CBC News Network's Carole MacNeil speaks with Rhonelle Bruder, a trafficking survivor and founder of the anti-trafficking group Project iRise.
CBC News Network's Carole MacNeil speaks with Rhonelle Bruder, a trafficking survivor and founder of the anti-trafficking group Project iRise.
If you weren't born in 1941 or before you probably shouldn't be trying to book a spot for a COVID vaccine right now, but here's a guide for those who qualify or are helping a loved one. First, a disclaimer: This is perhaps the most complex period of the vaccine rollout, with health officials scrambling to get limited quantities of vaccine into the arms of those deemed at highest risk of getting seriously ill. This article is the best picture CBC Toronto can provide of vaccine distribution in the Greater Toronto Area as of Friday, with the caveat that the current landscape will almost certainly look different by this time next week (it's unclear, for example, how the newly-approved AstraZeneca vaccine will fit into the rollout). Here are the key takeaways everyone should know: You should only be vaccinated in the city you live in. Remember, the overarching goal is still to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, which means staying close to home as much as possible. One more note: this guide is intended for the general public, and doesn't capture those who will be vaccinated by specialized teams — for example, mobile teams distributing vaccines in homeless shelters or other congregate settings. Now that that's clear, here's where you should go to book a vaccination spot if you qualify. Toronto Toronto Public Health will eventually run mass vaccination sites across the city but isn't at this time due to a lack of vaccine, according to its website. You can try to pre-register at some Toronto hospitals, including North York General, Michael Garron and Sunnybrook, but expect a broader rollout of vaccination clinics in the coming weeks. Peel Peel Public Health is directing residents to vaccination clinics in Brampton and Mississauga. You can book at Brampton's William Osler Health System, or Mississauga's Trillium Health Partners. York York Region is running five appointment-only vaccination clinics and its website features a handy tool to help you find the closest one to you. Note: You must book online. Durham Durham's vaccine plan will launch on March 8 with two clinics set to operate at recreation centres in Clarington and Pickering. In addition to those aged 80-plus and health-care workers, the region will offer vaccines to all Indigenous adults and adults who rely on home care. Halton Halton is running appointment-only vaccination clinics in Oakville, Burlington, Georgetown and Milton. You can book online here. The public health unit is also offering free transportation to its clinics, though that travel must be booked 48 hours in advance.
BEIJING — A senior Chinese official says the largely pro-Beijing committee that currently elects the Hong Kong's leader will also elect some members of the city's legislature, as part of Beijing's planned revamp of Hong Kong's electoral system. "The election committee will be entrusted with the new function of electing a relatively large share of Legco members and directly participating in the nomination of all candidates for the Legco,” Wang Chen, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, said Friday during the annual session in Beijing. Wang added that the size, composition and formation method of the current election committee will also be adjusted, and that the chief executive will continue to be elected by the election committee. The Associated Press
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Friday, March 5, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 76,438 new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,168,138 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 5,720.79 per 100,000. There were 2,340 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,614,020 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 82.94 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 4,472 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 24,757 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 47.279 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 35,620 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,105 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 13,281 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 83.724 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 14,715 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 90.25 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 6,842 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 37,590 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 38.518 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 61,980 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 60.65 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 7,424 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 33,741 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 43.255 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 46,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 72.13 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 17,794 new vaccinations administered for a total of 490,504 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 57.324 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 638,445 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 76.83 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 30,409 new vaccinations administered for a total of 784,828 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 53.429 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 903,285 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 86.89 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,408 new vaccinations administered for a total of 82,579 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 59.97 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 116,650 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 8.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 70.79 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 2,493 new vaccinations administered for a total of 84,090 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 71.314 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 74,605 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 112.7 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 10,948 new vaccinations administered for a total of 266,231 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 60.479 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 274,965 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 96.82 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 9,042 new vaccinations administered for a total of 298,851 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 58.238 per 1,000. There were 2,340 new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 385,080 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 77.61 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 18,158 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 435.12 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 18,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 96.07 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 19,775 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 438.285 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 19,100 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 42 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 103.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 360 new vaccinations administered for a total of 13,753 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 355.136 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 23,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 62 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 57.54 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. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Newfoundland and Labrador announced Wednesday it was extending the interval between the first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to four months. Public health officials said the change will help them vaccinate 40,000 more people with a single dose by the end of March. Liberal Leader and incumbent Premier Andrew Furey said the decision is a game changer for the province's vaccination prospects. --- Nova Scotia Health officials in Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that vaccination rollout plans for the month included the province's first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. Nova Scotia will get 13,000 doses of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine the week of March 8. Health officials said March 3 the upcoming shipment must be used by April 2 and therefore all 13,000 doses will be administered to residents across the province aged 50 to 64 years starting March 15. The vaccine will be given out at 26 locations in Nova Scotia on a first come, first served basis. --- Prince Edward Island Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some. Chief medical officer Heather Morrison has said people over the age of 80 will get a second dose based on their existing appointments. Going forward, she said, other residents will get a longer interval between their first and second doses, but she didn’t specific how long that will be. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. Quebec announced Tuesday it had reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. Health Minister Christian Dube said about 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the one first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube has said. --- Ontario Ontario has given its first vaccines to people in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, some health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will include a service desk and online portal. It said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. Several regions in Ontario have moved ahead with their plans to vaccinate the general public using their own booking systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. The province has also said it will extend the interval between doses of COVID-19 vaccines to up to four months. Toronto began vaccinating police force members who respond to emergency calls on Monday and has also started offering vaccines to people experiencing homelessness. Solicitor General Sylvia Jones has said the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will go to residents between the ages of 60 and 64, but has not elaborated yet on how it will be distributed except to say it won't be through mass immunization sites. The province has said it will follow the advice of a national panel that has recommended against using the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot on people aged 65 and older. The health minister said the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot could be used in correctional facilities, but further details haven't been released. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. Like British Columbia, Manitoba has already indicated it would opt for a four-month interval between doses. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. Premier Scott Moe said Thursday that people will get their second shot up to four months after the first, which falls in line with a recent recommendation from Canada's national immunization committee. --- Alberta Alberta’s health minister says 437,000 people can soon begin booking appointments for the next round of COVID-19 vaccinations and the province hopes to hit a major milestone before July. Tyler Shandro said the province expects to offer all Albertans aged 18 and over a first dose of vaccine by the end of June. So far, Alberta has delivered 266,000 doses of vaccine. About 176,000 Albertans have been vaccinated, including 90,000 fully immunized with the recommended two doses. Shandro said residents aged 65 to 74, and First Nations, Inuit and Metis aged 50-plus, can begin booking March 15. The province had originally not expected to begin this stage of vaccination until April. The AstraZeneca vaccine will for now be offered to adults aged 50 to 64 who don’t have a severe chronic illness. Alberta has also said it will follow other provinces by extending the time between the first dose and the second to four months. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry says the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means some people will get their first shot sooner than planned. She says B.C. will focus its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among essential workers, first responders and younger people with more social interactions who would have to wait longer to receive their first doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. It's now possible that all adults could get their first shot by July, Henry says. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
