Teacher Jason To shares details on the latest tools being adopted at the Toronto District School Board and the Ontario Elementary Teachers’ Federation to tackle anti-Asian racism following the pandemic.
Teacher Jason To shares details on the latest tools being adopted at the Toronto District School Board and the Ontario Elementary Teachers’ Federation to tackle anti-Asian racism following the pandemic.
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials in Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that vaccination rollout plans for the month included the province's first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some. Chief medical officer Heather Morrison has said people over the age of 80 will get a second dose based on their existing appointments. Going forward, she said, other residents will get a longer interval between their first and second doses, but she didn’t specific how long that will be. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. Quebec announced Tuesday it had reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. Health Minister Christian Dube said about 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the one first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube has said. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. She also says the province will soon share an updated vaccine plan that factors in expected shipments of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The province will do that after getting guidance from the federal government on potentially extending the time between first and second doses, like B.C. is doing, of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to four months, Elliott says She also says Ontario seniors won't receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine since there's limited data on its effectiveness in older populations. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. The province said this week that it may follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. The government says it hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. If that happens, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry says the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means some people will get their first shot sooner than planned. She says B.C. will focus its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among essential workers, first responders and younger people with more social interactions who would have to wait longer to receive their first doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. It's now possible that all adults could get their first shot by July, Henry says. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Canadian actor Jahmil French of "Degrassi: The Next Generation" fame has died. His agent, Gabrielle Kachman, confirmed the news to The Canadian Press through a statement. Kachman did not provide details on his death but noted French "will be remembered by many for his passion for the arts, his commitment to his craft, and his vibrant personality." French played high-school student Dave Turner on the Toronto-shot teen series "Degrassi: The Next Generation." In a statement, "Degrassi: The Next Generation" co-creator and executive producer Linda Schuyler said she was "heartbroken" to hear the news Tuesday. "Jahmil was an extraordinary talent and a bright light on and off the screen," Schuyler said. "He was a joy to work with on 'Degrassi: The Next Generation.' "He brought an authenticity and burst of life to every scene he was in and infused his character 'Dave' with an airy lightness. Off screen Jahmil would always make me smile. He will be deeply missed.” French's other credits include the Netflix series "Soundtrack," the Pop TV show "Let's Get Physical," and the Canadian film "Boost," for which he earned a 2018 Canadian Screen Award nomination for supporting actor. According to various bios online, he was 29. Fans and friends of the performer shared tributes on social media Tuesday, including fellow "Degrassi" alum Annie Clark, who tweeted she's "heartbroken over the loss." She also posted a video of him dancing on a stage, noting that's how she'll always think of him. "So full of energy and fun. He was always dancing. A true talent and a great friend. We will all miss you so much Jahmil," Clark wrote. Dylan Everett, who also acted on "Degrassi: The Next Generation," tweeted that French was "kind, funny, and talented." "One of the first people I met on 'Degrassi,' he immediately made me feel welcome," Everett wrote. "He disarmed you with a smile and his confidence and energy was infectious. You’ll be missed, brother." Toronto-based Salvatore Antonio tweeted French was a longtime acting student of his, his mentee and "a special human." "He was fearless and brilliant in his pursuit, and I’m so sad we won’t get to see more of his gift," Antonio wrote. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
REGINA — Saskatchewan is looking to follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. Chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab says information from that province as well as from Quebec and the United Kingdom suggests that a first shot effectively protects against the novel coronavirus. He says he hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. Shahab says if that were to happen, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. He says all adults in the province could be vaccinated with a first dose by June. Premier Scott Moe says such a shift would be a game-changer for how long public-health restrictions would stay in place. "What that (would) look like over the course of the next number of weeks as opposed to having that conversation over the course of the next number of months," Moe said during a briefing Tuesday. The province said when it first outlined its vaccine rollout that it would wait between 21 and 28 days between shots as recommended by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. The province says about 80,000 vaccinations have been given across the province. It says at least one of the approved vaccines to fight COVID-19 has made its way into every long-term care home. Health officials say 91 per cent of residents opted to get their first shot of the two-dose vaccination. Second doses have gone into the arms of long-term residents in about 53 per cent of facilities. The province says it expects to receive about 15,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot approved by Canada last week. Shahab says Saskatchewan will follow advice from a national panel of vaccine experts that it be used on people under 65. The vaccine's effectiveness in people older than that hasn't been sufficiently determined because there were not enough seniors in clinical trials. Another 134 new cases of COVID-19 were reported Tuesday as well as two deaths. Shahab and Moe say daily case numbers and hospitalizations have stabilized and continue to decrease — signs they say could lead to some public-health measures being relaxed. Moe said he would like to see some way for people to have visitors in their homes. That hasn't been allowed under public-health orders since before Christmas. The current health order is to expire March 19. Moe said his government could provide details as soon as next week on what restrictions might be eased. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 2, 2021 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
