(Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press - image credit) Health Canada's approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India's version to prevent COVID-19 in adults follows similar green lights from regulators in the United Kingdom, Europe Union, Mexico and India. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, called ChAdOx1, was approved for use in Canada on Friday following clinical trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil that showed a 62.1 per cent efficacy in reducing symptomatic cases of COVID-19 cases among those given the vaccine. Experts have said any vaccine with an efficacy rate of over 50 per cent could help stop outbreaks. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, said the key number across all of the clinical trials for those who received AstraZeneca's product was zero — no deaths, no hospitalizations for serious COVID-19 and no deaths because of an adverse effect of the vaccine. "I think Canada is hungry for vaccines," Sharma said in a briefing. "We're putting more on the buffet table to be used." Specifically, 64 of 5,258 in the vaccination group got COVID-19 with symptoms compared with people in the control group given injections (154 of 5,210 got COVID-19 with symptoms). Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto's University Health Network, called it a positive move to have AstraZeneca's vaccines added to Canada's options. "Even though the final efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine appears lower than what we have with the mRNA vaccines, it's still reasonably good," Hota said. "What we need to be focusing on is trying to get as many people as possible vaccinated so we can prevent the harms from this." Canada has an agreement with AstraZeneca to buy 20 million doses as well as between 1.9 million and 3.2 million doses through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX. WATCH | AstraZeneca vaccine safety: Canada will also receive 2 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the government announced Friday. Here's a look at some common questions about the vaccine, how it works, in whom and how it could be rolled out. What's different about this shot? The Oxford-AstraZeneca is cheaper and easier to handle than the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which need to be stored at ultracold temperatures to protect the fragile genetic material. AstraZeneca says its vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions (2 to 8 C) for at least six months. (Moderna's product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures for 30 days after thawing.) The ease of handling could make it easier to administer AstraZeneca's vaccine in rural and remote areas of Canada and the world. "There are definitely some advantages to having multiple vaccine candidates available to get to as many Canadians as possible," Hota said. Sharma said while the product monograph notes that evidence for people over age 65 is limited, real-world data from countries already using AstraZeneca's vaccine suggest it is safe and effective among older age groups. "We have real-world evidence from Scotland and the U.K. for people that have been dosed that would have been over 80 and that has shown significant drop in hospitalizations to the tune of 84 per cent," Sharma said. Data from clinical trials is more limited compared with in real-world settings that reflect people from different age groups, medical conditions and other factors. How does it work? Vaccines work by training our immune system to recognize an invader. The first two vaccines to protect against COVID-19 that were approved for use in Canada deliver RNA that encodes the spike protein on the surface of the pandemic coronavirus. Health-care workers Diego Feitosa Ferreira, right, and Clemilton Lopes de Oliveira travel on a boat in the state of Amazonas in Brazil, on Feb. 12, to vaccinate residents with the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures, which facilitates its use in remote areas. In contrast, the AstraZeneca vaccine packs the genetic information for the spike protein in the shell of a virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. Vaccine makers altered the adenovirus so it can't grow in humans. Viral vector vaccines mimic viral infection more closely than some other kinds of vaccines. One disadvantage of viral vectors is that if a person has immunity toward a particular vector, the vaccine won't work as well. But people are unlikely to have been exposed to a chimpanzee adenovirus. How and where could it be used? Virologist Eric Arts at Western University in London, Ont., said vaccines from Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, which is also under review by Health Canada, and Russian Sputnik-V vaccines all have some similarities. "I do like the fact that AstraZeneca has decided to continue trials, to work with the Russians on the Sputnik-V vaccine combination," said Arts, who holds the Canada Research Chair in HIV pathogenesis and viral control. Boxes with AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine are pictured at St. Mary's Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Health Canada says the vaccine is given by two separate injections of 0.5 millilitres each into the muscle of the arm. "The reason why I'm encouraged by it is I think there might be greater opportunity to administer those vaccines in low- to middle-income countries. We need that. I think our high-income countries have somewhat ignored the situation that is more significant globally." Researchers reported on Feb. 2 in the journal Lancet that in a Phase 3 clinical trial involving about 20,000 people in Russia, the two-dose Sputnik-V vaccine was about 91 per cent effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with COVID-19. There were 16 COVID-19 cases in the vaccine group (0.1 per cent or 16/14,964) and 62 cases (1.3 per cent or [62/4,902 ) in the control group. No serious adverse events were associated with vaccination. Most adverse events were mild, such as flu-like symptoms, pain at injection site and weakness or low energy. An analysis of results from 2,000 adults older than 60 years suggested the vaccine was similarly effective and well tolerated in this age group. Arts and other scientists acknowledged the speed and lack of transparency of the Russian vaccination program. But British scientists Ian Jones and Polly Roy wrote in an accompanying commentary that the results are clear and add another vaccine option to reduce the incidence of COVID-19.
Two reviews on making Britain more attractive for fintechs and company flotations should provide evidence for reform of the listings rules, Britain's financial services minister said on Friday. A review published on Friday set out how to make Britain more attractive for financial technology companies after Brexit, and a second review on reforming listing rules to attract more tech company floatations is due in coming days. The two reviews "should provide an excellent evidence base for further reform", John Glen said.
BERLIN — A Bavarian radio station apologized Friday for a host's comments comparing popular South Korean K-pop band BTS to the coronavirus, saying his choice of words had gone too far but was in no way meant to be “hurtful or racist.” The statement came after legions of fans accused the station's Matthias Matuschik of racism for his comments on the band's cover of Coldplay's “Fix You,” taking to social media using the hashtags #Bayern3Racist, #Bayern3Apologize and #RassismusBeiBayern3 which translates as “racism at Bayern3.” “Racism is not an option,” wrote one user, @Vroseeeee1 in a blunt tweet in English, German, Korean and Spanish. The uproar came after a live show Wednesday, in which Matuschik derided BTS's version of “Fix You” as “blasphemy” and compared the band to COVID-19, describing them as “some crappy virus that hopefully there will be a vaccine for soon as well.” He then dug his hole deeper as he tried to roll back the comment somewhat, saying “I have nothing against South Korea, you can’t accuse me of xenophobia only because this boyband is from South Korea... I have a car from South Korea. I have the coolest car around.” Then he went on to say that in penance for the cover, BTS “will be vacationing in North Korea for the next 20 years.” BTS, which debuted in 2013, became the biggest boy band in the world, selling out stadiums worldwide and delivering a video message at the U.N. General Assembly this year. Their songs, filled with intimate, socially conscious lyrics, are credited for their success. Unlike other K-pop bands that carefully maintain the personas created by their labels, BTS is known for its active engagement with fans — known as ARMY — through social media. BTS has over 33.1 million followers on Twitter. Offence at the comments didn't only come from South Korea, with many social media users in Germany and elsewhere immediately condemning them. “I know which radio station I won't be listening to anymore, bye @Bayern3,” wrote user @fairesvmns in a German-language post that included audio of Matuschik's comments. “I really don't need racism of this shape and form in 2021.” Many South Koreans living abroad expressed concerns that the remarks could incite anti-Asian violence, already on the rise in many places. “This is not just about #BTS, it is about so many Asian people who are dealing with extreme racism especially due to pandemic,” Hansl Chang, a South Korean who lives in Germany, tweeted. In the station's apology, it said that while Matuschik was “presenting his opinion in an ironic, exaggerated way and with exaggerated excitement, his words went too far and hurt the feelings of BTS fans. “But he — and he has assured us of this — in no way intended this. He just wanted to express his displeasure over the aforementioned cover version.” It noted that Matuschik has been involved in helping raise aid for refugees and has a “constant campaign against right-wing extremism” and has shown he is against xenophobia or racism in any form. “That does not change the fact that many of you found his statements to be hurtful or racist,” Bayern3 said. “We apologize for this in every way possible. We will work on the matter with Matthias and the team in detail again in the next few days.” ___ Juwon Park in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report. David Rising, The Associated Press
Police and teachers will not jump to the head of the queue in the second phase of Britain's COVID-19 vaccination rollout, with people instead prioritised by age, officials advising the government said on Friday, describing this as the best way to keep up the pace of immunisations. Britain's vaccine programme has been among the fastest in the world, meeting a government target to offer a first dose of vaccination to 15 million high-risk people by mid-February. Some frontline workers such as police and teachers had been calling for prioritisation on the basis of their jobs, but Professor Wei Shen Lim, COVID-19 chairman for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said such an approach could complicate the rollout.