Stanley Sepchuk was just a baby when the so-called Spanish flu killed tens of thousands of Canadians, but he got through it just fine. In his teens, he sold the brand-new bicycle his father got for him so he could buy his first trumpet. He did it, his daughter says, because he was fascinated by music and wanted to give it a try. That budding passion quickly turned into a way of life, starting with local gigs when he was about 17. He then went on to play alongside some of the greats, including Frank Sinatra. The 103-year-old resident of Hudson, Que., has seen much in his long life, but lately he's been seeing nothing but the inside of his home so as to avoid catching COVID-19. On Wednesday, he finally ventured outdoors with his daughter, Melody, to get inoculated against the coronavirus at a makeshift vaccine site at Decarie Square in Côte Saint-Luc, Que., on the Island of Montreal. A joker with a broad smile, Sepchuk said he was looking forward to the vaccine "more or less. Mostly more." A recent fall has him in a wheelchair for now, but his spirits were high, even with safety goggles and a mask on his face as he was administered the potentially life-saving vaccine. Even before he got the shot, Sepchuk was ready to cap off the long day with some wine. WATCH: One of Quebec's oldest veterans get vaccinated Stanley Sepchuk got a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Decarie Square site in Montreal on Wednesday, cracking jokes from start to finish.(Chloë Ranaldi/CBC) Music and 'looking for girls' Sepchuk is no stranger to enjoying a drink after a long day. He used to play clubs across Montreal at a time when the city's nightlife was hopping with live music, dancing and plenty of booze. In his 20s, during World War II, he served as a trumpeter for the Royal Canadian Air Force Band. He went on to become a popular jazz musician, playing his trumpet, trombone, singing and, he said, "looking for girls." Sepchuk, who went by the stage name of Stan Martin, was the music director of the McGill University's production of Red and White Revue in 1949. He also played at the first Montreal Jazz Festival in 1980. Sepchuk, centre, named his daughter Melody in recognition of his passion for music. He performed in the very first Montreal Jazz Festival in 1980.(Submitted by Melody Sepchuk) As well as Sinatra, Sepchuk accompanied plenty of big-name musicians such as Chubby Checker, Oscar Peterson, Dean Martin and Louis Armstrong. While Peterson was local, many others came from afar to play Montreal. They chose Sepchuk and his band, Stan Martin and his Orchestra, to take the stage with them, as he was considered the best in town. Sinatra became a regular, and Sepchuk got to know him well. "We had a little tiff now and again, but he was OK," Sepchuck remembered. "Nice fellow." Veteran of WW II Sepchuk, a father of four, is now considered Quebec's oldest veteran of WW II, his daughter says. He lived most of his life in Montreal but moved west to Hudson in his 80s as he slowly began retiring from the music scene. At the Hudson Legion Branch #115, he is known as Stan the Man. Sepchuk says he is 104, noting this is his 104th year. For his 100th birthday in November 2017, the local newspaper, The Journal, asked him if he still played the trumpet and he is quoted as saying: "Hey, I'm just glad to be breathing!" He cracked a similar joke with CBC Montreal when asked the same question on Wednesday. "Oh my God," he said. "I'm lucky to be alive." After getting the shot, he gave a thumbs up and waved to health-care staff on his way out. He said getting the vaccine was "OK" and he feels "like I felt yesterday." He said it was time to go home, get some sleep and do some drinking.
That change in the air isn't just the coming of spring: there's a shift happening in the political dynamic surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations. After weeks of the federal Liberal government taking heat for the slow arrival of vaccines in Canada, it's provincial premiers who must now answer to jittery, impatient voters hoping to be immunized as soon as possible. New Brunswick's Liberal opposition is now pushing Premier Blaine Higgs and his Progressive Conservative government for more details about the provincial vaccination plan — details they say other provinces have been providing to their citizens. "We're not trying to play politics with this, but there's certainly not a lot of information being given out to New Brunswickers, and New Brunswickers are asking questions to their MLAs," says Liberal Leader Roger Melanson. Opposition Liberal leader Roger Melanson (CBC News) In January, Higgs said many more New Brunswickers could be vaccinated each week, if only there were enough vaccine. Now those supplies are ramping up fast. New Brunswick received 11,760 doses last week and a similar number is expected this week. Melanson says those doses should be administered as quickly as they arrive. "We're seeing deliveries, much bigger deliveries than what we had been getting since January, so now the onus has shifted onto the provincial governments," says political scientist Stéphanie Chouinard of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. Deputy minister of Health Gérald Richard told the legislature's public accounts committee Feb. 24 that New Brunswick would be ready for what he called "a flood" of vaccines, including those from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. "We are very confident that we have a good plan in New Brunswick," Richard said. "It was approved by the COVID cabinet and ratified by cabinet a few months ago." Department of Health deputy minister Gérald Richard, left(Jacques Poitras/CBC) But the only detail the province provided during Monday's vaccine update was that 2,400 more long-term care residents would be done this week, accounting for about a quarter of the doses expected to arrive. And officials have given varying estimates of how many people can be vaccinated per week. In January, when deliveries to the province were still a trickle, Premier Blaine Higgs said 45,000 could be done, if only the province had enough vaccine. On Thursday he told reporters the province could do 40,000, then added it might be possible to double that to 80,000. Last Saturday, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told CBC's The House that New Brunswick could vaccinate "up to 4,000 people a day," which works out to a maximum of 28,000 per week — below Higgs's estimate. Meanwhile, other provinces are moving faster, or at least providing more detail, on their rollouts. This week, Nova Scotia announced its plan for 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third to be approved in Canada. A health worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press) The doses arrive next week and Nova Scotia doctors and pharmacists will administer the doses to people aged 50-64 in 26 locations around the province starting March 15. New Brunswick has provided no such detail on what it will do with the approximately 10,000 doses it will receive. Higgs says that will be discussed by the all-party COVID cabinet committee next Tuesday and spokesperson Shawn Berry said the province will probably use it for some of the groups identified for early vaccination. Berry said 3,200 people were scheduled to be vaccinated this week but some clinics were delayed because of winter weather. He said doses listed as "available" by the province — more than 13,000 as of Thursday — are earmarked for clinics. "To prevent the risk of disruption of clinics, we don't plan to use them the same week they are scheduled to arrive in case there is a delay," he said. As an example, he said the province received more than 11,000 doses last week and a similar amount will be used at First Nations clinics that started this week. Berry also said Higgs's figure of 80,000 vaccinations per week being possible is correct. Higgs said last Friday one reason for the lack of detail is the uncertainty of supply that plagued the provinces for the first two months of the year. "When we schedule appointments, we will have a vaccine to put with it," he said during last week's CBC political panel on Information Morning Fredericton. "I would like to see a map out over the next two or three or four months of a fixed quantity so that we can plan well." Not when, but how Melanson said he's satisfied with the "who" and "when" so far but wants to know about the "how" — how people will contact, or hear from, the province to arrange their shots. At the Feb. 24 public accounts committee meeting, Liberal MLA Jean-Claude d'Amours also pointed to a Brunswick News report that the province was "urgently" calling for help in long-term care homes from anyone qualified to administer vaccines — another sign of lack of preparedness, he said. Whether New Brunswick's plan is really behind other provinces remains to be seen. The fluctuations in vaccine deliveries to Canada caused short-term alarm and a lot of political finger-pointing but in the end did not endanger the overall vaccine delivery target for the first three months of 2021. Still, Chouinard points out that even those temporary delays probably led to more illness and deaths. D'Amours noted at the public accounts committee that the percentage of COVID-19 doses the province was administering was slipping. Liberal health critic Jean-Claude d'Amours(CBC) The week before the hearing, 21 per cent of all doses received in New Brunswick hadn't been used. It rose to 25 per cent last week and 28 per cent this week. "Supply is not the issue right now," Melanson says. "The issue is capacity to roll it out." The province has been holding back a lot of vaccine for second doses. But with the recent announcement that second doses will be delayed to maximize first doses, those hold-back numbers should now diminish. On Thursday the Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island governments said the delay to second doses will allow everyone in those provinces who wants to be vaccinated to get their first dose by June. Higgs told reporters that's his target as well. He said more details on how delayed second doses and new vaccine approvals will change the province's rollout plan should be coming next week. Berry said 7,503 of 11,000 long-term care residents have received at least one dose of vaccine and first-dose clinics for all long-term care facilities will be finished over the next two weeks.
Controversy in India over Amazon's political drama "Tandav" has put Bollywood and global video streaming giants on edge, prompting a closer scrutiny of scripts for possible offence to religious sentiments in a key growth market. Companies like Amazon's Prime Video and Netflix are inspecting planned shows and scripts, with some even deleting scenes that could be controversial, five Bollywood directors and producers, and two industry sources said. This comes as Amazon Prime Video has become embroiled in legal cases and police complaints alleging "Tandav" depicts Hindu gods and goddesses in a derogatory manner and offends religious beliefs.
In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of March 5 ... What we are watching in Canada ... Walter Gretzky, the ultimate Canadian hockey dad who taught and nurtured the Great One, has died. He was 82. The father of Wayne Gretzky became a name himself, a constant in Wayne's world. As Wayne's star ascended, Walter remained a blue-collar symbol of a devoted hockey parent in a country filled with them. Wayne Gretzky confirmed his father's death on Thursday night with a social media post. "It's with deep sadness that Janet and I share the news of the passing of my dad," said Wayne. "He bravely battled Parkinson's and other health issues these last few years, but he never let it get him down. "For me, he was the reason I fell in love with the game of hockey. He inspired me to be the best I could be not just in the game of hockey, but in life." The two were also often intertwined, their father-son story used in commercials from Tim Hortons to Coca-Cola. And following in the footsteps of Alexander Graham Bell, they made Brantford, Ont., famous. Walter was celebrated for far more than just fathering a superstar, however. His down-to-earth, no-airs approach to life and devotion to his family struck a chord with Canadians. "Sometimes, I swear to you, I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming," Walter wrote in his 2001 autobiography "Walter Gretzky. On Family, Hockey and Healing." "Wayne says the same thing." Walter's celebrity status increased after making a remarkable recovery from a stroke suffered in 1991. His autobiography and a 2005 made-for-TV movie told the story. --- Also this ... TORONTO -- Ontario will decide today what level of restrictions to place on three COVID-19 hot spots still under strict stay-at-home orders. The government extended those orders for Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay two weeks ago due to high virus case numbers. Restrictions loosened in the rest of the province last month as regions moved back to the government's colour-coded pandemic response framework. Top doctors in Toronto and Peel have recommended that the highest level of public health restrictions take effect in their regions on Monday. They are asking for the "lockdown" zone of the framework that allows more businesses to open with restrictions. The province's chief medical officer says he's concerned about test positivity rates and more infectious variants in those regions, and that the reopening must be cautious. --- What we are watching in the U.S. ... WASHINGTON -- Worried about continuing threats, the acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police has appealed to congressional leaders to use their influence to keep National Guard troops at the Capitol, two months after the law enforcement breakdowns of the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection. Yogananda Pittman told the leaders Thursday in a letter obtained by The Associated Press that the board that oversees her department has so far declined to extend an emergency declaration required by the Pentagon to keep Guardsmen who have assisted Capitol officers since the riot. Pittman said she needed the leaders' assistance with the three-member Capitol Police Board, which reports to them. She said the board has sent her a list of actions it wants her to implement, though she said it was unclear whether the points were orders or just recommendations. The letter underscored the confusion over how best to secure the Capitol after a dismal lack of protection in January and biting criticism for law enforcement's handling of the invasion. And it came as authorities spent the day on high alert, primed for a “possible plot” by a militia group to storm the building again, two months after Trump supporters smashed through windows and doors in an insurrection meant to halt the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory. The list in the letter to lawmakers included a partial removal of the imposing fence encircling the Capitol grounds starting Monday and a drawdown of the Guard to 900 troops from the current 5,200 remaining in Washington. Police want to keep the fence indefinitely. In her letter, Pittman said she would ask for a drawdown of the deployment “based on the threat environment and physical and operational security capabilities.” Earlier Thursday, The Associated Press reported the Pentagon was reviewing a Capitol Police request to keep up to 2,200 Guardsmen at the Capitol another 60 days. A statement from the police said Pittman had formally made the recommendation to the Pentagon. --- What we are watching in the rest of the world ... Footage of a brutal crackdown on protests against a coup in Myanmar unleashed outrage and calls for a stronger international response Thursday, a day after 38 people were killed. Videos showed security forces shooting a person at point-blank range and chasing down and savagely beating demonstrators. Despite the shocking violence the day before, protesters returned to the streets Thursday to denounce the military's Feb. 1 takeover — and were met again with tear gas. The international response to the coup has so far been fitful, but a flood of videos shared online showing security forces brutally targeting protesters and other civilians led to calls for more action. The United States called the images appalling, the UN human rights chief said it was time to "end the military’s stranglehold over democracy in Myanmar,” and the world body's independent expert on human rights in the country urged the Security Council to watch the videos before meeting Friday to discuss the crisis. YouTube has removed five channels run by Myanmar's military for violating its community guidelines and terms of service. The company said today that it terminated channels of broadcasters Myawaddy Media, MRTV, WD Online Broadcasting, MWD Variety and MWD Myanmar. The decision follows a Feb. 1 military coup that ousted the country's elected government, provoking massive public protests. “We have terminated a number of channels and removed several videos from YouTube in accordance with our community guidelines and applicable laws,” YouTube said in an emailed statement. The company said it was monitoring the situation for any content that might violate its rules. YouTube said it had terminated around 20 channels and removed over 160 videos in the past couple months for violating its policies regarding hate speech and harassment, spam and deceptive practices, violent or graphic content policy and violations of its terms of service. --- On this day in 1969 ... Rejane Laberge-Colas became the first female judge of the Quebec Superior Court. --- In entertainment ... 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 says. "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 is 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. --- ICYMI ... A Toronto judge refused to name a man who killed 10 people and injured 16 others as she read his guilty verdict this week, saying she would not help him achieve the notoriety that had motivated his deadly rampage. Justice Anne Molloy instead referred to Alek Minassian only as John Doe, lending another voice to a growing chorus urging police, media and the public at large to refrain from naming fame-seeking mass murderers. "This accused committed a horrific crime, one of the most devastating tragedies this city has ever endured, for the purpose of achieving fame," Molloy said in her decision. "And he has achieved that purpose. He has told forensic psychiatrists who assessed him that the attention he has received and the information available when you Google his name, makes him 'happy.'" The movement to not name people accused of serious crimes has gained steam in the three years since Minassian carried out his van attack. Last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged the media to avoid mentioning the name of the man who carried out a mass killing in Nova Scotia. That call echoed a vow from New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in March 2019, that she would never say the name of a man who opened fire on a Christchurch mosque, killing 50 people. Molloy's move pleased those most affected by Minassian's actions, including the family members of some of his victims. "I haven't used the name of the perpetrator since it happened for that reason," says Nick D'Amico, whose sister Anne Marie D'Amico was killed in the attack. "We can get fame in positive ways. We don't have to go down that road." --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021 The Canadian Press
The campaign to get the COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of Ottawa's Indigenous community has been so successful, it's ramping up with a move to a larger facility and expanding eligibility to adults 50 years and older. The St-Laurent Complex at 525 Côté St. is equipped to give the jab to 300 people a day, compared to the original vaccination site at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health on Montreal Road, which was vaccinating a daily maximum of 90 patients. The new vaccine clinic saw its first patients on Monday and will continue to be staffed by Indigenous health workers. "We outgrew the space," said Dr. Sarah Funnell, a First Nations public health specialist with Ottawa Public Health, which partnered with the Wabano Centre for the vaccine drive. Funnell said increased demand for the vaccine made the move to larger quarters necessary. She said that's encouraging because compared to the general public, Indigenous peoples "are most at risk of bad outcomes such as hospitalization and death and serious health consequences" if they contract COVID-19. "That's why it's important to vaccinate Indigenous people as a priority," said Funnell. An individual getting a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team in Ottawa. The campaign to vaccinate Indigenous people in Ottawa is going well, says Ottawa Public Health.(Jean Delisle/CBC) The federal government and health authorities have designated the Indigenous population as a priority in the vaccine rollouts. The age of eligibility for Indigenous adults was expanded to those 50 and older this week. Funnell said First Nations, Métis and Inuit have a history of inadequate access to health care and are more likely to live in impoverished circumstances, putting them at an increased risk. "COVID loves to spread in crowded areas," said Funnell, "Indigenous people represent at least 25 per cent of those who live in shelters ... and [they] are more likely to live in crowded homes or experience homelessness." Indigenous elders who already received the first dose of the vaccine at the Wabano Centre, will be able to get their second there. All new doses will be administered at the St-Laurent Complex. The new Wabano vaccination centre at the St-Laurent Complex can vaccinate up to 300 people a day.(Cynthia Chung) Demand for the vaccine is also high at the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team in Vanier, a medical centre that caters to the region's large Inuit population. Executive director Connie Siedule said she often needs to justify why the Indigenous community was prioritized by the federal government as a priority group. "We do get a lot of questions about why [we are] included in the Phase One priority roll out," said Siedule, who hopes a greater knowledge of the health challenges Indigenous people face will lead to understanding. Connie Siedule, executive director of Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team, says she gets lots of questions about why her community is part of the priority vaccine rollout.(Jean Delisle/CBC) "Because of the lower life expectancy for Inuit, that is anywhere from 10 to 17 years less than the general Canadian population ... the rates of lower respiratory tract infections that are among the highest anywhere," said Siedule. OPH's Funnell added that making Indigenous communities a high priority benefits everyone. "If we're able to immunize those that are most at risk of getting sick ... we'll have a better chance of decreasing the overall transmission and will be a bit closer to getting back to what our new normal will be."
Australian broadcaster SBS said on Friday it would suspend its broadcasts of news bulletins from Chinese state television news services CGTN and CCTV after receiving a human rights complaint. An SBS spokesman told Reuters that programmes from CCTV and CGTN would not air on Saturday and that SBS was reviewing a complaint from a human rights organisation. "Given the serious concerns it raises, and the complexity of the material involved, we have made the decision to suspend the broadcast of the overseas-sourced CGTN and CCTV news bulletins while we undertake an assessment of these services," SBS said in a statement.
The Pope's three-day visit will include a meeting with Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.View on euronews
Imagine being trapped in the confines of your own neighbourhood, losing a sense of the outside world — and of yourself — with each passing day. Things are seeming kind of flat lately, and sometimes downright colorless. Everything looks reasonably placid, but something’s not quite right with reality. The days feel … episodic. Does the world taper off at the end of the block? Does life loop back on itself? Are your neighbours with you, or against you? This has been the premise of “WandaVision,” Marvel’s latest foray into the intricate, immersive universe first cobbled together in the comics by Stan Lee six decades ago. Not incidentally, it’s also an apt description of life in many corners of America during this pandemic micromoment. In an era when meticulously crafted fictional universes are entertainment’s billion-dollar baby, “WandaVision,” whose inaugural and probably only season concludes Friday, took it all a step further, turning the seven-decade tradition of the American sitcom into a decade-hopping suburban prison. Episode by TV-homage episode, it pinballed through unsettling sendups of “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Bewitched,” “The Brady Bunch,” “Family Ties,” “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Modern Family,” swallowing an entire New Jersey town and its people and, along the way, serving up a darker version of Marvel’s already dysfunctional funhouse mirror. The pitch-perfect result: a distorted reflection not merely of America, but of the way it has seen itself through its broadly drawn television comedy across three generations. How did this show manage (inadvertently, of course, since it was conceived before the virus arrived) to match the tenor of its comfort-craving moment? Because it reached so lovingly into the mannered, structured lore of sitcoms, which were comfort food for the American TV watcher’s brain long before the word “streaming” ever tumbled into the lexicon. The television scholar Robert Thompson once described the contentment that people find in old sitcoms as “the esthetic of the anesthetic” — a style of narrative that reset itself every week, making sure society’s norms were reinforced by presenting nonthreatening communities populated with nonthreatening characters doing nonthreatening things. “WandaVision” coopted that vision and upended it. It used, as foils, those landscapes of assuagement and the way they morphed over the decades to match the times. Their surface tranquility and amiable conflict were backdrops for a slowly unfolding Marvel plot that, in its wink-nudge bubblegum darkness, was pure 21st century. There’s irony, too, in the fact that Marvel has been owned for the past 12 years by Disney, a conglomerate built by self-described “imagineers” who were instrumental in stamping the sensibility of immersive fantasy onto more than a half century’s worth of American children — and onto the landscape itself. Wanda Maximoff, the world-building witch at the show’s nucleus, is a stand-in for Walt Disney himself, who built his gauzy childhood memories of early 20th-century Midwestern life into theme parks and an entertainment empire. Like the world of “WandaVision,” Disney’s creations reflected not quite reality but its saccharine stepsibling, recognizable and appealing but hardly real life. By the time “WandaVision” got to its take on 1980s television, the gentle opening credits of that “very special episode” sang this to us, revealing the theme of the show (and of pandemic life too): “We’re making it up as we go along.” Yet like those 1980s horror movies in which the dreamer of the nightmare awakens, only to find out that he or she is still asleep, in “WandaVision” the “real” world is still the fantastic one of the Marvel Universe. The “Inception” model is at play: You’re still in the layered matrix, still separated from actual reality by several strata of Marvel and a robust layer of Disney. In one of its later episodes, “WandaVision” offers its take on the “Malcolm in the Middle” opening credits of the early 2000s. This theme song, more aggressive and insolent than its predecessors, offers up the following lyrics: “What if it’s all illusion? Sit back. Enjoy the show." As the first storyline of its astonishingly extensive streaming lineup of shows concludes, that could be Marvel’s overall tagline. Because — first in comic books, then in theatres, now on all our assorted screens — Marvel IS the universe. It is comics and movies and video games, TV and toys and collectibles, cosplayers and party favours and an entire pantheon of secular gods. You could even argue that its seamlessly cross-marketed cosmos is the new American suburb — a completely immersive neighbourhood, interconnected and self-perpetuating, privileged and complex and, sometimes, brimming with the emptiness of the industrially manufactured Technicolor narrative. It is us, but amplified. “Thousands of people under your thumb, all interacting with each other, according to complex storylines?” one character, who will remain nameless for spoiler-avoidance purposes, says to Wanda as her magic-powered dream microverse begins to fray. “Well, that’s something special, baby.” Does life imitate Marvel, then? Maybe just a little. One day, after the blip that was the pandemic finally ends, we’ll all be back — well, most of us. We’ll re-emerge into the real world, blink hard, look around, reconnect with our neighbours and take stock of what we all missed. We’ll say to each other: What a weird and all-encompassing dream this was. And then we’ll dream again. Roll credits. Rinse. Repeat. ___ Ted Anthony, director of digital innovation for The Associated Press, has been writing about American culture since 1990. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/anthonyted Ted Anthony, The Associated Press
