(Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press - image credit) Health Canada's approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India's version to prevent COVID-19 in adults follows similar green lights from regulators in the United Kingdom, Europe Union, Mexico and India. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, called ChAdOx1, was approved for use in Canada on Friday following clinical trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil that showed a 62.1 per cent efficacy in reducing symptomatic cases of COVID-19 cases among those given the vaccine. Experts have said any vaccine with an efficacy rate of over 50 per cent could help stop outbreaks. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, said the key number across all of the clinical trials for those who received AstraZeneca's product was zero — no deaths, no hospitalizations for serious COVID-19 and no deaths because of an adverse effect of the vaccine. "I think Canada is hungry for vaccines," Sharma said in a briefing. "We're putting more on the buffet table to be used." Specifically, 64 of 5,258 in the vaccination group got COVID-19 with symptoms compared with people in the control group given injections (154 of 5,210 got COVID-19 with symptoms). Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto's University Health Network, called it a positive move to have AstraZeneca's vaccines added to Canada's options. "Even though the final efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine appears lower than what we have with the mRNA vaccines, it's still reasonably good," Hota said. "What we need to be focusing on is trying to get as many people as possible vaccinated so we can prevent the harms from this." Canada has an agreement with AstraZeneca to buy 20 million doses as well as between 1.9 million and 3.2 million doses through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX. WATCH | AstraZeneca vaccine safety: Canada will also receive 2 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the government announced Friday. Here's a look at some common questions about the vaccine, how it works, in whom and how it could be rolled out. What's different about this shot? The Oxford-AstraZeneca is cheaper and easier to handle than the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which need to be stored at ultracold temperatures to protect the fragile genetic material. AstraZeneca says its vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions (2 to 8 C) for at least six months. (Moderna's product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures for 30 days after thawing.) The ease of handling could make it easier to administer AstraZeneca's vaccine in rural and remote areas of Canada and the world. "There are definitely some advantages to having multiple vaccine candidates available to get to as many Canadians as possible," Hota said. Sharma said while the product monograph notes that evidence for people over age 65 is limited, real-world data from countries already using AstraZeneca's vaccine suggest it is safe and effective among older age groups. "We have real-world evidence from Scotland and the U.K. for people that have been dosed that would have been over 80 and that has shown significant drop in hospitalizations to the tune of 84 per cent," Sharma said. Data from clinical trials is more limited compared with in real-world settings that reflect people from different age groups, medical conditions and other factors. How does it work? Vaccines work by training our immune system to recognize an invader. The first two vaccines to protect against COVID-19 that were approved for use in Canada deliver RNA that encodes the spike protein on the surface of the pandemic coronavirus. Health-care workers Diego Feitosa Ferreira, right, and Clemilton Lopes de Oliveira travel on a boat in the state of Amazonas in Brazil, on Feb. 12, to vaccinate residents with the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures, which facilitates its use in remote areas. In contrast, the AstraZeneca vaccine packs the genetic information for the spike protein in the shell of a virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. Vaccine makers altered the adenovirus so it can't grow in humans. Viral vector vaccines mimic viral infection more closely than some other kinds of vaccines. One disadvantage of viral vectors is that if a person has immunity toward a particular vector, the vaccine won't work as well. But people are unlikely to have been exposed to a chimpanzee adenovirus. How and where could it be used? Virologist Eric Arts at Western University in London, Ont., said vaccines from Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, which is also under review by Health Canada, and Russian Sputnik-V vaccines all have some similarities. "I do like the fact that AstraZeneca has decided to continue trials, to work with the Russians on the Sputnik-V vaccine combination," said Arts, who holds the Canada Research Chair in HIV pathogenesis and viral control. Boxes with AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine are pictured at St. Mary's Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Health Canada says the vaccine is given by two separate injections of 0.5 millilitres each into the muscle of the arm. "The reason why I'm encouraged by it is I think there might be greater opportunity to administer those vaccines in low- to middle-income countries. We need that. I think our high-income countries have somewhat ignored the situation that is more significant globally." Researchers reported on Feb. 2 in the journal Lancet that in a Phase 3 clinical trial involving about 20,000 people in Russia, the two-dose Sputnik-V vaccine was about 91 per cent effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with COVID-19. There were 16 COVID-19 cases in the vaccine group (0.1 per cent or 16/14,964) and 62 cases (1.3 per cent or [62/4,902 ) in the control group. No serious adverse events were associated with vaccination. Most adverse events were mild, such as flu-like symptoms, pain at injection site and weakness or low energy. An analysis of results from 2,000 adults older than 60 years suggested the vaccine was similarly effective and well tolerated in this age group. Arts and other scientists acknowledged the speed and lack of transparency of the Russian vaccination program. But British scientists Ian Jones and Polly Roy wrote in an accompanying commentary that the results are clear and add another vaccine option to reduce the incidence of COVID-19.
Syria said U.S. air strikes against Iranian-backed militias in the east of the country on Friday were a cowardly act and urged President Joe Biden not to follow "the law of the jungle". An Iraqi militia official close to Iran said the strikes killed one fighter and wounded four. U.S. officials said they were limited in scope to show Biden's administration will act firmly while trying to avoid a big regional escalation.
