Starting January 7, air travellers will need to provide a negative COVID-19 test before entering Canada. As Richard Zussman reports, Ottawa's new mandate is leaving airlines scrambling to prepare.
Starting January 7, air travellers will need to provide a negative COVID-19 test before entering Canada. As Richard Zussman reports, Ottawa's new mandate is leaving airlines scrambling to prepare.
The federal government is eyeing a comprehensive North American energy strategy as workers reel from cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline. The project's presidential permit was rescinded by U.S. President Joe Biden on his first day in office, prompting outrage from Alberta's provincial government. TC Energy, the proponent, had pre-emptively ceased construction of the project. "I was the minister of natural resources when the Obama administration cancelled Keystone XL. So for me, it's Round 2 of deep disappointment," Minister Jim Carr, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's representative for the Prairies, said Monday. "We have to look forward, however, to a continental energy strategy." That North American energy strategy is enticing to Alberta's premier as well, with Jason Kenney suggesting to the prime minister that they approach Washington together to pitch a collaborative approach to North American energy and climate policy. "Canada and the U.S. share a highly integrated energy system, including criss-crossing infrastructure such as pipelines and electricity transmission systems. Our energy and climate goals must be viewed in the context of that integrated system," Kenney wrote. The premier has called the Keystone cancellation an "insult" and a "gut-punch," repeatedly pressing for retaliation against the U.S. and suggesting economic and trade sanctions if the administration is unwilling to engage in conversations about the future of the pipeline. Last year, Kenney invested $1.5 billion in Keystone XL, arguing it would never be completed without the infusion. The pipeline, first announced in 2005, would have carried 830,000 barrels of crude a day from the oilsands in Alberta to Nebraska. The Biden administration has made no indication it intends to consider reinstating the permit. TC Energy has already laid off 1,000 workers in Alberta. A continental energy partnership has been an elusive goal for more than 15 years, with multiple trilateral meetings ending with consensus but often without measurable outcomes. It's been five years since Carr, then the minister of natural resources, hosted his American and Mexican counterparts to discuss the potential of such a partnership. They agreed to collaborate on things like energy technologies, energy efficiency, carbon capture and emissions reduction. While they signed a document stating these shared goals, synergy between the three countries has been slow to develop. In December 2014, a similar meeting ended with a to-do list to move forward on a continental energy strategy, including mapping energy infrastructure and sharing data. That data website hasn't been updated since 2017. In that meeting, then-natural resources minister Greg Rickford was making the pitch to the Obama administration for why Keystone XL should be permitted to live. It was cancelled — for the first time — less than a year later. "We've gone through a period over the last number of years where relations around energy have kind of died a slow death and become more and more narrowly focused around individual projects," said Monica Gattinger, director of the Institute for Science, Society and Policy at the University of Ottawa. "There's tremendous potential between Canada and the United States to collaborate around energy and environmental objectives in the long term." Gattinger said changes in the United States around hydrocarbon and shale have diminished the country's motivation for a broader energy approach. With the national governments in Canada and the U.S. now more closely aligned on climate priorities, she added there's the potential for a breakthrough. "Both countries have vast potential across a whole host of energy resources," she said. "Those are the conversations that we have not been having in North America for a number of years now. And there is a real opportunity to do so at this time." Carr is optimistic, too. "We're hardly starting from scratch, and there will be alignment," he said, alluding to his hope for co-operation between the U.S. and Canada, but also with the Prairie provinces. "There is an awful lot of work to be done and an awful lot of potential."
Genomic sequencing will be key in determining the prevalence of new, more transmissible variants of COVID-19 in Canada, experts say, but the process is too laborious and time-consuming to run on every positive swab. While that means we likely can't know the exact number of cases stemming from the "variants of concern," first identified in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil, experts say genomic sequencing can unlock useful information about where and how quickly spread may be happening.The Canadian Press spoke with microbiologists and laboratory science specialists to answer popular questions about the new variants, and what we're doing to detect them.HOW IS GENOMIC SEQUENCING DONE?Positive samples, typically taken from travel-related cases or those that were otherwise flagged for sequencing, are sent to a specific lab which has the equipment required to get a closer look at the virus's genetic code. From there, a specially-trained scientist looks for mutations and changes from the main SARS-CoV-2 virus, going through the code line by line. The process, which can take anywhere from a couple days to a full week, is tedious, expensive and requires a level of scientific equipment and knowledge only accessible in a handful of labs across the country, says Dr. Tony Mazzulli, a medical microbiologist at Public Health Ontario Laboratory."You need the supplies, the reagents, and you need people with the expertise who can a) do it and b) interpret the results once the test is finished," said Mazzulli, who's also the microbiologist-in-chief of the Mount Sinai Hospital. "It's not just like a diagnostic test that is either a yes or no."HOW OFTEN ARE WE DOING IT?Ontario, which had 34 total known cases of the B.1.1.7 variant from the U.K. as of Monday, is undergoing a point-prevalence study in which all positive test results in the province from a single day — Jan. 20 — are being analyzed through genomic sequencing. Health Minister Christine Elliott said Ontario has analyzed 9,000 samples for the new variants and hopes to look at 1,500 every week going forward.Public Health Ontario also says it is introducing screening tests that can look for a mutation that's found in the three concerning variants. Dr. Vanessa Allen, the chief of microbiology at the Public Health Ontario Lab, said in a press conference Monday the new tests will help identify "high-risk samples," that will then be sent to labs for sequencing. Mazzulli says some of Canada's standard PCR tests can also pick up a hint — known as the S-gene dropout — that the sample should be sequenced. PCR tests give us a yes or no answer as to whether a person is infected, but they also look for specific genes in the virus, Mazzulli explained. If the S gene, which has the mutation, is missing from the diagnostic, that's an indication the sample should be sent in for further sequencing.Mazzulli also says Ontario is building capacity and developing further criteria for samples that should be sequenced, including those from outbreaks where a group of cases are associated with each other.In B.C., where according to data released Monday there have been three confirmed cases South Africa variant and six cases of the U.K. variant, top doctor Bonnie Henry said the province is working on strategies to see where it can target genomic sequencing to better understand changes and variants circulating in the community. About 9,500 quality sequences have been performed in the province since February, which amounts to sampling approximately 15 per cent of cases, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control. WHY CAN'T WE SEQUENCE EVERY POSITIVE COVID TEST WE GET?Joel Rivero, field application system specialist who helps set up molecular and immunodiagnostic tests at labs across Canada, says that boils down to capacity and lab resources.While sequencing every sample is ideal to get a full picture, Rivero says that probably wouldn't get you the best "return on investment."Since most variant cases are still travel-related, it's best to concentrate efforts there, he says, in hopes of catching those quickly to limit spread."We want to make sure there's a fine balance between your resource management and what makes the most sense to help identify and protect public health."Rivero adds that the COVID treatment plan and contact tracing efforts remain the same whether the patient has "a variant strain or the quote-unquote regular strain.""Everyone will still have to isolate whether they have the variant or not," he said.WILL CURRENT VACCINES WORK AGAINST NEW VARIANTS?Dr. Samira Mubareka, a microbiologist and clinical scientist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, says part of the importance of genome sequencing is in understanding which mutations are showing up and figuring out what they do.And that can have potential implications on vaccines and other treatments.Mubareka and other experts say they're hopeful current vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna will still work against the variant strains — at least to some extent."It's really unlikely to go from 95 per cent effectiveness of a vaccine to zero," she said, adding however that there may be some reduction of effectiveness against the variants."But from what I understand from preliminary data, it's still anticipated to be above what would be protective at this stage."Mubareka says the emergence of the new variants means vaccines currently being developed will need to be tested against the latest strains rather than older versions to properly measure efficacy. Some of our established vaccines could need updates down the line. Moderna announced Monday it was planning to test booster vaccines aimed at the B.1.351 variant first found in South Africa, noting the current formula had a six-fold reduction in the effectiveness of its neutralizing antibodies. Despite the reduction, the company says those levels are still believed to offer protection. The nature of mRNA technology, which Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna both use in their vaccines, is that an updated shot with a new target could theoretically be made quickly, if needed.However, Mubareka says any new vaccine would presumably need to go through a review process and trials to determine safety and efficacy. So updated inoculations won't be popping up overnight. WHAT DO THE NEW VARIANTS MEAN FROM A PUBLIC HEALTH STANDPOINT?As of right now, public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of our current dominant strain — physical distancing, hand-washing, mask-wearing — will work to fend off these variants. Travel takes on greater significance with the more transmissible versions of the virus, however, with some experts calling for further restrictions and more strict enforcement of the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for anyone coming into the country.COVID projections from Caroline Colijn, a mathematician and epidemiologist with Simon Fraser University, show a potentially grim picture for the next few months, with a skyrocketing spring wave fuelled by community spread of more contagious variants.But if the variants aren't yet firmly established here, we have time to prevent that flagrant spread, she says."If we can push that peak out to September, we may be able to avert it if most of us are vaccinated by then."Mubareka cautions, however, that new variants will continue to arise as long as the virus is spreading. So limiting contacts and abiding by other public health measures is important in making sure we don't get a series of strains that could slip past our mitigation strategies."We play an important part in preventing the likelihood that we will become a vector for one of these variants," she said. "Every time one of these viruses passes through a host, it provides an opportunity not just for spread, but also for adaptation."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — Quebec's director of national health said he's still not sure when the province will begin administering COVID-19 booster shots — 43 days since officials started injecting people with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Dr. Horacio Arruda said Tuesday that while he doesn't want Quebecers to wait more than seven weeks to receive a booster shot, he said he was still waiting to hear back from government scientists studying the efficacy of the vaccine among those who received their first of two injections. Quebec has taken a different approach from other provinces, focusing on giving a first dose to as many people as possible before giving anyone a second, a strategy that Arruda maintains will save more lives and keep more people out of hospital at a time when vaccine supplies are limited. "We did it because we don't have enough vaccine," he told reporters. Vaccine maker Pfizer has said the second dose of its vaccine should be given within 21 days. Moderna, the maker of the other vaccine approved for use in Canada, has set the date for the second shot at 28 days. Ottawa's National Advisory Committee on Immunization, however, has said the second dose of both vaccines can wait up to 42 days. Relatives of long-term care residents say they don't believe the government is making a science-based decision. Quebec is "playing Russian roulette with our loved ones' lives," Joyce Shanks, member of the Maimonides Family Advocacy Committee, said Monday. Her group, which represents residents of the Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Montreal, is considering suing the government over its vaccine strategy. Her father, a Maimonides resident, was one of the first people in Quebec to get a dose of vaccine, on Dec. 14. "We signed up for the two doses. We did not sign up to be part of a clinical trial," Shanks said. Kathy Assayag, chair of the users' committee at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, said the government's vaccine strategy is "a mistake." "It's a gamble and we cannot gamble with people's lives." Experts, however, differ on whether Quebec's plan is a well-calculated risk or an ill-fated wager. Dr. Caroline Quach, chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, said the committee's guideline that patients can wait up to 42 days between injections is based on trials from vaccine makers. Trial participants, she said, were encouraged to return after 21 or 28 days from their first injection — depending on whether they received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine — but she said they were allowed to return up to 42 days later. "The problem after the 42 days is that we don't have any data," Quach said. While it's possible a single dose remains effective after 42 days, she said, there's a decent risk its efficacy decreases, but no one knows how fast that could happen. "We know that the second dose helps with the maturation of the antibodies," Quach said. "The two companies decided that a second dose was needed, so we have no data with only one dose and we have no data with extended intervals." Dr. Andre Veillette, a research professor at the Universite de Montreal's department of medicine and a member of the federal government's COVID-19 vaccine task force, said the further Quebec moves away from what's been proven in clinical trials, the higher the chance the vaccine won't have the same results. "I think it's a gamble," he said. "I think there's not enough information." Veillette said he's particularly worried about older people who generally don't respond as well to vaccines as younger people do. Even in a situation with constrained supply, he said the government should stick to the vaccine schedule that's been proven in clinical trials. "Take the drops as they come and give them the way they're supposed to be given," Veillette said. While the results of the vaccination campaign in Israel have raised concerns about the amount of protection given by the first dose of vaccine, Dr. Donald Sheppard, chair of the department of microbiology and immunology at McGill University's faculty of medicine, said the data matches what was demonstrated in the clinical trials. The protection offered by both vaccines 14 days after the first shot exceeds 90 per cent, he said. Studies of other vaccines indicate the timing of the second dose isn't critical, Sheppard added. But, he said, there's no specific data on the consequences of delaying the COVID-19 vaccines. Like other provinces, Quebec has been forced to manage with fewer COVID-19 vaccines than anticipated, following Pfizer's recent decision to suspend deliveries to upgrade its European production facility. As a result, Quebec doesn't expect to receive any vaccine shipments this week. The Health Department said Tuesday it had received 238,100 doses of vaccine and had administered 224,879. Given the shortage of vaccine and the high number of COVID-19 cases in Quebec, Sheppard said he thinks the government made the right calculation — though if there were fewer cases or more doses, he added, there wouldn't have been the need to take the risk. "But that's not where we are right now, in January, in Quebec," he said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4.m. ET on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 28,505 new vaccinations administered for a total of 868,454 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 2,291.479 per 100,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 1,122,450 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 77.37 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 3,258 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 8,549 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 16.326 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 16,500 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 51.81 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,207 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 7,117 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 44.866 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 9,225 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 77.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 3,102 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 11,622 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 11.909 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 28,850 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 40.28 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 3,821 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 14,257 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 18.277 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 21,675 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 65.78 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 4,164 new vaccinations administered for a total of 224,879 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 26.281 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 238,100 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 94.45 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 9,707 new vaccinations administered for a total of 295,817 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 20.139 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 411,650 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 71.86 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 1,618 new vaccinations administered for a total of 31,369 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 22.781 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 55,650 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 4.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 56.37 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 727 new vaccinations administered for a total of 34,080 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 28.902 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 32,725 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 104.1 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 361 new vaccinations administered for a total of 99,814 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 22.674 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 122,725 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 81.33 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 2,509 new vaccinations administered for a total of 122,359 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 23.844 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 144,550 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 84.65 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting 445 new vaccinations administered for a total of 4,397 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 105.365 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 14,400 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 35 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 30.53 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting 7,578 new vaccinations administered for a total of 9,471 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 209.912 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 14,400 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 32 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 65.77 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 265 new vaccinations administered for a total of 4,723 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 121.959 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 12,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 31 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 39.36 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published January 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
The day is cold and overcast but inside, standing in an empty and cavernous former Target department store, Ahmed Hussein is beaming. This is where the director of the The Neighbourhood Organization in Thorncliffe Park envisions a mass vaccination site where tens of thousands of residents in this east Toronto neighbourhood could be vaccinated. This is where, he says, they could get a fair shot at making it through this pandemic. "The second wave really hit us hard," Hussein said. "We are really in a prison now. We will get out of that prison." Thorncliffe Park has been a hotspot since the start of the pandemic, with a disproportionately higher number of COVID-19 cases. According to the latest 2016 census, more than 20,000 people live there. Community leaders say the current number is much higher, with more than 30,000 people living in a three kilometre radius, a statistic they say makes the neighbourhood in Toronto's east end the most densely populated in Canada. The vast majority of residents live in apartment towers, and Hussein says families on average include five people. Most of them are newcomers and many are essential workers. How they live, and what they do, puts them at higher risk of catching COVID and spreading it. It's why Hussein is advocating to have the entire neighbourhood prioritized for vaccination. "A lot of these buildings are 15 floors, 20 floors, some of them 25 floors," Hussein said, adding that most of the aging buildings only have two working elevators. "When 2,000 or 3,000 people are coming down elevators at the same time when their kids are going to school, you can imagine how people will be close to each other, and that's the risk of spread. So having an immunization will clearly improve [safety for] people to go back to work, to earn an income, pay their rents and take care of their children." It would also help alleviate the mental health toll, he says: Canada's national advisory committee has prioritized key populations for vaccines, including residents and staff of long-term care homes and front-line health care workers. Hussein says once vaccines become more widely available, Thorncliffe Park and several other vulnerable neighbourhoods should be high on the list. This is not a case for jumping the queue, he and other advocates say. It's about reframing risk to recognize that entire pockets of people are more vulnerable because of their socioeconomic status. Hussain Rifnaz is one example. "I got the fever, and the worst was the body pain," he said. When Rifnaz got sick with COVID-19 last October, his wife and four children all got infected. Rifnaz works in public transit, servicing subway lines. He says he might have caught COVID on the job, or in his building's crowded elevators, or maybe it came from his children's school. Before Ontario's latest lockdown, Thorncliffe Park Public School was among the hardest hit in the city. Dozens of students tested positive in an asymptomatic screening pilot in December. Rifnaz said a vaccine would stop that invisible spread in the community from moving even further, as people like him have to go to work even in a lockdown. "They have a big chance of getting lots of COVID from this area, so therefore, we should be taking care of this area first as a priority. It will be helpful for the Toronto city." The City of Toronto has identified at-risk areas like Thorncliffe Park, and set up pop-up testing sites and city-run isolation centres to help identify cases and contain them. Wearing a mask, gloves and a face shield, Tabasum Mohammadi hands out flyers with information about those resources in the lobby of her building. Mohammadi is a community ambassador, and her role as a volunteer is to spread awareness about public health guidelines. Glancing toward a lineup forming for the elevators, she said being on constant guard is exhausting. Quicker access to a vaccine would ease a perpetual sense of dread. "Once we get vaccinated, at least we will reduce the numbers and we will be able to get protected," Mohammadi said. "We'll be mentally relaxed once the vaccine is here." The stress is unique to disadvantaged neighbourhoods, and it's why many are making the same case for priority access to vaccines. In the north-west neighbourhood of Weston-Mount Dennis, the buses tell the story of a community on the outskirts and struggling to get by. The bus lines here are among the busiest in Toronto, taking people to work in factories, grocery stores, and nursing homes. Those same people carry that risk back home, where many live with multiple family members. "It's not that people don't want to follow the public health regulations," Michelle Joseph, CEO of Unison Health & Community Services, said. "The issue is that they cannot always follow public health regulations. And the reason that they cannot is because there are systemic barriers that don't allow them to follow them." Joseph says the barriers are built-in and hard to overcome. Tight living conditions are one issue. So is poverty and lack of paid sick leave. Many people here tend to have multiple jobs that compound the risk of exposure, and they can't afford to miss work if they don't feel well. Early access to vaccines here is a shield of protection that is desperately needed. "These communities are often left behind," Joseph said. "It's very important that we ensure that they are not forgotten. And in this case, because they are experiencing a disproportional level of COVID and also the impacts of COVID economically, then we should make sure that they're a priority." Joseph says the risks here are too high to ignore. To strengthen that call, several communities have banded together to make a collective case for prioritization. Tied by common threads of inequity, it's a call that grows more urgent by the day. Further west of Weston-Mount Dennis, in the community of Rexdale, for many it has come down to survival. At a community hub, local volunteers like Bibi Hack package bags of donated food. Hack says the need has skyrocketed as more people lose jobs or are too sick to work. "They don't have transportation, they don't have money, and they're scared to go out. This is so helpful, without this I don't know how a lot of people would survive, believe me." Pascal Lumbala is the manager of the COVID Community Response with Rexdale Community Health Centre. Standing outside a COVID-19 testing centre set up in the community to make testing more accessible, Lumbala says while up to 200 people a day have been tested at three testing sites in the area, many in the low-income neighbourhood are reluctant to come because a positive result would mean staying home and missing work. "These people have bills and they have to pay those bills," Lumbala said. "Because of that fear, this could be an issue for them to go to work, so they don't get tested": As is the case in other vulnerable communities, many people here live in high-rises. The spread of infection, with several family members living in one space and usually with one bathroom, is almost inevitable, says Lumbala. Getting a vaccine soon could give people here a better chance of staying healthy and simply staying afloat. But he adds that there is a need to educate people about the vaccine in order to help combat hesitancy. "We are working on some messages," Lumbala said. "We are working on having some workshops to educate the population so they will understand the importance of getting this vaccine and to protect the entire community." Back in Thorncliffe Park, Mohammadi continues handing out flyers, undeterred by people who don't bother to take one. She says until vaccines become more widely available, she too will educate people about the need to get immunized and will keep making the case for safety. Mohammadi has four children, and says she owes it to them and everyone in her community. "It's a home here, and I want to protect all my family members. This building is a home for me." But while the case to prioritize whole neighbourhoods for immunization is compelling, the outcome is uncertain. Government and public health authorities decide who gets the vaccine and in what order, and it's not clear when communities advocating for priority access will find out where they end up on any list. The city of Toronto and local health authorities are supporting the initiative, but the province of Ontario will make the call once it starts offering vaccines to the general public. Meanwhile, there's no denying the need, or the commitment to keep fighting because of it. Back at the former Target store where community leader Ahmed Hussein wants to set up a mass vaccination site, there's now a temporary food bank. It was established during the pandemic and Hussein wants nothing more than to see it go. "COVID created this, and we hope the immunization and the vaccines will shut it down." Arms wide open, Hussein looks around the empty space and says he sees only promise, and better days ahead. "It symbolizes to us a hope that we are able to carry out the immunization for this community, this wonderful space that is available that we can immunize thousands and thousands of people." Hussein added with a broad smile, "It symbolizes that this is a space of hope, this is a space that we will say 'Goodbye COVID.'" Watch full episodes of The National on CBC Gem, the CBC's streaming service.
WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security issued a national terrorism bulletin Wednesday warning of the lingering potential for violence from people motivated by antigovernment sentiment after President Joe Biden's election, suggesting the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol may embolden extremists and set the stage for additional attacks. The department did not cite any specific plots, but pointed to “a heightened threat environment across the United States” that it believes “will persist” for weeks after Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration. It is not uncommon for the federal government to warn local law enforcement through bulletins about the prospect for violence tied to a particular event or date, such as July 4. But this particular bulletin, issued through the department’s National Terrorism Advisory System, is notable because it effectively places the Biden administration into the politically charged debate over how to describe or characterize acts motivated by political ideology, and suggests it regards violence like the kind that overwhelmed the Capitol as akin to terrorism. The bulletin is an indication that national security officials see a connective thread between different episodes of violence in the last year motivated by anti-government grievances, including over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results and police use of force. The document singles out crimes motivated by racial or ethnic hatred, such as the 2019 rampage targeting Hispanics in El Paso, Texas, as well as the threat posed by extremists motivated by foreign terror groups. A DHS statement that accompanied the bulletin noted the potential for violence from “a broad range of ideologically-motivated actors.” “Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence,” the bulletin said. The alert comes at a tense time following the riot at the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump seeking to overturn the presidential election. Authorities are concerned that extremists may attack other symbols of government or people whose political views they oppose. “The domestic terrorism attack on our Capitol earlier this month shined a light on a threat that has been right in front of our faces for years,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “I am glad to see that DHS fully recognizes the threat posed by violent, right-wing extremists and is taking efforts to communicate that threat to the American people.” The alert was issued by acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske. Biden’s nominee for the Cabinet post, Alejandro Mayorkas, has not been confirmed by the Senate. Two former homeland security secretaries, Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano, called on the Senate to confirm Mayorkas so he can start working with the FBI and other agencies and deal with the threat posed by domestic extremists, among other issues. Chertoff, who served under President George W. Bush, said attacks by far-right, domestic extremists are not new but that deaths attributed to them in recent years in the U.S. have exceeded those linked to jihadists such as al-Qaida. “We have to be candid and face what the real risk is,” he said in a conference call with reporters. Federal authorities have charged more than 150 people in the Capitol siege, including some with links to right-wing extremist groups such as the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers. The Justice Department announced charges Wednesday against 43-year Ian Rogers, a California man found with five pipe bombs during a search of his business this month who had a sticker associated with the Three Percenters on his vehicle. His lawyer told his hometown newspaper, The Napa Valley Register, that he is a “very well-respected small business owner, father, and family man” who does not belong to any violent organizations. Ben Fox And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
Canada's breakout hit TV comedy "Letterkenny" is crossing another pop culture milestone with a slate of new merchandising deals. Producers of the show say they've struck several fresh agreements, including one with Funko, a producer of collectible figurines inspired by characters from popular franchises. New Metric Media, the Toronto company behind "Letterkenny," also signed licensing pacts for the show with apparel maker Ripple Junction and board game developer High Roller Games. The deals expand on a selection of "Letterkenny" merchandise that's sold through the show's website, including shirts, caps and beer cozies. Shot in and around Sudbury, Ont., "Letterkenny" stars Jared Keeso and Nathan Dales as best buds in a small town that lives for hockey, partying and its population of colourful characters. The show, which is stacked with quotable catchphrases, found a cult following in Canada when it debuted on the Crave streaming platform in 2016. Two years later, a deal with U.S. streamer Hulu drew an even larger audience, winning new fans in Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. David Friend, The Canadian Press
To the residents of Quebec's Listuguj First Nation, Campbellton is a lifeline to health care, schools, shopping and work. But it's a lifeline that has been repeatedly twisted, tested and torn as the pandemic has unfolded. The latest twist came last weekend — and this time, some residents on both sides of the border say, it was one twist too many. Effective Saturday, Jan. 23, the provincial government tightened the border-crossing rules for anyone coming into New Brunswick. The measures followed spiralling outbreaks and the decision to impose a full lockdown in the Edmundston region. Residents of Listuguj First Nation and Pointe-à-la-Croix coming to Campbellton were allowed to continue to cross the border for medical appointments and child custody arrangements, and to buy essential items. But visits were cut from the previous twice-a-week allowance to once a week, with a new stipulation that travellers would have to undergo weekly COVID-19 tests and provide proof of negative results. By Monday, the Listuguj Mi'gmaq First Nation government was expressing concern about reports of mistreatment and denial of access to services across the bridge. Some residents afraid to make the trip to N.B. In a statement on its website, leaders urged community members to report any issues to them, noting they were "concerned with the stories we've heard … regarding mistreatment, harassment, denial of services, refusal of entry and/or access to essential goods and services across the bridge." Many have already come forward to do so. "We've been hearing these stories for a while, at least three a week come to us, and others are posting on Facebook," administrative clerk Christy Metallic told CBC News on Tuesday. Residents say they're afraid to make the trip across the bridge, worried they'll face harassment or racist comments, or that their car might get keyed. "We've heard about verbal confrontations, we've heard about being people chased out because they had Quebec plates," Metallic said. In one instance, she said, a resident reported that they were shopping for a snowsuit for their child, who was with them. "A border patrol agent followed them right into the store … they were being followed" and felt threatened, Metallic said. Residents are also frustrated by the new requirement for a weekly COVID-19 test, which entails planning in advance, booking a test and waiting for results. In their own Listuguj community, there are now just three active cases. In Campbellton, there are 16. 'We are one community, separated by a bridge' Residents are saying that their constitutional rights are being trampled, and Campbellton Chamber of Commerce president Luc Couturier said he wholeheartedly agrees. "Testing once a week? I have no idea where that came from," Couturier said. "What's the message you are giving people? What about people who have to come here for work, the grocery store workers, the nurses and others? The rules are so tight it's almost like they're trying to tell them 'Don't bother coming at all.' " Couturier, who is himself a business owner in Campbellton, said he has not seen any instances of denial of service or mistreatment of Listuguj or Pointe-à-la-Croix residents and can't fathom that it would be coming from business owners. "I have a restaurant and I serve anybody. I'm not border patrol," he said. "We are one community, separated by a bridge. We have relatives on both sides of the border, we depend on each other, we are linked. We always have been." Couturier said he is so upset by the new rules, particularly the mandatory weekly tests, he has written to Premier Blaine Higgs and hopes to discuss the situation with him in the coming days. Metallic said residents' concerns are being collected and will be passed on to Listuguj leaders. Their chief will also be requesting a meeting with Higgs, she said. CBC News requested comment about the recent rule changes and Listuguj residents' reported concerns from the provincial government and from Campbellton Mayor Stephanie Anglehart-Paulin, who declined to comment. In an email, provincial government spokesperson Geoffrey Downey said they are looking into the matter but could not immediately respond.
A management team from the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is now helping staff at a Regina nursing home try to contain a COVID-19 outbreak that has claimed the lives of 12 residents. Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home in Regina is operated according to a contract with the SHA. Health officials declared an outbreak at the 141-person home on Dec. 18. According to an update the home provided family members on Monday, the SHA "is piloting an outbreak management team." "This team will meet with us early [Tuesday] morning to see if we can implement new strategies to more effectively contain this virus and stop its spread," the update said. Kelly Chessie, the home's executive director, said it has been working with the SHA and other homes in the Regina area throughout the pandemic, "taking every opportunity to make important changes and improvements as we learn together about what works best when fighting this virus." She said the SHA reached out last Friday with its offer of help. "We happily welcomed their expertise," Chessie said Tuesday in an email to CBC News. "They came this afternoon and I am grateful for the fresh eyes and am optimistic that we can work together to further improve and tighten our infection control measures. "Responding to an outbreak takes a lot of time and effort. Everyone here has been working very hard to contain this virus and stop its spread. Having extra hands and fresh eyes to help with this critical work will be valuable." It's not the first time the SHA has come in to assist a Saskatchewan care home amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In early December, the SHA signed a co-management agreement at Extendicare's Parkside home in Regina, where 43 deaths have been linked to COVID-19. That outbreak has since been declared over and the arrangement is set to expire on Jan. 31. The Saskatchewan NDP has called on the province to take similar steps at Extendicare's Preston home in Saskatoon, which is in active outbreak. Three residents have died and more than 30 residents were infected as of last week. SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said on Tuesday the authority is in daily contact with Extendicare Preston's leaders and is supporting them. "Our local teams are given daily updates," Livingstone said. "We've been in the facility doing safety reviews and supporting the use of PPE. The facility is fully staffed, which is different from some of the other situations we've seen." Home is 'slowly building immunity' As of Tuesday, 31 residents and five staff members at Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home were actively infected with COVID-19. Several others had recovered. Santa Maria was among the first long-term care homes in Saskatchewan offered a COVID-19 vaccine, with staff receiving their first Pfizer-BioNTech doses on Dec. 24. Second doses then followed about 21 days later, Chessie said. On Jan. 14, 114 residents received their first dose. No second doses have been administered to residents yet, Chessie said. Since Jan. 14, 17 new cases of COVID-19 have been found at the home, including some residents who were vaccinated with their first dose, Chessie said. "We are slowly building immunity in this home," she stated in a note to families last week. In a subsequent note to families on Monday, Chessie said the home has a "GO team" consisting of a respiratory therapist and nurse as well as a consulting physician. "[They] continue to be here every weekday, during the day, and the physician is available on call," Chessie wrote. She said there are some residents "who need help with this fight."
BERLIN — A German woman has been charged with preparing a far-right attack and other crimes on allegations she was in the process of building a bomb to target Muslims and local politicians in Bavaria, Munich prosecutors said Wednesday. Susanne G., whose last name wasn't given in line with privacy laws, also faces charges of making threats and violations of weapons laws, among other things. She has been in custody since her arrest. Prosecutors allege that the woman started planning a firebombing attack no later than May 2020, motivated by her xenophobic and extreme-right views. She is alleged to have downloaded information on bomb building online and have gathered materials for the construction, including gasoline, fireworks and fuses, by the time of her arrest in September. Between December 2019 and March 2020 the suspect is alleged to have sent six anonymous letters, five including a live bullet, with death threats to a local politician in the Nuremberg area, a Muslim community association, and an asylum seeker aid organization. During the summer of 2020, she started focusing on local police officers and a different local politician than the one threatened by letter as other possible targets, and began scouting their homes and cars. The Associated Press
The foreign ministers of Hungary and Ukraine were expected to meet in Kyiv on Wednesday for talks on repairing badly strained relations but Budapest said its diplomatic missions in the ex-Soviet republic had received threats of "bloodletting" violence. The two countries are at loggerheads over the right of some 150,000 ethnic Hungarians living in Transcarpathia in western Ukraine to use their native tongue, especially in education. Prime Minister Viktor Orban's nationalist government in Budapest has responded by blocking Kyiv's efforts to build closer ties with NATO and the European Union, of which Hungary is a member.
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The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2021. There are 757,022 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 757,022 confirmed cases (59,551 active, 678,068 resolved, 19,403 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 4,011 new cases Tuesday from 34,572 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 12 per cent. The rate of active cases is 158.43 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 37,271 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 5,324. There were 165 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 1,137 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 162. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.43 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 51.62 per 100,000 people. There have been 17,120,912 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 398 confirmed cases (six active, 388 resolved, four deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday from 158 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 1.15 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of two new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 78,477 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 110 confirmed cases (six active, 104 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday from 267 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 3.82 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 88,900 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,572 confirmed cases (11 active, 1,496 resolved, 65 deaths). There was one new case Tuesday from 934 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.11 per cent. The rate of active cases is 1.13 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 11 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people. There have been 201,358 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,161 confirmed cases (340 active, 807 resolved, 14 deaths). There were 10 new cases Tuesday from 1,048 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.95 per cent. The rate of active cases is 43.77 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 157 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 22. There were zero new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.02 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.8 per 100,000 people. There have been 137,228 tests completed. _ Quebec: 256,002 confirmed cases (15,622 active, 230,803 resolved, 9,577 deaths). There were 1,166 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 184.11 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 10,268 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,467. There were 56 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 435 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 62. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.73 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 112.87 per 100,000 people. There have been 2,695,925 tests completed. _ Ontario: 258,700 confirmed cases (23,036 active, 229,755 resolved, 5,909 deaths). There were 1,740 new cases Tuesday from 29,712 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 5.9 per cent. The rate of active cases is 158.14 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 16,423 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,346. There were 63 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 430 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 61. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.42 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 40.57 per 100,000 people. There have been 9,007,713 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 28,902 confirmed cases (3,492 active, 24,601 resolved, 809 deaths). There were 92 new cases Tuesday from 1,556 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 5.9 per cent. The rate of active cases is 254.99 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,162 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 166. There were five new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 26 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.27 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 59.07 per 100,000 people. There have been 450,194 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 22,646 confirmed cases (2,649 active, 19,729 resolved, 268 deaths). There were 230 new cases Tuesday from 897 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 26 per cent. The rate of active cases is 225.55 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,775 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 254. There were 14 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 43 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is six. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.52 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 22.82 per 100,000 people. There have been 331,591 tests completed. _ Alberta: 121,901 confirmed cases (8,652 active, 111,662 resolved, 1,587 deaths). There were 366 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 197.93 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 4,134 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 591. There were 13 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 124 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 18. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.41 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 36.3 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,061,844 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 65,234 confirmed cases (5,714 active, 58,352 resolved, 1,168 deaths). There were 406 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 112.67 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,322 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 475. There were 14 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 78 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 11. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.22 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 23.03 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,044,931 tests completed. _ Yukon: 70 confirmed cases (zero active, 69 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,229 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 31 confirmed cases (six active, 25 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 13.39 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of one new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 9,064 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 282 confirmed cases (17 active, 264 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 43.84 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 16 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 7,382 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — There's a race between COVID-19 and the rollout of vaccine as researchers and health officials in B.C. warn of two faster-spreading variants. The number of variant cases may start low, but increased transmission could only be a few weeks away, just as delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is delayed, said Caroline Colijn, the Canada 150 Research Chair in Mathematics for Infection, Evolution and Public Health at Simon Fraser University. Colijn's lab released modelling data this week showing public health rules in several provinces, including B.C., would not be sufficient to prevent exponential growth in cases starting around March if a COVID-19 variant with a 40 per cent higher transmission rate became established. "By established I mean some cluster doesn't get stopped and takes off and we don't notice or we don't act and we are unable to stop those chains of transmission and so they take off the way the current COVID has," she said. Colijn added she would expect public health officials to enact further restrictions before such exponential growth in variant cases. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told a news briefing this week that B.C. has detected three cases of a variant found in South Africa and none were linked to each other or to travel, pointing to community spread. By completing whole genome sequencing, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control has also recorded six travel-related cases of the COVID-19 variant first found in the United Kingdom, which appears significantly more transmissible than earlier strains of the new coronavirus. B.C. is sequencing about 15 per cent of samples that test positive for COVID-19 in the province, said Natalie Prystajecky, head of the environmental microbiology program at the centre's public health lab. Sequencing is more labour-intensive than diagnostic testing, she said, so it can take up to two weeks to produce data from a given sample. B.C. has sequenced about 11,000 COVID-positive samples since last February and generated quality data from about 9,500 of them, she said. The average rate of sequencing across Canada is between five and 10 per cent, said Prystajecky, a member of the Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network that received funding last spring to sequence 150,000 samples. In addition to targeting samples from travellers and youth, she said, B.C. is prioritizing more general, "background" sampling to understand if public health officials are missing anything, such as transmission of new variants. "We're ramping up," she said. "We did 750 genomes last week and we're aiming to continue to increase the amount of sequencing we're doing." Prystajecky said her lab is also planning to do a "point prevalence study" to screen a high number of samples at a given point in time. B.C. is taking a smart approach to sequencing by targeting travel-related cases, said Colijn, but at the rate sequencing data becomes available, "there could be 10 or 50 or 100 cases of whatever we detect at the time." Colijn believes B.C. should consider Atlantic Canada's approach and create a so-called "Pacific bubble" that would require travellers from other provinces to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in B.C. Data from Pfizer and Moderna — the pharmaceutical companies behind the two COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada — show their products still protect people against the U.K. and South African variants, said Fiona Brinkman, a professor in the molecular biology and biochemistry department at Simon Fraser University. "What this means is people really need to hunker down until this vaccine gets out into the population further," she said in an interview this week. "We really are in a race between the vaccine and the virus right now." Basic measures including physical distancing and avoiding non-essential travel are still effective in preventing new variants from spreading, she said. B.C. reported 4,260 active cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday out of more than 65,000 confirmed cases since the pandemic began. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press
The European Union failed to make a breakthrough in crisis talks with AstraZeneca on Wednesday and demanded the drugmaker spell out how it would supply the bloc with reserved doses of COVID-19 vaccine from plants in Europe and Britain. The EU is making more comprehensive checks on vaccines before approval, which means a slower rollout of shots than former EU member Britain and growing public frustration. The issue has been exacerbated by Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca and Pfizer of the United States both announcing delivery hold-ups in recent weeks.
Evotec rose sharply on Tuesday amid market speculation that Melvin Capital Management was unwinding its positions in the German drugmaker after some of its investments turned sour. Evotec's shares jumped 10% at one point on Tuesday with three traders saying the move was likely linked to Melvin Capital closing out its shorts following losses on GameStop and other investments. Battery maker Varta surged for a similar reason, a German-based trader said, while shares in Polish videogame firm CD Projekt also saw strong demand.
MOSCOW — The lower house of Russian parliament on Wednesday approved the extension of the last remaining nuclear arms control pact days before it’s due to expire. The State Duma voted unanimously to extend the New START treaty for five years. The vote came a day after a phone call between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which they voiced satisfaction with the exchange of diplomatic notes about extending the New START treaty. They agreed to complete the necessary procedures in the next few days, according to the Kremlin. The pact’s extension doesn’t require congressional approval in the U.S., but Russian lawmakers must ratify the move. Top members of the Kremlin-controlled parliament said they would fast-track the issue and complete the necessary steps to extend the treaty this week. The Associated Press
A diminished version of John Tory's SmartTrack transit plan, which has lost another two stations in its latest iteration, goes before the mayor's executive committee for debate Wednesday. An updated report on the proposed transit line now calls for the construction of just five new stations, down from six in its previous version. Two stations are being removed because they would duplicate service expected as part of the Ford government's subway expansion plans, according to the report. The initial SmartTrack proposal, which was the centrepiece of Tory's 2014 mayoral campaign, promised the construction of 22 stations on existing rail corridors by 2021. The latest report says the line will be operational by 2026 at a cost of $1.463 billion. "We were always quite dubious about the plans to begin with," said Jamaal Myers, an organizer with the advocacy group Scarborough Transit Action. A SmartTrack station at Lawrence Avenue East and Kennedy Road is one of the stops that has been deleted, since a station near that intersection is now planned for the proposed Scarborough subway extension. The other deleted SmartTrack station had been planned for Gerrard Street East and Carlaw Avenue. That stop was removed because it would duplicate a station planned as part of the Ontario Line, an entirely new subway route proposed to run from Ontario Place to the Ontario Science Centre. Tory said the altered plans still mean Toronto will see the construction of multiple new transit stations and the introduction of new service within the next five years. "Yes, it's different. Yes, it's happening at a different time. But it's happening and I'm going to make sure it does happen," he said last week when the report was first released. Scarborough residents 'getting the short end of the stick' Myers is also concerned that the latest SmartTrack and subway proposals are overly focused on shuttling people from Toronto's inner suburbs to the downtown core. He said most people who use transit in Scarborough travel within their communities, and there appears to be fewer plans to improve that type of transit. "So you're building basically two competing mass transit systems for a smaller share of the population," Myers said. "The people of Lawrence East, they're getting the short end of the stick altogether." The city in late 2019 approved a plan to build a $4.4-billion extension of the Eglinton East LRT, though it hasn't been determined how the line will be funded or when it could open. The aging Scarborough RT is also expected to be decommissioned before the Line 2 subway extension is complete, which could deal a further blow to Scarborough transit users. Why the new plan might still work While SmartTrack has been frequently criticized for shrinking so drastically from Tory's initial proposal, some transit experts say the latest proposal shows a willingness to adapt amid shifting circumstances. Murtaza Haider, a Ryerson University professor of real estate management and director of the Urban Analytics Institute, said the province's plans for additional subway expansions have made the original SmartTrack proposal obsolete. "Maybe we did not need all those stops; maybe there were better ways of serving public transit or providing transit services, not necessarily through SmartTrack," Haider said. "I would have been quite concerned if no due diligence was done and the SmartTrack plan was built without any introspection." Like other urban planning experts, Haider is also expecting significant changes to the way people move around cities, since many white collar workers are expected to work from home more frequently even after the pandemic. Haider says that shift could lessen the demand for modes of public transportation designed to shuttle workers to and from the downtown core, though he acknowledged the years of planning and development of SmartTrack mean the line should still be built.
The Canadian Paediatric Society is reminding families that the process of raising a reader starts from birth.The association is encouraging health-care providers to talk to parents about the importance of reading, speaking and singing to children every day from the beginning of infancy.In a news release Wednesday, CPS says babies' brains grow when adults respond to their babbles, and these early interactions can affect language development and literacy skills.Dr. Alyson Shaw, who authored the CPS guidelines on early literacy, says families should talk to their doctors about the many ways they can support their children's language development.CPS says babies benefit from communication in any language, and while books are a useful tool, singing and storytelling can also help children pick up on new words and sentence structures.CPS says literacy is one of the strongest predictors of lifelong health outcomes.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
It's a sight familiar to anyone who's driven into or out of Windsor across the Ambassador Bridge — a woman in a bright red bikini, next to a massive number 4. For decades, Studio 4 has greeted millions of drivers entering Canada or heading to the United States; its risqué sign a distinctive —and for some an unwelcome — landmark. But the sign you can't miss won't be there for much longer. The strip club has been sold. "It hasn't really sunk in yet. I think if they demolish it or something I want to be there," said Peter Barth, who had owned the bar since 1984. Negotiations for the lot at the corner of Huron Church and Tecumseh roads began last year, according to Iyman Meddoui, president of Westdell Development Corporation, which bought the property. Both Brath and Meddoui declined to say how much the site sold for, but land registry documents show it was transferred on Jan 21 for $1,250,000. Plans for something 'completely different' The new owners won't say just yet what's coming to the site — but it won't be a strip club. "Our plans are going to be something completely different," said Meddoui. "We do have an exciting development that's under the planning." The company has applied to demolish the red building covered in signs currently advertising the XXXTASY LOUNGE, he added. "Saying that it was rough is putting it lightly. It looked like there wasn't much investment made there for many years now." Knocking down Studio 4 means the loss of a landmark — for better or worse. It was part of Windsor's exotic dancer heyday in the 1980s, when roughly a dozen strip clubs were operating and the city was dubbed "Tijuana North" by American visitors, said local historian Marty Gervais. "When you drive off the bridge and you see Studio 4 it's part of our Sin City image and people have always talked about it." The history of catering to partiers who streamed across the river dates back to Confederation when the city boasted the "best bawdy houses in North America," he explained. During prohibition, Windsor offered dance halls and a place to get a drink. More recently, it's attracted visitors with fully-nude dancing, Cuban cigars and a legal drinking age of 19. "We were constantly feeding thirsty Americans with what they wanted, which they couldn't get on the Detroit side of the border," said Gervais. Studio 4, and its salacious sign is part of that history. "It's very much a part of Windsor life. It just seems to have always been there," he said. Sign survived councillors and controversy But the sign, much like the club it stands outside, has had to weather controversy. Alan Halberstadt is a former newspaper columnist and city councillor. He remembers his council colleague, Caroline Postma, leading a crusade to "get that half-naked sign down because she felt it was against the city's sensibilities." Halberstadt said he wasn't happy about the sign either, but over time he got used to it. "After a while it becomes … kind of a Windsor insignia or landmark," he said, adding he believes any concerns about damage it may have done to the city's image is "overblown." "There's a lot of politicians and people that would have liked to see that sign come down, but she's stood the test of time," he said with a wry smile. Tussles with councillors and police officers enforcing the no-touching rule are among memories that were top of mind for Brath on Tuesday. He doesn't have any worries about his sign being a bad first impression of Windsor, or Canada for that matter. "We were right in their face, right on the corner," he said. The sign that's so recognizable today was also once a little more risque. "We had to draw on panties and a bra," said the former owner. "Originally, it was showing a little bit more." Strip clubs have been shut down by COVID-19, but even before the pandemic, Brath, who's 80 now, said business wasn't what it once was. Gone are the days of limousines pulling up out front, seven servers working non-stop and a lineup that extended beyond the canopy snaking out the back door. "The first week we were full, full, full," he said. "Lately? Nothing. Adult entertainment in Windsor is dead." Studio 4's new owners are planning to turn the site into a shopping development, he added. A 'fresh new look' coming to sign Meddoui was tight-lipped about his company's plans, saying they're still being developed. Westdell has also purchased an empty lot next to the club, along with the University and Ambassador shopping centres across the street. They're planning to "transform" the intersection over the next couple of years, said Meddoui. As for the sign? He's promising a very different look in the meantime. "You'll see a fresh new look on that sign on an interim basis," he said. "As the building will be removed, the sign will also be rebranded."