A study suggested that sticking with the lockdown, and keeping schools closed, through the end of March would bring down the number of COVID-19 intensive care unit patients to around 300.
A study suggested that sticking with the lockdown, and keeping schools closed, through the end of March would bring down the number of COVID-19 intensive care unit patients to around 300.
The Burmese-Canadian community is calling on the federal government to provide more material support to anti-military protesters after a week that saw some of the deadliest clashes between police and demonstrators in Myanmar since the military coup in that country. The Burmese Canadian Action Network (BCAN) sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Minister Marc Garneau this week, just one day after police killed 18 people and wounded 30, according to the United Nations. "We, Burmese Canadians across Canada, are calling on the Government of Canada to provide tangible support for Burmese people struggling for freedom and democracy," the letter reads. The crisis began after Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide re-election as state counsellor of Myanmar — a position equivalent to a prime minister -- on Nov. 8 last year. The military questioned the results, accusing the winning party of fraud, before seizing power and placing Suu Kyi and other senior members of her government under arrest on Feb. 1. Since then, dozens of protesters have died -- 34 on Wednesday alone -- at the hands of police and more than 1,000 civilians and elected officials have been arrested. Anti-coup protesters maintain their position behind a barricade despite smoke from tear gas in San Chaung township in Yangon, Myanmar, on Friday, Mar. 5, 2021. Demonstrators defy growing violence by security forces and stage more anti-coup protests ahead of a special UN Security Council meeting on the country’s political crisis.(The Associated Press) From pot-banging to protesters taking to the streets clad in hard-hats and goggles to protect themselves from assaults by police, the demonstrations are happening daily, in spite of bans on political protests and on social media. The letter to Trudeau and Garneau says Canada should take further action, including helping people who are now struggling with food scarcity. The civil unrest has caused major shutdowns in the country and interrupted the people's daily lives, especially those who joined the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). BCAN appealed to Canada to send food and material support via UN agencies and civil society organizations. "We encourage you to find ways to provide such essential assistance urgently," its letter reads. The letter also calls on Canada to officially recognize the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Htaw (CRPH). The CRPH, which was created soon after the coup with the support of 400 elected MPs, combines the Lower and Upper Houses of Myanmar's parliament. Protesters hold up placards demanding the release of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration against the military coup in Naypyidaw on March 4, 2021 (AFP via Getty Images) According to Tin Maung Htoo, spokesperson for the BCAN, the CRPH is currently working underground in defiance of the police and supporting the demonstrators under the radar, by releasing information and making announcements to the public. "We are quite encouraged by the [Canadian] government's stand and this stand and actions from the government is very encouraging for people on the ground in Burma, especially," he said, referring to a move by Canada and Britain to impose economic sanctions on Myanmar. The two countries made the move under the Special Economic Measures Act on Feb 18 after police violence escalated against demonstrators. We don't want to go back 20, 30 years -- back to the dark age. That is why this is the time for us to do whatever we can. - Tin Maung Htoo Maung Htoo was a student when he fled Myanmar during in 1988 after organizing protests against the military dictatorship. "More than 3,000 people, mostly students, were killed in the streets," Maung Htoo recalled. "There was no freedom of expression, association, student unions were banned." The regime lasted over 20 years, finally ending when Myanmar achieved partial democracy in 2010. Tin Maung Htoo, with the Burmese Canadian Action Network, says the people of Myanmar 'are showing their strong stand and support for democratization in the country.'(Submitted by Tin Maung Htoo) Two years before the country opened itself to the world, the military wrote a new constitution, which allowed it to keep some of its former powers, including 25 per cent of seats in parliament and control of the defence, border affairs and home ministries. When the military moved to take power in February, General Min Aung Hlaing announced the removal of 24 democratically elected ministers, naming 11 replacements.. Maung Htoo said he believes the coup is an act of desperation. He said the the military was gradually losing not only political control under Suu Kyi's leadership but also economic power, since big business organizations are military-backed and military-owned. "People are showing their strong stand and support for democratization in the country." Maung Htoo said. "We don't want to go back 20, 30 years ... back to the dark age. That is why this is the time for us to do whatever we can."
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 10:00 p.m. ET on Friday, March 5, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 85,376 new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,253,514 doses given. Nationwide, 561,238 people or 1.5 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 5,946.061 per 100,000. There were 8,190 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,622,210 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 85.94 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 4,472 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 24,757 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 47.279 per 1,000. In the province, 1.61 per cent (8,427) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 35,620 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,105 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 13,281 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 83.724 per 1,000. In the province, 3.32 per cent (5,273) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 14,715 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 90.25 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 6,657 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 38,676 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 39.631 per 1,000. In the province, 1.48 per cent (14,395) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 61,980 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 62.4 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 7,424 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 33,741 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 43.255 per 1,000. In the province, 1.56 per cent (12,142) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 46,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 72.13 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 19,975 new vaccinations administered for a total of 510,479 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 59.659 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 638,445 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 79.96 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 35,886 new vaccinations administered for a total of 820,714 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 55.872 per 1,000. In the province, 1.83 per cent (269,063) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 903,285 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 90.86 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,358 new vaccinations administered for a total of 84,937 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 61.682 per 1,000. In the province, 2.17 per cent (29,847) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were 8,190 new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 124,840 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 68.04 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 2,789 new vaccinations administered for a total of 86,879 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 73.679 per 1,000. In the province, 2.37 per cent (27,945) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 74,605 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 116.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 9,488 new vaccinations administered for a total of 275,719 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 62.634 per 1,000. In the province, 2.06 per cent (90,486) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 274,965 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 100.3 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 12,357 new vaccinations administered for a total of 311,208 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 60.646 per 1,000. In the province, 1.69 per cent (86,865) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 385,080 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 80.82 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting 1,279 new vaccinations administered for a total of 19,437 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 465.769 per 1,000. In the territory, 17.00 per cent (7,093) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 18,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 102.8 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 19,775 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 438.285 per 1,000. In the territory, 10.10 per cent (4,558) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 19,100 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 42 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 103.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 158 new vaccinations administered for a total of 13,911 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 359.216 per 1,000. In the territory, 13.28 per cent (5,144) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 23,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 62 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 58.21 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. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
The provincial government has established a new one-time benefit for parents for daycare costs during the pandemic. The Working Parents Benefit, announced during a government news conference on Feb. 24, will provide a one-time payment of $561 to parents in the province. To be eligible, parents must make less than $100,000, have children in childcare, and have paid three months of childcare between April 1 and Dec. 31, 2020. Examples of eligible childcare include licensed or unlicensed daycare, day homes, out-of-school care, or preschool. This new support will help families invest in childcare and preschool, but will also create economic stimulus, said Rebecca Schultz, the province’s minister of children’s services. The program is being funded with $108 million of unspent funds from Children’s Services to support the families of up to 192,000 children, according to the government. Applications for the benefit are made online, the date of opening varying regionally to manage volume, between March 1 to March 5. Applications will be open until March 31. A MyAlberta Digital ID is required to apply for the benefit. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
Frances Wesley said a sense of relief could be felt in the room at the first vaccine clinic held for off-reserve First Nations members living in Thunder Bay. The smell of sage burning from the smudge bowl used to bless the Pfizer COVID-19 doses and the nurses administering them also filled the room with reassurance as a lineup formed outside of people scheduled to get their first shot. Ms. Wesley, the executive director of the Matawa Health Co-op, an organization that serves nine First Nations communities in Northern Ontario, said close to 200 doses were administered to its off-reserve members in a clinic that first opened this week. She said the Matawa group prioritized vulnerable people including those older than 60, the homeless or precariously housed and those with mental-health illnesses. Thunder Bay moved back into the province’s grey lockdown zone last week as it continues to struggle to get a handle on the virus, which has spread significantly among the city’s homeless and precariously housed, many of whom are Indigenous and First Nations. Chief Chris Moonias from Neskantaga, one of the Matawa First Nations, declared a state of emergency last month after an outbreak infected 12 members living in the city. Chief Moonias said most of those cases have been resolved, however one of his nephews remains in the ICU. According to a 2018 community report, close to 500 people are in homeless situations, such as couch surfing or accessing emergency shelters in Thunder Bay. Ms. Wesley said the doses for Matawa’s clinics are being provided by the Thunder Bay health unit based on how many people register. She said Matawa was able to move quickly because it has extensive health care resources, including nurses and physicians on staff. She said Matawa worked with health directors from each of their communities to get a list of those living in the city for registration. There are about 4,000 members from the nine Matawa First Nations who live in Thunder Bay, according to Ms. Wesley. “Some people will say no,” she said. “Others are so excited they can hardly wait.” She said they’ve already been approached by other First Nations and groups about holding clinics for their off-reserve members and communities accessible by road. Remote Indigenous communities were given immediate priority because of their isolation and inadequate access to health care. Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a political organization representing 49 mostly remote First Nations, said more than 9,000 members living in remote communities have been vaccinated so far as Operation Remote Immunity nears completion. Meanwhile, public-health units and regional health authorities are leading the rollout in urban Indigenous and road-access communities. Nishnawbe Aski Nation noted there’s a sense of urgency for those close to hot spots such as Thunder Bay as COVID-19 cases and outbreaks in the city continue to put lives at risk. Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald is a member of the provincial vaccine task force and says the goal is to vaccinate all First Nations in Ontario by April 30. She said clinics to vaccinate people 55 years and older have already begun in some urban locations such as Anishnawbe Health Toronto and Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre in Sudbury. The Thunder Bay District Health Unit says it’s already vaccinating the homeless population in the city with partners at different clinics and that many road-access communities in the district have received their first doses. The health unit said it is still in the planning stages with Indigenous organizations for vaccinating off-reserve members in the district. Ontario announced Friday its plans to move to Phase 2 of its vaccine rollout plan based on age and risk, focusing on ages. Indigenous communities and people were identified as a priority group at the beginning of the pandemic and vaccine rollout because of higher rates of poorer health outcomes and higher risk of COVID-19 infections and transmission. Thunder Bay wasn’t listed as a COVID-19 hot spot region slated to get additional doses in the province’s transitional plan. Dr. Dirk Huyer said it was based on historical, not current, data of hot spots such as Peel and Toronto. Willow Fiddler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Globe and Mail
L’événement est tiré d’un conte français devenu québécois. Le festival d’hiver bilingue Le Canoë volant, ou Flying Canoë, a fait son envolée pour la neuvième année consécutive cette semaine à Edmonton. La légende de La chasse-galerie, un conte d’origine française devenu franco-canadien sous la plume d’Honoré Beaugrand, est une histoire grandeur nature qui a attiré, pour l’occasion, tout le Grand Edmonton et qui témoigne des origines des francophones de l’Ouest canadien. « Le Canoë volant, c’est une célébration de lumières, de notre histoire, de nos traditions, de l’histoire de l’Ouest franco-canadien », raconte fièrement Daniel Cournoyer, fondateur de ce festival et directeur de la Cité francophone, dans le quartier français d’Edmonton. Un conte qui rassemble l’histoire de trois peuples fondateurs : Autochtones et Métis, Canadiens français et Anglophones. Le Canoë volant, devenu le symbole du festival, est le point de départ d’une légende intitulée La chasse-galerie, originaire du Poitou, en France. Sa première version québécoise a été publiée en 1892. Au Québec, la légende raconte qu’un groupe de bûcherons passa un pacte avec le diable afin de rejoindre leur bien-aimée le soir de la Saint-Sylvestre, à bord non pas d’un tapis volant, mais bien d’un canoë volant. En échange, ils ne devaient, sous aucun prétexte, blasphémer, boire ou encore toucher le clocher d’une église, et revenir avant l’aube, sous peine de perdre leur âme. Bien entendu, les choses ne se déroulèrent pas ainsi et l’histoire raconte qu’ils continuent, encore jusqu’à aujourd’hui, à errer pour l’éternité… « Comme dans toute légende à tradition orale, nous avons décidé de raconter notre propre version de la chasse-galerie. Les gens du Québec connaissent bien cette histoire traditionnelle, et nous, nous l’avons adaptée à notre réalité. Dans notre version, ce ne sont pas des bûcherons, mais bien des voyageurs », précise M. Cournoyer. Un détail qui fait tout une différence et qui apporte un élément d’identification dans l’histoire des francophones de l’Ouest. En effet, ici, le conte de la chasse fantastique se mêle savamment avec l’histoire et l’héritage des premiers Canadiens français souvent méconnus dans ce coin du pays, déplore Daniel Cournoyer. Selon lui, cela mériterait d’être démystifié. « Quand on regarde les noms métis, la majorité sont des noms francophones comme Lachance, Majot. Ces familles sont venues de l’est du pays, il y a 200 ans. Il y a une longue histoire de francophones à l’ouest du Québec, de l’Ontario, du Manitoba, mais moi si je suis là, c’est parce que mes arrière-arrière-grands-parents sont arrivés en 1891 », relate-t-il. D’habitude, ce chapitre de l’histoire de l’Ouest est raconté aux enfants, lors d’ateliers scolaires pendant le festival. On y explique que des voyageurs, venus de l’Est, étaient restés dans l’Ouest, épris d’une jeune Autochtone. Ils décidèrent de s’installer en se mettant à leur compte, bien que leur contrat fût terminé avec les compagnies de traite de fourrures telle la Baie d’Hudson. « Les premiers voyageurs étaient des francophones de l’est du pays, des guides qui travaillaient étroitement avec les peuples autochtones. Cette volonté de bâtir une communauté ensemble, on l’a perdue, car le temps de la réconciliation n’est pas fini », pointe M. Cournoyer. D’habitude, le Canoë volant, qui se termine samedi, présente un grand nombre d’activités et d’ateliers. En raison de la pandémie, le festival a dû restreindre le nombre de ses participants. « L’an dernier a été une année record, avec plus de 60 000 personnes. Cette année, avec les restrictions, on mise autour de 12 000 en 6 soirs, et non pas 3 », prévoit-il. La date a aussi été reportée au mois de mars, au lieu de février. Le directeur n’a pas voulu prendre trop de risques. « Après les Fêtes de Noël, les dates étaient trop proches », explique-t-il. Malgré tout, la poésie et la magie de la Chasse-galerie opèrent toujours dans le ravin de Mill Creek, même si l’interaction avec le public n’est pas possible. L’emphase a été mise sur les sons et les images. Les festivaliers ont pu, le long du chemin, découvrir des animations ainsi que des tentes de trappeurs. En haut du ravin, le décor était bien planté. On pouvait découvrir des tipis géants se dresser au cœur d’un village autochtone, logé en plein cœur du ravin. Des projections vidéo montraient des artistes locaux interprétant, au son de leurs guitares et de leurs violons, des ballades franco-canadiennes de leur répertoire. Un festival de nuit qui n’a rien perdu de sa magie. Hélène Lequitte, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Devoir
The development of West Niagara Secondary School is an ongoing conversation among west Niagara residents, and it raises questions about community and identity. As a result of the new school opening, South Lincoln Secondary has already shut down operations as a high school and is now operating as an elementary school. With Beamsville District Secondary and Grimsby Secondary also set to shut down, the west Niagara community has expressed different reactions. Nicole Scime has lived in West Lincoln for 34 years and she says that while she appreciates what the District School Board of Niagara is doing for Grimsby, Beamsville and Lincoln, “do I think that West Lincoln should’ve been thrown into the mix? Absolutely not.” She says that West Lincoln is a farming community and different than Grimsby or Lincoln given its population density. Although the site for the new school is supposed to be in the middle of the communities it serves, “it is not,” Scime said. “The bus routes for Grimsby and Lincoln will be very different from the bus routes for West Lincoln. Our kids are going to have to travel up and down the escarpment.” She said that having a local high school in a place like West Lincoln isn't about identity, but rather about keeping local kids in the community. “Our kids won't be able to work in our community. They won't play sports in our community. They just won't have that aspect in their lives,” Scime said. Scime herself is a graduate of South Lincoln Secondary and although her own children won't be attending secondary school for some time, she said she fears a “culture shock” for her kids when they go from a rural elementary school of 150 students to a super school of over 2,000. After reading complaints from other parents on social media, Scime said she learned that some former South Lincoln students who have been transferred to other schools have had to miss out on extracurriculars due to improper bussing. She said this is an issue she isn't looking forward to facing. Katie Appleyard is a Beamsville resident and mother of two; one of her daughters is a graduate of Grimsby Secondary School (GSS) and the other will graduate with the last class of GSS. Appleyard herself, a graduate of Beamsville District, said her grandfather was a teacher at GSS and both her parents went to school there as well. She said, “I really believe that this generation, a generation that's never not known modern technology, deserves a state-of-the-art school, not something that's outdated and needs constant upgrades.” She said that although she doesn’t like the idea of identities being stripped away, she believes that a new school will give students a new identity through new experiences and diversity that they otherwise would not have found in their local communities. Appleyard said she looks forward to the towns coming together to build something special. She said she remembers being a student at Beamsville Secondary and “my world feeling very small. And I think that this will prepare kids for their future by opening up who they meet, the curriculum that they can take, the extracurricular activities that they can do, and I think that that's what excites me the most for next generations.” Moosa Imran, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News
Booking a provincial campsite is a high-stakes venture — like getting a front row seat to a concert. Everyone goes in with a plan, refreshing and calling furiously just to snag a coveted spot. And now, some worry about another parallel: campsite scalpers. Alberta Parks acknowledged the concern Friday on its social media channels after receiving several reports and complaints from campers. "We're committed to ensuring access to camping in Alberta Parks is fair and equitable," read a statement from Alberta Environment and Parks. While the ministry told CBC News that reselling is rare, it has posted a reminder on social media because it's something it wants to prevent. "We had some social media followers reach out to us today saying there were a couple of resale ads online," the Facebook post says. "We ask Albertans if they see any ads or posts attempting to resell reservations to call our Contact Centre at 1 (877) 537-2757. We will cancel the reservations of those trying to resell their campsites." By the time staff were able to look into reports, the solicitations had already been pulled, Parks told CBC. For many, May long weekend is the kickoff of camping season in Alberta. They take a chance on spring weather to secure a spot. With all the competition, it can be tough to land a site that weekend. Camping enthusiast Lisa Gabruck said she's already seen at least one for sale on Facebook groups. "The non-refundable reservation fee is too low at the moment," Gabruck said. "Most resellers are willing to take the hit as they will make it back on other sites they are reselling." According to the Alberta Parks website, changing a reservation costs $5, the campsite reservation fee is $12 and non-refundable. 'I have an extra site' Last year, Nathan Larson missed out on reservations and saw upselling behaviour first hand. He wanted a site and messaged a couple of people advertising provincial sites for sale. He said they were looking for $20 to $30 on top of the typical cost of the site. This year, he's turned to private sites to avoid the hassle and the crowds. But on opening day this week, Larson was curious if the Alberta Parks reservation system had improved this year. He hopped on Facebook groups to see what campers were saying. What he saw on some social media groups was frustrating. "I kept seeing people saying, 'I have an extra site here, I have an extra site there,'" Larson said. "It just seemed a little odd you would spend all this time and effort, frustration, to book multiple sites and immediately go online and try to offload them." Booking should be fair, says camper Opening day 2021 produced 23,830 bookings by the end of the day, compared with 11,628 reservations for last year's opening. By Friday at 1:30 p.m., there were 27,538 bookings. This flood of activity came with issues. Alberta Parks' reservation site crashed, and people were repeatedly told to be patient. Larson isn't sure how the reservation system can improve, but it's frustrating enough for him to avoid the provincial park system altogether. "It's supposed to be a fair site for everybody to use," he said. Alberta Parks says there has been a surge in demand over the past couple of years — people aren't able to book vacations so they are exploring parks instead.(CBC) When she first moved to Alberta from Ontario years ago, Tamara Higgins said she was surprised at how difficult it can be to get a provincial campsite. She has also decided to primarily book through private campgrounds because of repeated issues and frustrations. The problem, Higgins said, is a complicated combination of a poor booking system, desperation to get a site, and little enforcement of the rules. Higgins doesn't believe people are making extra cash from the practice. Many, she thinks, are prone to overbook to secure a spot for themselves and a group before their plans have firmed up, and sometimes plans change, or life happens. The overbooking then leads to those who genuinely want a site for a certain time and date missing out, and those who have sites to spare with a place to make an arrangement. "Because of the rush to book, they just book a whole bunch and then they start selling them off as they realize they are not able to go," Higgins said. In the past, despite the warnings that sites aren't transferable, Higgins said she's been able to pick up a stranger's reservation. Alberta Parks told CBC News there has been a surge in demand over the past couple of years — people aren't able to book vacations so they are exploring parks instead. "We encourage those who aren't able to use their sites to please let us know because there are a lot of people who could use them," read the statement from Alberta Environment and Parks. "Albertans can get a full refund, minus the reservation fee, three days ahead of their arrival date."
Grimsby council voted down a third-party audit in relation to a breach of conduct committed by Mayor Jeff Jordan after a review of the breakdown of costs incurred by the town. At the committee of the whole meeting on March 1, Grimsby council reviewed the $1302.62 charged to the town as a result of a breach of conduct by Mayor Jeff Jordan. The breakdown for the cost outlined 2.6 hours of phone calls between Jordan, CAO Harry Schlange and an anonymous individual, broken up between three phone calls of various lengths, each with a charge of $440 per hour. This totalled $1,144 and a $9 telephone conference charge and HST, that number was finalized as $1302.62. On Feb 1, Jordan was found by integrity commissioner Charles Harnick to have violated conduct due to email/correspondence between the mayor and an anonymous individual in relation to a closed session council meeting in July 2020. When the charge to the town was presented at the Feb 16th meeting, council voted to have Jordan pay back this amount. During the meeting on March 1, a motion was brought forth by Coun. Dorothy Bothwell to see if council's previous decision to have the mayor pay back the money was a violation of the municipal act. This motion was then deemed a reconsideration by council and no vote for a reconsideration was accounted for, so Bothwell’s motion was dismissed. A motion to have a third party audit of the breach was then forwarded by Coun. Lianne Vardy. She cited her reason for this being a lack of public trust expressed by constituents, who per the motion, are hesitant to communicate by email, “as they fear an invasion of their privacy or the possibility of being 'targeted' by the Town.” Among others, one of the listed resolutions in the motion was “that the CAO reassure Council and residents and restore public trust that a remedy to this breach has been implemented and email security will be vigorously monitored.” Coun. Kevin Ritchie, who had come into possession of the email correspondence, then explained to council that the correspondence did not include Town of Grimsby emails nor did Harnick’s report conclude that the breach was that of the security of the town itself. The motion for an audit was defeated as Dunstall, Kadwell, Ritchie, Sharpe and Vaine voted against, with Bothwell, Freake, Vardy and Jordan voting in favour. Moosa Imran, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News
A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed by three Democratic state attorneys general that had sought to force the federal government to recognize Virginia's vote last year to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and add it to the Constitution. Shortly after Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the amendment that supporters say will guarantee women equal rights under the law, the archivist of the United States declared he would take no action to certify the amendment's adoption, citing an opinion from the Department of Justice under the Trump administration. constitutional amendments must be ratified by three-quarters of the states, or 38, but Congress enacted a ratification deadline for the ERA that passed decades ago. In a ruling Friday evening, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras said that Nevada, Illinois and Virginia's motives were “laudable” but that they came too late because the U.S. Congress set deadlines for ratifying the ERA long ago. Contreras also said the Archivist's publication and certification of an amendment are “formalities with no legal effect” so the archivist's failure to do that doesn't cause harm and there's no standing for the states to sue. In their lawsuit, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul argued that the deadline, which was first set for 1979 and later extended to 1982, was not binding. Herring said in a statement after the judge's ruling that he is not giving up the fight and is considering an appeal, hopeful of backing from Democrat Joe Biden's administration and Congress. “While I do not believe that the arbitrary deadline Congress imposed on the Equal Rights Amendment is binding in any way, I welcome any support from both the Biden Administration and Congress in ensuring that this amendment is recognized as part of the Constitution once and for all," he said. The U.S. Department of Justice, which represented the archivist of the United States David Ferriero, declined to comment. An emailed message seeking comment from the press office of the National Archives and Records Administration was not immediately returned. In a January 2020 opinion, the Justice Department said it was too late for states to sign off because of the deadline set by Congress decades earlier. Ford in Nevada said in a statement Friday that women have always been endowed with equal rights but it's past time for the country to recognize that. “Unfortunately, today’s decision requires women to continue waiting. Though I’m disheartened by this decision, all women can rest assured that, regardless of this court’s decision, my fight for your equal rights does not end today, tomorrow, or any day," he said. The ERA states, in part, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Supporters contend the amendment would offer stronger protections in sex discrimination cases and give Congress firmer ground to pass anti-discrimination laws, among other protections. Opponents of the measure warn it could be used to erase protections such as workplace accommodations during pregnancy. Anti-abortion activists worry that the amendment could be used by supporters of abortions rights to eliminate abortions restrictions on the grounds that they discriminate against women. Michelle L. Price, The Associated Press
A tree disease caused by a fungus has been identified in Wheatland County and, if left unchecked, may result in the stunting or death of trees. Black knot, caused by the fungus Apiosporina morbosa, is a disease affecting certain fruit trees (in the genus Prunus), including cherries and plums. The stems of affected trees show a blackish growth or swelling. On Feb. 17, Wheatland County announced its maintenance crews identified black knot in some of its communities. The county’s hamlet operations foreman said black knot was seen a few years ago, and while it does not seem widespread, residents should be aware of it and how to deal with it, wrote Mackenzie Maier, the county’s communication specialist, in an email. While the disease is considered common and widespread in Alberta, if it is left to progress, it can disfigure and reduce the growth of branches, sometimes leading to the death of the tree. It also stresses the infected tree, leaving it more prone to infection from other pathogens. The county cut the infected portions out of the trees areas it maintains. However, diseased branches were identified on private properties, so the county is asking landowners to assess their properties for its presence and remove any infected materials. To control black knot, all knot-bearing branches should be pruned out in late fall, winter or early spring, when plants are dormant and knots visible. Infected branches should be removed six to eight inches below the knot. To avoid spreading the spores of the fungus, shears should be cleaned and disinfected after use. Diseased wood should be either burned or removed from the site, as they may release spores for up to four months after removal. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
VANCOUVER — A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has reserved his decision on a request from three churches to throw out provincial health orders that prevent them from holding in-person services. Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson said Friday he doesn't want to delay unnecessarily and he appreciates the urgency of the matter from the petitioners' point of view, but he must give the case careful thought. "You've presented me with very difficult issues to resolve and I will take the time necessary to try and resolve those issues fairly." Hinkson gave no date on when he would release his decision. Jacqueline Hughes, a lawyer for B.C.'s attorney general, told the court the orders by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry do not single out or ban all in-person religious services and Henry has invited exemption requests. The petitioners include the Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley, Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford and the Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack. Hughes said the churches are now permitted to hold in-person services of up to 25 people, outdoors and with safety measures in place, through a "variance" to Henry's orders granted late last month. Individual worship and drive-in events are also permitted under the orders, subject to conditions, she said, while weddings, funerals and baptisms may include no more than 10 guests. Henry has the statutory powers during an emergency to issue orders she reasonably believes are necessary to prevent and mitigate further harm from a health hazard, including restricting entry to a place, said Hughes. The province's top doctor has made efforts to consult faith leaders while weighing their charter rights against data about COVID-19 cases in B.C. and explaining her reasoning in public briefings and in writing, she said. Paul Jaffe, legal counsel for the petitioners, has argued Henry's orders reflect a value judgment. On Friday, he said his clients have been subjected to discriminatory treatment compared with other groups. Orthodox Jewish synagogues were granted variances to hold indoor services on the Sabbath around the time Henry and the attorney general sought an injunction to stop his clients from worshipping in person, Jaffe said. Hinkson dismissed the province's injunction application last month, saying the provincial health officer has means under the Public Health Act to enforce the rules without a court order. Jaffe told the court on Friday there has been no change in the degree to which Henry's orders arbitrarily infringe on his clients' charter right to freedom of religion from the time they were made last November to now. "All the Crown has been able to show you are the opinions of Dr. Henry," he said. "But opinions aren't evidence. You need cogent, persuasive evidence to justify those opinions and there simply isn't any." He told the court earlier this week that his clients have adopted safety measures similar to those approved by the provincial health officer in places that remain open. Jaffe works with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a Calgary-based legal advocacy group that's also asking the court to dismiss tickets of up to $2,300 each for alleged violations of the public health orders. Hughes told the court on Friday "there's no absolute rule that constitutionally protected interests must be preferred to those that are just pressing and substantial" in matters such as the petition at hand. The only requirements, she said, are that any balance struck is reasonable, that "sincere religious practice" is accommodated where possible, and that religious and non-religious beliefs are treated neutrally. "We say Dr. Henry understood these requirements and applied them to best of her ability," Hughes told Hinkson. Henry's mandate to protect public health is a balancing exercise, she said, and "charter rights do not trump the public health mandate that she has and is continuing to exercise over the course of this pandemic." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press
This spring, Winnipeg’s civil service will unveil its new master plan for public transit, coming on the heels of Ottawa’s announcement to shovel billions of dollars into programs across the country over the next decade in an effort to lower emissions from the transportation sector. This convergence of public money and planning seems to offer Winnipeg a chance to reimagine what is possible in the realm of transit — what the system could be going forward, despite past failings. However, it is quickly becoming clear there are no visions of streetcars or light rail dancing in their heads. Dreams for Winnipeg’s transit system are much smaller, even among its biggest proponents, which speaks to how far the system still has to go in order to meet a threshold of service that would successfully convince people to leave their cars at home. Or, even more radically, not buy a car in the first place. Breaking people of their car-driving habit is a key aspect of national and municipal climate plans. More than 40 per cent of greenhouse-gas emissions in Manitoba came from the transportation sector in 2018. Of the emissions from transportation, about 37 per cent comes from vehicles classified as light-duty cars and trucks. Electrification will help lower passenger-vehicle emissions, but prospective civic policies also rely on getting more people out of their vehicles altogether and on to bikes, buses and trains. “Investments in public transit will also require some behavioural changes on the part of commuters,” declared the Senate’s 2017 report on decarbonizing the transportation sector. “Unless taking transit is easier, faster and cheaper than taking a car for one’s daily commute, investments will not result in the desired emission reductions.” Ideally, all of the pieces are meant to come together to help solve the emissions problem. But in Winnipeg, the road forward is shaping up to be a long, slow one. ● ● ● Coun. Vivian Santos grew up getting around the city by bus, accepting the hour-long commute between her Southdale home and downtown that would otherwise take 15 minutes by car. As she got older, a bike became a better alternative to the bus, cutting her commute time in half. “I stopped taking transit because it was just, to be honest, a waste of my time in the morning,” she says. In the decades since, bus service hasn’t really improved, but her financial flexibility did, plus she added kids to the mix. And so, the Point Douglas councillor made the same choice most Winnipeggers who can afford it make, and she bought a car. There are now two in her household to shuffle her family around the city. Her children are getting to the age where they could start taking transit on their own — and she’d like to encourage them to do so — but it’s not realistic, based on where they live in the northwest part of the city. “There’s actually no transit service out here, to be honest with you. So if my son were to take transit, he would actually have to walk 10 minutes to McPhillips. Or he’d have to walk maybe seven minutes the other way down towards Pipeline and Templeton. So we’re really kind of outside of the transit system,” she says. Winnipeg has some of the lowest transit use rates per capita in the country, according to a recent report from Climate Reality Canada, the Canadian arm of former U.S. vice-president Al Gore’s international environmental non-profit organization. Among large cities with more than 600,000 residents, Winnipeg came in last, with an average of 67 transit trips per person annually. The next lowest was Calgary with 84. The Canadian leader in transit trips per capita is Montreal, with 236. Nationally, transit ridership has increased from roughly 1.8 billion regular service trips in 2009 to 2.1 billion in 2017, according to the Canadian Urban Transit Association. But in Winnipeg, ridership stalled and even declined in that same time period, according to city statistics. The last census revealed Winnipeg was the only Canadian city where commuting by public transit had declined over the preceding 20-year period. Santos believes getting more people on transit isn’t about building rail lines or any other flashy, grand plans. To her, it’s much more simple — it’s about making transit more frequently accessible and reliable, and charging less money to use it. “I think a good balance of both should be done,” she says. “They need to be done together. Because I understand that if we lower the fees, we’re going to have more people come on, we’re gonna see an uptick rate of people taking the transit. So obviously, we need to increase purchasing buses, and we need to better our frequency.” To that end, she put a motion before the city’s public works committee in February to study what the impact of lower fares might be in Winnipeg. It was rejected in a 2-2 vote. Curt Hull, director of Winnipeg’s Climate Change Connection, agrees with Santos’s evaluation of what’s needed to bring the transit system up to speed, and explains why aiming higher at this point isn’t practical. “Implementing rapid transit by rail is really a long ways further from where we are. You don’t start with that. You start with building the demand with things like developing frequent service, and then once you get enough demand, enough ridership on a particular route, then you make it rail. So we’re a long ways away from that,” Hull says. Efforts to regenerate the transit system with rapid bus instrastructure — the second leg of the Southwest Transitway was completed last spring — have proven lacklustre, Hull says, but he is hopeful new, less capital-intensive improvements will help deliver more riders. In addition to Santos’s hopes for more frequent, cheaper service, Hull adds a couple of things to the wish list. The routes need to be simple, he says, and access to lines criss-crossing the city needs to be easy. He envisions something like an on-demand service for suburban neighbourhoods, where a small van or a similar vehicle shuttles a rider to the main bus lines. Having regular but empty buses running through those neighbourhoods doesn’t make sense, he says, but you can’t cut them off from the network, either. “The issue is the availability of funding for it,” he says. ●●● Winnipeg relies more heavily on the fare box to fund transit than any other city in the country on a per capita basis, which pins the system’s progress directly to ridership. It’s a chicken-and-egg scenario — the system can’t be improved until ridership increases, but that won’t happen without system improvements. It also puts the system at risk for ridership fluctuations, as was the case for most of last year because of the pandemic. Across the country, transit ridership fell by more than 60 per cent in 2020, according to Statistics Canada. While it rebounded somewhat in the summer months, those minor gains were lost again amid the second wave in late fall and early winter. “That hits our system that much more than other systems,” says Coun. Matt Allard, chair of Winnipeg’s public works committee. Winnipeg’s reliance on fare-box revenues was cemented in 2017 when the provincial government moved away from its 50-50 funding agreement with the city. In 2019, fares represented 45 per cent of total expenditures on transit, which amounted to $91.7 million of $204 million. At the public works committee meeting in February where Santos put forward the idea of free or lower-fare transit, the conversation quickly turned from one that was simply about buses and dollar figures to a much more complicated question: is public transit something Winnipeggers consider to be a public good? Taxpayers who are childless or do not have school-age children still contribute money to the education system. Taxpayers who do not borrow books from the library still pay to keep the lights on and the shelves stocked. Those who do not drive still pay to keep the roads maintained. And all of those services are free of direct costs to the user. Winnipeggers have come to an implicit agreement that some things are in the public’s interest to fund. But so far, Winnipeg and its residents have yet to bring public transit under that umbrella. As long as the system relies heavily on the fare box, it will not be viewed as a public good. At least not to the same extent that other services are. Much like parents not bringing their children to a park with broken swings and garbage strewn everywhere, a neglected transit system will not yield higher ridership. It will not be a civic source of pride, as it is in many other cities. “Convenient access to public transit” is among the United Nations’ indicators for sustainable development goals. Yet, Winnipeg fails to meet measures of success that were created as goals in developing countries. International Institute for Sustainable Development targets for appropriate wait times and distance to the closest bus stop are unattainable for a third of Winnipeggers. Transit investments have been found to have significant positive spillover effects in economic development, especially in sectors such as tourism. It also stands to reason riders save money that would have otherwise have been spent on a car. Then there’s the significant shared benefits between climate interests in transit and equity policy across different socio-economic classes. “If you see transportation as a way of participating in society — which it certainly is — the more accessible transit is, the more people can easily get around and the more their experience becomes comparable to somebody who owns a vehicle, who’s more economically advantaged,” Allard says. The push for change has become louder as the urgency of climate action increases. Carolyn Kim, the director of transportation at the Pembina Institute, argues that making the decision as a city to invest in transit would be transformational, in itself. “If you’re able to increase the level of service, and people can ride a bus that is more frequent, it’s more reliable. It’s affordable,” Kim says. Also critical to the conversation is deliberately targeting dense housing and business development along the main transit arteries, she adds. Getting people onto transit is about making it a more convenient, cheaper alternative to driving. So the flip side of the equation, though often unpopular politically, is to find ways to increase the cost of driving through increased parking rates, lowering parking availability and other planning tools. It’s another avenue to pursue transformational changes, Kim says. Take London, as an example. The British city has created an “ultra-low emission zone” where, depending on how much your vehicle pollutes the air, you are charged a daily fee to drive in certain areas. Cities are free to get creative with policies and find solutions that work for them, Kim says, but they have the power to set priorities and pathways that change residents’ behaviour. ●●● Winnipeg is also contemplating where the electrification of buses fits into the picture. A pilot project for the use of both battery-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell buses will be considered by council this spring. Allard says he’s looking forward to debate on the topic, but to him, more buses on the road — regardless of how they’re powered — is the priority, since the transit fleet is responsible for such a small fraction of emissions in the city compared to personal passenger vehicles. Joanna Kyriazis, a senior policy adviser with Clean Energy Canada, warns against that kind of thinking, pointing out that electric buses actually stand to save cities money, since operation and maintenance costs are so much lower, even if up-front costs to purchase the vehicles are still higher. “The life of a bus is 12 to 18 years. And so if we keep making diesel bus purchases today, that that decision has consequences for another two decades,” she says. And the added allure of electric buses might be another way for the city to persuade drivers to park and ride, she says. Along with electrification, the new buses also come with GPS to track where they are on routes, and that information can then be sent to users. Generally, they also come with electronic-pass scanners, so riders don’t need to fumble with correct change and tickets. All of these upgrades make the transit experience better, she says. Plus, no more diesel fumes. “It’s also a great way for people to experience an electric vehicle for the first time. And the more we see them on our streets, the more we ride them, the more we see how many benefits they deliver, the more likely those riders are to go and buy an electric car themselves. So there are these spillover effects,” Kyriazis says. “Doing the same thing we’ve always done isn’t working. And so modernizing and connecting these vehicles is going to help improve the rider experience.” In Winnipeg, transformational changes might not be as big and headline-grabbing as they are in other cities, but this city is coming from behind and has more ground to make up if transit is going to become a priority. Rail lines or a world-class network of multi-modal transit aren’t on anyone’s realistic wish list. But perhaps Winnipeg is on the verge of a different radical change. One where transit isn’t looked at as a lost cause, but rather something to be invested in for the good of the community. Sarah Lawrynuik, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Three Toronto transgender women of colour share how they're enduring the pain and isolation of pandemic social restrictions and how they're looking forward to better days.
More than 100 people gathered in a Penticton park on Friday to protest a city council decision to close an emergency shelter at the end of March. Organizers set up a pop-up tent city at Gyro Park intended to illustrate the potential consequences of closing the shelter. One woman sitting among the dozen or so tents said the protest was personal for her. "When I was young I was in a homeless shelter for two years. I am basically what I consider a success story," said Lee, who declined to share her last name. "I've experienced homelessness, the ugliness, all the emotion, the anger. And I'm here to support the people in my community because I believe closing this place down is a big mistake, because this community has a big problem with homelessness right now." Lee, who says she once lived in a homeless shelter and declined to share her last name, wants the Penticton emergency shelter to stay open beyond the end of the month. (CBC News) On Tuesday, Penticton city council unanimously rejected a request to extend a temporary-use permit that would have allowed the Victory Church to continue operating an emergency winter shelter in its basement. "Yes, traditionally, historically, winter shelter has ended at the end of March. That is not untrue," protest organizer Desiree Franz told Daybreak South host Chris Walker. "However because we're in a pandemic, B.C. Housing has extended its funding, and the logistics are there to keep running it. So I don't understand why they would vote it down." Franz, a worker at a supported housing facility run by B.C. Housing, says as many as 42 people living at the shelter will have nowhere to go once the shelter closes. In a statement to CBC News, B.C. Housing said it "is not involved with the protest in Penticton and Desiree Franz is not a direct employee of B.C. Housing." 166 people waiting for housing B.C. Housing says 166 people are on its waiting lists for housing in Penticton, with 80 per cent of them having lived in the Okanagan city for more than five years. Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki has called for a third-party audit of B.C. Housing's existing facilities and programs in the area and is calling on the provincial government to do more. "We haven't created any emergency. The emergency has been around for years," he said. "It's up to the province to come up with a long-term plan that will help these folks out so they can be safe, not only wintertime, but all year." On Tuesday, Housing Minister David Eby threatened to send 1,000 tents and sleeping bags to the city, sparking the image of an Okanagan tent city. For protesters like Lee, the escalating political battle is overshadowing the need for immediate action. "If I didn't walk through those [shelter] doors that day I know I would have been dead because of my addiction" she says. "Those people, they were me. Not long ago, they were me."
NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration insisted Friday that a quest for scientific accuracy, not political concerns, prompted members of his COVID-19 task force to ask the state health department to delete data last summer from a report on nursing home patients killed by the coronavirus. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, citing documents and people with knowledge of the administration’s internal discussions, reported late Thursday that aides including secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa pushed state health officials to edit the July report so it counted only residents who died inside long-term care facilities, and not those who died later after being transferred to a hospital. At the time, Cuomo was trying to deflect criticism that his administration hadn't done enough to protect nursing home residents from the virus. About a third of the state's nursing home fatalities were excluded from the report as a result of the change. The revelations about the removal of the higher fatality number come as the Democrat also faces accusations he sexually harassed two former aides and a woman that he met at a wedding. Cuomo had apologized Wednesday for acting “in a way that made people feel uncomfortable” but rejected calls for his resignation and said he would fully co-operate with the state attorney general's investigation into the sexual harassment allegations. Federal investigators are scrutinizing his administration’s handling of nursing home data. Top Democrats in the state have said they want those investigations to conclude before they make a judgment about Cuomo's conduct, but in the wake of Thursday night's report, a few state lawmakers renewed calls for the governor to either resign or be ousted. “And Cuomo hid the numbers. Impeach,” tweeted Queens Assembly member Ron Kim, who said Cuomo bullied him for criticizing how Cuomo withheld nursing home data. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that the allegations that Cuomo aides deleted data from the report was “troubling” and said the White House “certainly would support any outside investigation.” The July nursing home report was released to rebut criticism of Cuomo over a March 25 directive that barred nursing homes from rejecting recovering coronavirus patients being discharged from hospitals. Some nursing homes complained at the time that the policy could help spread the virus. The report concluded the policy didn't play a major role in spreading infection. The state's analysis was based partly on what officials acknowledged at the time was an imprecise statistic. The report said 6,432 people had died in the state's nursing homes. State officials acknowledged even then that the true number of deaths was higher because the report was excluding patients who died in hospitals. But they declined at the time to give any estimate of that larger number of deaths, saying the numbers still needed to be verified. In fact, the original drafts of the report had included that number, then more than 9,200 deaths, until Cuomo's aides said it should be taken out. State officials insisted Thursday that the edits were made because of concerns about accuracy. The administration initially released data about how many nursing home residents died at both hospitals and nursing homes, but quietly stopped in early May. “While early versions of the report included out of facility deaths, the COVID task force was not satisfied that the data had been verified against hospital data and so the final report used only data for in facility deaths, which was disclosed in the report,” Department of Health Spokesperson Gary Holmes said. The governor's office didn't respond to questions from The Associated Press about whether Cuomo himself was involved in removing the higher death total from the report. Scientists, health care professionals and elected officials assailed the report at the time for flawed methodology and selective stats that sidestepped the actual impact of the directive. The administration refused for months to release more complete data. A court order and state attorney general report in January forced the state to acknowledge the nursing home resident death toll was higher than the count previously made public. DeRosa told lawmakers earlier this month that the administration didn't turn over the data to legislators in August because of worries the information would be used against them by President Donald Trump's administration. “Basically, we froze, because then we were in a position where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice or what we give to you guys, what we start saying was going to be used against us while we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation,” DeRosa said. Cuomo and his health commissioner recently defended the March directive, saying it was the best option at the time to help free up desperately needed beds at the state’s hospitals. And they've argued community spread is the biggest risk factor for nursing homes, and that it's unlikely that most hospital patients treated for COVID-19 were contagious once they arrived. “We made the right public health decision at the time. And faced with the same facts, we would make the same decision again,” Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said Feb. 19. The state now acknowledges that at least 15,000 long-term care residents died, compared to a figure of 8,700 it had publicized as of late January that didn’t include residents who died after being transferred to hospitals. The Associated Press
A motion to share costs on a road project with the Rural Municipality of Prince Albert to upgrade a part of 48th Street East was defeated during Prince Albert City Council’s Executive Committee meeting on Monday. Surface Works Manager Marcel Gareau recommended that the proposal be moved to future budget deliberations after Marquis Road is upgraded between Central Avenue and 4th Avenue East. The focus on Marquis Road upgrades was a contentious issue with council in making their decision. In his report to council, Gareau emphasized that upgrading that section of road was listed as a high priority in the 2017 Transportation Master Plan. The two options were to include the 48th Street upgrade in the 2022 budget or decline it. Mayor Greg Dionne made the motion to decline the proposal. “I’m still confused. We have a request from the RM, so I expect administration to come back with a report denying the request for cost sharing because there is no positive benefit for us,” Dionne said during the meeting. “I don’t want to talk about Marquis Road. I am here today to talk about 48th Street. We have a request, I read it, from the RM about cost sharing. (Administration) has just told us there is no benefit, so the recommendation should be that we notify the RM (that) at this point we are not prepared to cost share (for) the road.” Dionne said that the discussion was over after Gareau explained that no benefit for the city existed at this time. “We are not twinning Marquis from Central to Fourth I don’t know why the department keeps bringing that up. So I am here to deal with 48th Street and I just heard from him now that there is no benefit so the request from the RM be denied at this time,” Dionne said. Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick disagreed with Dionne on the substance of the upgrade on Marquis but agreed on the denial of the proposal. He explained that the project on Marquis should be undertaken at a latr date. “I don’t see any advantage in spending money on that particular upgrade when we have Elevator Road, which is in the RM, that I see is a primary grid and then we have Marquis Road which also goes east west,” Ogrodnick said. Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards also did not support the original motion because it was tied to Marquis Road. He understood the idea but did not see a reason to link the two. “I do have some concerns about upgrading 48th and spending money on it and I think that it can be addressed today,” Edwards said. Edwards asked what the purpose of upgrading 48th Street East would be at this time. “From the administration point of view there is no reason to upgrade 48th street at this time because we already have the infrastructure to handle the traffic volume,” Gareau said. In the report it explained that the upgrade to four lanes of that section of Marquis Road was unfunded in the 2021 budget and remains a priority for administration. The report states that upgrading 48th Street for use by heavy trucks as an alternate route does not solve the main issue of the bottleneck on Marquis Road. Marquis Road needs to be upgraded to support growth in the West Hill, Crescent Acres and the new recreation centre project, administration said. According to the report, the pavement condition on Marquis Road at that section in currently poor. The RM has hired a consultant who recommended that the street be built to primary grid heavy haul standards and that the right-of-way be widened. The report explained that the city of Prince Albert has no plans to expand into the area. The main developments are in the West Hill and Crescent Heights and expected to continue for at least 20 years. RM of Prince Albert Reeve Eric Schmalz was disappointed, but respected council’s decision. “The city has some budgetary commitments that they need to meet before they can pursue partnership with the RM apparently, so we respect that and we look forward to discussing it with them in the future,” Schmalz said. “We are still in a relationship. They are our partners in the region and we need to focus on the entire relationship, not just on one particular aspect. I think that we can still move forward beyond this.” Schmalz said the RM has other projects to focus on, like the construction of a new shop and office, and the building of other roads. The total cost of the project is estimated at $371,000. It would have been split to $185,500 each for the RM and city under the proposal. The proposal would have seen RM equipment and labour used during construction. The idea dates back to Nov. 5, 2019, when the RM sent a letter to the Mayor’s Office requesting joint funding for the upgrade. In March, 2020 the proposal was declined and sent to 2021 budget deliberations. The RM sent a letter updating the proposal to city council. In December 2020, executive committee moved that the report from administration be prepared by Public Works. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
WARNING: This story contains a graphic image. A jogger who was attacked by a coyote in Vancouver's Stanley Park earlier this year says it will take her six months to recover from her injuries. Azi Ramezani was bitten on the leg on Jan. 21 as she ran near the Hollow Tree in the early evening. She told CBC News she heard the coyote growling before it sunk its teeth into her right leg. "When the animal bites you … the teeth go deep into your skin. You hurt, and it's very likely that you'll fall," Ramezani said. As she fell, her hamstring detached. She's required surgery for her injuries. "I can't sit, I can't walk. All I can do is stand," Ramezani said. Since the attack, she's lost her job and moved in with her family in Victoria until she's healthy again. Ramezani is one of at least 15 people who've been bitten or attacked by coyotes in Stanley Park in recent months. Runners and people moving quickly are the common targets. About a dozen coyotes live in the park, and conservation officers have warned that some have become aggressive and bold because they've been fed by humans. Two of the animals were captured and killed by conservation officers in late January. Azi Ramezani required surgery after she was bitten on the leg by a coyote in Stanley Park.(Azi Ramezani) Ramezani doesn't want to see any more animals killed, but she'd like to see the park shut down temporarily while officials figure out how to manage the problem. The B.C. Conservation Officer Service says that isn't going to happen, but they're asking runners to avoid the park for now and for everyone to stop feeding the coyotes. Dannie Piezas, urban wildlife programs coordinator at the Stanley Park Ecology Society, said a process called hazing is being used to scare the animals in the hope that humans and coyotes can once again coexist peacefully in the park. "You can use noisemakers. A whistle is easy enough to carry around with you, but I do suggest something that is more banging," she said.
The Town of Strathmore and Siksika Nation are continuing their efforts for shared understanding and collaboration among residents of the two communities to combat racism. Strathmore Mayor Pat Fule and Siksika Nation Councillor Rueben Breaker provided an update of the work the two communities are leading together, via a Facebook Live address on Feb. 25. Representatives from each community started working together in 2019 to ensure First Nations people visiting and living in Strathmore have positive experiences in town, said Fule. “It’s all about creating a safer and more welcoming community,” he said. This is being done because First Nations people have experienced racism in Strathmore. “I’ve heard some quite serious and harrowing stories from people, as far as things yelled at people (and) comments made to them,” said Fule, adding the problem needs to be addressed. “We have to be willing to own it and admit that there could be a problem. This should not be happening in our community.” The COVID-19 pandemic sidelined these efforts, but now the initiative is being restarted. “Now we’re back at the table and we’re going to go hard at this, because racism is not going away,” said Breaker. The group is generating ideas to present to Golden Hills School Division (GHSD) and Christ the Redeemer (CTR) Catholic Schools to make the education lives and experiences of Siksika students “more smooth and more meaningful,” said Fule. Another focus of the initiative is policing. This follows Strathmore RCMP together with representatives from Strathmore and Siksika Nation signing a shared letter of understanding in October 2020 to develop more trust between them. “It was perfect timing, because it’s no secret that the topic of systemic racism within the RCMP is prevalent all over Canada,” said Breaker. “We want to make sure that even at the law enforcement level, that our people are treated fairly and just have that basic understanding.” Also being considered is how to improve affordable housing, social services and employment for First Nations people in town, said Fule. But these efforts are not focused on Strathmore alone, said Breaker. Strathmore and area sports teams visiting Siksika Nation to play should be welcomed there too, he said. To reach some of these goals, representatives from Strathmore and Siksika Nation are considering forming a formal anti-racism committee. To support this, town administration is looking to create terms of reference to follow, said Fule. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
A local family with deep ties to the Rockyford area is being honoured for best representing the values of the family farm within their rural community. Gordon and Darlene Koester and family, with Koester Cattle Co. Inc., was a recipient of the BMO Farm Family Award, presented by the Calgary Stampede and BMO Bank of Montreal. This awards program was created to promote a renewed urban-rural relationship and to recognize outstanding southern Alberta farm families who best typify the value of the family farmer to society. The Koester’s local ties started in 1928, when the family moved from Iowa to Rockyford. Joe, one of nine children, and his wife, Tillie, purchased their own farmstead in 1950, raising eight children. Their son Gordon and his wife Darlene took over the family farm and raised four children. Sons Matthew and Adam became an integral part of the family farm operation, but in 2015, they decided to pursue their off-farm careers on a full-time basis. Bradie, one of the couple’s two daughters, and her husband, Dan, then jumped at the opportunity to come home and farm, and are now at the helm of the operation. The family winning the award was a surprise, said Gordon, in an interview. “I was taken back by the nomination, thinking there’s a lot of deserving people out there,’ he said. “I was humbled to be chosen, that’s for sure.” The Koesters have been an integral part of their community. Gordon is the past president of the Rockyford Lions Club and past chairman of the Rockyford Agricultural Society, Hall Board, Curling Club, Parish Council, Knights of Columbus and Minor Hockey, and is also a 25- year member of the Seed Growers Association. Darlene helped establish ringette in the Rockyford Community 30 years ago, and was a coach and manager throughout the years while her daughters played. She was also the Rockyford Rodeo secretary for 25 years in addition to driving a school bus for three decades. Dan and Bradie belong to the Rockyford Minor Hockey and Ringette Association as coaches and board members, in addition to Rockyford’s Ag Society, Lions Club, Rodeo Committee, Parish Council and Knights of Columbus. They also coach their girls’ fastball teams as well as play ringette and hockey on adult teams. Dan belongs to the Strathmore Seed Cleaning Plant and is entering his second year as chairman. Being established for multiple generations has helped the Koesters make such an impact in their community, said Gordon. “My father and mother taught us to be part of the community and make sure things work,” he said. “We’re a small enough community that everybody can take a turn.” Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
Environmental groups are upset after the Ford government forced through new legislation. One of them ordering the Toronto Regional Conservation Authority to approve a permit for a development on significant wetlands without proper review. Frazer Snowdon has more.