(Brittany Spencer/CBC - image credit) P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison gave more details Friday morning about three places where people in Summerside may have been exposed to COVID-19. But in contrast to the circuit-break tightening measures imposed after a cluster of cases in Charlottetown in December, Morrison did not announce any new public health restrictions in relation to the five new cases and four public exposure sites this week. Morrison's office confirmed Thursday that there were three new cases in the Summerside area, all men in their 20s with no known recent history of travel outside Prince Edward Island. On Friday she said people who were at the Iron Haven Gym at the County Fair Mall in Summerside during the following times are considered close contacts of one of the cases. They must self-isolate immediately and get tested as soon as possible. 6-8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20. 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 23. People who were at the gym during these times are also being asked to contact public health. Morrison said it has been hard to contact some of the people who were using the gym on those two days because phone numbers attached to their names were inactive when tracers tried them. This Domino's Pizza location in Summerside is one of three sites where members of the public may have been exposed to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in the past week. Two Summerside restaurants, the Breakfast Spot and Domino's Pizza, were also identified as places of potential exposure. In the case of the restaurants, diners are not being considered close contacts, but these people should get tested as soon as possible and be vigilant in watching for any symptoms. Breakfast Spot potential exposure time: Saturday, Feb. 20, 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Domino's Pizza potential exposure times: Wednesday, Feb. 17, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, 4 p.m.-11 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19, 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21, 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23, 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Anyone living in Summerside who is experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 is being urged to get tested and self-isolate until results come back. Close contacts must stay in self-isolation regardless of any negative test results, Morrison stressed. She added that it is difficult for people to hear they have come in close contact with a COVID-19 case. If you know someone who is self-isolating please reach out, from a distance, to offer support. - Dr. Heather Morrison "It impacts businesses, it impacts families, people's income, and day-to-day life," she said. "If you know someone who is self-isolating please reach out, from a distance, to offer support." Morrison said that given what is happening in neighbouring Atlantic provinces, this new cluster is not unexpected, but its origin is a concern. "At this point, these cases have not been linked to travel," she said. "We know there must be a travel link in some way related to these cases, but we do not know the source." New testing sites, hours added As well as contact tracing, Morrison said another big focus is testing people in the Summerside area. The testing clinic in Slemon Park, just outside Summerside, opened at 8 a.m. Friday, and there was a long lineup of vehicles already at opening time. Dr. Heather Morrison says members of the public may have been exposed to COVID-19 at a Summerside gym and two Summerside restaurants. It will stay open until 8 p.m. and Morrison said hours for the weekend are still being finalized. An announcement on those hours will come later Friday. The testing centre in O'Leary is also open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday for people who have COVID-19 symptoms. At midday Friday, the province said two new testing sites were being added because of long lineups at Slemon Park. They are: Harbourside Health Centre at 243 Heather Moyse Drive in Summerside, open from 2 to 8 p.m. Borden Testing Site at 20 Dickie Road in Borden-Carleton, open from noon to 8 p.m. Two charges laid in separate case On another note, Morrison said one of two women diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier in the week is being charged with two infractions of the Public Health Act in relation to a public exposure at Toys R Us in Charlottetown. Both women had travelled within Atlantic Canada, and those doing so are supposed to be self-isolating upon their return. Morrison said contact tracing has been completed in connection with the two women, and all tests conducted so far have been negative. Their close contacts will remain in self-isolation and will be retested in few days, she added. Five new cases of COVID-19 have been reported on P.E.I. this week, bringing the current total of active cases to six. In total, the province has seen 120 cases since the pandemic began, but no hospitalizations or deaths. Reminder about symptoms The symptoms of COVID-19 can include: Fever. Cough or worsening of a previous cough. Possible loss of taste and/or smell. Sore throat. New or worsening fatigue. Headache. Shortness of breath. Runny nose. More from CBC P.E.I.
(Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press - image credit) Indoor rinks, pools and cinemas in the province's red zones are allowed to reopen as of Friday, as the province eases some restrictions in time for March break. Some cinema owners will keep their businesses closed, believing it makes no financial sense to reopen given the operating limits imposed by the Quebec government. Cinemas are not allowed to sell food and drinks — a decision that sparked major pushback from the industry, and prompted the premier to offer continued access to the province's emergency aid programs as compensation for their losses. The offer was far from satisfying for Vincenzo Guzzo, the CEO of Cinemas Guzzo, which operates 10 theatres in the Montreal area. "The government support program is insulting," Guzzo said. "You haven't even re-gifted a gift, you took the same gift you gave me last week, you took it back, you repackaged it, and now gave it to me for St. Valentine's Day.'' Business will also be limited by reduced capacity to ensure physical distancing as well as the province's curfews — 8 p.m. for most of Quebec, and 9:30 p.m. in the orange zones — but according to Guzzo, even if the province upped its offer, he would reject it based on principle. "There's no way I will be accused of taking public money to open my theatres," he said. "I don't want the money, I don't want popcorn money ... I want to sell popcorn.'' Mario Fortin, however, is relishing the opportunity to bring in customers, even if screening times will be limited by an overnight curfew that starts at 8 p.m. in red zones. "We've been ready for months," said Fortin, who owns Cinéma du Parc as well as Cinéma Beaubien in Montreal. "For months, we've been saying that cinemas are places that are relatively safe, so we want to prove it." Fortin says he's already sold 1,000 tickets for next week, which also includes reducing capacity to ensure physical distancing, reopening is well worth it. "We can manage," he said. "The break-even point is relatively easy to attain." Movie theatres will also need to reduce capacity to ensure physical distancing, and make sure their screening times don't overlap with the province's curfews. Respect the rules, health minister warns Concerns about the spread of the coronavirus variants and another surge of cases didn't stop the province from easing restrictions and allowing certain businesses to reopen. The government has said it wants to give families options to entertain their children while they're away from school. Outdoor gatherings of up to eight people, as opposed to four, are also now allowed in red zones. In addition to the province's curfews, the ban on private gatherings is still in place. With people in the province's general population already getting COVID-19 vaccines, the health minister is asking Quebecers to not get carried away during March break. "Let's make sure that we follow the rules because we are one month away from having a very high number of vaccines," Health Minister Christian Dubé said during Thursday's news conference. The government is expecting at least 600,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines over the next four weeks. There will not be any roadblocks preventing Quebecers from travelling to different regions, but the premier said he's asked police to keep an eye on hotels and cottages to make sure people aren't gathering illegally.
