Canada's pharmacists say they can vaccinate up to three million people a week against COVID-19 once shots for the general population go ahead.
Canada's pharmacists say they can vaccinate up to three million people a week against COVID-19 once shots for the general population go ahead.
President Joe Biden is hiring a group of national security veterans with deep cyber expertise, drawing praise from former defense officials and investigators as the U.S. government works to recover from one of the biggest hacks of its agencies attributed to Russian spies. "It is great to see the priority that the new administration is giving to cyber," said Suzanne Spaulding, director of the Defending Democratic Institutions project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Cybersecurity was demoted as a policy field under the Trump administration.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 42,622 new vaccinations administered for a total of 738,864 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 1,949.546 per 100,000. There were 13,260 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 920,775 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 80.24 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 3,258 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 8,549 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 16.326 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 13,575 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.6 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 62.98 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,423 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 6,525 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 41.134 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 8,250 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 79.09 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 5,996 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 9,827 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 10.07 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 23,000 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 42.73 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 2,704 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 10,436 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 13.379 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 17,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 58.71 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 11,950 new vaccinations administered for a total of 186,210 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 21.762 per 1,000. There were 975 new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 238,100 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 78.21 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 15,899 new vaccinations administered for a total of 253,817 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 17.279 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 277,050 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 91.61 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 1,519 new vaccinations administered for a total of 23,884 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 17.345 per 1,000. There were 9,360 new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 55,650 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 4.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 42.92 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 2,548 new vaccinations administered for a total of 29,781 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 25.256 per 1,000. There were 2,925 new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 32,225 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.7 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 92.42 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 1,263 new vaccinations administered for a total of 96,506 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 21.923 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 101,275 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 95.29 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 6,776 new vaccinations administered for a total of 104,901 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 20.442 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 133,475 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.6 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 78.59 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting 570 new vaccinations administered for a total of 3,160 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 75.723 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 17 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 43.89 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,893 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 41.956 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 16 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 26.29 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 830 new vaccinations administered for a total of 3,375 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 87.151 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 6,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 15 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 56.25 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 22, 2021. The Canadian Press
Three suspects are in custody following a shooting in Espanola on Thursday, according to provincial police. In a release, Manitoulin OPP said officers were called about 10:20 a.m. to a home on Albert Street in Espanola. "A person suffered a gunshot wound and has been transported to a nearby hospital (Health Sciences North in Sudbury) with serious life-threatening injuries. The three suspects believed to be involved in this incident then fled the area in a vehicle via Highway 17." The suspects allegedly fled the scene in a taxi en route to Sudbury, according to a witness. "OPP immediately engaged the assistance of Greater Sudbury Police Service who deployed their tactical unit to assist," the OPP said. "A short time later, the (Greater Sudbury Police) Tactical Unit arrested three individuals believed to be involved in the shooting while they were traveling in Lively." Greater Sudbury Police tweeted that its Emergency Response Unit worked with members of the Integrated Crime Team to conduct a high-risk vehicle stop on Adam Street in Lively at around 11:20 a.m. Police confirmed that the vehicle stop was in connection to the incident that occurred in Espanola, and the individuals were taken into custody. A neighbour near the shooting told The Sudbury Star that an individual had been shot in the shoulder at a nearby “drug house.” Manitoulin OPP and the Anishinabek Police Service were on scene investigating on Thursday. Witnesses reported seeing K9 and Tactical units in the area. Both the OPP and Greater Sudbury Police issued statements saying there is no threat to public safety at this time, and members of the Manitoulin OPP detachment have assumed responsibility for the investigation. Members of the OPP's Manitoulin Detachment Crime Unit, under the direction of the OPP's Criminal Investigation Branch, are involved. Assisting is an OPP Critical Incident Commander, an OPP Community Street Crime Unit, an OPP Canine Unit and OPP Forensic Identification Services. Further information will be released as it becomes available, police said. Anyone with information is asked to call the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or your nearest police authority. Should you wish to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or visit www.p3tips.com where you may be eligible to receive a cash reward of up to $2,000. In an earlier report, The Sudbury Star said that Espanola schools were sent into lockdown as a result of the shooting. The OPP later clarified the school lockdown was not in any way connected to the incident on Albert Street. “Manitoulin OPP were called to a school on Spruce Street regarding alleged threats made via social media. A school lockdown was called, and police later located the student,” said the OPP in a tweet. “School protocol was followed, and a lockdown ensued. Police located the student a short time later. After investigation, it was determined the comments were made via social media and there was no threat to public safety,” police said in a release. OPP Const. Phil Young said no one was taken into custody as a result of this incident. The nature of the threats made on social media is currently unknown. School officials also confirmed the incident. “Espanola High School and A.B. Ellis Public School went into hold and secure just after 10:30 am today when the local police advised the schools to do so,” said Nicole Charette, spokesperson for the Rainbow District School Board. “The hold and secure was lifted at 12:10 pm when the police confirmed that it was safe to do so. In a hold and secure, students remain in the school as teaching and learning continues.” Officials with the town's French-language school took similar steps. "We can confirm that our school in Espanola also proceeded to a hold and secure as instructed by the OPP," Conseil scolaire catholique Nouvelon said in a statement. "Students and staff at École catholique La Renaissance are safe and sound. "We have communicated with parents asking them to inform the school if their child was made nervous by this incident and could benefit from some support." The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. email@example.com Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
