While Ontario and Quebec are the epicentres of COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada, people in First Nations are being hit the hardest in Western Canada, where they make up half the number of hospitalizations in some provinces. The rising curve is alarming federal officials, who urged the provinces during a press conference in Ottawa on Wednesday to continue prioritizing Indigenous populations as they roll out vaccines. "So what we're saying to Canadians, to Indigenous Peoples, is now is not the time to let down your guard," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said. "This is not the time to ease public health restrictions." As of Jan. 19, Indigenous Services Canada was reporting 5,571 active cases on reserves — most of them in Prairie provinces: British Columbia: 580 Alberta: 1,312 Saskatchewan: 1,196 Manitoba: 2,241 Ontario: 93 Quebec: 144 Atlantic: 5 Indigenous Services Canada has reported 13,873 confirmed COVID-19 cases on reserves since last March. More than 90 per cent are in Western Canada: British Columbia: 1,348 Alberta: 4,459 Saskatchewan: 3,525 Manitoba: 3,643 Ontario: 428 Quebec: 462 Atlantic: 8 First Nation leaders and health experts say there are several reasons why infections are increasing in First Nations in Western Canada, including overcrowding, gatherings, people letting their guard down, relaxed restrictions and people driving in and out of communities with road access for goods and work. Lack of housing With COVID-19 caseloads rising all across Canada, the pandemic is emerging in places where it wasn't before, said Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist at Temerty Faculty of Medicine and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "It's quite concerning that COVID is starting to break into these communities," Banerji said. "They've held the forts for so long." Banerji researched respiratory infections in Inuit communities for over two decades. She said the main risk factors facing First Nations are poor access to health care services, underlying ailments, food insecurity, poverty and overcrowding. Banerji said she fears that when people get sick in First Nations, they can't find places to self-isolate. Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair of Opaskwayak Cree Nation, 628 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, said his community needs 600 more houses. "When you have people living under one roof, anywhere from six to as high as 14 members living under one roof on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, you can see how quickly that spread can happen," Sinclair said. "We're second-class citizens living in Third World conditions in a first world country." Opaskwayak Cree Nation has had success in preventing and controlling outbreaks by enforcing curfews and monitoring who enters and leaves the community with border patrols paid for by Indigenous Services Canada. The highest funding requests the department has seen for the Indigenous Community Support Fund — which was created to help communities fight COVID-19 — have been for perimeter security, said Valerie Gideon, associate deputy minister of Indigenous Services. Close to 350 First Nations across the country have closed their borders to non-essential travel, she added. But even with the added layer of security in some places, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says 50 per cent of all active COVID cases in Manitoba are First Nations members. Call for stricter provincial measures Relaxed provincial measures are also being blamed for the rise in First Nations cases. The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan is calling on the province to close bars and liquor establishments. "We believe alcohol in the bars is a contributing factor," said FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt, who recently recovered from COVID-19. "When you're on alcohol, you're more likely to lose your inhibitions, share drinks and not keep those social distance practices in practices and in check." Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs' Organization in Manitoba is urging the provincial and federal governments to enforce tougher rules to limit travel. Daniels said he thinks caseloads are rising because of people going back and forth from First Nations to urban areas. "I think until COVID is completely wiped out, they should be taking the strongest approach possible," Daniels said. Daniels said nearly 80 per cent of the 34 Anishnaabe and Dakota communities he represents are trying to control the spread of COVID-19. Concern for loss of elders Dr. Shannon McDonald, acting chief medical officer at the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia, said there isn't enough rapid testing available to test everyone who needs to travel to B.C. First Nations, and some tests can't detect infections in their first few days. "It only takes one person to come in and spend time with people in the community," McDonald said. McDonald fears the pandemic could take a particularly heavy toll on First Nations communties. "I always worry about our elders," McDonald said. "Our elders are our knowledge-keepers, our language holders and they are the human libraries, culturally. So communities are very sensitive to that, but individuals who are choosing not to adhere to public health advice are putting those individuals at risk and I really worry about that." Lawrence Latender, a member of Dauphin River First Nation, has felt first-hand the impact of COVID-19 during an outbreak in his community 250 kilometres north of Winnipeg. He recently lost seven neighbours and friends to the virus, including two aunts and an uncle. "I don't know if I had time to really grieve because it's one thing after the other," Latender said. "It's like you're focused on one death and then you're, well ... 'OK now I got to focus on this one. Ok, this one is gone, now I got to focus on this one.'" Letander, his wife and two young sons also tested positive, but have since recovered. Indigenous Services Canada says that, so far, there have been 120 COVID-19 deaths in First Nations. But with 169 Indigenous communities now administering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and more doses on the way, there's hope the chain of transmission will break.
From a global perspective, there was nothing unique about the recent raid on the U.S. Capitol. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have backed military coups around the world for decades.
Police in Moscow on Thursday detained several allies of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, including his spokeswoman, for making calls online to join unauthorised street protests to demand his release. Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic, was detained at the weekend and later jailed for alleged parole violations after flying back to Russia for the first time since being poisoned by a military-grade nerve agent. He accuses Putin of ordering his murder, which the Kremlin denies.
NEW YORK — Lani Muller doesn’t have to visit a doctor’s office to help test an experimental COVID-19 vaccine — she just climbs into a bloodmobile-like van that parks on a busy street near her New York City neighbourhood. The U.S. is rightly fixated on the chaotic rollout of the first two authorized vaccines to fight the pandemic. But with more vaccines in the pipeline — critical to boosting global supplies — scientists worry whether enough volunteers will join and stick with the testing needed to prove if they, too, really work. Those studies, like earlier ones, must include communities of colour that have been hard-hit by the pandemic, communities that also voice concern about the vaccination drive in part because of a long history of racial health care disparities and even research abuses. To help, researchers in more than a dozen spots around the country are rolling out mobile health clinics to better reach minority participants and people in rural areas who might not otherwise volunteer. Muller, who is Black, said her family was worried about the vaccine research so she didn’t mention she’d signed up to test AstraZeneca’s shot. “The legacy of African Americans in science in these sort of trials hasn’t been great and we haven’t forgotten,” said Muller, 49, a Columbia University employee whose participation in some prior research projects made her willing to get a test injection earlier this month. Muller knows more than 20 people who have gotten or died from COVID-19. “I’m much more afraid of the disease than the vaccine trial," she said. From the beginning, the National Institutes of Health was adamant that COVID-19 vaccines be tested in a population about as diverse as the nation's — key to building confidence in whichever shots proved to work. In studies of the Pfizer and Moderna shots so far cleared for widespread U.S. use, 10% of volunteers were Black, and more were Hispanic. Diversity is an even tougher challenge now. The high-risk volunteers needed for final testing of other vaccine candidates have to decide if they want to stick with an experimental injection — one that might be a dummy shot — or try to get in line for a rationed but proven dose. AstraZeneca, with about 30,000 volunteers so far, didn't release specific numbers but said the last weeks of enrolment are focusing on recruiting more minorities and people over age 65. Another maker, Novavax, just began recruiting for its final testing last month. Studying the vaccines in diverse populations is only one step in building trust, said Dr. Wayne Frederick, president of Howard University, a historically Black university in the nation's capital. Howard's hospital shared video of Frederick and other health workers getting vaccinated as a public service announcement encouraging African Americans to get their own shot as soon as it's their turn. Frederick, a surgeon who's also at high risk because of diabetes and sickle cell disease, said he's dismayed to get emails espousing conspiracy theories such as that vaccination is “an experiment on African Americans.” “There is misinformation that does require all of us to be in the forefront of getting involved and challenging it," he said. But efforts to build confidence in the vaccines could be undermined if, once there's more supply to go around, hard-hit minority communities get left behind. “The equity issue is absolutely important,” said Stephaun Wallace, a scientist at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center who also is part of the NIH-created COVID-19 Prevention Network that helps with vaccine research and education. “It's important that we ensure that the vaccine is getting to the people, and that is an access issue." Using vans to reach at-risk communities has long been a staple of fighting HIV, another illness that has disproportionately struck Black Americans. And as more doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines arrive, mobile clinics are expected to help expand COVID-19 vaccination access, especially in rural areas. But the NIH program has a different focus, offering RV-sized mobile clinics from Matrix Medical Network to help improve the diversity of ongoing vaccine studies. Officials say they've been used at a Lakota reservation, at chicken-processing plants with a largely Hispanic workforce, and in cities like Washington where Howard University is recruiting volunteers for the new Novavax study. “I don’t think we can sit in the ivory towers and hope that people come to us. I think that would be a mistake,” said Howard's Frederick. Researchers from the New York Blood Center regularly park their lab-on-wheels in parts of Queens and Brooklyn with large Black, Asian and Hispanic populations, so that even after study enrolment ends the participants can pop in for required check-ups. They also make a point of standing outside to answer questions from passersby confused about COVID-19 vaccination in general. It's "building trust and rapport,” said Dr. Jorge Soler, who helps study the AstraZeneca vaccine as part of the blood centre's Project Achieve. “I’m Latino and I’m a scientist. To be able to say that to people means something.” Soler sometimes has to dispel fears that getting vaccinated might mean being “injected with a chip," or having information collected for surveillance purposes. He stresses that the Pfizer and Moderna shots now being used cannot give someone the coronavirus — that's biologically impossible as neither is made with the actual virus. And over and over, people wonder how these vaccines appeared so quickly. Soler’s simple explanation for how to speed research without cutting corners? “This is what happens when the world is invested in something. You build a car faster with 20 people than you do with two.” ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Lauran Neergaard And Joseph B. Frederick, The Associated Press
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 41,760 new vaccinations administered for a total of 692,899 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 1,828.264 per 100,000. There were 18,975 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 907,515 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 76.35 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 3,258 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 8,549 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 16.326 per 1,000. There were 2,400 new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 13,575 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.6 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 62.98 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,684 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,910 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 37.257 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 8,250 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 71.64 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 5,344 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 9,175 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 9.402 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 23,000 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 39.89 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 2,704 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 10,436 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 13.379 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 17,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 58.71 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 10,207 new vaccinations administered for a total of 174,260 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 20.365 per 1,000. There were 16,575 new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 237,125 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 73.49 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 13,784 new vaccinations administered for a total of 237,918 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 16.197 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 277,050 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 85.88 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,514 new vaccinations administered for a total of 20,265 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 14.717 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 46,290 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 43.78 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 2,658 new vaccinations administered for a total of 27,233 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 23.095 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 29,300 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 92.95 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 2,928 new vaccinations administered for a total of 95,243 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 21.636 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 101,275 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 94.04 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 5,756 new vaccinations administered for a total of 98,125 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 19.122 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 133,475 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.6 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 73.52 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,347 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 32.278 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 17 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 18.71 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,893 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 41.956 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 16 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 26.29 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,545 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 65.718 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 6,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 15 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 42.42 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
CALGARY — WestJet Airlines will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. Transport Canada lifted its grounding order for the Max on Wednesday after approving design changes to the plane and requiring pilots to undergo additional training. WestJet executives will hold a press conference after the morning flight between Calgary and Vancouver. The event is part of a campaign to reintroduce the Max to service while assuring the public that the plane's safety issues have been addressed. Air Canada is expected to follow suit on Feb. 1. Air Canada has already said it will offer passengers booked on a Max the option of changing their flight at no extra charge. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:AC) The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The COVID-19 pandemic is about to force another big break from tradition in the House of Commons: MPs using an app on their smartphones or laptops to cast votes remotely. Party whips are still discussing some unresolved details, the most important of which is ensuring Canadians will be able to see how their MPs vote, in real-time, as they click yea or nay. But government whip Mark Holland is optimistic that all parties will give unanimous consent to proceed with the voting app when the Commons resumes Monday after a six-week break. Traditionally, MPs who support a bill or motion are asked to rise in the Commons and then nod their assent as their names are called, one by one, by the clerk. The same procedure is then followed for those opposed. That changed last fall as the Commons adapted to the need for physical distancing and restricted travel to curb the spread COVID-19. Votes by videoconference were introduced, allowing MPs for the first time to vote virtually from remote locations. However, they still voted one-by-one in response to a rollcall so Canadians could witness how each of them voted. Inevitable technical glitches meant a single vote could take up to an hour to complete, during which all MPs were required to stay glued to their seats and on camera. That's about to change — again. In a bid to speed things up, the Commons administration has developed a voting app, using combined facial and fingerprint recognition technology, to facilitate secure, one-click voting. Rather than a rollcall vote, Holland said the plan is to allow a set "time window" — around 10 minutes — in which MPs can register their votes. As always, a list showing how each MP voted would be immediately available after the results are announced. But Holland said the administration has also been asked to come up with a way to let onlookers know what's happening in real-time as each MP registers his or her vote. "It's a little bit different than what people are used to," Holland acknowledged in an interview. He said the administration opted for the time-window approach because it's easier to manage technically and faster than conducting a rollcall. It allows an MP who's having trouble connecting or other technical problems to work it out with Commons staff, without holding up voting by everyone else. It also means MPs can resume doing other work as soon as they've voted. "It means we can get done in 10 minutes what would have taken an hour and if we have eight or 10 votes in a row, suddenly all of that time is freed up to do the work that I think people elect us to do," Holland said. NDP House leader Peter Julian said his party supports the use of the voting app to increase efficiency while minimizing the number of MPs in the Commons as the second wave of COVID-19 ravages the country. But he said it's critical that constituents be able to see in real-time how their MPs are voting. "That's a fundamental principle of democracy. Canadians need to know how their members of Parliament are voting," he said in an interview. "Knowing it after the fact is fine ... but it needs to be in place for when we are (in the process of) voting ... This is how democracy functions, with transparency." Bloc Quebecois House leader Alain Therrien said in a statement Wednesday that his party supports using the app. But he stressed the Bloc also believes the Liberal government must get unanimous consent before deploying it. Conservative House leader Gerard Deltell, whose party has been the most reluctant to depart from traditional procedures during the pandemic, declined to comment. Holland said it's "looking really positive" that the government will get unanimous consent for a motion to be introduced as the first order of business Monday. The motion would reinstate until the end of June the hybrid Commons format adopted last fall — a small number of MPs in the chamber while most participate virtually — with the voting app feature to be added as soon as possible. While the app has been tested with each MP individually and with each party caucus, Holland does not expect it to be used immediately by the Commons because it still needs to be tested with all 338 MPs using it simultaneously. That can't be done, he said, until use of the app is approved. Because there was no agreement among parties before Christmas on how the Commons should resume in the new year, all MPs are theoretically scheduled to be back in the chamber Monday. But Holland said party whips are discussing how to keep the number of MPs to the bare minimum needed for quorum: 20, including the Speaker. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
Some Ottawa parents and teachers are questioning the sustainability of virtual learning as in-person classrooms stay closed with no end in sight. On Wednesday, the Ontario government announced school boards within seven public health regions in southern and eastern Ontario would resume in-class learning on Monday, but boards in Ottawa weren't among them. The province did not say when schools in Ottawa might reopen, only that Ontario's chief medical officer of health will "continue to review the public health trends and advise the government on the resumption of in-person learning," according to a spokesperson for Education Minister Stephen Lecce. Both the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and the Ottawa Catholic School Board say they have not been told when in-class learning might resume. Eastern Ontario's French public school board says virtual learning will continue for its students until at least Feb. 10. 'I'm at a loss' While she doesn't want to put her children in an unsafe situation, parent Neelam Charania said she's "exasperated, frustrated, tired." "At this point, with the information that we have, I'm at a loss. I really don't understand," Charania said, who has two children attending Half Moon Bay Public School. "They miss school. They miss going to play with their friends and I think that they learn better in an in-person environment." "It would be really nice to know how to start planning for safe reintegration or what the measures will be like," said parent Malaka Hendela of the announcement. She said she worries how students, parents and teachers are coping when there's no indication of when schools will reopen. Plan is 'unsustainable': Teacher Meanwhile, teachers are having to pivot again, now having to prepare even more lessons that will have to be taught online. "The amount of time that I am putting into putting my stuff online is unsustainable. It really is," said Rachel Inch who teaches at Broadview Public School. "A lot of time and energy is spent converting things to make them doable online. So without knowing an end date, it's a daunting task. It sort of feels quite heavy." St. Leonard Catholic School teacher Krista Sarginson said she's not sure how much longer her students are able to keep up either. "I'm seeing that my kids are struggling a little bit. They were really looking forward to going back," she said. While Sarginson commends the government for being cautious when it comes to public health, she described the ongoing school closure as "death by a thousand cuts."
Canada's national statistical agency is hiring tens of thousands of employees as it prepares for the challenge of conducting a physically-distanced census during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a press release published this week, Statistics Canada said it's overhauling its canvassing practices and looking to bring on 32,000 field staff to survey the Canadian population this spring. StatsCan said it is striving for a "contact-free" census, with agency staff collecting the necessary information without coming into face-to-face contact with the public. The census collects demographic information on every person living in Canada. The data is then used by governments, businesses, associations, community organizations and others to make evidence-based decisions at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. This year will mark the first time the agency has ever conducted a census in the middle of a public health emergency. "More than ever, these data are necessary," said Geoff Bowlby, director general of the 2021 census. "If you look at the current pandemic, the census data have been instrumental in determining how we should respond to the pandemic." As examples, Bowlby cited public health authorities using census data to learn which neighbourhoods are most vulnerable to COVID-19, and the federal government using population data to calculate the equitable distribution of vaccine doses. Online if possible, in-person only if necessary Bowlby said StatsCan said will do everything it can to keep respondents and census employees safe while conducting this year's census. Residents will be encouraged to complete the short-form and long-form surveys on paper, online or by phone. In-person interviews and door-to-door canvassing will be conducted only in rare circumstances where those methods are unsuccessful or unavailable. Over 68 per cent of respondents completed their census survey online during the last census in 2016. The agency said at the time it was the most successful in its history, with a total of 98.4 per cent of Canadian households responding. This year, the agency has set a target of 80 per cent online responses. In the event that an in-person visit is deemed necessary, no interview will be done inside a private home. Interviewers will be required to wear masks, carry hand sanitizer and maintain physical distancing from those they are surveying. Bowlby said the agency is looking to hire a record number of local enumerators to survey people in remote, northern and First Nations communities. In previous years, those communities were surveyed using a traditional canvassing method which saw census employees administer questionnaires inside people's homes. Over 600 staff who already have been hired received learning materials by mail or did their training via video conference, the agency said. Balancing risk with need for quality data Wayne Smith, Canada's chief statistician from 2010 to 2016, said a certain level of in-person contact will be necessary to engage hard-to-reach people, including those who live in areas without reliable, high-speed internet. Otherwise, the quality of the data could be compromised by a low response rate. "To say that it's going to be a revolution in comparison to what's been done before — I would be very surprised," said Smith. "Boots on the ground in the North and on reserves and in remote areas is still part of the package." Smith said the agency will have to convince Canadians of the importance of conducting the census during a pandemic before they send out the surveys — or run the risk of creating a public relations problem that could discourage people from completing it. Michel Frojmovic, community data program lead at the Canadian Community Economic Development Network, said information gathered from the census is absolutely necessary for municipal and community organizations. He said the risk of conducting the census during the pandemic is justified. "To find data in Canada that's consistent and credible and comparable and available over time is rare and divine," said Frojmovic. "One of the only sources of that data would be the census." Frojmovic said he is convinced StatsCan can pull it off. "If they do COVID safety as good as they do data security, then we're in good shape," he said.
What a difference a day makes in the outlook for the Canadian economy. Earlier this week, some economists were predicting that the Bank of Canada's Tiff Macklem would cut interest rates again when presenting Wednesday's Monetary Policy Report. But while Canada's chief central banker warned that a resurgence in the effects of the pandemic was sending the economy further down, prospects for a vaccine-led recovery meant Canada would see a sharp return to growth later this year and next. And while borrowers did not benefit from the "micro-cut" some had predicted — what Macklem carefully described as reducing already low rates "to a lower but still positive number" — perhaps more important for ordinary Canadians was his assurance that the bank-set interest rate would not rise. Startling transition to growth And that reassurance came despite the central bank's outlook of a startling transition from a shrinking economy in the first three months of the year to extraordinarily strong growth of four per cent in 2021 and five per cent next year. In a previous meeting with reporters at the end of last year, Macklem based his forecast on the assumption that a vaccine would not be widely available until 2022 and that the economy would be scarred by the impact of the virus on jobs and businesses. But this time, there was no talk of scarring. "Certainly the earlier-than-expected arrival of the vaccine is a very positive development," the Bank of Canada governor said. "But we're starting off in a deeper hole." Some economists have suggested that a strong rebound of the type Macklem and the bank's Governing Council foresee would lead to a new burst of inflation that would require the bank to raise interest rates. There have been worries, including from the real estate industry, that a hike in the rock-bottom rates that have allowed Canadians to afford large mortgages would lead to a sudden slowdown. But Macklem offered several reasons why that was unlikely to happen, for a while at least, and probably not until 2023. For one thing, any decision to reduce stimulus would begin with a slow winding down of the Bank of Canada's quantitative easing (QE) program. Currently the bank is still going to the market and buying at least $4 billion worth of government bonds every week, effectively releasing that cash into the economy. Macklem expects that to continue. Another reason why the bank feels it won't have to raise rates — the same logic for why it can continue QE — is the deep hole Macklem mentioned. Despite the hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus money from the Canadian government — plus the $900 billion US COVID-19 relief package already approved south of the border and the $1.9 trillion pandemic plan unveiled by newly installed U.S. President Joe Biden — the battered North American economy has lots of climbing to do. Still lots of slack in the economy Economics tells us that inflation does not kick in until the supply of goods, services and labour is used up such that people competing for those things start to bid up the price. But with so many unemployed, buildings empty, lots of raw material and plenty of money available to borrow and invest, the Canadian economy is not likely to reach those capacity limits until 2023, Macklem said. Inflation numbers out Wednesday showed prices rising at the slowest rate since the financial crisis of 2009, plunging in December to an annual rate of 0.7 per cent — well outside the central bank's target range of between one and three per cent. The Bank of Canada expects that number to bounce back this year to an ostensibly comfortable two per cent, but as Macklem described, that will be deceptive. "This is expected to be temporary," he said. "The anticipated increase in inflation reflects the effects of sharp declines in gasoline prices at the onset of the pandemic, and as those base year effects fade, inflation will fall again, pulled down by the significant excess of supply in the economy." As well as being an unequal recession, this has been an unusual one in that those who kept their jobs have been building up a savings hoard that some have suggested will be released in a deluge of spending once the lockdowns end — as everyone heads out dancing and partying like in the Roaring Twenties. Asked if a rush of spending was likely, Macklem once again explained why, even if it happens, a return to the days of the Great Gatsby is unlikely to unleash inflation. As retail experts explained in early December, those who have money to spend have been saving on services while continuing to spend plenty on goods. And even if we spend more on dancing, services do not lend themselves to a burst of excessive consumption. WATCH | Bank of Canada predicts wealthier households will hold on to savings: "If you don't get a haircut," Macklem said, gesturing to his own longish style, "when you go back to getting haircuts, you don't get extra haircuts." All that said, Macklem was clear to point out that with so many uncertainties, the bank's outlook is not a foregone conclusion. The economy could recover faster. "That would be a good thing," he said. A rising loonie, which would allow Canadians to spend more on imported goods and trips abroad, may slow the recovery as Canadian exports get pricier. And with an unpredictable and evolving virus, things could stay bad for longer, too, in which case the Bank of Canada has tricks up its sleeve, including micro-cuts, to add a little more stimulus if that turns out to be necessary. Someday the low interest rate party will be over, but for now, Macklem sees the most likely path as a strong if choppy and protracted recovery and continued rock-bottom borrowing costs until 2023 — or until a full recovery happens. Follow Don Pittis on Twitter: @don_pittis
The town of Oyen in southeastern Alberta has been enjoying a rare thing in the province these past few months: an economic boom. The community has been bustling with pipeline workers who arrived by the hundreds last summer to help build the Canadian leg of the Keystone XL pipeline. Doug Dingman, who owns a grocery and liquor store in the community, said his business has been up 20 per cent with the crews in town and he thought they'd be around until next fall. Those workers could soon start hitting the highway out of town as TC Energy announced a suspension in the project on Wednesday, after U.S. President Joe Biden pulled the permit for the proposed pipeline and rejoined the Paris climate accord as expected. "I'm still pretty upset that he [Biden] is going to shut it down," said Dingman, who worries about the ramifications for the oilpatch, the province and the economy. But the situation also has him wondering about other important projects for the province's oil and gas sector, including the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. The TMX project is owned by the federal government and is under construction, but some Albertans continue to worry it will never be completed. "I really don't think that'll happen, either," he said. "I think that B.C. is going to block it all." All eyes on TMX No doubt, the pressure from the oilpatch on the prime minister to complete Trans Mountain will intensify after this week. Like many, Mark Salkeld was not surprised by the Biden decision, but is still left feeling "disappointment and frustration," said the executive with Katch Kan, an Edmonton-based oilfield service company. "We can't be strangled by the U.S. We've got lots [of oil] moving there, no doubt about it, but there's lots more yet to move," he said, suggesting there will be renewed oilpatch interest in any export proposal whether it's a pipeline, rail project, or some other alternative. The Trans Mountain expansion has faced a slew of its own setbacks, yet construction continues on the pipelines that will transport oil from Edmonton to the Vancouver area for export. Besides past legal and regulatory challenges, the construction was recently paused after a series of safety problems. "I don't think just because there's no other country to deal with on that project that there aren't going to be significant challenges," said Connie Van der Byl, director of Mount Royal University's institute for environmental sustainability in Calgary. In fact, the demise of Keystone XL could invigorate opponents of Trans Mountain to try to stop that pipeline project too, she said. "Overall, this is another signal to Alberta and those connected with oil and gas that it's tough times. You have to have empathy for those in the industry," said Van Der Byl, who worked for TC Energy as a business analyst in its natural gas division more than a decade ago. Climate policy, demand uncertain Alberta's oil industry has wanted more export pipeline capacity for years in order to reduce the risk of expensive bottlenecks, such as the ones that hit the sector in 2018. When export pipelines are full, there can be backlogs in the province, which drives down prices and forces more companies to move oil by rail. It's the reason the Alberta government had a curtailment policy recently in place to limit the amount of oil production and maintain higher prices. The existing Trans Mountain pipeline is operating at maximum capacity. For many years, Keystone XL was seen as a necessity by the oilpatch, but assessing the impact of losing it now largely depends on where climate policies, world oil demand and Canadian oil production is headed. For instance, the latest modelling by the Canada Energy Regulator shows a need for Keystone XL, the Trans Mountain expansion, and Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline under its reference scenario, which assumes "a lack of future domestic and global climate policy action." However, under what the regulator calls its evolving scenario, Canada brings in new greenhouse-gas reducing measures to meet its stated climate targets. Canadian oil and gas production declines, and there could be ample export capacity with Enbridge's Line 3 and the Trans Mountain expansion. But that's still assuming those projects can be built. Considering all the hurdles pipelines have faced in the last decade, that's no guarantee. The risk is why the federal government decided to purchase Trans Mountain and why the Alberta government committed billions of dollars to TC Energy last year. Stephanie Kainz is a senior associate with the intelligence team at Enverus, an energy data analytics firm in Calgary. She expressed doubts for months about the future of Keystone XL, but she feels confident about Trans Mountain getting built. "On the heavy crude front, I think that Trans Mountain is crucial — it does provide that additional capacity," she said. The project continues to face determined opposition, including protests and blockades, from groups concerned about increased tanker traffic, oil spills, and climate change. Kainz believes there's broad support for the project, but she said the government and Trans Mountain need to work with stakeholders to assure community members that live along the pipeline system that the line "will be safe, and that they'll be safe." Plan B for KXL For now, the Alberta government and TC Energy will consider their next moves, which could include pursuing legal action to recoup their investment, like the company briefly attempted in 2016, or beginning the liquidation process of pipe and other assets to help offset costs. For TC Energy, there will be dissatisfaction, but it's merely one of many projects the company is pursuing. Considering the firm operates throughout North America with a variety of businesses from oil and natural gas to electricity and nuclear, the company still has many growth opportunities. As for Trans Mountain, the public spotlight has always shone brightly on the multi-billion dollar expansion project. Still, with Keystone XL no longer in the picture, the focus on the federal government's pipeline project will only sharpen — for those for and against.
Ontario's plan to vaccinate the populations of its most remote First Nations communities against COVID-19 faces many challenges, but Indigenous leaders say that earning the trust of the people must be a priority. Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a political organization that represents 49 of Ontario's 123 First Nations, said that the most obvious hurdle of Operation Remote Immunity is geography, as those remote communities may not have an airstrip and must have their winter roads built in time for the vaccine to be delivered. But he said that even more important than the physical logistics of delivering the vaccine is ensuring that Indigenous people are willing to accept it. "Making sure that communities are aware of the vaccine, that they understand the vaccine and why it's important so they can consent to getting the vaccine is part of the challenge," said Fiddler. All 31 remote First Nations that are participating in Operation Remote Immunity are part of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, so Fiddler and his staff have been working with Ontario's vaccine task force as a liaison between the individual communities and the government. Communication has had to flow both ways before the vaccines start arriving on Feb. 1. "We're creating material for distribution with our health authorities, creating pamphlets and social media, making sure everything is translated into Ojibway, Ojicree and Cree," said Fiddler. "So our elders can really understand the information that's being sent to them. "Once they do understand it they can give it serious consideration before giving their consent." Fiddler said that making sure everyone understands what's in the vaccine and why it's important to take it is necessary for First Nations people who are living with the trauma of Canada's colonial history. "It's not just the vaccine itself, it's the whole history of the sad, sometimes tragic past of health care and how it's been delivered in our communities," said Fiddler, adding that historically there has been a two-tiered system where Indigenous people received inferior health care. "That's what we're up against. It's a massive undertaking and it's a challenge we know that we have to address as part of this rollout." Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald, who is on the province's vaccine task force, said she was also aware of some reluctance by First Nations people to take the vaccine. She pointed to a history of medical experiments being performed on Indigenous people from the 1930s to the 1970s. "We do know that in the past vaccines were tested in First Nations communities," said Archibald, who added there is no mechanism for polling First Nations populations about things like vaccine hesitancy. "The trauma and experiences from residential schools have left our communities in a state of hesitancy when it comes to trusting Canada." A spokesman for Ontario's Ministry of Indigenous Affairs said that the administration of vaccines has already begun in Ontario's larger First Nations communities, starting with long-term care homes in Six Nations of the Grand River, Mohawks of Akwesasne, Oneida Nations of the Thames, and Wikwemikong Unceded Territory. Vaccinations have also begun at the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority and Weeneebayko Area Health Authority, with a focus on hospital and long-term care and chronic care staff and residents. Spokesman Alex Puddifant said Ornge, the province's air ambulance corporation, is leading the operations for the 31 fly-in First Nation communities, transporting the vaccine from hub cities in Northern Ontario to the reserves. Partner organizations including, Northern School of Ontario Medicine and Queens University, will help provide nurses and paramedics to administer the doses. Fiddler said that NAN is playing a supporting role, ensuring that communities are ready when the vaccines arrive with interpreters, drivers, and a co-ordinator to make sure that all of the residents in a territory consent to the vaccination and receive their dose. Dr. Sarita Verma, the dean of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, said that she and her team know they'll have to build trust with patients who are, or are directly related to, residential school survivors. "Taking a patient-centred approach that's different in Northern Ontario with First Nations communities will be important," said Verma. Indigenous Services Canada reported on Tuesday that there were 428 active cases of COVID-19 among Ontario's First Nations. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press
A full-throated, supremely confident Lady Gaga belted out the national anthem at President Joe Biden's inauguration in a very Gaga way — with flamboyance, fashion and passion. The Grammy winner wore a huge dove-shaped brooch and an impressively billowing red sculpted skirt as she sang into a golden microphone, delivering an emotional and powerful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” She was followed at Wednesday's ceremony by Jennifer Lopez, dressed all in white, who threw a line of Spanish into her medley of “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful" — a pointed nod to multiculturalism, just two weeks after white supremacists and other violent rioters stormed the Capitol in an effort to undermine the peaceful transfer of power. And country star Garth Brooks, doffing his black cowboy hat, sang a soulful a capella rendition of “Amazing Grace,” his eyes closed for much of the song. He asked the audience to sing a verse with him: “Not just the people here, but the people at home, to work as one united.” The three superstars were among a slew of glittery celebrities descending on Washington — virtually or in person — to welcome the new administration of Biden and Kamala Harris, a duo popular in Hollywood, where former President Donald Trump was decidedly not. While stars mostly eschewed Trump's inauguration four years ago, the A-list was back for Biden. Brooks was careful to call his decision to perform on Wednesday non-political, and in the spirit of unity. He had performed during the inaugural celebration for Obama in 2009, but turned down a chance to perform for Trump in 2017, citing a scheduling conflict. Gaga went on Twitter later to explain that the giant brooch accompanying her Schiaparelli haute couture outfit was “a dove carrying an olive branch. May we all make peace with each other.” Lopez was in all-white Chanel, and Brooks kept it real in jeans, an open-collared black shirt and blazer. While the podium was full of high-wattage star power, there was little question that a new star had also emerged: 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman, whose poise and urgency as she recited “The Hill We Climb” enthralled a global audience. None other than Bruce Springsteen launched the evening's entertainment: “Celebrating America,” a 90-minute, multi-network broadcast hosted by Tom Hanks that took the place of the usual official inaugural balls, with Biden and Harris watching along and giving brief remarks. Alone with his guitar, The Boss sang his “Land of Hope and Dreams” in front of the Lincoln Memorial. “I will provide for you, and I’ll stand by your side," he sang. "You’ll need a good companion, for this part of the ride.” Hanks, also at the Lincoln Memorial, spoke of “deep divisions and a troubling rancour in our land” over the past few years. "But tonight we ponder the United States of America, the practice of our democracy, the foundations of our republic, the integrity of our Constitution, the hope and dreams we all share for a more perfect union,” he said. Jon Bon Jovi contributed a rendition of “Here Comes the Sun” from Miami, and Ant Clemons and Justin Timberlake performed “Better Days” from Memphis. John Legend sang “Feeling Good” in Washington; Foo Fighters sang “Times Like These” in honour of teachers, and Demi Lovato performed “Lovely Day” along with doctors and nurses in Los Angeles. A starry collection of Broadway's most prominent musical actors collaborated on a medley of “Seasons of Love” from the show “Rent” and “Let the Sunshine In” from “Hair,” among them Christopher Jackson, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Laura Benanti, Betty Buckley, Leslie Uggams and Javier Muñoz. “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda recited from “The Cure at Troy” by Irish poet Seamus Heaney. Reciting excerpts of notable past inaugural addresses were basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, labour leader Dolores Huerta and Kim Ng, the first female general manager in MLB history. Peppering musical performances among stories of ordinary Americans and their contributions, the show included tributes to a UPS driver, a kindergarten teacher and Sandra Lindsay, the first in New York to receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside a clinical trial. The proceedings ended with a lavish fireworks show in the Washington night sky, watched by Biden (at the White House) and Harris (at the Lincoln Memorial) and their families to — what else? — “Firework,” performed by Katy Perry. The history of celebrities performing at inaugurations dates back to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s third inauguration in 1941, when a gala celebration the evening before saw performances from Irving Berlin, Mickey Rooney and Charlie Chaplin, says Lina Mann of the White House Historical Association. “Chaplin performed his monologue from ‘The Great Dictator,’” Mann notes. The celebrity component only increased over time, and one of the starriest inaugurations was that of John F. Kennedy in 1961. That celebration, hosted by Frank Sinatra, drew Harry Belafonte, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Kelly, Ethel Merman, Laurence Olivier, Sidney Poitier and other celebrities. Fast forward to the first Obama inauguration in 2009, where Aretha Franklin sang “My Country, 'Tis of Thee” at the swearing-in, and the new president and his wife, Michelle, were serenaded by Beyoncé singing “At Last” at an inaugural ball. ___ AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton contributed to this report from Los Angeles. ___ For complete coverage of the inauguration, please visit: https://apnews.com/hub/biden-inauguration Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
Researchers have said around 52,000 deaths in Europe could be prevented each year if emissions are cut to WHO guidelines. View on euronews
COVID-19 restrictions are interrupting training and certification programs for lifeguards in Ottawa, raising the possibility that public pools, beaches and water parks will be understaffed this summer, one safety advocate warns. Indoor pools are closed during Ontario's current lockdown, postponing the training and testing would-be lifeguards need to be certified. According to Perry Smith, programs director for the Lifesaving Society in Ontario, that could lead to a shortage of trained personnel when those aquatic facilities reopen. "At some point those will be reopened and they take in some cases hundreds of lifeguards to supervise," said Perry. "We recommend that when the stay-at-home mandate is lifted, that people continue with their training as soon as they can, so they don't get into a situation where … they're not able to get the training they want going into the summer," said Perry. Between mid-March and Boxing Day, when Ontario's 28-day lockdown went into effect, first aid training and lifeguard certification was allowed to continue, albeit with safety protocols including smaller classes, frequent cleaning of equipment and the some online elements. That restricted capacity, creating a backlog that's now getting worse. According to Perry, the City of Ottawa has had lifeguard staffing problems in the past, with too many lifeguards gunning for choice outdoor jobs at water parks, public beaches and summer camps, and too few settling for indoor posts and teaching swimming lessons, according to Perry. You don't want your beachfronts or your swimming pools with not enough staff available to provide the services. - Perry Smith, Lifesaving Society In order to attract more young people to the field, the Lifesaving Society recently reduced the age requirement to start training, Perry said. "So they can get their training when they're 15, and then when they turn 16, then they can be employed as a full lifeguard." He's encouraging would-be lifeguards to get as much of their training done online as possible, "so when the pools are open, then they can continue their training and complete it." Perry is also urging municipalities including Ottawa to do whatever it takes to have pools and programs ready to go. "You don't want your beachfronts or your swimming pools with not enough staff available to provide the services," he said. But the City of Ottawa doesn't appear concerned that the stalled lifeguard training and certification process will lead to shortages months from now. "The city does not foresee any issues with staff lifeguards for the upcoming summer, and will proceed with the hiring process as per usual," said Dan Brisebois, director of citywide programs, aquatics and specialized services. In a statement, Brisebois said the city will continue to monitor the effect of COVID-19 on municipal pools and other city-run amenities.
Coal mining is already having an impact in Alberta's Rocky Mountains even as debate intensifies over the industry's presence in one of the province's most beloved landscapes. "They've been very active up there," said Kevin Van Tighem, who lives near one of the areas now heavily leased for coal exploration. The United Conservative government's decision to revoke a policy that had protected the eastern slopes of the Rockies from open-pit coal mining since 1976 has convulsed the province. Petitions opposing the move have gathered more than 100,000 signatures. Popular Alberta entertainment figures have come out against it and area ranchers and First Nations are trying to force a judicial review of the decision. Documents from the Alberta Energy Regulator show that permission has already been granted for hundreds of drill sites and kilometres of roads threading through critical wildlife habitat and land previously untouched by mining. "The day after the coal policy was rescinded we started seeing applications for exploration," said Katie Morrison of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. "Before we've done any real assessments of the impacts, we're seeing these companies have some potential pretty big impacts on that land." Documents filed with the regulator give some sense of what's already been permitted. Cabin Ridge Coal, operating 50 kilometres north of Coleman, Alta., is putting in 197 drill sites on land once protected by the coal policy. It plans 15 new access roads and 19 "reactivated" roads — abandoned for decades and now being refurbished. The exploration plans require nine new stream crossings. Elan Coal, north of Blairmore, Alta., has been permitted for 456 drill sites that include 66 kilometres of new roads and 29 kilometres of reactivated roads. Montem Resources, active south of Coleman, has the OK for 71 drill sites with an unspecified length of "new and existing access." Almost all of the drill sites are on grizzly bear range. Mountain goat and sheep habitat will be affected. Company plans detail how environmental impacts are to be reduced by careful construction and timing work for when it will cause the least disruption. They suggest the amount of land directly disturbed will be small — less than 100 hectares for Cabin Ridge. That's not the whole story, said Van Tighem, a former chief superintendent of Banff National Park. Wildlife steer clear of active roads and drill sites by up to 500 metres, he said. Roads cut into hillsides — no matter how well built — are "erosion traps" and roads that run uphill are "sluiceways" for run-off that would normally feed streams, he said. Mitigation measures aren't all they're cracked up to be, he added. "They're not ever as good as (companies) promise and not as consistently applied as the government would lead us to believe." Morrison points out that at least twice since the coal policy was revoked, companies have asked for exemptions to rules that prevented them from operating during sensitive times for wildlife. "Both exemptions were applied for, granted and work started within a day or two," she said. "That doesn't scream rigour to me as far as decreasing impact." Peter Brodsky, spokesman for Energy Minister Sonya Savage, said the government takes public concern seriously. This week, it paused all lease sales on formerly protected land and cancelled a small number of them, refunding $80,000. "The department will be working with Alberta Environment to determine next steps to best address the concerns that have been raised," he said in an email. "We will not choose between protecting the land for future generations and providing economic opportunities. We need to — and will — do both, in a measured and environmentally responsible way." Area rancher Gordon Cartwright looks up into the hills on his neighbour's land and recalls what a geologist told him last summer about what his neck of the foothills looks like. "He said, with the intensity of the operations and the drilling, it looked more like mining preparation than exploration," Cartwright said. "That activity's pretty damaging. A lot of these soils are highly susceptible to erosion and are hard to revegetate. "You would have thought consultation would have happened before you start opening up the country and creating that kind of disturbance." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. — Follow @row1960 on Twitter Bob Weber, The Canadian Press
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a growing list of music industry professionals to monetise their older work by selling valuable tracks and albums as the global health crisis has all but shut down earnings from live concerts. London-listed investment firm Hipgnosis announced a discounted placement offering of its ordinary shares on Thursday along with the deal, which is at least the fifth for the company this month after agreements with Shakira and Neil Young.
The Vancouver School Board says changes are being made to secondary school schedules to increase in-person class time after parents questioned why high school students were getting fewer instructional hours than students in other districts. On Wednesday night, the Vancouver School Board's student learning and well-being committee heard from parents. Parent Nancy Small told the committee she feels her children are being short-changed and doesn't understand how the situation could be considered acceptable. "Our Vancouver secondary students are receiving one-third of the amount of in-class time that other districts have," pointed out Small. Those concerns are in addition to opinions from parents collected during a survey conducted by the school district from Nov. 25 to Dec. 6, 2020. Small said she doesn't understand why the situation has gone on so long in Vancouver when other districts are providing more education during the pandemic. "Kids across the board like mine are struggling academically with motivation, there is no social interaction, lack of direction, and too much screen time. My Grade 8 son who has just gone into high school is expected to self-direct and self-manage his own homework and his time." Changes to school instruction During the meeting, director of instruction Aaron Davis said the Vancouver School District has noticed a trend in student performance. "One of things that was noticed with Grade 8s is [they] are performing slightly below the three-year average particularly in literacy and science." Earlier this week, Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said a review of Vancouver's instructional model, involving parents, students, Indigenous representatives and unions, was underway. On Wednesday, associate superintendent with the Vancouver School District, Rob Schindel, announced that beginning on Feb. 4, there will be more instruction and more opportunities for interactive learning. "We have been listening to students, families and staff, and we have been analyzing information about student attendance and achievement," said Schindel. The VSB says the changes will allow all Grade 8 students to attend their remote class in person twice a week. The board also announced that all high schools will go to a one-week rotation of remote and in-person classes and all students will have three interactive learning opportunities per week for remote classes. Schindel said, "These changes ensure that health and safety remain our top priority for students and staff. The changes also reflect our commitment to student well-being, transparency, and data-driven decision-making."
In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Jan. 21 ... What we are watching in Canada ... CALGARY -- Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is calling for the federal government to impose economic sanctions against the United States in response to newly inaugurated U.S. President Joe Biden's "gut punch" decision to tear up the permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline expansion. Kenney said he was upset the U.S. wouldn't consult with Canada first before acting but saved his strongest criticisms for federal Liberals, whose statements in response to Biden's actions Kenny characterized as too accepting. "If the U.S. government refuses to open the door to a constructive and respectful dialogue about these issues, then it is clear that the government of Canada must impose meaningful trade and economic sanctions in response to defend our country's economic interests," he said. The lack of a strong response sets a precedent that could allow other members of Biden's government to call for other "retroactive" permit revocations for existing pipelines, Kenney said. Part of Keystone XL has been built but it is not complete, nor is it operating. Kenney has said the province has about $1 billion at risk if the project is killed. The 1,947-kilometre pipeline is designed to carry 830,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Hardisty, Alta., to Steele City, Neb. From there it would connect with the company's existing facilities to reach the U.S. Gulf Coast — one of the world's biggest oil refining hubs. --- Also this ... CALGARY -- WestJet Airlines will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. Transport Canada lifted its grounding order for the Max on Wednesday after approving design changes to the plane and requiring pilots to undergo additional training. WestJet executives will hold a press conference after the morning flight between Calgary and Vancouver. The event is part of a campaign to reintroduce the Max to service while assuring the public that the plane's safety issues have been addressed. Air Canada is expected to follow suit on Feb. 1. Air Canada has already said it will offer passengers booked on a Max the option of changing their flight at no extra charge. --- What we are watching in the U.S. ... WASHINGTON -- If Joe Biden's decision to kill off Keystone XL is supposed to sound the death knell for Canada-U.S. relations, you wouldn't know it from the newly minted president's call sheet. The 46th president's first phone call with a foreign leader comes Friday and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be on the other end of the line. "I expect they will certainly discuss the important relationship with Canada, as well as his decision on the Keystone pipeline we announced earlier today," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday. "His early calls will be with partners and allies; he feels it's important to rebuild those relationships and to address the challenges and threats we're facing in the world." Deep in the stack of leather-bound executive orders Biden signed on his first day in the White House was one to rescind former president Donald Trump's approval of the US$8-billion cross-border pipeline expansion. The project, first proposed in 2008, has been bouncing around the White House in various forms of limbo — stalled throughout Barack Obama's two terms before being outright cancelled in 2015, then twice resurrected by Trump. Trudeau, who has been careful to point out that Biden's campaign had already promised to block the expansion, did so again Wednesday in a statement that was more celebratory than scolding. "While we welcome the president's commitment to fight climate change, we are disappointed but acknowledge the president's decision to fulfil his election campaign promise on Keystone XL," the statement said. Trudeau welcomed Biden's other moves, including rejoining the Paris accord, a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and reversing the travel ban on Muslim-majority countries. --- What we are watching in the rest of the world ... World leaders welcomed into their ranks the new U.S. President Joe Biden, noting their most pressing problems, including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, require multilateral co-operation, an approach his predecessor Donald Trump ridiculed. Many expressed hope Biden would right U.S. democracy two weeks after rioters stormed the Capitol, shaking the faith of those fighting for democracy in their own countries. Governments targeted and sanctioned under Trump embraced the chance for a fresh start with Biden, while some heads of state who lauded Trump’s blend of nationalism and populism were more restrained in their expectations. But the chance to repair frayed alliances and work together on global problems carried the day. China, whose U.S. relations nosedived due to widespread frustration in Washington over its human rights record and accusations of technology theft, expressed cautious hope about the change in the White House. “China looks forward to working with the new administration to promote sound & steady development of China-U.S. relations and jointly address global challenges in public health, climate change & growth,” China’s ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, tweeted. Biden “understands the importance of co-operation among nations,” said former Colombian president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Juan Manuel Santos, who left office in 2018. “As a matter of fact, if we don’t co-operate – all nations – to fight climate change, then we will all perish. It’s as simple as that." French President Emmanuel Macron and Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama were among those welcoming U.S. attention to climate change. After Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, Biden reversed the move in the first hours of his presidency Wednesday. --- On this day in 1992 ... The Supreme Court of Canada began its review of David Milgaard's murder conviction in the death of Saskatoon nursing aide Gail Miller. The high court quashed the conviction a few months later and Saskatchewan decided not to retry Milgaard. --- In health news ... A new study links the fitness level of Canadian children to that of their parents. The StatCan analysis suggests a child's aerobic fitness, muscular strength and flexibility all correlate to that of their parent. But there were differences when it came to the sex of each parent and child involved. Boys whose parent had "excellent" cardiorespiratory fitness had better cardiorespiratory fitness than boys whose parent had a "poor" cardiorespiratory fitness level. Girls whose parent had "excellent" flexibility had higher flexibility than girls whose parent had "poor" flexibility. But the correlation in cardiorespiratory fitness was only seen significantly in mother-and-son pairs; while a significant flexibility correlation was only seen in mother-son and father-son pairings. Grip strength was associated in all duos except father-son pairings. The study was based on data from the ongoing Canadian Health Measures Survey, and draws from a sample representative of children aged 6 to 11 years and their biological parents. --- ICYMI ... A massive snow sculpture on a St. John's lawn depicting former United States president Donald Trump drowning in a sea of blue is drawing visitors. The sculpture depicts Trump with his arms up, mouth open and hair aflutter, while his signature red tie floats out before him on the blue-painted snow. Co-creator James Keating says the snow carving is "huge" and "tremendous" and represents Trump “drowning in controversy." He and his 16-year-old son, Ashton Keating, had been working on it for a few days. Keating estimated they put about 10 hours of work into it and said they made sure it would be ready for Joe Biden's inauguration as U.S. president on Wednesday. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021 The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the call between Joe Biden and Justin Trudeau would take place Thursday.
It's well past 8 p.m., and despite the provincial curfew for COVID-19, there is still a lineup outside Hotel Place Dupuis, one of the Montreal hotels offering beds for homeless people during the pandemic. Maude Viau is familiar with the sight. The 23-year-old is a psychosocial worker on the shuttle service for the Old Brewery Mission, which provides help to people experiencing homelessness in the city. It's her job to check the streets of Montreal between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m., asking people if they have a place to stay for the night and if they have enough to eat. If needed, Viau offers them a seat on the bus and a driver takes them to a shelter or supervised injection centres. CBC News accompanied Viau on her shuttle, a few days before the death of Raphaël André, a homeless Innu man whose body was discovered Jan. 17 in a portable toilet in the city's Plateau neighbourhood, only steps from the Open Door shelter. The shelter used to be open 24 hours a day, but that changed after a COVID-19 outbreak and a plumbing issue forced the shelter to close. When it was reopened in the new year, it was not allowed to stay open overnight – even with the 8 p.m. curfew, which came into effect Jan. 9. as part of new measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. Despite calls to exempt homeless people from the curfew and fines up to $6,000, the province has refused, even as pandemic restrictions make it harder for those living outside to find a bed for the night. Hoping for a place to stay Viau walks around Place Dupuis, following the long line of people waiting outside. Fortunately, it's warmer than usual for January, with a temperature of about -1 C. She's looking for people who want to go to CACTUS, one of Montreal's supervised injection sites. Speaking with them one by one, she asks them how they're doing and if they need a ride. She knows many of them by name. Most of the people turn her down. They are hoping for a place to spend the wintry night. Employees inside the hotel, Viau says, are trying to help them as fast as they can, but they have to enter in the information of each arrival. Even though those in the line are trying to get into a shelter, they are technically breaking the province's curfew. "They're trying to follow the rules, but we cannot go faster than we go," Viau said. Outside the hotel, some people told CBC News they are thinking about other options for where to go, afraid they won't find a place at the shelter. Others say the curfew and the fines simply do not make sense, when people living on the streets don't always have an inside option. Mark Myer, who says he became homeless a few months ago after a health issue, can't make sense of the government's decision. He says the fines, which start at $1,000 and can be as much as $6,000, would be impossible for someone like him to pay. "Set an example with the right people, homeless people are not going to be able to pay them anyway," said Myer, who found a bed that night at Old Brewery Mission. WATCH | Police handed out dozens of fines on the first night of Quebec's curfew: Quebec Premier François Legault has said he will not make an exception for homeless people, saying it could encourage people to "pretend" to be homeless. Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante had called on the premier to do so, saying the curfew has added unnecessary stress on people who are homeless and those who work with them. If not a bed, then at least a chair Viau returns to the shuttle alone. She's headed to Bonaventure metro station in downtown Montreal now. She knows there will be people taking refuge there, and wants to offer them a ride to a shelter. On her way, she calls different shelters to see if there is room – if not a bed, then at least a chair at a warm place – but is told, again and again, that there is no space. Because of the pandemic, Viau and other street workers say, shelters can't be filled in the same way as they were before and some centres, like the Open Door, have been forced to close temporarily after an outbreak. Shelters have also had to reduce the number of beds since the start of the pandemic to make sure social distancing is possible. The Old Brewery Mission, for example, had more than 280 beds before the pandemic, but now has only 150. "Before, there was not a place for everybody," Viau said. "So imagine, with this, and 50 per cent less than what we usually have." WATCH | A look at nearly empty streets in Montreal under COVID-19 curfew: The city has tried to make more space. Along with Hotel Place Dupuis, the city opened Hotel Universel to those experiencing homelessness. Authorities also expanded the number of beds available at the old Royal Victoria Hospital to homeless people with COVID-19, and are planning to convert an arena near the Olympic Stadium into a temporary homeless shelter, as well. Finally, she manages to secure two spots in shelters, but some nights it's impossible, says Viau. Earlier the same week, by just after 7 p.m., there was no place to put anybody, she says, and they had to put mattresses on the floors of a shelter in Montréal-Nord, three and a half hours' walk away from downtown Montreal. But putting people based downtown into shelters far from their neighbourhood is not ideal, Viau says, because it displaces vulnerable people from the resources they normally use. 'I'm sure people are hiding' Viau finds six people at Bonaventure station, but only one wants to come on board — with some hesitation. "A lot of people don't want to go to the shelter," she said. "They just find another solution, far from the eyes of everybody, far from the tickets. I think it's more dangerous. "I'm sure people are hiding.... Where, we don't know." By 9:30 p.m., the shuttle is at the Open Door. The people getting on the bus are exhausted. "It's hard for us. We have no door, like people have a door. It's hard for us," said one woman, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Sarah. Another man, who asked to be identified only as Thierry, said that although the weather is mild, he is worried about when it gets colder and he has nowhere to go, especially given the shelters are accepting fewer people due to the pandemic. "That means more people stay outside, so people are freezing outside."