WASHINGTON — Federal law enforcement officials are examining a number of threats aimed at members of Congress as the second trial of former President Donald Trump nears, including ominous chatter about killing legislators or attacking them outside of the U.S. Capitol, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. The threats, and concerns that armed protesters could return to sack the Capitol anew, have prompted the U.S. Capitol Police and other federal law enforcement to insist thousands of National Guard troops remain in Washington as the Senate moves forward with plans for Trump's trial, the official said. The shocking insurrection at the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob prompted federal officials to rethink security in and around its landmarks, resulting in an unprecedented lockdown for Biden's inauguration. Though the event went off without any problems and armed protests around the country did not materialize, the threats to lawmakers ahead of Trump's trial exemplified the continued potential for danger. Similar to those intercepted by investigators ahead of Biden’s inauguration, the threats that law enforcement agents are tracking vary in specificity and credibility, said the official, who had been briefed on the matter. Mainly posted online and in chat groups, the messages have included plots to attack members of Congress during travel to and from the Capitol complex during the trial, according to the official. The official was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation publicly and spoke Sunday to the AP on condition of anonymity. Law enforcement officials are already starting to plan for the possibility of armed protesters returning to the nation's capital when Trump’s Senate trial on a charge of inciting a violent insurrection begins the week of Feb. 8. It would be the first impeachment trial of a former U.S. president. Though much of the security apparatus around Washington set up after the Jan. 6 riot and ahead of Biden’s inauguration — it included scores of military checkpoints and hundreds of additional law enforcement personnel — is no longer in place, about 7,000 members of the National Guard will remain to assist federal law enforcement, officials said. Gen. Dan Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said Monday that about 13,000 Guard members are still deployed in D.C., and that their numbers would shrink to 7,000 by the end of this week. John Whitley, the acting secretary of the Army, told a Pentagon news conference that this number is based on requests for assistance from the Capitol Police, the Park Police, the Secret Service and the Metropolitan Police Department. Whitley said the number is to drop to 5,000 by mid-March. Thousands of Trump’s supporters descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress met to certify Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential race. More than 800 are believed to have made their way into the Capitol during the violent siege, pushing past overwhelmed police officers. The Capitol police said they planned for a free speech protest, not a riot, and were caught off guard despite intelligence suggesting the rally would descend into a riot. Five people died in the melee, including a Capitol police officer who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher. At least five people facing federal charges have suggested they believed they were taking orders from Trump when they marched on Capitol Hill to challenge the certification of Biden’s election victory. But now those comments, captured in interviews with reporters and federal agents, are likely to take centre stage as Democrats lay out their case. More than 130 people have been charged by federal prosecutors for their roles in the riot. In recent weeks, others have been arrested after posting threats against members of Congress. They include a Proud Boys supporter who authorities said threatened to deploy “three cars full of armed patriots” to Washington, threatened harm against Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., and who is accused of stockpiling military-style combat knives and more than 1,000 rifle rounds in his New York home. A Texas man was arrested this week for taking part in the riot at the Capitol and for posting violent threats, including a call to assassinate Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y ___ Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report. Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
MONTREAL — On January 25th, 2020, Canadians were still living their lives like they always had: commuting to the office, visiting friends, dining out, hugging loved ones, vacationing. But the announcement that day of Canada's first COVID-19 case set in motion a chain of events that would soon change everything. By March, with cases climbing, health officials began implementing a series of measures that would fundamentally alter how many Canadians live. Lockdowns and calls for physical distancing led to companies shifting to work from home, travel restrictions, mask-wearing rules, cancellation of major events, and video meetings replacing in-person interactions as people were asked to avoid seeing anyone, even loved ones. Jack Jedwab, the president of the Association for Canadian Studies, says the biggest change to Canadians' daily lives has been the isolation from friends, family and co-workers. "I think at the root of a lot of that change is these limits on our mobility, which take different forms, whether it's interacting with family and friends, or seeing people that we're accustomed to seeing in our daily lives in person as opposed to on screens," he said. An online survey conducted for Jedwab's group in September found that over 90 per cent of the 1,500 people polled said COVID-19 had changed their lives, with most citing the inability to see family and friends as the biggest factors. While few Canadians have been untouched by the pandemic, Jedwab says women, newcomers to Canada and people who were already economically and socially vulnerable appear to have been among the most deeply affected, particularly by job losses. Here's a look at how COVID-19 has changed daily life for some Canadians of different groups: Seniors For Bill VanGorder, a retired 78-year-old from Halifax, the pandemic put a temporary halt on his active social life and his favourite pastimes of volunteering in the local theatre and music scenes. "Theatre people, as you may know, are people who love to hug, and not being able to hug in these times probably has been one of the most difficult things," he said in a phone interview. He considers himself lucky, because at least he and his wife Esther have each other, unlike many of his single friends who are completely isolated. Many older people, who are more at risk of severe complications from COVID-19, are struggling to stay connected with family or finding people to help them with household tasks. VanGorder, who works with the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, also believes unclear government messaging, particularly on when older adults will get access to the vaccine, is "creating huge anxiety and mistrust in the system," among already-nervous seniors. But while the pandemic has been hard, he says there have also been silver linings. He and many of his friends have been learning to use platforms such as Zoom and FaceTime, which help seniors stay in touch with relatives and connect with their communities. "We think the positive thing is that, of course, this knowledge will continue after COVID and will be a real step forward, so that older adults can feel more involved in everything that's going on around them," he said. The first thing he'll do when things get back to normal is to hug his grandchildren and theatre friends, he said. --- University students As classes have moved online, many students have had to adapt to living and studying in small spaces and being isolated from friends and campus life at a stage when forging lifelong friendships and social networks can be crucial. Small living quarters, the inability to travel home, financial fears and uncertainties about the job market have contributed to a "greater sense of isolation" for many students, according to Bryn de Chastelain, an Ontario resident studying at St. Mary's University in Halifax and the chair of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations. While he believes schools have done their best to support students, de Chastelain says many students have seen their mental health suffer. "A number of students are really struggling with having to learn from home and learn online, and I think that a number of strategies that students are used to taking up are very difficult to replicate in the online environment," he said. --- Parents Schools across the country were shut down for several months in the spring, ushering in a challenging time for parents who were suddenly forced to juggle full-time child care, work and keeping their families safe. The reopening of schools in the fall brought different challenges depending on each province's COVID-19 situation and approach. In Ontario, some parents opted for full-time online learning, while others were forced into it when Premier Doug Ford chose to extend the winter break. In Quebec, which doesn't allow a remote option for most students, some reluctant parents had no choice but to send their children back to class. "I think uncertainty, not only for kids but for everything -- work, life relationships and everything -- that has certainly been the theme of COVID," said Doug Liberman, a Montreal-area father of two. Liberman said the biggest challenge has been trying to balance the health and safety of his family with keeping his food manufacturing business going and maintaining a sense of normalcy for his two girls, ages 10 and 12. For his family, that has meant trying to spend time outside but also accepting more screen time, and ultimately, taking things day-by-day. "I certainly think that we certainly don't have the answer, and I think we've done as best as we could, like everybody else has," he said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2020 Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
Earth’s ice is melting faster today than in the mid-1990s, new research suggests, as climate change nudges global temperatures ever higher. Altogether, an estimated 28 trillion metric tons of ice have melted away from the world’s sea ice, ice sheets and glaciers since the mid-1990s. “It was a surprise to see such a large increase in just 30 years,” said co-author Thomas Slater, a glaciologist at Leeds University in Britain.
Iran has asked Indonesia to provide details about the seizure of an Iranian-flagged vessel, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday, a day after Jakarta said it had seized Iran and Panama-flagged tankers in its waters. Indonesia said on Sunday its coast guard had seized the Iranian-flagged MT Horse and the Panamanian-flagged MT Freya vessels over suspected illegal oil transfer in the country's waters. Coast guard spokesman Wisnu Pramandita said the tankers, seized in waters off Kalimantan province, will be escorted to Batam island in Riau Island Province for further investigation.
Japan is likely to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19 through mass inoculations only months after the planned Tokyo Olympics, even though it has locked in the biggest quantity of vaccines in Asia, according to a London-based forecaster. That would be a blow to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga who has pledged to have enough shots for the populace by the middle of 2021, as it trails most major economies in starting COVID-19 inoculations. "Japan looks to be quite late in the game," Rasmus Bech Hansen, the founder of British research firm Airfinity, told Reuters.
Traveling can be tricky now but here are three things you can pay attention to before booking anything.
Nine House Democrats who will serve as prosecutors in the trial, following the clerk of the House and the acting sergeant at arms, carried the written accusation through the Capitol Rotunda and to the Senate chamber, following the same path that a mob of Trump supporters took on Jan. 6 as they clashed with police. The Senate is expected to start a trial on Feb. 9 on the article of impeachment against Trump. The 100 senators are due to serve as jurors in proceedings that could result in Trump's disqualification from ever again serving as president.
China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd is in early-stage talks to sell its premium smartphone brands P and Mate, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said, a move that could see the company eventually exit from the high-end smartphone-making business. Huawei started to internally explore the possibility of selling the brands as early as last September, according to one of the sources. Shipments of Mate and P Series phones were worth $39.7 billion between Q3 2019 and Q3 2020, according to consultancy IDC.
After months struggling with the symptoms faced by COVID-19 "long-haulers," Chantal Renaud faces the prospect of having to sell her home to pay the bills. The Clarence-Rockland, Ont., woman has had her long-term disability claim rejected by her employer's insurance company. And she can't access federal COVID-19 support programs because they don't acknowledge the condition. Renaud has now launched a lawsuit against the insurer, joining the growing list of long-haulers fighting in court for recognition of the post-viral illness. "I'm feeling very hopeless and anxious," said Renaud about the symptoms that have left her mostly bedridden for months. "It can not only destroy your life, but you can also start losing everything you worked for." 'It makes you panic' The 48-year-old communications manager living east of Ottawa said she contracted COVID-19 in March during the first wave from her construction worker husband. Renaud continued working until early June, when she came down with a more severe set of symptoms, including debilitating fatigue, shortness of breath and a racing heartbeat. For seven weeks, when her illness was at its worst, Renaud said she thought she'd die in her bed. Her husband also developed many of the same symptoms, she said, leaving them both unable to work. "When you're unable to breathe, it makes you panic," she said. "We had a few episodes where we were freaking out and called the ambulance because we couldn't breathe." WATCH | Renaud describes her symptoms: Left in the lurch Renaud tried several times to return to work in the fall, but each time, the severe symptoms came flooding back. She now hasn't worked since November. And while she managed to successfully appeal her workplace insurer's rejection of her short-term disability benefits, her long-term disability claim was rejected in November. That's when she decided to hire lawyer David Brannen. Brannen said Renaud's case is part of a growing number of lawsuits launched against insurance companies for not recognizing the post-viral illness, also known as chronic COVID syndrome (CCS) or "long COVID." Those patients, Brannen said, are trying to seek support at a time when the medical community hasn't established a protocol for how to recognize, diagnose and treat sufferers — leaving them in the lurch when it comes to accessing insurance benefits and income assistance. Medical condition 'in its infancy' "There needs to be some attention here, because this is having real effects on people — to the point they're losing their homes," Brannen said. "Because they're not able to work, and they're stuck trying to prove a medical condition that's really in its infancy." Unlike the United Kingdom, Canada has yet to establish federal guidelines recognizing and defining long COVID, something Brannen said would go a long way to improving sufferers' lives. The U.K. recognizes the condition regardless of whether the sufferer has had a positive test, using other criteria to diagnose and treat the illness. In Canada, people like Renaud and her husband, who came down with COVID-19 during the first wave without needing to be hospitalized were often ineligible for testing. By the time Renaud got a test, the virus had run its course. The U.K. is also building a network of post-COVID-19 clinics to give sufferers access to specialized care. There are only a handful of such clinics in Canada, however. "My concern with long-haulers is that they are really at risk of falling through the cracks," said Brannen. "These people will be left in the dust." Challenge recognizing long COVID Renaud has now joined a new initiative at The Ottawa Hospital called "Stop the Spread," one of the few research projects underway in Canada that involve COVID-19 sufferers with long-lasting symptoms. Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the hospital is actively recruiting 1,000 people, half of whom have been infected with COVID-19. A cohort of that group will be long-term sufferers, said Dr. Curtis Cooper, an infectious disease specialist at the hospital. "We really don't understand who these people are, and why them and not others," said Cooper. Figuring out why their immune systems react differently, Cooper said, could one day "help us develop therapies to try to assist these people." But that won't provide immediate help to sufferers like Renaud. "Not only are we not getting the financial support we need, but we're not really getting the care that we need to recover," said Renaud. Renaud's short-term disability ends in a couple of weeks, and after that, she said she'll be forced to put the family home up for sale. And she's already used up the 15 weeks of employment insurance sick benefits she was eligible for. She said she's speaking out because she wants people to know the risks long-haulers face. "It's a lot more debilitating than just fighting an illness," she said. "You have to be ready to lose everything."
Rescuers searching for the remaining workers trapped in a Chinese gold mine after Sunday's dramatic extraction of 11 survivors found nine bodies, a local official said on Monday, taking the death toll to 10, with one miner still missing. A total of 22 miners working about 600 metres (2,000 feet) underground were trapped after an explosion at the Hushan mine in Qixia, a major gold-producing region in China's coastal Shandong province, on Jan. 10. Yantai Mayor Chen Fei said rescuers kept searching from Sunday to Monday afternoon and found the bodies of nine miners, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
Ukraine reopens schools, restaurants and gyms on Monday, ending a tough lockdown introduced on Jan. 8 to prevent a new wave of coronavirus infections, Ukrainian authorities said. The number of new cases of coronavirus infection in Ukraine has significantly decreased from 6,000 to 9,000 cases a day at the beginning of January to 2,516 new cases on January 25, the fewest since early September. "Such statistics, which indicate the stabilisation of the situation, the improvement of the situation could be obtained only thanks to you, Ukrainians," health minister Maksym Stepanov told a televised briefing.
Russia and China have approached Zimbabwe about supplying vaccines to tackle its escalating COVID-19 outbreak amid concern about Harare's ability to afford the shots, with plans for meetings with business leaders who have offered to pay for them. Infections have doubled in just the past few weeks and three government ministers have died in the last 10 days. Zimbabwe doctors' groups say that hospitals are quickly filling up with COVID-19 patients and cite an increase in the number of infected people dying at home, unable to afford the steep fees charged by hospitals.
A U.S. aircraft carrier group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt entered the South China Sea over the weekend to promote "freedom of the seas" at a time of U.S. concern about China-Taiwan tensions and Beijing asserting its maritime agenda. The patrol comes just days after Joe Biden was sworn in as U.S. president and follows a year of repeated demonstrations of military power by both Beijing and Washington. China has complained about U.S. vessels in the South China Sea close to islands it controls, claims, or constructed and turned into military installations.
Recent developments: A highly transmissible COVID-19 variant has been found in the Kingston, Ont., area. What's the latest? Ottawa is reporting 48 new COVID-19 cases and no more deaths Monday. The Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) health unit said it's detected a case of the more easily transmitted B117 COVID-19 variant. The KFL&A health unit is asking anyone in the wider region who has travelled, or who has been in contact with someone from outside the area, to get a COVID-19 test. Facing a temporary shortage of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Ontario says it's going to give available doses to its most vulnerable care home residents and delay them for health-care workers. How many cases are there? As of Monday, 12,977 Ottawa residents have tested positive for COVID-19. There are 869 known active cases, 11,689 resolved cases and 419 deaths from COVID-19. Public health officials have reported more than 24,000 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, including more than 20,800 resolved cases. One hundred and fourteen people have died of COVID-19 elsewhere in eastern Ontario and 150 people have died in western Quebec. CBC Ottawa is profiling those who've died of COVID-19. If you'd like to share your loved one's story, please get in touch. What can I do? Ontario says people must only leave home when it's essential to avoid more COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Some places, like Kingston, Ont., have started taking on patients from other regions struggling with hospital capacity. People who leave home for non-essential reasons can now be fined, though police won't stop people just for being outside. Travel within Ontario is not recommended. Residents who leave the province should isolate for 14 days upon returning. Private indoor gatherings are not allowed, while outdoor gatherings are capped at five. It's strongly recommended people stick to their own households and socializing is not considered essential. People who live alone are still allowed to interact with one other household. Students in areas covered by four of eastern Ontario's six health units can return to the classroom, but not in Ottawa or the area covered by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU). Most outdoor recreation venues remain open, although in Ottawa the city has closed one of the most popular sledding hills. The Rideau Canal Skateway is expected to open this week under pandemic rules. In-person shopping is limited to essential businesses. Others can offer pickup and delivery. The lockdown rules are in place until at least Feb. 11. Health officials say there are signs they have slowed COVID-19's spread and there's been talk about what it will take to lift them. In western Quebec, residents are also being asked to stay home unless it's essential and not see anyone they don't live with to ease the "very critical" load on hospitals and avoid more delayed surgeries. An exception for people living alone allows them to exclusively visit one other home. Quebec's 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew is now in effect, with fines of up to $6,000 for breaking the rules. The province has shut down non-essential businesses, but has brought students back to classrooms. Like in Ontario, travel from one region of Quebec to another is discouraged. Those rules are in place until Feb. 8. Distancing and isolating The novel coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person speaks, coughs, sneezes, or breathes onto someone or something. These droplets can hang in the air. People can be contagious without symptoms. This means it's important to take precautions like staying home while symptomatic, keeping hands and frequently touched surfaces clean and maintaining distance from anyone you don't live with — even with a mask on. WATCH | COVID-19 'long-hauler' suing insurer after disability claim rejected: Masks, preferably with three layers, are mandatory in indoor public settings in Ontario and Quebec. OPH says residents should also wear masks outside their homes whenever possible. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate, as should those who've been ordered to do so by their public health unit. The length varies in Ontario and Quebec. Health Canada recommends older adults and people with underlying medical conditions and/or weakened immune systems stay home as much as possible and get friends and family to help with errands. Anyone returning to Canada must go straight home and stay there for 14 days. Air travellers have to show recent proof of a negative COVID-19 test. WATCH | Feds considering further measures to limit travel: Symptoms and vaccines COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a cough, vomiting and loss of taste or smell. Children can develop a rash. If you have severe symptoms, call 911. Mental health can also be affected by the pandemic, and resources are available to help. COVID-19 vaccines have started being given to health-care workers and long-term care residents in most of the region. Renfrew County expects its first doses in early February. Local health units have said they've given more than 33,600 doses, including about 23,900 in Ottawa and more than 8,400 in western Quebec. The fact Pfizer is temporarily slowing its vaccine production to expand its factory, however, means some jursidictions can't guarantee people will get the necessary second dose three weeks after the first. It may take four to six weeks. Ontario is giving its available doses to care home residents and delaying them for health-care workers. Its campaign is still expected to expand to priority groups such as older adults and essential workers in March or April, with vaccines widely available in August. Ottawa believes it can have nearly 700,000 residents vaccinated by then. WATCH| Family doctors unsure when they might get a vaccine: Quebec is also giving a single dose to as many people as possible, starting with people in care homes and health-care workers, then remote communities, then older adults and essential workers and finally the general public. Before Pfizer's announcement, the province said people would get their second dose within 90 days. It has had to delay vaccinating people in private seniors' homes. Where to get tested In eastern Ontario: Anyone seeking a test should book an appointment. Ontario recommends only getting tested if you have symptoms, if you've been told to by your health unit or the province, or if you fit certain other criteria. The KFL&A health unit now says people that have left southeastern Ontario or been in contact with someone who has should get a test as they track one of the new COVID-19 variants. People without symptoms but part of the province's targeted testing strategy can make an appointment at select pharmacies. Travellers who need a test have very few local options to pay for one. Ottawa has 10 permanent test sites, with mobile sites wherever demand is particularly high. The Eastern Ontario Health Unit has sites in Alexandria, Casselman, Cornwall, Hawkesbury, Rockland and Winchester. People can arrange a test in Picton over the phone or Bancroft, Belleville and Trenton, where online booking is preferred. The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark health unit has permanent sites in Almonte, Brockville, Kemptville and Smiths Falls and a mobile clinic. Kingston's main test site is at the Beechgrove Complex, another is in Napanee. Renfrew County test clinic locations are posted weekly. Residents can also call their family doctor or 1-844-727-6404 with health questions. In western Quebec: Tests are strongly recommended for people with symptoms and their contacts. Outaouais residents can make an appointment in Gatineau at 135 blvd. Saint-Raymond or 617 ave. Buckingham. They can check the wait time for the Saint-Raymond site. There are recurring clinics by appointment in communities such as Maniwaki, Fort-Coulonge and Petite-Nation. Call 1-877-644-4545 with questions, including if walk-in testing is available nearby. First Nations, Inuit and Métis: Akwesasne has had more than 140 residents test positive on the Canadian side of the border and six deaths. More than 270 people have tested positive across the community. Its curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. is back and it has a COVID-19 test site by appointment only. Anyone returning to the community on the Canadian side of the international border who's been farther than 160 kilometres away — or visited Montreal — for non-essential reasons is asked to self-isolate for 14 days. Kitigan Zibi logged its first case in mid-December and has had a total of 20. The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte had their only confirmed case in November. People in Pikwakanagan can book a COVID-19 test by calling 613-625-2259. Anyone in Tyendinaga who's interested in a test can call 613-967-3603. Inuit in Ottawa can call the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team at 613-740-0999 for service, including testing, in Inuktitut or English on weekdays. For more information
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Monday Jan. 25, 2021. There are 747,383 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 747,383 confirmed cases (63,668 active, 664,621 resolved, 19,094 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 4,852 new cases Sunday from 51,308 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 9.5 per cent. The rate of active cases is 169.38 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 37,536 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 5,362. There were 120 new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 1,054 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 151. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.4 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 50.8 per 100,000 people. There have been 17,050,539 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 398 confirmed cases (eight active, 386 resolved, four deaths). There were zero new cases Sunday from 346 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 1.53 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of two new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 78,133 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 110 confirmed cases (seven active, 103 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 4.46 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of six new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 88,407 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,571 confirmed cases (19 active, 1,487 resolved, 65 deaths). There was one new case Sunday. The rate of active cases is 1.96 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 14 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people. There have been 200,424 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,124 confirmed cases (335 active, 776 resolved, 13 deaths). There were 20 new cases Sunday from 819 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 2.4 per cent. The rate of active cases is 43.12 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 177 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 25. There were zero new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.02 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.67 per 100,000 people. There have been 135,109 tests completed. _ Quebec: 253,633 confirmed cases (16,940 active, 227,215 resolved, 9,478 deaths). There were 1,457 new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 199.65 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 10,719 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,531. There were 41 new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 423 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 60. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.71 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 111.7 per 100,000 people. There have been 2,695,925 tests completed. _ Ontario: 255,002 confirmed cases (24,153 active, 225,046 resolved, 5,803 deaths). There were 2,417 new cases Sunday from 48,947 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 4.9 per cent. The rate of active cases is 165.81 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 17,216 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,459. There were 50 new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 394 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 56. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.39 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 39.84 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,944,809 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 28,697 confirmed cases (3,521 active, 24,377 resolved, 799 deaths). There were 221 new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 257.11 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,186 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 169. There were two new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 30 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.31 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 58.34 per 100,000 people. There have been 448,638 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 22,177 confirmed cases (3,251 active, 18,673 resolved, 253 deaths). There were 260 new cases Sunday from 1,196 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 22 per cent. The rate of active cases is 276.81 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,905 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 272. There were three new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 38 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.46 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 21.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 329,702 tests completed. _ Alberta: 120,793 confirmed cases (9,511 active, 109,733 resolved, 1,549 deaths). There were 463 new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 217.58 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,956 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 565. There were 24 new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 113 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 16. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.37 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 35.44 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,061,844 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 63,484 confirmed cases (5,901 active, 56,455 resolved, 1,128 deaths). There were zero new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 116.36 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,338 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 334. There were zero new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 55 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is eight. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.15 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 22.24 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,044,931 tests completed. _ Yukon: 70 confirmed cases (zero active, 69 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Sunday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,216 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 31 confirmed cases (seven active, 24 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 15.62 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of three new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 9,064 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 280 confirmed cases (15 active, 264 resolved, one deaths). There were 13 new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 38.68 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 14 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 7,261 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — Some Alberta rivers and streams have already been heavily contaminated by coal mining, unreported government data suggests. The province's plan for large-scale expansion of the industry is fuelling widespread criticism that includes concerns over selenium pollution. The data shows that same contaminant has been found for years at high levels downstream of three mines and never publicly reported. The findings raise questions about Alberta Environment, said a former senior official who has seen the data. "There were lots of (selenium) numbers and it was consistently above the water quality guidelines and in many cases way higher," said Bill Donahue, the department's one-time executive director of science. "Why did Alberta Environment sit on these data for easily the last 10 to 15 years?" Donahue left the department in 2018 after the NDP government of the day dissolved the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting Agency, an independent body intended to fill information gaps. Before resigning, he had become concerned about selenium in the Gregg and McLeod rivers and in Luscar Creek, all in the Rocky Mountain foothills east of Jasper, Alta. He took the data with him when he left and recently analyzed it for The Canadian Press. "The results are stark," he said. Since at least the late 1990s, Alberta Environment has monitored water upstream and downstream from the Luscar, Gregg River and Cheviot mines. Cheviot, owned by Teck Resources, still operates. The Gregg River and Luscar operations closed in 2000 and 2003, respectively. Gregg River, now managed by Coal Valley Resources, is considered reclaimed. Luscar, managed by Teck, is about 50 per cent reclaimed. Donahue looked at water samples from 1998 through 2016, taken upstream and downstream on the same day. He found that selenium levels averaged almost six times higher in the McLeod River downstream from the Cheviot mine. They were nearly nine times higher in the Gregg River and 11 times higher in Luscar Creek, despite years of reclamation. Selenium levels in all the samples from the Gregg River and Luscar Creek exceeded those considered safe for aquatic life: by nearly four times in the Gregg River and nearly nine times in Luscar Creek. The level was exceeded in about one-quarter of the McLeod River samples. "This is not a subtle story," said Donahue. "This is shocking." Alberta Environment and Parks spokesman John Muir said the department routinely monitors selenium at 89 waterways across Alberta. "We have key experts working on our own water quality studies to better understand the conditions of watersheds and aquatic life downstream of coal mining operations," he said. "(We) will make those findings publicly available." Muir pointed out that all raw monitoring data is available on a searchable database. He said the mines in question pre-date modern regulations and technology. An Alberta government document on reclaiming the mine sites states: "Current assessments indicate there is no risk to humans who drink water or eat fish containing excessive amounts of selenium." Selenium is a naturally occurring element vital in small amounts but toxic in excess. In fish, it can damage the liver, kidney and heart. It can reduce the number of viable eggs a fish can produce and lead to deformed spine, head, mouth, and fins. In humans, it can cause nausea, vomiting, hair loss and fatigue. The last time Alberta Environment reported on selenium in the three waterways was 2006. Using data collected in 2000 and 2001, it concluded "selenium concentrations in rainbow and brook trout were usually greater than toxicity effects thresholds." Why the subsequent silence? asks Donahue. "They knew when a report was published that selenium was a problem in these systems related to coal mining. It draws a lot of questions." Last May, the United Conservative government revoked a policy that protected much of the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains from open-pit coal mining. The area is home to endangered species, the water source for much of the southern prairies, and one of the province's best-loved landscapes. Hundreds of exploratory drill sites and kilometres of access roads have now been scribed into its wilderness, documents from Alberta's energy regulator show. One open-pit coal mine proposal is before a joint federal-provincial review panel. More than 100,000 Albertans have signed petitions opposing the plans. Opponents range from small-town mayors to ranchers to popular entertainment figures, including Corb Lund and Jann Arden. Mining opponents point across the boundary into British Columbia, where selenium from coal mines in the Elk Valley has created serious contamination problems. The lingering contamination from the three Alberta mines shows the stakes are high, said Donahue. "These pollution problems have persisted long after the closure of coal mines." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021 — Follow @row1960 on Twitter Bob Weber, The Canadian Press
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Monday Jan. 25, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 15,213 new vaccinations administered for a total of 816,451 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 2,154.265 per 100,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 1,122,450 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 72.74 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 16,500 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 51.81 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 9,225 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 70.73 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 2,975 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 10,575 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 10.836 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 28,850 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 36.66 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 21,675 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 48.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 8,503 new vaccinations administered for a total of 218,755 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 25.565 per 1,000. There were zero 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 91.88 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 4,427 new vaccinations administered for a total of 280,573 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 19.101 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 411,650 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 68.16 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 1,389 new vaccinations administered for a total of 28,941 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 21.017 per 1,000. There were zero 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 52.01 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 654 new vaccinations administered for a total of 33,039 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 28.019 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 32,725 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 101 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 240 new vaccinations administered for a total of 99,047 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 22.50 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 122,725 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 80.71 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 110,566 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 21.546 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 144,550 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 76.49 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 3,730 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 89.382 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 14,400 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 35 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 25.9 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 14,400 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 32 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 13.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 3,822 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 98.693 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 12,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 31 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 31.85 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. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
Banks, grocery stores, pop makers — it seems like every day, another company is pledging to become a "net-zero" emitter of greenhouse gases — at some point years or decades in the future. But a pair of Alberta companies say they've not only achieved the mark but are actually storing more emissions underground than they are producing from their operations. Enhance Energy and Whitecap Resources both use carbon capture technology to stash emissions far below the surface. For Enhance, the company buys the CO2 from a refinery and a fertilizer plant in central Alberta. The CO2 is transported through a pipeline to its facility north of Red Deer, where it is pumped into an old oil reservoir. The CO2 helps to free up more oil and increase the amount of crude produced at the site, a process known as enhanced oil recovery (EOR). The private Calgary-based firm began operations last fall. So far, executives say about 4,000 tonnes of CO2 is stored underground every day, which they say is the equivalent of taking 350,000 vehicles off the road — a point of pride for the company. Because they're getting the CO2 from the two large plants but only extracting a small amount of oil at this point, on balance, they say they're burying more CO2 than their oil will produce. "I get a warm feeling when I come on site and see that injection well," said chief executive Kevin Jabusch. "That's very rewarding. It makes the 10-year effort to put this project together worth it." Federal goal is net zero by 2050 Many in the industry, as well as some environmental groups, support the development of carbon capture technology, although there are concerns about how emission reductions are calculated and whether capturing carbon disincentivizes industries from taking action to produce fewer emissions in the first place. The federal government has set a target of reaching net zero by 2050 and released a blueprint to achieve that goal in December, including hiking the carbon tax from the current price of $30 per tonne to $170 by 2030. The world should be looking for the cheapest, lowest-carbon source of energy. - Kevin Jabusch, Enhance Energy Instead of calling Enhance an oil company, Jabusch describes it as a "carbon mitigation company" and said if the carbon tax rises as expected, the day might come when Enhance no longer will need to produce oil anymore to be profitable. Currently, the company generates revenue from oil production and from selling the carbon credits it gets for sequestering emissions. Alberta charges a carbon tax on heavy industrial emitters, but the province also has a system for companies to earn credits by reducing or storing emissions. Jabusch said the Alberta government's carbon tax program for large industrial emitters measures and monitors the carbon they sequester, but that data is not available publicly. Injecting CO2 to increase output Production from Enhance's Clive field is around 200 barrels of oil per day, but with CO2 injection, the company expects output to gradually grow to between 4,000 and 5,000 barrels per day over the next five years. "We're very negative today over the full cycle of our of our operation," said Jabusch, "and in the long term, we think it would be very close to zero. "Where carbon pricing is headed, we think there's going to be a strong incentive to maximize the amount of CO2 we put in the ground." Whitecap has a similar, but much larger, carbon capture project in Saskatchewan. Emissions from a coal power plant in the province and from a coal gasification facility in neighbouring North Dakota are transported to an oilfield near Weyburn, south of Regina. In each of the last two years, about two million tonnes of CO2 were injected and stored, executives said. The figures are currently being audited. The Weyburn facility has operated since 2000 and was acquired by Whitecap in 2017. With growing focus on sustainability and climate change, investor interest in the project has intensified over the last year, said chief executive Grant Fagerheim. "We're starting to get some of the bigger funds, not just from Canada, but in the U.S. for sure, and around the world," he said. Unlike Enhance, Whitecap does not account for the emissions that will be generated from the eventual use of its oil, saying it has no control over how it is used, making it difficult to calculate. Varying definitions of 'negative' emissions How a company determines whether it claims net-zero or net-negative status varies across the industry and can depend on the emissions that a given company is counting, which are often broken into three groups, or scopes: Scope 1 includes direct emissions from the activities of an organization, such as its industrial operations or the heating of its buildings. Scope 2 refers to indirect emissions, such as if the company uses electricity from a CO2-generating source, such as a gas-fired power plant. Scope 3 also includes indirect emissions, but ones that are out of the organization's control. For an oil company, Scope 3 includes tailpipe emissions from vehicles or when oil is converted into plastics. The combustion of fuel is often the largest source of emissions from a barrel of oil, compared to production, transportation and refinery activity. For Enhance, the company said it is net negative on Scope 1, 2 and 3 while Whitecap said it's net negative on Scope 1 and 2. By that definition, Whitecap expects to remain net negative even as its oil production increases by an estimated 65 per cent this year following deals to acquire Torc Oil & Gas and NAL Resources Management. "We will still be a net-negative emitter," he said. "It is nice to be in this position at this particular time." Projects can carry hefty price tag Fagerheim says he would like to build new carbon capture facilities but that they can be complex projects requiring a large capital investment and new infrastructure, including pipelines. "I believe that people will see the light of day, but ultimately, we're doing what's best for ourselves, and carbon capture utilization and storage is potentially a way into the future," he said. The two largest carbon capture projects in Alberta, including the Carbon Trunk Line that Enhance is part of, cost more than $1 billion to develop, and both required hundreds of millions of dollars in government support. There's growing interest in carbon capture projects. Last week, Tesla chief and billionaire Elon Musk promised a $100 million US prize for development of the "best" technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions. In Canada, one of the challenges with investing in a carbon capture project is the uncertainty about the level of carbon tax in the future since the approach to carbon pricing varies by political party. WATCH | Is carbon capture a solution for the oil industry and climate change? Environmental concerns Environmental leaders have often had mixed feelings about carbon capture facilities because while harmful emissions are stored underground, the technology may just be enabling industries to maintain the status quo and not focus enough on reducing the use of fossil fuels. "The science is fairly clear: we are going to need carbon capture in order to tackle the climate crisis," Jan Gorski, an analyst with the Pembina Institute, a non-profit organization that produces research, analysis and recommendations on policies related to Canadian energy. "Enhanced oil recovery is a way to ramp up carbon capture and drive down the costs and improve the technology as we work to eventually deploy that to tackling these more challenging sources where we really don't have a great way to deal with the emissions right now." Knowledge gained from carbon capture projects operating now could eventually help reduce emissions in tougher-to-tackle industries such as cement plants and steel production, he said. Some environmental groups suggest the investment in carbon capture facilities would be better spent elsewhere, such as building renewable energy projects. For example, a company could slash emissions in producing the oil, but consumers would still pump out emissions when they use it as a fuel for transportation or heating. 'The devil is really in the details' There is also the issue of double counting. Experts say it's important for any action toward reducing emissions to be properly assessed. For instance, if the emissions from a power plant are used by an oil company to increase the production of an oilfield, both companies can't take credit for the carbon-capture project. "I think the key thing is to be clear-eyed about the end goal," said David Keith, a Harvard University professor of applied physics and public policy based in Canmore, Alta. Keith also founded and sits on the board of Carbon Engineering, which aims to capture emissions directly from the atmosphere. "For me anyway, the end goal has to be driving emissions down to zero to protect us from climate disaster and also doing it in a way that does the least damage to our economy and, in Alberta, trying to find a way forward to provide good jobs for people," he said. "Enhanced oil recovery can play some role, but I doubt if it's going to be very big." If oil can actually be entirely net neutral or net negative from its production all the way to its end use, such as powering a vehicle, that would truly be fantastic, said Keith, but "whether or not those companies are doing it, I don't know. The devil is really in the details." Both companies see a strong future for carbon capture and EOR technologies, especially as demand for oil remains robust around the globe. "The world should be looking for the cheapest, lowest-carbon source of energy, and we believe we compete very well with that," said Jabusch, with Enhance.
Dr. Jane Pegg couldn't believe her eyes when she saw the pot edibles that had poisoned a two-year-old who had been rushed to the emergency room in October. "It so shocked and appalled me … the package looked almost identical to gummies that are sold as candies in the store," the Nanaimo, B.C., pediatrician said. The boy wasn't moving and was having trouble breathing. His distraught mother had accidentally given him marijuana-laced gummies that contained a massive dose of THC — a psychoactive compound in cannabis — thinking it was candy. The edibles belonged to the child's grandfather, who has arthritis, and are sold under the names "Stoney Patch" and "Stoner Patch." They look so much like the Sour Patch Kids brand that the company behind that candy, Mondelēz Canada Inc., successfully sued last January for trademark infringement. "I don't know why the companies that are selling these products are not being shut down, not being fined, not being charged," said Pegg. Cannabis-infused edibles — including gummy candies, chocolate or baked goods —that are sold legally must follow Health Canada rules including a 10-milligram limit on THC. They also can't be packaged with images or bright colours that can appeal to children, need to have child safety warnings and be child-resistant. But copycat products often break all the rules. Go Public found hundreds of websites selling illicit edibles with packages designed to look like all types of candy and chocolate bars — everything from Sour Patch Kids, Pop Tarts, Snickers chocolate bars and more. The sites are part of a huge and illegal marketplace that operates openly, under the nose of the government and law enforcement. "These websites [are] operating quite flagrantly," said lawyer Trina Fraser, who specializes in cannabis regulatory law. "I think there is a certain amount of jurisdictional struggle over whose responsibility [it is], because these enforcement actions cost money and someone's going to bear the cost of that," she said, referring to provincial, territorial and federal governments and the multiple police forces that are tasked with enforcing the rules. The two-year-old Pegg treated spent the night in hospital and was released the next day. Pegg's colleague, Dr. Jodi Turner, has seen similar poisonings in the same ER. "Sometimes they [children] need to be kept on a monitor. You're looking for whether or not their heart is stable. You're looking at whether or not they develop seizures or need a ventilator to breathe," she said. Pot became legal in Canada in October 2018; edibles were legalized a year later. Since then, regional poison centres across the country have reported a spike in unintentional poisonings of children and teens involving edibles — though it is unclear how many of those cases involved illicit, lookalike packages. Data was not available from every province and territory. Such poisonings roughly doubled in B.C., Nova Scotia and Quebec between 2019 and 2020. B.C. saw almost 100 cases in 2020. Ontario, Manitoba and Nunavut, which report their poisonings together, reported 166. No fatal poisonings of children or youth involving just cannabis have been reported to Health Canada since legalization in 2018. After treating the toddler, the first thing Pegg did was contact Health Canada, to ask how to report the poisoning — but no one got back to her. "I followed their reporting guidelines, I followed up by phone … [but] had no response until you [Go Public] contacted them." Pegg finally heard back in January, more than two months after she reported the incident. Health Canada tells Go Public that Pegg's email was sent to a "generic" email account which gets a lot of messages and there was a "delay in processing the information." Health Canada also said, via email, that after seeing an increase in such reports, it issued an advisory in August about accidental ingestion of illegal edible cannabis products by children and launched "extensive public education and advertising campaigns … to encourage adults to store all cannabis securely." Statistics Canada says an estimated 42 per cent of cannabis users — 743,800 Canadians who responded to the survey — got pot from illegal sources in 2019. 'Whack-a-mole' In its January email to Pegg, Canada Health said she should contact the RCMP or her local police department. But it's not quite that simple, according to the co-chair of the drug advisory committee at the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. Mike Serr says there are at least 1,100 illegal sites operating just in Canada, and while police have had success shutting some down, the problem is bigger than they can handle. "I wish I had a better term, but really whack-a-mole describes it quite well. When we hit one down and get rid of it, four more pop up," said Serr, who is also chief of the Abbotsford, B.C., police department. Serr says the websites are often run by organized crime and warns the products, which are often cheaper than the government-regulated cannabis, are untested, unregulated and run the risk of being contaminated. Police are talking with banks to see if they will flag pot purchases and stop the flow of money to the illegal sites, he says. "That will help disrupt the illicit market online … [banks] know that they should not be allowing those transactions, that they're illegal transactions. "It's just really a matter of being able to identify the illegal and the legal online stores correctly." He says he'd like to see the federal government fund a task force that specializes in shutting the illegal websites down. The RCMP tells Go Public it has implemented what it calls a "national investigative strategy," working with the Canada Border Services Agency, Canada Post, Health Canada and municipal and provincial police forces to go after the organized crime groups running the sites. Illegal websites look legit Complicating the issue is how the websites look. In many cases, it's hard to tell the difference between legal and illegal sites, says Fraser. Adding to that confusion, she says, are the different rules in different provinces about who can sell pot online. Ontario, for example, only has one legal, provincially run cannabis website, so buyers should know not to order from anywhere else. Other places, like Saskatchewan and Manitoba, allow private, licensed retailers. "So, in some cases," says Fraser, "it becomes very tricky for the public to understand what is a licensed retailer and what is not." Possessing cannabis purchased from illicit websites is also a crime. Public Safety Canada says it has a plan that will crack down on the thriving, illicit market. That "action plan" was announced last March, but hasn't been implemented. It includes increasing public education and working more closely with police, the provinces and territories to identify and shut down the sites. The plan also proposes "putting search engines, social media, and payment platforms on notice about their legal responsibilities in relation to illegal online cannabis stores," wrote spokesperson Magali Deussing in an email to Go Public. She says, "work is underway" to put the plan into action and that Public Safety Canada will review the effort to displace the illicit market, as part of a its review of the Cannabis Act scheduled for the fall. 'Families feel terrible' Pegg says action is long overdue. "Surely in this day and age they can shut down these websites," she said. In the meantime, she's keeping a close eye on the reports of kids poisoned by pot edibles. She says the long-term impact on a child's developing brain is unknown. Go Public asked to speak with the two-year-old's mom about the family's experience, but she declined the interview. "Families feel terrible. Especially when it happens in another family member's home or... where [given] the packaging, there is no reason to think it contained THC," Pegg said. "They need to address this, online sales of these these products because it's really placing children and families at risk." Submit your story ideas Go Public is an investigative news segment on CBC-TV, radio and the web. We tell your stories, shed light on wrongdoing, and hold the powers that be accountable. If you have a story in the public interest, or if you're an insider with information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, contact information and a brief summary. All emails are confidential until you decide to Go Public. Follow @CBCGoPublic on Twitter.
Improved access and quicker turnaround times for COVID-19 testing are essential if schools in Ontario's hardest-hit regions are to open again safely, experts say. Yet as the province delays in-class learning again for students in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton regions, Windsor-Essex and Ottawa, the bulk of 4.4 million rapid COVID-19 tests sent to Ontario by the Public Health Agency of Canada sit unused. It's still unclear whether — or how — they might be used as part of the provincial safe school reopening strategy. In an interview with CBC News on Friday evening, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that as other southern Ontario schools open on Monday, the province is ready to provide whatever testing capacity is needed. But he said it would be up to local public health units to make the call. "Both tests and people can be deployed when the public health unit deems it right," Lecce said. "We are not involved as a ministry or politicians in deploying it. We leave that up to the medical officers locally." Lecce also said that rapid tests could be "layered into" a school testing program, but that decision would be up to the province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams. When asked at a news conference on Thursday about the potential use of Ontario's supply of rapid tests in schools, Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, said she and Williams were working with the Ministry of Education and "other partners ... to figure out what the best way to do this is." Yaffe made reference to a school testing pilot project in November and December on asymptomatic students, staff and families in high-risk areas of Toronto, Ottawa and York and Peel regions. That voluntary asymptomatic testing identified COVID-19 cases that may otherwise have been missed, including an outbreak of more than 20 cases at a Toronto school. The pilot used the traditional nasopharyngeal PCR test to diagnose COVID-19, in which a long swab is used to collect the sample from the back of the nose and throat and is then analyzed in a lab. At the news conference, Yaffe said there were questions about the accuracy of rapid tests versus that "gold standard," but she noted that they were "looking at" the possibility of using them. 'Test that is done is the best test' But experts say that testing rates are too low and and wait times for results are too long as Ontario struggles with high case numbers — an indication that it's time to make greater use of Health Canada-approved rapid PCR tests and rapid antigen tests, which can be analyzed on the spot and provide results within minutes. "Right now we should be using all of the tools we have," said Dr. Irfan Dhalla, co-chair of Canada's COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel. "While a rapid antigen test is not as accurate as the laboratory-based PCR test, a rapid antigen test is certainly better than no test at all," said Dhalla, who is also a general internal medicine specialist and vice-president at Unity Health Toronto. WATCH | Dr. Irfan Dhalla on importance of rapid COVID-19 tests in safe school reopening: That's especially true in areas where community spread is high, he said, because getting as many people as possible tested quickly — and therefore isolating positive cases faster — is key to preventing them from spreading the virus to others. The fact that rapid tests can be less accurate than the lab-analyzed counterpart fostered skepticism about their usefulness earlier in the pandemic, but Dhalla said that thinking has shifted. "What they lose in accuracy can be gained back through the rapid turnaround time and through frequency" that isn't possible in lab-based tests, he said. That means rapid antigen tests could be helpful in preventing COVID-19 outbreaks in schools, Dhalla said, because students, teachers and staff could be tested repeatedly and regularly throughout the school year. Those who test positive would get a PCR lab test to confirm the diagnosis but would already be isolated while awaiting confirmation. "If we adopt the view — and I think most of us do have this view — that schools should basically be one of the last communal settings to close and one of the first communal settings to reopen, then it makes sense that when community transmission is still an issue and we are just reopening schools, that we should try to reopen schools ... in such a manner that we can detect these outbreaks either, you know, before they occur [and] prevent the outbreak altogether, or detect them when they are really, really small," he said. "And so the rapid antigen tests do have a role to play." Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist at McMaster University in Hamilton, said rapid testing in schools can also help public health experts understand where COVID-19 is circulating in the broader community. That's especially true, he said, in areas where there's high community transmission but a low number of people getting the traditional tests — either due to difficulty in accessing testing centres or reluctance to go to them because they feel stigmatized. "At the end of the day, the objective is to get more positive people identified and isolated to break chains of transmission," Chagla said. "The test that is done is the best test. Not the one that we think is the best on paper. It's the one that actually gets done." Rapid tests in long-term care homes, workplaces As of Jan. 19, the Public Health Agency of Canada had distributed about 14 million rapid COVID tests across the country — most going directly to the provinces and territories, a spokesperson told CBC News in an email. Ontario has received 4,465,172 of those tests. According to numbers provided by the province's Ministry of Health to CBC News on Friday, it had deployed about 645,000 of those tests. More than 159,000 rapid PCR tests have gone to rural and remote communities, including First Nations, the ministry said, and about 485,000 rapid antigen tests have been distributed to long-term care homes and workplaces. According to the ministry, more than 150 long-term care homes are using them to test staff and visitors more frequently to better protect long-term care residents — something both Dhalla and Chagla agree is a critical use for rapid tests. The Health Ministry also said it has distributed rapid tests to about 160 workplaces — including Air Canada, Magna and Ontario Power Generation. In an email, the ministry told CBC News that it would also be distributing more rapid tests in a pilot program "for participating employers in the private, public and non-profit sectors, prioritizing access for health-care settings, essential front-line settings and congregate settings." Through that program, the provincial government aims to "learn about the value of antigen screening for asymptomatic workers in a range of workplace settings, and [the program] will inform future decisions about safely and fully reopening the economy." A couple of provinces are using some of their federally distributed rapid COVID tests for students or teachers, but in a limited way. However, Quebec is launching a study in two Montreal high schools to determine how effective rapid tests are at identifying COVID-19 cases in school settings. Manitoba has started a "fast pass" system for teachers and staff in five school divisions, which allows them to get a rapid test at a centralized location. Nova Scotia is not doing rapid COVID-19 testing in elementary or secondary schools, but the province has trained volunteers to help at a pop-up rapid testing clinic that travels the province and frequently sets up at Dalhousie University, providing easy access for students there.