Two bull moose spar in Algonquin Provincial Park, pushing and rubbing antlers.
Two bull moose spar in Algonquin Provincial Park, pushing and rubbing antlers.
BUENA VISTA, Ga. — Across the grounds of a south Georgia courthouse, scores of masked and socially distanced voters bowed their heads in prayer for the 260,000-plus Americans who have died from the coronavirus.Then Democratic Senate hopeful Raphael Warnock took the microphone, promising to push for more economic aid for businesses and people affected by the pandemic and touting Democratic plans to combat long-standing racial and wealth disparities highlighted by the crisis.A day earlier, Vice-President Mike Pence campaigned with Warnock’s opponent, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, and her fellow Republican senator, David Perdue. But in heavily Republican north Georgia, there were only scant mentions of the public health calamity that helped lead to President Donald Trump’s defeat: aid programs that passed Congress months ago and a vaccine that is still weeks — or months — from mass distribution.“Before the end of this year, we’re going to see 40 million vaccines all across America,” Pence predicted, attributing the possibility to “the leadership of President Donald Trump.” His crowd -- distanced only in certain seating sections and many not wearing masks -- roared as the vice-president added a kicker: “We’re in the miracle business."It's two starkly different worlds on display in Georgia, where the national political spotlight is shining on twin Senate runoffs that will determine which party controls the chamber at the outset of President-elect Joe Biden’s Democratic administration. Republicans need one more seat for a majority; Democrats need a sweep on Jan. 5.For Republicans, the pandemic is secondary in a runoff blitz defined by dire warnings about what it would mean if Warnock defeats Loeffler and Perdue falls to Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff. Democrats, meanwhile, are more than eager to discuss COVID-19 and its economic fallout. The messaging differences bleed over to the two sides’ public health protocols, as well. The approaches largely track the fall presidential campaign, when Trump wanted to talk about anything but the virus, while Biden centred his pitch around Trump’s handling of it.The November results in Georgia explain why neither side is deviating. Biden clipped Trump in the state by fewer than 13,000 votes out of more than 5 million cast. But Perdue led Ossoff by about 100,000 votes, finishing just short of the outright majority Georgia requires to avoid a runoff. Warnock led Loeffler in a separate special election. Both sides share a common conclusion: Each party has a pool of potential voters approaching 2.5 million. It’s just a matter of which side can coax more to cast ballots in a second round.Republicans’ reprisal will depend again — in part — on generating enthusiasm via in-person campaigning, even as coronavirus cases spike nationally. Trump has announced plans for a Dec. 5 rally in Georgia, after weeks of speculation about whether he’d come amid his continued refusal to concede to Biden. As with the president’s October blitz of rallies, there’s no suggestion that his Georgia event will include social distancing or require masks, as recommended by public health officials.Neither Perdue nor Loeffler echoes the president’s mockery of public health standards. But so far in the runoff campaign, they’ve held multiple indoor events with no social distancing and without compulsory masks. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, appearing with Loeffler, drew hundreds of suburban Republicans to the Cobb County GOP headquarters, surprising organizers and crowding the facility to the point that some voters left without attempting to enter.Florida Sen. Rick Scott drew a similar throng to a restaurant in suburban Cumming for an event with both Georgia incumbents. Days later, Scott said he had tested positive for COVID-19 and had been exposed the same day he travelled to Georgia. Loeffler later announced her own positive test, as well, though consecutive negative tests followed in subsequent days, leading her to end a brief quarantine.Loeffler acknowledges the pandemic in her standard speech by highlighting her and Perdue’s votes for the spring economic relief package.Warnock and Ossoff counter with almost exclusively outdoor or virtual campaigning. Warnock has, however, held outdoor photo lines that do not involve social distancing.“We’ve seen no real national public grieving because it is the kind of death that doesn’t show up in one fell swoop,” Warnock said in Reynolds, where he campaigned under an outdoor picnic canopy. “We see no real recognition of what is happening. ... Meanwhile, we’re having a debate about science. Wearing a mask is somehow a political statement? No, it’s not a political statement. It’s common sense.”Ossoff launched the second round of campaigning with a statewide tour of drive-in rallies similar to those Biden used after Labor Day. Ossoff went into isolation in July after his wife, an OB-GYN, contracted COVID-19. His ads frequently show him greeting voters in masks.The two Democrats have also criticized Loeffler and Perdue for well-timed stock trades after a series of private congressional briefings on the then-burgeoning pandemic.“While you were sheltering in, she was sheltering her investments,” Warnock said in Buena Vista.A recent Ossoff ad says Perdue “profited from the pandemic” instead of “preparing our country.”Senate ethics officials and the Justice Department have found no legal wrongdoing in either Georgia senator's financial activity.Ossoff also has sought to tie Perdue’s loyalty to Trump back to the pandemic. The president has spent weeks asserting baseless claims of voter fraud in Georgia and other battleground states Biden won, without Perdue disputing the claims.Trump's foot-dragging on an orderly transition, Ossoff said in an interview, has hampered Biden’s ability to organize a governmentwide coronavirus response.“What Sen. Perdue should be doing, if he had the people’s best interest at heart and not just his own,” Ossoff told The Associated Press, “is encouraging the president to recognize reality.”___Associated Press writer Ben Nadler contributed to this report from Atlanta.Bill Barrow, The Associated Press
A new North West Company store in Pelican Narrows is opening Saturday in partnership with Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation. The new store will include grocery and pharmacy services, a Tim Hortons coffee shop, quick stop confectionary and a gas bar. Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation Vice Chief Weldon McCallum, of Pelican Narrows, said the community has been without a general store since the old one burned down in a 2015 grass fire. He said the new location will allow residents to shop in their own community and avoid long grocery runs to Flin Flon, Manitoba or Prince Albert amid the pandemic. “A lot of our people are really anxious and are very happy to see the northern store open again,” McCallum said Friday. “Especially the elders. The elders were the ones that were the driving force behind the northern store before it burned down, because a lot of our elders have accounts there. There's a Cree name that they have for the store and it's called Kompanik. It means a general store.” “The elders are very happy. And so, tomorrow, when the store opens, it's going to be a really slow, grand opening. They'll be following social distancing. Elders will be given priority to enter so that they're not out in the lineup. They will be priority and everybody knows that in the community, with our respect for Elders.” As well as providing safe access to food, the store will take a load off health workers, who are stretched dealing with the pandemic and the community’s medical needs. “We won't have to rely on our local health center for pharmacy anymore. We've had PBCN health services in partnership with their pharmacy. That way it frees up our registered nurses’ time so that they're not busy handling medication anymore or having to deliver medicine. People will just go to the pharmacy like any other pharmacy in an urban center,” McCallum said. The pharmacy and fuel aren’t scheduled to open until Dec. 8. “They'll be holding off on the Tim Hortons for a while just until things settle down,” McCallum said. “We want to try and avoid developing big groups or gatherings.” The store will also bring much-needed employment to Pelican Narrows. “With everything from the grocery to the quick stop, to the Tim Hortons, to the gas station, over 40 employment positions were created through the North West Company,” McCallum said. But the prospect of a Tim Hortons coffee shop in town has people especially excited. “They're ecstatic… Everybody's been talking about it. Pelican would be the first PBCN community to have a Tim Hortons on our reserve. There’s not even a Tim Hortons in La Ronge. Not even in Flin Flon, Man. So we’ll be ahead in that area,” McCallum said. North West Company spokesperson Ellen Curtis explained that while a grand opening is usually celebrated with an Elder’s prayer, ribbon-cutting, speeches and presentations, this one will be different. “This is the first grand opening I can remember where we’ve done everything we can to avoid having a crowd,” Curtis said. Any activities that could pose a potential risk, especially to Elders, will be deferred to a safer time. Instead, Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation and Northern are jointly presenting every household in the community with a holiday food hamper to celebrate this milestone event. “Our goal right now is to make sure people in Pelican Narrows have safe access to food in the community,” Said Rob Thursby, director of sales and operations. “We’ll have plenty of time to celebrate later.” The North West Company said development of the store was made possible by working closely with the community of Pelican Narrows and PBCN Chief and Council. “The community of Pelican Narrows has been underserved,” said Mike Beaulieu, Vice President, Canadian Store Operations. “We are very excited to have the opportunity to partner with Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation to open a new Northern store. Now more than ever we are reminded of the importance of communities having access to a safe and secure source of healthy food... A lot of effort and hard work through very challenging conditions has brought us to this memorable opening day.” McCallum said after the store burnt down in 2015, negotiations and talks continued until the spring of 2018 when plans started to become concrete. The North West Company agreed to return land to the community, which is important because the store has a history that dates back to the time of the Hudson Bay Company. The North West Company began as a fur trading enterprise in Montreal from 1779 to 1821 and competed violently with the Hudson’s Bay Company until the British Government forced them to merge. Outposts were often built and land appropriated without full and informed consent of the Indigenous communities where they continue to operate. In 1987 the northern trading posts of the Hudson's Bay Company were bought by an employee consortium who brought back The North West Company brand in 1990. It now operates as a grocery chain out of Winnipeg with outlets in northern communities across Canada. “The relationship between the North West Company and Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, Pelican Narrows has been strengthened. There are things that we have agreed upon that help make that relationship stronger. And one area is that the North West Company has agreed to turn over all of their property, their land within our community. That was one of my biggest arguments at the table. I wanted to see their lands given back to the community,” McCallum said. “It wasn't right that Hudson’s Bay established this store… There's a long history with Hudson’s Bay and some that's not really bright but the future is looking brighter, and the relationship is there, the connection is there. So I'm really happy to see that.” He said the North West Company has shown that it is committed to Pelican Narrows. “They've understood both the size and population of our community, and they knew the situation that we were in. They knew how vital their grocery store was before it burnt down,” McCallum said. “Being a company based out of another province to come in and provide that service and that much-needed help. It really goes a long way. It gives our community a sense of relationship.” Michael Bramadat-Willcock, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Northern Advocate
Nunavut’s COVID-19 active caseload edged upward Friday but was almost offset by news that three people previously diagnosed have recovered. Eight people in total have recovered since the territory’s first case was reported on Nov. 6. The territory had 151 active cases as of Friday, including four new ones reported in Arviat, the community hardest-hit since the new coronavirus was first detected in Nunavut in early November. No deaths have been reported in Nunavut. Friday’s single-digit increase followed the first day in several weeks that no new cases were reported. Nunavut had been adding double-digit increases in confirmed cases in mid-November. The territory reported its first case on Nov. 6 in Sanikiluaq, but after that the caseload grew quickly with cases confirmed in Rankin Inlet, Arviat and Whale Cove. Nunavummiut who were initially infected with COVID-19 had been visiting Winnipeg. As cases continue to rise in southern jurisdictions, Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, said on Friday at a news conference that his office is “taking a closer look at every exemption request, whether critical worker or compassionate.” Patterson said it would be harmful to increase the isolation period in southern hotels beyond 14 days. However, he did say that when the resources are available, that isolation period will also include tests. The increase of COVID-19 cases across Canada reinforces the need for Nunavummiut to “really consider if travel is essential before they go south,” Patterson said. “The more people who go south, the higher the risk of introducing COVID-19 back into the territory is going to be.” Nunavut is heading into the second weekend of a government-imposed lockdown that took effect on Nov. 18 and is to remain in place until Dec. 2. Since the beginning of the pandemic in March, the GN has enacted a public health emergency every two weeks. It allows the government to limit the sizes of gatherings and close businesses, gyms and schools. It’s also what allowed the GN to impose a lockdown across the territory for two weeks, starting on Nov. 18. Patterson emphasized the public health emergency is not the same as the current lockdown, but it is what allows the GN to order the lockdown. As the lockdown draws to an end next week, the GN will adjust measures for each community based on the level of COVID-19 in the community at the time. Even once the territory-wide lockdown ends, strict measures will remain in place in locations with evidence of community transmission, which has so far only included Arviat. For the rest of the territory, businesses will be open and gathering sizes will be limited — similar to restrictions that were in place in June and July, Patterson said. Patterson was to meet with the Department of Education Friday afternoon to discuss how schools will reopen after the lockdown. Schools will be in a different position when reopening happens, he said, “based on what we know of the increased risk of COVID-19 coming into the territory in all communities.” The school reopening plan will likely be announced on Monday, Patterson said. Along with nearly $19 million in federal funds to help with COVID-19 relief, Nunavut is also getting support in other ways. Four infection experts with the Red Cross were to arrive in Arviat Friday or Saturday, Patterson said. They will help with assessments. They are not isolating before entering the territory, and Patterson said they will wear masks and isolate when they’re not working. There will also be a liaison officer in Iqaluit from the Public Health Agency of Canada, who will “help streamline requests for support from the federal government and provide additional assistance on the ground,” Patterson said. Across Canada, as of Nov. 26, more than 353,000 cases have been reported since March when the pandemic began. More than 11,700 people have died.Meagan Deuling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News
VANCOUVER — The Mountie who says he warned against arresting Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou by boarding her plane when it landed in Vancouver says he made his own decision to come into the airport and help that day. Sgt. Ross Lundie agreed under cross-examination at a B.C. Supreme Court hearing Friday that the RCMP members making the arrest in December 2018 did not ask him to be present that day.But he said when the arresting officers called him the night before the incident asking for advice, he suggested they arrange a meeting with Canada Border Services Agency officials for the next morning and decided he would attend."It was obviously very important from what I'd heard," Lundie testified."Were you concerned that by asserting yourself, that would assist in avoiding some kind of major problem between CBSA and RCMP?" Meng's lawyer Richard Peck asked."I wanted to ensure that went smoothly as well, yes."Lundie, an officer with national security experience based at the airport, said he believed it was important to keep CBSA in the loop because he understood they had their own mandate and responsibilities.His testimony is part of an evidence-gathering hearing in Meng's extradition case where her lawyers are gathering information to bolster their allegations that Canadian officials improperly collected evidence against her.Meng is wanted on fraud charges in the United States that both she and Huawei deny. Meng's lawyers allege that an early plan to arrest her aboard the plane was changed to allow for a "covert criminal investigation" under the guise of a routine immigration exam at the behest of U.S. authorities. Ultimately, Meng would undergo screening by border officers for nearly three hours before she was informed of her arrest and right to counsel.Border officers working at the airport that day have testified they had their own concerns about Meng's admissibility to Canada and deny the allegations made by her lawyers. Lundie told the court that he always discourages his officers from conducting arrests aboard flights unless there is an immediate public safety concern. Meng herself didn't pose any risk to his knowledge, he said, but planes are tight spaces and there can be dangers. It's safer to conduct an arrest in the gate, border screening area or elsewhere, he said. Lundie testified the arresting officers phoned him the night before the arrest while they were driving to the airport to confirm if Meng would be on the flight. That's when he learned of the plan to board the plane, he said.Peck suggested that couldn't be. Phone records show that the arresting officers' boss, Sgt. Janice Vander Graaf, phoned them later that night after speaking with her own superior, whom court has heard was the source of the plane-arrest plan. If Vander Graaf's records are correct, then Lundie couldn't have learned the arrest plan when he said he did, earlier that evening, Peck suggested. "My final suggestion is that you're confused in your memory," Peck said. "OK," Lundie said. Court has also heard that phone records suggested Lundie did have three-minute phone call with a national security Mountie in Ottawa with knowledge of the case that night. Lundie said he has no memory of the call.The hearing will continue on Dec. 7. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020.Amy Smart, The Canadian Press
Manitoba Education is seeking back-up for its remote-learning hub from staff who work in the province’s 37 public school divisions. “The province issued a call to school divisions for staff who might be interested in working with the Manitoba Remote Learning Support Centre as part of a team,” a spokesperson for the department said in a statement Friday. Division participation is voluntary, but the spokesperson said interested administrators are expected to identify staff, resources and best practices for the support centre. The team of staffers, which is separate from the teaching positions the province is currently hiring for, will help create the centre’s bank of distance-learning lessons and assessment resources, the spokesperson added. The Brandon School Division confirmed Friday one of its staff members will work with the hub once it launches. In a statement, assistant superintendent Mathew Gustafson said BSD joined a group of other divisions to create the Westman Consortia to provide remote learning for students with medical exemptions this fall. The new centre will provide additional resources the division “will explore and utilize as the centre evolves,” Gustafson said. Also Friday, the Hanover School Division indicated one of its instructional coaches will help develop the centre, but will remain a division employee. When reached Friday, superintendents at Seine River, Seven Oaks and Prairie Spirit divisions indicated they had no plans to redeploy staff to support the centre. “We’d much rather keep our students connected to their home schools,” Brian O’Leary of Seven Oaks wrote in an email, in which he noted current programming keeps students connected to their classrooms. Earlier this month, the province announced plans to hire 100 teachers to staff the $10-million support centre for teachers and parents doing remote instruction. The Manitoba Teachers’ Society, among other critics, have questioned how the province will find qualified applicants, given schools are struggling to cover substitute requests because of public health directives to stay home if symptomatic and COVID-19 exposure quarantine periods. The province confirmed Friday it will accept applications from outside Manitoba. The centre is expected to launch next month; the education minister suggested it would be up and running this month when he unveiled the project, but the province extended the job application deadline to Dec. 2.Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
À l’heure où la propagation du virus gagne du terrain en Alberta, la collaboration entre les représentants du gouvernement provincial et ceux du service de soins en santé fait défaut pour lutter contre la pandémie, comme l’indique CBC. Cette semaine, la chaîne nationale en anglais a révélé des tensions en se procurant certains documents confidentiels et des enregistrements audio. Ubaka Ogbogu, professeur associé en droit à l’Université de l’Alberta, a eu accès à ces documents stipulant que des recommandations faites par la médecin en chef, la Dre Deena Hinshaw, avaient été ignorées par le premier ministre, Jason Kenney. Il explique aussi que les agissements de « certains membres des opérations du cabinet du premier ministre interfèrent avec les activités de certains membres de l’équipe de soins en santé. Le gouvernement pense que les Albertains doivent être responsables d’eux-mêmes ». Or, des membres de l’équipe médicale ont exprimé leur mécontentement auprès des membres du cabinet, expliquant que cette méthode d’autoresponsabilisation auprès des Albertains était inefficace, chiffres à l’appui. En effet, dans les transcriptions auxquelles M. Ogbogu a eu accès, certains collaborateurs de l’équipe de la Dre Hinshaw se disaient stressés et fatigués par le nombre croissant de cas. Il explique aussi, sans entrer dans les détails, que la Dre Hinshaw aurait agi différemment à propos du port du masque et des tests pratiqués dans la province. Le manque de collaboration entre les deux parties paraît pour lui évident, démontrant que le gouvernement priorise l’économie. Division au sein des représentants Noël Gibney, médecin urgentiste, dit ne pas être étonné par ces révélations. « C’est ce que nous soupçonnions depuis un certain temps », déclare-t-il. « Cela explique pourquoi le gouvernement de l’Alberta prend des décisions aussi dangereuses », ajoute-t-il. M. Gibney était l’un des 79 médecins qui avaient signé une lettre au premier ministre, voilà plusieurs semaines, le pressant d’établir un confinement total à l’instar du Manitoba. Selon le médecin, la situation de la Dre Hinshaw est délicate. « Je la vois comme un otage de M. Kenney. Elle est dans une situation où elle doit accepter la position du gouvernement ou démissionner. C’est là où elle est rendue en ce moment », dit-il. Cette fuite dans les médias est le signe aussi, selon lui, d’un désaccord au sein même de l’équipe de lutte contre la COVID-19, et pas seulement avec les représentants du gouvernement. « L’équipe de santé publique n’est pas unie. Certains membres sont en désaccord avec ce que le gouvernement fait, mais aussi avec la Dre Hinshaw, qui ne conteste pas assez, selon eux,ce qui se passe », résume-t-il. Rupture du lien de confiance Dans son point de presse de jeudi et sur son compte Twitter, la médecin en chef, elle, n’a pas caché sa déception devant cette fuite dans les médias et le sentiment de trahison qui l’habite. « Je suis déçue que des conversations internes confidentielles aient été diffusées, ce qui constitue une violation du serment public et du code de conduite. Ces réunions devraient être un espace sûr, où les fonctionnaires peuvent avoir des conversations et des débats francs et continus », a affirmé la Dre Hinshaw. Lors de son point de presse, elle a aussi précisé que ces indiscrétions feraient l’objet d’une enquête. Un coup d’autant plus rude à accuser pour la médecin en chef que la fuite de ces informations provient directement de l’un des membres de son équipe. Elle dit pour le moment ignorer qui en est à l’origine. Un comité consultatif de la COVID-19 Pour le moment, le Dr Noël Gibney et le Dr James Talbot, ancien médecin hygiéniste en chef de l’Alberta, coprésident un comité consultatif de la COVID-19 qu’ils ont formé avec l’Association du personnel médical de la zone d’Edmonton. Cette initiative regroupe plus de 1700 médecins actifs. « Nous avons des membres représentant un certain nombre de spécialités qui participent à l’intervention contre la COVID », précise-t-il. Ils souhaitent, par cette démarche, « répondre aux actions (et à l’absence d’actions) du gouvernement provincial ainsi qu’informer continuellement le public et les médias sur la lutte appropriée à mener contre cette pandémie mortelle ». Contactée par Le Devoir au sujet de ces divulgations dans les médias anglophones, Christine Myatt, l’attachée du premier ministre Jason Kenney, a renvoyé la balle à la Dre Hinshaw. « La Dre Hinshaw a longuement abordé ce sujet lors de son point de presse », a-t-elle dit. En date du 27 novembre, l’Alberta comptabilisait 14 217 cas actifs de COVID-19 et 519 morts liées à cette maladie.Hélène Lequitte, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Devoir
Beset by ongoing questions about Canada's COVID-19 vaccine strategy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tried to assuage the public with assurances most Canadians could be inoculated by September 2021, with distribution led by a former NATO commander.Trudeau faced a barrage of questions about when and how such a rollout would unfold at a morning press conference on Friday, acknowledging public anxiety amid alarming infection rates and hospitalizations that have already scuttled holiday hopes for much of the country.But while promising vaccine news offered "light at the end of the tunnel," Trudeau said "we must hold on a little longer.""What really matters is when we get across the finish line ... The fact that the doctors highlighted that if all goes according to plan, we should be able to have the majority of Canadians vaccinated by next September, puts us in very good stead," he said, offering the government's most specific timeline yet."We're going to continue to do everything we can to deliver for Canadians, listening to experts working with top people to make sure that we're doing this right, and quickly and safely." Trudeau said Canada has turned to Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin to lead distribution and handle logistics that include cold storage requirements, data sharing, and reaching Indigenous communities. He insisted Ottawa was committed to working with the provinces and territories on securing safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines as quickly as possible. That wasn't good enough for Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who later Friday roasted Trudeau for failing to give provinces and territories specific information they need for a potential vaccine launch.Ford said a conference call Trudeau held with premiers Thursday night was sorely lacking."I didn't get the answer we wanted to hear, none of the premiers got the answer they wanted to hear," said Ford, who appeared at a Friday press conference alongside the new head of the Ontario's vaccine distribution task force, retired Gen. Rick Hillier."I can't emphasize enough to the prime minister: The clock is ticking. We're going to be hopefully getting these vaccines sometime — again, hopefully — in January. I asked him the three simple questions: When are we getting it? What type of vaccine are we getting? And how much of that vaccine are we getting? To have Gen. Hillier make a proper plan, we need to know." Ontario called on the federal government to immediately disclose its allocation plan, noting reports that other countries have already announced plans to receive doses. U.S. officials have said 6.4 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine could reach some priority citizens within 24 hours of regulatory clearance, while Moderna's vaccine could be available by the end of the year, although the general public likely wouldn't get doses until the spring.No matter when a vaccine arrives in Canada, Hillier said Ontario's vaccine distribution plans would be ready on Dec. 31.In Ottawa, Procurement Minister Anita Anand also faced questions over a precise delivery date but insisted she is in constant contact with suppliers to make sure they can be deployed as soon as they are approved for use."This is a complex process. This is an uncertain environment. But we are on top of it," said Anand."I personally will make sure that we have vaccines in place in Canada when Health Canada has provided the regulatory approval."Trudeau's September timeline was echoed by deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo, who had last week suggested the possibility of a fall goal line for vaccinating the majority of Canadians.Njoo said Friday the Prime Minister's prediction is "in the same ballpark" as previous rollout plans, and a good target to work toward.But he cautioned there are still "a lot of unknowns.""Certainly we've always been sort of optimistic, cautiously optimistic, about what the vaccination rollout will look like," said Njoo."Right now it's a bit of a moving target. We have two vaccines which are very promising but they're still in the process of going through the regulatory process. If all goes well, and they are approved, then they're the first two out of the pipeline."The news follows more alarming daily COVID-19 case numbers from Ontario, which reported a record 1,855 new cases, and 20 more deaths on Friday.Quebec reported 1,269 new COVID-19 infections and 38 more deaths linked to the virus, including nine that occurred in the past 24 hours. Federal data shows that as of Friday, Alberta had the highest seven-day infection rate in Canada with 209 cases per 100,000 people. Manitoba and Nunavut were close behind.The Nunavut government said it plans to spend $1 million towards community food programming, including extra funding for communities affected by the pandemic.Ottawa has finalized agreements with five vaccine makers and is in advanced negotiations with two more.The deals would secure 194 million doses with the option to buy another 220 million, according to Public Services and Procurement Canada.British Columbia announced a single-day record on Friday with 911 cases of COVID-19, bringing the provincial total to 30,884 cases.Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry appealed for people to respect store and restaurant employees as she raised recent confrontations by aggressive customers who refuse to wear masks at indoor public places."If you are opposed to wearing a mask then I ask you to shop online, order takeout or stay outside or stay home and not put other people at risk," she said.Eleven more people have died in B.C., bringing the number of fatalities to 395, while a record 301 patients are in hospital.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020.Cassanda Szklarski, The Canadian Press
The Canadian Forces general in charge of planning and logistics for Canada's vaccine rollout was announced Friday. But it raises questions about why military officers are needed at all.
MIAMI — SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois has risen above 12,000 deaths from COVID-19, while also surpassing the 700,000 mark for confirmed coronavirus infections.The latest 1,000 deaths were recorded in just nine days — matching the state’s deadliest period previously in the pandemic in late April and early May, according to an Associated Press review of the data.After a quiet summer, the virus aggressively returned in October. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases jumped from 500,000 to 700,000 over the past 17 days.___HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:— Black Friday offers beacon of hope to struggling stores— Empty seats, delivered feasts as virus changes Thanksgiving— UK asks regulator to assess AZ-Oxford vaccine amid questions— The pandemic is turning this into a holiday shopping season like no other. Toy companies are targeting stuck-at-home grown-ups with latte-smelling Play-Doh and Legos that turn into Warhols.— The deluge of “Dear Santa” letters pouring into a French post office that sorts and responds to Kris Kringle’s mail offers a glimpse into the worries and hopes of children around the world awaiting a pandemic-hit Christmas.— Greece has moved all school and university classes to a remote format. State television is making and broadcasting lessons, while teachers speak to students online from empty classrooms.___Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak___HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:MEXICO CITY — Mexico reported a record daily increase in the number of coronavirus cases Friday, with 12,081 more infections reported.The Health Department said the situation constituted an “alert,” and said that nationwide, infections had risen by over 8% last week.Most of the newly-reported infections occurred in previous weeks, but tests results were reported Friday. The rise was greatest in Mexico City, where detected infections rose by over 34% last week.City authorities have increased testing in the capital, including the use of antigen tests, and said that the larger number of tests may account for the rise.In most parts of Mexico, only people with serious symptoms are tested, leading to an undercount of infections.___ATLANTA — A panel of U.S. advisers will meet Tuesday to vote on how scarce, initial supplies of a COVID-19 vaccine will be given out once one has been approved.Experts have proposed giving the vaccine to health workers first. High priority also may be given to workers in essential industries, people with certain medical conditions and people age 65 and older.Tuesday’s meeting is for the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group established by the CDC. The panel of experts recommends who to vaccinate and when -- advice the government almost always follows.Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have asked the FDA to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Moderna Inc. is expected to also seek emergency use of its vaccine soon.___LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County has announced a new stay-home order amid a surge in coronavirus cases in the nation’s most populous county.The three-week order takes effect Monday. It was announced Friday as the county confirmed 24 new deaths from COVID-19 and 4,544 new virus infections. Nearly 2,000 people in the county are hospitalized.The order advises people to stay home “as much as possible” and to wear face coverings when they go out. It bans people from gathering with others who aren’t in their households, publicly or privately. Church services and protests are exempted as “constitutionally protected rights.”Businesses can remain open but with limited capacity. Beaches, trails, and parks also will remain open.___MIAMI — South Florida Congressman-elect Carlos Gimenez has tested positive for coronavirus.His campaigned announced Friday that the former Miami-Dade County mayor and his wife, Lourdes, tested positive Thursday for COVID-19 after having mild symptoms.They said they’re self-isolating at home, in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and advice from medical professionals.“I will continue attending New Member Orientation virtually and preparing our office to serve the people of Florida’s 26th Congressional District from Westchester to Key West until I can resume my normal schedule,” Gimenez said in a statement. “I am extremely grateful for all of the incredible health care workers who are tirelessly dedicated to their patients.”Gimenez served as Miami-Dade mayor from 2011 until this month. The Republican won his congressional race in the Nov. 3 general election and is set to assume office Jan. 3.___BRUSSELS — Belgium has relaxed some rules imposed to contain the coronavirus resurgence but is remaining strict on family gatherings over Christmas.Now that all the virus indicators are declining, the government said Friday that non-essential shops could open under restricted conditions next week. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said that beyond containing the virus, everyone had to make sure that loneliness did not strike.“We must also be sure that during Christmas and New Year people are not alone, so that is why on the evening of December 24 or 25 isolated people, people living alone, will have the possibility to invite up to two people inside their home,” De Croo said.One of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, Belgium has reported more than 16,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus.___LAWRENCE, Kan. — Holiday traditions have been upended across Kansas due to the coronavirus, forcing Santa to stay firmly on the ground in one city and transforming parades elsewhere.In Lawrence, hundreds usually turn out on the Friday after Thanksgiving to watch firefighters use a ladder truck to rescue Santa from the top of Weaver’s Department Store.But that’s not happening this year as the pandemic strains hospitals.Instead, Santa will appear on the first three Saturdays of December atop a truck decked out in garlands, poinsettias and pine cones, the Lawrence Journal-World reports.The city’s hospital, Lawrence Memorial, has been converting more rooms for COVID-19 patients and 26 coronavirus patients were being treated there on Friday.___SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota on Friday reported 39 deaths from COVID-19, pushing the state to record more deaths in November than all other months of the pandemic combined.The state’s tally of COVID-19 deaths stands at 888 after the Department of Health reported the death records from a two-day period stretching over the Thanksgiving holiday. The total number of deaths has more than doubled since November began, with 463 reported this month.The state currently has a death rate of about 100.7 deaths per 100,000 people.___MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Department of Health has reported 101 more COVID-19 deaths, the first time the state has topped 100 single-day deaths since the start of the pandemic.The state health department reported 5,704 new cases on Friday, putting the state at 3,476 deaths and 295,001 cases since March.More than 1,800 patients are hospitalized, including more than 380 in intensive care, as dramatic case growth over the past month has led to increasing hospitalizations and deaths.The figures reported on Friday reflect data acquired by the health department as of Wednesday.___DES MOINES, Iowa -- Iowa has reported that 37 people died of the coronavirus in the past day.The state Department of Public Health on Friday said the additional deaths bring the total to 2,349.In the past 24 hours as of Friday morning, there were 1,266 new confirmed cases.Iowa has long had some of the nation’s highest coronavirus infection rates, but in the past week its numbers have improved slightly.___LONDON — The World Health Organization’s top scientist says more data is needed to determine if the coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca works.Oxford and AstraZeneca reported Monday that their vaccine appeared 62% effective in people who received two doses and 90% effective when volunteers were given a half dose followed by a full dose. They later acknowledged a manufacturing issue had resulted in a half dose mistakenly being administered as the first dose to some participants.Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s chief scientist, said at a Friday news conference that “the numbers are still too small to really come to any definitive conclusions.”In the study, 2,741 people got a half dose followed by a full dose while 8,895 people got two full doses. None of the people in the half-dose regimen were over age 55.“It’s very hard to compare these two groups,” Swaminathan said.Swaminathan said the agency had heard AstraZeneca would like to conduct a full study testing the half dose followed by a full-dose regimen, noting that the other ongoing research evaluating the vaccine uses two full doses.___LONDON — Ireland is easing its coronavirus restrictions, with most businesses allowed to reopen next week.For six weeks, Ireland has been under tight restrictions, with many businesses shut and people restricted to a 3-mile (5-kilometre) radius of their home.The government says shops, hairdressers, gyms, cinemas, museums and galleries will be allowed to open starting Tuesday, and religious services can resume. Restaurants and pubs that serve food will be able to open from Dec. 4, though bars that only serve drinks have to stay shut.Ireland plans to ease restrictions further over Christmas, allowing people to travel and up to three households to gather between Dec 18 and Jan. 6.Ireland, with a population of almost 5 million, has recorded more than 2,000 coronavirus-related deaths.Prime Minister Micheal Martin acknowledged the hardship many faced, but said the nation’s “sacrifices” were working and had driven down the infection rate to one of the lowest in Europe.___TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he expects more than half of Canadians to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by next September.Trudeau’s government is facing criticism after he said Canada will have to wait for a vaccine because the first ones that roll off assembly lines are likely to be given to citizens of the country they are made in. He noted earlier this week that the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany have mass vaccine-production facilities but Canada does not.Trudeau says Canada has signed deals that could give it the most per capita vaccines in the world. But when Canadians will get the first doses remains an open question. Toronto is on lockdown and the country’s largest province of Ontario is reporting a record 1,855 cases on Friday.__GENEVA — Scientists at the World Health Organization estimate that about 60 to 70% of people in countries will need to be vaccinated against the coronavirus to achieve any type of herd immunity.At a press briefing on Friday, WHO vaccines expert Dr. Kate O’Brien said it was still unclear if vaccines against COVID-19 might reduce the amount of time people are infectious or their ability to spread the virus. But she said modelling studies suggest up to 70% of the population will need to be immunized so that people are protected from the disease.“It’s really important that we actually start to get more information about what the vaccines do, not just for preventing disease, but for actually preventing the acquisition of the virus,” said O’Brien, director of the U.N. health agency’s department of immunization, vaccines and biologicals.Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergencies chief, noted that in some situations, targeting certain groups for vaccination may be more important than immunizing the entire population.“We’ve seen in many clusters that only 20% of the cases go on to transmit to others, 80% don’t transmit to anybody else,” he said. “I think we’ll need to be much more surgical and precise in exactly who we target for vaccination. It may be much more important to target certain sections of the community.”__PHOENIX — Arizona has reported more than 4,000 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases for the third time in a week as related hospitalizations continued to increase during the current surge in the pandemic.The Department of Health Services’ coronavirus dashboard Friday reported 4,314 additional cases and 20 deaths, increasing the state’s totals to 318,638 cases and 6,588 deaths.The dashboard reported that 2,301 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Thursday, including 532 in beds in intensive-care units.Rep. Andrés Cano, a Democrat, announced on social media Wednesday that he is in isolation but is not symptomatic. Cano was reelected this month.Last week, Democratic Rep. Arlando Teller of Chinle announced he also tested positive and was isolating. The most serious case involved Rep. Lorenzo Sierra, who spent several days on a ventilator after becoming ill in October. He has now recovered.The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is for now staying out of a dispute involving the state of Louisiana and a Baton Rouge-area pastor charged with violating state coronavirus restrictions by repeatedly holding large church services. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on Friday evening turned away a request from Life Tabernacle Church pastor Tony Spell to get involved in the dispute. Alito denied the request himself, without asking Louisiana officials to respond and without referring the matter to the full court as often happens when a case is particularly significant or contentious. Spell sued state and local officials in May after being charged with violating state restrictions. Lower courts ruled against him. The Associated Press
This week over 100 Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators and representatives from across the country convened to work on setting the stage for systemic change in Indigenous land-based education. The Actua network, a self-professed leader in land-based STEM education, hosted the gatherings. STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied way. As parents and educators nationwide struggle with how to make education work in a pandemic environment, Indigenous students, particularly in northern remote parts of the country, have headed back to the land. “We really found that there is a national consensus on the importance of bringing this into the school system. Certainly there are challenges, but the benefits far outweigh those challenges and that there is huge opportunity here for Indigenous learning to actually really contribute to the future classroom,” Doug Dokis, Actua’s Director of Indigenous Youth in STEM (InSTEM) program, said. According to Dokis, grounding lessons in Indigenous knowledge provides Indigenous students with a sense of pride in their identity and shows them that their cultural perspectives are valued. A press release said that as Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers take the lead, there is an opportunity to work with Indigenous communities, education authorities, industry and post-secondary institutions in reshaping the classroom of the future for Indigenous youth and for all Canadian youth. Dokis explained that with COVID-19 shutting down schools and creating other problems the education system is scrambling to find ways to create safe classrooms. “A lot of those conversations are revolving around more outdoor experiences for kids and what we are saying is that Indigenous land-based … models are ideal for aligning with school systems and existing programming and building that out,” Dokis explained. “It would be beneficial not only to Indigenous kids but all kids.” Actua is a national non-profit whose membership consists of 42 universities and colleges across Canada. “We deliver our STEM outreach through those networks of undergrad students at those universities an colleges. So we are present in all of these regions and territories across Canada,” Dokis said. The member organizations in the province include the University of Regina who hosted through their EYES (Educating Youth in Engineering and Science) program; the other member organizations are the University of Saskatchewan and First Nations University of Canada. Actua works with over 200 Indigenous communities, also building partnerships with the local education sector. “I reached out to a lot of the contacts that I have at a national level in these high level Indigenous or education portfolios and began to build a list of people that were and are actively involved in Indigenous education at the provincial level. From there we also got suggestions from existing relationships,” Dokis explained. The national forum set the groundwork for what is hoped will result in vastly improved educational outcomes for Indigenous students and a real path forward towards reconciliation. “We looked to address some of the systemic problems and challenges within the education system,” Dokis said. “Part of that is that Indigenous knowledge is not recognized or included in or inclusive of mainstream education systems. So we wanted to create an opportunity to better integrate and align Indigenous knowledge and education within the whole system across the country,” Dokis explained. Typically teams from Actua go to communities and work on coding or robotics or other STEM activities. With land-based STEM they work with what is happening at the cultural level around things such as land management. “We would build STEM activities to support the local cultural knowledge and cultural aspects (such as) harvesting fish or harvesting game. Then we would build activities to support that within the land programming.” Students that participate get high school credits. “That helps address high school graduation rates and encourages more Indigenous youth to participate or to follow into STEM careers.” The program has been working in Indigenous communities for over 25 years and the credit component has been around for four years. A national forum held this week presented the outcomes of a series of seven regional roundtable events on Indigenous land-based STEM education. “Part of our outreach consists of Indigenous communities doing workshops in school programs. So the roundtables were primarily focused on Indigenous leadership, Indigenous educators, education authorities, school boards and regional or provincial or territorial ministries that are responsible for that segment of education,” Dokis said. “We are producing a discussion paper from all of these roundtables and the national forum and this discussion paper will be circulated widely across the country. And then we are moving towards the next steps of facilitating some of the conversations that would need to happen around curriculum development, curriculum assessment, all of those kinds of things,” Dokis said. He explained that he didn’t know how long the process would take. “We really are wanting to see systemic change and systemic recognition that this is valuable to the education system in this country,” Dokis said there needs to be recognition at all levels of government in order to make these ideas spread through the education system. “We will continue to advocate and continue to build out this at a local level with the idea that we have recognized through these conversations that these can move quite quickly in the sense of how systems typically move. Certainly the COVID situation with the classroom has kind of opened the door and the conversation more targeting outdoor education or land based learning opportunities,” Dokis said.Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
Two children have been transported to hospital after suffering serious injuries in a three-vehicle collision on Highway 401 in Ajax Friday evening.Ontario Provincial Police spokesperson Dan Hunter said a call about the crash came in around 5:30 p.m.The OPP confirmed a boy and girl, both under the age of six, were taken to SickKids.A woman was also taken to a local hospital suffering a hip injury.Police said the crash was a "rear-end" collision and that it is under investigation.Officers are asking any witnesses or drivers with dashcam footage to contact them.
VICTORIA — British Columbia's top doctor has a message for people who don't follow a provincial order to wear a mask in indoor public spaces: order takeout, shop online or stay home.Dr. Bonnie Henry said Friday she was saddened after hearing about store and restaurant employees facing aggressive customers who refuse to wear masks as COVID-19 numbers rise."I remind all of us about the severity of this illness and the fact that we have people who are suffering in our hospitals right now, and their families are suffering too," she said. The RCMP say they arrested a shopper at a Walmart in Dawson Creek this week after he allegedly assaulted an employee who asked him to wear a mask.B.C. set another single-day record with 911 cases of COVID-19, Henry said, adding that a total of 30,884 cases have been diagnosed in the province.Eleven more people have died, bringing the number of fatalities to 395, while a record 301 patients are in hospital.Some faith leaders have questioned Henry's order to ban even limited gatherings at churches, temples and other faith locations while restaurants and bars remain open.Henry said outbreaks have occurred in multiple faith locations despite safety measures in keeping with what is happening around the world."I'd like to be clear that these locations are not doing anything wrong," she said, adding COVID-19 precautions were being followed at the majority of worship places."These are not decisions that we make lightly," she said."We are facing a storm surge, and that is something we are facing globally."Henry said events that were safe even a few weeks ago now threaten the most vulnerable people who attend them as well as entire communities.However, she said most faith leaders understand the measures as they support their congregants from a distance."It is a cruel irony in many ways that when we most need to be with people, that is the most dangerous thing that we can do with this level of transmission we are seeing in communities across the province."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020.The Canadian Press
Residents of a house in East York were left with minor injuries after an explosion Friday evening. Toronto Fire Platoon Chief Peter Chow said crews were called to the area of Woodbine and Lumsden avenues shortly after 5 p.m. following reports of a small fire in the basement of a residence.Soon after fire crews arrived, they quickly put out the small fire, Chow said.Chow told reporters that a family of four lives in the basement but were able to make it out. He also said three men live on the second floor and one woman lives on the first floor.Wendy Giera, an area resident, said she saw "the front windows blown out of the house, there was smoke pouring out."Police say people were treated for "non life-threatening" injuries at the scene. Chow said crews are waiting for engineers to arrive and inspect the building before they go back in. Investigators have also been called to the residence."We have to wait until the building is actually deemed safe," Chow said.He said a hazardous materials truck has also been called to the scene to do air monitoring to ensure the building is safe for crews to re-enter. Chow said there is also a strong odour coming from the residence.Toronto police aren't sure what caused the blast, spokesperson Laura Brabant said.Roads in the area have been closed and police are asking people to avoid the area.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An Iranian scientist named by the West as the leader of the Islamic Republic's disbanded military nuclear program was killed Friday in an ambush on the outskirts of Tehran, authorities said. Iran's foreign minister alleged the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh bore “serious indications” of an Israeli role, but did not elaborate. Israel, long suspected of killing several Iranian nuclear scientists a decade ago, declined to immediately comment. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once told the public to “remember that name” when talking about Fakhrizadeh. The killing risks further raising tensions across the Mideast, nearly a year after Iran and the U.S. stood on the brink of war when an American drone strike killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad. It comes just as President-elect Joe Biden stands poised to be inaugurated in January and will likely complicate his efforts to return America to a pact aimed at ensuring Iran does not have enough highly enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon. That deal, which saw Iran limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions, has entirely unraveled after President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord in 2018. Trump himself retweeted a posting from Israeli journalist Yossi Melman, an expert on the Israeli Mossad intelligence service, about the killing. Melman's tweet called the killing a “major psychological and professional blow for Iran.” Details about the slaying remained slim in the hours after the attack, which happened in Absard, a village just east of the capital that is a retreat for the Iranian elite. Iranian state television said an old truck with explosives hidden under a load of wood blew up near a sedan carrying Fakhrizadeh. As Fakhrizadeh's sedan stopped, at least five gunmen emerged and raked the car with rapid fire, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency said. Fakhrizadeh died at a hospital after doctors and paramedics couldn't revive him. Others wounded included Fakhrizadeh's bodyguards. Photos and video shared online showed a Nissan sedan with bullet holes in the windshield and blood pooled on the road. While no one claimed responsibility for the attack, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pointed the finger at Israel, calling the killing an act of “state terror.” “Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice — with serious indications of Israeli role — shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” Zarif wrote on Twitter. Hossein Dehghan, an adviser to Iran's supreme leader and a presidential candidate in Iran's 2021 election, also blamed Israel — and issued a warning. "In the last days of their gambling ally’s political life, the Zionists seek to intensify and increase pressure on Iran to wage a full-blown war," Dehghan wrote, appearing to refer to Trump's last days in office. “We will descend like lightning on the killers of this oppressed martyr and we will make them regret their actions!” Hours after the attack, the Pentagon announced it already had brought the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier back into the Middle East, an unusual move as the carrier already spent months in the region. It cited the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq as the reason for the decision, saying “it was prudent to have additional defensive capabilities in the region to meet any contingency.” The attack comes just days before the 10-year anniversary of the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari that Tehran also blamed on Israel. That and other targeted killings happened at the time that the so-called Stuxnet virus, believed to be an Israeli and American creation, destroyed Iranian centrifuges. The area around Absard, which has a view of Mount Damavand, the country's highest peak, is filled with vacation villas. Roads on Friday, part of the Iranian weekend, were emptier than normal due to a lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic, offering his attackers a chance to strike with fewer people around. Fakhrizadeh led Iran's so-called AMAD program that Israel and the West have alleged was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon. Tehran long has maintained its nuclear program is only for civilian purposes. The International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran “carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device” in a “structured program” through the end of 2003. That was the AMAD program, which included work on the carefully timed high explosives needed to detonate an implosion-style nuclear bomb. Iran also “conducted computer modeling of a nuclear explosive device” before 2005 and between 2005 and 2009, the IAEA has said. The agency said, however, that those calculations were “incomplete and fragmented.” IAEA inspectors now monitor Iranian nuclear sites as part of the now-unraveling nuclear deal with world powers. Experts believe Iran has enough low-enriched uranium to make at least two nuclear weapons if it chose to pursue the bomb. Meanwhile, an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at Iran's Natanz nuclear facility exploded in July in what Tehran now calls a sabotage attack. Fakhrizadeh, born in 1958, had been sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council and the U.S. for his work on AMAD. Iran always described him as a university physics professor. A member of the Revolutionary Guard, Fakhrizadeh had been seen in pictures in meetings attended by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a sign of his power. In recent years, U.S. sanctions lists name him as heading Iran's Organization for Defensive Innovation and Research. The State Department described that organization last year as working on “dual-use research and development activities, of which aspects are potentially useful for nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons delivery systems.” Iran's mission to the U.N., meanwhile, described Fakhrizadeh's recent work as “development of the first indigenous COVID-19 test kit” and overseeing Tehran's efforts at making a possible coronavirus vaccine. In 2018, Netanyahu gave a presentation in which he unveiled what he described as material stolen by Israel from an Iranian nuclear archive. “A key part of the plan was to form new organizations to continue the work,” Netanyahu alleged. “This is how Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of Project AMAD, put it. Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh.” ___ Associated Press writers Amir Vahdat and Mohammad Nasiri in Tehran, Iran, and Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report. Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press
A district-wide drill in the Winnipeg School Division next week won’t focus on fire, bus evacuation or lockdown safety measures — but rather, how to learn remotely in a pandemic. K-12 students enrolled across 79 schools in central Winnipeg are expected to participate in a mock critical (code red) scenario Tuesday morning. Students are to arrive at school as usual, unless they are participating in remote learning or self-isolating, as per COVID-19 public health rules. “The practice, much like a fire drill, is to help our schools identify if we’ve missed anything in our planning for going to remote learning due to a red level at either a school or across the division,” Radean Carter, WSD senior information officer, said in a statement to the Free Press. Carter said WSD wants to ensure it is providing the support both teachers and schools-at-large need, so the drill is an opportunity to see what more the division can do to help. While students will be focused on curriculum throughout the day, some time will be devoted in the morning to make sure they know how to access remote learning. “There’s an assumption that kids are digital natives, but educators will tell you that that is different from asking a kid in a timely manner to log in to the Google Suite, access documents, save and upload them properly, and so on,” said Margaux Miller of Tech Manitoba. Key computer skills students need to learn in order to become digitally literate include typing, device troubleshooting, and how to save files safely and so they are easily accessible, Miller said, adding such skills are expected to be interwoven with other lessons at school. Miller oversees the DigitALL program, which offers Manitobans training on digital literacy and various online platforms. Since the spring, upwards of 1,300 teachers — from WSD and elsewhere — have participated in DigitALL’s introduction to Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom course. While these training opportunities were available before the pandemic, Miller said there’s no doubt COVID-19 has put the importance of digital literacy, as well as the digital divide, in the spotlight. Some families have experienced severe lags online because multiple students are participating in livestreams at a time, while those without reliable internet have been given worksheets. Divisions have set up Wi-Fi hotspots to address divides, but Miller said there needs to be a longer-term solution: affordable, reliable and accessible internet for all. The Canadian government, Information and Communications Technology Council, and Tech Manitoba are planning to release a collaborative report on the implications of connectivity on tech-equity and education in Manitoba next month. On Tuesday, WSD is anticipating glitches and troubleshooting, which won’t all be resolved in one morning, Carter said. She noted the purpose of the drill is to allow students to get familiar with signing in and navigating virtual learning. “At the same time, it gives us an opportunity to reduce the anxiety that comes with a sudden flip to remote learning because students have had the opportunity to try it out, ask questions in person and become more familiar with the process,” Carter added. At least 6,400 students in Winnipeg schools are doing temporary remote learning, in addition to hundreds of others who have been approved for distance lessons on the basis of medical exemptions. Aside from Steinbach-area schools, which are currently in the most severe level of the pandemic response system, Manitoba schools remain in the restricted (code orange) phase.Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Vancouver’s council made history this week by asking the federal government for an exemption from Canadian drug laws to decriminalize possession of drugs for personal use. Council voted on the motion the same day the BC Coroners Service reported 1,386 people have died so far this year of an overdose, with deaths increasing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. So what happens now? The day after the vote, Mayor Kennedy Stewart met with Dr. Patricia Daly, the chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, and Adam Palmer, Vancouver’s police chief. In both meetings, the mayor spoke about “next steps on decriminalization and how we would begin to gather critical local input into our request for the federal government,” Alvin Singh, the mayor’s chief of staff, told The Tyee via email. When the motion was being discussed Wednesday, people who use or have used drugs told council over and over again “nothing for us without us,” emphasizing that people who use drugs need to be part of the conversation. “This input is critical both now, before we send the official request, and afterwards if we get a positive answer,” Singh said. Stewart plans to “touch base” with Patty Hajdu, the federal health minister, sometime in the next few days. But getting federal approval could be a tough sell. In September, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he doesn’t support decriminalization as a solution to the overdose crisis. Hajdu took a similar position earlier this year. The city will ask the ministers of health and public safety and the attorney general for an exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act’s provisions on possession of drugs for personal use within the city. Section 56 of the act grants the health minister the power to issue an exemption from any part of the legislation “for a medical or scientific purpose or is otherwise in the public interest.” It is the same mechanism the city used to establish North America’s first supervised injection site in 2003 and, more recently, to allow health-care providers to prescribe alternatives to street drugs as a part of safer supply measures. Guy Felicella spent 30 years in the Downtown Eastside addicted to heroin before entering recovery in 2013. He’s now a drug policy advocate and a peer clinical advisor for the BC Centre on Substance Use. He said decriminalization has “been pushed for decades, but to actually have some momentum — it’s a powerful moment in Canadian history.” For decades, Canadian society has been moving towards treating drug use as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue. But despite that shift, people who use drugs are still being charged with offences like possession or possession for the purposes of trafficking — even for relatively small amounts of drugs — and serving jail time. The Vancouver Police Department says officers now rarely charge people for possession, and the force’s chief, Adam Palmer, has publicly supported decriminalization. However, people who use drugs say police continue to regularly confiscate illicit substances. Felicella said it all has to stop. As Vancouver moves forward on getting an exemption, Felicella warned of “criminalization by another process,” such as fines, alternative charges like possession for the purposes of trafficking, or drug confiscation. “Maybe they don’t arrest people for simple possession 97 per cent of the time, but they sure take their drugs,” Felicella said. “They’ve been doing this for decades.” The Vancouver Police Department says it is not “general practice to seize drugs from people using them,” but officers must confiscate drugs if they find them during a search for an investigation. However, people who use drugs and advocates who work with drug users say police constantly take drugs away from people. To replace the drugs, people are making risky choices, like sex work or committing petty crimes like shoplifting or car break-ins. Criminalizing people also pushes drug use into the shadows, Felicella said, and with a poisoned drug supply, that’s putting people’s lives at risk. “It’s so freaking stressful when you’re down there and you have cops following you around,” Felicella said. “It’s just a mental toll, physically, emotionally and mentally.” An option known as drug court — where people charged with drug-related crimes can avoid jail time by entering a drug treatment program — also needs to stop, Felicella said. “Having a judge sentence you to go to drug court is really putting treatment in the [category] of punishment,” Felicella said. “When that fails, and the treatment fails as well, it sure doesn’t make you want to go back the second time to try it again.” In opposing decriminalization, Trudeau has said it’s not “a silver bullet” and his government is prioritizing other interventions, like expanding safe supply — prescribing drugs to people to replace tainted illicit drugs. Felicella said decriminalization needs to go hand in hand with more access to safe supply and treatment options for people who want to stop using drugs. Currently in B.C., there’s a six- to eight-week wait to get into a treatment program if you or your family can’t afford to pay tens of thousands of dollars, Felicella said. He said his own journey to recovery only happened after he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, and was able to get therapy to deal with trauma. Felicella still goes to a therapist regularly, but he said it’s not an option available to people who can’t pay out of pocket. Karen Ward, a drug policy advocate who works with the City of Vancouver, told council that decriminalizing drug possession could also help break down barriers that still exist with prescribing safe supply. “Doctors... are going to feel a little bit more able to prescribe [safe supply],” Ward said. “There’s hesitation there, despite all the power they have in society — they’re hesitant to be associated with drug users.” Felicella said safe supply takes people out of the constant grind of having to hustle to find the money to buy illicit drugs. The relationship between the police and Downtown Eastside residents is as bad as it’s ever been, said Felicella. He called on police to “stand down” in the neighbourhood, where many residents use illicit drugs regularly while also living in poverty and with chronic health conditions. “People still feel the same fear of the police,” he said. “Police show up in the alleys and people are like, ‘Oh, my God. What’s gonna happen?’” The VPD says it devotes special resources to keep people safe in the neighbourhood, connect homeless people with housing and provide support to sex workers. “There continue to be calls for service from citizens and businesses for police help for violent crime and property crime,” spokesperson Simi Heer wrote to The Tyee in an email. “We expect officers to deal with property crime, street disorder and violence.” While the department supports decriminalization and chief Palmer wrote a message of support for the mayor’s motion, Felicella said he is at times confused by the force’s decisions. “One minute they’re creating a task force to make sure people are safe, and then the next thing they’re harassing people on the street and moving them along. And then the next thing, they wanted to decriminalize drugs,” he said. “Hopefully, if this passes at a federal level, we can change the direction for many people.”Jen St. Denis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
The latest updates from Ontario and around Canada as officials try to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Almost a year into B.C. adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) the Nuchatlaht First Nation (NFN) is calling on the province to honour its legislation with regards to an ongoing land title case. The Nuchatlaht called on Premier John Horgan, Attorney General David Eby and the newly appointed cabinet ministers to “correct the long-standing government policy that Nuchatlaht abandoned their territory,” to abide by legislation to uphold the UNDRIP, and to drop its legal argument. Since Jan. 2017, NFN has been legally pursuing a land claim for territory including Nootka Island, along the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. “British Columbia’s lawyers have stalled the case by raising absurd—and expensive—arguments that the Nation abandoned their territory in an effort to disprove continuous use of the land,” read the statement. Nuchatlaht house speaker, Archie Little told the Mirror that “the case is a classic example of how the province does not understand how our chiefs owned and operated the land.” NFN’s chief (Tyee Ha’wiih) Jordan Michael’s lineage can be traced back to the 1700’s, said Little, adding that their ancestors have owned the land for thousands of years. The nation claims it was forced out of its traditional territory on Nootka Island, and the land was licensed by the province to logging companies without the consent of the First Nation. Western Forest Products runs its operations there now. “British Columbia is trying to silence the Nuchatlaht Nation so that it can do whatever it wants to our land,” said Michael and added,“We will not be silent while our cultural sites are destroyed, salmon creeks are degraded, and old growth forests are clearcut.” The Nation issued the statement in response to Horgan’s new cabinet, sworn in yesterday, which includes a new Minister for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Murray Rankin. READ MORE:Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team After taking office yesterday, Rankin also tweeted yesterday about the significance of being sworn in on the anniversary of Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act passed in B.C. in Nov. 26, 2019. “There’s a great deal of work ahead in order to move reconciliation forward. As a first step, we’ll be establishing a Secretariat, in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous peoples, in order to ensure that new legislation and policies are consistent with the UN Declaration,” said Rankin in a tweet. With Rankin’s appointment to the cabinet, and Horgan emphasizing on the importance of relationship between First Nations and the province, NFN wants to bring to light this historic case once again before the province, said Little. “We have some hope that they will do the right by us, correct their ways and understand where we’re coming from,” said Little. NFN’s attorney, Jack Woodward, said the province “now has an opportunity to advance the project of reconciliation by giving new instructions to Crown counsel to put aside the distasteful defense of abandonment used by previous administrations against First Nations.” “Now is the time to build on the promises made in UNDRIP, which were adopted as part of B.C. law in 2019,” said Woodward in the statement. Binny Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Campbell River Mirror
MIAMI — South Florida Congressman-elect Carlos Gimenez has tested positive for coronavirus, his campaign announced Friday.The former Miami-Dade County mayor and his wife, Lourdes, tested positive Thursday for COVID-19 after having mild symptoms, according to a statement. They said they're self-isolating at home, in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and advice from medical professionals.Gimenez served as Miami-Dade mayor from 2011 until this month. The Republican won his congressional race in the Nov. 3 general election, defeating a single-term Democrat. He is set to assume office Jan. 3.“I will continue attending New Member Orientation virtually and preparing our office to serve the people of Florida’s 26th Congressional District from Westchester to Key West until I can resume my normal schedule,” Gimenez said in a statement. "I am extremely grateful for all of the incredible health care workers who are tirelessly dedicated to their patients.”The Associated Press