The world must reduce transmission of the coronavirus to stop mutations that can affect vaccine efficacy, says Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, Europe's regional director for the World Health Organization. (NEXU Science Communication/REUTERS)
The world must reduce transmission of the coronavirus to stop mutations that can affect vaccine efficacy, says Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, Europe's regional director for the World Health Organization. (NEXU Science Communication/REUTERS)
Most provinces, including British Columbia, announced this week they expect every adult will receive a first COVID-19 vaccine dose by June or July. The move came after a recommendation by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to delay a second dose for four months, following evidence of high levels of protection from one dose. All provinces have adopted the recommendation, potentially accelerating Canada's vaccination timeline by two months. But where does that leave kids? Close to one million people in B.C. are 19 or younger, and they make up nearly one-fifth of the province's population. Here's what you need to know about where they fall in the vaccination plan. Can kids get vaccinated? Not yet. Health Canada has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people aged 16 and older, while the Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for those 18 and up. Health Canada's chief medical adviser, Supriya Sharma, has said there's not enough data from the initial clinical trials to know how the vaccines affect kids. So far, B.C.'s immunization plan is focused on residents 18 and older. B.C.'s health ministry said it will administer Pfizer vaccines to teens between the ages of 16 and 17 who are severely clinically vulnerable, and whose care provider has determined vaccination is the best course of action. Do kids need to be immunized? Dr. Manish Sadarangani, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and director of the Vaccine Evaluation Centre at B.C. Children's Hospital, said it's not yet not clear whether all kids need to get vaccinated. He is currently leading research that is testing children across B.C. for COVID-19 antibodies to understand asymptomatic infections and better estimate the true infection rate among younger people. Experts will also have a clearer picture once most adults are vaccinated, Sadarangani said. At that point, health officials can look at the number of cases among kids, whether severe cases are showing up and whether kids are a source of ongoing community transmission. Researchers are testing children across B.C. for COVID-19 antibodies to understand asymptomatic infections and better estimate the true infection rate among younger people.(Ben Nelms/CBC) Fiona Brinkman, a professor in the molecular biology and biochemistry department at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, said children should "definitely" be vaccinated. "Getting COVID is much worse in terms of potential for long-term side effects than getting the vaccine," said Brinkman, who is also working on Canada's variant containment efforts through the Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network. When will kids receive a vaccine? The four pharmaceutical companies are at all different stages of testing the vaccines on kids. It's unclear when exactly those vaccines could be approved for kids. Sharma said Friday that data from teenagers will come first, followed by kids under 12. "Potentially, by the end of the calendar year, we might have some answers for children." Clinical trials are underway to determine vaccine effectiveness on children.(Evan Mitsui/CBC) Sadarangani said the first clinical trial data from older kids is expected to come by the end of August. If the Health Canada approves the vaccines on kids, NACI will then recommend how to best deploy the doses, he said. Sadarangani said rolling out the vaccine as part of school immunizations will be far more efficient than immunizing adults, noting the system is "better set up" to vaccinate kids. Is achieving 'herd immunity' possible without vaccinating kids? Some experts have suggested that achieving "herd immunity" — the point at which the virus can no longer spread in the community because enough people have either been infected or vaccinated — may not be feasible without vaccinating kids. Brinkman said it's a reasonable concern, but the degree of protection to society from vaccines make them a powerful tool, even before they're available to children. "We have vaccines that have incredible efficacy. In fact, they're astounding," she said. "When you have vaccines that work that well, you don't actually have to vaccinate as many people in the population to have it be effective." A nurse administers a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination in Vancouver on March 4. B.C. says it expects every adult to receive a first vaccine dose by July.(Ben Nelms/CBC) Anna Blakney, an assistant professor at University of British Columbia's school of biomedical engineering, said herd immunity is often thought of as a percentage of a population that must be protected to ensure safety for all. But it's actually a more dynamic concept, she said, especially since it's unknown how long immunity from COVID-19 will last. "With herd immunity, you don't just reach that level and then it's there forever," she said. "People can lose their immunity over time, so most likely what's going to happen is that it will be a combination of natural infections and the vaccine that get us to that kind of steady state of herd immunity." Are there safety concerns for kids? Blakney, who also runs a popular TikTok account that educates viewers about COVID-19, said she's received many questions about the safety of the vaccine in children. She said clinical trials are generally designed with less vulnerable populations in mind — those between the age of 18 and 55. (Because COVID-19 disproportionately affects the elderly, older people were included in vaccine trials.) Once a vaccine is found to be safe in those populations, they're expanded out to children and pregnant women. "It's routine for children and babies to get vaccines. That's when you get the most vaccines in your life. They're just waiting for that safety to be proven," Blakney said. "We want to first test it in the less vulnerable population in case there are any side effects. That doesn't mean we expect there to be — that's just how it's evolved over time." Sadarangani explained that the dose may be adjusted to ensure the best protection possible for children. "Some vaccines do need a bit more because they need a bit more to stimulate their immune systems than adults do. And some vaccines, they need a bit less," he said. "This is one of the reasons in the trial for going down through the age groups, starting with the older kids that are likely to be most like adults." What about parents who are hesitant to vaccinate their kids? In a UBC study last fall, about 43 per cent of 2,500 families across Canada surveyed said they would accept less rigorous testing and expedited approval of a vaccine for their kids. Blakney said she finds some degree of vaccine hesitancy normal, especially because people are not accustomed to the speed with which the vaccine was developed. A B.C. COVID-19 vaccination immunization record card. Sadarangani says school immunizations will be far more time efficient than immunizing adults.(Ben Nelms/CBC) But she said the vaccine research involved an unprecedented level of funding and effort from scientists, doctors, and governments alike. "We have lots of safety data on this because not only were they trialled in tens of thousands of people, but now they've been implemented to millions of people," she said. "So we have a pretty good idea of the safety profile of them thus far, which is what gives us that extra confidence to go into other populations. These vaccines are incredibly safe in the data we have so far." What can parents do in the meantime? Brinkman said, for now, parents can ensure that their children's other vaccinations and booster shots are up to date, while also following public health orders until restrictions can safely be lifted. "That will help protect them and give their system the best chance against other diseases," she said, adding some people may have fallen behind schedule on immunizations while B.C. has been partially shut down. "It's very important at this stage that we keep the numbers of cases as low as we can because we really need to reduce the chance of the viral variant spreading."
