A hard-core Scrabble player from Chatham, Ont., Betty Kuchta, surprised even herself when the word 'quizzers' pulled in 365 points with its happy confluence of high-value letters, triple word scores and using all the letters.
A hard-core Scrabble player from Chatham, Ont., Betty Kuchta, surprised even herself when the word 'quizzers' pulled in 365 points with its happy confluence of high-value letters, triple word scores and using all the letters.
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.
The province is sending some pandemic relief money to Lighthouse Festival Theatre in Port Dover to help the cultural institution get back on its feet. Lighthouse will receive $71,858 through the government’s Arts Recovery Support Fund. Lisa MacLeod, the minister overseeing the province’s tourism and cultural industries, announced the funding this week as part of a $25-million package for artists and arts organizations in Ontario. “Ontario’s arts sector was among the first and hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a ‘high-touch’ sector that depends on gatherings of people, and will take the longest to recover,” MacLeod said in a statement. Reopening venues like Lighthouse “will play an important role in the mental health and well-being of Ontarians and an equally important role in the province’s economic and social recovery,” MacLeod said. The funding was available for organizations and individuals who already receive grants through the Ontario Arts Council. Venues with operating budgets of over $1 million automatically qualified. “We’re so grateful for it, and we’re thrilled,” said Lighthouse executive director Nicole Campbell. “The government recognizes the arts and culture industry as being devastated during this time, with not being able to open for the last year.” Lighthouse closed its doors in mid-March of last year, which meant scrapping the entire summer season, the popular community show starring local amateur actors, and a crowded slate of off-season events. It added up to “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in lost revenue, Campbell said. While the provincial money will help — as will almost $215,000 brought in by a summertime fundraising campaign — Campbell cautioned that there are more financial and logistical hurdles to overcome before the theatre can welcome patrons back. “We don’t want anyone to think that just by receiving this money, we can reopen,” she said. “With the regulations, up until a few weeks ago we couldn’t have anyone in the building. So we keep having to adapt.” One challenge for Lighthouse is even the loosest of the province’s COVID-19 restrictions means “severe revenue limitations,” Campbell explained, because a theatre that usually fits 350 patrons is limited to 50 per show. When Lighthouse can reopen is of keen interest to restaurants, hotels and bed and breakfasts throughout the region that rely on the theatre to bring in customers, as mentioned by Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett in the funding announcement. “This is quite welcome news for our Lighthouse Festival Theatre and all who enjoy its offerings,” Barrett said. “Lighthouse Theatre is an anchor for our area’s visitor-based economy.” Campbell expects to make an announcement about the summer season in the next few months. “We’re waiting as long as we can to announce anything,” she said, explaining that she and artistic director Derek Ritschel are mulling over scenarios that will ensure the safety of artists, patrons and staff. “We can pretty confidently say that we’re going to have theatre this summer,” Campbell said. “We just have a few different options of what it’ll look like.” J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
Hundreds of people lined up in the cold outside a Miramichi middle school on Thursday for a COVID-19 mass testing clinic. The province announced the walk-in clinic for those without COVID-19 symptoms would be held for two days after new cases in Zone 7, the Miramichi health region, and "the likelihood of a variant being present." The testing, which is for people without symptoms and doesn't require an appointment, is aimed at detecting whether there has been further spread in the area. At one point, dozens of vehicles were lined up along Henderson Street with people waiting to park. In the parking lot, more than 120 people were waiting in a line outside the building. Dozens of vehicles were lined up on streets leading to the middle school as people waited to park before waiting in an outdoor line. (Shane Magee/CBC) John Westlake said he was feeling "bloody cold" with a hoodie pulled tight around his face as wind whipped snow through the parking lot. He later said the whole experience took about two and a half hours, including waiting in line and the test inside the school. Several people like Noeleta Somers said it was their civic duty to get tested and were glad to see the turnout. "I'm very happy to see all the people who came out to be tested," said Denise Doiron. Miramichi Mayor Adam Lordon was happy to see the number of people who showed up for tests in a region that has had few COVID-19 cases over the past year.(Shane Magee/CBC) As of Thursday, there were seven active cases in the Miramichi health zone. The latest series of cases are among the few that have been detected in the region. Over the last year, a total of 16 people have tested positive, according to provincial figures. Mayor Adam Lordon said the new cases and a long list of potential exposure sites released by Public Health in the community this week were a new experience for the region a year into the pandemic. "I think what you're seeing is an abundance of caution and people who may be feeling anxious about perhaps having been to one of those places at those times," Lordon said. People wait in line outside Dr. Losier Middle School in Miramichi on Thursday for a COVID-19 mass testing clinic. (Shane Magee/CBC) In a statement, Jean Daigle, Horizon's vice-president community, said the testing clinic was staffed by about 30 employees who included nurses, LPNs, paramedics and administrative support staff. The clinic has the capacity to test 400 to 500 people per day, with Horizon's main testing clinic on Wellington Street in Miramichi able to test 150 to 200 people with COVID-19 symptoms per day. As of Wednesday, Daigle said there were 15 Horizon staff off work because of COVID-19 related reasons, with seven of those in the Miramichi area. Daigle said there has been no impact on care because of those who are off work. The clinic is scheduled to continue Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s memoir "Guantánamo Diary," has been adapted into a movie, The Mauritanian, which also awarded Jodie Foster her most recent Golden Globe.
NDP Leader Gary Burrill says he's "very hopeful" the provincial government might finally be willing to consider a sick pay policy to cover all workers in Nova Scotia. Burrill told reporters on Thursday that he recently discussed the matter during a meeting with Premier Iain Rankin. The NDP has long advocated for a policy that would bring sick pay to everyone, including workers who are not part of a union. Last year, the party tabled legislation that would have allowed everyone to earn a half day of paid sick leave for every month of work, to a maximum of six days a year. That bill was not supported and died on the order paper. But with renewed calls from Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, for people to say home when they're sick to help keep a handle on the spread of COVID-19, Burrill believes the time is right for everyone to have access to paid sick days. Rankin says he wants to see how other jurisdictions handle the issue of paid sick leave for workers.(CBC) Viral transmissions often happen in the workplace, said Burrill, which is why so many other places, including 13 states in the U.S., are moving to institute paid sick leave. "It's a striking thing that in Nova Scotia today, in the midst of the pandemic, we have got over 1,000 nurses who don't have paid sick leave because they're working on a casual basis," he said. "So this is not an intelligent program from the perspective of public health." Rankin said at this point he's encouraging employers to understand that when people are sick, they need to be able to stay home. Still, the premier told reporters that he's interested in "all public policy that helps the lives of Nova Scotians." Rankin said he's looking at how other provinces treat the issue, and trying to determine if it makes the most sense for the government to take the lead or leave it to employers to settle with their employees. Understanding the ramifications Tory Leader Tim Houston said there might be a place for the government to take the lead through legislation, similar to the way the minimum wage is handled, but he added it would be important to understand any ramifications for businesses that might come from such a policy. It could be better to leave it to employers and their employees to address the issue, said Houston. "I do believe that, for the most part, they're on the same page." Houston said he's sympathetic to people struggling financially who might have to make the decision between going to work sick or staying home and missing a pay cheque. "I want to work with them, I want to support them," he told reporters. "We just need to make sure that we understand how it would work." MORE TOP STORIES
Canada's health officials spoke about the recent change in guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on the time between two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and how that may contribute to vaccine hesitancy in Canada.
