Very windy day on the shores of Lake Erie.
Very windy day on the shores of Lake Erie.
LOS ANGELES — When “WandaVision” wraps its initial run next month on the Disney+ streaming service, Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda will make her next appearance in the big-screen “Doctor Strange” sequel. It’s storytelling that determines how and when characters from the Marvel Comics universe hopscotch between TV and movies, Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige said Wednesday. “All of the crossover between series, between films, will always vary based on the story,” Feige said. “Sometimes (a series) will go into a season two, sometimes it’ll go into a feature and then back into a series.” Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch, plays opposite Benedict Cumberbatch’s title character in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” planned for a 2022 release. Feige wouldn’t say whether “WandaVision,” Marvel Studios' first original series for Disney+, has a future after its March 5 season finale. The riff on generations of TV sitcoms — with the added superhero twist — brought Wanda and Paul Bettany's character, Vision, to the fore from the “Avengers” movie franchise. “I’ve been at Marvel for too long to say a definite no or definite yes to anything,” Feige replied when asked about the show's future during a virtual panel discussion held by the Television Critics Association. But second seasons are being considered and planned for series, he said, without giving away details. There’s a flurry of potential new Disney+ candidates, including “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” debuting March 19 with Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan reprising their roles from “Avengers: Endgame.” “Loki,” starring Tom Hiddleston revisiting his character following the events of “Endgame,” debuts June 11. After “Ms. Marvel” arrives on the streaming service (with the date yet to be announced), the character will move to the next “Captain Marvel” movie, Feige said. He was asked if shifting Marvel stories and characters between film and TV might end up cutting into the potential audience. “I always say when the lights go down and and a movie starts, it’s a clean slate — forget everything that’s come before and be able to enjoy something that’s its own self-contained story line,” Feige said. He acknowledged that as the studio makes more shows and films and introduces new characters, it “becomes harder and harder” to meet that goal. “But it is something that all of our writers and filmmakers pay great attention to, to make sure that fans can follow" the latest chapter and that newcomers can enjoy it too, he said. When the Walt Disney Co. acquired Marvel Entertainment for about $4 billion in 2009, prior deals left some of its properties with other studios. Asked if Marvel Studios might be able to regain them, Feige said he believes it could happen, but added that “rumours online about things reverting” to Marvel aren't always true. Lynn Elber, The Associated Press
(Don Pablo/Shutterstock - image credit) Vancouver city council has approved a temporary parklet in the Downtown Eastside to be used as a COVID-safe drinking place for people enrolled in a program for severe alcohol use disorder. The parklet will be installed in front of the Drinker's Lounge at 111 Princess Ave. as part of the Portland Hotel Society's Community Managed Alcohol Program, which provides beer and wine to people who might otherwise consumer dangerous substances like hand sanitizers and mouthwash. "Providing safe, low-barrier spaces for people to consume alcohol in the Downtown Eastside will help those most at risk in this community to socialize and look out for each other's safety," Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, said in a news release. "Managed consumption sites also provide opportunities to link people to much needed support services, which is critical as part of our response to both public health crises — the overdose emergency and the COVID-19 pandemic." The parklet is set to be installed from March 1 to July 31. According to a press release from the city, the idea was developed in response to concerns from people and businesses in the area, who reported an increase in people drinking the street after COVID-19 restrictions were put in place. That raised the possibility that both community members and drinkers could be injured by falling or being hit by vehicles. City staff are also looking into creating more washroom facilities in the area, the press release says. The parklet pilot project follows last summer's temporary program allowing people to drink at four public plazas in the city. This spring, city staff expect to report back to council about how that worked out and make recommendations about whether to repeat it this year.
(Tahmina Aziz/CBC - image credit) A week into the province's COVID-19 red zone, Windsor-Essex business owners and customers are taking advantage of the services that are now open. Some businesses had to close for two months due to the COVID-19 lockdown in the region. While those who spoke with CBC News say they're glad to finally reopen their doors, some hope restrictions will ease up even more. Tina Ngoc Tram, owner of Paris Nails in Windsor, says the first week back was "busy" but she's excited to be in the chair and playing with nail designs again. Headline Barbershop owner Hussein Tehaili also said business is booming, with his days fully booked since the reopening. WATCH: To hear more about how local businesses are doing a week into the red zone, tap the player below. Under the province's 'red-control' zone, these sorts of personal services are allowed to open, though customers can't remove their mask. Restaurants and bars are also allowed to open their indoor dining sections with a limit of 10 guests at a time. As of February, the province also expanded the capacity limits of retailers under the red-control zone. This meant that supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies could have 75 per cent capacity limits. Meanwhile, all other retailers could open at 50 per cent capacity.
Karen Knox remembers that the adventure-filled bike rides from her family’s cottage on Big Straggle Lake to Agnew’s General Store on Allen Lake in Harcourt Park began in the mid-1960s, around the time that her brother, Kent, was nine, and she was seven. “Back then our parents didn’t know where we were most of the time, and we were always safe,” she told the Echo. “Not just my parents, everyone’s parents – there were no telephones.” That smaller store was open simultaneously for a time with the Agnew family’s flagship shop in Wilberforce, where Knox’s parents bought big, juicy T-bone steaks when visiting their cottage from their home in Scarborough. But the treat that Knox remembers is the penny candy – the blackballs and pixie sticks, black licorice cigars and Lik-m-aid candy powder, all washed down with Orange Crush and Tahiti Treat - worth the bicycle ride she actively participated in to get to it. “We’d buy candy and ride home,” she wrote on the Agnew’s General Facebook page. “Kent peddling and steering and me sitting on the back carrier. I’d jump off to push when necessary.” While Knox’s nostalgic memories reflect her own childhood, the presence of Agnew’s General Store in Highlands East has long held a place in the hearts of both residents and cottagers – this year, the historic landmark celebrates 100 years since Fred G. Agnew took on the store in 1921. Fred had come to Canada from England solo, as a 16-year-old. “It wasn’t unheard of at the time, it was what you did, I guess,” Cathy Agnew, Fred’s granddaughter, said to the Echo in retelling his story. He ended up in the Lindsay area, doing a number of jobs that included logging in the lumber camps and on the river drive, leading him to working for the railroad. His position as station agent in Gooderham gave him the opportunity to meet the woman - Mary Ellen (Mae) Dixon - who would become his wife in 1913, and then acquire a job as a travelling train agent on the Bancroft to Howland Junction route. “He got to know the towns along the way, on the stops, and that’s how he ended up knowing Mr. Reynolds, here in Wilberforce,” said Cathy. The history as to how Fred ended up working with S.W. Reynolds at his store after the railroad job, is part of the Agnew family lore, passed along by Fred’s children to their children. “We kind of feel that he left the railroad because he had an accident one night on the side car, which he wasn’t supposed to use after dark, and took it out on the railroad tracks,” said Cathy. “He was transporting a child who needed medical attention. Anyway, there was an accident and he lost his sight in one eye. He started working for Mr. Reynolds, and that’s how he ended up, eventually, the owner of Agnew’s General Store.” The history page on the Agnew’s website said the store, originally a boarding house, exchanged hands with “no more than a verbal agreement and a handshake.” “Reynolds decided to eventually retire, and the story goes that he said to Fred, ‘there’s not enough money here for the two of us, why don’t you take over the business?’ and then Reynolds left town on the train, and Fred took over running the business for Reynolds, and eventually ended up buying the business from him,” said Cathy. “We also heard that Fred didn’t tell his wife until Reynolds was already gone, that they were now running the store.” By all accounts, Cathy said, Fred was an affable type. “He was very easy-going, he took to people,” she said. “Mae probably had more of a business head on her than Fred.” Numerous people have told the Agnews over the years about the generosity of Fred as a shopkeeper, ensuring that nobody went without proper clothing or adequate food supply. “Back in those days, everybody ran lines of credit, everybody had credit,” said Cathy. “But Mae would get to the point where she would cut people off of credit - she was the authority figure in the store, I think. And we’ve been told that Fred would then sometimes slip out and catch up with the person and slip them a bit of money, eh?, to get them through.” The store, a general store then as it is today, sold everything from dried goods and cooking pots, everything that you might need in a house. In March of 1938, it burned in a fire, and the rebuilding of the store just down the street with a warehouse and house attached to it - the post office would come later - cost about $300, “so we’ve been told,” said Cathy. During construction between March and November that year, the store temporarily operated in the Orange Hall. “But for years, they didn’t have any furniture in the house,” said Cathy. “There was nothing. Uncle Ross, who died a few years ago, he remembers when they built the house, them not having any furniture in it. They had four hard chairs, dining room chairs, and a table. It was years down the road before they could afford to furnish it.” The store was built with a 16-foot counter at the back, running across the store, which customers would approach with a list for the shopkeeper to fill. The counter was fitted with large drawers where flour, sugar, baking soda, raisins, dates and the like were stored. “Ross got tired of walking out of the house, behind this counter, all the way to the end of it to get to the other part of the store, so one day he got the idea to cut it in half and make a walkway halfway down,” said Cathy. “We still have part of that counter in the store here, that we use to this day. That’s kind of a treat. We’re happy to have this piece that we still have right now.” Cathy said that in those days, she was told everything came in on the train, which came through three days a week. “The roads weren’t open in the wintertime and were very poor quality in the summer,” she said. “Everything had to come up in sleighs in the wintertime and carts in the summertime.” Popular tubs of ice cream would come from Silverwoods Dairy in Lindsay on those trains. “It would come packed in dry ice, up on the train, and then they would put it in the freezers,” said Cathy. “There was no hydro here then, so you would have to chip at the blocks of ice that came out of the lake in the wintertime, and store it in the ice shed packed in sawdust. That was part of Ross and Murray’s job, to go out and chip the ice off these big blocks, and bring it in and pack it in around the tubs of ice cream to keep it frozen. They said it was an awful job doing that, but at the end of the day, the treat was that you could have some ice cream.” Fred Agnew died in 1945, at the age of 59, when his youngest son, Gary, was only 10 years old. After that, Murray Agnew received a discharge out of Trenton to help his mother run the store. Mae Agnew died a few years later, in 1951, at the age of 55. Murray continued running the family business, with Gary finishing his schooling and joining to help at the age of 16. “I know that he [Murray] was offered several different jobs over the years, but felt that this was his place,” said Cathy, his daughter. He was the postmaster, as well, a job now managed by his eldest daughter, Mary Barker. On Sept. 1, 1952, Murray married Eileen Taylor. “The wedding had to be on Labour Day because that was one of the few days the store was closed,” notes a history of the store’s succession. Murray carried on the legacy of his dad, bringing the community together and looking out for residents both inside and outside the store, occasionally going to bat for people who needed advocacy on political issues. Gary, who worked as the butcher at Agnew’s, ended up joining council himself. “Dad was such an outgoing and gregarious person. he loved to talk, and knew everybody,” said Cathy Janette Packard, who lives on Wilbermere Lake, wrote on the store’s anniversary post on social media that she remembers the post office in three different places, and a conveyor belt coming up from the basement. “If you couldn’t find it on the shelf, someone would go upstairs or downstairs and 99 per cent of the time come back with what you needed in hand, or something that would do,” she wrote. “There was a big book at the cash with all the accounts or tabs that people mostly paid on payday, but no one went without. Definitely a true general store and heart of the community. If they didn’t have what you needed, no one did.” Ross Agnew, Fred and Mae’s eldest son, ran a Gooderham store [now the Lucky Dollar] in the early 70s, before selling it and moving back to Wilberforce. The park shop on Allen Lake in Harcourt Park that Knox rode her bike to for penny candy was open for about four or five years, Mary remembers, and was run by Mary and Cathy’s mom, Eileen Agnew, and their aunt Bev, Gary’s wife. “It was promoted to the women as their chance to ‘cottage,’ while running a store six days a week and caring for six kids in very cramped living quarters attached to the more expansive store footage,” said Mary. “The store closed on Thursdays. Wednesday night we came back to town. By Thursday night we were headed back to the park with a station wagon crammed full of grocery boxes and us kids packed in around them. If we hurried to unpack and got all the merchandise priced and on the shelves we got to stay up and watch ‘Spine Tingler,’ on a snowy TV and go to bed scared out of our minds. It was probably the birth of two more kids that made the women put their foot down and say they had had enough ‘vacationing’ in Harcourt Park.” Growing up, Cathy said, it was unique to be connected to the store. “You always had a job, there were always things to do after school,” she said. And then, laughing: “I have to admit, as a teenager, I did not work here because you had to work weekends. No, thank you. During summer break, I would find a different job.” In 2018, the store changed hands, from the Agnew family to Frank Meurer, who shares the initials F. G. with Fred Agnew. He had started coming to the area a few years prior to that for an interest in rockhounding. On one of his first visits to the store at that time, he said he walked around, “amazed at everything they had here … this is a real general store.” “When it was for sale - and three years left before the 100 years - and I loved the store myself as a customer, I went OK, is this possible to do?” said Meurer. “I lucked out.” Despite the sale, sisters Mary, Cathy and Wynne are still very much involved at the store. “When I purchased it, I made sure that the agreement came with it that the Agnews’ family had to stay,” he laughed. “This is Agnew’s store and I need your touch, your feel …Everybody’s been very supportive, the community has accepted me and likes me - just because I haven’t changed things.” “When I say hi to the Agnew girls, they still remember me,” said Knox, who ended up buying the family cottage in 1994. “It’s interesting to watch the community grow and change,” said Cathy. Despite the years going by in the community - Cathy notes the setbacks of the current pandemic, and also the loss of the lumber industry - she said she is hoping it will continue to grow; she has noticed more and more young people have been moving to the area. As times have changed, so has the store – from what is sold, to the method in which goods are sold, and even how people shop, doing so with more independence now although visiting with other shoppers and a genial closeness to store employees still very much occurs. Meurer said it’s common for people to share stories, and to hear “I remember when …” “They’ll be chatting and I love hearing the laughter,” said Meurer. “I can just hear the laughter at the front end, from the customers interacting with the people who work here. That’s another thing I love about this place, everybody who works here is really a part of the store, they’re not just an employee of the store. One of the people here told me she loves working here, and to me, that means everything.” A website to allow for online sales is being developed, and clever merchandise posts on the store’s Facebook page virtually draw in customers old and new. A future look-back on the store’s history will see that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Agnew’s thrived at being the general store the community needed when so much else had shut down, working to provide the essential service of mail distribution but also providing a town cornerstone to keep face-to-face greetings - even behind masks - going in the rural area. “We need to service this community and that’s definitely something we strive to do in the best way possible,” said Meurer. “It’s very heartwarming,” said Cathy, of the customers who care about the store and share their memories of it with the staff. “People are genuinely happy that it’s still operating and there are people who make a point of coming in and spending their dollar here, because they want it to stay here. That’s really, really heartwarming.” “Agnew’s General Store has been at the heart of downtown Wilberforce for 100 years and hopefully it won’t miss a beat over the next 100,” said Mary. Centenary celebrations will be held throughout the year, spreading events out so the community can help mark the milestone occasion year round. For more information about Agnew’s General Store, visit agnews.ca or stay up-to-date with anniversary celebrations via https://www.facebook.com/agnews.wilberforce Sue Tiffin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Minden Times
Despite various changes in how the province releases information about COVID-19 cases in schools, parents still aren’t satisfied with the data being made public. Halfway through the academic year, families behind a new letter-writing campaign are calling for more detail about cases in both school and child-care settings, citing heightened concerns about the risk of new coronavirus variants. The group wants daily updates on exposures that include facility names, dates and total cases broken down into student and staff categories, historical data so the public can track trends, and information about variants identified. “In terms of what they’re publicly reporting on, it’s very, very limited. I think it undermines confidence in the statement that schools are safe and they aren’t seeing transmission,” said Susan Wingert, a mother of two K-12 students in Winnipeg. Wingert said reporting via an online dashboard, which launched earlier this month, falls short of providing all the information parents need to weigh decisions about sending children to school. The provincial dashboard shows cases among student and staff populations within the last 14 days, as well as totals dating back to Sept. 1. A map allows users to view recent cases in specific schools, including people who might not have been infectious in a classroom; there is no information on which — if any — cases were acquired at school. It’s a stark contrast to the first-ever alert, which detailed the grade, classroom and time frame at Churchill High School for a student who was asymptomatic but tested positive Sept. 8. Following pushback after that notice, the province began to publish a running list of less-specific notices, including exposure dates and letters sent to families until mid-December. That’s when letters disappeared online for more than a month while the province finalized its dashboard. Child-care centres are not included in the provided information. The most recent data shows there were 75 cases, involving 59 students and 16 staff members, during the incubation period prior to Feb. 21. Michelle Driedger, who researches health-risk communication at the University of Manitoba, questions the usefulness of that information if it isn’t contextualized. “There has to be a happy medium between full disclosure of absolutely everything and, ‘Here, we’re giving you some information, but in such an opaque environment that you can almost interpret what you want from it,’” said Driedger, a professor of community health sciences and parent of two K-12 students. Buy-in to COVID-19 protocols requires confidence in the system, she said, adding the province should be frank about how exactly it has come to the conclusion schools are safe. Education Minister Cliff Cullen was not made available for an interview Wednesday. In an email statement, he wrote the province is confident parents are receiving the “appropriate information” on the dashboard while noting letters are still being sent to parents when there is an outbreak. School-related cases represent approximately seven per cent of the number of confirmed cases in Manitoba, to date. On the subject of asymptomatic testing, Cullen said in the email the province is seeing its COVID-19 curve bend significantly. “Our government will continue to listen to our public health leaders and take action accordingly,” he wrote. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
A remote First Nation in Northern Ontario has declared a state of emergency for its off-reserve members in Thunder Bay after an outbreak among them in the city, where COVID-19 infections continue to surge. In a press release Wednesday, Chief Chris Moonias of Neskantaga First Nation said 12 off-reserve members in Thunder Bay have confirmed infections, affecting six per cent of the 217 members living in the city. Chief Moonias is asking Indigenous Services Canada to provide emergency housing for at least 14 of its members who are among those without adequate housing in Thunder Bay and at higher risk of becoming infected. He says a lack of housing in Neskantaga forces members to leave the community. Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller said his department is prepared to offer support to the community and has been in close contact with Thunder Bay authorities as the cases rise. COVID-19 outbreaks have affected the city’s homeless population and schools. Associate Deputy Minister Valerie Gideon said the department has funding available for First Nations affected by COVID-19 while living away from their communities. Chief Moonias said immunizing First Nation members living in Thunder Bay against the virus has to be a priority as soon as more vaccines are available. Ontario has identified all Indigenous adults as among the next priority groups in phase one of its vaccine rollout. In a COVID-19 update Wednesday, Mr. Miller said Ontario’s Ornge air-ambulance service and Weeneebayko Area Health Authority in Northern Ontario are close to vaccinating 70 per cent of members in 31 remote, fly-in First Nations, including Neskantaga, with the first dose. Manitoba has opened up vaccinations to the general public, with appointments now available to people 95 and older and First Nations people older than 75. Mr. Miller said the department is working closely with the National Association of Friendship Centres and provinces and territories in the vaccine rollout for Indigenous adults in urban cities and towns across the country. “Urban Indigenous populations face many if not the same systemic barriers to accessing services of those living in isolated or remote communities or on reserve,” said Mr. Miller. Jocelyn Formsma, the executive director for the National Association of Friendship Centres in Ottawa, has been advocating for safe and accessible vaccination clinics for urban Indigenous populations. She said that because the vaccines are allocated by provinces and territories to local public-health authorities, Friendship Centres are pushing for provincial vaccine rollouts to include a plan for urban Indigenous people. She said it’s encouraging to see vaccine clinics for urban Indigenous adults being set up in places such as the Wabano Centre in Toronto – a result of local public-health authorities partnering with urban Indigenous organizations. However, she added that there need to be vaccine clinics in rural locations, as well, and that Friendship Centres have the resources to facilitate those clinics and ensure that all Indigenous adults have appropriate access. Mr. Miller said that overall COVID-19 case counts in First Nations continue to decline and that more than 103,000 vaccine doses have been administered in about 450 First Nations, Inuit and territorial communities. Tom Wong, Chief Medical Officer of Public Health for Indigenous Services, said that there have been no confirmed cases of the COVID-19 variants in Northern Manitoba. However, Dr. Wong said that it’s a matter of when, not if, the variants arrive in First Nations and that redoubling public-health efforts will be key to stopping the spread to prevent outbreaks. Willow Fiddler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Globe and Mail
Boeing Co is working with regulators and customers to return the 737 MAX to the skies in Asia, a senior executive said on Thursday, where it remains grounded nearly two years after two deadly crashes even though it has returned in other markets. "We're continuing to work with global regulators and our customers to return the 737 MAX to service worldwide," Boeing Vice President Commercial Marketing Darren Hulst told reporters during a briefing on the Southeast Asian market.
