There are many things to consider before Ontario will tighten its lockdown of the province to slow the spread of the coronavirus, said Premier Doug Ford. But he said he will not make a 'snap' judgment about which course to take.
There are many things to consider before Ontario will tighten its lockdown of the province to slow the spread of the coronavirus, said Premier Doug Ford. But he said he will not make a 'snap' judgment about which course to take.
While Ontario and Quebec are the epicentres of COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada, people in First Nations are being hit the hardest in Western Canada, where they make up half the number of hospitalizations in some provinces. The rising curve is alarming federal officials, who urged the provinces during a press conference in Ottawa on Wednesday to continue prioritizing Indigenous populations as they roll out vaccines. "So what we're saying to Canadians, to Indigenous Peoples, is now is not the time to let down your guard," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said. "This is not the time to ease public health restrictions." As of Jan. 19, Indigenous Services Canada was reporting 5,571 active cases on reserves — most of them in Prairie provinces: British Columbia: 580 Alberta: 1,312 Saskatchewan: 1,196 Manitoba: 2,241 Ontario: 93 Quebec: 144 Atlantic: 5 Indigenous Services Canada has reported 13,873 confirmed COVID-19 cases on reserves since last March. More than 90 per cent are in Western Canada: British Columbia: 1,348 Alberta: 4,459 Saskatchewan: 3,525 Manitoba: 3,643 Ontario: 428 Quebec: 462 Atlantic: 8 First Nation leaders and health experts say there are several reasons why infections are increasing in First Nations in Western Canada, including overcrowding, gatherings, people letting their guard down, relaxed restrictions and people driving in and out of communities with road access for goods and work. Lack of housing With COVID-19 caseloads rising all across Canada, the pandemic is emerging in places where it wasn't before, said Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist at Temerty Faculty of Medicine and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "It's quite concerning that COVID is starting to break into these communities," Banerji said. "They've held the forts for so long." Banerji researched respiratory infections in Inuit communities for over two decades. She said the main risk factors facing First Nations are poor access to health care services, underlying ailments, food insecurity, poverty and overcrowding. Banerji said she fears that when people get sick in First Nations, they can't find places to self-isolate. Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair of Opaskwayak Cree Nation, 628 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, said his community needs 600 more houses. "When you have people living under one roof, anywhere from six to as high as 14 members living under one roof on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, you can see how quickly that spread can happen," Sinclair said. "We're second-class citizens living in Third World conditions in a first world country." Opaskwayak Cree Nation has had success in preventing and controlling outbreaks by enforcing curfews and monitoring who enters and leaves the community with border patrols paid for by Indigenous Services Canada. The highest funding requests the department has seen for the Indigenous Community Support Fund — which was created to help communities fight COVID-19 — have been for perimeter security, said Valerie Gideon, associate deputy minister of Indigenous Services. Close to 350 First Nations across the country have closed their borders to non-essential travel, she added. But even with the added layer of security in some places, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says 50 per cent of all active COVID cases in Manitoba are First Nations members. Call for stricter provincial measures Relaxed provincial measures are also being blamed for the rise in First Nations cases. The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan is calling on the province to close bars and liquor establishments. "We believe alcohol in the bars is a contributing factor," said FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt, who recently recovered from COVID-19. "When you're on alcohol, you're more likely to lose your inhibitions, share drinks and not keep those social distance practices in practices and in check." Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs' Organization in Manitoba is urging the provincial and federal governments to enforce tougher rules to limit travel. Daniels said he thinks caseloads are rising because of people going back and forth from First Nations to urban areas. "I think until COVID is completely wiped out, they should be taking the strongest approach possible," Daniels said. Daniels said nearly 80 per cent of the 34 Anishnaabe and Dakota communities he represents are trying to control the spread of COVID-19. Concern for loss of elders Dr. Shannon McDonald, acting chief medical officer at the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia, said there isn't enough rapid testing available to test everyone who needs to travel to B.C. First Nations, and some tests can't detect infections in their first few days. "It only takes one person to come in and spend time with people in the community," McDonald said. McDonald fears the pandemic could take a particularly heavy toll on First Nations communties. "I always worry about our elders," McDonald said. "Our elders are our knowledge-keepers, our language holders and they are the human libraries, culturally. So communities are very sensitive to that, but individuals who are choosing not to adhere to public health advice are putting those individuals at risk and I really worry about that." Lawrence Latender, a member of Dauphin River First Nation, has felt first-hand the impact of COVID-19 during an outbreak in his community 250 kilometres north of Winnipeg. He recently lost seven neighbours and friends to the virus, including two aunts and an uncle. "I don't know if I had time to really grieve because it's one thing after the other," Latender said. "It's like you're focused on one death and then you're, well ... 'OK now I got to focus on this one. Ok, this one is gone, now I got to focus on this one.'" Letander, his wife and two young sons also tested positive, but have since recovered. Indigenous Services Canada says that, so far, there have been 120 COVID-19 deaths in First Nations. But with 169 Indigenous communities now administering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and more doses on the way, there's hope the chain of transmission will break.
From a global perspective, there was nothing unique about the recent raid on the U.S. Capitol. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have backed military coups around the world for decades.
The town of Oyen in southeastern Alberta has been enjoying a rare thing in the province these past few months: an economic boom. The community has been bustling with pipeline workers who arrived by the hundreds last summer to help build the Canadian leg of the Keystone XL pipeline. Doug Dingman, who owns a grocery and liquor store in the community, said his business has been up 20 per cent with the crews in town and he thought they'd be around until next fall. Those workers could soon start hitting the highway out of town as TC Energy announced a suspension in the project on Wednesday, after U.S. President Joe Biden pulled the permit for the proposed pipeline and rejoined the Paris climate accord as expected. "I'm still pretty upset that he [Biden] is going to shut it down," said Dingman, who worries about the ramifications for the oilpatch, the province and the economy. But the situation also has him wondering about other important projects for the province's oil and gas sector, including the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. The TMX project is owned by the federal government and is under construction, but some Albertans continue to worry it will never be completed. "I really don't think that'll happen, either," he said. "I think that B.C. is going to block it all." All eyes on TMX No doubt, the pressure from the oilpatch on the prime minister to complete Trans Mountain will intensify after this week. Like many, Mark Salkeld was not surprised by the Biden decision, but is still left feeling "disappointment and frustration," said the executive with Katch Kan, an Edmonton-based oilfield service company. "We can't be strangled by the U.S. We've got lots [of oil] moving there, no doubt about it, but there's lots more yet to move," he said, suggesting there will be renewed oilpatch interest in any export proposal whether it's a pipeline, rail project, or some other alternative. The Trans Mountain expansion has faced a slew of its own setbacks, yet construction continues on the pipelines that will transport oil from Edmonton to the Vancouver area for export. Besides past legal and regulatory challenges, the construction was recently paused after a series of safety problems. "I don't think just because there's no other country to deal with on that project that there aren't going to be significant challenges," said Connie Van der Byl, director of Mount Royal University's institute for environmental sustainability in Calgary. In fact, the demise of Keystone XL could invigorate opponents of Trans Mountain to try to stop that pipeline project too, she said. "Overall, this is another signal to Alberta and those connected with oil and gas that it's tough times. You have to have empathy for those in the industry," said Van Der Byl, who worked for TC Energy as a business analyst in its natural gas division more than a decade ago. Climate policy, demand uncertain Alberta's oil industry has wanted more export pipeline capacity for years in order to reduce the risk of expensive bottlenecks, such as the ones that hit the sector in 2018. When export pipelines are full, there can be backlogs in the province, which drives down prices and forces more companies to move oil by rail. It's the reason the Alberta government had a curtailment policy recently in place to limit the amount of oil production and maintain higher prices. The existing Trans Mountain pipeline is operating at maximum capacity. For many years, Keystone XL was seen as a necessity by the oilpatch, but assessing the impact of losing it now largely depends on where climate policies, world oil demand and Canadian oil production is headed. For instance, the latest modelling by the Canada Energy Regulator shows a need for Keystone XL, the Trans Mountain expansion, and Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline under its reference scenario, which assumes "a lack of future domestic and global climate policy action." However, under what the regulator calls its evolving scenario, Canada brings in new greenhouse-gas reducing measures to meet its stated climate targets. Canadian oil and gas production declines, and there could be ample export capacity with Enbridge's Line 3 and the Trans Mountain expansion. But that's still assuming those projects can be built. Considering all the hurdles pipelines have faced in the last decade, that's no guarantee. The risk is why the federal government decided to purchase Trans Mountain and why the Alberta government committed billions of dollars to TC Energy last year. Stephanie Kainz is a senior associate with the intelligence team at Enverus, an energy data analytics firm in Calgary. She expressed doubts for months about the future of Keystone XL, but she feels confident about Trans Mountain getting built. "On the heavy crude front, I think that Trans Mountain is crucial — it does provide that additional capacity," she said. The project continues to face determined opposition, including protests and blockades, from groups concerned about increased tanker traffic, oil spills, and climate change. Kainz believes there's broad support for the project, but she said the government and Trans Mountain need to work with stakeholders to assure community members that live along the pipeline system that the line "will be safe, and that they'll be safe." Plan B for KXL For now, the Alberta government and TC Energy will consider their next moves, which could include pursuing legal action to recoup their investment, like the company briefly attempted in 2016, or beginning the liquidation process of pipe and other assets to help offset costs. For TC Energy, there will be dissatisfaction, but it's merely one of many projects the company is pursuing. Considering the firm operates throughout North America with a variety of businesses from oil and natural gas to electricity and nuclear, the company still has many growth opportunities. As for Trans Mountain, the public spotlight has always shone brightly on the multi-billion dollar expansion project. Still, with Keystone XL no longer in the picture, the focus on the federal government's pipeline project will only sharpen — for those for and against.
Joyce Obaseki has never been to Calgary, and she's never been charged with a crime. So she was floored when Toronto police contacted her in 2002 to tell her there was a warrant out for her arrest after skipping bail in Calgary. The Toronto woman says she explained to police there had to be some mistake, and the officers realized someone had likely impersonated Obaseki. Investigators then asked her to take a look at the photo of the woman who was arrested and charged with credit card fraud using her name. "I went in and they showed me the picture, lo and behold, it was someone I know," Obaseki told CBC News. "I said, 'Oh my God, Christee.'" Obaseki says she recognized the woman in the photo immediately as Christee Imuya, a classmate from her high school days back home in Nigeria — who Obaseki knew had also moved to Toronto. She says police told her not to contact Imuya and to steer clear of her in the future. CBC News reached out to Imuya for comment on this story but did not receive a response. "I never got a call from police ever since," said Obaseki. "So I thought the situation was dealt with by police." Turns out, for Obaseki, it wasn't. Nearly two decades later, Obaseki discovered that she and Imuya were still considered the same person in the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), the national electronic police database maintained by the RCMP. In practical terms, that meant that for roughly 18 years a CPIC search on Obaseki would show that she was also known as Imuya, and that she'd been charged with, but not convicted of, several criminal and immigration offences. The RCMP, who confirmed Imuya fraudulently used Obaseki's name, and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre told CBC News they don't receive reports about false identity cases like Obaseki's very often. But that fact isn't of much comfort to Obaseki, who believes the CPIC record affected her family's ability to visit her in Canada. "That is the most painful part for me,"she said. "It affected me and my family." Shock, embarrassment and pain Obaseki tried to bring her sisters and mother to Toronto to visit from Nigeria multiple times, but the visitor visas were always denied. Until last year, she thought it was just because her family didn't qualify. She found out about the CPIC record just before she was supposed to be interviewed as a witness in an immigration appeal hearing for her sister, whose husband was trying to sponsor her to come to Canada. CBC News has reviewed a copy of the results of a CPIC search an immigration official did on Obaseki in February 2020. The record identifies Obaseki as the same person as Imuya. It lists credit card fraud and theft charges, which were all later withdrawn, and one charge that ended with a peace bond. The record also lists