeted his support for the premier's decision. "I was glad to hear that P.E.I. is temporarily leaving the Atlantic bubble to protect Islanders' health," he said.Penny Walsh-McGuire, CEO of the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce, said she encourages Islanders to take the opportunity to shop local this holiday season.> This temporary closure of the P.E.I. border is a layer of precaution that will allow our business community to continue to operate and to avoid entering the full lockdown situations we see in other parts of Canada. — Penny Walsh-McGuire"While it is unfortunate that we are moving towards further restrictions, the chamber supports the decision to keep Islanders safe and businesses open, especially as case numbers rise across the country," she said in a release."This temporary closure of the P.E.I. border is a layer of precaution that will allow our business community to continue to operate and to avoid entering the full lockdown situations we see in other parts of Canada."Lennox Island First Nation Chief Darlene Bernard said she and many in the Mi'kmaq community travel between the provinces to visit family and friends, but credited King and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison making the "prudent" decision in the interest of all Island residents."I understand the second wave is coming and I think we're all seeing it across the country and right now P.E.I. is the place to be, right, so we have to try to stay here and shop here and keep things going here in our province," she said."We all know, when we move, that little bug moves, so we have to stop its movement."Testing on Lennox IslandBernard said she and a number of others were tested at a temporary COVID-19 clinic set up Friday on Lennox Island after cases began to spread in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. She said all those tests came back negative."We do travel quite a bit between our communities, to Big Cove and places like that, because our families are very close and that's why we had the testing done on Lennox, too, because we had people coming in from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia areas and we were travelling outside of the province as well just getting ready for Christmas and all those kinds of things."Some people CBC P.E.I. spoke with in Charlottetown also supported the new travel restrictions.Holland College student Lilly Warner said she is disappointed because it could mean she won't be able to spend the holidays with family in Halifax, but thinks it is best for public safety.Dylan Echlin, who is from Toronto but lives in Charlottetown, said he knew it would be unrealistic to think he would be able to visit family over the holidays due to cases in Ontario. "It's something they needed to do for sure just because of the impact of what's going on in the rest of the world and how many cases are evolving with Moncton and Halifax."More from CBC P.E.I.
WASHINGTON — Janet Yellen is in line for another top economic policy job — just in time to confront yet another crisis.Yellen, President-elect Joe Biden's apparent choice for treasury secretary, served on the Federal Reserve's policymaking committee during the 2008-2009 financial crisis that nearly toppled the banking system.She became Fed chair in 2014 when the economy was still recovering from the devastating Great Recession. In the late 1990s, she was President Bill Clinton's top economic adviser during the Asian financial crisis.And now, according to a person familiar with Biden's transition plans, she has been chosen to lead Treasury with the economy in the grip of a surging viral epidemic. The spike in virus cases is intensifying pressure on companies and individuals, with fear growing that the economy could suffer a “double-dip” recession as states and cities reimpose restrictions on businesses.Yet many longtime observers of the U.S. economy see Yellen as ideally suited for the role.“She is extraordinarily talented,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at auditing firm Grant Thornton. “She is the right person at this challenging time. She has worked every crisis."If confirmed, Yellen would become the first woman to lead the Treasury Department in its nearly 232 years. She would inherit an economy with still-high unemployment, escalating threats to small businesses and signs that consumers are retrenching as the worsening pandemic restricts or discourages spending.Most economists say that the distribution of an effective vaccine will likely reinvigorate growth next year. Yet they warn that any sustained recovery will also hinge on whether Congress can agree soon on a sizable aid package to carry the economy through what Biden has said will be a “dark winter” with the pandemic still out of control.Negotiations on additional government spending, though, have been stuck in Congress for months.Yellen has favoured further stimulus, including more money for state and local governments, which she has said need “substantial support” to avoid further job cuts. Rescue aid for states has been a major sticking point in congressional negotiations.Nathan Sheets, chief economist at PGIM Fixed Income and a former senior Fed and Treasury official, said that Yellen could effectively use the “bully pulpit” during what are likely to be difficult negotiations with Senate Republicans."Yellen," Sheets said, “has a unique ability ... to communicate about economics and economic policies in terms that resonate with individuals.”She will also have the opportunity to work with Fed Chair Jerome Powell, with whom Yellen enjoys a close relationship after having worked together at the Fed, to restart several emergency lending programs. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week that the programs will expire, as scheduled, at the end of this year — a decision that critics warn will unnecessarily hamstring the Fed.Powell objected to the Treasury's move, though he agreed to return money that Congress had authorized to backstop the lending.The most likely credit programs to be renewed, economists say, would be one that supported states and cities and a second, the Main Street Lending program, that targeted small and mid-sized businesses.Neither program has made very many loans. But just the understanding that those backstops existed lent confidence to the financial markets. Economists say Yellen could allow Powell to offer more generous terms to increase the programs' use.The 74-year-old Yellen, long a path-breaking figure in the male-dominated economics field, was the first woman to serve as Fed chair, from 2014 to 2018.“She is an icon,” said Stephanie Aaronson, a vice-president at the Brookings Institution and a former top economist at the Fed. “Having a female chair meant a lot to a lot of people.”Yellen was known as a highly prepared, sometimes demanding but down-to-earth manager who was popular with the Fed's staff.“I have never met anyone who has worked for or with Janet who has an unkind word to say about her," said Claudia Sahm, a former Fed economist. "She is the kind of person who uplifts her staff.”Under Yellen's tenure, the central bank began a seminal shift of its policy focus away from fighting inflation, which has been quiescent for decades, to trying to maximize employment, the second of its two mandates. That process culminated this summer when Powell announced that the Fed planned to keep rates ultra-low for a time even after inflation has topped the central bank's 2% annual target level, rather than raising rates pre-emptively.As Fed chair, Yellen won praise for her attention to disadvantaged groups, including the long-term unemployed, at a time when financial inequalities were widening across the economy. She made numerous visits to employment training centres to spotlight the need for training programs to equip people for good jobs.During the 2008-2009 financial crisis, transcripts of the Fed's meetings show that Yellen was more prescient than most other Fed officials about the potential for a deep recession and weak recovery afterward.Yellen is well-known on Capitol Hill after years of testifying as Fed chair to Senate committees about the economy and interest rate policy. During those years, she frequently clashed with Republican lawmakers who accused her of keeping rates too low for too long after the 2008 financial crisis. Some of them charged that Yellen and her predecessor, Ben Bernanke, had elevated the risk of runaway inflation and asset bubbles that could destabilize financial markets.None of those fears came to pass. On the contrary, under Bernanke and Yellen — and later, under Powell — the Fed's more difficult challenge became raising inflation merely to the Fed's annual 2% target level. It has yet to do so consistently.Yellen, a Democrat, had served only one four-year term as Fed chair when President Donald Trump decided to replace her with Powell, a Republican, despite Yellen’s desire to serve another term. That move broke a four-decade tradition of presidents allowing Fed chairs to serve at least two terms even if they had first been nominated by a president of the opposing party.After leaving the Fed, Yellen became a distinguished fellow in residence at the liberal Brookings Institution in Washington, signalling her continuing interest in financial policymaking.When she stepped down from the Fed in early 2018, Shawn Sebastian, co-director of the Fed-Up coalition, a collection of progressive groups, called Yellen's departure “a loss for working people across the country." He hailed her efforts to take on “economic inequality, racial disparities in the economy, the role of women in the workplace and the need for more diversity at the Fed.”Yet some progressives have also criticized Yellen for the Fed's December 2015 decision to raise its benchmark rate from near zero, where it had been pegged since late 2008 in the midst of the financial crisis. That rate hike, which caused a sharp increase in the value of the dollar, contributed to a slowdown in U.S. economic growth in 2016 and is now seen by many economists as having been premature.Yellen is married to George Akerlof, a Nobel Prize-winning economist whom she met in a Fed cafeteria in 1977. They have one son, Robert, who is an economics professor.___AP Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger contributed to this report.Christopher Rugaber And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
A Regina curling rink has paused its season to deep clean the premises after a COVID-19 outbreak at a bonspiel, said a message posted to the rink's website.The outbreak happened at a seniors and masters bonspiel held at Highland Curling Club in Regina Nov. 13 to 15. The tournament included divisions for senior men and women in the 50 and up category, as well as a masters division for men aged 60 and older.There were four divisions with a maximum of eight teams per division, so as many as 128 people could have attended the tournament.In a letter to members posted to the club's website, general manager A.J. Scott said it was an "extremely isolated" event. "The rink was closed to the public and kept exclusively for the athletes competing in the event," the letter said. "We only ran two sheets at any single time, as well as made sure to run only the men's or women's divisions at one time. The teams all respected our safety protocols we have here at the rink and routine scheduled cleaning was done more than every 60 minutes as well as after every draw."Bonspiel continued after team reported symptomsOn the Saturday evening of the tournament, a team pulled out due to flu-like symptoms. Scott wrote that the club asked the remaining teams "if they felt safe and confident enough to want to continue play," and all the teams said they did, so the tournament finished as planned.Early in the week of Nov. 16, the club received a notice that members of the team that pulled out had COVID-19."Since that time, we slowly started hearing that several more players from teams that were experiencing symptoms also went and got tested and they too came back with positive results," the letter to members says. The letter says none of the people who tested positive have been in the rink since being tested.Tournaments not permitted under reopen planScott said in the letter that a COVID-19 compliance officer who visited the rink after the outbreak was "pleased" with their preparations and safety protocols.The government's Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan says tournaments are not permitted. When asked whether a bonspiel like this would qualify as a tournament, a government official pointed to a stipulation in the plan that "Competition, including play-offs, ranked and round-robin competition, is permitted within established mini-leagues and for individual sports."Initially, the letter on the website said the rink would be open for business "as usual," but the club later updated the site to say they had paused the season for two weeks."This wasn't an easy decision but we have decided it is the safest and most responsible option to keep our members and our staff protected," read the updated letter, signed by Scott and club president Kevin Fetsch."We need to do our part to help get Regina back to the safer place it was a few short weeks ago."CBC News reached out to Highland Curling Club, but they didn't immediately respond.
A Dene-Tahltan woman who lives in remote northern B.C. is sharing her birthing story — shining a light on the extra layer of complications faced by life-givers in rural areas. Jasmine Netsena is a successful musician who has travelled across North America for her award-winning career. After moving back to Fort Nelson First Nation from Edmonton, she thought she was settling down. But when she became pregnant with her second child, she was travelling more than ever — including booking the date she would give birth at a hospital a four hour drive away in Fort St. John, and being flown to Prince George for surgery in her third trimester. There is a hospital near where she lives in Fort Nelson, however the services there are limited. In cities, women who are facing complications during pregnancy can easily access care. But for women like Netsena in rural areas, there are less services and specialized medical care is often scarce. Netsena gave birth to a healthy baby in September. She was just a few months pregnant when she began to feel stomach pain that she later found out was an inflamed gallbladder. “I went into the hospital with abdominal pain and I felt like they didn’t take me that seriously, I was just sent home,” she says. "I felt like that was wrong because a pregnant woman with abdominal pain shouldn’t really be sent home especially when we’re so far from a hospital that would be able to take care of me.” The first two times she went to the hospital, she says, she was told that it was because of “gas” and that it was a normal part of pregnancy. Then it was discovered that she had gall stones and needed to go on a low-fat diet. It wasn’t until her third trimester that she says the doctor finally took her concerns seriously, and a simple blood test indicated it was her gallbladder, and she needed surgery to remove it. Not being able to undergo the procedure in Fort Nelson, Netsena was flown to hospital in Prince George for the surgery. Afterwards, she recovered for five weeks at home before driving 400 km to Fort St. John — where she waited to deliver her baby. Planned birth travel is the reality for women who are far away from care like Netsena, who travelled to be near the proper hospital a month prior to her due date, which is a typical time frame for birth trips. Netsena planned in advance to bring her daughter along and had a doula by her side, however her partner couldn’t be with her because of the distance. A spokesman from B.C. Northern Health did not respond to Netsena’s particular circumstance, but spoke generally about the challenges for pregnant women who live in remote areas of the region. Steve Raper says the health authority recognizes that travelling for maternal care can be disruptive and inconvenient, but “patient safety … must come first.” “Ideally, women would give birth as close to their family and community as possible — no matter where they live in the province,” he says. “Some communities, however, face challenges providing these services.” Those challenges, he says, include recruiting and retaining trained staff, a low need for maternal care services, or clinicians not being comfortable providing some services without higher-level supports such as surgeons on deck. “We also recognize that sometimes, babies arrive unexpectedly – and when this occurs, our physicians and staff are equipped to respond to an unplanned delivery at all Northern Health hospitals,” he added. It’s a challenge all mothers who live in remote areas must keep in mind, and especially affects Indigenous people as reserves are often located far from urban centres. But because living in cities can be challenging for other reasons, people like Netsena must weigh the pros and cons of both. Netsena, who is originally from Telegraph Creek, moved away from the reserve for a short time to obtain a degree in music at the University of Alberta. She packed up her life and moved to Edmonton in 2019 with her five-year-old daughter, but after the first semester she quickly realized she was not where she wanted to be. “The family-life balance and all that was just a lot for me to take, and also I just really questioned why I wanted to get my music degree,” she says. “I just wasn’t sure what I would do with it except teach and I wasn’t really feeling like teaching was my calling.” Netsena is a singer-songwriter, and taught herself how to play guitar. She won the SOCAN Foundation Indigenous Songwriters Award in 2018. Netsena took a step back to rethink what type of degree she wanted and figured that she didn’t necessarily need to move to the city to get a higher education with all the online options available nowadays. After enduring such a strenuous second pregnancy, Netsena is happy to be at home with her baby and the rest of her family. “With my first it went by so fast.” she says of her oldest daughter Sadeya. “I’m glad I have another baby. I’m just trying to really enjoy it because it’s going to be over before I know it.” She often sings to her newborn baby and so does her oldest daughter Sadeya. “They both have strong lungs,” Netsena laughs. Our series on reproductive health access is made possible in part with funding from First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and Thunderbird Partnership Foundation. Their support does not imply endorsement of or influence over the content produced. Catherine Lafferty, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
Organizers of a community fridge in Parkdale say the city "heartlessly" ordered it removed but they are hoping to find a new home for it on accessible private property.In an Instagram post on Monday, clothing store Black Diamond Vintage said it removed the fridge with "sadness and anger" from its spot outside the store at 1614 Queen St. W. last week. The store hosted of the fridge, which operated on the principle: "Take what you need. Leave what you can."The store said the city threatened to fine its landlord if the fridge was not removed within 24 hours.According to the city, the fridge had to be removed due to public safety concerns, sanitation issues amid the pandemic, and its abandoned appliances bylaw — which is in place to prevent children from getting trapped in discarded appliances outdoors.According to the store, the fridge was not abandoned and the bylaw is antiquated."Every day, the community brought a bounty of food to this fridge to share with their fellow community members who needed it; it become a staple of mutual aid in Parkdale," Black Diamond Vintage said in the post."With a lockdown in place and the arrival of winter looming, it is obvious that the City of Toronto does not care about its vulnerable community."'Food is a right in our eyes'Jalil Bokhari, founder and community organizer of Community Fridges Toronto, said on Monday that the fridge was one of five maintained by his organization.The four others are still running on College Street West, Dundas Street East, Adelaide Street West and Pape Avenue, and providing food to various Toronto communities. He said neighbours were helping each other."Food is a right in our eyes," he said.Bokhari said the city's order is upsetting because the fridge was a source of "fresh, good looking food" for many people in Parkdale and food insecurity is an issue in the neighbourhood. The city also failed to help provide a solution, he added."It kind of hurt to have that bylaw used against this fridge because it just didn't seem like it applied. It's not an abandoned appliance. It just isn't. There's constant usage of it. There are people who stop by constantly to drop off food," he said.Bokhari said the fridge was well-maintained and sanitized every day. It was also emptied and refilled many times a day, he added. The fridge was filling a need in Parkdale, he said.Fridge removal leaves community 'quite sad' "The day that they were removing it, there were a lot of people quite sad about it. There were a lot of people relying on the fridge."Bokhari said the search is on for private property, accessible to the public, where the fridge could be relocated. The organization may set up a pantry as well to go with the fridge, he said.Many people have reached out to help, he added."We're still positive. We're still going to keep going. All the other fridges are functioning. They're running," Bokhari said. "We're still moving into toward winterizing them to have them run through the winter and hopefully keep feeding people."In an email on Monday, the city said its enforcement officers inspected the fridge on Nov. 17 and determined that the doors were still on the appliance, it was filled with food and it was plugged in. "The owner of the appliance was advised that it needed to be removed citing public safety and accessibility concerns, as well as the existing Abandon Appliance bylaw and sanitation issues related to stopping the spread of COVID-19," the city said in the email. According to the city, staff "engaged" the office of Coun. Gordon Perks, who represents Ward 4 Parkdale-High Park, in the matter and the appliance was removed on Nov. 18.Under the bylaw, nobody is allowed to "leave, keep, dispose of, abandon or permit on any land or premises, in a place accessible to children" any appliance without first removing its doors and locks "to prevent any person from being trapped in the appliance."
At the regular Esterhazy town council meeting on Wednesday, more concerns regarding the West sign corridor were brought to the council’s attention. At an earlier council meeting a motion was passed to go forward with 4x8 signs for the West sign corridor—it was previously only 8x8 signs on the corridor. Without having a firm plan in place for the sign corridor since 2017, the council wanted to ensure as many signs as possible fit on the corridor. There are over 20 names on the sign corridor waiting list and the best way to give more businesses an opportunity was to move from 8x8 signs to 4x8 signs. No business with a sign up on the West sign corridor is under contract, but the town plans to provide them with the opportunity to update their signs to fit the new mandated size. One of the previous sign owners isn’t happy with the decision because they’ve kept their sign up to date and put money into it and doesn’t think it’s fair they’ll have to change their sign. Both councillors Tenille Flick and Vern Petracek understood the frustration of the sign owner because they don’t believe it’s fair to force someone to change their sign when they’ve been keeping it up to date and following the previous rules. “We made a decision and we have to stick to our guns,” said Councillor Randy Bot. “If we don’t change the signs then we won’t have sign space for the new plan,” said Councillor Maggie Rowland. “We can’t change the plan for one sign.” Economic Development Director Tammy MacDonald says that nothing has been approved by the town since 2017 so any work done was never brought to the town’s attention. MacDonald felt that all the signs should be the same size and abide by the same rules and with this plan the town will own the signs which will allow them to enforce their own policies. “The person never approached the town about renewing their contract,” said Mayor Grant Forster. “To make it work for everyone else we have to hold firm on this.” The council will not be making any changes to the sign corridor motion already passed and will be moving forward with their plan. “We’re still going forward with it,” said Acting Administrator Mike Thorley. “What happened was before 2017 there were one-year contracts put in place for the sign corridor. The town at that time gave a bunch of specifications for those signs. Some of the people—there were eight spots—abided by it and some didn’t, but this is one of the people who abided by it well. “They spent money and made sure the sign was there, but nothing was ever followed through with us after in terms of renewing the contract. Now that we’re changing it, this business is upset with the changes. This new plan has been worked on since 2017 to make these changes so we can have a nice sign corridor with more signs.” Sign corridor tender awarded The council passed a motion to award Timco Construction the tender for the West sign corridor. Timco Construction will be constructing and installing the posts for the signs. The construction and installation work will cost $625 per unit with up to 32 units to be installed for a total of $20,000 plus any applicable tax. The West sign corridor was budgeted in the 2020 budget and the council agrees in the coming years they’ll make the cost back with the new larger sign corridor and consistent contracts between the town and businesses with signs. Arena kitchen to remain closed With no response to previous tenders put out for the Dana Antal Arena kitchen, the council has decided to look into setting up a vending machine. The council looked at two options prior to the vending machine decision, to hire someone to run the kitchen or ask for volunteers. Given the circumstances with Covid-19 this year, council believes neither option seems plausible. The addition of a vending machine offers food with low maintenance and no health risks for those serving or buying food. The council says this is a short-term solution and will continue to look for volunteers in the future. “The vending machine is a good Covid-19 specific solution for the time being,” said Acting Administrator Mike Thorley. “We’re going to look at the information necessary to put a vending machine in and talk to the contractor out of Yorkton to see if we can get a one-year deal with them or up until March or April of next year. There’s nobody looking for this type of work right now and I think we’re better off to just have vending machines so there’s availability for something in the building.” NoneRob Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The World-Spectator
OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne warned Monday that tough talk about China could hurt efforts to gain the release of two arbitrarily detained Canadians.Testifying before the House of Commons Canada-China relations committee, Champagne urged MPs to keep the fate of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig in mind when they spout off about the perils and perfidy of China's Communist regime."I know, Mr. Chair, that some like to talk tough on China," Champagne told the committee."To those who are seduced by this one-dimensional view, I say this: while it is easy to be tough, let's continue to be smart. Let's not fall into the temptation of tough and irresponsible rhetoric that will generate no tangible result for Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, our farmers and entrepreneurs, and human rights victims and advocates."The two Michaels, as they've come to be known, have been imprisoned in China for almost two years in retaliation for Canada's arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on an extradition request from the United States.Canadian farmers, fishers and exporters have also been hurt by retaliatory measures taken by China in the wake of Meng's arrest.Champagne's plea came a week after the House of Commons passed a Conservative motion calling on the government to decide by Dec. 18 whether to allow Huawei to be involved in development of Canada's next generation 5G wireless network.The motion, passed with the support of all opposition parties over the objections of the government, also called on the government to unveil within 30 days a robust plan to deal with growing intimidation by China of Canadians within Canada's borders.The motion is not binding and Champagne told the committee that government action on both fronts will be guided by national security requirements, not by arbitrary deadlines.Since taking over the helm of the Conservatives last August, Erin O'Toole has made standing up to China a central pillar of his pitch to Canadian voters. The Conservative leader has accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government of being "willing to look past the Chinese government’s numerous human rights abuses, flagrant trade abuses and security issues because the potential to sell into the massive Chinese market was so lucrative.""Trudeau’s approach to China has failed, and it’s weakened our standing in the world. We must stand up for our citizens who have been detained as bargaining chips in an extradition case, even if it leads to more reprisals from Beijing," O'Toole argued in an op-ed in the National Post in September.O'Toole has called for an "eyes wide open" approach to relations with China. But Champagne contended that's precisely the approach his government is taking.He argued that Canada's policy towards China has evolved as China itself has evolved, increasingly flouting the international rules-based order, violating the human rights of Uighurs in Xinjiang province and democracy protesters in Hong Kong, and engaging in "coercive diplomacy" to get its way."The China of 2020 is not the China of 2015 or even the China of 2018," Champagne said."We see a country and a leadership increasingly prepared to throw its weight around to advance its interests."Champagne said the government has adopted a new framework for dealing with China. He described it as a three-pronged approach in which there will be areas, such as human rights abuses, where Canada needs to challenge China.In other areas, such as trade matters, he said Canada needs to compete with China, and still other areas where Canada needs to co-operate with China, such as the fight against climate change.China's more aggressive posture is not just a challenge for Canada, he argued. Countries around the world are grappling with it.Champagne said the best antidote is for all liberal democracies to band together to speak with one voice to pressure China to change its ways — just as Canada has rallied other countries to speak out against the detention of Kovrig and Spavor.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2020.Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
Three months into an usual school year, Quanah Traviss has a lot on his plate. The Loyalist Collegiate and Vocational Institute (LCVI) year five student is adjusting to the octomester system, is missing his high school band, and looking ahead to graduation. He has also taken on the unique challenge of serving as Limestone District School Board (LDSB)’s first ever Indigenous Student Trustee. Traviss said he arrived at the position after previously participating in his school’s leadership club, planning events such as semi-formals and spirit days. “Jessica Crook, the previous Student Trustee, told me the Board was planning on bringing in an Indigenous Student Trustee. And everyone around the circle just kind of looked at me when she said that. It was kind of in that moment I knew this is what I was going to be doing for the next year,” he said. “I think the school board is here for the students, and the student families first. Student voice — no matter who it comes from — is the most important voice.” Traviss said. “For far, far too long the Indigenous voice has been missing from everything, until these last few years… I’m glad that our school board was one of the first in the province to do this. I’m glad it was me. It’s something I have a lot of interest in.” A way to be involved Traviss was elected in June, while LDSB had halted their classes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He represents a newly-formed InterSchool council of Indigenous Student Representatives at LDSB’s monthly board meetings. He takes the responsibility to speak for his peers seriously. “I do have a lot of personal goals coming into this, and I can achieve some of them from where I am. Some I won’t. I don’t represent just myself,” he said. “I bring my ideas to [the Indigenous Student Representatives], but if I don’t get their overwhelming support, I never say another word of it.” Traviss said he comes from a family and a community that have long been involved in Indigenous advocacy. “My grandmother is very active in the community,” he said. “I grew up around people who were very die-hard activists, standing up for Indigenous rights.” Personally, Traviss is deeply involved in the arts, playing the flute, bass guitar, alto saxophone and piano. After graduation, he hopes to pursue teaching, specifically music and English. He said his family has been supportive of him taking up this Trustee role, though sometimes he questions it himself. “When you look at Indigenous people’s past, with institutions and what they have done to us, a few people might be a little skeptical of me working so closely with an institution,” he said. Ongoing campaigns for Indigenous rights across the country — the Wet’suwet’en in BC, the Mi’kmaq on the east coast, and at the Six Nations reserve near Brampton, Ont. — have his attention, he said. “There is the ongoing land reclamation — or protest or whatever you want to call it — at Landback Lane, out at Six Nations,” he said. “I’m not going to name any names or connections, but there are people I know who are close to me that are there. I want to support them,” he said, noting that part of him sometimes feels drawn to travel there, too. “But I feel like there are other things I’m doing that here not everybody would do, so I’m here doing this instead.” Raising critical questions Traviss said he tries to bring a critical voice and perspective to the LDSB meetings, when necessary. “The reason I chose to go forward is I saw a lot of things that I felt needed to change at the Board. I really didn’t want somebody coming in to say ‘yes’ to everything that was happening,” he said. “Sometimes you need somebody to come in and say ‘No — you shouldn’t do this.’ I have done that, and I will continue to do that.” He gave this year’s Orange Shirt Day commemoration as an example. The national day of recognition on September 30th honours residential school survivors and their families across Canada. “I talked to some students from my school and a few others from across the board… about not playing the national anthem on Orange Shirt Day. For some reasons of sensitivity, not everyone wanted to hear that,” he said Of the 60 schools on the board, Traviss knows that his own, LCVI, as well as LaSalle Secondary School, skipped O Canada on Orange Shirt Day. It’s possible that other schools also participated, but he’s not had confirmation. “Even if it’s just those two schools, I feel like that was something,” he said. Traviss said one of his LCVI peers inspired the demonstration. This student sits every day during the Canadian national anthem, he said, in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and nations. Traviss said he has also done this in his life, though not as much lately. “It was interesting to me, so I talked to them and the idea came up. What if that student didn’t have to be the only one sitting down that day? What if everyone else did too?” Traviss said he received no pushback from any students or staff in response to the demonstration. “I sent an email out to all the Indigenous Student Representatives from each school. The ones I did get a response back from spoke to their families and their school leadership circles and they all got back to me and said they fully supported it.” Traviss said the Indigenous Student Representatives also touched on mandated Indigenous land acknowledgements during their meeting and discussions “I don’t like one bit how every day during the morning announcements, it’s somebody just reading from the same script, over and over and over again. There’s no thought put into that, it’s meaningless. Its people going in to check the boxes, say the land acknowledgement,” he said. Instead, Traviss said ideally a person would make a sincere statement of reflection about where they are and why. For the board’s purposes though, he said he would like to see Indigenous Student Trustees engaged and have a hand in drafting an appropriate land acknowledgement for the students at their school. He said he is also happy to be on board to raise more general concerns and questions. “At the end of the day, I’m just another high school student,” he added. “I have my opinions, obviously, on my culture and my background, but I also have my opinions on the octomester system, on music education, on the arts in general. Things that I’m considering for myself apart from the Indigenous part of who I am.” Appointment process still under review According to Suzanne Ruttan, Chair of the LDSB, the decision to include an Indigenous Student Trustee position at the board was reached at the end of 2019. “In the fall of 2019, the Board asked for a report on Indigenous Trustees. We were given a report, there was legislation attached to that. It talked about the need to have an education agreement with a band,” she said. “The band that we have an agreement with is the Mowhawks of the Bay of Quinte. But they don’t have a lot of students that actually attend in Limestone.” Ruttan said the Board decided to move towards the addition of an Indigenous Student Trustee because they felt it could be “more relevant.” “The idea of a student trustee was raised. And our hearts swelled. We thought that’s what we need — the youth voice. That’s what we want at the table,” she said. While Traviss values his role, he questions the lack of voting power. “I talk a lot to the other student trustees, not just our board but, from all across Ontario. While we feel student voice is the most important one, its not necessarily always the one that’s heard. I’m not trying to throw any shade here,” he added. “At our table, there are nine trustees, 12 if you count the students. But the student votes aren’t counted. So at the end of the day, you might hear from that voice but it’s not included the same way.” Traviss said he would also like to see a voting process in place to appoint the school’s Indigenous Student Representatives to InterSchool Council. He was approached directly by his principal and asked to consider the role, he said. From within that group of InterSchool representatives, he ran for and was elected to be the Indigenous Student Trustee. “Back in 2019, we wanted things to happen quickly,” Ruttan said, calling it a pilot year. “I think the process now of electing through the Indigenous student group is going to become far more crisp.” Limestone collecting new student data on cultural background, gender Ruttan also noted that Limestone is about to embark on its first ever student census, ‘See Yourself in Limestone.’ “That census is going to identify students from all backgrounds and genders,” she said. “It’s going to be a gift of data.” She noted that some students may not publicly identify as Indigenous, or as other cultures or genders, even if they do so privately. “We know we have a large Indigenous population and it is quite varied. For students that have hesitated to self-identify, we’re hoping the census is going to open that up for them. And we’re hoping that having an Indigenous Student Trustee will open up that opportunity to self-identify, be super-proud, be a part of this council. “What we are looking for now is to find that quiet Indigenous voice and let them speak a little bit louder,” she added. Ruttan said that she is aware of the hard legacy of Canada’s ‘Status’ system, which robbed many people in Canada of their cultural identity by arbitrarily assigning or denying their federal Indigenous status and rights. “There is a lot of history, and its negative history,” she said. “We’re not asking ‘How Indigenous are you?’ We are saying ‘Please! Identify and be proud so that you can be part of this.’” Regarding Traviss’s participation, Ruttan said she and the Board can not express enough about how proud they are. “When Quanah said the most important voice is the student voice, I couldn’t agree more. I couldn’t agree more,” she said.Samantha Butler-Hassan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, kingstonist.com
The Wood Buffalo Food Bank (WBFB) will be moving to a new downtown location, with renovations expected to be finished by late February or early March. Purchasing a new building has been considered for the past few years even before April’s flooding, which damaged the food bank’s King Street location. The new site, which is at 10100 Centennial Drive, will include offices, community meeting spaces, a kitchen and a warehouse. For the past four years, the food bank had started outgrowing its King Street location and was renting storage space to supplement the site. With everything run from one building, Dan Edwards, executive director of the WBFB, said it will be easier to support the community. “If I don’t have to spend money on a building, those dollars can go further towards doing our work, expanding our programs and bringing in new programs,” he said. “It’s going to be great.” Edwards said remaining downtown was always the best option for the food bank. The facility would still be located in a flood area, but downtown is the only area with spaces large enough for their needs. A downtown building is also easier for people to reach than its temporary location in Gregoire—which is where the food bank has been operating since the flood. Edwards said remaining downtown keeps the organization close to residential areas and major bus routes. The new site will still need some renovations, but Edwards says the finished product will be better for staff, volunteers and clients. “Just having that freedom in knowing it’s our own space will make everything much easier,” said Edwards. “We’re going to work hard to make it feel like an inviting space so our clients have somewhere to feel safe when they’re coming in for assistance.” The annual Syncrude Food Drive is also beginning this weekend, which comes as the food bank sees demand continue to rise. Since March, roughly 50 new households per month are added to its client list. The food bank is expecting this trend to continue into 2021, especially as COVID-19 cases rise. In spring, people who turned to the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will also be required to pay taxes on the benefit, which Edwards fears will make budgets tighter for some families. This year’s food drive will be done through collection bins at grocery stores. People can drop off food, cash and gift card donations between Nov. 26 and Nov. 29. A list of in-demand items will be available on the Wood Buffalo Food Bank’s website, social media and in stores. Some in-demand items include canned fish, canned meat, baking goods, canned fruit, canned vegetables, and diapers size four, five and six. The food drive provides WBFB with 30 to 40 per cent of their food for a year. The food bank’s goal is to raise a total of $300,000 and 80,000 pounds of food. -with files from Laura Beamish email@example.comSarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today
During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic it was impossible to escape public health messaging by local, provincial and federal officials. The three practices hammered home by the hour were to socially distance (a minimum of two metres), wash hands regularly and, eventually, don a face mask whenever in contact with others. The messaging wasn’t simplistic, it was important. Public attitudes and behaviours needed to be shaped to fight a deadly virus spreading rapidly into every corner of our planet. But, in a display of hypocrisy, while these same officials told all of us how to behave, many either refused or at least willfully ignored much of the epidemiology and science of virology that medical experts began to share with them. For the first few weeks there was not a clear understanding of testing and contact tracing, the two tools public health authorities could directly deploy to control viral spread, if governments cooperated. In jurisdictions around the world where they did, the virus was effectively confronted, and in places like South Korea, a hyper focus on testing and tracing almost immediately eradicated the novel coronavirus. In places like the U.S. it was an opposite story, and a country with about 4 percent of the world’s population quickly accounted for 20-25 percent of global COVID-19 cases. Canada, was somewhere in the middle, and Ontario was somewhere in the middle of the country, in terms of testing and tracing levels per capita. But in Peel, and Brampton specifically, it was another story entirely. Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott repeatedly claimed they were taking their cues from public health experts, but new data released by the Province show that viral literacy beyond distancing, masking and handwashing did not sink in with the two people who wield more power than anyone else in the fight of our lifetime. They were responsible for a strategy to guide Ontario through its COVID-19 storm and keep residents of Peel safe. The key to any strategy was testing. "We've got to be able to test widely in the community for asymptomatic spreaders of the infection," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently told the CBC, warning Canada was at a tipping point in its response to the virus. “If you just test people who are symptomatic, you're going to miss a very large contingent of the spread of infection in the community." But in Brampton, from the beginning of the pandemic, both asymptomatic and symptomatic testing fell far short of any meaningful outcome. The testing levels were so low, they were effectively useless. While Toronto was provided with 17 assessment centres and Mississauga received 3, Brampton, with a population of 650,000, was given 1, inside Peel Memorial, where between 150 and 300 tests were being done daily around the start of the pandemic. There were no drive-through testing sites, unlike in other jurisdictions, such as Etobicoke, where the same healthcare system, William Osler, that runs Brampton’s hospitals, was resourced to run two screening sites, including one where residents could drive up in their cars and be tested without getting out. In Brampton, at Osler’s lone screening facility, long lines became a feature immediately in the spring, and it was clear the city, because of certain employment and demographic patterns, was going to be a major problem. But additional resources for testing in the city were ignored by the same leaders on TV every day telling us to distance, wear masks and wash our hands. At its most basic level, testing allows officials and other experts to understand where the virus is spreading and where it is not. Testing data informs reopening policy, the protection of long-term care and acts as a trigger for lockdowns, as well as the signal for any loosening of restrictions. No part of the viral response is easy. The virus that causes the COVID-19 disease is aggressively contagious, jumping from one person to another through close contact or in situations where airflow is limited. To compound the issue, an incubation period of up to two weeks means testing data offers a snapshot of the past and must be manipulated to understand the future. In Ontario, new data released by the Province suggests efforts to expand testing since the first wave of the pandemic have focused on Ontario as a whole and not problem areas, particularly Peel. Analysis by The Pointer of several key moments between May and November reveals a rigid strategy that increased testing evenly across Ontario, instead of zeroing in on hotspots. Peel Region, where the virus is once more sweeping through already vulnerable communities, offers evidence of this. Despite positivity rates consistently above (and regularly double) the provincial average, Peel has received marginally less testing than Ontario overall. Few targeted efforts have been made to proportionally increase tests in the region based on need and a constantly worsening pandemic in certain areas of the region (outside a brief period between late July and mid-August, Brampton has not seen any relief from high daily infection numbers since the end of March). Now, with a test positivity rate above 15 percent, and daily infections averaging almost 300 cases, Brampton has become the symbol of neglect. To put into perspective the disconnect between the data and what officials did with it, consider these comments from mid-October. “Three per cent is worrisome,” Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, said at the time, when the overall test positivity in the province reached 2.2 percent. Meanwhile, Brampton was approaching double digits, and public health officials, along with our political leaders including Ford and Elliott, knew it. An analysis of the failure to use available data and create responsible testing capacity in Peel was done by The Pointer. It focuses on four key dates. The first, in May, represents the highest point of the first wave outside of April, for which testing data is not available. The second, at the beginning of August, marks one of Ontario’s lowest infection periods and the day after Peel entered the most liberal restrictions since the start of the pandemic. A third date in late October was selected to coincide with the day Peel’s medical officer of health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, finally acknowledged a second wave had begun in the region, more than a month after his provincial and federal counterparts declared a second wave had arrived and two months after it had already hit Brampton. The final data point analyzes the most recently published figures. Two key metrics are included in the analysis: the seven-day average of percent positivity and the seven-day average of tests per 100,000 residents. The percent positivity, or percentage of tests that show a person is infected, is used to measure if an area is testing enough, while tests per 100,000 offer the opportunity to compare screening levels between regions and across Ontario as a whole. On May 24, Peel’s seven day average for percent positivity was 10.3 percent. By comparison, neighbouring Toronto recorded a test positivity of 8.9 percent. In Peel, 62 tests were administered per 100,000 residents, with 75 in Toronto. Overall, Ontario had a positivity rate of 5.3 percent and completed 61 tests per 100,000 across the province. Despite double the rate of test positivity in Ontario, Peel was getting the same amount of testing done per capita. It was the first sign that the hotspot was being ignored. In May, the pandemic response was well underway, but Ontario was already on the backfoot. The government had mandated an emergency shutdown in March and was scrambling to protect hospitals, while losing its battle in long-term care. It was still grappling with a testing strategy: reacting to crisis points and failing to plan forward. As restrictions played their part and cases began to fall, Ontario looked at reopening. In June, Peel Region entered Stage 2 of the Province’s old reopening framework and, by August 1, indoor dining, gyms and bars were all open under Stage 3. Over the summer, with lower rates of infection, leaders were provided with a golden opportunity to create a more responsive testing strategy than the one scraped together between February and June. There was a moment to breathe, evaluate and assess before the inevitable second wave, which epidemiologists around the world had made clear was on its way. By August, the Ontario viral picture was vastly improved, although Peel rates (driven by daily case numbers in Brampton that were four to six times higher than Mississauga) remained well above the province’s overall. On August 1, Peel’s positivity rate of one percent (brought down by Mississauga and Caledon) was double the Ontario figure of 0.5 percent. In Toronto it sat at 0.4 percent. Despite this, Peel recorded 124 tests per 100,000 residents compared to 158 in Toronto and 167 for Ontario as a whole. Peel’s rate represented a 100 percent increase over May, well below a 174 percent increase for Ontario as a whole. But instead of increasing testing in Peel, relative to screening levels across Ontario as a whole and compared to areas such as Toronto where screening capacity was expanded by a higher rate compared to its heavy hit neighbour to the west, screening here did not reflect the indicators that showed Peel was in trouble. This pattern suggests a relatively inflexible testing strategy, ignoring historical and point in time test positivity rates. Instead of learning from Peel’s first wave and earmarking extra resources to keep the region under control, testing was increased across the board, despite data that clearly showed Peel was being hit much harder than other regions. In both May and August, Peel Region had a positivity rate twice that of the province as a whole, but was resourced for similar or lower testing levels than the average. Using testing to get a general survey of the viral landscape is important, but zeroing in on specific problem areas is the key, according to epidemiologists. Identifying areas like Peel as a hotspot without creating more testing and contact tracing to control viral spread can be pointless. “The best way to [increase testing] is to make sure that people in counties with high positivity rates have access to testing and are proactively getting tested when they need it,” Dr. Charissa Fotinos, Washington State’s COVID-19 testing leader, explained in September. “Right now, this is not happening enough, and we need it to drastically increase if we are going to stop COVID-19 from spreading rapidly, especially in disproportionately impacted communities and among our essential workers.” By the summer, it was well known that demographics in parts of Peel, particularly in Mississauga’s Malton area and a number of neighbourhoods in Brampton, were more susceptible to viral spread, because of higher levels of employment in essential-work sectors such as food services and certain manufacturing industries, along with more dense living conditions and lower income levels which are correlated to factors such as a reliance on public transit. But instead of using all these known indicators and the other data being provided, to increase testing levels dramatically, above any other part of the province, which should have been done, testing in Peel, particularly in Brampton, remained far below where it should have been to keep communities safe. A high positivity rate tends to signal a lack of testing and an increase in tracked and untracked viral spread. In Ontario, including thresholds established by Peel Public Health, 2.5 to 3 percent test positivity indicates viral spread is not being controlled. New York City recently closed many of its public schools because the test positivity for the city as a whole reached 3 percent. At the same time, Brampton’s was over 15 percent. Rates exceeding these benchmarks mean testing levels have fallen far short of the numbers needed to allow contact tracing to catch infections in the community before people transmit the virus widely out in public, allowing spread to take place relatively unchecked. Portable and flexible resources should be available to blitz these areas until the infection is brought under control. To recycle an overused metaphor: significant, portable testing resources would act as air support to dump water on the heart of a forest wildfire. “A high percent positive means that more testing should probably be done—and it suggests that it is not a good time to relax restrictions aimed at reducing coronavirus transmission,” David Dowdy and Gypsyamber D’Souza from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health explained in an August article on test positivity. Between August 1, when a semblance of normality returned, and October 26, when Loh finally proclaimed a second wave in Peel, the COVID-19 picture went from decent to dire. In less than three months, Peel’s positivity rate jumped to 7.1 percent on October 26, far outpacing either Peel Public Health or the Ontario targets for keeping the virus under control. Tests did increase to 181 per 100,000, an uptick of 45 percent. But by comparison, Toronto, with a test positivity of 4.6 percent, completed 214 tests per 100,000 on the same day near the end of October, an increase of 35 percent from its August levels. Ontario as a whole (with a test positivity of 2.9 percent at the time) increased its average 25 percent to 210 tests per 100,000. Both Toronto and Ontario remained well above Peel’s testing per capita, despite the region’s dangerous positivity rate, which was three times higher than the rest of the province. Despite Ford calling Brampton “broken” on September 4 and Elliott repeatedly claiming the city would get more testing if it needed it, both of them ignored their own responsibility, and the data that was staring them in the face. In early November, Loh demonstrated an understanding of the importance of ramping up testing for areas with high positivity. “Either we’re not testing [enough] or we’re seeing … a true rise in cases, or both,” he said on November 4 to Mississauga councillors, with Peel’s positivity rate already twice as high as the next worst part of the province. “Until we actually finally get a little more data, especially with our testing levels continuing to be brought up, we’re going to have to just assume that it’s both. We’re not testing enough and we’re seeing a genuine rise in cases.” What he did not explain, was that the “genuine” rise of cases was largely due to inadequate testing and the crucial contact tracing that can only be done effectively with proper testing levels to show tracers where to look for viral spread. Other officials, particularly Elliott, have shown a lack of understanding of the dire reality in Peel. On September 14, The Pointer asked her why Brampton had operated with just one full testing centre for the entire pandemic (Osler has since opened its Cold and Flu Clinic at Memorial providing another option for residents wishing to get tested) and how she would improve the situation. “If we find that there is a need for another testing centre in Brampton, of course, we will take a look at that, because we want people to go and get tested and distance from the testing facility shouldn’t be a problem that hinders them from doing that,” she said. Provincial data for the day she spoke show Peel Region had a test positivity rate of 2.1 percent compared to a provincial rate of 0.9 percent, and, using population per municipality, Brampton’s would have likely been closer to 4 percent. In Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon, 155 people were tested for every 100,000 residents, 22 percent below the provincial rate of 199, despite Peel having more than double the test positivity rate compared to Ontario overall. It seemed incomprehensible that Elliott would not have known Brampton desperately needed much more testing. After promising to look into the issue, and in the face of her own data, nothing changed. At an October 28 press conference, The Pointer again asked Elliott about Brampton’s testing resources as the city continued its status as Ontario’s hotspot. "We will look into what is happening in Brampton,” Elliott said. When she spoke, 44 days after she had last offered a similar answer, the picture in Peel had worsened significantly. The region’s positivity rate had increased 238 percent to 7.1 percent (Brampton’s rate was likely above 9 percent). Ontario had a rate of 2.9 percent. Testing in Peel had increased 15 percent to 178 tests per 100,000 residents. Still, Ontario as a whole was tested more thoroughly, with 208 tests per 100,000. Elliott’s carbon copy answers, twinned with Peel’s skyrocketing positivity rate, illustrate a rigid approach to testing. The data portrays a paralyzed government unable to move and adapt to a rapidly spreading virus. While Brampton recorded as many as six times more daily cases of infection over long periods between August and late October compared to Mississauga, it maintained three official assessment centres as Brampton suffered with just one lone testing facility. For a community as diverse as Peel, with significant visible minority populations and thousands of essential workers, this rigidity is punishing. “When scarcity does not permit mass testing, equitable allocation needs to take into consideration the risk of infection and from infection, including risks to economic well being,” University of Michigan experts Ryan Huerto, Susan Dorr Goold and Duane Newton wrote in June. “Those most at risk for worse health outcomes, and those with precarious financial stability, need to be prioritized.” In Peel, these considerations have not been taken into account. Recycling one more military analogy helps to drive this reality home. In a battle with the virus, Peel is Ontario’s weakest line of defence; it is the front the province is most vulnerable on. Without new munitions, reinforcements and a targeted game plan to shore up ranks, the virus will continue to break through the region and spread elsewhere. On November 9, Peel’s positivity rate sat at 10.6 percent, Toronto was at 5.8 percent and Ontario at 3.9. Yet, as has been the story of the pandemic so far, Peel was only able to test 194 residents per 100,000, compared to 217 in Toronto and 211 across Ontario. The failure to properly resource Peel, and Brampton in particular, has been one of the great tragedies of this deadly pandemic, and the Province’s own data proves it. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you.Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer