Little dogs playing in snow piles that are bigger than them in Kemble, Ontario.
Little dogs playing in snow piles that are bigger than them in Kemble, Ontario.
China's medical products regulator said on Thursday that it had approved two more COVID-19 vaccines for public use, raising the number of domestically produced vaccines that can be used in China to four. The two newly cleared vaccines are made by CanSino Biologics Inc (CanSinoBIO) and Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, an affiliate of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm). They join a vaccine from Sinovac Biotech approved earlier this month, and another from Sinopharm's Beijing unit approved last year.
ROME — Italy paid tribute Thursday to its ambassador to Congo and his bodyguard who were killed in an attack on a U.N. convoy, honouring them with a state funeral and prayers for peace in Congo and all nations “torn by war and violence.” Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the pope’s vicar for Rome, presided over the solemn funeral at the Santa Maria degli Angeli basilica that was attended by Premier Mario Draghi, top lawmakers, representatives of the armed forces and relatives of the young men. Ambassador Luca Attanasio and Carabiniere paramilitary officer Vittorio Iacovacci were killed Monday north of Goma when an armed group stopped them as they travelled in a two-car convoy to a World Food Program school feeding project. WFP's Congolese driver, Moustapha Milambo, was also killed in the attack. Italy has formally asked the U.N. for an inquiry into what happened amid questions about whether the U.N. security arrangements were sufficient for the mission. In his eulogy, De Donatis decried the “stupid and ferocious” attack and said it was right that Italy, Congo and the community of nations weep over such violence that “tore Luca and Vittorio from this world." “Let us pray together that today is a day in which the prayer for peace in Congo and in all nations torn by various forms of war and violence is raised to heaven," he said. He denounced how so many Congolese feel the constant threat of danger from rebel groups “knocking at their door,” saying the country had been “cruelly devastated by violence that sees their children die every day.” But he praised the men for working for peace and looking out for others “even at the cost of their own lives.” “If this the fate of peace workers, what will be the fate of the rest of us?” he asked. The funeral, carried live on state RAI television, featured masked Carabinieri officers as pallbearers and altar servers, with a military band performing Chopin’s haunting “Funeral March” as the flag-draped coffins were carried in and out of the basilica. After the service, the socially-distanced crowd applauded as the two hearses pulled out of the piazza carrying the coffins for burial, flanked by a police escort. Attanasio is survived by his wife and three young daughters, at least one of whom attended the funeral, as well as his parents and siblings. Iacovacci is survived by his fiancee and other family members. Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press
India's largest brokerage Zerodha is facing a backlash from traders who saw their equity positions abruptly closed during an exchange glitch, amidst criticism that a lack of communication from the country's top bourse caused losses. The National Stock Exchange (NSE) suddenly shut down for nearly four hours on Wednesday, blindsiding traders. As the NSE did not swiftly update whether, and when, it would reopen, brokers began closing intra-day equity positions on another exchange later, leading to sharp losses for some investors.
BALA — When Linda and Jack Hutton opened Bala’s Museum nearly 30 years ago, they never dreamed the year a pandemic occurred would be good for business. Bala’s Museum — with memories of Lucy Maud Montgomery is tucked away on Maple Avenue, but for a slew of new and returning customers this summer, its location is on Facebook. Adapting to a digital-friendly operation during the COVID-19 lockdown has turned a stressful year into a record-breaking one thanks to worldwide sales from a converted home office. The museum has always had a loyal following on social media, said Linda, who — stocked up on memorabilia for the museum’s gift shop — turned to the social platform to see if there might be interest in purchasing items there. On the heels of the cancellation of the biennial Lucy Maud Montgomery conference held in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, messages from fans and collectors started pouring in. “All of a sudden they have some extra money and they were really willing to support our museum because they realized what a tenuous situation we were in,” Linda said. Because the museum is such an interactive experience — visitors can dress in costume, participate in re-enactments from Anne of Green Gables and children’s games — coronavirus was a real cause for concern. As well, the Huttons are seniors and more vulnerable to the virus. With the help of their son, who taught them how to read Facebook’s analytics, Linda began posting items for sale. Buyers have appeared from as far away as Argentina, Australia, the Philippines and Poland. “They all realized how vulnerable we are since we don’t get any government money and never have,” Linda explained. “Every single sale, whether it’s just five dollars and I have to mail it, it’s another five dollars in the pot.” International connections are nothing new for the museum, it is outfitted with Japanese translation and the Huttons have welcomed more than 120,000 guests from 30 different countries over three decades. Still, the transition to e-commerce has been a “huge learning curve” said Linda, as she manages international shipping and how to gauge the growth of the business through Facebook. Jack admits he was skeptical at first, unsure at just how many bites they would get online. According to stats he compiled, the museum’s Facebook page saw a 459 per cent jump in likes during May. Before coronavirus the average post reached 400 people; it now reaches an average of 700 users. “We had the best financial return we have ever had for the month of May thanks to Linda’s idea,” he said. As for the museum, the Huttons anticipate opening by appointment only when COVID restrictions lift. There have been disappointments, including a group of women from Arkansas unable to cross the closed border. “I’m very thankful,” Linda said. “I feel very blessed and very honoured that people who have known about our museum are looking in on us every day. It is a huge help.” Kristyn Anthony reports for Muskokaregion.com through the Local Journalism Initiative, a program funded by the Canadian government. Kristyn Anthony, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
Almost one year later, there has been little progress in the case against a man accused of holding a girl against her will at a remote northern Saskatchewan cabin. There have been numerous adjournments and delays in the case against Aaron Gardiner, 42, since his arrest in April 2020 because he has gone through about five lawyers. Gardiner has either fired the lawyers or they have withdrawn from representing him. He had another appearance scheduled in Meadow Lake Provincial Court Feb. 22 and the matter was adjourned to March 1. Gardiner remains in custody and is charged with unlawful confinement, assault, overcoming resistance, uttering threats, resisting arrest, possessing a firearm for a dangerous purpose, use of a firearm in commission of an indictable offence, proceeds of crime, and possession for the purpose of trafficking. Gardiner allegedly held a girl captive for four days at a remote cabin across from Île-à-la-Crosse Lake. A specialized RCMP tactical unit was flown to the isolated cabin by two military CH-146 Griffon helicopters to rescue the girl and arrest Gardiner. Three months after his arrest, police added more charges after more alleged victims came forward. In July 2020, police additionally charged Gardiner with four counts of sexual assault, three counts of forcible confinement, uttering threats, assault, reckless discharge of a firearm, use of a firearm in commission of an offence, obstruction and breach of an undertaking. The charges against Gardiner haven't been proven in court. Île-à-la-Crosse is about 380 kilometres north of Prince Albert. email@example.com Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
(Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit) THE LATEST: On Thursday, Dr. Bonnie Henry reported 395 new cases of COVID-19 in B.C. and 10 new deaths. There are now 4,489 active cases in the province. A total of 228 people are in hospital, including 62 in intensive care. To date, 1,348 people have died of COVID-19 in B.C. out of 78,673 confirmed cases. 239,833 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, including 68,157 second doses. In her Thursday update, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there had been a slight uptick in the seven-day rolling average province-wide and an increase in the virus reproduction rate to above the level of one. "This means potential for rapid growth if we are not careful," she said, saying it is too early to ease restrictions. On the topic of variants, Henry said there have been 116 cases of COVID-19 variants of concern found in B.C., of which nine cases are active. She said 95 cases were of the variant originally detected in the U.K. and 21 of the variant first detected in South Africa. Henry said two cases of the variant originally discovered in Nigeria are no longer considered a variant of concern, although monitoring continues. A new outbreak has been declared at the Revera Sunwood Retirement Residence in Maple Ridge, and the outbreak at Burnaby Hospital is now over. Health Minister Adrian Dix praised the vaccination efforts at long term care homes, which has helped abate the spread of the virus in the vulnerable population of residents. "We have seen the impact of that and it is heartening and has made a huge difference," he said. Earlier, B.C. health officials say that managing the mass vaccination program for COVID-19 is shaping up to be a "monumental task," and they're trying to balance speed with careful planning. In a written statement on Wednesday, Henry and Dix said that "countless" people are working to get everyone who wants the vaccine immunized as quickly and safely as possible. "Vaccinating our entire population is a monumental task that must account for the diversity of our geography and our population," they said. "We must consider how to safely deliver vaccine to rural and remote communities, how to connect with seniors and Elders everywhere, and how to ensure the process to get immunized is as simple as possible." Earlier this week, Henry announced that B.C. is expanding the workforce available to the vaccination program by allowing more health professionals to provide the shot. READ MORE: What's happening elsewhere in Canada As of 7 p.m. PT Wednesday, Canada had reported 855,126 cases of COVID-19, with 30,393 cases considered active. A total of 21,807 people have died. What are the symptoms of COVID-19? Common symptoms include: Fever. Cough. Tiredness. Shortness of breath. Loss of taste or smell. Headache. But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia. What should I do if I feel sick? Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they're mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or other extreme symptoms should call 911. What can I do to protect myself? Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean. Keep at least two metres away from people outside your bubble. Keep your distance from people who are sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Wear a mask in indoor public spaces. More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
LONDON — Britain announced further sanctions Thursday against members of Myanmar’s military for their part in the coup that ousted the country’s elected government. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said six more top generals face sanctions for serious human rights violations, in addition to 19 others previously listed by the U.K. The new round of sanctions targets Myanmar’s State Administration Council, which was set up following the coup to exercise state functions. The measures immediately ban the generals, including Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, from travelling to Britain and will prevent U.K. businesses and institutions from dealing with their funds or economic resources in Britain. The British government added that it will ensure U.K. businesses do not trade with Myanmar’s military-owned companies. The government has said it was ending aid programs that sent money to the Myanmar government but that aid would still reach “the poorest and most vulnerable in Myanmar.” The U.K. is the ex-colonial ruler of Burma, as Myanmar was formerly known. The Myanmar military seized power on Feb. 1 and detained national leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other pro-democracy figures. The Associated Press
The new head of the Canadian armed forces has stepped aside from his job after allegations of misconduct surfaced, the defence minister said, in the latest blow to the nation's military. Admiral Art McDonald is the second chief of defence staff in a row to step down over misconduct accusations. Defence Minister Harjjit Sajjan said accusations should be investigated regardless of rank.
Zhao Danyang, a former vice president responsible for content business, was arrested in September 2020, along with two subordinates, Kuaishou told Reuters. Kuaishou did not give details or say if Zhao was still vice-president when arrested. Chinese tech companies have doubled down on corruption investigations in recent years, amid an anti-graft campaign by President Xi Jinping and as their valuations and profiles have soared following a tech boom.
Queen’s Park is set to appoint a third party to investigate allegations of anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination at the Peel Children’s Aid Society (CAS). The office of Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women's Issues, confirmed to The Pointer that the wheels are in motion to facilitate an operational review. “In October last year, the ministry became aware of a report regarding anti-Black racism towards staff at Peel CAS,” Hannah Anderson, director of communications for Dunlop’s office, told The Pointer. “The report raised concerns about the society’s leadership and workplace culture. Since receiving a copy of the report, the ministry has been working closely with the society to understand their plans to address these concerns.” The move comes after a report last year written for the union, CUPE 4914, described a culture of fear within the organization, where Black staff, who described their marginalization, raised concerns over the impacts of systemic discrimination within Peel CAS. It is an organization responsible for providing care to some of Peel’s most vulnerable residents, in a region that is overwhelmingly non-white. Recent findings of widespread anti-Black racism were particularly disturbing for an organization that in 2019 was duty-bound to look after a large number of Black children – 39 out of 189 children in care at Peel CAS were Black, according to data provided by the organization in December. That was 21 percent of all children in the organization’s care a little over a year ago. The fear of widespread discrimination running through an organization that has to work with schools, police and, ultimately, families in the community, to ensure potentially traumatic decisions are made with the utmost of care and consideration, in a framework grounded in equity and safety, has now led to the Province’s intervention. In the union report, staff describe a divide between management and leadership. The CUPE 4914 document references nepotism within the organization and says Black staff see senior leadership as “untrustworthy” when handling their concerns. The report articulates management “has no picture of what is happening to or being experienced by Black staff.” After positioning itself as a leader and making anti-oppression a primary goal, some think the current leadership is dining out on past success, when a former employee led a range of progressive initiatives. “As much as Peel is part of a very diverse environment and culture and the agency has done a lot of work in previous years to support diversity, equity and inclusion, a lot of that stopped,” one staff member told The Pointer last year. Employees asked to not be identified. “We did the great work, we became great leaders and we stopped the things that made us leaders.” When Peel CAS was contacted by The Pointer last year about the concerns raised by staff and the union report, it did not respond to questions about the Province's One Vision One Voice initiative, which addresses the over-representation of Black children in Ontario's child-welfare system and the range of discriminatory attitudes within institutions such as education and policing that often lead to over-reporting on Black children. The lack of concern around these potentially destructive biases raised questions about whether the agency is aware of best practices in the sector to minimize the potentially harmful impact of systemic, institutionalized stereotypes and other attitudes entrenched within referring organizations. A failure to root out referrals based on racial prejudice lands hardest on Black frontline staff, employees told The Pointer in December. Unable to decline work from a manager, they find themselves aligned with police or principals in a situation they may not think merits child-protection services. Without open communication between managers and frontline workers — a professional environment where everyone feels they can speak their mind — staff can find themselves stuck. “We [Peel CAS] are not actively challenging the school board and the police, we are kind of just going along with them,” one staff member said. “We’re going along with the nonsense, so we are part of the problem. We pretend we are good for the community and then we don’t understand why the community can’t stand us. But we are aligned with the same processes that oppress them.” It can have a serious impact on people’s mental health. “You need your management to be behind you because, at the end of the day, we’re not decision making staff,” one of the employees added. “We need people in decision making positions who can help us. I cannot just push back against the principal without my supervisor’s support. Half the time, it’s me stuck between the school board and my supervisor.” To begin to solve the problem, staff and the authors of the CUPE 4914 report asked for clear policies to be put in place. The alarming union report was produced after a series of conversations facilitated by Breakthrough Counselling and Wellness, which focused on the experiences of Black staff. Concerns raised by staff during those meetings were aggregated and compiled, alongside recommendations and analysis to complete the report. The recommendations in the CUPE 4914 report were wide-ranging and included an audit of the organization by a third party, a review that would go beyond the interviews undertaken by Breakthrough Counselling and Wellness. At the end of 2020, senior leaders at Peel CAS said they would use the report as “a guide” but staff and union representatives feared they would commission their own favourable report that risked erasing the blunt assessments captured in the disturbing CUPE 4914 document. Unable to come to a solution together, and with little trust on either side, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services will now step in. The government will appoint a third party to review Peel CAS for workplace issues, policies and practices that may contribute to systemic racism within the organization. It will also assess if Peel CAS remains in compliance with its legislated duties to children in the region. The Province’s move has been acknowledged and welcomed by Peel CAS’ directors, who appear to have read the findings in CUPE 4914’s report differently. “We became aware of staff experiences related to systemic racism and anti-Black racism in our workplace and have recognized that we are not immune from systemic bias and racism,” Juliet Jackson, president of the board of directors, wrote in a statement. She did not allude to the serious concerns about senior leadership raised by staff and echoed by the Province. Rav Bains, CEO of Peel CAS, who has authority over senior leadership and staff, has not released a public statement. When the union work around issues of systemic discrimination was launched, Bains and senior staff at Peel CAS said they were also launching their own review, and claimed their move was done independently and proactively. Speaking to The Pointer late last year in response to the CUPE 4914 report’s revelations about the organization he runs, Bains admitted failings and claimed steps had been taken to address them. But he could not name any. He acknowledged systemic issues that needed to be addressed without offering a detailed understanding or explicit plans to address the situation. Staff told The Pointer late last year that a number of progressive actions by former employee Kike Ojo-Thompson, who spearheaded a range of effective initiatives to eradicate systemic barriers, were sidelined by Bains shortly after she left the organization in 2015. In December, some members of CUPE 4914 expressed concern Peel CAS was trying to also sideline their report by commissioning a more favourable investigation of their own. “Unfortunately, Peel CAS statements regarding their commitment to tackle anti-Black racism are performative, corporate, unilateral and reflect their consistent top-down approach,” the union said at the time. “It's self serving at best and there is a large discrepancy between the information Peel CAS relays to the media/public about their commitments and action plans and how they try to suppress, silence and control the Black voices internally.” Bains disagreed. He did not directly answer a question about a specific recommendation in the union report (to review senior staff performance with an equity lens) and if it would be followed, but said a new report would “not replace anything”. Chima Nsitem, Peel CAS director of diversity, equity and inclusion, said the report senior staff planned “is going to be used as a guide”. In a 55-minute interview with The Pointer in December, confronted with the findings of the union report and experiences of staff, Bains and Nsitem admitted shortcomings but also deflected many questions: they acknowledged the organization has work to do, but said they’re not alone on this front. Achievements were lauded alongside an acceptance that work is incomplete. “Bullying, racism, anti-Black racism have no place in our organization,” Bains said in December. “Does that mean we don’t have more work to do? Like every institution, there’s more work to do, including the media, including all the other systems. So we’ve said that up front.” The union report highlighted concerns raised by staff that leadership consistently deny any problems around systemic racism or other forms of discrimination within the organization. “We don’t want to give you the impression of either being defensive or somehow we’ve got a perfect system or that we have everything buttoned down,” Bains said. “I think that would be a mistake for us. There’s always work to be done.” He did not lay out what this work would be or provide any details of a specific strategy to address the issues raised in the union report. Under Bains’ leadership, a watchdog group (the Board Diversity Monitoring Committee) was disbanded and allyship sessions, designed to help non-Black staff to understand their role in fighting anti-Black racism, were discontinued. Bains defended dissolving the committee and suspending the allyship programs, which Peel CAS has promised to bring back. He said they were “thoughtful” and “gentle” decisions, designed to “integrate diversity and equity into everything we do”. The union has been steadfast in its assessment of Bains and his leadership, describing his claims of being an ally as “performative”. Now, the Province is stepping in. But concerns have already been expressed about who will do the third-party review under the guidance of the ministry. A spokesperson for Peel CAS did not respond to specific questions, including who requested the external review, if a vendor had been selected or how long they expect the process to take. “It is important that the review be allowed to run its course,” the spokesperson said. Information provided by Queen’s Park suggests a deadlock between union and senior leadership led the government to step in. “As the society and the union have been unable to reach an agreement on the path forward, the ministry is now proceeding with an operational review,” Anderson explained. “We want to work with both parties and have them actively engaging in the process. This is key to meaningful, sustainable change. Ensuring all voices are heard is critical to an open and transparent process.” No timeline is yet available for the work. A final decision on which organization will complete the review has not been made. One organization already armed with experience in this area is Agree Incorporated, the group that completed a review of York CAS at the end of 2020. The review, announced after significant public backlash over reports detailing widespread problems within York CAS, came to several damning conclusions. “Based on its findings, Agree Inc. recommended that a new leadership direction and approach must be put in place quickly, and that actions must be taken to create engagement toward a better workplace culture that is respectful, healthy and collaborative,” the report said. The review of York CAS was conducted over roughly three months. The process was announced by the ministry on July 31 and then a vendor was selected, with Agree Inc. publishing its findings on November 13 last year. “We welcome the review and are confident that the results will lay the foundation for ongoing organizational improvement and development,” Jackson wrote on behalf of the Peel CAS board. “We recognize the need to work together to chart a path forward and believe that an independent process that is transparent and open is a critical element to that undertaking.” The Province confirmed a timeline will be published when a private-sector organization has been selected to conduct the investigation of Peel CAS. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 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. Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
Canada's Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced late Wednesday that the country's new Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Art McDonald, who took on the role last month, has stepped aside from his post as an investigation is conducted by the force's national investigation service. Mercedes Stephenson reports on what we know so far.
(CBC - image credit) Crosbie Williams is no stranger to barn fires, having lost a family farm years ago, but seeing Woodland Dairy's building in the Goulds engulfed in flames Monday night has stayed with him in the days since. "When you see the home for the cows go up in smoke and the cattle as well — there's no other way to say it, except it's absolutely terrifying, in every aspect. And it changes somebody from that day on," Williams, who runs nearby Pondview Farms, said. The blaze ripped through the barn, killing scores of cows — Williams estimated about 60 to 90 total perished — with little left of the structure, which he called "a complete loss." Williams was on the scene, which he said was "chaos," as more than 20 firefighters and volunteers spent hours getting the fire under control. The aftermath has rocked its owner, Michael Dinn and his family, he said. "As you can imagine, they're all over the place right now, it's been an extremely difficult time," Williams told CBC Radio's On The Go Wednesday. Dinn was relatively new on the dairy scene, said Williams, with about six years of farming under his belt after starting in the field through the industry's new entrant program. "He was doing a phenomenal job," Williams said. Dinn had been working hard to develop his land, and Williams hopes that the fire, as devastating as it was, can be put in the past. "It's been said to me that he has plans to rebuild, and I hope he does. Michael Dinn's an extremely hard worker," Williams said. In the days since the blaze, online fundraisers and other supports have popped up, as friends and the agriculture community come together to help bridge any gaps Dinn may be facing. "That's our hope, and I will certainly support him in any way that we can, and you know, it's my hope that this continues for him," he said. Williams said memories of his own family's barn fire of 1968 came flooding back as he saw Monday's fire, and he knows of many other farmers who feel the same. "It brings everything back. Absolutely terrible," he said. Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
(Shane Ross/CBC - image credit) Snowy, windy weather that cancelled schools on Prince Edward Island Thursday will persist throughout the evening and into tomorrow in some areas, says CBC P.E.I. meteorologist Jay Scotland. See a full list of cancellations on Storm Centre. Winds kicked up Thursday afternoon across the Island, blowing around falling snow, reducing visibility on roads and leading to wind restrictions on Confederation Bridge, which have since been lifted. Some highways were covered or partly covered in snow. Plows, salters and sanders are out across the province. "My main concern tonight is blowing snow," Scotland said. "Flurries will persist over central and eastern areas tonight and, with northwest winds from 30 to 60 km/h or more, visibility may be reduced, particularly for exposed (rural) areas." Chilly Friday forecast Flurries will wrap up later tonight up west, he said, but may linger into the morning hours for central P.E.I. For eastern Kings, the flurries could persist into mid-afternoon Friday and northwest winds will remain quite strong — 25-50 km/h or more — with blowing snow possible. "My other concern is for icy patches on roads, sidewalks and walkways as today's warmer temperatures have left a lot of standing water on the ground," Scotland said. "Temperatures will drop big time tonight so watch for icy surfaces." Friday will be pretty sunny for much of the Island, but it will be chilly and the winds will be blustery so wind chill values below –20 in the morning and near –20 in the afternoon. More from CBC P.E.I.
People 95 and older, as well as First Nations people 75 and older, are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. "I’m personally very excited to be announcing that we’re expanding into general population, and I’m looking forward to decrease the age of eligibility continually over time," said Dr. Joss Reimer at Wednesday’s news conference. Calls for the newly eligible can be made beginning this week, with vaccines beginning next week. The vaccine call centre, at 1-844-MAN-VACC (1-844-626-8222) now has 2,000 lines, with more than 370 trained agents. The online booking self-serve tool is in its pilot phase, but will not replace the call centre. "We do know it’s possible the call centre will receive an overwhelming number of calls. We know Manitobans have been eager for this moment, and many of you are going to want to call right away," said Reimer. She asked that only eligible people, or the people calling for an elderly person, ensure they fit the criteria. These days, the wait time is less than a minute on the booking line, with a call-back option. If the wait time does increase, people can opt to have their call returned rather than waiting on the phone. Dr. Marcia Anderson, public health lead for the First Nation Pandemic Response Co-ordination Team, explained that in the coming weeks, people who call to make an appointment and self-identify as First Nations would be transferred to a member of a specialized team. "These specialists will have additional training and cultural safety to ensure that they support callers and facilitate access to an appointment for those who are eligible," Anderson said. At first, self-identification will be the method by which First Nations can access the vaccine. But, in the future, because some people do falsely identify as First Nations — called "pretendians" — the system will be tightened up over time. "This is a phenomenon that I have been aware of and had to work through in multiple different contexts, but I never imagined that one of the harmful ripple effects would be that non-registered or non-status First Nation people would face the risk of not being able to get a vaccine at a time when they rightly should be able to," said Anderson. In the future, First Nations people in Manitoba will be asked to verify their identity, she added. "We want to make sure that this is done in a way that is safe for people and does not exclude our First Nations relatives, that because of the complicated and various processes of colonization, do not have Indian status cards," she said. If a First Nations person does not have a status card under the Indian Act, there will be an escalation process to deal with the more complex cases in a trauma-informed and culturally safe way. Anderson reported that, as of last Friday, 7,023 doses of vaccine have been administered on-reserve — four per cent of the eligible population received first doses, while .08 per cent are fully vaccinated. Off-reserve, 2.96 per cent of the population have received one dose and .07 per cent are fully vaccinated. Of Manitoba’s eligible population, 2.4 per cent are fully vaccinated. As Anderson explained, First Nations have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 — making up 54 per cent of new cases in the overall Manitoba population and 70 per cent of active cases, and the virus does affect them more harshly, as demonstrated by hospitalization rates. The median age of death in Manitoba is 83, while in First Nations it is 66. Meanwhile, full two-dose vaccination at personal care homes is set to wrap up this week. "This is a tremendous accomplishment," said Reimer, adding results are already showing. "While we are seeing decreases in rates in the community overall, and we know that there are strong public health measures still taking place in personal care homes, we’re also seeing quite a sharp drop in the number of outbreaks happening in personal care homes." Additionally, the focused immunization teams began first doses at congregate living sites in Brandon and Winnipeg on Feb. 19, with regional health authorities scheduling high-priority congregate living sites starting this week. There are 1,400 congregate living sites in the province. A list of those sites can be found at bit.ly/2P9KaWX The vaccination task force has looked ahead in terms of doses coming to Manitoba to the end of March — which Johanu Botha, co-lead for the Vaccine Implementation Task Force, said will be 15,000 Pfizer doses weekly, up slightly from the roughly 12,000 doses it is receiving currently. "These are not large quantities," said Botha, adding all Pfizer doses go to supersites due to the storage requirements. There are currently two supersites — in Winnipeg and Brandon — with two more scheduled to open. The plan is to open Selkirk’s site in early March and Morden/Winkler’s in mid-March. Apart from the doses received from Moderna this week, next shipments of that vaccine are unknown. "We have just over 8,000 doses on hand remaining," said Botha, who added that those are tagged to complete vaccinations at personal care homes and support the congregate living campaign. Moderna is the vaccine of choice for First Nations, due to its less stringent storage requirement. That’s concerning, said Anderson. "We certainly want to respond to the data and have everybody — First Nations people living both on and off reserve — vaccinated as quickly as possible, especially as we start to think about heading into flood season, fire season, and what a large-scale evacuation at the same time as we’re dealing with the pandemic would mean," she said. But Anderson referenced Reimer’s news that Pfizer is looking into changing some of its shipping and storage restrictions. That may mean Pfizer can be used at First Nations in the future. "And I would say my experience has been both our provincial and federal counterparts are very willing to have that dialogue," she said. Anderson said it’s hard to calculate First Nation uptake of the vaccine at this time. "In general, in 61 of the 63, the anecdotal feedback that we got was that uptake was very high among those who were eligible. In one community, some further communication was needed, and support. Then uptake improved," she said. Anderson said the experience is much more in line with H1N1, which was higher than usual vaccine uptake. "We’re very encouraged by this progress." It was also revealed at the news conference that the Manitoba Metis Federation continues to be in conversation with the province for a vaccine program targeting vulnerable Métis populations. Reimer suggested Manitobans monitor the eligibility criteria website. The eligibility criteria will expand — sometimes quickly — by decreasing age, and can be found at bit.ly/3ssXBQb Additionally, 213 pharmacies and doctors across the province have signed up to deliver vaccines when more, with less stringent storage needs, are approved. The Wednesday technical briefing for media, which preceded the news conference, can be found at bit.ly/37LRuhP Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
(The Army Museum - image credit) A sepia-tinged photo of an all-Black volunteer fire brigade posing around a Halifax doorstep during the Second World has sparked a flurry of online sleuthing to identify the 16 men and three women featured. The young women wear dresses and top coats while the older men and teenaged boys are in suits and ties or a uniform. The women are each holding a pump attached to a hose. All are wearing helmets and arm bands signifying they've volunteered to protect their neighbourhood if fire broke out while firefighters were off fighting in the war. An enlargement of the artifact is part of an exhibit entitled Halifax Citizens in Action at The Army Museum at Citadel Hill, Collections manager Chara Kingston said the narrative behind the "gorgeous photograph" is incomplete without putting names to the faces. Chara Kingston is the collections manager at The Army Museum, a non-profit located at Halifax Citadel National Historic Site. "You can look at anything, whether it's a pair of boots or a piece of paper, and it doesn't really have context until you start to dive into the story," said Kingston, who put a call out on social media this week asking people to help identify the members of the civil defence platoon. "I want to crawl inside that photograph and really get to know some of those people in those faces," she said. It's believed the photo was taken in 1943 on what's now called Buddy Daye Street. At the time, city residents were enduring food rationing, air-raid sirens, and the fear of war coming to the port city. It was also a time of racial segregation, and decades before the north-end Halifax neighbourhood became gentrified. Kingston added #BlackHistoryMonth to her post in hopes of attracting more eyeballs. Missy Searl, of Eastern Passage, N.S., is a former employee of The Army Museum. She immediately noticed the woman in the middle bore a strong family resemblance. "I was staring at it and looking at it, and I was like, the lady in the white coat looks really familiar. And I messaged my uncle Wayne Adams, and I said, 'Who is this lady?' And he said, it's your Aunt Pearl," said Searl. Missy Searl is a military buff and a former employee of The Army Museum. She saw the museum's post, and wanted to know more about the woman in the middle of the photo. Pearl Brown, Searl's great-aunt, was likely in her early 20s in the photo. "It was kind of like this really beautiful surprise to see this woman who obviously my aunt looks so much like, you know, as she grew older," said Searl. The president of the Halifax Fire Historical Society, Jeff Brown, said the civilian fire wardens were part of the Air-Raid Precautions Group, which was formed by the federal government in 1939 and disbanded in 1945. In Halifax, two captains provided training to the brigades. Brown said the civilians who signed up to defend their neighbourhoods deserve to be saluted for their efforts. "It's just another form of a call-to-arms, basically you're there for your community, much like our volunteers today," said Brown. "That's kind of what we do, it's human nature to want to help, for the most part." This is not the first time detective work has been done to identify the people in this picture. An enlargement of the photo serves as the backdrop for the display entitled, Halifax Citizens in Action. Unbeknownst to The Army Museum staff, Cyril Clayton, a retired chief warrant officer in his late 70s and a board member of the museum, recently spent time on the photograph and the names. He said they've all been identified as members of Platoon 7 Section E. Searl posted her discovery on Facebook and already a friend has come forward saying her relative is also in the photo. Kingston is hoping descendants from everyone in the photo can be brought together. Searl said that would be amazing, and already this endeavour has left her feeling "empowered." Her great-grandfather was a member of Nova Scotia's Second Construction Battalion, the only all-Black battalion in the Canadian military history. Now she has learned about another ancestor who also showed bravery at a time of turmoil. "This is a woman that is part of my makeup, my genetics," said Searl. "It's things like this that I always go, 'OK, so this is who I'm descended from.'" For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here. MORE TOP STORIES
SARAJEVO, Bosnia — A Bosnian court sentenced on Thursday a Bosnian Muslim man to six years in prison on charges that he fought for the Islamic State group in Syria. Jasmin Keserovic, who has spent nearly seven years in Syria, was also charged with inciting others to take part in terrorist activities. Judges said that by publicly calling on Muslims to kill Christian soldiers and civilians alike, the defendant “demonstrated specific ruthlessness.” Hudges rejected defence claims that Keserovic was in Syria for charity work to help the local population amid the war. He was part of a group of seven Bosnian men flown back to Bosnia from Syria on a U.S. Air Force flight in December 2019 along with 18 women and children. In 2014, Bosnia became the first country in Europe to introduce prison terms for its citizens who fought abroad. Fighters who have since returned to the country were tried and, in most cases, sentenced to prison. The Associated Press
Voters in Placentia-St. Mary’s will have some more time to reflect on who they want to cast their vote for. Along with 17 other districts in the Avalon, voting for residents in Placentia-St. Mary’s has been delayed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the St. John’s Metro area. Meanwhile, Liberal incumbent Sherry Gambin-Walsh says her constituents have more than her word to hold her accountable; they have her record. “My record shows that I’ve brought millions of dollars to the district of Placentia-St. Mary’s, from $500 grants to million-dollar capital works projects,” said Gambin-Walsh, who has been the focus of two major controversies during her time in office: one involving former Liberal stalwart Eddie Joyce, whom she accused of bullying, and the other involving the leaking of cabinet information. “You should vote for me because I’m ready and available for you if you have an issue… I’m easy to access and I have no problem standing up and advocating for your issue.” Gambin-Walsh was elected in the 2015 provincial election and beat PC candidate Hilda Whalen in 2019 by just over 500 votes — a margin of about 10 percent. The margin was not quite as comfortable as her over 2,000 vote lead against PC candidate Judy Manning in 2015. Gambin-Walsh said residents in her district, which is geographically larger than most, have different concerns depending on where they live. For example, while employment on the Cape Shore is not a concern due to the landing of fishery boats in Branch, employment in St. Mary’s Bay area is a major issue. “We don’t have any good source of solid employment anymore,” said Gambin-Walsh. “Once upon a time, we did have a fish plant down in St. Mary’s. It’s dormant right now, but I do now that the operator is trying to get his license re-established. He hasn’t been successful yet, but I do really support that, because I have a significant number of people down there having to access programs, seek community enhancement programs and job creation programs, specifically because they have no other source of income. And to drive from Peter’s River to Tim Hortons in CBS for minimum wage, you’re in the negative, you’re not in the positive. The evidence is there. The dollar amount that has gone out in JCP this year alone is excessive, so that’s a problem in that area.” Another concern, is the defunct Admirals Beach fish plant, which “is currently falling into the ocean,” said Gambin-Walsh. “It’s going to cost anywhere from $700,000 to a million to get it down, and there’s no jobs created in taking it down because it will be tendered. There has been a study done that shows there are some environmental chemicals that are dangerous to the environment, so that’s an issue at Admirals Beach.” Meanwhile, residents throughout the district are worried about the future of Argentia and the White Rose offshore oil project, while residents in Dunville worry about the need for water infrastructure upgrades, estimated, said Gambin-Walsh, at about $10-11 million, while residents in Placentia wonder about the increased construction costs of a wellness centre. Across the district as a whole, residents decry the state of many provincial roads. “Roads, roads, roads, roads, roads, I’m constantly hearing about roads,” said Gambin-Walsh, who added that millions of provincial dollars have gone towards roads in the district over the years, but there are still roads that need to be done. Access to general and nurse practitioners is also an issue. “Another thing I’m hearing about, and this is something I’m experiencing myself, as my son is an individual with autism, is the access to GP’s,” said Gambin-Walsh. “People are having difficulty accessing GPs, and they’re having difficulty even accessing nurse practitioners to meet their needs.” Gambin-Walsh said constituents who do have access to family doctors and have been availing of virtual appointments during the pandemic have been mostly satisfied with the service, but there are still too many people without proper access to healthcare. “I have a number of constituents in my district who do not have access to a GP, and that is a problem, that is a huge problem,” Gambin-Walsh admitted. She said constituents haven’t raised concerns about her removal from cabinet last year following an RCMP investigation that showed she broke cabinet confidentially by leaking information regarding a promotion in the RNC. She was not charged, but Premier Andrew Furey did not reappoint her to cabinet. “With this RCMP investigation, constituents are not