Light snowfall overnight in Conception Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Light snowfall overnight in Conception Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador.
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
Trustees in the River East Transcona School Division have approved a $201.8-million budget for the upcoming school year that takes into account the impact COVID-19 has had on student well-being. The budget has few changes in store for 2021-22, aside from a modest increase of 5.1 new full-time equivalent resource teacher and clinician positions. “This health crisis has thrown everything upside down, and we know come the fall, there are going to be a lot of children, a lot of families, who are going to require a lot more support from education — academically, and for their mental health and well-being,” said Jerry Sodomlak, chairman of the board. The province has allocated $98.9 million in operating funding, the equivalent of a 0.6 per cent increase, for the Winnipeg-based division next year. Divisions have been directed to freeze property education taxes, with the province instead offering one-time grants the equivalent of a two per cent hike; in River East Transcona, that means a resident with an average home valued at $287,500 will see an approximately $27 decrease on their tax bill. Sodomlak said revenues don’t keep pace with inflation and growing enrolment costs, and could result in larger class sizes next year. “The government has dropped the ball… but I believe that we have an extremely capable and strong senior administration team in our division and teaching staff who will be able to continue our programming,” he said Wednesday, adding the division has strong inclusion supports, unique bilingual programs and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) offerings. Trustee Brianne Goertzen, chairwoman of the finance committee, echoed those sentiments Wednesday: “We’re looking at trying to maintain a status quo.” Not unlike other boards, staffing and benefit costs in the River East Transcona account for nearly 90 per cent of its total budget. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
A Strathmore resident who came to Canada as a refugee from Syria has opened a new barbershop in the downtown core. Sam Al-Mubaied, together with business partner Ahmad Asheti, have opened the Strathmore Barbershop, located in the Strathmore Centre. A grand opening celebration was held on March 1, attended by Strathmore Mayor Pat Fule and Councillors Bob Sobol and Denise Peterson, along with other members of the community. The opening culminates Al-Mubaied’s relocation to Canada with his wife and family from Damascus, Syria in 2016 because of the Syrian civil war. “We weren’t safe there, especially the kids, so we had to leave,” he said. The Hope Community Covenant Church, along with five sponsors, helped Al-Mubaied and his family settle in Strathmore. Since then, Al-Mubaied and his family have adjusted to life here. “I love Strathmore – I feel like it’s my own town and my own community,” he said. “We’re so happy to be safe here.” The business has been ready to open for a few months, but was delayed by COVID-19 public health measures. So, Al-Mubaied took a “wait and see” approach to opening while many businesses were closed. But with personal and wellness businesses services open again (by appointment), Al-Mubaied decided the time was right to launch the new business venture. Like other barbers and hairdressers in town, Al-Mubaied will be working within the confines of COVID-19 protocols. “We’re working under the government’s rules,” he said. Al-Mubaied has been cutting hair for over 10 years and does not think his approach to the craft will be much different than in Syria. “Hair is hair, but every year, there are new styles,” he said. “I’m so excited to start serving the people of Strathmore.” At the reopening, Fule said that having businesses downtown, such as the Strathmore Barbershop, being successful is important to Strathmore’s downtown revitalization. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
Squamish Nation council has presented a survey of 300 of its community members’ concerns regarding ongoing disruptions from rail operations just metres from their homes to CN Rail this week, in the hope immediate short-term changes will be made. With three rail tracks just 30 metres from some homes in the community of Eslhá7an, near Mosquito Creek in North Vancouver, residents say they have been putting up with unacceptable levels of noise, pollution and health impacts for far too long. “Think of a loud muscle car or motorcycle revving up outside your house late at night,” said Keith Nahanee, who lives just 45 metres from the tracks in Eslhá7an. “Now times that noise by 10. That’s what it’s like.” Nahanee, who has been dealing with the rail issue his whole life, said CN Rail trains were left idling just across from homes routinely at around 11 p.m. each night. “Not only do we hear the engines humming, but some houses rattle because of the engines,” the 48-year-old said, adding that he was consistently woken by the loud diesel engines and train cooling systems. “If they're going by, that's fine but they sit out here and idle. Sometimes the guy ends his shift out here. He’ll leave the train there and he'll go home and it's idling from around 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., or midnight, until someone picks it up the next day.” Nahanee is one of the residents, mostly elders, – from Eslhá7an to Yekwaupsum – who filled out the survey detailing their concerns regarding the rail operations. But it’s not the first time he or other residents have made their voices heard, saying he had been sending complaints to CN Rail three times a month since he could remember. He said the response, if received, from CN Rail was the same each time, which explained idling was necessary for most of its locomotives, which are not designed to be easily turned on and off. Nahanee said the first thing the community really wanted was for the trains to idle somewhere else during the middle of the night, further from homes. “I mean, that’s all we want,” he said. “Between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., just let us sleep.” Khelsilem, Dustin Rivers, spokesperson for Squamish Nation, said the nation conducted the survey after a virtual meeting was held with CN Rail on Oct. 3, 2020, between nation council members and CN senior executives to reopen discussions on how to solve the ongoing disturbances to residents in the communities of Eslhá7an and Yekwaupsum. “The Squamish Nation has been dealing with these issues over many, many, many years and it seems like every so often we get some progress and then after a number of years the issues come up again,” he said, adding it was “frustrating” to be back at this stage. “Our leadership is really upset with CN and how they are treating our residents of our community, and while the Oct. 3 meeting was diplomatic and a point to sort of re-establish a relationship, we're still not seeing the kind of action that we would like to see on the ground to respect our residents and our elders in our community.” Khelsilem said leadership was hoping that would change and communications would become more fluid again with CN, after presenting the results of the survey on March 3. He said community members provided “a lot of explicit and specific feedback regarding issues around shunting, whistling, and idling which is basically directly in front of a lot of people's houses.” “The biggest issue, of course, for our members, is that there's a significant amount of activity, noise, pollution, and disruption happening during the evening and late into the night,” he said. “We have a number of families with young children, we have families who work and are trying to make a living for their families to provide for them, we have elders who are recovering from significant health issues … all of whom are being severely impacted.” While CN Rail has progressed on various initiatives over the past several years to reduce noise, such as train whistling cessation, rail lubrication, and installing automated gates at at-grade crossings, Khelsilem said more operational changes were needed. “There needs to be a change and a moratorium on when some of their operations are happening around our reserves,” he said, adding that the nation was calling for an end to locomotive idling adjacent to residential properties as a short term solution. Khelsilem said the issue dates back to the colonial history of the railways within Canada and how they were developed. “If you were to apply contemporary standards to rail lines, they would never allow rail lines to be built that close to a residential area like ours is,” he said. “If you look at the rest of the North Shore, there's not a lot of areas where there are rail lines in that close proximity, but because of the colonial history of governments unilaterally deciding and making these decisions, including the expropriation of reserve lands to suit the rail line expansions, we have this sort of horrible legacy of racist decisions that today we're feeling the impacts of in our community.” He said future long-term goals would be to see some of the rail lines near the community of Eslhá7an decommissioned and the idea to move the railway underground or below grade be explored. In response to complaints in July last year, CN Rail issued a statement saying the whistles are required by law for safety reasons and that idling is necessary for almost half of its fleet of locomotives, which are not designed to be easily turned on and off. “As a backbone of the Canadian and British Columbian economy, we operate our railroad 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; therefore, there will always be some noise associated with these operations,” the statement read. “CN is aware of the fact that it operates in close proximity to the communities through which we travel and is committed to make every effort to minimize the effects that may occur as a result of these operations.” CN Rail is now reviewing the results of the nation’s community complaints survey. Khelsilem said the nation would continue communications with CN Rail on short-term and long-term solutions. "They're open to potential changes, but no commitments have been made," he said. Elisia Seeber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News
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.
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
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
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
The Strathmore Overnight Shelter is tweaking its yearly March for Cold fundraising event by providing both virtual and in-person events to raise operating funds. Through this event, the organization usually raises between $5,000 and $10,000, about 10 per cent of its yearly operating budget, explained Carrilyn Fisk, a member of the shelter’s board of directors. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization is taking a different approach this year. A virtual event is being held the week of March 13 to 20, in which participants step up to walk or run two to five kilometres wherever they want that week. To raise funds, participants can donate or garner pledges for them braving the cold, explained Fisk. Donation forms are available through the shelter’s Facebook page. Once complete, these forms can be emailed to email@example.com or mailed to the Harvest Healing Church. Participants are being encouraged to post photos of their activities to social media, using the hashtag #strathmorecoldmarch. They can also be emailed to Carrilyn_f@hotmail.com, to be posted to the shelter’s Facebook or Instagram pages. But for anyone still wanting to participate in person, the shelter is also holding the March for Cold at Kinsmen Park at 5 p.m. on March 20. But due to COVID-19, there will be no opening ceremonies and the registration and start will be staggered for participants. The registration and waiver are also available on the shelter’s Facebook page or its website, strathmoreovernightshelter.com/march-for-cold/. Once they are received, each participant will be given a start time for their walk. The registration table and start point will be in the parking lot of the new Strathmore town hall. All proceeds will go to the Strathmore Overnight Shelter, which was stretched thin this year, with many businesses and facilities closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. During some of the colder winter days, the shelter started opening 24-hours per day, requiring extra staff and increasing costs. Holding the event to help meet some of these costs is essential to the shelter, said Elizabeth Karp, the shelter’s director. “It’s one of our bigger fundraisers that we have throughout the year, helping us to pay our utilities and bills, and cover all the needs we have in the shelter.” Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
Golden Hill School Division (GHSD) held a board meeting on Feb. 23, focusing on a range of topics, including setting next year’s budget, this year’s election, enrolment trends and changes to its transportation program. Budget development The government of Alberta released its 2021 budget on Feb. 25, which will shape GHSD’s budget next year. According to the province, funding for kindergarten to Grade 12 is being maintained, despite lower-than-expected enrolment. However, GHSD will review the specifics of the budget in developing its own budget for next year, through a multistep process. At this time of year, the board is focused on its overarching budgeting principles, explained superintendent Bevan Daverne. “One of those principles is that we live within our means and make (GHSD’s budget) work within the funding we receive,” he said. While GHSD may access reserve funding for its budget, it is not permitted to run an overall deficit. Another principle is ensuring GHSD’s priorities continue to align with its overall education plan. “We’ll continue to focus on those things that matter most for learning,” said Daverne. Once the budget is released, the province’s minister of education calls all the division chairs across Alberta to communicate the highlights of the budget, explained Laurie Huntley, GHSD board chair. The board will later receive the budget in its entirety for review. “That’s when the rubber hits the road and our people start crunching the numbers and comparing things from last year to this year,” she said. The board will review the specifics of the provincial budget and its impact during the next meeting in March, added Daverne. Election 2021 This year, a provincial school board of trustee election will be held on Oct. 18. Trustees are responsible for setting school division goals and priorities, developing a budget and policies, ensuring communication with residents, advocating for the division and evaluating the superintendent. GHSD has six trustees, each representing a different ward. One of the changes to this year’s election was the nomination period, which started on Jan. 1, earlier than previous years. During the Feb. 23 meeting, the board passed an updated bylaw outlining the identification requirements of nominees. The current trustees on the board have been “outstanding,” said Daverne. “They think about what’s best for students as a whole, they are very good listeners and they are very considerate in the decisions they make.” Advocacy is a key part of trustee’s work, including advocating for changes to funding, regulations and rules with provincial decisions makers, he added. Huntley (Ward 5, Carseland and Wheatland Crossing), Rob Pirie (Ward 4, Strathmore) and Jennifer Mertz (Ward 4, Strathmore) are all seeking reelection. Enrolment changes During the Feb. 23 meeting, GHSD’s headcount was shown to have increased from December 2020 to January 2021 by 135 students. This trend was driven by increases in its online learning programs, including 127 added to its Golden Hills Learning Academy and 26 to its NorthStar Academy. The jump was due to the pandemic, said Huntley. “We think you can sum up the reason in five letters: C-O-V-I-D,” she said. But this increase is not due to children in the division moving from learning at school to learning at home, she explained. Instead, these programs are offered to students throughout Alberta, so the increases are due to students from other jurisdictions entering the program. From the start of last year, these programs have doubled in size, noted Daverne. To meet this new demand, GHSD has had to make some quick adjustments, such as hiring more teachers. But within the division, the opposite trend is being seen, where students are moving back into schools from at-home learning. “Our families have been really happy to be able to get back to face-to-face classroom learning,” said Daverne. Transportation monitoring report GHSD’s yearly transportation monitoring report was also discussed during the Feb. 23 meeting, focusing on GHSD’s school bus program. A new operating training program has been implemented, called mandatory entry-level training (MELT), established in March 2019 as a provincial requirement for large vehicle operators. The training requires set hourly training requirements for drivers (53.5 hours total), including increased requirements for classroom, in-yard and on-road training. Existing GHSD policies already required 62 hours of training, with some of the training performed over a year. But the change with MELT is the training is required up front. This is not necessarily an improvement, because drivers require regular supervision, ride alongs and support to develop, said Daverne. “We’re going to help you continue becoming a better driver, and we’re going to continue to supervise over time,” he said. GHSD is also pursuing several initiatives for its transportation program, including ongoing efforts to implement online attendance tracking systems, new cleaning protocols and adding live cameras to the buses. “We’re looking at ways to monitor students’ attendance on a bus automatically – where they get on and where they get off,” he said. Each of GHSD’s buses has GPS tracking, which will be considered in a review of the department’s inclement weather policy. The buses also each have WiFi for students, providing a filtered internet from which they can access their Google Classroom. “School bus transportation is very different today than it once was,” said Daverne. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former President Donald Trump on Friday endorsed South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster's bid for a second full term in 2022, continuing their yearslong alliance in a move to strengthen ties with the early-voting state that Trump won twice. In a statement through his Save America PAC, Trump commended McMaster's efforts on behalf of the military, veterans and law enforcement, saying the Republican “has my Complete and Total Endorsement as he runs for re-election!” The endorsement, along with other recent moves, continues to signal Trump's desire to maintain ties with South Carolina, home of the first presidential primary votes in the South. Earlier this week, Trump formally endorsed U.S. Sen. Tim Scott in his own 2022 reelect bid, also complimenting Scott’s work on behalf of the military, law enforcement and veterans. Last month, Trump gave backing to Drew McKissick for a third term as chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, signalling a desire to wade not only into state-level politics but also to play a role in maintaining the local party framework in places that backed his presidency and where his support remains steady. But the former president’s relationship with McMaster goes deeper, predating either man’s administration. In early 2016, then-Lt. Gov. McMaster threw his support behind Trump’s presidential bid, becoming the first statewide-elected official in the country to do so. That summer, McMaster was one of two speakers to formally nominate Trump at the Republican National Convention. The move helped boost Trump to a double-digit victory in South Carolina’s early primary. It also surprised many allies and friends of McMaster, a longtime member of South Carolina’s establishment GOP circles. But McMaster’s wager paid dividends a year later, when Trump picked Nikki Haley as his U.N. ambassador, allowing McMaster to ascend to the governor’s office, a post he had long sought. In 2018, as McMaster sought his first full term in office, Trump campaigned for his ally roughly 12 hours before polls opened in a GOP runoff race, which McMaster ultimately won. ___ Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP. Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press
TORONTO — Adam Ruzicka had two goals and an assist for his fourth consecutive three-point night, and the Stockton Heat downed the Toronto Marlies 5-1 on Friday in American Hockey League action. Ruzicka leads all AHL scorers early in the season with seven goals and 12 points in six games. Connor Mackey, Eetu Tuulola and Martin Pospisil also scored for the Heat (4-2-0), who extended their win streak to four games after opening the season with back-to-back losses. Alex Petrovic and Matthew Phillips each tacked on three assists while Garret Sparks stopped 27 shots for the Calgary Flames' AHL affiliate. Colt Conrad scored for the Marlies (6-5-0), AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Andrew D'Agostini turned aside 26-of-30 shots in defeat. --- This report by The Canadian Press 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
VANCOUVER — Dentists, teachers and bus drivers are among the essential workers who hope to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in British Columbia, as a provincial committee decides who should be prioritized for the shot. BC Teachers' Federation president Teri Mooring said her members should be included in the plan expected to be released by the B.C. Immunization Committee around March 18. Education staff have had the second-highest number of COVID-19 claims accepted by WorkSafeBC, behind only health-care workers, and teachers have faced challenging conditions, Mooring said. "It's been a very difficult and stressful environment for teachers in B.C.," she said Friday. "Teachers have not, from the very start, been satisfied with the preventative measures that have been in place in classrooms. What we see is one of the most lax mask policies in all of Canada." The province does not require elementary students to wear masks, unlike in Ontario and high-risk areas of Quebec. B.C.'s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has said young children don't get as sick from COVID-19 or pass it on as well as others. Henry has said the immunization committee will use public health principles, vaccine science and an ethical framework to reach its decision on which essential workers and first responders should receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. Once the plan is finalized, the vaccine will be administered in a parallel program to the province's age-based strategy for the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a joint statement Friday that the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine will become another tool in its program to accelerate the protection of more people in the province. The officials reported 634 new cases and four more fatalities, pushing the death toll to 1,380 in B.C. Four new cases were confirmed to be variants of concern, bringing the total to 250. The BC Dental Association said in a statement it would be "extremely pleased" if its members were included in the group to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot. Dentists and their teams cannot treat patients remotely, work in very close proximity to the mouth and often use aerosol-generating procedures, it said. The association also pointed out that dentists, dental hygienists and certified dental assistants are included in Henry's recent order to help administer the vaccines. "We would expect that any dentist choosing to participate in mass vaccination clinics would be required to have been vaccinated themselves prior to providing them," it said. Balbir Mann, president of Unifor Local 111, which represents Metro Vancouver bus drivers, said his members should receive the vaccine because they have been at risk throughout the pandemic. "When people get on the bus to pay their bus fare, they're literally a couple feet away. Our members, day to day, they're scared of the sneezes and coughs they have to deal with on a daily basis." Henry has suggested that workers in food processing plants will be prioritized because there have been a number of outbreaks in the facilities that have led to broader community transmission. James Donaldson, CEO of BC Food and Beverage, said his organization has been advocating for food production workers to receive priority access to vaccines since they became available. "Our industry is essential as it ensures the continuity of the food supply for people in B.C. and around the world," he said. Kim Novak, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Local 1518, represents food plant workers including those at Grand River Foods in Abbotsford who recently grappled with a COVID-19 outbreak. "It's because of the nature of the work. People are working in close proximity. Even with enhanced (personal protective equipment), staggering breaks and other health and safety protocols that have been implemented, there is still a high level of exposure," she said. Novak's union also represents grocery store workers and she hopes they will be included in the plan for the vaccine. "In grocery stores in particular, there is a lot of exposure to different people in the public," she said. "That exposure not only is a risk for our members ... but also the public who interact with them." BC Trucking Association president Dave Earle, meanwhile, said his group represents both long-haul truckers and local drivers who return home every night. He wants to hear from the province about where the COVID-19 hot spots are in the transportation system. For example, in B.C., there are 300,000 people with a Class 1 licence allowing them to operate a semi-trailer truck, Earle said. "Not everybody with a Class 1 licence operates a heavy truck at the moment and many of those who do don't do it in an environment where they're at any greater risk than you and I just going about our daily lives," he said. In some European countries, people have been hesitant to receive the AstraZeneca shot because of fears it is less effective than the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization has also not recommended AstraZeneca for people over 65, while Health Canada has approved it for all adults. Henry sought on Thursday to assure essential workers that the AstraZeneca vaccine is extremely effective. The clinical trials for all three vaccines were done under different conditions and cannot be fairly compared, she said. The groups representing essential workers said Friday they hadn't heard any concerns about the AstraZeneca shot from members. Earle said his association takes guidance from public health officials and they've been abundantly clear. "Whatever you're offered, take it. Let's get out of this." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. Laura Dhillon Kane, The Canadian Press
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
Ulukhaktok, N.W.T. residents are hunkering down at home as they face a blizzard, but thankfully, their internet has been restored. "This the longest [internet outage] it's been," said Ulukhaktok Mayor Joshua Oliktoak. "I guess it was getting hard for some people, so I'm very thankful that it was resolved so people are able to get what they need before they have to stay in … everything is shut-down except for the stores." The internet was in and out for nearly eight days before Northwestel fixed the issue Thursday evening, the company confirmed. It said a "technical issue" had caused "internet network congestion" in the community. Residents had been trying to alert the company to the internet problem, but, said a Northwestel spokesperson, during the outage period "data was still flowing in and out of the community and we did not fully realize the impact it was having on customers." The internet outage was so widespread that it even affected residents' ability to pay for groceries and gas. Oliktoak said Friday afternoon that the internet returning meant community members could pick up groceries and supplies before the blizzard got too bad. "We are fortunate it got fixed before the weekend," said Oliktoak. "Right now it's real bad. Some people can't see across the road."
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
Un jugement du Tribunal des droits de la personne provoque un examen de conscience. La demande de la Ville de Gatineau d’en appeler d’une décision qui concluait qu’un homme noir avait été victime de « profilage discriminatoire », lors d’une intervention policière en 2013, a été rejetée cette semaine. L’affaire étant maintenant close, les deux parties ont dit souhaiter que ce jugement améliore les relations entre les autorités et les citoyens racisés. Le soir du 27 décembre 2013, Serge Calza Nyembwe faisait tranquillement ses courses à Gatineau. Dans les parages, des policiers recherchaient un individu lié à une affaire de violence conjugale. Bien qu’il soit noir et qu’il se déplaçait à pied, ce suspect ne ressemblait pas à M. Nyembwe. Les vêtements ne coïncidaient pas et, surtout, M. Nyembwe avait la tête rasée tandis que l’individu recherché portait des cheveux longs et attachés. En somme, pendant l’intervention, le policier « ne semble pas avoir conscience que cette description correspond, non pas à celle du suspect qu’il recherche, mais à celle du premier homme noir qui croise son chemin après qu’il a entendu la description du suspect recherché », a résumé la juge du Tribunal des droits de la personne Magali Lewis, dans son jugement, rendu en janvier dernier. Pourtant, lorsque les agents de la paix ont aperçu Serge Calza Nyembwe, ils l’ont fouillé, lui ont passé les menottes et l’ont embarqué dans la voiture de police. À la suite de l’altercation houleuse, ils ont vérifié la concordance des descriptions puis ont libéré Serge Calza Nyembwe. En entrevue au Devoir, le principal intéressé qualifie cette arrestation d’« humiliante » et de « dégradante ». Il dit avoir collaboré, mais les policiers ne lui ont pas expliqué les motifs de l’arrestation. « Je dois tout accepter pourvu que je me sorte indemne ou vivant de la situation », dit-il avoir pensé, sur le coup. En début de semaine, la justice a clos le dossier en rejetant la demande de révision judiciaire de la Ville de Gatineau. La Ville avait d’abord décidé de porter le jugement en appel, faisant valoir que la juge avait « erré dans deux aspects importants » de droit. La Municipalité et les deux policiers impliqués doivent maintenant verser 18 000 $ au plaignant. « Les comportements des policiers tout au long de l’intervention ne peuvent s’expliquer rationnellement que par les préjugés qu’ils entretenaient », a fait valoir le Tribunal des droits de la personne dans le jugement initial. Pour prévenir une récidive, la Municipalité de Gatineau a récemment enclenché une analyse externe sur les interpellations policières. Les policiers suivent désormais des formations liées aux préjugés raciaux. Après avoir pris connaissance de la décision de la Cour d’appel, le maire de Gatineau a tenu à s’excuser auprès de M. Nyembwe lors d’une conférence de presse, mardi. « C’est la première fois que Gatineau reçoit un tel jugement et nous souhaitons que ce soit la dernière », a insisté Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin. Cette condamnation « fait mal », a-t-il avancé, car sa ville multiplie depuis des années les lieux de dialogue entre les différentes communautés culturelles. « Dire que c’est un cas isolé, c’est très réducteur », fait valoir au Devoir Kethlande Pierre, vice-présidente du Conseil de la communauté noire de Gatineau, puisque bien des gens se découragent face à la lenteur du processus judiciaire. « C’est difficile d’être le premier, souligne-t-elle. C’est très difficile. C’est un combat. » Cependant, le jugement constitue une « victoire collective » qui encouragera les dénonciations. « Dorénavant, on sait qu’à Gatineau, ça sera tolérance zéro. Si on est victime, on peut porter plainte et la justice sera de notre côté. » Le maire Pedneaud-Jobin acquiesce. « Il faut que les gens portent plainte. On veut le savoir. C’est nécessaire qu’ils portent plainte. Il y a une différence entre une anecdote et une plainte. Une anecdote, on en entend parler, mais c’est difficile d’agir. Avec une plainte, on peut agir. S’il y a des gens à la Ville qui ont des comportements inacceptables, je veux le savoir. Je veux des noms. Je veux des plaintes. Et on va s’y attaquer. » M. Nyembwe espère aussi avoir ouvert la voie à d’autres. « J’ai découvert qu’il y a beaucoup de cas plus graves que le mien qui se produisent, mais les gens, soit ils n’ont pas la confiance dans le système pour aller jusqu’au bout, soit ils sont découragés par le temps que ça pourrait prendre. » D’ailleurs, de plus en plus d’individus portent plainte au Québec. Le nombre de dossiers ouverts en profilage racial au Tribunal des droits de la personne a triplé en cinq ans, passant de 14 en 2014-2015 à 44 en 2019-2020. L’avocate de M. Nyembwe, Me Geneviève Griffin, note une tendance des tribunaux à se montrer de plus en plus sensible à la question du profilage racial. « Il y a une prise de conscience collective et les tribunaux ne sont pas en vase clos. » Elle souligne que dans ce dossier, la juge Lewis