La Convention des maires pour le climat et l’énergie du Canada (CMMC) a décerné à la Ville de Laval l’insigne de réussite pour avoir fait progresser ses objectifs en matière d’environnement. Cette reconnaissance n’est certainement pas étrangère à l’ambitieux plan de réduction des gaz à effet de serre adopté au conseil municipal de novembre dernier, qui vise à diminuer du tiers ses émissions de GES d’ici 2035 par rapport au niveau de 1990. L’administration Demer partage cet honneur avec 18 autres Municipalités canadiennes dont Candiac, Beaconsfield, Prévost et la MRC de Rivière-du-Loup au Québec. Rappelons qu’en 2019, Laval avait été sélectionnée pour faire partie de la première cohorte du projet Villes-vitrines dirigé par la CMMC au pays. Ce programme de 12 mois offrait aux Villes un accompagnement intensif pour les aider à réduire leur empreinte écologique et s'adapter aux changements climatiques. «[C’] est une belle récompense pour tous nos efforts déployés jusqu'à maintenant. Elle nous encourage à poursuivre notre travail et ainsi dépasser nos objectifs en matière d’environnement», s’est réjouie Virginie Dufour, responsable des dossiers en environnement au comité exécutif, le 25 février. Depuis son adhésion à la Convention mondiale des maires pour le climat et l’énergie en 2016, la Ville produit annuellement un inventaire des émissions lavalloises de GES, ce qui lui permet notamment de mesurer l’efficacité des mesures de réduction mises en place. Parmi les actions phares de la stratégie lavalloise à la lutte aux changements climatiques, notons le programme de compensation des GES. Il s’agit d’une initiative municipale novatrice en vertu de laquelle les promoteurs et développeurs immobiliers contribuent à un fonds vert qui permet de financer des initiatives de réduction des émissions, telle la collecte à domicile des appareils réfrigérants dont se débarrassent les Lavallois. L’automne prochain, la Ville lancera une campagne sur la lutte aux changements climatiques afin de sensibiliser ses citoyens, susciter leur engagement et les inciter à changer leurs habitudes quotidiennes. Stéphane St-Amour, Initiative de journalisme local, Courrier Laval
NEW YORK — Netflix on Friday released a study it commissioned from top academic researchers that shows the streaming giant is outpacing much of the film industry in the inclusivity of its original films and television series. For years, academic studies have sought to capture inequalities in Hollywood and to hold studios accountable for making film and television that doesn't reflect American demographics. Those studies have generally relied on box-office or ratings data, often leaving out streaming platforms. Netflix is trying a different route with both more transparency and more company control. The streamer commissioned the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative to analyze its 2018 and 2019 original, live-action films and series, and presented the results to members of the press Thursday in a video presentation. The results were, as Annenberg Inclusion Initiative founder and director Stacy L. Smith noted, far more positive than most Annenberg reports, which have typically found only slow, sporadic improvement in the most popular films. Netflix achieved roughly gender parity among lead characters in both film (48.4% of leads were female) and TV (54.5%) in 2018 and 2019. The study covers a total of 126 movies and 180 series. It does not include documentary or unscripted series or films, animation, international productions or content hosted on Netflix that it did not itself produce. Netflix films were more likely to have women directing (23.1%), writing (25.2%) or producing (29%) than the top-grossing movies of 2018 and 2019. The correlation isn't a perfect one since Netflix releases both large and small budget films whereas the majority of top movies at the box office come from higher-priced productions. In Netflix films and series, 31.9% of leads were from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. That trails demographics (about 40% of the U.S. population according to census data) but Netflix showed marked improvement between 2018 (26.4%) and 2019 (37.3%). “The point of this benchmark is to constantly be held accountable," said Scott Stuber, vice-president of global film. He said 2020 films like “Ma Rainey's Black Bottom,” “Da 5 Bloods” and “Old Guard” show Netflix is still progressing. “But the whole auspice here is not to pat ourselves on the back. It's to say publicly here's what we're trying to accomplish and we're going to be held accountable," he said. The study will continue for the next six years. It's a level of transparency that traditional studios, and other streaming companies, haven't before embraced. In a blog post Friday, Netflix chief executive Ted Sarandos said he hoped the move would spur wider change. “By better understanding how we are doing, we hope to stimulate change not just at Netflix but across our industry more broadly,” wrote Sarandos. Smith didn't respond to questions about Netflix's conditions for the study, or how much the company paid for it. Last month, Netflix released its first inclusion report, showing that 47% of its global workforce is female and 46% of its U.S. employees are from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups. Not all of the findings were positive. Speaking characters in Netflix movies were disproportionately male (about 64%). Only 16.9% of film directors were from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups, and the figures on film producers and screenwriters weren't any better. Among series creators, only 12.2% were from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group. Latino representational lagged especially, accounting for just 4% of film leads and 1.7% of series leads. Stuber and Bela Bajaria, vice-president of global series, said the results show Netflix where it needs work. But citing that Netflix improved from 2018 to 2019 in nearly all metrics, Smith praised the company for making inclusivity central in its operations. “If we are making a show that another studio is producing and we’re doing it from the beginning, from episode one, we have all of the discussions," said Bajaria. "How many people of colour are directing? How many women are directing? Who’s in the writers’ room? We have those conversations all the time.” Bajaria said Netflix has benefited from not having just a few token non-white series but a pipeline full of diversity. “More at-bats" for minority creators, she said. She cited shows like the Shonda Rhimes-produced “Bridgerton” and the Spanish language “La Casa de Papel” ("Money Heist") as examples of how Netflix is remaking what's traditionally been a success. “We have big hit shows that don’t look like what you’d expect or maybe what the system has always told you,” said Bajaria. “I do feel like for us, it’s having way more stories than the one failure.” Jake Coyle, The Associated Press
