With Chris St. Clair.
With Chris St. Clair.
The “Trump-made-me-do-it” defence is already looking like a longshot. Facing damning evidence in the deadly Capitol siege last month — including social media posts flaunting their actions — rioters are arguing in court they were following then-President Donald Trump's instructions on Jan. 6. But the legal strategy has already been shot down by at least one judge and experts believe the argument is not likely to get anyone off the hook for the insurrection where five people died, including a police officer. “This purported defence, if recognized, would undermine the rule of law because then, just like a king or a dictator, the president could dictate what’s illegal and what isn’t in this country," U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell said recently in ordering pretrial detention of William Chrestman, a suspected member of the Kansas City-area chapter of the Proud Boys. “And that is not how we operate here.” Chrestman’s attorneys argued in court papers that Trump gave the mob “explicit permission and encouragement” to do what they did, providing those who obeyed him with “a viable defence against criminal liability.” “It is an astounding thing to imagine storming the United States Capitol with sticks and flags and bear spray, arrayed against armed and highly trained law enforcement. Only someone who thought they had an official endorsement would even attempt such a thing. And a Proud Boy who had been paying attention would very much believe he did,” Chrestman’s lawyers wrote. Trump was acquitted of inciting the insurrection during his second impeachment trial, where Democrats made some of the same arguments defence attorneys are making in criminal court. Some Republican lawmakers have said the better place for the accusations against Trump is in court, too. Meanwhile, prosecutors have brought charges against more than 250 people so far in the attack, including conspiracy, assault, civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding. Authorities have suggested that rare sedition charges could be coming against some. Hundreds of Trump supporters were photographed and videotaped storming the Capitol and scores posted selfies inside the building on social media, so they can’t exactly argue in court they weren’t there. Blaming Trump may be the best defence they have. “What’s the better argument when you’re on videotape prancing around the Capitol with a coat rack in your hand?” said Sam Shamansky, who’s representing Dustin Thompson, an Ohio man accused of stealing a coat rack during the riot. Shamansky said his client would never have been at the Capitol on Jan. 6 if Trump hadn’t “summoned him there.” Trump, he added, engaged in a “devious yet effective plot to brainwash” supporters into believing the election was stolen, putting them in the position where they “felt the the need to defend their country at the request of the commander in chief.” “I think it fits perfectly,” he said of the defence. “The more nuanced question is: Who is going to buy it? What kind of jury panel do you need to understand that?” While experts say blaming Trump may not get their clients off the hook, it may help at sentencing when they ask the judge for leniency. “It could likely be considered a mitigating factor that this person genuinely believed they were simply following the instructions of the leader of the United States,” said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney in Michigan who's now a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. It could also bolster any potential cases against the former president, experts say. “That defence is dead on arrival,” said Bradley Simon, a New York City white-collar criminal defence attorney and former federal prosecutor. “But I do think that these statements by defendants saying that they were led on by Trump causes a problem for him if the Justice Department or the attorney general in D.C. were to start looking at charges against him for incitement of the insurrection.” While the legal bar is high for prosecuting Trump in the Capitol siege, the former president is already facing a lawsuit from Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson that accuses him of conspiring with extremist groups to prevent Congress from certifying the election results. And more lawsuits could come. Trump spread baseless claims about the election for weeks and addressed thousands of supporters at a rally near the White House before the Capitol riot, telling them that they had gathered in Washington "to save our democracy." Later, Trump said, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” A lawyer for Jacob Chansley, the shirtless man who wore face paint and a hat with horns inside the Capitol, attached a highlighted transcript of the Trump's speech before the riot to a court filing seeking Chansley's release from custody. The defence lawyer, Albert Watkins, said the federal government is sending a “disturbingly chilling message” that Americans will be prosecuted “if they do that which the President asks them to do.” Defence lawyers have employed other strategies without better success. In one case, the judge called a defence attorney’s portrayal of the riots as mere trespassing or civil disobedience both “unpersuasive and detached from reality.” In another, a judge rejected a man’s claim that he was “duped” into joining the anti-government Oath Keepers group and participating in the attack on the Capitol. Other defendants linked to militant groups also have tried to shift blame to Trump in seeking their pretrial release from jail. An attorney for Jessica Watkins said the Oath Keepers member believed local militias would be called into action if Trump invoked the Insurrection Act to stay in office. Watkins disavowed the Oath Keepers during a court hearing on Friday, saying she has been “appalled” by fellow members of the far-right militia. “However misguided, her intentions were not in any way related to an intention to overthrow the government, but to support what she believed to be the lawful government,” her lawyer wrote. Meanwhile, a lawyer for Dominic Pezzola, another suspected Proud Boy, said he “acted out of the delusional belief that he was a ‘patriot’ protecting his country." Defence attorney Jonathan Zucker described Pezzola as “one of millions of Americans who were misled by the President's deception.” “Many of those who heeded his call will be spending substantial portions if not the remainder of their lives in prison as a consequence," he wrote. “Meanwhile Donald Trump resumes his life of luxury and privilege." Michael Kunzelman And Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press
(Joe Raedle/Getty Images - image credit) Windsor resident Nancy McDonald says accessing the COVID-19 vaccine has already come with a few barriers, including figuring out the online registration and planning transportation to the site. Starting Monday, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) said the WFCU Centre, located at 8787 McHugh St. in east Windsor, will be the first vaccine clinic to offer shots to seniors 80 and older. The other clinic will open March 8 at Nature Fresh Farms Recreation Centre in Leamington. Registration has already begun, with some 7,000 people signing up within the past day, according to WECHU. Eighty-four-year-old McDonald was one of those who signed up — but she had to get someone to help register her online. Yet, now she worries how she'll get to the site when it's her time. As the region moves to vaccinate the next priority group, questions are arising about accessibility. Concerns being raised show that it needs to be thought of broadly not just in terms of physical access to a building. When dealing with a vulnerable population who likely have mobility and financial issues, details like clinic hours, online access and fluency, location and transportation need to be addressed amid the rush to get vaccines in arms. "I was very concerned because I'm basically in the downtown area ... I'm a non-driver so to get to either place I would have to have a ride or some type of transportation," says McDonald, who lives across from Windsor's Jackson Park. She usually takes public transit to get around, but hasn't done so due to the pandemic, so her only other option is to rely on someone to bring her. For people like herself, she says the centre's hours of operation, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., aren't the best. The WFCU Centre opens March 1 for vaccinations for those 80 and older and Leamington's Nature Fresh Farms Recreation Centre will open March 8. "If it's someone that needed a ride and their family were working people couldn't they have evening [hours], say 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for a couple hours to get people there that didn't have a ride?" she said. She says she wishes there was a clinic in walking distance of where she lives. But she's not the only one concerned about getting to the site. On Friday, the health unit said it has already received some concerns from community members who have mobility issues. "This isn't going to be for everyone at this point that is over 80," WECHU CEO Theresa Marentette said. "It is a limited supply of vaccine and it may not be the best option for everyone ... We continue to try to work internally to see what other options are available to our seniors over 80." More sites, transportation options could help Windsor-Essex Council on Aging director Deana Johnson said mobility is always a challenge for older adults. But, "what's the alternative?" she said. "It would be nice if we were able to have several sites east, west, central, where people could indeed get vaccinated," she said. "If I'm a senior and I live downtown, I got to go all the way to the east end [and] that becomes very difficult." At the same time she says she can only imagine that planning the vaccine rollout is a "logistical nightmare." Here's a snapshot from Workforce Windsor-Essex's demographic map that shows regions with high number of seniors between the ages of 80 and 84. This data is from Statistic Canada's 2016 census. The WFCU centre, though far from the city's west-end senior population, is a "fairly reasonable" site for people to access. She said the space has a senior centre in it and is known to the community. Multiple sites, she said, might not be possible given the limited number of large spaces with parking in the city and the ability to properly store the vaccines in different locations. But at the least, more transportation options could be made available to the community, she said, adding that maybe that includes volunteer drivers or a bus to pick up groups of people. Accessibility of the sites Physician at the University of Windsor and director at Student Health Services Matt Scholl says the sites are accessible and geographically make sense. "Logistically speaking both sites are great as far as accessibility for that population, wheelchair accessible main floor, plenty of area for social distancing, following all public health protocols that are in place and there's also an area basically for these individuals to remain for 15 to 30 minutes to make sure that there's no vaccine reactions," he said. Workforce Windsor-Essex has a demographic map showing where seniors in the region live, based on 2016 census data from Statistics Canada. According to the map, the clinics seem to be located in areas where the majority of those who are 80 and older are living. Theresa Marentette, CEO Windsor Essex County Health Unit, says the health unit is working on other options for seniors to get the vaccine for those who are not able to access a clinic. Some more appointment details, according to information on the health unit's website, note that people are allowed to bring assistive devices as needed, including a scooter or wheelchair. As well, the health unit says there will be wheelchairs on site for people to use. A support person is also allowed if required, though the only example listed on the website is an interpreter. In an email to CBC News, the health unit said this also includes other support personnel and formal documentation is not required. It added that translation services will also be available at the clinic. Beyond the physical space and appointment itself, the health unit has also set up phone lines for people to register as not everyone has access to technology. Are mobile clinics a possibility? The health unit said Thursday that it still is working out the details on accessing people in the community who are 80 and older and have difficulties leaving their home. "We will continue to work on other strategies for access that will likely involve our teams and others that we're partnering with moving into areas where there are populations of seniors living so we'll work on that as well," said Marentette. "There will be other strategies that we'll have to keep considering as we get more vaccines and be able to transport the vaccine safely." Mobile clinics have been suggested in other regions of the province, with cities like Hamilton looking at pop-up clinics, mobile bus clinics, rolling or drive-thru clinics. Rolling clinics would help people who cannot leave their homes, and are living in small numbers. A bus would drop off vaccinators at a site, and circle back to pick them up. The third option is a mobile bus, which would drive to various areas and operate as a clinic.
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Saturday that the country's biggest city will go into a seven-day lockdown from Sunday after a new local case of the coronavirus, of unknown origin, surfaced. The opening race of the best-of-13 series between Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and America's Cup holders Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) is due to be held in the waters off Auckland on March 6.
(Halifax Port Authority - image credit) A sliver of rocky land that has been described as an "eyesore" may be turned into a park. New land that has been created by infilling part of the Bedford Basin near the Fairview Cove Container Terminal likely will be designated for community use when the project is complete. Commuters and other travellers on the MacKay Bridge or the Bedford Highway may have noticed dumptrucks depositing material into the water over the past several years, and a growing infilled area stretching from the container terminal toward Africville Park. The Halifax Port Authority, which operates the terminal and is responsible for the infilling project, is working with the Halifax Regional Municipality's African Nova Scotian Affairs Integration Office and the Africville Heritage Trust to determine a future use for the land. "The intention is that we might do something that's community-based," said Lane Farguson, the port authority's spokesperson. "We don't have the final plan in place yet, but that's really the intention." Asked how the land could be used, Farguson said, "a park is certainly one of those ideas, and maybe some sort of a boardwalk as well, but until the final plans are in place and everybody's agreed to it, we really can't say a whole lot more." A spokesperson for the HRM would only say the municipality is collaborating on the future use of the area, "complementary to historic Africville and Africville Park." Juanita Peters, the executive director of the Africville Museum, declined to comment on the project until plans were firmed up. Tourboat docking a possible use During a natural resources and economic development committee meeting last October, Halifax-Needham MLA Lisa Roberts questioned Capt. Allan Gray, the port authority's president and CEO, about the infilling work. She said her constituents had called it an "eyesore." Gray said the Africville Heritage Trust, which operates the Africville Museum directly across from the infilled land, was initially concerned about the view from Africville Park being blocked, but the organization later became comfortable working with the port authority on the project. The Halifax Port Authority, Halifax Regional Municipality's African Nova Scotian Integration Office and the Africville Heritage Trust are working to determine future use for the new land. "The Africville Heritage Trust wants to use the bay-like area for some purposes," he told the committee. "They've talked about getting tour boats to be able to access there, so we're making sure any design work and infill work is compatible with those uses." Infilling project still underway The infilled land is currently owned by the port authority, a federal Crown corporation. Farguson said while the corporation is generally not allowed to sell land, it is permitted to do land swaps, land transfers or long-term leases. The infilling project, called the Fairview Cove Sequestration Facility, began in 2012. The fill is largely pyritic slate that has been removed from construction sites on the peninsula. The port authority is paid for accepting the material, but Farguson declined to say how much. The infilling project in the Bedford Basin can be seen clearly from the Africville Museum. As of the end of November 2020, about 6.3 hectares had been infilled, or an area about one-third the size of Citadel Hill. Some of that is being used for port operations. On the above and below maps, the purple area has already been infilled, and the yellow area is still in the process of being filled in. The green area would be a treed area to provide a buffer zone between the port activities and the rest of the new land. MORE TOP STORIES
(Beth Zaiken/Centre for Palaeogenetics via REUTERS - image credit) Yukon paleontologist Grant Zazula admits it — he's jealous. Until recently, Yukon had been the source of the oldest recovered DNA, from a 700,000-year-old horse fossil found a couple of decades ago near Dawson City. Now a team of international researchers say they have recovered and sequenced DNA from the teeth of three mammoths in Russia's extreme north, the oldest specimen being about 1.2 million years old. "So I'm actually a little bit jealous, now that the record now belongs to a Siberian fossil," Zazula said. The upside, he says, is that the new research opens the door to all sorts of possible new discoveries and insights from Yukon's own trove of Ice Age fossils. "It's really going to allow us to be able to look at earlier stages of the Ice Age and look at the, you know, genetics of these different extinct animals going back a million years, maybe even further back in time, as these technologies evolve," he said. "Twenty years ago, when I started getting involved in paleontology, we were still really excited about the novelty of being able to extract any DNA from ancient animals." 'The Yukon is amazingly situated to be able to play major roles and some of these projects,' said Grant Zazula, a paleontogist with the Yukon government. Ancient DNA can help fill in the blanks of how extinct species evolved and adapted — or failed to adapt — over the millennia. Zazula says a lot of information can be teased out of a genome sequence, from what a species looked like to how it interacted with its environment. There are also a lot of mysteries yet to be solved about mammoths in particular, he says, and how the population that crossed the Bering Land Bridge from Siberia into North America relates later mammoth populations. "Most of what we know about the Ice Age is really only the last little bits of the Ice Age," he said. But for earlier periods of the Ice Age — say, a million years ago — Zazula says it's less understood. "Really there's a lot of speculation because we don't have a lot of well-dated records from that time period." The new research suggests that Yukon could play an even bigger role in paleontological research, because the territory is a rich source of ancient fossils. It's not uncommon for Yukon gold miners to stumble across amazing finds preserved deep in the permafrost. "The Yukon is amazingly situated to be able to play major roles in some of these projects," Zazula said. He was already contacted a few months ago by one of the Swedish scientists involved in the Russian mammoth fossil research. "He contacted me saying, 'hey, do you guys have any old mammoths from the Yukon?' And I said, 'well, we have one that's about 700,000 years old,'" Zazula recalled. "So, yeah, hopefully in a few months we can add to this story and talk about how that lineage crossed the Bering Land Bridge for the first time into North America roughly a million years ago."