s’est autorisée elle-même à prendre connaissance d’un rapport d’expert mandaté par le Service de police de la Ville de Montréal. Dans ce rapport, le SPVM reconnaît la prévalence du racisme et du problème du profilage. « Quand un autre service de police a ce type d’outils, se dote d’une politique sur les interpellations policières, il y a un effet d’entraînement », explique Me Griffin. « Les juges sont peut-être plus sensibles, mais ils ont aussi plus d’informations. C’est multifactoriel. » Lasse de ce profilage des policiers, mais aussi dans la rue et les magasins, Kethlande Pierre espère que tous remettront en question leurs préjugés. « Lorsque la loi tranche, on dit aux gens, c’est correct, on comprend que tu as des biais inconscients. Mais, si tu ne les traites pas, voici ce qui pourrait t’arriver. » Jean-Louis Bordeleau, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Devoir
Over the February break there was an important symbol put in place at St. Francis School in Prince Albert. Maintenance from the Prince Albert Catholic School Division placed a handcrafted cross in the school's gymnasium. The cross was crafted by St. Francis Principal Richard Rapin's brother. It was the last stage of a large renovation beginning in 2019 when a flood swept through the school. “In the middle of the summer, we knew we needed a cross at that particular time to finish off our gym because it is the largest gathering place in our school,” Richard said. The other parts of the renovation included painting and new flooring. The gymnasium is currently in use as the place for physical education classes. The gymnasium serves as much more than just a place for sports. It acts as a gathering place for important events at the school including events such as liturgies, Grade 8 farewells and other milestones. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that is not possible but when the pandemic is over, staff and students will once again gather in the space to celebrate together. “So we wanted a special cross for our gym and I approached my brother Phil who has made a number of them in Saskatoon and I asked him if he would be willing to build a cross for our gym and he said absolutely,” Richard said. “He phoned me a couple weeks later and I drove up to Saskatoon. I picked it up and our school division maintenance department mounted it on the wall. It sits there today and will be a permanent symbol in our school for decades to come.” He explained that there is a cross in every room in the school and this large cross suits the size of the gymnasium. This particular cross is nearly six feet tall and placed in a place of prominence next to both the stage and a Prayer of St. Francis, the Patron Saint of the school. “It really is a symbol that grabs every person's eye when they walk into the gymnasium,” he said. Phil Rapin has constructed a number of crosses located across Saskatoon where he is also employed as a teacher in the Catholic School system. Richard mused that when he enters buildings in Saskatoon he often wonders if his brother crafted the cross. The brothers are both originally from Prince Albert. Richard explained that once the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us, there will be a celebration of the cross overlooked by the Parish Priest for St. Francis. Richard explained that his brother did not craft and donate the cross for any type of recognition. “A cross is a tremendously important symbol in our Catholic faith, there is no getting around that and to have a cross in our school that is so visible is such a powerful symbol in our building,” Richard said. The cross was crafted by Phil from wood and steel with a design that he found on the Internet. He describes himself as a craftsman rather than an artist. He explained that he took the design and used a computer-driven steel cutting machine and cut the shape. The size of the design was too large for the machine and had to be done in two steps and welded together based on the original. He then polished the piece, cleaned it up, laminated a large piece of wood and traced and cut the wood. Phil explained that when he saw the design he was immediately struck by the beauty of it. The original intent was to have a cross that was lit from the back, similar to another one that he has constructed. Phil explained that the design represents more of a risen Jesus Christ as opposed to the crucified Jesus Christ. “It's just a different interpretation or look,” Phil said. The cross was donated so as to not create extra paperwork and because it promoted what the Catholic faith stands for. The piece is about itself rather, than who constructed it. Director of education Lorel Trumier detailed the cross to the regular board of education meeting on Monday and was proud to have it in a school in the division. “To get a cross made with that size and with that level of craftsmanship and carpentry it's really a gift to our Catholic education community at St. Francis,” Trumier said. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald