This is a once in a lifetime shot. Seal poses perfectly for a photo, even puts his flipper around girl's waist and stick his tongue out. @val_trovato
This is a once in a lifetime shot. Seal poses perfectly for a photo, even puts his flipper around girl's waist and stick his tongue out. @val_trovato
WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
ARECIBO, Puerto Rico — A huge, already damaged radio telescope in Puerto Rico that has played a key role in astronomical discoveries for more than half a century has now completely collapsed. The telescope’s 900-ton receiver platform fell onto the reflector dish more than 400 feet below on Tuesday. The U.S. National Science Foundation had earlier announced that the Arecibo Observatory would be closed. An auxiliary cable snapped in August, causing a 100-foot gash on the 1,000-foot-wide (305-meter-wide) reflector dish and damaged the receiver platform that hung above it. Then a main cable broke in early November.DáNica Coto, The Associated Press
In an unusual year, it's more important than ever to celebrate the people who go above and beyond to help others. That was the message at the small ceremony that officially bestowed Fort Frances' citizen of the year Gabby Hanzuk with her recognition and plaque. The ceremony was held outside at the Rainy Lake Square in downtown Fort Frances due to restrictions on gathering indoors, allowing Hanzuk and some of her friends and supporters the ability and space to safely gather to celebrate the honour. Mayor June Caul was on hand to say a few words and to present Hanzuk with her plaque. Like she did when Hanzuk was announced as the recipient for this year's award, Caul began proceedings by reading from the nomination letter written by Dale Gill that was submitted to the Citizen of the Year committee for consideration. In the letter, Gill pointed to Hanzuk's decades of support of local initiatives like the Special Olympics, Meals on Wheels and Voyageur's Lions Club, among others, as deserving of recognition by the town. “Gabby is also on the board at volunteer bureau, and has volunteered in past to do the taxes for the low income,” Gill's letter read. “She also is a valuable volunteer at the Family Centre. Though Gabby's position for Meals on Wheels is a paid position, I feel that what she does there goes way above and beyond pay. She makes sure that our seniors who can't cook for themselves get a healthy meal every night, even if she has to deliver them by herself, not to mention every one of them get a Christmas goodie bag from her every Christmas. Along the Christmas line, Gabby has volunteered for the Community Christmas dinner for many years.” Speaking to the small gathering at the ceremony, Caul agreed with Gill's letter and acknowledged the work that Hanzuk does for the vulnerable populations in town. “If we didn't have volunteers like you to look after the less fortunate especially, there would be a lot less of a place for them to live here,” she said. “Not very many people have a heart as big as yours, that's for sure. So on behalf of the Town of Fort Frances, it's my pleasure to present this plaque to Gabby Hanzuk, Citizen of the Year 2020 in recognition of tremendous volunteer services to our community.” For all that she does in the community, Gabby stressed that she's still only one person and receives plenty of help from other volunteers and organizations in the region. “June mentioned it, she's been around with me a lot and so has my girlfriend Roz,” Hanzuk said. “Everybody, all the groups and all the places I've gone to and helped out, there's a lot of people that do it. I just happen to be the mouthy one, the one aggressive enough to just say, 'this is what's going to happen, we're going to do this.' You've got to love what you do because it's hard work. Sometimes it's hard work and dedication is key and there's a lot of that in this community. There are so many people that are amazing.” In addition to the people Hanzuk volunteers with, she also acknowledged the many individuals she's met while volunteering. She noted that they also make the work worth doing, though it can occasionally be difficult for reasons one might not expect. “You cannot put a price on all the wonderful people you get to meet and love and care about,” Hanzuk said, speaking particularly about her work with the Special Olympics. “There's also sad times too, when we lose one or two. I know a lot of our athletes are gone now that started in the beginning with us. I've danced at their weddings, some of them, and unfortunately have gone to funerals, but in the end you're a better person for knowing them all.” Caul shared some of her own experiences working with Hanzuk in different capacities, and said the dedication she displays in all the different ways she volunteers makes her more than deserving of the annual award. “For having done what she's done for over 30 years, the stamina it takes and doing stuff when she's not feeling well, she's still out there working as hard as she can,” Caul said. “I've been involved with the Christmas dinner for I believe 25 years now. She was there when I started working there, so she's been involved with that for a very long time. The volunteer bureau mentioned in the nomination, she's been a godsend to that board as well, because she's so giving, her heart is just so big and wonderful and she certainly deserves every accolade she ever gets.” Of the award itself, Hanzuk said she felt overwhelmed when she was told about the decision, as well as honoured by being recognized. “Disbelieving a little bit, but happy nonetheless,” Hanzuk said about being told she had been named Citizen of the Year. “The funny thing is when they called me I didn't say anything because I couldn't believe it. That's probably one of the first times that I was speechless. Anybody who knows me, they know. 'Oh my god, she didn't say something?'” A separate ceremony is being planned for Ray Calder, the other individual who was given special recognition at last week's council meeting for the volunteer work he did during the early COVID-19 pandemicKen Kellar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times
Ontario’s Ministry of Education says the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) will not lose nearly $15.2 million due to a student enrolment decline as anticipated, reducing fears of a budget deficit that all but assured cuts to future student programming. Last week, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced a “stabilization fund” for schools facing budget shortfalls due to low student enrolment — something the HWDSB has advocated for in recent weeks. The funding is “to help alleviate some of the impacts of unexpected enrolment declines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic” and would “provide flexibility for school boards to address a range of unanticipated funding issues,” the province said. Though the province did not initially indicate how much of the funding shortfall it would cover, ministry spokesperson Caitlin Clark told The Spectator on Monday that the board would receive the funding it had lost due to enrolment decline. The HWDSB announced in late October that it would lose a whopping $15.2 million from the province’s Grants for Student Needs (GSN) program because it was short 1,756 students from what it had projected last spring. The shortfall was the primary contributor to a budget deficit that board staff have said could amount to $18 million by the end of the year. With the province agreeing to cover the lost $15.2 million, the board will now face a more manageable deficit of roughly $2.8 million. “This funding will positively contribute to the reduction of our budget deficit and mitigate the financial impact of the unexpected enrolment decrease we experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said HWDSB chair Alex Johnstone in a statement. “Staff will review these measures and share revised financial statements with trustees.” Early in November, in response to the initial funding shortfall, the HWDSB moved to surplus teachers and curb spending across the board in an effort to reduce its deficit by the end of the fiscal year. A report present at the board’s finance committee suggested the board could find savings by reducing teaching staff, self-contained classes, part-time educational assistants, school budgets, funding for governance and more. The board has not indicated if any of these cuts will be reinstated now that the province has agreed to foot the shortfall. Either way, the board will also be tasked with eliminating the remaining deficit in order to balance the budget by the end of the year — a task that is mandated by the province. Running a school board budget deficit is illegal, according to the Ontario Education Act, though Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government has relaxed the rules during the pandemic to allow school boards to run marginal deficits. The ministry said in October that it would accept budget deficits that comprise no more than two per cent of a board’s entire budget, which for the HWDSB is roughly $11.2 million. With an $18-million deficit, the board would exceed the two per cent threshold by approximately $6.8 million, but with a $2.8 million deficit the board would be well within the province’s limit. Jacob Lorinc, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge has denied bail to a man who has refused to pay child support to his ex-wife for the past seven years. Joseph Power, who owes more than $500,000 in child support payments, had been on the run since 2015 from multiple contempt of court warrants for failing to attend family court hearings. He was arrested Nov. 20 in Montreal and returned to Nova Scotia.On Monday, Justice Elizabeth Jollimore denied Power's request to be released on bail pending his sentencing on Dec. 21. Power had offered to use his parents' home as a financial guarantee.His former spouse, Angela Power, said she was "very relieved" by the judge's decision."In 2015, despite the fact that Mr. Power had a wife, a son in school, a home, elderly parents, a brother, the son that we share here in HRM, he decided to leave and go to Denmark and disrupt everybody's lives," she told CBC News."The only way to ensure he appears is to keep him incarcerated."Lengthy sentence likely, says lawyerHalifax lawyer Igor Yushchenko, who is representing Angela Power pro bono, said another high-profile case from Nova Scotia could provide guidance on how long a parent can be sentenced for failure to pay child support.Businessman Vrege Armoyan was sentenced to four years in prison for failing to pay $1.7 million in support to his children in 2015."I believe that a reasonable [sentence] will be three to five years, probably ... based on the precedents," Yushchenko said.Angela Power said her ex-husband is a network security expert who has worked for both national governments and major Canadian banks, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars annually."I assume his money is offshore, and he can bring it back and pay when he decides he wants to," she said.Yushchenko said until a sentence is given, it makes sense for Power to stay behind bars."It's a fundamental principle of the Canadian justice system that someone has to appear before court in this matter, and he failed to do so many times ... justice can't be served if somebody doesn't show up, right?" he said.MORE TOP STORIES
OTTAWA — The federal government says it will not meet a marquee pledge by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to lift all boil-water advisories in First Nations communities by March 2021.Indigenous Services Canada says at least 22 long-term water advisories in 10 First Nations communities will remain in place beyond that deadline, which was set following an ambitious 2015 Liberal election promise to lift them all within five years."What communities want is not an Ottawa-imposed deadline," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said Wednesday during a news conference in Ottawa."It’s a long-term commitment to access to clean water."The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into efforts to upgrade water systems and carry out on-site training, with supply chains snarled and construction put off as some reserves opted to restrict travel, the department said at an earlier briefing."COVID has really changed everything," Miller said. “Because of COVID, many projects lost a full construction season."The complexity of projects, which can include infrastructure overhauls and depend on increasingly unreliable winter roads, contributed to the delay even before the pandemic, he said. Hiring and retaining qualified operators for water and wastewater treatment plants on remote sites has posed another challenge.Miller, who has held the Indigenous services portfolio since November 2019, sought to shield Trudeau from blame for the failed goal."Ultimately, I bear the responsibility for this, and I have the responsibility and the duty to get this done," he said, calling the continued lack of access to reliable drinking water "totally unacceptable."The department says 97 boil-water advisories have been lifted since 2016, while 59 remain in place — about three-quarters of them in Ontario — in 41 communities.In late October, about 250 residents of Neskantaga First Nation in northern Ontario, which has had a boil-water advisory in place for 25 years, were evacuated from their homes following the discovery of an oily sheen in its reservoir.Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said Wednesday he was frustrated but not surprised by Ottawa's shortfall."First Nations have good reason to be disappointed by the federal government’s announcement that after more than five years in office, it will miss its own target to provide safe drinking water to all Indigenous communities across Canada," he said in a statement."While there has been significant progress in recent years, it clearly is not enough."Miller acknowledged that initially, communities were not “sounded” out on whether the March 2021 target was reasonable.He said he hopes up to 20 more advisories will be lifted by year's end, but expects at least a dozen communities will still not have access to potable water by the spring."You come down to about 12 or a few more communities, some of whom have seen serious delays due to COVID — and they’re working hard to clear them — and others that have priorities that they want addressed before they lift their water advisories," he said, noting that communities make the call on whether to lift advisories, not Ottawa."I think we didn’t appreciate the state of decay of water systems when we came into power in 2015," he added, pointing to "decades of neglect."Opposition parties slammed the federal government for falling short of its goal."We weren't totally surprised by this, but at the same time, there's a pretty significant disappointment in it being actually acknowledged and outright spoken ... by the minister today," Conservative MP Gary Vidal, his party's critic for Indigenous services, said in an interview.In a separate statement, Vidal called for a more commercially driven approach that draws on the "brightest business minds and entrepreneurs" to get taps flowing safely.NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called the problem "disgusting" and "inexcusable.""Imagine Minister Miller going to his riding in Montreal: 'I apologize, but we missed our deadline to get you clean drinking water.' Would he ever think it was appropriate?" Singh asked at a news conference.“This is not a broken promise. This is a betrayal of trust, and it sends a message that Indigenous people don't matter."In its fall economic statement Monday, the Liberal government pledged to invest $1.5 billion this year to work toward lifting all long-term drinking water advisories in Indigenous communities, on top of $2.1 billion already committed since 2016.More than $1.65 billion of that has already flowed to 626 water and wastewater projects, including 348 that are now completed, according to Indigenous Services.The beefed-up funding reflects a long-term commitment, particularly to operations and maintenance, so that communities can continue to tap into clean water indefinitely, Miller said.Under current funding policies for operations and maintenance on reserves, Ottawa typically provides about 80 per cent of the cash while First Nations have to float the remaining 20 per cent.Miller said Indigenous Services is still hammering out a policy adjustment, "but my full expectation is that will move to 100 per cent."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.— with files from Maan AlhmidiChristopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
When Jonathan Ferguson found out the Atlantic travel bubble had ended, his plans to spend the holidays with family in Charlottetown went up in the air.The president of Mount Allison University's student union said many of his peers are also waiting to see if travel restrictions continue when exams end on Dec. 12. But many are expecting to stay in Sackville for the holidays."Now with the collapse of the bubble a lot of Maritimers, a lot of Atlantic students are more in favour of the idea of staying, because we know that we have friends around that we might be able to see once we go back to the yellow phase," Ferguson said.Universities across the province have decided to extend school break for the Christmas season, pushing back the start of January classes. With many students expected to leave New Brunswick, the extension is designed to provide enough time to self-isolate after returning.People travelling to Newfoundland and Labrador, or Prince Edward Island are now required to self-isolate for 14 days. Nova Scotia does not require Atlantic Canadian residents to self-isolate. That rule also applies when returning to New Brunswick. That means a student returning home to Prince Edward Island would need to spend 28 days total in isolation.Those requirements prompted several Nova Scotia universities to also make calendar changes.More time to self-isolateMount Allison decided to adjust its academic calendar earlier this term to allow students to have a longer break and time to self-isolate before classes resume for the winter semester. The next term will start on Jan. 18.Ferguson said students have welcomed the change."That was done with out-of-bubble international students particularly in mind, but thankfully it's really forward-thinking planning that was done," he said.About 60 per cent of Mount Allison's more than 2,000 students are from outside the province.The university had a mix of virtual and in-person classes, before the remainder of the fall term went online last week in response to rising COVID-19 cases in the region. Exams will also be held entirely online.The University of New Brunswick will be starting the winter term a week late, on Jan. 11. Classes will also only be online for the first week to allow for students to continue their isolation period.Kathy Wilson, UNB's associate vice-president academic, said students were encouraged to stay for fall reading week because of isolation requirements. Now the longer break will make it easier to head home."It also gave our staff an opportunity for a bit of a reprieve over the holiday time," she said. "Everybody is working really hard."Break from 'virtual fatigue'St. Thomas University is not offering in-person classes this academic year, but also decided to push back the start of the winter term. Classes will resume on Jan. 11 instead of Jan. 6.Ryan Sullivan, the associate vice-president of enrolment management, said the university wanted to offer more of a break from "virtual fatigue" after adapting online learning for the fall."We felt there was an opportunity there to give students and faculty a bit more time between the two semesters," he said.Professors are teaching online, although they are allowed under the yellow phase to organize some optional, in-person activities with physical distancing. The second semester will also be delivered remotely.Sullivan said the longer break will also allow more time to complete self-isolation for students who return home for Christmas. Only about 25 per cent of St. Thomas students are from outside New Brunswick."We have students who are still trying to figure out what their plans are," he said. "I think most, from our general sense of things, are still planning to head home."The University of Moncton is also delaying on-site courses by one week in January, but continuing to deliver classes online starting on Jan. 11. Spokesperson Nathalie Haché said the change was made to allow students and staff to be able to spend time with family for the holidays. Practical courses, which are offered in-person, won't start until Jan. 18, allowing students who need to self-isolate to begin after New Year's Day.'It has created uncertainty'As New Brunswick students prepare to write exams, many are waiting to see how the pandemic will play out in the days ahead.If travel restrictions continue, Ferguson is unsure if he'll return home for the break if it means self-isolating after his return. "I understand that obviously that might not be possible, and we've just kind of got to play it by ear as Maritimers and see how the COVID cases continue," he said.Wilson said some UNB students have decided to stay to avoid isolation. For those who decide to travel, the university will work with them to develop an individualized self-isolation plan."It has created uncertainty. I think we have students who are still perhaps revisiting their plans to go home," she said.Both the Fredericton and Saint John campuses are currently under orange-level restrictions, which includes a single-household bubble.Ferguson said he is hopeful Sackville will return to the yellow phase, as community members often invite students who can't make it home to a holiday meal."We hope that the community will be there to support students that are here alone, and we hope students will support other students that are on their own," he said.
BERLIN — Residents of Trier placed flowers and lit candles at the base of the southwestern German city's landmark Roman gate Wednesday in tribute to the five people who were killed and more than a dozen others injured when a man sped an SUV through a central pedestrian zone. His motive remained unclear.A judge ordered the suspect, a 51-year-old local man whose name hasn't been released, held in custody as he is investigated on five counts of murder, and 18 counts of attempted murder and causing bodily harm, prosecutor Peter Fritzen said in a statement.Authorities do not believe the suspect drove into the pedestrians on Tuesday for any political, religious or similar reason, but haven't yet been able to determine a motive, Fritzen said.Statements the suspect made to police immediately after his arrest kept changing and were "partially incomprehensible," the prosecutor said.“The suspect also showed psychological abnormalities in his behaviour during and after his arrest and in police custody,” Fritzen said. A comprehensive psychological examination has been ordered, but at the moment there are no “concrete indications” of a mental health condition that would rule out holding the suspect responsible for his actions.The man had been drinking heavily before the attack, Fritzen said. Questioning will continue over the next few days.“The victims and their families need answers,” Trier Mayor Wolfram Leibe told reporters near the makeshift memorial that was growing at the Roman gate, the Porta Nigra, near where the driver was arrested.The five people killed included a 45-year-old man and his 9 1/2-week-old daughter. The man's wife and 1 1/2-year-old son were among the injured receiving treatment in a hospital, police said.Police originally identified the baby as a 9-month-old but then corrected her age. The others killed were three women, ages 25, 52 and 73.All of those people killed were German citizens, and the man and his baby also had Greek citizenship, Fritzen said.Of the 18 people injured, six were considered in serious condition. The injured included a dual German-Dutch national and a citizen of nearby Luxembourg.Police received the first call about the attack at 1:47 p.m. and were able to apprehend the suspect four minutes later after he stopped the car and they blocked him in.Zig-zagging through the pedestrian zone, the suspect travelled about 800 metres (875 yards) in total, “leaving behind him a trail of dead, injured and rubble,” police said.___An earlier version of this story was corrected to show that the age of the youngest victim is 9 1/2 weeks, not 9 months, based upon corrected information received from police.David Rising, The Associated Press
As the death toll from illicit drug overdoses continues to mount unabated in B.C., advocates want more specialized services and harm reduction measures to help protect young people. Another 162 fatalities occurred in October due to toxic drug supply, for a total of 1,386 deaths in 2020, according to the BC Coroners Service's most recent figures. Of those killed this year by the overdose crisis, 19 per cent, or 269 deaths, were young people aged 29 years old or younger, with 14 of the dead under the age of 19, the coroners service figures show. Kali Sedgemore, a youth outreach worker and peer harm reduction advocate in Vancouver, said the ongoing public health emergency is in its fifth year, and COVID-19 is only exacerbating the harms. “We don’t even have time to grieve because we know we will hear about another (death) the next day,” Sedgemore said. The dangers of the toxic illicit drug supply are being compounded as people following pandemic protocols use illicit drugs alone and as harm reduction services have been reduced, or wait times have increased at overdose prevention sites (OPS) during the pandemic, Sedgemore added. Youth do not make up the largest number of fatalities, but all overdose deaths are largely unnecessary and preventable, Sedgemore said. In 2020, 70 per cent of those who have died from the toxic drug supply fall between the ages of 30 and 59, and males account for 80 per cent of the deaths to date. Most overdose fatalities involved people dying alone indoors. One immediate way to reduce the harms from toxic illicit drugs to youth is to provide harm reduction and OPS services dedicated strictly to their demographic, Sedgemore said. “Youth are vulnerable to manipulation by adults,” Sedgemore said, adding young people are at risk of being exploited sexually or for money or other reasons. Specialized harm reduction services are already hard to come by in urban areas such as Vancouver but are even more scarce in smaller communities and rural areas, Sedgemore said, noting they originally came from a small community from the northern part of Vancouver Island. Plus, young people — especially those under the age of 18 — are often deterred from using harm reduction services or supplies by providers due to their age, or can come under increased scrutiny from staff at these locations, they said. Both of these situations make youth uncomfortable, Sedgemore said. It’s also critical that medical professionals, social workers or other service providers don’t push youth into treatment before they are ready, Sedgemore stressed. Doing so only puts youth at increased risk, forcing them to be more secretive about any illicit drug use and increasing the unwillingness to use harm reduction services or call emergency services in case of an overdose. Research shows abstinence education, or the "just say no to drugs" approach, is not as effective as talking openly about illicit drugs, the associated risks and, if youth should choose to use them, how to do it safely, Sedgemore said. However, there is also the need for more youth treatment beds and shorter wait-lists for youth seeking help, Sedgemore said, especially closer to their own communities. “I don’t think it’s great sending a youth away from their own hometown and the people youth are used to seeing every day.” The B.C. government plans to double the number of treatment beds for youth aged 12 to 24 who are struggling with substance use. A total of 60 young people under the age of 24 lost their lives to fentanyl poisoning from toxic street drugs from January to June 2020, according to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. The province committed $36 million to create another 123 treatment beds for young people, in addition to 20 beds recently established at a new youth facility in the Fraser Valley. Prior to the recent announcements, B.C. had 103 treatment beds for youth. The new beds are part of a broader continuum of care the B.C. government is planning for young people that will include culturally safe, youth-specific services in both rural and smaller city centres, the ministry stated. Building on its network of youth-specific mental health and substance use services, the province will develop eight new Foundry centres, for a total of 19 youth hubs. Foundry centres provide primary care, youth and family peer supports, walk-in counselling, mental health and substance use services and social services all under one roof. Steve Ayers, program manager for the Foundry located in Campbell River on Vancouver Island, agreed that youth benefit from specialized services and being in charge of any decisions about their drug or alcohol use. “If a counsellor is going to really be impactful, they have to let the client drive the process of making changes around substance use,” Ayers said. “The objective of substance use counselling is to help youth have a better life, and what are some concrete ways that might happen, depending on their choices of course,” he said. Many youth use substances to deal with trauma or anxiety, so alternate tools or strategies need to be developed to help young people deal with that suffering, he added. It’s dangerous to assume youth overdoses due to illicit drugs are only a big-city problem, Ayers said. “It’s absolutely a misconception,” he said, adding the issues that fuel youth substance use exist in every community across Canada. However, youth generally don’t tend to be as entrenched with illicit hard drugs as some other age demographics, especially in rural areas where supply might be limited, Ayers said. “If there’s no supply (of illicit drugs) kids will find other things to do to cope with what they are struggling with,” he said. However, kids and families in rural or remote communities such as the Discovery Islands or small communities across North Vancouver Island can face additional challenges or gaps in accessing supports, Ayers said. Many Foundry services are now available online to try to mitigate the challenges for youth living in more isolated communities who need support, especially with travel limitations due to the pandemic, he said. The youth hub also works with schools to meet with students during class time for those who have to bus in and out of Campbell River. Young people and their families just need to reach out and the Foundry will try to find a fix for any stumbling blocks to service, Ayers said. “We always seem to be able to find them and reach them with help,” he said. “Unless they're just not reaching out at all. And honestly, those are the people that we’re scared for most.” Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverRochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Pat Daly was re-elected chairperson of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board at a meeting Tuesday evening, marking his 34th year as a Hamilton trustee. Daly has served on the HWCDSB since 1986 when he first filled the seat that his late father, Pat Daly Sr., left vacant after his sudden death the year prior. “I don’t know if I ever filled them — they were pretty big shoes. But I’ve always tried to do my best,” Daly previously said of his father. At a meeting Tuesday night, he addressed issues concerning leadership and equity in educational opportunity, indicating a focus on these issues as he enters his next term. “With the increased reality of virtual learning and the ever-increasing influence of technology, I believe we are living in an unprecedented time of challenge but equally, or more so, of opportunity to move forward with laser-like focus to create structures and allocate resources that most directly impact those areas that distinguish publicly funded Catholic schools,” he said. Daly has recommended a full review of the board’s leadership development program to ensure a continued recruitment and selection of “faith-filled visionary leaders,” as well as a re-imagining of administrative portfolios to “better align with current and future trends.” “As researchers have concluded, one of the goals of such restructuring would be to assist leaders to remain closer to the core of teaching and learning where they are most likely to make a difference to students,” he said. Daly was born and raised in Mount Hope. He attended Our Lady of the Assumption in Elfrida and later Bishop Ryan High School in Stoney Creek. “All of my years of school were in our system,” he told The Spectator in a 2014 profile. “I had outstanding principals, teachers and coaches right throughout.” Daly enrolled at McMaster University after graduation but only stayed a year, opting instead to return to his family’s construction company, where he stayed until the mid-1990s before taking over as the Catholic board’s chair. He has also served as president of the Ontario English Catholic Trustees’ Association. Jacob Lorinc, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
A recent ruling by the East Ferris Integrity Commissioner has left some residents wondering how much financial interest is required before a conflict must be declared. “What would make it significant?” asks Maggie Preston-Coles, referencing the findings of Integrity Commissioner David King last month. Preston-Coles asked King to investigate her allegation that the East Ferris Planning Advisory Committee chairman John O’Rourke should have declared a conflict on a subdivision application March 27, 2019. As King’s report notes, O’Rourke co-owns the Brownstone Kitchen and Bath in North Bay and does installations for the developer of the subdivision in question. The Brownstone lists the developer’s main business, Degagne Carpentry, as one of their “quality partners” and they are in a promotional photo together for a contest giveaway. King found that there was direct interest for O’Rourke but ruled that, because they are not in a financial partnership and Degagne’s customers can choose kitchen and baths from a variety of options, that it was “remote and insignificant.” King’s report noted that O’Rourke has been well involved in the community for three decades as a hockey coach, chairman of a parent-teachers’ association, and volunteer firefighter. “I have lived in East Ferris for over 30 years and would have to declare a conflict on approximately 85 per cent of all applications based on knowing the parties,” he said, as quoted by King in the report. “In fact, the whole committee would also have to declare based on this as well.” Preston-Coles, however, maintains that there’s a difference in knowing someone as a potential customer than actually doing past, present or future business with a residential subdivision developer. Related: East Ferris, LPAT testing teacher's patience Related: East Ferris planning chairman cleared of pecuniary interest allegations by integrity commissioner Related: Letter - East Ferris conducted robust public process in 25-lot subdivision development She said it’s surprising that King would agree there is a direct interest, a conflict, but then dismiss it as “insignificant, remote” without asking exactly how much business is transacted between them. Degagne’s Carpentry, she explains, has developed multiple subdivisions in East Ferris and has numerous individual residential lots listed for sale. King, she said, should have asked how many kitchens and bathrooms Brownstone has installed for Degagne over the years so it’s clear how much pecuniary interest he has or doesn’t have. Phil Koning, who has written several letters to council about public matters, has his own concerns about how East Ferris is handling the issue. Koning made his thoughts public by posting them on a Facebook page he created prior to the last municipal election in 2018, called Elected by You – East Ferris. He was reacting to a media release East Ferris circulated about news coverage about Preston-Coles’ fight against the subdivision and complaints to the Integrity Commissioner. “The municipal response to the report,” Koning wrote, “seemed to indicate the issue of conflict of interest for Mr. O’Rourke has been resolved. Unfortunately, I do not think that is the case.” Koning referenced negative feedback regarding development during a municipal survey in 2019. He said, “The only way to counter the growth of that attitude is to provide clear evidence of unbiased decisions and absence of any conflicts.” He said King’s report substantiated those concerns without quantifying the line municipal representatives must stay within. “This is where Mr. King’s report falls flat, in my view,” Koning wrote, “…it does nothing to dampen the controversy.” By stating that the pecuniary interest is “too remote or insignificant to influence behaviour,” Koning said King left a major question begging to be answered. “I would think the amount of business historically generated by the relationship would be a better indicator of its significance than the structure of it,” he said, referring to King’s assertion that it wasn’t a true partnership and not exclusive between them. Koning also felt King should have looked into the municipality’s boards and committee policy, developed by council, and not be limited by the Municipal Act. He said East Ferris advises members to declare a conflict to avoid the “appearance” of conflict, and it’s clear from King’s report that there was direct pecuniary interest. “There is no discussion of penalty in the policy, but certainly the fact that a municipality’s policy was not followed puts the entire process in jeopardy,” Koning said. The Integrity Commissioner’s report also noted that the planning advisory board doesn’t make final decisions only recommendations. He also said there’s no record of O’Rourke voting on the subdivision plan (a recorded vote wasn’t requested so the minutes don’t reflect who participated in the decision). Koning said the responsibility falls to council to ensure transparency and accountability for all its committees, agencies, boards, and commissions where East Ferris is represented. “Council members are the ones who should be seeking clarification of these apparent omissions in the Commissioner’s report since ultimately they will be held accountable,” he said. East Ferris Mayor Pauline Rochefort, through chief administrative officer/treasurer Jason Trottier, declined to comment when asked about the points raised by Preston-Coles and Koning. O’Rourke said he didn’t want to “stir the pot” by commenting and King didn’t respond to an email query sent Tuesday. Degagne Carpentry wasn’t asked for comment because nobody has alleged any wrong-doing or policy breach by the developer. King noted in his report that he still investigating Preston-Coles other complaint regarding the conduct of council. She said council had a duty to look into her concerns about O’Rourke’s business conflict when she raised it. And she said council and members of the municipal staff have made residents feel their presence and input unwelcome at the meetings. Preston-Coles has also approached the Ontario Ombudsman about the Integrity Commissioner’s investigation and report but feels it may not be worth her time and effort. She said the Ombudsman can only review the process King followed and not his ruling. Preston-Coles said she has enough on her plate preparing for a Local Planning Appeal Tribunal hearing she requested over council’s approval of the 25-lot subdivision plan. LPAT rescinded its acceptance of changes to her application this summer and recently asked East Ferris to put forward a motion to dismiss it entirely. Meanwhile, Preston-Coles is awaiting word about her complaint about lack of communication from the LPAT staffer assigned to her case, which is supposed to come before Friday. Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca
The number of continuing care facilities in Alberta with COVID-19 outbreaks of two or more cases has more than tripled in three weeks, causing advocates to sound the alarm.In three weeks, the total number of active COVID-19 cases in Alberta care homes has shot to 123 from 40.As of Wednesday morning, 351 residents of long-term care facilities or supportive/home living sites have died of COVID in the province since the pandemic began, according to the government.That's 64 per cent of the 551 reported COVID deaths in Alberta."It's very challenging and quite frankly it's a situation in our province of our own making," said Mike Conroy, CEO of the Brenda Strafford Foundation, which runs a number of Calgary care homes.At one of them, Clifton Manor in southeast Calgary, an ongoing outbreak has led to 74 COVID-19 cases and three deaths.For months, Conroy has been calling for dedicated contact tracing and testing at Alberta continuing care facilities.The care homes that he's in charge of conduct asymptomatic testing every three days during an outbreak.And as recently as last week, Conroy had to wait three days for a batch of swab results — eight of which came back positive."My expectation, and I've been trying to secure a commitment, is that we should get those results in 24 hours, because it's information … the sooner we have the results, the sooner we can take action," he said.Staffing shortages more dire than in springStaffing is another major challenge for care homes as they battle through the second wave, said Lorraine Venturato, a nursing professor at the University of Calgary. "It's kind of coming in like a tsunami and there hasn't been as much attention being focused on continuing care as there was in the first wave and yet the situation is probably more dire now," she said.Venturato said continuing care centres may need to look to other industries — perhaps recruiting laid-off restaurant workers — for help with non-medical jobs."Meals need to be delivered to rooms if a site's in lockdown, so they may need extra people in the kitchen, extra people for delivery, extra people for cleaning," she said.20 hospitals also battle outbreaksCurrently, 20 Alberta hospitals are also now battling COVID-19 outbreaks.According to information published by Alberta Health Services, there are more than 190 COVID cases connected to active hospital outbreaks right now, and at least 20 deaths have been linked to the outbreaks.Hospitals across the province are working to dedicate 2,200 beds for COVID patients, as they did last spring, Premier Jason Kenney said in the legislature on Monday. At Tuesday afternoon's provincial update, Alberta reported 1,307 new cases, with a provincial positivity rate of 8.4 per cent. Alberta has reported more than 1,000 cases a day for nearly two weeks, and ICU and hospital numbers continue to hit record highs.The total number of active cases was 16,628, an increase of 174 from the day before.Conroy adds to calls for 'circuit-breaker' style lockdownFor his part, Conroy says the province's restrictions aren't working and he thinks it's time for a so-called "circuit-breaker" style lockdown.A circuit breaker lockdown is a short period of more stringent restrictions with a defined end point where non-essential services are shut down in order to reduce spread, allowing the system to catch up to the number of cases.Kenney's UCP have fielded repeated calls from doctors and others for a circuit-breaker lockdown in past weeks.Among them, the Alberta government has received letters from groups of hundreds of physicians and three major health-care unions in the province urging the government to institute a "circuit-breaker" targeted lockdown.The retiring head of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, Tom Sampson, also called for up to a 28-day "circuit breaker" lockdown, adding it should happen now to salvage the holiday season.
Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the priority list for the first COVID-19 vaccines is being refined because there won't be enough doses available in the first round to cover the initial groups recommended.
CALGARY — Police in Calgary have ticketed three organizers of an anti-mask rally held over the weekend. The province has banned outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people in order to slow the spread of the COVID-19. Media have reported that hundreds attended the rally in the city's downtown. Artur Pawlowski has been charged under the Public Health Act with contravening a public health order, failing to wear a face covering where required and failing to have a permit for an event. David Pawlowski and Ryan Audette are also charged with contravening a public health order and failing to wear a face covering. A Calgary police spokeswoman says the public health order charges each come with a $1,200 fine and there is a $50 fine under Calgary's mask bylaw. The charge for failing to have a permit does not have a set fine but is to go to court on March 16.Investigators are seeking three additional people who face charges. The Calgary Police Service says in a statement that it's not always safe for officers to issue a ticket at the time of an alleged offence, like during a protest where "emotions are high.""In many instances, tickets are issued in the hours or days after an infraction based on evidence obtained at the time of the event," police said. "We know everyone is struggling right now and our intent is not to punish, but to protect the safety of Calgarians as we work together through this pandemic."This report by The Canadian Press was first published December 2, 2020. The Canadian PressNote to readers: This is a corrected story; a previous version had incorrect charges and fines.
SÉCURITÉ. L’Opération Nez rouge s’adapte à la situation sanitaire actuelle et à ses impacts logistiques en offrant une campagne de sensibilisation numérique du 1er au 31 décembre sur le thème : Prenez les rennes de votre sécurité! «L’Opération Nez rouge fait partie du paysage du temps des Fêtes. Depuis 1984, des centaines de communautés se mobilisent pour leurs localités. Cette année, nous comptons sur vous pour perpétuer cette tradition de décisions éclairées. Planifiez vos déplacements en toute sécurité et devenez des porte-voix de l’Opération Nez rouge auprès de vos collègues, de vos amis, de vos parents. Ensemble, prenons les rennes de notre sécurité!», invite Jean-Marie De Koninck, président fondateur de l’Opération Nez rouge. La campagne de sensibilisation virtuelle sera jumelée à une campagne de dons. «Les dons amassés lors des raccompagnements permettent le développement de projets liés à la jeunesse et au sport amateur localement, et ce, depuis 1984. Dans le contexte sanitaire actuel, cette source de financement ne sera pas disponible cette année, mais l’Opération Nez rouge souhaite pouvoir continuer à soutenir ses maîtres d’œuvre. Une plateforme de dons en ligne, prenez-les-rennes.com… a donc été créée pour cette 37e édition», ajoute-t-on. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
Sickle Point is likely to be sold to a private buyer this week, but for those fighting to conserve the undeveloped land in Kaleden, the decades-long fight is far from over. The sale of Sickle Point out of receivership to a private buyer is to be decided by the courts Thursday, but a local community association, the Penticton Indian Band (PIB) and the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) are still intent on keeping the environmentally-sensitive land free of development. Sale conditions were dropped last week on the 4.8-acre parcel in Kaleden between the Kettle Valley Rail trail on the west and Skaha Lake on the east. With the sale conditions dropped, a judge has to approve the sale which is reportedly happening Dec. 3. Developers seeking to build on one of few remaining wetland and semi-natural habitats along the western shores of Skaha Lake would face some stiff opposition as they have in the past according to Randy Cranston, chair of the Kaleden Community Association who heads up the Save Sickle Point committee. “My gut would say that given the news media we’ve had, and given the statements from the Penticton Indian Band, if I was thinking of making a sealed bid, I would be thinking really seriously about whether I wanted to do that or not from the point of view of the community concerns and the statements made by the Penticton Indian Band,” Cranston said. “I would be asking the question ‘do I think I would ever get to build on this property?’” In a letter sent to Premier John Horgan in November, the committee asks the provincial government to use the Environment and Land Use Act to stall development to conduct an environmental assessment of the area and suggests the RDOS could expropriate the land. That would be a last resort should the regional district approve that course of action, according to Karla Kozakevich, RDOS board chair. “Expropriation is always an option to local government. It’s not something that the board likes to do. It’s often seen as not a nice thing to do, but we have to look at what’s in the best interest of our citizens and the community and that could be the case,” Kozakevich said. “But once again that would be a board decision. We certainly wouldn’t enter into that lightly. We would want to see if there were other options. If we have the money then we would want to have talks with the new owner and see if we could get somewhere with them that was mutually agreeable.” The RDOS board has recently approved a public consultation process asking area taxpayers whether or not the regional district should borrow the funds to purchase the property, although that process takes time and won’t be completed until February 2021. “We’re sort of in a holding pattern right now. We know that there was an offer made on the property and apparently it goes to a court, to a judge (Dec. 3) is what I’m hearing. Where other bids can go in, sealed bids, to a judge,” Kozakevich said. “We’re not part of this process because we don’t have the funds available at this time. So, we can’t go be a part of that bid without having approval from the electorate to borrow that kind of money.” The public consultation ends on Feb. 8, and after that, should the public approve borrowing money, the RDOS would likely attempt to make an offer to the new owners. “My assumption right now is somebody else other than the current owner will own that property at that time. We don’t know who, obviously, and we don’t know what they will be paying either,” Kozakevich said. “So, whether the board decides to go to that new owner and make them an offer, that’s going to be discussed and a decision of the board — if the public approves the money. It’s all hinging on that.” “We just have to wait and watch and then try and make a decision after Feb. 8 as to how we want to try and move forward on that property.” The Penticton Indian Band has been opposing development in the area for years, and says the band has right and title to the land. The PIB is engaged in discussions with the RDOS on exploring options going forward, according to James Pepper, director of natural resources for the PIB. “This is a title and rights issue from the Penticton Indian Band perspective. PIB Chief and council have been meeting to discuss what all the available options are and ensuring that they’re all followed up on and exhausted,” Pepper said. “The actions the regional district are taking are good, but there’s also actions the band is taking from a title and rights perspective the council is initiating. That’s broader, that’s reaching out to the different government entities and making sure they understand what title and rights means and how it applies in this particular circumstance.” The Save Sickle Point committee, which has fundraised and advocated to keep the area clear of development, is not going anywhere after the sale. “Even if this sale goes through, and there is still the possibility it won’t go through … that doesn’t mean the community is going to lay down and roll over,” Cranston said. He believes developing the property would prove difficult due to it’s proximity to the KVR trail. “There is road access to this property if someone was going to build there, that road access Kettle Valley Railway. That means that construction vehicles and then after that individual homeowner vehicles are going to be driving on the same KVR that thousands of people bike on and hundreds of people walk and run on.”Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle
CANSO --There’s some good news coming out of the latest meeting of the Canso & Area Stakeholders Group held on Nov. 30, 2020; in this second wave of COVID-19, there have been no positive tests in the Eastern Zone. This news comes from notes provided to The Journal by group co-chair Susan O’Handley from the meeting Monday night. She also wrote that physician coverage will be supplied steadily up to the end of December at Eastern Memorial Hospital in Canso and the hospital is now fully staffed with nurses. In the continued effort to recruit permanent physicians to the area, a webpage is under development and housing has been located in Philips Harbour, if needed. The process for booking lab appointments has changed from calling the Eastern Memorial Hospital to calling a central intake number (1-855-867-8821) or booking online at booking.nshealth.ca. This system was adopted, wrote O’Handley, to reduce the amount of time lab staff were spending on the phone making appointments instead of being in the lab. The next meeting of the group will take place in mid-January. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
As COVID-19 cases soar in Alberta and hospital capacity is stretched, the province has reached out to the federal government and the Canadian Red Cross for help, CBC News has learned.A federal source with direct knowledge of the situation says Alberta has asked the federal government and the Red Cross to supply field hospitals to help offset the strain COVID-19 is having on the health-care system.The source said Alberta would likely receive at least four field hospitals — two from the Red Cross and another two from the federal government. The source, speaking on condition of confidentiality, said there was no request for human resources to staff the hospitals and no request for support from the military. The source said a formal request has still not been sent by the province, but officials have been discussing in detail the level of support Alberta could receive. Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu is scheduled to speak with Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro on Wednesday to discuss the requests and what other supports Ottawa can offer the province during the pandemic. A provincial government official confirmed to CBC News that a request had been made for field hospital help, but said the request represented contingency planning only at this point.The official said Alberta Health Services is gathering resources and materials it may need, but there is no plan yet to staff or construct the hospitals.'Responsible planning'Alberta Premier Jason Kenney dismissed a suggestion that the requests indicated failure by the province to manage the pandemic effectively."No, I think it's a sign of responsible planning on our part for [a] potential extreme scenario," Kenney said at a news conference Wednesday.With around 8,500 beds at 100 hospitals, Kenney said the province can likely dedicate 2,200 to 2,300 of those to COVID-19 patients. There are a little more than 500 patients in beds at this time."The reality is we have and can continue to create capacity as we expect, quite bluntly, the hospitalization numbers to go up, given the new cases in the last few weeks," Kenney said."But that demonstrates that we're not anywhere at the point of having to call on that kind of overflow capacity."An official from Public Safety Canada said they have not received any requests for field hospitals from any other provinces or territories.Infection recordsAlberta continues to set new daily COVID-19 infection records and leads the country in the number of active cases per capita. It has also sometimes led the country in total active cases. For example, on Tuesday, there were 16,628 active cases in Alberta, compared to 14,524 in Ontario — a province with more than three times as many people.On Wednesday, the province reported 1,685 new cases. Alberta has reported more than 1,000 cases each day for nearly two weeks. There were 504 people in hospital and 97 in ICUs on Wednesday. A total of 561 people in the province have died from the disease since the start of the pandemic.Edmonton NDP MLA and former Alberta health minister Sarah Hoffman said she was frustrated and angry about how the situation in the province had progressed."It's just so incredibly disappointing, when we knew this was coming. It's one of the reasons why we've been asking for modelling data, since September," Hoffman said. "It's beyond irresponsible."Provincial restrictionsThe last time Kenney appeared at a COVID-19 update was on Nov. 24 when he introduced new restrictions on social gatherings, among other measures, in an attempt to stem the rising tide of cases while continuing to focus on the province's economic health. The heightened restrictions, which were to remain in place for at least three weeks, included limiting indoor social gatherings to members of the same household, limiting outdoor gatherings to 10 people, stopping group activities like fitness classes and team sports, and moving all students in Grades 7-12 to online learning until the new year.Kenney also announced that masks would become mostly mandatory in indoor workplaces in the two largest cities, although not in rural areas — but the municipal governments in Calgary and Edmonton had already imposed similar mandates.He said those restrictions would be revisited on Dec. 15 and stricter measures could be imposed if cases continue to rise. However, critics called those measures insufficient, pointing out that restaurants, bars, casinos, gyms, many stores, places of worship and elementary schools remained open, albeit with restrictions.Since then, doctors have warned of overburdened hospitals and ICUs and the province has taken the step of double-bunking some patients in ICU rooms as part of its plans to deal with a surge. On Nov. 27, Alberta Health Services sent a memo to staff asking them to conserve oxygen supplies as demand increases.
The organizers of an anti-mask rally in Calgary on the weekend have been charged for breaching public health orders. One of them is a downtown street preacher who was fined earlier in the pandemic for similar alleged behaviour.Hundreds marched through downtown Calgary on Saturday to protest against mandated masks and other public health measures intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.The charges fall under the Public Health Act.Street preacher Art Pawlowski faces tickets for failing to wear a face covering and failing to have an event permit.David Pawlowski and Ryan Audette each face a charge of failing to wear a face covering where required.Police are looking for three others who are also facing charges.A first-time breach of the Public Health Act is a $1,200 fine, police say. Mask bylaw violations are $50 fines.In April, Art Pawlowski, who leads a street church, was fined $1,200 for allegedly holding a gathering of more than 15 people at Olympic Plaza.Police said tickets were not issued right away Saturday because officers who attended the rally were concerned for their safety."It is not always prudent to issue a ticket at the time of an alleged offence," said the Calgary Police Service in a written statement. "For example, during a protest or event where emotions are high."Speaking on the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday, Ryan Pleckaitis, the city's chief bylaw officer, said police and bylaw officers worked together over the weekend to gather evidence against organizers. "Moving forward, I anticipate if some of these rallies continue, and if there's not adherence to the public health order, we will continue to do the same. And hopefully, through enforcement, we can start to curb some of those behaviours."The protests have taken place weekly in the city and across the country for months, but Saturday's was the first since Alberta's 10-person limit on outdoor gatherings was announced five days earlier.
OTTAWA — Amanda Sully had tried to get pregnant for six years, but she's grateful that her "miracle" son arrived six days after Ontario became the only province to start a newborn screening test that revealed he had a progressive and irreversible disease.In January, Aidan Deschamps became the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy as part of a new test added to Ontario's newborn screening program.Sully said she and her husband, Adam Deschamps, were surprised to get a call from Newborn Screening Ontario advising them that their son, who was 10 days old at the time, had tested positive for the genetic neuromuscular condition, which is the most common cause of death in childhood due to an inherited condition."If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different," Sully said Wednesday on a Zoom call from the family's home in Ottawa as Aidan squeezed out of his mom's arms before his dad took over and tried to keep up with the energetic child."As terrible as the news was we were so fortunate to find out early because delaying treatment would have meant long-term irreversible consequences for him," Sully said.Sully said she was initially worried that her baby may not be able to roll over if he had the illness, but at 10 months, Aidan is healthy and quite the dancer who loves to throw and chase balls after starting early treatment.The couple had never heard of spinal muscular atrophy but the morning after the call they were in the office of Dr. Hugh McMillan, a neurologist at Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, a pediatric health and research centre based in Ottawa.Adam Deschamps said he and his wife held their breath a few days later as their little boy was given an injection of the drug Spinraza just below his spinal cord. The first medication to treat children with spinal muscular atrophy administered through repeated spinal taps was approved by Health Canada in 2017.McMillan said the drug, which is paid for to varying degrees in different provinces, increases the amount of an essential protein in order to keep motor neurons and motor nerves alive and without it the progression of the disease is irreversible.He also applied for and was granted use of a gene replacement therapy on compassionate grounds for Aidan when the boy was five weeks. The one-time intravenous treatment worth millions of dollars is one of two medications that Health Canada is considering for approval, with an announcement expected in the coming weeks, said McMillan, who is also a clinical investigator at the CHEO Research Institute.It's too early to tell what the little boy's future holds but he is meeting all of his developmental milestones, McMillan said.Dr. Pranesh Chakraborty, chief medical officer of Newborn Screening Ontario, said the province started the program, which tests for 28 conditions, in 1965 and includes all babies born in Ontario and most of Nunavut.Chakraborty said each province decides on its own whether to screen for certain conditions but the cost for the test that helped Aidan was low because Ontario already had the technology to add it to its existing program."I can say from speaking with my colleagues across the country that every province is looking at this and we're hoping that they'll be making decisions soon," he said.The severity of spinal muscular atrophy depends on when symptoms appear and some children may start showing signs early on when they cannot roll over. British Columbia's newborn screening program tests for 24 disorders, a spokeswoman at the Provincial Health Authority said.The provincial Health Ministry did not respond to requests on whether it would include testing for spinal muscular atrophy as part of its newborn screening program.Susi Vander Wyk, executive director of Cure SMA Canada, said the organization is working to get all provinces to test for the condition and that Aidan's story based on Ontario's lead should compel all jurisdictions to act.\-- By Camille Bains in VancouverThis report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.The Canadian Press