Accumulating snow finally arrived in areas of Southern Ontario that have been starved for snow this January.
Accumulating snow finally arrived in areas of Southern Ontario that have been starved for snow this January.
That change in the air isn't just the coming of spring: there's a shift happening in the political dynamic surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations. After weeks of the federal Liberal government taking heat for the slow arrival of vaccines in Canada, it's provincial premiers who must now answer to jittery, impatient voters hoping to be immunized as soon as possible. New Brunswick's Liberal opposition is now pushing Premier Blaine Higgs and his Progressive Conservative government for more details about the provincial vaccination plan — details they say other provinces have been providing to their citizens. "We're not trying to play politics with this, but there's certainly not a lot of information being given out to New Brunswickers, and New Brunswickers are asking questions to their MLAs," says Liberal Leader Roger Melanson. Opposition Liberal leader Roger Melanson (CBC News) In January, Higgs said many more New Brunswickers could be vaccinated each week, if only there were enough vaccine. Now those supplies are ramping up fast. New Brunswick received 11,760 doses last week and a similar number is expected this week. Melanson says those doses should be administered as quickly as they arrive. "We're seeing deliveries, much bigger deliveries than what we had been getting since January, so now the onus has shifted onto the provincial governments," says political scientist Stéphanie Chouinard of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. Deputy minister of Health Gérald Richard told the legislature's public accounts committee Feb. 24 that New Brunswick would be ready for what he called "a flood" of vaccines, including those from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. "We are very confident that we have a good plan in New Brunswick," Richard said. "It was approved by the COVID cabinet and ratified by cabinet a few months ago." Department of Health deputy minister Gérald Richard, left(Jacques Poitras/CBC) But the only detail the province provided during Monday's vaccine update was that 2,400 more long-term care residents would be done this week, accounting for about a quarter of the doses expected to arrive. And officials have given varying estimates of how many people can be vaccinated per week. In January, when deliveries to the province were still a trickle, Premier Blaine Higgs said 45,000 could be done, if only the province had enough vaccine. On Thursday he told reporters the province could do 40,000, then added it might be possible to double that to 80,000. Last Saturday, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told CBC's The House that New Brunswick could vaccinate "up to 4,000 people a day," which works out to a maximum of 28,000 per week — below Higgs's estimate. Meanwhile, other provinces are moving faster, or at least providing more detail, on their rollouts. This week, Nova Scotia announced its plan for 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third to be approved in Canada. A health worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press) The doses arrive next week and Nova Scotia doctors and pharmacists will administer the doses to people aged 50-64 in 26 locations around the province starting March 15. New Brunswick has provided no such detail on what it will do with the approximately 10,000 doses it will receive. Higgs says that will be discussed by the all-party COVID cabinet committee next Tuesday and spokesperson Shawn Berry said the province will probably use it for some of the groups identified for early vaccination. Berry said 3,200 people were scheduled to be vaccinated this week but some clinics were delayed because of winter weather. He said doses listed as "available" by the province — more than 13,000 as of Thursday — are earmarked for clinics. "To prevent the risk of disruption of clinics, we don't plan to use them the same week they are scheduled to arrive in case there is a delay," he said. As an example, he said the province received more than 11,000 doses last week and a similar amount will be used at First Nations clinics that started this week. Berry also said Higgs's figure of 80,000 vaccinations per week being possible is correct. Higgs said last Friday one reason for the lack of detail is the uncertainty of supply that plagued the provinces for the first two months of the year. "When we schedule appointments, we will have a vaccine to put with it," he said during last week's CBC political panel on Information Morning Fredericton. "I would like to see a map out over the next two or three or four months of a fixed quantity so that we can plan well." Not when, but how Melanson said he's satisfied with the "who" and "when" so far but wants to know about the "how" — how people will contact, or hear from, the province to arrange their shots. At the Feb. 24 public accounts committee meeting, Liberal MLA Jean-Claude d'Amours also pointed to a Brunswick News report that the province was "urgently" calling for help in long-term care homes from anyone qualified to administer vaccines — another sign of lack of preparedness, he said. Whether New Brunswick's plan is really behind other provinces remains to be seen. The fluctuations in vaccine deliveries to Canada caused short-term alarm and a lot of political finger-pointing but in the end did not endanger the overall vaccine delivery target for the first three months of 2021. Still, Chouinard points out that even those temporary delays probably led to more illness and deaths. D'Amours noted at the public accounts committee that the percentage of COVID-19 doses the province was administering was slipping. Liberal health critic Jean-Claude d'Amours(CBC) The week before the hearing, 21 per cent of all doses received in New Brunswick hadn't been used. It rose to 25 per cent last week and 28 per cent this week. "Supply is not the issue right now," Melanson says. "The issue is capacity to roll it out." The province has been holding back a lot of vaccine for second doses. But with the recent announcement that second doses will be delayed to maximize first doses, those hold-back numbers should now diminish. On Thursday the Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island governments said the delay to second doses will allow everyone in those provinces who wants to be vaccinated to get their first dose by June. Higgs told reporters that's his target as well. He said more details on how delayed second doses and new vaccine approvals will change the province's rollout plan should be coming next week. Berry said 7,503 of 11,000 long-term care residents have received at least one dose of vaccine and first-dose clinics for all long-term care facilities will be finished over the next two weeks.
OTTAWA — Canada is on the cusp of authorizing a fourth vaccine for COVID-19, raising the possibility that every Canadian adult will be offered at least one dose before Canada Day. Dr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada, said Thursday the review of Johnson and Johnson's vaccine "is going very well." "It's progressing, and we're expecting to have that completed and a decision in the next few days," Sharma said at a virtual news conference from Ottawa. Johnson and Johnson, which was authorized in the United States last weekend, would join Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca on Canada's list of approved vaccines. Pfizer and Moderna have been in use since December, with more than 1.5 million Canadians now vaccinated with at least one dose. Canada's deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said that with new vaccines being approved and moves by provinces to delay second doses, more Canadians will be vaccinated at a faster rate. All provinces have indicated they will accept a recommendation made Wednesday by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to delay second doses of vaccine by up to four months. The new guidelines say the science shows a first dose is so effective that delaying the second dose so everyone can get a first dose more quickly, is better both for individual protection and to establish herd immunity in Canada. Canada had been expecting enough doses of approved vaccines to vaccinate every adult with two doses by the end of September, based on Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca all requiring two doses given 21 or 28 days apart. Canada is in line to get 26 million more doses of Pfizer and Moderna, and at least 3.5 million of AstraZeneca by the end of June. Those deliveries alone would be enough to offer a first dose to every Canadian over 16 years of age by Canada Day. No vaccines are approved for use on children under the age of 16 yet. Another 20 million doses of AstraZeneca and 10 million from Johnson and Johnson are to arrive by September, but it's not yet clear how many will arrive by June. Another 55 million doses expected from Pfizer and Moderna between July and September would more than cover the necessary second doses. The national advisory panel's recommendation to delay doses is the latest adjustment to vaccine guidelines that some fear may make Canadians hesitant to trust the vaccines. "We're very concerned about that," said Sharma. "We want to make sure that people have confidence in the decisions that are being made about vaccines." She said experts are basing vaccine decisions on evidence as it is presented. With more data coming almost daily about the vaccines, including how they're faring as millions of doses are administered around the world, new and changing guidance is not surprising. "The responsible thing to do is to make sure that we get all that information and incorporate that into our decision-making," she said. "So definitely, the messaging would be simpler if we had one set of data and we had one message, and it never changed. But that's not what science does." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2020. Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
SAN DIEGO — More than 260 refugees who were vetted, approved and booked to come to the United States have had their flights cancelled by the State Department over the past two weeks because they do not qualify under restrictions imposed by former President Donald Trump, refugee resettlement agencies say. The restrictions came when Trump capped refugee admissions at a record low of 15,000. President Joe Biden proposed quadrupling refugee admissions and eliminating Trump's restrictions in a plan that was communicated to Congress three weeks ago. Meantime, the State Department, which co-ordinates flights with resettlement agencies, booked the refugees with the anticipation that Biden would have replaced Trump’s orders by now, according to the agencies. But Biden has not issued a presidential determination since his administration notified Congress, which is required by law, and Trump’s orders have remained in place. The action does not require congressional approval and past presidents have issued such presidential determinations that set the cap on refugee admissions shortly after the notification to Congress. As a result, the State Department has cancelled the flights of at least 264 refugees and more cancellations are expected, according to resettlement agencies. Most of the refugees are from Africa and do not qualify for entry under the restrictions that Trump implemented that allocated most of the spots for people fleeing religious persecution, Iraqis who have assisted U.S. forces there, and people from Central America’s Northern Triangle, the resettlement agencies say. Mark Hetfield, president of HIAS, a Maryland-based Jewish non-profit that is one of nine agencies that resettles refugees in the U.S., said all flights for refugees who don't qualify under Trump's restrictions have been cancelled through March 19. “Real lives are being impacted," Hetfield said. “To say I am very disappointed that the Biden administration would treat refugees this way would be an understatement." Many of the refugees had sold their belongings and left places they were renting and now are scrambling to find another place to stay until they get word they can come to the United States. Melaku Gebretsadik, 54, an Eritrean refugee who lives in Greeley, Colorado, was on his way to the Denver airport Tuesday with flowers and gifts to greet his wife and three children when he was told their flights were cancelled. He has been waiting to be reunited with them for a decade. “My heart was broken," Gebretsadik said through an interpreter. His family was told they should be re-booked on a flight in a couple of weeks but Gebretsadik is not going to get his hopes up. “I don't know what to believe," he said. The Biden administration gave no explanation about the delay or cancellation of flights when asked about the situation Thursday. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Secretary of State Antony Blinken “believes that it is very much in our DNA to be a country that welcomes those fleeing persecution, welcomes those fleeing violence the world over. It is precisely why discriminatory travel bans were done away with." But he said he had no updates at this time on “our efforts to undo some of the damage to the program.” Krish O’Mara Vignarajah of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, which also resettles refugees, said many are in precarious situations. “After four years of draconian Trump administration policies, it’s critical that the Biden administration expeditiously issue its presidential determination to ensure these new Americans can safely enter their new home country," she said. ___ Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report. Julie Watson, The Associated Press
Canada's premiers are demanding that Ottawa immediately give them an extra $28 billion for health care this year, with a promise of at least a five-per-cent hike in the annual transfer payment each year thereafter.
VICTORIA — British Columbia's provincial health officer says the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be given to first responders and essential workers, but it still needs to be determined which industries will be included. Dr. Bonnie Henry says the first shipments of the recently approved vaccine are expected in the province next week and the B.C. Immunization Committee is developing a detailed plan of who should be immunized and when. She says she expects the plan will be finalized around March 18, and in the meantime, the initial supply will be used to address ongoing outbreaks that are leading to rapidly increasing case numbers in some communities. Henry also apologized to long-term care residents and health-care workers whose second dose of Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was suddenly postponed this week after B.C. decided to extend the gap between first and second shots to four months. She says the decision was not taken lightly, but it did need to be made quite rapidly because the province was approaching a time when tens of thousands of second doses were scheduled to be given. Henry reported 564 new COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities linked to the virus to 1,376, and she also says two of those who died had variants of concern. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
As the 2021 Canadian federal budget is drafted, the Foundation for Black Communities (FFBC) has submitted a proposal to have money set aside for Black-led charities. During an open call for prebudget recommendations from the Department of Finance, the foundation submitted a proposal for the federal government to allot $200 million to FFBC, to kick start an endowment. The organization plans to supplement it by raising $100 million from the private and philanthropic sector, and with an endowment model, be able to provide sustainable resources to Black community organizations. Working group member Liban Abokor said he hopes their proposal will be considered, especially with the rise in commitment to support Black Canadians and anti-racism efforts. “If we think about Canada’s plan to build back better, (we want to ensure) that includes Black communities,” said Abokor. In addition to funding anti-racism efforts through a four-year plan, much of the funding provided to support Black Canadians federally has been for business and entrepreneurship loans. Just over $220 million was earmarked by Ottawa and financial institutions to offer business loans to the Black community. Abokor acknowledged that what has been done so far are important steps, but “I think there’s additional investments needed,” Abokor said. There have also been some hiccups fulfilling the federal government’s current offers. Recently, hundreds of Black-led groups were denied Black community initiative funding by Employment and Social Development Canada, with a response that the groups were not sufficiently Black-led. The Foundation for Black Communities was founded by Abokor and other Black people involved in the philanthropic and charitable sector to provide a foundation dedicated to empowering Black-led and Black-focused non-profit organizations. A report it authored late last year found that Black-led charities and non-profit organizations have been getting the short end of the stick when it comes to funding. It found that for every $100 of grant funds dispensed by 15 of the leading foundations in Canada, only 30 cents go to Black community organizations. Social worker Ken Williams has seen the way funding models can be a barrier to effectively serving Black communities. Grants and funding are often provided on a project-by-project basis, which can be unstable. “Young people’s lives don’t work in a one-year cycle or a three-year cycle … a lot of times, you know, you need supports that are ongoing,” Williams said. Williams also said that it can take time for groups to get running, build community connections and “a lot of the times … the funding doesn’t actually assist in that process.” FFBC plans to remove some of these barriers to make funding more accessible to grassroots organizations. The lack of diversity in charitable leadership is significant in Canada. Last month, a Statistics Canada survey revealed that there is a “diversity deficit” among board members in Canadian charities and not-for-profit organizations, even though government funding and public donations are their main source of revenue. Sen. Ratna Omidvar of Ontario challenged the sector to begin keeping demographic data after the racial uproar that began last summer. With the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the country, the 2021 budget will be vital to planning an effective recovery. A Department of Finance official reiterated that the government acknowledges that systemic racism is an issue in Canada and these communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Abokor has seen how local groups have pivoted to support racialized communities, and how needed they will be in the recovery. Who is going to help Black youth who have had their education upended over the past year? Or help women who have disproportionately lost work re-enter the job market? Or support seniors who have had to stay home more out of caution, he asks. “Without investment in Black-led, community organizations, those services aren’t going to be available,” Abokor said. “And if they’re not available ... then I think we should be worried about our community being left in actually a worse off position than we were prior to this pandemic.” With files from Nicholas Keung Angelyn Francis is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering equity and inequality. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org Angelyn Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
If you weren't born in 1941 or before you probably shouldn't be trying to book a spot for a COVID vaccine right now, but here's a guide for those who qualify or are helping a loved one. First, a disclaimer: This is perhaps the most complex period of the vaccine rollout, with health officials scrambling to get limited quantities of vaccine into the arms of those deemed at highest risk of getting seriously ill. This article is the best picture CBC Toronto can provide of vaccine distribution in the Greater Toronto Area as of Friday, with the caveat that the current landscape will almost certainly look different by this time next week (it's unclear, for example, how the newly-approved AstraZeneca vaccine will fit into the rollout). Here are the key takeaways everyone should know: You should only be vaccinated in the city you live in. Remember, the overarching goal is still to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, which means staying close to home as much as possible. One more note: this guide is intended for the general public, and doesn't capture those who will be vaccinated by specialized teams — for example, mobile teams distributing vaccines in homeless shelters or other congregate settings. Now that that's clear, here's where you should go to book a vaccination spot if you qualify. Toronto Toronto Public Health will eventually run mass vaccination sites across the city but isn't at this time due to a lack of vaccine, according to its website. You can try to pre-register at some Toronto hospitals, including North York General, Michael Garron and Sunnybrook, but expect a broader rollout of vaccination clinics in the coming weeks. Peel Peel Public Health is directing residents to vaccination clinics in Brampton and Mississauga. You can book at Brampton's William Osler Health System, or Mississauga's Trillium Health Partners. York York Region is running five appointment-only vaccination clinics and its website features a handy tool to help you find the closest one to you. Note: You must book online. Durham Durham's vaccine plan will launch on March 8 with two clinics set to operate at recreation centres in Clarington and Pickering. In addition to those aged 80-plus and health-care workers, the region will offer vaccines to all Indigenous adults and adults who rely on home care. Halton Halton is running appointment-only vaccination clinics in Oakville, Burlington, Georgetown and Milton. You can book online here. The public health unit is also offering free transportation to its clinics, though that travel must be booked 48 hours in advance.
MONTREAL — A novel coronavirus variant could cause cases in the Montreal area to explode by the end of April if residents don't strictly adhere to health orders, according to new modelling by the province's public health institute. The modelling released Thursday by the Institut national de sante publique du Quebec and Universite Laval suggested the B.1.1.7 mutation — first identified in the United Kingdom — is likely to become the predominant strain in the province by the middle of next month. People's behaviour, however, will determine the speed of the variant's rise, the institute said. "The extent of the increase in variant cases would depend on adherence to measures during and after the spring break and superspreader events," read the institute's report. "Vaccination coverage for people over 70 and health workers should not be sufficient to control the rise in cases linked to a new variant by May, since they represent less than 20 per cent of the population." The modelling suggested that a "strong" adherence to public health measures both during and after this week's spring break could allow the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths to remain stable until the end of April. A "medium" respect of measures — defined as a 50-to-100 per cent reduction in home visits and increased contacts in workplaces and during sports and leisure activities — could cause cases to rise sharply. Hospitalizations and deaths are expected to follow more slowly because many of the most vulnerable are protected by vaccination, the projections found. The variant is not expected to spread as rapidly outside the greater Montreal area because of the lower level of community transmission. Health Minister Christian Dube described the projections in a Twitter message as "stable, but very concerning," especially in Montreal. "A medium adherence to the measures would have as an impact to bring hospitalizations back to the level we were at in the worst month of January," he wrote. COVID-19-related hospitalizations surpassed 1,500 in January. "That's exactly why we're asking Quebecers not to relax their efforts," he added. Another report released Thursday by the Quebec government health and social services institute found that hospitalizations have stabilized after a sustained drop earlier in 2021. The report by the Institut national d’excellence en sante et en services sociaux indicated hospitalizations will likely remain stable for the next three to four weeks. "Beyond this period, the evolution of this trend could be different with an increasing presence of more contagious or more virulent variants," the report said. The report, which was written Feb. 28 but released Thursday, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic in the province is largely concentrated in Montreal and the surrounding regions, where 85 per cent or more of Quebec's new cases and hospitalizations originate. On Wednesday, Premier Francois Legault announced that restrictions would be eased in much of the province but maintained in Montreal and the surrounding areas, including Laval and the South Shore. While Montrealers will continue to be forbidden to leave their homes after 8 p.m., residents of four other regions including Quebec City will be able to eat at restaurants, work out at the gym and stay out until 9:30 p.m. starting Monday. Despite the risk posed by variants, the report on hospitals suggested that the province's health-care institutions remain in relatively good shape for the coming weeks. It noted that about a third of the regular beds and half the intensive care beds in the Montreal region designated for COVID-19 patients are occupied, and that hospital capacity is not expected to be surpassed in the next three weeks. The report found that while the institute's past projections have generally been accurate, they become less precise when predicting more than three weeks ahead. While the number of confirmed variant cases across the province remained stable at 137 on Thursday, the number of presumptive cases rose to 1,353, an increase of 133. The Quebec government reported 707 new cases of COVID-19 and 20 more deaths attributed to the virus. Hospitalizations have gone up slightly in the province for four of the past five days. On Thursday, they rose by eight, to 626, while the number of people in intensive care dropped by five, to 115. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The Latest on a possible threat against the Capitol (all times local): 5:50 p.m. The acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police says its oversight board is suggesting the razorwire-topped fencing that has surrounded the Capitol since the insurrection in January should come down next week. But Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman says in a letter to congressional leaders Thursday that she isn’t clear if it is a recommendation or an order from the Capitol Police Board. The letter to the leaders of the House and Senate was obtained by The Associated Press. Pittman says the board suggested some temporary fencing would be removed starting Friday, and the fencing around the outer perimeter of the Capitol complex would be removed starting March 12. Some fencing is likely to remain as law enforcement officials continue to track an increased number of threats against lawmakers and the Capitol. The letter exemplifies the ongoing confusion and communication issues between top law enforcement officials who are charged with ensuring the security of the Capitol complex. The failures that allowed thousands of pro-Trump rioters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6 have shined a spotlight on the opaque police force and the complicated oversight process that governs it. The Capitol Police Board, comprised of the House and Senate sergeant at arms and the Architect of the Capitol, is charged with oversight of the police force. __ HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT A POSSIBLE THREAT AGAINST THE CAPITOL: Law enforcement is on high alert around the U.S. Capitol after intelligence uncovered a “possible plot” by a militia group to storm the iconic building again, two months after a mob of Donald Trump supporters smashed through windows and doors to try to stop Congress from certifying now-President Joe Biden’s victory. Read more: — Takeaways: What hearings have revealed about Jan. 6 failures ___ HERE'S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON: 12:10 p.m. Security is high outside the U.S. Capitol, with National Guard troops and Capitol Police officers on alert inside a massive black fence that surrounds the Capitol grounds and several neighbouring buildings. On one of the warmest days in weeks, the National Mall was almost totally deserted Thursday, save for joggers, journalists and a handful of tourists trying to take photos of the Capitol dome through the fence. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the Guard troops protecting the Capitol should stay as long as they are needed amid a new threat of another mob attack. Law enforcement is on high alert after intelligence uncovered a “possible plot” by a militia group to storm the Capitol again, just two months after the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection. The new threat appears to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory promoted by QAnon supporters that former President Donald Trump will rise again to power on Thursday. ___ 11:40 am. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the National Guard troops protecting the Capitol should stay as long as they are needed amid a new threat of another mob attack. The House wrapped up its work early amid reports of a threat on the Capitol on Thursday. Pelosi says a draft security review from the deadly Jan. 6 mob siege is making various recommendations to beef up Capitol security and is expected to be made public next week. Law enforcement is on high alert around the Capitol after intelligence uncovered a “possible plot” by a militia group to storm the iconic building again. This comes two months after Trump supporters smashed through windows and doors to try to stop Congress from certifying now-President Joe Biden’s victory. Five people died. The new threat appears to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory promoted by QAnon supporters that former President Donald Trump will rise again to power on Thursday. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York says, “Domestic terrorism will not prevail. Democracy will prevail.” Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas says lawmakers are braced for the threat against the Capitol. ___ 10:30 a.m. A top House Democrat says the threat of mob violence at the Capitol won’t stop Congress from doing its work. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York says, “Mob rule will not prevail. Domestic terrorism will not prevail. Democracy will prevail.” Jeffries says he thinks “there’s a reason for all of us to continue to be concerned about the heightened security environment.” Jeffries blames “a ‘big lie’ that Donald Trump perpetrated in respect to the election that has radicalized millions of folks across the country.” Law enforcement is on high alert around the U.S. Capitol after intelligence uncovered a “possible plot” by a militia group to storm the iconic building again. This comes two months after a mob of Trump supporters smashed through windows and doors to try to stop Congress from certifying now-President Joe Biden’s victory. Five people died. The new threat appears to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory promoted by QAnon supporters that Trump will rise again to power on Thursday. Jeffries says lawmakers “will not allow those anti-democratic forces across the country who want to undermine our ability to get things done for the American people to prevail.” ___ 9:50 a.m. A former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee who was among those briefed about a possible new threat against the Capitol says lawmakers are braced for it. Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas says he thinks “we’ll see some violence.” The threat appears to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory promoted by QAnon supporters that former President Donald Trump will rise again to power on Thursday, which is March 4, the original presidential inauguration day. But unlike on Jan. 6, the Capitol is now fortified against intrusions. McCaul says there’s razor wire and a National Guard presence that weren’t at the Capitol on Jan. 6 so he feels “very confident in the security.” McCaul warns there could be another diversionary tactic — much like the pipe bombs discovered at the political campaign offices on Jan. 6 appeared to be an attempt to lure law enforcement away from the Capitol ahead of the insurrection. The Associated Press
PARMA, Italy — Alexis Sánchez scored twice to help Inter Milan win 2-1 at relegation-threatened Parma on Thursday to open up a six-point gap at the top of Serie A. Romelu Lukaku had a hand in both Inter goals in the second half before Hernani pulled one back for Parma. Inter moved six points above second-place AC Milan, which was held to a 1-1 draw by Udinese on Wednesday. Nine-time defending champion Juventus is third but has played a match less. Parma remained second from bottom, six points from safety. Inter had won six of its past seven league matches heading into the game at Parma, scoring 17 goals and conceding just one. It was Parma which had the better of the earlier chances, but Inter broke the deadlock nine minutes into the second half. Lukaku chested down a pass on the edge of the area and tried to turn but the ball ended up ricocheting into the path of Sánchez. Sassuolo defender Riccardo Gagliolo tried to clear his shot off the line but it had already gone over. Lukaku did even better eight minutes later as he powered through from his own half and then rolled a great ball across for Sánchez to drive into the bottom right corner. Parma briefly threatened a comeback when Hernani volleyed in Germán Pezzella’s cross in the 71st. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
VICTORIA — The B.C. government has eased the eligibility requirements for small and medium-sized businesses applying for funds under its $345-million pandemic recovery grant program. The province has also extended the deadline for businesses to apply from the end of this month to Aug. 31, or until all the money has been spent. Businesses with up to 149 employees must now show a 30 per cent drop in revenue in any one month between March 2020 and the time of application compared with the same time period during the year before. The grant program previously required businesses to show a 70 per cent drop at some point during March or April last year, plus additional revenue losses of 30 to 50 per cent from May 2020 until their application. Ravi Rahlon, the minister of jobs and economic recovery, says the province has been "nimble" with the program and the changes directly follow feedback from the business community. He says about $55 million has been distributed through the program so far and influx of applications hasn't slowed down, though he couldn't say how many more businesses may now apply given the latest changes. "Certainly we have some businesses that have applied that weren't able to get the funding because they didn't meet (requirements), and now we'll be able to call them and tell them that in fact they do have funding available." This is the second time the government has eased the program's eligibility requirements. Businesses may apply for grants ranging from $10,000 to $30,000, with additional funds available to tourism-related businesses, which Kahlon says represent just over half of applicants to the program so far. The province says businesses don't need to resubmit existing applications and those received previously will be reviewed under the new criteria. In a statement, Liberal jobs critic Todd Stone urged the NDP government to eliminate the requirement that businesses must be at least 18 months old. Kahlon says the rule stands and businesses that apply by the new deadline must have been operating since last March, "so essentially anyone that had a business when the pandemic started can apply for this grant." B.C. is also offering up to $2,000 to be paid directly to professional service providers for businesses that need help creating a required recovery plan. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
In her second children’s book, titled Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know, Dr. Brittany Luby explores the wonders of the four seasons, telling the story of which animals, plants and changes in the natural surroundings are connected to each season. “When an orange star shows bedtime is near, and brown Peeper sings, ‘Goodnight, little one.’ This is how I know spring,” a passage from the book reads. Aimed at younger readers but a pleasant read for anyone, the book is a short journey through how one can recognize when seasons start to show signs of change, and the different connections people can have with the environments they live in and interact with. “I like to imagine sharing these stories with my nieces and my nephews when I’m writing them,” Luby said. “I think that you can feel so loved when you are outdoors and take that moment to connect with the trees that are creating air that’s better for you to breathe. You can become attuned to how all our plant and animal relations are just giving so much of themselves so that we are living the most fulfilling life that we can.” Luby (Anishinaabe-kwe) said the book was a way for her to reflect on her upbringing. “I miss my ancestral territory when I’m away from it. This book was a way for me to reconnect that was really nourishing for me,” Luby said. “I think an important part of the story is encouraging people to reconnect with their plant and animal teachers. Who’s giving you signs that the season might be changing?” Outside of her work in children’s books, which includes her 2020 debut picture book Encounter, Luby’s research as an assistant professor of History at the University of Guelph consists of a wide range of topics related to Indigenous health, education, as well as the industrialization of the Canadian boreal forests and subarctic. She was inspired to do this work by being brought along to negotiation meetings as a teenager by her father. "My Dad was on Council for six terms and chief for two terms. Dad is an active member of Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation to this day. He has acted as a chair of general band meetings, lead negotiator, and project manager. “I witnessed Dad at work in each of these roles. However, I began to watch how he worked as a negotiator. The meetings I remember most clearly focused on the damages sustained by Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation as a result of hydroelectric development." “This sparked my passion for learning about my ancestral community, water issues, and the impacts of the settler-colonialism on the territory,” Luby added. Written originally in English, Luby engaged the duo of Alvin Corbiere and his son Alan to provide the Anishinaabe translation in Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know, which is featured alongside each of the book’s passages. In both the title and on the pages of the story, the Anishinaabe translation precedes the English text. Alan, who works as an assistant professor at York University, said he and his father did the majority of the translation over the course of a weekend working together. Though he’s been studying the Anishinaabe language for more than 20 years, Alan does not consider himself fully fluent and enlists the help of his father to help with some of the tougher translations. “There’s distinctions to be made about trying to get literal and yet be true to the author’s words and sentiment,” Alan said. “I looked at this project as a challenge to try to further my understanding of the language in a different way.” The books’ illustrations come by way of Vancouver-based Woodlands style artist Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley (Ojibwe), a member of Wasauksing First Nation in Ontario. Originally travelling to British Columbia for only a short visit with his sister in 2015, Pawis-Steckley said he ended up enjoying himself so much — and the milder climate — that he’s now been there for almost six years. His first sample for the book was done in September 2019. Pawis-Steckley said he completed the illustrations over the course of six months or so, concluding in summer 2020. Outside of his work with children’s books, his art career has included a residency at Skwachay's Lodge in downtown Vancouver, a featured doodle on Google’s home page in July 2019 highlighting the traditional Ojibwe Jingle Dress dance from the early 20th century, and operating a new screen printing shop. When he’s not creating art, Pawis-Steckley enjoys swimming, which he said helped while creating artwork for the book. “A lot of the inspiration came from just being out on the lake with my family, swimming all day,” he said. “It’s a mix of Woodlands art and traditional children’s picture book style.” Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know is available here, as well as through most major bookstores. Windspeaker.com By Adam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
TORONTO — North American stock markets dropped Thursday despite efforts by the chairman of the Federal Reserve to reassure investors that interest rates aren't about to increase. The S&P/TSX composite index closed down 194.95 points at 18,125.72, despite strength in the energy sector as oil reached its highest level in more than two years. In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 345.95 points at 30,924.14 and the S&P 500 index lost 51.25 points at 3,768.47. The Nasdaq composite fell 274.28 points or 2.1 per cent to 12,723.47, the lowest level since early January. Market jitters followed as the 10-year U.S. bond yields again increased above 1.5 per cent. Investors are worried that the U.S. vaccine rollout will spur a quicker economic recovery and prompt the central bank to hike interest rates sooner than they expect. Fed chairman Jerome Powell tried to tame expectations by insisting Thursday that rates won't rise and quantitative easing won't taper off until the U.S. reaches his maximum employment goals. "The market was not reassured by that because after the speech the market continued to go down," said Pierre Cleroux, chief economist for the Business Development Bank of Canada, adding he thought Powell's message was clear. The United States is still down 10 million jobs from before COVID-19 struck. "The initial recovery was quite strong, but since November they haven't created a lot of jobs because the second wave of the virus was very important in the U.S.," Cleroux said in an interview. Powell said he's willing to accept inflation rising above two per cent, saying it won't change the bank's long-term inflation goals. Canada's largest stock index dropped even though the energy sector had a strong day on higher crude oil prices. The April crude contract was up US$2.55 at US$63.83 per barrel after hitting an intraday high of $64.86. The April natural gas contract was down seven cents at nearly US$2.75 per mmBTU. Crude climbed to its highest level since October 2018 after OPEC decided Thursday not to raise its production for April despite a recent rise in prices. "This is sending the signal that they are going to wait until they readjust production to the increase of the demand," Cleroux said. Canadian oil producers got a lift with shares of MEG Energy Corp. surging 9.8 per cent while Vermilion Energy Inc. rose 5.6 per cent and Cenovus Energy Inc. gained 4.9 per cent. Despite the oil price increase, the Canadian dollar slipped, trading for 79.13 cents US compared with 79.17 cents US on Wednesday. Consumer staples were the only other positive sector on the day. Health care, technology and consumer discretionary were the biggest laggards among the nine losing major sectors. The health care sector, which includes cannabis producers, lost 4.9 per cent as Aphria Inc. fell 8.2 per cent. Technology decreased 3.3 per cent as shares of Kinaxis Inc. plunged 17 per cent, Lightspeed POS Inc. fell 9.1 per cent and Shopify Inc. was down 5.8 per cent. Materials were also lower as metal prices fell with gold hitting its lowest level in nine months. Hudbay Minerals Inc. decreased 7.7 per cent. Cleroux believes Thursday's market sell-off will be temporary because inflation is still low. "This worry that interest rates are going to increase faster than expected, I don't think it's based on solid grounds so I think the market is going to come back." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:HBM, TSX:SHOP, TSX:LSPD, TSX:KXS, TSX:APHA, TSX:MEG, TSX:VET, TSX:CVE, TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X) Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press
Canadian prosecutors told a court on Thursday that it was not a judge's role to decide whether national security and geopolitical concerns can be used to strike down a U.S. request to extradite Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Meng, 49, was arrested in December 2018 on a U.S. warrant accused of misleading HSBC about Huawei's business dealings in Iran, putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions.
A man in his 60s has contracted Prince Edward Island's latest case of COVID-19. The Chief Public Health Office said in a news release late Thursday that the newest case is a close contact of a previously announced case. "The man tested negative initially, but after developing symptoms, [he] tested positive," the news release said. "He has been in self-isolation and is being followed daily by public health." The case is the Island's 138th case since the pandemic hit P.E.I. nearly a year ago. P.E.I. now has 23 active cases of COVID-19, due to an outbreak that came to light a week ago with clusters in both Summerside and Charlottetown. A mass testing campaign that began on the weekend led to an estimated seven per cent of the Island's population being swabbed for signs of the disease, many because they were in the same young-adult age cohort as most of the new cases. Others were urged to seek out a testing clinic if they had any symptoms, or had visited one of many potential sites of public exposure listed by the province. On Wednesday at midnight, a 72-hour lockdown ended after Dr. Heather Morrison said the test results showed no sign of the coronavirus spreading through the general population. The province is now in a COVID-19 circuit break phase that continues until March 14 at 8 a.m. More from CBC P.E.I.
HONOLULU — The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center cancelled a tsunami watch Thursday for Hawaii that was issued after a huge earthquake occurred in a remote area between New Zealand and Tonga. The agency previously cancelled a tsunami warning it had issued for American Samoa. The magnitude 8.1 quake struck the Kermadec Islands region. It forced thousands of people to evacuate in New Zealand but did not appear to pose a widespread threat to lives or major infrastructure. In American Samoa, officials rang village church bells and police in marked vehicles and fire trucks used loudspeakers to spread word of the threat because the territory's regular outdoor warning system has been out of commission since last year. Repairs have been on hold because flights to American Samoa were suspended amid the pandemic and technicians have been unable to make the trip. Residents weren't taking any chances after a tsunami in 2009 killed 34 people in American Samoa and caused major damage. The Kermadec Islands quake was the largest in a series of tremors that hit the region over several hours, including two earlier quakes that registered magnitude 7.4 and magnitude 7.3. The Associated Press
Newfoundland and Labrador's minister responsible for the status of women says there's been a recent increase in calls to the province's domestic violence help line but there are services available to help women living with violence. Lisa Dempster says the increase in calls is concerning, but she's encouraged that women are reaching out for help, despite the public health restrictions in place. "While we are in lockdown, you do not have to feel you are locked down at home with an abuser, so we do know that there's been some increase in calls," she said. Dempster didn't give specific details about how many more calls the line is receiving. The domestic violence help line was launched in June. When someone calls or texts, the system will automatically detect the region they're in and connect them with a trained professional at the nearest transition house. If necessary, they can then be connected to services, like women's centres or police, for further help. Non-profit groups said they saw a significant increase in domestic violence calls during the early stages of the pandemic. We know that some of the calls coming in are more focused on physical violence. - Lisa Dempster Dempster said the pandemic has had a greater effect on women, and restrictions can create added pressure for women living with violence. As a result, the types of calls the line is receiving has also changed, she said. "Prior to the pandemic, we would get various calls to the line, could be around financial abuse, different types," she said. "But right now — and we know the pandemic has been really difficult for many people and it's not impacted all of us equally — we know that some of the calls coming in are more focused on physical violence." During an election, the government is in caretaker mode, but Dempster is still the minister, and she says has been checking in with staff in the department at least once a week. She said the increase in calls began within the past week. "Yesterday, maybe, when I learned there had been an increase, I felt compelled to get out, to do my part to hopefully reach some women that are in unsafe situations," she said. Help available for women experiencing violence The minister urged women not to stay in an unsafe situation at home because of the public health restrictions in alert levels 4 and 5. "To women who are struggling with violence in their lives today, I want you to know that help is available," she said. "There are services right across this province, and when you feel you are ready and you feel that it's safe for you to reach out, there are organizations waiting to help you." Dempster said transition houses across the province are open and have room to accept women in need. She said, on average, the transition houses are now at about 55 per cent capacity. "While we've made good strides and we're moving in the right direction, certainly there is progress that can be made," she said. "We're grateful that we have fared better than many other provinces. Still, we have our own issues — all is not well and we need to get out and we need to talk about those. We need to hear from folks out in the community and we need to put whatever services in place that we can to support them." The province's domestic violence help line is 1-888-709-7090, and can be reached by call or text, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
IQALUIT, Nunavut — COVID-19 infections rose sharply in Arviat on Thursday, but Nunavut's top doctor said there is no sign of uncontrolled spread and numbers are declining overall. The community on the western shore of Hudson Bay tallied 10 new illnesses to bring the active case count to 14. Arviat's population of about 2,800 has been under a strict lockdown since November. Schools and non-essential businesses are closed and travel is restricted. A state of emergency was declared Feb. 24 and there's a nightly curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson said there is no evidence of community transmission. "If things continue on this way, we can look at working with the hamlet to ease some of the measures next week," he said. Arviat is the only place in the territory where COVID-19 is active. It has had higher numbers than anywhere else in Nunavut since the pandemic began — 325 of 369 total cases. Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq, who is from Arviat, said the overall weekly decline is "still encouraging." Last week, there were 25 cases. "We should expect that case numbers will vary day to day," he said. Two COVID-19 vaccine clinics have been held in Arviat. The second one was dedicated to administering second doses. Patterson said there is no evidence of "vaccine failure" in Arviat. "A failure ... would be getting new COVID (cases) two weeks or more after a vaccination." Health experts say it takes about 14 days for the COVID-19 vaccines to take effect. Patterson said his department is not releasing community-specific vaccination numbers and would not say how many people in Arviat have been vaccinated. To date, 8,628 of Nunavut's 39,000 residents have received one dose of the vaccine and 5,125 have had two shots. The territory has received 26,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine so far. Nunavut's original goal was to have its vaccine rollout completed by the end of March, but Patterson said that will be extended into April. The territory initially faced some delays in vaccine shipments, he said. "As the vaccine supply ramps up, we're now into the stage where that's no longer an issue. Staff will be able to go much faster and much more efficiently starting now." John Main, Arviat's member of the legislature, is urging the government to provide isolation spaces for infected residents who live in overcrowded housing This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021 ___ This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship Emma Tranter, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — House Democrats passed the most ambitious effort in decades to overhaul policing nationwide, avoiding a potential clash with moderates in their own party who were wary of reigniting the “defund the police” debate they say hurt them during last fall's election. Approved 220-212 late Wednesday, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is named for the man whose killing by police in Minnesota last Memorial Day sparked demonstrations nationwide. It would ban chokeholds and “qualified immunity” for law enforcement while creating national standards for policing in a bid to bolster accountability, and was first approved last summer only to stall in the then-Republican controlled Senate. The bill is supported by President Joe Biden. “My city is not an outlier, but rather an example of the inequalities our country has struggled with for centuries,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who represents the Minneapolis area near where Floyd died. Floyd’s family watched the emotional debate from a nearby House office building and said “defunding the police” is not what the legislation is about. “We just want to be treated equal. We just want to deescalate situations,” said Brandon Williams, Floyd’s nephew. “We want to feel safe when we encounter law enforcement. We’re not asking for anything extra. We’re not asking for anything that we don’t feel is right.” Democrats hustled to pass the bill a second time, hoping to combat police brutality and institutional racism after the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans following interactions with law enforcement — images of which were sometimes jarringly captured on video. But the debate over legislation turned into a political liability for Democrats as Republicans seized on calls by some activists and progressives to “defund the police” to argue that supporters were intent on slashing police force budgets. Though this bill doesn't do that, moderate Democrats said the charge helped drive Democratic defeats in swing districts around the country last November. “No one ran on ‘defund the police,’ but all you have to do is make that a political weapon,” said Teas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar. Republicans quickly revived the “defund the police” criticisms before the vote. “Our law enforcement officers need more funding not less,” Rep. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Wis. Still, even the House’s more centrist lawmakers, some representing more conservative districts, ultimately backed the bill. “Black Americans have endured generations of systemic racism and discrimination for too long, and this has been painfully evident in their treatment by law enforcement,” said Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash, who chairs the moderate New Democrat Coalition. That endorsement came despite the bill’s prohibitions on so-called qualified immunity, which shields law enforcement from certain lawsuits and is one of the main provisions that will likely need to be negotiated in any compromise with the Senate. Another possible point of contention is provisions easing standards for prosecution of law enforcement officers accused of wrongdoing. Police unions and other law enforcement groups have argued that, without legal protections, fear of lawsuits will stop people from becoming police officers — even though the measure permits suits only against law enforcement agencies, rather than all public employees. California Rep. Karen Bass, who authored the bill, understands the challenge some House members face in supporting it. “My colleagues, several of them, I do not make light of the difficulty they had getting reelected because of the lie around defunding the police,” Bass said. She called provisions limiting qualified immunity as well as those changing standards for prosecution “the only measures that hold police accountable — that will actually decrease the number of times we have to see people killed on videotape.” Civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci released a statement on behalf of the Floyd family saying the House was “responding to the mandate issued by thousands of Americans who took to the streets last summer to raise their voices for change.” “This represents a major step forward to reform the relationship between police officers and communities of colour and impose accountability on law enforcement officers whose conscious decisions preserve the life or cause the death of Americans, including so many people of colour,” Crump and Romanucci said. “Now we urge the Senate to follow suit.” That may be a taller order. Even though Democrats now control both chambers of Congress, it seems unlikely the bill could pass the Senate without substantial changes to win GOP support. Bass acknowledged the challenges Democrats faced last November — and may likely see again — when former President Donald Trump's reelection campaign and other leading Republicans crowded the airwaves with images of cities around the country burning. But she said those attacks, like much of the opposition to the bill, are built on racism, promoting fears about how “the scary Black people are going to attack you if you try to rein in the police.” “That's as old as apple pie in our history,” she said. “So do you not act because of that?” Still, Bass conceded that changes are likely to come if the measure is to win the minimum 60 votes it will need to advance in the Senate, which is now split 50-50. She said she'd been in contact with South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the chamber, and was confident he would help deliver some GOP support. Scott said this week that the legislation's sticking points were qualified immunity and prosecutorial standards and that in both areas, “We have to protect individual officers.” “That's a red line for me,” Scott said, adding, “Hopefully we'll come up with something that actually works.” ___ Lisa Mascaro contributed. Will Weissert And Padmananda Rama, The Associated Press
A Liberal MLA wants more details about what the government plans to do to support the Island's tourism industry during the upcoming season. Heath MacDonald raised the issue during question period in the legislature Thursday. He said many Island tourism operators are currently trying to make plans for the upcoming season and are waiting for guidance from the province. "Predictability is an important part of the process of whether they're going to open their business or not and you know, they're very, very worried," MacDonald said. Liberal MLA Heath MacDonald says other regions are ahead of P.E.I. when it comes to planning for the tourism season.(John Robertson/CBC) He asked Tourism Minister Matthew MacKay when those working in the industry would have some answers. "So where is the plan? Maybe there's a plan we're not aware of for this industry. Where is the road map for this anxious industry?" Plan to be released March 18 Responding to MacDonald's question, MacKay said he knows the tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic and government is gearing up to release its tourism strategy at a conference later this month. "We've been working round the clock for the last eight months, with industry as a whole," MacKay said. "Obviously I wish I had a crystal ball … the road map of the future, we still don't know what it looks like but we're prepared to the best of our ability and industry has been at the table front and centre with this and it's going to be rolled out March 18," MacKay said. MacDonald countered that other regions are ahead of P.E.I. when it comes to laying out their intentions for this season. MacKay told CBC News the recent spike in positive COVID-19 cases on P.E.I. and the modified red phase were a setback in rolling out the plans. He said the tourism strategy for 2021 is being developed in partnership with the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I. and includes details about the province's marketing campaign and new programs to help support operators. Tourism Minister Matthew MacKay says government will roll out its plans for the upcoming tourism season at a conference on March 18.(Legislative Assembly of P.E.I. ) MacKay didn't provide specific details of what this year's plan will include, but did say it will build upon last year's strategy that encouraged Islanders to explore P.E.I. and welcomed visitors from within the Atlantic bubble. "Islanders really stepped up last year to support the tourism industry and tour the Island. The Atlantic bubble was a success and we feel like we can improve on that. Until vaccines roll out I just can't see us having much more than that," MacKay said. "But depending on how quick we can roll vaccines out and how quick the rest of the provinces can roll vaccines out, will be the tell tale." More P.E.I. news