The A-list is back. How A-list? Try Lady Gaga and J. Lo. Inauguration officials announced on Thursday that the glittery duo would appear in person on Jan. 20, with Gaga singing the national anthem as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, and Jennifer Lopez giving a musical performance. Foo Fighters, John Legend and Bruce Springsteen will offer remote performances, and Eva Longoria and and Kerry Washington will introduce segments of the event. Later that day, Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute primetime TV special celebrating Biden’s inauguration. Other performers include Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Ant Clemons. Despite a raging pandemic that is forcing most inaugural events online, it was a sign that Hollywood was back and eager to embrace the new president-elect four years after many big names stayed away from the inauguration of President Donald Trump, hugely unpopular in Hollywood. The question: How would the star wattage play across the country as Biden seeks to unite a bruised nation? Eric Dezenhall, a Washington crisis management consultant and former Reagan administration official, predicted reaction would fall “along tribal lines.” “I think it all comes down to the reinforcement of pre-existing beliefs,” Dezenhall said. “If you’re a Biden supporter, it’s nice to see Lady Gaga perform.” But, he added, “what rallied Trump supporters was the notion of an uber-elite that had nothing to do at all with them and that they couldn’t relate to.” Presidential historian Tevi Troy quipped that the starry Gaga-J. Lo lineup was not A-list, but D-list — "for Democratic.” "When Democrats win you get the more standard celebrities,” said Troy, author of “What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House.” “With Republicans you tend to get country music stars and race-car drivers." Referring to Lady Gaga’s outspoken support for the Biden-Harris ticket, he said he was nostalgic for the days when celebrities were not so political. “Call me a hopeless romantic, but I liked the old days when Bob Hope or Frank Sinatra would come to these events and they were not overtly political,” he said. Still, he said, Biden’s unity message won’t be derailed. “In the end, I don’t think having Lady Gaga or J. Lo is all that divisive,” he said. Attendance at the inauguration will be severely limited, due to both the pandemic and fears of continued violence, following last week’s storming of the Capitol. Outside the official events, one of the more prominent galas each inauguration is The Creative Coalition's quadrennial ball, a benefit for arts education. This year, the ball is entirely virtual. But it is star-studded nonetheless: The event, which will involve food being delivered simultaneously to attendees in multiple cities, will boast celebrity hosts including Jason Alexander, David Arquette, Matt Bomer, Christopher Jackson, Ted Danson, Lea DeLaria, Keegan Michael-Key, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Patinkin and many others. Robin Bronk, CEO of the non-partisan arts advocacy group, said she's been deluged with celebrities eager to participate in some way. The event typically brings in anywhere from $500,000 to $2.5 million, and this year the arts community is struggling like never before. Bronk noted that planning has been a challenge, given not only the recent political upheaval in the country but also the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic. Given all that, did a celebration make sense? “I was thinking about this when we were trying to phrase the invitation,” Bronk said. “Do we celebrate? This is the most serious time of our lives.” But, she said, especially at a time when the arts community is suffering, it’s crucial to shine a spotlight and recognize that “the right to bear arts is not a red or blue issue. One of the reasons we have this ball is that we have to ensure the arts are not forgotten." The Presidential Inaugural Committee also announced Thursday that the invocation will be given by the Rev. Leo O’Donovan, a former Georgetown University president, and the Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Andrea Hall, a firefighter from Georgia. There will be a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, the first national youth poet laureate, and the benediction will be given by Rev. Silvester Beaman of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware. On the same platform, Biden sat in 2013 behind pop star Beyoncé as she sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at President Barack Obama's second inauguration. James Taylor sang “America the Beautiful,” and Kelly Clarkson sang “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” At Trump’s inauguration in 2017, the anthem was performed by 16-year-old singer Jackie Evancho. A number of top artists declined the opportunity to perform at the festivities, and one Broadway star, Jennifer Holliday, even said she’d received death threats before she pulled out of her planned appearance. There was indeed star power in 2017, but most of it was centred at the Women’s March on Washington, where attendees included Madonna, Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johansson, Cher, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, Emma Watson and many others. This year, signs are that Obama-era celebrities are returning. Dezenhall said that in the end, it's logical for organizers to go with the biggest talent. “Lady Gaga is as big as you can get, and she is very talented,” he said. “If I were being inaugurated and I could have Lady Gaga, I would take it.” Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
Calling Métis an "interest group," as Premier Brian Pallister did Wednesday after touring the Brandon vaccination site, does not sit well with Manitoba Metis Federation David Chartrand. "It’s insulting," said Chartrand. When The Brandon Sun asked Pallister to explain the lack of a COVID-19 data sharing agreement with the federation, including the lack of a partnership to ensure Métis are prioritized for vaccines as First Nations have been, he was quick to bristle. But instead of answering the question, the premier spoke about Indigenous people generally, First Nations and reconciliation. "Well, Métis representatives have been at the table and have been part of this. But, of course, Métis people live integrated, for the most part, with the rest of us in the province, as opposed to a lot of the Northern Indigenous communities that do not. And, so, the considerations are not identical, as you would recognize," he said, when pressed. When pressed again, he said, "There are significant efforts being made to work with our interest groups in our province, in particular with the Indigenous and Métis people to make sure that we’re doing what’s culturally appropriate, what works well for their population, what’s acceptable, agreeable, sensitive to their needs. That work is ongoing." But Chartrand objects to Pallister’s statements. He said the only committee the federation – a self-governing political representative for Manitoba Métis – has been asked to sit on is about how best to communicate about vaccines, which has nothing to do with the roll-out. To begin with, Chartrand explained, in some villages, the clear majority will be First Nation and Métis, with very few non-Indigenous people living in them. Chartrand offers Camperville, on the western shore of Lake Winnipegosis, St. Laurent, established as Fond du Lac in 1824 by Métis, and St. Eustache as examples of predominantly Métis villages. "Those are Métis villages. The vast majority (of people) are Métis. These are historical Métis villages which existed even before Canada existed, before the Province of Manitoba," Chartrand said. "Excuse me, but I can tell you where every Métis person lives. I can tell you their chronic illnesses. I can tell you their education level. I can tell you what universities they’re going to. I can tell you what colleges they’re going to." Further, Chartrand said Pallister has a responsibility to establish a distinct process with Métis, and that he’s making excuses not to engage with Métis as a rights-holding Indigenous population. NDP leader Wab Kinew weighed in, after Pallister’s appearance in Brandon. "Unfortunately, Mr. Pallister has politicized his relationship with the Métis people in Manitoba. And I think, in this instance, it’s getting in the way of public health," he said. He said due to the strong work of First Nations health leaders, the benefits of data sharing and strategizing can be seen, and that the Métis community being able to participate in the same kind of arrangement would probably benefit all Manitobans. "If there is one group in society that – whether it’s a cultural group, a geographic region, a socio-economic group – that gets left behind, and that becomes the opening by which the virus can spread, then that affects all of us," Kinew said. "Then we all have to live with the virus or the public health restrictions that are attempting to combat it." He thinks the Métis are raising an important issue and Pallister would do well to dramatically improve his working relationship with them. Jerry Daniels, the Grand Chief of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO), concurs. "SCO supports our Métis relatives in their efforts to have allotments of COVID-19 vaccines that they can distribute to their own people," stated Daniels by email. "COVID-19 has impacted the Métis population in Manitoba and there needs to be accountability for this. There also needs to be a facts-based approach to vaccine distribution, to ensure they receive a fair amount of vaccines and can keep their most vulnerable people safe. So far, the province has been unwilling to collaborate with the Metis Nation." Meanwhile, in a follow-up email from a Pallister spokesperson, Chartrand’s previous statements on this matter were denigrated. "Contrary to the inaccurate and inflammatory comments made by the president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, the Government of Manitoba appreciates the willingness of the MMF to assist in Manitoba’s COVID-19 response," stated the spokesperson later Wednesday afternoon. "We have invited them to work with us, in partnership, to discuss how Métis communities can be supported to enhance their ability to access Manitoba’s three COVID-19 vaccination super sites. We have yet to receive a response to this invitation, but remain optimistic about the prospect of working together on this pivotal aspect of the vaccination strategy." But that’s not what Chartrand wants. He wants an allocation of vaccine, and he would partner with pharmacies to deliver them to vulnerable Métis, likely much the same way the science has dictated priority groups so far. "We’d pay them (pharmacies) to give the vaccines. We’d put up the resources to make sure it’s there. We know where our people live, we know their ages, we know their locations, we know the communities. We can quickly put an action team together and a plan – overnight," Chartrand said. When asked about a possible "plan B" if the Province of Manitoba continues to exclude the federation from meaningful participation in the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out in the province, to ensure the most vulnerable Métis are adequately protected, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) stated the federal government places great importance on including Indigenous voices in the priority-setting for early vaccination. "ISC is working collaboratively with all provinces and territories to encourage inclusion of Indigenous perspectives to ensure an integrated and coordinated approach to support the administration and planning process of the COVID-19 vaccine for Indigenous peoples," stated a spokesperson by email. "The logistics of a COVID-19 vaccine roll-out require coordination amongst partners and provinces and territories; an efficient and effective roll-out requires co-planning and is dependent on full collaboration."Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his entire Cabinet resigned Friday to take political responsibility for a scandal involving investigations into child welfare payments that wrongly labeled thousands of parents as fraudsters. In a nationally televised speech, Rutte said he had informed King Willem-Alexander of his decision and pledged that his government would continue work to compensate affected parents as quickly as possible and to battle the coronavirus. “We are of one mind that if the whole system has failed, we all must take responsibility, and that has led to the conclusion that I have just offered the king, the resignation of the entire Cabinet,” Rutte said. The move was seen as largely symbolic; Rutte’s government will remain in office in a caretaker mode until a new coalition is formed after a March 17 election in the Netherlands. The resignation brings to an end a decade in office for Rutte, although his party is expected to win the election, putting him first in line to begin talks to form the next government. If he succeeds in forming a new coalition, Rutte would most likely again become prime minister. The Netherlands is the third European country thrown into political uncertainty this week in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. In Estonia, the government resigned over a corruption scandal, while Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte’s governing coalition is at risk of collapse after a small partner party withdrew its support. Rutte said earlier this week that his government would be able to keep taking tough policy decisions in the battle against the coronavirus even if it were in caretaker mode. The Netherlands is in a tough lockdown until at least Feb. 9, and the government is considering imposing an overnight curfew amid fears about new, more contagious variants of the virus. “To the Netherlands I say: Our struggle against the coronavirus will continue,” Rutte said. On Thursday, the leader of the Dutch opposition Labor Party stepped down because he was minister of social affairs in a governing coalition led by Rutte when the country’s tax office implemented a tough policy of tracking down fraud with child welfare. Lodewijk Asscher’s decision put further pressure on Rutte ahead of Friday's Cabinet meeting. Ministers were to decide on their reaction to a scathing report issued last month, titled “Unprecedented Injustice,” that said the tax office policies violated “fundamental principles of the rule of law.” The report also criticized the government for the way it provided information to parliament about the scandal. Many wrongfully accused parents were plunged into debt when tax officials demanded repayment of payments. The government has in the past apologized for the tax office’s methods and in March earmarked 500 million euros ($607 million) to compensate more than 20,000 parents. One of those parents waited near parliament as the Cabinet met and said she wanted it to resign. “It's important for me because it is the government acknowledging, ‘We have made a mistake and we are taking responsibility,’ because it's quite something what happened to us,” Janet Ramesar told The Associated Press. Rutte plans to lead his conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy into the March election, and polls suggest it will win the most seats. That would put Rutte, who has been in office for a decade at the head of three different coalitions, first in line to attempt to form the next ruling coalition. Deputy Prime Minister Kajsa Ollongren, who serves as interior minister, said as she entered Friday's meeting that “it is very important to be accountable and also to show responsibility in the political sense, and we are going to talk about that in the Council of Ministers today.” Mike Corder, The Associated Press
MILAN — Italy’s fashion chamber is opening on Friday the first Milan Fashion Week that won't have VIPS populating runway front rows, as the reality of Italy's persistent resurgence of the coronavirus has forced an all-virtual format for presenting menswear previews. The National Fashion Chamber maintained a live element during the July and September fashion weeks in Milan. But after planning to stage live shows with guests during this round, Fendi, Etro and outdoor brand Kway announced their events will be livestreamed from behind closed doors. Dolce & Gabbana cancelled its runway show entirely, citing restrictions in place due to COVID-19. The other 36 participating fashion houses on the pared-down calendar -- including Zegna and Prada -- will all have digital-only presentations. “We did everything to preserve some runway shows, but the anti-COVID norms in this moment don’t allow us to have guests, and therefore, the runway shows will be closed-door,” fashion chamber president Carlo Capasa said. The organizers of Paris Fashion Week plan to hold audience-free men’s and haute couture shows later this month. Prospects for Milan's February shows of mostly womenswear previews remain unclear; the Italian government on Friday announced a new round of virus-control restrictions through Feb. 15 that extend a ban on travelling between regions. Capasa acknowledged that closed-door shows deprive fashion of some of its energy. But the pandemic, which has all but shut down global travel and closed retail stores for long periods , has made fashion houses quickly update their digital communication strategies and e-commerce platforms, he said. There is some evidence the investments are paying off, with one-quarter of online luxury sales last year to consumers who went high-end for the first-time, Capasa said. The Italian fashion chamber found that 45 million people streamed Milan Fashion Week shows in September, a number that Capasa said was beyond his wildest dreams a year ago. Still, the fashion industry is in dire financial straits. The Italian industry recorded a 25% drop in revenues to 50.5 billion euros ($61.2 billion) in 2020 compared with 2019, with exports down 22% to nearly 43 billion euros ($52.1 billion). A more drastic decline was avoided thanks to so-called “revenge shopping” in China, with eager consumers returning to luxury shopping as soon as lockdowns expired, and moves toward e-commerce and a bump in global luxury sales in October, Capasa said. In Europe, where governments have ordered new lockdowns, the market remained weakest. Capasa said the industry, one of the biggest generators of Italy's gross domestic product, is seeking a share of the government’s recovery funds to help improve innovation and to keep small artisanal businesses from failing. He said he hopes to see a gradual return to normality in fashion show calendars and travel this summer, as vaccines reduce the threat of the coronavirus. “For now, we need to do the best we can, in the moment we are living,’’ Capasa said. Colleen Barry, The Associated Press
The women's curling team skipped by Jill Brothers will represent Nova Scotia at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Alberta next month. The team was invited to attend by the Nova Scotia Curling Association after the provincial championships for men and women were cancelled due to the pandemic. The event, set for Feb. 19-28, will be played in a bubble in Calgary. It wasn't an easy decision under the current circumstances, Brothers said. "It's part of my nature to just want to win. I just really like to compete. If I could curl for a living I would." The team found out on Monday it had being given the nod to represent Nova Scotia. It was asked to make a decision by Wednesday. The team asked for an extra day before confirming it would be able to go. Family and work support helped with decision Brothers, a 37-year-old Halifax hair stylist who has two young children, said she wouldn't be going if her family and work didn't support her. But the entire team isn't going. Sarah Murphy has opted to stay home. Another player was undecided until Friday, but has chosen to make the trip. Emma Logan, the team's alternate, will move into the regular lineup. "Sarah, in her gut, just doesn't feel right about it and we totally respect her answer," said Brothers, who will be making her fifth appearance at the Scotties. "We're going to miss her a lot and I know she'll have a hard time watching it on TV and not being there, we have no hard feelings whatsoever." The decision to attend the Scotties is a commitment of nearly a month. The team will have to travel to the bubble. There will be testing prior to the event, the competition itself and the return trip to Nova Scotia. A two-week isolation period will be required upon return. A team skipped by Mary-Anne Arsenault won the Nova Scotia championship in 2020, but Arsenault has since moved to B.C. Nova Scotia men's lineup undetermined Jamie Murphy's team, the 2020 provincial men's champion, has been invited to attend the Tim Hortons Brier in March. It will also be played in the Calgary bubble. But Murphy has declined, citing travel risks and the isolation period required on return. His team is still looking for someone to replace him. MORE TOP STORIES
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped nine of her most trusted allies in the House to argue the case for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. The Democrats, all of whom are lawyers and many of whom have deep experience investigating the president, face the arduous task of convincing skeptical Senate Republicans to convict Trump. A single article of impeachment — for “incitement of insurrection” — was approved by the House on Wednesday, one week after a violent mob of Trump supporters invaded the Capitol. At the time, lawmakers were counting the votes that cemented Trump’s election defeat. As members of the House who were in the Capitol when it was attacked — several hiding under seats as rioters beat on the doors of the chamber — the Democrats are also witnesses to what they charge is a crime. So are the Senate jurors. “This is a case where the jurors were also victims, and so whether it was those who voted in the House last night or those in the Senate who will have to weigh in on this, you don’t have to tell anyone who was in the building twice what it was like to be terrorized,” said California Rep. Eric Swalwell, one of the managers. It is unclear when the trial will start. Pelosi hasn’t yet said when she will send the article of impeachment to the Senate. It could be as soon as next week, on President-elect Joe Biden’s first day in office. The managers plan to argue at trial that Trump incited the riot, delaying the congressional certification of the electoral vote count by inciting an angry mob to harm members of Congress. Some of the rioters were recorded saying they wanted to find Pelosi and Vice-President Mike Pence, who presided over the count. Others had zip ties that could be used as handcuffs hanging on their clothes. “The American people witnessed that,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., one of the managers. “That amounts to high crimes and misdemeanours.” None of the impeachment managers argued the case in Trump’s first impeachment trial last year, when the Senate acquitted the president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The House impeached Trump in 2019 after he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden’s family while withholding military aid to the country. Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette, another manager, says the nine prosecutors plan to present a serious case and “finish the job” that the House started. A look at Pelosi’s prosecution team in Trump’s historic second impeachment: REP. JAMIE RASKIN, MARYLAND Pelosi appointed Raskin, a former constitutional law professor and prominent member of the House Judiciary Committee, as lead manager. In a week of dramatic events and stories, Raskin’s stands out: The day before the Capitol riots, Raskin buried his 25-year-old son, Tommy, after he killed himself on New Year’s Eve. “You would be hard pressed to find a more beloved figure in the Congress” than Raskin, says House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who was the lead manager during Trump’s first trial. He worked closely with Raskin on that impeachment investigation. “I know that part of what gives him strength to take on this burden that he now carries is knowing that this is something that would be enormously meaningful to his son.” REP. DIANA DEGETTE, COLORADO DeGette, who is serving her 13th term representing Denver, is a former civil rights attorney and one of Pelosi’s go-to allies. The speaker picked her to preside over the House during the first impeachment vote in 2019. DeGette said Pelosi trusted her to do it because she is “able to to control the passions on the floor.” She says she was surprised when Pelosi called to offer her the prosecutorial position but quickly accepted. “The monstrosity of this offence is not lost on anybody,” she says. REP. DAVID CICILLINE, RHODE ISLAND Cicilline, the former mayor of Providence and public defender, is in his sixth term in Congress and is a senior member of the Judiciary panel. He was heavily involved in Trump’s first impeachment and was one of three original authors of the article that the House approved on Wednesday. He and California Rep. Ted Lieu began writing the article together, in hiding, as the rioters were still ransacking the Capitol. He tweeted