Initial trials in Sweden and Israel have shown promising results.
Initial trials in Sweden and Israel have shown promising results.
Recently, Caroline Arsenault watched parcels being stolen in her own neighbourhood — and didn't even realize. "I happened to see a couple of people walking by the window where I sit for my work and then rapidly walk back toward the street and I didn't think anything of it really," said Arsenault. She later found her husband attempting to contact the police after observing the same people also pace up and down their driveway. He got suspicious. He was right. "He found Amazon packages in our green bin," she said.The thieves had taken two packages. One was emptied of its contents while the other was left torn open with the stuff still inside.Arsenault's North End Halifax neighbourhood had just been hit by a porch pirate. It's not just happening in Halifax."The porch pirate has been a little busier this year unfortunately and now a third of Canadians stated in 2020 that they have been victims of a package theft," FedEx spokesperson James Anderson told CBC News.FedEx has published a survey of 1,500 Canadians this holiday season and found that one in three online shoppers say they have experienced package theft in 2020, up from one in four in 2019. It also found that three in 10 are worried about their online purchases being stolen when delivered. Jon Hamilton, spokesperson for Canada Post, said they haven't seen a noticeable increase in complaints about packages being stolen, but cautioned that doesn't mean it's not a threat. He also noted that many people are now working at home and are able to get their parcel as soon as it is delivered.In other parts of the country, such as Toronto, where lockdown restrictions are more prevalent, more people are able to stay at home to receive their deliveries. In Nova Scotia many businesses and schools remain open in the province so some people are frequently not home and cannot receive their packages.Arsenault posted about the porch bandit on social media and was surprised by the reaction."I had quite a few neighbours chime in and say that they too had found open and empty boxes in their driveway or thrown somewhere it didn't really belong." After Arsenault's neighbour reported the incident to the police, Arsenault herself received a follow up call. "The police confirmed this is something that they see quite a bit of. It's something that we should all be mindful of if we're expecting to receive packages when we might not be available to answer the door or pick them up quickly," she said.Halifax Regional Police have not yet responded to a request for an interview. FedEx, along with Canada Post, DHL courier service, UPS, Amazon Canada and Purolator all offer tracking information online, which FedEx's James Anderson said is one of the primary ways to keep your package safe."We give package recipients digital tools to use at your disposal," said Anderson. "If you got a tracking number you can get a notification sent to you when you expect those packages to arrive so you can stay on top of it."Bob Mann, acting chair of the neighbourhood watch in Wilmot, Annapolis County, N.S., said there are more low-tech ways to protect your deliveries. He said you can try asking a neighbour to pick it up or leave the radio on. Mann said one of his favourite home safety tools is photosensitive lights."If you don't have one yourself, take note," said Mann, who has been with his neighbourhood watch since its creation in 1995. "They light up probably half of my driveway ... at dusk the bulbs will come on and they'll go off in the morning." Cpl. Lisa Croteau of the RCMP said package theft doesn't appear to be a big issue at this time, but that could change, so she does have some advice. "Have a different method to pick it up. Instead of dropping it off on your front porch, if you could go to a different location to pick up the package that would be a little safer."Arsenault said she wanted to make people aware of the incident but she also understands the situation."We know there are probably more packages being delivered at this time of year. Holidays are coming up and times are hard for people so we know this is something that happens," said Arsenault.MORE TOP STORIES
WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden will likely wear a walking boot for the next several weeks as he recovers from breaking his right foot while playing with one of his dogs, his doctor said.Biden suffered the injury on Saturday and visited an orthopedist in Newark, Delaware, on Sunday afternoon, his office said.“Initial x-rays did not show any obvious fracture,” but medical staff ordered a more detailed CT scan, his doctor, Kevin O’Connor, said in a statement. The subsequent scan found tiny fractures of two small bones in the middle of his right foot, O’Connor said.“It is anticipated that he will likely require a walking boot for several weeks,” O’Connor said.Fractures are a concern generally as people age, but Biden’s appears to be a relatively mild one based on his doctor’s statement and the planned treatment. At 78 he will become the oldest president when he’s inaugurated in January; he often dismissed questions about his age during the campaign.Reporters covering the president-elect were not afforded the opportunity to see Biden enter the doctor's office Sunday, despite multiple requests. Leaving the doctor's office to head to an imaging centre for his CT scan, Biden was visibly limping, though he walked without a crutch or other aid.Biden sustained the injury playing with Major, one of the Bidens’ two dogs. They adopted Major in 2018, and acquired their first dog, Champ, after the 2008 election. The Bidens have said they’ll be bringing their dogs to the White House and also plan to get a cat.Last December he released a doctor's report that disclosed he takes a statin to keep his cholesterol at healthy levels, but his doctor described him as “healthy, vigorous” and “fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency.”___Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.Alexandra Jaffe, The Associated Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A Pennsylvania state senator abruptly left a West Wing meeting with President Donald Trump after being informed he had tested positive for the coronavirus, a person with direct knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press.Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano had gone to the White House last Wednesday with like-minded Republican state lawmakers shortly after a four-hour-plus public meeting that Mastriano helped host in Gettysburg — maskless — to discuss efforts to overturn president-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state.Trump told Mastriano that White House medical personnel would take care of him, his son and his son’s friend, who were also there for the Oval Office meeting and tested positive. The meeting continued after Mastriano and the others left, the person said.The person spoke to the AP on Sunday on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private session because the matter is politically sensitive.Positive coronavirus cases are surging across the United States and the nation's top infectious disease expert said Sunday that the U.S. may see “surge upon surge” in the coming weeks. The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in the United States topped 200,000 for the first time Friday.Everyone who will be in close proximity to the president must take a rapid test. Trump was himself hospitalized in October after he contracted the virus. Dozens of White House staffers and others close to the president have also tested positive, including the first lady and two of the president’s sons.All participants in Wednesday's meeting took COVID-19 tests, but the positive results were not announced until they were in the West Wing of the White House, the person said.“The president instantly called the White House doctor in and he took them back to, I guess, the medical place,” the person said. The meeting with Trump was to strategize about efforts regarding the election, the person said.After Mastriano and the others left, the discussion with Trump continued for about a half-hour. Mastriano did not return to the meeting.Mastriano sought the meeting of the Pennsylvania Senate Republican Policy Committee earlier Wednesday that drew Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, a second Trump lawyer, several witnesses and a crowd of onlookers. Only a few of them were masked.The committee let Giuliani and others, for several hours, air their beliefs that there had been problems with how the Pennsylvania vote was conducted and counted. All claims were baseless; no evidence was presented to support any of the allegations they made.Trump even participated, calling from the White House while one of his lawyers held a phone up to a microphone. He reiterated the same unfounded claims of fraud he's been tweeting about for weeks.Those beliefs have persisted despite Trump losing repeatedly in state and federal courts, including a Philadelphia-based federal appeals court's decision Friday that said the Trump campaign’s "claims have no merit," and a state Supreme Court decision Saturday that threw out a legal challenge to the election and effort to stop certification of its results.Mastriano, a conservative from a rural district in central Pennsylvania and outspoken Trump supporter, did not return several messages left Sunday seeking comment.Republican state Sen. Dave Argall, who chairs the policy committee, declined Sunday in a text message to discuss Mastriano’s medical condition and the White House visit.“I’ve received some conflicting information that I’m trying to resolve,” Argall said in the text. “It’s my understanding a Senate statement later today will help us all to understand this better.”Argall said he would not talk publicly about the matter “until I know more.”Senate Republican spokeswoman Kate Flessner declined comment, describing it as a personnel matter.The person with knowledge of the White House visit said several people rode in a large van from Gettysburg, where the policy committee met in a hotel, to the White House. Mastriano, his son and his son’s friend drove in another vehicle.It's not clear why Mastriano's son and his friend accompanied the state senator to the meeting, which the person said was also attended by Trump and the president's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, who tested positive in early November.Mastriano has aggressively opposed policies under the administration of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and keep people safe.He has led rallies where he advocated to reopen businesses despite the risk of infection and he has repeatedly and sharply denounced Wolf’s orders. Mastriano also spoke to a few thousand Trump supporters who gathered outside the Capitol on Nov. 7, hours after Democrat Joe Biden’s national win became evident.___Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report.Mark Scolforo, The Associated Press
The provincial government has barely made a dent in adopting a sweeping series of recommendations coming out of the Muskrat Falls inquiry, and one of the consequences could be another blunder with the new adult mental health and addictions facility in St. John's, says an outspoken critic.Meanwhile, the minister leading the effort to implement the instructions of Justice Richard LeBlanc says his recommendations will be adopted "across the board."But with the province still in the grips of a global pandemic, converting those recommendations into government policy will take longer than expected, said Andrew Parsons, Minister of Industry, Energy and Technology."I would be more worried about whether we do it, or not, rather than how fast we can do it, because the goal is to do these recommendations," Parsons said.Of the 17 recommendations, only three have been implemented, though none of the seven "key" recommendations have been adopted.Being built in a flood plainA critic of the over-budget, long-delayed project, and whose many warnings have become reality, is not happy about the progress, and the government's use of the pandemic as an excuse."Not every public official or minister is engaged in the pandemic. It doesn't appear to have effected their announcement of all kinds of new programs spending money we don't have. Must be an election coming," said Ron Penney, one of the earliest and most outspoken opponents of the Nalcor-led Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.In fact, Penney, who chairs the Muskrat Falls Concerned Citizens Committee, said the province could be stumbling into another problem with the new mental health and addictions facility in St. John's, which will replace the Waterford Hospital.The $330 million hospital is being constructed through a public-private partnership and will be located adjacent to the Health Sciences Centre, on a flood plain.The No. 1 recommendation from Justice LeBlanc is that the province hire an independent external expert to review any public project with a budget of $50 million or more.If that were the case with the new mental health facility, it would never had been approved for the current location, said Penney, a former St. John's city manager."If anybody independent had looked at that decision, no doubt they would have changed because it's in a flood plain, and the province does that mapping for the flood plain, and it's just totally an unsuitable location for the Waterford Hospital," he said.In the past, government officials have said two new berms will protect the site from flooding.And in a statement, an official with the Department of Transportation and Works said "contracts were awarded to independent financial and procurement, fairness, and technical advisors prior to the start of the project."Meanwhile, the final report from the public inquiry investigating the Muskrat Falls project was released in early March, more than two years after the commission of inquiry was established by former premier Dwight Ball.The report included some scorching criticism of former Nalcor leaders like Ed Martin, whom LeBlanc said took "unprincipled steps" to get the project approved. And LeBlanc also criticized senior politicians and bureaucrats for failing to keep a close watch on what one insider called a runaway train.The report, entitled "Muskrat Falls: A Misguided Project," also included 17 recommendations by Justice LeBlanc to ensure the series of missteps that allowed what Dwight Ball once described as the "biggest economic mistake in Newfoundland and Labrador's history" would not be repeated.LeBlanc's recommendations are aimed at, among other things, ensuring major public projects undergo unfettered scrutiny by independent external experts, that the Department of Finance oversee the financing negotiations and cost control of any large project, and that the public utilities board carry out a review whenever there's a possibility electricity ratepayers may be affected.LeBlanc also called for changes to ensure public servants can "speak truth to politicians" in order to provide "complete and objective advice," and advised that legislative changes be made to ensure public bodies like Nalcor cannot withhold information from senior politicians and bureaucrats on the grounds of legal privilege or commercial sensitivity.LeBlanc advised that some of his recommendations should be adopted in as little as six months.But just days after the report was released, it was quickly overshadowed by the growing presence of a worldwide pandemic, and unprecedented societal upheaval in Newfoundland and Labrador as much of the province was shut down in order to fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus.During a recent fall session, the legislature was consumed by the financial and public health crises griping the province, with the priority on adopting a budget. And for months, a majority of public servants were working from home."So no, I don't think we're as far ahead as we'd like to be. But at the same time it's not sitting on a shelf," said Parsons, adding that an implementation committee that he chairs has been meeting regularly.Parsons expects many of the recommendations that involve legislative changes will be adopted during next spring's sitting of the House of Assembly.And he said some recommendations involving access to information laws will be examined by retired chief justice David Orsborn, who is leading a statutory review of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which is expected to be completed next year."There's urgency here, but at the same time, I'm a true believer in doing the proper analysis to make sure it's right, because sometimes these quick decisions are what got us into trouble in the first place." The three recommendations that have been adopted include: * a joint Nalcor-Newfoundland Power Inc. effort to review the reliability of the power grid in the Muskrat Falls era; * A review of whether recommendations made by the Joint Review Panel were being followed. This relates largely to methylmercury concerns in Labrador; * And minutes of cabinet meetings are now much more detailed than they were years ago whenever politicians discussed Muskrat Falls.Penney said that's not good enough."I'm disappointed, but I guess not surprised," said Penney.So what does LeBlanc think about what's happened since the release of his report?He's not saying, and directed questions to lawyer Barry Learmonth, who served as commission co-counsel during the inquiry.Learmonth said it was part of Justice LeBlanc's mandate to deliver recommendations, and whether and when they are adopted is up to the government."They're not binding," said Learmonth.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
It's hard enough having to battle COVID-19 on a daily basis without having to debunk myths and misinformation, too.Saskatoon ICU specialist Dr. Hassan Masri said it makes health care professionals' jobs harder because the misinformation is actually causing physical harm.Masri, who is also an associate professor of medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, has been vocal on social media and said he feels a personal responsibility to debunk myths, misinformation and pseudoscience."People get their information from Instagram and Twitter and Facebook and sometimes from people they trust," Masri told CBC's Samantha Maciag. "If they see so-and-so spreading such information because they trust them on a personal level, they may elect to trust the misinformation they're spreading. "That's where I feel that there is a personal responsibility as a physician, but also personal responsibility as someone with a platform, specifically on Facebook."Tests are specifically for COVID-19One of the common myths circulating is that testing cannot differentiate between COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses but Masri said that the tests are specifically for COVID-19."We know that if you are positive for COVID, you will be negative for all the rest of them," he said.Masri said misinformation makes people distrust the health system. "There is consequences and ripple effects that go downstream — in terms of you not trusting the hospital, in terms of you not trusting the physician, in terms of you not taking things seriously — and is just a brutal ripple effect that we obviously are suffering from," he said. "It also makes it sound like it is not a big deal, and that is just another flu or another virus. And it makes you not take things seriously, makes you doubt whether you need to distance or limit your bubble."Patients know it's not a mythBeing in the ICU dealing with very ill patients, Masri said the people he deals with daily aren't in denial about the virus. They know it is real and deadly."I do receive messages from families who left the hospital or families whose loved ones are in the hospital ... who state they feel very lucky that their loved ones have left the hospital and have done well."But he said colleagues have had to deal face-to-face with people who think COVID-19 is a hoax or are anti-maskersMasri said he believes the vast majority of people in the province believe in science, in their officials and in their health care workers.But sometimes a small minority can be a lot louder than the number that it represents. "The problem when it comes to COVID-19 is that without the collective effort, it is really hard to get this under control. And so even though it's a minority, it can be a very damaging one because it does not allow us to have a really good control on the disease."A battle with COVID-19He said the best way to talk with anti-maskers or COVID-19 deniers is through respectful dialogue."I genuinely believe that they are good, decent human beings and that they're my neighbours and my fellow citizens in the city. What I say to them is, first of all, this is not a battle between me and you. This is a battle between COVID-19 and you and I."He said people have to trust the opinion of professionals, whether that is a physician or your mechanic."I think it's really important to establish respect and rapport with those individuals and try to educate them," he said. "I genuinely care about them and their families and their loved ones, and I want them to be just as safe as my own family."Masri said the most unfortunate thing to have happened was having COVID-19 and masks be made into a political issue in the U.S."It doesn't matter if you're NDP or Liberal or Conservative or right or left or moderate, libertarian," Masri said. "COVID-19 does not care about your political affiliation. And genuinely speaking, I don't care about anyone's political affiliation. This is a disease. I treat it like I treat diabetes. We don't treat diabetes differently if you're on the right or on the left. ... If you're Conservative or Liberal or NDP, we treat it the same."Masri said treating patients with COVID-19 is especially tough because they can't have loved ones around them."When people are sick, they really rely on their families and loved ones for support. Prior to COVID, we know that when people get sick and their loved ones come, you see life back in their eyes. You see fight back in their bodies," he said."It's really hard to see someone sick and someone having a hard time breathing or on life support and not being able to have their wife hold their hand, not being able to see their daughter and son and hold their hand, not being able to even offer condolences or break bad news in person seems very cruel to me."Those are moments that make Masri frustrated with anyone who doesn't take the virus seriously."It's because I recognize that you're not taking this seriously puts me in a position where I have to go and talk to this individual in the room who's alone for many, many, many days. And people have to be behind the window seeing their loved one. It is something where we are very much used to and trained to see very difficult things. But this is something I just don't like. It is very frustrating."Difficult for health care workersThe physical and emotional toll is also being felt by all the health professionals."At the end of the day, health care workers are human beings," Masri said. "When we leave the hospital, we have the same worries. We worry about traffic. We worry about our kids."They also feel the need to protect their own families from exposure."I consider myself someone who's high risk because I'm around COVID patients all the time. And so we avoid seeing our friends and families and therefore we lose a lot of our support system."But Masri said they also support each other.For example, he said a nurse posted online that she was available if anybody needed a virtual hug or a good cry."We are a big, giant family, and we rely on each other for a lot of that support."What's yours? CBC Saskatchewan wants to hear how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted you. Share your story with our online questionnaire.
Louis-Joseph Couturier left the Gaspé on Nov. 14. He doesn't plan on returning home until he completes his goal of cycling all the way to Vancouver.The journey covers 5,250 kilometres. If he continues at his current pace — 100 km/day — he should arrive by mid-February or early March."I wake up usually at 4 a.m. to start cycling when it's still dark and traffic isn't too bad," he told Radio-Canada. At night, he pitches a tent wherever he can."If it wasn't for the pandemic, I would have tried to take advantage of people's hospitality along the route. But in the current crisis, I can't really do that," he said.Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 restrictions and the oncoming winter, Couturier felt his trip couldn't wait.Following the recent death of a friend and fellow cyclist, who died in a road accident, Couturier decided to embark on a journey to raise awareness about cyclist safety in Canadian cities."I realized my own vulnerability and wanted to make a difference," he said. "Each death of a cyclist on our roads is avoidable."Between eight and 11 cyclists are killed on Quebec roads every year, according to data from the SAAQ.Couturier is hoping his awareness campaign will help bring the public's attention to this issue."We made the choice to design our cities around cars. We can rethink this way of looking at our roads," he said.He also wants to raise $20,000 for the organization Vélo Fantôme (Ghost Bike), which erects a white bicycle in locations where cyclists are killed.
A South Korean court on Monday found former president Chun Doo-hwan guilty of defaming a former democracy activist who was involved in protests against his government in the 1980s and handed him an eight-month suspended jail sentence. The trial was held in the southwestern city of Gwangju, where hundreds, possibly thousands, were believed to have been killed when local citizens rose up against Chun's authoritarian government on May 18, 1980 and were crushed by police, paratroopers and tanks. Chun committed the defamation against Catholic priest and activist Cho Chul-hyun, also known as Cho Bi-oh in his 2017 memoirs, when Chun called Cho a "despicable liar" for testifying that government helicopters had fired on civilians, the ruling said.
WASHINGTON — The coronavirus vaccine inching toward approval in the U.S. is desperately anticipated by weary Americans longing for a path back to normal life. But criminals are waiting, too, ready to use that desperation to their advantage, federal investigators say. Homeland Security investigators are working with Pfizer, Moderna and dozens of other drug companies racing to complete and distribute the vaccine and treatments for the virus. The goal: to prepare for the scams that are coming, especially after the mess of criminal activity this year with phoney personal protective equipment, false cures and extortion schemes. “We're all very excited about the potential vaccine and treatments,” said Steve Francis, assistant director for global trade investigations with Homeland Security Investigations. “But I also caution against these criminal organizations and individuals that will try to exploit the American public." No vaccine has yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has approved the first treatment for COVID-19, the antiviral drug remdesivir. With vaccines and treatments both, it has warned about the potential for fraud. “The FDA is particularly concerned that these deceptive and misleading products might cause Americans to delay or stop appropriate medical treatment, leading to serious and life-threatening harm,” the agency said in a recent statement. The drug companies are to have safeguards and brand-protection features in place to help avoid fraud, but that may not be available until the second generation of vaccine because everything is operated on such an emergency basis, said Karen Gardner, chief marketing officer at SIPCA North America, a company that works as a bridge between the government, businesses and consumers. She said that makes it more important to educate health care providers on what the real thing looks like. “When you have anything in high demand and limited supply, there is going to be fraud,” she said. Desperation will drive people around normal channels. Meanwhile, investigators are learning about how the vaccine will be packaged and getting the message out to field agents, creating a mass database of information from more than 200 companies, so they can be prepared to spot fakes and crack down on dangerous fraud. They are monitoring tens of thousands of false websites and looking for evidence of fake cures sold online. Earlier this year as cases exploded, hospitals and governments grew short on masks, gloves and other protective gear. Scams grew, too. Tricksters preyed on unwitting citizens to hand over money for goods they'd never receive. Homeland Security Investigations started using its 7,000 agents in tandem with border, FDA and FBI officials to investigate scams, seize phoney products and arrest hundreds of people. The effort is headquartered at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, a government watchdog aimed at enforcement of its international trade laws and combating intellectual property theft. The agency has already analyzed more than 70,900 websites suspected as being involved in some type of COVID-19 fraud. Millions of fake or unapproved personal protective equipment products and antiviral pharmaceuticals were seized. Homeland Security Investigations made more than 1,600 seizures of products worth more than $27 million and made more than 185 arrests. Home test kits, for example, were only recently made available to the public in the past few weeks. But investigators seized tens of thousands of fake kits in the months before. On the dark web, scammers were selling domain names like “coronaprevention.org," attractive to counterfeiters. In the U.S. alone, more than 1,000 fake websites a day have been removed during the pandemic. A vaccine can’t come fast enough, as virus cases have topped 13 million in the U.S. and many cities have started restricting movement again as the country heads into winter. The pandemic has killed more than 1.4 million people worldwide, more than 266,000 of them in the U.S., according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. But Francis and other investigators are worried that desperation will make Americans more susceptible. If the FDA allows emergency use of a vaccine, there will be limited, rationed supplies before the end of the year. Gen. Gus Perna, in charge of the government’s efforts to distribute the vaccine, said on CBS’ “60 Minutes” the government was prepared to distribute the vaccine within 24 hours of approval. There’s a stockpile of the prospective vaccine itself plus kits of needles, syringes and alcohol swabs needed to give the dose. The secret stash is watched by armed guards. “We have taken extraordinary precaution in this area,” he said. "It’s such a commodity to us, we’re taking the full steps to make sure that the vaccine’s secure.” Who is first in line has yet to be decided. But Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the hope is that enough doses are available by the end of January to vaccinate adults over age 65, who are at the highest risk from the coronavirus, and health care workers. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-diseases expert, said it may take until spring or summer before anyone who is not high risk and wants a shot can get one. States already are gearing up for what is expected to be the biggest vaccination campaign in U.S. history. First the shots have to arrive where they’re needed, and Pfizer’s must be kept at ultra-cold temperatures — around minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 70 degrees Celsius. Moderna’s vaccine also starts off frozen, but the company said it can be thawed and kept in a regular refrigerator for 30 days, easing that concern. Governments in other countries and the World Health Organization, which aims to buy doses for poor nations, will have to decide separately if and when vaccines should be rolled out broadly. Meanwhile, Homeland Security investigators and others are trying to send the message now to the public before the vaccines are approved and begin distribution. They say people should only get a vaccine from an approved medical provider. They shouldn't respond to calls seeking personal information. And they shouldn't click on social media posts purporting to sell cures. “If it sounds too good to be true, it is," Francis said. Colleen Long, The Associated Press
Food bank usage across Ontario was already increasing in the year leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, says a new report. Then came a further surge in demand as people grappled with unemployment, closures, and loss of income throughout the pandemic. Feed Ontario's annual hunger report released on Monday analyzes food bank usage across the province, makes recommendations, and also looks at the impact of the pandemic on food banks and vulnerable populations. Following a year where people made 3.2 million visits to food banks, the number of first-time food bank visitors spiked by 26.5 per cent during the first four months of the pandemic, the report says. "That means that we're seeing brand new people who have never come to our services, and those who have already accessed our services experiencing further difficulties in life than they've already had to deal with," said executive director Carolyn Stewart. "It's extremely concerning for us."Before the pandemicBetween April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020, the report said 537,575 people accessed food banks — an increase of 5.3 per cent over the previous year — and that one third of those visitors were children. Total visits amounted to 3,282,500, which is up 7.3 per cent from last year.Feed Ontario lists a lack of affordable housing, insufficient social assistance programs, and a growth in precarious employment (like part-time and casual work) as the top three drivers of food bank usage.Ontario also has the highest number of minimum wage workers in the country, Stewart added, noting precarious work has been greatly impacted by the pandemic. The report says 65.7 per cent of food bank visitors cite social assistance as their primary source of income. There has also been 44 per cent more employed people accessing food banks over the past four years. "As these numbers continue to grow, it really creates concerns for us that the income is not keeping up with what everyone needs to afford their most basic cost of living," Stewart said. "Things are becoming increasingly out of reach for everyone."Paying for housing means no financial cushionPrior to the pandemic, people were already living with the extreme stress that comes with living in poverty, stretching dollars and potentially being unable to make ends meet, Stewart said.Around 86 per cent of food bank visitors are rental or social housing tenants spend most of their monthly income on housing. Feed Ontario notes this makes it near impossible for low-income people to have savings or a "financial cushion" to offset losses during times of emergency.Coupled with a year that prompted further anxiety and called for additional expenses — like PPE, staying home for health reasons, and the loss of social services — "hundreds of thousands of people" were without the means to afford basic needs. The top three reasons people would skip meals was to help afford rent, utilities, and phone or Internet bills, the report says."I think it's extremely problematic. No one should have to make those choices. Those are impossible choices for anyone to have to make," said Stewart. Surge in demandDuring the first two months, access to food and meal support also became the number one reason people called Ontario 211 — the community and social services help line.Stewart said this might have been out of fear these essential services would be closed. But food banks have been working around the clock, she said, with limited resources and staff to meet pandemic guidelines. None have shut down. They've implemented new emergency food support programs, and upped the amount of food provided to reduce number of visits. Some also put in a home delivery service and opened a drive-thru service. Here's a look at how demand increased at different centres across the province once the pandemic hit: * The Daily Bread Food Bank in the GTA serviced nearly 20,000 people a week. * The Mississauga Food Bank saw a 120 per cent increase in first time users. * Ottawa Food Bank had 400 per cent more calls from people needing food support. * The Unemployed Help Centre in Windsor had double the amount of households access their services. * The Salvation Army in Owen Sound saw over 400 people in the first nine days of the pandemic, which is near the number of people it would service in a month. * Community Care West Niagara in Lincoln had a 20 per cent increase in those using their services. * A Sudbury Food Bank agency saw a 150 per cent jump in people accessing emergency food support.Eviction, financial challengesIn September alone, there was 10 per cent more visits to food banks compared to the same time last year. When Feed Ontario surveyed around 200 food bank visitors in September, it found one out of two food bank visitors said they were worried about facing eviction or defaulting on their mortgage in the next two to six months.One participant said, "Everything is hard. Paying rent is hard, going to the doctor is hard, accessing groceries and food are hard. Everything is so much harder now."Over 90 per cent were also navigating extreme financial challenges due to the pandemic and incurring a significant amount of debt. Ninety-three per cent of respondent were borrowing money from friends and family, accessing payday loans, or using a credit card to help pay bills. Though Feed Ontario doesn't collect data related to race, immigration or refugee status, it notes that Black and Indigenous people are disproportionately impacted by poverty and food insecurity, and are three times more likely to be food insecure than non-racialized households. Support from provincial and federal governments helped food banks meet an initial surge at the start of the pandemic, said Stewart. But as these supports wound down through summer and into fall, the numbers have increased again. The supports showed that "investing in income supports for individuals can provide that essential safety net that people need," she said. Stewart pointed to the 2008 recession where food bank usage went up by almost 30 per cent over two years. "It's never gone back down," she said, adding that the network is "quite fearful" that without those supports food bank use will grow "exponentially" over the coming months."While food banks do their very best with very little to meet the need in their communities, and they do incredible work, they do not replace good, public policy," she said. "We are not a solution to poverty." Feed Ontario says it's calling on the provincial government to: * Provide immediate support to low-income families, including developing a rent relief or payment program for tenants facing rent arrears or eviction. * Reinstate the emergency benefit for social assistance recipients. * Align Ontario's social assistance rates with the national standard set by CERB. * Develop stronger labour laws and policies, like reinstating paid sick days and quality jobs with a livable wage.
This column is an opinion from Max Fawcett, a freelance writer and the former editor of Alberta Oil magazine.Political courage seems to be in short supply these days, whether it's Republicans in the United States refusing to acknowledge the reality of Donald Trump's election defeat or provincial leaders here in Canada avoiding the more stringent measures that are needed to flatten the latest COVID-19 curve.But when it comes to political cowardice, few acts can top the decision by Calgary's city council to punt on a proposed reduction to residential speed limits — one that would almost certainly save lives and money.Rather than doing the obvious (something that Edmonton's city council voted 9-3 in favour of), council will revisit the issue in February, when they'll decide whether to put it to the public in a plebiscite in the fall. Holding a plebiscite on something like reducing speed limits in residential neighbourhoods is a bit like asking voters to cast a ballot on whether puppies are adorable or babies smell good.According to a report from the City of Calgary, reducing the speed limit in residential neighbourhoods from 50 km/h to 40 km/h would prevent approximately 300 collisions a year, as well as avoid $8 million in societal costs that range from property damage and hospital bills to loss of work due to injury.And none of these figures can account for the cost of losing a loved one — say, a young child — in an accident that didn't have to happen.You might think, given these realities, that a plebiscite would be a waste of everyone's time. Politicians are elected to make decisions and they don't come much easier than this one.But what if seeking the consent of Calgarians isn't really the point of the plebiscite?Weaponizing direct democracyAfter all, as University of Alberta political science professor Jared Wesley argued in a recent Alberta Views dialogue with Ted Morton, direct democracy is often weaponized for entirely undemocratic purposes."At best," he wrote, "referendums allow elected officials to shirk their responsibility to negotiate and define the common good. At worst, they allow politicians to manipulate the public to achieve much narrower partisan, regional or ideological ends."But even if Calgary city council finds its courage in February and actually votes on the proposed reduction to residential speed limits, next fall's municipal election could still have an assortment of plebiscites on provincial matters, such as an Alberta police force and the province's place in the federal equalization program.Some local officials are already sounding the alarm about the impact that those plebiscites could have on municipal elections across the province."It would just drown us out," said Barry Morishita, the mayor of Brooks and the President of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, in a June 2020 CBC story. "There is no other way to put it."That doesn't seem like an accident. After all, for a government that seems to view everything through the lens of combat, and which has found its most effective opposition coming from municipal leaders, particularly the ones in major cities like Edmonton and Calgary, this seems like a logical fight to pick.While directly attacking those leaders could potentially backfire, encouraging people to turn out and vote against federal government programs — even ones they don't completely understand — seems far more likely to succeed.And being able to pursue this political agenda under the guise of supporting direct democracy does have a certain Machiavellian brilliance to it. Then again, Machiavelli would warn about the risk of being hoisted by your own petard.While holding provincial plebiscites in a municipal election may serve the UCP's near-term political interests, that format may not be nearly as constructive when it comes to the looming conversation about potential new revenue measures.Finance Minister Travis Toews has repeatedly indicated that, once his government is done cutting costs and slashing the salaries of doctors, nurses, and other public servants, it will turn its attention to the revenue side of the equation — and potentially a provincial sales tax."I think it will be important to review the province's revenue structure to determine if it's the appropriate, the most efficient structure that we can have," he said during a recent appearance at an Edmonton Chamber of Commerce event.But as Jason Kenney said in a letter to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation earlier this year, any move to implement a sales tax will have to be approved by the voters in a plebiscite."As long as I am premier," he wrote, "Albertans will have the final say through a fair referendum vote on whether a hypothetical sales tax should be introduced."And given how enthusiastically conservatives have salted that particular political field in the past, it's hard to imagine anything ever growing there — even if the province suddenly needs that harvest to survive. The problem with plebiscitesIndeed, even in a comparatively pro-tax place like Metro Vancouver, a 2015 plebiscite that asked voters whether they'd be willing to pay an additional 0.5 per cent sales tax to fund new transit infrastructure failed miserably.Despite having the backing of a large group of local mayors and the tepid support of both provincial parties, the "No" side won convincingly, carrying 61.7 per cent of the vote to the "Yes" side's 38.4 per cent. Therein lies the problem with plebiscites, and the politicians that turn to them most enthusiastically.Yes, they allow elected officials to avoid having to make certain decisions on the public's behalf, especially ones that might not be immediately popular. But they also box those same politicians into a much smaller political space, one where they've set an expectation that anything even vaguely controversial will get put directly to voters. For some elected officials, constraining the range of a given government's policy space and ambition might be a good thing. But for a public that is contending with everything from climate change to the economic fallout from COVID-19, to say nothing of a failing state to our south, those sorts of constraints could do far more harm than good in the future. Right now, we need leaders who are willing to actually lead — and take the political risks that come with that.When Calgarians go to the polls next fall, they should remember that. And if there are pointless plebiscites about things like residential speed limits on the ballot, maybe they'll serve as a useful (and unintentional) reminder to that effect.This column is an opinion. For more information about our commentary section, please read our FAQ.
Mark Hamill pays tribute to Darth Vader star Dave Prowse; U.K. Culture Secretary says "The Crown" should come with fiction disclaimer; World's "loneliest elephant" heads to sanctuary in Cambodia. (Nov. 30)
Prince Wong was still in her mother's womb when the Chinese government reclaimed control over Hong Kong from the British in the summer of 1997. For her 23rd birthday this year, Wong posted a photo of herself on Instagram wearing a pastel-striped paper hat trimmed with pink pompoms. On a recent day, Wong spun a gold ring on her finger in continuous circles as she spoke quietly about the past year of her life.
SURREY, B.C. — Surrey RCMP say a man is dead following a shooting in Fleetwood Sunday evening. They say officers responded to a shooting call around 7:40 p.m. in front of a shopping complex at the corner of 152 Street and Fraser Highway. They say paramedics also attended and provided aid to a wounded man, but he died at the scene. Investigators say the victim is known to police and that they believe he was targeted. No names or suspect information was immediately released. The Mounties say they're assisting the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team with the case and are asking anyone who witnessed the incident or has pertinent video surveillance or dash-cam video to contact them. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020. The Canadian Press
It was during one of the early planning sessions for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics that Chief Gibby Jacob heard a provincial government official talking about the Callahan Valley, which would eventually host cross-country skiing and ski jumping during the Games.Jacob, who participated in the bidding process for the Olympics and was a member of the Games organizing committee board, finally put up his hand."I asked who the hell is this Callahan and how the hell did he get his name on our lands," the Squamish Nation hereditary chief said with a chuckle. "They all looked at each other. I said find out and let us know."It turns out the Callahan Valley, located near Whistler, B.C., was named after one of the early surveyors in the region."That was the start of our big push to get our names back on places," said Jacob.Indigenous groups had a voice in organizing and hosting the 2010 Games. But Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has suggested any movement to bring another Games to the city should be headed by Indigenous leaders.In early November, Vancouver city council voted to postpone a decision on whether it wants to explore making a bid. City staff are expected to present a report to council in early 2021.Stewart has said one of his conditions for supporting a bid is that the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh — the three Indigenous First Nations whose traditional territory includes Vancouver — head the Olympic bid committee."I have talked to the Nations about this and there's interest there," the Vancouver Sun reported Stewart saying in a state-of-the-city address to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.Emails to Stewart's office asking to explain the mayor's proposal were not immediately answered.Khelsilem, a councillor with the Squamish Nation Council, isn't aware of any formal talks about leading a bid."We haven't had any formal discussion about it," he said. "We haven't made any formal decision about whether we want or don't want. And we haven't had any formal discussions with our neighbouring nations."Representatives of the Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh did not respond to interview requests.Khelsilem said before any decision is made, the pros and cons of hosting an Olympics must be weighed."The reality is that something like hosting an Olympics requires a significant amount of investment and support from both the federal and provincial governments," he said. "While there are a number of reported advantages, there's also a number of drawbacks."I think a lot of that workflow needs to be figured out, especially in the context of the challenges that we're going to face over the next decade and the challenges that we're facing on a number of fronts."Furthermore, Jacob said: "there's a lot to be gained by being involved [in a bid] for our people.""I don't think that our nations, given what we have as far as leadership resources and how fast they seem to change, would be able to take things right from scratch to completion," he said.Creating a common agendaWith 15 of the venues used for the 2010 Olympics built on First Nation traditional territories, Indigenous support was crucial for the Games success. The Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam and Lil'Wat nations formed The Four Host First Nations, a non-profit organization with the goals of uniting Canada's Indigenous people and encouraging inclusion across the country."I think it created a common agenda," said Jacob. "By doing that and achieving what we set out, it was totally outstanding."I think it showed leadership that the four separate First nations could work together for a common purpose and get benefits from it."WATCH | President of 2010 Games says Vancouver should bid for 2030:Involvement in the Games raised awareness of Indigenous issues across Canada, he said."When we first started out, we were pretty invisible in our own territories," said Jacob.Indigenous groups did "fairly well in compensation for the use of our lands," he said. The Olympics also led to traditional Indigenous names being returned to locations and landmarks plus recognition of First Nation arts and culture.John Furlong, who was head of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC), is part of the group looking at the 2030 Games. He said any bid would be impossible without Indigenous participation."I see no scenario at all in which First Nations are not involved," he said. "They were a difference maker in 2010."First Nations are in multiple new business since 2010. My instincts tell me they will be keenly interested in being involved again."
The P.E.I. Council of People With Disabilities is urging Islanders to avoid making assumptions about those not wearing masks in public places."They don't know that person's history, their experiences, and they do not know what health conditions they may be living with at this current time," said Marcia Carroll, the organization's executive director."Understand that your reality is not everybody's reality."On Nov. 20, masks became mandatory inside all public places on P.E.I. However, there are exceptions to the rule for children under the age of two and those who cannot wear one for medical reasons.> People who are going to comply will comply. And the people who can't comply should be treated with the same respect. — Marcia CarrollBut according to Carroll, those medical reasons aren't always apparent."If you saw somebody in a wheelchair or somebody using a white cane ... and they were not following a health directive, you might not confront them because their disability is visible," said Carroll."But for somebody who has an invisible disability, again, they still have a disability."'It's public shaming'Carroll said singling those people out over not being able to wear a mask not only leads to social isolation, it can also be extremely stressful."It's a way of shaming and it's public shaming. And quite frankly, it's a little bit of bullying," she said."People who are going to comply will comply. And the people who can't comply should be treated with the same respect."For now, Carroll said she recommends people keep their judgment to themselves and if you can wear a mask, wear it."Wearing masks does not just protect yourself, it protects other people. That also includes the people who can't wear masks," she said. And for those who have already experienced being called out for not wearing a mask, Carroll also has a message: "I'm sorry.""Your health is your own personal business." she said. "You have to make decisions that best suit you and best allow you to navigate your world in a free and dignified way."So just step back, mind your own business and go forward."More from CBC P.E.I.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Russia came under renewed pressure Monday to explain the nerve agent attack on opposition figure Alexei Navalny as the annual meeting of the global chemical weapons watchdog got underway amid measures aimed at reining in the spread of coronavirus. Navalny fell ill on Aug. 20 during a domestic flight in Russia, and was flown to Germany for treatment two days later. His allies accused the Kremlin of poisoning its fiercest opponent. Tests carried out by labs in Germany, France and Sweden and by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons established that Navalny was exposed to a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent. The organization's director-general, Fernando Arias, told Monday's meeting that according to the Chemical Weapons Convention, “the poisoning of an individual through the use of a nerve agent is a use of a chemical weapon.” A group of 56 nations issued a statement as the start of the annual meeting of the OPCW's member states urging Moscow to disclose “in a swift and transparent manner the circumstances of this chemical weapons attack.” Russia, which denies involvement in Navalny's poisoning, reacted bullishly in its written statement to the conference. “Instead of trying to look into what had happened, Germany and its allies resorted to megaphone diplomacy, unleashed a mass disinformation campaign against Russia and started to demand some ‘independent international investigation’ under the auspices of the OPCW,” Moscow's statement said. In October, Moscow asked for OPCW experts to visit Russia to provide “technical assistance” in its investigations. Arias said talks are underway to define “all the legal, technical, operational and logistical parameters in order for this visit to take place.” The European Union has imposed sanctions on six Russian officials and a state research institute over the poisoning. Moscow responded earlier this month by announcing that it had adopted sanctions against a number of German and French officials. The OPCW's annual meeting has been broken into two parts amid the coronavirus pandemic. Two days of talks this week will focus on approving the proposed 71.74 million euro ($86 million) annual budget for 2021. The second half of the meeting will take place next year. Mike Corder, The Associated Press
BEIJING — China on Monday said it is sanctioning leaders of U.S. government-affiliated bodies that promote democracy around the world in response to what it calls practices that “blatantly meddle in Hong Kong affairs.” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the measures would cover the senior director for Asia at the National Endowment Democracy, John Knaus, the regional director for the Asia-Pacific at the National Democratic Institute, Manpreet Singh Anand, and two of the institute’s officials responsible for Hong Kong. Hua gave no details and the institute said in a news release that it had no further information but that it “remains steadfastly committed to these core principles and to continuing our work in support of democracy worldwide.” China has long accused such groups of encouraging dissidents who built grassroots movements to push for greater direct democracy in Hong Kong. Those burst out into street protests in 2014 and again last year, prompting a harsh crackdown from authorities. The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials over the passage of a National Security Law that imposed strict penalties for critics of the Beijing-backed government that has ruled the former British colony since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997. The sanctions ban the officials, including the head of Hong Kong’s local government, Carrie Lam, from travelling to the U.S. and freezes all dealings with American financial institutions. Hua told reporters Monday that “the relevant U.S. practices blatantly meddle in Hong Kong affairs, grossly interfere in China’s internal affairs, seriously violate the international law and basic norms governing international relations." “The U.S. should immediately cease interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs and avoid going further down the wrong path," Hua said at a daily briefing. Hong Kong is just one area where tensions between Washington and Beijing have risen over recent years. The Trump administration has cut off Chinese tech giant Huawei’s access to most U.S. components and technology on security grounds, part of a feud over trade and technology that has led the White House to press the Chinese owner of video service TikTok to sell its U.S. operation, which American officials say is a security risk. U.S. accusations of Chinese human rights abuses, particularly against Muslim minority groups in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, have resulted in frequent angry exchanges between the sides. Frictions have also built over Washington's support for Taiwan, which China claims as a breakaway province to be recovered by force if necessary, along with China's territorial claims in the South China Sea. The Associated Press
At least two people were injured Sunday night during three separate shootings in Montreal's Rivière-des-Prairies neighbourhood.Montreal police say it's still unclear whether the three incidents, which happened in the course of an hour, are related.Around 9:30 p.m., a 58-year-old man was shot at a home near the corner of 63e Avenue and Perras Boulevard. Police say the man had just gotten out of his car, which was parked in his driveway, when another car pulled up and someone started shooting.The victim was conscious on his way to the hospital. The suspects fled the scene.About 10 minutes later, someone walking through a residential parking lot opened fire on a man sitting in a parked car on Jean-Rainaud Avenue.The victim fled the scene in the car. Police have no information about the victim's status.And then at 10:20 p.m., another man was shot while standing on a second-floor balcony at a home on Armand-Bombardier Boulevard, near Jean-Vincent Avenue. Police say they believe the shooter was standing in the building's courtyard at the time.The victim was taken to hospital and is expected to survive. Police spokesperson Const. Raphaël Bergeron said in all three cases, there is no information about the suspects. A fourth shooting occurred earlier in the evening in Montréal-Nord. Around 5:30 p.m., police received a call about shots fired near the corner of Lapierre Avenue and Pascal Street.When they arrived, they found bullet casings but no suspects or victims.An hour later, a man showed up at an unspecified hospital with what appeared to be gunshot wounds, but it is unclear whether he was involved in the incident in Montréal-Nord.Police issued a statement Monday evening, saying they would increase their presence and visibility in the area over the next 24 hours.
TOKYO — A brightly burning meteor was seen plunging from the sky in wide areas of Japan, capturing attention on television and social media.The meteor glowed strongly as it rapidly descended through the Earth's atmosphere on Sunday.Many people in western Japan reported on social media seeing the rare sight.NHK public television said its cameras in the central prefectures of Aichi, Mie and elsewhere captured the fireball in the southern sky.A camera at Nagoya port showed the meteor shining as brightly as a full moon as it neared the Earth, the Asahi newspaper reported.Some experts said small fragments of the meteorite might have reached the ground.The Associated Press
An 80-year-old man who is visually impaired and received a $13,000 bill from Virgin Mobile is no longer on the hook for the large sum."I think right now they could be doing a little better, but I'm satisfied with that," said Willie Guerard, who lives in Amherstburg, Ont. "They're not going to get my best wishes, you know what I mean?"Guerard and his wife, Yvonne, who by their own admission are not tech-savvy, told the CBC earlier this month that they don't really even use the internet on their phone.They said it was their understanding that their service would be cut off if their account balance reached $200 in any given month, so they were surprised when they received two bills, for approximately $5,000 and $7,000, respectively.Virgin Mobile said it had removed spending caps such as those after the pandemic began up until the beginning of July but it continued to charge for any costs for overages people incurred.Guerard and his wife said they contacted Virgin Mobile after receiving the large bill and were told they had to pay it. It was only after CBC made inquiries published in a web story earlier this month that the company took a second look at the massive bill."At least they're paying attention now. Before that I couldn't get nobody [to look into it], I just got the runaround," Guerard said.Significant reductionInitially, Virgin Mobile said that Guerard, who was an active data user, had twice requested to increase the amount of data on his account and consented to it. The company was unaware of Guerard's visual impairment and that it would be significantly reducing the outstanding balance in his account.Last week, they said they'd reduced the amount he owed to what his usual monthly bill would have been."We took another look at Willie's account and couldn't verify that he received the notice about removing spending caps during COVID," a written response from the company read.Guerard said after he called them, he found out the amount he now owes is $281, which he plans to pay. But he said he'll only be doing so once he gets it in writing.