immigration charges that ended in an acquittal. WATCH | How Joyce Obaseki felt when she found out about false criminal record: As part of the immigration appeal for Obaseki's sister, her family obtained transcripts from Obaseki's past attempts to bring her mother and sisters to Toronto on visitor visas. In one of those transcripts, an immigration official references Obaseki's "issues with respect to fraudulent credit cards in Calgary." "The shock, and the embarrassment and the pain, how do I explain that to my family?" said Obaseki. "It robbed me of my credibility. Somebody with such a long list of criminal records, would you invite such a person to your house?" Name removed from CPIC record this month Once Obaseki found out about the record falsely identifying her as Imuya she got to work trying to figure out how to remove her name from Imuya's charges. After months of going back and forth with police, Obaseki hired a lawyer to help her last fall. In November, Obaseki received a report from the RCMP confirming that the fingerprints she submitted to them do not match "any immigration-related file or existing criminal record" in the police service's national database. The following month, Obaseki's lawyer emailed a complaint to the RCMP with the record of the fingerprint search to prove that Obaseki and Imuya are not the same person and to ask that Obaseki's name be removed from the record. The RCMP had to explain the situation to Calgary police and get their permission to remove Obaseki's name from Imuya's record because the 2002 credit card charge and use of Obaseki's name came from Calgary police. 'Up until then, it was hell for me' Earlier this month, Obaseki received confirmation from the RCMP that her name had been removed "from the criminal record belonging to Christee Imuya," according to a letter from the RCMP. "It was a huge, huge relief," said Obaseki. "It was like some heavy body lifted off my shoulders. Up until then, it was hell for me — I don't sleep at night. I think about it every day." In a statement to CBC News, RCMP spokesperson Robin Percival said the service is "pleased that the matter was resolved." Percival also explained that individual police services are responsible for verifying a person's identity before submitting biographic information to the CPIC database. Unless there's a fingerprint match to an existing record in the database, the RCMP says it can't confirm the identity of the individual. Obaseki says police told her that when Imuya was first fingerprinted in 2002, she used Obaseki's name, which is why the initial CPIC record had her name attached to it — and why Obaseki's true fingerprints were required to clear her name. Anyone who believes they have been falsely attributed to a criminal record can submit a fingerprint-based civil criminal record check that "will verify that their fingerprints do not match the fingerprints of the criminal record created under their name," according to Percival. Warrant for Imuya's arrest outstanding in Alberta While she's relieved that her name is no longer on Imuya's record, Obaseki still has questions for Imuya and wants her to be held accountable for the effect she's had on Obaseki's life. "I want her to face the consequences," said Obaseki. "She cannot be walking free, and then I have to suffer all this loss, my family has to suffer this. "I'm hoping to get justice." Calgary police told CBC News the service issued a warrant for Imuya's arrest for impersonating Obaseki in 2002. The warrant remains outstanding in Alberta.
Pet groomer Victor Pundzius was so confused with the new orders that he called the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit to clarify whether or not his service was essential. Turns out it's not. But Pundzuis, who owns For Your Fur Kids in Windsor, says after what he saw following the last lockdown, grooming should be. "It was terrible, the dogs were in bad shape, grooming should have been deemed essential. I think it's unfair the way everything was done," he said. And he wasn't the only one questioning provincial measures. Two local housekeepers told CBC News that they also found the province's stay-at-home order from Jan. 14 unclear on what services could still operate. The rules left them feeling uncertain, especially since Windsor-Essex went through several rounds of new restrictions starting in November that kept changing how and which businesses could operate. Housekeeper Nicole Kersey says the provincial rules in the stay-at-home order issued last week are "vague," so she's being cautious while still trying to earn a living. "I really was [confused] and I kind of still am," said Kersey, who owns Nicole's Quality Cleaning in Windsor-Essex . "It says I'm essential I can still do my job but then it doesn't make sense [because] they don't want you going to other homes." Under the new order, housekeepers are listed as being allowed under domestic services but only for homes with children, seniors or vulnerable persons. After six years on the job, Kersey had built up some loyal clients, but out of fear, she says about 80 per cent of her clients have cancelled or put their services on hold. The lack of work has taken a financial toll on her and she's had to apply for government funding. Adam Morrison, president of Queen of Clean Windsor Inc., which specializes in residential and commercial cleaning, says he's also feeling the hit. On the residential side, about 30 per cent of his clients don't qualify for services under the new order. "It makes any business owner nervous right? We're not in a position where it's hitting us now and we're not necessarily hitting a lot of the requirements for some of the wage subsidies," he said. Meanwhile, Pundzius says if the lockdown goes past a month, not only will it hurt the dogs, but it will harm his business too. At this time, his income is already down as people can't access his services and many aren't buying products despite him offering curbside pickup. "It's just unfair with Costco, all these other big companies, it seems like they just want to hurt the little guy basically," he said.
Coal mining is already having an impact in Alberta's Rocky Mountains even as debate intensifies over the industry's presence in one of the province's most beloved landscapes. "They've been very active up there," said Kevin Van Tighem, who lives near one of the areas now heavily leased for coal exploration. The United Conservative government's decision to revoke a policy that had protected the eastern slopes of the Rockies from open-pit coal mining since 1976 has convulsed the province. Petitions opposing the move have gathered more than 100,000 signatures. Popular Alberta entertainment figures have come out against it and area ranchers and First Nations are trying to force a judicial review of the decision. Documents from the Alberta Energy Regulator show that permission has already been granted for hundreds of drill sites and kilometres of roads threading through critical wildlife habitat and land previously untouched by mining. "The day after the coal policy was rescinded we started seeing applications for exploration," said Katie Morrison of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. "Before we've done any real assessments of the impacts, we're seeing these companies have some potential pretty big impacts on that land." Documents filed with the regulator give some sense of what's already been permitted. Cabin Ridge Coal, operating 50 kilometres north of Coleman, Alta., is putting in 197 drill sites on land once protected by the coal policy. It plans 15 new access roads and 19 "reactivated" roads — abandoned for decades and now being refurbished. The exploration plans require nine new stream crossings. Elan Coal, north of Blairmore, Alta., has been permitted for 456 drill sites that include 66 kilometres of new roads and 29 kilometres of reactivated roads. Montem Resources, active south of Coleman, has the OK for 71 drill sites with an unspecified length of "new and existing access." Almost all of the drill sites are on grizzly bear range. Mountain goat and sheep habitat will be affected. Company plans detail how environmental impacts are to be reduced by careful construction and timing work for when it will cause the least disruption. They suggest the amount of land directly disturbed will be small — less than 100 hectares for Cabin Ridge. That's not the whole story, said Van Tighem, a former chief superintendent of Banff National Park. Wildlife steer clear of active roads and drill sites by up to 500 metres, he said. Roads cut into hillsides — no matter how well built — are "erosion traps" and roads that run uphill are "sluiceways" for run-off that would normally feed streams, he said. Mitigation measures aren't all they're cracked up to be, he added. "They're not ever as good as (companies) promise and not as consistently applied as the government would lead us to believe." Morrison points out that at least twice since the coal policy was revoked, companies have asked for exemptions to rules that prevented them from operating during sensitive times for wildlife. "Both exemptions were applied for, granted and work started within a day or two," she said. "That doesn't scream rigour to me as far as decreasing impact." Peter Brodsky, spokesman for Energy Minister Sonya Savage, said the government takes public concern seriously. This week, it paused all lease sales on formerly protected land and cancelled a small number of them, refunding $80,000. "The department will be working with Alberta Environment to determine next steps to best address the concerns that have been raised," he said in an email. "We will not choose between protecting the land for future generations and providing economic opportunities. We need to — and will — do both, in a measured and environmentally responsible way." Area rancher Gordon Cartwright looks up into the hills on his neighbour's land and recalls what a geologist told him last summer about what his neck of the foothills looks like. "He said, with the intensity of the operations and the drilling, it looked more like mining preparation than exploration," Cartwright said. "That activity's pretty damaging. A lot of these soils are highly susceptible to erosion and are hard to revegetate. "You would have thought consultation would have happened before you start opening up the country and creating that kind of disturbance." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. — Follow @row1960 on Twitter Bob Weber, The Canadian Press
It is too early to say when the national coronavirus lockdown in England will end, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday, as daily deaths from COVID-19 reach new highs and hospitals become increasingly stretched. A prevalence survey, known as REACT-1, suggested infections had not fallen in the first days of lockdown, though the government has said that the impact of national restrictions introduced on Jan. 5 was not yet reflected in the numbers. England's third national lockdown has seen bars, restaurants and schools mostly closed, with Johnson attributing a steep rise in cases at the end of last year to a more transmissible variant of the coronavirus first detected in England.
Millions of us have been living with severe restrictions and orders to stay socially distanced. But this can lead to 'touch starvation'. Find out more. View on euronews
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 41,760 new vaccinations administered for a total of 692,899 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 1,828.264 per 100,000. There were 18,975 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 907,515 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 76.35 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 3,258 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 8,549 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 16.326 per 1,000. There were 2,400 new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 13,575 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.6 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 62.98 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,684 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,910 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 37.257 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 8,250 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 71.64 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 5,344 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 9,175 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 9.402 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 23,000 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 39.89 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 2,704 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 10,436 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 13.379 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 17,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 58.71 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 10,207 new vaccinations administered for a total of 174,260 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 20.365 per 1,000. There were 16,575 new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 237,125 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 73.49 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 13,784 new vaccinations administered for a total of 237,918 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 16.197 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 277,050 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 85.88 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,514 new vaccinations administered for a total of 20,265 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 14.717 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 46,290 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 43.78 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 2,658 new vaccinations administered for a total of 27,233 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 23.095 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 29,300 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 92.95 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 2,928 new vaccinations administered for a total of 95,243 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 21.636 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 101,275 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 94.04 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 5,756 new vaccinations administered for a total of 98,125 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 19.122 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 133,475 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.6 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 73.52 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,347 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 32.278 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 17 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 18.71 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,893 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 41.956 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 16 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 26.29 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,545 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 65.718 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 6,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 15 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 42.42 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
Three landowners from Black Point in Pictou County took their fight over rocks on a beach to Nova Scotia Supreme Court Wednesday. The judicial review is examining the province's approval of a rock retaining wall on James Beach. Legal costs are being covered by a $15,000 crowdfunding effort. "It has been worthwhile for me ... to see the community come together and protect our beautiful beach," said Maryn Lynn, one of the applicants who owns property on James Beach. Wayne and Helen Chisholm built the armour stone rock wall at James Beach, northeast of New Glasgow, in 2017. It crosses the width of the beach, before turning 90 degrees and running parallel to the water. The base of the wall sits in more than a metre of water at high tide, and it's been repaired and expanded as it's damaged by the ocean. After community complaints, the province determined the wall is legal, because Nova Scotia landowners are allowed to replace existing retaining walls even when the shoreline has moved farther inland. The Chisholm family declined to comment Wednesday. Nova Scotia's Department of Lands and Forestry won't comment while the case is before the court. Hoping for a reassessment A judicial review can't order the wall to be changed or removed, but it could send the matter back to the minister of Lands and Forestry if the approval process is found lacking. "We're hopeful that at the very least, the government will take another look at this decision," Lynn said. "This is not about erosion protection, because all of the people in our neighborhood do erosion protection," said Beth Skerrett, another applicant. "We're very much in support of erosion protection. The problem for us is the beach access. So having beach access to walk along the front of any beach in Nova Scotia is really the core of this issue," Skerrett said. Erosion and accretion The lawyer for the applicants, Jamie Simpson, said legal arguments hinge on where Crown land ends and private land begins. Normally, all land below the mean high water mark is owned by the government, allowing public access to the entire length of a beach. If the shoreline moves, so does that boundary. Simpson says aerial photographs dating back to the 1990s show those kinds of shoreline shifts on James Beach. "Sometimes land is added to the sand spit, and sometimes land is taken away.... We see erosion and accretion happening over the scale of years and decades," Simpson said. If private land is suddenly ripped away, Simpson said landowners have the right to fill it back in. But on James Beach, he argues that's not the case. Simpson said the government never gave a "cohesive, logical argument as to why the boundary hasn't moved." "The minister has to come up with a more robust way to make these decisions, not to make what appears, from the outside, to be something of an arbitrary decision," he said. Provincial significance Lynn and Skerret say their legal challenge could resonate for all Nova Scotia beaches. "I think this issue is very important if we consider climate change, which is not going away," said Lynn. "This is about whether or not the general public, and not just coastal property owners, will have access to the beach below the ordinary high water mark." Skerret added: "Today is not whether it was a good decision or a bad decision for this family to build the wall. The decision here is, did the government make the right decision by allowing them to build the wall where they built it?" Justice Deborah Smith reserved her decision at the close of Wednesday's hearing. MORE TOP STORIES
What a difference a day makes in the outlook for the Canadian economy. Earlier this week, some economists were predicting that the Bank of Canada's Tiff Macklem would cut interest rates again when presenting Wednesday's Monetary Policy Report. But while Canada's chief central banker warned that a resurgence in the effects of the pandemic was sending the economy further down, prospects for a vaccine-led recovery meant Canada would see a sharp return to growth later this year and next. And while borrowers did not benefit from the "micro-cut" some had predicted — what Macklem carefully described as reducing already low rates "to a lower but still positive number" — perhaps more important for ordinary Canadians was his assurance that the bank-set interest rate would not rise. Startling transition to growth And that reassurance came despite the central bank's outlook of a startling transition from a shrinking economy in the first three months of the year to extraordinarily strong growth of four per cent in 2021 and five per cent next year. In a previous meeting with reporters at the end of last year, Macklem based his forecast on the assumption that a vaccine would not be widely available until 2022 and that the economy would be scarred by the impact of the virus on jobs and businesses. But this time, there was no talk of scarring. "Certainly the earlier-than-expected arrival of the vaccine is a very positive development," the Bank of Canada governor said. "But we're starting off in a deeper hole." Some economists have suggested that a strong rebound of the type Macklem and the bank's Governing Council foresee would lead to a new burst of inflation that would require the bank to raise interest rates. There have been worries, including from the real estate industry, that a hike in the rock-bottom rates that have allowed Canadians to afford large mortgages would lead to a sudden slowdown. But Macklem offered several reasons why that was unlikely to happen, for a while at least, and probably not until 2023. For one thing, any decision to reduce stimulus would begin with a slow winding down of the Bank of Canada's quantitative easing (QE) program. Currently the bank is still going to the market and buying at least $4 billion worth of government bonds every week, effectively releasing that cash into the economy. Macklem expects that to continue. Another reason why the bank feels it won't have to raise rates — the same logic for why it can continue QE — is the deep hole Macklem mentioned. Despite the hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus money from the Canadian government — plus the $900 billion US COVID-19 relief package already approved south of the border and the $1.9 trillion pandemic plan unveiled by newly installed U.S. President Joe Biden — the battered North American economy has lots of climbing to do. Still lots of slack in the economy Economics tells us that inflation does not kick in until the supply of goods, services and labour is used up such that people competing for those things start to bid up the price. But with so many unemployed, buildings empty, lots of raw material and plenty of money available to borrow and invest, the Canadian economy is not likely to reach those capacity limits until 2023, Macklem said. Inflation numbers out Wednesday showed prices rising at the slowest rate since the financial crisis of 2009, plunging in December to an annual rate of 0.7 per cent — well outside the central bank's target range of between one and three per cent. The Bank of Canada expects that number to bounce back this year to an ostensibly comfortable two per cent, but as Macklem described, that will be deceptive. "This is expected to be temporary," he said. "The anticipated increase in inflation reflects the effects of sharp declines in gasoline prices at the onset of the pandemic, and as those base year effects fade, inflation will fall again, pulled down by the significant excess of supply in the economy." As well as being an unequal recession, this has been an unusual one in that those who kept their jobs have been building up a savings hoard that some have suggested will be released in a deluge of spending once the lockdowns end — as everyone heads out dancing and partying like in the Roaring Twenties. Asked if a rush of spending was likely, Macklem once again explained why, even if it happens, a return to the days of the Great Gatsby is unlikely to unleash inflation. As retail experts explained in early December, those who have money to spend have been saving on services while continuing to spend plenty on goods. And even if we spend more on dancing, services do not lend themselves to a burst of excessive consumption. WATCH | Bank of Canada predicts wealthier households will hold on to savings: "If you don't get a haircut," Macklem said, gesturing to his own longish style, "when you go back to getting haircuts, you don't get extra haircuts." All that said, Macklem was clear to point out that with so many uncertainties, the bank's outlook is not a foregone conclusion. The economy could recover faster. "That would be a good thing," he said. A rising loonie, which would allow Canadians to spend more on imported goods and trips abroad, may slow the recovery as Canadian exports get pricier. And with an unpredictable and evolving virus, things could stay bad for longer, too, in which case the Bank of Canada has tricks up its sleeve, including micro-cuts, to add a little more stimulus if that turns out to be necessary. Someday the low interest rate party will be over, but for now, Macklem sees the most likely path as a strong if choppy and protracted recovery and continued rock-bottom borrowing costs until 2023 — or until a full recovery happens. Follow Don Pittis on Twitter: @don_pittis
Fredericton's City Motel on Regent Street is one step closer to becoming affordable and supportive housing. The City's Planning Advisory Committee approved the project, put forward by the John Howard Society, at Wednesday night's meeting. The plan will see the hotel suites on the third floor of the building converted into 20 affordable, or Housing First, units. The second floor will be converted into 12 peer-supported units, for people who require more help, said Jason LeJeune, the project manager for the proposal. "Peer supported housing would be for people that require a lot of supervision and help and support. There would be two people with lived experience -- the peer supports that live on that floor with the 12 residents -- they're provided salary and free housing to live on-site," LeJeune said. There will also be addiction offices, mental health offices and social work offices on that floor, said LeJeune. The lower floor will initially become a 24-bed emergency homeless shelter. "The long term ambition of the John Howard Society is to continue to monitor the needs of the community in terms of shelter use and convert that over to affordable housing that is unsupported over time," said LeJeune. When the shelter is operational, it's possible it will replace the out of the cold shelter run by the John Howard Society at 332 Brunswick Street, which will then be converted into office space and longer-term housing. The John Howard Society applied for federal funding for the project through the Rapid Housing Initiative. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation has $500 million available for projects such as this across the country. The application deadline was Dec. 31. John Howard should know next month if it was successful. At a previous council meeting the City waived building fees for the project and promised bus passes for tenants.
Ontario's plan to vaccinate the populations of its most remote First Nations communities against COVID-19 faces many challenges, but Indigenous leaders say that earning the trust of the people must be a priority. Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a political organization that represents 49 of Ontario's 123 First Nations, said that the most obvious hurdle of Operation Remote Immunity is geography, as those remote communities may not have an airstrip and must have their winter roads built in time for the vaccine to be delivered. But he said that even more important than the physical logistics of delivering the vaccine is ensuring that Indigenous people are willing to accept it. "Making sure that communities are aware of the vaccine, that they understand the vaccine and why it's important so they can consent to getting the vaccine is part of the challenge," said Fiddler. All 31 remote First Nations that are participating in Operation Remote Immunity are part of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, so Fiddler and his staff have been working with Ontario's vaccine task force as a liaison between the individual communities and the government. Communication has had to flow both ways before the vaccines start arriving on Feb. 1. "We're creating material for distribution with our health authorities, creating pamphlets and social media, making sure everything is translated into Ojibway, Ojicree and Cree," said Fiddler. "So our elders can really understand the information that's being sent to them. "Once they do understand it they can give it serious consideration before giving their consent." Fiddler said that making sure everyone understands what's in the vaccine and why it's important to take it is necessary for First Nations people who are living with the trauma of Canada's colonial history. "It's not just the vaccine itself, it's the whole history of the sad, sometimes tragic past of health care and how it's been delivered in our communities," said Fiddler, adding that historically there has been a two-tiered system where Indigenous people received inferior health care. "That's what we're up against. It's a massive undertaking and it's a challenge we know that we have to address as part of this rollout." Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald, who is on the province's vaccine task force, said she was also aware of some reluctance by First Nations people to take the vaccine. She pointed to a history of medical experiments being performed on Indigenous people from the 1930s to the 1970s. "We do know that in the past vaccines were tested in First Nations communities," said Archibald, who added there is no mechanism for polling First Nations populations about things like vaccine hesitancy. "The trauma and experiences from residential schools have left our communities in a state of hesitancy when it comes to trusting Canada." A spokesman for Ontario's Ministry of Indigenous Affairs said that the administration of vaccines has already begun in Ontario's larger First Nations communities, starting with long-term care homes in Six Nations of the Grand River, Mohawks of Akwesasne, Oneida Nations of the Thames, and Wikwemikong Unceded Territory. Vaccinations have also begun at the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority and Weeneebayko Area Health Authority, with a focus on hospital and long-term care and chronic care staff and residents. Spokesman Alex Puddifant said Ornge, the province's air ambulance corporation, is leading the operations for the 31 fly-in First Nation communities, transporting the vaccine from hub cities in Northern Ontario to the reserves. Partner organizations including, Northern School of Ontario Medicine and Queens University, will help provide nurses and paramedics to administer the doses. Fiddler said that NAN is playing a supporting role, ensuring that communities are ready when the vaccines arrive with interpreters, drivers, and a co-ordinator to make sure that all of the residents in a territory consent to the vaccination and receive their dose. Dr. Sarita Verma, the dean of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, said that she and her team know they'll have to build trust with patients who are, or are directly related to, residential school survivors. "Taking a patient-centred approach that's different in Northern Ontario with First Nations communities will be important," said Verma. Indigenous Services Canada reported on Tuesday that there were 428 active cases of COVID-19 among Ontario's First Nations. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a growing list of music industry professionals to monetise their older work by selling valuable tracks and albums as the global health crisis has all but shut down earnings from live concerts. London-listed investment firm Hipgnosis announced a discounted placement offering of its ordinary shares on Thursday along with the deal, which is at least the fifth for the company this month after agreements with Shakira and Neil Young.
Annapolis County will apply to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia to rescind a motion made by the outgoing council. The motion was made on Nov. 4 and involved a lease agreement and the conveyance of some land to E.A. Farren, the developer behind the Gordonstoun project. The project aims to develop a franchise of an elite private school based in Scotland at the site of the former Upper Clements Park. The former council has already advanced the developer $1.8 million for the project. A new council was elected on Oct. 17, but the outgoing council met three times and passed the motion before the new councillors were sworn in on Nov. 10. In December, the new council fired its chief administrative officer, John Ferguson, and its solicitor. On Tuesday, the county's new law firm, Cox and Palmer, told councillors that the old council had violated both the Election Act and the Municipal Government Act. "The former councillors, in effect, purported to unilaterally extend their terms of office beyond what is mandated by the legislation," said Alan Parish, the town's warden. "Failure to observe a statutory requirement [is] a ground upon which a resolution may be quashed." But Cox and Palmer did not think the motion should be rescinded by Annapolis County Council itself. It instead recommended taking the request to the Supreme Court. Coun. Alex Morrison supported that idea. "This has concerned citizens and the council for a number of months," said Morrison. "But this issue is not one that council can unilaterally resolve." Councillors voted unanimously in favour of heading to the Supreme Court. Councillors have already scheduled an all-day session on Feb. 5 to talk about the Gordonstoun project. MORE TOP STORIES
It's time-out for sports in red zones of New Brunswick. According to the province's red phase of recovery, all organized sports have been cancelled and gyms and fitness centres are closed. For minor hockey players, for example, that means no games, no practices, and no off-ice training, explained Nic Jansen, the executive director of Hockey New Brunswick. And at this point in the season, Jansen said tournaments are probably not going to happen. "Yeah, I think that's certainly a possibility," he said. "In the end, I think it'll be a decision that Public Health makes, but I think that's definitely a possibility." Jansen said Hockey New Brunswick had been waiting on direction from Public Health officials about whether tournaments could resume in yellow. With most of the province now in red, and only a few weeks left in the regular season, it's looking less and less likely, he said. Meanwhile, hockey continues in Zones 5, 6 and 7, under orange restrictions, which means teams can continue to practice together, but there are no games. That's only allowed in the yellow phase. Jansen encourages young players to stay active and do what they can to keep up their skills. "I think if you're fortunate enough to have access to a backyard rink, by all means, get out, use it." In a season that's been unusually mild, backyard rinks and ponds are a little hard to come by, but Jansen said players can continue to work on their skills in their basement or driveway. "And it doesn't have to be hockey. It can be any type of physical