Details with meteorologist Tyler Hamilton.
Details with meteorologist Tyler Hamilton.
WASHINGTON — Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm won Senate confirmation Thursday to be energy secretary, joining President Joe Biden's Cabinet as a leader of Biden’s effort to build a green economy as the United States moves to slow climate change. The vote was 64-35, with all Democrats and 14 Republicans, including GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, voting yes. Granholm, 62, served two terms as governor in a state dominated by the auto industry and devastated by the 2008 recession. She has promoted emerging clean energy technologies, such as electric vehicles and battery manufacturing, as an answer for jobs that will be lost as the U.S. transitions away from oil, coal and other fossil fuels. Granholm, who was sworn in late Thursday, is just the second woman to serve as energy secretary. She tweeted her thanks to senators and said, "I’m obsessed with creating good-paying clean energy jobs in all corners of America in service of addressing our climate crisis. I’m impatient for results. Now let’s get to work!'' Sen. Joe Manchin, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Granholm has the leadership skills, vision and compassion needed at the Energy Department to “develop innovative solutions for the climate challenge'' while preserving jobs. Granholm is committed to working every day “to ensure that we don’t leave any workers behind as we move towards a cleaner energy future,'' said Manchin, D-W.Va. During her confirmation hearing last month, Granholm pushed her plans to embrace new wind and solar technologies. But her position caused tension with some Republicans who fear for the future of fossil fuels. “We can buy electric car batteries from Asia, or we can make them in America,” Granholm told senators. “We can install wind turbines from Denmark, or we can make them in America.'' Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee, said Biden “seems to want to pull the plug on American energy dominance. So I cannot in good conscience vote to approve his nominee for secretary of energy.'' Barrasso and other Republicans have complained that a freeze imposed by Biden on oil and gas leases on federal lands is taking a “sledgehammer” to Western states’ economies. The moratorium could cost tens of thousands of jobs unless rescinded, Barrasso said. He and other Republicans also bemoaned Biden’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, saying thousands of jobs will be lost and a friendly source of oil left idle. Granholm assured lawmakers that creating jobs was her top priority — and Biden's. “We cannot leave our people behind. In West Virginia, and in other fossil fuel states, there is an opportunity for us to specialize in the technologies that reduce carbon emissions, to make those technologies here, to put people to work here, and to look at other ways to diversify,'' she said at her Jan. 27 hearing. During her introduction as Biden's nominee, Granholm described arriving in the U.S. at age 4, brought from Canada by a family “seeking opportunity.” She said her father found work as a bank teller and retired as head of the bank. “It’s because of my family’s journey and my experience in fighting for hardworking Michigan families that I have become obsessed ... with gaining good-paying jobs in America in a global economy,” she said. In other action Thursday on Biden's Cabinet nominees: SURGEON GENERAL Surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy said Americans must not lose track of opioid addiction and other health emergencies amid the intense national focus on overcoming the coronavirus pandemic. He told senators at a hearing that “we cannot neglect the other public health crises that have been exacerbated by this pandemic, particularly the opioid epidemic, mental illness and racial and geographic health inequities.” After dipping slightly, opioid deaths have risen again, the result of street formulations laced with the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Murthy told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that the overdose rescue drug naloxone should be even more widely available and that medication-assisted treatment must be expanded. Murthy, who was surgeon general in the Obama administration, has drawn opposition from gun rights groups because of his assessment that gun violence is a public health problem. But he tried to dispel notions that he would launch a crusade against guns. He told Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., that while he supports government studying the problem, “my focus is not on this issue, and if I’m confirmed it will be on COVID, on mental health and substance use disorder.” TRADE REPRESENTATIVE Biden’s pick for U.S. trade representative promised to work with America’s allies to combat China’s aggressive trade policies, indicating a break from the Trump administration’s go-it-alone approach. Katherine Tai told the Senate Finance Committee that rebuilding international alliances would be a priority, as well as "reengaging with international institutions? to present Beijing with “a united front of U.S. allies.? Tai did not address whether the Biden administration would drop former President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum or whether it would revive the Obama administration's Asia-Pacific trade deal, which Trump killed. BUDGET DIRECTOR Another key Republican lawmaker came out against Biden’s embattled pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, raising further questions about her viability. Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters he won't support her nomination. He and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski were two Republicans seen as potentially gettable votes for the White House, as Grassley had previously said he’d had good conversations with Tanden. Murkowski has yet to say how she'd vote. With a handful of other key centrist Republicans coming out against her in recent days, Tanden’s path to confirmation hinges largely on Murkowski and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., neither of whom have made their positions known. The White House was forced to search for a Republican to support Tanden after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced his opposition last week. Lawmakers have largely cited Tanden’s controversial and at times harshly critical tweets about members of both parties in explaining their opposition to her. ___ Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Paul Wiseman contributed to this report. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
(Scott Crowson/CBC - image credit) Parks Canada is welcoming six plains bison to Waterton Lakes National Park, a move that is ecologically significant for the park and culturally significant for Indigenous communities in southern Alberta. "Every time a tribe or a park starts a herd, that's wonderful news for our people because it means strengthening our culture, it means revitalizing of our grasslands and the bringing back biodiversity, which is good for the land," said Prof. Leroy Little Bear, a member of the Kainai Nation and a special advisor to the president at the University of Lethbridge. The six young bison were released into the winter bison paddocks on Feb. 19. Little Bear says the bison are a key species in the songs, stories and ceremonies of Indigenous culture. There are buffalo jumps and "all over the Waterton Lakes area," he said, noting some of those historical sites were exposed by the Kenow wildfire that tore through the area four years ago. Little Bear said the Blood Tribe has been working with national parks, and Waterton in particular, to bring buffalo back to the area. This is one of the inhabitants of the summer bison paddock at Waterton Lakes National Park in 2008. "Sometime in the foreseeable future, we might use them, as the herd grows, for economic purposes. But right now, our intent is to focus on cultural purposes and research, you know, cultural aspects, the land and so on," Little Bear said. "Those are the kind of things we want to work on with Waterton. And we're very, very thankful to the national park service for working with us, partnering with us in this buffalo restoration." Bison welcomed with prayer ceremony On Feb. 19, as the animals arrived, they were blessed in a physically distanced prayer ceremony by Blackfoot Confederacy elders from Kainai Nation, Piikani Nation and Siksika Nation. "It was a wonderful sight to see those buffalo come off the trailers and running to the paddock.… It was a wonderful sight to see them, you know, coming to their new homes," said Little Bear. Parks Canada says people will be able to view the bison when they move to the summer paddocks in the spring. At that time, visitors will be able to cruise around the summer paddock loop road for viewing. Leroy Little Bear, a University of Lethbridge professor, welcomed the return of bison to Waterton Lakes National Park. It's a welcome return, said Kimberly Pearson, a nature legacy ecosystem scientist with Parks Canada at Waterton, for a park that has hosted a herd of bison since 1952 — until the 2017 Kenow fire. "Since 1952, there's been a small herd within the summer and winter bison paddocks. They alternate between those paddocks through the year," Pearson said, noting the herd was relocated as the fire approached, mostly to Grasslands National Park. Impact on ecosystem Pearson said there is quite a bit of research surrounding the return of the bison and their impact on the ecosystem. "Waterton Lakes National Park has some science happening on the ground, actually a fairly large science program around post-fire ecology, the ecology within the landscape following the Kenow wildfire. And some of that research includes the bison paddock," she said. "One researcher, in particular, has really taken a close look at the vegetation, both before and following the wildfire. And going forward, they can now look at the ecological impacts of bison on that area as well as fire." Pearson said the impact of the bison is expected to be positive, especially in the wake of the fire. "They're called ecosystem engineers. They alter the landscape in ways that are really beneficial to virtually all plants and animals, and restoring them benefits the entire ecosystem from top predators all the way down through the soils," Pearson said. Parks Canada welcomed six plains bison from Elk Island National Park to the Waterton Lakes National Park bison paddock last week. The new bison have been transferred from Elk Island National Park. There are four females and two males. "In a couple of years, they will start reproducing, and building up their numbers," Pearson said. "So we will start seeing calves on the ground, probably a couple of springs from now — so something to look forward to."
NEW YORK — Another mutated version of the coronavirus has popped up in New York City, and experts reacted to the the news with a mixture of caution and concern. The new variant first appeared in the New York area in late November, and has since cropped up in neighbouring states, according to researchers at the California Institute of Technology, one of two teams to share their work this week. But how problematic the variant may be isn’t known yet. Viruses are constantly mutating — or making typos in their genetic code — as they spread and make copies of themselves. “Most are not of particular concern,” said Francois Balloux, director of the University College London’s Genetics Institute. However, he added, “Noticing them early, flagging them, raising concern is useful." That's because some genetic tweaks can be worrisome, especially if they help the virus spread more easily, make it more deadly or curb the effectiveness of vaccines. Scientists use genome sequencing and other research to figure out which are a potential problem. New York City health officials and Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday sought to tamp down worries about the new variant, emphasizing that the new research is preliminary and little is known about the variant. “Some variants are just that, they’re variants.” said Dr. Jay Varma, senior health adviser to the mayor. WHAT DID THEY FIND IN NEW YORK? Two research groups — at Caltech and Columbia University in New York — released papers this week describing their findings about the new variant. Neither paper has been published or reviewed by other scientists. The Caltech researchers found that the new variant showed up in about a quarter of the 1,200 virus sequences they looked at this month. The variant has also shown up in New Jersey and Connecticut and has made “isolated appearances across the country,” said CalTech's Anthony West, a co-author of the paper. On Thursday, Columbia University researchers released their research that scrutinized about 1,100 virus samples from patients treated at the university's medical centre, dating back to November. During the second week of February, the new variant was identified in 12% of the samples, they reported. They also found patients infected with the mutated virus were more likely to be older and have been hospitalized. Both groups noted that the new variant has a mutation that could potentially weaken the effectiveness of vaccines — a mutation seen in other worrisome variants. “There is clearly something to keep an eye on,” Balloux said. HOW MANY OTHER VARIANTS ARE THERE? New variants have been showing up throughout the pandemic, but three are considered the most worrisome — they've been designated “variants of concern." They were first detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil but have spread to other countries. The one identified in the U.K. late last year has since been found in 45 U.S. states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The strain is concerning because it has so many mutations, nearly two dozen. Some are on the spiky protein that the virus uses to attach to and infect cells — and that current vaccines and antibody drugs target. One of the spike protein mutations is seen in the variants discovered early on in Brazil and South Africa, and, now, the new variant in New York. A variant that has been spreading in California is also getting attention. It's been found in 40% to 50% of samples examined by the Los Angeles Count Department of Public Health, according to Director Barbara Ferrer. But there isn't enough rigorous research to determine what, if any, effect its mutations might have. WHAT'S NEXT? After what many described as a slow start, the federal government in recent weeks has ramped up its genetic sequencing to look for and study virus variants to figure out which ones might be a problem. In the meantime, Ana S. Gonzalez Reiche, a virologist at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, urged caution. “Without evidence, we don’t need to alarm ourselves about every variant detected,” she said. Studies are raising concern that first-generation COVID-19 vaccines don’t work as well against a variant that first emerged in South Africa as they do against other versions. In response, drug companies are already figuring out how to modify their vaccines. Experts say that in the meantime, public health measures like social distancing and masks will reduce opportunities for the coronavirus to continue mutating and run rampant. “Emerging of variants will occur," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told NBC on Thursday. "The trick is when they do occur, to prevent them from spreading.” ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Marion Renault, The Associated Press
CANBERRA, Australia — Facebook announced on Friday preliminary agreements with three Australian publishers, a day after the Parliament passed a law that would make the digital giants pay for news. Facebook said letters of intent had been signed with independent news organizations Private Media, Schwartz Media and Solstice Media. The commercial agreements are subject to the signing of full agreements within the next 60 days, a Facebook statement said. “These agreements will bring a new slate of premium journalism, including some previously paywalled content, to Facebook,” the statement said. Schwartz Media chief executive Rebecca Costello said the deal would help her company continue to produce independent journalism. “It’s never been more important than it is now to have a plurality of voices in the Australian press,” Costello said. Private Media chief executive Will Hayward said the new deal built on an existing Facebook partnership. Australia's Parliament on Thursday had passed the final amendments to the so-called News Media Bargaining Code. In return for the changes, Facebook agreed to lift a six-day-old ban on Australians accessing and sharing news. Access to Australian news sites did not appear to be fully restored until Friday. Google, the only other digital giant targeted by the legislation, has already struck content licensing deals, or is close to deals, with some of Australia’s biggest news publishers including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and Seven West Media. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new Australian law was critical to the deals that Australian media businesses were negotiating with the two gateways to the internet. Under the law, if a platform can't reach agreement with a news business, an arbitration panel can be appointed to set a legally binding price for journalism. "Global tech giants are changing the world, but we can’t let them run the world,” Morrison told reporters. “People in free societies like Australia, who go to ballot boxes and who go and they vote, that’s who should run the world,” Morrison added. Facebook Vice-President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg on Wednesday took a veiled swipe at News Corp. in a social media post criticizing Australia’s law, which is aimed at setting a fair price for the Australian journalism that the digital platforms display. “It is ironic that some of the biggest publishers that have long advocated for free markets and voluntary commercial undertakings now appear to be in favour of state sponsored price setting,” the former British deputy prime minister wrote. News Corp. Australia executive chairman Michael Miller said last week that his company had pay negotiations with Facebook. “Having been someone who’s dealt with Facebook over the past months, we have some weeks where we’re getting good engagement and think we’re progressing and then you get silence. I think the door is still open,” Miller told a Senate inquiry into Australian media diversity. News Corp. owns most of Australia’s major newspapers, and some analysts argue the U.S.-based international media empire is the driver for the conservative Australian government making Facebook and Google pay. News Corp. has announced a wide-ranging deal with Google covering operations in the United States and Britain as well as Australia. Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press
The Manitoba government is lookig at loosening many of its public health orders as its COVID-19 numbers improve. The province is seeking public feedback on a series of changes.
CALGARY — A judge has sentenced a man with a benign brain tumour, who lost consciousness while driving and killed a Calgary woman, to 27 months in prison. James Beagrie, 48, was originally charged with criminal negligence causing death after his truck hit Anjna Sharma, a mother of three, who had been on a walk during a work break in May 2017. Beagrie pleaded guilty last fall to a lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death. Court heard he had been told by his doctor not to drive and, three months before killing Sharma, blacked out and got into a single-vehicle crash. "I would describe this offence in two words -- tragic and senseless," Alberta Court of Queen's Bench Justice Richard Neufeld said in his sentencing decision Thursday. "Mr. Beagrie ignored all of those warnings and drove anyway, and he will live with that for the rest of his life. It's exactly that type of behaviour that must be denounced and deterred so other lives can be saved." Neufeld said Beagrie deserved a sentence of 30 months, but he lowered it to 27 months because of the man's "precarious medical condition." "In my view, justice without compassion is not justice at all ... he is on borrowed time himself. A sentence of 2 1/2 years may turn out to be a life sentence," said Neufeld. The Crown had asked that Beagrie serve 2 1/2 years in prison. His defence lawyer suggested two years. The judge also ordered Beagrie be banned from driving for 7 1/2 years after his release. "If you do recover, as I hope you will, you will have served your debt to society and will deserve a chance after a period of time to return to normalcy," Neufeld said. "This ordeal does not need to define the rest of your life, just as I truly hope that it will not define the rest of the lives and happiness of the Sharma family in the years to come." On Monday, Beagrie apologized in court and promised not to drive when he get out of prison, unless it's a matter of "life and limb.'' This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. -- Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The Canadian Judicial Council says a Quebec judge has resigned after the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear his appeal. Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner says Michel Girouard's decision to step down from the Quebec Superior Court "narrowly avoids his removal from office by Parliament." A 2012 complaint alleged that Girouard, while he was still a lawyer, had bought illegal drugs from a client. An inquiry committee rejected the allegations but cited contradictions and implausibilities in Girouard’s testimony. A second complaint about Girouard’s credibility during the initial proceedings led a majority of judges on the council to recommend he lose his job. The Federal Court and the Court of Appeal dismissed Girouard's attempts to overturn the recommendation, prompting his application to the Supreme Court. In a news release Thursday as chairperson of the judicial council, Wagner said Girouard's resignation "is the last chapter in a prolonged saga that has undermined expectations of access to justice and has cost Canadians millions of dollars." Wagner said Canada benefits from outstanding judges who demonstrate the highest ethical integrity but the Girouard matter shows that the disciplinary process that deals with instances of judicial misconduct must be re-examined. "In the matter of Michel Girouard, proceedings have been going on for eight years now. Throughout this entire period, Michel Girouard has continued to receive his full salary despite not sitting, and he will now receive a pension for life, all at the expense of Canadian taxpayers," said Wagner. Earlier Thursday, Justice Minister David Lametti said he would seek parliamentary approval to remove Girouard from the bench. Lametti said Thursday on Twitter that as the "lengthy process has unfolded, I have made it clear that I fully intended to act if Justice Girouard exhausted his avenues of appeal and the revocation decision was upheld. That moment has arrived." Lametti said he intended to proceed with Girouard's removal by seeking the necessary approval of the House of Commons and Senate. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
The Peace River Regional District will issue a letter of support for a plan by Telus to expand LTE connectivity in the region. The company is applying to the federal Universal Broadband Fund and is under the wire after its original Feb. 15 deadline was pushed to March. PRRD directors expressed mixed opinions at their board meeting Thursday, with some saying the company has failed to properly communicate with them. Hudson’s Hope Mayor Dave Heiberg said he was initially skeptical, but was convinced of the benefits after a conversation with Telus’ Northern Alberta and BC Interior General Manager Brian Bettis. "This is what the fibre working group was trying to achieve, to get that last mile,” said Heiberg of PRRD’s connectivity committee. “And if the intent is to provide these areas with service to premise, that is a large part of what our goal was, in my mind.” Telus is proposing to expand connectivity in Bear Flat, Bear Mountain, East Pine, Farmington, Farrell Creek, Fort St John, Goodlow, Moberly Lake, Mount Wabi, Pouce Coupe, Prespatou, Rose Prairie, Septimus, Taylor, and Tupper. Heiberg noted the company is also looking at fibre optic and cellular upgrades around Canyon Drive and a portion of Beryl Prairie in Hudson's Hope. But director Leonard Hiebert says the company has backed out meetings scheduled with electoral area directors about their plans. “Considering they’re a communications company, they don’t communicate very well,” said Hiebert. “I can’t justify supporting this if they’re not going to communicate with us in the areas that they’re trying to do this work in." "They expect us to support them blindly," he said. Chetwynd Mayor Allen Courtoreille says the district's questions to Telus about its plans have also gone unanswered. "To this day, I haven’t got a response to what they were going to give us in terms of fibre. I would not support this,” said Courtoreille. Director Dan Rose said Telus is the most likely to complete any cellular upgrades in the region, but said it has not improved its communications with the PRRD. “We met with Brian Bettis when he was first appointed into this new role, and he guaranteed us that we would see a big change in how they communicated. And we have, they’re even worse,” said Rose. “People who adjudicate these applications probably place a fair amount of weight in to what kind of support they’re getting from the community. This is not nearly enough information for me, after the way we’ve been left hanging.” Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman agreed that Telus is the only choice for connectivity, and supported writing a letter of support. “Connectivity is a topic on absolutely every bloody call that we have with every minister, regardless of what their mandate letter contains," Ackerman said. "Putting in this infrastructure is extremely expensive.” Director Karen Goodings noted there are a number of other connectivity initiatives already underway. “We’re getting this again from too many directions, and not being able to ascertain what ones are actually going to be able to support the people,” said Goodings. Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead said connectivity is a problem in rural areas, pointing to areas around Prespatou and Buick Creek. “It’s very spotty in terms of being able to have any access to anything," Bumstead. "This is a good thing if we can increase capacity." Telus representative Bettis said the company is spending $10 million dollars on the plan, and that the federal grant would only cover a portion of its infrastructure costs. He said says some new LTE towers will be installed, while others will be upgraded to enhance existing service. "It's been a particular challenge getting back in front of the PRRD for a proper meeting," he said of the directors' criticisms. "Universal broadband fund is a significant initiative, and we wanted to make sure that every municipality elligible was able to be engaged." Scheduling has been an issue, he said. "With that comes the fact that we're dealing with multiple municipalities across different areas, and trying to co-ordinate meetings. Most councils meet on similiar days," he said, adding he met with directors shortly after Christmas, providing background and maps on the proposed LTE upgrades. Bettis says he's reached out to arrange another meeting with the regional district. email@example.com Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News
NEW YORK — Is it Mr. Potato Head or not? Hasbro created confusion Thursday when it announced that it would drop the “Mr.” from the brand’s name in order to be more inclusive and so all could feel “welcome in the Potato Head world.” It also said it would sell a new playset this fall without the Mr. and Mrs. designations that will let kids create their own type of potato families, including two moms or two dads. But in a tweet later that afternoon, Hasbro clarified that the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head characters will still live on and be sold in stores, but under the Potato Head brand. In a picture posted on Twitter, the “Mr.” and “Mrs.” names are less prominently displayed at the bottom of the box, instead of the top. “While it was announced today that the POTATO HEAD brand name & logo are dropping the ‘MR.’ I yam proud to confirm that MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD aren’t going anywhere and will remain MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD,” the company tweeted. The tweet came after news of the brand name change exploded on Twitter, with people asking if Barbie will change her name next. “I think Hasbro needs to drop the “Bro” and just be “Has,'” another person tweeted. Hasbro appears to want to have it both ways: expand the brand, while not killing off its most iconic characters, which appeared in the “Toy Story” films. “They are looking to broaden the franchise,” said Robert Passikoff, founder of marketing consultancy Brand Keys. “You take the focus of what is essentially one character and now allow it to be a platform for many characters.” Kimberly Boyd, a senior vice-president at Hasbro, said the intention of the brand name change was to be more inclusive and to have the characters still live within the Potato Head universe. “It created a lot of excitement," she said about the reaction. GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy group, applauded the more inclusive Potato playset. “Hasbro is helping kids to simply see toys as toys, which encourages them to be their authentic selves outside of the pressures of traditional gender norms,” said Rich Ferraro, GLAAD’s chief communications officer, in a statement. Many toymakers have been updating their classic brands in recent years, hoping to relate to today’s kids and reflect more modern families. “It’s a potato,” said Ali Mierzejewski, editor in chief at toy review site The Toy Insider, about the new playset. “But kids like to see themselves in the toys they are playing with.” Barbie, for example, has tried to shed its blonde image and now comes in multiple skin tones and body shapes. The Thomas the Tank Engine toy line added more girl characters. And American Girl is now selling a boy doll. Mr. Potato Head first hit the toy scene in 1952, when it didn’t even come with a plastic potato — kids had to supply their own vegetable to poke eyes, a nose or moustache into. Hasbro, which also makes Monopoly and My Little Pony, bought the brand and eventually added a plastic spud. Joseph Pisani, The Associated Press
Exploring the mountains, breathing in the fresh air, and connecting to the land is when Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) woman Myia Antone is happiest — whether it's hiking, skiing, or simply sitting back and taking in the beauty that surrounds her. Sharing this feeling with others and breaking down barriers to outdoor recreation for indigenous women has become her passion. The 24-year-old is the founder and director of Indigenous Women Outdoors, a new non-profit organization that helps First Nations women reconnect to their traditional territories and roots through backcountry sports on the North Shore and in Squamish. The group creates safe learning experiences through outdoor programs that provide gear and training to give women the confidence to take part in skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, hiking, and other activities. Antone's inspiration to help women in her community reignite their connection to the outdoors stems from facing barriers to backcountry sports in her own childhood, as well as not seeing a whole lot of indigenous representation in the outdoor industry growing up. “I always loved getting outdoors, but as everyone knows there are so many barriers for folx to get outside, whether that's gear or time, money or knowledge,” she said. “Growing up in Squamish, I saw so many people doing these really crazy, cool activities and I wanted to try them but that wasn't really an option for me at that point. Then when I got older and I was able to start affording these things a bit more and I started getting into the sports, I saw no other indigenous folx, or very few of us, in these spaces.” Breaking down barriers to the backcountry In 2017, Antone put the wheels in motion to start making a change with Tá7elnexwtway, a hiking project for Squamish Nation women that she kick-started with a grant. “I guess I've always just wanted to help people, especially in my community, and figure out how best I can,” she said. “So, I started a hiking program a couple of years ago. There was a lot of excitement around it, and I realized I wanted to grow it and help more indigenous folx who live on my territory.” The result is her inspiring non-profit organization IWO, which launched last year. “By creating a non-profit, I was really able to reach a wider audience and apply for more grants," Antone said. "It's through the grants and the partnerships now with local organizations that we’re able to offer some pretty awesome programming.” At the moment, the IWO courses are a little restricted due to COVID-19 provincial health officer regulations, but they are currently running a backcountry mentorship program for six women, focused on skiing, snowboarding and avalanche safety. “Everyone in the program is new to the backcountry, so it's pretty sweet being able to support these women on their journey,” Antone said. “We've been doing two workshops a month, all about safety in the backcountry and we provide [Avalanche Canada] AST courses for everyone. It's just a way to get outside and be in the mountains surrounded by the forest and the trees with other Indigenous folx.” When asked how women have responded to the program so far, Antone exclaimed: “Oh my gosh. They love it!” A post shared by indigenous women outdoors (@indigwomenoutdoors)Reigniting a connection to the land While backcountry safety and practical skills are a big part of the programming, Antone is also passionate about reconnecting Indigenous peoples to their lands and roots because it allows an opportunity for healing and to share knowledge and culture in a safe space. “It's such a special feeling to be in the mountains with just other Indigenous women, especially because a bunch of us are from the local communities,” she said. “Knowledge sharing is really easy when you're in a really safe and comfortable space. A lot of us are either coming back to our communities or cultures and learning our languages and ceremonies and so, we get to really share that piece of ourselves with the group too. “We get to leave every day just so happy in our hearts and spirits, and our minds are full of knowledge.” On top of running the non-profit, Antone is also a full-time student in the Squamish Language program at Simon Fraser University – learning and teaching the traditional language is another of her great loves. “There is this really amazing energy in the Indigenous revitalization space, where a lot of young folx are wanting to reclaim that piece of us and are wanting to learn and teach the languages that our people come from,” said Antone, who is also a UBC graduate in environment and sustainability. “For me, getting outside and land-based learning is such a big piece of it. So, I'm hoping to bridge my outdoor work with my language work. “I think that would be my dream.” Antone is also hoping to break down the barriers surrounding indigenous knowledge of the land and the outdoors and make it more widely recognized. “I think there is space in avalanche safety training and in the outdoor world to really uphold Indigenous knowledge, especially when the local communities have been on these lands for generations and thousands of years. We have such an intimate knowledge of these lands ... but we don’t hold space for that.” Youngest recipient of the Tim Jones Award Her inspirational work was recognized this week on the North Shore. In her mid-20s, Antone has become the youngest recipient of the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival's Tim Jones Community Achievement Award, which is co-presented by North Shore Rescue. The award is presented to a community member who has made an outstanding contribution to the North Shore outdoor or sports community, in memoriam of the late and great Tim Jones, a paramedic and chief for more than 24 years with North Shore Rescue. Now in its eighth year, the award represents Jones’ legacy and serves as an inspiration to the community to selflessly help others. It highlights those who educate and share a passion for nature and a love for the North Shore’s backyard mountains, just as Jones did. While the past seven recipients of the award – which is usually regarded as more of a lifetime achievement – have been quite a bit older than Antone, this year the VIMFF shifted its focus to a younger generation to “inspire everyone that making a change and contributing to society does not come with age, but with passion and tenacity.” And, Antone has demonstrated all of that and so much more through her work with IWO. It’s why her friend and colleague Sandy Ward nominated her. “She strives to break down the barriers that keep these women from recreational sports, including high costs of equipment and access to knowledge,” Ward said in her submission. “She provides a safe space for these women to learn and thrive within a very tough industry.” And, the judges couldn’t agree more. Lindsay Jones, wife of the late Tim Jones, said Antone was “a wonderful role model.” “She selflessly helps other Indigenous women feel safe and supported while inspiring them to reconnect with their ancestral land,” she said. Peter Haigh, a North Shore Rescue member, said Antone deserved the recognition, and he hoped the spotlight helped her become better known, so she can encourage more participation in the outdoors. “Myia is re-introducing members of her society who would typically not learn to enjoy the great outdoors that some of us love,” he said. “She is active in the outdoors and encouraging others to experience the healing powers.” 'Honoured' to be recognized for her work Antone said she was “grateful and surprised” to receive the Tim Jones Award. “I'm very honoured that a friend nominated me,” she said. “I do work really hard and I put my head down, and that's just what I've always done, and what I do. So, to have people that I really look up to see that in me, it just means so much." She said it was “amazing” the award was now acknowledging younger generations. “The reality is we're going to be doing this work for a really, really long time, and to see people recognize that in us already, is really empowering and it makes me want to work even harder and inspire more people," Antone said. “I'm just really excited and I really hope that I can hold Tim Jones’ legacy in a beautiful way and really honour his life, his spirit, and his family.” Looking to the future, Antone hopes to grow the IWO community through a mentorship program with past participants. “I hope that we are able to inspire other indigenous folx to want to try these outdoor sports and have a base where we can support more and more people," she said. “I would love next year for people to not have to ask me what my non-profit is, but for them to just know who we are and what we do and know that our door is always open.” Elisia Seeber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News
A disengaged lighting system in a vehicle led to a Cardinal man being arrested on multiple drug-related offences earlier this week. Ontario Provincial Police from the Grenville detachment say they were on general patrol Wednesday night when officers noticed a vehicle without its lighting system on and conducted a traffic stop at 9:40 p.m. Police did not identify on what road the traffic stop took place. Police say after speaking with the driver, they found him to be in possession of what is believed to be methamphetamine. After arresting the man, a search of the vehicle found serval packages of the drug, including in pill form. Also found in the search was a scale, packaging material and a quantity of cash, said police. John Fahrngruber, 61, has been charged with two counts of possession of a Schedule I substance, one count of possession of a Schedule I substance for the purpose of trafficking, failure to comply with an undertaking and possession of proceeds of property obtained by crime under $5,000. Police released the accused from custody, and he is scheduled for a court appearance in Brockville on April 30. Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
POUCE COUPE, B.C. — The mayor of a village in northeastern British Columbia says she is sorry for an online post that was not meant to be racist against Indigenous Peoples, but now she wants people to stop bullying her. Lorraine Michetti, who was first elected in Pouce Coupe in 2016, said through tears Thursday that she realizes people were hurt after seeing the post showing photos of garbage-strewn lawns with a caption that suggested those who want to protect their land from pipelines should clean up their own backyards. "I'm not sleeping. I'm upset that people think I'm racist," Michetti said in an interview. Michetti said she put the post on Facebook about two years ago and took it down about 10 minutes later but it was saved by someone and she believes it would resurface. Instead, the mayor said she reposted the original herself last week and that it was meant to draw attention to environmental issues though she now understands its contents were offensive to some people. She said she has issued apologies to local First Nations. "I realized that they're hurting but I never, ever, ever meant it to be racist," she said. Michetti said she is hoping to take cultural sensitivity courses, which would send a clear message to First Nations and her council that she is making efforts to come to terms with her actions, even as local residents continue criticizing her. "I'm trying. Let me prove myself. Why are people texting me and messaging me and degrading me and bullying me?" The post was taken out of context, she said. At a council meeting on Monday, the mayor also admitted she sent a Facebook post in which she suggested federal gun control laws make her feel like a Jew "waiting for my cattle car." As Coun. Ken Drover began asking her about likening herself to a Jew waiting to go to a gas chamber, Michetti cut him off. "Once they take our guns away, back when Hitler, that's what it was all about," she told council. "That is a terrible, terrible, comparison. How dare you compare yourself to a Jewish person? There is no comparison. That comparison is inexcusable," Drover said. "I realize that, Ken, but that again was taken out of context," Michetti responded. She also said she would not step down as mayor, adding: "I got emails coming out of my yingyang for me not to resign, from all over Canada." Drover resigned from his position on Wednesday. Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne called Michetti's comments a serious issue. "I want to be clear that anti-Indigenous racism and anti-Semitism require us to all come together and challenge inequities and we have no space for these actions in our communities," she said at a news conference on infrastructure spending. "We expect all elected officials to act with integrity and with respect. They must explain their choices and be accountable to their community." Osborne said the province is working to update legislation regarding municipal politicians. Pouce Coupe introduced a code of conduct in 2018, and at an emergency meeting last weekend councillors accused Michetti of violating it. Chris Leggett, the village's chief administrative officer, said the code of conduct gives Michetti two weeks to explain her actions. However, he suggested that without any provincial legislation that includes consequences, he suspects the issue will result in a "stalemate" between the mayor and the three remaining councillors. "They have stated that they would like to see her resign. But at the end of the day, it looks like it's up to the mayor to resign." — By Camille Bains in Vancouver This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2020. The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said there were four remaining councillors.
Le programme d’un coût de 7 millions de dollars utilise la technologie satellitaire « pour localiser et suivre les navires dont les dispositifs de transmission de la localisation ont été éteints, parfois dans le but d’échapper au suivi, au contrôle, et à la surveillance. » Il s’agit de collecter et d’analyser des données satellitaires en direction des petits États insulaires et des États côtiers du monde où la pêche illicite, non déclarée et non réglementée (INN) affecte les économies locales, la sécurité alimentaire, et la santé des stocks de poissons. C’est le cas des îles Galapagos. « Avec nos partenaires, nous sommes impatients d’aider ces pays à braquer les projecteurs sur les navires qui choisissent d’opérer en dehors de la loi et de mettre en péril la santé de nos stocks mondiaux de poissons », a expliqué la ministre des Pêches, des Océans et de la Garde côtière, Bernadette Jordan. Pêches et Océans Canada a ficelé des partenariats avec l’Agence des pêches du Forum qui représente 15 petits États insulaires de la région du Pacifique, l’Autorité maritime de l’Équateur et la Direction nationale des espaces aquatiques chargée de la surveillance et du contrôle dans le domaine maritime équatorien. Les îles Galapagos sont l’une des principales victimes de cette pêche illégale. Le financement de ce programme mis en œuvre avec la collaboration du ministère de la Défense nationale, Affaires mondiales Canada et la société MDA, est issu d’une enveloppe globale de 11,6 millions de dollars destinée à a santé des océans selon un communiqué. « De leur point de vue unique dans l’espace, les satellites d’imagerie comme RADARSAT-2 sont un outil clé pour relever ce défi mondial. Les Canadiens devraient être fiers du patrimoine profond et du leadership de notre pays en matière de satellites radar et d’imagerie spatiale », a souligné le président-directeur général de MDA, Mike Greenley. Avec 26 millions de tonnes de poisson capturé chaque année pour un coût annuel de plus de 23 milliards de dollars pour l’économie mondiale, la pêche illégale représente environ 30 % de toutes les activités de pêche dans le monde, avec « une incidence particulièrement négative sur les populations rurales côtières dans les zones vulnérables. » Godlove Kamwa, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Canada Français
NEW YORK — Christian Siriano opened his second show of the pandemic Thursday with two ladies in bed, models who emerged flawless in black one-pieces, then dressed for all to see before hitting the runway. It was a dreamy, colour-saturated show during a tough time for fashion inspiration, Siriano said. He created an alternate reality inspired by a recent jaunt to Aspen, Colorado, to visit family for the first time in a year. While most designers have gone fully digital during an expanded New York Fashion Week that has stretched the traditional calendar, Siriano remains committed to the runway. “If you take this away, and the glamour, then it's like I'm just at the office talking about money all day, and that's not what I want,” he told The Associated Press after the fall-winter show attended by about 75 in-person guests. “I wouldn't want to do this job if I couldn't have this world.” In this world, shared on Instagram Live, there were looks for hidden parties and cocktail hours in the Colorado mountains, and silky evening dresses in fuchsia and chartreuse. There were cutouts, and ruffles and lace for ombre and peekaboo impact. And there was Siriano muse Coca Rocha camping it up for the cameras in a voluminous black gown with a plunging neckline — after she woke up to start the show. Siriano included two thrifted pieces he previously designed and found on the site thredUP, including a black fringe coat he made about seven years ago. He was pleasantly surprised it held up, both esthetically and through its well-worn years. The other look was a plunging silk crepe dress in fuchsia washed many times. “You shouldn't do that because it's silk, but it looked so cool. It looked worn but new. Hopefully it will show people we can do this in fashion,” Siriano said of the growing reuse movement. He partnered with thredUP after creating the universal logo for thrift, in the shape of a coat hanger. As for his newly created clothes, there was an “homage to the lodge” in plaid lames and cashmeres, melting into sunset-drenched oranges and pinks inspired by his Colorado vacation. He threw in some creams in a snakeskin print and bright winter whites, including a white jacket worn with loose fuchsia trousers for day. Siriano carried his check lame print from a trouser set to a strapless cocktail gown to a loose, long-sleeve top with a plunge. There were psychedelic swirls of orange and brown in a pantsuit and an evening dress with a high slit. What if, heaven forbid, he's forced to design a third collection in a pandemic come the September show cycle, trying to wrangle staff working remotely while sourcing materials. “Honestly, I don't know," Siriano said, "because I love doing this but it's very hard to do in a pandemic. The logistics are a challenge, but we're just going to move on and hope for the best.” Leanne Italie, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Park Police on Thursday named Pamela Smith as its new chief, making her the first Black woman to lead the 230-year-old law enforcement agency. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the force, announced she would begin her term by establishing body-worn cameras for all Park Police officers. “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve,” Smith said in a statement, adding that body-worn cameras are “good for the public and good for our officers.” The camera program would begin in San Francisco within 90 days and spread to the rest of the country by the end of the year, the statement said. Smith inherits an extensive law enforcement agency that frequently finds itself under a spotlight at pivotal historical moments. The U.S. Park Police oversees national parks and federal property including the National Mall. Last summer, during tense protests over police brutality and racial inequity, Park Police was involved with violently clearing peaceful protestors from Lafayette Park near the White House so that then-President Donald Trump could pose in front of a church while holding up a Bible. The agency ended up embroiled in controversy over the tactics and munitions used against peaceful demonstrators. Smith's appointment follows that of Yogananda Pittman, who last month become the first Black person and first woman to be acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police. She inherited an agency in turmoil after being overwhelmed in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters. Ashraf Khalil, The Associated Press
Le ministre de la Justice, David Lametti, a déposé un projet de loi visant à modifier le Code criminel et la Loi sur l’identification des criminels pour alléger les procédures et adapter le système de justice pénale aux obstacles posés par la pandémie. Le projet de loi a prévu de mettre en œuvre « un mécanisme permettant aux accusés de comparaître à distance, par vidéoconférence ou audioconférence, pour la plupart des procédures pénales, et ce, sur consentement, à la discrétion du tribunal et en prenant les mesures de protection qui conviennent. » Il s’agit de favoriser le meilleur accès à la justice pendant et après la pandémie en donnant aux tribunaux plus de souplesse dans la conduite des procédures sans compromettre la sécurité et les droits et libertés des justiciables et des acteurs selon un communiqué. En effet, le ministère fédéral redoute le risque que la pandémie entraîne d’autres délais et plombe l’efficacité du système de justice pénale. « Les Canadiens s’attendent à ce que leurs tribunaux traitent des affaires criminelles en temps opportun, afin que les droits des accusés soient respectés et que les victimes voient que justice est rendue », a souligné le ministre de la Justice, David Lametti. Ottawa a proposé d’élaborer des règles pour soutenir les accusés non représentés, et non pas seulement les accusés représentés ou encore pour faire recours à la technologie pour la pige des noms de candidats-jurés lors du processus de sélection du jury. Il a également prévu de revoir le processus relatif aux télémandats en vue d’offrir aux agents de la paix un plus vaste éventail d’ordonnances d’enquête pouvant faire l’objet d’une demande à distance. La prise d’empreintes digitales des accusés pourrait être reportée à « une date ultérieure, en particulier dans le cas où les tentatives antérieures ont échoué en raison de circonstances exceptionnelles, comme celles de la COVID-19. » Dès le début de la pandémie en mars 2020, le ministre de la Justice et procureur général du Canada a mobilisé les ministres provinciaux et territoriaux au sujet de l’impact de la Covid-19 dans les tribunaux de juridiction criminelle. Il ne reste plus qu’à obtenir le soutien à la Chambre des communes. Godlove Kamwa, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Canada Français
OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says he assumes security authorities signed off on an arrangement to allow a company owned by a Chinese police force to run Canada's visa application centre in Beijing. Blair says he can only make assumptions because the arrangement was put in place in 2008, under the previous Conservative government. Still, he says he's been assured by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that the personal information provided by visa applicants is secure. He says the information is handled according to Canada's privacy laws, that no application or biometrically collected data is stored at the centre and that all databases containing personal information are located in Canada. Questions have been raised about the centre since The Globe and Mail reported earlier this month that its operation has been subcontracted to Beijing Shuangxiong Foreign Service Company, which is owned by the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau. Opposition MPs questioned Blair about the possibility that visa applicants' personal information could be relayed to the Chinese government and cause negative repercussions, particularly for dissidents trying to flee the country's repressive Communist regime. Bloc Quebecois MP Stephane Bergeron and New Democrat MP Jack Harris pressed Blair to explain which of Canada's national security agencies signed off on the subcontract to the Chinese police. "I have some difficulty frankly answering your question Mr. Harris about the origins of this contract," Blair told the special committee on Canada-China relations Thursday. "It was signed in 2008. So it's been in place for 12 years now and so its origin and who actually authorized this contract predates me or my government and frankly my knowledge." Blair said there are "normal procurement processes" in place for contracting out services and he assumes they were followed in this case. "I want to make sure that it's clear. I'm only able to make an assumption that those processes were in fact followed because it did take place 12 years ago." "That's not much comfort, I have to say," Harris responded. Blair acknowledged that IRCC is not a security agency but he said it does have an information technology specialist department that has provided assurances that the visa information is secure. He said inspections and audits are regularly conducted to ensure there is no privacy breach of sensitive information and there has been no evidence of a problem. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A headline on a previous version said Bill Blair testified a Conservative government authorized the contracting-out of visa services in Beijing specifically to a company owned by Chinese police.
(Submitted by Sara Williams - image credit) In Windsor-Essex, the lead nurse administering vaccines to the Indigenous population says supply is meeting demand as the rollout continues to move forward. Starting next week, those high-risk and 40 and older in the region's Indigenous population can start receiving their vaccines. As of Thursday, registered nurse Sara Williams says 59 Indigenous people who are high-risk and 60 and older have received shots, with 57 of them getting both doses of the vaccine. "I think we're doing the best that we can to be able to get our message out there that vaccines are available," said Williams, who has been redeployed from working in the Erie Shores Healthcare emergency department to help with the vaccine rollout. But this in contrast to one neighbouring First Nations community who told CBC News last week that they don't feel the government is living up to its vaccine priority promises. Chief of Walpole Island First Nation Charles Sampson said the rollout has been slow and he still doesn't have enough vaccines for all of his seniors. Sara Williams is leading the vaccine rollout for Windsor-Essex's Indigenous population. Yet, Williams says that isn't the case for Windsor-Essex, where she feels like they have enough vaccine on hand to give out to those who want one. "[Windsor-Essex] had the highest cases in the province so we need to make sure we're doing priority where priority is due, I think that's where the rationale is," she said. 'Culturally aware space' created for Indigenous vaccinations Williams, who is Aamjiwnaang First Nation, has taken charge of the vaccine rollout for the Indigenous population at Windsor's St. Clair College Sportsplex. In doing so, she has created a culturally aware space for community members to get their shots. According to Williams, the rooms in the culturally aware space have tribal printed curtains, Indigenous artwork, sweetgrass, dream catchers and cedar on the outside. She said they also performed a ceremony before opening the space up, which involved prayer, smudging and washing the walls with cedar. "It's been really good, at first I wasn't really sure how it was going to be received," she said. "It's been amazing, I've had a few followup emails afterwards just thanking me for creating that space and they felt a lot more comfortable. I disclose to them that I am Indigenous and where I'm from and I think that helps to ease anxiety as well." There's also a waiting room with community agency pamphlets and spaces for people to wait in, rather than having them line up. She said the goal was to create a space that the community feels safe in and hopes their setup encourages more people to come get vaccinated. "A lot of people have contacted me with questions," she said. "There's a lot of hesitancy surrounding the vaccine, which is understandably so, Canada doesn't have the best history with vaccinating especially when you hear that inmates and Indigenous people are top priority it sort of raises red flags, so it's up to me to provide that education about the reasons why Indigenous people are a priority." Williams hopes the space she has set up makes people feel safe. She and Lacey George, who is also with SOAHAC, set up the space. She added that Indigenous people are known to have underlying medical conditions and, because of this, are likely to be more negatively impacted by COVID-19. She is working in partnership with Windsor Regional Hospital and the Southwestern Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre and says she's the only Indigenous nurse administering vaccines at this time. For other nurses to join her, she says it's important that they have cultural safety training.
(Dado Ruvic/Reuters - image credit) It was meant to be a discussion about employment for members of Montreal's Black community. Instead, the meeting was briefly hijacked by random people filling the chat with the N-word and swearing in Spanish on the live feed. However, the Black Community Resource Center (BCRC), an organization that provides many services to English-speaking visible minorities, was not cowed by what happened. Instead, they kicked the racists out of the Zoom meeting and continued with their session. Now they want everybody to know what took place. "It's something that we experience in the workplace, out in society, so it's not surprising to us when it happens, we know it happens," says Raeanne Francis, the managing director of BCRC. "That's why it's important for us to have conversations about it happening." Samantha Nyinawumuntu was coordinating the event for BCRC on February 18. It was planned as a precursor to the organization's big virtual event coming up in March, a job fair meant to connect members of Montreal's English-speaking Black community with possible job opportunities. "I think the main reasons that it happens at events such as this, where the specific topic is to highlight Black individuals who are doing something in their communities, is to make us stop," she said. "For us, during the meeting, we got them out and kept going. We're here and we're here to stay." Kemba Mitchell, the chairperson of the West Island Black Community Association (WIBCA), was taking part in the event when the hijacking occurred. Unfortunately for her, it was all too familiar. She says she hasn't even recovered from the first time it happened to her — the WIBCA was victim to a racist Zoom bombing at its annual general meeting in December — so she was immediately triggered. Mitchell is giving advice to BCRC to help them prepare evidence to file an official police complaint. "These incidents need to be taken seriously and we need to document them so we have proof of our lived reality," said Francis. The chatroom during the BCRC's event was suddenly overwhelmed with hateful messages, including the N-word. Attack highlights need to talk about racism in Quebec, BCRC says The racist attack on the group came a few days before Premier François Legault named Benoit Charette as Quebec's new minister responsible for fighting racism. The position was created following a recommendation from the anti-racism committee formed by the government last spring. But many in the Black community are left wondering how Charette, a white man in his 40s, can help combat racism if he has never experienced it personally, and when he denies the existence of it as a systemic issue in the province. "The person who was appointed is a white man, and a man who doesn't believe in systemic racism so is it a step in a right direction?" Nyinawumuntu asked. That sentiment was echoed by Francis. "How are you going to advocate for something that you are saying in essence does not exist?" she said. Still, Francis hopes it creates ongoing discussion about issues facing the Black community. "Racism and discrimination happens every day to Black individuals here in Quebec and I think we need to have more conversations surrounding that." For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
Tay residents were unanimous that council is putting the cart before the horse by including a short-term rental accommodation (STRA) definition into its zoning bylaw. About a dozen residents expressed their thoughts, either by attending a recent public meeting or by sending in prior written comment, of which all but one aligned with the general sentiment that it was premature to include a definition before the ad hoc committee had completed its process. The proposed definition says STRA “shall mean the use of a main building containing a dwelling unit, or any part thereof,that is operating or offering a place of temporary accommodation, lodging or occupancy by way of concession, permit, lease, license, rental agreement or similar commercial arrangement for any period of 31 consecutive calendar days or less, throughout all or any part of a calendar year. "Short Term Rental uses shall not mean or include a motel, hotel, bed and breakfast establishment, cabin rental establishment, tourist lodge or similar commercial or institutional use.” Tay resident Patrick Hawkins was first in line at the virtual public meeting. "I oppose the definition of STR as I indicated in my written submission," he said. "With the greatest respect to council and staff, it puts the cart before the horse. It assumes there is something to regulate before the ad hoc committee does its work. It assumes council can decide on the definition and what has to be regulated before it has done the necessary work." Hawkins said the basic problem is the lack of definition around the problem. "This council needs to address whether this is a problem that can actually be fixed by new regulation or is it a problem that needs to be fixed with better enforcement and stiffer fines under current regulation," he said. Pavan Sharma was of a similar view. "There are a lot of bylaws that exist in the toolbox, so by trying to regulate STRAs right off the bat, versus trying to enforce existing bylaws, it causes more complications," said the Victoria Harbour resident. "It will end up potentially costing more because you still would have to enforce STR licensing versus dealing with the root problem." The next resident, John Rose, had an issue with the exclusion of bed and breakfasts from the definition. "I heard Mr. Farquharson talk about B&B in the usual definition, one of the hallmarks is that the owners residing are residents," he said. "Unfortunately, from what I see in the zoning bylaw definition, both the current zoning bylaw of B&B establishments and the draft from May 2018, neither requires the owner to be a resident at the dwelling at the time. "There can be some real confusion about whether someone is operating a B&B or STRA. Someone trying to avoid regulations that apply to STRAs could simply say, 'I meet the definition of the B&B so I'm operating a B&B and not an STRA.'" When another resident also raised a similar question,Steve Farquharson, general manager, protective and development services, manager of planning and development services, had to reiterate the section of the zoning bylaw that deals with B&Bs. "Section 4.4 of the zoning bylaw has regulations in place for B&B," he said. "The use shall be carried out by land owner who resides in the dwelling unit. It's not in the definition, but there are policies in place within the existing bylaw for B&Bs." Resident Kate Tagseth took it further. "The zoning covers commercial uses and we know AirBnBs are commercial," she said. "They're a multi-billion-dollar corporation. The houses we've been looking up in Victoria Harbour are listed as AirBnB accommodations. "I would agree with some of the earlier speakers that at this point a definition of a short-term rental is a little premature because you can't legislate something that is illegal. Our zoning already alludes to the fact that businesses in residential areas are illegal." Another resident said regulating STRs would affect the township's economy. "One of the reasons is that I think by having a definition which may lead to regulation could stifle economic development to the township," said Tiere Sharma. "If it were to be regulated in some fashion going in the future, I think it would prohibit tourism to the township and affect businesses. I would recommend any current STRs be grandfathered in and be exempt from future rules." Mara Burton said supports the definition if the addition would help bylaw enforce the current illegal use of short-term rentals. "These are neighbourhoods and we want to make sure we know our neighbours," she said. At the beginning of the meeting, Farquharson had said that all comments received will be compiled and presented to the ad hoc committee for further consideration before anything is brought to council. "We understand it's a very hot topic within the municipality, as well as other municipalities within Simcoe County, especially those that have waterfront property," he added. "We are just proposing to add the definition in there." Later in the evening, Tay resident James Pedretti questioned Farquharson's use of the term "hot topic." "The intent of my comment is that we're not the only municipality that's dealing with this item," clarified the latter. "We've had sessions at the County of Simcoe. The comment of it being a hot topic item is that we're not alone in dealing with this. It's not a revenue generating stream the township is looking at." Cathy Graham had questions about the types of properties to be included in the definition. "When you're defining your STRs, will you also be including the difference between single-family dwellings (and larger units) in the STRs?" she asked. Farquharson said the proposed definition currently does not distinguish between building structures. "It does say dwelling unit," he added. "If it's something we need to have in there, we can look to address that when we report back." All comments and feedback around the addition of a definition will be compiled and presented to an ad hoc committee, which will comprise of two council members, Coun. Paul Raymond, chair, and Coun. Mary Warnock, vice chair, of the protective and development services committee, Farquharson, township planner, the municipal law enforcement officer and any other staff as designated by Farquharson. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com