interested at all,” said Gambin-Walsh. “I was prepared and offering to answer questions at the door to my constituents directly, but they don’t want to hear about it, they don’t want to talk about it, they’re not interested.” Gambin-Walsh said constituents are, however, eager to hear details about her involvement in 2018 bullying allegations against former Liberal MHA Eddie Joyce. At the time Joyce, seen by many political watchers as perhaps the loyalist Liberal in the province having relinquished his seat in 1989 so Clyde Wells could serve in the legislature as Premier, was serving as Minister of Municipal Affairs and charged with making tough decisions about a sea of demands coming in from MHAs for funding from their towns. Gambin-Walsh said constituents are happy that she spoke up against Joyce, and that some have even gone so far as to read the official reports. After then Premier Dwight Ball allegedly failed to keep a private promise to back Joyce against the charges of bullying, he left the Liberal party and sat as an Independent, getting re-elected without party affiliation in 2019. “The 2018 situation with MHA Joyce, that got get a bit of attention, and people were very curious and did ask me a fair bit about that. They are interested in bullying and harassment though. And they’re happy that I spoke up against it,” said Gambin-Walsh. “When I look at my social media, my Twitter and my Facebook, when I see anyone saying something negative, when I check out their account, it’s ether a troll account or the person doesn’t live in my district.”. As to Furey, Gambin-Walsh said he is a more than capable leader. She added that despite cries from the PC and NDP that Furey should not have called the election during a pandemic or during the winter, people are actually more engaged in this election than in previous years. “I am finding that people are more interested in this election than they were in ’15 and ’19,” she said. “This time, people are truly interested in what’s happening with COVID, they’re interested in the economy, they’re interested in chatting with me and getting my opinion… I think, now I could be wrong, but I think we’re going to have a very high turn out by the end of this election.” Gambin-Walsh said there’s been another noticeable difference in this year’s campaign. “I can’t keep a sign up. I have about 50 signs gone. They’re destroyed. People have called and said they’re beat up and up in the dump,” said Gambin-Walsh, adding some constituents have had to display their signs in shed windows for fear of having them removed — again. “I’ve been firm in telling my volunteers not to touch the other signs, regardless of the number of signs we lose. Just keep going… this is not going to slow us down.” Voters will choose between Gambin-Walsh, PC candidate Calvin Manning, and NL Alliance hopeful Clem Whittle. Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
Twitter Inc will launch new features and products faster to refresh its business after years of stagnation, the company said on Thursday, aiming to double its annual revenue in 2023. "Why don't we start with why folks don't believe in us," said Chief Executive Jack Dorsey at the start of Twitter's virtual investor day presentation. The social media network outlined plans including tipping and paid subscriptions to "super follow" some accounts, to attain at least $7.5 billion in annual revenue and 315 million monetizable daily active users (mDAU), or those who see ads, by the end of 2023.
Facebook Inc on Thursday launched a campaign to explain to users how small businesses depend on personalized advertising, ahead of upcoming plans by Apple Inc to prompt iPhone users to allow apps to use their data for ads. The campaign called "Good Ideas Deserve To Be Found" highlights several advertisers that have grown their business on Facebook and Instagram, such as Houston-based fashion brand House of Takura. A commercial will air on TV, including during the Golden Globe Awards this Sunday, Facebook said.
MUSKOKA LAKES — Norah Fountain is used to wearing many hats as the executive director of the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges and longer workdays for Fountain, as local business owners have turned to the chamber for guidance in an uncertain time. Advocacy quickly became a focus for the chamber in the early days of lockdown, Fountain explained, because, “we knew right away there would be businesses who would fall through the cracks.” The chamber helped to get the Muskoka Business Recovery Fund off the ground, which has received $750,000 from the District of Muskoka and an additional $2.1 million from the federal government. Still, the chamber has its own business to operate and this year will be different. The Township of Muskoka Lakes has pulled back on its financial support for the chamber, to the tune of $20,000, “to keep their budget in line,” Fountain said. As a result, the Port Carling Visitor Information Centre will not open this summer. The chamber will receive $27,000 from the Township to maintain its operations, which this month include a virtual job fair as well as outreach to attract Canadian travellers. “We are their front line tourism arm,” Fountain said, of the chamber’s 24-year relationship with the Township. “We put the money right back into the local economy.” COVID-related questions meant the chamber was “inundated with phone calls,” according to Fountain who has worked on developing resources like a set of COVID guidelines businesses can use as they reopen. As well, the chamber has provided hiring assistance for seasonal workers and helped local businesses move into e-commerce. The chamber also began a Facebook group, Muskoka Lakes Resiliency to connect businesses and extend their reach, posting the menus of local restaurants to encourage takeout business. Fountain also raised the idea of assembling a Muskoka Recovery Task Force to help aid businesses now dealing with coming back to a COVID economy after also suffering losses in the 2019 floods. Some of the chamber’s 312 members fast-tracked their annual renewals to help provide stability for the chamber, as revenue-generating events have been cancelled. And, new members like CrossFit Muskoka have joined, “because they’re seeing our advocacy work,” Fountain said. Not everyone has been able to make it through COVID-19, said Fountain, who called it “heartbreaking” that Clevelands House Resort will not be offering accommodations this summer. It is the impact this year will have on local business owners that Fountain is thinking of as she looks further ahead. “We’re actually concerned about what 2021 will look like.” Kristyn Anthony reports for Muskokaregion.com through the Local Journalism Initiative, a program funded by the Canadian government. Kristyn Anthony, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com