out a draft the next morning, writing that “I have prepared to remove the President from office following yesterday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.” REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, TEXAS Castro is a member of the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs panels, where he has been an outspoken critic of Trump's handling of Russia. He was a litigator in private practice before he was elected to the Texas legislature and came to Congress, where he is in his fifth term. Castro’s twin brother, Julian Castro, is the former mayor of San Antonio and served as former President Barack Obama’s secretary of housing and urban development. Julian Castro ran in the Democratic primary for president last year. REP. ERIC SWALWELL, CALIFORNIA Swalwell also serves on the Intelligence and Judiciary panels and was deeply involved in congressional probes of Trump’s Russian ties. A former prosecutor, he briefly ran for president in 2019. “The case that I think resonates the most with the American people and hopefully the Senate is that our American president incited our fellow citizens to attack our Capitol on a day where we were counting electoral votes, and that this was not a spontaneous call to action by the president at the rally,” Swalwell said. REP. TED LIEU, CALIFORNIA Lieu, who authored the article of impeachment with Cicilline and Raskin, is on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs panels. The Los Angeles-area lawmaker is a former active-duty officer in the U.S. Air Force and military prosecutor. “We cannot begin to heal the soul of this country without first delivering swift justice to all its enemies — foreign and domestic,” he said. DEL. STACEY PLASKETT, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS Because she represents a U.S. territory, not a state, Plaskett does not have voting rights and was not able to cast a vote for impeachment. But she will bring her legal experience as a former district attorney in New York and senior counsel at the Justice Department — and as one of Raskin's former law students. “As an African American, as a woman, seeing individuals storming our most sacred place of democracy, wearing anti-Semitic, racist, neo-Nazi, white supremacy logos on their bodies and wreaking the most vile and hateful things left not just those people of colour who were in the room traumatized, but so many people of colour around this country," she said Friday. REP. JOE NEGUSE, COLORADO Neguse, in his second term, is a rising star in the Democratic caucus who was elected to Pelosi’s leadership team his freshman year in Congress. A former litigator, he sits on the House Judiciary Committee and consulted with Raskin, Cicilline and Lieu as they drafted the article the day of the attack. At 36, he will be the youngest impeachment manager in history, according to his office. “This armed mob did not storm the Capitol on any given day, they did so during the most solemn of proceedings that the United States Congress is engaged in,” Neguse said Thursday. “Clearly the attack was done to stop us from finishing our work.” REP. MADELEINE DEAN, PENNSYLVANIA Like Neguse, Dean was first elected when Democrats recaptured the House in 2018. She is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and is a former lawyer and member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She says she hopes the prosecutors can convince the Senate and the American people “to mark this moment" with a conviction. “I think I bring to it just the simple fact that I’m a citizen, that I’m a mom and I’m a grandma," Dean said. "And I want my children, my grandchildren, to remember what we did here.” Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Activist Velma Morgan says several Black organizations were denied federal funding through a program designed to help such groups build capacity — after the department told them their leadership was not sufficiently Black.The chair of Operation Black Vote tells The Canadian Press her group received an email from Employment and Social Development Canada this week saying their application did not show "the organization is led and governed by people who self-identify as Black."The department sent a second email the next day, saying their applications were not approved because it did not receive "the information required to move forward."Morgan says her not-for-profit, multi-partisan organization that aims to get more Black people elected at all levels of government is one of at least five Black organizations that didn't get the funding.Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen says the initial letter his department sent to unsuccessful applicants was "completely unacceptable" and that he demanded a retraction as soon as he saw it.In a thread on Twitter, Hussen says he discussed with his department's officials to how such a mistake could have happened and implemented measures to make sure it does not happen again. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2020———This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
U.S. president-elect Joe Biden has unveiled a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan to turn the tide on the pandemic, speeding up the vaccine rollout and providing financial help to individuals, governments and businesses.
South River and Machar residents should have a better idea over the next few weeks what will happen to the ice at their arena in the wake of the province's 28-day stay-at-home order. South River council will discuss the issue at its Jan. 25 meeting. South River clerk-administrator Don McArthur says the municipality developed COVID-19 protocols for the arena's four user groups that were working prior to the latest lockdown. The arena was used by the Junior A Spartans, boys' minor hockey, girls' minor hockey and figure skating. The protocols were explained to the users last fall and McArthur says when the arena opened in October, everything “worked wonderfully. “We really felt comfortable with the protocols and with the cooperation of the groups where they took on a lot of the responsibilities,” McArthur says. “They looked after their own contact tracing and what we did was buy disinfectant and sanitized the equipment.” This approach worked well, he says, and the municipality didn't have to put any extra staff at the arena. It would have been a different story had council opened the arena to public skating. “If we allowed public skating, protocols like who's coming and going would have to have been done by us,” McArthur says. “So the staffing level would have gone up considerably in order to police and look after all that information flow.” That would have become too expensive for the municipality, he says. The protocols the municipality has in place are good and “everyone feels confident that we can operate safely. “But we don't have that option (to operate) under the lockdown,” McArthur says. The South River-Machar Community Centre and Arena has been closed since Dec. 21. Assuming there's a reopening in the near future, the user groups will operate under the same protocols in place prior to Dec. 21. McArthur says staff and council are looking at various scenarios depending on when the latest lockdown ends. In the best-case scenario, the lockdown could be lifted earlier in the North, in which case “if we're delayed only two to four weeks then maybe we can add that time and run the season a little later into March or to the end of March. “Council's challenge is we don't know if or when we'll get a green light,” McArthur says. “So at what point does it become too late or no longer economically feasible for us and the user groups?” This is now a waiting game and it's not easy as options are weighed. “The big cost, beyond wages, at the arena is maintaining the ice,” he says. “If there isn't going to be anyone using it and no revenue coming in, then how long do we maintain that ice for?” McArthur adds the arena isn't only used for winter activities. It's also used for a hockey opportunity camp during the summer. In fact, the arena is at its busiest during the eight to 10 weeks of the hockey camp. The facility is only without ice from mid April to mid June. When the lockdowns first started last March, McArthur says the hockey camp “was one of the first (activities) to take a direct hit.” With the arena in shutdown mode, staff were able to carry out considerable maintenance at the site that normally would not be achievable. But with the arena down for the entire summer, it meant no revenue to the municipality. McArthur says 2020 saw the arena lose about $40,000 over and above its normal expenses. McArthur says the province's safe restart agreement helped offset part of the arena loss and council is grateful for that. Council also was able to offset the remainder of the loss by reducing the number of capital projects it had scheduled for 2020. One of those projects involved a compressor rebuild at the arena. So, while the village will still have a balanced budget for 2020, it comes at a cost because it now has to delay some of the scheduled capital projects into the future, McArthur says. Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget
The Magnetawan First Nation, north of Parry Sound, was recently declared COVID-free, but the territory’s chief said he really wants to see the vaccine given to his community members as soon as possible. Chief William Diabo said that the Magnetawan First Nation was declared free of the coronavirus on New Year’s Eve. Nine members had been diagnosed with COVID-19 during December and all recovered, the last one being declared free of the virus and out of isolation on Dec. 31. That number represents almost 10 per cent of the community’s population of about 115 residents. Diabo had imposed a voluntary lockdown and a state of emergency when the virus first hit the territory in December. He said those orders have been lifted; however, he added that the territory is now covered by the Ontario-wide, province-imposed state of emergency and the restrictions that come with it, including a stay-at-home order. Diabo said that he is expecting a COVID vaccine rollout in the territory in the coming weeks. But he added that he understands they will have to wait their turn as front-line health-care workers, and residents of seniors’ residences, are vaccinated first. He added that he is still frustrated by some community members who are refusing the follow the COVID protocols. “I have a couple of people on my First Nation who are still not complying. One of them posted the damn thing on social media during the lockdown that they were having a gathering with people from four other households who were coming for breakfast over the holidays,” Diabo said. “That’s the worst thing, when you are a small community of 50 homes. You are best to stay in your own home. Don’t go to someone else’s — don’t let them come to yours.” Diabo said he is also frustrated by what he thinks is a lack of will by some police services to enforce the lockdown on First Nations territories. He said there are jurisdictional issues whereby he feels OPP and RCMP are reluctant to come onto the territory to issue tickets. The chief added that even if a person gets a ticket for having too many people in their home, there are no measures in place to keep them from repeating the infraction. As far as the vaccine rollout is concerned, Diabo believes Indigenous communities should follow seniors’ homes on the priority list. “That’s what I’ve been told. It’s a matter of getting the vaccine distributed. It’ll happen — I hope no later than the end of February but I hope sooner than that,” Diabo said. He added that the pace at which the vaccine is being rolled out is a concern, but he said that only when, and if, it appears the territory is not being given the priority it was promised will he begin to kick up dust and complain to officials. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in December that Indigenous communities would be given priority for vaccination after front-line health-care workers and other vulnerable people, including seniors. In an email, Parry Sound Muskoka MPP Norm Miller said he can understand the concerns of Indigenous leaders like Diabo. “Adults in First Nations, Métis, and Inuit populations where infections can have disproportionate consequences, including those living in remote or isolated areas, will be among the first to be offered the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks,” Miller stated. “Given the previous case numbers in certain First Nation communities within the riding, I agree actions need to be taken as quickly as possible, and I have shared these concerns with the ministry. It is an unfortunate reality that the vaccine is now a finite resource which is why it is important to prioritize high risk areas first. I will continue to advocate on behalf of all high-risk populations in Parry Sound-Muskoka as we move forward.” John McFadden is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Indigenous issues for MuskokaRegion.com, ParrySound.com and Simcoe.com. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.John McFadden, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
Amazon Inc's cloud computing division opened its first office in Greece on Friday to support what it said was a growing number of companies and public sector agencies using its cloud services. The move by Amazon Web Services (AWS) comes as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis's conservative government has stepped up efforts to attract foreign investment and draw high tech companies to Greece. "We have seen increased customer adoption of AWS in the country and decided to open an office in Athens to better support new customers," Przemek Szuder, the head of AWS operations in central and eastern Europe said in a statement.
In a blog post published on Friday, the EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell said Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed now needed to live up to the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded in 2019 by doing all it takes to end the conflict in Tigray. "We are ready to help, but unless there is access for humanitarian aid operators, the EU cannot disburse the planned budget support to the Ethiopian government," Borrell said.
CANBERRA, Australia — A pigeon that Australia declared a biosecurity risk has received a reprieve after a U.S. bird organization declared its identifying leg band was fake. The band suggested the bird found in a Melbourne backyard on Dec. 26 was a racing pigeon that had left the U.S. state of Oregon, 13,000 kilometres (8,000 miles) away, two months earlier. On that basis, Australian authorities on Thursday said they considered the bird a disease risk and planned to kill it. But Deone Roberts, sport development manager for the Oklahoma-based American Racing Pigeon Union, said on Friday the band was fake. The band number belongs to a blue bar pigeon in the United States which is not the bird pictured in Australia, she said. “The bird band in Australia is counterfeit and not traceable,” Roberts said. “They do not need to kill him.” Australia's Agriculture Department, which is responsible for biosecurity, agreed that the pigeon dubbed Joe, after U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, was wearing a “fraudulent copy” leg band. “Following an investigation, the department has concluded that Joe the Pigeon is highly likely to be Australian and does not present a biosecurity risk,” it said in a statement. The department said it will take no further action. Acting Australian Prime Minister Michael McCormack had earlier said there would be no mercy if the pigeon was from the United States. “If Joe has come in a way that has not met our strict biosecurity measures, then bad luck Joe, either fly home or face the consequences,” McCormack said. Martin Foley, health minister for Victoria state where Joe is living, had called for the federal government to spare the bird even if it posed a disease risk. “I would urge the Commonwealth’s quarantine officials to show a little bit of compassion,” Foley said. Andy Meddick, a Victorian lawmaker for the minor Animal Justice Party, called for a “pigeon pardon for Joe.” “Should the federal government allow Joe to live, I am happy to seek assurances that he is not a flight risk,” Meddick said. Melbourne resident Kevin Celli-Bird, who found the emaciated bird in his backyard, was surprised by the change of nationality but pleased that the bird he named Joe would not be destroyed. “I thought this is just a feel-good story and now you guys want to put this pigeon away and I thought it’s not on, you know, you can’t do that, there has got to be other options,” Celli-Bird said of the threat to euthanize. Celli-Bird had contacted the American Racing Pigeon Union to find the bird’s owner based on the number on the leg band. The bands have both a number and a symbol, but Celli-Bird didn’t remember the symbol and said he can no longer catch the bird since it has recovered from its initial weakness. The bird with the genuine leg band had disappeared from a 560-kilometre (350-mile) race in Oregon on Oct. 29, Crooked River Challenge owner Lucas Cramer said. That bird did not have a racing record that would make it valuable enough to steal its identity, he said. “That bird didn’t finish the race series, it didn’t make any money and so its worthless, really,” Cramer said. He said it was possible a pigeon could cross the Pacific on a ship from Oregon to Australia. “In reality, it could potentially happen, but this isn’t the same pigeon. It’s not even a racing pigeon,” Cramer said. The bird spends every day in the backyard, sometimes with a native dove on a pergola. “I might have to change him to Aussie Joe, but he’s just the same pigeon,” Celli-Bird said. Lars Scott, a carer at Pigeon Rescue Melbourne, a bird welfare group, said pigeons with American leg bands were not uncommon around the city. A number of Melbourne breeders bought them online and used them for their own record keeping, Scott said. Australian quarantine authorities are notoriously strict. In 2015, the government threatened to euthanize two Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, after they were smuggled into the country by Hollywood star Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard. Faced with a 50-hour deadline to leave Australia, the dogs made it out in a chartered jet. Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press
WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have signed star running back Andrew Harris to a one-year contract extension. The Winnipeg native returns to the Blue Bombers for a fifth season. The 33-year-old Harris has led the CFL in rushing the past three years. He was named the game MVP and most valuable Canadian in Winnipeg's Grey Cup win over Hamilton in 2019. During the 2019 season, Harris passed Ben Cahoon to become the CFL's career leader in yards from scrimmage by a Canadian. He also moved past Normie Kwong as the Canadian career rushing leader. A five-time CFL all-star, Harris also was named the league's most outstanding Canadian in 2017. REDBLACKS SIGN FOUR The Ottawa Redblacks have signed Canadian linebacker Brad Cowan and defensive back Dagogo Maxwell and American defensive backs Brandin Dandridge and Marcus Roberson. Cowan was Ottawa's sixth-round pick in the CFL draft. He played university football at Wilfrid Laurier in Waterloo, Ont. Maxwell was Calgary's fifth-round pick in 2018 out of UBC. He had six special-teams tackles with Calgary in 2019 before signing with Ottawa. Dandridge had 12 defensive tackles and four pass breakups in four games in 2019 with Ottawa. Roberson had 20 defensive tackles in 11 games for Toronto in 2018, his last action in the CFL. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021. The Canadian Press
After 11 years in the trades – from scaffolding and metal work, to her current role in concrete forming – Mulisius Joe has also become skilled at navigating the male-dominated construction industry. “I've worked with a few men who didn’t think I should be there,” she said, citing times when empty reasons were given to exclude her from contributing to a job. “It’s never said out loud but you could feel it…where you don't know if it’s racist or it’s sexist, but you know it's something.” Calls for equity among construction labourers in the GTA were made decades ago, with African-Canadian carpenters and their allies protesting the exclusion of Black workers from trades unions and construction companies in the early ‘70s. Trade union programs are now slowly helping to change that. Joe said she has seen a shift in how journeypersons, or mentors for trade apprentices, are increasingly focused on the treatment of women and visible minorities on site, and are better prepared to foster an equitable environment. These changes make her hopeful the industry will develop a similar awareness around issues of discrimination and equity, especially after the racist incidents this past summer, when five nooses were found tied onto scaffolding or hanging in view at GTA construction sites. Despite police and union investigations – and the firing of at least one worker – another two nooses were found at Michael Garron Hospital in East York in late September. “It didn't just go away because we said how we feel,” said Brampton resident Chris Campbell, of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario. In November, Campbell became the union’s first Equity and Diversity Representative. He will work to include racism in the scope of “toolbox talk” – trades-speak for frank discussions about safety issues – in an attempt to change the culture of silence around workplace discrimination in the construction industry. The Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario represents more than 30,000 workers across 16 affiliated trades unions. Campbell completed his apprenticeship in the early ‘90s, and became a project supervisor at various sites across the GTA before teaching at the College of Carpenters and Allied Trades, based in Woodbridge. An active member in the Jamaican Canadian Association and other Black community organizations, Campbell went on to become a Local 27 Toronto Carpenters’ Union rep prior to his current appointment. Following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last spring, Black Lives Matter demonstrations underscored the urgent need to confront anti-Black racism in the workplace. Campbell said he and other union representatives marched in the downtown Toronto protests in June, sporting the union flag. Mulisius joined the marches, and commended the union for making their presence visible. “It feels good, because as a woman on site, and also as a Black person, I’m always the minority. To see our union jump behind this, it makes me feel so much prouder to be a Local 27 member,” she said. But later that month, the first noose was found at the Eglinton Crosstown LRT job site. Campbell said one of the union’s members admitted to tying it and was fired, had his union membership revoked and was banned from working on projects operated by Crosslinx Transit Solutions. “It’s not just a noose for some people. It’s a health issue, because they’re traumatized, they can’t mentally handle it,” Johnson said, adding that there were Black workers at the site. “Some people, they become emotional and they cannot go back to work because to them, it symbolizes an extreme aggression. To them, it symbolizes what their grandparents went through a few decades ago.” According to 2016 Census data, close to one-fifth of Brampton’s workforce was in the trades, transport and equipment operations industry, compared to about 12 percent in Mississauga. Peel Region also has the highest proportion of immigrants compared to its bordering regions – at about 52 percent of the population – and the highest proportion of visible minorities, at 62 percent, compared to 51 percent in Toronto, and the GTA average of 48 percent. The booming construction industry holds the potential to dramatically improve the employment prospects of Peel’s large visible minority communities. Many of these residents have not been well represented in the trades, traditionally. The BOLT (Building Opportunities for Life Today) program was launched by construction giant Tridel in 2009, and in 2013 it was established as a charitable foundation aimed at introducing career opportunities to marginalized and other “under-resourced” youth across the GTA. It has provided more than 400 post-secondary scholarships for construction-related programs, in an effort to help young people from all backgrounds pursue a career in the trades. Opening up one of Ontario’s largest industries to reflect the province’s population, is a challenge the unions are now taking up as well. Whether it’s because of cultural issues, for example the view among some South Asian-Canadian communities that trades jobs are not traditionally socially acceptable, or because of discriminatory dynamics within the industry, the lack of representation means many Peel residents are being cut off from highly lucrative careers. In 2018, the average wage of workers in the construction industry across the country was almost $32 an hour, according to Statistics Canada. The average minimum wage in the country (which is what many newcomers earn) at the time sat at about $12 an hour. A 2016 Peel-Halton Workforce Characteristics Report notes that women, racialized minorities and newcomers face disadvantages when holding precarious positions in Peel, with the largest proportions of people earning lower incomes located in Brampton and Mississauga compared to Halton municipalities. In the construction and industrial sectors, about 97 percent of Peel and Halton journeypersons and apprentices are male, though there is no race-based data provided or notes on discrimination trends in the workplace. The recent rash of racist incidents raises questions about what the industry is doing to confront discrimination. At the large LRT construction site where the Fairbank Station in Toronto, near Dufferin Street and Eglinton Avenue will open in 2022, Campbell said the union interviewed people on site and had a “toolbox talk” after a noose was tied there. The union has partnered with the Toronto and York Region Labour Council to create a charter document and establish standards for an inclusive workplace that rejects racism, xenophobia and discrimination. The document is now posted at some construction sites, Campbell said, adding that the union is planning to address racism in the workplace through new educational initiatives and training for members and senior leadership. In his new role, Campbell will be notified and involved in the complaints resolution process related to racism in the workplace, and encourages workers to report these incidents. “It’s a health and safety issue,” he said. With the work of craft and trade unions based in skill development, at the forefront of efforts to address racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination is the question of whose skills are being recognized, said Tania Das Gupta, a professor in the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at York University. As part of her research into racism in the labour movement, Das Gupta interviewed visible minority workers in leadership roles within larger unions, who expressed feeling obstructed in their work. “In other words, you could have diversity, but sometimes it becomes tokenism and the [union] structures are not conducive to inclusion,” she said. Education is integral to making anti-racism programs a success, she added. “If the workers are prepared, and they’re educated on why these changes are happening, then they're likely not to feel threatened.” Professional associations and developers such as Tridel and Ellis Don have launched anti-racism campaigns in response to the incidents this past summer, including quarterly roundtable discussions with 21 industry partners, spearheaded by the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON). The group is meeting for the second time this month. “These incidents didn’t happen in isolation, and it wasn’t just one incident…so we realized that this is an issue that we need to dive deeper into combatting,” said Amina Dibe, manager of government and stakeholder relations at RESCON. The collective launched the Construction Against Racism Everyone (CARE) Campaign, distributing more than 2,000 hardhat stickers for workers to show their solidarity, while launching educational webinars and subcommittees to tackle education, communication and training within the industry. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @LaVjosa COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you.Vjosa Isai, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
Seguin Township has completed Milestone 1 of the Integrated Community Energy and Climate Action Plans (ICECAP) project as of December 2020. Milestone 1 tasked municipalities involved with ICECAP to create a greenhouse gas emissions inventory of both the corporate and community aspects of the township. During its Jan. 13 council meeting, members of council discussed what moving forward into Phase 2 of the program would look like. Here’s the discussion captured in five quotes: 1\. “There’s two pieces to Milestone 1 — one being corporate, the township; one being community, all the residents,” said Daryle Moffatt, ICECAP co-chair and Seguin councillor. “ … The next hurdles are to set emissions targets and develop a plan. We’ve done a number of things corporately and residents have done a number of things, we just need to continue to set our goals to see if we can achieve some lower greenhouse gas emissions.” 2\. “How long will it take to set targets? What is the procedure going into Milestone 2 and what’s the timing?” asked Coun. Rod Osborne. 3\. “We will be working with other ICECAP members (and) organizations around the table in 2021 to start to develop our emission reduction target as well as our local plan,” said Moffatt. “What we’ve realized is ICECAP is not one-size-fits-all — it’s going to ebb and flow. It’s going to be a work in progress but it is a goal in 2021 to achieve Milestones 2 and 3.” 4\. “I will emphasize again to all the councillors, if you have not done your own personal carbon calculator, please do it. It will make a difference to how West Parry Sound moves forward,” said Seguin’s mayor, Ann MacDiarmid. “It’s worth doing. It’s a real eyeopener.” 5\. “I would extend that to all staff and residents, not only in Seguin but across all the municipalities that are participating in ICECAP,” said Moffatt. “It is critical to capture that data because it will only help us going forward.” MacDiarmid thanked those involved with the ICECAP initiative from Seguin and mentioned that the carbon calculator could be used as a good school assignment for teenagers. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
The Township of Seguin and the other six municipalities that make up west Parry Sound have signed off on a letter, dated Dec. 1, to Ontario’s minister of the environment, conservation and parks. The letter states that they would like the ministry to reconsider the transition of the blue box from 2025 to 2024. What exactly is the blue box transition program? The Blue Box Transition program is being legislated by the Province of Ontario and means the responsibility of collecting and processing recyclable products will be on the manufacturers who make the items. What that means is the duty of recycling is being shifted to the manufacturers who produce the material rather than society. Will this effect how I put out my recycling? The government says there shouldn’t be any change of service. You may have to go to a different location to drop off your recycling, if rural, or you may have a new company that picks up your curbside blue box materials. When is this supposed to come into effect? For the municipalities that make up west Parry Sound — Parry Sound, Archipelago, Seguin, McKellar, McDougall, Carling and Whitestone — the change is supposed to come into effect in 2025; however, all seven municipalities have signed a letter to Minister Jeff Yurek requesting the transition take place in 2024. Why? The District of Muskoka is transitioning in 2024 and, currently, the west Parry Sound municipalities process blue box materials in Bracebridge. They are concerned about issues that may happen if the transition happens at a different time than Muskoka. Another concern is the fact the Greater Toronto Area is transitioning in 2023 and the expanded list of recyclables there will differ from what is offered in west Parry Sound for a time. Residents who migrate north for the summer may expect to recycle the same list of items, which may cause contamination in waste systems. Will this transition raise my taxes? Once the producers and manufacturers take over the recycling process, it’s going to save the taxpayers; however, prices for products may go up to pay for the manufacturers’ cost of processing the recycling. The Township of Seguin said at its Jan. 11 council meeting that the mayors from the seven municipalities would follow up on the letter once a response was received. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday he hoped positive steps will be taken on Turkey's role in the F-35 jet programme once U.S. President-elect Joe Biden takes office, describing Ankara's exclusion for purchasing Russian defences as a "serious wrong". Last month, Washington imposed long-anticipated sanctions on Turkey's defence industry over its acquisition of S-400 missile defence systems from Moscow, in a move Turkey called a "grave mistake". The United States has also removed fellow NATO member Turkey from the F-35 programme over the move.
Regina– On Jan. 14, the Saskatchewan Health Authority provided an update on its COVID-19 immunization campaign and delivery plan, as part of the regular COVID-19 update delivered from the Legislature in Regina. Derrick Miller, Executive Director of Infrastructure Management with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said by phone, “Our immunization campaign goals include minimizing serious illness and death, protecting those that are most vulnerable, protecting our healthcare capacity, minimizing spread and also protecting our critical infrastructure. There really guide us in what we're trying to achieve with our overall campaign.” He noted, “Our supply limitations that are being experienced with the COVID-19 vaccine require us to take a very diligent approach to sequencing the vaccine rollout.” This requires establishing priority populations, which are based on the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommendations. In Phase 1, there are approximately 109,000 in that group. “And based on federal allocations that have been identified, so far, going to the end of March this year, that’ well have enough vaccines to vaccinate approximately 50 per cent of this group. That’s short about half, obviously, of immunizing all of the priority populations approved in this framework.” On Jan. 13, there were 1,393 doses of the vaccines delivered, the highest to date. The average per day, so far, as been just over 1,000 doses per day. He said they anticipate running out of doses before the next allocations, as the speed of delivery means they get it out as quickly as possible and wait for the arrival of the next delivery. Miller said there are “three key planks to our strategy as part of our vaccine campaign.” “The first one is faster. Speed really maters in this. Every day counts to save lives and reduced the overall impact of COVID-19.” They are establishing distribution hubs throughout for the different type of vaccines. “We're adopting an all-hands-on-deck approach to delivery, leveraging all of our appropriate health care providers that can deliver vaccines, as well as looking for and seeking support from external resources to really bring all resources to bear, as part of this strategy,” he said. This includes mobile immunization teams to go to places like long-term care and personal care homes. Locally, they are testing different delivery methods. He said, “Being able to forecast vaccine distribution, with more accuracy will help us be more prepared for rapid distribution. And we know a stable, predictable and large volume allocations will really enable us for rapid delivery.” Every corner of the province is ready, in a posture of readiness, to administer the vaccine as it is received. “The second plank of our strategy is ‘smarter,’ Miller said. “Learning matters. Using improvement is already resulting in more rapid delivery and we can see that just by the results over the last week. The health system is very experienced in delivering the influenza vaccine and other vaccinations. And we're going to leverage that as we go forward, because we know how to do this. “However, we also recognize that this is different. And there are pretty significant differences that are impacting this campaign. We do have limited variable and unpredictable allocations. They vary from week to week, and the timing varies as well. We need to sequence priority populations, based on that. We’re not able to offer a mass immunization right off the start.” This includes multiple vaccines with different logistical challenges across a geographically dispersed province. Transportation changes allow them to move vaccines in a more efficient manner. Being a single health authority makes it easier, he noted. Miller said we are learning from our partners, including Metis and First Nations partners. The third plank is safety. “Safety matters. High uptake requires strong communications to ensure the public knows the vaccine is safe. We know the COVID vaccine is safe. It is Health Canada-approved and has gone through the various regulatory reviews, and approval processes. We also know that it's effective, or 90 per cent effective, in reducing the risk of infection. And it's simple. It's just like getting a flu shot for Saskatchewan residents, our health care workers are highly experienced and have many years of successfully delivering flu vaccine to the residents of Saskatchewan, and ensuring that all safety requirements are achieved.” Challenges include delivery to high-risk populations in remote areas. The Pfizer vaccine has temperature constraints and special handling needs. The consent process can be time-intensive, especially in long-term care homes. Unpredictable allocations should hopefully be resolved in coming weeks. Adverse weather can be an issue. “At the same time, we are preparing for widespread immunization in Phase 2, or we will open up access to the general population and conduct Saskatchewan’s largest-ever immunization campaign. One of our key tasks is to ensure that our teams are ready to deliver the vaccine as soon as possible on arrival, and enhance speed of delivery. This is true in Phase 1, as we're focusing on those priority populations, and it will also be true when we go into Phase 2, and get to the point where we’re vaccinating the general public,” Miller said. He added that “Currently, our health system is at its most fragile point yet for their highest hospitalization rate, and a high case count.” Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingston added, “We want to make sure we're getting the vaccine out as quickly as we can to those vulnerable populations and get vaccine in arm as quickly as possible. So, it won't be in the freezer as long. As the vaccines come in, we will get them out and they will go and get administered as fast as we can in the arms of those who need it very most.” He pointed out that limited supplied are limiting their capabilities, but they are focussing on the most vulnerable. Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
Kw’umut Lelum Child and Family Services’ drum circle was forced online last year due to COVID-19 social restrictions, but the facilitators have been working hard to keep the group connected. “We could all use some connection this New Year — to each other, to the land, to our own spirit,” reads the drum group’s recent Zoom invitation. Organized by their culture team, coordinator Frank Shaw from Stz’uminus, says everyone is welcome to join. Participants range from “toddlers bobbing along to the drumming, to Elders,” and all ages between, he says. “We are led through traditional songs and maybe even some dances if anyone’s feeling up to it, and sharing stories, sharing laughs. It’s a way to connect while we can’t connect in person,” says Shaw. Kw’umut Lelum is a family services agency and fully Delegated Aboriginal Agency (DAA). It serves nine Coast Salish Nations who signed an agreement with B.C. and Canada in 1997, on Vancouver Island, from Qualicum down to Malahat. Shaw describes his cultural programming work as being on the non-delegated side of operations. “Our team puts together various programming for the nine nations,” he explains. There is a range of community programs offered — for families, youth, cultural wellness, and more. COVID-19 has moved a lot of the programs online, but the drum circles continued in person until November when case numbers started to rise in the area. Qualicum carver and artist Xwulq’sheynum, Jesse Recalma is hosting Kw’umut Lelum’s online drum circle this week. Recalma’s grandpa was a drum maker so he grew up around drumming. He got even more into drumming a decade ago after attending Tribal Journeys, a celebrated canoe journey started in 1989 to unify communities across the Northwest Pacific Coast. A full time artist and part time language teacher, Recalma teaches Hulq’umi’num to students in School District 69. He’s been a cultural resource in schools for over 20 years. “I do drum practices with our canoe family and usually I would be one of the ones leading songs,” Reclama says. “And then I started doing some drumming with my K’omoks family as well.” When Kw’umut Lelum put out the call for drummers and singers to lead the online circle, “they called, and I answered,” says Recalma. “I really enjoy singing. It’s something that I’ve not really been able to do a lot of over the past year. And so I’m happy that I can actually have this place to sing with people,” says Recalma. Shaw has organized several drummers to host sessions. Patrick Aleck has very close connections to Snuneymuxw, Stz’uminus, and Penelakut. Jesse Recalma will be joining, and on January 21st, Stz’uminus singer Nate Harris will facilitate the circle, Reclama says. Shaw says the circle seeks to address social isolation and strengthen cultural continuity. “Indigenous and Coast Salish culture, it’s all about connection and gathering and with COVID and everything, we just haven’t been able to do it, to bring people together and connect as best we can,” Shaw says. “It’s on Zoom, but it’s still a great time.” Reclama agrees, emphasizing the importance of practicing his culture during these difficult times of separation. “We’re used to being in a lot of situations where we can hear drumming and singing,” he says. Normally, there are a variety of ways the need for social connection is met — through powwows with bone games, or during smoke house season. Some attend tribal journeys, where Recalama says, “there’s just as much true drumming and singing as there is paddling in the canoe.” The online drum circle is an ongoing series that takes place on Zoom every Thursday evening. To get the link, Shaw says people can email him at email@example.com. “A drum circle helps you feel warm and comforted, especially for those who are in sorrow,” says Recalma. He says hearing the drumming and singing can be good medicine, and brings joy in a way that might be hard for some to find during the pandemic.Odette Auger, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse