A migrant's odyssey from boat to COVID nursing job in Spain. (Nov. 25)
A migrant's odyssey from boat to COVID nursing job in Spain. (Nov. 25)
WASHINGTON — It's a club Donald Trump was never really interested in joining and certainly not so soon: the cadre of former commanders in chief who revere the presidency enough to put aside often bitter political differences and even join together in common cause. Members of the ex-presidents club pose together for pictures. They smile and pat each other on the back while milling around historic events, or sit somberly side by side at VIP funerals. They take on special projects together. They rarely criticize one another and tend to offer even fewer harsh words about their White House successors. Like so many other presidential traditions, however, this is one Trump seems likely to flout. Now that he's left office, it's hard to see him embracing the stately, exclusive club of living former presidents. “He kind of laughed at the very notion that he would be accepted in the presidents club,” said Kate Andersen Brower, who interviewed Trump in 2019 for her book “Team of Five: The Presidents’ Club in the Age of Trump." “He was like, ‘I don’t think I’ll be accepted.'” It's equally clear that the club's other members don't much want him — at least for now. Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton recorded a three-minute video from Arlington National Cemetery after President Joe Biden's inauguration this week, praising peaceful presidential succession as a core of American democracy. The segment included no mention of Trump by name, but stood as a stark rebuke of his behaviour since losing November's election. “I think the fact that the three of us are standing here, talking about a peaceful transfer of power, speaks to the institutional integrity of our country,” Bush said. Obama called inaugurations “a reminder that we can have fierce disagreements and yet recognize each other’s common humanity, and that, as Americans, we have more in common than what separates us." Trump spent months making baseless claims that the election had been stolen from him through fraud and eventually helped incite a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He left the White House without attending Biden’s swearing-in, the first president to skip his successor's inauguration in 152 years. Obama, Bush and Clinton recorded their video after accompanying Biden to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider following the inauguration. They also taped a video urging Americans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Only 96-year-old Jimmy Carter, who has limited his public events because of the pandemic, and Trump, who had already flown to post-presidential life in Florida, weren't there. Jeffrey Engel, founding director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said Trump isn't a good fit for the ex-presidents club "because he’s temperamentally different.” “People within the club historically have been respected by ensuing presidents. Even Richard Nixon was respected by Bill Clinton and by Ronald Reagan and so on, for his foreign policy," Engel said. "I’m not sure I see a whole lot of people calling up Trump for his strategic advice.” Former presidents are occasionally called upon for big tasks. George H.W. Bush and Clinton teamed up in 2005 to launch a campaign urging Americans to help the victims of the devastating Southeast Asia tsunami. When Hurricane Katrina blasted the Gulf Coast, Bush, father of the then-current president George W. Bush, called on Clinton to boost Katrina fundraising relief efforts. When the elder Bush died in 2018, Clinton wrote, “His friendship has been one of the great gifts of my life," high praise considering this was the man he ousted from the White House after a bruising 1992 campaign — making Bush the only one-term president of the last three decades except for Trump. Obama tapped Clinton and the younger President Bush to boost fundraising efforts for Haiti after its devastating 2010 earthquake. George W. Bush also became good friends with former first lady Michelle Obama, and cameras caught him slipping a cough drop to her as they sat together at Arizona Sen. John McCain’s funeral. Usually presidents extend the same respect to their predecessors while still in office, regardless of party. In 1971, three years before he resigned in disgrace, Richard Nixon went to Texas to participate in the dedication of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s presidential library. When Nixon’s library was completed in 1990, then-President George H.W. Bush attended with former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. Trump's break with tradition began even before his presidency did. After his election win in November 2016, Obama hosted Trump at the White House promising to “do everything we can to help you succeed.” Trump responded, “I look forward to being with you many, many more times in the future” — but that never happened. Instead, Trump falsely accused Obama of having wiretapped him and spent four years savaging his predecessor's record. Current and former presidents sometimes loathed each other, and criticizing their successors isn’t unheard of. Carter criticized the policies of the Republican administrations that followed his, Obama chided Trump while campaigning for Biden and also criticized George W. Bush’s policies — though Obama was usually careful not to name his predecessor. Theodore Roosevelt tried to unseat his successor, fellow Republican William Howard Taft, by founding his own “Bull Moose” party and running for president again against him. Still, presidential reverence for former presidents dates back even further. The nation’s second president, John Adams, was concerned enough about tarnishing the legacy of his predecessor that he retained George Washington’s Cabinet appointments. Trump may have time to build his relationship with his predecessors. He told Brower that he “could see himself becoming friendly with Bill Clinton again," noting that the pair used to golf together. But the odds of becoming the traditional president in retirement that he never was while in office remain long. “I think Trump has taken it too far," Brower said. "I don’t think that these former presidents will welcome him at any point.” Will Weissert And Deb Riechmann, The Associated Press
Clover Leaf Seafoods Corp. is recalling its two of its Clover Leaf brand boneless sardine fillets products due to the potential presence of dangerous bacteria. The recalled products — Sardines Boneless Fillets: Garlic & Chive in Oil and Sardines Boneless Fillets: Smoked Jalapeño in Oil — may permit the growth of Clostridium botulinum, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says. The garlic and chive flavoured sardines come in a 106-gram container with the UPC code 0 61362 46008 6. The smoked jalapeño product is in a 106-gram package with the UPC code 0 61362 46009 3. The sardines were sold in New Brunswick, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec, and "possibly national," it says. If you have these recalled products in your home, they should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased. Consumers are warned not to eat the product There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products. However, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says not to eat them. Food contaminated with Clostridium botulinum toxin may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick. The agency says symptoms in adults can include: Facial paralysis or loss of facial expression. Unreactive or fixed pupils. Difficulty swallowing. Drooping eyelids. Blurred or double vision. Difficulty speaking, including slurred speech, and a change in sound of voice, including hoarseness. Symptoms of foodborne botulism in children can include difficulty swallowing, slurred speech, generalized weakness and paralysis. Botulism does not cause a fever, but in severe cases of illness, people may die, the agency says.
Indigenous communities across Canada are leading the charge toward a renewable energy future as technology advances and networking opportunities are fostered. The successes and advancements are on full display this week at the Indigenous Clean Energy gathering (held virtually this year). Darrell Brown, a Winnipeg-based Cree entrepreneur, chairs the ICE executive board. He was thrilled to see the community come together in support as different First Nations get started down the path of sustainability. “It’s come a long way. The communities get it now. They see what everyone’s doing,” Brown said. Brown started his business, Kisik Clean Energy, last year to support Indigenous development of hydro, solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and microgrid technologies. He’s worked in the clean energy industry for five years, and had a hand in developing the renewable energy project at Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek (Gull Bay First Nation) in northwestern Ontario. The KZA project involved solar power and battery storage in a microgrid distribution system developed to reduce the community’s reliance on diesel fuel as a power source. The First Nation is not connected to the provincial power grid. AJ Esquega, KZA energy projects co-ordinator, explained the technologies don’t allow the elimination of diesel as such yet, but the First Nation has lowered its use by approximately 25 per cent (some 120,000 litres per year). One project is positive, Brown said, but it’s even better to see other communities be inspired by these successes. Sayisi Dene First Nation, on the shores of Tadoule Lake in northern Manitoba, 250 kilometres west of Churchill, is one of the off-grid communities looking to take the leap into renewables. Empowerment is a big part of the equation. “They feel like they’re taking care of their land, taking care of their water, and the wildlife and that goes with their beliefs. Everything you do with renewable energy and reducing fossil fuels it does with the whole belief system. It’s what all of us Indigenous people believe, taking care of Mother Earth,” Brown said. Other benefits include new job opportunities, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, lowering environmental risk associated with fuel storage, and an improvement of health outcomes (the burning of diesel is linked to negative health impacts). Even communities that are hooked into provincial grids, such as Fisher River Cree Nation in central Manitoba, are investing in renewables to avoid the high cost of power. This summer, the community unveiled the largest solar farm in the province, with excess energy sold back into Manitoba Hydro’s grid. The three Indigenous communities on the doorstep of the oilsands in northern Alberta — Mikisew Cree First Nation, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, and Fort Chipewyan Métis Association — are operating the largest solar farm in the country. (It began operations in November 2020.) The success of each community is levied off one another, Brown said. “We’re limited with our resources in our isolated communities. So, when you pool it together, that’s where the value comes from because you have people in each community that are wanting the same thing for their own community,” said Vince Robinson, clean energy co-ordinator at Nuxalk Nation, in B.C. “It seems like there’s at least five questions every day that pop up, where you don’t even know how you would go about answering those questions. And then, the ICE network is there, almost like a big brother.” Robinson, Brown and Esquega all benefited from an Indigenous clean energy mentorship program called 20/20 Catalysts, which continues to bring forth new graduates each year and is part of the ICE network. The online conference continues today. Sessions can be attended free of charge (icegathering.com). Sarah Lawrynuik, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
WHITEHORSE — A cabinet minister says a couple from outside Yukon travelled to a remote community in the territory this week and received doses of COVID-19 vaccine.Community Services Minister John Streiker says he's outraged the man and woman allegedly chartered a flight to Beaver Creek, the most westerly community in Canada near the border with Alaska, to get the shots.Streiker says he heard Thursday night that the Canadian couple arrived in Yukon on Tuesday and declared they would follow the territory's mandatory two-week self-isolation protocol, but instead travelled to Beaver Creek.He says the two people have been charged under Yukon's Civil Emergency Measures Act for failure to self-isolate and failure to behave in a manner consistent with their declaration upon arrival. Streiker says the couple allegedly presented themselves as visiting workers, misleading staff at the mobile vaccination clinic in Beaver Creek. He says territorial enforcement officers received a call about the couple, who were later intercepted at the Whitehorse airport trying to leave Yukon.The maximum fine under the emergency measures act is $500, and up to six months in jail.The RCMP have been notified, he said in an interview on Friday.Streiker hadn't confirmed where the couple are from, but he said they didn't show Yukon health cards at the vaccination clinic.Yukon has two vaccination teams that are visiting communities throughout the territory with priority going to residents and staff of group-living settings, health-care workers, people over 80 who aren't living in long-term care, and Yukoners living in rural, remote and First Nation communities.Beaver Creek was chosen as a priority community to receive doses of COVID-19 vaccine because it's a remote border community, he said.Yukon's chief medical officer of health has indicated he believes the risk to the community as a result of the couple's visit is low, Streiker added. Streiker said there may be more scrutiny at vaccine clinics when people show up from outside Yukon, but officials are still working through options to prevent such a situation from happening again. "I find it frustrating because what that does is it makes more barriers," he said. "We've been trying to remove all barriers to get the vaccine for our citizens and so if there's another sort of layer of check, I just don't want it to make it harder for Yukoners to get their vaccines."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. The Canadian Press
It’s been used for a tent city twice, a community garden, a street market and informal overdose prevention site, and for an emergency medical unit during the early days of Vancouver’s overdose crisis. Now construction of badly-needed social housing for the Downtown Eastside, promised in 2016, is set to start at 58 W. Hastings St. The lot has a long history of housing protests. It was a tent city during the 2010 Olympics and again in 2016 as housing prices and rents spiked and homelessness numbers rose. The 2016 tent city lasted from July to November. In August 2016, then-mayor Gregor Robertson met with community members and agreed to bring a rezoning proposal for the site to city council, promising 100-per-cent social housing on the lot. Karen Ward, one of the community activists who met with Robertson, now works for the city as a drug policy advisor. Fundraising for the project and getting the province and federal government on board took a long time, Ward said, but she’s happy to see the project finally break ground. “We definitely need a new way to do this because the supportive housing thing is just not working great,” Ward said, referring to increasing death rates in many supportive housing buildings and friction between tenants and housing providers over visitor restrictions. After Robertson signed the agreement with Downtown Eastside community members, the Chinatown Foundation signed on to develop a 10-storey building with 230 housing units and a health-care centre run by Vancouver Coastal Health. The Chinatown Foundation also fundraised $30 million for the building, and the provincial and federal governments will fund the rest of the $115-million project. Robertson originally promised that all the housing units in the building would be rented at rates affordable to people on welfare or pensions. The current plan is to rent 117 of the apartments at the income assistance shelter rate of $375 a month, while the other 113 are to be rented at rates considered affordable for people making no more than $55,500 for a one-bedroom and no more than $67,500 for a two-bedroom unit. Some activists have protested the plan in the past because not all the units will be rented at the welfare shelter rate. But Ward defended the project, saying the non-shelter rate units will provide housing for people with low incomes who still can’t afford to rent in the private market. “People will qualify for this housing if they make minimum wage, or [work] part-time,” Ward said. Construction will displace the Downtown Eastside Street Market, which has been located at the site for a year, and an informal outdoor overdose prevention site that operates beside the market. Vendors were initially told they had to be out by the end of January, but that deadline has been extended to Feb. 28 while the city looks for an alternate spot for the market. Sarah Blyth, a founder of the Overdose Prevention Society, said she was relieved to hear the deadline had been extended because the market provides a vital source of extra income for people who live in the neighbourhood. “Obviously, we don’t want to fight housing,” Blyth said. “But there should be an alternate location if you’re going to ask people to leave.” Jen St. Denis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
WASHINGTON — Opening arguments in the Senate impeachment trial for Donald Trump over the Capitol riot will begin the week of Feb. 8, the first time a former president will face such charges after leaving office. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the schedule Friday evening after reaching an agreement with Republicans, who had pushed for a delay to give Trump a chance to organize his legal team and prepare a defence on the sole charge of incitement of insurrection. The February start date also allows the Senate more time to confirm President Joe Biden's Cabinet nominations and consider his proposed $1.9 trillion COVID relief package — top priorities of the new White House agenda that could become stalled during trial proceedings. “We all want to put this awful chapter in our nation’s history behind us,” Schumer said about the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol siege by a mob of pro-Trump supporters. “But healing and unity will only come if there is truth and accountability. And that is what this trial will provide.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will send the article of impeachment late Monday, with senators sworn in as jurors Tuesday. But opening arguments will move to February. Trump's impeachment trial would be the first of a U.S. president no longer in office, an undertaking that his Senate Republican allies argue is pointless, and potentially even unconstitutional. Democrats say they have to hold Trump to account, even as they pursue Biden's legislative priorities, because of the gravity of what took place — a violent attack on the U.S. Congress aimed at overturning an election. If Trump is convicted, the Senate could vote to bar him from holding office ever again, potentially upending his chances for a political comeback. The urgency for Democrats to hold Trump responsible was complicated by the need to put Biden's government in place and start quick work on his coronavirus aid package. “The more time we have to get up and running ... the better,” Biden said Friday in brief comments to reporters. Republicans were eager to delay the trial, putting distance between the shocking events of the siege and the votes that will test their loyalty to the former president who still commands voters’ attention. Negotiations between Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were complicated, as the two are also in talks over a power-sharing agreement for the Senate, which is split 50-50 but in Democratic control because Vice-President Kamala Harris serves as a tie-breaking vote. McConnell had proposed delaying the start and welcomed the agreement. “Republicans set out to ensure the Senate’s next steps will respect former President Trump’s rights and due process, the institution of the Senate, and the office of the presidency,” said McConnell spokesman Doug Andres. "That goal has been achieved.” Pelosi said Friday the nine House impeachment managers, or prosecutors, are "ready to begin to make their case” against Trump. Trump’s team will have had the same amount of time since the House impeachment vote to prepare, Pelosi said. Democrats say they can move quickly through the trial, potentially with no witnesses, because lawmakers experienced the insurrection first-hand. One of the managers, California Rep. Ted Lieu, said Friday that Democrats would rather be working on policy right now, but “we can't just ignore" what happened on Jan. 6. “This was an attack on our Capitol by a violent mob,” Lieu said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It was an attack on our nation instigated by our commander in chief. We have to address that and make sure it never happens again.” Trump, who told his supporters to “fight like hell” just before they invaded the Capitol two weeks ago and interrupted the electoral vote count, is still assembling his legal team. White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday deferred to Congress on timing for the trial and would not say whether Biden thinks Trump should be convicted. But she said lawmakers can simultaneously discuss and have hearings on Biden's coronavirus relief package. “We don’t think it can be delayed or it can wait, so they’re going to have to find a path forward,” Psaki said of the virus aid. “He’s confident they can do that.” Democrats would need the support of at least 17 Republicans to convict Trump, a high bar. While most Republican senators condemned Trump's actions that day, far fewer appear to be ready to convict. A handful of Senate Republicans have indicated they are open — but not committed — to conviction. But most have come to Trump's defence as it relates to impeachment, saying they believe a trial will be divisive and questioning the legality of trying a president after he has left office. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally who has been helping him find lawyers, said Friday there is “a very compelling constitutional case” on whether Trump can be impeached after his term — an assertion Democrats reject, saying there is ample legal precedent. Graham also suggested Republicans will argue Trump's words on Jan. 6 were not legally “incitement.” “On the facts, they’ll be able to mount a defence, so the main thing is to give him a chance to prepare and run the trial orderly, and hopefully the Senate will reject the idea of pursuing presidents after they leave office,” Graham said. Other Republicans had stronger words, suggesting there should be no trial at all. Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso said Pelosi is sending a message to Biden that “my hatred and vitriol of Donald Trump is so strong that I will stop even you and your Cabinet from getting anything done.” Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson suggested Democrats are choosing “vindictiveness” over national security as Biden attempts to set up his government. McConnell, who said this week that Trump “provoked” his supporters before the riot, has not said how he will vote. He said Senate Republicans "strongly believe we need a full and fair process where the former president can mount a defence and the Senate can properly consider the factual, legal and constitutional questions.” Trump, the first president to be impeached twice, is at a disadvantage compared with his first impeachment trial, in which he had the full resources of the White House counsel’s office to defend him. Graham helped Trump hire South Carolina attorney Butch Bowers after members of his past legal teams indicated they did not plan to join the new effort. ___ Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani in Washington, Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, and Jill Colvin in West Palm Beach, Florida, contributed to this report. Mary Clare Jalonick And Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — The Metis Nation of B.C. says its board of directors has voted to suspended its elected president, alleging there has been a breach of its policies and procedures. Its board of directors say in a statement that Clara Morin Dal Col, who was re-elected to the role in September, was suspended with pay on Monday. In a statement on its website, the board also alleges there was a contravention of the president's oath of office. The board says it made the decision after being left "with no other option," but it offered no further explanation of what led to the suspension. Dal Col had no immediate comment when reached by phone, saying she'll be releasing a statement later. Vice-president Lissa Smith is stepping in to fill the position on an acting basis. The Metis National Council and Manitoba Metis Federation criticized the decision to suspend Dal Col, calling it a "shocking coup" in a statement. David Chartrand, the Manitoba federation president and national council spokesman, says in the statement that the organizations do not recognize Smith as B.C.'s new president. "This is a black eye for democracy," national council president Clement Chartier added in the statement. Daniel Fontaine, the CEO of the Metis Nation of B.C., was not available for comment on Friday, but the organization responded to the Metis National Council in an open letter signed by Smith on behalf of the board of directors. The letter posted to its website questions the accuracy of the national council's statement. "By suggesting that actions clearly written in our constitution, approved by our citizens, are inherently undemocratic, 'unwarranted, and without merit' are baffling," the letter says. It says it expects Smith to be given the same privileges and powers afforded to Dal Col until any appeal process is complete. In its statement announcing the suspension, the Metis Nation of B.C. says anyone who has been suspended can appeal the decision to its senate, and its decisions are final and binding. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. Nick Wells, The Canadian Press
The curve is flattening in Ontario, but with hospitalizations high, long-term care homes ravaged and variants spreading, optimism comes with a heavy dose of concern.
A morning sun dog gave way to a blustery -20 C afternoon, but Emby Blum-Payne was still keen to show off tricks and twirls on her ice skates. Krystal Payne helped her eight-year-old daughter suit up at the edge of their front yard skating rink in Elmwood, one of several features of the family’s homemade winter wonderland, which includes a snow fort that doubles as a miniature tobogganing hill. Sporting hot pink-and-white skates, Emby effortlessly glided around the glossy surface to burn off some energy after a virtual school day. Payne and her partner, Andy Blum, share in their daily goal to get Emby to participate in at least 30 minutes of exercise — an idea a child psychologist prescribed when the parents voiced concerns about their daughter’s remote-learning frustrations. They have been encouraging Emby to walk the dogs, skate in the yard, and watch and follow along with kid workout videos to meet that target. “On the days when we fail to facilitate that, there’s definitely a lot more frustration and trouble sleeping,” Payne says. As the school year nears the halfway mark, the parents have learned how to navigate Emby’s emotions amid constant uncertainty in education and life, in general. Their third-grader was assigned a new online classroom teacher — the third one she’s had since the first day of remote learning in September — earlier this month. The only progress report Emby has received in 2020-21 to date was more blank than usual; instead of numbers, there were “incomplete” notices next to every subject, alongside comments about strengths and next steps. “There have been continued disruptions in terms of her losing work and losing access (to different apps) and sort of starting from scratch again. It’s super-frustrating,” Payne says. For instance, with every change there has been a reset of Emby’s progress on Raz-Kids, a program that gamifies learning by giving users points when they finish reading levelled books and answer related comprehension questions. Despite the hurdles, Payne says transitions have become easier over time and remote learning feels a lot different than it did last March. Emby attends two 40-minute video-call classes, which start and end with a French song to encourage students to sing and dance, during the school day. In between sessions, she works on independent assignments and completes home-school book studies with her mom. The family is searching for a math tutor to supplement the setup. Given Emby hasn’t been able to hang out with friends in months, she’s been connecting with them online, often playing group games on one device and messaging on another. Payne says she’s had to re-evaluate her hesitations about screen time because it’s the only way Emby can socialize. In the Blum-Paynes’ basement suite, Emby’s grandfather Edward Payne has also been spending much of his time staring at a screen. The provincial COVID-19 briefings are part of his daily routine. He hasn’t visited the library, gone for a haircut or left the house much since the pandemic was declared. Being immunocompromised, he is taking every precaution — as is the rest of the family, which is why Emby is learning at home. “That’s just the way it is right now,” says the man of few words, in contrast to his chatty granddaughter. Like Emby, he has been reading lots of books this year. His preferred genre is mystery, while his granddaughter favours graphic novels. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
If any silver lining can be found in turning nine years old at a time when birthday parties are illegal, it’s in the Milne-Karn family’s fridge — an abundance of leftovers from a four-storey Funfetti cake. Heather Milne and Luanne Karn surprised their daughter with a gigantic gateau decorated in pink, purple and orange fondant flowers Tuesday to celebrate the special occasion sans friends and group party games. Since the first COVID-19 lockdown, Anna Milne-Karn has expressed concern about the pandemic interfering with the celebration. “This is going to screw up my birthday party,” she told her mothers about 10 months ago. Since then, Anna has attended Zoom and park celebrations for her friends’ birthdays, and accepted the postponement of her party until summer. The plan is to meet friends at Kildonan Park and have a pool party there, she says, adding that despite the change in plans, she still welcomed her birthday this year — “because I get cake!” Sharing treats at school, however, isn’t currently permitted. Public-health directives also ban indoor singing, silencing schoolchildren who would typically belt out Happy Birthday to honour a classmate. In music class, Anna has been working on percussion with Boomwhackers — colour-coded hollow plastic tubes that produce different tones — and learning Do, Re, Mi and the rest of the tonal scale by humming the sounds aloud with her peers. “I am amazed at what teachers do to find a compromise,” Karn says. When given the choice to learn remotely or have Anna return to school after the holidays, the Milne-Karns stuck to their regular routine. The constant change in her class, which has expanded to two rooms and collapsed again as other families have opted in and out of remote learning, has been confusing for Anna, Milne says. She adds that it’s difficult for the third-grader to understand why some of her friends are in school and others are not. A total of 3,433 students between kindergarten and Grade 6, approximately 21 per cent of the K-6 student population in the Winnipeg School Division, enrolled in the two-week distance-learning option to start the new year. It was mandated for the province’s Grade 7-12 students. The Ecole Laura Secord family made the decision after taking into account daily COVID-19 case counts had started to drop, Anna’s ability to socialize at school, and Milne’s hectic work as a university professor preparing and delivering remote lessons. “It’s hard to work when there’s a kid in the house. The energy changes,” Milne says. Even though Anna enjoyed playing Harry Potter-themed Clue with her mothers and going on walks with their new puppy throughout the break, she welcomed the return. She is a big fan of her teacher, her teacher’s five stuffed sloth toys and art class, in which she is currently tracing, drawing and painting landscapes. In other subjects, all of which are taught in French, she is studying fractions, changing seasons and world geography. Anna has also been setting goals for herself as part of the school’s home-reading program. Her mothers share in their belief that Anna wouldn’t be thriving as much in French immersion this year were she doing it remotely. Neither Karn nor Milne speaks French. A self-declared perfectionist, Milne says she felt like she was “failing as a parent” because she couldn’t help Anna at all with her French schoolwork. One of the things the mothers miss most about pre-pandemic schooling days is the ability to visit the school and meet Anna’s teacher in person. In autumn, a video-call replaced the typical introductory conversation that happens on meet-the-teacher night at Laura Secord. “There’s something about seeing other kids and seeing other families and being in the building,” Karn says. “You get a better handle of what’s going on.” Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Parts of Nova Scotia were hit with wintry weather Friday during a system that dumped up to 25 centimetres of snow in some areas before tapering off in the evening. RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Lisa Croteau said the RCMP has responded to accidents in areas including Lower Sackville, Fall River and Windsor. "Everybody needs to just take it slow," she said. "When the roads can be covered in snow and ice, it can lead to collisions. "So we're asking people to just slow down, take their time, be patient. We just want everyone to make it home at the end of the day." Croteau said she did not know of any significant injuries that came as a result of any of the collisions. Several Halifax Transit bus routes were on snow plans due to slippery road conditions. Updates are being posted to the Halifax Transit Twitter page. Friday evening, a vehicle crash knocked out electricity for some Nova Scotia Power customers in Cole Harbour. At one point, more than 2,000 customers were in the dark in the Forest Hills area. As of 10 p.m., most of the power was restored, according to the utility's outage map. A picture posted to Nova Scotia Power's Twitter account showed a Halifax Transit bus on Merrimac Drive with a power pole on top of it. CBC meteorologist Jim Abraham said only some parts of Nova Scotia were affected by the system. "As the sun goes down, it's clear in Digby and clear in much of Cape Breton, but in between there's this heavy band of snow that has plagued parts of southwestern and central Nova Scotia all day," said Abraham. However, Abraham said most of the snow was supposed to taper off by about 7 p.m. "It should end early enough that we can tidy it up before we go to bed," he said. In a tweet, the city of Halifax said the winter parking ban will be enforced from 1-6 a.m. Saturday. MORE TOP STORIES
Canada's ambassador to the United States says there's no chance of President Joe Biden walking back his decision to kill the Keystone XL pipeline — so she's turning her attention to other pressing bilateral issues. "It's obviously very disappointing for Albertans and people in Saskatchewan who are already in a difficult situation," Kirsten Hillman said in an interview airing Saturday on CBC's The House. "But I think that we need to now focus on moving forward with this administration, and there are so many ways in which we are going to be aligned with them to our mutual interest that I'm eager to to get going on that." Biden vowed during last year's presidential campaign to rescind Donald Trump's permit for Keystone XL, which would have linked Alberta's oilsands with refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. And he did, making it one of the first executive orders he issued within hours of taking office on Wednesday. While the move was applauded by progressives in his Democratic Party and in Canada, it struck a heavy blow in Alberta. TC energy, the company building the pipeline, halted construction and laid off a thousand workers. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney lashed out this week at both Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, accusing the federal government of abandoning the oil and gas sector. He released a letter to Trudeau on Friday calling on the federal government to retaliate by imposing economic sanctions on the United States or by demanding compensation for TC Energy and his government — which invested billions of provincial taxpayers' dollars into the project. The premier even took his case to Fox News on Friday. "It's very frustrating that one of the first acts of the new president was, I think, to disrespect America's closest friend and ally, Canada, and to kill good-paying union jobs on both sides of the border and ultimately to make the United States more dependent on foreign oil imports from OPEC dictatorships," Kenney told the Fox audience. "We don't understand it." Hillman didn't comment directly on Kenney's demands, insisting instead that Canada remains the "best partner" for helping Americans meet their energy needs. "But we have to recognize that the Biden administration has put fighting climate change at the centre of their agenda," she said. "Not only their domestic agenda but their international agenda." Goodbye, Keystone — hello 'Buy American' Keystone's abrupt death isn't the only recent challenge to a Canada-U.S. relationship that's been severely tested over the past four years by Donald Trump. Many Canadians see Biden as not only a more reliable partner but as a friend to this country. Some of his policies suggest otherwise. Hillman said she's already spoken to the White House about another Biden campaign promise — this one to restore "Buy American" requirements for major government contracts, a move that could freeze Canadian companies out of U.S. government work. "Less than an hour after the end of the inauguration ceremony, we were in touch with top-level advisers in the White House and discussed many things," she said. "Among them was Buy America." Biden is proposing a massive, $400 billion infrastructure program that would award contracts exclusively to U.S. companies. As big as that program is, it will be dwarfed by another Biden proposal — to invest $2 trillion in clean technologies and infrastructure. Hillman said such protectionist measures are not new. In the past, Congress has imposed restrictions to limit or exclude foreign companies from bidding on infrastructure projects, or from supplying U.S. companies that do. Canada has successfully negotiated exemptions to such policies before — most recently through the 2010 Canada-U.S. Agreement on Government Procurement, which gave companies in this country access to stimulus projects funded under the U.S. Recovery Act. No link between Keystone and carve-out, says Hillman Hillman was asked in The House interview if the federal government's muted response to the Keystone decision is tied to its hopes for getting a carve-out for Canadian businesses under Biden's Buy American policy. She said there's no connection. "Our job here is to work with the administration to demonstrate to them, factually, that as they pursue their domestic goals, the highly integrated supply chains that we have with the United States are essential to protect and preserve for their economic recovery objectives," she said. "I'm optimistic that we are going to be able to have meaningful conversations with them around how they can meet their policy objectives while also being sure that we protect our mutually supportive supply chains." Hillman said she sees other opportunities for cross-border cooperation in the Biden administration's decision to rejoin the Paris climate accord and the president's vow to meet the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Canada's hopes for a green tech boom Biden has nominated former secretary of state John Kerry as his special presidential envoy for the climate — a new cabinet-level position intended to underscore Biden's personal commitment to addressing climate change. "That provides a lot of opportunities for green tech, for Canadian clean energy, for working together on emission standards, for innovation in our automotive industry," Hillman said. The Trudeau government is trying to position Canada as a global leader in green technology fields. It introduced legislation requiring Canada to become a net-zero emitter by mid century and last month unveiled this country's first national strategy to develop hydrogen as a fuel source. That's the long game, of course. For now, the Trudeau government must also deal with the challenge here at home: preventing the fate of Keystone XL from becoming the dominant issue in Canada-U.S. relations that it was the last time a Democrat was in the Oval Office — and Joe Biden was his vice president.
New Brunswick’s only fertility clinic, and one of only two in the Maritimes, has had to cancel dozens of appointments with hopeful parents since the onset of the red phase of pandemic restrictions. The decision is part of the clinic's operational plan, the director of Moncton's Conceptia says, but patients are struggling with the emotional letdown. “It’s already a time full of frustration, anxiety and sadness,” said Heather Bandy of Moncton, who was to start treatment this week when her appointment was cancelled. Bandy said she and her husband have struggled with infertility issues for months. “It’s an emotional rollercoaster.” Renee and Lucas Smith of Shemogue have also had their share of heartbreak. After difficulty conceiving, the couple became pregnant, but in November, Renee had a stillbirth, losing their son at 22 weeks. Now, they were ready to try again. Renee said she was scheduled to begin another round of treatment on Jan. 25, but learned new appointments were no longer being booked and many existing appointments are being cancelled. Through social media groups of parents struggling with fertility, she learned she was far from alone. Craig Ferguson, the clinic’s director, confirmed that the clinic has suspended many services and is seeing just three to five patients a day. The clinic had to create a COVID-19 operational plan and provided this to the Vitalité Health Network, he said. The clinic is operating with a goal of 25 per cent capacity while in red, he said, noting the decision was made partially because they are within a hospital building and are attempting to be “good neighbours.” He added that the clinic is small and it is also an attempt to protect its own staff. “If one of our employees got COVID, we would have to close completely,” he said. Bandy said many affected patients who regularly interact through a group on social media began contacting their MLAs as it became clear the clinic was cancelling appointments, hopeful they could advocate on their behalf and trigger a change. They were told the clinic was just following government rules. While Conceptia, a not-for-profit clinic, is housed within the Dr.-Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre, is not run by Vitalité or the Department of Public Health. Both Vitalité and Public Health directed all questions about the decision to the clinic. Lucas Smith said the latest turn is heartbreaking. “It keeps us up at night. I’m sure they know how sad this is for all of us,” he said. “The thing that surprises me is the hospital is the safest place,” he said, noting the extensive protocols. “If Tim Hortons is open, surely Conceptia should be [fully] open," he said. "People can make their own coffee, but some of us can’t make our own babies.” The patients are willing to do whatever they can to keep it open, Lucas Smith said, whether that's paying more for more PPE or longer hours to space people out. To have 15 patients a day instead of five would mean 15 people actively on their way to starting a family, he said. Ferguson said the clinic understands the devastation many are feeling. They also recognize that the reduction in services not only impacts New Brunswickers but others in the region, including patients from Prince Edward Island, who have been even further restricted from services over the last month as the island has no clinic of its own. When asked to respond to questions from couples and women who note that clinics in hotspots across the country have continued to serve at a higher capacity even in areas of near lockdowns, he said the clinic was small, however they aren’t ruling out a shift. “We do assess capacity every week and adapt,” he said. “Every possibility is on the table.” Bandy said the decision is disappointing, but she is holding onto hope that change is on their radar. Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal
TORONTO — A former senior employee with the Ontario government has repaid more than $11 million in COVID-19 benefits the province alleges he took fraudulently, his lawyer said Friday. The unproven civil claim named Sanjay Madan, who had a senior IT role and helped develop the computer application for applying and approving the benefit for families with children. In a brief statement, Madan's lawyer Christopher Du Vernet confirmed his client had made the repayment. "In fact, the province has recovered in excess of the funds it presently alleges Mr. Madan took from the Families Support Program," Du Vernet said. "However, it is also seeking its legal costs, interest and punitive damages, so the action continues." In its untested lawsuit filed last fall, the province alleged Madan, his wife and two adult children who all worked for the Ontario government in information technology defrauded the province of at least $11 million. The civil claim, which also sought $2 million in punitive damages, accused them and others of illegally issuing and banking cheques under the program that aimed to defray the cost of children learning at home. "The Madan family exploited their positions of employment with Ontario and unique access to the (program) and payment processing system," the government alleged in the claim. "The plaintiff was uniquely vulnerable to Sanjay, particularly with respect to the integrity of the...application." Late Friday, the Ministry of the Attorney General said funds had "now been seized" pursuant to a judicial order and were being held by the court pending litigation of the province’s claims. "The government takes these allegations seriously," ministry spokesman Brian Gray said. "(It) has retained KPMG to conduct a thorough investigation, and that investigation is ongoing." Du Vernet said his client "deeply regrets" his actions and was awaiting results of medical opinions on his condition. According to the lawsuit, Madan and his family opened more than 400 accounts at the Bank of Montreal between April and May. They then deposited around 10,000 cheques made out to fictitious applicants with thousands of non-existent children under the support program. Most deposits were made over a four-week period starting on May 25, coinciding with a rule change that allowed more than five payments to be made to an applicant. The government alleges Madan either sparked the rule change or knew about it and took advantage. In other court filings, Madan is said to have told the government that he could explain "all of this" and that he has "helped many families." The government had served notice it intended to seize any money the family allegedly obtained fraudulently and obtained a court order to have their bank accounts turned over to the court pending the outcome of the lawsuit. The government also obtained a court order freezing the family's assets, which included a list of properties in Toronto. The government said it will be in court next week to extend the freeze. Madan was fired in November. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
Excessive screen-time was once the common enemy in the Milne-Karn, Parenteau and Blum-Payne households. But the COVID-19 pandemic and related stay-at-home orders have given each family pause when considering each of their children’s relationships with computers. Students are now learning how to use video-conferencing platforms, including Zoom, Google Meets and Microsoft Teams to participate in lessons and discussions online. Homework is being posted in virtual-classroom portals, such as Edsby and Seesaw. Even after-school playdates have moved into a virtual sphere, as kids connect online to play Roblox, Among Us and other games. Krystal Payne says her daughter’s online activities have been taking up much of the family’s internet bandwidth, but as maddening as it may be, she has learned to be forgiving about it. “It just feels so wild right now. It really doesn’t feel like these are OK or stable times, and it’s really hard to know how to parent,” Payne says, adding that virtual interaction is the only way the remote learner can socialize with kids her own age right now. The increase in screen time and decrease in outside activity is having an impact on fitness levels for kids, teenagers and adults. During the first lockdown last spring, ParticipACTION, a Canadian non-profit that promotes healthy living, surveyed nearly 1,500 parents about physical activity levels during the initial COVID-19 wave. The study found five per cent of children and only 0.8 per cent of teenagers were meeting national guidelines for physical activity (an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise per day), sleep and sedentary time. Pre-pandemic, 15 per cent of students combined were meeting the recommended thresholds. In order to improve those figures, the organization recommends parents be active role models, set limits on screen use and encourage outdoor time. The wind chill complicates matters in Winnipeg, but the three families are layering up to take advantage of the frozen Assiniboine River. Skating and fishing are on the Parenteau winter activity list. Mother Anna Parenteau says she can tell her youngest misses hockey. Carter Parenteau, 9, is one of thousands of Winnipeg kids forced to sit out the season instead of playing in leagues. He is, however, getting a thrill out of cheering on NHL defenceman Zach Whitecloud of the Vegas Golden Knights, who is from Sioux Valley Dakota Nation and one of his icons. Emby Blum-Payne, 8, and her dad, Andy Blum recently did some father-daughter bonding in their front yard by building a quinzhee. The Milne-Karn family plans to cross-country ski their way through the winter. “We all feel like we’re in a holding pattern now,” says mother Luanne Karn about halfway through the academic year. Amid constant pandemic pivots, the families are finding normalcy in Winnipeg winter and their kids’ academic progress. Carter’s new-found love for reading and declaration that the Harry Potter books are better than the movies based on the series have excited his parents. The Isaac Brock School fourth-grader is determined to finish Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban so he can watch the next movie, his mother says. Grade 3 student Anna Milne-Karn is also reading the fantastical series with her mothers. The Ecole Laura Secord student is proud to share that she has progressed from reading at a Grade 2 level to a Grade 4 level this year. Emby Blum-Payne, who hopes to return to Ecole Sacre-Coeur for the fourth grade next year, just finished adventure novel My Side of the Mountain. “I’m really impressed by her ability to comprehend and think critically about the novels that we’ve been reading,” Emby’s mother says. Early assessment data from school divisions in Manitoba suggest COVID-19 learning disruptions have affected literacy levels most significantly among third-grade and younger students, given many of them are not yet independent readers. As evidenced by their lengthy reading lists, learning loss isn’t much of a concern for these three Winnipeg families. They remain more focused on how to regulate screen time. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Block Heater is back, but this time, the music is coming to your home. The sixth annual concert, hosted by the Calgary Folk Music Festival, will now offer a virtual experience that includes 23 artists. Kerry Clarke, the festival's artistic director, told the The Homestretch about some of the changes and what viewers have to look forward to. "It'll look like an awesome festival that's online instead of live that people can enjoy from the comfort of their homes or their backyard firepits with artists from our own backyard and around the world," Clarke said. New this year is a special Irish program that will feature four different artists. "We have a partnership with Culture Ireland, and so they're helping support the artists. They are helping get the word out," she said. Some of the performances will be live so that the audience can interact with the performers virtually. "It's really nice to have the audience interaction for the artist and to be able to see the audience watching them," Clarke said. "Most of the local artists are going to be on the free stream, which is on YouTube and Facebook, and those are all going to be live either from Festival Hall or from their homes." Despite having to change how they operate this year, Clarke said they're happy to continue the festival in a new way. "We like to keep the music alive in whatever way we can. We love to keep artists employed and we want to keep artists and audiences connected," she said. "It's an important festival to us now, so we don't want to let it go fallow." Clarke said this year will be affordable too. Half of the festival is free on one stage, and the other is a pay-what-you-can method. "If someone wants to pay a dollar and someone else wants to pay $70, then that's fine with us," she said. You can check out the festival online from Feb. 16 to 20. Visit their website for more details, the schedule and information about the tickets. The Block Heater lineup: Valerie June Damien Jurado Matt Holubowski Vancouver's Parkland Music Project Lisa Hannigan, who will be part of a special Irish program Paul Noonan Saint Sister Lisa O'Neill Lorrie Matheson The Lovebullies Robert Adam Nite Twin Tarik Robinson Tendavillage 100 mile house Lucette Ariane Mahrÿke Lemire Ryland Moranz ANACHNID Cris Derksen Dr. Henry Band Kelly Bado María Mezcal With files from The Homestretch.
The new president of the United States described his inauguration on Wednesday as a moment to move forward. But moving forward properly requires a reckoning with the past. In Joe Biden's case, that reckoning came for the Keystone XL pipeline. The project's fate seemed to be sealed years ago, but it haunts us still. And now, with strident words from Alberta Premier Jason Kenney about a trade war, it could haunt Canadian politics indefinitely. Or, Canadian leaders could decide that it's time for them to move forward, too. The executive order that rescinded Keystone XL's permit on Wednesday states that "the United States must be in a position to exercise vigorous climate leadership in order to achieve a significant increase in global climate action and put the world on a sustainable climate pathway." If that sounds familiar, it's because President Barack Obama said almost the same thing when he blocked Keystone in November 2015. "America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change," Obama said. "And frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership." John Kerry — secretary of state in 2015 and now Biden's climate envoy — put an even finer point on the significance of Keystone in his own statement at the time. "The United States cannot ask other nations to make tough choices to address climate change if we are unwilling to make them ourselves," he said. A pipeline that became a referendum In his remarks, Obama argued that the practical value of the pipeline had been wildly overstated — by both sides. Keystone XL, he said, would be neither "a silver bullet for the economy, as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed by others." But the economic arguments in favour of the pipeline could not overcome the profound symbolic value assigned to it by environmental groups and climate-focused voters. On its own, Keystone wouldn't spell the difference between a green future and a "climate disaster." But the pipeline became a referendum on the U.S. government's commitment to combating climate change — a tangible thing on which American activists could focus their energies. Trump, who actively sought to undermine attempts to fight climate change, revived the project. But the political frame that was placed around Keystone XL in 2015 never went away, while legal challenges to the project continued. By the fall of 2019, most of the major Democratic candidates for the presidency had pledged to rescind Trump's order on their first day in office. Last May, Biden insisted that he would kill the pipeline. After Biden's victory in the presidential election, the Eurasia Group said that rescinding the permit was a "table stake" for the Democratic president and that backing away would risk "raising the ire of activists, their committed followers, and — importantly — the left wing of the Democratic party in Congress." "Rescinding KXL would be one area the Biden administration could act [on] and deliver a win to a key political constituency with no congressional interference," the global consulting firm said. Bill McKibben, one of the activists who led the campaign against Keystone, wrote in the New Yorker on Thursday that he was grateful for Biden's decision and never doubted that the new president would follow through. "Even today," he wrote, "Keystone is far too closely identified with climate carelessness for a Democratic president to be able to waver." So the second death of Keystone shouldn't have surprised anyone. It might have seemed rude of Biden to not wait a day or two to allow Canadian officials to make a fuller presentation on the pipeline's behalf, but that only would have delayed the inevitable. The lingering costs of climate inaction Perhaps Biden thought he was doing his neighbours a favour by ripping the Band-Aid off quickly. What might have happened to Keystone XL had Canada and the United States taken more aggressive measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the years leading up to Obama's decision? It's an intriguing hypothetical. Keystone may have paid the price ultimately for decades of global inaction on climate change. In the here and now, any debate about Keystone will have to consider whether its additional capacity is even needed at this point. In the meantime, Premier Kenney wants Justin Trudeau's government to impose trade sanctions on the United States if Biden refuses to revisit his decision. Stephen Harper could be ungracious in his defence of Keystone — he famously said that approving it was a "no brainer" — but his government doesn't seem to have ever publicly threatened to impose sanctions if Obama rejected it. Nor does it appear anyone called for sanctions when Obama officially killed the project shortly after the Trudeau government came to office. Sanctions out of spite? This idea of reprisals seems to have originated recently with Jack Mintz, a Canadian economist, who also conceded that imposing tariffs could be akin to "cutting off our own nose to spite our face." Notably, Erin O'Toole's federal Conservatives have not joined the premier in calling for sanctions. Kenney — whose government is polling poorly and whose party is being out-fundraised by the opposition — is spoiling for a fight. He has seized on the fact that federal officials did not respond to Biden's decision in particularly strong terms — and the Liberals may not have struck the right tone for those listening in the Prairies. WATCH: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says Ottawa 'folded' on Keystone XL But before launching a trade war against this country's closest ally and its new leader, one should consider the potential results and opportunity costs. Would a trade war convince President Biden to brave the wrath of his supporters and reverse a campaign promise? Or would a renewed fight over Keystone XL simply consume political and diplomatic capital that could be put toward other things? Kenney has said sanctions might discourage the Biden administration from intervening against two other contested pipelines that originate in Alberta — Line 5 and Line 3. Writing in the New Yorker, McKibben did identify Line 3 as a target. But there's also a decent chance that sanctions would only inflame existing tensions around those projects. Threats and futility In May, 2015 — nearly six years ago — former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson wrote that it was time for the Canada-U.S. relationship to move on from Keystone XL. Robertson argued that there were too many other important things to talk about. Six years later, that list of important things includes fostering collaboration on clean energy, fending off 'Buy American' policies and combating China's aggression. Still, Kenney warned that if the Trudeau government does not do more to defend Keystone, "that will only force us to go further in our fight for a fair deal in the federation." But if the battle for Keystone was effectively lost more than five years ago, should the federal government's willingness to keep fighting it have any bearing on Alberta's relationship with the rest of the country? The death of Keystone XL will have a real impact on those Albertans whose jobs depended on it. There are real anxieties and questions that need to be addressed, not least by the federal government. But the question now is whether fighting over Keystone will do anything to address those concerns — or whether it's time to put that political energy toward other purposes.
In nature’s classroom, bundled up around a hole drilled into the frozen Red River, the roles of student and teacher flip. Last weekend, the Parenteaus set out for what would prove to be a successful ice-fishing trip in Selkirk — not because they caught any channel catfish nor walleye, but because Carter Parenteau, 9, beamed as he taught his mother how to angle. “Out there, you don’t even think about all the worries of being in a pandemic. That’s probably the best part for me, and for Carter, too,” Anna Parenteau says, recalling the family field trip. Sunday marked Anna’s first time ice fishing so Carter showed her the lines; the fourth grader explained that because they were using frozen minnows, she needed to jiggle her rod to lure fish to the bait. “It’s his element, when he’s out on the land,” she says. The ability to connect and reflect on what it means to be Anishinaabe has proven to be one of the only constants for the Parenteaus this year, as COVID-19 continues to pause outings to school, ceremonies and swimming lessons. It feels good to be able to uphold treaty rights and observe how the land is ever-changing, says Jason Parenteau, an experienced ice-fisher, who has been organizing cultural activities for Anna and their two sons all year. The family braced for pandemic pivots in early autumn, but had always planned to ensure Ojibwe lessons were at the forefront of Carter and 17-year-old Josiah’s education. Their cousins, the Kennedys and Patricks were also involved, until the recent breakup of their home-school bubble, owing to the second COVID-19 wave. The families are uneasy about the prospect of returning to school — let alone their original 2020-21 academic setup. They have learned first-hand how painful it is to lose a loved one during a pandemic and be unable to attend a funeral, community feast and gather around a drum. Three relatives from Roseau River First Nation died after contracting the virus. In recent days, Anna’s father, an elder and traditional wellness worker in Roseau River, received his first vaccine dose. While she says she’s excited for him, safe family gatherings are still a long way off. Anna, Jason and cousin Dawnis Kennedy, however, are also hesitant about the vaccine rollout, citing the government’s history of non-consensual experiments and forced sterilization on Indigenous people. Kennedy says she had hoped the families were being overprotective when they mapped out a home-school plan last summer and expected a vaccine would bring normalcy. Now, she is unsure what it will take for her to feel safe about Kenny, a third grader, returning to Ojibwe Immersion at Isaac Brock School. In September, the boys called their home-school bubble “fake school.” The nickname later evolved to “our school.” Kenny and Carter, who would have been in a Grade 3-4 split class together if they were in school, connected with their teacher and classmates on video calls during the optional two-week remote-learning period after the holiday break. Their families’ shared priority is staying connected to Ojibwe programming at Isaac Brock, so they have opted for home-school lessons and check-ins with Ojibwe teachers rather than fully participating in the Winnipeg School Division’s virtual English program, thus far. Kennedy’s son has been asking about when they can return to “our school” again. She doesn’t know the answer, but she says she looks forward to the day they can gather again. Learning on the land affects the boys’ self-esteem and how they carry themselves, she says — for the better. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Westport is closing its arena for the rest of the season, effective immediately. The Westport Community Arena didn't open this winter season until October. It closed again on Dec. 7 when the village declared a state of emergency in response to an outbreak of COVID-19 in the community. "The arena never had the opportunity to re-open, as the province's lockdown orders then came into effect," said Anne-Marie Koiner, village treasurer. At the same time, demand for ice rentals is dropping off as leagues assess what remains of the season. "We just got confirmation from Leeds Minor Hockey, that they're cancelling the rest of the season," Peter Evans, manager of public works, told council. The cancellations represent a drastic drop in demand, and closing the arena now and decommissioning the ice could save the village about $25,000 this season compared to a normal season. The village usually sees a financial loss of $80,000 between September and March, according to Koiner, but as Mayor Robin Jones points out, the arena's value goes beyond the dollar figure. "The arena is such an important part of the village. So yes, we normally don't break even on the finances - but there is nothing 'lost' about our arena," said Jones. The Westport Community Arena is the recreational hub not just for the village of Westport, but for the surrounding area, providing a range of services and recreation for the larger community. The early shutdown and ice decommissioning mean the village will be out $55,000, this season because even while the facility is shuttered it has to be maintained and heated through the balance of the season. The decision to close the arena at this time was not an easy one, and its impact is going to be felt. "Businesses rely on the moms and dads who bring their hockey player children to the arena for tournaments and slip away to shop. In particular, our grocery store owner will confirm the importance of the arena during the slower months of January-March," said Jones. This year has been anything but normal and with lockdown expected to last until mid-February at best, and numerous restrictions expected to continue indefinitely, keeping the arena open for the balance of the season doesn’t make sense in light of the pandemic, officials said. Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
Wastewater testing in Hay River is no longer showing signs of COVID-19. According to a press release from the territory's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola this means people in Hay River can return to "routine public health measures." "All those who were self-isolating in Hay River during the time of wastewater signal detection and were asked to come in for testing can return to routine measures — including monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19 and getting tested at their first sign," Kandola said in the press release Friday evening. In Fort Liard, where there are six confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the community is in the middle of a two week containment order, new supports have been put in place. They include: $250 in local grocery vouchers for each household; And an additional $100 Visa gift card for all individuals who have been asked to isolate. The government of the N.W.T. is also working with the hamlet to provide deliveries to people in isolation, including childrens' toys and games where needed. Vaccinations underway Vaccination clinics continue Saturday in Fort Liard for all eligible people. The clinics are at the school gym from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eligible people include: adults above the age of 18, including those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, immune-suppressed, or immune-compromised. Kandola said this latest advice around the Moderna vaccine comes from the federal National Advisory Council on Immunization and is supported by N.W.T. health authorities. It's a walk-in clinic and no appointment is necessary, but people are asked to wear a mask, keep physical distance from one another and follow staff directions. Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 is asked not to go to the clinic. Instead they should call the health centre at 770-4301 for instructions. Wastewater testing in Yellowknife continues to signal the presence of COVID-19 in the city, but that is to be expected as there is an active case in the community. "There is no evidence of community transmission in Yellowknife and the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer will continue to monitor the situation," Kandola said.