Raptors forward OG Anunoby discusses why he signed an extension now and how special it was, whether or not he will buying Kyle Lowry the dinner he’s asking for and what his ceiling is as a player.
Raptors forward OG Anunoby discusses why he signed an extension now and how special it was, whether or not he will buying Kyle Lowry the dinner he’s asking for and what his ceiling is as a player.
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Antony Blinken as America’s top diplomat, tasked with carrying out President Joe Biden’s commitment to reverse the Trump administration’s “America First” doctrine that weakened international alliances. Senators voted 78-22 to approve Blinken, a longtime Biden confidant, as the nation’s 71st secretary of state, succeeding Mike Pompeo. The position is the most senior Cabinet position, with the secretary fourth in the line of presidential succession. Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration. He has pledged to be a leading force in the administration’s bid to reframe the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which President Donald Trump questioned longtime alliances. He is expected to start work on Wednesday after being sworn in, according to State Department officials. “American leadership still matters,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at his Jan. 19 confirmation hearing. “The reality is, the world simply does not organize itself. When we’re not engaged, when we’re not leading, then one of two things is likely to happen. Either some other country tries to take our place, but not in a way that’s likely to advance our interests and values, or maybe just as bad, no one does and then you have chaos.” Blinken vowed that the Biden administration would approach the world with both humility and confidence, saying “we have a great deal of work to do at home to enhance our standing abroad.” Despite promising renewed American leadership and an emphasis on shoring up strained ties with allies in Europe and Asia, Blinken told lawmakers that he agreed with many of Trump’s foreign policy initiatives. He backed the so-called Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and several Arab states, and a tough stance on China over human rights and its assertiveness in the South China Sea. He did, however, signal that the Biden administration is interested in bringing Iran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew in 2018. Trump's secretaries of state nominees met with significant opposition from Democrats. Trump’s first nominee for the job, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, was approved by a 56 to 43 vote and served only 13 months before Trump fired him in tweet. His successor, Pompeo, was confirmed in a 57-42 vote. Opposition to Blinken centred on Iran policy and concerns among conservatives that he will abandon Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. Blinken inherits a deeply demoralized and depleted career workforce at the State Department. Neither Tillerson nor Pompeo offered strong resistance to the Trump administration’s attempts to gut the agency, which were thwarted only by congressional intervention. Although the department escaped proposed cuts of more than 30% of its budget for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of departures from its senior and rising mid-level ranks, Many diplomats opted to retire or leave the foreign service given limited prospects for advancement under an administration that they believed didn't value their expertise. A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School and a longtime Democratic foreign policy presence, Blinken has aligned himself with numerous former senior national security officials who have called for a major reinvestment in American diplomacy and renewed emphasis on global engagement. Blinken served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration before becoming staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel. In the early years of the Obama administration, Blinken returned to the NSC and was then-Vice-President Biden’s national security adviser before he moved to the State Department to serve as deputy to Secretary of State John Kerry, who is now serving as special envoy for climate change. Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
Anyone entering Manitoba, including people coming from Western Canada, will have to self-isolate for 14 days starting Friday. Manitoba's public health orders will be amended to include the travel restriction, Premier Brian Pallister announced Tuesday. "These measures are necessary to protect us from a more deadly version of the coronavirus that is not, as some would sadly hope, a short-term thing," he said. The travel restriction is designed to stop non-essential travel, by land or by air, and applies to people visiting the province and returning Manitobans. The order is being made out of an abundance of caution, in response to the "real danger" of COVID-19 variants, Pallister said. WATCH | Premier says Manitobans should be concerned about COVID-19 variants: Manitobans who are currently out of the province have until 11:59 p.m. Thursday to return without having to self-isolate. If they arrive after that, they'll have to quarantine for two weeks. That includes people entering from northern and Western Canada and from west of Terrace Bay in Ontario, who did not have to self-isolate under previous health orders. Current exemptions to self-isolation measures are still in effect, including those travelling for essential interprovincial work and people travelling for medical reasons. People living in border communities travelling to another province for essential reasons, such as to get groceries, are also exempt, Pallister said. There is no proposed end date for the travel restrictions. Public health officials are concerned about the risks a COVID-19 variant could pose in Manitoba. "Early analysis shows, depending on the study you're reading, that it can be up to 70 per cent more communicable and have the same impacts on morbidity, mortality and hospitalizations, if not worse, depending on what study we're looking at, compared to what we have in the community right now," acting deputy chief public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said in a conference call on Tuesday. "We want to try to get ahead of it. We want to try to protect Manitobans, right? We want to ensure that those things are in place that mitigate that risk of that virus coming into Manitoba and if it does come into Manitoba, that we're able to respond to it quickly." The premier is also calling on the federal government to bring in additional restrictions and enforcement for international travellers coming into the country. "Stepping up the rules around travel, making sure there's additional enforcement are critical to this," Pallister said. "Premiers have been urging the federal government on these measures for some time, and now I'm encouraged to hear word that the federal government may be proposing to take some action in the very near future." Pallister said he wishes he had taken more steps to enforce public health measures earlier. "If I have a regret from last year, I would suggest it was that we were trying too hard to educate, perhaps, and not enough maybe to make it clear that there are serious consequences if you don't want to abide by the rules," he said. "We don't want to make those mistakes again. We want to learn from them." Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew is on board with the premier's announcement. "I apologize to Manitobans if this is the reason why it's so cold out right now, because you have the premier and I agreeing on something for once," Kinew told reporters during a scrum Tuesday. While he believes the travel restrictions are a good move, Kinew urged the Pallister government to go a step further and spend more on health care, in anticipation of coronavirus variants which are being reported in other provinces. WATCH | Premier Pallister on COVID-19 measures in the province | Jan. 26, 2021: With the second wave of the pandemic came a spike in hospitalizations and patients who required critical care. To prevent similar or further strain on Manitoba's health-care system, Kinew says the province needs to ensure intensive care units have the resources they need, such as ventilators, beds and staff. "While we have this period of time, perhaps, that these travel restrictions could buy us before variants potentially arrive in Manitoba, let's use that time to build up the health-care system, particularly in those areas where we saw this fall and winter that were barely hanging on," he said. Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont also supports the restrictions, but wants to see increased testing for people who must travel interprovincially once the travel restrictions come into effect later this week, to try detecting the presence of COVID-19 variants before they can spread. "Even if we close the borders, there are still going to be people coming through," said Lamont, citing people travelling through the airport and truckers as examples. "We need to make sure that we are testing for these variants, because that is the key to preventing a third wave in Manitoba."
TORONTO — A former senior civil servant accused of embezzling $11 million in Ontario COVID-19 relief money betrayed his own family, according to his wife and two sons. In sworn affidavits, the wife of Sanjay Madan and their two adult sons disavow any knowledge of his alleged scheme, which is now the subject of an unproven civil action against them all. According to his affidavit, Chinmaya Madan said he became suspicious of his father around June last year after discovering unexplained money in his bank accounts, some of which he didn't know existed. Only after repeated questioning did his father admit to having "diverted" money and promise to return it, the affidavit states. "I felt betrayed by my father," Chinmaya Madan said in the document filed in Superior Court. "I was and remain absolutely shocked by the allegations." The Ontario government's unproven civil claim names Sanjay Madan, who had a senior IT role and helped develop a computer application for the COVID-19 benefit for families with children. Also named are his sons Chinmaya Madan and Ujjal Madan, and his wife of 28 years, Shalini Madan. The claim alleges the Madan family, who all worked for the government in information technology, defrauded the province of at least $11 million. No criminal charges have been filed. The claim asserts the family and others illegally issued and deposited cheques under the program aimed at defraying the cost of children learning at home. The province alleges the Madans opened hundreds of accounts at the Bank of Montreal between April and May 2020, then deposited around 10,000 cheques made out to fictitious applicants. Sanjay Madan had always been "controlling and secretive" about money and managed the family's finances, his wife said in her court filing. However, the actions alleged against him were totally out of character, she said, adding she learned of 1,074 Canadian bank accounts in her name, only three of which she said she had opened. "I am at a complete loss to understand why Sanjay would risk everything in the manner he did. We needed nothing. It all makes no sense to me," Shalini Madan says. "The Sanjay the plaintiff describes is like a completely different person than the man who is my husband and the father of our children." In a statement Tuesday, the Madan family's lawyer called the wife and children "victims not villains." "The Sanjay Madan who is alleged to have behaved so inappropriately is not the man they have known," Christopher Du Vernet said. "They are still struggling to understand what prompted him to act as he did, and especially to have used his own family when doing so." The children claim they were the victims of identity theft. They say in their court filings that they believed their father was returning the "diverted" money and was making things right, but also say they wonder if he was just stringing them along. Du Vernet said last week Sanjay Madan had returned more than the $11 million the government alleges he misappropriated. He said his client "deeply regrets" his actions and was awaiting results of medical opinions on his mental health. His family, Du Vernet said, could only conclude Sanjay Madan had long suffered from a mental disorder that profoundly distorted his judgment. "Mr. Madan’s wife and children are learning that Mr. Madan has actually had two sides to him: the dedicated husband and father they saw, and the miscreant they never saw." The lawyer also said none of Sanjay Madan's family had spent any of the money he allegedly took. In his affidavit, Ujjawal Madan said he never had any reason to suspect any wrongdoing by his father. "As long as I have known him, he has been a conservative spender," he said. The government, which fired Madan in November, has a court order freezing the family's assets, which included properties in Toronto. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
This story is part of a new initiative to provide content to our Chinese readers. You can find the English version here. 展望2021年，人們希望新冠肺炎大流行能盡快過去，生活可以早日如常。但我們身邊正在經歷入睡困難、焦慮、憤怒或情緒低沉的人比比皆是。疫情的持續所帶給所有人的壓力不言而喻，恢復身心健康之路任重道遠。 在封城和禁止社交的大環境下，如何幫助他人和自己提高的心理的靈活性，增強應對疫情的復原力？ 保泰社區抗疫行動(Project PROTECH)作為加拿大政府的新前沿研究基金(NFRF) 資助的研究項目，現正在招募加拿大講英語、國語或粵語的華人，參加一個名為「應對全球流行病 - 接受，承諾，與賦權」的免費培訓項目(PACER: Pandemic Acceptance and Commitment to Empowerment Response Training)，希望幫助受新冠病毒影響的人提高復原能力。 滿足條件的人，還能獲得相應的報酬。 這個項目自2020年下半年展開以來，以英語培訓了近一百位參加者, 現在保泰團隊持續加強培訓內容, 發展出了中、英、粵三種語言的培訓模式, 推出第二階段的培訓，讓更多社區內的新移民、留學 生、非居民等不同群體都能參與其中。 萬錦市民張女士在參加完培訓後，認為這個項目增強了自己價值觀的建設。「比如我喜歡旅遊，但因為疫情不能去了，我學會了可以用其他事替代，同時依然保持該價值觀在心裏。」 她開始重新思考，自己為什麼喜歡旅遊？是希望尋找快樂，以及和遠方的家人、朋友團聚。「疫情之下，我可以通過看一些書籍、紀錄片，和親友視頻聊天，達到相同的效果。同時我做了未來的旅遊計劃，往這個方向去努力。其實我還是在追求這個價值和東西，這是疫情期間的一種別樣的疏導自己的方式。」 要參加PACER培訓，你須年滿18歲，來自加拿大華人社區，並且至少能流利使用英語、國語或粵語中的一種。你可以是上班族，居家學習的大學生，社區領袖，或是感染了新冠病毒的人士，照顧患病家人的受影響者等。 參加本研究完全是自願的。所有在小組分享的私人信息將被嚴格保密。因此，參與者均須簽署一份保密協議。該培訓項目為期 6 周，以在線自學的模塊進行，每周與其他參與者一同參加由培訓者帶領的在線小組討論。 通過這個培訓，參與者將會學習到正念、接受與承諾療法(ACT)，以及集體賦權心理教育等專業的心理應對技能。Project PROTECH還將邀請你完成培訓前、後以及後續的跟進問卷調查。你還可以誌願選擇參加線上的焦點小組，以幫助評估該項目的有效性。 為表示對該研究項目參與者的謝意，每完成一份問卷，你將獲得$20加幣。參加培訓結束三個月後的後續線上焦點小組，你還將再獲得$30加幣。這項研究已由瑞爾森(Ryerson)大學研究倫理委員會(REB 2020-12)和大學健康網絡(UHN)研究倫理委員會批準，旨在與華裔社區一起共同應對新冠肺炎的持續影響。 下期培訓的每周在線小組討論將於1月27開始，連續 6 周，以中、英、粵三種語言，在每周三晚8點到9點半舉行。培訓人數有限，請在培訓開始前盡早註冊，保泰稍後將推出更多培訓時間表。 想獲得有關保泰社區抗疫行動培訓的相關信息，或有意參與培訓，請訪問網頁 www.projectPROTECH.ca。 Scarlett Liu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Economist & Sun
“Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause,” by Ty Seidule (St. Martin’s Press) Few authors can say they have lived their story with quite the same authority as Ty Seidule, retired U.S. Army brigadier general and professor emeritus of history at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, and lived a life of white privilege provided by de-facto segregation. He revered Robert E. Lee. Now, with the vigour of a prosecutor, Seidule dismantles the near-sacred beliefs among many Southerners that the Civil War was a noble cause to preserve a way of life that benefitted everyone. Robert Edward Lee personified the myths of a romantic era, a righteous cause and contented slaves who were better off than they had been in Africa. Seidule’s book is particularly timely given the recent raid on the Capitol by hundreds of mostly white believers in an assortment of old and new myths. At least two of those who broke into the Capitol carried Confederate flags. Seidule finished his book before the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, which made his research and writing even more soul-wrenching. In the Civil War, he writes, “the United States fought against a rebel force that would not accept the results of a democratic election and chose armed rebellion.” Lee, still memorialized in scores of monuments, roads, counties and historical markers, was a traitor, Seidule writes, abandoning his oath of allegiance to the United States to lead the fight to preserve slavery. Does something endemic in the American character render us susceptible to accepting beliefs unsupported by even feeble evidence? That’s a question for another book; Seidule has offered clear and compelling evidence, to our shame as a nation, that many of us remain unwilling to confront an American past that includes slavery, lynchings and embedded segregation that endures today. Seidule’s book still has some chapters to be written — probably soon. Embedded in the 2021 military budget are directives to change the names of Army bases named for confederates. And for whom should those based be renamed? Seidule has thought that out too. In a Washington Post essay in June 2020, he recommends, among others, Vernon Baker, a Black lieutenant and Medal of Honor winner for his World War II heroism, and Charles Young, the third Black graduate of West Point. Young was forced to retire because then-President Woodrow Wilson didn’t want a Black man leading white troops. The monuments and confederate names elsewhere also must go, Seidule writes, observing that otherwise they serve the same purpose as lynchings — to enforce white supremacy. Seidule has written an extraordinary and courageous book, a confessional of America’s great sins of slavery and racial oppression, a call to confront our wrongs, reject our mythologized racist past and resolve to create a just future for all. Jeff Rowe, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is set to announce a wide-ranging moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on U.S. lands, as his administration moves quickly to reverse Trump administration policies on energy and the environment and address climate change. Two people with knowledge of Biden’s plans outlined the proposed moratorium, which will be announced Wednesday. They asked not to be identified because the plan has not been made been public; some details remain in flux. The move follows a 60-day suspension of new drilling permits for U.S. lands and waters announced last week and follows Biden’s campaign pledge to halt new drilling on federal lands and end the leasing of publicly owned energy reserves as part of his plan to address climate change. The moratorium is intended to allow time for officials to review the impact of oil and gas drilling on the environment and climate. Environmental groups hailed the expected moratorium as the kind of bold, urgent action needed to slow climate change. “The fossil fuel industry has inflicted tremendous damage on the planet. The administration’s review, if done correctly, will show that filthy fracking and drilling must end for good, everywhere,'' said Kierán Suckling, executive director at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that has pushed for the drilling pause. Oil industry groups slammed the move, saying Biden had already eliminated thousands of oil and gas jobs by killing the Keystone XL oil pipeline on his first day in office. "This is just the start. It will get worse,'' said Brook Simmons, president of the Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma. "Meanwhile, the laws of physics, chemistry and supply and demand remain in effect. Oil and natural gas prices are going up, and so will home heating bills, consumer prices and fuel costs.'' Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, which represents oil and gas drillers in Western states, said the expected executive order is intended to delay drilling on federal lands to the point where it is no longer viable. "The environmental left is leading the agenda at the White House when it comes to energy and environment issues,'' she said, noting that the moratorium would be felt most acutely in Western states such as Utah, Wyoming and North Dakota. Biden lost all three states to former President Donald Trump. The drilling moratorium is among several climate-related actions Biden will announce Wednesday. He also is likely to direct officials to conserve 30% of the country’s lands and ocean waters in the next 10 years, initiate a series of regulatory actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and issue a memorandum that elevates climate change to a national security priority. He also is expected to direct all U.S. agencies to use science and evidence-based decision-making in federal rule-making and announce a U.S.-hosted climate leaders summit on Earth Day, April 22. The conservation plan would set aside millions of acres for recreation, wildlife and climate efforts by 2030, part of Biden’s campaign pledge for a $2 trillion program to slow global warming. Under Trump, federal agencies prioritized energy development and eased environmental rules to speed up drilling permits as part of the Republican’s goal to boost fossil fuel production. Trump consistently downplayed the dangers of climate change, which Biden, a Democrat, has made a top priority. On his first day in office last Wednesday, Biden signed a series of executive orders that underscored his different approach — rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, revoking approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada and telling agencies to immediately review dozens of Trump-era rules on science, the environment and public health. A 60-day suspension order at the Interior Department did not limit existing oil and gas operations under valid leases, meaning activity would not come to a sudden halt on the millions of acres of lands in the West and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico where much drilling is concentrated. The moratorium also is unlikely to affect existing leases. Its effect could be further blunted by companies that stockpiled enough drilling permits in Trump’s final months to allow them to keep pumping oil and gas for years. The pause in drilling is limited to federal lands and does not affect drilling on private lands, which is largely regulated by states. Oil and gas extracted from public lands and waters account for about a quarter of annual U.S. production. Extracting and burning those fuels generates the equivalent of almost 550 million tons (500 million metric tons) of greenhouse gases annually, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a 2018 study. Under Trump, Interior officials approved almost 1,400 permits on federal lands, primarily in Wyoming and New Mexico, over a three-month period that included the election, according to an Associated Press analysis of government data. Those permits, which remain valid, will allow companies to continue drilling for years, potentially undercutting Biden’s climate agenda. The leasing moratorium could present a political dilemma for Biden in New Mexico, a Democratic-leaning state that has experienced a boom in oil production in recent years, much of it on federal land. Biden's choice to lead the Interior Department, which oversees oil and gas leasing on public lands, is New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland. If confirmed, she would be the first Native American to lead the agency that oversees relations with nearly 600 federally-recognized tribes. Haaland, whose confirmation hearing has been delayed until next month, already faces backlash from some Republicans who say expected cutbacks in oil production under Biden would hurt her home state. Tiernan Sittenfeld, a top official with the League of Conservation Voters, called that criticism off-base. “The reality is we need to transition to 100% clean energy” in order to address climate change, she said Tuesday. "The clean energy economy in New Mexico is thriving,'' Sittenfeld added, citing gains in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. The Biden administration has pledged to spend billions to assist in the transition away from fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal, and Biden has said creating thousands of clean-energy jobs is a top priority. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
The Ontario government may have temporarily paused the demolition on several heritage buildings in downtown Toronto, but a challenge to stop the work won’t be easy. Matthew Bingley looks into the powers of minister’s zoning orders and why a court challenge may not be enough to save the heritage buildings.
NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. — A jersey, puck and stick signed by hockey legend Wayne Gretzky are among Ontario museum items up for auction.The 42-year-old a Guinness World Records Museum in Niagara Falls permanently closed in September.Ripley Auctions says memorabilia up for bids includes artifacts, sculpted characters, displays and exhibits.The online auction is scheduled for Feb. 12.Ripley says the museum featured visits and performances from record holders and people attempting to break records.The museum operated as a franchisee of the Guinness World Records book.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021.This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
At approximately 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021, officers of the Lennox & Addington (L&A) County Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) were on patrol and observed a vehicle being operated in a dangerous manner, travelling at a high rate of speed 401 Westbound, west of Deseronto Road. According to a release from OPP, police stopped the vehicle and arrested the driver for dangerous operation, and all three occupants were arrested for Possession of a Schedule I Substance. OPP say the vehicle was seized, along with break in tools and stolen property including identity documents, fraudulent cheques and personal documents. L&A County OPP have charged: Vikramjit Singh, age 31, of no fixed address with: - Dangerous Operation of a motor vehicle; - Six counts of Possession of Credit Card; - Possession of Break in Instruments; - Possession of Property Obtained by Crime; - Fourteen Counts of Possession of a Forged document; - Possession of Instrument for forgery; - Twenty seven counts of Possession of identity Document; - Possession of a Schedule I Substance - Heroin; and, - Stunt Driving. Rajwinder Singh Chauhan, age 27, and Preetam Rattan, age 26, both of no fixed address are charged with: - Six Counts of Possession of Credit Card; - Possession of Break in Instruments; - Possession of Property Obtained by Crime; - Possession of a Forged document; - Possession of Instrument for forgery; - Possession of identity Document; and, - Possession of a Schedule I Substance - Heroin . Rattan received a further charge of Fail to Comply with release order. All accused persons were held for a bail hearing and appeared in the Ontario Court of Justice in Greater Napanee on January 24, 2021. Jessica Foley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, kingstonist.com
LONDON — More than 100,000 people have died in the United Kingdom after contracting the coronavirus, a year into Europe's deadliest outbreak, figures from the government showed Tuesday. Britain is the fifth country in the world to record 100,000 virus-related deaths, after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, and by far the smallest. The U.S. has recorded more than 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, the world’s highest total, but its population of about 330 million is about five times Britain’s. The health department said 100,162 people have died after testing positive, including 1,631 new deaths reported Tuesday. “It’s hard to compute the sorrow contained in that grim statistic,” a sombre Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at a televised news conference. The U.K. toll is more than twice as many people as were killed by German bombs in Britain in the 1940-41 Blitz, and 30,000 more than the total number of British civilians killed during the six years of World War II. The first confirmed British victim of the virus was Peter Attwood, an 84-year-old retiree who died on Jan. 30, 2020 — though the cause was not recorded as COVID-19 until months later. A year on, hundreds of thousands of Britons are grieving the loss of loved ones, and demanding an accounting for the terrible toll. In part, Britain has suffered because of longstanding factors such as high levels of conditions including obesity and heart disease, a large gap between rich and poor and London’s status as a global crossroads. But decisions during the pandemic also played a part. Johnson’s Conservative government is accused by many scientists of waiting too long to impose a lockdown in March as infections were rising exponentially. Leading epidemiologists say acting a week sooner might have cut the death toll in half. As in other European countries, cases fell in the summer, then took off again. A more transmissible variant identified in southeast England helped push infections to new highs, and brought a new lockdown, even as a nationwide vaccination campaign began. Johnson — who spent a week in the hospital with the virus in April — has promised that a public inquiry will examine Britain’s handling of the pandemic, though he has not said when it will start. “Of course we will learn lessons in due course and of course there will be a time to reflect and to prepare for the next pandemic,” Johnson said last week. The official count records people who died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus. The full toll, as elsewhere, is likely even higher, due in part to missed cases early on in the pandemic. U.K. statistics agencies say that the number of deaths registered that mention COVID-19 on the death certificate is more than 108,000. ___ Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak. The Associated Press
ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan — Turkmenistan's autocratic leader has established a national holiday to honour the local dog breed, media reports said Tuesday. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov ordered the holiday praising the Alabai, the Central Asian shepherd dog, to be celebrated on the last Sunday of April when the ex-Soviet nation also marks the day of the local horse breed, according to the daily Neutral Turkmenistan. The Central Asian nation of 6 million prides itself in horses and dogs, honouring its centuries-old herding traditions. Berdymukhamedov has ruled the gas-rich desert country since 2006 through an all-encompassing personality cult that styles him as Turkmenistan’s “arkadaq," or protector. The Turkmen leader has extolled the Alabai for years. He published a book about the breed and in 2017 presented Russian President Vladimir Putin with a puppy. Last year, he inaugurated a massive gilded statue honouring the dog in the Turkmen capital. In 2019, then Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was also given an Alabai puppy. Berdymukhamedov's son, Serdar, who heads the international Alabai association, reported to the president that the holiday will feature a beauty contest and agility competitions. The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Former finance minister Bill Morneau says he is dropping out of the race to become secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. In a statement on Twitter today, Morneau says he did not have enough support from member countries to make it to the third round of the campaign. Morneau, who became Trudeau's finance minister after the Liberals won the 2015 election, abruptly resigned from cabinet and as an MP last August. At the time, he said he would put his name forward as a candidate to succeed Angel Gurria as the next secretary-general of the OECD. But he was also facing opposition calls for his resignation over allegations that he had a conflict of interest in the WE Charity affair after he revealed the organization had paid for two trips he and his family took to Kenya and Ecuador in 2017. The federal ethics watchdog has cleared Morneau of failing to disclose a gift from WE Charity but continues to probe whether he breached the Conflict of Interest Act by failing to recuse himself from the cabinet decision to pay the charity $43.5 million to manage a since-cancelled student grant program. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
Les jours de l'actuel hôtel de ville de Sept-Îles semblent comptés alors que le conseil municipal a indiqué à la séance du conseil du 25 janvier qu'il avait l'intention d'aller de l'avant avec la construction d'un nouveau bâtiment. Le conseil a d'ailleurs décidé de ne pas attribuer de citation patrimoniale à l'hôtel de ville qui est situé au 546 rue de Quen. Une telle citation aurait accordé un statut légal au bâtiment et aurait obligé son propriétaire à en assurer la protection. Pour le maire de Sept-Îles, Réjean Porlier, trois éléments expliquent cette décision. Tout d'abord, la Ville a besoin de plus d'espace pour répondre aux besoins de ses différents services municipaux et le bâtiment actuel, même rénové, ne conviendrait pas. Ensuite, il y a l'élément financier. Le maire indique que les réparations à l'hôtel de ville coûteraient environ 12 M$, mais qu'il faudrait ajouter entre 5 et 8M$ pour réintroduire les éléments patrimoniaux du bâtiment. Finalement, la Ville de Sept-Îles veut aussi collaborer avec le CISSS de la Côte-Nord qui a besoin d'espace pour procéder à un agrandissement de l'hôpital et ajouter des stationnements. La Ville de Sept-Îles est actuellement en négociation avec le CISSS de la Côte-Nord pour que ce dernier acquière l'hôtel de ville actuel. Un nouvel hôtel de ville Toujours durant la séance du conseil, le maire a indiqué que le futur hôtel de ville pourrait être construit entre le centre socio-récréatif et le boulevard Laure. Réjean Porlier affirme : « ce site permettrait la mise en valeur de l'hôtel de ville et il y a des avantages par rapport à la proximité des autres infrastructures municipales ». Le coût d'un nouvel hôtel de ville qui répondrait aux besoins de la Ville est estimé entre 16 et 20 M$. Le maire indique que les citoyens auront l'occasion de se faire entendre au cours des prochaines semaines avec le processus du règlement d'emprunt pour la construction d'un nouvel hôtel de ville. Il espère que les débats se feront de façon respectueuse.Vincent Berrouard, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Nord-Côtier
Merritt residents will have the opportunity to put their chef hat on with a new COVID-safe, virtual cooking class that focuses on healthy eating. The program began in Lillooet, and was coordinated and hosted by the Better Living Centre (BLC) a Seventh-day Adventist Church. “The BLC has a Health Ministries department that works toward educating and empowering the community toward making positive, healthful lifestyle habits,” said Mary Coursey, BLC member. “They have done this for several years within Lillooet in various way, one of which was in-person community cooking classes.” These were an initiative of Vanessa Richards, a fellow BLC member. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person classes were halted. “With some inspiration we came up with the idea to continue this arm of our community outreach by having virtual classes through Zoom,” explained Coursey. “In order to help make the classes more interactive, I wanted to put together a meal kit so that participants could cook along with us during the class and enjoy a healthy meal at the end. We tested this back in September 2020 with some funding from a Neighbourhood Small Grant through the Vancouver Foundation. We had about 16 participants for that class along with lots of positive feedback.” Richards came up with the idea of expanding the program to Merritt through Lillooet’s sister church here. Local Merrittonian Marvel Strutt has agreed to coordinate, put together and deliver the kits for the participants here. Those who wish to take part must register by Jan. 27. A plant-based meal kit with gluten-free options will be delivered on Jan. 29 and the class will take place on Sunday, Jan. 31 at 5pm. There is no cost, and participants will join in on Zoom and be given step-by-step directions to make falafels, caesar salad and tasty banana bites. To RSVP for this event, you are invited to contact Marvel Strutt at 250-378-3536 or by email at email@example.com. Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald
Sharon Bala knows the power of recognizing yourself in a story, and the pain of seeing your identity smeared across the page. The Sri Lankan-Canadian author says misrepresentations in fiction can feel like a form of literary violence, warping the way some readers see the real-life harms against people who aren't like them. "When we see ourselves misrepresented on the page, it just feels like the writer has taken their pen and shoved it into our eyes," said Bala, who won awards acclaim for her 2018 debut novel "The Boat People." "We can't pretend that we live in some rarefied bubble as writers where we are separate from the world." From using sexual violence against women as a plot point in a male hero's arc, to killing off an Indigenous character for dramatic tension, Bala said storytelling tropes often serve as a mirror of the systemic indifference toward the suffering of marginalized groups. But as society reckons with these injustices, the St. John's, N.L.-based novelist said a long-simmering conversation among authors about how to responsibly write about identities other than their own, whether that be a character of a different race, gender, sexuality, ability or class. In the past, she said, the public discourse about literary representation has been dominated by a privileged few stoking fears over perceived threats to authors' purported "right" to pluck inspiration from other communities as they please, said Bala. Examples include the 2017 CanLit controversy over an online campaign to fund a writing prize for cultural appropriation, or the tastemakers who rose to American author Jeanine Cummins' defence after the January release of her much-hyped book, "American Dirt," drew criticism from Latino writers and activists for trading in stereotypes about Mexicans. But Bala, who hosted an online workshop on literary representation earlier this month, says the strong turnout shows that writers know they can no longer afford to weaponize "the other" as a cudgel in someone else's narrative. Rather, she said, creators are grappling with questions that in some ways cut to the core of the mission of fiction: How do you write about who you don't know, and should you? "None of us are perfect. We're all going to make mistakes," said Bala. "But I think that if we ... have tried and still made the mistake, there's actually a lot of empathy for that within the writing community." Bala said she only writes about communities she has ties to, and people she'll have to answer to for any distortions. She's also a proponent of bringing in "sensitivity readers" — cultural experts who review manuscripts for inaccuracies — early in the writing process to catch misconceptions before they become embedded in the narrative. Emma Donoghue, the London, Ont.-based author behind "Room," said she's also enlisted the help of cultural consultants as part of her process. But ultimately, Donoghue said she and other white writers have a responsibility to assess their own abilities and motives before depicting different demographics. "I think it's a richer cultural landscape," she said. "If that means that the writers who used to sort of costlessly write about anything have to be a bit more careful, then that just comes with the territory." Acclaimed author Thomas King, who is of Greek and Cherokee descent, said he tries not to stray too far from his realm of experience in writing his protagonists. Characters of diverse backgrounds often populate his narratives, but King said he wouldn't write from another community's point of view because he wouldn't feel comfortable "taking on that skin." King said some of the most persistent pop culture narratives play into cliches and stereotypes to reinforce the audience's pre-existing biases. "While they're not authentic, to the public mind, they appear to be," he said. "Certainly, for Native people that happened with non-Native writers writing about Native characters." Novelist Andre Alexis holds that being too beholden to the burden of accurate representation can restrict the imaginative possibilities of literature. The Trinidad-born, Ottawa-raised writer said problems can arise when playing pretend with someone else's reality, and writers should have to answer for their misrepresentations. However, Alexis maintains that imagining "the other" serves a vital function not only in the arts, but for society at large. "It's important for the Americans to imagine what it's like to be a member of one of the countries they've attacked and ruined," said Alexis, who won the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize for "Fifteen Dogs." "That imagining of the others who you have made to suffer is a tremendously significant moral step." Sanchari Sur, a genderqueer writer who uses the pronouns "she" and "they" interchangeably, said growing up they never saw queer characters, particularly South Asian ones, represented in fiction. "When you don't see yourself represented, or when you see yourself represented as a stereotype or negatively, that does impact you," said Sur, who is earning a PhD in English at Wilfrid Laurier University. Still, Sur said there needs to be space for writers to make mistakes and engage with critical feedback. Sur confronted this issue during a writers' retreat when they received a negative response to a piece they wrote that centred on a transgender woman's experience of familial emotional trauma. Sur, who was wrestling with their own gender identity at the time, said some trans participants at the retreat took issue with a non-trans author writing about the trans body in relation to trauma. Sur said the critiques caught them off guard, and it took months to work up the wherewithal to return to fiction. In the time since, Sur has come to see that there were technical problems with the story that contributed to the blowback, and feels they're a better writer because of the incident. "If you're being called out for something that is inherently wrong or dehumanizing in some way, then you have to acknowledge that and you have to learn from it." Kim Davids Mandar, an emerging writer in Guelph, Ont., said the complexities of literary representation have personal resonance for her as the daughter of immigrants who fled post-apartheid South Africa to provide a better life for their mixed-race family in Canada. When a publisher approached her about conducting a series of interviews for a collection, Davids Mandar said she jumped at the chance to ask some of Canada's finest literary minds about how they work through questions of difference, identity and appropriation. The editor of "(In)Appropriate," which was released earlier this month, said she didn't reach any tidy conclusions during her conversations with the book's contributors, including Sur, Eden Robinson, Michael Crummey and Ian Williams. One theme that emerged was the role that publishers and booksellers play in amplifying certain voices at the expense of others, she said. A 2018 survey by the Association of Canadian Publishers on diversity found 82 per cent of the 279 respondents who worked in the industry identified as white. "I think we can't pretend that we don't live within this context, and that it doesn't actually impact the books industry," said Davids Mandar. Overall, Davids Mandar said she walked away from the book with a renewed sense of urgency for Canada's literary community to engage in these shifting, sometimes messy conversations. "It really reflects where we're at, each of us as individuals, but also as a community, in truthfully embracing the fact that we need unity, but we also need diversity and we have to have them together." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020. Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press
The Charlottetown Islanders hockey team resumes play this weekend in Cape Breton, but Dr. Heather Morrison says players and staff must self-isolate when they return to P.E.I., just like everyone else. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League announced Monday that it would resume play between P.E.I. and the two Nova Scotia teams, the Halifax Mooseheads and Cape Breton Eagles. Play will continue to be suspended for the three New Brunswick teams as that province continues to see a rise in COVID-19 cases. At her regular Tuesday briefing, Morrison strongly discouraged non-essential travel off P.E.I. She said that just like any other business, the team can apply to work-isolate when coming back from games in Nova Scotia. "We're not deciding which work is more important than other work at this point in time," she said. Work-isolation means the team could go directly back and forth to the rink for games and practices, but must self-isolate at all other times. That would rule out players, coaches or team staff going to school or any off-ice jobs. Players would also have to self-isolate away from their billet families, Morrison said. As for visiting teams, Morrison said they must get tested for COVID-19 before games, self-isolate at all times while away from the rink, and leave immediately following the game. The Cape Breton Eagles noted in an online statement that spectators will not be allowed into Centre 200 to watch games until at least Feb. 8 due to Nova Scotia public health restrictions. The Islanders are due to play the Eagles at 7 p.m. AT on Friday night. "While this is certainly not something we hoped for as an organization, it was the only way we would be able to resume play in the short term," Eagles president Gerard Shaw said in the statement. 85 charges so far So far, 85 charges have been issued for violating public health measures during the pandemic, including eight new charges in the past week. Morrison said players and staff of the Charlottetown Islanders would be subject to charges just like everyone else if they failed to obey the rules. She said she was holding a call with Islanders and league staff later Tuesday to discuss the situation. The team said it would not comment until it has time to process the information from the meeting. The Islanders are in first place in the QMJHL with a 12-2 record. The Summerside Western Capitals of the Maritime Junior A Hockey league are also eligible to apply for work-isolation, Morrison said. 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.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says after the last four years, he's confident Canada can safely navigate the perils of Joe Biden’s new protectionist Buy American regime. Trudeau says it's worth remembering that Canada survived former president Donald Trump’s persistent attacks on NAFTA and Canadian steel and aluminum exporters. And he says his federal Liberal government is far more closely aligned with the current White House than it ever was with Biden's "extremely protectionist" predecessor. But Trudeau refused to say if Canada faces a tougher fight than in 2010, when it secured an exception to then-president Barack Obama's version of similar procurement rules. Conservative MP Tracy Gray, the party's international trade critic, says Biden's plan to prioritize U.S. suppliers will jeopardize North America's economic recovery. Gray says she plans to press Trudeau in the House of Commons to push back hard on the U.S., especially after last week's Day 1 decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline expansion. "Over the past four years, we faced an American administration that was both unpredictable and extremely protectionist, and we were able every step of the way to stand up for Canadian interests," Trudeau said. "We were there to be able to advocate for Canada's interests, and I can tell you we will continue to be effective in advocating for Canada's interests with this new administration." The latest Buy American strategy is the second potential blow to Canada's economic fortunes to land in less than a week. On his first day in the White House, Biden rescinded the presidential permit for Keystone XL, a controversial cross-border link between the Alberta oilsands and refineries and ports on the U.S. Gulf Coast. "Expressing concern and disappointment on important issues to Canadian businesses and workers is simply not enough," Gray said in a statement. "Canada and U.S. trade are closely tied — but this Buy American plan puts our mutual economic recovery at risk." In announcing the new rules Monday, Biden warned that waivers would be granted only under "very limited circumstances." The aim of the policy, a cornerstone of Biden's successful election campaign, was to win over the same protectionist blue-collar workers who helped elect Donald Trump in 2016. The idea is to make sure American manufacturers, workers and suppliers reap the rewards of U.S. government spending, including an estimated $600 billion a year in procurement contracts. Monday's executive order will set a higher threshold for what qualifies as U.S.