A group of ducks 'chill' on the ice in Pickering, ON.
A group of ducks 'chill' on the ice in Pickering, ON.
Canada's health officials spoke about the recent change in guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on the time between two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and how that may contribute to vaccine hesitancy in Canada.
LIVERPOOL, England — Liverpool’s woeful home form is developing into a full-blown crisis after Chelsea’s 1-0 victory on Thursday inflicted a fifth straight league loss at Anfield on the Premier League champions — the worst run in the club’s 128-year history. With Liverpool's title defence already over, this was billed as a battle for a Champions League place and Mason Mount’s 42nd-minute goal lifted Chelsea back into the top four. Chelsea’s previous win at Anfield, in 2014, effectively ended the title hopes of Brendan Rodgers’ side. This one was a blow to Liverpool’s chances of a top-four finish under Jurgen Klopp. Klopp’s side is four points adrift of Chelsea and with Everton and West Ham also ahead. Liverpool has now gone more than 10 hours without a goal from open play at Anfield. The hosts failed to register an effort on target until the 85th minute and Georginio Wijnaldum’s weak header was never going to beat Edouard Mendy. They have taken one point from the last 21 on offer at home since Christmas and scored just two goals, one of which was a penalty. None of Liverpool's established front three — Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane or Roberto Firmino — impressed but the sight of Salah, the Premier League’s leading scorer, being substituted just past the hour mark was baffling. The Egypt international certainly thought so as he sat shaking his head, having been replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Chelsea, by contrast, looked full of threat with Timo Werner — a player Liverpool was interested in but decided it could not afford last summer — a constant problem. Despite one goal in his previous 17 league outings, he caused problems with his movement, drifting out to the left then popping into the middle to give Fabinho a real headache on his return to the side. The Brazil midfielder, replacing Nat Phillips after he became the latest centre back to pick up an injury, was partnering Ozan Kabak in Liverpool’s 15th different central-defensive starting partnership in 27 league matches. Faced with a statistic like that, it is perhaps understandable why there was a lack of cohesion at the back and Werner should really have profited. He fired one early shot over and then failed to lift his effort over Alisson Becker, back in goal after the death of his father in Brazil last week. Even when Werner did beat Alisson, VAR ruled the Germany international’s arm had been offside 20 yards earlier in the build-up. Liverpool’s one chance fell to Mane but Salah’s first-time ball over the top got caught under his feet and Mane missed his shot with only Mendy to beat. Chelsea was still controlling the game and caught Liverpool on the counterattack when N’Golo Kante quickly sent a loose ball out to the left wing, from where Mount cut inside to beat Alisson having been given far too much time to pick his spot. All five of Mount’s league goals have come away from home. Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel spent the first five minutes of the second half screaming at his players to press harder and play higher up the pitch but Liverpool’s players were equally vocal when Firmino’s cross hit the raised arm of Kante from close range. No penalty was awarded. Andy Robertson cleared off the line from Hakim Ziyech after Alisson parried Ben Chilwell’s shot as Chelsea continued to look more dangerous. Klopp’s attempt to change the direction of the game saw him send on Diogo Jota for his first appearance in three months, along with Oxlade-Chamberlain. Jota’s first touch was a half-chance from a deep cross but he was not sharp enough to take it. Werner, meanwhile, was doing everything but score as Alisson’s leg saved another shot as he bore down on goal. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Hundreds of people lined up in the cold outside a Miramichi middle school on Thursday for a COVID-19 mass testing clinic. The province announced the walk-in clinic for those without COVID-19 symptoms would be held for two days after new cases in Zone 7, the Miramichi health region, and "the likelihood of a variant being present." The testing, which is for people without symptoms and doesn't require an appointment, is aimed at detecting whether there has been further spread in the area. At one point, dozens of vehicles were lined up along Henderson Street with people waiting to park. In the parking lot, more than 120 people were waiting in a line outside the building. Dozens of vehicles were lined up on streets leading to the middle school as people waited to park before waiting in an outdoor line. (Shane Magee/CBC) John Westlake said he was feeling "bloody cold" with a hoodie pulled tight around his face as wind whipped snow through the parking lot. He later said the whole experience took about two and a half hours, including waiting in line and the test inside the school. Several people like Noeleta Somers said it was their civic duty to get tested and were glad to see the turnout. "I'm very happy to see all the people who came out to be tested," said Denise Doiron. Miramichi Mayor Adam Lordon was happy to see the number of people who showed up for tests in a region that has had few COVID-19 cases over the past year.