(Walter Strong/CBC - image credit) Justice Louise Charbonneau sentenced Tariq St Croix Thursday to five years in jail and three years probation for "brutally" stabbing his ex-wife on New Year's Eve two years ago. St Croix pleaded guilty to breaking and entering and aggravated assault in N.W.T. Supreme Court. The Crown prosecutor and defence lawyers jointly recommended a five-year sentence. "It is luck that St Croix isn't facing a homicide trial," Charbonneau told the courtroom. Tariq St. Croix, covering his face with a garment, has been charged with aggravated assault and breaking and entering. Tariq has one year, nine months, and one week remaining in his sentence. Upon his release, he is required to leave the N.W.T. On the evening of the attack, Marina St Croix was with her kids on their balcony waiting for fireworks to begin, when Tariq St Croix appeared outside of their residence. Tariq was on probation for previously assaulting her and was legally prohibited from visiting Marina unless she permitted him. Marina, who was pregnant at the time, told Tariq to go away, but he broke into the house by smashing a window, then armed himself with a steak knife. Marina was holding her 18-month-old infant in her bedroom when Tariq stabbed her in the face, neck and torso in the presence of her two kids. The eldest child grabbed the infant for protection. Tariq repeatedly yelled "you don't love me" before the steak knife broke, lodged in her stomach. Marina tried to flee to the balcony to call for help when Tariq dragged her back in, kicked her face, then fled. Marina asked that the publication ban on her name be lifted, as she no longer wanted the violence perpetrated against Indigenous women and children to be hidden from sight. Mistrust of the system Marina gave a victim impact statement before sentencing. With her sister standing next to her, and Tariq merely meters away, she described how the crime has changed her life. "On the Sunday before the week of my fate, I watched a video on highway 16. Trudeau's words were that Canada failed Indigenous women and that the MMIWG report would not be shelved. Yet, I stand ready to flee, when my only protection between him and me is three years probation." "We live in a society that would rather have my race live in a boat that no longer floats," she continued. "Life is easy for those who fail to see, so society covers their eyes with coins to let the violence breathe. "I see too many dead women and children that the RCMP fail to find. So I must admit I cannot trust the broken system, this time. "Welcome to court in Canada when you are Indigenous," Marina concluded. Marina said she cannot trust a broken legal system that fails to protect Indigenous women and children from their abusers. Justice Charbonneau told the court she "can understand that a court order would not appear adequate, given the crime took place when two probation orders were in force." Judge 'bound' by joint submission Tariq St Croix was initially charged with attempted murder in addition to the crime he was convicted of, but the greater charge was withdrawn when he pleaded guilty to breaking and entering and aggravated assault. In a previous court appearance, Charbonneau acknowledged that the five-year sentence was on the "very, very low end." Judges are bound by a Supreme Court of Canada ruling to accept joint submissions unless they can prove that the sentence is "unhinged" from the circumstances of the crime. "The question I have to answer is not to see if a five year sentence is fit," but if the sentence would break down the administration of justice, she said Thursday. Despite her reservations,Charbonneau said she was certain that Crown and the defense lawyers gave careful consideration to their submission. Deportation possible Tariq has one year, nine months and one week remaining in his sentence. Upon his release, he is required to leave the N.W.T. The court heard that Tariq had been the victim of an "extremely" violent upbringing. As a child growing up in St Lucia, his father had abused his mother repeatedly. Tariq's mother assaulted him and his siblings, which was described as torture at times. "Miraculously," Tariq has rekindled his relationship with his mother, the judge told the court. However, the circumstances of his difficult upbringing "cannot excuse the extreme violence of the crime," Charbonneau said. He is likely to face deportation, given the severity of the crime along with his existing criminal record. Originally from St Lucia, Tariq has permanent residency in Canada. He is qualified as a protected person, which means an additional step is required for deportation. Whether he will be deported depends on if the danger he poses in Canada outweighs the risk he may face if he returns to his home country. However, he is likely to lose permanent residency status.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has announced a $7-million satellite program to locate and track people who are fishing illegally near Ecuador's Galapagos Islands. “Illegal fishing threatens the health of our fish stocks and takes resources away from hard-working, law-abiding fishers,” said Fisheries and Oceans Minister Bernadette Jordan in a press release. “We're investing in one of the leading, most innovative systems on the planet to ensure our fish stocks are protected, our fisheries remain lucrative, and the law is upheld at sea.” The Dark Vessel Detection program uses satellite technology to detect “dark vessels,” ones that have turned off their location transmitting devices in order to avoid being caught, according to DFO. It’s estimated that illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing accounts for about 30 per cent of all fishing activity worldwide, representing up to 26 million tonnes of fish caught annually at a cost to the global economy of $10 billion to $23 billion a year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. DFO awarded Ontario-based space technology company MDA — the maker of the Canadarm — with a three-year contract to supply the technology for the program. It will provide data and analysis to officials in Ecuador and the Forum Fisheries Agency, which represents 15 small island nations in the Pacific region, so they can spend their resources on enforcement to protect their fish stocks, DFO says. MDA says the program will combine data from multiple satellite missions, including the Canadian Space Agency Earth observation satellite, RADARSAT-2. The Dark Vessel Detection program is part of the $11.6 million Canada committed to ocean health at the 2018 G7 meeting. DFO kicked off a smaller-scale program in June to track vessels in the Bahamas and Costa Rica, which saw “significant” fines to five foreign vessels, according to the department. Canada has been under fire for having illegal seafood in its supply chains. Oceana Canada says the country has “inadequate traceability standards” to monitor its seafood supply chain. As a result, the Canadian economy is losing up to $93.8 million in tax revenue each year due to illegal and unreported fishing, according to an Oceana Canada report released in November. Meanwhile, Canadian fishers are missing out on up to $379 million in lost revenue, per the report. The ocean conservation organization has been calling on the feds to develop a boat-to-plate traceability system that would track information about seafood products and disseminate it throughout supply chains. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tasked Jordan and Health Minister Patty Hajdu to tackle it in their 2019 mandate letters, but no timeline for this plan has been released. This task, however, wasn’t included in Jordan’s or Hajdu’s subsequent 2021 letters. Yasmine Ghania, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Les statues grecques, les guerres napoléoniennes et l’avènement de la photographie ont tous joué un rôle dans l’obsession des hommes pour des abdominaux parfaits.