Banks and public policymakers need to do more to help Black-owned businesses overcome systemic obstacles to better grow the economy for all, a new report finds. That's the overarching takeaway of a new report published by the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce this week in one of the most exhaustive attempts thus far to get a handle on Canada's Black business community and its challenges. More than 1.2 million people of African Caribbean and Black descent call Canada home — a sizeable demographic cohort by any metric, and one that is being held back from reaching its full potential, according to the report. "Let's just level the playing field and give people a fair chance to succeed and to thrive," CBCC president Christelle Francois said in an interview. "It's good for the business, it's good for the people loaning the money, it's good for our whole economy." One of the biggest challenges facing the Black business community, Francois says, is a lack of data about the realities on the ground for Black business owners. That's why the report attempts to set a baseline to see where the Black business community is at today, so future research can help track and improve progress. Watch: Black Lives Matter activists in Canada say the time to act is now. Here's why: To get a sense of what Black business owners are facing, the Chamber set up a series of virtual town halls in every province and territory in both of Canada's official languages. Sessions took about an hour or two to complete, and participants responded to a series of 15 open-ended and 17 multiple-choice questions about their businesses and their challenges. All in all, 53 businesses across the country took part from a wide cross-section of industries. While that may initially seem like a small group, the results were illuminating because respondents had some troubling trends in common, regardless of what industry or part of Canada they were in. Ensuring equitable access to funding Broadly, the report presents a number of recommendations for how to foster Canada's Black business community. One of the major ones is to ensure equitable access to funding. The report found that almost three-quarters of Black business owners surveyed said they "bootstrapped" their businesses when they started — meaning they raised money from their community or funded it themselves — instead of trying to borrow money from a bank. Christelle Francois, an entrepreneur and president of the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce, said it's time to 'level the playing field and give people a fair chance to succeed and to thrive.' (CCBC) That's largely because many Black business owners have ingrained belief banks will deny their requests. "One of the reasons behind this lack of comfortability with speaking to financial institutions about funding is many respondents felt that they will be denied," the report found. "This sentiment was especially shared among immigrant entrepreneurs." Providing mentorship opportunities Another of the report's key findings is a recurring lack of mentorship opportunities for Black business owners that are readily available for other entrepreneurs. That problem speaks to the notion that not all the roadblocks are necessarily financial in nature. When one respondent was asked about non-financial needs, they said the biggest one was "believing we can do it." "A lot of my experience raising capital is not about the idea or projections," said one person quoted in the report. "Instead it's about, 'Have I seen someone do it who looks like me?'" Another replied that they "felt it was more of a 'whom you know' vs. a 'what you know' type of system." Wes Hall, the founder of investment advisory firm Kingsdale Advisors and founder of the BlackNorth Initiative, a group of 200 Canadian companies that have signed a public pledge to fight systemic racism, signed a letter in support of the CBCC report, saying "the road Black entrepreneurs have walked has always been a long, difficult one." "During these unparalleled times, it is more than evident that in order to be effective as leaders, we must take action to understand the needs of and grim realities faced by Black business owners in Canada," Hall said in the report Filling the financial literacy gap One of the major gaps the report highlighted is the financial literacy gap to make entrepreneurs aware of existing funding and support programs. The Business Development Bank of Canada, a Crown corporation, is designed to help fill that gap. Calling itself "the bank for Canadian entrepreneurs," BDC's mandate is to help businesses that may not be eligible for retail bank financing to obtain support and financing to get off the ground. Nahom Eyob, the owner of Red Seal Truck and Equipment Repair in Edmonton, has expanded his business to 11 employees and is planning to open a second location.(Nahom Eyob) Nahom Eyob, the owner and operator of Red Seal Truck and Equipment Repair in Edmonton, says he had never heard of the agency before his brother, an accountant, heard about his business plan and encouraged him to contact BDC. A truck mechanic with 10 years' experience, he launched his business in October of 2019. It was tough at first. Eyob estimates his two-man operation only took in about $2,000 in total revenue in its first few months. Then came the pandemic, which brought about a slew of new challenges. But through word of mouth and by growing his customer base one job at a time, he was able to stay open and grow. Today, he has 11 people on staff. He's planning to expand to a second location and estimates he's booked about $1.5 million in revenue during the pandemic. But Eyob says none of that would have happened had he not had the support of BDC at the beginning, when he needed it most — and not just with start-up capital. "They help us with a lot of information and mentorship," he said in an interview. His advice to others thinking of starting up a business is to run it how he runs his — "Fix it right the first time, that's how we operate" — but also to make sure you are aware of all the help that is available. Funding specficially for Black-owned businesses More help is on the way soon, thanks to a $221-million fund Ottawa set up last summer specifically for Black-owned businesses. That money includes a commitment of $128 million from chartered banks for new loans of up to $250,000 to Black-owned busisnesses. It's on top of whatever help they can acquire from BDC or anywhere else. Eyob has managed to thrive under during the pandemic because his business was deemed essential, but many others are not so lucky. The CCBC report found that 73 per cent of respondents reported revenue of less than $100,000 a year before the COVID-19 pandemic. If that is the case, they may not qualify for CEBA, as they must pay at least $20,000 in employment income or eligible non-deferrable expenses of at least $40,000, the report notes. Other programs such as the CEWS wage subsidy and the CERS rent subsidy have similar strings attached. Because of the way those relief programs are set up, they "implicitly exempt" Black-owned businesses, which is why the report suggests adjusting those programs to make them "specific to the needs of Black Canadian entrepreneurs." "You're facing the challenge of COVID and … you are also facing potential systemic racism at the bank that would maybe be able to help you," Francois said. "It's been kind of a … double challenge for Black entrepreneurs for sure." For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. (CBC)
OTTAWA — A newly released email appears to support former military ombudsman Gary Walbourne's assertion that he told Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan about an allegation of sexual misconduct against then-defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance three years ago. The brief email was sent by Zita Astravas, who at the time was Sajjan’s chief of staff, to Walbourne on March 5, 2018. That was four days after Walbourne says he notified the defence minister of the allegation against the military’s top commander during a “hostile” meeting. Referring to a conversation between Walbourne and an official at the Privy Council Office, Astravas wrote: “I trust that you raised the allegations relating to the GIC appointment that you raised with the minister.” Governor-in-council appointments, or GICs, are senior appointments made by the federal cabinet. While Astravas did not include any other details about the nature of the allegation or whom it concerned, the chief of the defence staff is such an appointment. The email was obtained by The Canadian Press through access-to-information law. Asked Thursday whether the allegation in question was against Vance, or whether he raised allegations against any other GIC appointee to the minister, Walbourne would only say: “I believe this was covered in my testimony.” Walbourne testified to the House of Commons’ defence committee Wednesday about his closed-door meeting with Sajjan on March 1, 2018. The former ombudsman said he told Sajjan about an allegation that had been made against Vance. Walbourne told the committee Sajjan declined to look at supporting evidence and instead referred the matter to the Privy Council Office, the department that supports the prime minister and cabinet. The former ombudsman said Sajjan referred the issue to the PCO despite his request to the minister to keep the matter confidential. Walbourne refused to give the committee any details about the allegation he raised in the meeting, citing his duty to preserve confidences. But Global News has reported that it was about a sexually suggestive email Vance allegedly sent to a much more junior military member in 2012, before he became defence chief. Sajjan refused to confirm to the committee last month when he first became aware of potential misconduct by Vance, and said he was as surprised as anyone when Global first reported in February allegations against the former chief of defence staff. The civil servant with whom Astravas's 2018 email said Walbourne should raise the allegation testified immediately after Sajjan last month. Janine Sherman, deputy secretary to the cabinet, also declined to speak to the allegations and how they were handled. However, she did tell the committee that the PCO “did not have information at that time that would have allowed us to take any action.” The Global report alleges Vance had an ongoing relationship with a subordinate that started more than a decade ago and continued after he was named chief of the defence staff in 2015 — when he promised to root sexual misconduct from the Armed Forces. It has also reported on the allegations about Vance sending an email to a much younger female officer in 2012 suggesting they go to a clothing-optional vacation resort. Vance has not responded to repeated requests for comment from The Canadian Press, and the allegations against him have not been independently verified. Global has reported that Vance has denied any wrongdoing. Military police have launched an investigation. Sajjan has also promised a separate, independent investigation, but it has yet to begin. Sajjan’s spokesman Todd Lane declined to comment Thursday on Astravas’s email, and instead provided a written statement repeating the minister’s previous assertion that he “disagrees with parts of (Walbourne's) testimony that occurred in committee.” “He has always been truthful with committee while respecting the need to protect the privacy of any individuals involved,” Lane added. “Any allegations that were brought forward were quickly put forward to the proper authorities.” The official Opposition Conservatives are pushing to expand the defence committee’s probe into the Liberal government’s handling of alleged sexual misconduct by the military’s top brass. In a letter to the committee clerk on Thursday, Conservative committee members described Walbourne’s testimony as “troubling,” adding that it “contradicts that of previous witnesses, including the minister of national defence.” The Conservatives want the committee to reconvene to “discuss the matter of witnesses” and expand the committee’s study to include the government’s handling of allegations of misconduct against Vance’s successor, Admiral Art McDonald. McDonald temporarily stepped aside as chief of the defence staff late last month, only weeks after taking over the position from Vance. Sajjan’s office has said the minister did not know about the allegation against McDonald when he was tapped to succeed Vance. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) has once again put out a national call for grant applications for funds to assist internet projects across the country. Preference will be given to projects that not only benefit students but also those geared to assist Indigenous communities and those in rural and northern locations. CIRA has been providing more than $1 million in funding to various projects each year since 2014. For the past few years, including this year, it has offered $1.25 million in grants. Registered charities, non-profit organizations and researchers and academics affiliated with a post-secondary school in Canada are encouraged to submit funding applications for projects before the April 14 deadline. Traditionally, CIRA officials receive more than 100 applications for funding annually. “We usually fund 15- 20- per cent of the applications that come in,” said Maureen James, who manages CIRA’s Community Investment Program. “It’s very competitive.” During the past seven years CIRA has provided a total of $7.95 million in funding for 171 projects across the country. The funding program is looking to specifically fund projects in four areas this year. The Infrastructure category includes research or projects that boost internet speed, access and affordability. Digital Literacy ventures include research, training programs and tools to develop digital skills. The Cybersecurity category includes research and projects that advocate for users’ online safety. And Community Leadership Initiatives includes research or events that assist Canadians in domestic internet policy issues. “It used to be a lot more broad,” James said of projects CIRA previously provided grants for. “This is the second year now with these particular focuses.” CIRA’s funding will include one grant up to a maximum of $250,000. Others can apply for up to $100,000 in funding. “We used to do smaller projects and then as people became more interested it turned into more substantial projects,” James said. “I think the most we’ve funded in a year is 28 or 29 projects.” James anticipates CIRA officials could potentially see the highest number of funding applications this year. And she attributes this to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think we expect a lot more people to apply this year,” she said. “COVID has certainly increased the demand for internet access like overnight.” The need in Indigenous communities across the country is especially great. In its Communication Monitoring report issued last year the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) discovered that just over one-third (34 per cent) of First Nations households in the country had access to basic internet only. More information on CIRA’s grants is available here https://www.cira.ca/improving-canadas-internet/grants CIRA will also be hosting informational webinars on its funding grants in both English and French next week. The English webinar is set for March. 9 at 1 p.m. EST. And the French webinar is scheduled for March 10 at 2 p.m. EST CIRA’s call for applications was sent out Tuesday of this week. By yesterday more than 100 people had registered for next week’s English webinar. “It tells us there’s a lot of interest, which is good,” James said. “CIRA’s name has been getting out a little bit more.” James said those looking to submit funding applications are not required to attend the informational webinars. “It’s an opportunity for us to highlight key aspects that sometimes people might miss with their application,” she said. CIRA welcomes applications from groups that have received funding from them in the past. “We have had repeat recipients,” James said, adding a funded project must be complete before another grant can be secured. “The project has to be finished and signed off in order to do another one.” Several Indigenous projects have been among those in recent years that have received funding. For example, the Mamawapowin Technology Society received a grant in 2019. This non-profit was keen to upgrade and expand wireless infrastructure to all 600 homes on Samson Cree First Nation, located in Maskwacis, Alta. Funding recipients in 2020 included I-STEAM and Siksika Health Services. I-STEAM is a research and design project delivering STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) programming to Indigenous youth at Antler River Elementary School in Chippewas of the Thames First Nation in southwestern Ontario. As for Siksika Health Services, it received funding for its southern Alberta project to upgrade the internet infrastructure in five community buildings. These upgrades provide high-speed internet for not only staff in the facilities but also for youth, Elders and community members who utilize the buildings. Windspeaker.com By Sam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Friday, March 5, 2021. There are 878,391 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 878,391 confirmed cases (29,903 active, 826,337 resolved, 22,151 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 2,832 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 78.68 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,063 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,866. There were 47 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 286 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 41. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.11 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 58.28 per 100,000 people. There have been 24,763,481 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 1,002 confirmed cases (125 active, 871 resolved, six deaths). There were five new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 23.94 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 30 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There were zero new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.03 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 200,101 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 138 confirmed cases (23 active, 115 resolved, zero deaths). There was one new case Thursday. The rate of active cases is 14.41 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 18 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 109,360 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,649 confirmed cases (29 active, 1,555 resolved, 65 deaths). There were three new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 2.96 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 25 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been 350,135 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,443 confirmed cases (37 active, 1,378 resolved, 28 deaths). There were five new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 4.73 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 16 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There were zero new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 239,229 tests completed. _ Quebec: 290,377 confirmed cases (7,379 active, 272,553 resolved, 10,445 deaths). There were 707 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 86.06 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,047 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 721. There were 20 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 84 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.14 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 121.81 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,320,910 tests completed. _ Ontario: 304,757 confirmed cases (10,309 active, 287,424 resolved, 7,024 deaths). There were 994 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 69.97 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,446 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,064. There were 10 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 108 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 15. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.1 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.67 per 100,000 people. There have been 11,017,094 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 32,051 confirmed cases (1,143 active, 30,005 resolved, 903 deaths). There were 51 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 82.87 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 394 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 56. There were two new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 15 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.16 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 65.47 per 100,000 people. There have been 536,934 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 29,220 confirmed cases (1,422 active, 27,407 resolved, 391 deaths). There were 161 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 120.64 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,029 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 147. There were two new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 11 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.17 per 100,000 people. There have been 581,914 tests completed. _ Alberta: 134,785 confirmed cases (4,613 active, 128,261 resolved, 1,911 deaths). There were 331 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 104.32 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,353 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 336. There were nine new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 37 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 43.22 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,425,265 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 82,473 confirmed cases (4,808 active, 76,289 resolved, 1,376 deaths). There were 564 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 93.4 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,691 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 527. There were four new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 28 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.08 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.73 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,950,778 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one death). There were zero new cases Thursday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,187 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (one active, 41 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 2.21 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 14,743 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 369 confirmed cases (14 active, 354 resolved, one death). There were 10 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 35.58 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 14 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,755 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
It might be more expensive, but to get rid of his shoddy internet, it's a price Darren Boss is willing to pay. Three years ago, Boss and his wife moved from Ottawa to just outside Perth, Ont., and until recently they'd been dealing with spotty, unreliable internet — a problem facing countless rural Canadians, and a big obstacle for the couple given they both work in IT. They'd often have to schedule their video work meetings so they weren't competing at the same time for a reliable connection. Boss said they tried several providers and had the same experience every time. That's why the pair decided to sign up for Starlink, the new pricey high-speed internet service provided by Elon Musk's U.S.-based SpaceX firm, which was recently approved by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The service is available to select users for "beta testing," with the promise of wider availability this year. Boss received his satellite a few weeks ago and said so far, the results have been promising. "I changed the way I did some of my job just because of how slow the upload speeds were and now I don't have to make those compromises anymore," Boss said. Boss paid $800 for the satellite equipment alone, and $150 a month for the service itself. "I feel pretty grateful to have this opportunity," he said. "And I feel lucky that we could afford to get the service." Elon Musk's SpaceX firm has promised Starlink internet will provide 'near global coverage of the populated world' in 2021.(Hannibal Hanschke/Pool via REUTERS) Potential game-changer North Grenville, Ont., Mayor Nancy Peckford has been a long-time advocate of better internet access for rural municipalities and said Starlink is a potential game-changer. Connectivity standards from CRTC include speeds of 50 Mbps download/10 Mbps upload for fixed broadband services. At those speeds, multiple members of a household should be able to stream, download and upload with no concerns. According to Peckford, however, recent tests in her community showed speeds significantly "below the CRTC minimum rate." "It's very, very distressing. I mean, you're looking at upload [and] download speeds that are a fifth of what you might see in an urban area," she said. Still seeking other investments While Starlink isn't "necessarily affordable" for those it was made for, Peckford said that "desperate times sometimes require desperate measures." She said a handful of North Grenville residents have signed up with Starlink, and the town is watching the results very closely. Despite Starlink's availability, North Grenville and other nearby municipalities are still working with the provincial and federal governments, Peckford said, on other infrastructure investments. "I don't think it's the end all, be all," she said. "But I would also suggest that many of our residents are welcoming it, and our businesses, with open arms — and rightly so."
Even in 2019, amid her remarkable rise, Bianca Andreescu's availability was a constant question. That was the year she won the prestigious Indian Wells tournament, the Rogers Cup on home soil and became the first Canadian to ever win a singles major title at the U.S. Open. In between, she played just five matches. After the U.S. Open, a left knee injury knocked her out of the season-ending WTA Finals in November. It was over 500 days before Andreescu would play again. She was upset in the second round of the Australian Open last month and lost in the fourth round of a follow-up tournament. The 20-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., then announced she would miss the next three tournaments for health reasons. Here we go again? "Physically it showed that she had all those matches under her belt and quite a few were close and long three-setters ... but it's not a situation where her injuries resurfaced or new injury surfaced," said Andreescu's coach, Sylvain Bruneau. Andreescu's prolonged absence was not solely based on injury. Bruneau said in March the plan was for her to return for the Miami Open — until WTA play was suspended due to concerns over COVID-19. Even with her return on the horizon, Andreescu was stuck in a Melbourne hotel room for two weeks after Bruneau contracted the virus. Other players were allowed out of quarantine for training ahead of the Grand Slam. "The most important thing for me was that she was able to play those two matches at the Australian Open and then four more [in] the tournament right after and get the confirmation that the old injuries were behind us," Bruneau said. WATCH | Breaking down Andreescu's Aussie Open performance: Bruneau says those matches met his expectations for Andreescu. Her movement "was not perfect," but there was reason for hope. There were times she arrived at the ball on time and balanced, and other times Bruneau noticed she was reaching. "She couldn't have been full confidence because she obviously felt she was not at the top of her game, but just playing those matches after the Australian Open, winning those close matches, knowing you're not at the top of your game, but your fighting skills and dealing with them are still there," Bruneau said. "[That] should be a step in the right direction and in some ways a confidence booster for what's next." NBC tennis analyst Mary Carillo agreed with Bruneau's assessment of Andreescu's Australian run, saying she thought the Canadian looked "fit and eager." Patience is key Neither Bruneau nor Carillo expect Andreescu to immediately regain her dominance, instead stressing that it takes time after such a long layoff. "She is clearly somebody who can win multiple majors, but the length of time she spent suffering from one injury after another reminded me of Juan Martin Del Potro," Carillo said. Del Potro won the U.S. Open in 2009 at 20 years old but injured his wrist the following year. That setback periodically flared up throughout the Argentine's career, and he never won another Grand Slam, despite a couple of lengthy runs. ESPN tennis analyst Brad Gilbert made the same comparison. "I think she's exciting and I think she's got a fun game to watch. And fingers crossed that that's all I say. It was the same for [Del Potro]. It was like, 'God, such a great game to watch.' But you don't want to be stopped by being injured," Gilbert said. WATCH | Andreescu stunned in 2nd round of return: Knee injuries can be debilitating for tennis players, but Andreescu's game doesn't solely rely on speed — it's her varied approach that makes her tough to handle. At her best, there are no weaknesses. "When she is playing, I tend to only watch her half of the court," Carillo said. "Almost every other woman is fairly predictable in how they're going to play strategically. With Andreescu, you don't know what the hell is going on in her brain. And all of a sudden there's this gorgeous lob or this sweet little dropshot or she'll break open the point with a heavy forehand." Gilbert was more cautionary about how a knee injury would specifically disrupt Andreescu's game. "In '19 at the Open, the way she was flying around the court, I thought she was the best mover — even better than [current world No. 3 Simona Halep]. … That's something crucial to her game because she's not six feet tall," he said. 'Great ambition, ridiculous talent' With the right dose of practice, load management and tournaments, Bruneau, Carillo and Gilbert would not be surprised to see Andreescu right back where she finished in 2019. "I am not sure that it's totally possible to try to get her to peak for the Olympics or for wherever, as we just need to go through a process and look for her game and everything to fall back into place," Bruneau said. Andreescu is just 20. The Del Potro path is the darkest timeline, but it is far from certain. "The best ability is availability. And if you don't have availability, you can't post results," Gilbert said. "I know there's great ambition and ridiculous talent. I think what we need here is some patience," Carillo added. Given the time off, Andreescu's middling results in Australia were a signal that her previous dominance won't just come back on its own. It takes real matches and consistent practice to get there. In one moment, she was one of eight women invited to the WTA Finals. In the next — 16 months later — Andreescu was upset by an unseeded player in the second round of the Australian Open. "When you feel that great with your game, with your confidence, with everything about your tennis and you're forced to take 16 months off, that's not where you want that to happen usually. When you're getting [to] the top of the mountain, you want to keep going," Bruneau said. Now, Andreescu faces another climb.
TORONTO — Ontario's Liberals say they have paid off their $10-million debt from the 2018 provincial election in which they suffered the worst defeat in the party's history. Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca says the party was able to eliminate the debt by tightening internal spending and growing its membership and donor base. Del Duca says that by eliminating membership fees the party has been able to grow its ranks to more than 75,000 members, which in turn has increased contributions. The Liberals went into the last election holding a majority, but lost their official party status when they won only seven seats. The devastating loss prompted the resignation of Kathleen Wynne as party leader. Del Duca, who was elected leader last March, says eliminating the debt will allow the party to continue to prepare for the next election, which is scheduled for June 2022. "It just gives us a tremendous amount of freedom and flexibility to focus on the task at hand, which is to be the most compelling competitor or alternative to (Premier) Doug Ford," he said. Work on the party's platform is underway, Del Duca said, and virtual candidate nomination meetings continue. He said the party expects to have 30 candidates in place by the weekend. Del Duca acknowledged that the work to rebuild the party and pay down the debt has not been easy, and the pandemic has added to the challenges. "It was a pretty big number ... when you take into account how badly we were beaten and how small the team was coming out of 2018," he said. "It was a daunting challenge but I ran for the leadership of the party with my eyes wide open." The Liberal party had governed Ontario for 16 years before losing to the Progressive Conservatives in 2018. The party currently has eight elected caucus members - former Progressive Conservative legislator Amanda Simard crossed the floor and joined Liberals after the Tories cut funding for French language services. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March. 5, 2021. Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press
Patricia Edwards of Toronto wanted to help her two adult daughters when they fell behind on bill payments at the rented townhouse they share. She has few assets and a poor credit history, but she was employed at the time, so she went to a payday lender — not for a payday loan, but for an ongoing line of credit. "I was like, OK, let's see if I qualify for the loan because I'm working." Edwards, 53, was able to borrow $1,500 early in 2019 from Cash Money. But then she lost her job, and in 2020 came the pandemic. She's had to refinance the loan twice, and went to another lender, Money Mart, for an instalment loan that could be repaid over two years. Now she's close to $5,000 in debt, all in, paying nearly 47 per cent interest on both loans. WATCH | Ottawa under pressure to cap high-interest money lenders: Her predicament, and that of many other Canadians like her, has a chorus of voices calling for industry reform. Activist groups, elected officials and even some smaller lending companies say financially vulnerable people are too often lured by payday lenders' low bi-monthly payments on longer-term loans without realizing how the costs will add up. Only option "I'd love to get a bank loan," said Edwards. "But I don't have a car, I don't have a home, I don't have any assets. I don't qualify." Payday lenders argue that's exactly why their services are essential. They provide money to people in need who otherwise would be unable to borrow. In a statement to CBC News, the Canadian Consumer Finance Association, which represents close to 1,000 high-interest lenders across the country, said unsecured loans are expensive to provide, and that its members' interest rates are government-approved. "Our members are highly regulated and licensed under provincial legislation across Canada," the statement says. It also notes that "for reasons of risk, the lower the borrower's credit score the higher the interest rate." Patrick Mohan runs Money Direct, a payday lending firm with nine locations in Ontario and Nova Scotia, but he is critical of the larger chains. He started a different organization in 2008 to represent operators closer to his company's size, the Independent Payday Loan Association of Canada. He said the group is made up of 50 small "mom and pop" lenders who don't offer long-term loans or lines of credit. Patricia Edwards of Toronto reviews her loan agreement. The mother of two is close to $5,000 in debt to two payday lenders.(CBC News) The member companies cash cheques and sell Western Union money transfers, but in terms of lending, only provide short-term payday loans, which are meant to give a consumer the funds necessary to make ends meet just until their next paycheque arrives. Borrowers pay $15 every two weeks for each $100 borrowed, and he says most pay off their loans promptly. "The payday loan product is one pay period," he said. "Say you need $400. You come in, you get the money, then pay back $460 under the current rates, and that's it." Mohan said larger chains such as Money Mart, easyfinancial, Cash 4 You and Cash Money started to offer a wider range of financial products, including long-term, high-interest loans and lines of credit, after several Canadian provinces began to crack down on payday lending in 2016, limiting the fees charged. Alberta lowered the fee from $23 to $15 every two weeks, while Ontario cut it from $21 to $15. "They saw what was coming, then they started pushing the lines of credit and instalment loans," he said. "They figured, 'Keep it under 60 per cent and then we don't have to worry about feds coming after us.'" An interest rate of 60 per cent is the threshold specified in Canada's Criminal Code as illegal. Pushing for change Acorn Canada, a national organization that advocates for low-income people, has taken aim at large payday lenders, organizing protests across the country and calling on the federal government to take action. Donna Borden, vice-chair of Acorn's East York chapter in Toronto, said the pandemic has forced more Canadians to turn to high-interest lenders. "A lot of people are using or taking these loans to buy food, to pay their rent," she said. "And especially now with COVID, it's even worse." Instalment loans, where regular repayments are scheduled over a number of years, were the fastest growing segment of lending among payday companies, according to the results of a limited online survey conducted by Acorn in February. It found that the number of survey respondents who reported taking instalment loans had jumped from 11 per cent in 2016 to 45 per cent in 2020. "People are losing their jobs, so they're desperate for money," said Borden. Acorn Canada, a group that advocates for low-income people, organized protests against what it calls 'predatory lending' in nine Canadian cities on Feb. 17, 2021.(Acorn Canada) The Canadian Consumer Finance Association disputes that their loan portfolios are growing. "There has been a significant and sustained drop in the number of loans taken out by Canadians," the CCFA said in its statement to CBC News. It pointed to government support programs and a "lack of spending during the lockdowns" as the causes. Patrick Mohan of the Independent Payday Loan Association of Canada said he's noticed a similar trend. "We're still down 35 to 40 per cent," he said, referring to the level of demand he sees. "Things are coming back a little bit, but people aren't spending as much and they don't need to borrow." 'A gold mine' Independent Sen. Pierrette Ringuette of New Brunswick has sponsored two bills to have the Criminal Code amended to lower the maximum interest rate that lenders can legally charge from 60 to 20 per cent plus the overnight bank rate. Neither bill moved forward due to prorogations and election calls, but Ringuette said she intends to sponsor another one. "Canada is like a gold mine to these institutions because of the current state of legislation we have in place," she said. She said a number of American states have put a lower cap on interest rates charged by payday lenders, yet they continue to be profitable. "If they can serve in the U.S. states where, on average, you would have a 10, 12 or 15 per cent capped interest rate, they can serve Canadians at 20 per cent very well," she said. A page from Patricia Edwards's loan agreement shows her interest rate of 46.9 per cent.(CBC News) But Ringuette said it can take years to get bills through the Senate and then more time to have them passed into law. She said the Trudeau government could take action much more quickly, perhaps even announcing a crackdown in the upcoming federal budget expected in April. "It can be done within three months, and it has to be done within three months," she said. "I hope for everyone that it is in the budget." Trying to escape the debt trap Patricia Edwards said she worries she may never escape her debt trap. She is left searching for a solution. For example, though it's not an option in her case, she has even thought about how credit card borrowing could help solve her 47 per cent interest rate problem. "If I could get a $10,000 Visa card for 19 per cent, I would get the Visa card to go pay them all off," said Edwards, "and then I'll only owe 19 per cent on the Visa card." Many consumers complain credit card rates are far too high, but compared to what payday lenders charge on some of their products, those rates could look like a bargain.