OTTAWA — Internal reports prepared by Veterans Affairs Canada show Canadian veterans have been waiting longer and longer in recent years to access psychiatric services and other medical support at government-run clinics. The reports obtained by The Canadian Press through the access-to-information system are separate from the controversy surrounding the backlog of tens of thousands of applications from veterans for disability benefits. They also follow a previous warning from the federal auditor general about former soldiers facing long waits for badly needed mental-health services, with the reports blaming the growing delays on a soaring demand for help over the past five years. Experts say the new reports are concerning because of the importance in responding to requests for mental-health support as soon as possible to keep veterans from having to struggle on their own. “As we know with mental health, timely access is key,” said Wounded Warriors Canada executive director Scott Maxwell, whose organization provides mental-health services to veterans and first responders. “Making people wait, they might not go back, they might not follow up, they might fall through the cracks into these gaps that we know exist across the mental-health service space in Canada. And we have to make sure that we are avoiding that at all cost.” Prepared quarterly, the reports provide information on how long veterans are having to wait before getting first appointments for several medical services at 10 operational stress injury clinics set up across Canada. First established in 2002, the clinics are now located in most major cities across Canada and include teams of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and other specialized mental-health professionals. Each clinic is designed to assess and treat the mental-health needs of veterans as well as serving military personnel and RCMP members through one-on-one therapy and group sessions. The most recent report, covering the period between April and June 2020, shows most veterans waited less than two weeks — and half only two days — before one of the clinics responded to their first phone call or other request for help. That was unchanged from the same quarter in 2018, even though the later period coincided with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in lockdowns across the country. In fact, it was even an improvement over the year preceding the pandemic. “Contact within two days is actually a good starting point,” said Oliver Thorne, executive director of the Vancouver-based Veterans Transition Network, which works with former service members struggling with psychological trauma. Yet the report also shows most veterans had to wait months — in some cases more than seven months — for their first appointments with psychiatrists or to start work on treatment plans. The same was true for getting medical exams to apply for disability benefits. While the pandemic appears to have made it harder to get a medical exam or first appointment to start creating or implementing a treatment plan, the report shows wait times for both have been steadily growing since at least 2017. War Amps Canada executive director Brian Forbes, who is also chair of the National Council of Veterans’ Associations, said the growing delays for medical exams underscore the challenges many disabled veterans have just applying for benefits. Such exams are needed by Veterans Affairs Canada to approve a veteran’s application before they can get any type of help. “If you can't get to the doctor or the psychiatrists or the clinic, you're obviously stuck in another kind of backlog because you don't even get to first base,” said Forbes. Many veterans actually got their first appointments with psychiatrists faster during the start of the pandemic. But they had still been waiting in many cases more than two months longer than colleagues who saw psychiatrists in 2017. While the reports only extend as far as the start of the pandemic, COVID-19 has created a surge in demand for assistance as veterans have seen their normal outlets and support networks dry up, Thorne said. “There's just kind of an increasing urgency behind them because of the stress that people are dealing with in their day-to-day life,” he said, adding many veterans often only come forward when they are in great need. “Looking at these numbers, what's potentially worrying is the amount of time between first contact and when the treatment plan begins. And so my followup question would be: How much other type of support is available for them in that interim time?” The reports note that the number of veterans referred to the government-run clinics even before the pandemic had nearly doubled between 2015 and 2020, which “had a negative impact on wait times.” Veterans Affairs spokesman Josh Bueckert also blamed longer treatment times for veterans than non-veterans and a shortage of mental-health workers across the country, “especially with psychiatrists and psychologists, causing occasional staff vacancies in some clinics.” “In order to address this situation, Veterans Affairs Canada has increased funding for OSI Clinic recruitment and specialized training of other types of mental health professionals,” Bueckert said. The department has also recruited local health providers to help out. Veterans are also screened when they first reach out to a clinic, Bueckert said, with the most at-risk provided faster service. Maxwell said there is a clear need for the government to dedicate more resources — including funding to train dedicated mental-health professionals — to ensure veterans have ready access to support. “Clearly, there's a desire to utilize the services based on the numbers that we're seeing in this report,” he said. “That just speaks to the need then to keep pace with demand so those veterans can get the care that they deserve, and in a positive way.” This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
Researchers say there's reason for some "guarded optimism" for the North Atlantic right whale population. So far 13 new calves have been recorded this year off the coast of the southern United States. That's more born in a single winter since 2016 and it's only about half way through the calving season. "In 2018 we didn't have any calves born and we've had ten or less in most of the previous five years," said Philip Hamilton, a research scientist with the Anderson Cabot Centre for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium. "So that's very positive news." Calving season for North Atlantic right whales typically runs from the start of December to the end of March. So, it's possible this could be the first year in a long time the population hits a supposed reproduction average. Hamilton said, given the current state of the whale population, scientists would expect an average of around 23 calves a year. That hasn't happened in years, likely due to the stress whales are experiencing finding enough food. The North Atlantic right whale population have recently moved into unfamiliar and more hazardous waters in search of a dwindling food supply. While there are some first-time mothers with calves this year, there are also several that haven't reproduced in a decade. "On average a right whale should be able to give birth every three or four years, and some of the mothers that are giving birth this year have gone 10 or 11 years without calving," said Hamilton. "So, there's a backlog of whales that should be able to calve and it's really encouraging that they are." Hamilton says he is optimistic about this year's calving season, but says it's important to put things into context. "We really need to stop killing these animals," said Hamilton. "We've had 32 deaths between 2017 and now that we've detected, and we know that we're missing probably two-thirds of the deaths." Hamilton estimates that as many as 100 of the whales may have died in the last four years. Following necropsies, it was determined that many of them were killed as a result of blunt trauma likely due to being struck by passing ships. Being tangled in fishing gear was also often a reason for their deaths. Both Canada and the United States have implemented restrictions to curb the number of North Atlantic right whale deaths in recent years. "Clearly we're not doing enough," said Hamilton. "Not enough, when we have a population of around 350."
EDMONTON — Political analysts say Premier Jason Kenney must rethink his traditional “fight back” approach and start building bridges to reconcile environmental concerns with oil and gas development. “Attacks are not going to persuade anybody,” Lori Williams, a political scientist at Mount Royal University, said in an interview Thursday. “You don’t set up a war room whose purpose from the get-go is to go after environmentalists. That’s a problem when you have an environmentalist in the White House.” U.S. President Joe Biden, on his first day in office Wednesday, fulfilled a long-standing campaign promise to cancel the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline expansion. The line would have taken more oil from Alberta through the United States to refineries and ports to help alleviate the current price discount on the province's landlocked oil. Biden had promised to cancel former president Donald Trump's permit for the line on the grounds that product from Alberta’s oilsands does not mesh with broader goals to battle climate change. Kenney called the decision an insult to Alberta and urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to deliver a breakthrough in talks or, if that fails, impose trade sanctions on the U.S. Kenney’s comments also lauded Canada’s environmental record. Williams said those are valid arguments that Kenney needs to make a priority, married to policy initiatives as necessary, rather than throw them in as add-on talking points. She suggested Kenney needs to pick a lane on the environment. Right now, she noted, he is promoting the federal climate plan as justification for Keystone while simultaneously challenging in court the plan’s consumer carbon tax. Political scientist Jared Wesley said Kenney’s stance seems to be more about political damage control for a doomed project his government contributed $1.5 billion to last spring even though, at the time, it was a risky proposition. “Kenney’s not the first premier to have one gear when it comes to intergovernmental relations,” said Wesley with the University of Alberta. “The fight-back approach seems to be in (Kenney’s) political DNA. He doesn’t like being questioned and when his plans don’t turn out, the default position is to blame someone else.” Kenney’s challenge is that bridge-building premiers run the risk of being perceived as weak, Wesley said, so Kenney may feel he needs to be bellicose and hard line given his popularity is being challenged on the far right. Kenney beat the NDP in the 2019 election in part by promising to challenge what he said are shadowy global foes and environmentalists who seek to undermine Alberta’s oil industry. He set up a $30-million-a-year “war room” and struck a public inquiry into foreign funding of oil opponents. Both endeavours have been undermined by self-generated mistakes and controversies. Kenney has blamed many of the province’s economic and oil woes on the Trudeau government's policies. Yet the Liberal government in 2018 stepped in to buy the one pipeline that is proceeding – the Trans Mountain expansion from Alberta to the B.C. coast. Wesley said Kenney blaming Trudeau has almost become a cliché and one that will hurt Alberta. “The move (to blame Trudeau) has become so predictable that it’s laughable,” he said. “That’s not just among his opponents here in Alberta, but among people he’s supposed to be persuading nationally and internationally.” Political scientist Duane Bratt, also of Mount Royal University, agrees. “This is really setting the stage for the old playbook of 'let’s blame Trudeau' … and I’m not sure it’s going to work this time," Bratt said. “We’re seeing the collapse of the fight-back strategy in so many different realms. Not only has it not worked, it has cost Alberta taxpayers billions of dollars and a real hit to our reputation.” This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Local businesses in Ottawa say they welcome provincial inspections of COVID-19 prevention protocols, but think the focus should remain on big box stores. An enforcement blitz in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas has uncovered numerous violations of those protocols at big box retailers, including failing to wear masks and ignoring physical distancing guidelines. During the first wave of the blitz, inspectors found only 70 per cent of sites they visited were adhering to the public health measures intended to curb the spread of COVID-19. Now similar inspections will be coming to the Ottawa area, focusing in on big box stores, but also other retailers, restaurants open for takeout and gas stations. Province should 'double down' on bigger stores "It is infuriating as a small business owner," said Karla Briones of the inspection results so far. Briones, who runs a number of franchises in Ottawa including Global Pet Foods and a Freshii restaurant, said she welcomes an inspection for COVID-19 violations but thinks the province should continue focusing on the biggest culprits. "Instead of going down to small business owners where we actually take care of our staff, we actually care about our customers, to double down on those big box retailers," said Briones. Mark Kaluski, chair of the Ottawa Coalition of Business Improvement Area, said his members also welcome an inspection, but the news about the crackdown comes as cold comfort to the small businesses that followed the rules and yet have been forced to close. Meanwhile big box stores have been allowed to remain open during the provincewide stay-at-home order. "You would think, given that they've been given this unchecked ability to sell as much as they want to, the very least they could do is be following the rules," Kaluski said. Blitz to focus on big box stores this weekend The province's Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said inspections have already been happening in the Ottawa area, but inspectors will be sweeping through big box stores this weekend. "I feel for them," said McNaughton about small businesses. "COVID-19 has clearly impacted so many families and small businesses here in Ontario. The sooner we get through this, the sooner we can get our numbers down, the sooner we can reopen." A spokesperson for the department said there have been 241 orders issued during COVID-19-related visits in the Ottawa area since the lockdown began.
NEW YORK — A lawyers' group filed an ethics complaint against Rudy Giuliani with New York's courts, calling for him to be investigated and his law license suspended over his work promoting former President Donald Trump's false allegations over the 2020 election. Lawyers Defending American Democracy, which includes former judges and federal attorneys among its members, sent the complaint on Wednesday to the Attorney Grievance Committee of the state's court system saying Giuliani had violated the rules of professional conduct. “Giuliani has spearheaded a nationwide public campaign to convince the public and the courts of massive voter fraud and a stolen presidential election,” the complaint said. The complaint called for the committee to investigate Giuliani's conduct, including his comments at a rally before rioters stormed into the U.S. Capitol, and to suspend his law license immediately while any investigation is being done. A message was left with the committee seeking comment. An investigation would be the first step in a process that could lead to a disbarment. Another complaint against Giuliani was filed earlier in January by New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Democrat, who asked that disbarring Giuliani be taken up for consideration. The New York State Bar Association separately has opened an inquiry into whether he should be expelled from that organization, which is a voluntary membership organization. An email seeking comment was sent to Giuliani's representative. The New York Times reported that on his radio show on Thursday, Giuliani said “the whole purpose of this is to disbar me from my exercising my right of free speech and defending my client, because they can’t fathom the fact that maybe, just maybe, they may be wrong." The Associated Press
Thursday's Games NHL Montreal 7 Vancouver 3 Winnipeg 4 Ottawa 1 N.Y. Islanders 4 New Jersey 1 Tampa Bay 3 Columbus 2 (OT) Boston 5 Philadelphia 4 (SO) Los Angeles 4 Colorado 2 Florida at Carolina -- postponed --- NBA L.A. Lakers 113 Milwaukee 106 New York 119 Golden State 104 Utah 129 New Orleans 118 --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published January 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
Cases of COVID-19 are declining in many parts of Canada, but experts say those early positive signs are dependent on widespread restrictions. Quebec, now under a province-wide curfew, has seen new cases decline. Ontario has showed 11 consecutive declines in its seven-day average, a metric that helps to spot long-term trends compared to daily numbers that can spike up and down. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said Friday that national daily daily case trends are trending down. "This gives us hope that community-based control measures are starting to take effect," Tam said. "But it is too soon to be sure that these measures are strong enough and broad enough to set us on a steady downward trend." Caroline Colijn, an infectious disease modeller at Simon Fraser University, said most of the provinces seem to be declining. "Ontario's kind of uncertain, Saskatchewan's growing still or again, but the rest are kind of flat or declining," said Colijn, who also holds a Canada Research Chair in mathematics for evolution, infection and public health. "That's the first decline we've seen in Quebec and Ontario for quite a while," she said. "In our models, it looks like a genuine decline." More tools needed In B.C., for example, Colijn said the epidemic is stabilizing with strict measures such as telling people not to socialize outside their household. But Colijn fears Ontario's stay-at-home order, Quebec's curfew and restrictions in other provinces aren't solutions that people can sustain for months. If people don't limit their number of contacts with others then cases will start to climb again until vaccinations reach the general population. "Unless we want to do this for six months, we do need to be thinking about throwing other tools that we have available at this problem." Colijn said widespread restrictions, symptomatic testing and contact tracing remain cornerstone tools. But those tools should be supplemented with wider rapid testing technologies coming to the fore, which Colijn believes could support re-opening the economy. Federal and provincial scientists are validating rapid tests, currently used at remote mines as well as the film and airline industries, for more widespread use. WATCH | Researchers test new tools for COVID-19 surveillance: Sask. heading in the wrong direction Nazeem Muhajarine, an epidemiologist at the University of Saskatchewan, divides the country into three main groups based on per-capita case counts: The top: Atlantic Canada, which has the fewest cases. The middle: Manitoba, Alberta and B.C., which have showed month-long improvements in COVID-19 activity following lockdowns. If trends in Ontario and Quebec continue, then they could be added to the middle group. The bottom: Saskatchewan, which Muhajarine said isn't even heading in the right direction, with an average of 300 new cases daily. It is difficult to see stable epidemiological patterns in the territories given the small population base, he said. Muhajarine is concerned about the steep climb in COVID-19 deaths in the Prairie province. "On Dec. 1, we had 51 deaths and by Jan. 1 it tripled to 155," he noted. In the first 21 days of the month, another 84 people have died in Saskatchewan. "We really need to reverse course," Muhajarine said. "To do that, we need very strict measures with a stay-at-home order and enforcement of orders. When we see the case numbers reverse course, we have to get our testing, tracing and isolation regime back up." Restrictions on retail stores, restaurants and bars could help bring cases, hospitalizations and deaths down given how Saskatchewan is "stretched to the limit," he said. Even places with early signs of decline, like Ontario, will see hospitalizations and deaths continue to climb for a period because of the lag time from new infections in December, health experts say. Essential workplaces key for Ontario Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease physician with Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont., said the province's seven-day averages are encouraging. "We're now more than two weeks past what would be the New Year's surge," Chakrabarti said, referencing people socializing over the holidays despite advice from public health officials and politicians to stay at home. Now that the holiday peak in new cases is over, regular winter transmission of the virus is happening in the population, he said. Chakrabarti recalls how during the province's first wave in the spring, cases came down and then were stuck at a plateau for months, which he said could happen again. WATCH | What's behind falling COVID-19 case numbers in Que., Ont.: Driving case counts down further would ease pressure on health-care systems and protect vulnerable residents of long-term care homes. The key, he says, is to tackle where transmission is still happening: essential workplaces. "We were seeing people getting infected at work and then bringing it home to their family, where it was being amplified," he said of the first wave. "That's still happening and something a lockdown doesn't address." It's why Chakrabarti and others advocate for: "Yes, there are some people who are breaking the rules," Chakrabarti said. "But we also need to look at the very different industrial setups because these factors are huge, right? This is one of the reasons why things haven't ever really turned quickly in Ontario."
LISBON, Portugal — With the moderate incumbent candidate widely seen as the sure winner of Sunday’s presidential election in Portugal, the most intriguing question for many Portuguese is how well a brash new populist challenger will fare in a ballot skewed by a surging COVID-19 pandemic. Mainstream populism, which has upended political assumptions elsewhere in Europe in recent years, is a novelty in Portugal. But that could change as taxpayers squeezed by the economic downturn, vexed by hefty bailouts for banks and galled by corruption look for somewhere to vent their anger. A significant political shift in Portugal could help add fresh momentum to a continental trend. Lawyer and former TV soccer pundit André Ventura leads a right-wing populist party called CHEGA! (ENOUGH!), founded in 2019. Nobody expects him to win on Sunday, as he is polling around 11% compared with more than 60% for incumbent Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. Even so, Ventura, 37, could conceivably place second among the seven candidates, drawing a level of support that until recently was unthinkable and sending a shudder through Portuguese politics. A recent surge in the COVID-19 pandemic that has placed Portugal among the worst-hit countries in the world for new daily infections and deaths has added an unpredictable ingredient into the contest, even though the head of state is not directly involved in organizing the country's response. A potentially low turnout as voters, especially the elderly, possibly shy away from busy polling stations could upset expectations and allow determined populist sympathizers to capture a bigger share of the ballot. Ventura's showing “is quite something for a new party,” says Marina Costa Lobo, a senior researcher at Lisbon University’s Institute for Social Sciences. “He has gained a lot of visibility, a lot of exposure.” Like other populists, Ventura portrays himself as leading common people against an entrenched and corrupt elite. French far-right populist Marine le Pen flew in for one of his campaign events in Lisbon. Ventura has participated in rallies in Italy held by Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing League party. Ventura occupies his party’s single seat in Portugal’s 230-seat parliament. But he punches above his weight by generating headlines. He is eloquent, happy to scrap in public and disdained by mainstream parties. His firebrand speeches have whipped up public support, especially on social media. He calls his supporters the “Portuguese Popular Army.” He has complained that “minorities are living at our expense” and questions recent liberalizing trends. He asked in parliament last year, “You can change sex at 16 but you can’t go to a bullfight! Doesn’t this country have things the wrong way round?” Ventura ticks the populist boxes. He wants heavier prison sentences, including currently disallowed life terms, for some crimes and chemical castration for convicted pedophiles and rapists before their release from prison. He opposes letting migrants, especially Muslims, into Europe and supports police demands for higher pay. He also wants to reduce the number of lawmakers in parliament and their salaries. Major scandals in recent years have provided grist for his cause. Corruption cases against a former prime minister and against the head of the country’s largest private bank, which went bankrupt, have fueled outrage and tainted Portugal’s two main parties, the centre-left Socialists and the centre-right Social Democrats. Taxpayers, meanwhile, shelled out more than 20 billion euros ($24 billion) to help banks between 2008 and 2019. That’s a substantial sum in one of the European Union’s smaller economies. The election frontrunner, incumbent Rebelo de Sousa, is the kind of target Ventura relishes: An establishment figure with a 46-year political career, including a stint as leader of the Social Democratic Party. Over his past five years as president, the gaunt 72-year-old has displayed the patrician bearing and cordial manner expected of a head of state. Though a president in Portugal has no legislative power, which lies with the government and parliament, the role carries considerable influence. But Rebelo de Sousa’s once cozy relationship with the head of what was Portugal’s biggest private bank, including luxury vacations spent together, and his long spell at the heart of power, have left him vulnerable to attacks from Ventura and the election’s five other candidates. Even so, Rebelo de Sousa has during his term kept his approval rating above 60% and is held in affection by many in this country of 10.3 million. He cultivates an image of man of the people: Portuguese capture photos of him standing alone in line with his groceries at the supermarket, having a shave at a barber’s shop and chatting with excited children on the beach near his house in Cascais, an old fishing town 30 kilometres (18 miles) west of Lisbon. His small security detail keeps a discreet distance. On Sunday, more Portuguese are likely to value those traits than Ventura’s pugnacity. Barry Hatton, The Associated Press
Félix-Antoine Joli-Coeur is the first contender to openly challenge Mayor Valérie Plante for her seat and he says he plans to bring with him a diverse range of candidates in the next municipal election, Nov. 7. "We have to find new ways to attract diversity in a short period of time," said Joli-Coeur, who has founded the Ralliement pour Montréal party. "The city council should be and has to be as diverse as possible to actually represent the diversity of Montreal." His team is still developing a plan on how to attract candidates of all genders, races and ethnicities to join, but one thing is certain, the current council cannot remain as is, with only a handful of visible minorities holding elected office, Joli-Coeur said. The call for a more diverse council is nothing new to Montreal, but that call is louder than ever before as large-scale protests have been marching through downtown streets — demanding an end to societal inequalities and systemic racism. The current party in power, Projet Montréal, has been heavily criticized for the lack of diversity among its elected representatives, but Plante said last November that she intends to bring more diversity to council. And although Ensemble Montréal already has visible minorities in office, party members like Saint-Laurent borough Mayor Alan DeSousa have said the current situation must change. "Other parties have quite a bit of catching up to do," DeSousa has said. Looking to improve how city is managed Joli-Coeur is also promising to improve the way the city is managed. It's a city that is in dire need of improvement, he told CBC Montreal's Debra Arbec this week. "I love Montreal, but I think we are going under our potential," he said. "The city should be way more cleaner, the snow-removal operation could be swifter." He threw his hat into the ring with the intention of using his skills and expertise to change the way the municipality is run. Joli-Coeur is pushing for a stronger partnership with the provincial government to improve the city, including developing the downtown core with larger investments that will help draw people to the area. Joli-Coeur, a management consultant, has worked with cultural organizations and startup businesses. While the 42-year-old may not be well known to the public, he's no stranger to politics. He served as an advisor to former Mayor Gérald Tremblay and former Premier Pauline Marois. Candidate says he's 'outraged' by current situation Joli-Coeur said he wants to bring a new way of getting the job done to the mayor's office. "I really bring a pragmatic way of fixing things and bringing innovation and new solutions," Joli-Coeur said. "I think we bring a new option. We bring fresh air." In an interview with Radio-Canada, he said he wants to develop a "diverse coalition, a rainbow coalition, to really bring Montreal somewhere else." He had been interested in taking over as head of Mélanie Joly's former party, Vrai changement pour Montréal, but ultimately changed his mind. All the old parties are more of a liability than an asset, he said. "I am outraged by the trajectory that Montreal has taken," he said. "The streets, alleys and parks are extremely dirty."
Pandemic stay-at-home orders have changed how people are getting around Ottawa, and now the city wants to know whether its approach to keeping roads, sidewalks and cycling paths clear of snow and ice should evolve, too. Each winter, city crews are responsible for clearing 2,300 kilometres of sidewalks and 12,900 lane kilometres of roads. The city will be changing its winter maintenance standards for the first time since 2003. Coun. Tim Tierney, chair of the transportation committee, said some of the dramatic changes from the pandemic will have to be reflected in that overhaul. "When you hear a lot of businesses like Shopify, for example, have said everyone's staying home forever, there's going to be a lot more focus on local community walkability and cycling than ever before," Tierney said. "It's not just about plowing roads anymore. It's about everything else that's not a road." The review started before the pandemic. Tierney said the city will consider climate change, accessibility, sustainability, equity and gender as it revamps its standards for the first time in 20 years. Those standards determine how many hours go by before plows are dispatched to clear different types of roads, sidewalks and transit stops. The city has launched an online survey to help it settle on new winter maintenance standards, and is inviting residents to participate. Walkability a priority during pandemic Shayna Ghattas, a mother of three in the city's Whitehaven neighbourhood, said as long people are being told to stay close to home, residential streets should be a higher priority than major highways when it comes to snow-clearing. "During the pandemic and lockdown, walking is a saving grace for a lot of people, and it's not super safe to be walking in slippery conditions," Ghattas said. They have to focus on pedestrian things. - Sahil Vora Sahil Vora walks to work at a Tim Hortons in Lincoln Heights, and said many of his colleagues are avoiding public transit right now because of COVID-19. "If they manage to clean the bike lane, it's OK, but otherwise they have to focus on pedestrian things," Vora said. The city had considered increasing the snow-clearing threshold as a cost-saving measure, but more recently topped up the budget for plows and snow blowers after seven years of dipping into deficit. The city is holding virtual town halls on its winter maintenance standards from Jan. 25-28. The online survey and virtual workshops are available until Feb. 19.
If you've been lucky enough to keep your job and work from home through the pandemic, chances are you'll have some new expenses to claim come tax time. But don't expect to hit the jackpot, two Ottawa accountants say. Nearly 40 per cent of Canadian workers telecommuted during the pandemic, compared to around 10 to 13 per cent in previous years, according to Statistics Canada estimates. But unlike someone who's self-employed, most of those telecommuters — even those who've shelled out for home office furniture or a new laptop — are limited in the types of expenses they can claim. "As a business owner, the window is wide open. You can claim any expense that you incur as long as it was incurred for the purposes of generating income. Whereas for employees, [they] are not allowed to claim any expense unless it's specifically allowed," said Charles Ghadban, a longtime accountant in Ottawa. There are essentially two routes that employees working from home can take to file their 2020 expense claims: what the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) calls the "temporary flat rate method" and the "detailed method." Think of them as the easy option and the complicated one. Here's a brief breakdown of both. But note: each taxpayer's situation is unique, and should be assessed as such. The easy option Michael Kelso, a senior tax manager with Baker Tilly Ottawa, said for most people, the new flat $400 expense claim option known as the temporary flat rate method will likely be the more appealing route. "I do think the ability to do the simplified approach will be extremely useful," Kelso said. Anticipating a surge in claims for work-from-home expenses for the 2020 tax season, the federal government tried to get ahead of the deluge and simplified the process. Eligible employees are able to deduct up to $2 for each day they worked from home in 2020 due to COVID-19, up to a maximum of $400, without having to provide any special forms or documentation to CRA. "If you work more than 50 per cent of the time during any four consecutive weeks in 2020, you'd be eligible to claim home office expenses," Ghadban said. "Nobody has to submit any paperwork. Receipts are not required in that situation." Kelso said the upside to the flat-rate method is that most people who file their own taxes can figure it out fairly easily and earn a modest payout for their trouble. The detailed method If you know you've paid more than $400 worth of eligible expenses, the detailed method may be a better choice. The federal government also made this option a little easier for 2020, introducing simplified forms (T2200S and T777S). Both Ghadban and Kelso recommend anyone who chooses this method get their receipts in order and brush up on exactly what expenses a salaried employee can deduct. Generally, employees who work from home are only able to claim expenses that were consumed or used rather than purchased and kept — think internet usage, utility bills or office supplies like pens and paper. Chairs, computers, desks and other furniture cannot be claimed because they're considered capital assets. What's more, an employee needs to calculate what portion of each bill they can claim based on the size of their home office, the accountants said. Let's say an employee spent between $3,000 and $4,000 on utilities in the past year, but their home office only represents about 10 per cent of their living space. Kelso says they would only be able to claim about 10 per cent of those expenses, which is roughly equal to — or even less than — the $400 flat rate. "The detailed method creates some complexity in terms of tracking. You'd have to maintain all your receipts, there is a requirement that your employer signs a form," said Kelso. "It might actually be the case that it's not beneficial, and it's also just more work." Renters may be exception One group of taxpayers who may benefit from the detailed method is renters. In cities like Ottawa or Toronto, where rents routinely surpass $2,000 a month, it may end up being beneficial to claim that expense, said Kelso. Unlike homeowners, who cannot claim their mortgage payments or interest, salaried employees whose home offices are in their rental apartments can claim a portion of their lease. "If you do rent your home, that would be a larger expenditure for most people, and depending on the amount of space that you're office is, it may actually be better than that $400," Kelso said. "As long as you're willing to do the exercise of going through and maintaining all your records." Ghadban said for many of his clients who work from home, it can also be more cost-efficient to lease items such as laptops or desks, because leasing costs can be claimed, whereas the purchase price of such items cannot. "This is an area of contention for a lot of people," he said. He also recommends that people in higher income brackets look carefully at the detailed method, as they tend to get a higher amount back on their deductions, making the potentially arduous process worthwhile.
Regina– On Jan. 18, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum lifted a state-wide mandatory mask order, with the state having brought its COVID-19 new case numbers down to a level lower than Saskatchewan’s. That state, which had among the worst COVID-19 numbers for the entire United States for the previous three months, has remarkably turned things around. On Jan. 21, Manitoba also announced a slight easing it its public health restrictions, restrictions that were much more severe than Saskatchewan. Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister tweeted on that day, “Today is a day of hope and optimism. We’re announcing a few modest changes to our #COVID19MB restrictions that will allow increased personal connections and economic activity while ensuring we continue #ProtectingManitobans.” Manitoba will now allow two visitors to a household, 10 people plus the officiant at a funeral, and retail establishments to sell items beyond what was considered “essential.” These neighbouring jurisdictions were able to do so as they had both brought down their new COVID-19 cases down considerably. On North Dakota’s day of lifting its mask mandate, they say just 69 new cases, and by Jan. 21, their seven-day average of new cases was 147. On Nov. 14, 2020, North Dakota’s seven-day average peaked at 1,389.1. On Jan. 21, Manitoba’s seven-day average was 163. On Jan. 13 they had 90 new cases, and on Jan. 19, they had 111 new cases. For the past three weeks, both saw their seven-day averages less than 200, and generally around 160 to 170. Saskatchewan Saskatchewan, however, has had nearly double that over the last two weeks. From Jan. 10 to Jan. 21, Saskatchewan’s seven-day average of new cases hovered between 289.1 and 317.6. On Jan. 21, it was 286.1, with 227 new cases reported that day, and a record number of deaths for one day, at 13. Premier Scott Moe said in a Facebook post on Jan. 21, “Sadly, we are reporting that thirteen Saskatchewan residents who tested positive for COVID-19 have died. I would like to extend my condolences to the friends and family of each of these individuals. “While Saskatchewan’s case numbers continue to decrease and we continue to deliver the vaccine at a high rate, reporting the highest number of deaths in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic is a somber reminder of the need to reduce the spread of this deadly virus by following all public health orders and guidelines that are in place.” At the regular COVID-19 briefing on Jan. 19 in the Legislature, both Premier Scott Moe and chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab were asked about what North Dakota is doing better than Saskatchewan, and if they should be removing their mask mandate. Shahab said he’s been following North Dakota, which is similar in some ways to Saskatchewan, with a fairly rural population. He noted, “They were in dire straits by the end of October, early November.” “That's the lesson; that when there's high compliance with all the public health measures, things change very quickly. And I think that's the main lesson from North Dakota, but also, we’ve seen that in Saskatchewan. We've seen that in our neighboring provinces. High compliance through public health measures, restrictions, but also the high compliance by all of us, dramatically changes the course of the pandemic. So, that's what we saw in mid-December. That's really what we want to see right now,” Shahab said. Moe said of the measures implemented south of the border a few months ago, “Apparently they have been effective. There’s obviously been mass adherence to the measures that Governor (Doug) Burgum had put in place. “I’ve talked to Governor Burgum a number of times throughout this pandemic, with respect to some of the challenges that we've seen, north and south of the border, and their numbers have come down markedly. And that is through people doing the right thing, and taking their individual responsibility very, very seriously.” He added that the last time he checked, North Dakota was in excess of 5 per cent of its population having been vaccinated. “In fact, I think it's a few months ago, we were talking about North Dakota, having the highest per capita rate of COVID infections in North America. I believe if they're now leading North America on the vaccination rates, or are very close to it. And so, they have had a very robust ambitious and aggressive vaccination program. I know in one day they had over 300 vaccination sites operating in North Dakota. So they've been very ambitious, with respect to procuring vaccines and making them available to North Dakotas, and I think that speaks to the importance of us having access to a large number of vaccines, as soon as possible, ultimately, finding our way through this COVID-19 pandemic and finding our way back to some degree of normal in our communities.” Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
CAMEROON, Cameroon — The first-ever treaty to ban nuclear weapons entered into force on Friday, hailed as a historic step to rid the world of its deadliest weapons but strongly opposed by the world's nuclear-armed nations. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is now part of international law, culminating a decades-long campaign aimed at preventing a repetition of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. But getting all nations to ratify the treaty requiring them to never own such weapons seems daunting, if not impossible, in the current global climate. When the treaty was approved by the U.N. General Assembly in July 2017, more than 120 approved it. But none of the nine countries known or believed to possess nuclear weapons — the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel — supported it and neither did the 30-nation NATO alliance. Japan, the world's only country to suffer nuclear attacks, also does not support the treaty, even though the aged survivors of the bombings in 1945 strongly push for it to do so. Japan on its own renounces use and possession of nuclear weapons, but the government has said pursuing a treaty ban is not realistic with nuclear and non-nuclear states so sharply divided over it. Nonetheless, Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning coalition whose work helped spearhead the treaty, called it “a really big day for international law, for the United Nations and for survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” The treaty received its 50th ratification on Oct. 24, triggering a 90-day period before its entry into force on Jan. 22. As of Thursday, Fihn told The Associated Press that 61 countries had ratified the treaty, with another ratification possible on Friday, and “from Friday, nuclear weapons will be banned by international law” in all those countries. The treaty requires that all ratifying countries “never under any circumstances ... develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” It also bans any transfer or use of nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices — and the threat to use such weapons — and requires parties to promote the treaty to other countries. Fihn said the treaty is “really, really significant” because it will now be a key legal instrument, along with the Geneva Conventions on conduct toward civilians and soldiers during war and the conventions banning chemical and biological weapons and land mines. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the treaty demonstrated support for multilateral approaches to nuclear disarmament. “Nuclear weapons pose growing dangers and the world needs urgent action to ensure their elimination and prevent the catastrophic human and environmental consequences any use would cause,” he said in a video message. “The elimination of nuclear weapons remains the highest disarmament priority of the United Nations.” But not for the nuclear powers. As the treaty was approaching the 50 ratifications needed to trigger its entry into force, the Trump administration wrote a letter to countries that signed it saying they made “a strategic error” and urging them to rescind their ratification. The letter said the treaty “turns back the clock on verification and disarmament" and would endanger the half-century-old Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, considered the cornerstone of nonproliferation efforts. Fihn countered at the time that a ban could not undermine nonproliferation since it was "the end goal of the Nonproliferation Treaty.” Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said the treaty’s arrival was a historic step forward in efforts to free the world of nuclear weapons and “hopefully will compel renewed action by nuclear-weapon states to fulfil their commitment to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.” Fihn said in an interview that the campaign sees strong public support for the treaty in NATO countries and growing political pressure, citing Belgium and Spain. “We will not stop until we get everyone on board,” she said. It will also be campaigning for divestment — pressuring financial institutions to stop giving capital to between 30 and 40 companies involved in nuclear weapons and missile production including Airbus, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday the new English variant of COVID-19 may be associated with a higher level of mortality although he said evidence showed that both vaccines being used in the country are effective against it. Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said the evidence about mortality levels was "not yet strong", and came from a "series of different bits of information", stressing there was great uncertainty around the data. He said that once people reached hospital, there was no greater risk, but there were signs that people who had the UK variant were at more risk overall.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison hit back at the search giant saying "we don't respond to threats" after Google said it would remove its services from the country.View on euronews
Several southern Ontario school boards that straddle public health units are gearing up to reopen only a portion of their schools to in-person learning next week, adding another layer of complexity to an academic year that's been defined by quick pivots. The government order allowing schools in seven public health units to reopen physical classrooms as of Monday means nine boards now have to create different plans for different towns in their jurisdiction. "It's definitely more difficult to have one board be going in two different directions," said Diane Lloyd, chair of the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, which oversees schools in Clarington, Ont., that will remain closed and ones in Northumberland and Peterborough that will reopen. She said the board began reaching out to parents immediately after receiving word of the plan from the Ministry of Education in an effort to prevent any confusion. "The challenge is being ready to pivot all the time on short notice," Lloyd said. That's nobody's fault, she said, as these decisions are made based on the rates of COVID-19 in a community in the interest of public safety, but the "constant change and constant new directives" are still presenting an issue. She said it will always be hard to work when you're being told to change course before you can make any progress. Stephen Sliwa, director of the Upper Canada District School Board, said teachers and school staff have gotten used to those sorts of shifts but that doesn't necessarily make it easy. "They're seeing it as another change in a series of changes that comes with working during a period of extreme uncertainty," he said. "I think all organizations are getting accustomed to adjusting quickly to respond to the changes." Roughly 40 per cent of schools in his district are in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, which covers Stormont, Glengarry and Dundas, Prescott-Russell and Cornwall, and will remain closed, he said. The other 60 per cent are located in the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit, and can reopen Monday. Sliwa said his board's efforts have been focused on educating parents of those students about what the return to class will look like, as the province has instituted new public health measures. Students in grades 1 through 3 will have to wear masks now, whereas before it was optional, he noted. And the province is also introducing "provincewide targeted asymptomatic testing" and enhanced screening, the Ministry of Education said. He said some parents have also contacted the board to figure out whether their kids will be returning to class on Monday. Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, defended the province's plan to reopen only some schools at a news conference on Thursday, saying it's in the best interest of students. "We definitely want kids to be in school. That is the best thing for them for a whole lot of reasons," she said, but the number of students testing positive for COVID-19 has made it impossible to send everyone back to class. "There was so much transmission that we felt at that point, going into a lockdown, it would be safer to keep keep them at home," Yaffe said. She said the government continues to monitor the situation in each region closely so it can reopen schools safely. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
The process of co-editing his new book with Elder Joyce Dillen was “painful, no matter how you look at it,” according to Michael Hankard. A group of 13 authors dug deep into personal histories and unraveled old wounds to bring to light the stories of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and the families they left behind. “One of the stories is about Anna Mae Aquash, the Mi’kmaq woman who was killed back in the 70s during her involvement with the American Indian Movement,” said Hankard, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Indigenous Studies at the University of Sudbury. “The author delves into that whole story: what happened behind it, and what she found out about the people that actually did it, and how painful that was to the family.” Hankard was also forced to come to terms with his own past, recalling stories about how his mother was nearly abducted as a young Indigenous woman in the city. He had to think about how this issue has played out in his own life and how it has affected Indigenous communities for generations. “Red Dresses on Bare Trees: Stories and Reflections on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls,” published by JCharlton Publishing in 2021, was launched virtually by Hankard and Dillen this week. In an emotional Zoom call, the editors welcomed a circle of family, friends, and colleagues who shared not only in the joy of the accomplishment, but also in the grief of what it represents. Included in the book are nine chapters written by both men and women and Indigenous and non-Indigenous authors that reflect upon the painful subject of colonialism and gendered violence and offer possible solutions that could lead to healing and reconciliation. The book incorporates Indigenous knowledge principles about relationships and love and “seeks to bring balance to our collective, equally important and unique, roles and responsibilities.” In Hankard’s own words, it was not an easy book to write. “About six months before the 231 recommendations from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls were released in June, my publisher got in touch with me and we started having a discussion about putting together these stories,” said Hankard. “As soon as I heard it, I said yes. This is really important, and we need to spread awareness and begin raising the profile of the discussions that are happening. We need to help anywhere and anyhow that we can.” Hankard jumped on board and immediately began speaking to women elders, including Elder Joyce Dillen from Serpent River First Nation, who agreed to co-edit the book. She set up a meeting with the Ngookimisnaanuk Grandmothers Council against Human Trafficking and both Dillen and Hankard traveled to Sault Ste. Marie to explore whether it was a worthwhile project to pursue. Hankard, who lives in Serpent River First Nation and is a co-investigator on Indigenous homelessness through Laurentian University’s Social Justice and Policy project, said he had some reservations in the beginning. “There was one female professor, an Anishinabe-kwe, at Laurentian who criticized me because she said I don’t think this is a project that a man should be taking on, it should be done by an Indigenous woman,” he said. “But in the traditional teachings, men and women work together. You can’t have one half; you need the whole. When you sit in the teepee during ceremony, the women sit on one side and the men sit on the other. It’s all about balance.” With the Grandmothers’ consent, Hankard left the meeting in Sault Ste. Marie to go home and start thinking about the project and how he would put it together. “I can’t really say that I organized it according to a predetermined research outline or methodology or anything like that,” he said. “My own background is rooted in traditional teachings. There’s a story that my mentor Elder Michael Thrasher told me years ago, and it’s about a bag of darts that he releases into the air and he allows the winds of Creation to organize them and determine how things are going to play out.” Hankard said that he uses this approach when undertaking projects like these because if he tries to take control of it and push it in a certain direction, things tend not to work out. “If I let those things work themselves out, everything seems to come together,” he said. Hankard and Dillen brought together a group of authors who contributed essays to the book. Each chapter offers a variety of perspectives on different issues that impact Indigenous women and girls, including colonization, reconciliation, genocide, and policing and homelessness. The title is borrowed from the Red Dress campaign, created by artist Jaime Black, which seeks to raise awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. “My chapter highlights the continuous inter-generational trauma that has impacted Indigenous women and girls since colonialism arrived across many countries, including Canada,” said Taima Moeke-Pickering, who fought back tears during the book launch. Moeke-Pickering is a Maori woman of the Ngati Pukeko and Tuhoe tribes from New Zealand and an associate professor in the School of Indigenous Relations at Laurentian University. “I chose to center my chapter on my ancestor Mere Hiki during a period of New Zealand’s horrific dissemination of Maori peoples during the 1860s,” she said. “I wrote that she would have mended the wounds of her people from the wars. She would have gone into hiding, feared for her safety, stood in solidarity and defiance, and wept for her peoples. And yet, today, we are still doing the same.” During the book launch, Dillen congratulated everyone on their contributions and thanked them for sharing their stories. “I am very honoured to be named on the book, and I am very honoured for the work that Mike does,” she said. “This is so important to our young people and our young women. I have worked tirelessly for many, many years to pick our women up off the ground, put them in the places where they need to be, in a good positive way, and I will continue to do that work whenever it’s necessary.” “Red Dresses on Bare Trees: Stories and Reflections on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls” is now available. For order information, visit www.jcharltonpublishing.com. The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star