-made, establish more stringent oversight tools and enforce the rules more rigidly. It also sets up a "Made in America" office attached to the White House to police the use of waivers — the exceptions that allow Canadian contractors, manufacturers and suppliers access to a lucrative and often essential source of business. That office will "review waivers to make sure they are only used in very limited circumstances — for example, when there's an overwhelming national security, humanitarian or emergency need here in America," Biden said. "This hasn't happened before. It will happen now." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
It has been two years since cowboy Ben Tyner disappeared. The cowboy, who hailed from Wyoming, was working as manager of the Nicola Ranch when he was last seen on Jan. 26, 2019. Two days later his horse was found on Swakum Mountain, with its rider nowhere to be seen. “Ben’s rider-less horse, discovered on a logging road off Highway 97 near Winnie Flats, prompted a large-scale search effort, which spanned multiple days and involved countless police and search and rescue resources,” said Cpl. Jesse O'Donaghey, spokesman for the BC RCMP in the Southeast District. “Merritt RCMP was supported early on in its investigation by the BC RCMP Southeast District Major Crime Unit, who maintains conduct of the still ongoing investigation into Ben Tyner’s disappearance. Today, Ben’s parents continue to suffer with the unexplained loss of their son. Desperate to find answers to the questions they’ve been asking for years, Jennifer and Richard Tyner renew their plea for tips.” Tyner’s family released a video to Youtube asking anyone with information to come forward. “Ben’s disappearance has dramatically affected us,” said Ben’s father, Richard Tyner. “The last two years have been filled with horrendous heartache, continued hope and many, many prayers. Ben is constantly in our daily lives, through tending his horses and cattle and having his dog, Sioux, trail beside us. The working pens on the ranch are called ‘Ben’s pens’ because he built them. His friends stay in touch with us through phone calls and visits. Two scholarships have been started in his name.” Richard Tyner commented on his son’s horsemanship, and the positive qualities he possessed as a person. “Originally from Florida, we brought Ben and his brother to Wyoming at a young age. Ben has been around horses, dogs and cattle since he was born. He excelled at horsemanship and was very skilled in leather making and whip making. But, Ben was not just a cowboy. He was a voracious reader. He loved to experience new places and cultures. He spent time in Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, Montana and Idaho. A year was spent importing cattle into Russia. He traveled to Australia to visit friends in 2018. “A team player, Ben was always willing to do what it took to get the job done. He was there to lend a hand whenever someone needed help. He is always going to be a gentle giant with an incredible bear hug that made you feel needed, wanted and so loved. To have to live with Ben’s loss is the most painful, excruciating experience ever,” continued Richard, becoming visibly emotional and fighting back tears. “The loss we feel is immeasurable. On this second anniversary of Ben’s disappearance, we continue to have unanswered questions. We are constantly praying that someone who knows something will come forward because Ben still needs to be found. We know that many local people have continued the search for Ben and for that we are extremely grateful. If anyone knows anything, no matter how insignificant it may seem, please inform the Major Crimes Unit in Kelowna as soon as possible. As always, your prayers and good wishes truly help us make it through each and every day.” RCMP did not have any new information to share with the public, but stated that the investigation remains open. “The investigation into the disappearance of Ben Tyner continues to be diligently led by the RCMP Southeast District Major Crime Unit,” said O’Donaghey. “To date, numerous investigational avenues have been explored, and in order to protect the ongoing investigation police are unable to share those findings publicly at this time. However, based on those findings, major crime investigators have reason to believe that criminality was involved in Ben Tyner's disappearance, and is the victim of a homicide. “The Tyner family is offering a private reward in the amount of $15,000 for information that leads to the location of their beloved son Ben, and to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for his death. The monetary reward is offered and will be managed solely by the Tyner family, not the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.” Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald
One year ago, hosting a pizza party with co-workers or showing up to work with stomach bug symptoms were unthinkable in terms of fireable offences. But legal suits based on such incidents are now before the courts as COVID-19 upends the way managers enforce health mandates and discipline employees. Like politicians and other high profile individuals who have recently been caught travelling in defiance of regional health orders, rank and file employees are now facing career consequences for risky behaviour that would otherwise go unnoticed. A recent example is a neonatal intensive care nurse from London, Ont., who was fired on Jan. 19 after speaking at an anti-lockdown rally in Washington, D.C. In a statement, the London Health Sciences Centre said it suspended Kristen Nagle without pay in November for actions "not aligned" with its values and then terminated her after an internal investigation. The case reflects the growing issue amid the pandemic of whether someone’s behaviour is a risk to the employer’s reputation. “Things travel so fast on social media,” says Danica McLellan, an Alberta-based employment lawyer at Neuman Thompson. “Employers are definitely crafting policies to make sure that they're getting ahead of these sorts of issues.” McLellan says the starting point for an employer to look at your off-duty conduct is whether there’s a connection to the workplace. “For example … two employees go to the bar and they get into a fight. Or an employee sexually harasses another colleague. There's a nexus, a connection to the workplace,” says McLellan. “Another one is if an incident occurs on the property, but not during working hours. Two people get into a dust-up in a parking lot, or someone smoking weed in a parking lot.” There are limits to what your employer can fire you for when it comes to your off-duty behaviour. For example, getting pregnant or attending religious festivals may be protected under human rights laws. “If someone gets a DUI, and the DUI doesn't have any connection to the employment, that might not be grounds for discipline,” says McLellan. “If it's just something that an employer merely disapproved of — you smoke and your employer doesn't like smokers — well, what you do on your own time is sort of your business in that case." Some employers have built screening for risky behaviour into their workplace policies with things like COVID-19 symptom questionnaires that ask about travel. But whether or not your workplace has a policy that explicitly prohibits international travel or breaking public health guidelines, your boss can still take action on your risky behaviour under the right circumstances, says Sandra Guarascio, a lawyer at Roper Greyell who practises in British Columbia. That’s because workplace lawyers can rely on a seminal 1967 legal case, Millhaven Fibres Limited v. O.C.A.W., Local 9-670, which says your boss must prove at least one of five factors before disciplining an employee for off-duty conduct, says Nancy Barteaux, founder of Barteaux Labour and Employment Lawyers in Atlantic Canada. Those five factors boil down to: whether the employee’s conduct harms the company’s reputation or product; whether the employee is unable to perform their duties satisfactorily; whether other employees will refuse, be reluctant or be unable to work with you; whether the employee is guilty of a serious breach of the Criminal Code; or whether the employee’s conduct makes it difficult for the workplace to operate effectively. While the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t changed these legal principles, it has expanded the conduct that falls under these five categories, says Guarascio. “What was previously normal behaviour, like travelling during holidays, that can now expose a workplace to both significant safety concerns — which would impact operations and other employees — and also reputational risks,” says Guarascio. “That would have an impact, potentially, on the public's willingness to engage with a service provider or an organization.” Still, every case for discipline or dismissal has a unique context in the eyes of the law — for instance, McLellan says that an employee’s role at the organization, such as being in a leadership role, or having access to the till or contact with customers, could all be considered. A unionized workplace might need to meet a higher bar of just cause for dismissal, while an non-unionized shops could let someone go without cause and add a notice or severance payment, McLellan says. Although your boss does have some legal power without a COVID-19 workplace policy, many provinces require workplaces to have a COVID-19 plan anyway, notes McLellan. “In the context of a situation where an employer is dealing with employee complaints relating to, another employee engaging in risky behaviour, they can really rely on the policies,” says Nadia Zaman, a lawyer at Rudner Law who practises in Ontario. “Employers will have a progressive discipline policy … a verbal warning, and then a written warning, suspension, etc.” Zaman said there is recourse for a worker who feels a fellow employee is bringing a COVID-19 health risk to the physical workplace through dangerous off-duty conduct. “The employee can refuse to work if there are reasonable and legitimate grounds for them to believe that there's a safety risk in the workplace,” says Zaman. “Once the employee reports their safety concerns, the employer is then required to investigate the situation and advise them whether the safety risk has been resolved or not. And if the employee continues to believe there's a safety concern, the Ministry of Labour can be asked to come in to investigate.” This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Anita Balakrishnan, The Canadian Press
Studies have suggested previous COVID-19 infections may result in promising levels of immunity to the virus, leading to questions of whether those who've already recovered from the disease still need a vaccine. And is there urgency to inoculate them, or can they move to the back of the vaccination line? Experts say a vaccine will likely offer the safest bet for longer-term protection, meaning those with previous infections should still get them. And prior COVID illness shouldn't determine someone's place in the queue. The exact level of immunity acquired from a natural infection is yet to be fully determined, says Dr. Andre Veillette, a professor of medicine at McGill who's also on Canada's COVID-19 vaccine task force. It may be that protection begins to wane quicker in some people, or that those with previous mild infections aren't as protected as someone who had more severe symptoms, he says. Still others may think they've had a COVID-19 infection but can't be sure if they didn't get tested at the time. "I would say the simple rule would be that we vaccinate people who've had prior infections, just like everybody else," Veillette said. "If you had the infection, yes, you may have some protection, but it may not last a long time, and it may not be as good as the vaccine." Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to have a 95 per cent efficacy in clinical trials in protecting against severe disease. But there are still questions around whether the vaccines can actually prevent someone from catching the virus and spreading it to others. While Moderna has some data that their product may protect against acquiring the virus, it's still unclear. Antibodies from natural infections suggest the same — that they may protect us from getting really sick again, but not from getting the virus a second time. While there have been some cases of reinfection around the world, immunology expert Steven Kerfoot says the fact we're not seeing more of those suggests the immune response from initial COVID-19 infections is probably "pretty strong." Kerfoot, an associate professor at Western University, says vaccines are designed in a way that should produce an immune response "at least as good or better" than what we get after a natural infection. "So it may help fill in holes where people may not have developed an immune response effectively to the virus," Kerfoot said. "If anything, the vaccine could as act as its own booster that would improve your immunity." While some studies have suggested antibodies may disappear relatively quickly after COVID-19 infections, others have found a more lingering immune response. An American study published this month showed antibodies present for at least eight months, and possibly longer. Even studies suggesting an early drop-off of antibody levels aren't concerning, Kerfoot says. Infections trigger the body to produce other immune cells and memory cells that reduce slowly over years and help fight off future invasions from the same virus. If the immune response in those with past COVID infection is expected to be lengthy, could there be justification to defer their inoculations, especially if vaccine supply is low? It will be up to provinces to decide priority in each stage of their rollouts, but Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist with the University of Manitoba, says that will be a tricky decision. "I don't think we can use prior infection as an indicator of priority, because we just don't know what that person's immune response actually is," Kindrachuk said. "We don't know what long-term immunity looks like in those folks. "The recommendations are going to be that everybody gets vaccinated because that way we know — across vulnerable groups and all ages and different demographics — they'll all get a robust immune response." Veillette adds that many people with previous COVID cases were also in higher-risk settings — either because of their jobs or living environments — that would theoretically put them at risk for reinfection. And if they were to get the virus again but not show symptoms, they could still pass it on to other people. "There's probably a whole spectrum of situations there, and when there's so many variables it's better to have a simple rule," he said. "So I think that's another reason to vaccinate previously infected people." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press