“We’ve been subject to these gravel guerrillas now for at least 50 years, trying to build more highways, more urban sprawl.” Those were the words this week of Mississauga Ward 11 Councillor, George Carlson, who brought them down like a blunt hammer on the heads of builders determined to continue profiteering from the land. “I can almost hear the old scotch and soda tinkling as the decision was made to add another highway and let the developers build more stuff north of Toronto. They haven’t even finished doing infill in Toronto.” As the planet continues to reel from the catastrophic impacts of climate change, some Peel politicians have finally picked their heads from the sand, while others remain largely oblivious. On Wednesday, after more than a year of silence, the City of Mississauga finally threw its considerable weight behind calls to cancel the proposed GTA West Corridor, also known as Highway 413. Carlson’s comments underscored the frustration felt around the virtual council chamber. It was better late than never in the eyes of environmentalists. Meanwhile, many municipal leaders in Brampton and Caledon continue to claim support for environmentally friendly policies, as they walk the fence on a project that will devastate local watersheds, ecosystems and wildlife, while adding hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon emissions into the air above Peel. Since the Progressive Conservatives, led by Premier Doug Ford, restarted the GTA West Highway’s Environmental Assessment (EA) in the first half of 2019, Mississauga has been largely silent. Presentations by the Province to Region of Peel councillors outlining the highway’s debatable benefits have been received unanimously. The City’s lobbying power at Queen’s Park has been used on other priorities but not to fight the planned 400-series transportation corridor. A recent swell of opposition to the highway forced the issue back to the top of the agenda. After a request by Environmental Defence and Ecojustice to have the federal government complete a study of the environmental impacts of the proposed route, and even wrestle control of the project from Queen’s Park, opposition groups have received a new round of support. Unlike their previous requests, which have fallen on deaf ears in Peel Region and only seen success in Halton and Orangeville, this recent campaign has bigger supporters with more clout at the provincial and federal level. At a special council meeting on Wednesday, called to pass Mississauga’s 2021 budget, the City adopted a new and aggressive stance. Councillors voted unanimously to approve a lengthy motion, brought forward by Ward 5 Councillor Carolyn Parrish and seconded by Ward 8’s Matt Mahoney, explicitly opposing any construction activity relating to the GTA West Corridor. “I find it interesting that the buzzword in today’s day and age is climate change action, environment and all of these things and then we kind of fly in the face of it,” Mahoney said, welcoming the strong position detailed in the lengthy motion. “With projects like this, [we] almost talk out of both sides. I am very pleased to second this motion.” The GTA West Highway was scrapped by the Liberal government in 2018. The decision came after an expert panel came to the conclusion it would do almost nothing to solve the GTA’s congestion problems. The report was completely ignored by the PC government, which quickly restarted the environmental assessment process and began touting benefits of the corridor, including unsupported claims it will reduce traffic congestion. Mississauga’s new stance — directly opposing the highway — is the clearest in the Region of Peel. To the north, Brampton and Caledon have both recently voiced concerns, but stopped well short of opposition. In Brampton, Mayor Patrick Brown and Wards 2 and 6 Councillor Michael Palleschi have been pushing for a boulevard in place of the highway through Brampton. The concept, brought to life by a consultant, has come with few technical details, with no one able to explain how a highway would morph into a walkable, urban corridor and back again. Brampton’s mayor has refused to condemn the highway, and, despite his claims to recognize a climate emergency, he’s bragged about being the one who put the GTA West Highway back on the table when he added it to the PC campaign platform ahead of the 2018 election, before his dramatic fall from provincial politics. In its requests to the Provincial government, Brampton has asked for its boulevard design to be considered for a portion of the route without stating opposition to the highway. On Wednesday, Brampton also backed calls for the federal government to take over the route’s EA. Bowing to growing pressure, the Town of Caledon has also backed the same calls. The move is a 180-degree turn from previous calls by Caledon council members who pushed for an expedited environmental assessment – currently being conducted by the provincial government – to get the project started even faster. A federal EA would have the power to override the provincial government and cancel the project should the environmental impact be deemed too great. On Thursday, Mississauga brought its motion to the Region of Peel. Parrish and Brampton Wards 3 and 4 Councillor Martin Medeiros put the proposal on the floor, offering Brampton and Caledon councillors a chance to make a clear statement against the highway and in support of their own climate emergency declarations. But they shied away. Spearheaded by Caledon Wards 3 and 4 Councillor Jennifer Innis and Mayor Allan Thompson, the issue was deferred to a later date. Stating concerns about rushing to a decision and the need to hear from more residents, a referral was proposed to revisit the idea of opposing the highway in a fortnight, once a staff report has been completed detailing the implications cancelling the highway would have on the Region’s long-term planning strategy. “I do believe that a referral to start to bring back a fulsome report, simply with the history and the impacts, what impact would a decision to oppose have on the planning process [would be prudent],” Peel CAO Janice Baker said. “There has been extensive work done, some of which may very well have to be looked at or re-examined as a consequence of this.” The vote resulted in a tie, with Chair Nando Iannicca voting in favour of the referral to break the deadlock. Iannicca said it may have been the first tie-breaking vote he has cast since being elected chair. The delay means official positions in Peel are divergent. Mississauga stands alone opposing the highway, while all three municipalities have recently passed motions expressing support for a federal EA. The Region itself does not have a current position, but the clerk noted Thursday that a 2012 motion “indicates a level of support for the GTA West Transportation Corridor.” Mississauga’s vote on Wednesday was far less complex and more emphatic. Where several regional councillors, including Brown, Thompson and Innis, raised concerns about rushing the process on Thursday, Wednesday simply saw Mississauga representatives congratulating one another on their newly adopted stance, in support of the environment. The wholehearted support for Mississauga’s new stance raises questions about timing. In October 2019, Mississauga’s 12 regional representatives unanimously accepted a presentation from the Province outlining the GTA West Corridor and its unfounded benefits, while there was no concerted outcry over the Province’s decision this summer to approve a route and speed up the environmental assessment. As recently as January, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie told The Pointer she did not think she could convince the Province to change its course. “I think they’re committed to the GTA West Corridor,” she said. Asked this week what precipitated the change of heart and the unambiguous stance, Crombie admitted she and her councillors had been asleep at the wheel. “I think there’s been a groundswell of momentum opposing the building of the highway,” she said at a Wednesday press conference. “I have to say I think we as a council have been a bit complacent, I think we thought it was a done deal; a fait accompli. But now there are so many questions arising from the building of this highway... I think that we saw that there were other voices who opposed it and we agreed we would join them, at least to undertake the full federal environmental assessment.” Parrish shook her colleagues out of their slumber. Mississauga’s new stance sits in harmony with its internal policies and publicly declared goals. Just over a year-and-a-half after declaring a climate emergency, the move is tangible evidence of council’s resolve to make good on a popular promise to help stop the degradation of the planet. Parrish, who has made a career of taking on the establishment, led the way with her detailed motion. “You can just see the vultures waiting to build completely along that belt rather than compact developments, which is what we should be looking for — complete communities.” 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
BEIJING — The thrills and chills of the big screen are back big-time in the world’s largest film market. With the coronavirus well under control in China and cinemas running at half capacity, moviegoers are smashing China's box office records, with domestic productions far outpacing their Hollywood competitors. February marked China’s all-time biggest month for movie ticket sales, which have so far totalled 11.2 billion yuan ($1.7 billion). China overtook the U.S. as the world’s biggest market for movie ticket sales last year as the American box office took a massive hit from the closure of cinemas because of the pandemic. Chinese theatres were able to reopen by midyear and have seen steady audience growth since then. Local movies have also benefited from periodic unofficial “blackout" periods, when only domestic productions are allowed to be screened. A dearth of major Hollywood blockbusters over recent months appears to have also boosted the market for Chinese films. “People were encouraged to stay in Beijing for the Lunar New Year, and so watching movies in the cinema became the top choice of entertainment,” said Chu Donglei, marketing manager at Poly Cinema’s Tiananmen branch in central Beijing. Mask wearing is mandatory and moviegoers must register with a cellphone app so they can be traced in the event of an outbreak. Only every other seat is allowed to be occupied, making it even harder to obtain tickets for the most popular films. According to the China Movie Data Information Network, 95% of ticket sales came from the seven top-grossing films timed for release around the Lunar New Year festival, which began this year on Feb. 12. “Hi, Mom,” a time-travelling comedy written and directed by and starring Jia Ling, was the top earner with 4.36 billion yuan, followed by action comedy “Detective Chinatown 3,” with 4.13 billion yuan. Wang Xiaoyu, 32, who works in the film industry, was only able to procure a ticket for “Hi, Mom” on Thursday and called the viewing experience “deeply moving." “I know there are some movies that are released and streamed online. But I think the experience of watching movies online is not as good as that of watching in a cinema,” Wang said. A lack of entertainment options helped pump up ticket sales during the pandemic, foretelling a bright future for the Chinese film industry, Wang said. Recent box office figures show the “great resiliency and powerful foundation of China’s film industry," said Fu Yalong, deputy general manager of the Solution Center at ENDATA, an analysis firm focusing on the entertainment industry. “During the Lunar New Year, there were films with a variety of genres and topics and the audiences were satisfied," Fu said. “Even with the impact of the pandemic and the increase in ticket prices, we were still able to score such achievements.” College student Zhang Jiazhi, 21, said the movie theatre experience was a welcome break from staying at home watching videos. Successful online film promotion also helped attract many viewers to brick-and-mortar cinemas, Zhang said. “I’m bored, and you can’t stay at home watching (streaming service) Douyin all the time, so I came to the cinema to watch a movie. There’s nothing to do,” said Zhang, who is on winter break and came to the cinema to see “A Writer’s Odyssey," a Chinese fantasy film which he said he didn’t quite understand. Last year, China sold an estimated $2.7 billion in tickets compared to $2.3 billion in the U.S., which saw an 80% drop in ticket sales. “The Eight Hundred," an action drama glorifying China's resistance to Japanese invaders in 1930s Shanghai, was the world's biggest hit, making $461.3 million at the box office, most of it within China. China's theatres also closed for a time during the height of COVID-19 in the country last spring, but gradually reopened over the summer. As of Friday, China has gone 11 days without reporting a single new case of local transmission of the virus. Since the outbreak was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019, China has reported a total of 89,877 cases, including 4,636 deaths. ___ Associated Press news assistant Caroline Chen contributed to this report. Andy Wong, The Associated Press
LONDON — A woman who ran away from London as a teenager to join the Islamic State group lost her bid Friday to return to the U.K. to fight for the restoration of her citizenship, which was revoked on national security grounds. Shamima Begum was one of three east London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria in 2015. She resurfaced at a refugee camp in Syria and told reporters she wanted to come home, but was denied the chance after former Home Secretary Sajid Javid revoked her citizenship. Begum's lawyers appealed,, saying her right to a fair hearing was harmed by the obstacles of pursuing her case from the camp. The U.K. Supreme Court disagreed, ruling Friday that the right to a fair hearing does not trump all other considerations, such as public safety. “The appropriate response to the problem in the present case is for the deprivation hearing to be stayed - or postponed - until Ms. Begum is in a position to play an effective part in it without the safety of the public being compromised,'' said Justice Robert Reed, the president of the Supreme Court. “That is not a perfect solution, as it is not known how long it may be before that is possible. But there is no perfect solution to a dilemma of the present kind.” Javid argued that Begum was Bangladeshi by descent and could go there. She challenged the decision, arguing she is not a citizen of another country and that Javid’s decision left her stateless. The human rights group Liberty said the court’s ruling sets “an extremely dangerous precedent”. “The right to a fair trial is not something democratic governments should take away on a whim, and nor is someone’s British citizenship,'' said Rosie Brighouse, a lawyer with Liberty. “If a government is allowed to wield extreme powers like banishment without the basic safeguards of a fair tria,l it sets an extremely dangerous precedent.'' Danica Kirka, The Associated Press
Nissan Motor Co said on Friday it has reached a breakthrough in achieving a 50% thermal efficiency with its in-development e-POWER hybrid technology, which could lead to a further reduction of car CO2 emissions. This new thermal efficiency level would improve fuel consumption by 25% over the 40% thermal efficiency level in the upcoming e-POWER engine, the company said. "Nissan's latest approach to engine development has raised the bar to world-leading levels, accelerating past the current auto industry average range of 40% thermal efficiency, making it possible to even further reduce vehicle CO2 emissions," the company said in a statement.
