BEIJING — Canadian officials have met online with former diplomat Michael Kovrig, who has been held in China for more than two years in a case related to an executive of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei. Canada’s Foreign Ministry says officials led by Ambassador Dominic Barton were given “on-site virtual consular access” to Kovrig on Thursday. The ministry said it was unable to release further details. Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor have been confined since Dec. 10, 2018, just days after Canada detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of the founder of the Chinese telecommunications equipment giant. “The Canadian government remains deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention by Chinese authorities of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor since December 2018 and continues to call for their immediate release,” the ministry said. China says the pair are being held on suspicion of endangering national security, but has also drawn clear links between their detention and the case against Meng, who is fighting deportation to the U.S. where she faces fraud charges. Beijing says the detention of Meng, who is under house arrest at a mansion she owns in Vancouver, is politically motivated and has demanded her immediate and unconditional release. Chinese prosecutors announced last year that Kovrig had been charged on suspicion of spying for state secrets and intelligence, and Spavor on suspicion of spying for a foreign entity and illegally providing state secrets. It’s not publicly known where they are being held or under what conditions. Canadian diplomats had been denied all access to the two men from January to October because of coronavirus precautions cited by the Chinese side. Meng’s arrest severely damaged relations between Canada and China, which has sentenced two other Canadians to death and suspended imports of Canadian canola. The U.S. accuses Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, of using a Hong Kong shell company to deceive banks and do business with Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. The Associated Press
CKLB Radio's Saturday request show is already appointment listening for many country music fans in the Northwest Territories. But this Saturday, the station is doing something special to generate support for one of the territory's few coronavirus-stricken communities. A release sent Friday announces that the territorial government is sponsoring a special edition of the show dubbed "Dear Fort Liard," where guests will air messages of hope for the hamlet of 500 that has been under tight restrictions since COVID-19 was discovered in the community. "It is our pleasure to join forces with them ... to ensure our friends and family in Fort Liard know that we all wish them the best," reads a quote attributed to Rob Ouellette, CEO of the Native Communications Society, which owns CKLB. "The communities of the Nahendeh riding are small and residents can feel secluded from others — this makes connecting and supporting with one another especially important," reads another attributed to Shane Thompson, the local MLA. The request show, which airs Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m., will kick off "a weeklong campaign soliciting supportive messages from across the territory," the release says. That will include voicemail messages and cell phone videos shared on social media and played over the airwaves to residents in Fort Liard. The territorial government will also "collaborate with Fort Liard's community radio station to provide audio from the request show free-of-charge for those who may want to re-listen." As of Friday morning, Fort Liard had six confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 50 people in isolation, after its first case led to a community cluster and concerns of further spread. In response, the chief public health officer mandated a 14-day local containment order, banning gatherings, closing schools and shuttering non-essential businesses, among other restrictions. "We're amid a local crisis that's tested our faith in everything good," reads a quote attributed to Chief Eugene Hope of Acho Dene Koe First Nation in Fort Liard. "However, we do believe our people and community will come through this with a strong resolve." "This situation brings to light the need for everyone to be good to one another, to remain calm and come together and support each other." The campaign is set to run until Jan. 30, when local restrictions are set to lift, "and may be extended depending on the status of the cluster in Fort Liard." Northerners can participate by calling 1-855-966-2552 to leave a message to be played on the air. Between 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday, you can also make a live request. Videos can be sent to email@example.com anytime before Jan. 30. "Start your message with 'Dear Fort Liard…', and build your message of support from there," the release suggests.
A Sudbury startup will receive $500,000 from the federal government to help commercialize an innovative medical device and create local jobs. Flosonics Medical will use the funds to hire a team of software developers and industry experts to develop the IT infrastructure needed to roll out its FDA-cleared FloPatch medical device. The IT infrastructure will ensure that the device can be fully integrated with various medical records systems in hospitals and clinics in Canada and the United States. “This device right here is the world’s first wireless wearable ultrasound system,” said Flosonics Medical COO and co-founder Andrew Eibl. “What we’ve done is turned a complex technology into a wearable that is push-button simple that allows nurses and clinicians to get the data they need to care for their patients when they are critically ill and when important decisions need to be made.” The technology allows for real-time hemodynamic monitoring for patients that need cardiopulmonary and fluid resuscitation. When a patient is critically ill and experiencing major trauma, they are often pumped full of fluids to increase blood flow. This process must be monitored closely, especially in patients with weaker hearts. It’s usually done via traditional ultrasound, which can be a slow, inefficient two-person job. The FloPatch is a peel-and-stick Doppler blood flow monitor that can assess patient response to fluid intake. Any paramedic, nurse or physician can use it, and it can also be used to monitor patients remotely. “The project that we’re announcing today is ultimately to enable the deployment and interoperability of this technology in a hospital throughout different departments,” said Eibl. “The system that we’re developing, through hiring at least five new software developers, is going to enable us to roll out communications across North America, as well as leverage that information to further drive the business-use case around the quality metrics that are important to healthcare systems as well as patient outcomes.” The funding will help the company develop IT systems in its early pilot sites and, eventually, roll them out in Canada and the U.S. as the company continues to grow. “It will help doctors make better informed decisions that impact quality of care, and hopefully get patients out of the hospital sooner, avoid complications, and reduce the cost of the overall healthcare delivery system,” said Eibl. FedNor’s Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program is providing the funding. “Supporting Sudbury’s innovators and job creators is a key priority of our government,” said Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre during the funding announcement on Friday. “I’m excited that this investment in Flosonics Medical will help launch a promising new medical device that has the potential to significantly improve patient care in Sudbury and around the world.” The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
HONG KONG — Thousands of Hong Kong residents were locked down in their homes Saturday in an unprecedented move to contain a worsening coronavirus outbreak in the city. Authorities said in a statement that an area comprising 16 buildings in the city's Yau Tsim Mong district would be locked down until all residents were tested. Residents would not be allowed to leave their homes until they received their test results to prevent cross-infection. “Persons subject to compulsory testing are required to stay in their premises until all such persons identified in the area have undergone testing and the test results are mostly ascertained,” the government statement said. The restrictions, which were announced at 4 a.m. in Hong Kong, were expected to end within 48 hours, the government said. Hong Kong has been grappling to contain a fresh wave of the coronavirus since November. Over 4,300 cases have been recorded in the last two months, making up nearly 40% of the city’s total. Coronavirus cases in Yau Tsim Mong district represent about half of infections in the past week. Approximately 3,000 people in Yau Tsim Mong had taken tests for coronavirus thus far, according to the Hong Kong government, joining the thousands of others around the crowded city of 7.5 million who have been tested in recent days. Police guarded access points to the working-class neighbourhood of old buildings and subdivided flats and arrested a 47-year-old man after he allegedly attacked an officer. The man had reportedly been told he would have to be tested after coming into the restricted area and would not be allowed to leave until he could show a negative test result. Sewage testing in the area picked up more concentrated traces of the virus, prompting concerns that poorly built plumbing systems and a lack of ventilation in subdivided units may present a possible path for the virus to spread. Hong Kong has previously avoided lockdowns in the city during the pandemic, with leader Carrie Lam stating in July last year that authorities will avoid taking such “extreme measures” unless it had no other choice. The government appealed to employers to exercise discretion and avoid docking the salary of employees who have been affected by the new restrictions and may not be able to go to work. Hong Kong has seen a total of 9,929 infections in the city, with 168 deaths recorded as of Friday. Zen Soo, The Associated Press
It's been one cruel decade since Egyptians dared to disrupt the status quo of living in a suffocating police state. The first month of 2011 was marked by the early days of Egypt's uprising, part of a wave of Arab Spring protests that many saw as brave, hopeful and inevitable. Now, with a pandemic capping off a decade of violence, horror and mass displacement in the Middle East, the protests in Tahrir Square are, at best, consciously forgotten by skeptical Egyptians as a naïve footnote or, at worst, cursed as original sin. Many of the ills that made Egypt ripe for an uprising in 2011 have only been exacerbated in 2021: the lack of jobs, the lack of political participation and the utter lack of freedom. Under President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt has outdone itself as a prolific jailer and executioner — Human Rights Watch recently estimated the number of political prisoners at 60,000 and rising. According to activists, the government has also deployed a persistent campaign aimed at framing the revolution as the harbinger of Egypt's myriad woes and the reason it has been "brought to its knees." Egypt is now a country where the "Tahrir people" — as they're pejoratively referred to by supporters of the regime — are either out of the country, if they haven't been arrested, or keeping a silent vigil. Many of them find it "very, very painful" to revisit those two and a half weeks in 2011, says celebrated Egyptian novelist and commentator Ahdaf Soueif, who participated in the protests. According to Soueif, they "keep the 18 days in a place where they can be safe, where we protect them against accusations of having been a collective hallucination," she said in an interview with CBC Radio's Ideas. "I hope the day will come when we draw inspiration again from those 18 days." Weeks of demonstrations It took 18 days of protests in Tahrir Square for the uprising to bring down Egypt's longstanding strongman president, Hosni Mubarak. Defying predictions of certain failure, the protesters took over the square, bringing Christian, secular and Islamist Egyptians — as well as affluent and poor citizens — together in idealistic common cause. WATCH | Anti-government protesters clash with pro-Mubarak protesters in Tahrir Square in early 2011: After Mubarak's fall, the country saw a military council take charge, followed by the election of a president from the Muslim Brotherhood, vast counter-revolutionary protests, a military coup and the subsequent massacre of hundreds or more at a Muslim Brotherhood sit-in in August 2013. The 2011 protests spread beyond Egypt to neighbouring Libya — currently all but a failed state — as well as Syria, which was plunged into a horrific civil war that has seen intervention from the region and abroad and has killed tens of thousands and displaced many more. Other countries swept up in the Arab Spring are either in the grip of violence (like Yemen) or in a repressive political vice-grip (Bahrain or the UAE). Only Tunisia, where the wave of protests began, appears to be on a relatively peaceful path of post-revolution political reform. Hard as it may be to talk about Tahrir, given the loss of life and the crackdowns, some veterans of the revolution insist there is something to be salvaged from its ashes. "Yes, society has changed," said Soueif, who wrote a book about the protests called Cairo: My City, Our Revolution. "Everybody believes that something different is absolutely necessary, but [they] don't quite know how to go about getting it." But while there may have been subtle positive consequences from the uprising — like a greater awareness of the rights that have been denied to many people — she cautioned, "I really hesitate to say it because the price has been so high and continues to be so high." On top of what happened to so many Tahrir activists, Soueif's blogger nephew and activist niece are currently in prison. Last year, Soueif was briefly arrested herself for protesting the conditions in their prison during COVID-19. Greater politicization The Tahrir revolution may have laid the groundwork for future action, whenever conditions permit it. For example, it has led to mass politicization among Egyptians, says journalist and blogger Hossam el-Hamalawy, a longtime blogger and activist who was also involved in the 2011 protests and helped document them. One major lesson from that time is that "public squares do not bring down dictators and do not change regimes," he said from Berlin, where he now lives. "The real power is in the factories, it's in the workplaces and it's in the civil service offices." Countless strikes were going on during the revolution and workers were "chanting the same chants that we were chanting in Tahrir… and they declared their solidarity with the revolution," said el-Hamalawy. "That's when I knew that … we're going to win. Victory was on our doorstep." But ultimately, there was no victory. WATCH: Tahrir Square protests lead to political stalemate: Destined to fail? Activists say they found themselves wedged between forces much larger and more organized than they could hope to be — namely, an Islamist vision of the country espoused by the well-established Muslim Brotherhood; the military's iron grip; and the geopolitics of the region, which has long favoured dictators who insisted real democracy was not compatible with stability. There was also the very practical problem of organizing a leaderless movement and marshalling it beyond the streets. The cracks showed immediately after those 18 days. "This was a missed opportunity," said Khaled Fahmy, an Egyptian historian and professor of modern Arabic studies at the University of Cambridge. He happened to be in Egypt when the protests started. Unusually for a historian, he was both an observer and a participant during a revolutionary moment. "There was no attempt to think, OK, now Tahrir — then what? How do you transform this into a movement?" Decades of military and one-party rule in Egypt have made it difficult for national opposition parties to flourish. Another lasting injury from longtime repression, said Fahmy, "is [our] inability … to imagine another world" in which the state as it is today did not exist. That meant the absence of a model of a more open society to point to in Egypt's history. Does all that mean the revolution was destined to fail? "If the revolution had been adopted and protected by the people who had the guns and given the space to work through these decisions and these visions that were coming from the ground up, then it would have worked and we would have had something amazing," said Ahdaf. Tahrir Square's role Beyond serving as the site of protest, Tahrir Square itself provided space and inspiration for discussion of ground-level proposals for an "ideal" Egypt that might have seen the light of day had there been a way to channel them into practice. One example, said Fahmy, was the idea of a demilitarized police force that would be designed to serve the people rather than the state — a novel idea for modern-day Egypt. A far more basic achievement for the square was that it brought people together to talk. "This sounds banal," said Fahmy, but not in a place like Egypt. "Our cities, our country, our political system is designed in a way to deprive us of not only free speech but the ability to listen to others." That kind of conversation is the starting point of compromise, he added. Fahmy believes the revolution continues, at least on some level. The 2011 protests, he said, "is one phase." Soueif agrees. But not el-Hamalawy. "No, it's not ongoing. The revolution got defeated," el-Hamalawy said. "There will be another revolution, but not anytime soon, I'm afraid." Contested legacy Indeed, even among those who participated in the Tahrir revolution, the lessons and the legacy are contested. After years of instability and the return of fear, the old argument that stability trumps freedom resonates among many Egyptians and others throughout the region. That resonance is unsurprising given the state of the Middle East after the protests spread and crackdowns of varying levels of brutality ensued. The message from Egypt's rulers now — as it was during Mubarak's time — is "give up your freedoms and we will give you security," said Fahmy. "It's a Faustian deal and many people accepted that. And the result is that people have not only given up freedoms, they've given up their dreams. That's the most dangerous thing." But el-Hamalawy said Tahrir's legacy cannot be forgotten wholesale. Because of the internet, "the whole visual memory of the revolution, it is saved," he said. "Now there is a younger generation that's growing up and on YouTube, they know quite well that their older brothers were protesting in Tahrir. "The memory is there. Tahrir is there. And it will remain there." This episode of CBC Ideas was produced by Nahlah Ayed and Menaka Raman-Wilms.
Ten months into the coronavirus pandemic, Toronto teen Serena Sri is sorely missing all the "amazing" things about adolescent life, from spirit days, intramural sports and learning in-person at her high school in the city's west end to hanging out with friends and attending her beloved hip-hop dance class. "I'm really a social person and I love being around people. With the pandemic, we can't do that," she said. "I kind of feel more alone and I kind of... shut down in a sense. And I lose my motivation to do anything, even simple things in my daily life." The pandemic has also had a negative effect on Edmonton student Quinncy Raven-Jackson, who says a more solitary life under COVID-19 restrictions has exacerbated the anxiety disorder he's been dealing with. "I have difficulty with social interaction sometimes, so not seeing people, I sometimes forget how much these people care about me and stuff like that. So it was very lonely," said the 19-year-old University of Alberta freshman. "I have a good relationship with both my parents and a great therapist, so I had some safe adults to speak to, fortunately. But even when you have those kinds of help, it doesn't always really resonate." The COVID-19 pandemic has left many teens and young Canadians feeling disconnected, hopeless and unmotivated to navigate school and daily life — and this sentiment is causing concern for parents and experts alike. "Everyone's normal has now changed into something completely different from what it was 10 months ago," said Sadia Fazelyar, a post-secondary student and youth mental health advocate for Jack.org, a national charity focused on young Canadians. "The biggest thing I hear from youth is it's this whole new thing that nobody really knows how to navigate properly." Many young people aren't comfortable speaking up about difficulties, feelings or mental health struggles they're facing, so they look to sports, the arts, clubs or social groups as a form of support, Fazelyar says. "Now it's all been taken away from them and it really hits them hard." WATCH | What would young Canadians tell their pre-pandemic selves? Seeing classmates, friends or family through a screen, even regularly, doesn't offer the same opportunity for connection, added the 21-year-old Ryerson University student. "Youth feel alone. And it's kind of hard to have that conversation or even to bring it up … because it feels like they shouldn't be alone. They get to talk to their classmates five days a week on Zoom in the classroom. They can call their friends. They get to be with their family, but it's just not the same." Concern about the mental well-being of Canada's youth is rising. A child mental health research team spearheaded by Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children is currently conducting a study into the effect COVID-19 is having on the mental health of young Canadians. Ottawa clinics and support groups are seeing a spike in demand for mental health resources, while medical officials in Calgary have noted a rise in cases of eating disorders. Wanting to explore what kids and teens are thinking and feeling about COVID-19, Nikki Martyn, program head of early childhood studies at the University of Guelph-Humber, launched a research project analyzing artwork created by youngsters in response to the pandemic. Though submissions came from children as young as two years old, the majority were by 14- to 17-year-olds, says the educator and child psychology researcher. "It shows how much teenagers really want to be heard and have so much to say." The artworks include illustration, painting, sculpture, mixed-media creations, even musical compositions, and the message within them is clear, according to Martyn: It's a painful time and young people are struggling. WATCH | Social isolation, school closures take a toll on mental health of teens: "They're feeling sad and alone and isolated and worried and scared. They feel lack of motivation and distress and failure," she said. "What I worry about is the helplessness or the disillusionment about their own future. Sometimes even anger, which we all understand. It's the same things in some ways that we're feeling as adults, but it's different because of where they're at developmentally at this time of their life." The writing and phrases included within some of the artwork — "What's the point? No one cares. This is too much. I am not OK. Broken' — speak volumes, Martyn added. "The teens were able to share this perspective and their experience very clearly. I think it's really important that we listen to it." 'It's OK to not be OK now' Martyn says she believes these pandemic-inspired feelings go beyond the already powerful emotions and stresses teens have in regular times, but that this moment also presents families with an opportunity to normalize open discussion about mental health. She suggests parents open up to their kids and teens about their own vulnerabilities, sharing when they themselves are feeling drained, that they've had enough or that they also can't wait for this all to be over. "It's OK to not be OK now," she said. Ashanty Sri is worried about the toll the pandemic is taking on her daughter Serena, who has also been diagnosed with anxiety. She wonders about what longer term effect there may be on today's teens, who are navigating growing up without the social, classroom and even part-time job experiences they're used to. For now, the mother-daughter duo are putting the focus on mental wellbeing by taking small steps, noted the Toronto elementary school teacher. Getting active outdoors has helped, added Serena. "Making sure that I'm still like going outside for walks, even though it's only with my mom... Also a great outlet is talking to somebody like a counselor or a therapist, because I feel like it helps releasing everything." Maintaining connections with peers is another recommendation from Fazelyar, the youth mental health advocate — things like regular phone or video calls with friends, online game nights, watching movies together via apps or, if local restrictions permit, physically distanced time outdoors. "You should still be 'being social,'" Fazelyar said. "When you're thrown into this or you feel like you're kind of alone because you don't have your friends or social network, it's just best to find new ways to adapt."
British ministers are to discuss on Monday further tightening travel restrictions, the BBC reported on Saturday, adding that people arriving in the country could be required to quarantine in hotels. Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a news conference on Friday that the UK may need to implement further measures to protect its borders from new variants of COVID-19. Britain's current restrictions ban most international travel while new rules introduced earlier in January require a negative coronavirus test before departure for most people arriving, as well as a period of quarantine.
A Dalhousie University science student has created a homemade spectrometer that lets her lab-from-home during the coronavirus pandemic. In pre-COVID-19 times, Alanna Gravelle juggled a career in the Canadian Navy with her academic work earning a bachelor of engineering at Dalhousie, meaning she often had to complete her studies while aboard HMCS Halifax. While lectures were easy enough to handle remotely, lessons in the laboratory were harder. So she started to create her own spectrometer, using a flashlight, a plastic tube, a box and a smartphone. "What that does is shines a light through a liquid and you're able to determine the concentration of the liquid with the amount of light that gets absorbed or makes it through the liquid," she said in a recent interview with CBC News. The spectrometer, for example, can help show how much calcium is contained in a crushed and diluted multivitamin, or how many proteins are found in a urine sample. The devices have practical uses in the mining and recycling industries. By the summer of 2020, Gravelle's unusual problem had become mainstream. She won the Lloyd & Margaret Cooley Memorial research scholarship for women studying analytical chemistry and polished her rough design so other students could create it at home. A regular smartphone provides the analytical feedback. She realized another benefit: students would use the lab spectrometer without really understanding what happened inside the device. By making their own at-home version, students get a better understanding of what the machine actually does. "It allows you to carry out experiments at home and collect data, and it also allows you to see the working parts of the spectrometer and understand what they do to give you that data," she said. With all of her classes happening online during the pandemic, she said it's an important way to retain the hands-on experience of science. "Being an engineering student online, third year, right now is very difficult." Gravelle worked with chemistry instructor Roderick Chisholm. Usually, he said, everything happens in the lab. "We've had to completely change that." Students joining classes via video from across Canada, China, the Middle East and Europe are embracing Gravelle's MacGyver approach to taking things they find around the house to build the spectrometer. "Everyone can do it at home, make those measurements, so they can actually feel involved, rather than looking at a presentation or video," Chisholm said. Paper microscopes Learning how the device works has been an extra bonus. "The disadvantage of using this in the lab is they are literally black boxes, so the students would put a sample in and magically they get a number related to absorption," he said. Chisholm thinks the homemade spectrometer could also help out at high schools, where students typically share a $750 professional spectrometer. The homemade version costs about $20, plus the smartphone. His Dalhousie colleague Jennifer Van Dommelen has also gotten her biology students tinkering at home on a low-tech microscope. "We use an instrument called Foldscope, which is a portable microscope assembled from heavy-gauge paper, a lens, and a couple of magnets," said Van Dommelen, a senior instructor at the university. "The lens has a 140X magnification and resolution of two microns; the user can adjust lighting and focus and even attach the Foldscope to their phone or tablet to use their device's optical zoom and take photos." Assemble at home Van Dommelen sends her Dalhousie students kits and instructions so they can assemble it at home. "Putting one together is similar to using paper dolls — you detach the components from a single piece of paper, fold where instructed, add the lens and the magnetic couplers and then reassemble everything into a working, focusable microscope," she said. "The kit includes paper slides that students can use to mount their own specimens, but standard glass slides can also be used." She'd been using them for online classes since 2018 and they are crucial now during the pandemic. Chisholm and Van Dommelen both hope to keep the best parts of lab-from-home active after the pandemic. MORE TOP STORIES
The Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie issued a decree concerning Ontario’s state of emergency last week, detailing how the Catholic church is responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Bishop Thomas Dowd consulted with three regional public health agencies as well as the church’s College of Consultors, chairs of the diocese’s pastoral regions, and bishops of neighbouring dioceses before writing the decree. Mass services in all churches of the diocese are closed to the public until Feb. 11, but priests are encouraged to celebrate mass for broadcast from within their church, whether online or via FM radio. “I think it’s important for people to see that the building may be closed, but the church is still open. The community is still open, and we are still here to serve,” said Dowd. Many priests in the diocese have already developed online services, he added, and if a church has an FM broadcast system, parishioners are allowed to attend mass from their cars in the parking lot. “It’s a creative way for people to come together. They remain in their cars, and have no contact with each other, so there’s no danger of an infectious event,” he said. “That would allow the services in the church, such as the priest’s sermon, and people would be able to be there and tune in.” Priests who are broadcasting services, whether online or over radio, may be assisted by a small team of people in the organization of the mass as long as the total number of people remains below ten and all public health protocols are respected. All pastors of parishes still have an obligation to celebrate pro populo mass on Sunday. “For all other masses with a scheduled mass intention, the person who requested the mass should be contacted to see if they would prefer to reschedule the mass for that intention,” said the decree. “If the person cannot be contacted or they wish to continue to have it on that day (for example, because it is a special anniversary of the death of a loved one) the mass should still be celebrated, albeit privately.” Other worship services, like celebrations of baptism, reconciliation, anointing of the sick, marriage, blessings and funeral services, are still permitted provided that the limit of ten people is respected along with other health protocols. “Just as there are some exceptions to the law, for us, there are also exceptional circumstances. If someone is ill, for example, and they would like to receive the anointing or what some call last rights, that strikes me as very important,” said Dowd. “By nature, some of the services we’re allowed to do, don’t gather big groups of people, and it is possible to do them in a limited number.” Dowd also included in the decree that the “pastoral care of the people of our diocese must continue despite the stay-at-home order.” Parishes are “exhorted” to continue providing pastoral counselling, catechism, times of fellowship and faith sharing, pastoral visits and outreach, and opportunities to pray together. It’s also important for parishes to “examine their means of communicating with their parishioners (phone lists, email lists, websites) and make sure they are maintained and efficient. “This is not just about providing religious rites. It’s about being in contact and checking on people, paying attention when people are suffering or in particular need,” said Dowd. “There’s physical health – that is protecting ourselves from the virus. There’s mental and emotional health – that’s our connection with people. And there’s our spiritual health. “You know, a lot of people are asking themselves the big questions – like what is the meaning of life and all of this? I don’t expect public health authorities to tackle that one. That’s us.” Faith, he added, is especially important during unprecedented times like these. “I don’t want us to say, oh, we’re closed, so let’s just kind of give up. No – we have to keep up the fight. We’ve got to beat this thing,” he said. “In the future, I hope to write a pastoral letter for our people and make some suggestions about how we can be a part of the solution. How can we continue, not just to practise our faith for ourselves, but to be protagonists in beating this virus?” Dowd, who recently took over the role of Bishop in the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie, moved to Northern Ontario from Montreal. He served as the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Montreal from 2011-2020. While he was there, he took part in creating an online outreach program to help those struggling with mental health questions in the context of the pandemic, and he hopes to continue working to support parishioners in Northern Ontario. He was sit in on a conference call with religious leaders across Canada and federal public health authorities as part of that work. “Speaking personally, I hate this virus. One of my best friends, his father died of COVID-19. I had to do the saddest funeral because almost nobody could be there. This was early on in the pandemic,” he said. “Another one of my friends, her 30-year-old brother, wound up intubated in the hospital for weeks. It’s not just older people – anybody can catch it. Thankfully, he’s better but he’s still suffering health problems. My own brother died last summer, and we had to have a drive-through service.” He understands how tough lockdowns can be, but he also understands the dangers of the virus. “This decree is really our attempt to be good citizens and to respond to the needs of our time. I think this is what Jesus would want us to do.” Instructions on the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday are forthcoming. The decree took effect as of Jan. 16, 2021. Anyone with questions about its implementation is encouraged to contact the Chancellor of the diocese, Father Jean Vézina. The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. email@example.com Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
Though health officials in both Ontario and Quebec have warned against crossing the Ottawa River's bridges purely for recreation, that guidance doesn't seem to have reached the parking lots of Gatineau Park. One week ago, Ottawa's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vera Etches, told Ottawans not to cross the river. Pontiac, Que., Mayor Joanne Labadie had said even earlier that hikers, skiers and snowshoers from Ottawa and Gatineau, Que., were exploring trails in her area, even with both provinces under lockdown. Even so, on Friday — with 15 centimetres of fresh, powdery snow on the ground and blue skies overhead — the lure of Gatineau Park proved too much for some Ontarians to resist. About half of the vehicles at the P16 and P17 trailheads at Meech Creek and in Wakefield, Que., bore Ontario plates. Almost none of the park visitors agreed to speak to CBC on the record about why they'd decided to ignore the instructions of several mayors, various medical officers of health, and not one but two premiers. 'They want to support us' Many shop clerks in nearby Chelsea, Que., also declined interview requests, saying they don't want to discourage Ontarians from spending their money locally. "Some [visitors from Ontario] have a little bit of a guilty appearance or tone," said Bruce Minnes, who works at Cafe Les Saisons. "But they want to support us, so they're coming in to help keep things going here, too." Cross-country skier Ian Takoff was one of the few Ontarians willing to make his opinion heard. "I think the people that decided that aren't really skiers. They don't know what happens when you get up here to ski," said Takoff. At 82, and a visitor to the park for the past 40 years, Takoff has a pretty good idea. He said he and his wife skied nearly 18 kilometres Friday in the mild temperatures, without talking to anybody else. 'No danger' They normally drive to the parking lot, do their skiing, and return home, he said. And with winter apparently in full swing now, Takoff — along with some of the others unwilling to go on the record about their intentions — say they have no plans on stopping their visits to Gatineau Park. "It would be different if bars were open, and restaurants, and people were stopping and fraternizing with people from Quebec," Takoff said. "This particular activity, skiing, there's no danger, I'd say."
Despite the curfew, frigid temperatures and available shelter space, many of Montreal's homeless prefer the freedom of sleeping outdoors and one Montreal organization wants to keep those who prefer the outside safe from the elements. CARE Montreal, a homeless advocacy organization, is offering 20 bivouac shelters made out of foam insulation with reflective foil to those in need, as part of a pilot project. The shelters are designed to keep people warm by trapping body heat. "Our thinking was, why don't we bring the shelter to them instead of asking them to come to the shelter," said Michel Monette, the founder and director of the organization which is based in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. The insulated, waterproof shelters are cylindrical, about two-metres long and come in one- or two-person models that can get up to 20 C warmer than outdoors. "What we know is shelters are not for everyone," said Monette. "They might have had some problems in shelters before and they might not understand the rules, or can't follow them." Monette hopes these portable shelters can be a safer option for people who want to avoid shelters. "It's a very very soft foam and it's insulated and the person inside can be easily protected from the weather," Monette said, noting there is some ventilation to allow for airflow. So far, one homeless person has tested out the shelter and complained of a few flaws but Monette is working with the shelter's designer to make some improvements. The bottom line is, Monette doesn't want to see people sleeping out in the cold. He said he has worked out a deal with Montreal police. He said the SPVM has agreed to not ticket people sleeping in the shelters for violating curfew. When asked to confirm this arrangement, an SPVM spokesperson directed questions to the Centre de contrôle des mesures d'urgence. That centre directed CBC's questions to Montreal public relations. A spokesperson for Montreal directed all questions to the SPVM and the SPVM has not yet responded to a second request for comment. Monette said the main goal is to save lives as temperatures can drop to deadly levels in the winter. "People are still outside, who sleep outside, and it's very sad," he said. "This is what we don't want."