Several provinces were preparing to loosen COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday, as Canada's chief public health officer expressed optimism over vaccines ahead of the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 crisis.The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic last March 11, and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said it's been a difficult 12 months marked by hardship and sacrifice."Yet, as the months have gone by, I have also witnessed the remarkable courage, strength, and generosity demonstrated by Canadians," she wrote in a statement."Through it all, it is the incredible support that Canadians have shown for one another that has impressed me the most."Tam expressed optimism that brighter days were coming, thanks to the recent approvals of the Johnson & Johnson and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines."This week has been a very good week for Canada's COVID-19 vaccination programs," she wrote.The anniversary comes as all provinces are expanding their mass vaccination programs and some are loosening restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the virus.Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick are among the provinces preparing to lift restrictions on Monday after weeks of stable or declining cases. A stay-at-home order in Ontario's Toronto, Peel and North Bay regions will lift on Monday, while five Quebec regions, including Quebec City, will be downgraded from red to orange on the province's colour-coded regional alert system.All of New Brunswick will transition to the less-restrictive "yellow" alert level Sunday at midnight, meaning residents can expand their contacts from 10 to 15 people and team sports activities may resume.Canada's two biggest cities will remain under fairly strict restrictions, however. Toronto — and neighbouring Peel Region — will enter the "grey lockdown" category, which will allow more retailers to open, with restrictions, but leaves gyms, personal care services and indoor restaurant dining closed.The greater Montreal region remains a red zone, which means an 8 p.m. curfew is still in effect.Tam said the addition of the two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster and help ease the worries surrounding supply disruptions or setbacks.In a long message, Tam said it is not that it is not possible to directly compare the efficacy of different vaccines to one another."Each vaccine was studied in a separate trial conducted at different times, using different populations and conditions," she wrote.She said the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, manufactured by Janssen, was shown to be 66 per cent effective overall in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, while the AstraZeneca vaccine was found to have an efficacy of 62 per cent in generally preventing "symptomatic COVID-19." Both vaccines, she said, were found to protect against severe disease, meaning that those who got COVID-19 after the shot were much less likely to get seriously ill. Currently, Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization does not recommend that the AstraZeneca vaccine be given to those aged 65 or over due to limited data, but Tam stressed that the recommendations could change.She noted both the new vaccines are easier to transport than those produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which require freezer storage. With Canada set to receive more than 900,000 COVID-19 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines this week, many provinces are ramping up their vaccination campaigns.Health authorities across British Columbia will start booking COVID-19 vaccination appointments Monday for people 90 years old and older and Indigenous residents over the age of 65.Quebec, which has been booking vaccine appointments for seniors 70 or 80 and over depending on the region, will speed up the pace this week as more mass vaccination centres open across the province after focusing mainly on hard-hit Montreal last week. Quebec counted 707 new cases of the virus on Sunday, and seven more deaths. Ontario reported administering 30,192 doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday, for a total of 890,604 doses handed out so far. That province logged 1,299 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, and 15 added deaths. Manitoba counted 56 new cases of the virus and two more deaths. Saskatchewan, meanwhile, reported 116 more cases and two more deaths due to COVID-19, including a person who was under 20 years old. Alberta logged roughly 300 new cases of the virus Sunday, though the province said a system upgrade meant precise numbers weren't available. Farther east, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island each recorded two new cases of COVID-19. The government said it would receive more than 14,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week, which will be sent to five different parts of the province.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021 Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso — A series of explosions at a military barracks in Equatorial Guinea killed at least 20 people and wounded more than 600 others on Sunday, authorities said. President Teodoro Obiang Nguema said in a statement read on state television that the explosion was due to the “negligent handling of dynamite” in the military barracks located in the neighbourhood of Mondong Nkuantoma in Bata. He said that the explosion occurred at 4 p.m. local time. “The impact of the explosion caused damage in almost all the houses and buildings in Bata," the president said in the statement, which was in Spanish. The defence ministry released a statement late Sunday saying that a fire in a weapons depot in the barracks caused the explosion of high-calibre ammunition. It said the provisional toll was 20 dead and 600 injured, adding that the cause of the explosions will be fully investigated. Earlier, the Health Ministry had tweeted that 17 were killed and the president’s statement mentioned 15 dead. Equatorial Guinea, a tiny West African country of 1.3 million people located south of Cameroon, was a colony of Spain until it gained its independence in 1968. State television showed a huge plume of smoke rising above the explosion site as crowds fled, with many people crying out “we don’t know what happened, but it is all destroyed.” The Health Ministry made a call for blood donors and volunteer health workers to go to the Regional Hospital de Bata, one of three hospitals treating the wounded. The ministry tweeted that its health workers are treating the injured at the site of the tragedy and in medical facilities, but feared people were still missing under the rubble. Images on local media seen by The Associated Press show people screaming and crying running through the streets amid debris and smoke. Roofs of houses were ripped off and wounded people were being carried into a hospital. The blasts were a shock for the oil rich Central African nation. Foreign Minister Simeón Oyono Esono Angue met with foreign ambassadors and asked for aid. “It is important for us to ask our brother countries for their assistance in this lamentable situation since we have a health emergency (due to COVID-19) and the tragedy in Bata,” he said. A doctor calling into TVGE, who went by his first name, Florentino, said the situation was a “moment of crisis” and that the hospitals were overcrowded. He said a sports centre set up for COVID-19 patients would be used to receive minor cases. Radio station, Radio Macuto, said on Twitter that people were being evacuated within four kilometres of the city because the fumes might be harmful. Following the blast, the Spanish Embassy in Equatorial Guinea recommended on Twitter that “Spanish nationals stay in their homes." ___ Joseph Wilson reported from Barcelona, Spain. ___ A previous version of this story was corrected to show that state television is TVGE, not TGVE. Sam Mednick And Joseph Wilson, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives plan to summon two senior Liberal aides to testify on when they first learned of sexual misconduct allegations surrounding the military's former top soldier — and account for what they did about the accusations. The Tories said they will ask the House of Commons' defence committee on Monday to have Zita Astravas and Elder Marques appear in the coming days, as opposition parties continue digging into the government’s handling of the allegations against Gen. Jonathan Vance. Astravas was Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s chief of staff and Marques was a senior adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in March 2018, when former military ombudsman Gary Walbourne says he first raised an allegation against Vance to the minister. Walbourne did not reveal the nature of the allegation, citing a promise of confidentiality to the complainant. But Global News has reported it was a lewd email that Vance allegedly sent to a much more junior soldier in 2012, before he became chief of the defence staff. An email obtained by The Canadian Press showed Astravas writing to Walbourne on March 5, 2018, four days after the former ombudsman says he met with the minister, asking if Walbourne had talked to the Privy Council Office about an unspecified allegation. The Privy Council Office is the department that supports the Prime Minister’s Office. Astravas, who is now chief of staff to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, and Marques, who left the Liberal government in late September, also discussed concerns related to the Canadian Armed Forces’ commander, according to a Globe and Mail report. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he wasn’t aware of any specific allegation against Vance, telling reporters on Friday that “The ombudsman did not provide sufficient information ... to be able to follow up on these allegations.” Sajjan, for his part, has refused to confirm Walbourne notified him of any allegations against Vance, and told the committee he was surprised when Global News reported two allegations of inappropriate conduct against the former defence chief last month. The defence minister has also said he always followed proper procedures whenever an allegation of sexual misconduct was brought to his attention. Opposition parties have disputed that assertion, alleging the Liberals are trying to sweep the affair under the carpet. “Canadians need to get answers from those directly involved in this Liberal cover-up,” Conservative defence critic James Bezan said in a statement on Sunday. “That’s why we will be moving a motion to have Minister Sajjan’s former chief of staff, Zita Astravas, and senior Trudeau advisor Elder Marques testify at defence committee.” The Conservatives have indicated that they also plan to call Sajjan back for a second round of questioning. The Global report alleges Vance had an ongoing relationship with a subordinate that started more than a decade ago. The report alleged the relationship continued after he was named chief of the defence staff in 2015, at which time he promised to root sexual misconduct from the Armed Forces. Global has also reported on the allegations concerning Vance's email to a much younger female officer in 2012, allegedly suggesting they go to a clothing-optional vacation resort. Vance has not responded to repeated requests for comment from The Canadian Press, and the allegations against him have not been independently verified. Global has reported that Vance has denied any wrongdoing. Military police have launched an investigation. Sajjan has also promised a separate, independent probe, but it has yet to begin. Walbourne testified to the House of Commons’ defence committee last week about his closed-door meeting with Sajjan on March 1, 2018, saying he told the defence minister that an allegation had been made against Vance. The former ombudsman told the committee that Sajjan declined to look at supporting evidence and instead referred the matter to the Privy Council Office. Walbourne said that was despite his having asked the minister to keep the matter confidential. Sajjan’s office has said the minister “disagrees with parts of (Walbourne’s) testimony that occurred in committee.” The Conservatives have also said they want to expand the committee’s study to include the government’s handling of allegations of misconduct against Vance’s successor, Admiral Art McDonald. McDonald temporarily stepped aside as chief of the defence staff late last month, only weeks after succeeding Vance in the role. Acting defence chief Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre sent a letter to Canadian Armed Forces personnel on Friday praising their commitment and professionalism while acknowledging the presence of “elements of our military culture that need, must and will change.” “Certain behaviours and attitudes exhibited toward our personnel are beyond troubling,” he added. “None of us should ever tolerate, or condone, behaviour or attitudes that threaten the well-being of our people. The road will not be easy, but we will emerge a stronger, better and more effective Force.” This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021. Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
An unfair labour practice application brought on by the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU) against the Government of Saskatchewan over the use of a fitness test — which was previously found to be potentially discriminatory — was dismissed late last month. In 2012, Saskatchewan implemented a fitness test called the WFX-Fit test, developed by the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre for Type 1 wildland firefighters across Canada. People are tested in their ability to complete a series of physical, strenuous tasks within a set minimal time, called a cut score. After the union filed a grievance, an arbitrator found the WFX-Fit test cut score as it was previously set had "a potential discriminatory adverse impact on females and older males," and was not a reasonable measure of their fitness to perform the job. An appeal court upheld that finding, and in March 2019 the Supreme Court of Canada refused the Saskatchewan government's request to appeal the ruling. The Ministry of Environment previously told CBC that across Canada, SGEU was the only union to complain about the test. It noted the arbitrator had not criticized the test itself or its use — but that the cut score itself is arbitrary and could be discriminatory. The government said it got opinions from experts who designed the test that the cut score could be validly lowered from 17 minutes and 15 seconds to 18 minutes and 10 seconds. The labour board decision, published on Feb. 28, showed discussion about how to move ahead in the 2019 wildfire season took place shortly after the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the case. There, the government told SGEU representatives it intended to use the slower cut scores. The Labour Relations Board decision showed SGEU asked the government to consider using an arduous test, which it had used until 2012. The government stuck with the WFX-Fit test in 2019. SGEU took the government to task over its use of the test that year. But a unanimous decision by the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board vice-chair Gerald Tegart and board members Joan White and Maurice Werezak found an "enforceable agreement" was never reached by both parties.. The labour board decision said the WFX-Fit test was deemed to be valid in all respects, aside from the use of its original cut score due to its discriminatory impact on women and older men which the government had accounted for. The board also found the government was not obligated to negotiate the general terms of the WFX-Fit test with the union. Because the board determined no formal enforceable agreement was reached between the two parties, the labour board found three of the orders the union sought from the board were not available. The union asked the labour board to order the government to comply with the previously-agreed upon arbitration award, but the board found the government had already met its obligations there and did not dispute the fact the WFX-Fit testing was discriminatory. The union was also unable to prove the government had failed to comply with the arbitration award during the labour board hearing. The labour board ruled there was no basis to prohibit the government from requiring wildland firefighters to complete the WFX-Fit testing, as no agreement was reached between SGEU and the province, and the tests' use with the revised cut score was not shown to be in contravention with the previous arbitration award. The union also asked for financial compensation in the form of damages but that was also dismissed as the board's determination meant damages would not be available. A request for comment from SGEU was not returned by deadline.
CHARLOTTETOWN — Health officials in Atlantic Canada reported seven new cases of COVID-19 today, including two in Prince Edward Island. Officials in that province say both new patients are men in their 20s who are now self-isolating. With 26 active reported cases, chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says there are more active infections on the Island now than at any other point in the pandemic. The province is under so-called circuit-breaker measures until March 14, which require all businesses and services to operate at reduced capacity and keep records for contact tracing. Public health authorities in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia reported two new cases in their respective provinces and say all infections are connected to travel or to previously known infections. Officials in Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new travel-related case, marking the province's 10th consecutive day with single-digit infection numbers following an outbreak last month in the St. John's region. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021. The Canadian Press
The first death in the 19 and under age group related to COVID-19 was reported by the province on Sunday. The death was reported in the North West zone, which includes such communities as North Battleford and Lloydminster. This was among two deaths reported on Sunday the other was in the 40 to 49 age group and in the Far North West zone. There were 116 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the province on Sunday. The North Central zone, which includes Prince Albert, reported eight new cases. North Central 2, which is Prince Albert, has 40 active cases. North Central 1, which includes communities such as Christopher Lake, Candle Lake and Meath Park, has 37 active cases and North Central 3 has 22 active cases. Three cases with pending residence information were added to North Central. Two cases were found to be out-of-province residents and were removed from the counts. There are currently 136 people in hospital overall in the province. Of the 114 reported as receiving in patient care there are 10 in North Central. Of the 22 people reported as being in intensive care there is one in North Central. The current seven-day average 152, or 12.4 cases per 100,000 population. Of the 29,709 reported COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan,1,518 are considered active. The recovered number now sits at 27,793 after 52 more recoveries were reported. The total number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic is 29,709 of those 7,553 cases are from the North area (3,071 North West, 3,317 North Central and 1,165 North East). There were 1,428 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered yesterday in Saskatchewan bringing the total number of vaccines administered in the province to 91,884. There were 226 doses administered in the North Central reported. Doses were also administered in the North West, Saskatoon and Regina. There were 2,263 COVID-19 tests processed in Saskatchewan on March 6. As of today there have been 594,116 COVID-19 tests performed in Saskatchewan. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
Durham Region’s medical officer of health says the region is in “very good shape” with vaccine distribution and administration. In a recent update to the region’s health and social services committee, Durham Region Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Kyle says clinics opening Monday, all those ages 80 and older can now book their appointment to be vaccinated, noting the vast majority of seniors living in long-term care and high-risk retirement homes in Durham Region, as well as most healthcare workers, have been vaccinated. “We were tasked by the government to develop a plan that when fully operational, will allow vaccination of approximately 10,000 clients per day,” says Kyle, noting there will be at least one clinic in each of the eight municipalities. As of Monday, March 8, two clinics will be open: Durham College and Ontario Tech University in Oshawa, and the other in Pickering. “The staging of the opening dates (of the other clinics is) a sign that we are ramping up, staffing up,” he adds. According to the Durham Region Health website, The Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex in Clarington will open on Tuesday, March 9, followed by the opening of the McKinney Centre in Whitby on Monday, March 15. Uxbridge Arena, Scugog Arena and Rick MacLeish Memorial Community Centre Arena will open on a rotating basis beginning March 15. Finally, the Audley Recreation Centre in Ajax will open on Tuesday, March 16. The mobile clinic will also continue to vaccinate additional Phase 1 populations as required, Kyle notes. However, he says the region can’t get too far ahead of the vaccine supply. “While I say the maximum capacity is 10,000 clients per day, the number of clinic sites and available appointments will depend on vaccine supply,” Kyle continues. Furthermore, Kyle says the region’s communications plan is “robust” and has been developed to “promote vaccine awareness, accurate evidence, informed information, and timely and accurate information.” “We’re building on key messages from the Ministry of Health and the go-to place for all things COVID vaccine is durham.ca/covidvaccines,” he says, noting the website is updated on an ongoing basis. Courtney Bachar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Oshawa Express
A recent survey revealed most British Columbians want to end heckling during Question Period, and if the first week of the 2021 legislative session was any indication, the Speaker is no fan either. The session began with two days of restrained civility, led by Interim Opposition Leader Shirley Bond and Premier John Horgan as they parried through each day’s Question Period openers. The wheels flew off the bus on day three, Mar. 3, when heckling, desk banging, and insults throughout Question Period caused Speaker Raj Chouhan to issue a rare admonishment to MLAs in the Chamber afterwards. “Members, you may think that making a big noise is a good way of doing Question Period. The Chair doesn't appreciate it,” he said. Chouhan, the NDP MLA for Burnaby-Edmonds since 2005, was appointed Speaker last December after serving as Deputy Speaker since 2017. “I heard the words competence, incompetence, incompetent, numerous times,” Chouhan said. “So?!” fired back a member of the Liberal caucus. “So, the point is… let's be temperate in our language in our debate, because the public is watching,” Chouhan said. “Opposition members have every right to ask questions. I understand their passion and all that, but be careful. Be careful.” His comments followed a 32-minute long Question Period in which ‘incompetent’ or its derivative was used in every question asked by a Liberal Opposition member and in one response by a government minister, for an average of once every two minutes. Ravi Kahlon, minister of jobs, economic recovery and innovation, was in the hot seat for much of the week about his ministry’s handling of COVID-19 relief funding for small and medium-sized businesses which, at that point, had disbursed $50 million of the total budgeted $300 million. By the time the last questioner, Liberal House Leader and Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar, unleashed a string of insults and the Premier forcefully responded, the Chamber reverberated with shouts of support and heckling on both sides of the aisle. A far cry from the previous day’s Question Period, which Horgan had hailed for its “respectful dialogue” and wrapped up with a team-building, all-party unity message about how progress could be made on the opioid crisis if every MLA took responsibility and worked together. According to recent survey results, most British Columbian want their legislators to work together, and heckling, a long-held acceptable partisan behaviour in the political theatre known as Question Period, no longer enjoys popular public support. “Desk banging, heckling, a majority of people say, we don't want to see this happening,” said Mario Canseco, president of Research Co., a Canadian public opinion polling and research company. “The appetite’s not there.” Research Co recently polled 800 British Columbians for their opinion on heckling, desk banging, reform of parliamentary decorum, and several other recommendations made by former Speaker Darryl Plecas in his final report to the B.C. Legislative Assembly entitled, Speaker’s Forum on the Role of Members: Actioning Proposals for Change. Aimed at legislative reform, the Plecas report made dozens of recommendations including the formation of an all-party committee to consider how to discipline unacceptable behaviour in the Chamber and whether to eliminate heckling, desk banging, clapping and interruptions during Question Period. “Improving decorum during proceedings of the Legislative Assembly has been a hallmark of my tenure as Speaker,” wrote Plecas in his December 2020 report. In the Research Co survey, 57 per cent of British Columbians thought an all-party committee to examine parliamentary decorum was a good idea. Of the BC Green supporters who responded, 57 per cent were in favour, while 62 per cent of NDP voters and 66 per cent of Liberals were supportive. “Ultimately, this is about figuring out a way to discuss policies that is not going to be drowned by clapping or heckling,” said Canseco. It’s unclear whether the government would consider these reforms, but change could begin with the Speaker establishing rules with the house leaders, said Canseco, likening it to when a judge speaks privately with the defence and prosecution lawyers to curb courtroom overacting. “Where the Speaker discusses this with the house leaders pre-emptively and says, ‘This is the way it's going to go from now on, so please advise your sides,’” Canseco said. “But it's definitely something that people want,” said Canseco. “People want to see some sort of decorum back in the legislature.” Fran@thegoatnews.ca / @FranYanor Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Rocky Mountain Goat
ATHENS, Greece — Greek police clashed with more than 500 protesters in an Athens suburb on Sunday evening, using tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the crowd. The crowd was protesting police violence, but views of what happened earlier Sunday diverge widely. In an announcement, police say that a motorcycle patrol went to suburb Nea Smyrni’s main square just before 3 p.m. Sunday to investigate “multiple reports” of violations of lockdown measures and that they were set upon by a group of 30 people who injured two police officers. Police reinforcement detained 11 from among the group, police say. But videos uploaded on several websites show a different picture: peaceful citizens arguing with police and suddenly being thrown to the ground and attacked with batons. It was to this incident that the protest rally was held about four hours later. Police say that an administrative inquiry will be held in response to the video uploads. Opposition parties have entered the fray, denouncing the “police repression.” “It wasn’t an accident. The government and (Prime Minister Kyriakos) Mitsotakis wanted this,” said Pavlos Christidis, the spokesman for socialist party Movement for Change. With the number of new cases of the coronavirus still well above 1,000 daily, the Athens area as well as others across Greece are under a strict lockdown and police patrols conduct checks to see if people are keeping social distancing and refrain from travelling unnecessarily. Police say that they, on Saturday alone, they conducted 71,177 checks across the country, finding 2,025 violations; 1,627 concerned unauthorized movement, 304 non-wearing of masks and 91 illegal operation of businesses. Demetris Nellas, The Associated Press
La popularité des livres numériques n’a jamais été aussi importante qu’en temps de COVID-19 à la bibliothèque Fonds de solidarité FTQ de Matane. « Durant le confinement, souligne la responsable de la bibliothèque municipale Christiane Melançon, nous avons concentré nos efforts sur la promotion de la lecture numérique. Nous voulions continuer à offrir de la lecture aux usagers en les aidant dans l’utilisation de la plateforme. Bien des gens ont utilisé ou découvert ce type de lecture. » Explosion des prêts numériques à la bibliothèque municipale de MataneDonnées éloquentes Les statistiques parlent d’elles-mêmes. Ainsi, le nombre de prêts numériques a explosé en 2020 avec une hausse de 334 %, soit 820 contre 189 tandis que le nombre d’accès à la plateforme numérique a grimpé de 232 %, soit 2 003 contre 603 l’année précédente. « Au même moment, note Mme Melançon, la fréquentation a chuté de près de 50 %. Et si on exclut la fermeture complète de la mi-mars au 25 mai, le prêt de livres papier sans contact n’a pas attiré autant d’usagers qu’en temps normal. » Collection de livres numériques en hausse Afin de continuer malgré tout à offrir de la lecture durant le confinement, la bibliothèque municipale a augmenté sa collection de livres numériques en en achetant 1 087 comparativement à 148 l’année d’avant. Présentement, elle en a 1 895, dont 765 dans la catégorie Romans et nouvelles. Elle offre de façon continue du soutien aux usagers pour l’accessibilité à la plateforme de prêt numérique. Romain Pelletier, Initiative de journalisme local, Monmatane.com
The Saskatchewan Coroners Service and police in Regina are investigating after a man died Sunday morning. Authorities are treating the death as a homicide, but no further details are available at this time. Officers were called to the 100 block of St John Street, at the corner of Fifth Avenue North, for reports of an injured man just after 4:15 a.m. CST Sunday. EMS was also dispatched but it was determined the man was "beyond help," according to a news release. He was declared dead at the scene. Anyone with information that could help police is asked to call the Regina Police Service or Crime Stoppers. More from CBC News:
Three deaths related to COVID-19 reported Saturday All three deaths were reported in the Saskatoon zone and were in the 80 plus age group, 70 to 79 age group and 50 to 59 age group. There were 163 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the province on Sunday. The North Central zone, which includes Prince Albert, reported 20 new cases. North Central 2, which is Prince Albert, has 38 active cases. North Central 1, which includes communities such as Christopher Lake, Candle Lake and Meath Park, has 38 active cases and North Central 3 has 20 active cases. Three cases with pending residence information were added to North Central.Two cases were found to be out-of-province residents and were removed from the counts. There are currently 142 people in hospital overall in the province. Of the 120 reported as receiving in patient care there are eight in North Central. Of the 22 people reported as being in intensive care there are two in North Central. The current seven-day average 155, or 12.7 cases per 100,000 population. Of the 29,593 reported COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan, 1,613 are considered active. The recovered number now sits at 27,584 after 52 more recoveries were reported. The total number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic is 29,593 of those 7,539 cases are from the North area (3,065 North West, 3,309 North Central and 1,165 North East). There were 3,577 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered yesterday in Saskatchewan bringing the total number of vaccines administered in the province to 90,456. There were 967 doses administered in the North Central reported, the most of any zone reporting. Doses were also administered in the Central East, North West, South East, Saskatoon and Regina. There were 2,744 COVID-19 tests processed in Saskatchewan on March 5. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
A 29-year-old man from Sainte-Marie-Saint-Raphaël, N.B., has been found dead near Lamèque. RCMP searched for for Justin Savoie after he was reported missing on Thursday. Savoie was last seen Monday at a business on Rue de L'Église in the village where he lives on New Brunswick's Acadian Peninsula. Police believe he was heading toward Lamèque or Tracadie on a snowmobile. A snowmobile matching the description of the one driven by Savoie was located underwater by police near the bridge on Route 113 between Haut-Lamèque and Lamèque. The RCMP Underwater Recovery Team conducted searches in the area on Friday. Police worked with the Canada Border Services Agency on Saturday to locate and remove the body from the ice. It was identified as the missing man, RCMP say. Several organizations assisted in the operation, including the Lamèque and Shippagan fire departments, Ambulance New Brunswick, the Department of Justice and Public Safety and the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization. RCMP continue to investigate.
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken is proposing a series of steps to help jumpstart Afghanistan’s stalled peace process between the government and Taliban, according to a letter from Blinken to Afghanistan’s president Ashra Ghani published Sunday by Afghanistan’s TOLONews. The letter calls for bringing the two sides together for a U.N.-facilitated conference with foreign ministers and envoys from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the United States “to discuss a unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan.” Blinken also calls for holding talks between the Afghan government and Taliban in a senior-level meeting in Turkey in the coming weeks to hammer out a revised proposal for a 90-day reduction in violence. The secretary of state has also called on special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to share with both the Afghan government and Taliban written proposals to help accelerate discussions, according to the TOLONews report. Blinken also made clear in the letter that the Biden administration continues to consider a “full withdrawal” of the roughly 2,500 U.S. forces in the country by the May 1 deadline negotiated by Trump administration. The State Department declined to comment on the TOLONews report. “We have not made any decisions about our force posture in Afghanistan after May 1,” the State Department said in a statement. “All options remain on the table.” Afghanistan presents one of the new administration’s most difficult foreign policy decisions. The U.S. public is weary of a war nearly 20 years old, but pulling out now could be seen as giving the Taliban too much leverage and casting a shadow over the sacrifices made by U.S. and coalition troops and Afghan civilians. Blinken urged Ghani to quickly embrace the proposal and underscored his concern that the security situation in the country could quickly deteriorate as the weather warms in Afghanistan “Even with the continuation of financial assistance from the United States to your forces after an American military withdrawal, I am concerned that the security situation will worsen and the Taliban could make rapid territorial gains,” Blinken wrote in the letter. The Associated Press
Here's a sight most airline passengers don't get to witness! Watch as this flight soars right above the cloud deck.
Chinese drone giant DJI Technology Co Ltd built up such a successful U.S. business over the past decade that it almost drove all competitors out of the market. Yet its North American operations have been hit by internal ructions in recent weeks and months, with a raft of staff cuts and departures, according to interviews with more than two dozen current and former employees. The loss of key managers, some of who have joined rivals, has compounded problems caused by U.S. government restrictions on Chinese companies, and raised the once-remote prospect of DJI's dominance being eroded, said four of the people, including two senior executives who were at the company until late 2020.
LONDON — Gareth Bale and Harry Kane both scored twice to help Tottenham make it three Premier League wins in a row and boost its top-four hopes after a 4-1 victory against Crystal Palace on Sunday. The duo combined twice with Kane the architect for both goals by Bale before the England captain hit a wonder strike and then created history with another in the 76th minute. Son Heung-min assisted Kane’s second and it was their 14th goal combination in the Premier League this season to beat the previous record of 13 set by Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton for Blackburn in the 1994-95 season. Christian Benteke had threatened to spoil proceedings for Jose Mourinho’s side when he equalized just before halftime, but two quick-fire goals after the break ensured the hosts rose to sixth. Tottenham is two points behind fourth-place Chelsea with 11 games remaining. Dele Alli was back on the bench after his second league start of the season at Fulham in midweek while the visitors listed the returning Wilfried Zaha as a substitute. Bale showed no early ill-effects on his third consecutive start and should have had an assist in the sixth minute but Son headed straight at Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita. The Welsh attacker had slalomed between two opponents to create the chance and it was a sign of things to come. After a brace in Tottenham’s win over Burnley last weekend, Bale added to his tally again after 25 minutes. Palace captain Luka Milivojevic was dispossessed by Lucas Moura deep inside his own half and Kane dropped a shoulder to beat the midfielder and race into the area where he squared for Bale to tap in. It was a poor way for the visitors to concede and not long after the hosts almost produced a superb team move but Sergio Reguilon sliced wide on the volley. A flurry of corners in quick succession saw Palace build some momentum and in the first minute of stoppage time they equalized against the run of play. Ebere Eze found Milivojevic in space and the captain atoned for his earlier error with a fine delivery into the area where Benteke headed home for his fifth goal of the season. Zaha was introduced at the break, but he was largely a spectator during a lightning-quick start to the second period where Tottenham scored twice in the space of three minutes. First, Bale doubled his tally for the night when he nodded home from Kane’s header across the face of goal after another excellent cross from Reguilon in the 49th. That made it 10 goals for the season for Bale, who is on loan from Real Madrid having left Tottenham in 2013. A slick move was concluded in style when Matt Doherty cut back for Kane in space and he produced a 25-yard curler into the top corner to leave Guaita with no chance. The Bale and Kane show was ended in the 70th when Bale was replaced but it had been another impressive showing to continue his return to form. There was still time for one more Spurs goal and it proved a record-breaking effort when Son squared for Kane to head in from close range. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
The Democratic leader of New York’s Senate called for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign Sunday amid mounting allegations of sexual harassment and undercounting COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins added her voice to a growing number of Cuomo’s foes and allies who believe the three-term Democrat should step down. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, also a Democrat, stopped short of echoing Stewart-Cousins but said in a statement that “it is time for the Governor to seriously consider whether he can effectively meet the needs of the people of New York.” On Saturday, another woman who worked for Cuomo publicly accused him of inappropriate behaviour, on the heels of other allegations in recent weeks. “Every day there is another account that is drawing away from the business of government,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. “New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and is still facing the societal, health and economic impacts of it. We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state Governor Cuomo must resign.” Her push for his resignation came shortly after a Sunday press conference where Cuomo said it would be “anti-democratic” for him to step down. “They don’t override the people's will, they don’t get to override elections," Cuomo said during a conference call with reporters when asked about members of his own party calling for him to step down. "I was elected by the people of New York state. I wasn’t elected by politicians.” Cuomo said the next six months will determine how successfully New York emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. “I’m not going to be distracted because there is too much to do for the people,” he said, noting that the state must pass a budget within three weeks and administer 15 million more COVID-19 vaccines. Asked about Ana Liss, who told The Wall Street Journal in a story published Saturday that when she worked as a policy aide to the governor between 2013 and 2015, Cuomo called her “sweetheart,” kissed her hand and asked personal questions including whether she had a boyfriend, Cuomo said such talk was “my way of doing friendly banter.” He acknowledged that societal norms have evolved and noted: "I never meant to make anyone feel any uncomfortable.” Liss told the Journal she initially thought of Cuomo’s behaviour as harmless and never made a formal complaint about it, but it increasingly bothered her and she felt it was patronizing. “It’s not appropriate, really, in any setting,” she said. “I wish that he took me seriously.” Cuomo’s workplace conduct has been under intense scrutiny in recent days as several women have publicly told of feeling sexually harassed, or at least made to feel demeaned and uncomfortable by him. The state's attorney general is investigating. Former adviser Lindsey Boylan, 36, said he made inappropriate comments on her appearance, once kissed her on the lips at the end of a meeting and suggested a game of strip poker as they sat with other aides on a jet flight. Another former aide, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett, said Cuomo asked if she ever had sex with older men and made other comments she interpreted as gauging her interest in an affair. Another woman, who did not work for the state, described Cuomo putting his hands on her face and asking if he could kiss her after they met at a wedding. In a news conference last week, Cuomo denied ever touching anyone inappropriately, but apologized for behaving in a way that he now realized had upset people. He said he’d made jokes and asked personal questions in an attempt to be playful and frequently greeted people with hugs and kisses, as his father, Mario Cuomo, had done when he was governor. Karen Matthews And David Porter, The Associated Press
MONTREAL — Quebec reported 707 new cases of COVID-19 and seven more deaths on Sunday, as much of the province prepared to transition to the lower orange alert level of pandemic-related public health restrictions. Two of the deaths occurred in the past 24 hours, while the rest happened earlier or at an unknown date. Hospitalizations declined by nine to 592, with 107 people in intensive care, which is two fewer than the day before. The Quebec government announced last week that it would ease restrictions in most of the province on March 8, with the exception of Montreal and the surrounding regions where restaurant dining rooms will stay closed and an 8 p.m. curfew remains in effect. Quebec City and four other regions will move to the lower, "orange'' pandemic-alert level of the province's response framework, which means more businesses can open and the start of the nighttime curfew will be pushed back to 9:30 p.m. Health Minister Christian Dube asked Quebecers to stick to their own regions, writing that "now is not the time" for non-essential travel. But for some, the loosened restrictions didn't go far enough. A high-school football player led a protest in front of Quebec City's legislature on Sunday, demanding the resumption of all organized sports. The province announced last week that school athletics could resume as of March 15, as long as students stay within classroom groups. Police, meanwhile, announced that they had issued tickets totaling more than $1,500 to 36 people who gathered at a cottage north of Quebec City on Saturday evening. Local police said they broke up the gathering at the residence in Stoneham-et-Tewkesbury, Que., after being contacted by citizens at about 8:30 p.m. The province administered 15,329 doses of vaccine on Saturday, and has promised to ramp up its campaign this week as more regions begin mass vaccination of the general public, beginning with older seniors. Mass immunization began last week but has been concentrated in the Montreal area due to a higher number of cases and the risk posed by more contagious virus variants. The age of eligibility for a vaccine ranges from 70 to 80, depending on the region. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021 Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press