India's National Stock Exchange on Friday defended its reopening the market after an unexpected shutdown this week, amid criticism about how it handled the situation. Brokers had criticised the NSE over the lack of information after the four-hour shutdown on Wednesday. India's largest stock exchange, NSE announced on Wednesday it shut at 11:40 a.m. local time because of a telecoms problem.
NYON, Switzerland — Draw Friday for the last 16 in the Europa League: First Leg March 11 Ajax (Netherlands) vs. Young Boys (Switzerland) Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine) vs. Villarreal (Spain) Roma (Italy) vs. Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) Olympiakos (Greece) vs. Arsenal (England) Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) vs. Tottenham (England) Manchester United (England) vs. AC Milan (Italy) Slavia Prague (Czech Republic) vs. Rangers (Scotland) Granada (Spain) vs. Molde (Norway) ___ Second Leg March 18 Young Boys (Switzerland) vs. Ajax (Netherlands) Villarreal (Spain) vs. Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine) Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) vs. Roma (Italy) Arsenal (England) vs. Olympiakos (Greece) Tottenham (England) vs. Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) AC Milan (Italy) vs. Manchester United (England) Rangers (Scotland) vs. Slavia Prague (Czech Republic) Molde (Norway) vs. Granada (Spain) ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
(Lee Jin-man/The Associated Press - image credit) After a months-long review, Health Canada regulators today approved the COVID-19 vaccine from Oxford University-AstraZeneca for use in Canada — clearing the way for millions more inoculations in the months ahead. The department's regulators concluded the shot has an efficacy rate of 62 per cent and have authorized it for use in all adults 18 and older. While it's less effective than the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines at preventing infection, the shot is 100 per cent effective in preventing the severe outcomes of COVID-19 — including serious illness, hospitalizations and death — the regulators said. "Overall, there are no important safety concerns, and the vaccine was well tolerated by participants," the decision reads. Canada has secured access to 22 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, most of which are slated to arrive between April and September. A nurse administers a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Goyang, South Korea, on Friday. Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand has said the government is trying to negotiate faster delivery of these doses now that new, more contagious COVID-19 variants are taking hold in Canada. Health Canada also has authorized the vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute, which has partnered with AstraZeneca to make that company's COVID-19 product at its facilities in India. That version, which is biologically identical to the AstraZeneca shot but is manufactured under different conditions, has been branded "Covishield." The Serum Institute, which is working with Mississauga, Ont.-based Verity Pharmaceuticals, will deliver 500,000 doses of its vaccine next Wednesday, the company told CBC News. A further 1 million doses will arrive in April and 500,000 more in early May. With these new doses, Canada now stands to receive about 6.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines by the end of March. That's enough to fully vaccinate just over 3.2 million people. "This is very encouraging news. It means more people vaccinated, and sooner. Because for AstraZeneca, just like we were for Pfizer and Moderna, we are ready to get doses rolling," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. "Vaccines will keep arriving faster and faster as we head into the spring." WATCH: Anand says Canada will receive first batch of AstraZeneca in coming days Anand told reporters her department "will leave no stone unturned" in its quest to bring more doses into Canada "as quickly as possible." She said the government has received "positive indications" that the other AstraZeneca deliveries are on track but she could not say just how many shots will arrive in the second quarter. What is known is that at least 26.4 million more doses — 23 million from Moderna and Pfizer combined, 1.5 million AstraZeneca doses from the Serum Institute and another 1.9 million AstraZeneca doses from COVAX, the global vaccine-sharing initiative — will arrive between April and June. All told, the country is projected to have enough supply to fully vaccinate at least 16.45 million people by Canada Day. The supply will grow once delivery schedules for the AstraZeneca doses are confirmed. Canada is a vaccine laggard in the Western world right now; dozens of other countries have vaccinated more people per capita. The government has been insisting that everyone who wants a shot will get one by the end of September. Asked today if the new approval will result in an earlier end date for the vaccination campaign, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said she's hopeful but there could be more "bumps" and "unexpected challenges" that disrupt delivery schedules. Canada faced shortages earlier this year when Pfizer retooled its Belgian plant and Moderna slashed planned deliveries. 'Promising evidence' Some countries — such as France — have restricted the AstraZeneca vaccine to people under the age of 65, even though the World Health Organization insists the product is safe and effective for all age groups Health Canada said the clinical trial results "were too limited to allow a reliable estimate of vaccine efficacy in individuals 65 years of age and older," but the department was comfortable with approving the shot because of "post-market experience in regions where the vaccine has already been deployed." Speaking at a technical briefing today, Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, conceded there was limited clinical trial data about the efficacy of the shot in people over the age of 65 but said regulators approved it because of "promising evidence from real-world use of the vaccine." Other countries — notably Australia, the European Union and the United Kingdom — have authorized AstraZeneca already for use in their jurisdictions. WATCH | How the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has performed so far: In a study of vaccine efficacy in Scotland — where both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer products have been in widespread use for weeks — researchers found the AstraZeneca product reduced the risk of COVID-19 hospital admissions by roughly 94 per cent, 28 to 34 days after the first shot. The researchers also warned that the study sample was quite small. While there are risks associated with any vaccine, Sharma said, the benefits of getting an AstraZeneca shot "outweigh their potential risks." Sharma said it will be up to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to decide which groups should get each type of vaccine. And while the AstraZeneca product was found to be less effective than the Pfizer and Moderna shots already approved, Sharma said there's no doubt that a dose of this vaccine is better than no dose at all. Still better than the flu shot She cautioned Canadians against comparing efficacy rates of the various vaccine products, saying that in the areas that matter most — preventing serious illness, reducing hospitalizations and curbing the number of deaths — "all these vaccines are good." "If you look across all the clinical trials of the tens of thousands of people who were involved, the number of cases of people who died from COVID-19 that got vaccines was zero," Sharma said. "The number of people that were hospitalized because their COVID-19 disease was so severe was zero. The number of people that died because of an adverse event or effect of the vaccine was zero." She also noted that the AstraZeneca vaccine's efficacy rate is actually higher than that of other common vaccine products — including the flu shot. Flu vaccines, which differ each year depending on the flu strain in circulation, are typically 54 to 64 effective against seasonal influenza, Sharma said, and yet they are still widely used to offer some level of protection to more people. "I think Canada is hungry for vaccines. We're putting more on the buffet table to be used," she said. WATCH: Dr. Sharma outlines efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccine Health Canada is recommending that the second dose of the AstraZeneca product be administered four to 12 weeks after the first, but Sharma said there is early evidence suggesting it's best to wait the full 12 weeks to deploy the second shot. "With an increased interval, the efficacy might be much higher," she said. The product was approved in Australia, for example, but regulators there recommended a three-month wait between shots. Unlike the Moderna and Pfizer shots, which are based on groundbreaking mRNA technlogy, the AstraZeneca product uses a more conventional viral vector load vaccine platform. The AstraZeneca shot also doesn't require the same cold storage equipment necessary for the other two. The product can be stored and transported at normal refrigerated temperatures of 2 to 8 C for at least six months. This vaccine also can be easily administered in traditional health care settings, like a doctor's office or pharmacy. Regulator still reviewing 2 other vaccine candidates Health Canada is still reviewing two other vaccine candidates: one from Johnson & Johnson and another from Novavax. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's vaccines advisory committee will meet today to review the clinical trial data for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. A final U.S. decision on issuing emergency use authorization (EUA) could come as early as this weekend. Canada has ordered 10 million doses from Johnson & Johnson with options for up to 28 million more, if necessary. Most of those shots are expected to arrive by the end of September. While Health Canada regulators are aiming to make a decision on this product on a timeline similar to that of the FDA, Sharma said the department is still collecting some data from the manufacturer and a final decision is not expected this weekend.
ALGONQUIN PARK, Ont. — Ontario Parks says that reservations for its campsites have nearly doubled since the same time last year.The provincial government agency says that bookings made between Jan. 1 and Feb. 5 have increased almost 100 per cent.They say that campers have made 58,475 reservations in that span this year, up from 29,504 reservations in the same period in 2020.The agency recommends that campers do their research well in advance of their reservation date becoming available on its website so they can book as early as possible.They also suggest camping at a less popular park to ensure greater availability for sites.Algonquin, Killbear, Pinery, Sandbanks and Bon Echo are Ontario's five busiest provincial parks.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
Protesters gathered in Tbilisi, Georgia over the arrest earlier in the week of opposition leader Nika Melia.View on euronews
Netflix Inc outpaced competitors in hiring women to direct feature films but Latin-American and Asian actors were underrepresented in leading TV roles, according to a study commissioned by the streaming service and released on Friday. Netflix, the world's largest streaming service, asked researchers at the University of Southern California to assess the prevalence of multiple groups among actors in its English-language programming and creators working behind the scenes. "The report makes clear that while Netflix has made advances in representation year-over-year, we still have a long way to go," Co-Chief Executive Ted Sarandos said in a blog post.
A typical winter in Bala can be isolating. Far away from the hustle and bustle of tourism season, Bala doesn't see visitors often in the winter unless they're attending a sporting event at the Bala Arena, now closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Across from the arena, there was one place where locals and visitors could gather and socialize, despite the chilly weather: the Bala legion, where people could grab a hot meal and a beer, whether it was an average Friday night or they were in town to catch their child's hockey game. Today, Robert Healey, the legion's sergeant-at-arms, said he’s disappointed to see it reduced to a large building sitting idle in the middle of town. “I’m very discouraged and I think a lot of people are,” he said. For Dennis Mills, the Bala legion's president, what they did went beyond providing a place to get a drink. “We were a place where people could mentally exercise,” he said. “Social interaction is the most important ingredient for a person’s mental health.” With the Bala Arena closed, the legion has taken a hard hit, closing entirely for the winter months. They're cut off from the revenue they'd get from selling food and drinks, and its membership has nowhere to congregate. “This year is our 75th anniversary,” Healey said. “We're trying to plan a big dinner, but we don't know whether we're going to be able to do anything.” However, there's hope the legion can weather this lockdown, at least until patios can reopen in the spring. “We feel the camaraderie during COVID,” Mills said. “The spirit for the Bala legion, it’s certainly been the strongest that I’ve experienced in my 16 years.” On an average evening before the pandemic, Healey said, 20 to 50 people might attend the legion and stay for around 3-4 hours for a meal while socializing. “I enjoyed it,” he said. “It gave me something to do, it gave my wife something to do. You'd have companionship and you'd meet new people ... it was just a good community thing.” During the pandemic, they only allowed 10 people inside the building at a time, and they weren’t serving anything. “We felt that was part of our mission and part of our mandate to serve the community,” Mills said. When the province reinstated the lockdown at the onset of the second wave, the legion was closed to the public entirely. Mills said he, legion member Jack Durante and membership chair Kibby Ham have been reaching out to legion members, four or five a day, to keep in touch and chat. Other legions in Muskoka Lakes have made some adjustments. The Port Carling legion is selling its food for curbside pickup. Legion treasurer Sherri Snider said in lieu of their normal winter patronage of people at the arena and curling club, they’ve seen an influx of contractors ordering food from them. “I wouldn’t say we’re doing tons of money with our expenses and labour, but we are certainly making a profit and the town is appreciative that we are here,” she said. According to Mills, the legion incurs $3,500 of fixed costs a month for heating, electricity, cleaning and paying a bookkeeper. Right now, they’re relying on donations from the supporters they’ve accumulated over the last four years. “We’re in a very tough situation with COVID … but we have a tremendous amount of goodwill,” he said. Mayor Phil Harding said he recognizes the legion's closure leaves a hole in the community. “With a full lockdown and winter, it really compounds the problem,” he said. “It's certainly on our radar as municipal council.” STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Legions are a cornerstone of connection in many of Muskoka's communities, for veterans and other locals. Our reporter wanted to see how the Bala legion was faring in a town hit hard by the decrease in winter tourism. Zahraa Hmood is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering the municipalities of Muskoka Lakes, Lake of Bays and Georgian Bay. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Zahraa Hmood, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com