VICTORIA — The B.C. government has eased the eligibility requirements for small and medium-sized businesses applying for funds under its $345-million pandemic recovery grant program. The province has also extended the deadline for businesses to apply from the end of this month to Aug. 31, or until all the money has been spent. Businesses with up to 149 employees must now show a 30 per cent drop in revenue in any one month between March 2020 and the time of application compared with the same time period during the year before. The grant program previously required businesses to show a 70 per cent drop at some point during March or April last year, plus additional revenue losses of 30 to 50 per cent from May 2020 until their application. Ravi Rahlon, the minister of jobs and economic recovery, says the province has been "nimble" with the program and the changes directly follow feedback from the business community. He says about $55 million has been distributed through the program so far and influx of applications hasn't slowed down, though he couldn't say how many more businesses may now apply given the latest changes. "Certainly we have some businesses that have applied that weren't able to get the funding because they didn't meet (requirements), and now we'll be able to call them and tell them that in fact they do have funding available." This is the second time the government has eased the program's eligibility requirements. Businesses may apply for grants ranging from $10,000 to $30,000, with additional funds available to tourism-related businesses, which Kahlon says represent just over half of applicants to the program so far. The province says businesses don't need to resubmit existing applications and those received previously will be reviewed under the new criteria. In a statement, Liberal jobs critic Todd Stone urged the NDP government to eliminate the requirement that businesses must be at least 18 months old. Kahlon says the rule stands and businesses that apply by the new deadline must have been operating since last March, "so essentially anyone that had a business when the pandemic started can apply for this grant." B.C. is also offering up to $2,000 to be paid directly to professional service providers for businesses that need help creating a required recovery plan. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
It's the little touches that help to make a place feel more like home, and while the Out of the Cold Warming Centre isn't a permanent home for any of its visitors, it is proof that little things can still make a big difference. The warming centre has recently come into possession of a pair of guitars for those who visit to make use of. The idea itself came from Out of the Cold's Dave Ashworth, who is also a prominent local musician, and he put out the call on social media to help make the idea a reality. "I started here last November," Ashworth explained. "What really happened was one of the staff said 'hey, one of the guests that comes in plays guitar.' He was going to bring down his guitar that he has at home, and I was going to bring mine whatever night this guest came in, and I thought it would be nice to have something here a little more permanently, so that's when I thought I'd use the power of social media and put it out there, and it works. People have a genuine desire, I think, to help out or donate whatever they might have." Once the call went out, there were a few false starts and missed connections, but eventually Ashworth managed to secure one acoustic and one electric guitar for those visiting the warming centre to play, which he said are comforts to people who might not otherwise have an instrument to play on. "It's a universal language," he said. "Music is good in good times and in bad times." The call for instruments must have struck a chord with people in the community, as Ashworth noted there were plenty of people offering to make donations in one form or another, either of instruments or of monetary donations that could be put towards musical accessories like wall hangers for the guitars. "Businesses helped out too and gave us some discounts on strings," Ashworth said. "A number of people donated. I had one guy, and this was kind of unique, but he was on the Borderland Musicians and Enthusiasts Facebook page, and he offered to send an acoustic guitar. I started talking to him and asked if he was from here, and he said 'No, I'm from Saskatchewan, I'm living out north of Red Deer right now.' He was willing to send it, but we started considering shipping costs and the length of time we're going to be open [this season] so I thought for this year we're good." So far Ashworth said there have been a handful of occasions where guests have played songs together, with others lending their voices or picking up a tambourine to play along. But the instruments are also there for solo use, allowing anyone at the warming centre to pick up a guitar and keep themselves company. "Even in the last week we had a new guest come in and he grabbed it the first night and wanted to play it," he said. "He got it in the morning too. It's nice to see. If it wasn't here then you might not even know some of these people have a musical background. It's been very laid back." The Out of the Cold Warming Centre might be full up on instruments right now, but Ashworth says as the program continues there's always a chance it could grow in some way. He also added that the centre could still do with a donation of another guitar strap and a small practice amp for their electric guitar, should anyone still be looking to help support the initiative. Still, Ashworth said he's grateful to all of those who did reach out to him with offers of instruments or other donations to help provide a little bit of music and a creative outlet to those in need. "I think you want to provide any opportunity you can to dive into things they might not normally have access to," he explained. "Maybe for various reasons they don't have a guitar at home, or don't have any instruments, and this is an option for them to come in and use. We encourage all the guests to just relax and treat it like your home, be respectful and we'll be respectful in return. They seem to enjoy it. Like I said earlier, music is a feel good thing. The feedback has been really good so far." Ken Kellar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times
Newfoundland and Labrador's minister responsible for the status of women says there's been a recent increase in calls to the province's domestic violence help line but there are services available to help women living with violence. Lisa Dempster says the increase in calls is concerning, but she's encouraged that women are reaching out for help, despite the public health restrictions in place. "While we are in lockdown, you do not have to feel you are locked down at home with an abuser, so we do know that there's been some increase in calls," she said. Dempster didn't give specific details about how many more calls the line is receiving. The domestic violence help line was launched in June. When someone calls or texts, the system will automatically detect the region they're in and connect them with a trained professional at the nearest transition house. If necessary, they can then be connected to services, like women's centres or police, for further help. Non-profit groups said they saw a significant increase in domestic violence calls during the early stages of the pandemic. We know that some of the calls coming in are more focused on physical violence. - Lisa Dempster Dempster said the pandemic has had a greater effect on women, and restrictions can create added pressure for women living with violence. As a result, the types of calls the line is receiving has also changed, she said. "Prior to the pandemic, we would get various calls to the line, could be around financial abuse, different types," she said. "But right now — and we know the pandemic has been really difficult for many people and it's not impacted all of us equally — we know that some of the calls coming in are more focused on physical violence." During an election, the government is in caretaker mode, but Dempster is still the minister, and she says has been checking in with staff in the department at least once a week. She said the increase in calls began within the past week. "Yesterday, maybe, when I learned there had been an increase, I felt compelled to get out, to do my part to hopefully reach some women that are in unsafe situations," she said. Help available for women experiencing violence The minister urged women not to stay in an unsafe situation at home because of the public health restrictions in alert levels 4 and 5. "To women who are struggling with violence in their lives today, I want you to know that help is available," she said. "There are services right across this province, and when you feel you are ready and you feel that it's safe for you to reach out, there are organizations waiting to help you." Dempster said transition houses across the province are open and have room to accept women in need. She said, on average, the transition houses are now at about 55 per cent capacity. "While we've made good strides and we're moving in the right direction, certainly there is progress that can be made," she said. "We're grateful that we have fared better than many other provinces. Still, we have our own issues — all is not well and we need to get out and we need to talk about those. We need to hear from folks out in the community and we need to put whatever services in place that we can to support them." The province's domestic violence help line is 1-888-709-7090, and can be reached by call or text, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York’s attorney general has promised a thorough investigation of allegations that Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed at least two women. But if the investigation finds evidence of wrongdoing, what then? Who gets to decide what discipline, if any, the Democrat might face? New York has an impeachment court, last used in 1913, but there are other options, like a public censure, or just letting the matter play out in the court of public opinion. Here’s a look at what could come next in the investigation: THE ATTORNEY GENERAL'S REVIEW Attorney General Letitia James said her office will hire a private law firm to investigate Cuomo's conduct and issue a public report. Details, like the scope and length of the investigation are unclear. The inquiry could just focus on the two members of Cuomo’s administration who said they felt harassed. Or investigators could seek out other women who were made to feel uncomfortable, even those outside the administration. Former Cuomo adviser Lindsay Boylan says the governor commented about her appearance, summoned her to an uncomfortable private meeting in his office after a holiday party and gave her an unwanted kiss at a meeting in 2018. Boylan also says the administration leaked her personnel files to reporters after she accused him of harassment. Another former aide, Charlotte Bennett, said Cuomo asked about her sex life and if she had ever had sex with older men, and talked about wanting a girlfriend, which she viewed as the governor asking for a relationship. A third woman, Anna Ruch, told The New York Times the governor put his hands on her cheeks and asked to kiss her at a 2019 wedding. The three-term governor has denied touching anyone inappropriately, but acknowledged he does kiss people’s faces as a greeting and has teased people about their personal lives in a way some women interpreted as flirting. “I didn’t mean it that way,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “But if that’s how they felt, that’s all that matters.” One possible blueprint for the investigation is one Cuomo himself oversaw as the state’s attorney general in 2010 into his predecessor, former Gov. David Paterson. Cuomo enlisted the state’s former chief judge, Judith Kaye, to examine allegations Paterson pressured a woman to drop domestic violence allegations against a longtime aide. Paterson was also accused of violating state ethics laws by accepting free Yankees World Series tickets and ethics commissioners ended up fining him $62,125 for falsely testifying he intended to pay for them. Kaye took about four months to issue a report on the domestic violence probe, finding Paterson committed errors of judgment but should not face criminal charges. WHAT IF INVESTIGATORS FIND WRONGDOING? Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said Wednesday that if the investigation shows something inappropriate did happen, Cuomo should resign. If Cuomo refused to go, one option could be impeachment. That process would start in the Assembly. If a majority of members vote for impeachment, a trial would then be held with a jury of senators and Court of Appeals judges. At least two-thirds of the jurors are needed to convict. New York used this process to oust Gov. William Sulzer from office in 1913. A legislative committee found Sulzer failed to report thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and commingled campaign funds with personal funds. Sulzer blamed his downfall on the Democratic Party machine of Tammany Hall, and he blasted the court’s secret deliberations: “A horse thief in frontier days would have received a squarer deal,” he complained. IS THERE A PUNISHMENT SHORT OF IMPEACHMENT? Either state legislative chamber could decide to censure the governor by majority vote, according to New York University School of Law professor Stephen Gillers. That would amount to a stern public rebuke, a largely symbolic penalty. No lawmakers have expressed public support for censuring Cuomo amid the investigation, and there’s no indication it’s being floated as an option down the road. “A public slap on the wrist seems inadequate for the moment,” said Senate Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris. In 1892, the state Senate censured three senators for refusing to vote on a bill. And in 2007, an assemblyman was censured and lost his position as ranking member on the chamber's alcoholism and drug abuse committee for sleeping at the home of a 21-year-old female intern after drinking at a sports bar together. Predicting the appetite for a punishment now might be premature, with the investigation still incomplete. “If there are more stories that come out, depending on who you’re talking to, people may have different sensibilities,” said Assembly member Jo Anne Simon, who chairs the legislative ethics commission. CIVIL COMPLAINT? The governor, like any one else, could face civil penalties if someone sues him for sexual harassment or files a complaint with a state or federal agency. That could lead to civil penalties, a cease-and-desist order or an order to change his practices. “Could somebody then bring a lawsuit for civil penalties based on the finding of the (attorney general)?” attorney Richard Rifkin, who was special counsel to the governor in 2007 and 2008 and serves as legal director at the Government Law Center at Albany Law School. “They could.” HOW ABOUT CRIMINAL CHARGES? It's also possible that a prosecutor could bring criminal penalties based on the attorney general's report, according to Rifkin. Harassment could constitute a crime if it involves forcible physical touching of a sexual nature, coerced physical confinement or coerced sex acts. Cuomo has insisted he didn't touch anyone inappropriately and said if he kissed or touched anyone, it was in the way that politicians have been greeting allies and constituents for ages. ___ Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak contributed to this report from New York. Marina Villeneuve, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The federal government won't let Michigan shut down the Line 5 pipeline, Canada's natural resources minister said Thursday as he dismissed opposition comparisons to the thwarted Keystone XL project. Seamus O'Regan sounded almost combative as he vowed to defend the 1,000-kilometre line, which bridges an environmentally sensitive part of the Great Lakes to link Wisconsin with refineries in Sarnia, Ont. "We are fighting for Line 5 on every front and we are confident in that fight," O'Regan told a special House of Commons committee on the relationship between Canada and the United States. The Enbridge Inc. pipeline carries an estimated 540,000 daily barrels worth of oil and natural gas liquids, and is vital to the energy and employment needs of Ontario, Alberta and Quebec, as well as northern U.S. states, he added. "We are fighting on a diplomatic front, and we are preparing to invoke whatever measures we need to in order to make sure that Line 5 remains operational. The operation of Line 5 is non-negotiable." In November, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered Line 5 to be shut down by May, accusing Calgary-based Enbridge of violating the terms of the deal that allows the line to traverse the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. The straits, which link Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, boast powerful, rapidly changing currents that experts have said make the area the worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes. Pipeline opponents in the U.S. — many of the same voices who helped make TC Energy's proposed Keystone XL expansion an environmental rallying point over the last decade — have vowed to see it shut down. Enbridge, which has plans to fortify the underwater segment of the line by routing it through a tunnel under the lake bed, is fighting Whitmer's order in court. O'Regan was unequivocal Thursday when asked if he believes the governor's concerns have any merit. "No I do not," he replied. "This is a safe pipeline, it has always been a safe pipeline, (and) the owner is taking further measures to make sure it has continued safe operation." O'Regan also took pains to insist he remains "confident" that Enbridge and Michigan will reach an agreement to allow the line to continue to operate before Whitmer's drop-dead date in May. Conservative MP Mark Strahl noted that the federal government had failed to prevent U.S. President Joe Biden from cancelling Keystone XL, and pressed O'Regan on how the plan for Line 5 was different. "It sounds an awful lot like the plan to advocate for Line 5 is a carbon copy of the plan to advocate for Keystone XL," Strahl said. "Why are you expecting a different result?" "These are very different," O'Regan said as he defended the federal Liberal efforts on Keystone XL, which Biden cancelled on his first day in the White House. He also said he expressed Canada's defence of both pipelines to U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm when the two spoke for the first time on Wednesday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. James McCarten, The Canadian Press
CHARLOTTETOWN — Health officials in Prince Edward Island are reporting one new case of COVID-19 today. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison says the case involves a man in his 60s who is a close contact of a previously reported infection. She says the man initially tested negative but was retested after developing symptoms. Morrison is reminding all Islanders to get tested if they experience any symptoms of COVID-19 and to isolate until the results come back. Prince Edward Island has 23 active reported cases of COVID-19. The province has reported a total of 138 infections and no deaths linked to the virus. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
Cases of COVID-19 variants of concern continue to escalate in B.C., with 46 new ones announced today. Sixteen of the 246 total variant cases to date are currently active. Of the variant cases, 218 are the so-called U.K. variant and 28 of the South African variant. The majority of these cases are located in the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health regions—178 and 60 in those two health areas respectively. About a quarter of the cases continue to be untracked in terms of transmission. Four of the people currently in hospital have variants of concern and two deaths in recent days have been in people with variants. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also reported 564 new cases, 12 of which are epidemiologically linked. B.C.’s cumulative case total has reached 82,473. Of the new cases, 168 are in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 279 in the Fraser Health region, 35 in the Island Health region, 36 in the Interior Health region and 46 in the Northern Health region. As cases rise across the province, particularly in the Lower Mainland, Richmond is also experiencing a surge. Between Feb. 21 and 27 there were 100 new cases recorded here, compared to 80 the previous week and less than half that number the week before. There are 4,743 active cases and 248 people hospitalized with the virus, 63 of whom are in critical care. A further 8,659 people are under active public health monitoring. Sadly, four people lost their lives due to COVID-19 since yesterday. There were no new healthcare outbreaks announced. To date, 298,851 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, 86,746 of which are second doses. Henry also spoke today on an additional vaccination plan for first responders and other essential workers, using the AstraZeneca vaccine. Delivery of this vaccine will run “in parallel but separate from our age-based community-based immunization program,” she said. The province’s immunization committee is establishing who should receive that vaccine and in what order. Henry hopes to deliver a detailed plan to the public in the next two weeks, and she targeted March 18 as a possible date for that announcement. The initial AstraZeneca shipment will be used to address “ongoing clusters and outbreaks that are leading to rapidly increasing numbers in some places, some communities, to best protect our communities,” Henry said. She also acknowledged the uptick in new cases, and the rise of more transmissible variants, particularly in the Lower Mainland. “We can’t let these successes—the vaccines we have now—be diminished by a surge in cases that will lead us to a third wave.” Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel
LAKELAND, Fla. — A lack of control from Toronto's pitchers was a factor in the Detroit Tigers' 8-2 win over the Blue Jays in spring training action Thursday. The Tigers (3-2) scored eight unanswered runs in the win, with two of them coming off wild pitches. Toronto (2-2-1) scored a run in the top of the first two innings to take an early lead. Alejandro Kirk's RBI single drove in Marcus Semien in the first, and Cavan Biggio's triple brought home Forrest Wall in the second. Detroit got one back with a Miguel Cabrera RBI double in the third, then took control with a three-run fourth. Derek Hill started the scoring in the inning win an RBI single, followed by a run-scoring sacrifice fly from Isaac Paredes. Toronto right-hander Joey Murray followed that with a wild pitch that scored Akil Baddoo. Detroit scored two more in each of the fifth and sixth innings, capped by Toronto's second wild pitch of the day when Yosver Zulueta's wayward toss allowed Daniel Pinero to score. Toronto starter T.J. Zeuch allowed two hits and a walk over two scoreless innings. Murray took the loss after giving up three runs on two hits and three walks in the fourth. The Blue Jays got to Detroit starter Spencer Turnbull with four hits and two runs over his two innings, but the Tigers' relievers combined to allow no runs and just one hit over the next five innings. Derek Holland picked up the win. Toronto next plays Friday afternoon against Baltimore in Dunedin, Fla. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
ATLANTA — Georgia moved closer Thursday to the possible repeal of an 1863 law that lets private citizens make an arrest, more than a year after the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man chased by white men who said they suspected he had committed a crime. House Bill 479 was approved unanimously by the chamber's Judiciary Committee and could soon move to the House floor for a vote. Georgia's current law was enacted during the Civil War and allows citizens to arrest someone if a crime is committed in their presence or they have “immediate knowledge” that a crime has been committed. Critics say it has long been used to justify lynchings of African Americans. Gov. Brian Kemp has endorsed the bill, saying Arbery’s death on Feb. 23, 2020, shows it’s time for the law to be changed. “Some tried to justify the actions of the killers by claiming they had protection under an antiquated law that is ripe for abuse,” Kemp said last month. The bill would remove from state law the broad powers granted to ordinary citizens to make an arrest, while allowing store and restaurant employees to detain those suspected of stealing. Licensed security guards and private detectives also would be able to make arrests. A previous version of the bill limited the time a person could be detained before police arrive to one hour, but that was changed to stipulate a person could be held for a “reasonable” amount of time. The father and son who armed themselves and pursued Arbery, Greg and Travis McMichael, weren’t arrested or charged until more than two months after the shooting. The first outside prosecutor assigned to the case cited Georgia’s citizen arrest law in a letter to police arguing the shooting was justified. The McMichaels’ lawyers have said they pursued Arbery suspecting he was a burglar, after security cameras had previously recorded him entering a home under construction. They said Travis McMichael shot Arbery while fearing for his life as they grappled over a shotgun. The McMichaels were charged with murder. Video of the fatal encounter was taken by William “Roddie” Bryan, a neighbour who joined the chase and also was later charged with murder. Prosecutors have said Arbery stole nothing and was merely out jogging when the McMichaels and Bryan chased him. They remain jailed without bond. The Associated Press
The head of Canada's largest private sector union says air passengers who couldn't use their tickets because of the pandemic will get refunds. Jerry Dias said Air Canada has already agreed to the refunds, which has been a sore point among consumers starting in March when travellers were forced to stay home. As Sean O'Shea reports, Dias says refunds are a condition for an airline aid package.