Scotland's former first minister Alex Salmond accused the nation's government on Friday of acting illegally and lacking leadership in a bitter row with his successor that threatens to damage the Scottish independence movement. The feud between Salmond and his successor Nicola Sturgeon, has reached fever pitch in recent weeks, pitting the former friends against each other in a sparring match that could eventually put pressure on her to resign. Sturgeon has denied his accusations.
(Walter Strong/CBC - image credit) Justice Louise Charbonneau sentenced Tariq St Croix Thursday to five years in jail and three years probation for "brutally" stabbing his ex-wife on New Year's Eve two years ago. St Croix pleaded guilty to breaking and entering and aggravated assault in N.W.T. Supreme Court. The Crown prosecutor and defence lawyers jointly recommended a five-year sentence. "It is luck that St Croix isn't facing a homicide trial," Charbonneau told the courtroom. Tariq St. Croix, covering his face with a garment, has been charged with aggravated assault and breaking and entering. Tariq has one year, nine months, and one week remaining in his sentence. Upon his release, he is required to leave the N.W.T. On the evening of the attack, Marina St Croix was with her kids on their balcony waiting for fireworks to begin, when Tariq St Croix appeared outside of their residence. Tariq was on probation for previously assaulting her and was legally prohibited from visiting Marina unless she permitted him. Marina, who was pregnant at the time, told Tariq to go away, but he broke into the house by smashing a window, then armed himself with a steak knife. Marina was holding her 18-month-old infant in her bedroom when Tariq stabbed her in the face, neck and torso in the presence of her two kids. The eldest child grabbed the infant for protection. Tariq repeatedly yelled "you don't love me" before the steak knife broke, lodged in her stomach. Marina tried to flee to the balcony to call for help when Tariq dragged her back in, kicked her face, then fled. Marina asked that the publication ban on her name be lifted, as she no longer wanted the violence perpetrated against Indigenous women and children to be hidden from sight. Mistrust of the system Marina gave a victim impact statement before sentencing. With her sister standing next to her, and Tariq merely meters away, she described how the crime has changed her life. "On the Sunday before the week of my fate, I watched a video on highway 16. Trudeau's words were that Canada failed Indigenous women and that the MMIWG report would not be shelved. Yet, I stand ready to flee, when my only protection between him and me is three years probation." "We live in a society that would rather have my race live in a boat that no longer floats," she continued. "Life is easy for those who fail to see, so society covers their eyes with coins to let the violence breathe. "I see too many dead women and children that the RCMP fail to find. So I must admit I cannot trust the broken system, this time. "Welcome to court in Canada when you are Indigenous," Marina concluded. Marina said she cannot trust a broken legal system that fails to protect Indigenous women and children from their abusers. Justice Charbonneau told the court she "can understand that a court order would not appear adequate, given the crime took place when two probation orders were in force." Judge 'bound' by joint submission Tariq St Croix was initially charged with attempted murder in addition to the crime he was convicted of, but the greater charge was withdrawn when he pleaded guilty to breaking and entering and aggravated assault. In a previous court appearance, Charbonneau acknowledged that the five-year sentence was on the "very, very low end." Judges are bound by a Supreme Court of Canada ruling to accept joint submissions unless they can prove that the sentence is "unhinged" from the circumstances of the crime. "The question I have to answer is not to see if a five year sentence is fit," but if the sentence would break down the administration of justice, she said Thursday. Despite her reservations,Charbonneau said she was certain that Crown and the defense lawyers gave careful consideration to their submission. Deportation possible Tariq has one year, nine months and one week remaining in his sentence. Upon his release, he is required to leave the N.W.T. The court heard that Tariq had been the victim of an "extremely" violent upbringing. As a child growing up in St Lucia, his father had abused his mother repeatedly. Tariq's mother assaulted him and his siblings, which was described as torture at times. "Miraculously," Tariq has rekindled his relationship with his mother, the judge told the court. However, the circumstances of his difficult upbringing "cannot excuse the extreme violence of the crime," Charbonneau said. He is likely to face deportation, given the severity of the crime along with his existing criminal record. Originally from St Lucia, Tariq has permanent residency in Canada. He is qualified as a protected person, which means an additional step is required for deportation. Whether he will be deported depends on if the danger he poses in Canada outweighs the risk he may face if he returns to his home country. However, he is likely to lose permanent residency status.
(Colin Perkel/Canadian Press - image credit) Hydro One is in the process of planning for a new high-voltage power line that will connect a transmission station just outside Chatham with one being built just outside of Comber. But the proposed route would take it across Highway 77 between Comber and Hwy. 401. Mayor Tom Bain said that section is too close to a populated area. "You're looking at a lot of interference for TVs and computers and you're going to get objections to the unsightly mess," said Bain, who supports the construction of the line because it is being built to meet the needs of the growing greenhouse industry and development in general. Hydro One chose the line out of eight options because it best met a number of criteria that took into account the natural and socio-economic environments, technical considerations and cost and consultation with a number of stakeholders such as Indigenous groups. It will increase the power to the entire region by 400 megawatts. But Comber resident Jodi Langley wants to know more. "I don't feel like we're very informed about what's going on in our community for the power. I want to know what it's going to do for us or how it's going to affect what's going on around here," said Langley. But Hydro One's vice-president of stakeholder relations Daniel Levitan says there's still a lot of work to do to determine the exact pathway. "We will be circling back with Mayor Bain and the County of Essex and local mayors, councils and certainly local businesses to now take a look at the specific path and ensure that it's safe and impacts the local environment, local businesses as minimally as possible," said Levitan. Hydro One will hold an online information session on March 11.
TORONTO — The chief executive of the fund that manages Canada Pension Plan investments has resigned after it was revealed that he decided to travel to the United Arab Emirates, where he arranged to be vaccinated against COVID-19. CPP Investments says Mark Machin tendered his resignation to the board Thursday night. Machin joined CPP Investments in 2012 and was appointed president and chief executive in June 2016. Prior to joining the pension fund manager, he spent 20 years at investment bank Goldman Sachs. The Wall Street Journal first reported that Machin flew to the United Arab Emirates earlier this month, where he received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and is awaiting the second dose. The CPP Investments board has appointed John Graham as the new CEO. Graham was previously its global head of credit investments. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
NASHVILLE — Maren Morris and Chris Stapleton are the leading nominees for the Academy of Country Music Awards, but only Stapleton joined the all-male ballot for the top prize of entertainer of the year. The academy announced on Friday that Morris and Stapleton both had six nominations ahead of the April 18 awards show, which will air on CBS from Nashville, Tennessee. Women were left out of the top category after Carrie Underwood and Thomas Rhett tied for entertainer of the year last year, the first time ever for a tie and the first time a woman had won the category since Taylor Swift in 2012. Also nominated for entertainer of the year are Rhett, Luke Bryan, Eric Church and Luke Combs. This year, Morris’ crossover pop hit “The Bones,” was nominated for single of the year and earned her two nominations as songwriter and artist for song of the year. She was also nominated for female artist of the year, which she won last year, and music video of the year for “Better Than We Found It.” She had another nomination for the all-star collaboration The Highwomen in group of the year. Stapleton, who released his fourth solo studio album last year, “Starting Over,” was nominated twice as artist and producer for album of the year, as well as twice for being the songwriter/artist for the title track for song of the year. He also has a nomination for male artist of the year. Country star Morgan Wallen, who won new male artist of the year last year, was declared ineligible by the ACMs after he was caught on camera using a racial slur earlier this year. His most recent record, “Dangerous: The Double Album,” has spent six weeks at the top of the all-genre Billboard 200 chart, despite being removed from radio stations and some streaming playlists. The album was not eligible for album of the year award because it came out in 2021, but Wallen likely would have been a strong contender for male artist of the year and singles such as “7 Summers” and “More Than My Hometown” would have qualified for other awards. Miranda Lambert, who is already the most nominated artist in ACM history, stretched her streak with five nominations. Lambert's song “Bluebird” earned her four nominations total as writer and artist in song, single and video of the year. Lambert is nominated in female artist of the year, a category she has won nine times. While women are absent from entertainer of the year, all five nominees for the single of the year are performed by women, a first for the ACM Awards. In addition to Lambert’s “Bluebird” and Morris’ “The Bones,” Gabby Barrett’s “I Hope,” Carly Pearce and Lee Brice’s duet “I Hope You’re Happy Now” and Ingrid Andress’ “More Hearts Than Mine” fill out the category. Four Black artists are also nominated this year across all categories, another first for the ACM Awards. Kane Brown was nominated for album of the year for his record “Mixtape Vol. 1” while Jimmie Allen was nominated for new male artist of the year again after first being nominated in the same category in 2018. Mickey Guyton was nominated again for new female artist of the year, after first being nominated in 2015. Her 2020 song “Black Like Me,” released after the death of George Floyd, never gained traction at radio, but brought her critical acclaim and a Grammy nomination for best country solo performance. Under ACM award criteria, artists can be nominated more than once in the new artist of the year categories as long as they haven't won it previously and have not yet released a single from their third studio album. Grammy winner John Legend has his first ACM Awards nomination for video of the year for his duet with Carrie Underwood on “Hallelujah.” The album of the year category also includes Luke Bryan for “Born Here Live Here Die Here,” Ashley McBryde for “Never Will” and Brothers Osborne for “Skeletons.” Kristin M. Hall, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Health Canada has approved the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca, the third to be given the green light for national use. Details of the approval and when Canadians might see doses begin arriving are due at a technical briefing later this morning in Ottawa. Canada has pre-ordered 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was co-developed by researchers at the University of Oxford. It will also receive up to 1.9 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX by the end of June. Vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna had already been approved by Health Canada. Approximately 1.7 million doses of those formulas have been administered in Canada. Health Canada is also reviewing two other vaccines. Approval of Johnson and Johnson's vaccine will likely not come until early March and Novavax is not expected until April. The European Union has also approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca formulas. AstraZeneca's vaccine, like Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna's formulations, requires refrigeration and takes two doses for maximum efficacy. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
(Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press - image credit) Indoor rinks, pools and cinemas in the province's red zones are allowed to reopen as of Friday, as the province eases some restrictions in time for March break. Some cinema owners will keep their businesses closed, believing it makes no financial sense to reopen given the operating limits imposed by the Quebec government. Cinemas are not allowed to sell food and drinks — a decision that sparked major pushback from the industry, and prompted the premier to offer continued access to the province's emergency aid programs as compensation for their losses. The offer was far from satisfying for Vincenzo Guzzo, the CEO of Cinemas Guzzo, which operates 10 theatres in the Montreal area. "The government support program is insulting," Guzzo said. "You haven't even re-gifted a gift, you took the same gift you gave me last week, you took it back, you repackaged it, and now gave it to me for St. Valentine's Day.'' Business will also be limited by reduced capacity to ensure physical distancing as well as the province's curfews — 8 p.m. for most of Quebec, and 9:30 p.m. in the orange zones — but according to Guzzo, even if the province upped its offer, he would reject it based on principle. "There's no way I will be accused of taking public money to open my theatres," he said. "I don't want the money, I don't want popcorn money ... I want to sell popcorn.'' Mario Fortin, however, is relishing the opportunity to bring in customers, even if screening times will be limited by an overnight curfew that starts at 8 p.m. in red zones. "We've been ready for months," said Fortin, who owns Cinéma du Parc as well as Cinéma Beaubien in Montreal. "For months, we've been saying that cinemas are places that are relatively safe, so we want to prove it." Fortin says he's already sold 1,000 tickets for next week, which also includes reducing capacity to ensure physical distancing, reopening is well worth it. "We can manage," he said. "The break-even point is relatively easy to attain." Movie theatres will also need to reduce capacity to ensure physical distancing, and make sure their screening times don't overlap with the province's curfews. Respect the rules, health minister warns Concerns about the spread of the coronavirus variants and another surge of cases didn't stop the province from easing restrictions and allowing certain businesses to reopen. The government has said it wants to give families options to entertain their children while they're away from school. Outdoor gatherings of up to eight people, as opposed to four, are also now allowed in red zones. In addition to the province's curfews, the ban on private gatherings is still in place. With people in the province's general population already getting COVID-19 vaccines, the health minister is asking Quebecers to not get carried away during March break. "Let's make sure that we follow the rules because we are one month away from having a very high number of vaccines," Health Minister Christian Dubé said during Thursday's news conference. The government is expecting at least 600,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines over the next four weeks. There will not be any roadblocks preventing Quebecers from travelling to different regions, but the premier said he's asked police to keep an eye on hotels and cottages to make sure people aren't gathering illegally.
A new version of the first known on-screen kiss between two African-American actors has been discovered in the collections of the National Library of Norway. The 1898 film, directed by U.S. film industry pioneer William Selig, stars vaudeville actors Saint Suttle and Gertie Brown and shows them courting and kissing in front of a cloth backdrop. The only previously known copy of "Something Good - Negro Kiss" was acquired from a collector in Louisiana in 2017 and added to the U.S Library of Congress' National Film Registry in 2018 for its cultural value.
LONDON — A woman who ran away from London as a teenager to join the Islamic State group lost her bid Friday to return to the U.K. to fight for the restoration of her citizenship, which was revoked on national security grounds. Shamima Begum was one of three east London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria in 2015. She resurfaced at a refugee camp in Syria and told reporters she wanted to come home, but was denied the chance after former Home Secretary Sajid Javid revoked her citizenship. Begum's lawyers appealed,, saying her right to a fair hearing was harmed by the obstacles of pursuing her case from the camp. The U.K. Supreme Court disagreed, ruling Friday that the right to a fair hearing does not trump all other considerations, such as public safety. “The appropriate response to the problem in the present case is for the deprivation hearing to be stayed - or postponed - until Ms. Begum is in a position to play an effective part in it without the safety of the public being compromised,'' said Justice Robert Reed, the president of the Supreme Court. “That is not a perfect solution, as it is not known how long it may be before that is possible. But there is no perfect solution to a dilemma of the present kind.” Javid argued that Begum was Bangladeshi by descent and could go there. She challenged the decision, arguing she is not a citizen of another country and that Javid’s decision left her stateless. The human rights group Liberty said the court’s ruling sets “an extremely dangerous precedent”. “The right to a fair trial is not something democratic governments should take away on a whim, and nor is someone’s British citizenship,'' said Rosie Brighouse, a lawyer with Liberty. “If a government is allowed to wield extreme powers like banishment without the basic safeguards of a fair tria,l it sets an extremely dangerous precedent.'' Danica Kirka, The Associated Press
Protesters gathered in Tbilisi, Georgia over the arrest earlier in the week of opposition leader Nika Melia.View on euronews
(Nico Inocalla - image credit) A Filipino-Canadian family was left shaken after being shouted at and discriminated against by a fellow customer in a Regina Costco last week. Nico Inocalla, his brother and sister-in-law were finishing up their shopping last Thursday when the incident occurred. "This man in front of us, he kept on looking at us as if he doesn't want us to be there," said Inocalla. "But we ignore it. We just still choose to be there and stay in our own lane. But while we were waiting for a turn, he doesn't stop looking at us, and [then] he started yelling 'you need to social distance, you need to stay six feet away from us.'" Inocalla said he and his brother tried to explain that they were following the rules — they were standing on the appropriate social distancing marker on the floor, and if they backed up any further, they would be in the other lane. But the man wouldn't listen. "He keeps on stressing that we need to stay away … he wants us further away from him, as if we are sick, and he's murmuring different derogatory words which I'm not going to mention," said Inocalla. "I was about to cry, honestly, during that time … in my mind, I was just stunned. I was shocked. I still can't believe it, that it happened to us." Eventually, a manager intervened to tell the man that Inocalla and his family were following the physical distancing protocols appropriately, and encouraged him to leave them alone and go and check out. At first, Inocalla didn't want to believe the man was being racist, but as he continued yelling, Inocalla thought it was an unavoidable conclusion. "From the way he insisted that we obviously don't know what we are doing because of my race as an Asian, I felt like I was being discriminated against because of my skin tone," he said. Anti-Asian discrimination has been on the rise in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to David Arnot, chief commissioner of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, hundreds of incidents of hate targeting Asians within Canada have been reported in the last year alone. "Anxiety, fear and frustration over the coronavirus have fueled xenophobia, racism, hate and discrimination against Asian and Asian-descent communities - but it has also exposed a pre-existing xenophobia, which I think is important to understand," said Arnot. Arnot said there have been some notable and concerning incidents of anti-Asian discrimination in Saskatchewan due to the pandemic this year, including a 15-year-old being called slurs and physically assaulted, and employees at a restaurant in Saskatoon being subjected to a "barrage of racial slurs" earlier this month. "Right now, in the midst of this pandemic, there is no room for racism, hate or discrimination," said Arnot. "We all have to work together in this province to emerge from this pandemic much stronger and more unified. "In Saskatchewan, racism runs very deep in the fabric of our society. Racism is a social norm in this province. … and so this racism has to be called out." Inocalla said the other customers — strangers — behind his family in line did support them in the moment. "They kept on apologizing to us and telling the man he doesn't need to do that," he said. "If he wants to talk, just say it calmly. He doesn't need to react like that based on what we look like." But he worries about how that man — and others like him — see him, his family and the other Asian-Canadians in their lives. "I hope they don't see us like a kind of sickness," said Inocalla. "We're not the virus. We're humans, too. We don't want this. We're just hoping to be treated like normal people. Don't see us like a threat or a disease."
Canada on Friday approved AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, including the version produced by the Serum Institute of India, and 500,000 doses are due to arrive next week. The vaccine is the third to be approved by Health Canada following the December approval of vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc with BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc. "With Pfizer, Moderna, and now AstraZeneca, Canada will get more than 6.5 million doses before the end of March," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters.
ALGONQUIN PARK, Ont. — Ontario Parks says that reservations for its campsites have nearly doubled since the same time last year.The provincial government agency says that bookings made between Jan. 1 and Feb. 5 have increased almost 100 per cent.They say that campers have made 58,475 reservations in that span this year, up from 29,504 reservations in the same period in 2020.The agency recommends that campers do their research well in advance of their reservation date becoming available on its website so they can book as early as possible.They also suggest camping at a less popular park to ensure greater availability for sites.Algonquin, Killbear, Pinery, Sandbanks and Bon Echo are Ontario's five busiest provincial parks.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
(Mitch Cormier/CBC - image credit) The minimum price of a litre of regular, self-serve gasoline rose 3.5 cents overnight, a continuation of a steady increase that goes back to the end of last year. The price was set at $1.21, the highest since July of 2019. Gas prices crashed during the early months of the pandemic, but recovered to sit around $1 a litre at the pump for most of the last half of the year. The current upward trend started in December. On Jan. 1 the price was $1.05. Diesel and furnace oil prices have also been increasing. The minimum pump price of diesel was up 2.3 cents to $1.27. Furnace oil was up 2.1 cents to a maximum of $0.96. For the year, diesel prices are up 11.9 per cent and furnace oil 15.4 per cent. More from CBC P.E.I.
(Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier - image credit) This column is an opinion from Graham Thomson, an award-winning journalist who has covered Alberta politics for more than 30 years. Before delivering the new provincial budget Thursday, Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews bought himself new cowboy boots. A pair of ballet shoes would have been more appropriate. Toews's budget does a lot of dancing, much of it on eggshells. This is a budget that is afraid of suffering another embarrassing pratfall like the one performed last year when Toews tabled an overly optimistic budget in February that predicted solid economic growth, higher employment and a balanced budget by 2023 — and was quickly rendered obsolete with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. "When I was actually presenting the budget, it felt like Rome was burning behind me," said a slightly traumatized Toews at the time. This year's budget might be entitled, "Protecting lives and livelihoods" but, "Once burned, twice shy" would work, too. It's a conservative document, not in terms of spending and deficits, but in terms of predictions. The budget uses the word "uncertainty" so often it's like a nervous twitch, as in, "A great deal of uncertainty remains about vaccination roll-outs and the speed and breadth of global economic recovery." WATCH | Finance minister, Opposition leader discuss 2021 budget: "Uncertainty" is the word of the day. And it's going to be the word of the year as we continue to muddle through the minefield that is COVID 2021. The government learned an important lesson last year: don't raise expectations. Toews's economic outlook this year includes an $18 billion deficit, in addition to last year's $20 billion shortfall caused in part by a price of oil that went negative at one point. The accumulated debt will hit $115 billion this year and reach an astronomical $132 billion in two years. That's not including the $1.3 billion at risk in the Keystone XL pipeline gamble. The debt is climbing so high, so fast, the government is starting to couch the debt in terms of its relationship to the total provincial economy. This is called the net-debt-to-GDP ratio and it's a term beloved by pernickety economists — and by politicians trying to mask the size of their government's record debt. Right now Alberta's ratio is 24.5 per cent, which is pretty good compared to Ontario, for example, at 50 per cent. But just two years ago, our ratio was 11 per cent. Yes, there are few encouraging numbers in this budget. The government is spending four per cent more on health care and is setting up a $1.25-billion contingency fund to fight the pandemic. Premier Kenney is not slashing spending or cutting services as he seemed to suggest much of last year with his warning of a "fiscal reckoning" to come. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney promised there would be no new taxes in the budget. This is not a fiscal-reckoning budget or even an austerity budget. It is not the fiscal plan of a self-assured government. This is the keep-your-head-down-budget of a government under siege from COVID-19 and an unhappy public that seems to be increasingly dissatisfied with the UCP. The fiscal outlook is so uncertain that Toews doesn't even pretend to have a plan to balance the budget, unlike last year when he confidently predicted no more deficits starting in 2022, right before he felt the flames of COVID setting his prognostications on fire. 'Right-sizing' But if Toews is not outright slashing, he is planning to do some whittling and that has public-sector unions nervous. "One area where we can no longer delay is addressing a public -ector salary structure in Alberta that has for decades been an outlier compared to other provinces," said Toews, who has previously warned unions that if they don't accept concessions, they'll face more job cuts. Toews calls this "right-sizing" public-sector compensation, a term sure to infuriate workers and do nothing to quell labour unrest. "Perhaps if governments had shown more restraint in previous years, we would not have had to confront this issue," added Toews, who might be taking a jab at the former NDP government but really should be aiming at a succession of previous Conservative governments. True to form, Toews also pointed the finger of blame at the federal Liberal government: "The biggest obstacle to recovery may be our own national government, which has layered on regulatory requirements, created investment uncertainty, chased away the investment that maintains family-supporting jobs, and is now increasing the costs for our most vital national economic drivers." What the Kenney government tends to gloss over is that after the pandemic hit, most of the financial aid delivered to beleaguered Albertans came from Ottawa. Not only did the federal government deliver $11 billion in direct transfers to the Alberta treasury last year, it sent an additional $23 billion to individual Albertans and businesses via programs such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. Albertans are no doubt relieved that, as Kenney promised, there are no new taxes in the budget. But you have to wonder if that's just a matter of time. The pandemic might have forced the government into spending record amounts of money but our fiscal problems didn't begin and end there. COVID's rampage through our economy demonstrated once again how over-reliant we are on the capricious price of fossil fuels. There will be a "fiscal reckoning" in our future, sooner or later.
(Sara Minogue/CBC - image credit) Weeks after Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson requested the government send grief counsellors to his electoral district, Health Minister Julie Green says she will look into sending a mental health team to the district's four communities. In early February, Green urged anyone seeking mental health services to use same-day counselling services available through the health department but stopped short of committing to send in new resources. On Thursday, she said she will investigate if she can deploy mental health teams that typically travel to communities without resident counsellors. While a child and youth counsellor position is filled at the Mangilaluk School in Tuktoykatuk, there are vacancies in community counselling, said Green. Health Minister Julie Green says she will look into sending mental health teams to Nunakput. Jacobson said mental health issues are coming up in Tuktoyaktuk, Ulukhaktok, Sachs Harbour and Paulatuk. He said a lot of people are hurting from depression to all the deaths that have occurred over the last year," said Jacobson. "We have to start trying to help them, heal them and try to move forward. When are we gonna get these travel teams into Nunakput?" he said. "We need a team to come in to work with the community on the depression, alcoholism, everything ... anything they want to talk about to get off their chest. We need help." The Kids Help Line is available to youth by text or call, Facebook and online chat, said Green. If you are under 25 years old and you need someone to talk to, you can call the Kid's Help Phone 24/7 at 1-800-668-6868. Texting and online chat options are also available 24/7. To text with a counsellor, text CONNECT to 686868. To live chat, visit https://kidshelpphone.ca/live-chat/ and click the "chat" button OR download the Always There app.