Professor John Edmunds said there is a “worry” the newly identified variant may be vaccine resistant and cause reinfection in people who have already had COVID-19.
Professor John Edmunds said there is a “worry” the newly identified variant may be vaccine resistant and cause reinfection in people who have already had COVID-19.
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies gradually ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials began expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 22, opening community clinics for people aged 80 years and older. Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, has said the province's plan is to open another 10 clinics in March for 48,000 people who will be mailed a letter informing them how to book an appointment. Strang said the vaccination program will then expand to the next age group in descending order until everyone in the province is offered the chance to be immunized. The age groups will proceed in five-year blocks. Future community clinics are to be held March 8 in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro; March 15 in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth; and March 22 in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth. The province began its vaccination campaign with residents of long-term care homes, those who work directly with patients, those who are 80 and older, and those who are at risk for other reasons including First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island The province says the first phase of its vaccination drive, currently slated to last until March, targets residents and staff of long-term and community care, as well as health-care workers with direct patient contact at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure. Those 80 and older, adults in Indigenous communities, and truck drivers and other rotational workers are also included. The next phase, which is scheduled to begin in April, will target those above 70 and essential workers. The province intends to make the vaccine available to everyone in late summer and fall. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec The province's proposed order of priority for vaccination according to its website is those in residential and long-term care centres, workers in the health and social services network, followed by those in isolated and remote communities, people 80 years or older, and then the general population in 10-year increments. Health officials launched an online and telephone system for vaccine registrations on Feb. 25 and will begin vaccinating people aged 85 years and older in Montreal on March 1. Officials said that while residents across the province aged 85 and older can register for a vaccine, priority will be given to people in the greater Montreal area, which has the highest active COVID-19 case count in Quebec. On Feb. 26, officials opened registration for Montrealers as young as 80 years old. It has not yet been announced when the next age group can begin to register for vaccines. The province says the vaccination of children and pregnant women will be determined based on future studies of vaccine safety and efficacy in those populations. --- Ontario The province has mapped out a three-phase approach to its rollout. Phase 1, which is still ongoing, reserves shots for those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers, and people who live in congregate care settings. All Indigenous adults, people aged 80 and older and adults receiving chronic home care will be next in line. The province says it will begin vaccinations among the 80 and older age cohort starting the third week of March. Vaccinations will begin for people 75 and older starting April 15. The province will then move to offer shots to those 70 and older starting May 1; 65 and older starting June 1; and 60 and older the first week of July. Indigenous adults and patient-facing health-care workers will receive vaccinations as the province works through those age groups. The government is still finalizing the list of essential workers who will receive vaccinations in May if supply is available. The province has not detailed when people younger than 60 can expect to be vaccinated. Appointment bookings can be made online and by phone starting March 15 for those in eligible age cohorts. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. They say most people over 80, and First Nations individuals over 60, could be eligible in early March. The province plans to have all personal care home residents vaccinated with two doses by the end of February, and has started sending team to other congregate living settings such as group homes and shelters. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, say inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if new vaccines are approved and supplies are steady. The plan does not include a separate category for essential workers — something that Reimer says will be considered as vaccine supplies increase. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. When bookings opened to this age group Wednesday, the website was temporarily overwhelmed when more than 150,000 people tried to get access. Within a day, 100,000 appointments were booked. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. Some 28,000 seniors in long-term care have already been vaccinated. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia The first phase of B.C.'s immunization campaign launched in December and focused on health-care workers in hospitals, paramedics, residents and staff at long-term care homes, and remote Indigenous communities. The second phase set to wrap up in March includes people aged 80 and above, Indigenous elders 65 and up, Indigenous communities that didn't receive vaccine in the first phase, as well as more health-care workers and vulnerable populations living and working in certain congregate settings. The third phase of B.C.'s immunization campaign is set to start in April and last until June, reaching people between the ages of 60 and 79, along with those who are highly clinically vulnerable, such as cancer patients. B.C.'s plan for the general population is based on age, with the oldest residents first in line. --- Nunavut Nunavut's vaccination rollout is underway, with vaccine clinics for the general population scheduled or completed in all 25 communities. In Iqaluit, Nunavut's capital, a general vaccination clinic is underway for priority populations, including staff and residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. Starting March 1, the vaccine clinic will be extended to all adults in Iqaluit ages 45 and up. Nunavut still expects enough vaccines to immunize 75 per cent of its residents over the age of 18 by the end of March. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories says it has vaccinated 42 per cent of its adult population since its vaccine rollout began in early January. Vaccine clinics are either completed or underway in all 33 of the territory's communities. In Yellowknife, residents and staff in long-term care homes are being prioritized for the vaccine. Vaccination of Yellowknife's general population will begin in late March. The N.W.T. still expects to receive enough vaccines to inoculate 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — A man who helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for WE Charity says he believes two different groups of donors were told they had raised the money for a school in Kenya. Reed Cowan testified before a parliamentary committee today where he said he discovered a plaque that had once borne his late son's name had been replaced with the name of another donor. Cowan says he then found a video online that showed an opening ceremony for the school building, almost identical to one he participated in, that took place with a different group of donors two weeks before the one held for his group. Cowan, who was a member of the advisory board to a WE-affiliated group in the United States, says he began raising money after his son Wesley died in an accident at age four and that helping children in Kenya helped him deal with the loss. In an email, WE Charity says there was only one opening ceremony for the school and Cowan misunderstood what was happening in the video. WE says it inadvertently failed to notify Cowan about the removal of the plaque and that it has now been returned. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — A photographer who was shoved by a man who then came at him with a metal pole during a trip on the Staten Island ferry on Friday was able to get out of harm's way when New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang intervened. Spencer Platt, a photographer with Getty Images, said he was on the top deck of the boat heading toward Staten Island around 11 a.m., talking on the phone after taking some photos of Yang, who was headed to campaign events. Platt said when he turned around, the man was “just right in my face, like an inch away." The man pushed him, sending him down onto a bench, and Platt said he saw he was carrying some kind of metal rod. “He immediately lifts that up, comes at me and has it raised over me," he said. The photographer got the attention of Yang and his campaign, who were inside, and he said they came out, with Yang in the lead. “He came out ... and he just kind of yelled, the guy turned around, and that allowed me to just kind of bolt out of there," Platt said. “I think most people would have the same impulse I had - to try and do anything that you can to protect somebody who might be threatened or endangered," Yang said in a statement. "I got up and tried to intervene as quickly as I could. I’m glad that when he turned he saw me and recognized me, and the situation deescalated quickly.” Platt told some New York Police Department officers who were on the boat and who then went to keep an eye on the man. The NYPD said no arrest was made. The Associated Press
Staff vaccination rates at the site of one of Hamilton’s worst outbreaks still have some ways to go to reach the provincial target, as the city resumed vaccinations for health-care workers on Friday. This week, the CEO of Shalom Village in Westdale released the number of the home’s staff who’ve received the COVID-19 vaccination. The numbers offer a glimpse into the rollout and uptake of vaccines in this high-priority group in long-term care. Shalom Village, a facility offering long-term care and assisted living, was home to the second-worst outbreak in the city, with 218 cases and 20 deaths from Dec. 9 to Feb. 5. In an email this week, CEO Ken Callaghan said 120 staff out of about 173 “active” staff have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Of those, he said “the vast majority” have received two doses, but didn’t provide numbers. Four additional staff received their first doses on Tuesday, when the city’s mobile clinic came to vaccinate more residents, Callaghan said. At 69 per cent, Shalom Village’s current vaccination numbers fall below a provincial goal of 75 per cent vaccination rate for the city, and a “per organization” target set by a Hamilton “vaccination strategy” group, of which Callaghan is a member. The province’s goal is a “planning target” which represents the proportion of Hamilton adults expected to volunteer to receive the vaccine. The number is based on previous annual vaccine uptake, but does not limit who can receive the vaccine. Shalom staff began receiving vaccines on Dec. 28, with 10 spots allocated per day to the home at the Hamilton Health Sciences clinic. However, the clinic shut down on Jan. 27 after the province ordered that vaccines should only be given to seniors’ home residents due to shortages. That clinic reopened on Friday. Shalom’s numbers are also less than vaccination rates at Grace Villa, the site of the city’s worst outbreak with 234 cases and 44 deaths from Nov. 25 to Jan. 19. In an email Friday, the CEO of APANS Health Services, which runs the east Mountain home, said 123 out of 139 staff have received both vaccine doses, about 88 per cent. Mary Raithby added that 105 out of 108 residents have received both vaccine doses. “We continue to have staff and residents vaccinated according to the public health guidelines and vaccine availability,” she said. Callaghan said by email on Thursday that he is “comfortable where Shalom is on staff vaccinations,” noting the current numbers are “not where we will end up with the vaccination site reopening.” He said there are additional staff on the list to receive their first doses as the city’s fixed-site clinic resumes. But Callaghan didn’t specify how many staff were on that list, only saying there are 34 staff and essential caregivers combined. Some have expressed concern over a reluctance among staff to receive the vaccine, or barriers preventing them from easily doing so. In mid-January, The Spectator reported concerns from SEIU Healthcare — a union representing health-care workers, including at Shalom Village — that workers faced barriers to accessing vaccines. The union advocated for paid sick leave for workers who experience side effects from the vaccine, as well as travelling costs and time for staff to consult with a doctor prior to receiving the vaccine. Language barriers and scheduling issues were also concerns. Staff vaccinations in long-term care are essential, as experts have pointed out that COVID-19 only enters a home from the outside. At the time, Hamilton’s medical officer of health was pleased that vaccine uptake in long-term-care and retirement home workers was more than 65 per cent. Callaghan declined an interview request about staff responses to vaccinations and whether Shalom Village took or is taking steps to address any concerns. As for residents, Callaghan said about 97 per cent have received both doses of the vaccine. It is not clear how many residents that represents. “The only residents not receiving both vaccinations were due to their refusals to be vaccinated,” he said, noting all residents who consented directly or through their attorneys have received both doses of the vaccine. Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
SAN DIEGO — California is freeing up as much as $28 million to help immigrants arriving from Mexico and being released in the U.S. until their court dates, a sharp contrast from other border states that have emerged as foes of President Joe Biden's immigration policies. The funding, expected to last through June, comes as Biden unwinds former President Donald Trump's policy to make asylum-seekers wait in Mexico until their court hearings. It will pay for hotel rooms for immigrants to quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic before going to their final destinations throughout the U.S. Money also will go to Jewish Family Service of San Diego to provide food, transportation and help with travel logistics. The state will fund health services for the short stays, including COVID-19 testing. Last week, the Biden administration began allowing people into the United States who had been forced to wait south of the border under Trump's “Remain in Mexico" policy. On his first day, Biden suspended the program for new arrivals. An estimated 26,000 people with active cases will be allowed into the U.S., with about 25 people released a day in San Diego. “This is what happens when California and Washington are talking with each other instead of at each other,” said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the California Department of Finance. The first asylum-seekers waiting in the Mexican border city of Matamoros, home to a migrant camp with squalid conditions, were processed for entry Thursday in Brownsville, Texas. Processing began Friday in El Paso, Texas. At the same time, the U.S. is releasing more asylum-seekers who are not enrolled in “Remain in Mexico” into the country, as it did for hundreds of thousands of people before Trump foisted the responsibility of hosting asylum-seekers on Mexico in 2019. While most people are quickly expelled without an opportunity to seek asylum under pandemic powers that Trump instituted and Biden kept in place, limited releases in the U.S. have raised financial and humanitarian concerns in some border cities. “There’s no plan of action once Border Patrol releases migrants in city centres from being detained,” Bruno Lozano, mayor of the South Texas city of Del Rio, said in an interview. Lozano posted a YouTube video last week calling on the Biden administration to stop releasing migrants during a winter storm that ravaged Texas, knocking out power and water for several days in many cities. The Border Patrol resumed releasing migrants in Del Rio on Feb. 20 after the cold passed. Lozano said Friday that border agents have resumed releasing people in Del Rio and nearby cities. He noted that non-profit groups provide cellphones, food and clothing to people leaving border custody and called on federal authorities to ramp up vaccinations in border communities or provide hotel rooms where migrants who test positive can quarantine. In Yuma, Arizona, Mayor Douglas Nicholls estimated that by the end of Thursday, some 230 migrants, including many families with children, had been released since Feb. 15. Many are dropped at a Greyhound bus stop outside a discount store in a rural area. Nicholls wants state and federal officials to transport migrants to larger cities with more infrastructure and resources, as the federal government did during Trump's presidency. Texas has sent 10,000 rapid COVID-19 tests to Brownsville for arriving migrants. City spokesman Felipe Romero says the tests are administered at the local bus station and anyone who tests positive is told to isolate. In El Paso, the Annunciation House shelter is receiving 25 immigrants daily from the Remain in Mexico program. The shelter expects releases to double in the coming weeks and perhaps reach 75 a day by the end of March, director Ruben Garcia said. California has so far been the most generous with aid. Besides the new funding, it's already spent nearly $12 million to help about 30,000 asylum-seekers at the border since Trump’s presidency. With Biden in the White House, Arizona and Texas have emerged as chief critics of immigration policy, a position that California proudly took during the Trump years. Texas successfully sued to block Biden's 100-day moratorium on deportations. Texas and Arizona signed agreements with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Trump's final days that could delay any changes to immigration policy. The Biden administration has rejected them. ___ Associated Press writers Nomaan Merchant in Houston and Anita Snow in Phoenix contributed to this report. Elliot Spagat, The Associated Press
Fort Qu’Appelle town council decided Thursday night to form a committee that will meet with a local non-profit arts group to reach an agreement over the group’s use and operation of a 110-year-old building in the town. The non-profit group, the Qu’Appelle Valley Centre for the Arts (QVCA), has renovated and maintained the town’s old Central School since 2011, calling the building by the same name as its group. In November 2014, the group and the town signed a six-year letter of agreement allowing the arts group to rent and operate the heritage site, paying $1 per year to the town. The QVCA provided an unsigned copy of the letter to the Leader-Post. Town chief administrative officer Victor Goodman said council decided to strike “a committee of three council members and the mayor to meet with a committee from the QVCA. The first meeting is scheduled for this week. “They are going to discuss the issue at hand and hopefully amicably work towards a solution that’s agreeable to everyone.” In a written submission to council, QVCA board chair Jim Harding accused Goodman of not holding up the town’s end of the 2014 letter. His submission claimed the CAO “basically threw away the collaborative Agreement (sic) that was in place from the start, and has tried to impose a Commercial Lease or some other sort of lease upon the QVCA. But, as he should know, we are not a commercial group; we are a non-profit group.” Three members of the arts group presented Harding’s concerns over the yet-to-be-renewed agreement to council. Harding could not attend because of a health issue. Goodman denied the accusations. He said, “the town has proposed a mutually-acceptable landlord-tenant agreement be formalized simply for the purpose of protecting the old town school as a town asset. “QVCA has done a great job operating the school to date and we hope this relationship will be maintained for many years to come.” Harding could not be reached for comment, but QVCA communications director Brian Baggett called council’s decision a “huge relief,” describing the municipal body as “extremely cordial and supportive” during Thursday’s delegation. When they finished speaking, he said, council responded, “‘We don't want to see the QVCA go away.’” A date for the meeting hasn’t been set. In making its case to council, the QVCA also pointed to a clause in the original letter that states the non-profit had first right to renew an agreement with the town upon expiration in 2020 and every six years after that. The non-profit also plans to host council members — who Baggett said he learned Thursday had never been to the QVCA facility — for a socially-distant tour of the building, to show renovations and work the group does there. Baggett also noted the group’s concern about possibly losing non-profit status, if a landlord-tenant agreement were to be signed with the town. A non-profit, he said, “keeps the integrity of art in general … I'm a musician and a wood-worker. When I work for a person ... I've got to do what that person wants … it's what I get paid for." "As an artist, you can create what you need in the moment, so nobody's breathing down my neck ... with a non-profit status it allows us to not be controlled by others," including for grant applications, he said. Baggett confirmed there’s also concern if a planned art exhibit were to “offend and represent the town poorly,” a landlord-tenant agreement could cede control to the town to cancel the exhibition. email@example.com Evan Radford, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Regina Leader-Post, The Leader-Post
B.C. reported 589 new cases today and seven new deaths. There are currently 4,665 active confirmed cases and over 8,000 people are being monitored as identified close contacts of positive cases. Since last March, 73,188 people have recovered after testing positive for COVID-19. A total of 1,355 people have died as a result of the virus. In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix put the number of hospitalized patients at 232 people, 63 of whom are in intensive care. The breakdown of new cases per region has not yet been released due to delayed updates in the lab reporting system. This article will be updated when that information is available. There are no new outbreaks in health care facilities, but as of the last report there were 13 active outbreaks. The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was approved for use today, and is causing excitement because it’s fridge stable, making distribution and storage a lot easier. As of Friday, 178,565 people have been vaccinated against COVID-19; 73,808 of them have received both doses. RELATED: Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine Zoë Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Island Gazette
It is time to move beyond aspirational goals to concrete action when it comes to revitalizing Aurora’s downtown core, according to Mayor Tom Mrakas. This was one of the key messages delivered virtually to the business community in an online “State of the Town” address hosted by the Aurora Chamber of Commerce last Wednesday morning. The Mayor’s Town Hall, which was streamed over YouTube and Facebook, took the place of the annual Aurora Chamber Mayor’s Luncheon which, of course, was unable to take place in its traditional format due to restrictions surrounding COVID-19. “2020 has been like no other,” said Mayor Mrakas. “Aurora, like every town and city across the world, has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. That impact has been profound and, in some respects, devastating. For the business community, the ways of doing business have forever changed; hours have changed, physical environments changed, delivery channels changed, consumers and their habits changed. “Some businesses have been able to adapt, others have been less fortunate and some have closed. The enormity and toll of the pandemic has and continues to be in our community and it is difficult to put into words because while we may all be in it together, we are not all affected in the same way. Each of us deals with our own challenges. The very real suffering of our residents, our business owners, and our community will require years of recovery. But our business community has stood resilient and banded together to support one another and continues to find ways to support each other and move towards a positive future.” While the Mayor began his address looking back at the challenges Aurorans have banded together to overcome thus far, as well as the hurdles that still need to be cleared, the speech was very much looking towards the future. The Town of Aurora is currently developing a revised Official Plan, one which will provide a blueprint on how the Town develops through 2051. When complete, Mayor Mrakas said the Official Plan (OP) will “promote and enhance complete, vibrant communities and will promote, protect and enhance our heritage and green space.” In addition to guiding growth, the OP will look at encouraging businesses to thrive, identify where natural environment should take precedence over the built environment, and where natural and built heritage “converge to showcase the beauty of our Town.” “Part of managing for sustainability and for the future is looking at new lands and additions and how they benefit and detract from our Town,” said Mayor Mrakas. “We heard from our community that this was important to them, so in November of 2020, Council approved Urban Design Guidelines [for] the Stable Neighbourhoods in an effort to provide further guidance for managing new builds and additions in the Regency Acres, Temperance Street, Town Park and Aurora Heights neighbourhoods. We expect these guidelines will help us grow strategically while respecting the unique character of our stable neighbourhoods. “Not only are we respecting our past, but we are embracing our future. In doing so, I believe that a vibrant, growing downtown core is essential to an engaged, thriving community. The successful revitalization of our downtown is dependent on a clear vision for the area and one that is developed in concert with the OP review.” Essential in this vision, he said, is a review of the Aurora Promenade Plan, a document which has acted as a guide for development along the Yonge Street corridor from Orchard Heights in the north to Henderson Drive in the south, encompassing portions of Wellington Street on either side of Yonge. “The Promenade Secondary Plan was developed over 10 years ago to guide and manage growth in the Yonge and Wellington corridors,” said Mayor Mrakas. “While this plan was a good start, our residents expect us to move beyond the aspirational ideas of the original Promenade Plan and move towards concrete action. That is why we need an update of the Promenade Plan. It has been long talked about, but this year we will move forward with an update and begin to move from concept to reality.” One example of development along the promenade cited by Mayor Mrakas was the recently announced plan to transform the long-languishing Howard Johnson’s Hotel building into a completely renovated and re-faced seniors’ residential building of 104 units, which will also provide assisted living options. To help bolster Aurora’s ability to guide development as it sees fit, Mayor Mrakas said he is recommending bringing forward a “community planning permit” plan which will be a “one-stop shop” for building and development approvals in the historic downtown core. Going down this road, he said, will “ensure clarity as we support local properties, such as community-building developments that support public transit, green space protection, and create certainty and transparency for the community, landowners and developers.” “With the community planning permits in place, it helps cut red tape, speeding up the approvals process for key developments in our downtown core, ensuring that they meet our vision for Aurora as defined in our Official Plan and soon-to-be-updated Promenade Plan,” he added, referencing the recent decision made by Ontario’s Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT) to uphold the Town’s decision in blocking development on portions of the Henderson Forest, a fight he said ultimately cost taxpayers $142,000 to uphold the local decision. “While this permit plan would allow for efficient approval processes [that are] in line with our OP, it is all for naught if we can’t uphold our Provincially-approved official plans.” A cornerstone in this future vision for Aurora’s downtown core remains, of course, the ongoing redevelopment of Library Square. “This new facility will become a centrepiece of our downtown and the downtown will revitalize and grow around it,” he said. “This is, to date, the largest project in Aurora’s history and I am proud that we will all be here watching it happen and supporting its success. While these decisions were not unanimous at the Council table, what is unanimous is Council’s commitment to the betterment of our Town.” Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Canadian Jeff Gustafson is halfway to his first-ever Bassmasters Elite Series victory. The Kenora, Ont., angler remains atop the leaderboard midway through the Bassmaster Elite Series event on the Tennessee River. Through the first two rounds Gustafson has a combined weight of 33 pounds, eight ounces. American Brandon Card is second, three pounds, one ounce behind Gustafson. Card, in his 10th Elite Series season, is also chasing his first career victory. Gustafson opened the tournament with five keeper fish weighing 17 pounds, 14 ounces Thursday. He brought in another five-fish limit Friday that tipped the scales at 15 pounds 10 ounces — second only to Card (16 pounds, 10 ounces) on the day. Gustafson is attempting to become just the second Canadian to win a Bassmasters Elite Series event. Chris Johnston of Peterborough, Ont., accomplished the feat last year. Both Johnston and his older brother, Cory, finished among the top-50 in the 100-angler field Friday to qualify for the semfinal round Saturday. Cory Johnston, of Cavan, Ont., stood No. 33 (seven fish weighing 16 pounds seven ounces) while Chris Johnston was No. 46 (seven fish for 13 pounds 12 ounces). The top 10 anglers after Saturday's round will compete in the final Sunday. The tournament winner will receive US$100,000. All three Canadians are in their third season on the Elite Series and qualified last year for the Bassmaster Classic, the circuit's premier event that offers a $300,000 prize for the tournament winner.. Gustafson's best-ever Elite Series finish was second in 2019. He's cracked the top-10 on three occasions. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021 The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Neither Canada's prime minister nor the U.S. secretary of state were showing their diplomatic cards Friday as the two countries discussed the plight of two Canadians languishing behind bars in China. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met virtually with Canadian officials including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau as part of the Biden administration's post-Trump charm offensive. The U.S. has a "significant role" to play in helping secure the release of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, said Trudeau, although he refused to elaborate on the details. "These are processes that are ongoing," the prime minister told a news conference earlier in the day. "The United States is taking their role in this very seriously and we look forward to working with them on bringing the two Michaels home as soon as possible.” Blinken, too, stayed in his diplomatic lane, expressing earnest American harmony with Canada and cheering a multilateral effort to denounce the practice of taking political prisoners. "We stand in absolute solidarity with Canada in insisting on their immediate and unconditional release," Blinken said before lavishing praise on the new Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention. The declaration, a project initiated by former foreign affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne, is from a coalition of more than 50 countries opposed to the state-sponsored political detention of foreign nationals. Its purpose "is to bring countries together to stand against the arbitrary detention of individuals for political purposes, a practice that we see in a number of countries, including China," Blinken said. "I think and I hope that this can grow into something that establishes a new international norm against arbitrary detentions." Spavor and Kovrig — the "two Michaels" — were swept up after the RCMP's arrest in December 2018 of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei. Blinken demurred on the question of whether the U.S. is considering a so-called deferred prosecution agreement — a form of plea deal that could allow Meng to return to China in return for an admission of wrongdoing. "There are legal questions that are appropriately the province of our Department of Justice," he said. "They follow the law, they follow the facts and I refer you to them for anything on the legal aspects of this." Earlier this week, a Justice Department spokesman confirmed that prosecutors were continuing to seek Meng's extradition to the U.S., where she is facing fraud charges. Friday's meetings, billed as a "virtual visit" — no jet lag, but no frequent-flyer miles either, Blinken joked — follow Trudeau's own virtual summit this week with President Joe Biden, which produced a "road map" for collaboration on issues like climate change, the economy and COVID-19. "It's hard to think of two countries whose destinies are more connected, more intertwined than ours," Blinken told Garneau as their meeting got underway. "We know that every single day, the work that we're doing, and more importantly the deep ties between our people — in virtually every aspect of our societies — are benefiting both countries." Garneau returned the compliment, adding that Canada can be more to the U.S. than just a friendly ally. "I want you to know that you can count on Canada to be by your side," he said. "And I think that you'll find that we can be surprisingly helpful to you, while advancing our own objectives." That could easily be seen as an oblique reference to Buy American, Biden's suite of protectionist measures aimed at ensuring that U.S. contractors, suppliers and workers are the primary beneficiaries of American infrastructure projects and federal contract work. Canadian businesses, employees and contractors depend on that work too, however, and the federal government is pressing hard to ensure that they don't get shut out of what will surely be a big-budget effort to resurrect the U.S. economy. On that score, Blinken seemed to suggest that Garneau's message got through — particularly on the issue of fortifying North American supply chains. "There's a lot of opportunity there between the United States and Canada that we intend to pursue," he said. "My sense, from the conversations between the two governments, is that there is ample opportunity for us to work together and find ways to benefit each other." Efforts to restore ties between the two countries after extensive fraying during the Trump era have been going on all week, albeit virtually. Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson spoke Wednesday with John Kerry, Biden's special envoy on climate, to shore up plans for more stringent emissions-reduction targets in advance of a climate summit in April. And Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra have committed to tougher vehicle pollution standards, and collaborating on new standards for aircraft and ships. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. James McCarten, The Canadian Press
Two Ontario regions struggling with COVID-19 outbreaks will be moving back into lockdown next week, while public health restrictions will be loosened elsewhere in the province. Local leaders in Thunder Bay - a hub for travel in northwestern Ontario - had been calling for assistance as COVID-19 outbreaks were declared at correctional facilities, among the homeless population and at number of local schools. Simcoe Muskoka, which has also been hit with several outbreaks driven by infectious virus variants, will also be placed on lockdown. Health Minister Christine Elliott said recent projections on the pandemic in Ontario "(show) us that we must be nimble and put in place additional measures" to stop the spread of the virus. "With COVID-19 variants continuing to spread in our communities, it is critically important that everyone continues strictly adhering to all public health and workplace safety measures to help contain the virus and maintain the progress we have made to date," Elliott said. Meanwhile, restrictions will loosen Monday in Niagara Region, Chatham-Kent; Middlesex-London; Southwestern; Haldimand-Norfolk; Huron Perth; and Grey Bruce. The government lifted a stay-at-home order for most of the province two weeks ago and moved the majority of health units back to its colour-coded restrictions system. Data has shown the stay-home order and strict public health measures imposed in January brought cases and hospitalizations down but they have since started to trend upwards again. In Thunder Bay, the local public health unit has recorded more COVID-19 cases in February than throughout all of 2020, the city's mayor said Friday before the lockdown was announced. "We're in a difficult spot right now," Bill Mauro said in a telephone interview. "Clearly there is a situation here that we don't see ending in the near term." The mayor has been calling on the provincial and federal governments to provide financial and human-resources assistance in health care. The only isolation centre in the city of over 121,000 people is on the "verge of failing," he said. Ontario's top doctor recommended Thursday that the city be moved to lockdown because the virus could spread to remote communities with scarce health-care resources. Dr. Janet DeMille, medical officer of health for Thunder Bay District Health Unit, welcomed the lockdown announcement. "These enhanced measures are needed to get COVID in our community under control," she said in a statement. A New Democrat legislator who represents the northern city in the provincial parliament said the government waited too long to help the city avoid a lockdown. “It’s been like watching a car crash in slow motion,” Judith Monteith-Farrell said Friday. Fort William First Nation Chief Peter Collins and Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler had also requested support from Ottawa and the province, saying the region was grappling to keep up with the growing case load. The chiefs pointed to inadequate resources for people released from correctional facilities who are being sent to isolate in hotels in Sioux Lookout, Thunder Bay and Timmins. “Thunder Bay is in a precarious situation, and there is growing concern as government ministries, health organizations and health units struggle to contain the spread of this virus," Fiddler said. "Moving back to lockdown across northwestern Ontario will be painful, but is necessary as COVID-19 cases continue to rise." One northwestern Ontario First Nation declared a state of emergency after several members living off-reserve in Thunder Bay tested positive for COVID-19. Neskantaga First Nation Chief Chris Moonias said at least 12 members had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday. There was also news Friday of more infectious COVID-19 variants detected for the first time in the northwestern part of the province. The local health unit that covers the Kenora, Ont., area, reported its first case of a COVID-19 variant. It said a person in the Dryden, Ont., area has tested positive for the B.1.1.7 variant first found in the U.K. Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford welcomed the news that Health Canada had approved a third COVID-19 vaccine – from AstraZeneca – for use in Canada, saying it would speed up Ontario's vaccine rollout. "We're geared up, we're ready to go and just can't wait to get the third vaccine," he said. The province plans to offer shots to people aged 80 and older starting in the third week of March, though the timeline is subject to change. Some local health units will start inoculations in the broader community earlier based on their progress vaccinating the highest-priority groups first. Vaccinations for those 80 and older are to begin at Windsor-Essex County clinics on Monday. The City of Ottawa will deliver shots next Friday at a pop-up clinic open to those born in 1941 and earlier, adult recipients of chronic home care and residents of high-risk neighbourhoods. York Region will also allow residents aged 80 and older to book appointments Monday, with vaccinations to start possibly the same day. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — U.S. health advisers endorsed a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson on Friday, putting the nation on the cusp of adding an easier-to-use option to fight the pandemic. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to quickly follow the recommendation and make J&J’s shot the third vaccine authorized for emergency use in the U.S. Vaccinations are picking up speed, but new supplies are urgently needed to stay ahead of a mutating virus that has killed more than 500,000 Americans. After daylong discussions, the FDA panelists voted unanimously that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks for adults. If the FDA agrees, shipments of a few million doses could begin as early as Monday. “There’s an urgency to get this done,” said Dr. Jay Portnoy of Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. “We’re in a race between the virus mutating — and new variants coming out that can cause further disease — and stopping it.” More than 47 million people in the U.S., or 14% of the population, have received at least one shot of the two-dose vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, which FDA authorized in December. But the pace of vaccinations has been strained by limited supplies and delays due to winter storms. While early J&J supplies will be small, the company has said it can deliver 20 million doses by the end of March and a total of 100 million by the end of June. J&J’s vaccine protects against the worst effects of COVID-19 after one shot, and it can be stored up to three months at refrigerator temperatures, making it easier to handle than the previous vaccines, which must be frozen. One challenge in rolling out the new vaccine will be explaining how protective the J&J shot is after the astounding success of the first U.S. vaccines. “It’s important that people do not think that one vaccine is better than another,” said panelist Dr. Cody Meissner of Tufts University. The two-dose Pfizer and Moderna shots were found to be about 95% effective against symptomatic COVID-19. The numbers from J&J’s study are not that high, but it's not an apples-to-apples comparison. One dose of the J&J vaccine was 85% protective against the most severe COVID-19. After adding in moderate cases, the total effectiveness dropped to about 66%. Some experts fear that lower number could feed public perceptions that J&J’s shot is a “second-tier vaccine.” But the difference in protection reflects when and where J&J conducted its studies. J&J’s vaccine was tested in the U.S., Latin America and South Africa at a time when more contagious mutated versions of the virus were spreading. That wasn’t the case last fall, when Pfizer and Moderna were wrapping up testing, and it’s not clear if their numbers would hold against the most worrisome of those variants. Importantly, the FDA reported this week that, just like its predecessors, the J&J shot offers strong protection against the worst outcomes, hospitalization and death. While J&J is seeking FDA authorization for its single-dose version, the company is also studying whether a second dose boosts protection. Panel member Dr. Paul Offit warned that launching a two-dose version of the vaccine down the road might cause problems. “You can see where that would be confusing to people thinking, ’Maybe I didn’t get what I needed,’” said Offit, a vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “It’s a messaging challenge.” J&J representatives said they chose to begin with the single shot because the World Health Organization and other experts agreed it would be a faster, more effective tool in an emergency. Cases and hospitalizations have fallen dramatically since their January peak that followed the winter holidays. But public health officials warned that those gains may be stalling as more variants take root in the U.S. “We may be done with the virus, but clearly the virus is not done with us,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said during a White House briefing Friday. She noted that new COVID-19 cases have increased over the past few days. While it’s too early to tell if the trend will last, Walensky said adding a third vaccine “will help protect more people faster.” More vaccines are in the pipeline. On Sunday, a CDC panel is expected to meet to recommend how to best prioritize use of the J&J vaccine. Other parts of the world already are facing which-is-best challenges. Italy’s main teachers’ union recently protested when the government decided to reserve Pfizer and Moderna shots for the elderly and designate AstraZeneca’s vaccine for younger, at-risk workers. AstraZeneca’s vaccine was deemed to be about 70% effective in testing. Canada became the latest country Friday to allow use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. ___ AP reporters Carla K. Johnson and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Lauran Neergaard And Matthew Perrone, The Associated Press
A new report says the Manitoba government failed to provide proper oversight as costs spiralled on two mega projects at Crown-owned Manitoba Hydro. The review was done by former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall.
Now that York Region is out of lockdown and back into the Red (Control) Zone of the Province’s plan to combat the spread of COVID-19, consumer confidence will be key to making businesses thrive once again. Bolstering this confidence was one of the topics tackled by Mayor Tom Mrakas last Wednesday following his annual State of the Town address to the Aurora Chamber of Commerce. Pre-recorded in Council Chambers and streamed to audiences over YouTube and Facebook, the Mayor sat down with Sandra Ferri, President of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, for a Q&A session featuring a selection of questions generated by Chamber members. “Consumers have spent a great deal of time ordering online and avoiding in-person shopping throughout the pandemic,” said Ms. Ferri. “What will you as Mayor, and the Town, do to instill confidence in our local businesses as the economy starts to re-open?” Mayor Mrakas tackled this question in a two-prong approach, answering that question with one of his own: “Is it safe from a health and safety perspective?” “There are a number of moving parts in order for this to happen,” he replied. “Most especially, the Province and the Federal Government have to get everyone vaccinated to relieve the stress of the pandemic. We need to remind people to follow all the safety protocols and we need to ensure that our stores, retail, restaurants, manufacturing, industrial, are following the safety protocols. This will instill confidence in our local businesses. “The Town can’t instill consumer confidence and trust in our local businesses; that is the job of the retailers, of all our businesses, and those that do will benefit. All we can do as a Town is continue to encourage people to shop local and remind people of the safety protocols in place. We will continue to work with our local partners…to instill that consumer confidence and encourage people to shop local and help re-start our local economy. I am confident in the creativity and determination of our local entrepreneurs to adapt and thrive post-pandemic.” Entrepreneurship was the order of the day when the Mayor fielded a question related to the proliferation of cannabis stores in Aurora. Aurora is just one of two York Region municipalities, Whitchurch-Stouffville being the other, to opt in for retail cannabis sales, several applications have come forward to establish these stores, with some already open to customers – including Jane’s Cannabis Shop at Wellington Street East and Industrial Parkway North, and Alpha Cannabis, just a stone’s throw west on Wellington. “As one of only two York Region municipalities that opted in to allow marijuana retail stores, are you concerned about what impact the growing number of cannabis retail stores opening up will have on our business community and the community at large?” There might be a “stigma” surrounding cannabis, said Mayor Mrakas, and this, in turn, gives a “false perception” about the stores themselves. “While Aurora is an opt-in municipality, we have seen that the stores are operated by entrepreneurs that are following the guidelines set out by the Province and our internal teams are monitoring the applications as they come through. We always talk about economic stimulus and these legal stores offer a solid tax benefit and we see no real community disruption, which is very similar to the LCBO. When you look at these purchases, they are not impulse purchases. People will still buy, and they might as well buy from an Aurora-based business, right?” But Aurora-based businesses are often locating elsewhere than what has historically been the case. The Yonge Street core has a number of vacant storefronts and, as Ms. Ferri underscored, when the Yonge Street, Wellington Street and Bayview corridors are looked at as three parts of a whole, there are over 65 storefronts that are for lease or sale. “This number [has grown] over recent months,” said Ms. Ferri. “Only four months ago, there were 35 along Yonge Street alone. What actions will the Town be proposing to bring back some of these services and businesses and support the small entrepreneur to stay in Aurora?” In response, the Mayor outlined a number of investments that have been made in the downtown core, along with work carried out by the Chamber, the Town’s Economic Development Corporation, and the Downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA). “We are all collaborating on going forward with our plans,” he said. “Our investment in the Promenade, Library Square specifically, we’re trying to make it a Regional destination. That, and in continuing to offer supports through the York Small Business Enterprise Centre, continuing to ensure our local businesses are all aware of the Federal and Provincial funding supports, sharing that information, those are the types of things we’re doing as a Town. “When you do look at the private investments that are occurring in the downtown right now and you see what is happening, I encourage everyone to take a drive down Yonge Street. Go from the south all the way from the north end and you will see why there is so much excitement, why we see the possibilities over the next year of what is going to transpire from economic growth. You see the private investments occurring and it is all positive change. I think we’re all excited about it and those are the kinds of things we’re doing to work together to ensure the Downtown Core becomes a destination for all.” Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
CALGARY — Mark Simpson and Adam Ruzicka each had a pair of goals as the Stockton Heat downed the Toronto Marlies 8-1 on Friday in American Hockey League action. Martin Pospisil scored once and set up two more for the Heat (2-2-0), who also got goals from Matthew Phillips, Luke Philp and Emilio Pettersen. Dustin Wolf made 26 saves for the Calgary Flames' AHL affiliate. Timothy Liljegren found the back of the net for the Marlies (4-4-0), AHL affiliate of the Maple Leafs. Toronto's Andrew D'Agostini stopped 18-of-26 shots in two periods of work before giving way to Kai Edmonds, who stopped all three shots he faced in relief. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published February 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — The Quebec government is promising transparency as it considers a vaccine passport for residents fully immunized against COVID-19, but opposition parties say the project could lead to discrimination and division.Health Minister Christian Dube told reporters Thursday the province is looking at creating a type of vaccine passport system, but a day later, a spokeswoman from his department said the idea is still under study.Quebec already has an electronic database with information about Quebecers' vaccinations, Health Department spokeswoman Marjaurie Cote-Boileau said in an email Friday. The government, she added, would only need to make this information more widely available for a COVID-19 passport system."It’s an interesting innovation that we need to explore," she wrote, adding the government will be transparent about the process.On Friday, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois of second opposition party Quebec solidaire called for a legislative commission to study the vaccine passport project, saying it should hear from experts and explore the ethical issues behind such as idea."Who could demand to see such a vaccination passport?" Nadeau-Dubois asked. "Could it be required to access private places? Could it be required by some employers? Could it be required when renting accommodation? How do we ensure that this does not feed the inequalities already revealed by the crisis?"Liberal health critic Marie Montpetit also called on Dube to clarify his intentions. "The stakes are too high to approach it with as little seriousness as the health minister did yesterday," she said on Twitter. "The issue must be discussed in a transparent and rigorous manner."Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday said the federal government will follow the guidance of experts regarding vaccine passports. “There are potential pros and cons that I’ve heard on various issues surrounding it,” Trudeau told a news conference. “Our position as a government is always going to be to rely on the best advice of experts."Quebec is still at the beginning of its mass vaccination campaign, having given 400,540 people a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Health officials administered 12,038 doses on Thursday.After registering nearly 100,000 vaccination appointments for Quebecers aged 85 years and older on Thursday, health officials extended registration to Montrealers as young as 80 years old.The province reported 815 new COVID-19 infections and 11 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus on Friday, ahead of March break week, which begins Monday. Hospitalizations dropped by 13, to 620, and 119 people were in intensive care, a drop of three.Premier Francois Legault permitted certain activities to reopen Friday to give families things to do with their children during the break. Movie theatres reopened across the province, including in "red" pandemic-alert zones such as Montreal and Quebec City, as did indoor arenas and pools. Quebec provincial police said Friday that patrols would be stepped up over the next week to ensure public health guidelines are being followed. Private indoor gatherings remain forbidden.The province's nighttime curfew remains in effect and officials have implored Quebecers to follow distancing rules because of the COVID-19 mutations in circulation.More than half the new infections reported Friday were in Montreal, where all positive COVID-19 cases are being screened to identify more transmissible mutations of the virus. This week, authorities said between eight and 10 per cent of infections were suspected variant-linked cases.The number of presumptive variant cases in the province jumped to 874 Friday, up from 772 on Thursday. The number of confirmed variant cases remains at 34 — including 30 of the B.1.1.7 mutation first detected in the United Kingdom.The province has reported a total of 286,145 infections and 10,372 deaths linked to the virus. Quebec has 7,888 active reported cases.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
A man is dead after a stun gun and sedative were used to bring him under control during a physical altercation with police and staff at an Edmonton hospital on Wednesday, police said. The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the province's police watchdog, has been directed to investigate. The incident began on Wednesday shortly after noon when Edmonton police conducted a mental health assessment on a 43-year-old man at a residential address in Parkdale, near 87th Street and 112th Avenue. The man's psychiatrist had requested the assessment after an incident the previous day, Edmonton Police Service said in a news release Friday. Police were told the man had tried to breach a family member's door earlier in the week. The man was cooperative with officers and was transported to hospital on a Form 10 arrest under the Alberta Mental Health Act, police said. At the hospital, he was placed in a secure holding room in the emergency ward, police said. At around 2:15 p.m., hospital staff asked for police help to move the man to the mental health ward. As the man was being moved, a physical altercation broke out between the man, police, security guards and hospital staff, the release said. Police say the man was about six-feet-four inches tall and weighed 250 pounds. "A physical struggle ensued that included the use of a CEW [conducted electrical weapon] in an attempt to bring the male under control," the police news release said. A police spokesperson confirmed to CBC News an EPS officer fired the stun gun. Medical staff then administered a sedative to the man, according to police. Police said, shortly thereafter the man went into medical distress and was not breathing. He was immediately taken to the hospital's trauma room where staff performed CPR. "Despite the life-saving attempts the male was later pronounced deceased," police said. An officer was treated by hospital staff for minor injuries, including bite marks and scratches to his face sustained during the altercation. With ASIRT directed to investigate, EPS said it would not provide further comment.
EDMONTON — A group of health professionals is urging the Alberta government not to ease COVID-19 restrictions next week and to instead toughen measures for bars, restaurants and pubs. Two doctors who co-chair the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association's pandemic committee made the plea in a statement released Friday. "The health care system and the population, after having been stressed for so long, really can't tolerate another surge before the end of our vaccination campaign," said Dr. Noel Gibney and Dr. James Talbot, noting it will be months before all at-risk Albertans are inoculated. "Any further easing of COVID-19 restrictions should only be undertaken when all high-risk individuals in the province have been immunized. We have a short window remaining to prevent another surge and protect Albertans, but it is rapidly closing." Gibney and Talbot said that new daily active cases have stopped decreasing and the number of new infections that result from each case is growing. A new, more transmissible variant first found in the United Kingdom could cause rapid increases if it becomes the dominant strain, they said. The doctors added the province should close bars, restaurants and pubs to indoor service, or at least put a meaningful cap on capacity and enforce the current restrictions. "It is clear that many bars, pubs and restaurants are not obeying the current restrictions that are in place. They are overcrowded, not enforcing same household rules and are over safe capacity at peak times," they said. "This is an extreme risk for a third wave with the original COVID-19 strain and is even higher risk for the more transmissible U.K. variant." The doctors also note it will be months before all at-risk Albertans are vaccinated. The Alberta government could as soon as Monday ease restrictions on retail businesses, banquet halls, community halls, conference centres, hotels, indoor fitness and children's sport and performance activities. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital has to be below 450 in order for the next reopening phase to go ahead, and numbers have been below that for under a month. But the province's chief medical officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, has said the next reopening phase is not a done deal because the test positivity rate and other so-called leading indicators are rising. Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the province still needs to review the latest data before making a decision, but new daily cases have so far not been rising at a rate that would raise alarm. Nor has Shandro seen anything that would warrant clamping down on eating and drinking establishments. "But if that ever was brought to my attention by Dr. Hinshaw, of course we would want to work with her in being able to address any community spread that we have in the smartest and most targeted, narrow way that we can." Alberta on Friday recorded 356 new COVID-19 cases and three additional deaths. There were 269 people in hospital, including 55 in intensive care. The test positivity rate was 3.9 per cent. — By Lauren Krugel in Calgary This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
(Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit) Residents and politicians are speaking out about the possible health and safety risks posed by a new meat processing plant set to open on Monday in a west-end Toronto neighbourhood. TruHarvest Meats, at 70 Glen Scarlett Rd., is set to open March 1 in Toronto's Stockyards District. The space, located near Weston Road and St. Clair Avenue, was previously occupied by Ryding-Regency Meat Packers before the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) cancelled their operating licence in 2019. David Beveridge said he and other residents living near the site believe the reopening of the new slaughterhouse will make the area "unsafe." "The big problem in the neighbourhood is right smack in the middle of all of this is a couple of slaughterhouses," Beveridge said. The new facility also has additions that will make it one of the largest meat processing plants in Ontario. According to federal records, there were numerous food recalls related to E.coli in various products coming out of the former plant. During the investigation, it was noted that the company was non-compliant and provided false or misleading information to investigators. CBC Toronto reached out repeatedly for comment from both TruHarvest and Ryding Regency on Friday, but has received no response. TruHarvest Meats will process beef and veal in the former Ryding Regency facility, which was shut down over food safety violations in 2019. Beveridge moved his family to the area just four years ago. He said he was drawn to the neighbourhood by its affordable housing at the time. He bought a house during the winter and quickly discovered with warmer weather, also came an "unreasonable" smell. "The smell of blood, the smell of the cattle being driven through the neighbourhood," he said. WATCH | Residents are concerned about a meat processing plant set to open Monday in their west-end neighbourhood "It's not a farm smell, it is a slaughterhouse smell." While the foul smell is a common complaint amongst residents, Beveridge said the real concern is the safety risk the new plant imposes on many families in the neighbourhood. Beveridge is worried about the effect the plant on his two kids: a four-year-old and an 18-month-old. "They have been cited in the past and they tell us they have filters on the smoke stacks coming out of it, but I don't know what's coming out of that and how far it's drifting," he said. "It's becoming unsafe, the way it is right now." Beveridge said tractor trailers turning onto residential streets and parking on sidewalks pose a risk for families with young children in the area. David Beveridge, who has a four-year-old and an 18-month-old, moved into Toronto's Stockyards neighbourhood four years ago and says the new slaughterhouse poses a safety risk to the community. Coun. Frances Nunziata, who represents Ward 5, York South-Weston, said she is also concerned by TruHarvest taking over the plant. "This is a privately-owned facility on private land and my office has not been involved in any conversations about the use of this site as is currently permitted," Nunziata said in a statement dated Feb. 19. Nunziata said it is unfair that residents were not consulted. "With the federal government and provincial government, they can issue licences and there's no consultation, which is unfortunate because I don't think that's fair. But that's what's happened," Nunziata told CBC Toronto on Friday. The land has been in the process of being rezoned for years, she said, but its use must be discontinued in order to proceed. Faisal Hassan, NDP MPP for York South-Weston, echoed those concerns, saying residents are "disturbed" after learning the news. "Our office has been inundated with emails and calls objecting to this facility," Hassan said Thursday at Queen's Park. He questioned why residents were not consulted before the company took over operations at the facility. According to federal records, there were numerous food recalls related to E.coli in various products coming out of Ryding Regency Meat Packers, the company that formerly operated out of the facility. "The previous slaughterhouse was closed and had its licence revoked due to many health and environmental violations. An environmental compliance approval was granted to the former owners despite nearly 100 complaints and public consultations in 2018," he said. "How did this new facility get approved and why was the community not consulted?" Animal rights activists, who are calling for the the plant to be shut down, plan to hold a a vigil outside the plant Monday morning and a demonstration outside CFIA offices following that. "During this time of global uncertainty, it's more important than ever that elected officials consider the best interests of the population, taking the necessary steps to reduce the impact of this global health emergency and prevent future illness," said Jenny McQueen, organizer with Animal Save Movement, in a statement Thursday.
“The connection is me,” said Tsuut’ina Nation artist seth cardinal dodginghorse, linking his work for Contemporary Calgary and his protest at the opening of the southwest Calgary ring road last October. dodginghorse spoke virtually yesterday, the final speaker for Contemporary Calgary’s Water Event. His exhibit, entitled The Glenmore Rezerveoir, is a water jug with a label made from elk hide parfleche. Writing is painted on the inside of the label and can only be read if it’s “really bright out” and the jug is angled. The label reads: “You drink Tsuut’ina land.” dodginghorse said he was approached in August by the gallery to be one of six Indigenous artists to produce a water sculpture as part of political activist Yoko Ono’s exhibition, Growing Freedom. Two months later, he stood at the opening of Tsuut’ina Trail, unofficially called Calgary’s southwest ring road, and cut off his braids, offering them to the portion of the road that displaced his family six years earlier from their generations-held land. “The connection is story-wise and intent behind making the work. They weren’t directly related at all. But a lot of my intent … all my own personal experiences, traumas informed making this work and those were the same things that informed me speaking out at the opening … (and) resulted in me cutting my hair and everything. It’s more like the connection is that I made the artwork and the connection is that I ended up cutting my hair. The connection is me,” said dodginghorse. dodginghorse’s family was forced off their land in 2013 because of the ring road. That land had been in the family since his great-great grandmother. His mother and her siblings had grown up there. Many Tsuut’ina people beyond dodginghorse’s family members had connections to that land. When living there, dodginghorse said the water they drank was “some of the most beautiful, delicious water you could drink.” His family moved to another piece of land on the Tsuut’ina reserve. They were told not to drink the water from the tap because of numerous environmental concerns, including nearby fracking. His family had to drink water from jugs. “We didn’t grow up having to purchase water. We didn’t grow up having to be afraid of what was coming from our tap. We’ve been drinking from these water bottles for quite a bit now and I thought, ‘Why don’t I just use one of these and highlight the issue of drinking water and where does the water I’m purchasing come from?’” he said. In 1932, dodginghorse said Tsuut’ina Nation was “pressured” by Calgary and the government to sell 400 acres of reserve land to the city. That land became the Glenmore reservoir and provides safe drinking water for Calgary residents. “There’s just so much loaded history behind Glenmore reservoir and my family as well ... It’s very strange and very ironic that my family, once we moved, in order to drink water we had to drink water from land that was originally part of Tsuut’ina. That was like essentially purchasing water back from ancestral lands,” said dodginghorse. Having to be concerned about safe drinking water is not unique to Tsuut’ina, said Dodginghorse, noting that boil water advisories are common in many First Nations communities right across the country. While some artwork takes time to conceive and time to determine the medium, this piece was readily conceived, dodginghorse said. “It was very easy to make but then thinking about the history behind the objects, behind my family’s history, all of these connection, is one of those really nice pieces in a way where I made this and then afterwards I started thinking and analysing and really understanding what I had made,” he said. dodginghorse said he prefers his work to be “blunt and in your face.” He wants people to “get” what he is saying with his art and not have to ponder it for “three hours” before the message sinks in. dodginghorse has been showing his work in Calgary galleries for about six years. He said he understands that this venue only reaches “a certain crowd.” “A lot of the people that were involved in a lot of these decisions historically that are still here, aren’t really the type of people that go to galleries. With this type of work has like the focus on reaching out to the average white Calgarian that goes to galleries,” he said. Ryan Doherty, chief curator of Contemporary Calgary, who hosted the virtual talk, said dodginghorse’s piece was popular with gallery goers, many of whom came after dodginghorse cut his braids at the ring road opening. “That seemingly mundane container is in fact so loaded,” said Doherty. When Contemporary Calgary was tasked with asking a new group of artists to collaborate with Ono in this iteration of Water Event, Doherty said he knew it had to be a group with which water had an “enormous significance.” “When you consider the long history and impact of the Bow and Elbow rivers to the Indigenous population past and present it seemed the best thing would be to invite artists for whom that connection would resonate in the collaboration with Yoko,” said Doherty. The other Water Event collaborators are Adrian A. Stimson, Faye HeavyShield, Jessie Ray Short, Judy Anderson and Kablusiak. In 1971, Ono held her first museum exhibition, Water Event, in which she invited over 120 participants to produce a water sculpture. “As Yoko herself noted to us, (this) was one of the best iterations to date,” said Doherty. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com