SAN DIEGO — More than 260 refugees who were vetted, approved and booked to come to the United States have had their flights cancelled by the State Department over the past two weeks because they do not qualify under restrictions imposed by former President Donald Trump, refugee resettlement agencies say. The restrictions came when Trump capped refugee admissions at a record low of 15,000. President Joe Biden proposed quadrupling refugee admissions and eliminating Trump's restrictions in a plan that was communicated to Congress three weeks ago. Meantime, the State Department, which co-ordinates flights with resettlement agencies, booked the refugees with the anticipation that Biden would have replaced Trump’s orders by now, according to the agencies. But Biden has not issued a presidential determination since his administration notified Congress, which is required by law, and Trump’s orders have remained in place. The action does not require congressional approval and past presidents have issued such presidential determinations that set the cap on refugee admissions shortly after the notification to Congress. As a result, the State Department has cancelled the flights of at least 264 refugees and more cancellations are expected, according to resettlement agencies. Most of the refugees are from Africa and do not qualify for entry under the restrictions that Trump implemented that allocated most of the spots for people fleeing religious persecution, Iraqis who have assisted U.S. forces there, and people from Central America’s Northern Triangle, the resettlement agencies say. Mark Hetfield, president of HIAS, a Maryland-based Jewish non-profit that is one of nine agencies that resettles refugees in the U.S., said all flights for refugees who don't qualify under Trump's restrictions have been cancelled through March 19. “Real lives are being impacted," Hetfield said. “To say I am very disappointed that the Biden administration would treat refugees this way would be an understatement." Many of the refugees had sold their belongings and left places they were renting and now are scrambling to find another place to stay until they get word they can come to the United States. Melaku Gebretsadik, 54, an Eritrean refugee who lives in Greeley, Colorado, was on his way to the Denver airport Tuesday with flowers and gifts to greet his wife and three children when he was told their flights were cancelled. He has been waiting to be reunited with them for a decade. “My heart was broken," Gebretsadik said through an interpreter. His family was told they should be re-booked on a flight in a couple of weeks but Gebretsadik is not going to get his hopes up. “I don't know what to believe," he said. The Biden administration gave no explanation about the delay or cancellation of flights when asked about the situation Thursday. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Secretary of State Antony Blinken “believes that it is very much in our DNA to be a country that welcomes those fleeing persecution, welcomes those fleeing violence the world over. It is precisely why discriminatory travel bans were done away with." But he said he had no updates at this time on “our efforts to undo some of the damage to the program.” Krish O’Mara Vignarajah of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, which also resettles refugees, said many are in precarious situations. “After four years of draconian Trump administration policies, it’s critical that the Biden administration expeditiously issue its presidential determination to ensure these new Americans can safely enter their new home country," she said. ___ Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report. Julie Watson, The Associated Press
The sun had not yet crested the horizon on a cold Tuesday morning when a group of women from Six Nations crossed into a Caledonia construction site and set up a teepee. The occupation of the planned Douglas Creek Estates subdivision on Argyle Street started a chain reaction that would lead 15 years later to the ongoing standoff at 1492 Land Back Lane. “Some parts of it are like déjà vu,” said Dawn Smith, who stepped onto DCE on Feb. 28, 2006, and became a public face of the movement asserting Haudenosaunee land rights along the Grand River. “They experience what we experienced, but they’ve been there a lot longer than we were,” Smith said of land defenders who have held the McKenzie Meadows construction site since July, indefinitely delaying a 229-unit subdivision planned by Foxgate Developments while blocking key roadways in response to clashes with police. Within four months of Smith and her compatriots occupying DCE, after violent clashes and failed negotiations, the province bought the land from local developers to hold in trust, essentially surrendering the 99-acre property to Six Nations members who control it to this day as an unofficial extension of the reserve. How the occupation on McKenzie Road will end remains anyone’s guess, but a look back to 2006 may offer some clues. Origins of a conflict It’s easiest to start with what hasn’t changed. In July 2020, much like 2006 and two centuries before that, who owns the land along the Grand River remains an open question. Land defenders point to the Haldimand Proclamation of 1784 as the justification for their claims of sovereignty over the DCE and McKenzie sites. Governor Frederick Haldimand granted approximately 10 kilometres along either side of the entire length of the Grand River — just shy of one million square kilometres in all — to the Haudenosaunee in gratitude for their allyship during the American Revolutionary War. Depending on who tells the story, the Haldimand Tract land was then legally surrendered by Haudenosaunee chiefs or “stolen fair and square” by corrupt colonial authorities, said Rick Monture, a Mohawk from Six Nations and professor of Indigenous studies at McMaster University. A land claims lawsuit launched by Six Nations Elected Council in 1995 to settle the question inches toward a November 2022 court date. In the meantime, developers of the Douglas Creek and McKenzie Meadows projects thought they were in the clear since the lawsuit seeks financial compensation and not the return of privately held land. Monture said the builders, and the governments who approved the land sales, should have known better. “I can’t believe they would even try to negotiate a land deal in an area that’s hotly contested. That makes no sense,” he said. The Douglas Creek occupation followed a pattern that has repeated itself at Land Back Lane — builders sought a court injunction to oust the occupiers, who refused to leave, and police tried different approaches to enforce the court order. “By April 20, the police came in and it was a full-scale raid,” said Smith, recalling the 2006 predawn clash between OPP officers and hundreds of land defenders and supporters who rushed to Douglas Creek. In response, demonstrators set up roadblocks and lit tire fires on the roads, just as happened after smaller-scale skirmishes between the OPP and those occupying McKenzie Meadows. “Where it sits right now — the precariousness of the situation, how it’s been this way for how long now — they’re experiencing a lot more than we did,” Smith said of the ongoing stalemate at Land Back Lane. Skyler Williams of Six Nations was 23 when he fought police on the ground at DCE. Now the spokesperson for 1492 Land Back Lane, Williams says he turns to people like Smith for guidance. Smith said Williams and others in the camp share her motivation for defending the land. “It’s my job as a woman to protect Mother Earth for the seven generations that are coming,” she said. “I feel that if more people sat and spoke with these young men and women, they would get a different understanding. They’re not there just to tear up roads and instigate riots. They’re there for a reason, and that reason I tuck into bed every night.” Passing the buck Things moved quickly after Smith and her compatriots stopped work at DCE, which her group calls Kanonhstaton, “the protected place” in Mohawk. Hundreds of residents and home buyers massed at the barricades to demand an end to the occupation and protest police inaction. Thus began what Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett has described as “15 years of anarchy” in Caledonia. After the failed police attempt to clear the site, Ottawa and Queen’s Park started negotiating with Six Nations elected and hereditary leaders — a first for the area. Soon afterward, the province declared an indefinite moratorium on construction on the DCE land. This time, there have been no federal talks, and Premier Doug Ford has taken a hard line against the occupation. “What I’m hearing from residents is exactly what I heard 15 years ago,” said Barrett, a Conservative politician who at the time was also the provincial representative for Six Nations. “One thing has changed. They know it’s a different government now.” When news of the Douglas Creek occupation reached Queen’s Park, Barrett said he immediately crossed the floor to confer with the Liberal minister in charge of Indigenous affairs. The next day, he visited the site and met with clan mothers and some Confederacy chiefs, who asked for his help to liaise with elected council, the OPP and the federal government. “There is a bit of a formula here that’s followed,” Barrett said of the land defenders’ strategy of seeking nation-to-nation negotiations. “The messaging about rights and in this case land back, and the talk about, ‘It’s federal, and we want to meet with the governor general.’ I heard all this in 2006. That stuff just endlessly gets dragged out.” That’s exactly the problem, Monture said. No leader wants to solve the underlying issue. “It’s just this endless cycle of punting the ball to the province, the feds, First Nations, back and forth,” he said. “Meantime, our people grow more and more frustrated with it, and our neighbours grow more and more frustrated with us. So it works out in the best interest of Canada to let it simmer, since you let the next political party deal with it.” Monture worries what could happen “when that frustration boils over.” “They have to get serious about it soon,” he said. “We are a peaceful people. We’ve tried and tried and tried to put forward our complaints and our story. We’re just asking for some justice here.” Growing awareness, lingering frustration What was a conflagration in 2006 has been a slow burn this time around. Aside from minor clashes, the McKenzie Meadows occupation has not been marked by widespread violence. Still, there are those in Caledonia virulently opposed to what they consider a kind of urban warfare being waged against their community. Residents decry the vandalism in angry Facebook comments and invective-filled letters to the editor, saying if Canadians tore up roads and rail lines, they would be carted off to jail. Williams shrugs off such criticism. “We’re the nicest terrorists you’re ever going to meet,” he says with a laugh, referring to a since-retracted statement from Haldimand’s police services board calling the land defenders domestic terrorists. Williams said public sentiment feels different now than it did in 2006. Back then, Caledonia residents marched to the barricades with confrontation on their mind, whether with land defenders or police. This time around, residents organized a protest with Six Nations members, pushing the federal government for action on the land claim file. “The climate is way different. Way different,” Williams said. “We got people from town here walking across the police line to bring us food and love, and to come sit by the fire and talk and laugh. Gary McHale (a leader of the anti-Indigenous protests at DCE) wasn’t coming across the (barricade).” Canadians today are better educated about Indigenous issues, he added. “In 2021, the atrocities that have been committed against Indigenous people across the country aren’t secrets anymore. It is common knowledge now,” Williams said, listing off residential schools, the over-incarceration of Indigenous people, and murdered and missing Indigenous women as examples. “The government has said, yes, we are guilty of all those things, and so we need to reconcile with Indigenous people on a nation-to-nation basis.” Haldimand County Mayor Ken Hewitt said opinion regarding Land Back Lane is “mixed” among his constituents, with many upset at seeing quiet detour routes clogged with traffic and having their tax dollars repeatedly go to repair damaged roads. “They’re frustrated that, once again, the community is the whipping stick of an ongoing dispute between the federal government and Six Nations,” Hewitt said. “They do not like the idea that if people in Caledonia choose to take a different position on this protest or other protests, that it could result in further closure of roads.” In 2006, Hewitt was a financial services adviser who headed the Caledonia Citizens’ Alliance, a group that lobbied the province to help the town during the crisis. “The federal government — whether it was today, 10 years or 100 years ago — has always known that there was a collision course that’s been set between First Nations people and our government,” Hewitt said. “There’s many opportunities along the way that that collision could’ve been avoided. Yet here we are, having the same conversations over and over again.” Hewitt contends the DCE occupation “was fully supported by many, if not the majority of those on the territory,” while in his view, the McKenzie standoff is not as broadly popular on Six Nations. “Fundamentally, they certainly do support a resolution of these outstanding claims that exist within the Haldimand Tract,” Hewitt said. “But to close roads to and destroy property, those efforts are not supported by most members of Six Nations.” Monture was quick to point out that he could not speak for the entire community — indeed, the diversity of opinion on the reserve is often cited as a complicating factor in talks with the federal government — but his sense is most residents are “quietly supportive” of the Land Back movement. “I think most of it is, ‘Here we go again, unfortunately,’” he said. “The mood in the community is, ‘Can’t we just resolve this and move forward?’” Monture has noticed a sea change in attitudes toward Indigenous grievances among Caledonians, even as the bypass and two key thoroughfares have been closed more often than not since July. “It’s tricky, because unfortunately the only way we can call attention to these things is when we make those stands that aren’t wildly popular,” he said. “There are friends and acquaintances of mine (in Caledonia) who kind of silently cheer us on, but they don’t want to do that (publicly) because they’re going to look bad to their white neighbours in town.” But that sympathy is not universal. Several Caledonia residents told The Spectator they are wary of publicly criticizing the current occupation because they fear retribution from land defenders and their allies. Some cited the violence and property damage carried out against residents living near DCE in 2006 — and the lack of police response — as the reason they are staying silent this time. But Bill Stoneman, who has lived in Caledonia for 65 years, said the McKenzie occupation feels less tense. Stoneman said while the roadblocks are “annoying,” he does not feel personally threatened. “It’s calmer. In ’06, they were terrorizing the town. It’s a lot calmer now,” he said. “It’s a safe area. They’re not antagonizing. In ’06, it was unsafe back in that area. This time they’re trying to stick to the issues.” Tension on the ground As the political wheels spin, the reality on the ground is dictated by land defenders and the police, who are tasked with enforcing a pair of Superior Court injunctions ordering the roads cleared and the McKenzie site returned to Foxgate Developments. The altercation between OPP officers and land defenders on the night of Oct. 22 — which saw a failed arrest attempt at the back entrance to 1492 Land Back Lane lead to supporters pelting a police cruiser with rocks and officers deploying a Taser and shooting rubber bullets — brought reinforcements to the scene near Kanonhstaton, Smith among them. “There’s quite a few people down there I care for a great deal, and I had to make sure everybody was OK,” she said. “The feeling down there that night, it was exactly the same as when it happened in 2006. It wasn’t the numbers that came out, but the numbers that were needed showed up.” Barrett has repeatedly encouraged the police to enforce the injunctions, while making it clear governments “do not interfere or direct operational decisions” of the OPP. “If I’ve been asked once, I’ve been asked several thousand times to tell the police to go in there and clear it,” he said. “The first reaction is, yes, this has to be nipped in the bud. Because, you know, reinforcements gradually arrive. Then it settles into something much more insidious for people who are living right next door.” Haldimand OPP Const. Rod