WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Venezuela's opposition is discussing scaling back the interim government of opposition leader Juan Guaido that has won diplomatic recognition by dozens of countries that disavowed President Nicolas Maduro, nine legislators told Reuters. Guaido, the leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled parliament, in 2019 called Maduro a usurper following his disputed re-election and assumed a parallel presidency based on articles of the constitution that make the head of the National Assembly next in line to rule the country. Guaido's lawmaker allies have said they will continue to insist that they are legitimate parliamentarians after Jan. 5, arguing that their constitutional mandate remains intact because Sunday's vote is rigged.
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 2, 2020. A Barrie Catholic elementary school is the latest to close a classroom after someone tested positive for COVID-19. St. Catherine of Siena Catholic School principal Rich Foshay sent a letter to parents Oct. 1 explaining the situation, without revealing if the infected person is a student or teacher. Foshay told parents the Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit will determine who may be at risk and “ensure that school staff, families and students are provided with the appropriate information.” Foshay said he will send a voice message and email, on behalf of the health unit, to all individuals that need to take further steps as a result of this positive case. “If you do not receive a voice message and email directly, then your child is not part of the affected cohort,” his letter states. St. Catherine of Siena, located on Summerset Drive, is the sixth Simcoe Catholic elementary school to close at least one classroom due to a positive COVID case. “We all must work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As a school community, we will pray for all those impacted by this virus and continue to demonstrate compassion and respect for one another as we navigate this situation,” Foshay said. The school will advise the health unit of any person who came in contact with the infected person, including in before and after-school care and on a school bus. Enhanced cleaning and disinfection of all areas in the school where the person may have been has already taken place and will continue to be a priority, Foshay said. Visit the www.simcoemuskokahealth.org or contact Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or (toll free) 1-877-721-7520 ext. 5830 for more health-related information. Visit www.smcdsb.on.ca for details about the school reopening plan. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is expanding its visitor ban to Regina hospitals on top of long-term care and personal care homes.The new restrictions come as Regina continues to see rising COVID-19 case numbers.The changes go into effect at 8 a.m. CST Thursday and will be reassessed in 14 days, SHA said.The SHA is limiting family presence and visitation to compassionate care only in all Regina SHA acute care facilities. Compassionate care reasons may include, but are not limited to, family or support persons during end-of-life care, major surgery, intensive care, pediatrics, and inpatients and outpatients with specific challenges."The decision to restrict family presence is not taken lightly. These measures are in place to keep you, your loved ones, and health-care workers safe," said the SHA in a press release. On Tuesday the province reported that Regina was the zone in the province with the most new cases, with 67. As of Tuesday, Regina had 26 people in hospital and another seven people in intensive care due to COVID-19.
For the last three years, members of the Lighthouse Fellowship Baptist church have hosted professional development day events geared towards children in junior kindergarten through Grade 4. Restrictions in place because of the pandemic presented committee members Laura Connell, Vanje Watson, Jessica Kelly, Hannah Coolidge and Pastor Gordon with the challenge of how to provide a fun and meaningful experience for children while maintaining everyone’s safety. “We thought, we do Zoom church services, so why not do a Zoom PD day?” said Connell, who has been at the helm of the project. The result of their planning and efforts came together on Nov. 27, when 98 children, who had all pre-registered for the party, enjoyed a free, entertaining and engaging morning of activities, crafts, story time and games, from the comfort and safety of their own homes. The committee arranged for each child who pre-registered for the party to pick up a gift and party bag - drive-through style to prevent close contact -filled with activities including a nativity story book, activities, crafts, games and an advent book. The activities were thoughtful and promoted kindness and charity. Connell tells of one activity that encouraged children to be aware of how good life is, and use a checklist of how many good things they enjoy, and donate a nickel or dime for each item checked. The money could then be used as a donation to a favourite charity. “We are so very blessed,” said Connell. “We have so much.” The bags even included a Christmas DVD, popcorn, hot chocolate and candy cane, to be enjoyed with family members after the party. Connell worked behind the scenes, purchasing items and coordinating registrations. When she reached out to the church congregation for support, she found everyone was on board and wanted to do their part. “(We have) a whole crew that volunteered and a bigger group that donated,” said Connell. “There were many, many people involved.” The party was set up Zoom-style, but the participating children were seen only by the camera man, John Reeve, to protect the privacy of the children. Reeve, who owns Reeve Technologies, volunteered his expertise and time to facilitate the meeting. At 10 a.m., the programming began, and for the next 90 minutes, under the lead of Watson, Connell and Kelly, children were invited to explore the items in their gift bags, make puppets, play bingo, take part in a scavenger hunt and win prizes. Watson, who brought her own two girls with her to take part while she was on stage, brought lots of energy and positivity to the presentation. She spoke to Zoom attendees as though they were all in the same room. “I love working with kids and I love sharing the real meaning of Christmas,” said Watson. “We felt this was a great opportunity to build hope in families and the community. It’s been hard times and Jesus is our hope.” While organizing the event meant a lot of work, Connell was happy to commit the time to share holiday joy with the community. “We are doing this for the community kids, because we want to share the true meaning of Christmas,” said Connell. “Jesus being born as our Saviour is the reason we celebrate Christmas.” Connell said that depending on the restrictions associated with the pandemic, they will likely continue to hold future professional development day camps. She and her colleagues are passionate about sharing their faith and supporting the community. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 1, 2020 Fourteen ATV riders could have saved themselves more than $100 if they had purchased an off-road trail permit. Instead they were hit with a $215 fine for breaking a Simcoe County bylaw that requires the $103 permits to use trails designated for off-road use. Riding in undesignated areas also carries a $215 fine. Huronia West OPP officers and trail wardens stopped 65 riders in County of Simcoe Forests Sept. 27, with the majority of the trail users in full compliance with regulations. Police remind ATV riders that under provincial laws a helmet, licence plate, registration, insurance and driver's licence are required when operating off-road vehicles on public trails, road allowances and Simcoe County Forests trails. They must be presented to an officer upon demand. Trail permits can be purchased from OFATV and OFTR. For details refer to https://myoftr.ca or call 855-637-6387. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) released a final decision recently on the applicable uses of the fungicide, mancozeb after a years-long process. Popular among vegetable and fruit growers, mancozeb is a broad-spectrum fungicide with a low risk of parasite resistance that has been used in Canada since the 1960s. Today, according to Health Canada’s pesticide registry, mancozeb is used in at least 40 registered products. Under the Pest Control Products Act, the PMRA regularly re-evaluates pesticides to ensure they’re safe for people and the environment. In 2018, a document outlining proposed changes to the use of mancozeb was released, revealing that the PMRA was proposing cancellation of all mancozeb use, aside from greenhouse tobacco, “due to risks to human health and the environment that were not found to be acceptable.” “I was in an apple meeting and I was told apples were cancelled, and my face went white,” said Charles Stevens of the moment he was told of the news. Stevens, an apple grower in Newcastle and chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association’s crop protection committee, said mancozeb is likely the most important fungicide to the apple industry — he says he’s used it on crops for over 40 years. Leading a mancozeb task force, Stevens, Craig Hunter, Caleigh Hallink-Irwin, and John Smith pushed back against the government’s proposal, meeting with then PMRA executive director, Richard Aucoin, in 2018. “It was the most important crop protection meeting of my life in this industry,” Stevens said. “They pulled the final decision back which has never happened in North America ever, so this was a big deal,” he explained. “There were a lot of things that we had presented that the executive director had not heard. He was not happy with his staff that had done the re-evaluation. That was all there was to it; tey had not done a good job and he recognized that and he put the hammer down,” Stevens said of the agency’s decision to pull back. That started the year’s long process of redoing the re-evaluation of mancozeb, which culminated in a final decision being released on Nov. 19 this year. In an emailed response to questions from Niagara This Week, Health Canada spokesperson Kathleen Marriner said the agency’s evaluation found mancozeb products meet current health and environment standards when used with new mitigation measures. Under the 2020 decision, use is approved for: ground and aerial foliar application to potatoes; and ground foliar application on apples, onions, sugar beets, ginseng, field cucumbers, field tomatoes, grapes, pumpkin, squash, and melon (but not watermelon), and in-furrow application to onions. According to Marriner’s email, use has been repealed for all seed treatments, greenhouse uses, and use on pears, carrots, celery, lettuce, watermelon, lentils, wheat, alfalfa grown for seed, as well as ornamentals and forestry uses. Mancozeb also cannot be applied using hand-held equipment, or used for commercial-class wettable powder or dust formulations. “At the end of the day, they haven't changed the amount used in Canada,” Stevens said, adding that this year’s decision has recognized how important mancozeb is to other crops. “It was worth the effort, and it got done correctly at the end of the day,” Stevens said. Jordan Snobelen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara this Week
Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the priority list for the first COVID-19 vaccines is being refined because there won't be enough doses available in the first round to cover the initial groups recommended.
Mussel growers on P.E.I. are excited about a new project that will help them selectively breed mussels to be more resistant to climate change. The $800,000 project was created by Genome Atlantic and $300,000 of that came from the Atlantic Fisheries Fund. Tiago Hori, director of research and development at Atlantic Aqua Farms in Vernon Bridge, P.E.I., told Island Morning's Laura Chapin that growers will look at which mussels have a higher degree of resistance to warming ocean temperatures. Then they can figure out which parts of the genome cause that trait. "We think that temperature resistance can be an important trait for mussels, if indeed the climate keeps changing towards hotter temperatures," said Hori. Warm waters big challenge P.E.I. provides 80 per cent of North America's mussels, in an industry that employs around 1,500 people. The biggest challenge for Island mussel farmers right now is water temperature, Hori said, because mussels are grown in shallow estuaries, where temperatures can increase quickly. "We are concerned that if the climate keeps warming, that we're starting to reach critical temperatures that might be lethal to the mussels and could lead to large losses of product," said Hori. Kristin Tweel, the director of sector innovation for Genome Atlantic, explained that selective breeding has been used for centuries. "Genomics simply allows us to identify a lot more quickly the traits that we're most interested in breeding, without making any artificial changes at a genetic level," said Tweel. Hoping to grow the industry Along with selecting mussels for their ability to survive warmer temperatures, Hori said another goal of the project is to use genomics to improve the growth of P.E.I. mussels. "If we can reduce the growth cycle, then we can increase growth but we also can increase efficiency," said Hori. "You could stay with the same target of production, but in a reduced number of leases. And that would lead to a huge increase in efficiency and a huge decrease in costs, because now … you're having to do less with management and all of that."> You want an animal that grows fast but that retains the characteristics that are essential to that product. — Tiago Hori, Atlantic Aqua Farms Would any of this selective breeding have an impact on the next bowl of P.E.I. mussels you may order in a restaurant? Hori confirms that the taste and texture of the mussels would still be a top priority. "When you breed an animal, you don't select for a trait … in a blind way. You select it based on that trait, but taking into consideration other things, like meat yield and taste," he said. "You want an animal that grows fast but that retains the characteristics that are essential to that product." Untapped aquaculture potential Hori also pointed out that because of climate change, we'll likely be eating more and more seafood in the years to come. "If you look at some of the estimates the UN has for the consumption of seafood in the next 20 years, there will be a significant increase in the amount of seafood required to provide seafood to the human population." Shellfish, Hori said, have a much smaller risk of having a negative impact on the environment because they consume organic matter."There is a lot of untapped aquaculture potential."More from CBC P.E.I.
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 8, 2020 Barrie police has released an artist’s rendition of a sexual assault suspect and created a dedicated tip line. Investigators are looking for any information in connection with sexual assault in Hurst Park on Oct. 1 between 9 and 10 p.m. The tip line is 705-728-5629. Police say a woman was walking her dog in the park located at Hurst Drive near Pert Court when she was attacked by a male stranger. Police are releasing few details, including whether the victim was physically injured. Officers have already done a door-to-door canvas of the immediate neighbourhood looking for information. The suspect is described as: • A white male between the ages of 16 and 26, about 5-feet, 8 inches tall, with a slim build and shaved blond hair. • Wearing an Under Armour top of unknown colour. Anyone with information is asked to call 705-728-5629 or 705-725-7025, ext. 2700, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, by contacting Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or leave an anonymous tip online at www.p3tips.com. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
NEW YORK — Christmas is still a few weeks away, but Mariah Carey is already orchestrating her dinner menu. “I do my father’s linguini with white clam sauce every Christmas Eve,” says the legendary songstress. “Then we do that traditional, more of a Southern-style Christmas dinner.” But is the woman known for her grandeur nearly as much as her 19 No. 1 hits really going to sweat over a hot stove? “I do so with the help of several sous-chefs,” Carey said with a laugh, before noting like many families around the world, she’ll scale back Christmas slightly due to the coronavirus pandemic. “I am going to have to have maybe one person helping me and then we’ll figure it out. We’re making it through the holidays.” Helping others get in the holiday spirit is part of the legacy of her iconic holiday tune, “All I Want For Christmas is You.” But the Christmas chanteuse will soon gift the world with a new present: the Apple TV+ event “Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special.” Carey hopes to provide some Christmas cheer during a time some may need it more than ever. “(Apple TV+) was able to help realize this dream of really doing something special and spectacular and not having … a regular concert,” said Carey. “During COVID, people made magic happen with this … it feels like another very big, historic kind of a moment.” After “All I Want for Christmas” historically hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 during its 25th anniversary last year, Carey says the idea of a special was sparked just a couple of months later. Starring Carey and narrated by actor-comedian Tiffany Haddish, the production centres around a holiday cheer crisis, with Santa’s friend Mariah coming to save the day. Premiering Friday, performers include Ariana Grande, Snoop Dogg, Misty Copeland, Jennifer Hudson, Billy Eichner and more. Carey's nine-year-old twins, son Moroccan and daughter Monroe, also join in the festivities. “Magical Christmas Special” is another example of diverse, family-friendly holiday programming that hasn’t always been allotted by Hollywood. But productions like this, along with others such as the John Legend-produced “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey,” signals a promising shift. It’s of particular significance this year after the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery sparked global social justice protests, attempting to force America to again reckon with its racist history. “Representation was really not there very much growing up, and I think that contributed to the way that I felt because I always loved Christmas,” 50-year-old Carey said. “As a kid, if I had to select one holiday, of course I’m going with Christmas. So, I tried to make it inclusive and I think everybody involved with the project did.” If the “Magical Christmas Special” wasn’t benevolent enough, the five-time Grammy winner is also releasing a companion soundtrack with new song interpretations. And while the pandemic has halted a number of projects, 2020 has been busy for Carey: In September she released her candid memoir “The Meaning of Mariah Carey,” which debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times list of non-fiction bestsellers. And later that week she dropped “The Rarities,” an album filled with unreleased songs and B-side cuts. Carey said though she's grateful for her awesome year, she has one Christmas wish — especially during a time when political partisanship in America is as fractured as anyone can remember. “I would hope that we can feel less divided. It’s really sad, but it’s not new — it’s just more in people’s face right now,” said Carey. “All I can do in my own little way is do what I’m doing right now with music and specifically with this Christmas special, because … it’s a gift to me. I’m thankful this has happened — this is probably the biggest gift I’ve had for Christmas in years.” _____ Follow Associated Press entertainment journalist Gary Gerard Hamilton at twitter.com/GaryGHamilton Gary Gerard Hamilton, The Associated Press
As the death toll from illicit drug overdoses continues to mount unabated in B.C., advocates want more specialized services and harm reduction measures to help protect young people. Another 162 fatalities occurred in October due to toxic drug supply, for a total of 1,386 deaths in 2020, according to the BC Coroners Service's most recent figures. Of those killed this year by the overdose crisis, 19 per cent, or 269 deaths, were young people aged 29 years old or younger, with 14 of the dead under the age of 19, the coroners service figures show. Kali Sedgemore, a youth outreach worker and peer harm reduction advocate in Vancouver, said the ongoing public health emergency is in its fifth year, and COVID-19 is only exacerbating the harms. “We don’t even have time to grieve because we know we will hear about another (death) the next day,” Sedgemore said. The dangers of the toxic illicit drug supply are being compounded as people following pandemic protocols use illicit drugs alone and as harm reduction services have been reduced, or wait times have increased at overdose prevention sites (OPS) during the pandemic, Sedgemore added. Youth do not make up the largest number of fatalities, but all overdose deaths are largely unnecessary and preventable, Sedgemore said. In 2020, 70 per cent of those who have died from the toxic drug supply fall between the ages of 30 and 59, and males account for 80 per cent of the deaths to date. Most overdose fatalities involved people dying alone indoors. One immediate way to reduce the harms from toxic illicit drugs to youth is to provide harm reduction and OPS services dedicated strictly to their demographic, Sedgemore said. “Youth are vulnerable to manipulation by adults,” Sedgemore said, adding young people are at risk of being exploited sexually or for money or other reasons. Specialized harm reduction services are already hard to come by in urban areas such as Vancouver but are even more scarce in smaller communities and rural areas, Sedgemore said, noting they originally came from a small community from the northern part of Vancouver Island. Plus, young people — especially those under the age of 18 — are often deterred from using harm reduction services or supplies by providers due to their age, or can come under increased scrutiny from staff at these locations, they said. Both of these situations make youth uncomfortable, Sedgemore said. It’s also critical that medical professionals, social workers or other service providers don’t push youth into treatment before they are ready, Sedgemore stressed. Doing so only puts youth at increased risk, forcing them to be more secretive about any illicit drug use and increasing the unwillingness to use harm reduction services or call emergency services in case of an overdose. Research shows abstinence education, or the "just say no to drugs" approach, is not as effective as talking openly about illicit drugs, the associated risks and, if youth should choose to use them, how to do it safely, Sedgemore said. However, there is also the need for more youth treatment beds and shorter wait-lists for youth seeking help, Sedgemore said, especially closer to their own communities. “I don’t think it’s great sending a youth away from their own hometown and the people youth are used to seeing every day.” The B.C. government plans to double the number of treatment beds for youth aged 12 to 24 who are struggling with substance use. A total of 60 young people under the age of 24 lost their lives to fentanyl poisoning from toxic street drugs from January to June 2020, according to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. The province committed $36 million to create another 123 treatment beds for young people, in addition to 20 beds recently established at a new youth facility in the Fraser Valley. Prior to the recent announcements, B.C. had 103 treatment beds for youth. The new beds are part of a broader continuum of care the B.C. government is planning for young people that will include culturally safe, youth-specific services in both rural and smaller city centres, the ministry stated. Building on its network of youth-specific mental health and substance use services, the province will develop eight new Foundry centres, for a total of 19 youth hubs. Foundry centres provide primary care, youth and family peer supports, walk-in counselling, mental health and substance use services and social services all under one roof. Steve Ayers, program manager for the Foundry located in Campbell River on Vancouver Island, agreed that youth benefit from specialized services and being in charge of any decisions about their drug or alcohol use. “If a counsellor is going to really be impactful, they have to let the client drive the process of making changes around substance use,” Ayers said. “The objective of substance use counselling is to help youth have a better life, and what are some concrete ways that might happen, depending on their choices of course,” he said. Many youth use substances to deal with trauma or anxiety, so alternate tools or strategies need to be developed to help young people deal with that suffering, he added. It’s dangerous to assume youth overdoses due to illicit drugs are only a big-city problem, Ayers said. “It’s absolutely a misconception,” he said, adding the issues that fuel youth substance use exist in every community across Canada. However, youth generally don’t tend to be as entrenched with illicit hard drugs as some other age demographics, especially in rural areas where supply might be limited, Ayers said. “If there’s no supply (of illicit drugs) kids will find other things to do to cope with what they are struggling with,” he said. However, kids and families in rural or remote communities such as the Discovery Islands or small communities across North Vancouver Island can face additional challenges or gaps in accessing supports, Ayers said. Many Foundry services are now available online to try to mitigate the challenges for youth living in more isolated communities who need support, especially with travel limitations due to the pandemic, he said. The youth hub also works with schools to meet with students during class time for those who have to bus in and out of Campbell River. Young people and their families just need to reach out and the Foundry will try to find a fix for any stumbling blocks to service, Ayers said. “We always seem to be able to find them and reach them with help,” he said. “Unless they're just not reaching out at all. And honestly, those are the people that we’re scared for most.” Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverRochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
People in Halifax will be able to order an Uber starting Thursday afternoon, and at least one other ride-hailing company is eyeing a launch in the city before the end of the year.Uber said in a news release that its smartphone app, which connects people looking for transportation with a driver, will go live for the Halifax region at 1 p.m. Thursday.However, the company encouraged residents to stick to public health guidelines and only use it for essential travel like getting to a doctor's appointment or pharmacy.Uber did not share any more information when asked about details by CBC, including how many drivers are active in Halifax, or how many have applied.A map of Uber's coverage area on its website shows that the urban core will be included, as well as more suburban and rural areas like Timberlea, Fall River and Eastern Passage. The company said its service area will expand as the number of drivers increases. Uber also said it's providing 2,000 free rides to front-line workers and families in need, through Partners for Care's Helping Healthcare Heroes program and Ronald McDonald House Charities Atlantic.Council cleared the way this fallUber's app puts the company in direct competition with members of the taxi industry, something that has sparked outcry in places like Toronto. Still, some people in Halifax have complained that the taxi industry in the municipality doesn't meet people's needs and there are often long delays in getting cabs at peak times. In September, Halifax council gave ride-hailing services like Uber the green light to operate in the municipality. They have stated they hoped to launch in the city before the end of 2020.The Canadian ride-hailing company Uride has yet to launch in Halifax, but its founder said it will be live by the end of the year.Cody Ruberto said the company has had over 700 people apply to be drivers, but could not immediately say how many had been accepted.In an email, Ruberto said he believes both Uber and Uride can operate in the same city since this is the case in many other areas. Halifax "deserves" this type of service, Ruberto said, and residents want choice. "Uride is a homegrown Canadian rideshare business, and we really care about the people here. Our goal is to provide reliable, safe affordable transportation, and we want to give back to the community any way we can," he wrote.Ruberto also noted they "rarely have price increases," which differs from Uber's model of surge pricing during busy times that he believes can turn people away."We do whatever we can to keep pricing affordable, while working to ensure reliable coverage," Ruberto said.MORE TOP STORIES
HALIFAX — A new website was launched Wednesday to assist Nova Scotia first responders coping with trauma, in a year in which a pandemic and a mass shooting have added to the distressing experiences they routinely face. The site offers resources designed for paramedics, firefighters, police officers and health services workers to help them manage the toll of the trauma they experience at work.It also provides support for their recovery from traumatic psychological injury, including links to online counselling.The site www.FirstRespondersMentalHealthNS.com is promoted by posters with the faces of first responders superimposed with phrases reflecting thoughts they may be keeping inside.They include statements such as "It's hard to quiet the voices in my head," and "There's this heavy feeling."The website, launched by a provincial steering committee, is modelled on a similar site in British Columbia, and also contains links for family members living with a person with post-traumatic stress disorder.Debra Fortune, a 42-year-old paramedic who participated in the committee, said in an interview Wednesday that first responders often are reluctant to seek help or are unaware of how to begin.Her husband Jason Fortune, also a paramedic, developed PTSD in 2014 but went without significant treatment for two years, she said.Fortune, who started in her field in 2002, gradually accumulated psychological traumas herself from exposure to disturbing scenes, including arriving at a home where a young child had died.Early this summer, she realized the incident was causing her to lose sleep, as painful memories kept returning. At times, she'd feel a searing pain through her back and neck."I had some previous pediatric calls that were very difficult, and all of a sudden I wasn't able to be around my (infant) daughter. I was very fearful," she said. "When I realized I was avoiding my 16-month-old child that's when I reached out for treatment."She said she's hopeful that she will be able return to work next year.Fortune said paramedics across the province have been at a breaking point for years as they try to help patients who are awaiting treatment in backed-up emergency rooms, or move them from one overcrowded hospital to another.COVID-19 has added to the stress as the paramedics must now often don protective equipment for patients who might have the illness."It's very scary because there are many people who aren't always honest with us," she said.The Nova Scotia mass shooting in April, in which a gunman killed 22 people in a 13-hour rampage, will likely contribute to the number of medics and other first responders with trauma, said Fortune. "We go to work and know anything can happen, but there is nothing that can prepare you for something like that," she said.Nova Scotia has passed legislation that presumes a diagnosis of PTSD for first responders is related to their work, and they are therefore eligible for workers' compensation. Fortune said the legislation, along with the new awareness campaign, are giving access to more resources than when her husband became ill."Hopefully this site will bring people forward, to get the help that they need," she said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press
Tay council wrangled with budget-item options in an attempt to bring down the proposed tax levy as much as possible, eventually settling on a 2% increase. The number is expected to go down to at least 1.4% or 1.2% once the blended tax rate from the county is shared with the municipality, said treasurer Joanne Sanders, who presented a detailed budget to council at its recent special meeting. She told councillors about items that had been taken off the list to help bring the tax rate down to 2%, including major expenses like repairs to bridges. "Granny White bridge, Rumney Road culvert and the Rosemount Road north bridge have all been removed from the capital budget," she said. "We did some more research there and no safety issues came up. The most recent bridge report still had those repairs in the one- to five-year category." These projects will be re-assessed during the 2020 bridge report, added Sanders. And with growth, comes surplus And it is this surplus, said Sanders, which is helping keep the tax rate down. "We are projecting a healthy surplus for the close of 2020," she said. "The greatest contributors are salaries and the supplementary assessments, which created additional income. There is a surplus of $349,500 left in the 2020 projected surplus. We do have funds to work with." Most of that money, Sanders said, has come from growth in the area. "Rather than $93,000 being covered by growth, we're looking at $128,000," she said. "That reduces our reliance on the reserve from $66,500 to $31,500." And with the additional bylaw summer student and administrative summer student positions also taken out of the budget, the reliance on surplus fell further to $19,600. Deputy Mayor Gerard LaChapelle warned about relying too much on growth. "Moving forward, we need to remember the future may not be so kind to us," he said. "We're running out of inventory. Do we require that growth to balance our budget? What impact does that have year-in and year-out?" Sanders said money from supplementary assessments as a result of growth in the area doesn't show up immediately on a budget, but trickles in over a few years. But with great growth comes higher liability, and that means higher insurance costs, she said. According to the budget Sanders shared, insurance costs are estimated to increase by 20% or $84,000 for next year, adding she doesn't see a light at the end of that tunnel. "They're not saying the landscape is going to change," said Sanders. "Last year, we looked at increasing our deductible to decrease our rate, but I don't see a huge light at the end of the tunnel." Capitals projects Coun. Jeff Bumstead wasn't sure if that move would end up saving the township any money in the long run. "If we're pushing these replacements to the end of that one- to five-year suggested range, are we looking at further cost or replacement?" he asked. Rick Bingham, interim operational service general manager, agreed with the councillor's assumption. "You need to do some rehabilitation before it gets to the point you have to do a reconstruction," said Bingham. "I think there are quite a few of them that will need to be reconstructed because they haven't had any rehabilitation done over the years. "I understand the former director had engaged the consultants to do a feasibility review and they will be providing a report over the next couple weeks on how money is best spent on bridges so we can stay ahead of the game," he added. Seeing the trend of removing projects from the capital budget, Coun. Barry Norris came up with another 'money-saving' suggestion. "The dry hydrants for the rural areas; I don't support it," he said talking about the emergency preparedness list. "The fact that we have tankers and mutual aid, I still can't support that at this point in time. Council may want to weight in to defer that expenditure." Fire Chief Brian Thomas made the case for fire safety. "The dry hydrants are a water source for the fire department to use while they're fighting fires out in the rural areas," he said. "We have $10,000 down for the next three years to find locations and get agreements with property owners so that we can enter their property to access the water sources. We do have mutual-aid agreements, but we still need the water source for all those tankers. The closer the water source is the more readily available; then the firefighters will have the amounts of water they will need." Then Norris focused on the planned sidewalk for Seventh Avenue and wondered about $127,000 expenditure. "I find it tough to increase that. The next thing we're going to have to do is clear it through the winter," said Norris, who instead suggested staff should consider putting in a base and a screen top over the pathway. "If it's substantially used, I have no problems putting a top coat on," he said. "To allow $30,000 to do that, let's see how it pans out. We can deviate that to another part of the capital." That suggestion did not sit well with Coun. Sandy Talbot, who said she wasn't sure why Norris had a problem with a project she considered a 'no brainer.' "This has been on the books for two years," she said, noting the safety of children who catch a bus there is a paramount concern. "I'm not sure if you're aware there's an incline on that road on Seventh Avenue, which is like a speedway and people are going down the road at unbelievable speeds. We need this. People walk this road on a daily basis. We need to ensure the safety of our residents." And she had support from councillors Paul Raymond and Mary Warnock. "I agree with Coun. Talbot," said the latter. "They've waited long enough. Sidewalks are important in our community to make them walkable. As we're going to see in official plans that come out, making our communities age-friendly, sidewalks are going to be a priority. I don't think there's any reason to delay this any further." With that, Norris' bid to remove those two items from the list was defeated. Expenses and overtime Talbot had her own concerns over some of the items contained within the budget. "Under expenditures, there's a cost for a rental car for $7,000. What did we need that car for?" she said. Sanders said that was thanks to COVID-19 restrictions. "It was for bylaw due to physical distancing requirements," she added. "It's on the COVID-related expenses list." Talbot then said she was concerned about the amount of overtime recorded. "It's $55,000," she said. "Can you give me an explanation of that? It's a lot of money. It's almost another position." Sanders said that wasn't just in one department, but spread across various township sections. "In a lot of cases, overtime was worked due to COVID-19, additional research and setting stuff up," she said. "There was also additional time that we felt was worked because we didn't necessarily fill positions as quickly as we would have because filling positions wasn't feasible during the height of COVID-19. So you have staff doing double-duty and that's why you see a fair bit of overtime." Talbot said she would like to see overtime kept in check moving forward. "Our aim should be reducing the overtime hours," she said. "I understand (the need) with our snowplow drivers or a public works emergency. But we need to be adherent to the lowest overtime we can allow. We're responsible for the monies of this township. In turn, we need to adhere to some kind of reduction in the overtime as possible." Grants and funding requests This section will be discussed in further detail at an upcoming December meeting, still council directed staff around two moves. "We can take the YMCA out," said Mayor Ted Walker. "They're not going to take us up on the loan offer." He took a bit of a hard line around the funding request made by the Severn Sound Environmental Association. "They had a huge increase last year and this year, the increase looks rather substantial as well," he said, talking about their request of $76,070 from 2019, that increased to $108,462 for this year and has gone up further to $122,042 for next year. "I'm wondering if we've heard anything back from them about this huge increase. "I think we should wait for their response and if we don't get any, we should budget what we did last year," added Walker.Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
Saying federal aid promised for the tourism industry is missing key items, P.E.I. Tourism Minister Matthew MacKay says he will have programs to fill some of those gaps next month.Earlier this week federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland provided an update on how the federal government plans to cope with the ongoing pandemic, and part of that was low-interest loans that operators in the tourism industry would qualify for."There's still a lot of details that we don't know yet," MacKay told Island Morning host Mitch Cormier.He said he expects to hear more on the next national ministers call, but he does not expect to hear everything he would like."There's certainly some things that we've been advocating for that just aren't in this," he said."We plan to fill some of these gaps and roll them out in early January."Corryn Clemence, executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I., said loan programs won't be enough for many operators."We certainly have quite a few of our small business operators who already have a big debt load," said Clemence."With the uncertainty of … the industry in the next 12 months there's a fear and a hesitation on taking additional debt load."Looking aheadThe 2020 tourism season saw business cut by more than half compared to 2019.There had been hopes that the opening of the Atlantic bubble might be an opportunity to salvage something of the season — New Brunswick and Nova Scotia accounted for 60 per cent of the market in 2019 — but Maritimers did not take advantage of the open border.While vaccine rollout is expected early in the new year, MacKay does not expect a full recovery in 2021. He does, however, believe the province can do a better job of marketing to the Maritimes."We know the Atlantic bubble can work," he said."We feel we can utilize that better than we did. By the time we rolled that out and got going it was July 1st. We've had numerous months now to plan for next year."P.E.I. has positioned itself as a safe destination, and that should help take advantage of any opportunities that do exist for the coming season, he said.More from CBC P.E.I.
The Kincardine and District Chamber of Commerce announced the winners of the Community Achievement Awards, during a livestreamed ceremony on Nov. 28. The Chamber congratulated all the nominees and winners, as well as award sponsors. Community partners Epcor, Reliance Home Comfort, RogersTV, Jennifer Cook and Associates the Cooperators and JMedia were thanked for their support. The awards, usually presented after a sold-out gala, moved to the virtual format in order to conform to pandemic gathering restrictions and to ensure the safety of all in attendance. “The Kincardine & District Chamber of Commerce is so very honoured to be facilitating this event for another year,” said Chamber executive director, Ashley Richards. “The stories and successes expressed in our record-setting intake of nominations were inspiring.” Congratulations were sent out to Brad Thomas, who retired from his business, Lake Huron Rod and Gun, earlier this year. Thomas was thanked for providing the “community with the tools and imparted important knowledge, to inspire generations of people to embrace the journey of hunting, and foster an appreciation and love for the outdoors,” said Richards. The 2020 Achievement award winners are: Kincardine Food Bank, winner of the Enbridge Quality of Life award. Cati VanVeen, winner of the Royal Bank Golden Apple award. Eden Babbitt, winner of the Ontario Power Generation Environment award. Sylvia Leigh, winner of the Meridian Good Neighbour award. Nadine VandenHeuvel, winner of the Bruce Telecom Young Entrepreneur award. Chris Napier, Sobeys, winner of the Community Living Kincardine & District Inclusion award. Quinn Florist, winner of the BDO Customer Service Excellence award. Kincardine Fall Fair, winner of the Miller Insurance Agricultural Business award. Janice Matchett, winner of the Bank of Montreal Woman of Distinction award. Jamie Hunsburger, the winner of the Law Offices of Andrea Clarke Youth Programming Excellence award. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter The grade 11/12 Leadership and Peer Support class at St. Marys DCVI is looking to help local families struggling with food insecurity this holiday season. It is a tradition with DCVI to hold a food drive around the holiday season every year, however, there was some concern that the COVID-19 pandemic may put that in jeopardy. However, thanks to the senior Leadership class, the annual food drive will continue, albeit slightly modified to account for this year's unique circumstances. The event is taking place in multiple different ways, with different aspects targeted to in-school food collection, as well as donations from the public. Each part will be managed by a group of students from the class, with the first part being an in-school contest between grades. This challenges students of every grade to donate non-perishable food items and whichever grade can fill up a kiddie pool the most will win a prize. This in-school contest will run the week of December 7th to December 11th. The next group of students will be going outside the school to collect donations from the public. On Tuesday, December 8th, from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m., the students will be located in the parking lot of Delmar Foods Food Factory Outlet to collect donations. They will then be located in the DCVI parking lot on James Street on Wednesday, December 9th, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Then, on Thursday, December 10th, a group will be stationed in the DCVI parking lot outside on Elizabeth Street. Using the roundabout outside of the school's main doors, this portion of the food drive will run as a drive-thru event, allowing you to place your donations on a table and remain physically distanced from the volunteers. All events will adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols, and all of the non-perishable food items collected will be donated to the St. Marys food bank once the food drive is completed on Friday, December 11th. Katie Stevens and Cierra Boyer, two members of the class running the food drive, spoke to the Independent on why it was so important for the entire Leadership class to continue DCVI's tradition of the food drive. "With COVID-19 hitting, we believe that the food drive could support many families during the pandemic, hence why we wanted to still have one even in these times. We have also lost a lot of opportunities in the course to give back to the community because of COVID-19. The course itself is about getting involved with our community and supporting not only our peers but the whole town. The class hopes to not only successfully put on a food drive during a pandemic but also fulfill the curriculum of the course and continue to get involved with the community and our peers." Stevens and Boyer also noted that Guidance Counselor Ruthan Waldick said of the pandemic impacting the food drive, "I have been at the school for over 20 years and can't imagine a school year without the food drive, not even a pandemic will get in the way." If you're unsure of what you could donate, the food drive is accepting canned goods, dry foods, infant/baby formula, diapers, personal hygiene products, bathroom tissue, and paper towels. Monetary donations will also be accepted, and the Leadership class would like to thank Delmar Foods and the Independent for their support.Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
South Okanagan climber and filmmaker Dave Mai has plenty of adventures and beautiful climbing photos on his social media feed, but the stories, risks, heart and heartbreak leading to those shots often go untold. To gain that perspective, Mai would have to climb higher. Mai’s second climbing film, Higher Perspective, was released online this year and explores the life behind the lens. He wanted to go beyond the surface-level sharing of social media, and ended up exploring himself as well as those who spend their career behind the camera capturing breathtaking images and daring feats. “This film was a way to dive deeper than just a social media post and share what I’m going through in my life and my hobbies. Just give a different perspective and hope someone resonates with that,” Mai said. Mai started rock climbing roughly six years ago. While shooting his previous film, Ephemera, he realized he should probably learn a bit more about ice climbing. “That first film was interesting because somehow I managed to get a really high-profile climber, Tim Emmett, to do this first ascent,” Mai said. “I remember standing at the bottom of this waterfall, like, ‘yeah I’ve never really climbed ice and I’m about to go up with this world-class ice climber.’ So that kind of sparked that I need to step my game up if I’m going to survive this game.” The film follow’s Mai’s journey as a climbing photographer and along the way he joins others who pursue the craft in both B.C. and Alberta. “At first it was going to be a film about climbing photographers, and then I realized I needed a central character to pivot around. That kind of became me. I didn’t intend it to be that way at first, but I had the most control over me so I had to kind of create myself as the central character,” Mai said. Mai met many of the climbing photographers featured in the film through Instagram. He meets and interviews climbers, photographers mountain guides and joins them on their journey to capture sometimes-tense moments and breathtaking views. “Usually you are seeing the climbers and you have no idea who is behind the lens. The climbers usually get all the glory,” Mai said with a laugh. “Not that I need any glory.” Climbing photographers often have to get ahead of their subjects, either hiking around to a good vantage point or climbing up first. Preparation and planning are as important as climbing skills. Sometimes hidden away in backcountry areas, ice walls usually require a journey before climbers even arrive, so being prepared and efficient are key during the long shoots. “It can make for some long days, so you’ve got to be pretty proficient at what you’re doing. There’s also that safety factor, so you’ve got to be with a team that you trust and have confidence in their skills,” Mai said. “A lot of these times these ice falls we are going to are a four hour hike in, in waist-deep snow, to get there.” Much of the film was shot in the Okanagan, with rock climbing scenes taking place at the Skaha Bluffs south of Penticton, Apex Mountain, the Keremeos/Hedley area and the Carmi area. “I tried to film as much in the Okanagan as possible. I also went down to Squamish to film Alex Ratson, who is a photographer down there,” Mai said. “We ended up hiring a chopper, flying to the top of Mount Habrich to do some marketing shots up there.” In the film, Mai also visits the Rocky Mountains working with Calgary-based photographer Tim Banfield. Funded by Telus STORYHIVE and CreativeBC as well with support from multiple sponsors, Mai spent roughly a year and a half working on the film. As he was just putting the final pieces together, COVID-19 struck the world. “I have mixed feelings about it. I had these big plans of putting it in big film festivals, and all the film festivals are online now. I just ended up releasing it independently online,” Mai said. Mai ended up working on the audio mix down alone in a theatre, which made for an odd experience. “I was at the Frank Venables Theatre by myself just watching this film. It felt so surreal just finalizing this film by myself,” Mai said. Putting himself as the main character at the centre of Higher Perspective was a unique experience for Mai. “It feels really vulnerable,” Mai said. “At the end of the film I come to the realization that I’m going to keep pursuing this adventure photography, climbing, filmmaking thing. It may be uncommon and some people may have things to say about it, it might be dangerous, but I’m OK with the risks to feel fulfilled and not be afraid to go chase what feels right to me, and honest.” The film started out as a reaction to the shallowness of the social media world, a world Mai hopes to brighten with the project. “There’s this weird energy in the world. Social media can be pretty ugly and I hope this film can be kind of like a shiny rock in this weird world we work in,” Mai said. Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle
SIOUX LOOK — Sioux Lookout Ontario Provincial Police have released the name of a woman who died in a house fire last month as they continue to determine the cause of the fire. Clara Ash, 37, of Sioux Lookout has been identified as the individual who died in a house fire on Nov. 19. In a news release issued Wednesday, Dec. 2, police say the cause of death was smoke inhalation. Police responded at approximately 6 a.m. on Nov. 19 along with fire and emergency crews to an apartment on First Avenue in the municipality of Sioux Lookout. Two individuals were extracted from the building and neighbouring units were safely evacuated, according to a news release. A third deceased individual was located by firefighters. OPP continue to investigate the cause of the fire under the direction of the criminal investigations branch, the chief coroner, and the Ontario Fire Marshal. Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact OPP or their local police service.Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source