This is what happens when you ask for decaf but they give you regular! Credit/Instagram: @extra_milo_cavoodle
This is what happens when you ask for decaf but they give you regular! Credit/Instagram: @extra_milo_cavoodle
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies 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 in Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that vaccination rollout plans for the month included the province's first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23. 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 Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some. Chief medical officer Heather Morrison has said people over the age of 80 will get a second dose based on their existing appointments. Going forward, she said, other residents will get a longer interval between their first and second doses, but she didn’t specific how long that will be. --- 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 Quebec started vaccinating older seniors Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. Quebec announced Tuesday it had reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. Health Minister Christian Dube said about 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the one first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube has said. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. She also says the province will soon share an updated vaccine plan that factors in expected shipments of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The province will do that after getting guidance from the federal government on potentially extending the time between first and second doses, like B.C. is doing, of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to four months, Elliott says She also says Ontario seniors won't receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine since there's limited data on its effectiveness in older populations. --- 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. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- 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. The province said this week that it may follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. The government says it hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. If that happens, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. --- 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. 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. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. 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 British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry says the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means some people will get their first shot sooner than planned. She says B.C. will focus its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among essential workers, first responders and younger people with more social interactions who would have to wait longer to receive their first doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. It's now possible that all adults could get their first shot by July, Henry says. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- 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 March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Jihadis linked to the Islamic State group attacked the northeastern Nigerian town of Dikwa and humanitarian posts there, security officials said. The attack in Borno state that began late Monday night came about 48 hours after the governor of Borno state, Babagana Zulum, visited the community along with other officials, to distribute cash and food to displaced families there. The assailants arrived in trucks and motorcycles, surrounding residents and people staying at a camp for people who are displaced within Nigeria, residents said. The member representing Dikwa at the Borno state House of Assembly, Zakariya Dikwa, said they burned down the police station, the primary health centre and attacked humanitarian offices and left with their vehicles. “The attack was massive because the Boko Haram fighters went there with over 13 gun trucks — all of which had their bodies pasted with mud,” he said. The military later confirmed the fighters are with Boko Haram offshoot The Islamic State of West Africa Province, known as ISWAP. It said in a statement Tuesday that the military had routed the jihadis from Dikwa with heavy bombardment and firepower. The jihadis tried to invade the town after hearing of the food distribution. The U.N. co-ordinator of humanitarian affairs in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, also confirmed an attack on humanitarian facilities in Dikwa, saying several aid facilities were directly targeted, in a statement released by the UNOCHA office in Nigeria. “The attack started last night and, as information is still coming through, I am outraged to hear the premises of several aid agencies and a hospital were reportedly set ablaze or sustained damage,” he said. “I strongly condemn the attack and am deeply concerned about the safety and security of civilians in Dikwa, including internally displaced people inside and outside camps and thousands of people who had returned to the community to rebuild their lives after years in displacement.” The attack “will affect the support provided to nearly 100,000 people who are desperately in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic risks spreading in Borno State,” he said. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said “the humanitarian hub was managed by the International Organization for Migration," the U.N. agency that provides services and advice concerning migration to governments and migrants, including internally displaced persons, refugees, and migrant workers. ISWAP split from Boko Haram in 2016 and has become a threat in the region. Nigeria has been fighting the more than 10-year Boko Haram insurgency that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions. Haruna Umar, The Associated Press
VICTORIA — British Columbia's chief coroner says deadlier street drugs are behind another grim milestone in the province's overdose crisis as a record was set for the number of deaths in January. The BC Coroners Service says 165 people died from suspected overdoses in January, the largest number of lives lost due to illicit drugs in the first month of a calendar year. It says the deaths come amid a rise in drug toxicity, with almost one in five of the deaths involving extreme levels of fentanyl concentration — the largest number recorded to date. There were 14 deaths in which carfentanil was detected, the largest monthly figure involving the more lethal analogue of fentanyl since May 2019. More people died from illicit drug overdoses in British Columbia last year than in any year before. Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe says more than twice the number of people died in January 2021 compared with January 2020 and the drug toxicity shows a need for swift action. "The findings suggest that the already unstable drug supply in B.C. is becoming even deadlier, underscoring the urgent need for supervised consumption options, prescribing for safe supply, and accessible treatment and recovery services," she says in the statement. The report also notes recent increases in the presence of unprescribed benzodiazepines and its analogues, including etizolam. Since July 2020, etizolam has been identified in nearly one-third of illicit drug toxicity deaths where expedited testing was performed. In January, benzodiazepines and its analogues were detected in nearly half of all samples tested. The addition of etizolam to fentanyl increases the likelihood of overdose due to the combined respiratory depressant effects, the coroners service says. It says increased drug toxicity was responsible for an average of 5.3 lives lost each day in January.Premier John Horgan and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart have written letters to the federal government asking for an exemption that would allow for the decriminalization of drug possession for personal use.The City of Vancouver says it submitted a preliminary application to Health Canada on Monday outlining a health-focused "Vancouver model" for managing substance use and saving lives.It says in a statement its first application is based on consultation with Vancouver Coastal Health and police, and it details how the city plans to work with community organizations and people with lived experience to build on the submission.Alvin Singh, spokesman for the mayor's office, said they wouldn't share the document because they didn't want to "jeopardize the integrity of the application."However, he said the proposal would require police to determine if a person is in possession of drugs for personal use at the scene and no penalties or sanctions are envisioned at this stage. Instead, voluntary referrals would be made to Vancouver Coastal Health's overdose outreach team."However, this is preliminary thinking and much more work needs to be undertaken before a model is finalized," Singh said. Sheila Malcolmson, the minister of mental health and addictions, says in a statement that the pandemic has pushed people further into isolation, compounding the effects of stigma that drives people to use drugs alone.She says B.C. is working to add more treatment and recovery options, more services and supports, and to work with the federal government on decriminalization. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
On Wednesday, the verdict in Toronto’s van attack trial will be revealed. Alek Minassian has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. Erica Vella reports.
Texas on Tuesday became the biggest state to lift its mask rule, joining a rapidly growing movement by governors and other leaders across the U.S. to loosen COVID-19 restrictions despite pleas from health officials not to let down their guard yet. The state will also do away with limits on the number of diners who can be served indoors, said Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who made the announcement at a restaurant in Lubbock. The governors of Michigan and Louisiana likewise eased up on bars, restaurants and other businesses Tuesday, as did the mayor of San Francisco. “Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility,” said Abbott, speaking from a crowded dining room where many of those surrounding him were not wearing masks. “It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed." A year into the outbreak, politicians and ordinary Americans alike have grown tired of rules meant to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed over a half-million people in the United States. Some places are lifting infection control measures; in other places, people are ignoring them. Top health officials, including the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have responded by begging people repeatedly not to risk another deadly wave of contagion just when the nation is making progress in vaccinating people and victory over the pandemic is in sight. U.S. cases have plunged more than 70% over the past two months from an average of nearly 250,000 new infections a day, while average deaths per day have plummeted about 40% since mid-January. But the two curves have levelled off abruptly in the past several days and have even risen slightly, and the numbers are still running at alarmingly high levels, with an average of about 2,000 deaths and 68,000 cases per day. Health officials are increasingly worried about virus mutations. “We stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned on Monday. Even so, many states are allowing restaurants to resume indoor dining, reopening movie theatres and expanding mass gatherings, while Americans are eager to socialize again. An Indianapolis-area bar was filled with maskless patrons over the weekend. In Southern California, people waited in lines that snaked through a parking lot on a recent weekday afternoon for the chance to shop and eat at Downtown Disney, part of the Disneyland. (The theme park's rides remain closed.) And Florida is getting ready to welcome students on spring break. “People want to stay safe, but at the same time, the fatigue has hit,” said Ryan Luke, who is organizing a weekend rally in Eagle, Idaho, to encourage people to patronize businesses that don’t require masks. "We just want to live a quasi-normal life.” Miichael Junge argued against a mask mandate when officials in the Missouri tourist town of Branson passed one and said he hasn’t enforced it in his Lost Boys Barber Company. He said he is sick of it. “I think the whole thing is a joke honestly,” he said. “They originally said that this was going to go for a month and they have pushed it out to indefinitely. ... It should have been done a long time ago.” In San Francisco, and upbeat Mayor London Breed announced that California gave the green light to indoor dining and the reopening of of movie theatres and gyms. Florida is getting ready for spring break travellers to flock to its sunny beaches. The state is considered to be in an “active outbreak,” along with Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and South Carolina, according to the data-tracking website CovidActNow. Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis made it clear during his annual State of the State speech Tuesday that he welcomes more visitors to Florida in his drive to keep the state’s economy thriving. Municipalities can impose their own mask rules and curfews, restrict beach access and place some limits on bars and restaurants, but some have virtually no such measures in place ahead of the season. Miami Beach will require masks both indoors and out and will restrict the number of people allowed on the beach as well as in bars and restaurants. “If you want to party without restrictions, then go somewhere else. Go to Vegas,” Miami Beach City Manager Raul Aguila said during a recent virtual meeting. “We will be taking a zero-tolerance attitude towards that behaviour.” In Michigan, a group called All Business Is Essential has resisted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s virus policies, and many people are abandoning mask requirements and other measures, said group leader Erik Kiilunen. “At some point you’ve got to look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘Do I want a zero-risk life?’” he said. “It’s become a farce, really. People have quit living for a year, at what price?” “I think everybody wants things to get back the way they were,” said Aubrey D. Jenkins, the fire chief in Columbia, South Carolina, whose department issues dozens of $100 citations every weekend to bar-goers who refuse to wear masks or keep their distance. “But we still have to be real cautious.” ___ Webber reported from Fenton, Michigan. Associated Press writers Brendan Farrington in Tallahasee, Florida; Anila Yoganathan in Tucker, Georgia; John Flesher in Traverse City, Michigan; Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas; Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in Washington; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Paul J. Webber in Austin, Texas; Janie Har in San Francisco; and David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, contributed to this story. The Associated Press
Another mass vaccination clinic will take place in Sudbury this week as Public Health Sudbury and District (PHSD) continues to provide COVID-19 vaccines to as many residents as possible. PHSD held its first mass vaccination clinic last week for roughly 2,500 health-care workers and essential caregivers connected with long-term care homes and retirement homes. It took place at the Carmichael Arena on Bancroft Drive on Thursday and Friday. As we turned the corner on March 1 this week, it was revealed that PHSD will be holding another mass vaccination event; this time for urban Indigenous people in Sudbury, aged 55 and older on March 5 and March 6, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. It will also take place at Carmichael Arena. The event is jointly hosted by the Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre in partnership with Public Health Sudbury & Districts (PHSD) and the City of Greater Sudbury, along with the support of the Ngo Dwe Waanzizjik – The Urban Indigenous Sacred Circle and the Indigenous Primary Health Care Council. The Indigenous population has been identified as a priority in the first round of vaccination allocations said a news release from Shkagamik-Kwe. PHSD has published a COVID-19 Vaccination Program Playbook that outlines when Sudbury area residents can expect to receive vaccinations. The playbook was published in January and PHSD said the information in it is evolving and changing. Ontario is still in Phase 1 on the vaccine rollout and the PHSD book indicates the first week of March is the time to provide vaccines to on-reserve Indigenous people aged 16 and older (estimated 835) and to urban Indigenous aged 16 and older (estimated 1,000). Also this week, PHSD is scheduled to continue providing vaccines to health-care workers and to adult chronic home-care recipients. The total would be 5,400 people for the first week. Based on the playbook numbers, the vaccinations for the on-reserve and urban Indigenous populations are scheduled to continue next week, for an estimated 5,400 people. Based on the PHSD statement, that schedule could change. But the schedule does show ramping up the vaccine schedule, again for urban Indigenous populations in the Sudbury area for the weeks of March 15, March 22, April 5 and again on April 12 — in all cases the target is 5,400 vaccinations for each week. When Sudbury.com asked PHSD to confirm the schedule. The reply was that the schedule could change. "The information you are inquiring about is currently being reviewed and updated," said PHSD. Another factor to be considered is that PHSD will need to provide second doses for the COVID-19 vaccines. Both Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are double-dose medications. Even the new AstraZeneca vaccine is recommended for two doses. The first vaccines administered in the PHSD jurisdiction were on Jan. 13. Once the Indigenous population is looked after, Ontario will be into Phase 2 of the vaccination plan. At that point, toward the third week of April, the plan is to provide vaccines for individuals identified as essential workers. This issue has not yet been fully defined as many worker organizations across Ontario have reported they have not yet been advised if they are essential. Officials of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Canada spoke out in news reports in Toronto this week to say they believe frontline grocery workers for example should be included because they are exposed to so many members of the public. That essential worker campaign is expected to last until the end of May. Next in line on the PHSD schedule are adults 75 years and older. The plan is to provide those vaccinations from the week of May 31 to the week of July 5. Following that, the PHSD schedule said adults aged 60 to 74 years will get vaccines. This will be for the week of June 14, and then picked up again on the week of July 5 to the week of Aug. 23. Finally, beginning the week of September 6, vaccines will be offered to the general population aged 16 to 59 years. That campaign will continue on and off in the weeks of Sept. 27, Oct. 4 and Oct. 25. Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com, covering health care in Northern Ontario. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the federal government. Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
OTTAWA — Canada's chief public health officer says new COVID-19 cases are starting to tick back up after a month-long decline, giving urgency to the question of who should receive doses of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine due to arrive in Canada Wednesday. The "moderate increase" at the national level noted by Dr. Theresa Tam is in keeping with models forecasting a spike in cases over the next two months unless stricter public health measures are imposed to combat more contagious strains of the virus. “The concern is that we will soon see an impact on hospitalization, critical care and mortality trends," Tam said Tuesday. Canada saw 2,933 new cases on average over the past week, a figure similar to last Friday's numbers that revealed week-over-week increases of between eight and 14 per cent in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. The uptick comes as provinces figure out how to allocate their various vaccines, especially as Canada receives 500,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced at the Serum Institute of India. About 445,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are also arriving this week, said Procurement Minister Anita Anand. Guidance on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has caused some confusion. Health Canada authorized its use last week for all adults but the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends it not be administered to people 65 and over. The advisory committee cites concern over limited data from clinical trials for older patients. Health Canada also acknowledges that issue. But the advisory panel, which recommends how vaccines should be used, says the limitation means seniors should take priority for the two greenlighted mRNA vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — where dearth of data is not an issue. Alberta's health minister said Monday the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca's vaccine to anyone over 65. British Columbia, Ontario and Prince Edward Island are on similar courses, though details on who will get those jabs is not always clear. "With clinical testing of AstraZeneca limited to those under 65, we will need to adjust our plan to look at a parallel track for some of these more flexible vaccines in order to cast the widest net possible," the B.C. health ministry said in an email. Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott characterized Oxford-AstraZeneca as "very versatile " because it lacks the same cold-storage requirements as the two other vaccines in use in Canada. It won't go to seniors, but she said shots might be administered in correctional facilities for that reason. P.E.I. will target AstraZeneca at "healthy younger individuals who are working in certain front-line, essential services," said Dr. Heather Morrison, the province's chief medical officer of health. Health officials in Quebec and New Brunswick say they await further advice from health authorities and are taking time to examine how to deploy the latest vaccine. Nova Scotia's chief medical health officer Dr. Robert Strang said the province has yet to give an answer to Ottawa "about whether we actually want to take the vaccine." All provinces must provide a response by midday Thursday, he said. Two experts say essential workers who are more likely to contract and transmit COVID-19 should be prioritized for immunization with the Oxford-AstraZeneca doses. Caroline Colijn, a COVID-19 modeller and mathematician at Simon Fraser University, and Horacio Bach, an adjunct professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia, also say the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could be better promoted by provincial health officials as a strong alternative to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Oxford-AstraZeneca reported their vaccine is about 62 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 while Pifzer-BioNTech and Moderna have said the efficacy of their vaccines is about 95 per cent. But Colijn and Bach say the fact there have been no hospitalizations from severe illness and no deaths among those receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine needs to be underscored because people awaiting immunization seem to be fixated on the higher efficacy data for the first two vaccines approved in Canada. "If the AstraZeneca vaccine will prevent you from getting really sick that's still a win for you," Colijn said. "I see this huge, huge benefit of vaccinating young people, particularly people with high contact, essential workers, sooner." No province has been spared from the increase in new variants circulating across the country, though several continue to ease anti-pandemic restrictions. Modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada projected a steep surge in new cases starting late last month — and reaching 20,000 new cases a day before May — if public health measures weren't tightened. Since that Feb. 19 forecast, restrictions in many regions have loosened as Canadians return to restaurants, cinemas and hair salons. But Tam said Canada is gaining ground on "the vaccine-versus-variants leg of this marathon" every day. "Canada is prepared, and Canada remains on track," she said. Provinces have now reported 1,257 cases of the B.1.1.7 mutation that was first identified in the United Kingdom, 99 cases of the B. 220.127.116.11 strain first identified in South Africa, and three of the P. 1 variant first identified in Brazil. There have been 870,033 cases of COVID-19 in Canada and 22,017 deaths as of Monday night. There were 30,430 active cases across Canada, with an average of 42 deaths reported daily over the past week. Provinces are also figuring out whether to stick to the original injection schedules or extend the interval between doses beyond three or four weeks. The national advisory committee is expected to update its recommendations this week. Ontario is waiting for that guidance, while B.C. is pushing ahead with its plan to prolong the interval to four months. Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer, said Monday the decision was based on local and international evidence that shows the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines provides "miraculous" 90 per cent protection from the virus. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. — With files from Camille Bains, Kevin Bissett, Laura Dhillon Kane and Holly McKenzie-Sutter. Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — North American stock markets were quieter after experiencing strong gains to start March. The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 121.98 points to 18,421.60. But U.S. markets were lower, with the Dow Jones industrial average down 143.99 points at 13,391.52. The S&P 500 index was down 31.53 points at 3,870.29, while the Nasdaq composite was down 230.04 points at 13,358.79. The Canadian dollar traded for 79.20 cents US compared with 78.98 cents US on Monday. The April crude oil contract was down 89 cents at US$59.75 per barrel and the April natural gas contract was up 6.2 cents at US$2.84 per mmBTU. The April gold contract was up US$10.60 at US$1,733.60 an ounce and the May copper contract was up 10.9 cents at US$4.22 a pound. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X) The Canadian Press
A hardware store in Summerside has reopened for business, after a deep cleaning over the weekend. On Saturday, an employee at Callbecks Home Hardware tested positive for COVID 19. The store was put on the list of potential exposure sites associated with the latest outbreaks of COVID-19 on P.E.I. Owner Duane MacDonald said he voluntarily shut down as soon as they heard about the positive test on Saturday. COVID-19 cleaning has been part of the work day for the past year, but it was ramped up on Sunday. MacDonald said a fleet of trucks and 15 workers, some in protective suits, arrived to disinfect the store, all office space and outbuildings. Store owner Duane MacDonald says he was teasing the staff that Callbecks 'is probably the safest, cleanest building on P.E.I. right now.' (Duane MacDonald) "The staff do an excellent job in maintaining and cleaning, but these guys are professionals," he said. "And this was a scenario where we needed someone to come in and make sure everything was sanitized the right way…. I was teasing the staff that this is probably the safest, cleanest building on P.E.I. right now." Staff tests negative A lot of other stores on that list of exposure sites are going through the same process. All 60 staff of Callbecks went for testing, and the results all came back negative. Ten staff members, who worked with the man who tested positive, remain in self-isolation. Callbecks continues to operate on reduced hours, to help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. More from CBC P.E.I.
Wildfires may not be on your mind as you trudge through snow at this time of the year. But with the official start of wildfire season on March 1, and the ongoing goal of mitigating negative effects of the mountain pine beetle on forests, Parks Canada and the Municipality of Jasper are getting ready. In October 2020, Seamus O'Regan, federal minister of Natural Resources, announced federal funding of $68.4 million over three years to help control, research and mitigate the impacts of the mountain pine beetle on Canada's forests. The funding includes $60 million to the Alberta government for forest management and research; $6.9 million to Parks Canada to mitigate mountain pine beetle impacts, including wildfire risks in the Rocky Mountain National Parks; and $1.5 million to Natural Resources Canada to enhance its core research program. “The majority of the $6.9 million came to Jasper for the Firesmart (program) and the hazard tree removal in Wapiti and Wabasso (campsites),” said Steve Young, spokesperson for Jasper National Park, in an email. Parks Canada moved forward with projects in Jasper National Park where the impacts of the mountain pine beetle are most significant. The majority of work has been associated with minimizing wildfire risk caused by the mountain pine beetle. Parks Canada and the municipality conducted community protection and wildfire prevention work in areas surrounding Jasper. Trees killed by mountain pine beetles are being removed in the temporarily-closed Wapiti and Wabasso campgrounds. Removing dead trees in mountain pine beetle-affected forests reduces the risk of trees falling, the amount of fuel surrounding campsites and the risk of wildfire spread. Planting replacement trees in areas where trees have been removed for public safety assists with restoring forest habitat in Jasper National Park. Each year, the park transplants thousands of local native trees from FireSmart-maintained areas. Transplanted trees are primarily Douglas fir, which have strong fire-resistant qualities and provide important habitat structures in popular spaces like the park’s campgrounds. In Jasper National Park, as part of ongoing efforts to reduce the risk of large wildfires around affected communities, Parks Canada will purchase a high volume sprinkler system. Used in strategic locations, such as along the community fireguard in Jasper, this system will enhance community protection, helping ensure the safety of people and critical infrastructure. “The Municipality of Jasper works very closely (year round) with Parks Canada in wildfire preparedness and mitigation, as well as major emergency planning, evacuation planning as it relates to a wildfire event threatening the community,” said Greg Van Tighem, director of protective services, in an email. Van Tighem said the municipality has reviewed and/or updated its emergency plans, evacuation plan, emergency social services plan as well as the wildfire preparedness guide and the wildfire tactical response plan. “The fire department has been upgrading its wildland urban interface fire (WUI) response resources and training over the past few years and over the next two months we will be bringing these resources into service and initiating WUI response training,” he said. “In early May we will start up our Firesmart Canada Community work bee program once again and will be hosting educational work-bees throughout the community in efforts to assist residents in making their home and property Firesmart.” With the municipality spending a great deal of time in managing the forest fuels around the community, Van Tighem outlined objectives of the Firesmart forest fuel reduction program: The municipality allows small recreational fire pits in private residential properties, provided that they are safely contained in a non combustible fire pit and a safe distance away from any other combustibles. However, the municipality may at any time initiate a fire ban, which would prohibit the use of residential fire pits. “We are currently on track with the current forest fuel reduction program, however the forecast is for continued warmer weather and rain over the weekend which may put the program on hold until we receive more snow cover and colder temperatures,” Van Tighem said. Van Tighem encourages everyone to adopt Firesmart Canada home-safety guidelines that can be found at firesmartcanada.ca Residents can also find information on the municipality’s website. Questions or concerns can be directed to the Jasper Fire Department at 780-852-1595. Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
A second COVID-19 variant has been confirmed in a northern Ontario region that’s battling a deadly outbreak of cases driven by another infectious variant. The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit says two people in the area have tested positive for the variant that first originated in the U.K.The health unit says the two people in the district of Parry Sound, Ont., do not know where they caught the virus.More than 500 cases of that variant have been detected across the province since December. The region’s top doctor says the confirmation of a second variant is concerning especially because it was caught through community spread. Dr. Jim Chirico says it's essential to follow public health measures to save lives and eventually reopen the economy. On Monday the health unit reported a third death related to an outbreak of 42 cases at an apartment building in North Bay, Ont.Fifteen cases in that outbreak have been linked to a more infectious virus variant that was first detected in South Africa.North Bay has remained under strict public health orders as restrictions loosened on businesses elsewhere in the province, due to the high number of variant cases detected last month. Ontario's government will decide Friday whether to move the North Bay area, as well as Toronto and Peel Region, back into the provincial COVID-19 response framework. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
Uptake for the second dose of the Moderna vaccination in First Nation communities in Northern Manitoba is going well. While Manitoba First Nations continue to show higher test positivity rates compared to non-Indigenous Manitobans, many First Nation communities have shown relatively good signs as their Elders continue to receive their vaccination. In an online press conference on Tuesday, Dr. Michael Routledge confirmed that there is some improvement in severe cases from the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. communities due to the vaccine uptake. “There are still a couple of communities in the MKO area that are struggling with some outbreaks, but by large, most MKO communities have been very quiet,” said Routledge, the medical advisor to MKO and Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin. “In the north, we are seeing the case numbers and test positivity rates slowly come down. We are starting to see the outbreaks get under control, although again, they are some communities that are really struggling.” Routledge added that the second allotment of vaccine supplies for Elders have arrived in most Manitoba First Nation communities including Sapotaweyak Cree Nation. As of Monday, there are 843 active cases among First Nations people with 25 current hospitalizations and eight in intensive care units. On Monday, the province updated the eligibility for vaccinations whereby First Nations born on or before Dec. 31, 1950, can now book their appointments to receive immunization against the virus. “As I always tell our people, we are all in this together,” said Chief Nelson Genaille from Sapotaweyak Cree Nation who believes 40 more vaccine doses will arrive in his community soon. “What’s going to happen next? You know, that’s what we need to prepare for. We don’t know what’s coming in the future for our children or grandchildren … how can we make it better? One good way is communication, another good way is teamwork, and another is to properly uplift ourselves because the mind is very powerful.” Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Click here to sign up for our daily newsletter. Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — Baseballs cracking off bats. Basketballs dribbling on hardwood. The metal clang of free weights. The sounds are unique for a suburban strip mall, but they're the usual soundtrack at a former Future Shop in central Abbotsford, B.C. Here, sandwiched between a Michael's and a Party City, the Fraser Valley Bandits of the Canadian Elite Basketball League have converted a giant old electronics store into a multi-sport gym in hopes of growing grassroots sports in the community. There's long been a need for training space in the region and that need only grew as existing spaces shuttered their doors during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Bandits vice president Dylan Kular. “A lot of the markets that (the CEBL) is in, indoor access to facilities is quite tough," he said. "We knew there was a huge need." Plans for the facility in Abbotsford — about 70 kilometres east of Vancouver — began percolating last summer when Kular and the Bandits were in St. Catharines, Ont., where the seven-team CEBL was holding its second season in a bubble. Kular knew that the league's long-term plan included growing sports across the country, and with retailers leaving malls in droves, he thought there might be an opportunity to repurpose empty stores. He took the idea to groups in his community and soon had a list of 30 itching to claim time on the courts and in the gym, even before the Bandits signed a lease. The league signed on for the pilot project and by late November, Kular had the keys to an old Future Shop. Then came the hard work. For weeks, Bandits staff and contractors worked to transform the space. “Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, New Year’s Eve — seriously, every day, literally four weeks straight, we were here, setting up the infrastructure, having our groups come in and make sure the space was going to be perfect for their needs," Kular said. By January, they had created a multi-sport gym with basketball courts, pitching laneways, a weight training centre, and a regulation volleyball court in place of the old loading dock. For more than a month, a variety of groups have kept the space bustling, Kular said. Non-profit sports teams use the facilities for off-season training, local high-school students come to work on their skills, and families book time to come shoot hoops. Finding space for up-and-coming athletes to work on their pitching, hitting and fielding has long been an issue for the Abbotsford Minor Fastball Association said Tom Eaton, the group's president. "We’re definitely strapped for athletic space, whether that’s ice time for kids … whether that’s field time for young girls, young boys playing softball, baseball, whatever," he said. "There’s a shortage of facilities and a huge shortage of training facilities, indoor facilities." The problem grew during the pandemic as access to city-owned facilities withered, so Eaton was excited to team up with the Bandits. “We thought ‘This is a miss on our part,'" he said. "'If we don’t do something about this for our constituents, then we’re failing them.' So we leaned in and we got the deal done." Now athletes ages 10 through 19 are using the new facility's laneways daily to hone their skills. And they're getting noticed, too, Eaton said. “Being that it’s an Old Future shop, people are walking by, they’re looking in and seeing a basketball practice happening and they’re seeing some rep pitchers throwing fastballs in a netted area," he said. "It’s great. It’s really a point of pride for the community." Abbotsford Minor Fastball Association is one of 31 groups to have signed a deal with the Bandits. Kular said he's still fielding calls daily from others who want to book in, including football, hockey and lacrosse teams and martial arts groups. B.C.'s current COVID restrictions limit who can play sports right now, but Kular knows the facility will be even busier when the rules ease. “Honestly, if adult sport was allowed to happen right now, we'd be bursting at the seams," he said. Kular expects the space to be popular going forward, with a variety of groups using it to play and train. He wants the Bandits to host coaching clinics to grow basketball in the region, and for players to host skills sessions for kids. He wants the facility to continue being a sports hub for Abbotsford and beyond. “Everyone’s grateful for this space because, really, before this space, there wasn’t anything else of this nature in the community," Kular said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press
The opening of the Royalmount residential and commercial complex has been postponed to the summer of 2023 due to the pandemic, putting it one year behind schedule. Planned for the Town of Mount Royal near the intersection of highways 15 and 40, the complex is supposed to incorporate thousands of homes, upscale businesses and parking spaces at a time when commercial vacancies are on the rise across the island of Montreal. The first phase comes with a $1.5-billion price tag, but that's not deterring the developer, Carbonleo, from pushing forward with renowned companies like Louis Vuitton on board, said the company's vice-president, Claude Marcotte. "There are several brands like that, that we are going to have that are not in the Montreal market, that will join us," said Marcotte. The number of housing units planned on the site has been reduced. It is now just over 3,000 rather than the 4,500 originally slated to be built over a period of 10 years. These units will, for the most part, be condos in 50-storey towers. The Royalmount project does not include social housing, but Montreal is looking to develop social housing at the nearby Blue Bonnets site, Marcotte noted. The current zoning does not allow residential construction on the site, and TMR officials have yet to greenlight a dispensation. Mayor Philippe Roy said the the public will be consulted before a final decision is made. "If we ever get to the stage of changing the zoning to allow residential, then it is the agglomeration of Montreal that must proceed with the modification of the development plan," said Roy. "At that time there will be work to do with the City of Montreal." While Carbonleo management remains optimistic, there has been plenty of opposition to the project from elected officials, like Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who has panned the project's lack of social housing. Years of discussions, redesign and setbacks Back in July 2020, Marcotte said his company was undeterred by the pandemic. He said Carbonleo was pushing forward with a slightly revised plan that would be a better fit in the new world of physical distancing, face masks and hand washing. He said, at the time, that theatres might be delayed and hotels adapted to the new reality, "but in the end, it's going to be pretty much the same type of project." Earlier that year, the company had announced its redesign of the project after some five years of public consultations and concerns from the community. Carbonleo said the new design would "benefit the metropolitan and local communities," as the company strives to build an environmentally friendly site that incorporates greenery and 3.8 kilometres of pedestrian paths.
TORONTO — Canadian actor Jahmil French of "Degrassi: The Next Generation" fame has died. His agent, Gabrielle Kachman, confirmed the news to The Canadian Press through a statement. Kachman did not provide details on his death but noted French "will be remembered by many for his passion for the arts, his commitment to his craft, and his vibrant personality." French played high-school student Dave Turner on the Toronto-shot teen series "Degrassi: The Next Generation." His other credits include the Netflix series "Soundtrack," the Pop TV show "Let's Get Physical," and the Canadian film "Boost," for which he earned a 2018 Canadian Screen Award nomination for supporting actor. According to various bios online, he was 29. Fans and friends of the performer shared tributes on social media Monday, including fellow "Degrassi" alum Annie Clark, who tweeted she's "heartbroken over the loss." She also posted a video of him dancing on a stage, noting that's how she'll always think of him. "So full of energy and fun. He was always dancing. A true talent and a great friend. We will all miss you so much Jahmil," Clark wrote. Dylan Everett, who also acted on "Degrassi: The Next Generation," tweeted that French was "kind, funny, and talented." "One of the first people I met on 'Degrassi,' he immediately made me feel welcome," Everett wrote. "He disarmed you with a smile and his confidence and energy was infectious. You’ll be missed, brother." Toronto-based Salvatore Antonio tweeted French was a longtime acting student of his, his mentee and "a special human." "He was fearless and brilliant in his pursuit, and I’m so sad we won’t get to see more of his gift," Antonio wrote. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — A House of Commons committee is unanimously urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to promise he won't call a federal election while the COVID-19 pandemic rages across Canada.In a report by the procedure and House affairs committee, even Liberal members supported a recommendation calling for a commitment that there will be no election during the pandemic, unless Trudeau's minority Liberal government is defeated on a confidence vote.The committee makes no similar call for opposition parties to promise not to trigger an election during the pandemic by voting non-confidence in the government.However, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has vowed his party won't vote to bring the government down as long as the country is in the grip of COVID-19.That should be enough to ensure the survival of the minority Liberal government for the foreseeable future, unless Trudeau decides to trigger an election himself.Trudeau has repeatedly insisted he has no interest in forcing an election but opposition parties remain suspicious."Unfortunately, the Liberal government has already indicated their desire to recklessly send Canadians to the polls at whatever time they deem to be the most advantageous for the prime minister," the Conservatives say in a supplementary report to the committee's report.Indeed, the Conservatives assert, without explanation, that Trudeau has already tried to orchestrate his government's defeat.They thank Liberal committee members for taking "a stand against the whims of the prime minister, who has been eagerly pressing towards an election for the last few months."At the same time, Conservatives have been pursuing a strategy that could give Trudeau justification for calling an election: They've been systematically blocking the government's legislative agenda, including repeatedly delaying a bill authorizing billions in pandemic-related aid.They have also blocked debate on a bill that would give Elections Canada special powers to conduct an election safely, if need be, during the pandemic.Bill C-19 is the government's response to chief electoral officer Stephane Perrault, who has said special measures are urgent given that a minority government is inherently unstable and could theoretically fall at any time. However, some opposition MPs view the legislation as proof that the Liberals are planning to trigger an election.In their own supplementary report, New Democrats argue that an election in the midst of the pandemic "has the potential to undermine the health of our democracy." They point to the current delay in Newfoundland and Labrador's election due to a COVID outbreak as an example of the "delays, confusion and unforeseen barriers in voting" that could undermine Canadians' confidence in the outcome of a federal election."This raises the spectre of a government whose political legitimacy is openly challenged," the NDP committee members say, adding that could lead to the kind of crisis that provoked a riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by supporters of former president Donald Trump.The Capitol riot, sparked by Trump's unfounded claims that mail-in ballots were fraudulent, appears to have been on the minds of opposition committee members when it comes to other recommendations for how to safely conduct an election, if necessary, during the pandemic.Anticipating a massive increase in mail-in ballots, the chief electoral officer has, among other things, suggested that mail-in ballots received one day after the close of in-person polls should still be counted.The Conservatives say the procedure and House affairs committee should have rejected that proposal, arguing that "the election should end on Election Day and Canadians deserve to know the results without delay."Bloc Quebecois committee members, in their supplementary report, similarly argue that extending the deadline for receipt of mail-in ballots "would delay the election results, which would fuel voter suspicion and undermine confidence in the electoral system, which is obviously undesirable."This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Ontarians should be encouraged to see friends and relatives outdoors in the coming months, some health experts said Tuesday in stressing the need for realistic pandemic guidance following a winter of isolation. Now that most of the province has emerged from the stay-at-home order imposed in January, it's crucial to give residents safer options to socialize to help prevent another spike in COVID-19 infections, particularly in light of new, more contagious variants of the virus, some experts said. "It's really important now that we find realistic solutions for people, and what we know is that we by all means should avoid ... that people now congregate inside," said Dr. Peter Juni, an epidemiologist and director of the province's COVID-19 science advisory table. "People are social animals. We need something to balance ourselves mentally, socially, and psychologically, and so we will need to find a good way forward." A simple message – that outdoor, distanced gatherings are safer, while any indoor gatherings with people from other households should be avoided – should help people make decisions based on common sense, he said. Juni said he felt the need to bring the issue to the science table after seeing photos of large crowds and lineups inside malls and big box stores over the weekend, which he said gave him "goosebumps." The group will discuss possible recommendations to the province regarding messaging related to gatherings over the next few weeks, he said. While being outdoors doesn't mean there is zero risk of infection, that risk becomes "minimal" if people also follow distancing and masking guidelines, he said. By comparison, congregating indoors is "playing with fire," he said. Dr. Nitin Mohan, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at Western University, said switching the messaging to promote outdoor activities makes sense from a harm reduction standpoint. "Folks have been indoors for quite some time. We know the mental health and other psychological issues that are going to be a result ... of our lockdown and quarantine measures," he said. "So if folks can get outdoors and it's safe to do so, I think it should be encouraged." There is a risk people may get used to seeing their loved ones when the weather is nice, and then break the rules when it's too cold or snowy to meet outdoors, Mohan said. "Are you comfortable saying, 'hey we probably can't see each other today, let's wait until it gets warmer,' or does it become sort of a lack of compliance where 'hey, we've already seen each other outside, it's no big deal to come inside for a quick cup of coffee,'" he said. "And that's where it becomes problematic." People also have to be reasonable in terms of the kinds of gatherings they're having, Mohan said, noting it won't be safe to have "500 people in a backyard barbecue." Timothy Sly, an epidemiologist and professor at Ryerson University, echoed that warning. "In very general terms, 'outdoors' presents a huge reduction in risk, all other factors being unchanged. BUT this is NOT the time for throwing the masks away and getting into yelling at sports arenas or close-up BBQ parties," he said in an email. "Those will be super-spreader events for sure, especially with the new variants." Most of Ontario has returned to the government's colour-coded system of pandemic restrictions after weeks under an order that required residents to stay home except for essential activities. The government still advises all residents to limit close contact to those in their household. Restrictions regarding gatherings vary between the colour-coded zones, with the more stringent grey or lockdown zone prohibiting indoor gatherings and allowing outdoor ones of up to 10 people with distancing measures in place. Regions in the green, or least restrictive, zone permit private gatherings of up to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors, along with events of up to 50 people indoors and up to 100 outdoors, all with distancing measures in place. Three regions -- Toronto, Peel, and North Bay-Parry Sound -- remain under the stay-at-home order that's set to last until March 8. When asked for comment on the possibility of updating guidelines on outdoor gatherings, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health said the province's top doctor will continue to consult with local medical officers of health and experts, and review data, to advise the government on "appropriate and effective measures" needed to protect Ontarians. Health officials in Toronto, meanwhile, said their guidance on socializing remains the same. "Our advice at this time is still to try to maintain as much distance and to not interact with people with whom you don't live," the city's top public health doctor, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said earlier this week. "And if you have to be outside, to really keep your distance and to ensure that you're wearing your mask as much as possible." - with files from Denise Paglinawan This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
With B.C. and other regions opting to delay the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, doctors are weighing in on whether it's the best course of action.
Rental tenant advocates say the the province’s new legislation to stop false renovictions is good, but doesn’t go far enough to protect existing affordable housing stock nor address “exponential” rate increases over the last few years. The B.C. government announced Mar. 1 it would extend the freeze on rent increases, and proposed a new policy that would have landlords to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch to be able to evict people for renovations. They would have to show renovation permits, demonstrate that renovations are significant enough to require vacancy and prove that renovations are necessary. Currently, there’s no onus to prove renovations are significant or actually required, allowing opportunistic landlords to flip suites and jack up rent for the new tenant after a few superficial improvements. The Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre is excited about the change, saying it will help curb illegal renovictions, which they think happen often, thought it’s impossible to track. But the new legislation, which if approved will go into effect July 1, does very little to protect affordable rental stock, said Zuzana Modrovic, a lawyer with TRAC. “A lot of the affordable rental stock is in buildings that are aging, where renovations are likely needed. When a landlord does those renovations, they can charge whatever they think the market will bear,” she said. RELATED: B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021 The task force’s solution also fails to address “exponential rate increases” over the last few years, and it doesn’t help people who fell behind on rent during the height of the pandemic. “At the start of this emergency, we were told by Premier John Horgan and Selina Robinson, who was the housing minister at that time, that nobody would lose their housing due to COVID-19. They have not kept that promise. People are now losing their housing because they can’t afford rent, never mind the repayment of missed rent, and there’s no protection for them,” Modrovic said. Now tenants are facing paying regular rent, plus a repayment plan to make up missed rent. The province has said landlords must give renters until August 2021 to repay rental debt owed from the first five months of the pandemic. “Essentially that’s just like a temporary rent increase. They have to pay an additional $200 or $300 a month, or more.” A ministry spokesperson said B.C. has the second lowest rate of rent arrears in the country, and that there has not been a significant increase in the number of disputes in recent months. TRAC has been asking the government for rental arrears forgiveness across the province, or at the least another eviction freeze. The government initially said no one could be evicted for not paying rent due to COVID-19, but that ban lifted July 30. Landlord BC, an association for landlords was also included in the task force, said they welcome the change but said the Rental Tenancy Board will have to handle the application process efficiently. Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Zoë Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Island Gazette
HALIFAX — Just before two RCMP officers opened fire on a fellow officer and a civilian during last year's Nova Scotia mass shooting, they struggled with congested radio channels and mistook a man wearing a bright vest for the killer. These are among the fresh facts revealed Tuesday in a police watchdog agency report clearing the Mounties of criminal wrongdoing after they fired five shots with high-powered rifles outside the Onslow, N.S., firehall. The six-page report by the Serious Incident Response Team says the "totality of the evidence" prompted the officers to believe the killer was standing just 88 metres away from them on the morning of April 19. "They discharged their weapons in order to prevent further deaths or serious injuries .... The (officers) had reasonable grounds to believe the person they saw, who was disobeying their orders, was the mass murderer who had, in the preceding hour, killed three more persons," it concludes. The six-page document traces the 10:21 a.m. incident — which didn't result in deaths or injuries — to the early hours of the morning, when the two officers were recalled to duty at 3 a.m. for a briefing as the shootings that would take 22 lives unfolded. According to the report, they were told that the spouse of the killer had said the gunman was driving a replica RCMP car and was wearing an orange vest. "They learned that several children had witnessed their parents being shot dead .... The actual total number of victims was unknown at the time of the briefing because several buildings in Portapique were on fire, and whether there were additional victims had not yet been determined," the report says. They also had been briefed that the gunman had high-powered weapons with laser-mounted sights. Several hours after the first briefing, there were radio transmissions saying the killer had murdered a woman in Wentworth, N.S. At that point, the two officers were "transitioned from investigators to being involved in the hunt for the killer," the report says. Through the morning, reports of additional murders came over the radio, including two women in the Debert, N.S., area, which is about a 10-minute drive from the Onslow firehall. As they approached the firehall, which had been designated as a rest area, they saw a marked RCMP car parked in front and a man wearing a yellow and orange reflective vest standing next to the driver's door. According to the report, the two officers didn't realize a uniformed RCMP officer was sitting in the vehicle. The investigation says the two officers repeatedly tried to advise other RCMP officers by radio of what they were seeing but couldn't get through. Felix Cacchione, the director of SIRT, said in an email to The Canadian Press that he didn't have an exact time of arrival. "I can only extrapolate from the radio communications that it was about a minute before shots were fired," he wrote. According to the report, both officers got out of their vehicle with their rifles and were still unable to reach anyone on the radio. The report says they yelled "police," and "show your hands," but the civilian in the vest ducked behind the car before popping back up and running toward the firehall. The Mounties opened fire, with one officer firing four shots and the other a single shot. During the killer's 13-hour rampage, the report found, there were 7,731 radio transmissions over emergency response channels. It says the "sole reason" the reason the officers couldn't transmit before opening fire was because "there was no available talk path due to the heavy volume of radio traffic." It concluded the officers had a "lawful excuse" to fire their guns and didn't break Criminal Code provisions that prohibit officers from using their firearms in a careless manner. "Based on everything (the officers) had seen and heard since coming on duty and what they had just observed, they had reasonable grounds to believe that the (civilian in the vest) was the killer and someone who would continue his killing rampage," says the report. In a statement on its Facebook page Tuesday, the Onslow Belmont Fire Brigade said it is "frustrated and disappointed that there will be no accountability for the RCMP. Their actions that day endangered lives, damaged property and caused mental health issues for many of the people involved." An RCMP spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether any disciplinary action has been taken against the two officers. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said both people shot at outside the firehall were RCMP officers.