LeClair said police “take no position” in land disputes and instead seek “open and peaceful dialogue” with demonstrators, an approached codified by the OPP Framework that guides the force’s reaction to “critical Indigenous incidents.” Williams said in practice, officers seek to “exploit divisions” within Indigenous communities while laying “nuisance charges” to deter supporters. “This is something that is playing out exactly the same today as it did 15 years ago,” he said. Police services board chair Brian Haggith — a retired Haldimand OPP officer who policed the DCE occupation — says the OPP’s Framework is flawed. “When lawlessness starts, it just doesn’t seem to be able to control it,” he said. Residents in 2006 criticized the OPP for letting Six Nations members wantonly break the law in plain sight, and Haggith said officers again stood by last fall as streets were torn up using stolen construction equipment. “Police officers in uniform are watching this occur, and no attempt to stop it. People just don’t understand,” he said. “When the circumstances change — when the protesters or demonstrators are no longer peaceful — it’s incumbent upon the OPP to change strategies in order to restore order and preserve public safety.” Ga’nogae, a Seneca chief from the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, said officers are rightly showing more restraint this time. “(The government) kept the cattle prod to the OPP’s butt and said, ‘Come on, get those people off that land. Get those roads open,’” the chief said. “And the OPP, they learned from Ipperwash. They’re handling this with kid gloves, as they should be.” Split attention Beverly Jacobs, a Mohawk lawyer from Six Nations and associate dean of the University of Windsor law faculty, says the onus is on the government to avoid another standoff. She noted that Queen’s Park committed to “reconciling” Haudenosaunee land claims after the Douglas Creek standoff, but no progress was made, while more than 800 Caledonia residents and business owners wrung a $20-million settlement out of the province to compensate for their losses. Caledonia lawyer Peter Murray was involved in paying out that class-action lawsuit, and in November, his firm took the lead on organizing another legal action against the province and the OPP, prompted by roadblocks again cutting off access to town. “It’s fair to say that it’s less confrontational between the residents of Caledonia and the protesters than it was in 2006,” Murray said. “I’m not seeing the gatherings up at the Canadian Tire parking lot that we saw in 2006 — marching with the Canadian flag, that kind of stuff. It could be social media playing more of a role today. A lot of people are expressing their thoughts on social media as opposed to physically going there. But as far as the businesses are concerned, I’m afraid it could be very similar if it’s not resolved.” One problem with getting action from Ottawa is the Caledonia disputes, while disruptive locally, can’t compete for national attention with higher-profile conflicts such as the burning of Mi’kmaq fishing boats in Nova Scotia or Wet’suwet’en pipeline protests out west. “This isn’t that important to the majority of people in the country, which is why these steps these people are taking are counterproductive,” Hewitt said. “It’s not achieving the goals. Look at ’06. Show me the success as the result of that protest. Sure, you stopped a development, but that land — nothing’s happened, nothing’s changed.” That criticism misses the point, Williams said. “The way we live is quite a bit different than covering everything in concrete and asphalt and calling that progress,” he said. “To let the wildlife come back here, for the earth here to regrow and heal itself — that’s what progress is for us. To let Mother Nature do her bit, and let her take this land back.” Some residents have questioned the timing of the McKenzie Meadows occupation, wondering why land defenders let contractors clear the former farmland and install sewer lines before moving in. Williams blamed the pandemic, saying his group was ready to go in when work started in the spring, but that coincided with the arrival of COVID-19 to Six Nations. “Our entire community was locked down for those three months,” Williams said. “We were very concerned about (the virus) and wanted to make sure that everybody was going to be safe.” The pandemic didn’t stop some Six Nations members from blockading the Highway 6 bypass and the CN rail line from Feb. 24 to March 19, in solidarity with Wetʼsuwetʼen resistance to the pipeline. The protesters eventually retreated to Kanonhstaton, which has been a safe zone for land defenders throughout the McKenzie occupation. Monture suspects politicians are too busy managing the pandemic to pay much attention to a relatively low-priority land dispute in rural Ontario. “I don’t think people have the mental or emotional, or even the physical stamina now to put a lot of good thinking toward this,” he said. “We need to get through the pandemic first, and then go at it.” Sharing the land Things have not always been this tense in Caledonia. Locals remember decades, if not centuries, of neighbourly relations between Haldimand County and Six Nations, with residents intermarrying and intermingling at schools, shops, and social events. Some contend the DCE occupation soured that closeness and created divisions between the two communities. “The relationships were good. They worked for each other, helped each other out. It was a friendly camaraderie amongst people back then,” said Monture, whose father and grandfather were farmers on the reserve. They told him that in the 1940s and 1950s, their non-Indigenous neighbours knew the history and understood that the land along Plank Road — better known today as Highway 6 — was Haudenosaunee. He suspects the residents who massed at the barricades in 2006, some waving Confederate flags, were ignorant of the underlying issues at play. “I was shocked at the amount of animosity that was hurled at our people from folks in Caledonia,” Monture said. “Not so much this time — maybe it’s online more — but there was a palpable anger and mob mindset happening around Douglas Creek.” What’s next? With the occupation of McKenzie Meadows well into its eighth month and the trenches blocking the roads now repaired, the question of when the police will move in hangs over the camp. Williams knows McKenzie Road could yet become a battlefield. But, he says, they won in 2006. They may win again. “The amount of support across the country for our stand here has been amazing,” he said. “We know that resistance movements from Indigenous communities are growing. Our ally networks are massive and far-reaching across all Turtle Island. I think all of us have a shared struggle.” Smith sees an emotional parallel to DCE in what is happening on the ground in Caledonia today. “The way everybody’s come together as a family, that’s the way it was back in 2006,” she said. “Blood is blood. Whether we’re related by family or just we’re all Onkwehonwe. Just to know that this fight has been happening since day one. From 1492 — or the way our stories go, before that — we have fought to hold onto our way of life.” To Hewitt’s mind, protests at DCE did not spur political action on land claims, and this time will be no different if violent confrontation is the result. “What I’ve seen in the last 15 years is we’re more likely to see success for both communities by working together to find common ground than we are working opposed to each other, as we have been,” he said. “Sitting here blocking a road into a small town of 10,000 people isn’t getting the attention of Ottawa. It’s not getting the attention of Toronto. All it’s done is fan some flames of anger.” Thus far, Ford has given no indication he plans to follow former premier Dalton McGuinty’s lead and buy out the developers as a way out of the standoff. Rather than politicians simply waiting out the land defenders, Monture would like to see “a fair and sincere effort” to address land claims. “True leadership and courage — that’s what it’s going to take,” Monture said. Barrett said the answer must come from Six Nations, where elected and hereditary leaders have begun to smooth over decades of mistrust — created, Monture noted, by Ottawa supplanting the Confederacy with the band council — in order to negotiate with Ottawa as a united front. “The question I’ve been asking for 15 years — do you know who’s in charge?” Barrett said. “It’s really not the role of the provincial or federal government to step into that kind of argument. That’s internal to the community.” With occupations allowed to continue virtually unchallenged, Barrett sees the rule of law weakening. “It’s chaos. I really resent the intimidation that’s used to generate fear,” he said. “That’s not how we operate in Ontario or Canada.” To Smith, each land reclamation moves First Nations peoples one step forward to self-determination. “My passion is to see my governments sit at the table with your governments — face to face, heart to heart — and really try to come to a compassionate understanding that will benefit everybody,” she said. J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
Once upon a time, dear children, before you were born, they made a fairytale movie about a kingdom called Zamunda. “Coming to America,” starring Eddie Murphy at the height of his popularity and charisma, became a huge hit and a cult classic. In this film, dear children, Murphy played Prince Akeem — he didn’t need to be called Prince Charming, because he was already so darned charming. We met him on the morning of his 21st birthday, awakening in his palace bedroom to a full orchestra, servants tossing rose petals at his feet, and gorgeous naked women servicing him in the bathtub until his royal appendage was deemed clean. Oops! Sorry, kids. Some parts of “Coming To America” didn’t age very well. Including most of the stuff about women. But 33 years and one #MeToo movement later, it’s time for a reboot. The good news about “Coming 2 America,” directed by Craig Brewer, is that things have gotten better for women in Zamunda. Yes, it’s still a patriarchy (more on that soon) and yes, there are still obedient royal bathers. But we don’t see their naked breasts or backsides. There’s also a bathtub gag involving the great Leslie Jones that flips the gender dynamic entirely and gratifyingly (especially for her). And now, Prince Akeem is not a randy young heir but an established family man. Happily married for 30 years to Princess Lisa — the bride he found in Queens in the last film — he has three daughters, brave and feisty. The eldest wants to be his heir. A female heir? That’s not done, in Zamunda. But the times, they are — or might be — a-changin'. That’s the good news. The bad news is that this sequel, despite (or perhaps because of) its nod to modern sensibilities, isn’t nearly as funny or edgy as the original. It has seemingly everything -- the original cast, some well-known newcomers, high-profile cameos — and eye-popping costumes by the great Ruth E. Carter (an Oscar winner for “Black Panther”). It has set pieces and choreography and de-aging technology and overlaying plot lines. What it has less of, is fun. Still, just like we go to college reunions 30 years later to recapture the magic, fans of the first will flock to it on Amazon Prime. They likely won’t be too disappointed. Especially because, despite the knowing references to urban gentrification, transgender offspring, Teslas and even unnecessary movie sequels, little has really changed. Obviously Murphy is back, as producer and star. So is Arsenio Hall, as trusty sidekick Semmi (and a bunch of other roles). Also back: the stately James Earl Jones as King Jaffe Joffer; Shari Headley as Lisa (a seriously underwritten role); and Louie Anderson as Maurice. John Amos is back as Lisa’s dad, still ripping off McDonald’s. And of course the My-T-Sharp barbershop crew is back in Queens. A new presence is the casually appealing Jermaine Fowler as Lavelle, Akeem’s previously unknown son. Celebrity guests include a highly amusing Wesley Snipes as flamboyant General Izzi, leader of Nexdoria (next door); Tracy Morgan as Lavelle’s uncle; and Jones as his uninhibited mother. Another “Saturday Night Live” face, Colin Jost, makes the most of a brief cameo. Among notable musical appearances, Gladys Knight sings “Midnight Train From Zamunda.” The plot follows a familiar trajectory, beginning in Zamunda and travelling to Queens to solve a major need. In this case, the need is not a bride, but a male heir. Akeem, who becomes king upon his father’s death, learns he unknowingly sired a son during that Queens trip three decades ago (it was Semmi’s fault!) He needs a male heir to cement his power. So he brings Lavelle, a ticket scalper who aspires to much more, back to Zamunda, along with Mom. But Lavelle needs to learn royal ways, and pass a “princely test” which includes facing down a lion. There’s also the matter of Akeem’s daughter, Meeka (a luminous KiKi Layne, not given enough screen time), who rightly deserves to be queen one day. Complicating matters entirely, Lavelle falls not for his intended bride, Izzi's daughter, but for his royal barber, Mirembe, who aspires to her own shop one day (women don’t own businesses in Zamunda). Again, it all feels like a 30th reunion — maybe because it IS one — where the liquor flows, old stories are rehashed, the men haven’t aged quite as well as the women, the kids steal the show, and by the end you’re happy to have gone but feel no need to be at the next one. “Coming 2 America,” an Amazon Studios release, has been rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America “for crude and sexual content, language and drug content.” Running time: 110 minutes. Two stars out of four. MPAA definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned, Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
REGINA — The Saskatchewan government has shot a boost of optimism into its fight against COVID-19, announcing it will join other provinces by delaying the second dose of vaccines to speed up immunizations. Speaking Thursday at a news conference with other premiers, Premier Scott Moe said 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, Manitoba and other provinces made similar announcements after British Columbia first said Monday it was moving to a four-month delay. The shift comes as health experts point to people being well protected against the novel coronavirus with a first dose, noting the country faces a limited supply of vaccines. "The benefits are tremendous," Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, said during a briefing. "We can emerge out of the pandemic three months earlier than we had anticipated. With a two-dose program, it would have taken us till September. Now we can vaccinate everyone 18 and older as early as June." Provincial health officials said that starting Friday, staff will only be giving first shots. The change will not apply to people who have appointments booked to receive a second dose, long-term care residents and staff, as well as those in personal care homes. Shahab said since vaccinations started in long-term care homes, there have been fewer outbreaks and infections in the facilities. To date, about 84,000 vaccinations have been done in Saskatchewan out of the roughly 400,000 shots needed to inoculate residents 70 and older and health-care workers at risk of COVID-19 exposure. Scott Livingstone, CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said he expects most of these vaccinations under the first stage of the province's immunization program will be finished in early April. He also asked for patience, as the authority has to adjust how it delivers vaccines with the new four-month window between doses. Saskatchewan reported 169 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths on Thursday. The province of 1.1 million people also continues to lead the country with the highest rate of active cases per capita in Canada. Moe said earlier in the week that delaying the second dose of vaccine would be a game-changer for how long public-health restrictions need to stay in place. The current order is in effect until March 19. Shahab said decisions about what rules might be relaxed could come next week. "I know it's been very hard for people not to be able meet each other in their houses," he said. "In the past, we did have, you know, two to three households as a bubble of up to ten. So that's something that we're looking at." The Ministry of Health also said it would use 15,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on people aged 60 to 64 and certain health-care workers. A national panel has recommended it not be used on seniors. The province said these vaccinations will start later this month and eligible residents will be able to book an appointment by phone through a system that is expected to launch next week. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press