WASHINGTON — A conference dedicated to the future of the conservative movement turned into an ode to Donald Trump as speakers declared their fealty to the former president and attendees posed for selfies with a golden statue of his likeness. As the Republican Party grapples with deep divisions over the extent to which it should embrace Trump after losing the White House and both chambers of Congress, those gathered at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday made clear they are not ready to move on from the former president — or from his baseless charges that the November election was rigged against him. “Donald J. Trump ain’t going anywhere,” said Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, one of several potential 2024 presidential contenders who spoke at the event, being held this year in Orlando to bypass COVID-19 restrictions. Trump on Sunday will be making his first post-presidential appearance at the conference, and aides say he will use the speech to reassert his power. The program underscored the split raging within the GOP, as many establishment voices argue the party must move on from Trump to win back the suburban voters who abandoned them in November, putting President Joe Biden in the White House. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and others worry Trump will undermine the party’s political future if he and his conspiracy theories continue to dominate Republican politics. But at the conference, speakers continued to fan disinformation and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, with panels dedicated to amplifying false claims of mass voter fraud that have been dismissed by the courts, state election officials and Trump’s own administration. Indeed, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., another potential 2024 hopeful, drew among the loudest applause and a standing ovation when he bragged about challenging the election certification on Jan. 6 despite the storming of the Capitol building by Trump supporters trying to halt the process. “I thought it was an important stand to take," he said. Others argued the party would lose if it turned its back on Trump and alienated the working-class voters drawn to his populist message. “We cannot — we will not — go back to the days of the failed Republican establishment of yesteryear,” said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who outlined a new Trumpian GOP agenda focused on restrictive immigration policies, opposition to China and limiting military engagement. “We will not win the future by trying to go back to where the Republican Party used to be,” echoed Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who chairs the fundraising committee tasked with electing Republicans to the Senate. “If we do, we will lose the working base that President Trump so animated. We’re going to lose elections across the country, and ultimately we’re going to lose our nation." Scott is dismissing pressure on him to “mediate between warring factions on the right” or “mediate the war of words between the party leaders." He has refused to take sides in the bitter ongoing fight between Trump and McConnell, who blamed Trump for inciting the deadly Capitol riot but ultimately voted to acquit him at his impeachment trial earlier this month. “I’m not going to mediate anything," he said, criticizing those who “prefer to fan the flames of a civil war on our side” as “foolish” and “ridiculous." But in speeches throughout the day, the GOP turmoil was front and centre. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., lit into Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, who has faced tremendous backlash for her vote to impeach Trump for inciting the Capitol riot. And as the program was wrapping up, Trump issued a statement endorsing Max Miller, a former staffer who has now launched a campaign challenging Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, another Republican who voted in favour of impeachment. Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News Channel host and Trump Jr.'s girlfriend, offered a pointed message to those who stand in opposition to the former president, who will not arrive at the conference until Sunday but was present in spirit in the form of a large golden statue erected in a merchandise show booth, where attendees could pose for pictures with it. “We bid a farewell to the weak-kneed, the spineless and the cowards that are posing in D.C. pretending that they’re working for the people,” she said. “Let’s send them a pink slip straight from CPAC.” Trump Jr., who labeled the conference “TPAC” in honour of his father, hyped the return of his father and the “Make America Great Again” platform to the spotlight. “I imagine it will not be what we call a ‘low-energy’ speech," he said. “And I assure you that it will solidify Donald Trump and all of your feelings about the MAGA movement as the future of the Republican Party.” Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
(Submitted by Jeremias Tecu - image credit) Jeremías Tecú hid from the Guatemalan militia between the roots of a massive inup tree with his mother and younger siblings every night for more than two weeks. The year was 1981 and Tecú was 11 years old. He and his family were trying to survive a massacre during a civil war that would leave more than 200,000 Indigenous Mayans dead. Massacres by the Guatemalan regime in the early 1980s destroyed 626 villages, including Ceiba, Tecú's village. From the tree roots during the violence, Tecú could make out the silhouettes of other people hiding, just as he was. "That tree was, every single night for about 15 days, our shelter," the Fredericton resident said of the 180-foot tall inup, the Mayan symbol for life. Years later, after dedicating his life to speaking out against corruption and Indigenous murders in Guatemala, Tecú was kidnapped and tortured in 1999. He escaped to neighbouring Mexico in 2000 and was granted refugee status in Canada, where he arrived 19 years ago with his wife and kids. In collaboration with Moncton-based therapist Eve Mills Allen, Tecú's life story has been told in a book that launched this month: In the Arms of Inup: The extraordinary story of a Guatemalan survivor and his quest for healing from trauma. The roots of an inup or ceiba tree in Puerto Rico. The massacre The background to Tecú's story begins in the 1950s, when Guatemala's land was owned by a few rich families. Through protests, the country's working class demanded equality. But after some of the land was redistributed to peasants, many of them Indigenous Mayan people, a civil war began. The terror that ensued lasted about 36 years, from 1960 to 1996, and throughout those years, the government murdered more than 10 per cent of the Mayan population, reducing it from over 50 per cent of Guatemala's population to about 40 per cent. The government labelled the Indigenous Mayans communists to try to justify the slaughter, although the Mayans were protesting for land that was theirs. Tecú's aunt and uncle were among the Mayan casualties. After their murder, Tecú's home was set on fire and, along with his mother and siblings, he left his village and walked for 45 days until he reached Guatemala City. The book cover for In the Arms of Inup Tecú's fear of being massacred stayed with him for years, until he landed in Fredericton in 2002. And after that, a new kind of fear settled over him. Tecú, who now works as a settlement worker, suffered from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder, often working long hours or drinking to forget the mass-slaughter he witnessed as a boy. "I would go into a liquor store, for example, to buy a six pack," he said. "That's how I got at least one hour of sleep." "You can be in paradise but the memory is there. They come back to your mind." Eight years ago, a lifeline materialized in front of Tecú, in the form of paper and pencil and a therapist eager to listen. How they met In 2013, Mills Allen facilitated a writing group at the Multicultural Association of Fredericton. Nine people showed up, including Tecú. Mills Allen told the participants how therapeutic writing their own stories could be. "He came up to me and said, 'I need to tell my story. Would you write it?'" After sharing some of his story with Mills Allen, she decided she would take on the challenge. "I guess I just knew it's a story that needed to be told but I was a little nervous of whether I could take on that task." For eight years, Mills Allen and Tecú met in coffee shops, in parks, in their own homes. Writing the book was a long process because reliving experiences often became overwhelming for Tecú. "Many times, I was sobbing along with him," said Mills Allen. But receiving a hard copy of the book this week made it all worth it, said Tecú. Central American immigrants on the run on Jan. 20, 2020. Poverty and murder in Guatemala linked to government corruption have led thousands to leave their country for the United States. Storytelling therapy According to Mills Allen, writing helps victims take control of their own stories and emotions. "It helps organize what's all jumbled up, coming at you from all sides of your life." It gives victims the chance to find a beginning, a middle and an end to their experiences, said Mills Allen, as it did for Tecú. "He gained a little control, feeling out of control. And you can reframe the way things happen. That makes you see your own resilience." Tecú hopes his book inspires survivors of trauma with PTSD to seek help. "To anyone who suffered torture, I want to tell them that life is beautiful. But in order to see it, you must look for support." His book is now on sale on the HARP Publishing website.
New numbers on the state of the Great Lakes shows a rise in water temperatures for winter 2021, including for Lake Huron. Environmental experts in the Georgian Bay area say the warming of Lake Huron can have significant effects on the weather, environment and wildlife. The latest data from the Great Lakes Environment Research Laboratory (GLERL) shows Lake Huron's water volume temperature sitting at 4.3 C for Feb. 5. That's compared to this time last year, when the water temperature was at 3.9 C, and the year before, at 3.2 C. David Bywater, a conservation program manager with Georgian Bay Biosphere Mnidoo Gamii, said GLERL's latest data is consistent with the pattern of ice loss coverage they've seen in data dating back to the 1970s. A report the Biosphere published in 2018 details a steady decline in ice coverage for Lake Huron from 1973 to 2016, using data from the Canadian Ice Service. It adds the average water temperature is increasing at a rate of 0.9 C every decade. It links both these phenomena to climate change. "It can affect weather: if you have open water instead of ice, that's going to affect the amount of precipitation that you're going to be seeing, both rain and snow," he said. This is because ice coverage prevents further evaporation. Rupert Kindersley, the Georgian Bay Association's executive director, said the warming waters are a concern for that reason: he noted the damage done to structures, docks and businesses near the Georgian Bay shoreline over the years as a result of flooding. "It's one of the features of climate change that we're getting these warmer winters and less ice cover," he said. There are also ecological impacts: according to Samantha Noganosh, a councillor with Magnetawan First Nation and lands manager, many community members have seen a decrease in the number of fish coming through Magnetawan River — which is connected to Lake Huron — over the years, meaning less yield during fishing season. Community members also use the river as a water source for recreational activities and ceremonies. "(Magnetawan River) is the lifeblood of the First Nation," said Alanna Smolarz, a species-at-risk biologist working for the First Nation. "It's an incredible resource." According to Noganosh, the First Nation is closely monitoring the situation with Lake Huron's warming waters. Bywater said the community partners with the Georgian Bay Biosphere to collect data and exchange information to aid in raising awareness. "That's part of the climate change challenge: making it local and making it meaningful when it's such a big issue," he said. Kindersley said the Georgian Bay Association is also working to inform members of the water level concerns, but added what they can do to tackle this problem is minimal. "There's not a lot we can do about climate change and global warming other than persuade people to adopt individual behaviour that will help to reduce CO2 emissions and other things," he said. Zahraa Hmood is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering the municipalities of Muskoka Lakes, Lake of Bays and Georgian Bay. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Zahraa Hmood, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
(Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada - image credit) Space is being cleared in at least one long-term care home in St. John's to make way for a dedicated COVID-19 unit, while front-line staff await word on when more of them will be receiving vaccinations, says the union representing the province's nurses. Some residents at Pleasantview Towers have been moved in an effort to prepare for long-term care residents who may develop symptoms of the virus and require a dedicated unit for care, says Yvette Coffey, president of the Registered Nurses' Union of Newfoundland and Labrador. "They did this last year. There were no admissions to that unit. However, they've still got to be prepared and have staff ready in case needed," Coffey said. "Hopefully we will not need to open that unit to patients, but we have to be prepared. We do not want to be caught like Ontario and Quebec when it comes to our vulnerable population." Our members are tired. They're stressed. They've been on the front lines now for over a year, and there's no end in sight yet. - Yvette Coffey Prior to the outbreak of coronavirus variant B117 earlier this month, centred mainly in the metro St. John's region, the COVID-19 pandemic was generally under control, Coffey said. But with hundreds of cases and, as of Saturday, 10 people in hospital — six in intensive care — Coffey said being prepared for a possible influx of residents requiring extra care is essential. "We've all watched across the country and we all know that if COVID gets into our long-term care facilities, it's going to be very challenging for us, so, you know, they're doing what they can to ensure safety and continuity of care for our patients and residents," Coffey said. That could include redistributing where nurses are assigned to work, Coffey said. In an email Saturday, Eastern Health told CBC News the unit at Pleasantview Towers will have 28 beds, with some residents being temporarily relocated to Chancellor Park to create space for the unit. The health authority said the plans were made in consultation with residents and their families and there is no timeline right now for the residents' return. Eastern Health staff are working to prepare the unit at Pleasantview Towers and a date for the opening of the unit will be confirmed "in the near future." Each individual long-term care facility also has its own plan for how to isolate residents, if necessary, the health authority said. At the start of the pandemic last year RNUNL and other health sector unions signed a "good neighbour agreement" with the province and the four regional health authorities that would allow them to move staff around as needed. There were already regulations under the registered nurses' collective agreement that allows them to be reassigned to where the health authority feels they're most needed, Coffey said, but the good neighbour agreement expands on it. Yvette Coffey, president of the Registered Nurses' Union of Newfoundland and Labrador, says the union wants nurses who are being reassigned to any area that was identified in the Phase 1 group to be vaccinated before going to those areas. One of the places where Coffey said members are being deployed is to long-term care. "Staffing levels have reached a point in some areas that we can't provide the services without deploying nurses there, and one of those areas is long-term care, and … critical care as well," Coffey said. "In order to provide services, what the regional health authorities have first done is ask for volunteers … with the skill set and experience in the areas that they need to deploy to. If there are no volunteers, they have looked at the people who have previous experience in those areas, and that's who they are redeploying first." Eastern Health CEO David Diamond said the health authority had been short staffed in long-term care even before the pandemic, and staffing has been an ongoing challenge. Vaccines only 1 part of protection One of the concerns about reassigning staff is where things stand with COVID-19 vaccine rollout for front-line workers. Phase 1 of Newfoundland and Labrador's vaccination plan identified vulnerable populations, including long-term care residents and Indigenous communities, as well as front-line workers who would be the most likely to be exposed. The province released its plans for Phases 2 and 3 of vaccine rollout Friday afternoon, identifying who will be able to sign up, and when they're expected to get vaccinated. But those timelines will rely on supply of the vaccine, while also prioritizing people 70 years and older in the pre-registration plans. Front-line health care workers not immunized in Phase 1 will be covered under Phase 2, with inoculations happening some time between April and June. That could mean some of the registered nurses now being assigned to work in COVID-19 units like the one being established in Pleasantview Towers may not be vaccinated yet, Coffey said. However, vaccines is only one part of protection for registered nurses, Coffey said. Pleasant View Towers, which opened in 2014, has 460 long-term care beds. "The vaccine keeps our workforce from being sick, but it doesn't prevent transmission of the virus. Our registered nurses have to use their judgment and wear the appropriate PPE — that is their best line of defence with COVID-19." The reason vaccines haven't been distributed more widely, Coffey said, is simple: "We don't have vaccine." Vaccine supply has been a challenge across Canada, and since the supply is distributed to the provinces from the federal government, that means there isn't any vaccine to be administered. Coffey said she was told as of Thursday that it's expected everyone identified in Phase 1 of the vaccine rollout in this province would have received their inoculations by March 5. "We have pushed that those who are being reassigned, especially to COVID units and long-term care or all areas that were identified in the Phase 1 group, that they be vaccinated prior to going to those areas," Coffey said. Judy O'Keefe, Eastern Health's vice-president of clinical services, said priority has been given to any staff member who would work in the ICU, emergency, case rooms and COVID-19 units, as well as community-based high-risk staff. "The last couple of weeks, for sure, our greatest concern has been the seniors' population in congregate living," O'Keefe said Friday afternoon. "We've been vaccinating people as we have vaccine." Public health nurse Betty Sampson prepares the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to be administered in Makkovik in January. O'Keefe said Eastern Health thinks that all staff identified in that Phase 1 category should be fully vaccinated with their second doses by the end of March. As the pandemic drags on, Coffey said, union members are feeling the strain, and ask that members of the public do their best to adhere to health guidelines. "Our members are tired. They're stressed. They've been on the front lines now for over a year, and there's no end in sight yet," Coffey said. "We do ask the public, we plead with the public, to please follow public health guidelines, because the less people we have coming into our hospitals and acute care, the less pressure there is on the system." Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
(Souta Calling Last - image credit) If you've driven down any of the highways in southern Alberta, you've likely passed by a Blackfoot historical site, such as an eagle catch, without even knowing it. But Souta Calling Last hopes to change that. Calling Last, who is from both the Kainai and Southern Piikani First Nation, runs an educational, non-profit organization called Indigenous Vision. She has spent the past four years designing an interactive map depicting hundreds of Blackfoot historical and sacred sites in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. The Blackfoot Confederacy includes the Siksika, Kainai and Piikani Nations, representing more than 23,000 members in Alberta and another 19,000 in Montana. "The amount of history we have, we cannot walk around with our heads down, shoulders slumped, because it's just so expansive and so beautiful and so powerful," said Calling Last. Calling Last says she sees a lot of potential uses for this map project, including teaching, city planning, environmental assessments and ecotourism. She plans to launch a mobile app that would ping a user as they neared a historical site, and then provide an audio and/or video recording about the place with the story behind it, and in some cases, directions to get there. For example, she says, history buffs could plot out all the Blackfoot battle sites to visit during summer vacation. Calling Last plans to share the full interactive map with tribal leaders, cultural leaders and academics. But she says not all of the sacred sites will be made available to the public. "We walk that fine line of keeping a site sacred and also educating about that site so that it's not at risk from development or getting destroyed or, you know, losing the site." Several teepee rings are clearly visible in this satellite image. Teepee rings, eagle catches Calling Last says the Blackfoot map includes 108 dots, which represent more than 500 sites, some of which date back thousands of years. Calling Last says each of these locations was discovered through conversations with her family, tribal elders and community members, as well as archeological surveys and studies. "I take the source and I look for paralleling stories," said Calling Last. "Usually the way oral stories and history is handed down is each member or area or society is given a portion to remember." She says some items can be spotted in satellite images. In one image, a teepee ring, which is a circle of stones that holds down the canvas of a teepee, appears as a little white shadow. Other sites, such as eagle catches, are harder to spot, she says, because they appear as nothing more than a pile of rocks and sticks and are located high up on the land. She calls one of the two that are plotted on the map "Calling Last Eagle Catch," because it was passed down to her by her family. She says eagle catchers were men or women. She says the catcher would dig a pit to sit in and then cover themselves up with sticks and some type of decoy such as a dead rabbit. She says that when the eagle landed, the catcher would then have to quickly grab the eagle's legs, to either pluck a feather or to harvest the whole animal. She says the process would also include a ceremony. "The impression I got was that it was almost a warrior's job or a coming of age type thing where you were able to go and you were trained," said Calling Last. Satellite images of two Blackfoot Medicine Wheels in Alberta and Wyoming. Calling Last says the map also includes the stories behind the names of locations such as the Crowsnest Pass, historic events, including the first fur traders location, burial grounds, petroglyphs and different band leaders. Lived beyond the reserve Piikani elder Harley Bastien, who worked on the map project, believes the map will help the Blackfoot people reconnect to the expanse of land they once called home before reserves were established. "Some of the youth grew up thinking this is it, so many miles by so many miles is where we always called home, but that's the farthest from the truth," said Bastien, who is president of Indigenous Vision. He also hopes this map will also be used to better educate Canadians about the country's pre-settlement era. "If nothing else, [it will] give them some sort of an education that these aboriginal people didn't just generate and originate from a reserve," Bastien said. He said their homes and highrises were "built probably on the history and the blood and bones of the aboriginal people who lived there." A static map representing roughly 500 Blackfoot historical and sacred sites collected by Souta Calling Last. Calling Last has already worked with other First Nations communities to develop their own historical maps. In one case, it was with respect to mapping missing and murdered Indigenous women. In another, it was mapping the location of traditional pigments used in traditional pottery and painting. She says collecting and mapping these stories and historical data allows First Nations to have sovereignty over their past, and therefore, their future. Calling last has provided a static version of the map to CBC News. She is hoping to launch the app within the year.
Unidentified gunmen stormed the Government Girls Secondary School in the town of Jangebe and took the girls away, say police.View on euronews
BERLIN — Germany's Left has picked two women to lead the anti-capitalist party into this fall's national election. A party conference Saturday elected Janine Wissler und Susanne Hennig-Wellsow as co-leaders. Wissler is the Left's parliamentary caucus leader in Hesse state. Hennig-Wellsow is the party's chairwoman in Thuringia, the only German state where the Left leads a government. The succeed Katja Kipping and Bernd Riexinger, who have led the party since 2012. The Left, which is partly rooted in East Germany's governing Socialist Unity Party, received 9.2% of the vote in the 2017 national election. Current polls ahead of the vote on Sept. 26 put its support at 7-8%. The Associated Press
(CBC - image credit) After multiple incidents and complaints from families, the Calgary Board of Education is reminding its staff that uttering, writing or using racial slurs — including when reading aloud — is not permitted in the school division. "Since the school year started, there has been at least three of these complaints that have come to my attention that we've had to address," said CBE chief superintendent Christopher Usih. "Teachers can certainly read content or teach content, but that they don't verbalize the word. In one particular case, for example, it was a use of the N-word in class." It was these complaints that prompted Usih to send all staff a note earlier this week reminding them that the use of racial slurs in any capacity is forbidden. He said this isn't about censorship or removing books from classrooms. "I want these conversations to happen in classrooms. [It's] important for young people to engage in conversations, to learn about their lived experiences, and teaching why the language is inappropriate remains important," he said. "We don't want you to write it all out on the board or to read it all out loud. The vast majority of times those words are not verbalized, so this is not new. What we wanted to do with this message was to really clarify expectations so that if there is any misunderstanding, that teachers know." One CBE teacher, who CBC News has agreed not to name as she fears professional retribution, said the note caught teachers at her school off guard. "It was just like a total blanket statement to all teachers and it was like, very reprimanding [to] me in nature. For something that most of us don't do anyway," she said. Thousands gathered in Calgary's Olympic Plaza on June 6, 2020 for a candlelight vigil in honour of victims of racism and police brutality. The teacher said she feels the note should have been accompanied by a conversation between principals and teachers about why the note was being sent. Instead, she said "nothing has been said." "No one is going to reply to the email because it's from the superintendent. So everyone's afraid for their job," she said. The teacher said CBE teachers also haven't been offered any professional development on best practices when teaching texts with these sorts of words and slurs. "We don't have any discussion and people are afraid now, and I don't know if that's how we should be feeling," the teacher said. Usih said while the note may have seemed sudden, it does provide a number of links to resources for teachers to help them tackle these conversations and topics with students — and he promises more education for teachers is forthcoming. "There's no question that professional learning is going to be important going forward, because that's how teachers can share best practices and we can talk about the fact that these are conversations that we need to have," he said. "These are good teaching moments for young people, but intent does not negate impact. "What we don't want is to place students in situations where they feel uncomfortable and they feel afraid or hurt, because the word that is used in the classroom is one that does not make them feel good about themselves."
(Leanne King Photography - image credit) Members of Saskatchewan's horse-racing community are devastated after the cancellation of the 2021 season at Marquis Downs in Saskatoon. They say more could have been done to save the season and that the cancellation could cause long-term damage to the sport in Saskatchewan. Horse-racing at Marquis Downs, a racetrack operated by Prairieland Park, was cancelled last year due to COVID-19. Earlier this week, the organization announced the 2021 season would be cancelled as well. The news is a heavy blow for many in the industry. Some claim Prairieland Park has been keeping them in the dark about plans for the season after a deal to lease the facility to Pan Am Horse Racing Inc. for 2021 was unsuccessful. "It seems to me that they haven't put forward the effort that one would expect from an organization that is in the business of running horse-racing and promoting agriculture," said Nicole Hein, an apprentice jockey and one of the only female jockeys in the province. Hein is spearheading a grassroots effort to raise awareness of the short- and long-term effects the cancellation will have on the horse-racing industry in Saskatchewan. She said many in the community are upset, as there's been "silence for months'' from Prairieland Park, leaving many who depend on the racetrack in limbo. Hein was one of the organizers of a small demonstration at City Hall on Friday aimed at making more people aware of the situation. She said organizers feel their voice has not been heard and that Prairieland Park needs to do more to support the sport. "They just sat silent for months and then made this decision," she said. A small group of people gathered at Saskatoon's City Hall this week to raise awareness of the cancellation of the 2021 horse-racing season at Marquis Downs. Mark Reiger, CEO of Prairieland Park, said the organization was still making efforts to run races in 2021 until three days before the cancellation. He said the pandemic hit Prairieland Park hard and presented issues for a potential 2021 season. He pointed to both recruitment of international jockeys — a process with extensive COVID-19 protocols — and a lack of agreement with the Saskatchewan's Horsemen Benevolent and Protective Association (HPBA) representing owners and trainers as factors. "The fact is, the horsemen haven't agreed to 20 days of racing, which is a problem in itself. If they refuse to race, then we have no horses, so we're done," he said. "The bigger issue is the jockey situation. If we had an agreement with the horsemen and we could get jockeys in, we might consider this." Prairieland Park put forward an offer to run 20 days of races, but the HPBA wanted to see a 24-day season to ensure the costs of running are covered. Regier said the issue comes down to finances. "We invest large amounts of money to make it operate and there's limits as to what we can do," he said. "With the shutdown of our whole operations here, Prairieland could be losing as much as $3 million this year. So that poses a big challenge for us too. How many days are enough? What are we supposed to do? We try our best here to make it work, but there are limitations as to what we can do." He said Prairieland not having applied for permits as usual a "non-issue," saying they could have been acquired quickly if needed. We try our best here to make it work, but there are limitations as to what we can do. - Mark Reiger, CEO of Prairieland PArk Sport will suffer from cancelled seasons Eddie Esquirol, President of the Saskatchewan HPBA, said owners and trainers countered with the 24-day season because cash streams from gate admission and concessions would likely be off the table due to COVID, so they would be relying on revenue from wagering and race takes alone. "Keep in mind the care of the animals, the care of the horses, is 365 days a year," he said. He said some racetracks have had success broadcasting their globally via simulcast, which allows people in international markets to bet on live races even if physical attendance is limited. While you can wager on horse racing at Marquis Down through a smartphone app, the software is based out of Ontario, meaning some money made from Saskatchewan betters won't stay in the province, Esquirol said. He said Prairieland Park needs to invest in a global simulcast, and the marketing and planning required to make it successful. He also said he's "at a loss" as to why Prairieland Park leadership won't join the HPBA's efforts to lobby the provincial government for funding, which he said could be one avenue to saving the struggling industry. He's not sure Saskatchewan's horse-racing industry will be able to survive without provincial intervention. "There's 500 people that are affected directly and there's another 500 plus that are affected indirectly," he said. "So for Prairieland not to conduct horse racing in Saskatoon for the summer of 2021, you have many people that are either going to be forced to relocate to our neighbouring provinces or find some other form of employment in Saskatoon." Praireland has no interest in further lobbying efforts Reiger said Prairieland has invested millions in the sport of horse-racing over the years and is not interested in asking the province for money alongside the HPBA. Although Prairieland supported a petition lobbying the province for funding in the summer, he said it has no interest in continuing lobbying efforts. "That's their initiative, it's in front of the table and we'll let them talk to the government," he said, noting there wouldn't be thoroughbred racing in the province at all if not for Marquis Downs. Asked about criticisms that Prairieland isn't doing enough, he said, "that's their opinion and I appreciate that." On Friday, CBC reached out to Prairieland Park with follow up questions about the 2021 horse-racing season, including questions about a global simulcast, but a response was not received by deadline. Marquis Downs is the premier horse-racing track in Saskatchewan. A news release from Prairieland Park said its revenue is derived from "trade shows, banquets, agricultural exhibitions, and the Exhibition itself," all of which have been unable to open due to COVID-19. "The effect of that has been a significant reduction in revenues. To help maintain its strong balance sheet, Prairieland Park has been forced to make many difficult decisions over the last year," the statement said. "The primary commitment is opening operations when safe to do so." Kristy Rempel, marketing manager with Praireland Park, told CKOM that the park understands the cancellation of the 2021 season "does effectively end horse-racing in the province." Esquirol said he's reached out to the province in hopes of meeting to discuss further options. He said he's yet to get a response. Hein, who wants to see horse-racing grow and thrive in Saskatoon, said leaders at Prairieland need to do their part to make sure the sport survives. "Everybody needs to pull up their bootstraps and get to work and not hide behind a desk and just decide the fate of an entire industry from your chair," she said.
(Submitted by David Voelker - image credit) Forty-three years ago, Dave Voelker spent two days walking 48 kilometres across a frozen Lake Erie. On Feb. 25, 1978, Voelker left Cleveland, Ohio by himself and was set on reaching Colchester, Ont. in the next 48 hours. On his back he carried all that he would need, including a tent, walkie talkie, and a tripod with a camera. "I knew it was frozen across I had to give it a shot, I'm a bit of an adventure junkie," Voelker told CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre. He said the temperature that year had been below freezing for at least a month and to be certain the water was frozen through, he checked in with the coast guard. A frozen Lake Erie as photographed by Voelker. When he first started crossing he said he saw some ice fishers, but there eventually came a point of "absolutely nothing at all." LISTEN: Dave Voelker talks about what the journey across was like with host Chris dela Torre "I was in my element," he said. "I'm a bit of a loner to begin with and being in the middle of a frozen Great Lake is the ultimate alone time, you're just left alone on your thoughts and I just reflected on what I was doing." He said he wasn't really scared, but the adventure didn't come without its challenges. At one point he could tell an ice breaker had gone through the lake and it caused the ice to bunch up in odd places. He also had to check a compass to make sure he was headed in the right direction. Eventually he made it to the other side and said a family witnessed his arrival. They then invited him in for dinner. Voelker pitched up a tent one day into his hike across the lake. Upon arriving in Colchester, he said he was relieved because he was so tired. Afterwards he says he ended up hitchhiking back home and passed through Windsor to do so. Some people still don't believe that Voelker crossed the lake, but he says he hopes the photos are enough. "Even if people don't believe it I know that I did it," he said.
Archaeologists have unearthed a unique ancient-Roman ceremonial carriage from a villa just outside Pompeii, the city buried in a volcanic eruption in 79 AD. The almost perfectly preserved four-wheeled carriage made of iron, bronze and tin was found near the stables of an ancient villa at Civita Giuliana, around 700 metres (yards) north of the walls of ancient Pompeii. Massimo Osanna, the outgoing director of the Pompeii archaeological site, said the carriage was the first of its kind discovered in the area, which had so far yielded functional vehicles used for transport and work, but not for ceremonies.
(Zach Goudie/CBC - image credit) A mining company hoping to strike it rich on the Eastern Shore says it now believes there is double the amount of gold it initially thought was on its property near Goldboro, N.S. Anaconda Mining originally estimated there were 1.4-million ounces of gold at its site about 250 kilometres east of Halifax. But after exploration, drilling and testing last year, the Toronto-based company now believes there are closer to 2.75-million ounces of gold. "I've been in this industry 35 years, and it's been my dream to develop something like this," said Kevin Bullock, the company's president and CEO. "I'm just ecstatic. You know, people look for these their lifetime and never find them. So I'm really happy about that." Bullock said he believes the gold deposit at Goldboro is the second-largest undeveloped deposit in Atlantic Canada, second only to Marathon Gold's Valentine Gold project in Newfoundland and Labrador. Focus shifting to open-pit mining The findings have prompted Anaconda to modify its plans for the proposed mine. The plan had always been to extract gold through both open-pit surface mining as well as underground mining. The company still plans to use both methods, but now plans more open-pit mining. Open-pit mining tends to be faster and less expensive. It also means more ore is crushed and processed, producing more waste dumps and tailings, the material left over after ore is processed. Bullock said the amount of ore that will be processed will quadruple from previous estimates. The shift to more open-pit mining will increase the physical footprint of the mining operations due to the amount of tailings and waste dumps, but Bullock couldn't yet say by how much. He expects the period of open-pit mining to last for at least eight or nine years before underground mining begins. Bullock said if the mine is approved, he hopes to see construction begin by the end of 2022. The project would create a "tremendous" number of jobs through both the construction and operations phases, Bullock said. Anaconda is now expecting to be able to produce about 100,000 ounces a year, a figure Bullock estimates is relatively on par with the activities of the province's active mine, Atlantic Gold's Touquoy mine in Moose River. Environmental approval Anaconda submitted its original plans for Goldboro to the province for environmental approval in August 2018. But the environment minister at the time, Margaret Miller, said the company's submission didn't contain enough information. She asked Anaconda to write a new, more extensive report on the environmental implications of the project, and gave a one-year deadline. Three days before that deadline, in September 2019, Anaconda withdrew its proposal from the environmental assessment process because it was changing its plans for the mine. Bullock said the mine would operate in compliance with all provincial environmental policies. "So, waters frequented by fish, we will stay away from. We will ensure that everything is done to the standard that anything emitted to the environment will not have anything in it that's deleterious." Bullock acknowledged that since the Goldboro area was mined as far back as the late 1900s — long before any environmental regulations were in place — there are historical tailings that "have some nasties in them." He said the company would hope to help the government clean up those sites. MORE TOP STORIES
OTTAWA — A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough to cover the average pinky nail but is made up of more than 280 components and requires at least three manufacturing plants to produce. By the time that dose is injected, it has travelled to at least six different cities in four countries, across the Atlantic Ocean twice, and monitored by a 24-hour watchtower in Iceland every step of the way. A marvel of both science and supply-chain heroics takes the vaccine from the factory floor to the arms of grateful patients all over the world. "It's really very complex," said Germain Morin, Pfizer's vice-president in charge of global supply chains for the company's rare-disease medications and vaccines. The messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines being made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, as well as Moderna, are a novel technology that before COVID-19 had never been approved for widespread use in humans. While DNA is the large and complex molecule that stores all of genetic coding that makes us who we are, RNA carries individual pieces of that code out into the body with the instructions on how to carry out the body's work. In the case of mRNA vaccines, they are carrying the genetic code for part of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which teaches our bodies to mount a defence against the virus. A year ago, the materials for these vaccines were being made for research purposes only, enough for maybe a few hundred doses at a time. Now Pfizer expects to pump out two billion doses by the end of this year. It has made scaling up the manufacturing process a herculean feat, said Morin. There are 25 different suppliers involved, spanning 19 different countries. Some of them, said Morin, were making milligrams of liquid at the start. Then they were asked to make kilograms of it, and finally hundreds of kilograms. The 475,000 doses Canada received last week began their lives before Christmas. Morin said it used to take four months to make a single dose of the vaccine, which is officially called BNT162b2. Morin said the process has recently been streamlined to half that time. Every dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is born in a Pfizer lab in Chesterfield, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. That's where small DNA molecules called plasmids are made with the beginnings of the code for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. It takes about two weeks, followed by a quality assurance process. Every step of production has quality checks and rechecks, from the bags and boxes used to store and transport the vaccine components to the temperature in the lab and the protective clothing worn by any workers. Then comes the first major chill, as the plasmids are put in bags and frozen to that famous ultralow temperature Pfizer's product needs: -80C. From Missouri, the plasmids are shipped to two labs, one a Pfizer facility in Andover, Mass., and another a BioNTech facility in Germany, where they are used to make the mRNA. A single batch of mRNA takes about four days to make, in a high-tech process with numerous enzymes and chemicals. The mRNA is then frozen again and shipped off for finishing. In the U.S. that happens in Kalamazoo, Mich., and for Canada's doses, currently made in Europe, they go to Puurs, Belgium, Pfizer's biggest plant in the world. Messenger RNA is not a very stable product and will disintegrate quickly if not protected, so every bit of mRNA is encased in a tiny amount of fat called a lipid nanoparticle. "Imagine a very, very small egg, so a very small eggshell of lipids that would protect the mRNA," said Morin. "This is part of the magic of making this vaccine as well." Over the course of three or four more days the mRNA gets its lipid coating, and is filled into vials containing enough vaccine for six doses. The vials are then packed into boxes, and immediately put into "those famous freezers" which turn the lipid-coated mRNA molecules into mini blocks of ultracold ice. "This was, by the way, one of the challenges," said Morin. "You can imagine that those freezers are not very common in the world. Laboratories buying them would typically buy them one or two at a time. We went to the suppliers and the first time we've asked for 650 of them in one shot, and then we went for more after that." The vials stay in those freezers for two to three weeks, while every lot is tested with more than 40 different quality-control measures. Then come the thermal shipping boxes Pfizer and BioNTech developed for this vaccine. Each vial is packed into a tray about the size of a pizza box with 195 vials total. Five trays are packaged together into the special box, which is filled with dry ice, and sealed. Every box contains a tracking unit to know its location and internal temperature at all times. A control site in Iceland monitors the boxes, which are all uniquely labelled. If any box records a problem between Belgium and the delivery site, it will be investigated and most likely discarded. Morin said at first there were many concerns about the complexity of the freezer requirements but the supply chain has been so successful that only one per cent of the product around the world has been lost because of temperature concerns. Pfizer contracted with UPS to deliver the boxes. Those are picked up by UPS in Belgium, and sent through Germany and Kentucky on their way to Canada. UPS delivers the batches to dozens of delivery sites in each province, where provincial health officials take over possession and prepare to inject them into arms. Moderna hasn't released as many details about its manufacturing process, but has said the vaccine is largely produced for Canada in Switzerland, sent to Spain to be mixed with a diluent and filled into vials, and then shipped to a warehouse in Belgium. Canada has hired FedEx and Innomar Strategies to manage the shipping and distribution of Moderna's and all other vaccines except Pfizer-BioNTech's. Guy Payette, the president of Innomar, said they too use specially designed boxes. Moderna's vaccine doesn't have to be frozen as deeply but does have to be kept at about -20C. The other vaccines Canada is likely to get will mostly need to be kept at about 6 C. Payette said each box is also labelled and tracked with a GPS and thermal sensor. The shipments arrive at Innomar's warehouse, where workers repackage them to match the quantities being sent to each province. He said except for one spot in northern British Columbia, the trackers have worked beautifully. Where they did not, due to the altitude, boxes are equipped with a second device with data that can be downloaded later. He said so far, the temperature has been fine and all products delivered successfully. Those involved in the vaccine process have expressed awe at the speed with which everything turned around. Moderna's vaccine was in clinical trials less than two months after the SARS-CoV-2 virus was fully sequenced. Pfizer and BioNTech signed a partnership agreement in March 2020, and 266 days later the vaccine was approved in the United Kingdom. More than 50 countries have since followed suit and more than 100 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine have now been distributed. It's a pace of development the company has never seen in its 173-year history. "Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, not even close," said Morin. He said most products take three to five years to get this far. "We're very proud," he said. "Every new market that we launch is a celebration." He said when the first Canadian was vaccinated on Dec. 14, "I had goosebumps." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021. Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
The Village of South River discussed several topics at its Feb. 22 council meeting, including the annual water report, South River’s arena status and the District of Parry Sound Social Services Board being more involved in health and well-being. Here are key quotes from the council meeting. On the 2020 annual water report “People have concerns and rightly so; they have a right to be concerned about the security of their water, but we certainly have taken all the steps to make sure that security is there and it’s good for us to have a reminder for them,” said Coun. Bill O’Hallarn. “On our water page, both this report and the next one that we’re about to accept will be on the website (Feb. 23) and the past years are there,” said clerk-administrator Don McArthur. On the South River Arena “As we all know, we decided to remove the ice and that work will go on. We’ll move forward all the maintenance once they get the ice out that would have normally taken place in May and June — we can begin in March and see how far that takes us,” said McArthur. “We’re hopeful that the (Investing in Canadian Infrastructure Program) COVID-19 grant may be announced before the end of March and maybe we can enhance some of that work. For right now, the plan is to put the ice back in mid-June to be ready for hockey opportunity camp … so the arena update is that the season came to an end unfortunately,” said McArthur. On the District of Parry Sound Social Services Administration Board “That’s something we always wanted to do, was to have the District of Parry Sound Social Services Administration Board more involved with health and well-being,” said Coun. Teri Brandt. “The DSSAB is an active member of the build in Powassan for the new Noah building and you can see the building is going ahead and they’re very optimistic there’s going to be 50 units and lots of subsidized units,” said Brandt. The Village of South River’s next council meeting is on March 8. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
(Brian Chisholm/CBC News file photo - image credit) Mount Allison University's decision to launch an internal review following complaints about the personal blog of one of its professors is an "egregious" violation of academic freedom, a group dedicated to the protection of free speech and scholarship says. Earlier this week, Mount Allison announced it was conducting an internal review after receiving complaints about an associate psychology professor's blog. In a statement, the university said "serious concerns have been expressed" about posts related to systemic racism, sexual violence, gender, and colonization. "We neither support nor agree with the inappropriate comments that have been posted to this blog," the university said. On Wednesday, the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship rallied to the professor's defence. The society, a group of Canadian professors headed by philosophy professor Mark Mercer, sent a letter urging Mount Allison to rethink its decision. "The professor alluded to in the tweet is Rima Azar, associate professor of health psychology, and the comments Dr. Azar posted on her blog "Bambi's Afkar" concern matters of public and academic importance, such as freedom of expression, university policies, the existence of systemic racism in Canada and teaching in a multi-cultural society," the group said in a letter to Mount Allison. "SAFS is concerned that Mount Allison's [statement] violates Dr. Azar's academic freedom and will function to suppress discussion and inquiry" at the university. Mark Mercer, president of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship, says Mount Allison has "no legitimate reason" to look into Azar's postings. In an interview, Mercer said Mount Allison has "no legitimate reason" to look into Azar's postings, and said he sees its decision to do so as a response to public pressure. "It's an expression of cancel culture and it perpetuates cancel culture," Mercer said. "As soon as the investigation is called, that's an act of cancelling." Azar declined to comment on the internal review or on the society's response. Mount Allison acknowledged Friday that it has received the letter, but did not respond to questions about whether it will continue with the review. "We have no further comments at this time," communications officer Aloma Jardine said in an email. Mercer said he has not heard back from Mount Allison yet, but that he is hopeful the university will change its position and use the controversy as a "teachable moment." "When we're confronted with positions that we think are false or dangerous, we should analyze them, discuss the arguments for and against," not shut them down, he said. Mount Allison University should be using the controversy around the complaints as a teachable moment about the academic values of free speech and discussion, Mercer said. No topics should be off-limits, Mercer says Earlier this week, Jonathan Ferguson, president of Mount Allison Students' Union, said it received multiple complaints about Azar's blog. The complaints were not about any one post specifically, he said, but rather about "what this professor was saying throughout her blog … denying systemic racism in New Brunswick or in Canada, talking about BIPOC students in unkind ways, labelling Black Lives Matter a radical group — stuff that doesn't run in line with the values of our institution at all." Husoni Raymond, a St. Thomas University graduate who was mentioned in Azar's blog, tweeted: "So one Black person wins an award and that means there's no racism? Disappointing to see a professor who's still ignorant to what racism is and will be using her power within the institution to uphold racists ideologies. Racism IS in Canada. Racism IS in NB." Raymond was responding to a post by Azar in which she said, in part: "NB is NOT racist. Canada is NOT racist. We do not have 'systemic' racism or 'systemic' discrimination. We just have systemic naivety because we are a young country and because we want to save the world. "Oh, one quick question to Mr. Husoni Raymond: Upon your graduation from St. Thomas University, you have been named the 2020 recipient of the Tom McCann Memorial Trophy for your 'strong leadership and character' ... "If NB is as racist as you are claiming, would one of its prestigious universities be honouring you like that?" Mercer said no topics should be off-limits. "The point of freedom of expression on campus is to remove impediments from discussion ... so that people can say what's on their mind," he said. "So when a university says it doesn't support this view, then that's the institution saying there's a party line. And then when they say they're investigating, then they're saying there are some things that cannot be said."