With Matt Di Nicolantonio.
With Matt Di Nicolantonio.
Sherbrooke — Semer des végétaux peut être un geste à la fois vert et communautaire, insiste Béatrice Thomassin-Demers. Dans le cadre de ses études, l’étudiante en environnement à l’Université de Sherbrooke vient tout juste de lancer la Bibliothèque de Semences, un site web qui permet d’« emprunter » gratuitement des semences ancestrales afin de veiller sur l’agrodiversité de la province. Le principe est simple : les intéressés peuvent consulter le catalogue de semences disponibles et remplir un formulaire de demande. Entre 5 et 10 graines de chaque variété seront envoyées gratuitement, pour un maximum de 3 différentes variétés par jardinier. On peut prendre les arrangements pour récupérer ses semences ou les recevoir par la poste si cette première option est impossible. « La personne s’engage à laisser monter un ou deux plants en graines dans son jardin et à nous renvoyer des semences, explique Mme Thomassin-Demers. Ça permet de renouveler le stock de graines et de s’assurer qu’on en a pour les prochains. Ça aide à prévenir la perte de semences ancestrales et ça aide les gens à se lancer dans le jardinage. C’est plus accessible, comme ils n’ont pas à payer. Sur la page Facebook de la Bibliothèque, j’essaie aussi de partager des informations en lien avec le jardinage et la conservation de semences pour leur donner des outils. » L’idée est venue à l’étudiante à son retour d’un stage en milieu agricole sur l’île de Vancouver. Son cours intitulé « Projet intégration », à l’automne dernier, lui demandait de mettre sur pied une initiative qui sensibiliserait les gens ou créerait un changement en lien avec un enjeu environnemental. « Là où je travaillais, ils avaient une banque de semences avec leur municipalité. Ça fonctionnait bien, alors je me suis dit que je pourrais faire ça moi aussi ici. En le mettant en ligne, ça me permet de couvrir tout le Québec. Personnellement, je suis juste vraiment passionnée par la nourriture, soit manger santé et varié, et par la protection de l’environnement, alors c’est un moyen de relier les deux. « Ça nous rassemble » Et je pense qu’il y a un intérêt pour ce genre de choses. Le but, c’est vraiment que ce soit un service pour la communauté : protéger l’environnement d’une façon positive et sensibiliser les gens. Je suis sûre que ça amène un sentiment de communauté d’avoir ça. Ça nous rassemble. » En quoi la préservation de variétés ancestrales est-elle importante? Mme Thomassin-Demers sait bien le vulgariser. « La perte de variété dans les semences, ça amène aussi une perte dans la variété des gènes. C’est un peu comme les races de chien; les pur-race vont avoir plus souvent des problèmes de santé qui se développent, chose qu’on voit moins dans les chiens mélangés. C’est un peu ça pour l’agriculture aussi. » Pour son démarrage, la Bibliothèque de Semences a jusque-là bénéficié de dons provenant des Jardins de l’Écoumène, du Jardin collectif de l’Udes et de la Ferme coopérative Tourne-Sol, en plus d’une subvention de l’Association générale étudiante en sciences de l’UdeS. On y retrouve actuellement des graines de plantes herbacées comme l’échinacée, la camomille ou la calendule, mais aussi des légumes comme les pois Cascadia ou le concombre Marketmore 76. « J’aimerais être assez occupée avec ça. Je suis en session de stage alors j’ai du temps. J’ai aussi des possibilités de partenariats avec des organismes quand le projet sera plus concret », dit celle qui aimerait voir son projet grandir. Voir le site de la Bibliothèque de Semences : https://bibliothequesemences.wixsite.com/service/accueil Voir la page Facebook de la Bibliothèque de semences : https://www.facebook.com/La-Biblioth%C3%A8que-de-Semences-110219764244612Jasmine Rondeau, Initiative de journalisme local, La Tribune
La pandémie et la pénurie de main-d’œuvre ont eu raison d’un autre commerce de la région. La quincaillerie Tremblay-Laroche, établie depuis plus de 25 ans à Saint-Gédéon, ne rouvrira après avoir fermé ses portes le printemps dernier, faute de personnel. Le bâtiment situé au 223, rue de Quen, a été mis en vente. Le personnel restant et l’inventaire ont été transférés à la succursale de Métabetchouan-Lac-à-la-Croix, qui elle aussi vit des heures difficiles en ce qui a trait au personnel. « Malheureusement, on est obligé de fermer la succursale. Deux employés sont partis pendant la première vague de COVID le printemps dernier pour d’autres magasins et on n’a pas été capable de les remplacer », explique le propriétaire, Marc Tremblay. Pénurie de main-d’œuvre Marc Tremblay s’explique mal le fait que malgré un taux de chômage élevé, il soit si difficile de combler des postes aux deux succursales. En deux ans, même les ouvertures de poste pour le magasin de Métabetchouan-Lac-à-la-Croix n’ont pas pris preneurs. « On a de la misère à combler malgré le fait qu’on dise qu’il y a beaucoup de personnes qui ne travaillent pas. Je ne comprends pas grand-chose là-dedans. Avec toutes les annonces qu’on a faites, on n’est pas capable de combler les besoins. On a essayé de toutes les manières. On a fait des parutions Facebook et ici au magasin et on ne réussit pas… », déplore-t-il Année mouvementée L’été dernier, les Québécois se sont adonnés aux travaux de rénovation. L’équipe de plus en plus restreinte du groupe Tremblay-Laroche a été mise à rude épreuve. « L’équipe a dû mettre les bouchées doubles. Avec deux personnes en moins, ça paraît. On a comblé le stock de Métabetchouan avec l’inventaire du magasin de Saint-Gédéon. Ça n’a pas été une année rose », ajoute Marc Tremblay. Questionné à savoir si une lueur d’espoir régnait toujours pour le magasin de Saint-Gédéon, le propriétaire a affirmé qu’il concentrait dorénavant ses efforts sur le magasin de Métabetchouan-Lac-à-la-Croix. « On ne se fait pas d’illusions. On a mis le bâtiment à vendre », souligne-t-il. En novembre 2019, le groupe Tremblay-Laroche, alors affilié à BMR, avait quitté cette bannière pour joindre le groupe Castle en raison de désaccords. « BMR nous imposait des choses qu’on ne voulait pas. On ne se sentait plus chef dans notre propre magasin. Ils nous laissent acheter et faire ce qu’on veut », avait expliqué à l’époque Marc Tremblay. Plus d’un an plus tard, il se dit « très satisfait » de ce changement.Julien B. Gauthier, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Lac St-Jean
TORONTO — After a 10-month investigation, a task force commissioned by the Ontario government has issued a range of sweeping recommendations to reform the province's securities regulator. The Capital Markets Modernization Task Force's 70 recommendations include major governance changes to Ontario Securities Commission, such as establishing an adjudicative body within the OSC to rule on alleged securities act violations. The task force also recommends expanding the agency's mandate to augment its regulatory function, and changing its name to the Ontario Capital Markets Authority. The task force was commissioned in 2019 by Ontario's finance minister, with the goal of encouraging growth and competition in the province's capital markets. In the report, the task force decried the lack of new securities issuers in Ontario, which they warned could lead to fewer head offices and fewer investment growth opportunities in the province. Over the course of its investigation, the task force met with more than 110 different stakeholders as it was developing its recommendations. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. The Canadian Press
CBC News gains access to a unique inoculation site in the U.K., where vulnerable groups are being prioritized.
TORONTO — Global trials examining the potential of blood thinners to treat moderately ill COVID-19 patients have proven so successful its Canadian investigators say clinicians should immediately start using them in standard care.Investigators at Toronto's University Health Network say interim results of clinical trials spanning five continents in more than 300 hospitals suggest full-dose blood thinners could significantly avoid severe cases that are now straining hospital ICUs.The study involved more than 1,300 moderately ill patients admitted to hospital, including some at UHN. Investigators say full doses of Heparin improved outcomes and decreased the need for life support.The full dose was also more effective than the lower dose typically administered to prevent blood clots in hospitalized patients.Critical care physician Ewan Goligher, co-chair of the therapeutic anticoagulation domain of the trial, says the findings could significantly transform care.“Having cared for so many severely ill COVID-19 patients and witnessed the suffering involved for patients and their loved ones, it is profoundly gratifying that together we have discovered a treatment that can prevent patients from becoming severely ill and improve their recovery,” Goligher, also a scientist with the University Health Network, said Friday in a release.Ryan Zarychanski, associate professor, hematologist and critical care physician at the University of Manitoba, said the findings were promising. "In a disease with a limited number of effective therapies, our results have the potential to define a new standard of care for moderately ill hospitalized COVID-19 patients around the world," Zarychanski said.Doctors noticed early in the pandemic that COVID-19 patients suffered an increased rate of blood clots and inflammation. This led to complications including lung failure, heart attack and stroke.Back in December, investigators found that giving full-dose blood thinners to critically ill ICU patients did not help, and was actually harmful.The trials are supported by international funding organizations including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the NIH National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute in the United States, the National Institute for Health Research in the United Kingdom, and the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. The Canadian Press
A land redesignation bylaw for a proposed solar farm in Wheatland County was rejected by Wheatland County council, but following a special meeting of council, the project will be considered again during the next council meeting at the latest. During the Jan. 12 regular county council meeting, council considered a motion to adopt second reading of a bylaw to redesignate 160 acres for a proposed 20.1-megawatt commercial solar facility located east of Strathmore. The redesignation was necessary because the lands are currently agricultural, but as per the county’s land use bylaw, solar developments must be sited on lands designated as “energy district,” a category added in 2019. However, the motion failed by a vote of 6-1, with Reeve Amber Link the only councillor to vote in favour of the motion. Despite the council’s ruling, its hands may ultimately be tied because of provincial law. Section 619 of the provincial Municipal Government Act (MGA) provides that any approval granted by the AUC prevails over any statutory plan or land use bylaw. It also establishes that when a municipality receives a land use bylaw amendment and the application is consistent with the AUC approval, the municipality must approve the application. The project received AUC approval on Sept. 25, 2020. Prior to the council meeting, a public hearing for the bylaw was held via teleconference, during which letters from several landowners opposed to the project were read. However, Section 619(4) of the MGA requires that the hearing not address matters already discussed during the AUC application review process, which included many of the issues brought forward. Several of the councillors said during the meeting that despite the constraints of the MGA, they intended to vote in opposition to the motion in principle. “They (AUC) claim they figured what public interest is, but I don’t think so,” said Tom Ikert, Division 4 Councillor. “We are asked to rubber stamp something that a bunch of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats say is fine – but this has been backdoored to us.” Despite voting in favour of the bylaw, Link spoke of the difficulty of that decision. “This is extremely frustrating, because to a huge extent, the jurisdiction of municipal government has been subjugated by Section 619 of the MGA,” she said during the meeting. The proponent, Dan Eaton, has appealed the county’s decision to the Municipal Governing Board (MGB), an independent board established under the MGA that makes decisions about land planning and assessment matters, according to his lawyer, Terri-Lee Oleniuk of Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP. These appeals are costly, with some municipalities paying upwards of $500,000 to participate in similar hearings, said Link. This includes legal costs and land use planning when required. Given Section 619 of the MGA and related past decisions, the likelihood the MGB would rule against the council’s decision is near certain. “I cannot find any legal precedent where we would have any hope in taking that route,” she said. “I’m not willing to throw tax dollars at a losing fight. I am willing to fight the province, but that has to be done through advocacy.” An MGA hearing looks to be avoided, because during a special meeting of council held on Jan. 19, the potential repercussions of defeating the land designation were discussed in a closed session, Link told the Times in an email. Two resolutions were passed during this closed session: council directed administration to prepare a direct control district for the project at the earliest possible date (no later than March 2) and bring a development permit application for consideration at the same meeting, and that administration request the applicant to provide a complete development permit application no later than Jan. 22. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
The company that runs a limestone quarry on the Port au Port Peninsula is headed to trial, after pleading not guilty to numerous charges surrounding the 2018 death of one of its workers. A lawyer for Atlantic Minerals entered not guilty pleas in Stephenville provincial court Friday to all 10 charges the company faces under the province's Occupational Health and Safety Act, including failing to provide workplace procedures and failing to ensure safe workplace procedures were followed. The charges stem from the death of a 55-year-old worker at the quarry in Lower Cove on July 31, 2018. The man, a long-term employee of the company, was fatally injured after an incident during conveyor maintenance. Six days are being set aside for Atlantic Minerals' trial in Stephenville, starting June 14. A supervisor with Atlantic Minerals also faces two charges in relation to the death, of failing to ensure the health and safety of workers and failing to provide safety information and instruction. On Friday, the supervisor's lawyer, Andrew May, said his client was not ready to enter in a plea, but that a future not guilty plea was an "unlikely event." That matter has been set over until March. If the supervisor pleads not guilty, he will appear at the same trial as Atlantic Minerals. Atlantic Minerals is headquartered in Corner Brook. According to its website, the company has 130 employees at its Lower Cove operation. Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Midland's top staffer says more clarity around enforcement means sterner action by the town against those that disobey stay-at-home orders. "I know there's been a lot of discussion with the health unit around educating people," said CAO David Denault. "The education can only go so far. I think you're going to have to enforce much more strongly. The health unit itself is getting around to some of the areas where we've heard some of the complaints, like the malls. "Unfortunately, we're going to have to start patrolling areas like the toboggan hills and rinks," he added. "If people don't listen, we're going to have to ticket them. If numbers continue to rise as they're predicting, I think there will be a sterner side to enforcement." Until now, said Denault in his update to council this week, the approach was to educate and then enforce. Since Nov. 15, he said bylaw has issued 282 tickets and done 12 tows (non-COVID related). "We really don't want to do that to the public," said Denault. "But to be efficient and make sure we're taking care of our services, we need to do this. Please make sure you move your vehicles so we can get around and take care of the facilities." Coun. Jon Main wanted to know what the town planned for warming centres, considering public buildings are closed due to the stay-at-home orders. "Unfortunately, a lot of our warming centres are municipal facilities, which are not open," he said. "Is it our responsibility to provide warming centres?" Denault said that is one facet municipalities are struggling with. "It is one of the opportunities we have with the rec centre," he said. "We have been able to accommodate some individuals that have come there during frigid times. We'll continue to do that. We'll make sure we connect with our organizations in the community to understand that can be done. The more traditional facilities just aren't able to open." At the beginning of the meeting, Coun. Bill Gordon also asked what had become of the YMCA's request for town support in reopening its facility. "I know the YMCA had approached us without a financial ask, but with the indication that there would be something coming," he said. "It looks like we attempted to reach out to them and do something that didn't work out so I wonder if we could talk a little bit about that." Denault said all municipal CAOs had met up with the YMCA to discuss what they would need and to share with them options their municipalities may be able to bring forward with council approval. "There were no offers made," he said, adding he couldn't share any numbers due to a request of confidentiality by the Y. "At the end of the day, the YMCA determined they could best address their needs on their own. "We did leave them with the option that if they do require some assistance from the municipality, we can be engaged to help out," said Denault. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
HALIFAX — The public inquiry into the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia has announced the hiring of six experts who will help set a course for the investigation. Those joining the inquiry include Thomas Cromwell, a former Supreme Court of Canada justice who will serve as commission counsel. Cromwell previously served with the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal. As well, the inquiry has appointed Christine Hanson as executive director and chief administrative officer. Hanson is director of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. She also worked as an international lawyer and diplomat in a variety of roles with Global Affairs Canada. The inquiry has also appointed a community liaison, a mental health expert, an investigations co-ordinator and an expert in charge of research. "We are pleased to have secured a group of experienced and dedicated individuals who are among the most highly regarded in the country in their respective fields," the commission said in a statement Thursday. "There are a lot of questions to be asked and evidence to be gathered by the commission in order to fulfil its mandate and we want the best people to help us in this process." The other team members include: — Research director Emma Cunliffe is a professor at the Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia and a visiting professor at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University in Halifax. She is a scholar in complex criminal matters related to violence against women. — Investigations director Barbara McLean is deputy chief of the Toronto Police Service and is originally from Antigonish, N.S. — Mental health director Mary Pyche has worked as an addiction clinical therapist and has held leadership roles in the Nova Scotia Health Department regarding mental health and addiction. — Community liaison director Maureen Wheller co-chaired the first public advisory group that worked with Nova Scotia's mental health and addictions program. The independent federal-provincial inquiry, which has the authority to compel witnesses to testify and produce documents, is expected to produce an interim report by May 1, 2022 and a final report by Nov. 1, 2022. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. The Canadian Press
The real estate market saw “exceptional” sales activity in the Waterloo Region last year. Home sales in 2020 exceeded the “6,000-unit threshold for only the third time in our history,” said Nicole Pohl, President of Kitchener-Waterloo Association of REALTORS in a media announcement. December also marked “the sixth consecutive month of record home sales in Kitchener-Waterloo,” she added. KWAR reported a nine per cent increase in residential home sales compared to 2019. Sales rose five per cent over the five year average and 11.6 per cent above the ten-year average. December 351 home sales were the highest ever recorded by the group, with 42 per cent more home sales compared to last year. This included 204 detached (up by 46.7 per cent), and 63 condominium-style semi-detached, townhome, apartment and detached units, which were up 34 per cent. KWAR reported 3,899 detached residential units sold in 2020 (up 8.1 per cent), and 804 condominium units (up 19 per cent), compared to last year. Sales also included 450 semi-detached homes (up 6.8 per cent) and 1,346 freehold townhouses (up 7 per cent), they add.“On a year-to-date basis, the average sale price of all residential properties sold in 2020 increased by 16.1 per cent to $612,521 compared to 2019,” they report. “Detached homes sold for an average price of $719,203, an increase of 16.9 per cent compared to 2019.” Low inventory was reported to be a factor in Waterloo Region, much like the rest of Ontario. The average time on market remained less than one month through most of the year, KWAR reported. The average days on market for homes sold in 2020 was 16 days, compared to a 5-year average of 27 days. For context, the average time of residential homes on the market between 2011 and 2015, KWAR reported, averaged 4months. “Looking to the year ahead, we should expect more of the same” Pohl predicted. “Real estate continues to be one of the shining lights supporting the Ontario economy, so we do not expect to see any significant efforts to try to cool the market. Buyers should continue to expect stiff competition in Waterloo Region.” Swikar Oli, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cambridge Times
OTTAWA — A new third-party advocacy group is launching an ad campaign aimed at ensuring Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole never becomes prime minister.The Protecting Canada Project will start airing today its first 30-second ad, in English and French, on television and online.The ad predicts that an O'Toole government would cut funding for health care, even as the country struggles through the COVID-19 pandemic.The tag line concludes that O'Toole and the Conservatives "are hazardous to your health — at the worst possible time."Group spokesman Ian Wayne, who formerly worked for NDP leaders Jack Layton and Tom Mulcair, says Protecting Canada was formed by Canadians "with diverse political experience" and a common goal of ensuring the Conservatives don't win the next election. How an O'Toole-led Conservative government would tackle the massive national debt and deficit created by pandemic spending will be a key question for the party in the next campaign. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. The Canadian Press
(ANNews) – The COVID-19 vaccination supply coming to Canada has changed and at least in the short term, it will be much less than was originally planned. Minister of Health Tyler Shandro issued a statement on the latest changes in the amount of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine coming to Canada, saying “I am extremely concerned by the announcement that Pfizer is even further decreasing the amount of COVID-19 vaccine coming to Canada from its factory in Belgium, with no doses expected to arrive next week and further anticipated reductions in the two weeks following.” Alberta’s Health Minister continued by announcing that the focus will be shifted to delivering second doses for those who have already been vaccinated. Elderly people in long-term care homes and healthcare workers who have been administered their first dose are the province’s main priority. First time dose appointments for healthcare workers are postponed as well as some second dose appointments. Shandro then went on to mention that province may not be able to vaccinate elderly people in the general population or Elders living within First Nations territory. “A sharp decrease in vaccines coming to Alberta may also further delay our plans to expand vaccination to all seniors over the age of 75 in the community and individuals over the age of 65 in First Nations communities and Metis Settlements around the province.” “Alberta has the capacity to deliver about 50,000 doses per week and rapidly expand distribution, but we lack supply. Whether we like it or not, Canadian provinces are dependent on the Government of Canada for vaccine supply. We continue to advocate to our federal partners to increase the supply of vaccine as soon as possible,” said Minister Shandro. Meanwhile in Ottawa, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says the Federal Government is working with the provinces to prioritize vaccinating Indigenous people against COVID-19. “This is a particularly acute issue and challenge when we’re talking about the deployment of the vaccine,” Miller told a news conference Wednesday Jan 20, in Ottawa. Concerned that Ottawa is not able to vaccinate its Indigenous population living off-reserve, Miller said, “We need participation of the provinces to ensure that needles get into the arms of people that are the most vulnerable.” “The role of the federal government, in my mind, is to offer our assets, offer our co-operation, our resources, our logistical capacities.” In response to the announcements, the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations said that they are dissatisfied with “the COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Plan proposed for our respective Nations without Free, Prior and Informed Consent. “There has been a failure to align resources consistent with the Famine and Pestilence Clause, the Medicine Chest, and the Treaty Right to Health." “Until the past week, our Nations were not informed that Health Canada had engaged Alberta Health Services to determine our vaccine requirements. In the past few months, Canada announced publicly on several occasions that Treaty First Nations were a priority and that vaccines would be provided. First Nations are at a greater risk of exposure due to a number of factors including, overcrowded homes with multi-generational families, lack of housing, remoteness, poverty, and distances to health care facilities and providers,” said the Confederacy in a statement. Also responding to the announcement is Chief Tony Alexis, who issued a statement condemning the vaccination roll-out happening in Alberta, “Meanwhile in Alberta under Minister Shandro’s watch, First Nations communities are seeing case numbers rapidly rise, while the rest of the Alberta covid numbers decline.” “The rate of infections, hospitalizations and ICU admissions for First Nations is increasing at an alarming rate compared to the rest of Alberta. The situation is dire for our people. In my community of Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, over 5 per cent of the population has COVID-19 and numbers rise daily.” Alberta Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Marlene Poitras added, “First Nations communities are reaching a breaking point with new cases of COVID-19. When considering the data provided by Alberta Health, we see hospitalization rates of 4.3 for Alberta in general and 7.1 for First Nations living in Alberta. These disparities are un acceptable. There was some hope that access to a vaccine would help us. However, given recent decisions of the Provincial Government, which lacked meaningful First Nations involvement, trust and commitment to partnership continues to be in question. “I’m calling upon the Provincial Government to ensure First Nations leadership are at the decision making tables…to ensure that all First Nations communities are protected from the ravages of COVID-19. “How many times must it be said that Sovereign First Nations must be involved in the decisions that affect them?” The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout prioritize people who live and work in long-term care homes, people over the age of 80, front-line health workers, and adults in Indigenous communities where an outbreak can be particularly harmful and hard to manage. Indigenous Services Canada said there have been 89 COVID-19 cases, including 15 deaths, in nine long-term care homes on reserves located in Manitoba, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. The number of COVID-19 active cases in First Nations communities reached an all-time high this week with 5,571 reported cases as of Tuesday Jan. 19 Jacob Cardinl, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alberta Native News
In his office overlooking Gage Park in downtown Brampton, Mayor Patrick Brown turned away from the live video feed of Wednesday’s committee of council meeting. He peered through the window for a view of the tree-lined outdoor skating rink below, a place that transports visitors to an idyllic winter escape. The ice width is “significantly larger than a sidewalk, or typical creek trail,” Brown pointed out to council members. Given the City’s ability to control rink capacity through its online booking system, he argued that existing measures to promote social distancing are sufficient. Non-medical masks or face coverings were in place only as a recommendation at Brampton’s outdoor rinks, but are mandatory in line-ups, the washrooms, or staging areas. “In general, wearing a mask is always good practice. I would just say let’s be careful about what precedents we set here…and what this means for the city and other avenues,” he said. Brown’s worry was that other City-owned properties, including basketball courts and soccer fields when they re-open, and even sidewalks, could then be subject to mandatory masking orders. The mayor put forward concerns supported by those fatigued by some of the protective measures imposed on them, but his more liberal attitude toward mask use stood in contrast with a motion that had just been forwarded. The comments came in response to a move by Councillor Rowena Santos for Brampton to implement an immediate policy to make face-coverings mandatory while skating, a decision Toronto already made. According to the motion – which passed unanimously despite the mayor’s concerns – provincial public health factsheets point to evidence that people can develop COVID-19 after repeated and cumulative exposure to someone with the novel coronavirus, “in the same manner as prolonged close contact.” Santos told Council the motion was aimed to “provide a little bit more clarity and consistency” to rink etiquette in a shared space, even if outdoors. The City will mobilize its surplus of masks to various skating rinks and inform those who have registered online about the new mandatory policy. The move to make these spaces safer in Ontario’s hardest-hit city comes after a more drastic measure to close winter amenities in Vaughan. Last week, the municipality announced it was closing outdoor amenities, including dog parks, in line with its “disciplined, reasonable and measured approach to COVID-19,” according to a press release announcing the move three days after the province entered a state of emergency and the stay-at-home order came into effect on January 14. “You need to do all that you can to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, and when you get large gatherings of people, you’re actually increasing it,” said Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua, in response to criticism, during a taped interview with CityNews. “So our decision was based on what we know at the moment to be true...and use all measures at [our] disposal.” Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s Medical Officer of Health, publicly opposed the move, saying the use of outdoor facilities should be encouraged and regulated by the City to help promote mental health and exercise. Most municipalities in the GTA, including Toronto and Mississauaga have kept these amenities open during the current emergency order, which allows the use of such facilities. Keeping outdoor recreational activities, such as Brampton’s Winter Wonderland program, open has been supported by many infectious disease specialists who recognize the need for healthy, active alternatives during a lockdown. Public health officials have pointed out that if residents do not have the opportunity to exercise and get outside, mental health can suffer, and people might be pushed to violate other rules if they feel restrictions are unreasonable. “From our perspective, here at the Region of Peel, we know that it is ultimately [about] trying to balance outdoor recreation and an opportunity for individuals to exercise, which remains an essential reason to be out of one's home,” said Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel’s Medical Officer of Health, at Mississauga’s weekly press conference on Wednesday. “Region-hopping has always been a challenge or problem, but I imagine there are ways to address that,” said Dr. Loh, pointing to online booking tools and capacity limits that would help mitigate that risk. “It’s always been [the] recommendation, if you are unable to maintain two metres of distance – even outside – that you should be wearing a mask.” In a test of Brampton’s booking system, The Pointer was able to reserve a time at Gage Park using a registration account that listed a non-Brampton postal code as a home address. Mobility patterns analyzed by Peel Public Health using Google’s anonymized, aggregate cellphone location data show that during the first emergency declaration in March, there was a 60 percent drop in trips to workplaces, retail and other recreational locations, and a 20 percent increase in time spent at home. Second wave trends show that the time at home had increased by 21 percent in the first week of January this year, compared to 14 percent in October, which is measured against a January 2020 baseline of pre-pandemic, at-home time. The analysis, which appears in Peel Region’s January 15 epidemiological report, shows Brampton had a 17.6 percent positivity rate for the week ending on January 9; anything above 2.5 percent indicates viral spread in a jurisdiction is not under control. Brampton’s incidence rate was at 351.8 cases per 100,000 residents, for the week ending January 9, compared to 284 in Caledon and 200 in Mississauga. Ontario’s incidence rate was a little more than half of Brampton’s during the same period. Despite Premier Doug Ford’s pleas for Ontarians to stay home, barring essential trips, attending a recreational setting is another choice Peel residents can consider. As previously reported in The Pointer, despite the stay-at-home order, a flight out of Toronto Pearson International Airport, to get a resident from Peel to Miami, or many other destinations, is still allowable, though not advised, another confusing reality of the Province’s state of emergency order. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: LaVjosa COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Vjosa Isai, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said on Friday he wanted it known that he had no plans to commit suicide in prison, as he issued a message of support to his followers on the eve of protests the authorities say are illegal. Navalny was detained on Sunday after flying home for the first time since being poisoned with what the West says was a military-grade nerve agent that Navalny says was applied to his underpants by state security agents. The 44-year-old lawyer, in a Moscow prison pending the outcome of four legal matters he describes as trumped up, accuses President Vladimir Putin of ordering his attempted murder.
The Edmundston region, Zone 4, will go into a full lockdown Saturday at midnight amid climbing case numbers and a series of outbreaks. The evolution of the pandemic is "extremely worrying" in this area of northwestern New Brunswick, Dr. Jennifer Russell said at a live-streamed COVID-19 update Friday. Cases have been reported in schools, workplaces and residences for the elderly, and the region has the highest number of active cases in the province. Russell shared the spiralling case numbers that prompted Public Health to urge a lockdown. On Jan 6, she said, there were seven active cases in Zone 4. That number doubled in just two days. By Jan. 11, the number of active cases doubled again. Four days later, it doubled a third time and by Jan. 19, it had doubled a fourth time. From those seven cases reported two weeks ago, there are now 129 active cases in Zone 4. "At the current rate, that number will exceed 200 active cases early next week and potentially 400 active cases before the month is over," Russell said. "We really can't let this go on." How the Zone 4 lockdown will work The lockdown, which takes effect Saturday night at midnight, will be in effect for 14 days and will be reassessed every seven days. Health Minister Dorothy Shephard, speaking at the Friday update on COVID-19, said the decision to postpone the start of the lockdown to Saturday was to allow residents get the supplies they need before businesses close and to give businesses and the Department of Public Safety time to prepare for the new rules. She provided these details of the lockdown in the Edmundston region: All kindergarten-to-Grade 12 schools will close. Online learning only. Service New Brunswick offices will close. Only essential services can stay open. A wage top-up of $3 an hour will be available to early childhood educators who work during lockdown. Regulated health care professionals can stay open but provide virtual services where possible. Grocery stores, NB Liquor stores and Cannabis NB stores will remain open. Indoor gathering, including religious gatherings, must be virtual only. Funerals will be limited to a single-household bubble. Public spaces, including rinks and ski hills, will close. Outdoor activities with household bubble will be allowed. ATV and snowmobile trails will close. Restaurants, salons, farmers markets will close. Drive-thru and takeout only. Veterinary clinics can stay open with curbside animal dropoff. Libraries will remain open to allow internet access. People will be encouraged to work at home if possible. Lottery tickets will be available online only. Evictions will be banned until 10 days after lockdown ends. Tech support will be available to students and staff experiencing connectivity issues related to online learning at 1-833-453-1140. A complete list of businesses that are allowed to operate will be posted on the provincial government's gnb.ca website. Speaking as a doctor, and as a mom Dr. Jennifer Russell took a moment Friday to reassure parents who are worried about sending their children to school in red zones. As reported by CBC News on Thursday, more than 14,000 students stayed home from school Wednesday, the day Zones 1, 2 and 3 rolled back to red-phase restrictions. Russell said she knows it can be upsetting to be faced with decisions when you don't have access to all the discussions and information that supported them. But as a parent, she said, she wants other parents to know that she weighs the same concerns they do. "When I speak to you up here, I wear my physician hat," Russell said. "But I'm also a parent. I have two kids, two teenagers who attend school here in Fredericton — one of them has asthma — and I wouldn't knowingly do anything to put their health at risk. So unless I get a call from Public Health informing me that they are a close contact of a case, they will be going to school in the red and orange levels." Russell said the decision to keep schools open was made because they're "the safest place for our children to be." "And that's not just an opinion. It's rooted in science." In the 32 New Brunswick schools that have had COVID-19 cases, "we haven't seen a case where the virus was transmitted directly from one student to another." Tightened travel restrictions for all zones Travel into New Brunswick will further be restricted for all health zones as of midnight Saturday night. Health Minister Dorothy Shephard detailed the changes Friday, noting that anyone entering the province will have to self-isolate for 14 days. Exceptions will include those who travel back and forth daily for work, truck drivers, and those who must travel for medical care, child care and child custody. "However," she said, "these travellers will still have to be tested weekly. Residents of Pointe-à-la-Croix and Listuguj First Nation, in Quebec, may still cross the border for medical appointments and to fulfil child custody arrangements. They may also cross once a week to purchase essential items, Shephard said, but they will be subject to mandatory weekly testing. More testing centres set to come online Dr. Jennifer Russell is again urging residents to "get tested, even if you just have one symptom." Testing in some zones is "not where it should be," Russell said at Friday's COVID-19 update. The Miramichi region, Zone 7, has repeatedly been flagged as having a low test rate, and on Friday, Russell said it has the lowest number of tests per 100,000 population in all of New Brunswick. "The Miramichi region is at four tests per 100,000 population," Russell said. By comparison, the Edmundston region is at 308 tests per 100,000, and the rest of province is hovering at around 40 or 50 tests per 100,000, she said. "Zone 7 is needing to have more tests for sure." Several additional testing centres will be opening soon in Sussex, Sackville and Perth-Andover, and a new testing centre opened in the Zone 4 community of Clair this week, Russell said. Police to conduct roadside checks for compliance Residents have been advised to avoid all non-essential travel into and out of the Edmundston region, Zone 4, which enters a full lockdown Saturday night at midnight. Asked how this would be enforced, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said that if there is "obvious non-compliance," Public Safety will be issuing fines and "there will be consequences to some who decide to travel for non-essential reasons." Road checks were set up in Edmundston on Friday to check for compliance with single-household bubbles. The checks were being held to raise awareness of the province's emergency order, the Edmundston Police Force told Radio-Canada. The force noted that checks would continue throughout the weekend, and that people found to be in non-compliance could face fines of $292.50. 30 new cases, including one in Miramichi region There are 30 new cases of COVID-19 in the province, Russell said, including one case in the Miramichi region, the first confirmed case in that region since Boxing Day. The cases break down in this way: Moncton region, Zone 1, eight cases: an individual 20-29; an individual 30-39; two people 40-49; two people 60-69; and two people 70-79. Saint John region, Zone 2, one case: an individual 40-49. Fredericton region, Zone 3, one case: an individual 50-59. Edmundston region, Zone 4, 19 cases: an individual 19 and under; two people 20-29; an individual 30-39; an individual 40-49; three people 50-59; two people 60-69; three people 70-79; six people 80-89. Miramichi region, Zone 7: an individual 60-69. All cases are self-isolating and under investigation. The number of confirmed cases is 1,087 and 742 have recovered. There have been 13 deaths, and the number of active cases is 331. Five patients are hospitalized, three of them in intensive care. As of Friday, 181,797 tests have been conducted, including 2,215 since Thursday's report. Variant cases found in Nova Scotia Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil confirmed Friday that two previous cases of COVID-19 were found to be variants of the virus. McNeil told a news briefing the province also detected two variants of the virus in cases previously reported in December. He said the two cases were related to travel outside Atlantic Canada and self-isolated as required. After further testing, one was found to have had the U.K. variant of COVID-19, while the other had the South African variant. In New Brunswick, Dr. Jennifer Russell said no variant cases have been identified yet, but she noted she is "very concerned" about the variant getting into the province. "We have sent 19 specimens to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg since Dec. 23 to get sequenced for the variant and have had eight negative results," she said Friday. "We have six more to come this week." The province has sent more specimens for variant sequencing in the past two weeks, "just because we've had more cases overall," Russell said. Nadeau plant outbreak just one of many clusters The outbreak at the Nadeau poultry plant in the Edmundston area, where 28 employees have tested positive, is only one of multiple clusters of the virus in the region, Dr. Jennifer Russell said Friday. Some of the cases outside the plant were caused by the Nadeau outbreak, but others had a different source, Russell said. The province is still investigating how the outbreak at the poultry plant started. MLA wants crackdown on travelling between zones Miramichi MLA Michelle Conroy is calling on the province to crack down on residents who continue to travel from one health zone to another at a time when non-essential travel is discouraged or against the rules. Conroy said the Miramichi region, which is in the orange phase of recovery, has seen a lot of people from health zones that are in the red phase. She suggested these travellers were visiting Miramichi because it's safer. "People are still travelling region to region," Conroy, of the People's Alliance, said on Information Morning Fredericton. Under Public Health guidelines, necessary travel is only recommended between orange zones or between red zones but not between red and orange zones. Conroy said she has heard of people from the Moncton region visiting stores in the Miramichi area, and she's asked her constituents to report such sightings. It wasn't clear how a Miramichi resident can know someone is from Moncton. But she said residents in other zones need to follow the rules and should face consequences if they don't. "That's completely not acceptable." At the same time she's concerned about visitors from red zones, Conroy is pushing the province to ease restrictions and allow Zone 7 to move back to yellow phase so residents can expand their bubbles. Until Friday, there had been no active cases of COVID-19 in the Miramichi region since Dec. 26. One case was reported on Friday. Conroy said the heavy restrictions are taking a toll on people, particularly on their mental health. "We should be able to see our family and be able to relax the rules around our loved ones a little bit." Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said Conroy had some legitimate points, but stressed that everyone is at risk of COVID-19 in New Brunswick, regardless of their health zone. "Caution is there for everyone to know they are vulnerable as their neighbours." Public Safety has increased enforcement inspections across the province. "We're trying very hard to let people know, zone-to-zone transmission is real." Members of all-party cabinet committee don't always see eye to eye New Brunswick's all-party COVID cabinet committee is still intact, but opposition members say their support has its limits. Earlier this week, People's Alliance leader Kris Austin spoke out in frustration after the government suddenly changed the rules of the red phase of recovery and kept schools open if they didn't have any cases. Interim Liberal Leader Roger Melanson said Friday that he'll support decisions based on advice given by New Brunswick Public Health. But Melanson said he's not on the committee to support Premier Blaine Higgs or the Progressive Conservative government. "We need to do everything we can as political leaders, for people to be in a position to be in the safest possible circumstance," Melanson said during an Information Morning interview with some members of the all-party cabinet. Green Party Leader David Coon said the committee, which was established early in the pandemic, is a great way to include a range of perspectives in decision-making, but he shared Austin's concerns about recent conflicting messages. Coon said the province could have done a better job preparing residents for the new version of the red phase. "Lots of people are worried they're doing the wrong thing and don't want to make a mistake," Coon said. "That's what happens when rules change quickly without warning." Health Minister Dorothy Shephard admits communication hasn't been perfect, but she blamed this on an evolving understanding of COVID-19 and how to manage it. Everyday, officials are learning something new, she said. "This is about supporting the people of New Brunswick." Public exposure warnings Public Health has identified a positive case in a traveller who may have been infectious on the following flight: Jan. 3 – Air Canada Flight 8910 from Toronto to Moncton, arrived at 11:23 a.m. Public Health has also issued the following potential COVID-19 exposure warnings: Edmundston region: Sparta Progression Gym, 113 44th Ave. D., on Jan. 13 and Jan. 15 between 7 and 9 a.m. Moncton region: Goodlife Fitness Centre, 175 Ivan Rand Dr. E., on Jan. 13 from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. Moncton North After Hours Medical Clinic, 1633 Mountain Rd., on Jan. 14 from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m. Edmundston region: Jean Coutu Kim Levesque-Cote Pharmacy, 276 Broadway Blvd., Grand Falls, on Jan. 7 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Parts for Trucks,21 Powers Rd., Grand Falls, on Jan. 11, 12 and 14 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. What to do if you have a symptom People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test online. Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included: A fever above 38 C. A new cough or worsening chronic cough. Sore throat. Runny nose. Headache. New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell. Difficulty breathing. In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes. People with one of those symptoms should: Stay at home. Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor. Describe symptoms and travel history. Follow instructions.
Iran urged new U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday to "choose a better path" by returning to a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and global powers, but said the opportunity would be lost if Washington insists on further Iranian concessions up front. Under Biden's predecessor Donald Trump, Washington withdrew from the deal - designed to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon - and bolstered sanctions in a bid to force Tehran into talks on a broader agreement that also addressed its ballistic missile program and support for proxies around the Middle East.
China has granted Canadian officials in Beijing on-site virtual consular access to detained Canadian Michael Kovrig but not to his fellow detainee Michael Spavor, Global Affairs Canada said today. The effort to gain access was led by Canadian Ambassador to China Dominic Barton and the meeting took place on Jan. 21. A statement from Global Affairs said it could not give out details of the meeting because of privacy concerns. Kovrig and Spavor were detained in December 2018 shortly after Huawei telecom executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested by Canadian officials while she was changing planes in Vancouver. Meng was arrested on a U.S. extradition request over allegations she lied to a Hong Kong banker in August 2013 about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. The arrest and detention of Kovrig and Spavor is widely seen as an act of reprisal for Meng's arrest. Both men face charges of spying for Canada. "The Canadian government remains deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention by Chinese authorities of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor since December 2018 and continues to call for their immediate release," said a statement from Global Affairs Canada. Since their arrest, Canadian officials have had only sporadic consular access to the two men. From January to October of last year, family and Canadian officials had no access to the detainees — something China attributed to efforts to control the spread of COVID-19. Canadian officials were last granted consular access to Spavor on December 14, 2020. The Global Affairs statement says that access to Spavor has been withheld because of COVID-19-related travel restrictions. Since their arrest more than two years ago, Canadian officials have been granted consular access to Kovrig on 20 occasions and met with Spavor a total of 19 times. Meng gets family visit Meng, meanwhile, has been released on bail and is continuing to deny the charges against her. Under her bail conditions, Meng is required to wear a GPS ankle monitoring bracelet and is confined to her home from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day. She is allowed to travel around the Lower Mainland with security guards during the day; she has to pay for the security herself. While Kovrig and Spavor remain behind bars, last week it emerged that Meng's husband, Liu Xiaozong, and her two children were granted permission to come to Canada by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada officials. Liu came to Canada in October and in December was followed by the couple's children. Global Affairs said that Meng's family members were granted permission to come here through a process that allows family members of foreign nationals to visit Canada temporarily. Extradition Meng's extradition proceeding is expected to get underway at the beginning of March, and to continue in various stages until the end of April. The first part of the proceedings will involve a defence bid to have the case tossed because of alleged violations of Meng's rights. Her lawyers claim she was used as a political pawn by the administration of former U.S. president Donald Trump and that the Canada Border Services Agency and RCMP conspired with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation at the time of her arrest to deny her access to a lawyer. The defence claims that the U.S. deliberately misled Canada about the strength of the case against Meng and is reaching beyond its jurisdiction to punish her. The final part of the proceedings will be a test of the strength of the extradition request itself.
While one Northern Ontario health unit has decided to ban some outdoor activities such as snowmobiling, skating and hill sliding, that is not currently in the plans for Sudbury's public health region. As of Thursday January 21, all OFSC (Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs) trails and associated sledding trails on crown land within the jurisdiction of the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit were shut down by order of Dr. Jim Chirico, the medical officer of health. This takes in thousands of square kilometres from the Quebec border to Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. There are roughly 1,900 kilometres of groomed trails. The order will be in effect for the duration of the provincial stay-at-home order and can be reassessed in the future, said the news release. “We have been told to stay home and we need to do this,” said Dr. Chirico in the release. “I have received many complaints about people travelling from other districts to use the local snowmobile trails, thus putting our district at risk of COVID-19. "The OFSC recommends that snowmobilers avoid trailering and travelling to destinations that are outside their health unit region to snowmobile, but people have not taken the direction seriously. “We are also seeing groups of snowmobilers congregating on trails, in parking lots and other locations not maintaining a two-metre distance and exceeding the gathering limits.” The decision sparked an outcry on social media from hundreds of avid sledders who have paid the $270 annual fee for riding OFSC trails across Ontario. Many are upset about the loss of sledding privileges and question the concept of closing down outdoor activities where many believe there is little chance of contracting the coronavirus in an outdoor setting, where most riders wear helmets and face shields. Northern Ontario trails also attract hundreds of riders from Southern Ontario owing to the greater number of long-distance trails. Some local sledders said if anything, police and trail wardens should be sending out-of-town riders back home. The snowmobiling ban came a week after another controversial call by the North Bay Parry Sound health unit. On January 14, it decreed that all outdoor public ice skating rinks, tobogganing hills and skating trails on public property across the district to be closed. It too was done in accordance with the Emergency Management and Civil Protections Act according to a news release. “Travelling to skating rinks and tobogganing hills can increase risk of spread of COVID-19 when individuals choose to travel with people who they do not live with,” said Dr. Chirico. “Skating rinks and tobogganing hills are locations where we have seen a lot of individuals gather without physical distancing and many times without face coverings. While enjoying these amenities COVID-19 restrictions may get forgotten and put our community at risk.” Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD), which also covers large urban and rural areas, has taken a different approach. In response to an inquiry from Sudbury.com, PHSD said outdoor activities would continue and it encouraged people to observe physical distancing and to wear masks. "At this time, Public Health Sudbury & Districts is not recommending the closure of snowmobiling trails, sliding hills, or outdoor skating rinks. Public Health will continue to monitor the local COVID-19 situation closely to protect the health of the community," PHSD said. "There is a higher risk of COVID spread if people are congregating together. Remember to stay with people you live with or in groups of five or less outdoors while keeping at least two metres of distance. Wear a mask if there is a chance you are going to get within two metres of others. As part of the stay-at-home order, avoid non-essential travel. Everyone is required to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise, or for essential work," said the PHSD response. Similar to the Sudbury position, the Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit, has taken the softer approach. On January 19, Simcoe-Muskoka’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Charles Gardner, held a media briefing and said it hadn't occurred to him to take the restrictive action imposed by the North Bay Parry Sound health unit. "At this point in time I’m not considering doing that. I think I would have to see evidence that it is both helpful and necessary to make that kind of restriction," said Gardner in a live-streamed event. Gardner was also quoted as saying that although an argument could be made for keeping snowmobilers at home, there could be some individuals who rely on sledding as a primary means of transportation at this time of year. He said he would need more evidence before shutting down outdoor activities. Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com, covering health care in Northern Ontario. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the federal government. Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
After nearly a year in, it seems at this point the pandemic may have gotten to a lot of us. In a series of videos that have struck a chord with the internet, social media marketer and Cambridge local Mikael Melo certainly found some agreement when it comes to the lack of clarity around lockdown and state of emergency messaging in Ontario. One of Melo’s TikTok videos poking fun at the government’s state of emergency order has been watched more than one million times and has 37,000 shares as of Jan. 20. “The response to it has been wonderful,” he said. “I've just had so many people message me saying, ‘I really needed this laugh today,’ or ‘Thank you so much,’ or like, ‘It's really just lifted my spirits during these tough times.’” The sketch in question has him playing a fictional government spokesperson who still has to go to work, despite the government mandate. “We just felt ‘lockdown’ wasn’t really hitting our target audience, so ‘state of emergency’ is just our makeover,” he explains to a bewildered caller. “We’re essentially the exact same experience though,” he explains. If the official message seems a little vague, it’s “because we want customers to choose their own pandemic experience,” the operator adds. When creating the video, Melo thought a few friends would see it and “didn’t think much of it.” But the response hit home (literally) when a few friends turned into a million views in the matter of a few days. Melo “really realized” the video had gone viral when friends reached out to him about the video organically. “They would say, ‘Hey, man, like my mom's friend posted this on her Facebook’ or ‘Hey, dude, like, I'm in North Bay right now, and the local flower shop just posted your video on their Instagram.’ It was like, wow, like this is really making it throughout Ontario.” Melo thinks the reason for the video’s popularity is that the rules of the stay-at-home order still feel “loose” to a lot of people. As someone with marketing experience, the change from lockdown in March to state of emergency today “just feels like a rebrand,” he noted. Melo added that he has more videos that he’d like to keep posting, once TikTok removes his temporary ban. “They thought I was spamming, but I was just trying to respond to everyone's comments and like, thanking them for supporting the video.” Melo, who has been making short TikTok videos since March, said he’s always been someone to “crack a joke or two during tough times.” “I really enjoy making people smile,” he added. Viewers have taken delight to his followup video as the ‘operator,’ which has racked up tens of thousands of views. “In dark times, we just need to find lightness and humour,” Melo said. “And so that's kind of why I started doing those videos.” Swikar Oli, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cambridge Times
After complaints from its residents, Wheatland County is confronting large, personal medicinal cannabis growing facilities that, unlike regulated commercial facilities, operate without having to notify the municipality. Tom Ikert, Division 4 Councillor, brought forth the issue after becoming aware of a cannabis growing operation close to his residence. “I went to the county because the neighbours were complaining about the smell,” he said. At first Ikert was assured that no growing facility exists in the area – the county allows commercial cannabis cultivation in the Wheatland Industrial Park only – but he later determined the facility was a personal medical cannabis growing facility. A big one. In November 2020, Wheatland County published a white paper arguing there is a regulatory gap for personal and medicinal cannabis growing that is creating safety and environmental risks and causing disputes among neighbours. The white paper was sent to local MLAs, Bow River MP Martin Shields, and Premier Jason Kenney. Under Canada’s cannabis laws, the federal government is responsible for the rules for cannabis production and processing, while provinces and territories are responsible for regulating distribution and sale. While Alberta municipalities have the power to create land use bylaws on where cannabis can be grown, these apply to commercial enterprises only. Municipal policies and land use regulations are not applicable to personal cannabis production. Under Health Canada’s Medicinal Use of Cannabis application, individuals can apply for a medicinal growing license. The number of plants each license holder is allowed is determined by a calculator tool that creates an output based on the number of grams they are prescribed daily. Up to 485 cannabis plants can be grown at home, without the requirement of notifying local authorities. “Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, that’s 1,000 pounds of weed you can grow in a year if you’re using 500-watt bulbs,” said Ikert. He added many of these growers have brought three-phase power onto the sites, which raises questions as to whether the cannabis grown is strictly for personal use as restricted by law. While the permit holder is expected to meet local bylaws, regulations and safety code requirements, the application and approval process does not require confirmation that all municipal requirements have been met. The county is arguing this has created a large regulatory loophole, where large cannabis growing facilities can be active without being known or accountable to municipal enforcement. The problem is exacerbated by regulations allowing a designated producer to be registered by multiple permit holders. Multiple (up to four) registrations can be active at one same location, meaning up to 1,940 plants can be grown together. “You can also congregate, in a sense,” said Bow River MP Martin Shields. “Three or four growers get together and say, ‘let’s just roll with this one place,’” he said. “Wheatland County is absolutely right saying that if cannabis is being grown as a congregated personal site, municipalities have no clue what’s out there.” Many growers choose to make changes to their homes or buildings that legally require an electrical, gas or building permit. If they applied for a permit, it would be reviewed for compliance with the Alberta Building Code and the work inspected by a safety codes officer, once complete. But by not having to notify municipalities, these growers may skip the permit process and install new systems that are unsafe, the white paper argues. Without the requirement for proper ventilation, there is potential for environmental health issues from home cannabis growing, including air quality and moisture concerns (e.g. mould), and chemical exposure from use of herbicides, pesticides and fungicides, it states. Residents also have little recourse when faced with nuisance issues from a neighbouring facility, namely odours. If the county is notified of a nuisance growing facility that is not a known commercial operation with a development permit, the RCMP will be contacted. However, if the occupant or owner is found to have a license for medical cannabis, the only option is to let the license holder know of the complaint and work toward a voluntary solution. These personal medical grow operations do not have to have the same security systems that commercial sites require, resulting in a higher potential for crime, added Shields. The resolution of the white paper is for the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) to collaborate with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), to advocate for Health Canada to ensure municipal compliance for all personal medical cannabis production facilities for existing license holders and prior to approval for all future applications. Reeve Amber Link presented the paper to the RMA District 2: Central directors, who supported the resolution. It will go forward to the RMA District 2 spring meeting on Feb. 5. If the resolution receives support at that meeting, it will go to the RMA spring convention for consideration by all rural municipalities in Alberta, she explained. The paper will also be presented to the FCM during its March 2021 board meeting. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times