TOPEKA, Kan. — Former Congressman Steve Watkins of Kansas has entered a diversion program to avoid trial over allegations that he voted illegally in a 2019 municipal election. Watkins, a Republican from Topeka who served only one term in the U.S. House, was facing three felony charges. He was accused of listing a postal box at a UPS store as his home on a state registration form when he was living temporarily at his parents' home. He was also charged with lying to a detective who investigated the case. The Shawnee County district attorney filed the charges just weeks before the August 2020 primary, and Watkins lost to now-Rep. Jake LaTurner. “I regret the error in my voter registration paperwork that led to these charges. I fully co-operated from the beginning and had no intent to deceive any one, at any time. I am glad to resolve the ordeal,” Watkins said in a statement Tuesday. Watkins acknowledged he lied to the detective when he said he did not vote in the Topeka City Council election, The Kansas City Star reported. Under the diversion agreement entered into Monday, Watkins' prosecution will be deferred for six months. If he meets the terms of the agreement, the case will be dropped by September. The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — British Columbia health officials say their plan to delay the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to four months is based on scientific evidence and real-world experience, as Ontario and Alberta consider following the province's lead. Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer, responded Tuesday to criticism from Canada's chief science adviser. Henry said the decision was made in the context of limited supply and based on strong local and international data. "This makes sense for us, knowing that it is a critical time right now with the limited amount of vaccines that we have in the coming weeks, to be able to provide that protection ... to everybody here," Henry said at a COVID-19 briefing. "That is why we made the decision that we did." Chief science adviser Mona Nemer told the CBC on Monday that B.C.'s plan amounts to a "population-level experiment" and that the data provided so far by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech is based on an interval of three to four weeks between doses. Henry said the manufacturers structured their clinical trials that way to get the vaccines to market as quickly as possible, but research in B.C., Quebec, Israel and the United Kingdom has shown that first doses are highly effective. The B.C. Centre for Disease Control examined the effects of a single dose on long-term care residents and health-care workers and found that it reduced the risk of the virus by up to 90 per cent within two to three weeks, Henry said. "It is a little bit unfortunate that the national science adviser ... obviously was not involved in some of these discussions and decision-making and perhaps did not understand the context that this decision was made in," Henry said. Dr. Danuta Skowronski, a B.C. Centre for Disease Control epidemiology lead whose work underpinned the province's plan, said Pfizer-BioNTech underestimated the efficacy of its first dose in its submissions to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Skowronski said the company included data from the first two weeks after trial participants received the shot, a time when vaccines typically aren't effective. When she and her colleagues adjusted the data, they found it was 92 per cent effective, similar to the Moderna vaccine. She said B.C.'s plan was based on the basic principles of vaccine science. The protection from a first dose of vaccine does not suddenly disappear, it gradually wanes over time, and scientists are typically more concerned about providing a second dose too soon rather than too late, she said. "I think if the public had a chance to hear and to understand that, they would say, 'OK, this is not messing around. This is really managing risk in a way that maximizes protection to as many Canadians as possible.'" B.C. has administered 283,182 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to date, including more than 86,000 second doses. The province reported 438 new cases of the virus on Tuesday and two more deaths, pushing the death toll in B.C. to 1,365. Henry said she expects a statement soon from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization aligning with the province's decision, while Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday she wanted to wait for such a recommendation. Elliott said extending the interval between doses would allow the province to get some level of protection to more people. "This would be a considerable change," she said. "With the variants of concern out there, this could make a significant difference for Ontario in reducing hospitalizations and deaths. So, we are anxiously awaiting NACI's review of this to determine what they have to say in their recommendations." Dr. Shelley Deeks, vice-chair of the national committee, said in an email the group is expected to issue a statement on extending the dose interval on Wednesday, but she did not confirm it would align with B.C.'s plan. Alberta's health minister said a committee of COVID-19 experts is analyzing emerging data and a decision on whether to follow B.C.’s lead is coming. "There's fantastic evidence that's coming out," Tyler Shandro said Tuesday. "What the exact period of time (between doses) is going to be is still to be decided. We'll be announcing it soon, but we will be looking at having that length of time between first and second extended." Alberto Martin, a University of Toronto immunology professor, said there is "obviously some concern" about B.C.'s plan because he is not aware of any clinical trial that examined a four-month gap between Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna doses. However, he said difficult times — when the vaccine supply is so limited — require drastic measures. "It's a difficult decision to make. I don't know whether I'd like to be in that position, but I think it's understandable why they're doing this." Daniel Coombs, a University of British Columbia mathematician who has done COVID-19 modelling, said Nemer was right that B.C. was conducting an "experiment," but it seemed to be a necessary one. He added that the province may also be anticipating the approval of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which only requires one shot. Michael Houghton, director of the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute at the University of Alberta, said the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine data shows that one shot conveys 76 per cent protection for the next 12 weeks. Houghton said he is more concerned about extending the dose interval to 16 weeks for the other two approved vaccines. "These make vaccinologists nervous since, usually, we use in the real world what was tested in the clinic, but given the vaccine shortage, perhaps desperate times warrant such calculated gambles." — With files from Holly McKenzie-Sutter in Toronto and Sylvia Strojek in Edmonton. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Laura Dhillon Kane, The Canadian Press
There still isn’t a trial date one year after a Kindersley mom was arrested and charged with second-degree murder for the death of her infant daughter. In Saskatoon Provincial Court in November 2020, Teenie Rose Steer elected to be tried by judge alone without a jury. Her case was then moved from the provincial court level to Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench. Her matter was on Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench pre-trial list Nov. 13, 2020, to set a trial date. That pre-trial conference was adjourned to Dec. 18, 2020, and then it was adjourned to Feb. 12, 2021. The matter has now been adjourned to March 31. Pre-trial conferences are closed to the public and media. They are informal meetings in chambers between the Crown and defence. Steer was arrested 13 months ago. According to the 2016 Supreme Court of Canada Jordan Rule, once charges are laid provincial cases must be heard within 18 months and superior court cases within 30 months or the charges can be dismissed. RCMP arrested steer February 2020 and charged her with killing her one-month-old infant three years ago. On Sept. 27, 2018, police responded to a home after receiving a report of a baby in cardiac arrest. First responders and doctors at the Rosetown hospital attempted life-saving measures but the infant was pronounced dead in hospital. A September 2018 autopsy revealed information that led investigators to believe the baby’s death was suspicious and RCMP Major Crimes took over the investigation. RCMP didn't reveal details of that information. The charges against Steer haven’t been proven in court. firstname.lastname@example.org Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
A Green MLA wants to know if government is considering legislation for guaranteed paid sick leave as part of its COVID-19 response. Lynne Lund raised the issue during question period Tuesday. Lund told CBC News she'd like to see legislation requiring employers to provide seven paid sick days to their employees, and for government to support businesses that need help to do that. "We want people to stay home when they're not feeling well ... but the flip side of that is they actually need to be able to do that," Lund said. Lund said for many Islanders, missing work to get a COVID-19 test and wait for results or to stay home with symptoms can lead to serious financial challenges. "For many low-wage workers losing even a day's pay is a real struggle," Lund told the legislature. Lund said many young people on P.E.I. work minimum-wage or low-wage jobs. She added those young Islanders have also been repeatedly affected by calls for mass testing, like during the circuit breaker in December and most recently in testing efforts related to clusters of cases in Charlottetown and Summerside. "They felt a duty to protect Islanders and we have a duty to protect them too. Question to the minister of economic growth, will you bring in legislation in this sitting to guarantee paid sick leave?" The P.E.I. Federation of Labour has also begun a campaign to urge the provincial government to implement paid sick leave for all workers on the Island.(John Robertson/CBC) 'Holding on by a thread' Responding to Lund's question, Minister of Economic Growth Matthew MacKay said many businesses across P.E.I. are really struggling during the pandemic. "We've seen businesses that are holding on by a thread right now, so to ask a business to pay seven day sick leave to an employee is just not in the cards right now. But that's why we did come with this million dollar pot," MacKay said. MacKay was referring to Monday's announcement of a $1 million fund for Islanders who take time off work due to illness and don't have paid sick leave and don't qualify for federal support programs. Lund said she knows there are many businesses that are struggling during the pandemic, and would like to see legislation that also offers financial support to businesses to help them meet a paid sick day requirement. 'We've seen businesses that are holding on by a thread right now,' says Minister of Economic Growth Matthew MacKay.(Legislative Assembly of P.E.I. ) During an interview after question period, MacKay said money from the newly announced fund can be accessed by employers to help cover costs of paid sick days. He said the final details of the fund are still being worked out. Paid sick leave — beyond COVID The P.E.I. Federation of Labour has also begun a campaign to urge the provincial government to implement paid sick leave for all workers on the Island. Carl Pursey, president of the federation, said it should be permanent and extend beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. We're going to be awhile getting our economy back to where it once was. — Minister of Economic Growth Matthew MacKay "If someone's not feeling good for a day or two, they can take a day or two off work and get paid and not have to have the fear of not having pay because now people are going to work if they're not feeling 100 per cent and they could be spreading [COVID-19]." Pursey said he has spoken with the province in the past about the need for at least seven sick days a year for all workers in the province. He said labour groups across the country have been discussing the issue. He said government should help smaller businesses that can't afford to offer paid sick leave to workers. "The government needs to see the pressure, pressure to put something in that's permanent," he said. MacKay said he wouldn't rule out exploring guaranteed paid sick days in the future, but said now isn't the right time. "We're going to be awhile getting our economy back to where it once was, so when that time comes you know it could be a topic for discussion. Until that point, government is going to be here to help employees and employers out to the best of our ability," MacKay said. More P.E.I. news
HALIFAX — Just before two RCMP officers opened fire on a fellow officer and a civilian during last year's Nova Scotia mass shooting, they struggled with congested radio channels and mistook a man wearing a bright vest for the killer. These are among the fresh facts revealed Tuesday in a police watchdog agency report clearing the Mounties of criminal wrongdoing after they fired five shots with high-powered rifles outside the Onslow, N.S., firehall. The six-page report by the Serious Incident Response Team says the "totality of the evidence" prompted the officers to believe the killer was standing just 88 metres away from them on the morning of April 19. "They discharged their weapons in order to prevent further deaths or serious injuries .... The (officers) had reasonable grounds to believe the person they saw, who was disobeying their orders, was the mass murderer who had, in the preceding hour, killed three more persons," it concludes. The six-page document traces the 10:21 a.m. incident — which didn't result in deaths or injuries — to the early hours of the morning, when the two officers were recalled to duty at 3 a.m. for a briefing as the shootings that would take 22 lives unfolded. According to the report, they were told that the spouse of the killer had said the gunman was driving a replica RCMP car and was wearing an orange vest. "They learned that several children had witnessed their parents being shot dead .... The actual total number of victims was unknown at the time of the briefing because several buildings in Portapique were on fire, and whether there were additional victims had not yet been determined," the report says. They also had been briefed that the gunman had high-powered weapons with laser-mounted sights. Several hours after the first briefing, there were radio transmissions saying the killer had murdered a woman in Wentworth, N.S. At that point, the two officers were "transitioned from investigators to being involved in the hunt for the killer," the report says. Through the morning, reports of additional murders came over the radio, including two women in the Debert, N.S., area, which is about a 10-minute drive from the Onslow firehall. As they approached the firehall, which had been designated as a rest area, they saw a marked RCMP car parked in front and a man wearing a yellow and orange reflective vest standing next to the driver's door. According to the report, the two officers didn't realize a uniformed RCMP officer was sitting in the vehicle. The investigation says the two officers repeatedly tried to advise other RCMP officers by radio of what they were seeing but couldn't get through. Felix Cacchione, the director of SIRT, said in an email to The Canadian Press that he didn't have an exact time of arrival. "I can only extrapolate from the radio communications that it was about a minute before shots were fired," he wrote. According to the report, both officers got out of their vehicle with their rifles and were still unable to reach anyone on the radio. The report says they yelled "police," and "show your hands," but the civilian in the vest ducked behind the car before popping back up and running toward the firehall. The Mounties opened fire, with one officer firing four shots and the other a single shot. During the killer's 13-hour rampage, the report found, there were 7,731 radio transmissions over emergency response channels. It says the "sole reason" the reason the officers couldn't transmit before opening fire was because "there was no available talk path due to the heavy volume of radio traffic." It concluded the officers had a "lawful excuse" to fire their guns and didn't break Criminal Code provisions that prohibit officers from using their firearms in a careless manner. "Based on everything (the officers) had seen and heard since coming on duty and what they had just observed, they had reasonable grounds to believe that the (civilian in the vest) was the killer and someone who would continue his killing rampage," says the report. In a statement on its Facebook page Tuesday, the Onslow Belmont Fire Brigade said it is "frustrated and disappointed that there will be no accountability for the RCMP. Their actions that day endangered lives, damaged property and caused mental health issues for many of the people involved." An RCMP spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether any disciplinary action has been taken against the two officers. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said both people shot at outside the firehall were RCMP officers.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission appears likely to work on its first guidelines for cryptocurrencies after President Joe Biden's nominee to lead the agency promised to provide "guidance and clarity" to the rapidly evolving market. Speaking during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, Gary Gensler offered the first thoughts on handling cryptocurrencies if he is confirmed to lead the top U.S. markets regulator. "Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies brought new thinking to payments but raised new issues of investor protection we still need to attend to," Gensler told lawmakers, describing them as "catalysts for change."
MONTREAL — Quebec has reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March to help the province get ahead of more contagious virus variants, Health Minister Christian Dube said Tuesday. Some 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70, he said. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses, Dube added. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the B.1.1.7 mutation that was first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube said, adding that pharmacy vaccination was originally scheduled to begin in early April but was sped up. "We're afraid," Dube said about the possibility that the U.K. mutation will cause infections to rise quickly in the province's biggest city. "We’re afraid the Montreal region is the calm before the storm." Quebec reported 588 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and eight more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. Hospitalizations rose by 16 to 628, and 121 people were in intensive care, a drop of one. Dube said that while the general COVID-19 curve is dropping, cases of the U.K. variant are rising quickly, especially in the greater Montreal area. The province has confirmed 137 cases of variants, most of which have been identified in Montreal and involve the U.K. mutation. There are also 1,095 presumptive variant cases across Quebec, according to the province's public health institute. He said Quebec is screening all its positive Montreal-area COVID-19 tests, and that 12 to 15 per cent are coming back as variants. Vaccination, he said, "is our weapon of massive risk reduction." The province began vaccinating older members of the general public at mass vaccine centres on Monday, and administered 16,458 doses that day. COVID-19 vaccinations are open to Quebecers aged 85 and older in outlying regions, while they are open to people as young as 70 in the Montreal area. Quebec is not the only province that has announced plans to vaccine in pharmacies. Health officials in Nova Scotia said Tuesday vaccination rollout plans for this month include the province's first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23. Ontario has said that in the coming months, it plans to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines to a number of settings, including pharmacies. That plan is contingent on the province receiving a greater quantity of vaccine, the Ministry of Health has said. Benoit Morin, the head of an association representing Quebec pharmacy owners, says close to 1,500 of the group’s 1,900 members have offered to vaccinate. He said the recent flu shot campaign has prepared pharmacists for the demands of giving COVID-19 vaccines because the same distancing and health measures had to be followed. Morin said pharmacy vaccination could be a good choice for people who can’t or don’t want to go to mass vaccine centres, but he urged people to take the first appointments they can get rather than waiting for pharmacies. "If I had the chance to get a vaccine today or to wait for the pharmacy, I’d go today," he said in an interview Tuesday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Canada's chief public health officer says new COVID-19 cases are starting to tick back up after a month-long decline, giving urgency to the question of who should receive doses of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine due to arrive in Canada Wednesday. The "moderate increase" at the national level noted by Dr. Theresa Tam is in keeping with models forecasting a spike in cases over the next two months unless stricter public health measures are imposed to combat more contagious strains of the virus. “The concern is that we will soon see an impact on hospitalization, critical care and mortality trends," Tam said Tuesday. Canada saw 2,933 new cases on average over the past week, a figure similar to last Friday's numbers that revealed week-over-week increases of between eight and 14 per cent in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. The uptick comes as provinces figure out how to allocate their various vaccines, especially as Canada receives 500,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced at the Serum Institute of India. About 445,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are also arriving this week, said Procurement Minister Anita Anand. Guidance on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has caused some confusion. Health Canada authorized its use last week for all adults but the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends it not be administered to people 65 and over. The advisory committee cites concern over limited data from clinical trials for older patients. Health Canada also acknowledges that issue. But the advisory panel, which recommends how vaccines should be used, says the limitation means seniors should take priority for the two greenlighted mRNA vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — where dearth of data is not an issue. Alberta's health minister said Monday the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca's vaccine to anyone over 65. British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Prince Edward Island are on similar courses, though details on who will get those jabs is not always clear. "With clinical testing of AstraZeneca limited to those under 65, we will need to adjust our plan to look at a parallel track for some of these more flexible vaccines in order to cast the widest net possible," the B.C. health ministry said in an email. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C. will use the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to target younger people who have more social interactions and who would have to wait much longer for the other vaccines. Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott characterized Oxford-AstraZeneca as "very versatile " because it lacks the same cold-storage requirements as the two other vaccines in use in Canada. It won't go to seniors, but she said shots might be administered in correctional facilities for that reason. P.E.I. will target AstraZeneca at "healthy younger individuals who are working in certain front-line, essential services," said Dr. Heather Morrison, the province's chief medical officer of health. Health officials in Quebec and New Brunswick say they await further advice from health authorities and are taking time to examine how to deploy the latest vaccine. Nova Scotia's chief medical health officer Dr. Robert Strang said the province has yet to give an answer to Ottawa "about whether we actually want to take the vaccine." All provinces must provide a response by midday Thursday, he said. Two experts say essential workers who are more likely to contract and transmit COVID-19 should be prioritized for immunization with the Oxford-AstraZeneca doses. Caroline Colijn, a COVID-19 modeller and mathematician at Simon Fraser University, and Horacio Bach, an adjunct professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia, also say the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could be better promoted by provincial health officials as a strong alternative to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Oxford-AstraZeneca reported their vaccine is about 62 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 while Pifzer-BioNTech and Moderna have said the efficacy of their vaccines is about 95 per cent. But Colijn and Bach say the fact there have been no hospitalizations from severe illness and no deaths among those receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine needs to be underscored because people awaiting immunization seem to be fixated on the higher efficacy data for the first two vaccines approved in Canada. "If the AstraZeneca vaccine will prevent you from getting really sick that's still a win for you," Colijn said. "I see this huge, huge benefit of vaccinating young people, particularly people with high contact, essential workers, sooner." No province has been spared from the increase in new variants circulating across the country, though several continue to ease anti-pandemic restrictions. Modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada projected a steep surge in new cases starting late last month — and reaching 20,000 new cases a day before May — if public health measures weren't tightened. Since that Feb. 19 forecast, restrictions in many regions have loosened as Canadians return to restaurants, cinemas and hair salons. But Tam said Canada is gaining ground on "the vaccine-versus-variants leg of this marathon" every day. "Canada is prepared, and Canada remains on track," she said. Provinces have now reported 1,257 cases of the B.1.1.7 mutation that was first identified in the United Kingdom, 99 cases of the B. 220.127.116.11 strain first identified in South Africa, and three of the P. 1 variant first identified in Brazil. There have been 870,033 cases of COVID-19 in Canada and 22,017 deaths as of Monday night. There were 30,430 active cases across Canada, with an average of 42 deaths reported daily over the past week. Provinces are also figuring out whether to stick to the original injection schedules or extend the interval between doses beyond three or four weeks. The national advisory committee is expected to update its recommendations this week. Ontario is waiting for that guidance, while B.C. is pushing ahead with its plan to prolong the interval to four months. Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer, said Monday the decision was based on local and international evidence that shows the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines provides "miraculous" 90 per cent protection from the virus. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. — With files from Camille Bains, Kevin Bissett, Laura Dhillon Kane and Holly McKenzie-Sutter. Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
The Biden administration sanctioned seven mid-level and senior Russian officials on Tuesday, along with more than a dozen government entities, over a nearly fatal nerve-agent attack on opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent jailing. The measures, emphasizing the use of the Russian nerve agent as a banned chemical weapon, marked the Biden administration's first sanctions against associates of President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader was a favourite of former President Donald Trump even during covert Russian hacking and social media campaigns aimed at destabilizing the U.S. The government officials included at least four whom Navalny's supporters had directly asked the West to penalize, saying they were most involved in targeting him and other dissidents and journalists. However, the U.S. list did not include any of Russia's most powerful businesspeople and bankers, oligarchs whom Navalny has long said the West would have to sanction to get the attention of Putin. Tuesday's step “was not meant to be a silver bullet or an end date to what has been a difficult relationship with Russia,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “We expect the relationship to continue to be a challenge. We’re prepared for that.” The Biden administration also announced sanctions under the U.S. Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act for Russian entities, including those the U.S. said worked to research, develop and test chemical weapons. The U.S. intelligence community concluded with high confidence that Russia's Federal Security Service used the Russian nerve agent Novichok on Navalny last August, a senior administration official said. Russia says it had no role in any attack on the dissident. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Tuesday denounced the new U.S. sanctions as part of its “meddling in our internal affairs.” “We aren’t going to tolerate that,” Zakharova said in a statement, adding that “we will respond in kind.” “Attempts to put pressure on Russia with sanctions or other tools have failed in the past and will fail again,” she said. The Biden administration has pledged to confront Putin over alleged attacks on Russian opposition figures and alleged malign actions abroad, including the hacking of U.S. government agencies and U.S. businesses. Trump spoke admiringly of Putin and resisted criticism of Putin's government. That included dismissing U.S. intelligence findings that Russia had backed Trump in its covert campaign to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. The administration co-ordinated the sanctions with the European Union, which added to its own sanctions Tuesday over the attack on Navalny. The U.S. and European Union shared concerns about “Russia’s deepening authoritarianism,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. “The U.S. government has exercised its authorities to send a clear signal that Russia’s use of chemical weapons and abuse of human rights have severe consequences,” Blinken said in a statement. The individuals sanctioned by the U.S. included the head of Russia's Federal Security Service, the head of prisons, Kremlin and defence figures, and Russia's prosecutor general. The Biden administration had forecast for weeks that it would take action against Russia. Besides the Navalny sanctions, officials have said the administration plans to respond soon to the massive Russian hack of federal government agencies and private corporations that laid bare vulnerabilities in the cyber supply chain and exposed potentially sensitive secrets to elite Kremlin spies. Navalny, 44, was sickened by the Russian nerve agent in an attack that the United States and others linked to Putin’s security services. After months of recuperation in Germany, Navalny flew home to Moscow in January and was arrested on arrival for an alleged parole violation. His detention sparked street protests across Russia. Police arrested thousands of demonstrators. Authorities have transferred the opposition leader to a penal colony to begin serving a sentence, after what rights groups said was a show trial. Long a target in Russian government attempts to shut down dissent, Navalny has repeatedly appealed to the West to start targeting the most powerful business and financial oligarchs of his country, saying only then would Russian leaders take international sanctions seriously. Russia critic Bill Browder, a London-based investor, tweeted that he feared the new U.S. sanctions would be “way too little and not touch Putin’s billionaire cronies.” Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and chair of the House Intelligence Committee, called the U.S. move overdue. Working with U.S. allies, “we must use an array of tools, including sanctions, to meaningfully deter, repel, and punish Moscow’s transgressions,” Schiff said in a statement. The U.S. government has previously censured behaviour by Russia that American officials saw as having violated international norms. In 2016, for instance, the Obama administration responded to interference by the Kremlin in the presidential election by expelling dozens of Russian diplomats who officials said were actually spies and by shuttering two Russian compounds in Maryland and New York. Trump's administration also took a handful of actions adverse to Moscow, including the closure of Russian consulates on the West Coast and the suspension of a nuclear arms treaty. ___ Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington, Aamer Madhani in Chicago, Lorne Cook in Brussels and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report. Ellen Knickmeyer, The Associated Press
Uptake for the second dose of the Moderna vaccination in First Nation communities in Northern Manitoba is going well. While Manitoba First Nations continue to show higher test positivity rates compared to non-Indigenous Manitobans, many First Nation communities have shown relatively good signs as their Elders continue to receive their vaccination. In an online press conference on Tuesday, Dr. Michael Routledge confirmed that there is some improvement in severe cases from the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. communities due to the vaccine uptake. “There are still a couple of communities in the MKO area that are struggling with some outbreaks, but by large, most MKO communities have been very quiet,” said Routledge, the medical advisor to MKO and Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin. “In the north, we are seeing the case numbers and test positivity rates slowly come down. We are starting to see the outbreaks get under control, although again, they are some communities that are really struggling.” Routledge added that the second allotment of vaccine supplies for Elders have arrived in most Manitoba First Nation communities including Sapotaweyak Cree Nation. As of Monday, there are 843 active cases among First Nations people with 25 current hospitalizations and eight in intensive care units. On Monday, the province updated the eligibility for vaccinations whereby First Nations born on or before Dec. 31, 1950, can now book their appointments to receive immunization against the virus. “As I always tell our people, we are all in this together,” said Chief Nelson Genaille from Sapotaweyak Cree Nation who believes 40 more vaccine doses will arrive in his community soon. “What’s going to happen next? You know, that’s what we need to prepare for. We don’t know what’s coming in the future for our children or grandchildren … how can we make it better? One good way is communication, another good way is teamwork, and another is to properly uplift ourselves because the mind is very powerful.” Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Click here to sign up for our daily newsletter. Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun
MONTREAL — Residential sales in metropolitan Montreal fell in February for the first time in six years as transactions plunged outside Quebec's largest city. The Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers says the number of sales decreased three per cent from a year earlier to 5,106 homes for the first February decline since 2015. Sales decreased 32 per cent in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, 14 per cent in Laval, 10 per cent in Vaudreuil-Soulanges and eight per cent on the South Shore. However, sales increased six per cent on the Island of Montreal due to the strength of the condo market. Sales of plexes with two to five units increased 19 per cent, single-family homes fell 14 per cent and condo sales were up eight per cent. The median price for single-family homes increased 28 per cent to $460,000. Condominium prices rose 24 per cent to $340,000 and plex prices climbed nine per cent to $650,000. Total sales in metropolitan Quebec City increased six per cent with condos up 50 per cent and plexes 48 per cent higher. Single-family homes were down 11 per cent. The median price of single-family homes grew 13 per cent to $295,000, plexes were up 16 per cent to $375,000 and condos were four per cent higher at $198,000. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
Another temporary modular housing project may soon be built in Richmond. BC Housing has applied for a three-year permit for properties on Smith Street and Bridgeport Road. The intention is to construct a three-storey supportive housing building with 40 studio units. “I’m excited to see another modular housing (project) come in,” said Coun. Carol Day. The city’s director of development Wayne Craig said a memorandum of understanding will be developed between the non-profit operator, the construction company and BC Housing to ensure the security of the space. The existing modular housing project on Elmbridge Way will serve as a model for the new proposed project. “Elmbridge was very successful and it’s continuing to be successful,” said Coun. Bill McNulty. “I think we need to tell people about the successes that we have. This modular housing is working, and this is our second one, and we should continue maybe to do a third one somewhere down the road.” If approved by council, the building’s completion and occupancy is targeted for early next year. The issue will be discussed at a March 15 public hearing. Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel
A man accused of cyberbullying the parents of a missing Nova Scotia boy on social media said Tuesday a Facebook group devoted to the child's case started with good intentions but spiralled out of control. Tom Hurley is one of the administrators of a Facebook group where people shared information and theories about the case of Dylan Ehler, a three-year-old boy who went missing in Truro, N.S., last year and has not been found. The Facebook group was one of several that became a source of anguish for Dylan's parents, Ashley Brown and Jason Ehler, after participants began accusing them of negligence and even murder. But Hurley said the group was originally meant to assist in the search for the boy. Three-year-old Dylan was last seen near Queen and Elizabeth streets in Truro, N.S., last May. Search and rescue teams have focused their efforts in and around Lepper Brook and the Salmon River, where they found a pair of the boy's boots.(Town of Truro/Facebook) "Our intentions were to try to help them find Dylan," Hurley said. "And it was going good from the beginning. And then something turned somewhere, somewhere along the line, it got turned around." Dylan was playing at his grandmother's house when he disappeared on May 6, 2020. His boots were located nearby shortly afterward, but no other trace of the toddler has ever been found. Police have said they do not believe there was any foul play in the child's disappearance. There were about 13 Facebook groups devoted to the case, Hurley said, but his is the only one that has ended up in court. Hurley said he deleted some posts, but they continued to circulate because users took screenshots of them. The boy's parents are using the Intimate Images and Cyber-protection Act to attempt to have Hurley's group permanently deleted. They are also seeking punitive damages. Lawyer Allison Harris, who is representing the boy's parents, said no monetary value has yet been set for those damages. Group's admin calls for apology 'on both sides' During an interview with reporters Tuesday, Hurley at one point said he didn't see any posts in the group that constituted cyberbullying or harassment, but at another point said "everybody was doing it." "We're not the only ones doing it. The only reason we're here today is because we didn't hide behind fake accounts like everybody else is doing," he said. Hurley also said Jason Ehler cyberbullied and issued threats in a Facebook group. "I think a sorry should be good on both sides," Hurley said. Father of missing boy says damage is done Ehler acknowledged he did make a threat once, but apologized right after. "You guys can't even imagine what they've said about us, you know? So try to sit there and not say anything, sometimes you slip and you say things," he said. Dylan's parents said the accusations in the group have caused them fear and anxiety, but they also worry the posts have distracted people from "the most important thing" — the search for their son. Ehler said an apology from Hurley would be nice, but "the damage is already done." The active search for Dylan was called off on May 12, 2020, 6 days after his disappearance.(Submitted by Ashley Brown) "How do you take that back?" said Ehler. "How do you take Ashley waking up every morning crying, you know, how do they take back us being nervous to go to the store because everybody looks at us like we could be murderers or we can be this or we could be that? "How do you take back the impact they put on my son's searches? How do they take back any of that? They can't take back any of that. What's done is done." The cyberbullying case will be back in court on April 6. Ehler and Brown said the police investigation into their son's disappearance is ongoing, and they will be meeting with police soon to talk about renewed searches this spring. MORE TOP STORIES
Washington targeted seven mid-level and senior Russian officials along with more than a dozen government entities.View on euronews
WASHINGTON — Domestic extremist groups pose a serious threat to the military by seeking to recruit service members into their ranks and, in some cases, joining the military to acquire combat experience, according to a Pentagon report released Tuesday. The report, prepared last year at the request of Congress, did not assess whether the problem of extremism in the military is growing, but it cited a number of examples of service members with extremist affiliations. It said the number of current and former military members who ascribe to white supremacist ideology is unknown. “Military members are highly prized by these groups as they bring legitimacy to their causes and enhance their ability to carry out attacks,” the report said. “In addition to potential violence, white supremacy and white nationalism pose a threat to the good order and discipline within the military.” For example, the report noted that a Marine was discharged in 2018 for having ties to a neo-Nazi group called Atomwaffen Division, and it said the group’s co-founder served in the Army National Guard in Florida. Another Marine was determined to be the founder of a different white supremacist group, called AIM, which stands for American Identity Movement. The group spread propaganda through an operation it called “Project Siege” and as of March 2019 had about 500 members. The group’s founder was a former Marine sergeant and a former leader was an Army veteran. Several other members of the military and the Reserves were identified as being associated with the group, and the report noted that some were either demoted or discharged. The report described a social media post, reported by a service member, who claimed to “see plenty of our kind” in combat arms. The message recommended ways to identify fellow group members, saying “simply wear a shirt with some obscure fascist logo.” The military has long been aware of small numbers of white supremacists and other extremists in its ranks, but the problem burst into public awareness after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, where an outsized number of military veterans and some current military members were present. It quickly fell to a new Pentagon chief, Lloyd Austin, to determine the scale of the problem and try to fix it. On Feb. 5, Austin directed all commanders and supervisors at every level of the military to conduct a one-day “stand down” — a pause in normal business — by early April to discuss extremism in the ranks. At his first Pentagon news conference two weeks later, Austin said extremism is a threat to the bonds of trust between service members, who count on cohesion to make them effective on the battlefield. “I really and truly believe that 99.9 per cent of our service men and women believe in” the oath they swear when entering the military, Austin said, adding that the actual number of extremists in the military is unknown. “I expect for the numbers to be small, but quite frankly, they’ll probably be a little bit larger than most of us would guess,” he said. “But I would just say that, you know, small numbers in this case can have an outsized impact.” Austin often mentions that he has personally witnessed the damage that racism and extremism can inflict. In 1995, when then-Lt. Col. Austin was serving with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, three white soldiers described as self-styled skinheads were arrested in the murder of a Black couple who were walking down the street. Investigators concluded the two were targeted because of their race. The killing triggered an internal investigation, and all told, 22 soldiers were linked to skinhead and other similar groups or found to hold extremist views. Robert Burns And Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press
A Hong Kong court on Wednesday adjourned for a third day the bail hearing of 47 pro-democracy activists charged with conspiracy to commit subversion, a case that has exacerbated international concern over freedoms in the financial hub. The marathon bail proceedings have gone on late into the night for three consecutive days, causing five of the defendants to fall ill and seek medical assistance. Local media footage showed the defendants dressed in the same clothes for four days since they were formally charged on Sunday, some looking exhausted.
The City of Fredericton is hoping "bonus incentives" can help make affordable housing more attractive to developers. Currently under the city's zoning bylaw, developers can get more units in their build if some of those units qualify as affordable under the province's Affordable Housing Program. But, Marcello Battilana, the manager of community planning at the City of Fredericton, says because the vacancy rate is so low -- less than two per cent -- there's little need for developers to include affordable housing in new builds. "What's happening right now is developers don't need the affordable housing program at all." Under provincial legislation, the city doesn't have the power to force developers to include affordable housing, so it's hoping density bonus incentives, or the ability to build more total units, will help make affordable units more attractive. "It may entice them to say, 'You know what, I'll get a little bit more density than I thought, and so let's be part of the program'," said Battilana. There are other types of bonus incentives - in the past, developers have gotten an extra storey on a build in exchange for public art. "This incentive is relatively new," said Coun. Kate Rogers, chair of the city's affordable housing committee. And she said it's a tool the city should be using more. "That's one of the things that (the affordable housing committee is) really encouraging staff, is that there be more and more promotion of these tools to developers and working with developers to help them come up with ways that they can be creative in their development to incorporate affordable housing." Proposed development on George Street in Fredericton will include two affordable housing units..(City of Fredericton council agenda) A new building proposal on George Street is making use of it, the developer Marty Mockler is allowed an extra unit by including two affordable units, giving the building a total of eight units in the new build. "Basically, we just want to see developers be able to take advantage of additional tools that the municipality can bring to bear to provide more affordable housing options for the community overall," said Battilana. Battilana says the city is hoping to add to the bonus incentives under the zoning bylaw and that those plans will be made public at the next Planning Advisory Committee on March 17.