(Shane Magee/CBC) As of Thursday, there were seven active cases in the Miramichi health zone. The latest series of cases are among the few that have been detected in the region. Over the last year, a total of 16 people have tested positive, according to provincial figures. Mayor Adam Lordon said the new cases and a long list of potential exposure sites released by Public Health in the community this week were a new experience for the region a year into the pandemic. "I think what you're seeing is an abundance of caution and people who may be feeling anxious about perhaps having been to one of those places at those times," Lordon said. People wait in line outside Dr. Losier Middle School in Miramichi on Thursday for a COVID-19 mass testing clinic. (Shane Magee/CBC) In a statement, Jean Daigle, Horizon's vice-president community, said the testing clinic was staffed by about 30 employees who included nurses, LPNs, paramedics and administrative support staff. The clinic has the capacity to test 400 to 500 people per day, with Horizon's main testing clinic on Wellington Street in Miramichi able to test 150 to 200 people with COVID-19 symptoms per day. As of Wednesday, Daigle said there were 15 Horizon staff off work because of COVID-19 related reasons, with seven of those in the Miramichi area. Daigle said there has been no impact on care because of those who are off work. The clinic is scheduled to continue Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
VANCOUVER — Results of a study led by Metro Vancouver's transit operator reveal copper on high-touch surfaces is lethal to bacteria. A statement from TransLink says the findings of the industry-leading trial show copper products kill up to 99.9 per cent of all bacteria within one hour of surface contact. As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, TransLink was the first transit agency in North America to test copper on high-touch surfaces. The pilot study was launched after unrelated studies showed copper is both durable and effective at killing germs. Phase 1 of the pilot, which was fully funded by mining firm Teck Resources, began last November and continued for five weeks on surfaces of two buses and two SkyTrain cars. A second phase will begin in the coming months using a larger sample to verify the results, testing copper over a longer period on more transit vehicles, and focusing tests on the most effective products identified from Phase 1. TransLink interim CEO Gigi Chen-Kuo says they are excited to find out more about the impact of copper on viruses such as the ones that cause COVID-19. "This research could help us, other transit agencies, and anyone with surfaces in shared public spaces keep high-touch areas as clean as possible,” she says in the statement. The project stems from a partnership between TransLink, Teck, Vancouver Coastal Health, the University of British Columbia and the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation. Teck funded the initial phase as part of its Copper & Health program and the company will also support Phase 2. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration's nominee for top Pentagon policy adviser was met with sharp criticism from Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, including accusations that he has been too partisan. Colin Kahl, who served as national security adviser to then-Vice-President Joe Biden during the Obama administration, faced repeated questions on his previous support for the Iran nuclear deal and how he would approach that issue now. And a number of GOP senators said they were troubled by partisan tweets Kohl put out during Donald Trump's presidency and they would oppose his nomination. It wasn't clear whether there was enough opposition to derail his nomination. “We know that there is a new administration and that we will have policy disagreements that we will all try to work through,” said the ranking Republican on the panel, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma. “But how will you rectify the fact that many Americans, including those who work at the Department of Defence, know you only through your very partisan comments? How can we be confident that you will be a model of nonpartisan policy analysis — which is what the job requires — if you are confirmed?” Kahl said he worked on a bipartisan basis in his previous jobs in the Obama administration, which included a stint as deputy defence secretary for Middle East issues at the Pentagon from 2009 to2011. And he told the panel, “This is not a political job, it’s a policy job ... I have a long track record of putting politics aside and working on policy.” Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and others read a number of Kahl's tweets that condemned Republicans and the Trump administration. Cotton said the “volatile” tweets would hurt his ability to work with Congress, adding “your judgement around war and peace are almost always wrong.” In response, Kahl offered an apology, saying the last few years have been politically polarizing and there were times he got swept up in that on social media. “There were a number of positions that President Trump took that I strongly opposed,” he said. "I think the language that I used in opposing those was sometimes disrespectful, and for that, I apologize.” Kahl got broader support from Democrats, including Sen. Maizie Hirono of Hawaii, who chastised committee members for slamming Kahl's tweets. ““That kind of criticism regarding tweets from folks who didn’t say anything about the kind of lying, racist tweets out of the former president, I think, is pretty rich,” she said. Others, including the panel chairman, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., sought commitments on improving Pentagon policies and relations with other countries that soured during Trump's tenure. Reed said he hoped that Kahl would help establish a strong defence policy office to ensure there is a unified effort on national security challenges and to repair ties with NATO and other allies. Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press
