A new study finds that ice is disappearing around the globe at an alarming rate and glaciers represent a significant amount of ice loss. Researchers in Canada say the retreat of glaciers will have major impacts on water security in Canada.
A new study finds that ice is disappearing around the globe at an alarming rate and glaciers represent a significant amount of ice loss. Researchers in Canada say the retreat of glaciers will have major impacts on water security in Canada.
The Burmese-Canadian community is calling on the federal government to provide more material support to anti-military protesters after a week that saw some of the deadliest clashes between police and demonstrators in Myanmar since the military coup in that country. The Burmese Canadian Action Network (BCAN) sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Minister Marc Garneau this week, just one day after police killed 18 people and wounded 30, according to the United Nations. "We, Burmese Canadians across Canada, are calling on the Government of Canada to provide tangible support for Burmese people struggling for freedom and democracy," the letter reads. The crisis began after Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide re-election as state counsellor of Myanmar — a position equivalent to a prime minister -- on Nov. 8 last year. The military questioned the results, accusing the winning party of fraud, before seizing power and placing Suu Kyi and other senior members of her government under arrest on Feb. 1. Since then, dozens of protesters have died -- 34 on Wednesday alone -- at the hands of police and more than 1,000 civilians and elected officials have been arrested. Anti-coup protesters maintain their position behind a barricade despite smoke from tear gas in San Chaung township in Yangon, Myanmar, on Friday, Mar. 5, 2021. Demonstrators defy growing violence by security forces and stage more anti-coup protests ahead of a special UN Security Council meeting on the country’s political crisis.(The Associated Press) From pot-banging to protesters taking to the streets clad in hard-hats and goggles to protect themselves from assaults by police, the demonstrations are happening daily, in spite of bans on political protests and on social media. The letter to Trudeau and Garneau says Canada should take further action, including helping people who are now struggling with food scarcity. The civil unrest has caused major shutdowns in the country and interrupted the people's daily lives, especially those who joined the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). BCAN appealed to Canada to send food and material support via UN agencies and civil society organizations. "We encourage you to find ways to provide such essential assistance urgently," its letter reads. The letter also calls on Canada to officially recognize the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Htaw (CRPH). The CRPH, which was created soon after the coup with the support of 400 elected MPs, combines the Lower and Upper Houses of Myanmar's parliament. Protesters hold up placards demanding the release of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration against the military coup in Naypyidaw on March 4, 2021 (AFP via Getty Images) According to Tin Maung Htoo, spokesperson for the BCAN, the CRPH is currently working underground in defiance of the police and supporting the demonstrators under the radar, by releasing information and making announcements to the public. "We are quite encouraged by the [Canadian] government's stand and this stand and actions from the government is very encouraging for people on the ground in Burma, especially," he said, referring to a move by Canada and Britain to impose economic sanctions on Myanmar. The two countries made the move under the Special Economic Measures Act on Feb 18 after police violence escalated against demonstrators. We don't want to go back 20, 30 years -- back to the dark age. That is why this is the time for us to do whatever we can. - Tin Maung Htoo Maung Htoo was a student when he fled Myanmar during in 1988 after organizing protests against the military dictatorship. "More than 3,000 people, mostly students, were killed in the streets," Maung Htoo recalled. "There was no freedom of expression, association, student unions were banned." The regime lasted over 20 years, finally ending when Myanmar achieved partial democracy in 2010. Tin Maung Htoo, with the Burmese Canadian Action Network, says the people of Myanmar 'are showing their strong stand and support for democratization in the country.'(Submitted by Tin Maung Htoo) Two years before the country opened itself to the world, the military wrote a new constitution, which allowed it to keep some of its former powers, including 25 per cent of seats in parliament and control of the defence, border affairs and home ministries. When the military moved to take power in February, General Min Aung Hlaing announced the removal of 24 democratically elected ministers, naming 11 replacements.. Maung Htoo said he believes the coup is an act of desperation. He said the the military was gradually losing not only political control under Suu Kyi's leadership but also economic power, since big business organizations are military-backed and military-owned. "People are showing their strong stand and support for democratization in the country." Maung Htoo said. "We don't want to go back 20, 30 years ... back to the dark age. That is why this is the time for us to do whatever we can."
A new program in two Hamilton high schools aims to support the mental health of Black and racialized youth. Students at Bernie Custis Secondary School and Cathedral High School, both in central Hamilton, will have access to a “health and wellness connector” who will connect youth to services to support their overall health and well-being. “It's really important for us to give hope to the kids and to give hope to our youth, particularly the Black and racialized youth who seem, based on the data, to be disproportionately impacted by the pandemic,” said Terri Bedminster, co-founder and executive director of Refuge Newcomer Health, the organization leading the program in partnership with the Hamilton School Based Network. “This program is to support Black youth in accessing community services around mental health, and other services, but also to have a familiar face or someone who identifies as the population.” A Statistics Canada report in October found that youth have experienced the greatest declines in mental health since the pandemic began. Visible minority groups were more likely to report “poor” mental health. The service was made possible by a $30,000 grant from Hamilton Community Foundation’s pandemic response fund. This service is an addition to an existing nurse practitioner program that Refuge piloted in 2012. When COVID-19 hit, the group began to consider other ways to support the youth hardest hit by the pandemic. “What we saw was that Black and racialized youth, based on a lot of feedback from community partners, were needing some support,” Bedminster said. Refuge will continue to work with community partners serving Black and racialized youth “to further understand ... the specific needs of these youth,” she said. With the funding, Refuge hired two Black young people — Dejehan “Lucky” Hamilton and Ashleigh Montague — on a part-time basis to spend time in both schools. “We know that relationships are key to Black youth,” Bedminster said. “The ability to connect and identify with someone who looks like you and may have experiences like you, that's key.” Hamilton, a lifelong Hamiltonian with expertise in arts education and youth mentorship, said he is excited to be “an additional resource for (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) students” — a group he has been passionate about for nearly a decade. “I’m a firm believer in the power of one,” he said. “If we can help, change, improve, or empower one young person that would be a win.” Sue Dunlop, superintendent of education responsible for Bernie Custis, said the school community is grateful to the team that is “enhancing opportunities for students.” Bernie Custis is part of a family of schools deemed “high priority” by the board. “This partnership removes barriers for students who are historically underserved and provides them with supports that will lead to success in school and beyond,” she said. Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
MONTREAL — Live theatre and music could soon return to Montreal for the first time since the fall but promoters say they are worried that the nighttime curfew in the city will dampen their plans. Still, representatives of Quebec's cultural industries say they're optimistic after meeting earlier this week with the province's culture minister, Nathalie Roy. The government is looking to reopen theatres and concert halls even in regions under the highest pandemic-alert level, such as Montreal, where residents are forbidden to be outside after 8 p.m."We're thrilled that there is real concrete conversation between the cultural industries and the government about reopening; it's really collaborative and positive," said Amy Blackmore, a member of the board of directors of the Conseil Quebecois du Theatre, an industry group.While theatres and concert halls in much of Quebec are allowed to be open — or will be by March 8 — live performance venues remain closed in "red" zones, where around 60 per cent of Quebecers live.Blackmore, who attended the meeting with Roy, described it as a "positive step." She said she's particularly pleased with the province's proposal that would allow theatres to collect government aid for another month after they are permitted to reopen.That time will help venues adapt, said Blackmore, who is also the executive and artistic director of the MainLine Theatre and the Montreal Fringe Festival. "Venues have to hire staff," she said. "Selling tickets takes time, putting marketing campaigns together."Blackmore said she was also pleased to hear that school field trips to theatres outside red zones will be allowed starting March 15. "It is nice to see that there already is a plan to bring students back into theatres."Luc Fortin, president of the Quebec Musicians’ Guild, said he thinks the government's plan is "interesting" but he said he has concerns about the 8 p.m. curfew, which the government appears to have no intention of soon changing. "It's very limited," he said, adding that he thinks venues will be able to put on daytime performances on weekends and performances aimed at children and retirees during the week. Fortin said he'd like the government to push the curfew back and come up with a concrete reopening plan.He said, however, his members will be happy to perform again, adding that 40 per cent have thought about leaving the industry over the past year. "The essence of music is to play in front of an audience. So it's fine to record at home and put it on Facebook, but that's not the real thing."But strict capacity restrictions may lead some venues to stay closed even if they are allowed to reopen.Meyer Billurcu, concert promoter and co-owner of Le Ritz PDB, a music venue in Montreal's Mile-Ex neighbourhood, said it doesn't make sense to put on performances with a limited audience. "I can't imagine us doing anything unless it was outside," he said. "If you're going to cover all your expenses, paying the artists, paying the sound techs and stuff, it doesn't make sense to open unless, either the tickets are very expensive or we can open up at full capacity."The curfew is also a limiting factor, Billurcu said, adding that most shows he promotes start after 8 p.m.He's putting his hopes on the province's vaccination plan and he's somewhat optimistic — he's booking performances for November. Other cultural producers are planning to hold shows outside. Mathieu Murphy-Perron, artistic and executive director of Montreal's Tableau D'Hote Theatre, said his company is planning to put on a play outdoors in June. He said from what he's heard, the rules for the reopening will be strict. "You're talking about incredibly reduced capacity, you're talking about audience members needing to wear masks the entire time," he said. "You're even talking about the limitations that casts have at interacting with one another — you have to keep the cast at a certain distance; they can touch for no more than 15 minutes a day."That will shape what kind of performances can be presented, he said. "But at least it allows us to present something."Quebec reported 798 new cases of COVID-19 Friday and 10 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including three in the previous 24 hours. Health officials said hospitalizations dropped by nine, to 617, and that 111 people were in intensive care, a drop of four.Quebec's government-mandated health institute said Friday it had confirmed 194 cases involving coronavirus variants, the first reported rise since Feb. 28, when the number was 137. The institute said there were 1,462 presumed cases involving mutations, up from 1,353 on Thursday.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. ———This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press
Three more Hamilton schools are offering asymptomatic COVID-19 testing this week. The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board will offer asymptomatic testing at Orchard Park Secondary School in Stoney Creek on Friday for students and staff at the high school. Orchard Park’s feeder elementary schools — Eastdale, Green Acres, South Meadow, R.L. Hyslop and Winona — are also eligible. This is the second time testing will be offered at Orchard Park, which was part of a Feb. 13 pilot clinic. At the Catholic board, testing will be available at Cathedral Catholic High School in central Hamilton on Friday for asymptomatic students and staff at the school and at Cathedral Children’s Centre. On Saturday, testing at the school will be for the feeder schools, Holy Name of Jesus, St. Ann Hamilton, St. Eugene, St. Lawrence, St. Luke, St. John the Baptist, St. Patrick, Sts. Peter & Paul. Hamilton public health says the rapid antigen test, which is being used at both Orchard Park and Cathedral, is “less invasive” than the nasopharyngeal swab. St. Eugene Catholic Elementary School is using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, lab-based and more accurate than rapid tests, at its clinic on Thursday evening. An outbreak was declared Feb. 23 at the east Hamilton elementary school, which has had four confirmed cases of the virus. PCR tests will be used as directed by public health “during an outbreak investigation.” “PCR tests will also be used for close contacts of confirmed cases,” said spokesperson James Berry in a Feb. 26 email to The Spectator. No cases were found among the more than 250 asymptomatic tests conducted at Hamilton schools last week. HWCDSB chair Pat Daly told The Spectator on Monday the board had “expected somewhat of a higher turnout” among students. Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration insisted Friday that a quest for scientific accuracy, not political concerns, prompted members of his COVID-19 task force to ask the state health department to delete data last summer from a report on nursing home patients killed by the coronavirus. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, citing documents and people with knowledge of the administration’s internal discussions, reported late Thursday that aides including secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa pushed state health officials to edit the July report so it counted only residents who died inside long-term care facilities, and not those who died later after being transferred to a hospital. At the time, Cuomo was trying to deflect criticism that his administration hadn't done enough to protect nursing home residents from the virus. About a third of the state's nursing home fatalities were excluded from the report as a result of the change. The revelations about the removal of the higher fatality number come as the Democrat also faces accusations he sexually harassed two former aides and a woman that he met at a wedding. Cuomo had apologized Wednesday for acting “in a way that made people feel uncomfortable” but rejected calls for his resignation and said he would fully co-operate with the state attorney general's investigation into the sexual harassment allegations. Federal investigators are scrutinizing his administration’s handling of nursing home data. Top Democrats in the state have said they want those investigations to conclude before they make a judgment about Cuomo's conduct, but in the wake of Thursday night's report, a few state lawmakers renewed calls for the governor to either resign or be ousted. “And Cuomo hid the numbers. Impeach,” tweeted Queens Assembly member Ron Kim, who said Cuomo bullied him for criticizing how Cuomo withheld nursing home data. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that the allegations that Cuomo aides deleted data from the report was “troubling” and said the White House “certainly would support any outside investigation.” The July nursing home report was released to rebut criticism of Cuomo over a March 25 directive that barred nursing homes from rejecting recovering coronavirus patients being discharged from hospitals. Some nursing homes complained at the time that the policy could help spread the virus. The report concluded the policy didn't play a major role in spreading infection. The state's analysis was based partly on what officials acknowledged at the time was an imprecise statistic. The report said 6,432 people had died in the state's nursing homes. State officials acknowledged even then that the true number of deaths was higher because the report was excluding patients who died in hospitals. But they declined at the time to give any estimate of that larger number of deaths, saying the numbers still needed to be verified. In fact, the original drafts of the report had included that number, then more than 9,200 deaths, until Cuomo's aides said it should be taken out. State officials insisted Thursday that the edits were made because of concerns about accuracy. The administration initially released data about how many nursing home residents died at both hospitals and nursing homes, but quietly stopped in early May. “While early versions of the report included out of facility deaths, the COVID task force was not satisfied that the data had been verified against hospital data and so the final report used only data for in facility deaths, which was disclosed in the report,” Department of Health Spokesperson Gary Holmes said. The governor's office didn't respond to questions from The Associated Press about whether Cuomo himself was involved in removing the higher death total from the report. Scientists, health care professionals and elected officials assailed the report at the time for flawed methodology and selective stats that sidestepped the actual impact of the directive. The administration refused for months to release more complete data. A court order and state attorney general report in January forced the state to acknowledge the nursing home resident death toll was higher than the count previously made public. DeRosa told lawmakers earlier this month that the administration didn't turn over the data to legislators in August because of worries the information would be used against them by President Donald Trump's administration. “Basically, we froze, because then we were in a position where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice or what we give to you guys, what we start saying was going to be used against us while we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation,” DeRosa said. Cuomo and his health commissioner recently defended the March directive, saying it was the best option at the time to help free up desperately needed beds at the state’s hospitals. And they've argued community spread is the biggest risk factor for nursing homes, and that it's unlikely that most hospital patients treated for COVID-19 were contagious once they arrived. “We made the right public health decision at the time. And faced with the same facts, we would make the same decision again,” Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said Feb. 19. The state now acknowledges that at least 15,000 long-term care residents died, compared to a figure of 8,700 it had publicized as of late January that didn’t include residents who died after being transferred to hospitals. The Associated Press
When you think of eating luscious tropical fruit like guava, papayas and pineapples off the tree, you might figure you've got to travel down south. In Blyth, Ont., these exotic fruits are now being grown locally -- even in the dead of winter. Minna Rhee reports.
A U.S. agency investigating Facebook Inc for racial bias in hiring and promotions has designated the probe as "systemic," attorneys for three job applicants and a manager who claim the company discriminated against them told Reuters on Friday. The EEOC typically resolves disputes through mediation or allowing complainants to sue employers. Facebook operations program manager Oscar Veneszee Jr. and two applicants denied jobs brought a charge last July to the EEOC, and a third rejected applicant joined the case in December.
Squamish Nation council has presented a survey of 300 of its community members’ concerns regarding ongoing disruptions from rail operations just metres from their homes to CN Rail this week, in the hope immediate short-term changes will be made. With three rail tracks just 30 metres from some homes in the community of Eslhá7an, near Mosquito Creek in North Vancouver, residents say they have been putting up with unacceptable levels of noise, pollution and health impacts for far too long. “Think of a loud muscle car or motorcycle revving up outside your house late at night,” said Keith Nahanee, who lives just 45 metres from the tracks in Eslhá7an. “Now times that noise by 10. That’s what it’s like.” Nahanee, who has been dealing with the rail issue his whole life, said CN Rail trains were left idling just across from homes routinely at around 11 p.m. each night. “Not only do we hear the engines humming, but some houses rattle because of the engines,” the 48-year-old said, adding that he was consistently woken by the loud diesel engines and train cooling systems. “If they're going by, that's fine but they sit out here and idle. Sometimes the guy ends his shift out here. He’ll leave the train there and he'll go home and it's idling from around 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., or midnight, until someone picks it up the next day.” Nahanee is one of the residents, mostly elders, – from Eslhá7an to Yekwaupsum – who filled out the survey detailing their concerns regarding the rail operations. But it’s not the first time he or other residents have made their voices heard, saying he had been sending complaints to CN Rail three times a month since he could remember. He said the response, if received, from CN Rail was the same each time, which explained idling was necessary for most of its locomotives, which are not designed to be easily turned on and off. Nahanee said the first thing the community really wanted was for the trains to idle somewhere else during the middle of the night, further from homes. “I mean, that’s all we want,” he said. “Between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., just let us sleep.” Khelsilem, Dustin Rivers, spokesperson for Squamish Nation, said the nation conducted the survey after a virtual meeting was held with CN Rail on Oct. 3, 2020, between nation council members and CN senior executives to reopen discussions on how to solve the ongoing disturbances to residents in the communities of Eslhá7an and Yekwaupsum. “The Squamish Nation has been dealing with these issues over many, many, many years and it seems like every so often we get some progress and then after a number of years the issues come up again,” he said, adding it was “frustrating” to be back at this stage. “Our leadership is really upset with CN and how they are treating our residents of our community, and while the Oct. 3 meeting was diplomatic and a point to sort of re-establish a relationship, we're still not seeing the kind of action that we would like to see on the ground to respect our residents and our elders in our community.” Khelsilem said leadership was hoping that would change and communications would become more fluid again with CN, after presenting the results of the survey on March 3. He said community members provided “a lot of explicit and specific feedback regarding issues around shunting, whistling, and idling which is basically directly in front of a lot of people's houses.” “The biggest issue, of course, for our members, is that there's a significant amount of activity, noise, pollution, and disruption happening during the evening and late into the night,” he said. “We have a number of families with young children, we have families who work and are trying to make a living for their families to provide for them, we have elders who are recovering from significant health issues … all of whom are being severely impacted.” While CN Rail has progressed on various initiatives over the past several years to reduce noise, such as train whistling cessation, rail lubrication, and installing automated gates at at-grade crossings, Khelsilem said more operational changes were needed. “There needs to be a change and a moratorium on when some of their operations are happening around our reserves,” he said, adding that the nation was calling for an end to locomotive idling adjacent to residential properties as a short term solution. Khelsilem said the issue dates back to the colonial history of the railways within Canada and how they were developed. “If you were to apply contemporary standards to rail lines, they would never allow rail lines to be built that close to a residential area like ours is,” he said. “If you look at the rest of the North Shore, there's not a lot of areas where there are rail lines in that close proximity, but because of the colonial history of governments unilaterally deciding and making these decisions, including the expropriation of reserve lands to suit the rail line expansions, we have this sort of horrible legacy of racist decisions that today we're feeling the impacts of in our community.” He said future long-term goals would be to see some of the rail lines near the community of Eslhá7an decommissioned and the idea to move the railway underground or below grade be explored. In response to complaints in July last year, CN Rail issued a statement saying the whistles are required by law for safety reasons and that idling is necessary for almost half of its fleet of locomotives, which are not designed to be easily turned on and off. “As a backbone of the Canadian and British Columbian economy, we operate our railroad 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; therefore, there will always be some noise associated with these operations,” the statement read. “CN is aware of the fact that it operates in close proximity to the communities through which we travel and is committed to make every effort to minimize the effects that may occur as a result of these operations.” CN Rail is now reviewing the results of the nation’s community complaints survey. Khelsilem said the nation would continue communications with CN Rail on short-term and long-term solutions. "They're open to potential changes, but no commitments have been made," he said. Elisia Seeber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News
A local family with deep ties to the Rockyford area is being honoured for best representing the values of the family farm within their rural community. Gordon and Darlene Koester and family, with Koester Cattle Co. Inc., was a recipient of the BMO Farm Family Award, presented by the Calgary Stampede and BMO Bank of Montreal. This awards program was created to promote a renewed urban-rural relationship and to recognize outstanding southern Alberta farm families who best typify the value of the family farmer to society. The Koester’s local ties started in 1928, when the family moved from Iowa to Rockyford. Joe, one of nine children, and his wife, Tillie, purchased their own farmstead in 1950, raising eight children. Their son Gordon and his wife Darlene took over the family farm and raised four children. Sons Matthew and Adam became an integral part of the family farm operation, but in 2015, they decided to pursue their off-farm careers on a full-time basis. Bradie, one of the couple’s two daughters, and her husband, Dan, then jumped at the opportunity to come home and farm, and are now at the helm of the operation. The family winning the award was a surprise, said Gordon, in an interview. “I was taken back by the nomination, thinking there’s a lot of deserving people out there,’ he said. “I was humbled to be chosen, that’s for sure.” The Koesters have been an integral part of their community. Gordon is the past president of the Rockyford Lions Club and past chairman of the Rockyford Agricultural Society, Hall Board, Curling Club, Parish Council, Knights of Columbus and Minor Hockey, and is also a 25- year member of the Seed Growers Association. Darlene helped establish ringette in the Rockyford Community 30 years ago, and was a coach and manager throughout the years while her daughters played. She was also the Rockyford Rodeo secretary for 25 years in addition to driving a school bus for three decades. Dan and Bradie belong to the Rockyford Minor Hockey and Ringette Association as coaches and board members, in addition to Rockyford’s Ag Society, Lions Club, Rodeo Committee, Parish Council and Knights of Columbus. They also coach their girls’ fastball teams as well as play ringette and hockey on adult teams. Dan belongs to the Strathmore Seed Cleaning Plant and is entering his second year as chairman. Being established for multiple generations has helped the Koesters make such an impact in their community, said Gordon. “My father and mother taught us to be part of the community and make sure things work,” he said. “We’re a small enough community that everybody can take a turn.” Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Friday she will issue an executive order mandating that all K-12 public schools provide universal access to in-person learning by the month’s end for students up to fifth grade and by mid-April for older students. The state’s coronavirus case numbers have fallen sharply in recent weeks. Oregon put teachers ahead of older residents in the line for the COVID-19 vaccine — a decision that angered many people 65 and up. As teachers get vaccinated, Brown has been under tremendous pressure from parents and local elected officials in many counties to reopen schools. Many teachers' unions nationally have balked at a return to in-person learning, putting them at odds with Democratic governors like Brown in some states. In neighbouring Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee has implored educators to return to the classroom, but most students there are in online classes and the Seattle teachers' union is defying a district plan to return special education students to schools. In Chicago, the teachers' union agreed last month to return to class with expanded access to vaccinations and metrics that will lead to school closures again if case numbers spike. Under the Oregon order, students in K-5 must have an in-person learning option by March 29. Students in grades six through 12 must have one by April 19. Students who prefer to remain in online class will also have the option. State education officials have until March 19 to revise their guidelines for in-person instruction to help districts facilitate the return, she said. In a letter to the state Health Authority, Brown said the “science was clear” and that she was “relieved" that she could bring children back to class. “I feel so much hope for Oregon’s kids, their parents and their schools, as we continue to navigate this pandemic," she said in the letter. ”Our kids are our future and we need to do everything we can to make up for the losses of 2020." Many parents reacted with relief and said the past year had been extremely difficult for their children. “It’s very positive and definitively a step in the right direction — and frankly, it’s about time. Clearly, it’s been hard for districts to figure out what’s going to be best for their students, and it’s taken a long time,” said Katie Chrisman, who has a child each in elementary school, middle school and high school in the Portland suburbs. Her children “haven’t had a ton of suffering, but they’re definitely not thriving — and for me, that’s been the biggest concern,” she said. Other parents, as well as some state GOP lawmakers, said more was needed. Rene Gonzalez, with a parent group called Ed300 that has called for a return to full-time in-person learning five days a week, said teachers’ unions have been inflexible and the state education and health officials had set up “insurmountable barriers” for to a return to classrooms for too long. “We will not rest until every Oregon child has access to five-days-a-week, full time in-person school; until children’s co-curricular activities and community life fully return; and until libraries across the state (have) reopened," he said in a videotaped statement. Data tallied by the state Department of Education show about 20% of Oregon's public schools are already operating with full-time on-site learning, mostly in rural areas with fewer students in the eastern and central parts of the state. Another 23% are offering hybrid learning and 56% currently have almost all distance learning, with limited in-person instruction for students with extra needs. Rylee Ahnen, spokesman for the Oregon Education Association, the state's largest public school employees union, said in a statement that teachers support returning to the classroom if it can be done safely. The union understands the frustrations of both school districts and parents, he said, as everyone navigates how to return to class. He added that most districts were already planning to some sort of in-person learning in the coming weeks. “We hear, understand, and share the frustration expressed by many in our communities about the uncertainty this pandemic has caused for our public education system," he said. The union represents 44,000 K-12 teachers across Oregon. Oregon started vaccinating teachers in January ahead of seniors, but the state health department can’t say for sure how many educators have been vaccinated because it does not track the profession of recipients. The union also could not say what percentage of teachers have received the vaccine. Brown said all but six counties in the state currently meet or exceed the advisory metrics for a return to in-person, hybrid learning for all grade levels. Five of the counties that do not yet meet the guidelines for all grade levels make the cut-off for a return to elementary school. After those dates, all public schools in Oregon will operate either on a full-day of in-person school or a hybrid model, in which students spend parts of the day or some days each week in a classroom setting and other parts of the day or week online. The approach that districts choose will be dictated by COVID-19 case numbers in their county and local decision-making, officials said. Portland Public Schools, the state's largest district with 49,000 students in 81 schools, was already planning to bring elementary students back in April. It's unclear whether Brown's order will affect that timeline. The Salem-Keizer School District, the states's second-largest after Portland, announced Friday that it would welcome middle and high school students back to a hybrid model that combines in-person learning and distance learning starting April 13. Elementary students in the district have already been back in class on a hybrid model. Elsewhere, California’s governor on Friday signed a law aiming to return public school students to classrooms. It offers $2 billion to school districts that reopen physical classrooms by the end of March. ____ Follow Gillian Flaccus on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gflaccus Gillian Flaccus, The Associated Press
Frances Wesley said a sense of relief could be felt in the room at the first vaccine clinic held for off-reserve First Nations members living in Thunder Bay. The smell of sage burning from the smudge bowl used to bless the Pfizer COVID-19 doses and the nurses administering them also filled the room with reassurance as a lineup formed outside of people scheduled to get their first shot. Ms. Wesley, the executive director of the Matawa Health Co-op, an organization that serves nine First Nations communities in Northern Ontario, said close to 200 doses were administered to its off-reserve members in a clinic that first opened this week. She said the Matawa group prioritized vulnerable people including those older than 60, the homeless or precariously housed and those with mental-health illnesses. Thunder Bay moved back into the province’s grey lockdown zone last week as it continues to struggle to get a handle on the virus, which has spread significantly among the city’s homeless and precariously housed, many of whom are Indigenous and First Nations. Chief Chris Moonias from Neskantaga, one of the Matawa First Nations, declared a state of emergency last month after an outbreak infected 12 members living in the city. Chief Moonias said most of those cases have been resolved, however one of his nephews remains in the ICU. According to a 2018 community report, close to 500 people are in homeless situations, such as couch surfing or accessing emergency shelters in Thunder Bay. Ms. Wesley said the doses for Matawa’s clinics are being provided by the Thunder Bay health unit based on how many people register. She said Matawa was able to move quickly because it has extensive health care resources, including nurses and physicians on staff. She said Matawa worked with health directors from each of their communities to get a list of those living in the city for registration. There are about 4,000 members from the nine Matawa First Nations who live in Thunder Bay, according to Ms. Wesley. “Some people will say no,” she said. “Others are so excited they can hardly wait.” She said they’ve already been approached by other First Nations and groups about holding clinics for their off-reserve members and communities accessible by road. Remote Indigenous communities were given immediate priority because of their isolation and inadequate access to health care. Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a political organization representing 49 mostly remote First Nations, said more than 9,000 members living in remote communities have been vaccinated so far as Operation Remote Immunity nears completion. Meanwhile, public-health units and regional health authorities are leading the rollout in urban Indigenous and road-access communities. Nishnawbe Aski Nation noted there’s a sense of urgency for those close to hot spots such as Thunder Bay as COVID-19 cases and outbreaks in the city continue to put lives at risk. Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald is a member of the provincial vaccine task force and says the goal is to vaccinate all First Nations in Ontario by April 30. She said clinics to vaccinate people 55 years and older have already begun in some urban locations such as Anishnawbe Health Toronto and Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre in Sudbury. The Thunder Bay District Health Unit says it’s already vaccinating the homeless population in the city with partners at different clinics and that many road-access communities in the district have received their first doses. The health unit said it is still in the planning stages with Indigenous organizations for vaccinating off-reserve members in the district. Ontario announced Friday its plans to move to Phase 2 of its vaccine rollout plan based on age and risk, focusing on ages. Indigenous communities and people were identified as a priority group at the beginning of the pandemic and vaccine rollout because of higher rates of poorer health outcomes and higher risk of COVID-19 infections and transmission. Thunder Bay wasn’t listed as a COVID-19 hot spot region slated to get additional doses in the province’s transitional plan. Dr. Dirk Huyer said it was based on historical, not current, data of hot spots such as Peel and Toronto. Willow Fiddler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Globe and Mail
The Chief of the Nipissing First Nation, west of North Bay, said he is concerned for his people who may be suffering with mental health, addiction, loneliness and isolation issues during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Chief Scott McLeod said even the strongest-minded, most stable members of his community are experiencing COVID fatigue now that we’ve been dealing with the virus for about a year now. “Humans are very social creatures and I think we took that for granted before COVID hit. Staying at home doesn’t seem all that difficult until you start doing it for weeks on end,” the Chief said. “Everybody is really tired and wants to see us get back to some sense of normalcy. Our health department has been working non-stop with increases in everything from addictions to mental health issues. COVID has exacerbated problems that were already plaguing our community.” Chief McLeod said it has been challenging to deal with people who need mental health assistance because due to COVID they have to be treated and counselled from a distance. “The problem is that during these lockdown occurrences, addiction treatment centres which have waiting lists for services are simply not taking any new people during lockdown mode. It’s very problematic,” Chief McLeod said. “We do have supports within our community that we offer that don’t involve institutionalization. We do have programs like the ‘Right Path' that offer an array of services and assist those who want to get on a better path of life choices. But it’s still very hard. It’s a difficult situation to deal with at the best of times, never mind during a global pandemic.” Chief McLeod said addiction and mental health issues are not unique to and not just confined to Indigenous communities. He said the whole world is having to deal right now with similar problems that have been made worse by the coronavirus. The Chief is a staunch supporter of land-based, culturally-relevant treatment programs, an approach that has worked well with Indigenous people right across the country who are suffering from mental health and addiction issues. “They tend to provide better results especially when you combine language and culture into those models. We are looking at various ways to help including those traditional approaches,” the Chief said. “We are looking at the best methods to treat addictions. Unfortunately trying to plan things during a pandemic makes things difficult.” The Chief made his comments just before an announcement by the provincial government on March 4 where the Conservatives pledged over $12.8 million to immediately expand and enhance culturally appropriate mental health and addictions services for Indigenous peoples, families and communities across the province. Details were released by Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. "Now more than ever, it is critically important to ensure that everyone, including Indigenous communities, can access the safe and effective mental health and addictions services they deserve - when they need them and where they need them," said Minister Elliott. "Our government is committed to working with Indigenous communities and other health system partners to build a comprehensive and connected mental health and addictions system that people from every corner of the province can access.” Gen Couchie, spokesperson for Nipissing First Nation, said it is not yet clear exactly how then territory will benefit from the new funding. She added that increased funding in the area of mental health and addiction treatment could be a huge help as the territory works to assist its vulnerable citizens. Couchie was also cautiously optimistic that the new funding could be used for an outreach program that the First Nation is currently developing. John McFadden is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Indigenous issues for MuskokaRegion.com, ParrySound.com and Simcoe.com. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. John McFadden, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orillia Today
The provincial government has established a new one-time benefit for parents for daycare costs during the pandemic. The Working Parents Benefit, announced during a government news conference on Feb. 24, will provide a one-time payment of $561 to parents in the province. To be eligible, parents must make less than $100,000, have children in childcare, and have paid three months of childcare between April 1 and Dec. 31, 2020. Examples of eligible childcare include licensed or unlicensed daycare, day homes, out-of-school care, or preschool. This new support will help families invest in childcare and preschool, but will also create economic stimulus, said Rebecca Schultz, the province’s minister of children’s services. The program is being funded with $108 million of unspent funds from Children’s Services to support the families of up to 192,000 children, according to the government. Applications for the benefit are made online, the date of opening varying regionally to manage volume, between March 1 to March 5. Applications will be open until March 31. A MyAlberta Digital ID is required to apply for the benefit. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
VANCOUVER — Two people were transported to hospital in serious but stable condition after a helicopter crash on Bowen Island, B.C. B.C. Emergency Health Services says in a statement that they received a call at about 10 a.m. Friday morning for reports of a downed helicopter on the island off the coast of West Vancouver. Emergency Health Services says two patients have been airlifted to hospital. Capt. Chelsea Dubeau with the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre says a helicopter was initially sent to help in the rescue, before the call was cancelled. A spokeswoman for the Transportation Safety Board says an investigation team is expected to arrive at the crash site on Saturday. Bowen Island resident Tony Mainwaring, who was the first person on scene, says he was shocked to find both occupants alive and apparently suffering only minor injuries. Mainwaring says he saw the helicopter flip upside down before it crashed near the Mount Gardner dock, on the north side of the island, after the pilot attempted to land in a field. "As soon as (the helicopter) hit the ground, we heard it," he says. "It was a huge impact." The safety board says the helicopter, operated by Airspan Helicopters, had departed Sechelt, B.C., and was bound for Cypress Provincial Park when the crash occurred. Mainwaring says he quickly gathered a few friends, went to the scene and found both people involved walking around near the crash site. "I've never witnessed anything like that. I'm a faller and I've spent a lot of time in the bush, but I've never seen anything like that." He says the crash site had jet fuel spilled across it, so they worked to get the helicopter's occupants away to safety in case a fire started. A spokesman for Airspan Helicopters said the company is working with the Transportation Safety Board in its investigation. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
OCALA, Fla. — Jennifer Kupcho and Austin Ernst each shot their second straight 5-under 67 to share the second-round lead Friday in the LPGA Tour's Drive On Championship. A day after playing most of the back nine with a migraine that blurs her vision, Kupcho had six birdies and a bogey at Golden Ocala. “I’m feeling a lot better today,” the 23-year-old former NCAA champion said. “I would say yesterday was pretty rough. Yeah, the whole back nine I just pretty much wanted to get off the golf course and go lay down. ... It was definitely a rough day, but was able to get through it well so that was helpful.” Golden Ocala is renowned for having replica holes from famous courses, three of them from Augusta National and two from the Old Course at St. Andrews. Kupcho won the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur in 2019 with a back-nine charge. “They are very similar and the look is definitely very similar, but I think I’m more nervous playing them than I was back then, actually,” Kupcho said. The former Wake Forest star from Colorado is seeking her first LPGA Tour victory. “I’ve been in contention before out here,” Kupcho said. “Just go out and relax and have fun.” Ernst had a bogey-free round. She has two LPGA Tour victories. “Fairways were a little allege bouncy this afternoon so got a few more wedges,” Ernst said. “You get quite a few wedge opportunities, so you have to take advantage of it with how firm the greens are." Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., shot a 3-under 69 and is 1 under for the tournament, nine off the lead. Calgary's Jaclyn Lee is 1 over and Hamilton's Alena Sharp missed the cut at 4 over. Carlota Ciganda of Spain had the best round of the day, a bogey-free 65 to get to 8 under. She played alongside Laura Davies, the 57-year-old Hall of Famer who rebounded from an opening 75 with a 69 to advance to the weekend at even par. “I love playing with her,” Ciganda said. “I think she’s amazing to play with. I think her talent is unbelievable, like everything she does with her different shots. She’s very creative. Lots of imagination.” Davies is playing on a World Golf Hall of Fame exemption. “I’m still a decent ball-striker,” Davies said. “My nerves let me down more than my game. So that’s why I’m still here playing, because I can hit the shots. It’s just hitting them in the right order. That’s the problem.” Nelly Korda, tied for the first-round lead with Kupcho and Ernst, was three strokes back after a 70. Playing in a group with sister Jessica Korda the first two days, Nelly Korda is trying to win consecutive events and run the family winning streak to three. Jessica Korda won the season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, and Nelly Korda took the Gainbridge LPGA last week at Lake Nona. “Honestly, it’s so mentally draining," Korda said about trying to win two straight events. "I played on Tuesday. I played the back nine and I was just like, `I do not want to be out here.' But it’s just something where you’re like, `OK, it’s the first day. Let’s go, come on.’” Lydia Ko was 3 under after a 72. Second-ranked Sei Young Kim and No. 5 Danielle Kang were another stroke back, each shooting 70. Lexi Thompson and Brooke Henderson were 1 under, each following an opening 74 with a 69. Jessica Korda shot a 75 to fall to even par. Top-ranked Jin Young Ko, playing with Korda sisters, followed her opening 75 with a 72 to miss the cut by a stroke. The Associated Press
A tree disease caused by a fungus has been identified in Wheatland County and, if left unchecked, may result in the stunting or death of trees. Black knot, caused by the fungus Apiosporina morbosa, is a disease affecting certain fruit trees (in the genus Prunus), including cherries and plums. The stems of affected trees show a blackish growth or swelling. On Feb. 17, Wheatland County announced its maintenance crews identified black knot in some of its communities. The county’s hamlet operations foreman said black knot was seen a few years ago, and while it does not seem widespread, residents should be aware of it and how to deal with it, wrote Mackenzie Maier, the county’s communication specialist, in an email. While the disease is considered common and widespread in Alberta, if it is left to progress, it can disfigure and reduce the growth of branches, sometimes leading to the death of the tree. It also stresses the infected tree, leaving it more prone to infection from other pathogens. The county cut the infected portions out of the trees areas it maintains. However, diseased branches were identified on private properties, so the county is asking landowners to assess their properties for its presence and remove any infected materials. To control black knot, all knot-bearing branches should be pruned out in late fall, winter or early spring, when plants are dormant and knots visible. Infected branches should be removed six to eight inches below the knot. To avoid spreading the spores of the fungus, shears should be cleaned and disinfected after use. Diseased wood should be either burned or removed from the site, as they may release spores for up to four months after removal. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times eastern): 7:20 p.m. B.C. is reporting 634 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 83,107 cases since the pandemic began in the province. There have also been four new deaths, pushing the death toll from the virus to 1,380 in B.C. Four new cases have been confirmed to be variants of concern, bringing the total to 250, of which 222 are the strain first found in the U.K. and 28 are the variant first detected in South Africa. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix say this has been a week of progress, as the province gets ready to begin age-based immunizations and integrate the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine into its program. Henry and Dix say the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be another tool in its program that will help accelerate protection of people in B.C. --- 6:15 p.m. Alberta is reporting 411 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths due to the virus. The province says 22 cases are of the more contagious variants. There are currently 243 people are in hospital with COVID-19, and 44 of them are in intensive care. --- 4:40 p.m. Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro says word of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine being approved is just more good news. Shandro's response came on the one-year anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 being identified in his province. He announced this week that all Albertans who want a vaccination will be able to do so by the end of June. Shandro said there is still no schedule or any word on how many more doses will be available from J&J but assumes it could accelerate the vaccination process. --- 4:25 p.m. Prince Edward Island is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today. Health officials say the case involves a man in his 50s who is a close contact of a previously reported infection. P.E.I. has 24 active reported cases of COVID-19. --- 3:50 p.m. Indigenous Services Canada says there were 1,300 active COVID-19 cases in First Nations communities as of Thursday and 21,836 cases since the pandemic began. There have been 245 deaths in First Nations communities. The department says more than 127,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in over 480 First Nations, Inuit and territorial communities as of Thursday. It says about 40 per cent of people in those communities have received at least one dose. --- 2:50 p.m. Saskatchewan is reporting 207 new cases of COVID-19. The province also says two more people have died from the illness. There are 138 people in hospital with the virus, and 22 of them are in intensive care. --- 1:50 p.m. Ontario's updated vaccination plan will see shots administered based on factors including age, neighbourhood, existing health conditions and inability to work from home. The province notes, however, that the plan doesn't factor in the newly approved Johnson & Johnson shot and additional doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Shots will go to seniors 75 and older starting in April with a goal of offering first shots to everyone 60 and older by the end of May. Doses will also be offered starting in April to people with specific health conditions and some caregivers, including those in congregate settings. Thirteen public health units, including Toronto, Windsor, York and Peel, will receive additional doses for hot-spot neighbourhoods between April and June. Essential workers who can't work from home will be offered doses at the end of Phase 2, while adults 59 and younger are expected to receive the shot in July, though the timeline is subject to change. --- 1:40 p.m. Manitoba is reporting 53 additional COVID-19 cases and one death. The province is also reporting one new confirmed case involving the variant first seen in South Africa. The percentage of people testing positive continues to drop, with the five-day average at three per cent. --- 1 p.m. New Brunswick is reporting four new cases of COVID-19, three of which are in the Miramichi region. Health officials say the province has 33 active reported cases and three people are in hospital with the disease, including two in intensive care. New Brunswick is announcing it will ease public health restrictions across the province as of this Sunday because COVID-19 infections are on a steady trend downward. The province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, says the decision to shift to the lower, yellow pandemic-alert level will be revisited if there is a spike in cases over the weekend. As well, Russell is confirming that with the expected arrival of the first shipment of the two-dose Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine later this month, the province is pledging to provide one dose of COVID-19 vaccine to every New Brunswicker before the end of June. --- 12:50 p.m. A stay-at-home order will lift next week in Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay Parry Sound. The three Ontario regions were the last ones still under the order, while most of the province transitioned back to the government's colour-coded pandemic response framework last month. Toronto and Peel will go into the strictest "grey lockdown" category of the framework, as recommended by public health officials in those regions. The province says North Bay will be placed in the red zone, the second most restrictive level of pandemic measures. --- 12:45 p.m. There is one new case of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador. The figures released today bring the total number of active cases in the province to 113. Health Minister John Haggie said he was feeling optimistic and said the province is on track for a "new summer" where residents can travel around the island. The province is inviting people who are asymptomatic to seek testing to see if there are any pockets of COVID-19 still undetected in the province. --- 12:05 p.m. Pfizer has told Canada it will speed up delivery of the shipments of its COVID-19 vaccine. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says 1.5 million additional doses are coming in March. He says another one million doses will come ahead of schedule in both April and May. Trudeau says that means there will be eight million doses of the Pfzier-BioNTech vaccine in Canada by the end of this month. --- 11:55 a.m. Nunavut is reporting four new cases of COVID-19 today for a total of 17. All the new cases are in Arviat, the only community in Nunavut with active cases of COVID-19. Despite the rise in cases, chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson says the outbreak in Arviat is contained. Arviat has been under a strict lock down for 112 days, with all school and non-essential businesses closed and travel restricted. --- 11:45 a.m. Nunavut's health minister says the territory is on track to receive 38,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine by mid-March, enough to vaccinate 75 per cent of the eligible population. Lorne Kusugak says there will be at least one vaccination clinic in all of Nunavut's 25 communities by the end of March. Kusugak also announced a mass vaccination clinic will launch in Iqaluit on March 15. Starting March 10, residents ages 18 years and up can call Iqaluit Public health to book an appointment. --- 11:10 a.m. Quebec is reporting 798 new cases of COVID-19 today and 10 more deaths linked to the virus. Health officials say hospitalizations dropped by nine, to 617, and that 111 people were in intensive care, a drop of four. The province says it administered more than 18,000 doses of vaccine, for at total of 510,479. --- 10:40 a.m. Ontario is reporting 1,250 new cases of COVID-19 in the province. Health Minister Christine Elliott says that 337 of those new cases are in Toronto, 167 are in Peel Region, and 129 are in York Region. The province also reports a single-day high of 35,886 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered since Thursday's update. Ontario also reports 22 more deaths linked to the virus. --- 10:35 a.m. Nova Scotia is reporting two new cases of COVID-19 today. Health officials say the new cases are in the health region that includes Halifax. They say one case involves a close contact of a previously reported infection and the other is under investigation. The province has 31 active reported cases of the disease. --- 10:20 a.m. The Manitoba government is now predicting it will be able to provide all eligible adults with a first dose of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of June. Officials say it might even be as early as mid-May, depending on the flow of supplies. The timeline has been moved up by months as more vaccines have been approved by the federal government. --- 10 a.m. Health Canada has approved the COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson and Johnson, saying it has the evidence showing the vaccine is both safe and effective against the novel coronavirus that causes the disease. It is the fourth vaccine to be approved in Canada and the first and only one Canada has purchased that requires just a single dose. Canada has pre-purchased 10 million doses, with options to buy another 28 million. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former President Donald Trump on Friday endorsed South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster's bid for a second full term in 2022, continuing their yearslong alliance in a move to strengthen ties with the early-voting state that Trump won twice. In a statement through his Save America PAC, Trump commended McMaster's efforts on behalf of the military, veterans and law enforcement, saying the Republican “has my Complete and Total Endorsement as he runs for re-election!” The endorsement, along with other recent moves, continues to signal Trump's desire to maintain ties with South Carolina, home of the first presidential primary votes in the South. Earlier this week, Trump formally endorsed U.S. Sen. Tim Scott in his own 2022 reelect bid, also complimenting Scott’s work on behalf of the military, law enforcement and veterans. Last month, Trump gave backing to Drew McKissick for a third term as chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, signalling a desire to wade not only into state-level politics but also to play a role in maintaining the local party framework in places that backed his presidency and where his support remains steady. But the former president’s relationship with McMaster goes deeper, predating either man’s administration. In early 2016, then-Lt. Gov. McMaster threw his support behind Trump’s presidential bid, becoming the first statewide-elected official in the country to do so. That summer, McMaster was one of two speakers to formally nominate Trump at the Republican National Convention. The move helped boost Trump to a double-digit victory in South Carolina’s early primary. It also surprised many allies and friends of McMaster, a longtime member of South Carolina’s establishment GOP circles. But McMaster’s wager paid dividends a year later, when Trump picked Nikki Haley as his U.N. ambassador, allowing McMaster to ascend to the governor’s office, a post he had long sought. In 2018, as McMaster sought his first full term in office, Trump campaigned for his ally roughly 12 hours before polls opened in a GOP runoff race, which McMaster ultimately won. ___ Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP. Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press
A Strathmore resident who came to Canada as a refugee from Syria has opened a new barbershop in the downtown core. Sam Al-Mubaied, together with business partner Ahmad Asheti, have opened the Strathmore Barbershop, located in the Strathmore Centre. A grand opening celebration was held on March 1, attended by Strathmore Mayor Pat Fule and Councillors Bob Sobol and Denise Peterson, along with other members of the community. The opening culminates Al-Mubaied’s relocation to Canada with his wife and family from Damascus, Syria in 2016 because of the Syrian civil war. “We weren’t safe there, especially the kids, so we had to leave,” he said. The Hope Community Covenant Church, along with five sponsors, helped Al-Mubaied and his family settle in Strathmore. Since then, Al-Mubaied and his family have adjusted to life here. “I love Strathmore – I feel like it’s my own town and my own community,” he said. “We’re so happy to be safe here.” The business has been ready to open for a few months, but was delayed by COVID-19 public health measures. So, Al-Mubaied took a “wait and see” approach to opening while many businesses were closed. But with personal and wellness businesses services open again (by appointment), Al-Mubaied decided the time was right to launch the new business venture. Like other barbers and hairdressers in town, Al-Mubaied will be working within the confines of COVID-19 protocols. “We’re working under the government’s rules,” he said. Al-Mubaied has been cutting hair for over 10 years and does not think his approach to the craft will be much different than in Syria. “Hair is hair, but every year, there are new styles,” he said. “I’m so excited to start serving the people of Strathmore.” At the reopening, Fule said that having businesses downtown, such as the Strathmore Barbershop, being successful is important to Strathmore’s downtown revitalization. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
Swimming Canada has announced the cancellation of multiple upcoming events, including the 2021 national championships. The organization made the announcement on Friday, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as the main concern. The 2021 Canadian masters swimming championships scheduled for May 21-23 in Quebec City, and the combined 2021 Canadian junior and senior swimming championships in Calgary July 26 to Aug. 2 have both been cancelled. Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi said in a release that the pandemic led to numerous reasons why the events couldn't be held, including health and safety concerns and the inability for many athletes to properly train this year due to restrictions. Swimming Canada says it will continue to evaluate its plans for the rest of the year as further decisions are announced by national, provincial and municipal government health authorities. "Sadly, we are making another announcement about cancelling events, which has become all too familiar over the past year. That said, it is once again done with the health and safety of our swimming community, and the wider community, at the forefront," said El-Awadi. "Due to the high number of participants expected at these events, it would not be possible to put the proper distancing protocols in place to ensure these events run safely. In addition, the amount of travel required to attend these events was a major factor in the decision." --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press