activity. Just get outside and play and enjoy the outdoors," he said. Basketball Things have "pretty much shut down everywhere," said Tyler Slipp, Basketball New Brunswick's director of operations. Red restrictions have meant an end to all basketball activity, and those regions still in orange are operating under strict rules that prohibit games and impose physical distancing restrictions on players. So although players in Zones 5, 6 and 7 can continue to practice together, they have to stay two metres apart. Slipp said that means no scrimmages and no defensive drills — leaving a lot of shooting and dribbling practice. He said it's not ideal, especially in a season already hard-hit by COVID restrictions. Since schools haven't allowed outside organizations to use their gyms since the pandemic began, minor basketball leagues across the province had a hard time finding space to run their programs. "I'm still just really sad for all the kids that didn't get a chance to play because of the lack of facilities this year," said Slipp. Last summer, Basketball New Brunswick started working on a project that would help players train on their own through an online program that will launch this Saturday, said Slipp. It was announced less than two weeks ago and 90 young people have already signed up, he said. While it was developed to address the historical short-comings identified in New Brunswick's provincial teams, Slipp said the program can help young players continue to work on their individual skills during the pandemic. He said the Gold Medal Performance Program includes strength and conditioning, nutrition, and sports psychology. Soccer While normally thought of as a warmer-weather sport, soccer continues year-round for many elite players, said Younes Bouida, the executive director of Soccer New Brunswick. But for those in red zones, winter soccer has come to an end. Bouida said many of the elite programs have switched to online tools to keep teams connected and give players at-home programs to stay active and work on their skills. Those in orange zones, meanwhile, continue to be able to practice together, although they have to stay two metres away from each other, which is definitely better than the options available to teams in red zones, said Bouida. School sports and activities All school sports, including intramural sports, are cancelled in red zones. So, too, are all after-school clubs and activities. "Masks are required to be worn during physical education and only activities that are conducive to physical distancing, such as yoga, dancing and moderate walking, are permitted in high school and strongly recommended for K-8 students," explained Education Department spokesperson Tara Chislett in an email Wednesday afternoon. What orange will bring Under the orange phase of recovery, teams are permitted to practice as a group, but the activities are limited to "skills and drills." Scrimmages are prohibited and players are expected to stay two metres apart at all times. Gym, fitness facilities, and yoga studios may operate under a COVID-19 operational plan with additional public health measures, including: Two metres of physical distancing, with masks, in low-intensity fitness classes such as yoga, tai chi, and stretching; and three metres of physical distancing for high-intensity activities such as spin, aerobics and boot camp. active screening and record keeping of patrons. closed locker rooms/common areas. Yellow Sports teams can continue to play, following their operational plan, and tournaments or larger events may be permitted, subject to the approval of a plan. For most teams in yellow, it was business-almost-as-usual, but with added COVID precautions like screening and proper hand hygiene. Red The only activity encouraged in the public health messages is "Exercising alone or with persons in your bubble." Maritime Junior Hockey League On Monday, the Maritime Junior Hockey League announced that seven games would be postponed as a result of Zone 4 going into the red phase of recovery. In a press release, the league said the postponed games would affect the Edmundston Blizzard and Grand Falls Rapids. No further releases have been issued since Zones 1, 2 and 3 went red, but the league's director of communications James Faulkner confirmed by email Wednesday that teams in the orange zones can continue to practice together. All activity has stopped for those in red, said Faulkner. National Basketball League of Canada The National Basketball League of Canada announced in November that it would postpone its season. According to the league's website, the tentative start date is now March 12. Quebec Major Junior Hockey League The league announced Monday that it would postpone regular season games "following meetings with government and Public Health officials of the three provinces of the Maritimes Division." Those in red zones, however, will not be allowed to practice together.
Police in Moscow on Thursday detained several allies of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, including his spokeswoman, for making calls online to join unauthorised street protests to demand his release. Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic, was detained at the weekend and later jailed for alleged parole violations after flying back to Russia for the first time since being poisoned by a military-grade nerve agent. He accuses Putin of ordering his murder, which the Kremlin denies.
COVID-19 restrictions are interrupting training and certification programs for lifeguards in Ottawa, raising the possibility that public pools, beaches and water parks will be understaffed this summer, one safety advocate warns. Indoor pools are closed during Ontario's current lockdown, postponing the training and testing would-be lifeguards need to be certified. According to Perry Smith, programs director for the Lifesaving Society in Ontario, that could lead to a shortage of trained personnel when those aquatic facilities reopen. "At some point those will be reopened and they take in some cases hundreds of lifeguards to supervise," said Perry. "We recommend that when the stay-at-home mandate is lifted, that people continue with their training as soon as they can, so they don't get into a situation where … they're not able to get the training they want going into the summer," said Perry. Between mid-March and Boxing Day, when Ontario's 28-day lockdown went into effect, first aid training and lifeguard certification was allowed to continue, albeit with safety protocols including smaller classes, frequent cleaning of equipment and the some online elements. That restricted capacity, creating a backlog that's now getting worse. According to Perry, the City of Ottawa has had lifeguard staffing problems in the past, with too many lifeguards gunning for choice outdoor jobs at water parks, public beaches and summer camps, and too few settling for indoor posts and teaching swimming lessons, according to Perry. You don't want your beachfronts or your swimming pools with not enough staff available to provide the services. - Perry Smith, Lifesaving Society In order to attract more young people to the field, the Lifesaving Society recently reduced the age requirement to start training, Perry said. "So they can get their training when they're 15, and then when they turn 16, then they can be employed as a full lifeguard." He's encouraging would-be lifeguards to get as much of their training done online as possible, "so when the pools are open, then they can continue their training and complete it." Perry is also urging municipalities including Ottawa to do whatever it takes to have pools and programs ready to go. "You don't want your beachfronts or your swimming pools with not enough staff available to provide the services," he said. But the City of Ottawa doesn't appear concerned that the stalled lifeguard training and certification process will lead to shortages months from now. "The city does not foresee any issues with staff lifeguards for the upcoming summer, and will proceed with the hiring process as per usual," said Dan Brisebois, director of citywide programs, aquatics and specialized services. In a statement, Brisebois said the city will continue to monitor the effect of COVID-19 on municipal pools and other city-run amenities.
Birdtail Sioux First Nation and the Ojibway First Nation have both seen COVID-19 vaccine roll out in their communities this week. Elders in both communities are at the top of the list. But Birdtail Chief Ken Chalmers did say vaccine fear is real. He said at least one person is waiting to see how it works out for others. "But we’re campaigning to get that done," he said, but that vaccine wasn’t wasted as someone further down the list, according to age, took it. Social media, Chalmers said, is the main root of vaccine fear. Chalmers said the community has had a few scares. "We had one case that we isolated. We’re back down to zero," he said, adding the person had travelled to a hospital and that’s likely where the virus was contracted. Everyone in contact with that person was isolated. All tests came back negative and that person is now doing well. Keeseekoowenin Chief Norman Bone said, so far, his community hasn’t seen a case. "We’ve been fortunate to not have any cases, here," Bone said. "We’ve done fairly well since last spring." Bone said the community is observing the fundamentals, as dictated by provincial public health officials — and leadership has communicated those to community members. "We’ve tried to make all the people aware to take all the precautions, in terms of self-isolation, wearing masks, shopping for essentials only," he said. "Whatever it is we’ve done, is working for us." While Birdtail has barriers blocking visitors from entering the community, such is not the case at Keeseekoowenin, due to the community having multiple entry points. Bone has previously said it is simply not possible to blockade the community. At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Indigenous Services Canada associate deputy minister Valerie Gideon said the highest funding requests her department received are for perimeter security. "For communities to be able to try and control that to-and-from traffic into community. We’re close to 350 communities that have closed their borders to non-essential travel, and are really maintaining their resolve in order to protect their community members," she said. However, Chalmers wonders which communities received those funds because he does not have certainty that his community will see reimbursement for roadblocks. While Gideon said those measures are critical, Chalmers said he’s getting mixed messages on that matter, and so far the First Nation is using its own dollars. "We got zero," Chalmers said. "Security costs $90,000 a month. And they won’t tell us who got that money." Chalmers references Shamattawa First Nation, which required an emergency response, which likely cost the federal government millions of dollars. He acknowledges Northern reserves are getting hit hard, but he’s also very concerned about protecting his own reserve. The feds, said Chalmers, told Birdtail is in a low-risk area. But due to the same reasons any reserve is vulnerable, so is Birdtail. "That was a surprise to me. The whole province is in code red," he said. Food security is an issue, and both Chalmers and Bone said that’s being handled. Birdtail has its own store, and is providing vouchers for those who need them. At Keeseekoowenin, fishing and hunting continues to provide additional support. "Last year, we started fishing, doing our own process of getting food to the people that would need. We’re still doing that," Bone said. The community also benefitted from the Fisher River Cree Nation receiving $11 million from the Surplus Food Rescue Program to rescue up to 2.9 million pounds of freshwater fish, which was distributed to more than 75 Indigenous communities throughout Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the North. "We took part in that and we’re still distributing some of that fish," Bone said. The area sees mostly deer, and hunting parties have been out to add that to the community’s food source. "The guys have been going out and providing some of that as a food source for some of the people that require it here in the community," Bone said. "Some of the stuff we’d been doing before. We also making sure potatoes and some basic stuff … We’ve been doing some of this stuff over the years, already. We just carried on with that." But Bone added distribution was increased over previous years. School children are also being protected, as both communities have been going the remote learning route. Bone said that has been working well for Keeseekoowenin. What’s hardest for on-reserve members? Funerals. Gathering to grieve and celebrate the life of a loved one is impossible in these times. Public health orders have limited these gatherings. A funeral may have been the site of some viral spread at Sioux Valley Dakota Nation — the community put out a notice that anyone who attended a particular funeral, and showed signs of symptoms, should get tested. Chief Jennifer Bone did not return a call from The Brandon Sun. Chalmers plans to organize a memorial for all those the community has lost during these many long pandemic months. For now, he just wants to keep all children and elders safe to the fall of 2021. As for Bone, he’s just grateful things have worked out the way they have for his community so far. Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
A director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association believes provinces should set targets for vaccinating inmates in provincial jails — something half of jurisdictions have yet to do. The Correctional Service of Canada has started vaccinations for federal prisoners who are older or considered "medically vulnerable." But, as of last week, provinces had yet to start giving shots to inmates awaiting trial or serving shorter sentences in provincial jails. "Prisoners are disproportionately impacted by health conditions that would make them very susceptible to serious illness and death as a result of COVID," said Abby Deshman with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Because of a limited vaccine supply, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends people in correctional centres get inoculated behind those in long-term care homes, seniors 70 and older, critical health-care workers and adults in Indigenous communities. British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia said that, as of last week, prisoners and staff are scheduled for vaccination in the second round of inoculations, with estimated start dates between next month and June. Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec didn't provide a timeline for when inmates will receive their shots. Newfoundland and Labrador said its inmates will be part of the second phase of its vaccine distribution, but didn't specify dates. Saskatchewan said the ranking of vulnerable groups is still to be determined. The Northwest Territories and Yukon planned to start giving shots this week. Nunavut didn't respond to inquiries. Deshman was part of a research project that tracked COVID-19 cases in jails and prisons. It found that since Dec. 1, there have been at least 1,962 infections among staff and inmates — more than all of the cases reported from last March until November. “We should have targets for immunizing key vulnerable populations, regardless of who they are," she said. “If those targets need to be adjusted, if they cannot be met, that needs to be publicly communicated and explained.” She noted some politicians, including federal Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole and Ontario Premier Doug Ford, have pushed back against early vaccinations for federal inmates. Justin Piche, a criminology professor at the University of Ottawa, said there are far fewer older prisoners in provincial jails than in federal prisons, where one out of five inmates is 50 and older. He said rhetoric from leaders that pits one group against another isn't helpful. “Prisons are among the congregate settings that are seeing significant transmission," he said. “You have prisoners who are getting COVID-19 at higher rates. You have prison staff that are going in and out of there on a day-to-day basis, going back to their families, going back to their communities." The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers believes it's wrong that Ottawa didn’t vaccinate correctional staff along with prisoners, and instead left it up to provinces to decide where staff fall in the vaccine line. "It’s completely foolish," said national president Jeff Wilkins. “We have (Saskatchewan Penitentiary), for example, which has seen quite an extensive outbreak. Our members are getting burnt out." As of last week, Manitoba listed provincial and federal correctional health-care workers as eligible to be vaccinated. Wilkins wants to see correctional officers inoculated along with long-term care staff. "In some areas, we’ve seen the rates of the institution be much higher than the community.” Catherine Latimer, executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada, questions why doses were sent to institutions in Atlantic Canada, which have no active COVID-19 cases, while inmates in Manitoba and Saskatchewan are at higher risk. Latimer is also concerned about what she says is solitary confinement-like measures being used to contain the novel coronavirus. “It’s a very, very harsh correctional environment right now," she said. "We’re probably going through the worst period in terms of general corrections, at least on the federal side, in the last 50 years." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2020. Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press