Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube calls on federal government to require testing for returning travellers and step up enforcement of 14-day quarantine requirement.
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube calls on federal government to require testing for returning travellers and step up enforcement of 14-day quarantine requirement.
WASHINGTON — Federal law enforcement officials are examining a number of threats aimed at members of Congress as the second trial of former President Donald Trump nears, including ominous chatter about killing legislators or attacking them outside of the U.S. Capitol, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. The threats, and concerns that armed protesters could return to sack the Capitol anew, have prompted the U.S. Capitol Police and other federal law enforcement to insist thousands of National Guard troops remain in Washington as the Senate moves forward with plans for Trump's trial, the official said. The shocking insurrection at the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob prompted federal officials to rethink security in and around its landmarks, resulting in an unprecedented lockdown for Biden's inauguration. Though the event went off without any problems and armed protests around the country did not materialize, the threats to lawmakers ahead of Trump's trial exemplified the continued potential for danger. Similar to those intercepted by investigators ahead of Biden’s inauguration, the threats that law enforcement agents are tracking vary in specificity and credibility, said the official, who had been briefed on the matter. Mainly posted online and in chat groups, the messages have included plots to attack members of Congress during travel to and from the Capitol complex during the trial, according to the official. The official was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation publicly and spoke Sunday to the AP on condition of anonymity. Law enforcement officials are already starting to plan for the possibility of armed protesters returning to the nation's capital when Trump’s Senate trial on a charge of inciting a violent insurrection begins the week of Feb. 8. It would be the first impeachment trial of a former U.S. president. Though much of the security apparatus around Washington set up after the Jan. 6 riot and ahead of Biden’s inauguration — it included scores of military checkpoints and hundreds of additional law enforcement personnel — is no longer in place, about 7,000 members of the National Guard will remain to assist federal law enforcement, officials said. Gen. Dan Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said Monday that about 13,000 Guard members are still deployed in D.C., and that their numbers would shrink to 7,000 by the end of this week. John Whitley, the acting secretary of the Army, told a Pentagon news conference that this number is based on requests for assistance from the Capitol Police, the Park Police, the Secret Service and the Metropolitan Police Department. Whitley said the number is to drop to 5,000 by mid-March. Thousands of Trump’s supporters descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress met to certify Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential race. More than 800 are believed to have made their way into the Capitol during the violent siege, pushing past overwhelmed police officers. The Capitol police said they planned for a free speech protest, not a riot, and were caught off guard despite intelligence suggesting the rally would descend into a riot. Five people died in the melee, including a Capitol police officer who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher. At least five people facing federal charges have suggested they believed they were taking orders from Trump when they marched on Capitol Hill to challenge the certification of Biden’s election victory. But now those comments, captured in interviews with reporters and federal agents, are likely to take centre stage as Democrats lay out their case. More than 130 people have been charged by federal prosecutors for their roles in the riot. In recent weeks, others have been arrested after posting threats against members of Congress. They include a Proud Boys supporter who authorities said threatened to deploy “three cars full of armed patriots” to Washington, threatened harm against Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., and who is accused of stockpiling military-style combat knives and more than 1,000 rifle rounds in his New York home. A Texas man was arrested this week for taking part in the riot at the Capitol and for posting violent threats, including a call to assassinate Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y ___ Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report. Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
Niagara Falls Transit has elected to revert to its pre-pandemic winter schedule. The city said in a press release in order to provide the best level of service to riders given provincial restrictions, it will return to regular winter city and WEGO service, minus 30-minute peak services, on day routes. Changes take effect Monday. On Jan. 18, in an attempt to comply with the state of emergency orders issued by the province, Niagara Falls Transit preemptively adjusted its hours of operation to reflect the average business closure of 8 p.m.; however, it acknowledged that it could have been stranding essential service workers. The city issued an apology on its website for any inconvenience it caused transit users. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: email@example.com Sean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
CALGARY — Obsidian Energy Ltd. is extending its hostile takeover offer for Bonterra Energy Corp. until March 29. The offer was set to expire today. Bonterra has repeatedly recommended shareholders reject the bid. Obsidian has offered two of its shares for each Bonterra share. In December, Obsidian reduced the minimum number of tendered shares needed to complete the transaction to 50 per cent from two-thirds. Obsidian has said a combined Obsidian-Bonterra could save $50 million in the first year and a total of $100 million in the first three years, however Bonterra has said those savings are "uncertain." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:BNE, TSX:OBE) The Canadian Press
Niagara College now requires staff and students to wear enhanced personal protective equipment where physical distancing is not possible. In a recent release, Niagara College said in consultation with Niagara Region Public Health, and in light of the spread of the new United Kingdom variant of COVID-19 in Ontario, it has implemented the enhanced PPE requirements on campus. A medical-grade face mask and eyewear is now required for all staff and students attending classes, labs and workspaces where it is not always possible to maintain a physical distance of two metres. The college said a reusable fabric face mask is acceptable when outside of classrooms and labs and when physical distancing can be maintained, It will be providing staff and students enhanced PPE with medical-grade face masks and eye protection. The college will address staff and students who have a medical exemption that prevents them from wearing PPE on a case-by-case basis. The college also implemented schedule changes. To comply with provincial orders regarding on-campus/in-person instruction that requires classes and labs to be limited to 10 students or fewer plus faculty, several courses will be re-sectioned to ensure class sizes are within provincial limits. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org Sean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
Before Wilf Doyle scratched the Set For Life ticket he had received for Christmas from his partner, Rowena King, he had a rule to follow. It was Jan. 7 and Doyle made sure to remove the Christmas tablecloth that was still on the table in their Gander home. “I said, ‘don’t you dare scratch that ticket on the tablecloth’,” recalls King. Whether Doyle’s adherence to the order had anything to do with what happened next can never be known, but if you suggest that it brought him good luck, it would be tough to argue. Because when he was finished, staring back at him were all the required number of Set For Life symbols, meaning he had won the grand prize. “I really didn’t believe it,” said Doyle. “It was a weird feeling.” As people tend to do in these situations, Doyle checked everything twice. They even called their daughter so she could provide a fresh set of eyes for confirmation. All agreed the numbers made Doyle a big winner. ”It is life-changing,” he said. The ticket was a part of a bundle the couple had purchased at the lotto booth at the Gander Mall as Christmas stocking stuffers for loved ones. King saved the last ticket for the stocking she had for Doyle. “I can’t say how I felt,” said King of first discovering it was the winning ticket. But she knows how it feels now. “It feels good.” Winners of the Set For Life grand prize are presented with a pair of options. They can choose to receive $1,000 a week for the next 25 years or take a one-time payment of $675,000. In this instance, the Gander couple elected to take the lump sum. The decision will pay immediate dividends. Where once they didn’t own a home, they do now. They’ve already picked out their dream house in Bay Roberts — quickly becoming a destination for jackpot winners — and have made a successful offer. They are especially looking forward to making the move since both have family in the Conception Bay North area. As well, their winnings will allow them to eliminate car payments; they recently purchased a new vehicle. They also have plans to purchase an RV sometime in the future. That will allow them to do some travelling around the province. “It could not have come at a better time,” said Doyle. Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice
Other regions will be holding off at least until the end of January.View on euronews
The U.S. House of Representatives delivered to the Senate on Monday a charge that former President Donald Trump incited insurrection in a speech to supporters before the deadly attack on the Capitol, setting in motion his second impeachment trial. Nine House Democrats who will serve as prosecutors in Trump's trial, accompanied by the clerk of the House and the acting sergeant at arms, carried the charge against Trump to the Senate in a solemn procession across the Capitol. Wearing masks to protect against COVID-19, they filed through the ornate Capitol Rotunda and into the Senate chamber, following the path that a mob of Trump supporters took on Jan. 6 as they clashed with police.
L’annonce de la démission de Julie Payette représente une occasion de renouveler l’équipe dirigeante du bureau du gouverneur général « dans le but de répondre aux préoccupations concernant le milieu de travail que des employés ont soulevées », a déclaré le premier ministre. Prenant acte du départ de celle qu’il avait nommée en octobre 2017, le premier ministre, Justin Trudeau, s’est contenté d’indiquer que Mme Payette avait « rempli ses obligations de préserver la démocratie parlementaire et de servir les Canadiens. » « Tous les employés du gouvernement du Canada ont le droit de travailler dans un milieu sain et sécuritaire, et nous prendrons toujours cette question très au sérieux », a-t-il cependant reconnu, en référence au rapport confirmant les allégations de harcèlement en milieu de travail dont la représentante de la Reine Élisabeth II fait l’objet. Justin Trudeau a ajouté que le juge en chef de la Cour suprême du Canada, Richard Wagner, assurerait l’intérim. « Une recommandation concernant un remplaçant sera présentée à Sa Majesté la reine Élisabeth II et annoncée en temps voulu », a-t-il conclu. Une démission qui arrive « à point nommé » « Bien qu’aucune plainte officielle… n’ait été formulée au cours de ce mandat, ce qui aurait immédiatement déclenché une enquête détaillée comme le prescrivent la loi et les conventions collectives en vigueur, je prends toujours ces allégations très au sérieux », a assuré Julie Payette dans un communiqué, rappelant qu’elle a encouragé « à maintes reprises » les employés à participer à l’enquête sur le climat de travail à Rideau hall. La firme commise en septembre dernier pour faire la lumière sur des allégations de harcèlement à Rideau Hall a remis un rapport accablant au président du conseil privé de la Reine pour le Canada, Dominic Leblanc. Les allégations visaient principalement l’ancienne astronaute et sa secrétaire Assunta Di Lorenzo, démissionnaire. Dans un reportage diffusé sur le réseau de CBC, des agents et ex-employés de Rideau Hall avaient accusé ces deux personnalités d’avoir intimidé et humilié des membres du personnel. « Pour le bien de notre pays, pour l’intégrité de ma fonction vice-royale et de nos institutions démocratiques, je suis arrivée à la conclusion qu’un nouveau gouverneur général devrait être nommé, car, dit-elle, “les Canadiens méritent la stabilité en ces temps incertains”, a indiqué Mme Payette. Sur les raisons de sa démission, elle s’est contentée de constater que “des tensions sont apparues à Rideau Hall au cours des derniers mois”, s’est dite “désolée”, et a ensuite souligné une démission qui arrive “à point nommé” pour des raisons personnelles. “La santé de mon père s’est sérieusement détériorée ces dernières semaines et ma famille a besoin de mon aide”, a-t-elle précisé. Godlove Kamwa, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Canada Français
After much discussion, the Township of McMurrich/Monteith will remain in the regional fire training program. The Township received 16 letters from residents on Jan. 18, relating to concerns of not entering into the shared fire training agreement. Here are some key quotes from the discussion: “My concern is that I will not be able to get my people trained anymore or be able to get them certified; as a result, I won’t have firefighters to meet what we need to do in our municipality,” said McMurrich/Monteith’s fire chief John Ross. “I do not have the manpower to take on a single-family dwelling, so the automatic aid has been a huge plus for us, along with everything else that comes with it: the training, the bulk purchasing … the collaboration with the other departments. Leaving just the training has such a huge fallout.” “The contract is the problem, not the trainer — I’ve never had a problem with the trainer so to be clear on that, it’s the contract,” said Coun. Alfred Bielke. “The only way I know we’re going to get the service we require is to enter into this agreement because, right now, we’re being told we can’t get the training. We don’t have the personnel to even fight a fire in our own township … we’re putting our people at risk, we’re putting their homes at risk and we’re putting lives at risk, so the only way to get this back is to rescind the motion we defeated and put it back on the table,” said Coun. Dan O’Halloran. “For the authors of our letters, and the people that are listening, this agreement (is) a prelude to the regional fire training and regional fire department …” said Coun. Lynn Zemnicky. “I just want people who are listening to realize that the previous council jumped on board to chip in on this equipment, (the) ice and fire rescue boats … they were thousands of dollars; one is housed in, I believe, Kearney and the other in Magnetawan. If you fall into Bear, Doe or Buck Lake, I hope you can stay treading water until it comes all the way from Magnetawan. That’s where your taxpayer money is sitting.” “Our stations are going to stay our own and be operated by our council and our fire chiefs. Purchases will still be done through our council and not through the region …” said Reeve Angela Freisen. “If we opt out of this, we’re losing the automatic aid and, as Chief Ross said, we don’t have enough personnel to handle our own fires, (and) we’re going to lose the benefit of group purchasing.” “I would like to see council agree to continue with the training and take an active part in the working out of the funding model over the (next three) years, but in the meantime, our fire department doesn’t suffer,” said Ross. McMurrich/Monteith council directed staff to notify the six municipalities participating in the regional firefighter training agreement that the following should be added to the draft agreement. The funding model will be discussed within three months of signing; the proposed allowance be submitted by invoice, not automatic payment, and all cost increases must be decided by unanimous vote of all the municipalities. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
“Let Me Tell You What I Mean,” by Joan Didion (Alfred A. Knopf) Back in 1968, Joan Didion identified a problem with the mainstream media. “The only American newspapers that do not leave me in the grip of a profound physical conviction that the oxygen has been cut off from my brain, very probably by an Associated Press wire …,” she begins in an essay that goes on to criticize traditional news outlets, including the wire service carrying this review, for pretending that there is such a thing as neutral, unbiased, objective reporting. That article, “Alicia and the Underground Press,” was a snarky ode to alternative newspapers in the 1960s like the East Village Other and Berkeley Barb that might have been “amateurish and badly written” but at least had the virtue of speaking directly to their readers, and speaking to them as friends. Some 50 years later, in a media landscape dominated by players who present “alternative facts” with a straight face, and consumers who get their news through platforms tailored to their specific interests, Didion’s critique seems more prescient than ever. The essay is one of 12 she wrote between 1968 and 2000 that have been collected in a new volume, “Let Me Tell You What I Mean,” sure to be of interest to Didion completists and fans of such cultural touchstones as “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” and “The Year of Magical Thinking.” Others haven’t aged as well. Another piece from 1968, about Gamblers Anonymous, quotes the people at a meeting in ungrammatical English, speaking “as if from some subverbal swamp.” In “A Trip to Xanadu,” she sneers at tourists at the Hearst Castle in their “slacks and straw hats and hair rollers.” But when she punches up instead of down, the results can be devastating, as in her portrait from the same year of Nancy Reagan, then the wife of the California governor, portrayed as a media-savvy control freak and distant mother to her then 10-year-old son. Similarly, her 2000 profile of Martha Stewart captures what most observers missed at the time — that Martha wasn’t selling homemaking, she was selling success. The best of the bunch have to do with the subject Didion, 86, knows and cares about most — being a writer. In essays like “Why I Write,” whose title she borrowed from George Orwell, “Telling Stories” and “Last Words,” she makes it clear why she has been an essential voice in American arts and letters for more than half a century. Ann Levin, The Associated Press
UNI Global Union, that represents about 20 million workers globally, said on Monday it helped form Alpha Global, Google's union alliance that includes multiple countries such as the United States, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and the UK. "The problems at Alphabet ... are not limited to any one country, and must be addressed on a global level," UNI's General Secretary Christy Hoffman said.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday brought an end to lawsuits over whether Donald Trump illegally profited off his presidency. The justices threw out Trump’s challenge to lower court rulings that had allowed lawsuits to go forward alleging that he violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause by accepting payments from foreign and domestic officials who stay at the Trump International Hotel. The high court also ordered the lower court rulings thrown out as well and directed appeals courts in New York and Richmond, Virginia, to dismiss the suits as moot now that Trump is no longer in office. The Associated Press
POLITIQUE. Le Bloc Québécois et la députée de Shefford, Andréanne Larouche, sont convaincus que le NPD et les conservateurs accepteront de procéder rapidement à un court amendement législatif à la loi C-4 sur la prestation canadienne de maladie pour la relance économique (PCMRE) si le gouvernement rappelle le Parlement. Selon le chef du Bloc, Yves-François Blanchet, «le premier ministre hésite à régler tout de suite et clairement le grave problème de la prime au voyage de 1 000 $ qui découle de cette loi» malgré la volonté louable de remédier à la situation. Face aux critiques contre le versement de la PCMRE aux personnes de retour d’un voyage d’agrément, Justin Trudeau a promis plus tôt de rectifier le tir sans donner plus de détails. Il a précisé que l’objectif n’avait jamais été d’envoyer un chèque à ceux qui décident de partir en voyage, à l’encontre des avis de la santé publique. «La façon la plus rapide et efficace de procéder est un court amendement législatif à la loi C-4 qui réserve la prestation (PCMRE) uniquement en cas des déplacements essentiels. Cela exclut évidemment les vacances», a tranché la députée de Shefford, Andréanne Larouche, selon un communiqué de son bureau. Elle précise que le rappel du Parlement peut se faire avec moins de 50 députés présents afin d’adopter une motion sur les procédures pour une durée de 24 heures et ensuite voter une loi. «Je n’imagine pas que quiconque voudra profiter de la situation pour soutirer des gains partisans». L’élue de Shefford estime que la solution du Bloc évite au gouvernement «un règlement unilatéral» ou de «pelleter vers l’avant la solution jusqu’au moment des impôts à la fin avril». Manque de leadership «Non seulement le gouvernement de Justin Trudeau a manqué de leadership depuis mars et suscité une vive inquiétude au Québec, mais il n’était pas du tout préparé à livrer les vaccins en quantité et en temps opportun, ce que dénoncent les experts en santé», a expliqué Yves-François Blanchet dans le communiqué. Les bloquistes reprochent à Ottawa d’avoir réagi trop tard lors de l’apparition de la nouvelle variante du coronavirus au Royaume-Uni et de n’avoir pas été rigoureux dans les contrôles auprès des voyageurs. Andréanne Larouche exhorte le gouvernement Trudeau à réduire les passages aux frontières aux déplacements essentiels, à demander des tests au départ et à l’arrivée et à « superviser lui-même de façon étroite les quarantaines.» «Il faut qu’Ottawa, comme les États-Unis et l’Europe, impose le remboursement des billets à des compagnies aériennes qu’il s’apprête à aider généreusement. Il est inacceptable que des gens qui ont acheté de bonne foi un voyage pour leur famille, avant même la pandémie, se fassent dire de renoncer au voyage et à l’argent», a-t-elle plaidé sur les vols annulés, assurant les libéraux de la collaboration sincère du parti. Godlove Kamwa, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Canada Français
The Township of Perry passed three beginning-of-the-year finance bylaws at the Jan. 20 council meeting. The province of Ontario requires that municipalities pass bylaws at the beginning of each year to allow for borrowing to cover expenditures, authorizing the interim tax levy and setting tax reduction rates for specific property tax classes. So, What Is an Interim Tax Levy? The interim tax levy allows the treasurer to issue temporary tax notices and set due dates, interest and penalty amounts for the new year. According to a report to council, this allows the municipality to maintain a positive cash flow and reduce the need for borrowing funds to cover operational expenses. How Does That Affect You? This year an interim tax payment in the amount of 50 per cent of the total amount of taxes for municipal and school purposes levied on the property shall be levied on all property classes. The tax levy is payable in two instalments on Feb. 25, 2021, and April 25, 2021. What Does the ‘Borrowing Bylaw’ Mean? The borrowing bylaw allows the municipality to temporarily borrow funds to cover operating expenses when necessary. The maximum amount of money allowed to be borrowed, according to the bylaw, is $500,000. The bylaw also includes a clause saying that, to access funds, a resolution must be passed by the council stating the facility and the amount to be borrowed. What Is a Tax Reduction Bylaw? The tax reduction bylaw sets out reductions on vacant and excess commercial and industrial property tax rates as well as rate reductions for first-class farmland in all property classes. These rate reductions are set out by the province of Ontario. What Do the Provincial Tax Reduction Rates Look Like This Year? The tax rate reductions for 2021 are: · The vacant land and excess land in the commercial property class is 30 per cent. · The vacant land and excess land in the industrial property class is 35 per cent. · First class of farmland awaiting development in residential/farm, multi-residential, commercial or industrial class is 75 per cent while the second class of farmland waiting development is zero per cent. Commercial property class includes all commercial offices, shopping centres and parking lot properties. Industrial property class includes all large industrial properties and first/second class of farmland awaiting development consist of land defined in accordance with provincial regulations. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
Calgary police evacuated a condo complex in Inglewood on Sunday after reports of a woman with a weapon trying to force her way into several residences escalated into a standoff that lasted for several hours. Police were called to the SoBow complex at the 100 block of Inglewood Park southeast just before 4 p.m., the Calgary Police Service said in a release early Monday. The woman got into one of the units and the occupants fled to safety without injury, police said. "Officers conducted a rapid entry into the building, evacuating occupants while searching for the suspect, who was located and contained in a unit," the release said. Residents of the building were taken to a safe location while negotiators and the tactical unit were brought to the scene. The fire department was also called to assist because what was thought to be smoke was seen coming from the building. But it was later determined there was no fire and the apparent smoke was the result of a fire extinguisher that had been released, police said. The suspect was taken into custody at about 1:30 a.m. Police said the investigation is ongoing and no further information can be released at this point.
After arguments between residents who lived near Meadowcrest beach erupted in the later summer, McDougall’s council has decided that boats will not be permitted to launch from that location. At the previous meeting in December, Leduc brought forward three recommendations to council on how to remedy the situation at the small beach. The first option was to operate the beach the same as before the pandemic, with the launching of small boats limited to a vessel that a person can carry to the water. Option two was to operate the beach with the added restriction of no vessel launching of any kind, and the third option was to allow people to launch small boats or vessels on trailers only from ice out until May 31 and then again from Sept. 15 to the time the lake ices. Here are some quotes from the council meeting regarding the decision: “This isn’t a resolution, it’s just direction to staff; currently it is established as a beach and I spoke at the previous meeting about leaving it as a beach and my position hasn’t changed on that,” said Mayor Dale Robinson. “Are there any other spots on Portage Lake where it’s possible to look at for future boat ramps?” asked Coun. Joe Ryman. “The spot at Portage Creek right now is municipal property; there is no dock there currently, so there really is no encumbrance for us to put a dock there if we needed to, as it is our property,” said parks and recreation director Brian Leduc. At the Jan. 20 council meeting, three councillors and the mayor voted in favour of the beach remaining simply a beach. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
TORONTO — Scientists and health experts are launching a nationwide campaign to counter misinformation about COVID-19 and related vaccines. The #ScienceUpFirst initiative is an awareness and engagement campaign that will use social media to debunk incorrect information and boost science-based content. The campaign team says in a news release that it emerged from conversations between Nova Scotia Sen. Stan Kutcher and Timothy Caulfield, Canadian research chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta. The initiative is now being led by the Canadian Association of Science Centres, COVID-19 Resources Canada, and the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta. Anyone interested in participating can follow @scienceupfirst and use the #ScienceUpFirst hashtag on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and tag the account to amplify science-based posts and alert it to misinformation posts. The campaign says there is a marked rise in misinformation and conspiracy theories related to COVID-19 vaccines, virus transmission and government response, and it represents a threat to the health and safety of Canadians. "Misinformation is a dire, imminent threat to the lives of all Canadians and is proven to be one of the factors fueling COVID-19 infections, and dissuading Canadians from getting vaccinated," says Caulfield. "The #ScienceUpFirst initiative seeks to help fill an urgent need to beat back misinformation with the truth, and save lives." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
Canada's opposition leaders attacked the federal Liberal government's COVID-19 vaccination program today in their first encounter in the House of Commons following the winter break. Vaccine deliveries will grind to a halt this week as a shutdown at Pfizer's plant in Belgium disrupts shipments from that company. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole said that while the prime minister promised a steady supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech shots in the first three months of 2021, the country's inoculation efforts are now "in jeopardy" and provinces are scrambling to meet vaccination targets. The delivery delay is already prompting some provinces — notably Alberta and Ontario — to warn that they will have to curtail vaccination appointments in the weeks ahead as they direct the existing supplies of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine to patients who need their second shots. "We want to see our government succeed but this prime minister has abandoned us. The Liberal plan for vaccines must be reviewed by all of Parliament. We must work together to improve the Liberal vaccine plan and get Canadians back to work," O'Toole said. "We wish we could trust the prime minister but this situation demands Parliament's urgent attention." WATCH: Opposition leader calls out Liberals over vaccine planning: Earlier this month, the federal government projected that 208,650 Pfizer doses would arrive this week. Instead, Canada is getting no doses at all this week — and a dramatically reduced shipment next week — as the company retools its plant to pump out many more shots this year than planned. While Canada was expecting 366,000 doses of the Pfizer product to be delivered the week of Feb. 1, just 79,000 are now slated to arrive. O'Toole said the Liberal government should have prepared for delivery disruptions like this one with a contingency plan to prevent the provinces from running dry. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics at the Public Health Agency of Canada, has said Pfizer deliveries will be reduced by roughly 50 per cent over a four-week period — and Canada doesn't know for certain how many doses will arrive over that time period. The Health Canada website that tracks vaccines has been scrubbed of all Pfizer delivery forecasts, citing "changes to manufacturing timelines." "Unknown means there is no real plan," O'Toole said. "Canadians are worried. We're in the second wave of the pandemic, there's U.K. strains and this week we're receiving zero Pfizer vaccines." Moderna, which delivers shots to Canada every three weeks, is expected to deliver roughly 230,000 doses over the first week of February. Later in question period, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged the "ongoing challenges" with the global supply vaccine chain but said Canada is expecting "hundreds of thousands" of Pfizer doses, some in February. He said Canada expects to have enough doses on hand this year to vaccinate every Canadian who wants a shot by the end of September. WATCH | Opposition slams government for vaccine delays: Michelle Rempel Garner, the Conservative health critic, questioned that promise, saying that Canada needs to start getting through tens of thousands of vaccinations each day to reach that target. With only 100,000 people fully vaccinated so far, Canada would have to administer well over 200,000 shots a day for the next 248 days to fully vaccinate Canadians with the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna products. O'Toole said the Liberal government never should have partnered with the Chinese firm CanSino Biologics to develop a vaccine — a collaboration that was derailed last summer when China refused to ship vaccine samples to Canada for clinical trial testing. After that partnership was shelved, O'Toole said, Canada then turned to procuring promising vaccine candidates from U.S. firms like Pfizer and Moderna. Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand has disputed this version of events. Speaking to reporters in December, Anand said the CanSino deal fell within former industry minister Navdeep Bains' portfolio, not her own, and nothing about the project prevented her from negotiating with other companies. Anand has said she started talks with the companies behind promising vaccine candidates in July — companies that were recommended by the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force — before Canada walked away from the ill-fated CanSino partnership in late August. Canada was among the first countries in the world to sign deals with Pfizer and Moderna. "Engagement and negotiations with COVID-19 vaccine suppliers began in early July 2020, following the receipt of recommendations from the vaccine task force in June," a spokesperson for the minister told CBC News. WATCH | NDP's Singh questions PM Trudeau about vaccine delivery O'Toole said Canada should have sought domestic manufacturing of vaccine candidates to avoid having to depend on other countries for supply. The government did not pursue domestic manufacturing rights for the AstraZeneca product. Asked what he'd do to jump-start the stalled vaccination campaign, O'Toole said he would encourage Trudeau to obtain doses from the Pfizer manufacturing plant in Kalamazoo, Mich., which is not experiencing the same disruptions as the Belgian facility and is only 220 kilometres away from the Detroit-Windsor border crossing. "There are vaccines being made not far from us, in Kalamazoo. Did the prime minister ask for the ability to have that plant used, not just rely on the retooled plant in Belgium?" O'Toole said. "There are a lot of options here, but there's never any leadership from Mr. Trudeau." Anand has said the Michigan facility's product is earmarked for the American market in the first quarter of this year. While there will be significant delivery disruptions over the next month, Anand has said that Canada still expects to receive 4 million doses of the Pfizer product and 2 million Moderna shots in the first three months of this year. That would be enough to vaccinate 3 million people by the end of March. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh pointed out that the prime minister and his office are mired in a scandal of their own making over the abrupt resignation of former governor general Julie Payette amid reports of workplace harassment. "The focus should be on the pandemic and the struggles that we're going through. This has become a distraction," Singh said of the Payette affair. "The focus ... should be entirely on making sure people are vaccinated."
Structure and rhythm are important for Ayden Rana. The six-year-old is on the autism spectrum and requires a little extra help to complete his studies. When the winter break turned into an extended period away from the classroom, keeping most children and teachers at home, it presented a unique challenge for Ayden and his mother, Karen, who found herself playing the role of teacher, therapist, support worker and parent. “He was very receptive the first two days, I would say, to virtual learning because he got to see the teacher and the educational assistants,” Karen said. But the novelty quickly wore off. Studying became much harder. Learning became even more challenging than usual. Touch and sense are key to Ayden’s educational development, meaning the curiously flat, two-dimensional world of pixels on a screen, fell far short of meeting his needs. “The educational assistant realized his needs for tactile material — he’s not grasping the Chromebook — so she put together a binder with all the activities,” Karen explained. “All the math, English, all the subjects he would do at school, along with his puzzles, his timer [and] his favorite pens [are included].” The binder is carefully prepared by his educational assistant every week and left for Ayden to pick up, offering new material to make the best of a difficult situation. For some other students with special needs, learning at home — even with the extra work and resources — isn’t a possibility. As a result, despite the province-wide shutdown and stay-at-home-order, some are still physically in school. A few teachers are on hand, along with a small army of special education assistants. At the Peel District School Board, they are referred to as educational assistants (EAs) and a large number of the board’s 3,800 EAs are reporting for duty. At Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, where they are known as educational resource workers (ERWs) 40 school sites are open and staffed. A major issue for EAs working at PDSB is a lack of coordination and tracking by the board, Natacha Verdiel, president of OPSEU Local 2100, the union representing EAs at PDSB, explained to The Pointer. Unlike students and teachers who cohort together, EAs do not have to sign into classrooms and are not included in contact tracing efforts when an outbreak is declared. “An EA might cross cohorts 14 times on any given day,” she explained. “They might report to 12 different classrooms to provide support to high needs students. They’re now cross contaminating between students, that’s alarming, and no one knows they’ve been in that classroom.” As a result of their specific profiles, many children with special needs are unable to wear a mask. Some even find staff wearing them to be upsetting and can attempt to physically remove them. Depending on a child’s age, size and unique needs, such behaviour can be challenging. In some instances the desire to create normalcy can even lead to aggressive actions by some students. That’s why some personal protective measures to mitigate the risk of viral spread can’t be used. “Here’s what I don’t think the public understands: the students that are reporting to the physical building right now are students who cannot wear masks,” Verdiel said. “They are all unmasked, all of the students are unmasked. Most of them are extremely behavioral, they are our highest needs students in the system.” Verdiel described one situation where a particular student coughs, spits and sneezes as part of their behavioural profile. “The staff in there are covered in bodily fluids, all day long,” she said, lamenting the lack of effective personal protective equipment and how masks can act “as a target” for some students who attempt to remove them or strike the workers wearing them. For the parents of children with special needs, the role EAs, ERWs and the education system play can be nothing short of a miracle. Staff are able to look after children during the day, calm them and tend to their various behavioural and physical needs. “Some of our workers have phenomenal skills… some of them are outrageously amazing at what they can do,” Pam Bonferro, president of the Dufferin Peel Educational Resource Workers’ Association, told The Pointer. “They’re like pied pipers, they walk into a room and the students calm down.” Karen Rana agrees, describing Ayden’s EA as a rock. “He changed three classes [due to COVID-19 attendence variations], so you can imagine,” she said. “Three classes, three teachers, three sets of students, but with the same assistant. She has been the constant and it’s been very positive for Ayden.” The work of classroom assistants is often born of passion. As a vocation, many pursue the work out of a desire to help care for children and assist with their challenging development. “It’s not that they don't want to support the students that are there,” Verdiel added. “They want the Province to acknowledge that those who are reporting in person are unable to maintain any kind of physical distancing at all. Their job is very, very, very high risk in terms of exposure to bodily fluids.” Highlighting the fact the government is working hard during a crisis, but still missing key supports, Bonferro said ERWs and EAs are being inadvertently positioned in opposition to the very families they support. “What they have technically done is they have pitted the EAs against the parents,” she said. “They are taking the EAs voice away, if an EA speaks up, they’re going to be kind of vilified as the bad guy [in the] situation. So they are way beyond stressed and what’s really tearing them apart is: they have a conscience, they care about the kids they work with.” The Ministry of Education did not provide a response in time for publication. Despite working in the same space as teachers, classroom assistants have unique demands, detailed by the unions who represent them. Where teachers can safely distance from pupils, even in the same classroom, EAs and ERWs are unable to make the space. Their duties include helping students use the bathroom, feeding and, when needed, physically helping them to calm down. “The exposure level that a teacher has when they’re standing in front of a classroom teaching versus the exposure that an EA has when they’re being spat in the face or restraining a student [is significantly different],” Verdiel said. The unions have several specific asks of the Doug Ford government to improve the situation. They include pandemic pay, more robust PPE and rapid access to the vaccine. Under the Province’s current vaccination rollout, teachers and classroom assistants find themselves on the list at the same time. The second phase, which also includes older adults living in the community and several other key worker categories, could run as late as July, which risks some EAs and ERWs not being vaccinated until during the summer break. “The government has taken on the position that EAs are now essential workers; however, they are not being provided with the same level of pay or protection,” Verdiel said. “The NDP has long called for pandemic pay for all frontline workers, and believes educators should be included among the groups prioritized to get their vaccine,” NDP Education Critic Maritt Stiles told The Pointer. “Special education assistants, who are now working in classrooms with vulnerable people, should be vaccinated as soon as possible, when the vaccine becomes available.” PDSB provided a statement offering extensive instructions to EAs around wearing PPE. It did not address questions around contact tracing and EAs working in multiple classrooms. “Since returning from the winter break, all students and staff, including EAs, who have returned to in-person learning and working are required to follow the Active Daily Screening process,” a spokesperson told The Pointer. At DPCDSB, contact tracing does not appear to be an issue and ERWs are carefully monitored. “School principals maintain a record of any ERWs that are working in the school and should a positive COVID case be reported, any staff and students that worked with, or could be considered to be a close contact, would be identified for contact tracing,” Bruce Campbell, general manager of communications and community relations for the board, told The Pointer. As most schools remain closed and the majority of children learn at home, EAs and ERWs continue to show up for work feeling increasingly isolated and vulnerable. “Everybody is sympathetic, everybody understands,” Verdiel said. “Nobody is willing to do anything.” Email: email@example.com Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
Sea ice, ice sheets and glaciers melting 60 per cent faster than in the 1990s