A grey winter's day in Newfoundland.
A grey winter's day in Newfoundland.
Ottawa will not license any Indigenous "moderate livelihood" fishery in Atlantic Canada unless it operates within the commercial season, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said Wednesday, siding with a key demand from the region's commercial fishing industry, while angering Indigenous leaders. The statement is a major development in the dispute over treaty rights-based fishing that sparked violence last fall when the Sipekne'katik band launched its own self-regulated 'moderate livelihood' lobster fishery. The fishery in St. Marys Bay in southwest Nova Scotia took place outside the commercial season, angering other fishermen who said it was both unfair and bad for conservation. "Seasons ensure that stocks are harvested sustainably and they are necessary for an orderly, predictable, and well-managed fishery," Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said in a statement, confirming a CBC News report earlier in the day. "In effort-based fisheries such as lobster, seasons are part of the overall management structure that conserves the resource, ensures there isn't overfishing, and distributes economic benefits across Atlantic Canada." WATCH | The history of the Mi'kmaw fishery: DFO indicated a willingness to discuss other details with affected First Nation communities. But Sipekne'katik Chief Mike Sack urged Mi'kmaw bands in Atlantic Canada to reject the federal government's position and told reporters his First Nation will continue to operate its fishery outside DFO seasons in 2021. "They're trying to divide and conquer and throw a carrot to a band or two and have them sign and just hurt everybody's case. So I hope that no other communities do sign. They don't take that low hanging fruit," he said. Sack restated his position that the treaty right was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada's Marshall decision, and accused DFO of trying to divide and conquer the Mi'kmaq. In 1999, the court affirmed the Mi'kmaw treaty right to fish in pursuit of a "moderate livelihood," but under federal government regulations for conservation. Ottawa spent half a billion dollars integrating Indigenous bands into the commercial fishery through licence buy-backs and training, but it never defined "moderate livelihood." Jordan cited part of the Marshall ruling to justify her authority. She noted the Supreme Court said "treaty rights are subject to regulation provided such regulation is shown by the Crown to be justified on conservation or other grounds of public importance." "That is what we are implementing," Jordan said in her statement. The department is offering Indigenous fishermen in Nova Scotia a pathway to sell lobster harvested in a moderate livelihood fishery. Right now, that catch does not have DFO's stamp of approval. Without authorization, they can't legally sell their catch to licenced buyers, such as lobster pounds and processors. Bands that accept DFO's position will receive a moderate livelihood licence that will allow them to sell the catch in 2021. Under provincial rules, only fish products harvested under federal commercial licences can be purchased by shore processors. The federal government "will balance additional First Nations access through already available licences and a willing buyer-willing seller approach, protecting our stocks and preserving the industry for generations to come," Jordan's statement said. Sipekne'katik First Nation Chief Michael Sack, right, halted talks with the federal Fisheries Department in December after reaching an impasse.(Paul Withers/CBC) The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw Chiefs called the government's conditions "unacceptable" and condemned them as part of a "colonial approach" to the rights-based fishery recognized by the Supreme Court. "DFO continues to dictate and impose their rules on a fishery that is outside of their scope and mandate," said Chief Gerald Toney, the assembly's fisheries lead, in a statement. The right to a livelihood fishery isn't, and shouldn't be, driven by industry or the federal government, he said. "It is something that needs to come from the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia. Imposing restrictions independently, without input of the Mi'kmaq, on our implementation of Rights is an approach that must stop." Mi'kmaw leaders and some academics have insisted the fishery in St. Marys Bay poses no risk to stocks because it is too small. It's a claim the commercial industry rejects. One organization representing commercial fishermen said the DFO has made public what it had been telling the industry in private. "This position needs to come from them and they need to come out publicly, more often," said Martin Mallet, executive director of the Maritime Fishermen's Union. Mallet said commercial fishermen expect the DFO to enforce its rules if bands operate out of season, including pulling traps and "potentially arresting individuals that are not keeping up with the law." A group representing harvesters in southwestern Nova Scotia said the government's position "can provide certainty" for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishermen. "However, lasting and consistent enforcement that is fair to all harvesters will be critical," the Unified Fisheries Conservation Alliance said in a statement. The ambiguity over moderate livelihood led to violence last year when several bands launched self-regulated lobster fisheries — all taking place outside of commercial lobster seasons. In October, two facilities storing Mi'kmaw catches were vandalized, including one that was later burned to the ground. Indigenous harvesters also said hundreds of their traps were pulled by non-Indigenous commercial fishermen. After tensions abated, the DFO pulled hundreds of Mi'kmaw traps out of the water, many bearing band moderate livelihood tags. On Wednesday, the DFO returned to Sipekne'katik more than 200 traps it had seized last fall. Sipekne'katik First Nation Chief Mike Sack, shown in October, said Wednesday his band will continue to operate its moderate livelihood fishery outside DFO seasons in 2021.(Pat Callaghan/CBC) When defending the self-regulated fisheries, the Mi'kmaq point to the huge number of commercial traps in the water compared to those from bands. The Nova Scotia Seafood Alliance, which represents shore buyers, said that is misleading. Stewart Lamont of Tangier Lobster said he accepts the treaty right but maintains the fisheries must take place within commercial seasons. "The lobster biomass is extremely vulnerable during certain months of the year, most particularly late July, August, September, October, when lobsters are going through their annual molt," said Lamont. "They're literally hungrier than normal. They've taken on a new shell. They are far more readily embraced into a trap." He said hauling lobster at that time is short-sighted. "By the same token, they are of far lesser quality. They tend to be soft and medium shell. It's not a premium product." Commercial lobster fishing season varies across Nova Scotia, in part to maintain a steady supply to the market, and to protect stocks when they are vulnerable. MORE TOP STORIES
WASHINGTON — The Defence Department took more than three hours to dispatch the National Guard to the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol despite a frantic request for reinforcement from police, according to testimony Wednesday that added to the finger-pointing about the government response. Maj. Gen. William Walker, commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, told senators that the then-chief of the Capitol Police requested military support in a 1:49 p.m. call, but the Defence Department's approval for that support was not relayed to him until after 5 p.m., according to prepared testimony. Guard troops who had been waiting on buses were then rushed to the Capitol. That delay stood in contrast to the immediate approval for National Guard support granted in response to the civil unrest that roiled American cities last spring as an outgrowth of racial justice protests, Walker said. As local officials pleaded for help, Army officials raised concerns about the optics of a substantial National Guard presence at the Capitol, he said. “The Army senior leadership” expressed to officials on the call “that it would not be their best military advice to have uniformed Guardsmen on the Capitol,” Walker said. The Senate hearing is the second about what went wrong on Jan. 6, with national security officials face questions about missed intelligence and botched efforts to quickly gather National Guard troops that day as a violent mob laid siege to the U.S. Capitol. Even as Walker detailed the National Guard delay, another military official noted that local officials in Washington had said days earlier that no such support was needed. Senators were eager to grill officials from the Pentagon, the National Guard and the Justice and Homeland Security departments about their preparations for that day. Supporters of then-President Donald Trump had talked online, in some cases openly, about gathering in Washington that day and interrupting the electoral count. At a hearing last week, officials who were in charge of security at the Capitol blamed one another as well as federal law enforcement for their own lack of preparation as hundreds of rioters descended on the building, easily breached the security perimeter and eventually broke into the Capitol. Five people died as a result of the rioting. So far, lawmakers conducting investigations have focused on failed efforts to gather and share intelligence about the insurrectionists’ planning before Jan. 6 and on the deliberations among officials about whether and when to call National Guard troops to protect Congress. The officials at the hearing last week, including ousted Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, gave conflicting accounts of those negotiations. Robert Contee, the acting chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department, told senators he was “stunned” over the delayed response and said Sund was pleading with Army officials to deploy National Guard troops as the rioting rapidly escalated. Senate Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar, one of two Democratic senators who will preside over Wednesday's hearing, said in an interview Tuesday that she believes every moment counted as the National Guard decision was delayed and police officers outside the Capitol were beaten and injured by the rioters. “Any minute that we lost, I need to know why,” Klobuchar said. The hearing comes as thousands of National Guard troops are still patrolling the fenced-in Capitol and as multiple committees across Congress are launching investigations into mistakes made on Jan. 6. The probes are largely focused on security missteps and the origins of the extremism that led hundreds of Trump supporters to break through the doors and windows of the Capitol, hunt for lawmakers and temporarily stop the counting of electoral votes. Congress has, for now, abandoned any examination of Trump’s role in the attack after the Senate acquitted him last month of inciting the riot by telling the supporters that morning to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat. As the Senate hears from the federal officials, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman will testify before a House panel that is also looking into how security failed. In a hearing last week before the same subcommittee, she conceded there were multiple levels of failures but denied that law enforcement failed to take seriously warnings of violence before the insurrection. In the Senate, Klobuchar said there is particular interest in hearing from Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, who was on the phone with Sund and the Department of the Army as the rioters first broke into the building. Contee, the D.C. police chief, was also on the call and told senators that the Army was initially reluctant to send troops. “While I certainly understand the importance of both planning and public perception — the factors cited by the staff on the call — these issues become secondary when you are watching your employees, vastly outnumbered by a mob, being physically assaulted,” Contee said. He said he had quickly deployed his own officers and he was “shocked” that the National Guard “could not — or would not — do the same." Contee said that Army staff said they were not refusing to send troops, but “did not like the optics of boots on the ground” at the Capitol. Also testifying at the joint hearing of the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees are Robert Salesses of the Defence Department, Melissa Smislova of the Department of Homeland Security and Jill Sanborn of the FBI, all officials who oversee aspects of intelligence and security operations. Lawmakers have grilled law enforcement officials about missed intelligence ahead of the attack, including a report from an FBI field office in Virginia that warned of online posts foreshadowing a “war” in Washington. Capitol Police leaders have said they were unaware of the report at the time, even though the FBI had forwarded it to the department. Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the report was disseminated though the FBI’s joint terrorism task force, discussed at a command post in Washington and posted on an internet portal available to other law enforcement agencies. Though the information was raw and unverified and appeared aspirational in nature, Wray said, it was specific and concerning enough that “the smartest thing to do, the most prudent thing to do, was just push it to the people who needed to get it.” Mary Clare Jalonick And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials in Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that vaccination rollout plans for the month included the province's first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some. Chief medical officer Heather Morrison has said people over the age of 80 will get a second dose based on their existing appointments. Going forward, she said, other residents will get a longer interval between their first and second doses, but she didn’t specific how long that will be. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. Quebec announced Tuesday it had reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. Health Minister Christian Dube said about 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the one first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube has said. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. She also says the province will soon share an updated vaccine plan that factors in expected shipments of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The province will do that after getting guidance from the federal government on potentially extending the time between first and second doses, like B.C. is doing, of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to four months, Elliott says She also says Ontario seniors won't receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine since there's limited data on its effectiveness in older populations. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. The province said this week that it may follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. The government says it hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. If that happens, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry says the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means some people will get their first shot sooner than planned. She says B.C. will focus its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among essential workers, first responders and younger people with more social interactions who would have to wait longer to receive their first doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. It's now possible that all adults could get their first shot by July, Henry says. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the decision to delay second doses of COVID-19 vaccine by four months is based on scientific evidence combined with real-world data from the province’s immunization campaign that began in late December.
MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens have made another change to their coaching staff, appointing Sean Burke to take over as the director of goaltending. General manager Marc Bergevin made the announcement Tuesday following a 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators that gave rookie head coach Dominique Ducharme his first NHL victory. Burke replaces Stephane Waite, who held the position since 2013 and was let go Tuesday. Ducharme replaced the fired Claude Julien last week in the wake of consecutive shootout and overtime losses to the Senators in Ottawa. No. 1 goaltender Carey Price made 26 saves for the victory Tuesday over the Senators, but has struggled in 2020-21. He entered Tuesday with a 5-4-3 record to go along with an .888 save percentage and 3.13 goals-against average this season. Over his previous six starts, the former Hart and Vezina Trophy winner was 1-4-1 with an .870 save percentage. Montreal backup Jake Allen, meanwhile, is 4-2-2 with a .929 save percentage and 2.12 GAA this season. Burke will be required to undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine before joining the team. Laval Rocket goaltending coach Marco Marciano will work with Montreal's goaltenders until Burke is cleared to join the squad. The 54-year-old Burke was originally hired by the Canadiens in 2016 as a professional scout for the Western region. He has also worked as a goaltending consultant for Montreal. He spent six seasons as a member of the Coyotes' hockey management group, serving as goaltending coach and director of player development before being promoted to assistant general manager in 2012. He had an 18-year NHL career, suiting up for eight organizations before moving into management post-retirement. The three-time NHL All-Star represented Canada at the 1988 and 1992 Winter Olympics, and served as Canada's general manager at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang where the team won bronze without NHL players. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
Toshiba Corp shareholders should vote in favour of a proposed independent investigation into allegations that investors were pressured ahead of last year's annual general meeting, an influential proxy adviser has recommended. The recommendation has the potential to tip the balance of power towards Effissimo Capital Management and other activist shareholders in their long-standing row with Chief Executive Nobuaki Kurumatani and management of the scandal-hit industrial conglomerate. The vote will take place at a shareholders' meeting on March 18 and activist investors are estimated to hold about 25% of Toshiba's shares.
The board of the Prince Albert Catholic School Division reaffirmed their support for the Toonies for Tuition campaign during their regular meeting on Monday. The board unanimously chose to support the fundraiser by donating to it. The board approves one fundraiser annually for an organization outside of the division and they chose to support it again in August 2020. “The goal is to raise the approximate value of $2 per student in our school division. For example, if we have 3,000 students our soft goal would be to acquire, to do fundraising for $6,000 and that gets forwarded to the trust to the Canadian Catholic School Trustees Association and they have a committee that reviews all of the applications. So that is something that we are going to endeavour to do over the next few weeks,” director of education Lorel Trumier said. The campaign supports students in provinces where there is no public funding for Catholic schools. The initiative was spearheaded in Canada by vice chair Albert Provost and began in 2011. The board has many new members and during the discussion Provost provided some background to get the board motivated. Trustees may have been aware of the campaign but from the perspective as a parent or stakeholder in the division. “They have been very proud to support Catholic education over many years and we are fortunate in this province to have publicly funded Catholic education and we don' t take that for granted for a minute so that's important,” Trumier said. The campaign has seen a drop in donations during the past year, as expected with schools closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the initial campaign in the fall $21, 219 was raised and any additional funds added between now and May will be added to the total. During the discussion Trumier explained that the division usually reaches out to parishes but have not been able to this year. In 2020, the President of the Saskatchewan Catholic School Board Association, Delmar Wagner contacted the division after the Annual General Meeting of the organization to advise that Prince Albert Catholic had fundraised the highest dollar amount per student in Saskatchewan. Each year a trophy is presented for the highest provincial and highest school board/division winner. Last year in Prince Albert the total funds raised were $2,250 with Ecole St. Anne raising the highest dollar amount with $1,200. Last year's provincial winner was Saskatchewan and the winner of the school board/division trophy was Kenora Catholic Division in Ontario. Prince Albert Catholic previously won the trophy from 2011 to 2017. The province of Saskatchewan also won the provincial trophy from 2011 to 2017. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
VANCOUVER — The British Columbia government says the provincial health officer has to strike a balance between curbing the spread of COVID-19 and religious practice, which may at times affect certain rights under the Canadian charter. Lawyer Gareth Morley told the B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday that Dr. Bonnie Henry is using "non-pharmaceutical interventions" to ensure the population remains healthy until vaccines are prevalent. Morley, who works for the legal services branch of the Attorney General Ministry, said it is agreed that the province is in the middle of a pandemic. "And measures taken to protect public health, to protect lives, to protect people from serious illness, and to protect the ability of the health-care system itself to respond, that those are the sorts of measures that can limit charter rights, including freedom of religion." Henry has a duty under the Constitution to "proportionally and reasonably" limit freedoms by preventing the gathering of people to ensure their health and safety, Morley said. Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson asked who decides whether the limits are proportional or reasonable, adding that he wants to understand how the provincial health officer is making her decisions. "Aren't the churches entitled to know why if you go to the bar and watch a hockey game for an hour or two, you can't sit in a church for an hour or two? It is a point I struggle with." Hinkson said he understands Henry has a difficult job, but she hasn't explained why or how she is making the decisions. "If she chooses not to share her thought process with the court, there's no oversight," he said. Morley said the decisions are made after careful review by health officials and experts. So balancing religious rights and protecting people from an "out-of-control epidemic" is a matter of judgment, he said, adding that Henry met with religious leaders and health officials while making her decisions. Earlier Tuesday, a lawyer for several British Columbia churches told the court the province's COVID-19 restrictions substantially interfere with their right to freedom of religion. Paul Jaffe argued religion is far more than belief, thoughts and opinions — rather, it's the "actual practice" of those things in ways that are an important part of the faith. "There couldn't be, I say, a more substantial interference with religious freedom than to prohibit them from gathering to worship — absolutely integral to their faith," he said. Hinkson said there are no COVID-19 restrictions on people's religious freedoms and it's the safety of those who are gathering that is at issue. Jaffe said church is as much a part of people's lives as school, gyms and shopping. He repeated an earlier argument to the court, saying the orders do not prohibit outdoor assemblies over matters of public interest or controversy. Religion is a matter of public interest, but there is a restriction on gatherings, he said. "In my submission, it's entirely arbitrary," he said. "And for some reason stereotyping of churches in a way which presents them with some kind of risk." Jaffe works with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a Calgary-based legal advocacy group that's also asking the court to dismiss tickets of up to $2,300 each for alleged violations of the orders. His clients — which include the Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley, Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford and the Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack — have been careful to adopt safety protocols similar to those approved by Henry in places that remain open. A separate petition was filed Tuesday by representatives of 10 other churches that are part of the Canadian Reformed Churches, which has about 3,000 members. The group wants the court to quash the provincial health officer's restrictions that forbid in-person services. The Roman Catholic archbishop of Vancouver is challenging the restrictions in court as well, filing a petition on Friday arguing the orders are unconstitutional. The petition seeks an exemption to allow religious gatherings including mass, weddings and baptisms. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Hina Alam, The Canadian Press
CANBERRA, Australia — Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson said Wednesday he was accountable for the mining giant destroying sacred Indigenous sites in Australia to access iron ore and he will not seek reelection as a board director next year. Thompson’s announcement came after former chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques announced his resignation last September over the destruction in May of two rock shelters in Juukan George in Western Australia state that had been inhabited for 46,000 years. The company’s successes in 2020 were “overshadowed by the destruction of the Juukan Gorge shelters ... and, as chairman, I am ultimately accountable for the failings that led to this tragic event,” Thompson said in a statement. “The tragic events at Juukan Gorge are a source of personal sadness and deep regret, as well as being a clear breach of our values as a company,” he added. Jamie Lowe, chief executive of the National Native Title Council, which represents Australia’s traditional owners of the land, described Thompson's departure as a necessary step that Indigenous people had been demanding since the rock shelters were blasted. “We think the cultural shift within Rio Tinto needed to happen immediately and it’s too bad its taken some eight months to be actually able to see that come to fruition,” Lowe said. Jacques was replaced as chief executive in January by Jakob Stausholm. Executives Chris Salisbury and Simone Niven also left the company last year due to shareholder anger at the destruction that outraged traditional owners of the gorge, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people. Rio Tinto announced on Wednesday that director Michael L’Estrange would retire from the board at the conclusion of the April annual general meetings in Britain and Australia. L’Estrange led a widely criticized internal review of how the rock shelters came to be blasted against traditional owners’ wishes. The review concluded in August that there was “no single root cause or error that directly resulted in the destruction of the rock shelters.” But internal documents revealed in September that Rio Tinto had engaged a law firm in case the traditional owners applied for a court injunction to save the rock shelters. The Western Australian government has promised to update Indigenous heritage laws that allowed Rio Tinto to legally destroy the sacred sites. Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press
The city's plan to buy a prime tract of Little Italy property is nearly a done deal after a council committee unanimously approved the purchase late Tuesday at a price that's a fraction of the land's estimated commercial value. The $2.87-million acquisition could be a game-changer for the inner-city neighbourhood, which is starved for green space, since the property is largely earmarked for a large new park and a recreation centre expansion. The 2.55 hectares of land at 1010 Somerset St. is bounded by Somerset Street W. to the north, the Trillium Line tracks to the west, Oak Street to the south and Plant Recreation Centre and the adjacent Plouffe Park to the east. It's part of a former federal warehouse complex, originally built in the 1940s as a munitions and equipment depot. The warehouse was demolished in 2015 and the federal government declared the land surplus. The southern part of the warehouse land — a tract known as 933 Gladstone Ave. — was sold in 2019 to Ottawa Community Housing, the city's social housing agency, for $7 million, as the planned site of a mixed-income community dubbed Gladstone Village. It will combine affordable and subsidized housing with market-value housing. The city was able to negotiation a deal to purchase 2.55 hectares of land next to Plant Recreation Centre and Plouffe Park to extend public amenities to the future Gladstone Village to the south. (Leah Hansen/CBC) Now, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) is selling the city the adjacent northern portion at a cut-rate price so it can be integrated into the Gladstone Village concept. How city got a $22M discount PSPC originally set the purchase price at $25 million, based on market appraisals and assuming the land, near a future LRT Phase 2 station, was going to be used only for a straight-ahead residential development. But the federal government offers discounts if the land's future use aligns with its policy priorities. In this case, the government ended up applying seven price adjustments. They covered everything from the fact that most of the land would go to public uses — including a one-hectare public park and a community centre expansion — to the environmentally sustainable development plan. The discounted price also credited the city's plan to address reconciliation by involving the Algonquins of Ontario, who will help provide Indigenous employment and economic development opportunities, as well as space for Algonquin artists. As well, the city saved $2 million by buying the land "as is," meaning the municipality is responsible for any future soil clean-up. All in all, PSPC knocked $14 million off the price, leaving the city with a price tag of $11 million. The Plant Recreation Centre is one of the city's most over-subscribed facilities. The new land will allow the rec centre to be expanded. (Francis Ferland/CBC) That left the city needing to convince Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. that the land qualified for future discounts under a program that encourages using surplus federal property for affordable housing. The land itself isn't earmarked for housing, but the city convinced CMHC that it would be used to support the affordable housing in Gladstone Village. In the end, CMHC agreed, but the city had to commit to also build 300 residential units at 1010 Somerset St. by 2038, half of them affordable. The combination was enough to shave another $8.25 million off the purchase price, in the form of a "forgivable mortgage" from CMHC. Taking various taxes and fees into account, that leaves the city $2.87 million to pay. It will use $1.82 million from the city-wide park fund and $1 million from the Somerset ward park fund, with the rest from the municipality's real estate office budget. Full council and the federal Treasury Board must still approve the sale.
TOPEKA, Kan. — Former Congressman Steve Watkins of Kansas has entered a diversion program to avoid trial over allegations that he voted illegally in a 2019 municipal election. Watkins, a Republican from Topeka who served only one term in the U.S. House, was facing three felony charges. He was accused of listing a postal box at a UPS store as his home on a state registration form when he was living temporarily at his parents' home. He was also charged with lying to a detective who investigated the case. The Shawnee County district attorney filed the charges just weeks before the August 2020 primary, and Watkins lost to now-Rep. Jake LaTurner. “I regret the error in my voter registration paperwork that led to these charges. I fully co-operated from the beginning and had no intent to deceive any one, at any time. I am glad to resolve the ordeal,” Watkins said in a statement Tuesday. Watkins acknowledged he lied to the detective when he said he did not vote in the Topeka City Council election, The Kansas City Star reported. Under the diversion agreement entered into Monday, Watkins' prosecution will be deferred for six months. If he meets the terms of the agreement, the case will be dropped by September. The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden's pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, has withdrawn her nomination after she faced opposition from key Democratic and Republican senators for her controversial tweets. Her withdrawal marks the first high-profile defeat of one of Biden's nominees. Thirteen of the 23 Cabinet nominees requiring Senate approval have been confirmed, most with strong bipartisan support. “Unfortunately, it now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation, and I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a distraction from your other priorities,” Tanden wrote in a letter to Biden. The president, in a statement, said he has “utmost respect for her record of accomplishment, her experience and her counsel” and pledged to find her another role in his administration. Tanden’s viability was in doubt after Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and a number of moderate Republicans came out against her last month, all citing her tweets attacking members of both parties prior to her nomination. Manchin, a key moderate swing vote in the Senate, said last month in a statement announcing his opposition that “her overtly partisan statements will have a toxic and detrimental impact on the important working relationship between members of Congress and the next director of the Office of Management and Budget.” Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, meanwhile, cited Biden’s own standard of conduct in opposing Tanden, declaring in a statement that “her past actions have demonstrated exactly the kind of animosity that President Biden has pledged to transcend.” Tanden needed just 51 votes in an evenly-divided Senate, with Vice-President Kamala Harris acting as a tiebreaker. But without Manchin’s support, the White House was left scrambling to find a Republican to support her. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who was seen as the last Republican holdout open to supporting Tanden, said Tuesday night that she never told the White House she was a no vote on Tanden, and that the administration never asked. But her support was believed to be key to Tanden's nomination after a number of other centrist Republicans came out against her, and Murkowski met with the nominee this week. Murkowski told reporters she had asked Tanden, as she does all the nominees, to understand the challenges the Biden administration’s policies are having on Alaska, where the economy is heavily dependent on oil and gas drilling and related activities. “I have walked each and every one of them through these priorities, these challenges that we’re facing right now as, as, Alaskans, and I’m saying, what can you do to help me?” Murkowski said. “Because we’ve got an industry that is that is really in a fragile position right now because of the administration executive orders.” The White House stuck with Tanden even after a number of centrist Republicans made their opposition known, insisting her experience growing up on welfare and background working on progressive policies as the president and CEO of the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress made her the right candidate for the moment. White House chief of staff Ron Klain initially insisted the administration was “fighting our guts out” for her. Tanden faced pointed questions over her past comments about members from both parties during her confirmation hearing. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent and prominent progressive lawmaker, accused her of issuing “vicious attacks” against progressives, and hadn’t said whether he’d support her nomination. Tanden apologized during that hearing to “people on either the left or right who are hurt by what I’ve said.” Just prior to the hearing, she deleted hundreds of tweets, many of which were critical of Republicans. Collins cited those deleted tweets in her statement, saying that the move “raises concerns about her commitment to transparency.” She said Congress “has to be able to trust the OMB director to make countless decisions in an impartial manner, carrying out the letter of the law and congressional intent.” As recently as Monday, the White House indicated it was sticking by Tanden’s nomination, with press secretary Jen Psaki noting Tanden's “decades of experience” in defending their pick. “We will continue of course to fight for the confirmation of every nominee that the president puts forward,” Psaki insisted, but she added, “We'll see if we have 50 votes.” A leading advocate for Tanden, Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., the chair of the Congressional Asian and Pacific American Caucus, called the withdrawal a “tragedy” that leaves the Cabinet with just one Asian American member. “We expect the highest levels of professionalism and civility from our leaders in government, which is precisely what Neera displayed in taking responsibility for her past comments and committing to a change in tone. I’m disappointed that such a qualified candidate was subject to such a negative double standard," Chu said. The head of the Office of Management and Budget is tasked with putting together the administration's budget, as well as overseeing a wide range of logistical and regulatory issues across the federal government. Tanden's withdrawal leaves the Biden administration without a clear replacement. The apparent front-runner on Capitol Hill to replace Tanden was Shalanda Young, a former staff director for the House Appropriations Committee who has been actively pushed by members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Other names mentioned include Ann O’Leary, a former chief of staff for California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Gene Sperling, who served as a top economic adviser to both Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. ——— Associated Press writer Lisa Mascaro contributed reporting. Alexandra Jaffe, The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — British Columbia health officials say their plan to delay the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to four months is based on scientific evidence and real-world experience, as Ontario and Alberta consider following the province's lead. Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer, responded Tuesday to criticism from Canada's chief science adviser. Henry said the decision was made in the context of limited supply and based on strong local and international data. "This makes sense for us, knowing that it is a critical time right now with the limited amount of vaccines that we have in the coming weeks, to be able to provide that protection ... to everybody here," Henry said at a COVID-19 briefing. "That is why we made the decision that we did." Chief science adviser Mona Nemer told the CBC on Monday that B.C.'s plan amounts to a "population-level experiment" and that the data provided so far by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech is based on an interval of three to four weeks between doses. Henry said the manufacturers structured their clinical trials that way to get the vaccines to market as quickly as possible, but research in B.C., Quebec, Israel and the United Kingdom has shown that first doses are highly effective. The B.C. Centre for Disease Control examined the effects of a single dose on long-term care residents and health-care workers and found that it reduced the risk of the virus by up to 90 per cent within two to three weeks, Henry said. "It is a little bit unfortunate that the national science adviser ... obviously was not involved in some of these discussions and decision-making and perhaps did not understand the context that this decision was made in," Henry said. Dr. Danuta Skowronski, a B.C. Centre for Disease Control epidemiology lead whose work underpinned the province's plan, said Pfizer-BioNTech underestimated the efficacy of its first dose in its submissions to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Skowronski said the company included data from the first two weeks after trial participants received the shot, a time when vaccines typically aren't effective. When she and her colleagues adjusted the data, they found it was 92 per cent effective, similar to the Moderna vaccine. She said B.C.'s plan was based on the basic principles of vaccine science. The protection from a first dose of vaccine does not suddenly disappear, it gradually wanes over time, and scientists are typically more concerned about providing a second dose too soon rather than too late, she said. "I think if the public had a chance to hear and to understand that, they would say, 'OK, this is not messing around. This is really managing risk in a way that maximizes protection to as many Canadians as possible.'" B.C. has administered 283,182 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to date, including more than 86,000 second doses. The province reported 438 new cases of the virus on Tuesday and two more deaths, pushing the death toll in B.C. to 1,365. Henry said she expects a statement soon from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization aligning with the province's decision, while Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday she wanted to wait for such a recommendation. Elliott said extending the interval between doses would allow the province to get some level of protection to more people. "This would be a considerable change," she said. "With the variants of concern out there, this could make a significant difference for Ontario in reducing hospitalizations and deaths. So, we are anxiously awaiting NACI's review of this to determine what they have to say in their recommendations." Dr. Shelley Deeks, vice-chair of the national committee, said in an email the group is expected to issue a statement on extending the dose interval on Wednesday, but she did not confirm it would align with B.C.'s plan. Alberta's health minister said a committee of COVID-19 experts is analyzing emerging data and a decision on whether to follow B.C.’s lead is coming. "There's fantastic evidence that's coming out," Tyler Shandro said Tuesday. "What the exact period of time (between doses) is going to be is still to be decided. We'll be announcing it soon, but we will be looking at having that length of time between first and second extended." Alberto Martin, a University of Toronto immunology professor, said there is "obviously some concern" about B.C.'s plan because he is not aware of any clinical trial that examined a four-month gap between Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna doses. However, he said difficult times — when the vaccine supply is so limited — require drastic measures. "It's a difficult decision to make. I don't know whether I'd like to be in that position, but I think it's understandable why they're doing this." Daniel Coombs, a University of British Columbia mathematician who has done COVID-19 modelling, said Nemer was right that B.C. was conducting an "experiment," but it seemed to be a necessary one. He added that the province may also be anticipating the approval of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which only requires one shot. Michael Houghton, director of the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute at the University of Alberta, said the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine data shows that one shot conveys 76 per cent protection for the next 12 weeks. Houghton said he is more concerned about extending the dose interval to 16 weeks for the other two approved vaccines. "These make vaccinologists nervous since, usually, we use in the real world what was tested in the clinic, but given the vaccine shortage, perhaps desperate times warrant such calculated gambles." — With files from Holly McKenzie-Sutter in Toronto and Sylvia Strojek in Edmonton. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Laura Dhillon Kane, The Canadian Press
Texas on Tuesday became the biggest state to lift its mask rule, joining a rapidly growing movement by governors and other leaders across the U.S. to loosen COVID-19 restrictions despite pleas from health officials not to let their guard down yet. The Lone Star State will also do away with limits on the number of diners who can be served indoors, said Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who made the announcement at a restaurant in Lubbock. The governors of Michigan, Mississippi and Louisiana likewise eased up on bars, restaurants and other businesses Tuesday, as did the mayor of San Francisco. “Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility,” said Abbott, speaking from a crowded dining room where many of those surrounding him were not wearing masks. “It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed." A year into the crisis, politicians and ordinary Americans alike have grown tired of rules meant to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed over a half-million people in the United States. Some places are lifting infection control measures; in other places, people are ignoring them. Top health officials, including the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have responded by begging people repeatedly not to risk another deadly wave of contagion just when the nation is making progress in vaccinating people and victory over the outbreak is in sight. U.S. cases have plunged more than 70% over the past two months from an average of nearly 250,000 new infections a day, while average deaths per day have plummeted about 40% since mid-January. But the two curves have levelled off abruptly in the past several days and have even risen slightly, and the numbers are still running at alarmingly high levels, with an average of about 2,000 deaths and 68,000 cases per day. Health officials are increasingly worried about virus mutations. “We stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned on Monday. Even so, many Americans are sick of the shutdowns that have damaged their livelihoods and are eager to socialize again. An Indianapolis-area bar was filled with maskless patrons over the weekend. In Southern California, people waited in lines that snaked through a parking lot on a recent weekday afternoon for the chance to shop and eat at Downtown Disney, part of Disneyland. (The theme park's rides remain closed.) And Florida is getting ready to welcome students on spring break. “People want to stay safe, but at the same time, the fatigue has hit,” said Ryan Luke, who is organizing a weekend rally in Eagle, Idaho, to encourage people to patronize businesses that don’t require masks. "We just want to live a quasi-normal life.” Michael Junge argued against a mask mandate when officials in the Missouri tourist town of Branson passed one and said he hasn’t enforced it in his Lost Boys Barber Company. He said he is sick of it. “I think the whole thing is a joke honestly,” he said. “They originally said that this was going to go for a month and they have pushed it out to indefinitely. ... It should have been done a long time ago.” In San Francisco, an upbeat Mayor London Breed announced that California gave the green light to indoor dining and the reopening of movie theatres and gyms. “You can enjoy your city, right here, right now,” she said from Fisherman’s Wharf, one of the city's biggest tourist attractions. She added: “We are not where we need to be yet, but we’re getting there, San Francisco.” Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said he is getting rid of most mask mandates and lifting most other restrictions, including limits on seating in restaurants, starting Wednesday. “The governor’s office is getting out of the business of telling people what they can and cannot do,” the Republican said. Florida, which is getting ready for spring break travellers to flock to its sunny beaches, is considered to be in an “active outbreak,” along with Texas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and South Carolina, according to the data-tracking website CovidActNow. Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis made it clear during his annual State of the State address Tuesday that he welcomes more visitors to Florida in his drive to keep the state’s economy thriving. Florida municipalities can impose their own mask rules and curfews, restrict beach access and place some limits on bars and restaurants, but some have virtually no such measures in place. Miami Beach will require masks indoors and out and restrict the number of people allowed on the beach as well as in bars and restaurants. “If you want to party without restrictions, then go somewhere else. Go to Vegas,” Miami Beach City Manager Raul Aguila said during a recent virtual meeting. “We will be taking a zero-tolerance attitude towards that behaviour.” In Michigan, a group called All Business Is Essential has resisted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s virus policies, and many people are ignoring mask requirements and other measures, said group leader Erik Kiilunen. “At some point you’ve got to look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘Do I want a zero-risk life?’” he said. “It’s become a farce, really. People have quit living for a year, at what price?” “I think everybody wants things to get back the way they were,” said Aubrey D. Jenkins, the fire chief in Columbia, South Carolina, whose department issues dozens of $100 citations every weekend to bar-goers who refuse to wear masks or keep their distance. “But we still have to be real cautious.” ___ Associated Press writers Brendan Farrington in Tallahasee, Florida; Anila Yoganathan in Tucker, Georgia; Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi; John Flesher in Traverse City, Michigan; Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas; Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho; Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in Washington; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Janie Har in San Francisco; and David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, contributed to this story. Paul J. Weber And Tammy Webber, The Associated Press
MINAMISOMA, Japan — Because of radiation released by the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster a decade ago, farmers in nearby Minamisoma weren't allowed to grow crops for two years. After the restriction was lifted, two farmers, Kiyoko Mori and Yoshiko Ogura, found an unusual way to rebuild their lives and help their destroyed community. They planted indigo and soon began dying fabric with dye produced from the plants. “Dyeing lets us forget the bad things” for a while, Mori said. “It’s a process of healing for us.” The massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, caused three of the reactors at the nuclear plant to melt and wrecked more than just the farmers’ livelihoods. The homes of many people in Minamisoma, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the plant, were destroyed by the tsunami. The disaster killed 636 town residents, and tens of thousands of others left to start new lives. Mori and Ogura believed that indigo dyeing could help people in the area recover. Mori said they were concerned at first about consuming locally grown food, but felt safe raising indigo because it wouldn’t be eaten. They checked the radiation level of the indigo leaves and found no dangerous amount. Ten years after the disaster, Mori and Ogura are still engaged in indigo dyeing but have different missions. To Mori, it has become a tool for building a strong community in a devastated town and for fighting unfounded rumours that products from Fukushima are still contaminated. She favours the typical indigo dyeing process that requires some chemical additives. But Ogura has chosen to follow a traditional technique that uses fermentation instead as a way to send a message against dangers of modern technology highlighted by nuclear power. Mori formed a group called Japan Blue which holds workshops that have taught indigo dyeing to more than 100 people each year. She hopes the project will help rebuild the dwindling town’s sense of community. Despite a new magnitude 7.3 earthquake that recently hit the area, the group did not cancel its annual exhibition at a community centre that served as an evacuation centre 10 years ago. “Every member came to the exhibition, saying they can clean up the debris in their houses later,” Mori said. Ogura, who is not a member of the group, feels that a natural process is important because the nuclear accident showed that relying on advanced technology for efficiency while ignoring its negative aspects can lead to bad consequences. “I really suffered during the nuclear accident,” Ogura said. “We escaped frantically in the confusion. I felt I was doing something similar again" by using chemicals. “We seek too much in the way of many varieties of beautiful colours created with the use of chemicals. We once thought our lives were enriched by it, but I started feeling that wasn’t the case,” she said. “I want people to know what the real natural colour looks like.” Organic indigo dyes take more time and closer attention. Ogura first ferments chopped indigo leaves with water for a month and then mixes the result with lye which is formed on the surface of a mixture of hot water and ashes. It has to be kept at about 20 degrees C (68 degrees F) and stirred three times a day. Part of the beauty of the process, Ogura says, is that it’s hard to predict what colour will be produced. With the support of city officials, Ogura started making silk face masks dyed with organic indigo. She used to run an organic restaurant where she served her own vegetables before the disaster, but now runs a guesthouse with her husband in which visitors can try organic indigo dyeing. Just 700 metres (2,300 feet) from Ogura’s house, countless black bags filled with weakly contaminated debris and soil are piled along the roadside. They have been there since after the disaster, according to Ogura’s husband, Ryuichi. Other piles are scattered around the town. “The government says it’s not harmful to leave them there. But if they really think it's not harmful, they should take them to Tokyo and keep them near them,” he said. The radiation waste stored in the town is scheduled to be moved to a medium-term storage facility by March next year, a town official said. Chisato Tanaka, The Associated Press
HOLTVILLE, Calif. — Authorities are investigating whether human smuggling was involved after a crash Tuesday involving an SUV packed with 25 people and a tractor-trailer that left 13 people dead and bodies strewn across a roadway near the U.S. Mexico border. Most of the dead were Mexicans, a Mexican official said. When police arrived, some of the passengers were trying to crawl out of the crumpled 1997 Ford Expedition while others were wandering around the fields. The rig's front end was pushed into the SUV's left side and two empty trailers were jackknifed behind it. Twelve people were found dead when first responders reached the two-lane highway, which winds through fields in the agricultural southeastern corner of California about 125 miles (201 kilometres) east of San Diego. Another person died at a hospital, California Highway Patrol Chief Omar Watson said. “It was a pretty chaotic scene,” said Watson, who also described it as “a very sad situation.” Roberto Velasco, director of North American affairs for Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department, confirmed Tuesday on his Twitter account that at least 10 of those killed have been identified as Mexicans. No identities have been released. The cause of the collision was unclear, authorities said, and it also was not immediately known why so many people were crammed into a vehicle built to hold eight people safely. Watson said the SUV only had front seats — the middle and back seats had been removed. That would allow more people to fit into the vehicle but makes it even more unsafe. It wasn't immediately clear whether the SUV was carrying migrants who had crossed the border, ferrying farmworkers to fields, or was being used for some other purpose. “Special agents from Homeland Security Investigations San Diego responded ... and have initiated a human smuggling investigation," the agency said in a statement, adding that other details weren't being released. Macario Mora, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, said agents were not pursing the SUV at the time of the crash, which was initially rumoured. The immigration status of the passengers was unknown. “It was an unusual number of people in an SUV, but we don’t know who they were,” Mora said. The people in the vehicle ranged in age from 15 to 53 and were a mix of males and females, officials said. The 28-year-old driver was from Mexicali, Mexico, just across the border, and was among those killed. The 68-year-old driver of the big rig, who is from nearby El Centro, was hospitalized with moderate injuries. The passengers' injuries ranged from minor to severe and included fractures and head trauma. They were being cared for at several hospitals. One person was treated at a hospital and released. The crash occurred around 6:15 a.m. at an intersection just outside Holtville, which dubs itself the world’s carrot capital and is about 11 miles (18 kilometres) north of the U.S.-Mexico border. It was a sunny, clear morning and authorities said the tractor-trailer and its two empty containers were northbound on State Highway 115 when the SUV pulled in front of it from Norrish Road. A California Highway Patrol report said the SUV entered an intersection directly in front of the big-rig, which hit the left side of the SUV. Both vehicles came to a halt on a dirt shoulder. It's not clear if the SUV ran a stop sign or had stopped before entering the highway. It's also not yet known how fast the tractor-trailer was travelling. The speed limit for tractor-trailers on the highway is 55 mph (88.5 kph), according to CHP Officer Jake Sanchez. The other road is also 55 mph for vehicles. A 1997 Ford Expedition can carry a maximum payload of 2,000 pounds. If it had 25 people inside, that would easily exceed the payload limit, which taxes the brakes and makes it tougher to steer, said Frank Borris, former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Defects Investigation. “You’re going to have extended stopping distances, delayed reactions to steering inputs and potential over-reaction to any type of high-speed lane change,” said Borris, who now runs a safety consulting business. SUVs of that age tended to be top-heavy even without carrying a lot of weight, Borris said. “With all of that payload above the vehicle’s centre of gravity, it’s going to make it even more unstable,” he said. The crash occurred amid verdant farms that grow a wide variety of vegetables and alfalfa used for cattle feed. Thousands of people cross into the U.S. each day to work in the fields. The harvest of lettuce and other winter vegetable crops runs from November until March, and buses and SUVs carrying farmworkers are often rumbling down the rural roads s in the early morning hours. The area has also seen smugglers carrying migrants in trucks and vehicles. Hundreds of migrants who died after crossing the border are buried in unmarked graves in Holtville’s cemetery on the edge of town. ___ Associated Press reporters Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles, Julie Watson in San Diego, Anita Snow in Phoenix, Tom Krisher in Detroit and Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed. ___ This story has been corrected based on updated information from officials to show the tractor-trailer driver is 68, not 69. Elliot Spagat, The Associated Press
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Health experts in China say their country is lagging in its coronavirus vaccination rollout because it has the disease largely under control, but plans to inoculate 40% of its population by June. Zhong Nanshan, the leader of a group of experts attached to the National Health Commission, said the country has delivered 52.52 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of Feb. 28. He was speaking Monday at an online forum between U.S and Chinese medical experts hosted by the Brookings Institution and Tsinghua University. The target is the first China has offered publicly since it began its mass immunization campaign for key groups in mid-December. China has been slow to vaccinate its people relative to other countries, administering 3.56 doses per 100 people so far, according to Zhong, in a population of 1.4 billion. The fastest to vaccinate is Israel, which has given 94 doses per 100 people. The U.S. has administered 22 doses per 100 people. Chinese health experts say the country has enough vaccine supply for its population, although the country has pledged to provide close to half a billion doses abroad, roughly 10 times the number it has delivered at home. “The current vaccination pace is very low due to outbreak control (being) so good in China, but I think the capacity is enough,” said Zhang Wenhong, an infectious diseases expert based in Shanghai who also spoke on the panel. Developers of China’s four currently approved vaccines have said they could manufacture up to 2.6 billion doses by the end of this year. Still, vaccinating China’s massive population will be a daunting task. Even at the rate of vaccinating 10 million people a day, it would take roughly seven months to vaccinate 70% of its population, Zhang noted. The experts all acknowledged the complex task of vaccinating the world's population, pointing to the slowness in the global rollout of vaccines. “Demand will outstrip supply for many months, and unless there is more manufacturing, … for years,” said Tom Frieden, the former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also cautioned against expecting a quick return to normal. The head of China’s Center for Disease Control, Gao Fu, predicted that life could return to an “approximate normal” in summer next year. Gao, along with Zhong and other Chinese health experts, urged more U.S.-China co-operation. Gao specifically called on the U.S. and China to co-operate on COVAX, an initiative to distribute vaccines more fairly across the developing world. “Let’s work together,” he said. ____ This version has been updated to CORRECT that the figures of doses administered per 100 people in China, Israel and the United States is not a percentage of their populations since many people vaccinated have received both of the two doses required. Huizhong Wu, The Associated Press
While many things were shut down due to the pandemic, Tabitha McLoughlin and her team responded to increased demand in their community for fresh food by opening another farmers market. McLoughlin is the executive director of Grow Local Tricities, which manages the Port Moody and Coquitlam farmers markets. In June, the organization started its Port Moody summer market as an emergency response for farmers in their area. “We did it in response to knowing that we had farmer vendors who were losing contracts to restaurants and losing contracts to food suppliers, because those guys were shutting down or being closed down, and they had crops in the ground,” she said. “And it was well enough attended that we’ll continue to do it again this year.” McLoughlin has worked with Grow Local for 15 years and said she wasn’t surprised the new market was so well-received. She has seen a steady interest in farmers markets over the past five to eight years, and COVID-19 has only fast-tracked it. “I think the media really started to push ‘buy local’ ... because, as much as we have preached it for years, the importance of the economic impact that is generated by buying from places within your own community is now being seen on such a massive scale,” she said. McLoughlin said it was interesting seeing farmers markets being used in such a utilitarian manner during the pandemic, after trying on so many different hats to appeal to consumers. “What we saw was people coming specifically to buy at the market ... We have spent years building the farmers markets to be these destinations where you and your kids can do a craft, watch a food demonstration,” she said. “We had to throw all that out the window and be like, 'OK, we need you to come in and shop as fast as you possibly can.'” Jen Candela, communications manager with Vancouver Farmers Markets (VFM) since 2007, said the last decade has seen a lot of growth on their end. The VFM has operated markets since 1995 and now supports 280 small farms and businesses. “I think people are a lot more concerned about where their food comes from than they were 20 years ago,” she said. “Vancouver is also a health-conscious city, so people want the freshest, healthiest food they can find. Unless you grow your own food, farmers markets are the best place to find that.” There is little data on farmers markets in Canada. The last nationwide survey was done in 2009 by Farmers Markets Canada, a now-defunct organization. Even then, total direct sales from farmers markets across Canada was estimated to be $1.03 billion. Although the markets may be expanding and growing, McLoughlin said the sentiment behind them remains the same. “I think (people’s reasons) for putting these things together was always greater than just simply bringing the food into the community,” she said. “Now as it's become more and more common, it's not just like the hippies in the parking lots anymore. It's way more mainstream, to the point where it's almost become trendy.” Cloe Logan / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer Cloe Logan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Late last week the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the Good Spirit School Division's application for leave to appeal the Theodore school case to the court, ending 16 years of legal back and forth on whether non-Catholic students can receive provincial funding to attend Catholic schools. The ruling now means that funding non-Catholic students to attend Catholic schools is allowed. “The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the application for leave. So what that means is that the Court of Appeal, the unanimous Court of Appeal decision in Saskatchewan is law of the land in Saskatchewan. Practically speaking it means that nothing is really changing in education as far as Catholic education goes,” Tom Fortosky Executive Director Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association (SCSBA) said. “We are grateful, we are relieved we don't have to carry on with this case anymore and we just want to get back to doing what we do best and that's educating children,” he added. The ruling means that the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal decision from April 2017 stands as the ruling in the case. Good Spirit has now exhausted all of their legal options in the case. “I am sure you are as happy and relieved by this decision as I am,” Prince Albert Catholic Division board chair Suzanne Stubbs said in a letter published at the division's website last week. “Even though the Government of Saskatchewan assured us they would do whatever is necessary to protect your choice for your child’s education, this decision definitively confirms what we have said and believed all along: as parents, you know what is best for your children and you should be able to choose Catholic, faith-based education if that is what you want—no matter your reason, faith background or tradition,” The case has a long and winding history in the province. “The facts that gave rise to the case started in 2003, the lawsuit started in 2005 so it has been 16 years and in education terms that's more than one person going through school starting from Kindergarten,” Fortosky said. The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled in March, 2020 that provincial funding for non-Catholic students in Catholic schools was acceptable. This unanimous decision overturned a 2017 trial decision, where Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Donald Layh declared that the funding violates “the state’s duty of religious neutrality,” which contradicts the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He explained that the decision means that Catholic education can continue as it always has by offering a distinctly Catholic education to all those who choose it for their children. The case concerns what is now known as St. Theodore Catholic School in Theodore, located 40 kilometres from Yorkton. In 2003 the public division made the decision to close what was then Theodore School and the local Catholic community petitioned to form a new Catholic Division and eventually purchased the school and opened it under a new name. The then-Yorkdale School Division (now part of Good Spirit) planned to bus students to Springside. The Good Spirit School Division launched a lawsuit in 2005 claiming the school was only created to prevent students from being bused to Springside. The case was taken to the Supreme Court by Public Schools of Saskatchewan in 2020. The Supreme Court’s decision also means the provincial government does not have to follow through on a promise to use the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause to protect the funding. The cost of funding the appeal was supported by many large and small donors and the SCSBA began fundraising when the appeal process began, Fortosky said. “We were very pleased with the support that we got. We were getting small donations from people who supported what we do in Catholic education. We had some donors like the Knights of Columbus who gave significant amounts, there was some large ones, but for the most part we had just a wide ranging support given to us for the appeal piece, so that was very gratifying to see.” “A significant amount of time and money has been spent on this court case, and we are pleased that we can all refocus our energy and resources on our students and families to build upon the exemplary model of education we have in this province,” Stubbs said. In the letter, Stubbs noted that if there was questions of concerns to contact her or any of the trustees on the board of education. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
Mona Lisa describes feeling isolated and cut off from her community during the COVID-19 pandemic.