Timmins MPP Gilles Bisson hosted a virtual town hall meeting on Tuesday evening to allow the public to discuss how they've been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and everything relating to the government imposed restrictions and lockdowns. Lasting approximately 70 minutes, the veteran NDP MPP fielded many questions, and allowed people to vent on various frustrations. A wide range of topics were covered. VACCINES A citizen named Gladys called in and asked: “How will I be notified, as to when and where, I'm going to go and get this vaccine?” Bisson said it was a great question, and one that he receives many times each day. He prefaced his response by acknowledging that regardless of political stripe, every government is facing a tremendous amount of challenges in handling the pandemic. “Currently we're in what they call 'Phase 1' – which means to say they are going to vaccinate, as vaccines become available, and we've started in Timmins already, people living in long-term care homes, people living in some retirement homes that are higher risk...and then they move to healthcare workers, people living in alternate levels of care at the hospital, hospital workers, ambulance people, paramedics, police, and others. People at risk,” said Bisson. He said once that step is done, the government will likely set priorities for the general public by age or other risk factors. He noted that the Province of Quebec has said they will be vaccinating those 85 years of age and up beginning next week. “I think that's how they're going to do it. They're going to say everybody over a certain age, get them done, and then they'll move to the second, third, fourth, and so on.” Gladys followed up by stating that she believes she is a “high risk” individual due to a compromised immune system, but doesn't feel she will be included in the higher priority category. “More than likely, you should be able to go ahead of others,” replied Bisson, adding that he is personally immunosuppressed due to a medication he takes for his psoriatic arthritis, but that at only 63 years of age, he will likely be well down the priority list. He added that the province has yet to release the full details of the immunization plan, and how exactly people will be notified. Later on, a citizen who identified himself as Wayne asked what will happen to people who outright refuse the vaccine. “I'm going to go over there Wayne, and tackle you if you don't take your vaccine,” joked Bisson. “People have the right to refuse vaccines. Nobody is going to be forced to take a vaccine if they don't want to take it. I would highly encourage you to take the vaccine, but that is a personal choice, and people have the right to make that decision themselves,” he explained. MENTAL HEALTH A question came in regarding the strong likelihood that mental health and addiction issues have been exacerbated during the pandemic, and what exactly has the province done to assist those struggling. “I think the short answer is, even at the best of times, we do not have the capacity in the system to respond to both addictions and mental health problems the way that they should be,” responded Bisson. “During this pandemic, it has certainly gotten worse. People who are under stress, and are having a difficulty dealing with this from a mental health or an addiction perspective, don't have a lot of extra services to be able to provide the kind of support they need to get them through this. This has been a real problem.” PUBLIC EVENTS With some aspects of the economy now re-opened, there are some wondering if Ontarians can expect to see live entertainment, such as concerts and sporting events, made available any time soon. “The government, because of the recommendations they're getting from health officials, like Chief Medical Officers, and other health experts, and the health panel, are reluctant to open up sporting events in a big way until we reach a certain point of people being vaccinated,” said Bisson. “So this whole term they call 'herd immunity' is when 70 or 80 per cent of the population is vaccinated, the chances of people being able to spread the disease is much lower. So they'll be able to get back to a more normal setting when it comes to going to concerts, and going to sporting events, and doing the various things we used to do.” He said the short answer is, the government is in no hurry to relax on their current restrictions regarding large public events. “I think it will be in stages, and it will be slow to come until we get to the point of having a good part of our population vaccinated.” ENERGY BILLS There were several questions and comments regarding increased bills for utilities such as natural gas and hydro electricity throughout the past year, particularly with people spending most of their time at home. Bisson stated bluntly that the fluctuation in hydro bills, including his own, over the past year have been “extremely annoying.” “I don't think there is anybody in Ontario who supports what has happened to our hydro system, and what it means to us. The private sector, when it comes to natural gas and others, there has been absolutely no push on the part of the province for them to give any kind of respite to people when it comes to their energy bills, other than what we control, which is Hydro One.” He added that during the last provincial election campaign, both the Ontario Progressive Conservatives and the NDP had very specific plans to how to deal with hydro, and to lower the rates. “The Conservatives won the government on the basis of their promises, and their campaigning, and rates have gone up every year since they've been in office. “They should have, for the time of the pandemic, left electricity rates at the 10 cents per kilowatt, no matter what time or day of the week it is, as a way for people to cope.” TRAVEL BARRIERS A citizen named Jason called in to ask about the possibility of the province implementing travel barriers to mitigate the spread of possible new COVID-19 variants. “With the springtime coming up, a lot of people from Southern Ontario come up to Northern Ontario to enjoy all of our splendour up here. Is there anything we're going to do to stop that, or is there any contingency plan there?” he said. Bisson replied that any measures like that are extremely complicated to put in place. “We started looking at that ourselves, sometime before Christmas, and a number of our Northern colleagues started looking at it. “It gets quite complicated because, if you're the mine operator, and you have to have somebody come up and do specific work to keep the mine running, do you prevent those people from coming up? Doctors travelling, truckers moving goods, it gets really complicated when it comes to shutting down regions of the province.” Bisson said that although it was looked at, the government ultimately decided not to go that route. “Was that the right decision? I think only time will tell.” GENERAL REMARKS Bisson acknowledged that it is very easy to criticize government currently, whose members have a very tough job, and not a lot of of precedence to work with in dealing with a major public health crisis. But the provincial government's performance, led by Premier Doug Ford, has been a mixed bag. “Mr. Ford, I've got to tell you, I give him full marks, when he goes in front of a camera, he says the right things,” said Bisson. “The problem with Mr. Ford, I find, is that he doesn't deliver on what he has talked about, and then it becomes sort of an undeliverable.” Bisson said overall, the chatter among those at Queen's Park, is that the Ford government isn't doing a very good job of listening to the concerns of its constituents that have been brought forward by MPPs. “It's unfortunate, but that's kind of the direction this government has taken.” Andrew Autio is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for The Daily Press. LJI is a federally funded program. Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Press
DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa House Republicans cast the final vote needed Wednesday to send a bill to the governor that sharply limits early voting in the state, months after a general election overseen by a Republican secretary of state resulted in record turnout and overwhelming victories by GOP candidates. The bill passed with only Republican votes just a day after it similarly passed the Senate. Supporters of the legislation cited fraud concerns as the reason early voting must be reined in. However, like in many other Republican-led states where similar steps are being considered, there historically haven't been widespread concerns about irregularities in the election system. “When we go back home and talk to people in the gas stations, at the grocery stores and at the hardware stores there is no disputing there are tens of thousands of Iowans that tell this Republican caucus every single week when we go home we emphatically support this bill, we want this bill, we think this bill is necessary and we support it,” said Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, who managed the bill in the House. Democrats who are outnumbered in both chambers were left aghast but in no position to stop the changes. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, a strong supporter of former President Donald Trump, has indicated she'd consider them. “Last fall we had elections overseen by a Republican secretary of state in which Republicans gained seats in the Iowa House and the U.S. House, so if there is any significant voter fraud in this state then two things are true," Democratic Sen. Herman Quirmbach of Ames said. “It’s your fault, and second, it raises questions of the legitimacy of your own elections.” The bill written by Republicans would shorten the early voting period to 20 days from the current 29, just three years after Republicans reduced the period from 40 days. It also would require most mail ballots to be received by county election officials by the time polls close on Election Day, rather than counting votes as long as they were postmarked by Election Day and arrived by noon on the Monday following the election. The bill prohibits the use of a U.S. Postal Service postmark as a way to verify when a ballot was mailed. Polling times also would be reduced by an hour, closing at 8 p.m. rather than 9 p.m. And there would be new rules on absentee ballot request forms, banning officials from sending out the forms unless a voter requests one. Satellite voting sites also could only be set up if enough voters petition for one, and voters would be removed from active voting lists if they miss a single general election and don't report a change in address or registered as a voter again. Rep. Chris Hall during House debate told Kaufmann his bill “is a cruel trick on the very voters we are here to serve. It is morally hollow.” The Brennan Center for Justice, a public policy group, has counted 253 bills across the country this year meant to limit access to voting. Republican lawmakers have said the proposals are meant to bolster confidence in future elections, though they have been the loudest proponents of meritless claims that the previous election was fraudulent. Sylvia Albert, director of the voting and elections project at Common Cause, a nonpartisan organization that advocates to expand access to voting, said the GOP is moving to depress turnout following their losses in the last election cycle. “Instead of dealing with real issues these legislatures are revoking access to the ballot,” she said. “The motivation is not to secure an election, the motivation is to undermine access to the ballot.” Democratic Sen. Pam Jochum pointed out that 76% of Iowa Democrats voted by mail in November and 52% of Republicans as mail voting surged in popularity amid the coronavirus pandemic. Iowa Republicans backing the bill argue there was voter fraud in states where Trump narrowly lost to Democrat Joe Biden, though courts have repeatedly ruled there was no significant fraud. Still, Republicans said that belief has caused their constituents to lose faith in the integrity of elections, so changes are needed. Their action follows repeated claims by Trump that mail balloting was vulnerable to fraud, again without any evidence. During Senate debate, Sioux City Republican Sen. Jim Carlin said “most of the Republican caucus believe the election was stolen.” He added, “Who believes that Joe Biden got 12 million more votes than Obama on his best day? I don’t believe that he did better than Barack Obama.” Iowa City Democratic Sen. Joe Bolkcom said those kind of conspiracy theories and cult behaviour toward Trump are what has led some people to lose faith in elections. “I for one am not going to normalize this bizarre irrational conspiracy theory thinking and behaviour,” he said. In a public hearing held Monday night nearly 1,200 people signed up to comment on the measure. All but 28 opposed the legislation. Janice Weiner, a retired U.S. foreign service officer, said the section of the bill that shortens the time for absentee voting will hurt people who go south for Iowa winters, victims of domestic violence, voters in rural areas and the elderly. She cautioned lawmakers against believing debunked lies about election fraud. “Just as Sen. (Joni) Ernst won her election and each of you won yours, President Biden won freely and fairly,” she said. “The remedy for the big lie of a stolen election is not to take an axe to election laws that worked exceedingly well, it’s simply to tell the truth.” Gary Leffler, a West Des Moines resident who supports the bill, said he was at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and could attest that people are concerned about voter integrity. “Right now you’ve got half the people who voted in a national election who are feeling like yesterday’s newspaper in the bottom of a birdcage and they’re trying to figure out how in the world did this happen. You must restore integrity back into our voting. I think this bill goes a long way to getting that done," he said. ___ Associated Press writer Anthony Izaguirre in Lindenhurst, New York, contributed to this report. David Pitt, The Associated Press
Plastic bags have been overtaken by face masks as one of the most common pieces of plastic waste. In fact, 102 million are thrown every week in the UK alone. View on euronews
(Anderson family, CBC - image credit) February is Black History Month, and we recognize it by celebrating the contributions that Black Canadians have made to Canada's history and culture. CBC Calgary is highlighting the legacies of three Black Calgarians who broke barriers, changed the city's history and influenced its present. WATCH | Find out more about their lives in the video above Virnetta Anderson became the first Black city councillor in Calgary. When American-Canadian activist and politician Virnetta Anderson was elected to city council in 1974, she became Calgary's first Black municipal councillor. And according to Barry Anderson, Virnetta's youngest son, the work reflected a fundamental aspect of her personality: a commitment to public service that can be traced throughout the entirety of her life. "I think one of the reasons people still seem to recognize her and celebrate her today, after all these years, is that she brought that sense of service and community commitment to politics," Barry said. "She had the heart of a volunteer and she wanted to serve the community. She was not naive in any way, in that she knew what politics was all about. And she was able to play that game as good as anybody could. "But she did it from kind of a point of integrity and authenticity." Politician, leader, civic champion Born in Monticello, Arkansas in 1920, Virnetta moved from Los Angeles to Calgary in 1952 after her husband, Ezzrett (Sugarfoot) Anderson, was signed to play in the Canadian Football League. In Alberta, the weather was colder but the prairie hospitality was warm, Barry said, and Virnetta soon became involved in the community and the United Church. "Even as she kind of grew her base of supporters and friends and influencers, it was still all during a time when women were thought of as supporting the man. And for many years she raised the family, was Sugarfoot's wife," Barry said. Virnetta Anderson relaxes with her family. But Virnetta was energetic, sharp and committed to contributing to her community, Barry said. She would be encouraged by her friends, and people she had met through years of volunteer work, to run for a city council seat. And in 1974, more than 20 years after moving to Calgary, Virnetta threw her hat into the political ring — and won. "It was kind of radical for her to be a woman, a woman of colour, and to be branching out — getting out from under her husband's shadow, doing anything but church socials and church organizing, to get out and actually be a politician," Barry said. "She never thought that politics would be a place where she would flourish, she really had the heart of the volunteer all her life, the heart of someone of service and contributing to the community in that way. "But, yeah, you know, wife and mother. And then all of a sudden: politician, leader, civic champion." 'It all just came down to helping people' During her years at city council, Virnetta focused heavily on social issues, Barry said. That funding was secured for social services, community services, and the health and welfare of seniors and disadvantaged people were priorities for her. According to the City of Calgary, Virnetta also took on issues such as Indigenous employment opportunities, affordable housing and transportation, and influenced decisions to build the CTrain line. "She was very much concerned about making sure that there was proper attention paid — and money — backing up these types of services and community organizations and institutions that would help people. [It] just all came down to helping people," he said. Virnetta Anderson not only had a lot of heart, but a lot of style, too. However, as a Black woman in a male-dominated field, Barry said she faced challenges. Racism and sexism were forces back then, as they still are now, he said. "People used to approach her and say, 'Well, are you for women's rights, are you for Black rights,' and all of those things. And she would always say to them … 'I'm for human rights,'" he said. "So, she saw herself as a human being. A wife, a mother, a Calgarian, a Canadian … she was just who she was, and that's the way she carried herself her whole life." Part of her world Though Virnetta served only until 1977, the role built upon itself, Barry said. It led to connections and volunteer opportunities that helped her to continue a life of public service well after her political career. She worked with the United Way and the Calgary Rotary Club, which named her a Paul Harris Fellow in 1988. Virnetta Anderson dedicated a lot of her time to public service over the years. Virnetta was also a nominee for the YWCA's Women of Distinction Lifetime Achievement Award for community service in 1992. That same year, she was nominated for the Canada 125 Commemorative Medal. Virnetta died in 2006 at the age of 85. When the restoration of Calgary's Historic City Hall was completed in 2020, a municipal reception hall was named after Virnetta, to honour her legacy. "She was just an amazingly loving woman," Barry said. "But I also just remember how much fun she was … as well as her ability to to bring that all together, to connect with people and make them feel comfortable and make them feel part of her world." If you've ever taken the CTrain in Calgary, you have Oliver Bowen to thank for the ride. Oliver Bowen was a civil engineer with the City of Calgary who would become the architect of Calgary's CTrain system. He graduated from the University of Alberta in 1965, and moved to Calgary to work in the public transit department that same year — and that work would be groundbreaking, said Nicole Dodd. Alongside Cindé Adgebesan and Pam Tzeng, Dodd is a founder of the AB Anti-Racism EDU Committee that campaigns for Black Canadian history and anti-racism coursework to be included in Alberta's K-12 curriculum. Dodd said that with a $144-million budget and five-year timeline, Bowen was tasked with creating and building the CTrain — which he completed under-budget and with time to spare. "Oliver Bowen is very inspirational, because he has had a lasting impact on the City of Calgary with the design and implementation of one of the largest infrastructure projects in the city," said Dodd. "[And] his legacy, design and leadership are still benefiting Calgarians today." Full of the dickens Bowen was born in 1942 in Alberta's Amber Valley, which is about 170 kilometres north of Edmonton. It was one of several communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan settled by Black people from Oklahoma, Texas and other southern states, who were looking for a life away from racial segregation and violence in the early 1900s. But they still faced pushback in Western Canada. Oliver Bowen got a job with the City of Calgary right out of university. Peggy Brown, Oliver's cousin, lived a mile and a half from him. She remembers Oliver as funny, impish and well-liked; he delighted in driving too fast and cheating at board games, she said. "[Oliver] was full of the dickens, he was always full of mischief," she said. "He had a little shy smile, a little grin, and you knew right away that he was up to something." Bowen had a strong work ethic, however, and that dedication led to a quick professional ascent. 'He was going to do it' According to Brown, Bowen studied hard throughout university, and when he was offered a job with the City of Calgary before graduating in 1965, he would go on to work hard there, too. Bowen began his career as the city's first special project engineer, where he was responsible for construction of major roads, Brown said. Oliver Bowen was known by his colleagues for his hard work. And he would be promoted many times until 1977, when he became the manager of light rail transportation construction and implementation. The division was responsible for designing and building Calgary's first light rail transit leg. "[Oliver] had sort of an ability to figure out things … if a situation came up, he could think of how to manage it," Brown said. "He just put his mind to it — that he could do it, and he was going to do it, as far as I know of, and it happened. But it was by no means easy." The opportunity to shine It was not easy, Brown said, because of how much work the role required. But there is a likelihood that Oliver faced other challenges, too. If Bowen experienced racism and discrimination, he did not discuss it with her directly — but Brown acknowledged it was commonplace. "I would imagine he did, as we all did, once we left the farm and went into work," she said. "We all had difficulties getting jobs, being promoted. Now, did he have that or not, I don't know, because he was promoted through the city quite rapidly, and did very well." Dodd said Bowen was likely recognized by progressive administrators within the city for his sterling qualifications and his committed work ethic. "Obviously, there was some visionary leadership who provided him the opportunity to shine," Dodd said. Bowen's legacy Oliver Bowen receives a gift as Ralph Klein, who served as premier and Calgary mayor, looks on. Bowen died in 2000. Nine years later, the City of Calgary paid tribute to the transportation pioneer by naming a light rail transit maintenance facility after him — the Oliver Bowen Light Rail Facility in the city's northeast. But what he leaves behind goes even deeper than that, Brown and Dodd said. "Black students, and specifically Black male students, are often funnelled into athletics, or into music," Dodd said. "It's important for … all students, really, to be exposed to a historical figure such as Oliver Bowen, because he breaks those stereotypes." Bowen, Dodd said, was involved in science, technology, engineering and math before it was called STEM. His accomplishments and legacy are lasting, still seen and used by Calgarians every day. "For all students to recognize that Black achievement has many, many different outcomes, and it's not simply in entertainment or in sport, I think, is very important." And as a Black man who was so influential in Calgary's history, and its present, Brown hopes Bowen serves as an inspiration. "I'd think that [young Black people] would be encouraged to try, if they wanted to — in whatever field they wanted to work in. I think they would think of, well, 'Oliver made it back then, certainly, I can make it now,'" Brown said. "So I think they would be encouraged, and think, well, they would pursue what they wanted to do, with Oliver in mind." In 1953, Violet King became the first Black graduate of the University of Alberta's faculty of law. She was the first Black woman to practise law in Canada after being called to the bar in 1954. And she would become the first Black lawyer admitted to the Law Society of Alberta. To understand the impact of Violet King's legal career is to recognize a series of broken barriers. In 1953, she became the first Black graduate of the University of Alberta's faculty of law. She was the first Black woman to practise law in Canada after being called to the bar in 1954. And she would become the first Black lawyer admitted to the Law Society of Alberta. "She is just a trailblazer in terms of being a Black Canadian, and having her achievements reach such high levels, during a time that was historically quite discriminatory and racist toward people of African descent," said Dodd. "Today there are Black student law associations, there are all types of associations specifically for different Black professionals in their fields. And I feel like somebody like Violet King was a trailblazer to allow for those types of organizations to exist today. "So, her impact in Alberta and in Canada was truly immeasurable." Her character Born in Calgary in 1929, King lived in the northwest community of Sunnyside and went to Crescent Heights High School, where she excelled, Dodd said. King would attend the University of Alberta in 1948. Six years later, she would become Canada's first Black female lawyer. And to accomplish what she did, Dodd said, King was likely confronted with both racism and sexism in a field that was overwhelmingly represented by white men. "I think it says a lot about her character, it says a lot about her ability to look past, probably, comments and behaviours that were discriminatory," Dodd said. "It speaks to her ability to just continue moving forward with the belief that this is what she was supposed to be doing, and nothing can stop her. Not racism, not discrimination and not barriers against women. "And I believe that that is truly what powered her through her law career." Strong and resilient and tenacious King defied stereotypes that would undermine Black women's achievement and success, Dodd said. And as a Black woman who also attended the University of Alberta while completing a bachelor of commerce, Dodd said she would ask King about her experience if she could. "I remember my own experience at U of A, feeling relatively isolated and not really feeling like I saw a lot of people that looked like me in leadership positions," Dodd said. Violet King, right, stands beside her family as her brother, Ted, arrives back in Calgary in 1946. "I can't even imagine how it would have felt in 1948, walking through those halls.… I just would be interested in knowing: Where does she get her resolve? Her resolve to keep going, her resolve to make a difference, her resolve to do something, that she literally had never met anybody else who looked like her who was doing that same thing. "That is truly incredible, and something within her must have been very strong and resilient and tenacious to keep going." And, indeed, King would openly acknowledge the struggle for people of colour in the workforce. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, King delivered a speech in 1955 at a Beta Sigma Phi sorority banquet in Calgary. "It is too bad that a Japanese, Chinese or coloured girl has to outshine others to secure a position," she said. Standing on their shoulders King practised criminal law in Calgary before she moved to Ottawa, where she worked for the federal department of citizenship and immigration for seven years. Eventually, King made her way to New Jersey, where she became the executive director of the Newark YMCA's community branch. Violet King, pictured as a young Calgary lawyer, was guest speaker at the Beta Sigma Phi pledge banquet in 1955. In 1976, she became the first woman to have an executive position with the National Council of the YMCA's Organizational Development Group. King died in 1982. She was 52. She was inducted into the National YMCA Hall of Fame in 1998. "As somebody who later pursued higher education beyond my undergraduate degree, I think knowing about Violet would have helped me to feel as though my accomplishments are not novel," Dodd said. "That there are people who have accomplished great things in Canada who look exactly like me, and, in fact, I am standing on their shoulders." 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.
TAMPA, Fla. — A quick look at the Raptors schedule for the second half of the shortened NBA season had Nick Nurse already thinking about managing minutes. A gruelling four-game western road trip that sees Toronto play four games in six days at Denver, Utah, and Los Angeles against the Clippers and Lakers highlights the Raptors' second half of the season. "It looked busy. It looked busy. Looked like a lot of games. Felt like a (United States Basketball League) schedule," Nurse joked before the Raptors tipped off against the Miami Heat on Wednesday. The USBL was a pro spring league that folded in 2008. "You used to say 'Oh you've got a back-to-back here in a couple weeks,' and now you've got one every week, so that thought can go past your head," Nurse said. "In all seriousness though, there's got to probably be a look at -- I haven't done it yet -- but thinking about managing that. I think that maybe getting more guys on the floor in certain situations and maybe using a deeper roster in some fashion or other. I'm kicking those ideas around in my head, or I'll start to. I'll probably leave that for a few days." The NBA announced the schedule in two halves this season in order to add make-up games for COVID-19 postponements. The Raptors haven't had any games postponed. The season has been shortened to 72 games, further compressed because of the Tokyo Olympics, which open July 23. The NBA Finals could go until July 22. The Raptors tip off the second half on March 11 against the visiting Atlanta Hawks, one of 19 games at their temporary home at Amalie Arena in Tampa. They'll play 35 games in total in the second half. The Raptors will make four U.S. national television appearances. Their April 24 game at New York will be televised by ESPN, while TNT is broadcasting the May 4 game versus the Clippers in Los Angeles. NBA TV has the Raptors games April 11 at New York and May 2 against the Lakers in L.A. The Raptors' longest homestand is five games from April 13 to 21. They play eight back-to-back sets. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24. 2021. The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — An Edmonton Police Service officer has been charged with sexual assault. Alberta's police watchdog, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), says the alleged assault happened on Jan. 20 when the officer was off duty. In a release, ASIRT says the man knows the woman and during an encounter committed a sexual assault. Investigators forwarded their findings to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service which determined the evidence met their standard for prosecution. The release says Const. Samuel Sanson was arrested Wednesday and charged with one count of sexual assault. Sanson has been released and is to appear in Edmonton provincial court on March 23. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s laws forcing Google and Facebook to pay for news are ready to take effect, though the laws' architect said it will take time for the digital giants to strike media deals. The Parliament on Thursday passed amendments to the so-called News Media Bargaining Code agreed between Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday. In return for the changes, Facebook agreed to lift a ban on Australians accessing and sharing news. Rod Sims, the competition regulator who drafted the code, said he was happy that the amended legislation would address the market imbalance between Australian news publishers and the two gateways to the internet. “All signs are good,” Sims told Australian Broadcasting Corp. “The purpose of the code is to address the market power that clearly Google and Facebook have. Google and Facebook need media, but they don’t need any particular media company, and that meant media companies couldn’t do commercial deals,” the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair added. The rest of the laws had passed earlier, so they can now be implemented. Google has already struck deals with major Australian news businesses in recent weeks including News Corp. and Seven West Media. Frydenberg said he was pleased to see progress by Google and more recently Facebook in reaching commercial deals with Australian news businesses. But Country Press Australia, which represents 161 regional newspapers across the country, has raised concerns that tiny publications outside large cities might miss out. Sims said he was not surprised that the platforms would strike deals with the large city businesses first. “I don’t see any reason why anybody should doubt that all journalism will benefit,” Sims said. “There things take time. Google and Facebook don’t have unlimited resources to go around talking to everybody. I think this has got a long way to play out,” he added. Chris Moos, a lecturer at Oxford University’s Business School, said the latest amendments amounted to a “small victory” for Zuckerberg. Moos said the legislation would likely result in small payouts for most Australian news publishers. But Facebook could again block Australian news if negotiations broke down. The legislation was designed to curb the outsized bargaining power of Facebook and Google in their negotiations with Australian news providers. The digital giants would not be able to abuse their positions by making take-it-or-leave-it payment offers to news businesses for their journalism. Instead, in the case of a standoff, an arbitration panel would make a binding decision on a winning offer. Frydenberg and Facebook confirmed that the two sides agreed to amendments to the proposed legislation. The changes would give digital platforms one month’s notice before they are formally designated under the code. That would give those involved more time to broker agreements before they are forced to enter binding arbitration arrangements. A statement Tuesday by Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice-president for news partnerships, added that the deal allows the company to choose which publishers it will support, including small and local ones. Frydenberg said his department will review the code within a year to “ensure it is delivering outcomes that are consistent with government's policy intent.” Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press
President Joe Biden on Wednesday formally revoked a series of presidential orders and memorandum signed by Donald Trump, including one that sought to cut funding from several cities the 45th president deemed “anarchist” havens and another mandating that federal buildings should be designed in a classical esthetic. Since taking office last month, Biden has revoked dozens of Trump orders and issued dozens more of his own as he’s sought to target foundational aspects of Trump's legacy and promote aspect of his own agenda without going through Congress. The latest slate of revocations targeted a grab-bag of issues, including a few that Trump signed in his last months in office. Trump issued a memorandum in September that sought to identify municipal governments that permit “anarchy, violence and destruction in American cities.” The memorandum followed riots during anti-police and anti-racism protests over George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police. The Justice Department identified New York City, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle as three cities that could have federal funding slashed. Those cities in turn filed a lawsuit to invalidate the designation and fight off the Trump administration’s efforts to withhold federal dollars. Seattle city attorney Pete Holmes welcomed the Biden revocation, saying he was “glad to have this nonsense cleared from the decks." Trump in his “Promoting Beautiful Federal Civic Architecture” intoned that America’s forefathers “wanted public buildings to inspire the American people and encourage civic virtue." The memorandum added that architects should look to “America’s beloved landmark buildings” such as the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court, the Department of the Treasury and the Lincoln Memorial for inspiration. Another order halted was one Trump issued in the final days of his presidency dubbed the “Ensuring Democratic Accountability in Agency Rulemaking." It called for limiting the ability of federal agency employees in making regulatory decisions. Biden also revoked a 2018 order that called for agency heads across the government to review welfare programs — such as food stamps, Medicaid and housing aid — and strengthening work requirements for certain recipients. ___ Associated Press writer Gene Johnson in Seattle contributed to this report. Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press
For eight years, Waheeda Giga has struggled with an eating disorder that was triggered by the death of her father. She viewed food as an enemy that needed to be restricted, and if she failed, she’d throw herself into a punishing routine of vigorous exercise. “I use food and exercise to control and feel safe when I can’t deal with heavy emotions or grief,” she says of her ongoing battle with anorexia nervosa and compulsive exercise. Giga, a 37-year-old city of Toronto employee, is now a year into her recovery at the eating disorders outpatient program at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, which she participates in virtually from home. It’s a journey that took place under the unusual backdrop of the global pandemic, for better and for worse. It’s also a journey that isn’t unique to Giga. Hospital data from the Greater Toronto Area points to an alarming rise in eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia during the pandemic, as people try to cope with widespread grief from losing loved ones, income, or even a sense of routine and normalcy. The pandemic has also disrupted the way eating-disorder care is provided, shedding light on cracks in the system and the continued need for access as more people struggle. Ontario’s public health officials nodded to the issue in their latest COVID-19 projections on Feb. 11, where they noted a substantial increase in eating-disorder-related hospitalizations and emergency department visits among young people aged three to 17. In July 2020, the hospitalization rate for youth was three per 100,000, higher than the average of around 1.8 per 100,000. The National Eating Disorder Information Centre helpline has seen a 70 per cent increase in calls and texts, said Alexa Giorgi, a spokesperson for the University Health Network, which runs the helpline. This includes an 87 per cent increase in chats from individuals 25 and younger. Experts and people with lived experience say it’s a problem that has affected adults too. Dr. Michele Laliberte, a clinical psychologist and lead of the eating disorders program at St. Joseph’s Hospital, which treats adults, said wait-times for the program have doubled from three months to five or six months since the pandemic began, partly due to COVID’s interruption of the admission process while the program was transitioning to virtual care. But a virtual outpatient program may stay for the long-term beyond the pandemic, Laliberte added, as it could improve access to an already-scarce type of eating-disorder care in the region. It’s been especially helpful for Giga, who was able to attend her recovery program from the comfort of her own home instead of commuting weekly to Hamilton — the closest city to Toronto that houses an outpatient eating disorder program covered by OHIP. “I was scared to start because I didn’t know what it would involve with getting accommodations from work, and I was anxious because of the commute,” said Giga, who began treatment a month before the pandemic after being on a five-month long wait-list. At that point, Giga’s Body Mass Index (BMI) reached a critical point of 17.5 — what is considered to be close to severely underweight. She had weighed about 102 lbs. at that time, and was told she would require more intensive treatment if her BMI slipped any further. “I think that was a wake-up call for me,” she said. Limiting barriers to care is now paramount with more people looking to access eating-disorder care as a result of the pandemic. Kyle Ganson, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, said COVID-19 has presented many triggers for eating disorders, all tied to how our lives have changed in the last year. “The major disruptions in routines for people is key,” Ganson said. We’ve been forced to stay home where opportunities for exercise are limited, which could trigger changes in eating habits for some who worry about maintaining “a healthy lifestyle.” Some anticipate they will gain weight as a result of these changes, Ganson added, which creates stress, anxiety and even feelings of stigma. “There’s also a lot of loss and a lot of trauma,” Ganson said. “Food is a way to control some of that.” Maria Estrada, a 25-year-old woman who struggled with an eating disorder at age 15, said some elements of the disorder have resurfaced during the pandemic, mainly due to isolation and feelings of losing control over her life. “Nobody’s supervising you, nobody’s seeing you, nobody’s gonna notice,” Estrada said. “You’re not seeing your friends. They’re not going to feed you, or ask to go out for lunch. I don’t have that anymore.” Ganson is careful to add that these issues affect both women and men, albeit in different ways. For men, eating disorders can sometimes manifest in the form of seeking masculinity or leanness through excessive exercise or the use of supplements. “In our culture, we are much more OK with these types of behaviours and we don’t necessarily shun them or acknowledge there might be a problem,” Ganson said. For youth in particular, the pandemic has meant more time spent on screens and social media as schools transitioned online. Research has shown that increased time spent consuming social media can lead to issues like body dissatisfaction, Ganson said. “We also know that kids with eating disorders are known to have what we call co-occurring mental health issues, specifically anxiety and depression,” said Christina Bartha, the executive director of the brain and mental health program at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. At Sick Kids, the number of admissions for eating disorders began to dramatically increase in late August of last year, said Dr. Debra Katzman, co-founder of the hospital’s eating disorders program. It’s a trend that continues to be observed well into 2021. “We’re seeing a 35 per cent increase in the number of kids we are admitting in the hospital, and they’re coming in primarily in the latter half of the year,” Katzman said. Since April of last year, Sick Kids admitted 175 children for eating-disorder-related issues, compared to 120 children in the same time-frame before the pandemic. The wait-times for the outpatient program at Sick Kids have also more than doubled as a result, Katzman said. “Our systems were not designed for this sort of level of necessary clinical intervention, so we’re trying to adjust to that,” she said. Eating disorders are hard to treat, Katzman added. It’s not a health issue that is treated with prescription medication, but rather one that requires intensive care with a multidisciplinary team of experts that can continue for weeks to months on end. “I think we are taxing the system right now given the number of kids that are presenting to care,” Katzman said. The Ontario government announced a few funding initiatives geared towards eating disorders last October, though none involve directly supporting existing services. One includes $3.7 million for a new eating disorders program for youth aged 25 and under, with four pilot sites to start. “At this time, the program is in development as it is brand new,” said Alexandra Hilkene, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, in an email. Another $800,000 has been put forward to support the creation of Eating Disorders Ontario, a pilot program to train and deploy eating disorder prevention experts who will work with local communities and schools in the province. The program is also currently in development, Hilkene said. At St. Joseph’s Hospital’s eating disorders program, demand has quadrupled since 2010, Laliberte said. Despite that, staffing hasn’t increased in that time due to lack of resources. “Eating disorders are never at the table,” Laliberte said. But the pandemic hasn’t been all bad, especially for patients like Giga who have endured lengthy waits to receive adequate treatment. For example, the closure of gyms in Toronto heightened her anxiety as she tried to increase her food intake, a necessary and early component of her recovery plan. But gym closures also meant she had to increase her calorie-count knowing she wouldn’t be able to offset it by vigorous exercise — a feat that would have been harder to achieve with the temptation of open gyms and yoga studios. Being able to receive treatment in her own home, she added, meant she could receive treatment in a space she considered safe without the pressure of commuting. “My nutritionist at treatment called it a divine intervention,” Giga said. “Sometimes I feel like it honestly probably took a pandemic for me to recover.” Giga is now close to a fully-restored weight of 112 lbs. and a BMI of 20.3. It’s a small hopeful note in an otherwise difficult time for many. With a renewed focus on eating disorders, Laliberte and others hope the pandemic could be an opportunity to revamp what has been traditionally an inaccessible care system for the long term. Nadine Yousif is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering mental health. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Follow her on Twitter: @nadineyousif_ Nadine Yousif, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
Provincial police demonstrated life-saving measures when falling through ice at Lower Reach Park in Smiths Falls last week, on Friday, Feb. 18. After a hole was cut into the ice, Ontario Provincial Police Constable Sean McCaffrey jumped into the Rideau River waters to exhibit how to survive such an incident. The 1-10-1 rule was used as a helpful reminder for best course of action. The first 1 is for one minute, when a person is to likely gasp with shock. Breathing calmly is important in this first minute. The 10 is for the first 10 minutes, which is how long effective use of fingers, arms and legs will likely last. Because of this, it is in the first 10 minutes that self-rescue is at its most critical. The second 1 is for one hour, which is the time before hypothermia could potentially set in. Self-rescue is still recommended past the 10-minute mark, but police note it is important to be calling for help and continuing to focus on breathing. Other tips recommended by PC McCaffrey include ensuring anyone venturing out onto ice carries ice picks, wears appropriate clothing and never goes alone or at night. Assisting PC McCaffrey with the demonstration was the Ontario Provincial Police's East Region Snowmobile, ATV, and Vessel Enforcement (SAVE) Unit, Smiths Falls police and other emergency services. More safety tips can be found online at www.redcross.ca/. Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
(Facebook, Jo Smith - image credit) The man accused of fatally beating two dogs says he confessed to abusing the animals only because he believed it would keep his family together. John Geick, 39, is on trial on three counts of animal abuse. On Wednesday, he testified in his own defence. In February 2019, Geick lived with his son and then-girlfriend, Joanna Smith, who owned a basset hound named Sophie and a Chihuahua named Tyler. Over a three-day span, both dogs died of what a forensic veterinarian would eventually determine was multiple blunt force trauma. "I am a very good dog parent," Geick said at the beginning of his testimony. 'Major trauma' suffered by dogs In her testimony Tuesday, Smith testified that after the second dog died, she confronted Geick, asking him if he had hurt the dogs. Smith testified that Geick nodded and cried when she asked if he'd kicked the animals. After her second dog died suddenly, Smith had become suspicious and had asked the veterinary hospital to get the Calgary Humane Society involved in an investigation. Later, in an interview with police, Geick said he had thrown Sophie outside, across the patio and into the wall of the garage. He also said he kicked Tyler once because the dog had bitten him in the garage. Geick said that just before he was questioned by police, Smith and her mother told him he needed to tell investigators he was responsible for the deaths. He said he believed if he took responsibility, he could save his family. Geick also testified that he felt like the police officers were his friends and "wanted to say what they wanted to hear." And although the descriptions do not match the "major trauma," the Crown's theory is that Geick minimized the beating he delivered to Tyler and Sophie. 'I would never hurt Tyler' On Feb. 15, Geick woke Smith up to say Sophie wasn't well. When she got to the dog's side, Sophie was dead. Geick told defence lawyer Efrayim Moldofsky he performed CPR on Sophie when he found the dog unresponsive, cold and not breathing. The veterinarian who performed the necropsy found injuries to Sophie's lips, mouth, eye, legs, stomach, head, chest and ears and said the dog wouldn't have lived more than 60 minutes after being abused. The basset hound's liver had been "pulverized" and she bled into her abdomen. The dog, said the vet, would have been in "immense pain." Two days later, Smith woke up to find Tyler shaking and unable to stand. She and Geick brought him to the vet, who ultimately euthanized the dog because of catastrophic injuries to his belly, inside his mouth, ears and lungs. Blood had also pooled in the dog's eyes, indicating he had been choked. "I would never hurt Tyler," said Geick. "I loved that dog, he was my best friend." Prosecutor Rosalind Greenwood will cross-examine.
(Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press - image credit) The Alberta government will offer a one-time payment of $561 for parents who used child care (including licensed or unlicensed daycares, day homes, out-of-school care or pre-school) between April and December of last year. Families with annual household incomes of $100,000 or less will be eligible for the benefit. They can apply online between March 1 and 31. Around 192,000 children are expected to be supported by the $108-million fund, which will be paid for out of unspent money in the Children's Services budget. That money would have normally gone toward child-care subsidies but went unused due to lower enrolment during the pandemic. The government had been facing questions around its plans for the fund for months leading up to the budget, which will be unveiled Thursday. One-time payment comes as $25/day program winds down The benefit comes as the province winds down the $25-per-day child-care pilot program, which was implemented by the previous, NDP government. Last summer, the federal government announced it would give Alberta $45 million for child care, much of which will go toward subsidizing costs for families under a new provincial program. Children's Services Minister Rebecca Schulz said expanding the $25-per-day pilot program would be too costly. "To expand this program right across the province would cost more than a billion dollars. This is a difficult economic time, and the feedback from the pilot, this includes from parents and centres … felt that it was inherently unfair because it did choose winners and losers and didn't necessarily always support the parents and families that needed that support," Schulz said Wednesday. The median cost of child care was $1,100 per month in Calgary and $975 in Edmonton in 2018, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The Opposition party criticized the announcement, saying that providing universal, accessible, affordable child care is significantly more effective than a single payment in getting parents back to work. "Parents need affordable child care every month, not just when the UCP has a budget to sell," NDP children's services critic Rakhi Pancholi said. "The economic imperative in this moment is to get Albertans back to work. No parent is going to be able to return to work or school based on half a month's worth of child-care fees."
A lawyer representing Black public service employees in a class-action lawsuit says the systemic issues described by Khadija El Hilali are just the tip of the iceberg. Courtney Betty says there are reports dating back 40 years that document systemic racism, abuse and discrimination yet nothing has been done to solve the problem.