LONDON — Banksy appears to have thrown his support behind a campaign to turn a former prison in the English town of Reading into an arts venue, a town spokesman said on Thursday, after the street artist confirmed that artwork that appeared on a red brick wall of the prison was of his making. The elusive artist confirmed the picture was his when he posted a video of him creating it on his Instagram account. The monochrome picture shows a man escaping using a rope made of paper from a typewriter. It appeared Monday outside Reading Prison, famous as the location where writer Oscar Wilde served two years for “gross indecency” in the 1890s. The prison closed in 2013, and campaigners want it turned into an arts venue. Britain’s Ministry of Justice, which owns the building, is due to decide mid-March on its future. In his Instagram video, Banksy is shown stealthily stenciling and spraying paint to create the artwork, titled “Create Escape.” The footage is juxtaposed with an episode of a traditional art instruction video called “The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross.” The campaign to turn the former prison into an arts venue has won the backing of actors including Judi Dench, Stephen Fry and Kenneth Branagh. A spokesman for Reading Borough Council said it was “thrilled that Banksy appears to have thrown his support behind the council’s desire to transform the vacant Reading Gaol into a beacon of arts, heritage and culture with this piece of artwork he has aptly called ‘Create Escape’.” “The Council is pushing the Ministry of Justice, who own the site, to make suitable arrangements to protect the image,” the authority said. The Associated Press
PARMA, Italy — Alexis Sánchez scored twice to help Inter Milan win 2-1 at relegation-threatened Parma on Thursday to open up a six-point gap at the top of Serie A. Romelu Lukaku had a hand in both Inter goals in the second half before Hernani pulled one back for Parma. Inter moved six points above second-place AC Milan, which was held to a 1-1 draw by Udinese on Wednesday. Nine-time defending champion Juventus is third but has played a match less. Parma remained second from bottom, six points from safety. Inter had won six of its past seven league matches heading into the game at Parma, scoring 17 goals and conceding just one. It was Parma which had the better of the earlier chances, but Inter broke the deadlock nine minutes into the second half. Lukaku chested down a pass on the edge of the area and tried to turn but the ball ended up ricocheting into the path of Sánchez. Sassuolo defender Riccardo Gagliolo tried to clear his shot off the line but it had already gone over. Lukaku did even better eight minutes later as he powered through from his own half and then rolled a great ball across for Sánchez to drive into the bottom right corner. Parma briefly threatened a comeback when Hernani volleyed in Germán Pezzella’s cross in the 71st. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
MONTREAL — A novel coronavirus variant could cause cases in the Montreal area to explode by the end of April if residents don't strictly adhere to health orders, according to new modelling by the province's public health institute. The modelling released Thursday by the Institut national de sante publique du Quebec and Universite Laval suggested the B.1.1.7 mutation — first identified in the United Kingdom — is likely to become the predominant strain in the province by the middle of next month. People's behaviour, however, will determine the speed of the variant's rise, the institute said. "The extent of the increase in variant cases would depend on adherence to measures during and after the spring break and superspreader events," read the institute's report. "Vaccination coverage for people over 70 and health workers should not be sufficient to control the rise in cases linked to a new variant by May, since they represent less than 20 per cent of the population." The modelling suggested that a "strong" adherence to public health measures both during and after this week's spring break could allow the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths to remain stable until the end of April. A "medium" respect of measures — defined as a 50-to-100 per cent reduction in home visits and increased contacts in workplaces and during sports and leisure activities — could cause cases to rise sharply. Hospitalizations and deaths are expected to follow more slowly because many of the most vulnerable are protected by vaccination, the projections found. The variant is not expected to spread as rapidly outside the greater Montreal area because of the lower level of community transmission. Health Minister Christian Dube described the projections in a Twitter message as "stable, but very concerning," especially in Montreal. "A medium adherence to the measures would have as an impact to bring hospitalizations back to the level we were at in the worst month of January," he wrote. COVID-19-related hospitalizations surpassed 1,500 in January. "That's exactly why we're asking Quebecers not to relax their efforts," he added. Another report released Thursday by the Quebec government health and social services institute found that hospitalizations have stabilized after a sustained drop earlier in 2021. The report by the Institut national d’excellence en sante et en services sociaux indicated hospitalizations will likely remain stable for the next three to four weeks. "Beyond this period, the evolution of this trend could be different with an increasing presence of more contagious or more virulent variants," the report said. The report, which was written Feb. 28 but released Thursday, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic in the province is largely concentrated in Montreal and the surrounding regions, where 85 per cent or more of Quebec's new cases and hospitalizations originate. On Wednesday, Premier Francois Legault announced that restrictions would be eased in much of the province but maintained in Montreal and the surrounding areas, including Laval and the South Shore. While Montrealers will continue to be forbidden to leave their homes after 8 p.m., residents of four other regions including Quebec City will be able to eat at restaurants, work out at the gym and stay out until 9:30 p.m. starting Monday. Despite the risk posed by variants, the report on hospitals suggested that the province's health-care institutions remain in relatively good shape for the coming weeks. It noted that about a third of the regular beds and half the intensive care beds in the Montreal region designated for COVID-19 patients are occupied, and that hospital capacity is not expected to be surpassed in the next three weeks. The report found that while the institute's past projections have generally been accurate, they become less precise when predicting more than three weeks ahead. While the number of confirmed variant cases across the province remained stable at 137 on Thursday, the number of presumptive cases rose to 1,353, an increase of 133. The Quebec government reported 707 new cases of COVID-19 and 20 more deaths attributed to the virus. Hospitalizations have gone up slightly in the province for four of the past five days. On Thursday, they rose by eight, to 626, while the number of people in intensive care dropped by five, to 115. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
LONDON — British police said Thursday that they will not launch a criminal investigation into the journalist Martin Bashir over his 1995 interview with Princess Diana. The Metropolitan Police force said “no further action will be taken” over allegations Bashir used illegal subterfuge to get the interview. Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, has alleged that Bashir used false documents, including fake bank statements, and other dishonest tactics to convince Diana to agree to the interview. Police Commander Alex Murray said detectives had “carefully assessed” the allegations and sought advice from lawyers. “Following this detailed assessment and in view of the advice we received, we have determined that it is not appropriate to begin a criminal investigation into these allegations,” he said. “No further action will be taken. “In this matter, as in any other, should any significant new evidence come to light we will assess it," he added. The BBC has begun its own investigation, led by a retired judge, into the circumstances surrounding the program. The interview, in which Diana famously said “there were three of us in this marriage” — referring to Prince Charles’ relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles — was watched by millions of people and sent shockwaves through the monarchy. Diana divorced from Charles in 1996 and died in a Paris car crash in 1997 as she was pursued by paparazzi. Charles married Camilla, now the Duchess of Cornwall, in 2005. The Associated Press
A pair of provincial candidates running in Labrador have taken it upon themselves to get some voting information translated into the Innu and Inuit languages. Concerns over the mail-in ballots only being available in English were brought up by candidates shortly after the announcement that there would be no in-person voting, and the concerns haven’t abated. Elections NL told SaltWire Network that “when the election moved to vote by mail only, the chief electoral officer sought translation assistance from our jurisdictional partners.” “Unfortunately, the timelines for such a translation process would not have met Elections Newfoundland and Labrador’s timelines for mailing out voting kits.” Patricia Johnson-Castle, who is running for the NDP in Torngat Mountains, has been vocal regarding her concern about the potential disenfranchisement of non-English-speaking Indigenous voters in Labrador. Last week she decided to get some of the basic election information, such as voting deadlines and how to reach Elections NL, translated into Inuktitut and Innu-aimun and to distribute it online and in print. Johnson-Castle said when it became clear that they weren’t going to be able to get the information translated from Elections NL, she looked for people to translate some of the information, which took no time at all. It has always been a concern that ballots are only in English, she said, but past elections involved in-person voting, where people could take family with them to help translate, or avail of local, bilingual election staff. “In person, people could make a plan, but by text, that’s much more difficult for people to do, especially because some of the terms are very technical,” she said. “People in Labrador always have to accommodate for services that should be provided by the provincial government and this is just another part of that.” Lake Melville Progressive Conservative candidate Shannon Tobin has also taken it upon himself to provide translation election materials, specifically about the mail-in ballot. Tobin told SaltWire he had received his on Wednesday and was going to have it translated into Innu-aimun for a video. He said it became a larger issue as the campaign went on, and began when the information at the advance polls was only available in English and people were relying on his scrutineer to provide them with instructions in Innu-aimun. When the changeover to mail-in ballots only was announced, there was an indication at first from Elections NL that it would accommodate non-English-speakers, Tobin said, but then Elections NL said it would not meet the timelines. “It’s something Election NL should have had in place from the start,” he said. “We have governments talking about reconciliation. It needs to go throughout government. It should have been done. They should have been making these accommodations for a while.” He said it is “easily foreseeable” that people would have wanted access to this information in their Indigenous language and it should have been in place before now. Elections NL said it will “commit to seeking translation services to provide materials in Innu-aimun, Inuktitut, Mi’gmaq/Mi’kmaq and French immediately following this election.” Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
TORONTO — Growing up in Alberta, actor Rohan Campbell spent summers at friends' Canmore mountain cabins, where he'd crack open old "Hardy Boys" books that adorn many a cottage bookshelf. "Every time I was at a cabin with no internet or something like that, they were the books I would read before bed," he said in an interview. "So I felt really close to them, and it was just absurd to be able to make my vision of Frank come to life." Campbell was referring to his leading role as teenage amateur sleuth Frank Hardy, alongside Toronto actor Alexander Elliot as younger brother Joe Hardy, in the new Ontario-shot family series "The Hardy Boys." Premiering Friday on YTV in Canada after its U.S. debut on Hulu in December, the mystery drama is based on the time-honoured stories written under the pseudonym by Franklin W. Dixon by numerous authors, including Ontario-raised Leslie McFarlane. The Canadian cast, crew and creators filmed in and around Toronto, Hamilton and Cambridge, Ont. Filming wrapped just a couple of weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns hit. In this version of the story, 16-year-old Frank and 12-year-old Joe grapple with a family tragedy and investigate strange events in the small town of Bridgeport in the 1980s. Nova Scotia-raised James Tupper of "Big Little Lies" plays their dad. There's a bigger age gap between the two brothers in the YTV original series compared to the books, which "breeds a different sort of conflict in the sense that they do things differently," said Campbell, 23, from Vancouver. "The Hardy Boys" books debuted in 1927 and have had several incarnations, but they weren't a big part of 16-year-old Elliot's childhood and he didn't read them until he got the role. "I found this huge community that grew up with these books, and now it's an honour to be a part of it with all these people who, these books shaped their childhood," he said. Given the books' long legacy, the stars felt some pressure to live up to the source material. "Day 1, you get super excited, and then you go to shoot it and all of a sudden that air of responsibility comes to you and you really want to do justice for the people that grew up with these books," said Campbell. "These books are, like, 100 years old, right? So you have such a different demographic of audience, age-wise and maturity, whatever it is. So I think it was really important to us to give a little piece of the books to every different age group." Elliot also felt the pressure but his worries went away when he saw lovers of the books praising the show after its U.S. premiere. "We put a lot of work into this show and we're really hoping that the diehard fans enjoyed it as much as we hoped they did," he said. "We're trying to bring this to all-age groups, and this is kind of like a new generation of 'The Hardy Boys.'" The series is also set before Elliot's time and the young star said he did some research to learn how to use some of the props from that decade. "I feel like everybody was expecting like, 'Oh, he's a kid, he doesn't know how any of this tech works,' and they hand me a Walkman and I know how it works perfectly," he said with a laugh. "I love the '80s," he added. "I love the music, the movies. Everything about the '80s. Even before 'The Hardy Boys,' I loved everything from the '80s. I have a whole playlist of hundreds of songs from the '80s on my Spotify. Some of my favourite movies are from the '80s — 'Back to the Future,' 'Beetlejuice.' All these classics." The show's premise of boys solving dark mysteries in the '80s is drawing comparisons to the Netflix series "Stranger Things," which Elliot called "an absolute honour." Beyond the nostalgic appeal, having such tales set in that decade also helps the storytelling, said Campbell. "It's like, you give two kids Google — it's not very exciting to watch them solve a mystery," he said with a laugh. "Yeah, there's not going to be that many episodes," added Elliot. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
A Chihuahua sporting a First Nations dog blanket captured hearts across Canada for his small stature and enormous sense of pride. Now, seven-year-old Rikki can savour the glory of Internet stardom with treats and toys as one of five furry winners at this year's Yukon Rendezvous festival. "I was excited that he was one of the winners," said his owner Velma Olsen, who beaded the dog blanket specifically for the contest. The pet parade is one of the popular events organized as a part of the annual Whitehorse winter festival. Like many contests this year as a result of pandemic, it was held online. "The great thing about going virtual is that we got entries that we normally probably couldn't have seen such as a little hedgehog and a snake," said festival executive director Saskrita Shresthra. "It was a really great way to make it inclusive of all animals, and considering the response we got on all of those posts, it was very successful. Everybody did a phenomenal job, and it was a great activity to do in the winter during these times. It brought a lot of smiles to a lot of people's faces." Olsen, who is Northern Tutchone and a member of the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun, said she's been overwhelmed with joy to the reaction Rikki and the dog blanket received online. "Quite a few people were feeling inspired to make dog blankets now. There's someone locally here who made one for her Chihuahua, too, so it was quite nice to be an inspiration," said Olsen. Rikki, a seven-year-old Chihuahua, compared to one of the sleds used in the annual Yukon Quest dog sled race. (Submitted by Velma Olsen) Dog blankets are embellished fabric that drapes over a sled dog's back and are a longstanding tradition among First Nations across the Yukon and Northwest Territories. "It makes me feel all warm inside because it's a part of our history and to have it be responded to like that with Rikki's dog blanket it was heartwarming," said Olsen. As for next year's festival, Olsen said she's ready to sign Rikki up for another pet parade. "I've got to come up with something bigger and better next year," she said.
Canada's premiers are demanding that Ottawa immediately give them an extra $28 billion for health care this year, with a promise of at least a five-per-cent hike in the annual transfer payment each year thereafter.
LUDLOW, Vt. — Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio plans to start a substance use disorder treatment centre in Vermont, where the band was formed in 1983. Anastasio, who is now 14 years sober, announced Thursday that his Divided Sky Foundation has purchased a building for the non-profitcentre in Ludlow. “Like so many people in America and so many in Vermont, I became addicted to opiates,” Anastasio said in a statement on his website. “I was extremely lucky to have access to care, and I know how important it is to be part of a recovery community. I’m grateful that we can help provide that opportunity for others." The centre is tentatively scheduled to open by the end of this year. Anastasio raised funds for the purchase through his virtual concerts last fall from New York City’s Beacon Theatre. Fans contributed more than $1.2 million. The centre has not yet been named and will be managed by Ascension Recovery Services, according to his website. The Associated Press
HALIFAX — Glen Assoun has reached a compensation deal with the Nova Scotia and federal governments for his wrongful conviction and almost 17 years in prison. Nova Scotia Justice Minister Randy Delorey said Thursday the recently signed deal is confidential, and Assoun's lawyers Sean MacDonald and Phil Campbell said the amount of the settlement and its details are not being released. In an interview with The Canadian Press last October, Assoun said he feared he might die before reaching a final settlement with Ottawa and the province. Reached by telephone on Thursday at his home, Assoun said he felt relief that his financial future is now secure. "They (the governments) did the right thing, and I'm grateful for that," Assoun said. "It feels good that I can leave my family something and I'm not worrying any longer about how I'll make ends meet." Assoun's lawyers praised the two levels of government for the money to be provided and the signal it sends in acknowledging their client's mistreatment by the justice system. "It's gratifying to see and I hope it serves as an example for similar cases in the future," Campbell said in an interview Thursday. Assoun lived under strict parole conditions for nearly five years after he was released from prison, before a Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruling in March 2019 reversed his 1999 conviction for the murder of Brenda Way in Halifax. The 1995 killing has never been solved. The 64-year-old Halifax man suffered mental illness in prison, and he said he was diagnosed with a heart condition that required the insertion of stents — small mesh tubes that are placed in a narrowed coronary artery. He has also said he suffered severe beatings while in prison. Assoun has been living off funds provided by the province and Ottawa in a preliminary agreement, which was also confidential. He said he is still seeking justice in his case, particularly in regard to police actions. In 2019, it was revealed that a joint RCMP-Halifax Regional Police unit had destroyed evidence regarding alternative suspects to Assoun, prior to his unsuccessful appeal in 2006. Nova Scotia's Serious Incident Response Team, a police oversight agency, has said it is investigating whether there was criminal wrongdoing, and it has brought in outside investigators to assist. "There's a potential criminal investigation underway that has to be completed before any broader issues can be addressed in this case," Campbell said. Assoun's compensation deal is one of several that have emerged in recent decades as a result of cases pursued by lawyers with Innocence Canada, formerly known as the Association in Defence of the Wrongfully Convicted. David Milgaard, who was wrongfully convicted for the rape and murder of nursing assistant Gail Miller in Saskatoon and spent 23 years in prison, received $10 million in compensation. The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in 2007 that Steven Truscott's conviction for the rape and killing of a 12-year-old girl was a "miscarriage of justice." Less than a year later, a retired judge recommended Truscott receive $6.5 million in compensation, plus legal costs, from the Ontario government. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press
Canadian prosecutors told a court on Thursday that it was not a judge's role to decide whether national security and geopolitical concerns can be used to strike down a U.S. request to extradite Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Meng, 49, was arrested in December 2018 on a U.S. warrant accused of misleading HSBC about Huawei's business dealings in Iran, putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions.
TORONTO — Pharmacies in three Ontario regions, including Toronto, will begin administering COVID-19 vaccines next week, although the province provided few details Thursday on how the pilot program would work. Health Minister Christine Elliott said pharmacies will receive doses of the recently approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The province has said those shots will go to residents aged 60 to 64 based on federal recommendations. "A large number will be delivered through pharmacies because it's easier to handle," Elliott said of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. "It will be very helpful as we're trying to roll out the COVID vaccines as quickly as we can to protect as many people as possible." Elliott said Ontario will soon be releasing a revised immunization timeline that accounts for expected shipments of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot and new guidance on extending the interval between doses to four months -- both of which are expected to speed up the vaccine rollout. "We know that people are anxious and we're anxious to let them know when they will be able to receive the vaccine," she said. The Ontario Pharmacists Association said the vaccination pilot will begin with approximately 380 pharmacies in Toronto, Kingston and Windsor-Essex, with the first shots to begin possibly as early as Tuesday. "It's a move in the right direction," CEO Justin Bates said in an interview. "We're more than happy to partner and be a solution, and we're looking forward to a successful rollout beyond March." Bates said pharmacies will use their own booking systems to make vaccine appointments since a provincewide web portal isn't set to launch until March 15. Vaccines will likely go to people between the ages of 60 and 64, Bates said, although that will be evaluated based on supply. Sites are expected to be able to administer about 46 shots per day, he said. The program will eventually scale up as supply increases, Bates said, noting that the pharmacists' association has about 4,600 sites across the province. About 3,200 sites are already experienced with administering flu shots every year, he noted. "All Ontarians live within three kilometers of a pharmacy, so that's our advantage in terms of our footprint," he said. Opposition politicians said they were concerned about the government's lack of detail on the vaccine rollout. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the government has not done enough to guarantee that older residents most at risk of death or severe illness from COVID-19 will be vaccinated first, as recommended by experts. "Where's the assurance that folks who are ... between 60 and 64, who are healthy, are not going to get that vaccine ahead of somebody in their 70s," she said. Liberal health critic John Fraser said the lack of a clear plan is another sign that the government is not ready for the broader rollout. "Just because a plan evolves, doesn't mean you don't do one or you don't show it to people," he said. Ontario has administered a total of 784,828 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine so far. The province's top doctor said Thursday that people should continue to follow public health guidelines even with the good news on increased vaccine supply, pointing to increased cases of COVID-19 variants. Public Health Ontario confirmed 678 cases of variants, which are more contagious strains of the virus, as of Thursday. Dr. David Williams said variants are a major factor as he considers whether to recommend lifting a stay-at-home order for Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay, Ont., that's set to expire Monday. "We want to be cautious at this time," he said, noting he was concerned about rising positivity rates in Toronto and Peel as well. The government will decide Friday what restrictions to impose on those three regions. The top doctors in Toronto and Peel have said they want the stay-at-home order lifted and their regions to be placed in the strictest category of the province's colour-coded pandemic framework. That "grey lockdown" category allows non-essential retail to open at 25 per cent, but still bans indoor restaurant dining and personal care services. Meanwhile, the top doctor for the Sudbury, Ont., area suggested she wanted stronger restrictions for her region amid rising cases that have lead to institutional outbreaks and school closures. Ontario reported 994 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday and 10 more deaths linked to the virus. The report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Breaking with other Southern GOP governors, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey extended her state’s mask order for another month Thursday but said the requirement will end for good in April. The move came a day after President Joe Biden slammed the governors of Texas and Mississippi for deciding to lift their mask mandates, saying their actions reflect “Neanderthal thinking.” Ivey has faced political pressure to lift the mask order like her Republican counterparts but said she will follow the recommendations of medical officials and keep the mandate that was set to expire Friday in place until April 9. “We need to get past Easter and hopefully allow more Alabamians to get their first shot before we take a step some other states have taken to remove the mask order altogether and lift other restrictions. Folks, we are not there yet, but goodness knows we’re getting closer," Ivey said at a news conference. The governor called masks “one of our greatest tools” in preventing the virus’ spread but emphasized that she will not extend the mask order further, saying it will become a matter of personal responsibility when the mandate ends. “Even when we lift the mask order, I will continue to wear my mask while I’m around others and strongly urge my fellow citizens to use common sense and do the same,” Ivey said. Medical officials welcomed Ivey’s decision after urging an extension, arguing that easing restrictions before more people were vaccinated could reverse recent improvements. Alabama’s rolling seven-day average of daily cases has dropped from 3,000 in early January to below 1,000 and hospitalizations are at their lowest point since summer. “This is very good news. This gives us a month to vaccinate more people and to get a better handle on the role of the UK variant,” said Dr. Don Williamson, the former state health officer who now heads the Alabama Hospital Association. So far only about 13% of Alabama’s 4.9 million people have received one dose of vaccine, according to state numbers. State Health Officer Scott Harris said vaccine supplies are increasing and if the state can get a cumulative total of 1.75 million shots delivered by early April, that would be a “terrific place to be.” Harris said about 500,000 people in the state have tested positive for the virus and there are likely others who had it but didn’t know. “We are striving to reach this herd immunity point at some point,” Harris