Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam acknowledges he's still working himself back into game shape after losing a considerable amount of weight while in health and safety protocols.
Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam acknowledges he's still working himself back into game shape after losing a considerable amount of weight while in health and safety protocols.
EDMONTON — Alberta’s Opposition says Premier Jason Kenney is sowing distrust by recounting misleading anecdotes to illustrate COVID-19 policy decisions. “I think this is about trust. I think this is about telling the truth,” NDP critic Sarah Hoffman said Friday. “I think we’ve seen many examples where the premier tries to bolster his own narrative. “This is a trend of being dishonest, and I think it really does call into question what trust and confidence we can have in the things the premier says and does.” Hoffman’s comments came a day after Kenney’s office confirmed the United Conservative premier “misspoke” when he used an anecdote about a super-spreader birthday party in Athabasca as a key driver of recent soaring COVID-19 rates in the town north of Edmonton. Kenney used the party as an example of how super-spreaders are not necessarily driven by in-school transmission but by social gatherings. "Apparently the virus had a 100 per cent attack rate at that birthday party. All of the kids who came to that birthday party got sick,'' Kenney said Monday. He repeated the same information at a news conference again Tuesday. An official with Alberta Health later said there was no data to suggest there had been an outbreak from a children's party in the community. Athabasca Mayor Colleen Powell said the publicity the community of 13,000 people has received since the premier's comments is not the kind it wants. "Why are you saying these things when you don't know?" Powell asked in an interview. "I had a couple of people get in touch with me (asking) who held the party. News spreads like wildfire." Just over 100 people, including students and a dozen staff, from three different schools in Athabasca tested positive for COVID-19 and its variants. Kenney’s spokesperson, Jerrica Goodwin, responded Friday in a short statement. “The premier was using the very real example to illustrate a point of the serious nature of COVID-19 and ease of transmission. As we've acknowledged, he misspoke on the specific location,” said Goodwin. “All the NDP's ridiculous criticism shows is that they can only attack and criticize.” Kenney has used anecdotes before to illustrate the rationale for COVID-19 policy decisions taken by his government. In late November, he cited an impromptu encounter with a food court kiosk owner — a refugee from Venezuela — as an example of the devastating impacts that COVID-19 health restrictions can have on businesses. “She came up to me, and she broke down in tears in front of me saying, 'Sir, I put my entire life savings as a refugee into this business. We're struggling to pay the bills. If you shut me down, I'm going to lose it all, everything, and I'll be in abject poverty,’” Kenney recounted at the time. When reached later by a reporter, the owner, Carolina De La Torre, said Kenney accurately recounted her core concerns of balancing health and the economy. But she dismissed the colourful drama, saying she did not cry and did not approach him, rather it was Kenney who approached her. Earlier this week, the premier came under criticism for challenging a radio host for saying Kenney once downplayed COVID-19 as the flu, telling the host he had never done so. Hansard, the official record of house debate, recorded Kenney calling the virus “influenza” multiple times during debate on May 27, 2020. In late February, just before Kenney’s government released its first COVID-era budget, he announced that due to oil and gas revenues the revised forecast deficit for the 2020 fiscal year would be about $14 billion — a third lower than expected. Treasury officials refused reporter requests to confirm the accuracy of that figure and, two days later, the budget revealed the 2020 deficit forecast was $20 billion. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2021. — With files from Fakiha Baig in Edmonton Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Ontario's new COVID-19 rules and restrictions - from cutting outdoor gatherings to extending police powers - have drawn out mass criticism and condemnation by medical experts, residents.
INDIANAPOLIS — The former employee who shot and killed eight people at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis was interviewed by FBI agents last year, after his mother called police to say that her son might commit “suicide by cop,” the bureau said Friday. Coroners released the names of the victims late Friday, a little less than 24 hours after the latest mass shooting to rock the U.S. Four of them were members of Indianapolis' Sikh community. The attack was another blow to the Asian American community a month after six people of Asian descent were killed in a mass shooting in the Atlanta area and amid ongoing attacks against Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic. The Marion County Coroner's office identified the dead as Matthew R. Alexander, 32; Samaria Blackwell, 19; Amarjeet Johal, 66; Jaswinder Kaur, 64; Jaswinder Singh, 68; Amarjit Sekhon, 48; Karli Smith, 19; and John Weisert, 74. The shooter was identified as Brandon Scott Hole, 19, of Indianapolis, Deputy Police Chief Craig McCartt told a news conference. Investigators searched a home in Indianapolis associated with Hole and seized evidence, including desktop computers and other electronic media, McCartt said. Hole began firing randomly at people in the parking lot of the FedEx facility late Thursday, killing four, before entering the building, fatally shooting four more people and then turning the gun on himself, McCartt said. He said he did not know if Hole owned the gun legally. “There was no confrontation with anyone that was there,” he said. “There was no disturbance, there was no argument. He just appeared to randomly start shooting.” McCartt said the slayings took place in a matter of minutes, and that there were at least 100 people in the facility at the time. Many were changing shifts or were on their dinner break, he said. Several people were wounded, including five who were taken to the hospital. “You deserved so much better than this,” a man who identified himself as the grandson of Johal tweeted Friday evening. Johal had planned to work a double shift Thursday so she could take Friday off, according to the grandson, who would not give his full name but identifies himself as “Komal” on his Twitter page. Johal later decided to grab her check and go home, and still had the check in her hand when police found her, Komal said. “(What) a harsh and cruel world we live in,” he added. Smith, the youngest of the victims, was last in contact with her family shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday, family members said in social media posts late Friday. Dominique Troutman, Smith’s sister, waited hours at the Holiday Inn for an update on her sister. “Words can’t even explain how I feel. ... I’m so hurt,” Troutman said in a Facebook post Friday night. Weisert had been working as a bag handler at FedEx for four years, his wife, Carol, told WISH-TV. The couple was married nearly 50 years. President Joe Biden said he had been briefed on the shooting and called gun violence “an epidemic” in the U.S. “Too many Americans are dying every single day from gun violence. It stains our character and pierces the very soul of our nation,” he said in a statement. Later, he tweeted, “We can, and must, do more to reduce gun violence and save lives.” A FedEx employee said he was working inside the building Thursday night when he heard several gunshots in rapid succession. “I see a man come out with a rifle in his hand and he starts firing and he starts yelling stuff that I could not understand,” Levi Miller told WTHR-TV. “What I ended up doing was ducking down to make sure he did not see me because I thought he would see me and he would shoot me.” Paul Keenan, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis field office, said Friday that agents questioned Hole last year after his mother called police to say that her son might commit “suicide by cop.” He said the FBI was called after items were found in Hole’s bedroom but he did not elaborate on what they were. He said agents found no evidence of a crime and that they did not identify Hole as espousing a racially motivated ideology. A police report obtained by The Associated Press shows that officers seized a pump-action shotgun from Hole’s home after responding to the mother's call. Keenan said the gun was never returned. McCartt said Hole was a former employee of FedEx and last worked for the company in 2020. The deputy police chief said he did not know why Hole left the job or if he had ties to the workers in the facility. He said police have not yet uncovered a motive for the shooting. Police Chief Randal Taylor noted that a “significant” number of employees at the FedEx facility are members of the Sikh community, and the Sikh Coalition later issued a statement saying it was “sad to confirm” that at least four of those killed were community members. The coalition, which identifies itself as the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the U.S., said in the statement that it expected authorities to “conduct a full investigation — including the possibility of bias as a factor.” Varun Nikore, executive director of the AAPI Victory Alliance, a national advocacy group for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said in a statement that the shootings marked “yet another senseless massacre that has become a daily occurrence in this country.” Nikore remarked that gun violence in the U.S. "is reflective of all of the spineless politicians who are beholden to the gun lobby.” FedEx Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Frederick Smith called the shooting a “senseless act of violence.” “This is a devastating day, and words are hard to describe the emotions we all feel,” he wrote in an email to employees. The killings marked the latest in a string of recent mass shootings across the country and the third mass shooting this year in Indianapolis. Five people, including a pregnant woman, were shot and killed in the city in January, and a man was accused of killing three adults and a child before abducting his daughter during at argument at a home in March. In other states last month, eight people were fatally shot at massage businesses in the Atlanta area, and 10 died in gunfire at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said the community must guard against resignation and “the assumption that this is simply how it must be and we might as well get used to it.” ___ This story has been edited to correct the spelling of several names. ___ Associated Press reporters Michael Balsamo and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report. Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Casey Smith And Rick Callahan, The Associated Press
These kittens are having a wonderful time playing with their new toys at the Black Dog Farm and Rescue. They are in the best possible place they could be, but this might have been a narrow escape for these tiny creatures. Black Dog Farm and Rescue is an amazing facility that operates in Texas. The owners, Jennifer and Jim have been rescuing animals for several years and their sanctuary is home to dogs, cats, cows, hens and a guinea pig. They have hearts of gold and they cannot turn away an animal in need. As Jennifer and Jim were parking and preparing to go into a store for food, they saw a truck in the parking lot behind the store. A man stood by a kennel with a sign that advertised "free kittens". Although there were no signs of abuse or neglect, and the kittens seemed to have been well cared for, Jennifer knew this situation was a recipe for disaster. Jennifer recorded the kittens in the back of her truck, moments after she adopted them, and she narrates as she shows the kittens drinking some fresh water. Jennifer explains that not all "free" animals end up in good homes. In fact, some animals end up being sold to illegal dog fighting rings, or for food for other pets. Jennifer explains how she accepted all four kittens without even laying eyes on them, and that they are on the way to Black Dog Farm. She also records their first moments at the farm as they play and explore happily. Jennifer makes an excellent point when she refers to the tragedy that can befall kittens or any other pets that are given away without proper background information on their prospective owners. Black Dog Farm and Rescue accepts some of the neediest and most desperate animals. Many are permanently adopted, and some move on. But every single animal that comes into their care will be provided a carefully selected forever home, or they simply never leave. The farm is a wonderful place with acres for the animals to run and play. They are provided with vet care and excellent nutrition. Socialization and mental stimulation are important here as well, and the animals thrive and respond well to the kindness and love that they find here. Please look them up on Facebook and follow the heart warming stories or see what you can do to help them accomplish the magic that they make happen for these deserving souls.
A series of attacks in Iraq this week illustrates the increasingly dangerous tangle of local and regional rivalries confronting the country's security in an election year, Iraqi security and government officials say. The violence appears linked to militias seeking to help ally Iran oppose Western and Gulf Arab adversaries in a tussle for influence playing out across the Middle East, as well as to growing domestic strains head of elections in October, they say. Drone and rocket attacks in northern Iraq by pro-Iran groups indicated that militias are expanding the arsenal they are prepared to deploy against U.S. forces stationed in the country.
Coronavirus variants are fuelling a COVID-19 surge in southern Saskatchewan, including the city of Moose Jaw, says medical health officer Dr. David Torr. Torr, who is medical lead for south rural Saskatchewan, said the variant first detected in the U.K. has become the dominant strain in the city, adding pressure on the local hospital. More beds were created at the Dr. F.H. Wigmore Regional Hospital after the intensive-care unit reached capacity. "One of the challenges we're having is the hospitals are full.... You can add a couple of beds," he said. "It's not like you can add 10 more beds. Remember also we have limited staff; we can not expand beyond what our staff can manage." ICU beds have been added to the Dr. F.H. Wigmore Regional Hospital in Moose Jaw to meet the needs of a rising number of COVID-19 patients. (Neil Cochrane/CBC News) In the past month, the south central region has seen a 46 per cent increase in COVID-19 cases, with nearly 400 new cases reported in the area. Not only is the region seeing a surge in cases, but there's also a surge in the number of towns and villages that are impacted. "It's a real fast spread," Torr said. "Where it has not been previously, it is becoming pretty much the dominant factor, the variants of concern." The variants of concern appear to be more transmissible and potentially more deadly, and may also transmit for longer periods of time in infected individuals and bind to our cells more easily — providing more opportunities for infected people to spread the virus. On Wednesday, the Saskatchewan Health Authority issued a public health alert warning residents in Maple Creek, Swift Current, Rosetown, Kindersley, Davidson, Moose Jaw, Outlook and their surrounding areas of increased risk of coronavirus variants. A day later, Health Minister Paul Merriman confirmed a superspreader event in southwest Saskatchewan has been linked to at least 21 cases. New surge stems from Easter gatherings Torr said the recent surge stems from Easter activities, including outdoor gatherings like barbecues where people did not follow public health orders. "We're sort of paying for that with the cases we're seeing and the surges we're seeing," Torr said. He said people were socializing outside of their bubble, and "there was a lot of inter-town and inter-provincial travel" that occurred. Torr said several of the functions had people eating and drinking together while not wearing masks. Before the Easter weekend, Torr was among the province's medical health officers that pleaded with the public in an open letter to stay put over the long weekend. He's still pleading. "Let's not take this as a joke," Torr said. "It's serious stuff." Dr. David Torr says people can help by getting vaccinated and wearing a proper mask.(CBC) Torr said a major driving factor in cases rising has been non-compliance with health orders. "The most important thing, no matter how many measures you put into place, they are only as effective as people complying with them," Torr said. "That's where the challenge is. People need to realize: stay away as much as possible from crowds or forming of gatherings. Now is not the time to do that. We need to stay in our bubbles." His last pieces of advice: get vaccinated and get a proper mask with three layers. "There are so many types of fancy masks out there, and they're unfortunately not effective."
While British Columbia's latest COVID-19 modelling shows a "levelling off" in some key data points, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, stressed that with variants of concern spreading, people need to continue to diligently follows the public health measures in place.
OTTAWA — A gay Liberal MP is calling on Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole to disavow a remark by one of his caucus members that appeared to suggest he and other LGBTQ people are "unclean."Toronto MP Rob Oliphant was indignant Friday after Conservative MP Tamara Jansen responded to a highly personal speech he'd given on a bill to ban the discredited practice of conversion therapy.Oliphant, a United Church minister, argued that objections to the bill are rooted in the belief that "God made a mistake" when he created people like him and that they should change who they are. He quoted from the Bible to urge MPs to "do justice and to love kindness."Jansen responded with a Bible quote of her own: "Woe to you, teachers of law and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean."Oliphant retorted that people like him are not "unclean.""It is deeply offensive to to play Bible baseball like that ... It is offensive even to use that word in the context of this debate."In an interview later, Oliphant called on O'Toole to disavow Jansen's comments.Jansen later said she used the quote "in reference to hypocrisy.""I plan to reach out to Mr. Oliphant and apologize for the misunderstanding," she said in a statement.The furor erupted during final debate on Bill C-6, which would criminalize the practice of forcing children or adults to undergo therapy aimed at altering their sexual orientation or gender identity.Liberal, Bloc Quebecois, New Democrat and Green MPs all support the bill.But some Conservatives have expressed fears that the wording of the bill would outlaw conversations between parents and their children or prohibit young people struggling with their sexual identity from seeking religious or other counsel. O'Toole himself has suggested it needs to be amended and has given his caucus a free vote on the bill.Oliphant, who kicked off final debate on the bill for the government, said those fears are "tired and worn out" excuses for objecting to the ban on conversion therapy."The political rhetoric is they're trying to not sound like they are still living in the Stone Age, saying they are not against (banning) conversion therapy but just this bill," he told the Commons."It is time to talk truth in this place. If someone is against this bill, they are against me and against people like me. They are saying ultimately that we are less than they are, that somehow God made a mistake when God created us and that we should change who we are or at least consider changing who we are."Jansen countered with the story of "Charlotte," a young woman she's heard from whose parents had helped her find a counsellor when she decided she no longer wanted "to continue with her lesbian activity" and who now fears the bill would outlaw that kind of support.Edmonton Conservative MP Michael Cooper prefaced his speech by stressing that conversion therapy is "absurd, it is wrong and it is harmful" and should be banned.But he went on to argue that the bill's failure to precisely define conversion therapy means the ban could apply to voluntary counselling and "good faith" conversations between persons struggling with their sexual identity with medical professionals, parents and other family members, religious leaders and others.This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
SANTIAGO (Reuters) -China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine was 67% effective in preventing symptomatic infection, data from a huge real-world study in Chile has shown, a potential boost for the jab which has come under scrutiny over its level of protection against the virus. The CoronaVac vaccine was 85% effective in preventing hospitalizations and 80% effective in preventing deaths, the Chilean government said in a report, adding that the data should prove a "game changer" from the vaccine more widely. Rodrigo Yanez, Chile's vice trade minister who forged a deal with Sinovac to host the drug's clinical trial and buy 60 million doses of the drug over three years, said the results showed Chile had made "the right bet".
A Peel police officer has been suspended and an internal investigation has been launched after a Global News reporter recorded him hugging unmasked people who were protesting against the closure of a Mississauga gym. Peel Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah said he became aware of the incident, which took place outside the gym, Friday afternoon after he saw various social media posts. "Upon learning of the incident, I immediately directed that the sergeant be suspended and commenced an Internal Affairs investigation," he wrote in a statement. "Peel Regional Police are committed to ensuring the safety of our members and the public. Our officers will enforce municipal and provincial regulations as required." According to reporting by Global News, one of its reporters was at Huf Gym near Cawthra Road and Dundas Street East on Friday to report on continuing protests against the Ford government's COVID-19 restrictions, which have temporarily shuttered gyms. There, the reporter, identified as Sean O'Shea, recorded himself as an unmasked protester aggressively approached him wearing a sweater with the words, "hugs over masks." O'Shea, still recording, approached a Peel police officer at the scene and asked if he condoned that behaviour. The officer in the video can be heard telling the journalist that he was agitating the crowd. The same officer, not wearing a mask or any COVID-19 protective gear, can later be seen hugging some of the protesters and posing for pictures. None of the demonstrators can be seen physically distancing or wearing any protective equipment. Duraiappah's statement says members of the force continue to follow advice issued by local public health officials "while using the appropriate safety precautions, including all available Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)." Under current COVID-19 restrictions, all gatherings and protests must follow provincial laws. Tickets may be issued to individuals or organizers who do not comply with this order, the statement reads.
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — La Soufriere volcano shot out another explosive burst of gas and ash on Friday as a cruise ship arrived to evacuate some of the foreigners who had been stuck on a St. Vincent island coated in ash from a week of violent eruptions. The explosions that began on April 9 forced some 20,000 to flee the northern end of the eastern Caribbean island for shelters and contaminated water supplies across the island. Friday morning's blast “wasn’t a big explosion compared to the ones that we last weekend, but it was big enough to punch a hole through the clouds," said Richard Robertson, lead scientist at the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Center, in an interview with local NBC radio. “Probably got up to 8,000 metres (26,000 feet)." During a comparable eruption cycle in 1902, explosive eruptions continued to shake the island for months after an initial burst killed some 1,700 people, though the new eruptions so far have caused no reported deaths among a population that had received official warning a day earlier that danger was imminent. Meanwhile, British, U.S. and Canadian nationals were being evacuated aboard Royal Caribbean Cruises' Celebrity Reflection from the harbour in the Kingstown, capital of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The ship was due to arrive Saturday in Dutch Sint Maarten. Dozens of foreigners toting luggage descended from tour buses and cars at the port terminal in Kingstown and patiently waited in a line that began in the parking lot and reached deep into the terminal. They included students from the Trinity School of Medicine along with stranded tourists, including families with young children in arms. “As of right now, we are being evacuated for our safety and to keep the island as safe as possible," said LLeah Ransai, a Canadian student at Trinity. "Between the school, the government and the embassies of the US and Canada, we’re being evacuated now.” The U.S. Embassy said those aboard would have to make their own travel arrangements home. It also noted in an official statement that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recommended against travel on cruise ships because the chance of getting COVID-19 and said people who had been in close contact with suspected COVID-19 cases were barred from the trip. All aboard were supposed to have a negative rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours of boarding. Meanwhile, thousands of locals were stuck n emergency shelters with no idea when they might be able to return home. Levi Lewis, 58, a retired public servant from the town of Fancy, said the eruption had left him trying to get by with practically nothing. “I just reusing clothing cause i didn't walk with much," he said. "Plus water is an issue, so I’m trying to conserve it still.” “I want to go back home, or to whatever is left of it," he added. A few people, however, never left, defying evacuation orders. Raydon May, a bus conductor in his late 20s who stayed in Sandy Bay throughout the eruptions, said he had always planned to stay if the volcano erupted and was trying to protect properties in the community while making occasional trips outside the evacuation zone to pick up water and supplies. He said so much ash had fallen that the roofs of houses were collapsing under the weight. “One roof might get on like three truckloads of sand," he said. “We trying to help ... but we can’t help everybody.” Kristin Deane, The Associated Press
John Rustad, B.C. Liberal MLA for Nechako Lakes, is standing by his defence of carbon dioxide after Minister for Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman denounced the comments and questioned whether Rustad believes climate change is real. Rustad's statement came during the throne speech debate in the legislature on Thursday. He took the opportunity to quibble with the use of the word "pollution" to describe CO2. "Carbon dioxide is an essential component of life on this planet. It is not a pollution and that sort of misinformation out there is just ridiculous. It's ridiculous to do that, it doesn't serve anybody well," said Rustad. "It doesn't serve the environmental movement well, it doesn't serve us as a province well, so poor choice of words and that's the raspberry," he continued. Heyman posted the excerpt from the debate on social media, asking for the statement to be retracted. "Deeply concerned to hear B.C. Liberal MLA John Rustad say carbon dioxide isn't a pollutant. Increased levels of #CO2 are causing floods, fires and droughts right here in B.C.," said Heyman on Twitter. "Rustad's denial raises real questions about his beliefs on climate change," he said. "This is the time to recognize our growing climate emergency." Asked about his comments by CBC News, Rustad repeated the view that CO2 is essential for life. "Virtually any scientist will tell you that carbon dioxide is an essential component to life, that you need to have about 130-150 parts per million [ppm] in the atmosphere for plant life to even survive," he said. "If something is labelled as pollution, our goal should be to get rid of it, and if we get rid of it, we essentially kill life on this planet," said Rustad. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is now believed to be about 412 ppm — much more than scientists consider a safe level for the planet. It hasn't been below 280 ppm since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Even reducing the amount of additional greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere by humans has been an enormous struggle for humankind. "I'm not suggesting current levels are healthy. I don't know what's healthy — I'm not a scientist," said Rustad. Asked directly if he believes climate change is real and caused by humans, the MLA declined to answer. "I know you asked a very specific question, but at this point I'm not prepared to answer that question," he said, adding that that wasn't the issue he was addressing in his speech to the legislature. "I'm talking about the language that was used in the throne speech, which I believe was erroneous," said Rustad. The B.C. Liberals sent CBC News a statement from interim leader Shirley Bond, which didn't address Rustad's statement in the legislature, but acknowledged the threat posed by climate change: "Our party has been recognized as a leader in global climate policy and we remain fully committed to actions that are necessary to battle climate change here in British Columbia and around the world." Do you have more to add to this story? Email email@example.com Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker
British Columbians relishing the sunshine and warm weather over the past week can expect another few days of delight, according to Environment Canada, with more blue skies in the forecast. The weather agency said the "very high ridge" of pressure over the province is expected to stay in place over the next five to seven days. Inland temperatures in the Lower Mainland could reach up to 23 C over the weekend — well above seasonal averages of 14 C — with equally toasty temperatures elsewhere in B.C. Temperatures in B.C. Interior cities such as Kamloops, Merritt and Kelowna could reach up to 26 C over the weekend. "This ridge is pretty well covering the whole province right now. It's essentially blocking any of the moisture air coming in from the Pacific," said meteorologist Gregg Walters. "Everywhere is above normal for this time of year, as far as temperature is concerned." People enjoy the waterfront in downtown Kelowna Thursday. Temperatures in the city could hit 24 C this weekend.(Winston Szeto/CBC) Temperature records set A number of temperature records were shattered across B.C. on Thursday, including one that hadn't been broken in 95 years. Pemberton hit 26.4 C, breaking the record of 25 C set in 1926. The Powell River area reached 21.2 C, edging past the old record of 20 C from 1947. Squamish was a hot spot at 27 C. Sunscreen would be a good idea over the next few days, Walters said. "The UV index is getting up," he said. "The sun angle is about the same as it is at the end of August, so it's like summertime intensity for sunlight." A cyclist is pictured along the seawall in Vancouver on Monday.(Ben Nelms/CBC) Public health restrictions remain in place, even for those heading outside. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday that outdoor gatherings with people outside of one's own household are discouraged — though outdoor gatherings with up to 10 people are currently allowed under B.C.'s health restrictions. "Even if we can see people outside of our household, we shouldn't. Outside is lower risk, it's not zero, but it's lower risk," she said. "If you're going to be in close contact, wear a mask, even if it is outside." Fire risk Fire dangers will also be higher, since April has been unusually dry. A brush fire broke out Thursday off Highway 1 in Chilliwack and quickly burned through bone-dry grass. A brush fire in Chilliwack, B.C., on Thursday burned quickly through dry grass after weeks of sunny weather across the province.(Shane Mackichan) The B.C. Wildfire Service told CBC fire fuel in Cariboo, Kamloops, Prince George and coastal areas have been incredibly dry and outflow winds could fan the flames. "Under conditions of low humidity and little precipitation, it will not take long for the grass to dry out and become flammable, especially in windy conditions," read a tweet from the service.
Calgary's hospitals are filling up with COVID-19 patients once again as an unrelenting third wave — driven primarily by the B117 variant first identified in the U.K. — rages through Alberta. The number of COVID-19 patients in Calgary has jumped by 51 per cent in just over two weeks, from 112 on April 1 to 169 on Friday. At the start of the month, 28 people were in ICU, compared with 42 on Friday. COVID-19 wards are fully operational across the city. As of Thursday afternoon, roughly 128 of the 188 designated beds on these units were full. An additional 25 intensive care unit beds have been added to deal with the influx — bringing the total in Calgary's four adult hospitals to 91. With those surge beds, the city's ICUs were running at 80 per cent capacity as of Thursday. And health-care workers have — yet again — been redeployed to care for patients in those ICU surge beds and on the COVID wards. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tremendously frustrated," said Dr. Peter Jamieson, an associate medical director with Alberta Health Services, Calgary zone. "We all just desperately want this to be over.… And I think within the walls of the hospital, we all have those same kinds of feelings and frustrations." Many staff already reassigned to vaccination clinics Jamieson has been watching as the number of COVID-19 patients swells all over again. He says Calgary's hospitals have the capacity to expand further, and he's confident patients can be cared for. But, he warns, this will come at a cost. "In order to do that, we're at … significant risk of having to slow down other services to free up the staff in order to look after the COVID patients," he said. Surgeries and outpatient services may have to be put on hold yet again. And the third wave brings with it a new complication, according to Jamieson. Many of the workers who will be needed have already been redeployed to provide vaccinations. "So a big surge in COVID patients means that we may need to cut back on our usual services and it may lead to stresses in being able to deliver the other important COVID services like vaccinations." Dr. Daniel Niven is an intensive care physician at Peter Lougheed Centre and assistant professor in the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary.(Erin Brooke Burns) Patients younger, sicker A Calgary intensive care specialist, Dr. Daniel Niven, says there has been a steady increase in patients coming to the intensive care unit at the Peter Lougheed Centre over the past few weeks. "There's no doubt that there's been a rise and we're seeing more of these patients everyday," he said. "While we're still seeing patients that are 60 or 70 years of age with a few well controlled medical problems, we're seeing a number of younger patients who come in with no medical problems and then have severe COVID-19 and need to be placed on a ventilator for life-support." Patients also appear to be deteriorating more rapidly. "There seems to be a higher rate of younger people getting severely ill and getting severely ill very quickly," said Jamieson. He says young people can progress from having initial symptoms to critical illness — potentially requiring a ventilator — in just days. All this leaves Jamieson with a plea for Albertans. "For our health system to continue to deliver all the services that we want it to, we desperately need the public health measures to be effective, and we really, really need the people of Calgary and Alberta to hang in there and stick the landing on, hopefully, this last wave of public health measures."
TORONTO/OTTAWA (Reuters) -The Canadian province of Ontario expanded and extended a stay at home order on Friday and said police will be given new powers to stop and question people who leave home as expert advisors warned that new cases of COVID-19 will continue to soar, overwhelming hospitals. Ontario also announced restrictions on non-essential travel from neighbouring provinces starting Monday and said non-essential construction, including building projects at malls, hotels and office towers will shut down as of Saturday to deal with a raging third wave. "The reality is there are few options left," said Premier Doug Ford.
WARSAW, Poland — Three members of an advisory council for the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum in Poland have resigned after the government appointed a former prime minister and top member of the country's right-wing ruling party to serve on the council. Culture Minister Piotr Glinski, who appointed Beata Szydlo to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Council, said he was astounded by the resignations. He described them Friday as unjustified moves that threaten to “politicize the discussion around the most important museum of martyrdom in Poland, a place of world heritage.” The first advisory council member to resign was philosopher Stanislaw Krajewski, who said he took the step Tuesday to protest what he called the “politicization” of the group of Polish experts who to advise the museum’s director. He was followed by historians Marek Lasota, who also belongs to the ruling party, and Krystyna Oleksy, a former deputy director of the Auschwitz Museum. Krajewski, who was about to begin his third four-year term, told The Associated Press that he does not remember a politician ever being named to the council and did not feel comfortable with the step, particularly given the policies of the populist and nationalist Law and Justice Party. “It’s hard to say what would happen, but it would change the nature of the body very considerably,” Krajewski said. “I don’t want to be on the same council with a major politician of the ruling party today.” The culture minister's statement said it is “not true that there have never been any politically involved people” on the council. Krajewski is a co-creator of a post-World War II history section at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and a co-founder of the Polish Council of Christians and Jews. He is also a leading member of Warsaw's Jewish community who since the 1970s has worked to revive Jewish life in Poland that was nearly wiped out by the Holocaust. After Law and Justice took power in 2015, its leaders launched what they described as a “historical policy offensive” aimed at building pride in the nation's past. The party has used museums, state media and other tools to promote a patriotic view of history. Poles are proud of the nation's role in resisting the German occupation during nearly six years of World War II. The government has sought to focus on that aspect of Polish behaviour during the war, including the thousands of Poles who saved Jews, while seeking to discourage examinations of the role some Poles had in helping occupying German forces in their mass killing of Jews. The strategy has led to accusations of historical whitewashing and created international controversies in recent years. “The fear is that this would be another move in the direction of making also the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum part of their historical policy," Krajewski said. Szydlo is now is a member of the European Parliament for the Law and Justice party. She has studied ethnography and history, and is from the area of Oswiecim, the Polish town where the site of the former Auschwitz death camp is located. In his statement, Culture Minister Glinski said he believed Szydlo's membership on the council is an honour due to the “high social trust” she enjoys, referring to her winning a seat in the European Parliament in 2019 with over 525,000 votes — more than any other Polish candidate received. Glinski also noted that her “family has been living in the immediate vicinity of the former camp for many years" and would therefore be "a valuable ally in efforts to implement the museum’s program and support its activities." Early on, the Nazis operated Auschwitz as a camp for Polish prisoners. Later, nearby Birkenau was created for the mass killing of Jews and others transported from across Europe. By the time Soviet forces liberated Auschwitz, more than 1.1 million people had been murdered there. Most were Jews, but the victims included tens of thousands of Poles, as well as Roma, Soviet prisoners of war, and others. Vanessa Gera, The Associated Press
Some trappers and elders from Little Red River Cree Nation in northern Alberta are urging the province to protect a dwindling Wabasca wood buffalo herd. In a letter to Environment Minister Jason Nixon, they ask for immediate action to end unregulated hunting by legally protecting the herd. "Our Woodland Cree Trappers and Elders have seen the Wabasca wood buffalo herd plummet without suitable recovery management actions," says the March 26 letter, which was signed by trappers Johnson Alook, Sylvester Auger and Lorne Tallcree. "We have not seen more than nine animals at a time of this herd this past season." A spokesman for Nixon said in a statement Friday that the province recognizes the importance of the Wabasca herd to Indigenous people and other Albertans. "The Wabasca bison population plays an important role in the conservation and recovery of wood bison in northern Alberta," said the emailed statement from press secretary Paul Hamnett. "Currently the Wabasca bison population is at low levels and at risk of local extinction. At this time, the Wabasca bison population cannot sustain any level of harvesting." The statement said the province is looking at all potential measures and actions that could be taken to conserve and recover the population. The trappers said they have yet to receive a response from the province, but hope officials will take steps to protect the herd before it disappears completely. "When I started trapping, I used to see 40, 30 buffalo," Alook said in an interview. "For a few years now, I haven't seen any buffalo. "There's some buffalo out there, but I haven't seen them. I used to see them every time we'd go out there." Other trappers and elders noticed the same thing, added Auger, so they decided to form a group to express their concerns. "We want to get them protected," he said. 'At this point it's dire' Kecia Kerr, executive director for the northern chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, said it has worked with the group and shares its concerns. "There isn't a very good estimate of population size for this herd. But when you are talking about 20 individuals, at this point it's dire," she said. Kerr said the society would like to see the herd get subject animal status, which is a category that allows for legal protection. It would also like to see hunting become regulated, she said. "Ultimately, in Alberta, there needs to be a change to how bison are provided status across the province." The letter says the herd is culturally and ecologically important as one of the few disease-free, free-ranging wood buffalo herds in Canada. There are only two other healthy herds in Alberta — in Ronald Lake and Hay Zama — and both have protections that prohibit unregulated hunting. "The persistence of this genetically unique, disease-free herd is critical to the recovery of the species," says the letter. "It has been our observation that unregulated harvesting targets the largest members of the herd and that when this herd is faced with the threats originating from predators, the largest members of the herd protect the young by forming a protective shield around them. "Thus, we believe the unregulated harvesting weakens the protective capacity of the herd and has a compounding effect towards herd extinction." Urgent action must be taken so that future generations of the Little Red River Cree Nation can exercise ceremonial use and have food security from the herd, it says. "The current situation, as it trends now towards herd extinction, does not uphold the honour and integrity of the Crown in protecting our treaty right."
Yukon's mining regime needs a major overhaul, according to the final report from an independent panel appointed by the territorial government. The Yukon Mineral Development Strategy report was released on Thursday, and it includes 95 wide-ranging recommendations for how to modernize the mining industry and ensure it's socially and environmentally sustainable, and beneficial to local communities. Recommendations include updating mining legislation — namely the Quartz Mining Act and the Placer Mining Act — streamlining land use planning and revamping the royalty system to make it more equitable. Math'ieya Alatini, one of the three panel members appointed to draft the report, said the overall goal is to "move the industry forward," in co-operation with the Yukon government and First Nations. "Not just the industry, but the entire relationship, [moving] forward in a holistic manner — so really that was our approach," she said. "[It's] a very pragmatic approach to how we can do better, by working together." A central tenet of the strategy is ensuring First Nations rights are respected and that the mining sector's competitive edge isn't dulled. "The whole of Yukon government must embrace the principles of reconciliation and work to build the trust and respect of Yukon First Nation governments, and the entities and agencies borne of the modern treaties and agreements," the strategy states. The timing of the release — just days after the territorial election and before the next government is sworn in — was strategic, Alatini said. '[It's] a very pragmatic approach to how we can do better, by working together,' said Math'ieya Alatini, one of the three independent panelists who drafted the Mineral Development Strategy. (Philippe Morin/CBC) It's meant to show that the panel and its work are independent of government, she said — but it also puts it on the front-burner for the next territorial government, as well as First Nations. "In the report, there are priorities and, to us, there are some clear first steps. But it will really be up to the governments to have that discussion and to come up with the top priorities and how those top priorities are going to be implemented," she said. The report is the culmination of about 16 months of work by the three-person panel. That panel was appointed after the Yukon government and First Nations governments signed a memorandum of understanding on mining in 2017. A draft strategy was released late last year for public review and Thursday's document is the final product. 'Social sustainability' The strategy "fulfills the desire of many engagement participants for a bold, transformative approach to Yukon mineral development now and into the future," it reads. One of the goals is to move the industry toward "social sustainability," the report says. That would mean moving the territory farther away from how mining was approached in the past, when the North was plundered for resources to send south, and benefit other regions. "Recognition that the adverse effects of resource development are borne locally, while many of the benefits are exported outside the Yukon, is crucial to social sustainability." Recommendations in the report include: overhaul or replace Yukon's century-old Quartz Mining Act and Placer Mining Act with new legislation ensure that First Nations can capitalize on resource development projects change royalty and tax structures to ensure more money comes to Yukon implement a profit-based placer gold royalty introduce a payroll tax on out-of-territory workers in Yukon implement a First Nation Resource Charge, to help First Nations cover the costs of reviewing and monitoring mining and exploration projects introduce a new tax for all industrial water users accelerate the land use planning process across Yukon Lewis Rifkind of the Yukon Conservation Society welcomed the report and recommendations, saying it's time to fix Yukon's "ecological horror show." "Now, we don't agree with all of [the recommendations], but by and large what the panel is proposing will be a great improvement on what we currently have," Rifkind said. 'It's not going to be a perfect improvement, and there's a lot of room for changes and a lot of room for devil-in-the-details,' said Lewis Rifkind of the Yukon Conservation Society.(CBC) Rifkind said an overhaul of Yukon's mining legislation is overdue, but the panel's recommendation to complete that work by 2025 might be unrealistic. "That's ambitious," Rifkind said. "Rewriting one of the three major pieces of legislation of the Yukon government may take longer than that … but it does need to be redone." Rifkind also questioned whether a profit-based placer mining royalty would have any real benefit for Yukon, since mining companies typically reinvest any profits into further developing their operations. Still, he said, the report's recommendations need to be considered seriously. "It's not going to be a perfect improvement, and there's a lot of room for changes and a lot of room for devil-in-the-details." CBC News also requested an interview with Ed Peart, president of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, about the newly-released strategy, but was told Peart wanted time to review the document before commenting. CBC also sought comment from Chief Roberta Joseph, of Dawson City-based Tr'ondek Hwëch'in First Nation, but she was not available.