said. Dr. Ellen Eaton, who specializes in infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said schools and organizations serving people who’ve yet to receive a vaccine will need to “carefully consider how to proceed” once the order ends. “For many, continuing masking will be necessary, such as in schools and colleges. But leadership in these spaces needs time to think through the health and policy implications of recommending masks in the absence of a mandate,” she said. Ivey faced backlash on social media for her decision, with some users sharing the phone number to the governor’s office and asking callers to voice opposition to the rule. And the Alabama Senate approved a resolution Wednesday evening urging Ivey to end the mask mandate. Republican Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth also asked Ivey to end the mask requirement, which he has opposed all along, saying individuals can make decisions for themselves and follow safety rules until vaccinations and immunity levels are sufficient. “But we can do all of these things without a Big Brother-style government mandate looming over us,” Ainsworth said in a statement. The governor did lift some restrictions on how many people can sit as a restaurant table, but tables are still required to be 6 feet (2 metres) apart or have a partition. The order also allowed senior citizens to resume some activities and hospitals to increase the number of visitors patients can have from one to two ___ Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak. Kim Chandler, The Associated Press
Fourteen variants of concern have been identified in COVID-19 cases in the region, that number more than doubling last week from five last Monday to 12 on Friday, and 14 by Monday. The cases are located in Northumberland County and City of Kawartha Lakes, identified as the N501Y variant, and were acquired outside the region, according to the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge district health unit. Dr. Ian Gemmill, acting medical officer of health, spoke to the topic and provided the most updated numbers at that point on Feb. 24 at his regularly-scheduled weekly press conference. At that time, he mentioned five new variants of concern in addition to the three prior cases, but later in the afternoon an additional case had been added. Three more were identified in the health unit’s Friday epidemiological report, an additional two in the March 1 report. “The situation with VOCs can change quickly,” he said in comments shared by the health unit an hour after the press conference. “The source of all of these VOCs are tied to contacts with others outside the HKPRDHU region,” Gemmill said in comments. “The nine VOCs involve three clusters and a single case … and in all these situations, these local VOCs are well under control as the people involved are isolating and limiting their contacts.” In last week’s meeting, Gemmill said he did not have at that time the information about where the cases were located, nor which strain had been identified. When it was noted by a reporter that people are concerned and want further information, Gemmill said: “We need to assume that coronavirus is everywhere,” he said. “We need to assume that the variants could pop up anywhere. So far, they’ve all had the acquisition outside of our area, which means it’s not being transmitted in [the HKPR region]. I agree there’s a public interest in knowing which county it’s in, we’ll get that for you, but I think that people need to behave as though they could be exposed to this at any point. I think that’s a message I have to keep repeating, repeating, repeating, because it’s so key to the preventative measures.” On Feb. 9, the region’s first identified variant of concern was reported. That case was linked to a resident in Port Hope, and later at a Feb. 17 press conference, Gemmill said two of that resident’s household contacts were also identified as having variant cases of COVID-19, noting that those individuals had been isolating. “This is a controlled situation,” said Gemmill at that time. “Since they’ve all been quarantined, I’m not worried particularly about these cases.” Across Ontario, Gemmill said at the Feb. 17 press conference, the proportion of positive cases constituted by the variants of concern are rising, and he was hearing “worrisome chatter” about it being identified in other parts of Ontario. “We have been affected, but in a very minor way, but this is becoming a big issue across the province of Ontario,” he said. The variants are more transmissible than the original virus, and can amplify cases because of the ease in which they spread, which has led to speculation about a potential third wave and lockdown to protect hospital capacity. “Anything is possible, but I’ll be completely forthright with you, the way this variant is behaving, the one [identified in] the U.K. primarily, I’m not sure we’re going to have control of it, so it could theoretically replace the original virus and become the dominant one, and then it’s going to be a lot more difficult to control,” said Gemmill. As of the March 2 HKPRD health unit update, Haliburton County has zero confirmed cases of COVID-19, with one current high-risk contact. City of Kawartha Lakes currently has 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 43 high-risk contacts, and Northumberland County has 17 current cases of COVID-19 and 53 high-risk contacts. “What is worrisome is the continuing spread of coronavirus variants across Ontario,” said Gemmill in Feb. 24 comments. “We are likely to see more of these VOCs in our region, so the need to take public health prevention measures continues to be important until more people are vaccinated.” Sue Tiffin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Minden Times
The Toronto Raptors are once again severely short-handed heading into Thursday's game against the Celtics in Boston. For the second straight night, the Raptors will be without five players, head coach Nick Nurse and six other members of the coaching staff due to the NBA's health and safety protocols. Starters Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby will not be available, as well as Malachi Flynn and Patrick McCaw. Without the key players and members of the coaching staff, the Raptors were thumped 129-105 by visiting Detroit on Wednesday with assistant coach Sergio Scariolo in charge for the second straight game. Meanwhile, Jalen Harris has returned to Toronto's G League affiliate, Raptors 905. Harris and Donta Hall were added to the Raptors from the 905 squad Wednesday. Thursday's announcement was expected. General Manager Bobby Webster said in an availability Tuesday that it was unlikely that any player or member of staff who missed Wednesday's game would be available for the contest in Boston. The NBA goes into its all-star break after Thursday's action, which will offer a welcome respite for the Raptors. Toronto's next game is March 11 against Atlanta. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press