CALGARY — Doctors say the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine should be offered to Canadians in a wider age range as COVID-19 infections soar in many parts of the country. Provinces limited eligibility for that vaccine to those 55 and older after a small number of cases of an unusual and serious blood-clotting condition appeared in younger people — mostly women — who had received a shot. The odds of someone getting the syndrome — dubbed vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia — has been estimated at between one in 100,000 and one in 250,000. By comparison, about one in four people hospitalized with COVID-19 will experience a blood clot, Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw noted this week. "Certainly based on risks, most people are much better off with a vaccine," said Dr. Daniel Gregson, an associate professor at the University of Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine. "You can certainly drop it easily to 45, if not 35." Gregson, who specializes in infectious diseases and medical microbiology, said uncertainty has been planted in peoples' minds about getting AstraZeneca, but they do things that are just as risky on a daily basis without a second thought. Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto's University Health Network, said she would also support dropping the age limit, so long as no other worrying side-effects arise and recipients are aware of the risk, however small. "I think it's an important strategy we need to consider," said Hota, also an associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto. "The case counts are going up too fast and they're going to a point where it's hitting the hospitals in a way that we've not experienced before, ever." Hota suggested one approach could be offering the shot to younger men, since the rare side-effect seems to be more prevalent in women. Health Canada has deemed the AstraZeneca vaccine safe, saying the benefits outweigh the risks. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has not yet changed its recommendation that the shot only be offered to those 55 and up, but the decision ultimately rests with provinces. In Quebec, where AstraZeneca is available to those between the ages of 55 and 79, Health Minister Christian Dube said provincial public health authorities were considering whether to expand access. Alberta is also considering a change, Hinshaw said. "I also know that some who are younger than 55 are interested in getting the protection that this vaccine offers," she said Thursday. "Given the Health Canada assessment, we will be discussing this question with our Alberta Advisory Committee on Immunization this week to get their perspective." In the meantime, Hinshaw is urging anyone who is already eligible to get their AstraZeneca dose without delay. Walk-in vaccinations are available at 26 pharmacies in Calgary and Edmonton and Alberta Health Services is opening walk-in vaccination clinics this weekend in both cities. "While not getting vaccinated may feel like a way to protect your health by avoiding the rare risk of a blood clot following vaccine, waiting can actually increase your risk of getting sick, or worse," Hinshaw said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 16, 2021. Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press
Wabush mayor Ron Barron said he'd rather not see Air Canada return to the region.(Darryl Dinn/CBC) While news of a bailout package for Air Canada is being greeted with relief in some parts of Labrador, others aren't so jovial. For Ron Barron, mayor of Wabush — which has not been listed as one of the reinstated services, and instead will be served through interline agreements with third-party regional carriers — it makes no difference whether the airline returns or not. "We've seen this in the past from them, that they've pulled out of here before," he said. "But when we had other airlines here that set up shop — regional carriers — they drove them out of here by undercutting them." On Tuesday, the federal government announced a $5.4-billion bailout package for Air Canada, which in exchange has agreed to refund customers, keep jobs and bring back regional air services that were suspended last year. But Barron said carriers like PAL Airlines and Pascan Aviation continued to serve Wabush despite the pandemic, something he's disappointed the nation's largest airline didn't do. Labrador West Chamber of Commerce president Toby Leon says the real barrier for the community is cost, rather than availability. (Darryl Dinn/CBC) "They just cut and run, and that's not acceptable," said Barron. "Personally, I hope they don't come back. Let's get somebody else in here." Toby Leon, the president of the Labrador West Chamber of Commerce, likewise doesn't see the return of Air Canada as a solution to the region's needs. In the midst of the pandemic, Leon said, they'll have to trust Ottawa's judgment in the bailout but Labrador West has long been overlooked. "There's never been a great solution to our air link to the province and the rest of the world," he said. "I don't think Air Canada has ever really been a great asset to us." Goose Bay Airport Corporation CEO Goronwy Price says they're happy to see the return of Air Canada service. (John Gaudi/CBC) Leon said the region needs to look elsewhere for a better solution to what he says is more an issue of cost than availability. "There's never been a huge problem in the interim with getting flights; it's always been the price," said Leon. While Leon would happily see the return of Air Canada to Labrador West, if only for their seat sales, he said there needs to be a more long-term solution. "Whether that's the Q400s that PAL bought being more inexpensive to operate, and being able to compete, or this charter coming in and putting pressure on," he said. "I know that there are opportunities out there." Welcome news for airport CEO But for Goronwy Price, the general manager and CEO of the Goose Bay Airport, the bailout package is a welcome development. The loss of Air Canada flights, Price said, had a substantial impact on the airport and the community. "In 2020, we saw a 60 per cent reduction in our traffic," he said. "In 2019, we had 160,000 passengers go through our airport. In the year in 2020, we only had 69,000." Due to the fixed costs of maintaining the airport at operational capacity, said Price, they lost between 60 and 80 per cent of their revenue throughout 2020, depending on the area of operations. As a regional airport they're thankful to have had two other carriers, he said, but are eagerly anticipating the return of Air Canada services. "The fact that Air Canada has come out and said that they are reinitiating their routes is a very positive sign for us." Air Canada declined an interview request from CBC's Labrador Morning, but said in an emailed statement that discussions are ongoing with all regional carriers. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador