Thick evening fog fills the evening sky in St. John's, Nfld.
Thick evening fog fills the evening sky in St. John's, Nfld.
Councillors are fed up with inflammatory emails and they’re not going to take it anymore. A motion by Oro-Medonte Coun. Cathy Keane to create a code of conduct for members of the public that would allow staff to refuse to respond to “disrespectful, intimidating, vexatious and/or defamatory actions or comments” passed at a council meeting last month. Mayor Harry Hughes said there is a small group of “aggressive offenders” who target councillors’ email boxes with annoyance requests. “This local group will send out misinformation and bombard officials’ (mailboxes) and overload the system,” said Hughes. “We’ve been turning a blind eye to it, but, with COVID-19, we’re not in normal times now.” With staff working from home or redeployed to other departments, the additional workload is onerous, he said. Two members of the public spoke at a council meeting Jan. 13 indicating their concern about the new code. Liz Kirk said she wondered how the motion was passed without input from township residents. “As a resident of Oro-Medonte, I feel my opinions are important and the taxpayers need a voice,” she said. Resident Dave McNabb said he feels the new recommendations go too far. “The structure of the code, with its sanctions, appears to overreach, giving the perception of council compelling the behaviour of the public,” he said. Yet the mayor of Oro-Medonte isn’t the only municipal official complaining about rude residents. Pamela Fettes, clerk and director of legislative services for the Township of Clearview, said one local individual has requested 790 items through the freedom-of-information process since 2011. Fettes said one request demanded proof of each staff member’s Law Society of Ontario designation. “The staff directory is published online and they wanted everyone’s — from those in public works to the CAO’s — designation,” Fettes said. “Under the current legislation, the municipality is required to respond to all and any requests for information, including this one.” If a municipality doesn’t respond, it is deemed a refusal when appealed and the municipality must eventually honour the request, she said. The legislation has not been updated for more than 30 years and can be a frustrating experience for both requesters and administrators, she added: “When it was written, it talked about saving files to floppy disks.” Fettes is a member of the Time for Change working group, which includes staff from the County of Simcoe, Town of Wasaga Beach and Township of Georgina. It is currently reviewing the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in an effort to modernize the legislation. Cheryl Browne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
BARCELONA, Spain — Barcelona’s presidential elections have been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the club said Friday. Barcelona said the Jan. 24 elections were delayed because of “mobility restrictions decreed by the Catalan government in the current context of (the coronavirus) pandemic.” “The current epidemiological situation does not make it possible to authorize the movement outside the municipality to members who do not have a polling station in their municipality on Jan. 24, given the high mobility this would entail," the club said. Barcelona said it has asked the Catalan government to allow voting by mail, "a request that the government has undertaken to study.” A new date for the elections has not been set. The three candidates running for the club's presidency are Joan Laporta, Víctor Font and Toni Freixa. Barcelona has been led by a caretaker board since former president Josep Bartomeu resigned in October while facing the possibility of being ousted in a no-confidence motion supported by thousands of club members furious after the team’s poor performances and the club’s bad financial situation. Barcelona lost to Bayern Munich 8-2 in the Champions League quarterfinals in August, and its soaring debt forced the club to practically give away veterans like Luis Suárez to slash its salary burden. Lionel Messi later asked to leave the club but had his request denied. Barcelona plays Athletic Bilbao on Sunday in the Spanish Super Cup final. The team trails Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid in the Spanish league. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Ontario crept toward 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, the latest line in the shifting sand. Before the weekend, Premier Doug Ford teased modelling projections he said were so shocking, “You’ll fall off your chair”. Despite the dire warning, no further information was shared with the Province. Instead, over the weekend, reporters from the Queen’s Park Press Gallery suggested a curfew was being considered, similar to the rules in Quebec. By Monday, it appeared to be off the table again. The first two days of the week dragged by with a sense of doom hanging over Ontario as the lack of clarity from the ruling PCs turned into a running provincial joke. On Tuesday, Ford’s 1 p.m. presser was delayed by half-an-hour, only adding to the tension. Finally, he walked up to the microphone and began to speak. Unusually, there was no preamble. Ford launched straight into the news: a second state of emergency and the introduction of a stay-at-home order, planned to come into play on Thursday. More confusion ensued. And the jokes kept rolling. Almost immediately, social media was flooded. Journalists, members of the public and local politicians struggled to grasp exactly what was being announced. Weren’t people meant to be staying home under the grey lockdown anyway? Weren’t non-essential businesses already closed? What was the difference between a stay-at-home-order and being told to stay at home? “There is no confusion,” the Premier insisted at his Wednesday press conference. “The message is simple: stay home.” It’s the same directive Peel residents have been under since November 23. The restrictions have failed to reduce the case counts in the region, and few understand how the latest order will change things. Reducing business operating times for non-essential shops by one hour seems like lip service at this point. Ford says he “hates” closing anything down, despite claiming for months that he will do anything it takes to keep Ontarians safe. The one obvious thing Ford could do to address the “fall-off-your-chair” reality staring at besieged hospitals, is another thing he’s unwilling to do. “"I've never been in favour of a curfew," he said Tuesday. "The last thing I've ever believed in ever is having a curfew." The one area of clarity came from Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. She did not lay out new rules or detail how exactly the measures would be enforced, but made it apparent that authorities are placing an increased emphasis on policing. “The Government of Ontario cannot determine what is essential for every person in this province, each with their own unique circumstances and regional considerations,” a list of answers to frequently asked questions issued by Ford’s office Wednesday admits. The document also says essential work, trips and items cannot be defined. Around 7 p.m. on Wednesday, five hours before it was due to come into force and after the interviews featured in this story were conducted, the Province released its official order, stating 29 acceptable reasons to be outside the home while the rules are in place. They include travelling to an airport, obtaining services from a financial institution or selling and buying a house. According to the Province, going for groceries or to the pharmacy, outdoor exercise and work that can’t be completed at home are all acceptable reasons to leave the home. Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said at her Wednesday press conference that things like walking the dog or playing basketball with fewer than five members of your household are also allowed. “A police officer or other provincial offences officer who has reasonable and probable grounds that an individual has committed an offence … may require the individual’s correct name,” the new rules state. Questions remain around how these rules will be communicated and enforced after they were sent to police and bylaw officers so late. With 29 different reasons to avoid any violation, and so much interpretation, it seems unlikely the public will be able to easily remember the list or necessarily know how to demonstrate they’re adhering to it. Despite this, police and bylaw are being empowered to crack down. Asked at a Wednesday press conference for details on how the rules would be applied, Solicitor General Jones referenced gatherings and their enforcement, but did not provide a fulsome response. "If you are not at your place of residence and you need to be fined or ticketed, [police] have an obligation to ask for your name, date of birth and address,” she said. In Mississauga and Brampton, the vagaries of the new rules and delay in releasing the specifics are causing concern for some. The Peel Regional Police has a well-documented history of discrimination and, toward the end of 2020, vowed to end its systemic problems with racism. Under former chief Jennifer Evans, the force spent considerable time aggressively defending its use of street checks, while the rest of the province, including the previous Liberal government, quickly moved away from the destructive practice. It involved the random stopping and documenting of residents, and was shown to disproportionately target Peel’s Black community at more than three times the rate compared to white residents. In a slip of the tongue during her comments on Tuesday, Jones articulated this fear. “They will be subject to fines and persecution,” she said of rule-breakers, presumably intending to say “prosecution” instead. “In the case of discretion … we know that discretion will turn to compulsion when it comes to Black bodies,” Kola Iluyomade, a leader of local equity group Advocacy Peel, told The Pointer. Iluyomade played a key role in forcing change at the Peel District School Board in 2020 after years of anti-Black racism and has also been vocal in his criticism of the Peel Regional Police. “Obviously, not being able to have a definition is very problematic because should you need to fight [a fine] in court or something like that, the word discretion itself is what the police will use against you. The data shows that that’s what’s going to happen.” Stephen Warner, press secretary to Jones, said the Solicitor General’s office has “confidence in our law enforcement personnel to take the necessary enforcement actions”. Concerns about systemic issues of racism within policing and how it may impact COVID-19 orders were not addressed. It’s also unclear how bylaw officers are going to apply the rules, with concerns that white residents will receive informal privileges, while others will be heavily surveilled. The behaviour of many politicians, such as former Ontario finance minister Rod Phillips, and Ford himself, are held up as examples of the entitlement some have. Despite knowing Phillips had left the country in mid-December for a vacation in the Caribbean, neither did anything about the blatant violation of their own government’s directives until after the trip was exposed. But now, residents are being threatened with police action for violating essentially the same rules. “Serious questions: I choose to work from school. What am I supposed to say/show to a police officer who stops me? Are teachers essential workers or not?” Jason Bradshaw, a high school science teacher in Peel, wrote on Twitter. “As a side note, I’m not trying to play ‘the race card’ here, but as a Black man, I do consider what steps I need to take to ensure that any potential interactions I have with police officers have positive outcomes,” he added in a second tweet. Sam Rogers, in charge of Mississauga’s bylaw officers, said the Peel Regional Police would take the lead on enforcement. “Still a lot of questions to be answered on our end,” he said, speaking at around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday with the orders due to come into place less than eight hours later. “We’ve got very, very good at short notice changes throughout this pandemic and I am very confident, regardless of the regulations that do come out, our staff will be ready to implement a reasonable and balanced enforcement approach.” Asked how it would ensure an equitable application of the rules, Peel police highlighted the need to stay at home and reduce the spread of COVID-19. Peel Police, Mississauga bylaw nor Brampton bylaw did not suggest any equity or bias training to ensure their officers apply vague rules without over-policing Black and other racialized residents. “Enforcement will be an option when responding to calls relating to the order, and/or public gatherings; however every call for service will be evaluated individually and the appropriate action will be taken for each,” Constable Sarah Patten, a member of the Peel Police communications team, told The Pointer in an email. Crombie placed emphasis on staying home, telling residents to avoid any trips or errands that could reasonably be put off or done online. “We don’t want to see any scenario that people are stopped unnecessarily as we had with the street check program whether that be by bylaw – what will their role be? Or by Peel Police – what will their role be?” she articulated at her Wednesday press conference, saying she hoped clarity would be coming from the Province within hours of her address. “That hopefully will all be explained in the regulations which we will receive later.” As they have throughout the pandemic, bylaw enforcement officers will play a key role in plans to enforce the new stay-at-home-order. Staff have the power to write tickets for individuals breaking the rules and disperse crowds. “We have a very diverse, multicultural community within the City of Brampton,” Paul Morrison, the City’s bylaw head, said at a Wednesday morning press conference. “We police ensuring that all the citizens’ rights are maintained and, when it comes to race, we’ll understand as best we can culture and race when it impacts on enforcement.” He did not address measures in place to ensure bias-free enforcement. “The laws are changing so quickly and so often in terms of emergency protocols, I know Brampton bylaw always attempts, on first brush, always to educate and to make sure that the communities know what the new provisions are,” Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown added. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you.Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
Amazon Inc's cloud computing division opened its first office in Greece on Friday to support what it said was a growing number of companies and public sector agencies using its cloud services. The move by Amazon Web Services (AWS) comes as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis's conservative government has stepped up efforts to attract foreign investment and draw high tech companies to Greece. "We have seen increased customer adoption of AWS in the country and decided to open an office in Athens to better support new customers," Przemek Szuder, the head of AWS operations in central and eastern Europe said in a statement.
Tanya Bogatin's once pristine home is no longer quite so organized, and she's waiting a little longer between loads of laundry, but it's no skin off her back. Her priorities have shifted now that she'll be helping her two young kids attend classes from their home in Vaughan, Ont., for another month. "Things are gonna fall to the backburner," she said. "I tell my kids, don't stress about it ... relax, relax. We're happy, we're safe, we're healthy." With online learning extended until late January across southern Ontario, and for even longer in Toronto, York, Peel, Durham and Windsor-Essex, parents like Bogatin are finding a litany of strategies to manage all their responsibilities. She said she briefly panicked when she found out her kids would be learning remotely until at least Feb. 10, but then she came up with a game plan. Each morning, she and her kids get up at around 8:20 a.m., with half an hour to spare before classes begin. Once classes start, her son -- who is in Grade 4 -- stations himself in the dining room, and her daughter -- in Grade 2 -- sets up her laptop at the desk in the toy room. Bogatin sits on the stairs between them, listening in case they call for help. At recess, she said, she bundles them up in winter gear and sends them out to play in the backyard. Right after classes end, they get to work on homework. Bogatin works part-time, and as of this week she's able to do that from home. "I'm very, very lucky that I have a very flexible job," she said, noting that she's mostly able to set her own schedule, and will sometimes retreat into her bedroom for online meetings. Her days are busy, she said, but they're "good busy." Parents are making it work, said Rachel Huot with the Ontario Parent Action Network, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's easy. "It's extremely challenging to try and support children learning remotely," she said. "Your kids are not meant to learn sitting in front of a computer screen for six hours a day." Parents who have to juggle supervising kids and working -- either in or out of the home -- are stretched even thinner, she said. "Then there's the fact that we're watching the government fail us day after day. And there's no clear end in sight," she said. Huot echoed calls from teachers' unions that are requesting broader testing of asymptomatic students, smaller class sizes and better ventilation systems in schools so that kids can safely return to the classroom. A spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said student safety is the government's top priority. "We know that parents want their children back in class and we firmly agree, and our commitment to deliver on that is to further enhance our safety protocols and provincewide targeted surveillance testing to ensure our students can safely go back to class," she said. The government has cited rising COVID-19 positivity rates amongst children as well as soaring daily infections for its decision to have students learn virtually for longer. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021. Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
Calling Métis an "interest group," as Premier Brian Pallister did Wednesday after touring the Brandon vaccination site, does not sit well with Manitoba Metis Federation David Chartrand. "It’s insulting," said Chartrand. When The Brandon Sun asked Pallister to explain the lack of a COVID-19 data sharing agreement with the federation, including the lack of a partnership to ensure Métis are prioritized for vaccines as First Nations have been, he was quick to bristle. But instead of answering the question, the premier spoke about Indigenous people generally, First Nations and reconciliation. "Well, Métis representatives have been at the table and have been part of this. But, of course, Métis people live integrated, for the most part, with the rest of us in the province, as opposed to a lot of the Northern Indigenous communities that do not. And, so, the considerations are not identical, as you would recognize," he said, when pressed. When pressed again, he said, "There are significant efforts being made to work with our interest groups in our province, in particular with the Indigenous and Métis people to make sure that we’re doing what’s culturally appropriate, what works well for their population, what’s acceptable, agreeable, sensitive to their needs. That work is ongoing." But Chartrand objects to Pallister’s statements. He said the only committee the federation – a self-governing political representative for Manitoba Métis – has been asked to sit on is about how best to communicate about vaccines, which has nothing to do with the roll-out. To begin with, Chartrand explained, in some villages, the clear majority will be First Nation and Métis, with very few non-Indigenous people living in them. Chartrand offers Camperville, on the western shore of Lake Winnipegosis, St. Laurent, established as Fond du Lac in 1824 by Métis, and St. Eustache as examples of predominantly Métis villages. "Those are Métis villages. The vast majority (of people) are Métis. These are historical Métis villages which existed even before Canada existed, before the Province of Manitoba," Chartrand said. "Excuse me, but I can tell you where every Métis person lives. I can tell you their chronic illnesses. I can tell you their education level. I can tell you what universities they’re going to. I can tell you what colleges they’re going to." Further, Chartrand said Pallister has a responsibility to establish a distinct process with Métis, and that he’s making excuses not to engage with Métis as a rights-holding Indigenous population. NDP leader Wab Kinew weighed in, after Pallister’s appearance in Brandon. "Unfortunately, Mr. Pallister has politicized his relationship with the Métis people in Manitoba. And I think, in this instance, it’s getting in the way of public health," he said. He said due to the strong work of First Nations health leaders, the benefits of data sharing and strategizing can be seen, and that the Métis community being able to participate in the same kind of arrangement would probably benefit all Manitobans. "If there is one group in society that – whether it’s a cultural group, a geographic region, a socio-economic group – that gets left behind, and that becomes the opening by which the virus can spread, then that affects all of us," Kinew said. "Then we all have to live with the virus or the public health restrictions that are attempting to combat it." He thinks the Métis are raising an important issue and Pallister would do well to dramatically improve his working relationship with them. Jerry Daniels, the Grand Chief of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO), concurs. "SCO supports our Métis relatives in their efforts to have allotments of COVID-19 vaccines that they can distribute to their own people," stated Daniels by email. "COVID-19 has impacted the Métis population in Manitoba and there needs to be accountability for this. There also needs to be a facts-based approach to vaccine distribution, to ensure they receive a fair amount of vaccines and can keep their most vulnerable people safe. So far, the province has been unwilling to collaborate with the Metis Nation." Meanwhile, in a follow-up email from a Pallister spokesperson, Chartrand’s previous statements on this matter were denigrated. "Contrary to the inaccurate and inflammatory comments made by the president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, the Government of Manitoba appreciates the willingness of the MMF to assist in Manitoba’s COVID-19 response," stated the spokesperson later Wednesday afternoon. "We have invited them to work with us, in partnership, to discuss how Métis communities can be supported to enhance their ability to access Manitoba’s three COVID-19 vaccination super sites. We have yet to receive a response to this invitation, but remain optimistic about the prospect of working together on this pivotal aspect of the vaccination strategy." But that’s not what Chartrand wants. He wants an allocation of vaccine, and he would partner with pharmacies to deliver them to vulnerable Métis, likely much the same way the science has dictated priority groups so far. "We’d pay them (pharmacies) to give the vaccines. We’d put up the resources to make sure it’s there. We know where our people live, we know their ages, we know their locations, we know the communities. We can quickly put an action team together and a plan – overnight," Chartrand said. When asked about a possible "plan B" if the Province of Manitoba continues to exclude the federation from meaningful participation in the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out in the province, to ensure the most vulnerable Métis are adequately protected, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) stated the federal government places great importance on including Indigenous voices in the priority-setting for early vaccination. "ISC is working collaboratively with all provinces and territories to encourage inclusion of Indigenous perspectives to ensure an integrated and coordinated approach to support the administration and planning process of the COVID-19 vaccine for Indigenous peoples," stated a spokesperson by email. "The logistics of a COVID-19 vaccine roll-out require coordination amongst partners and provinces and territories; an efficient and effective roll-out requires co-planning and is dependent on full collaboration."Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
South River and Machar residents should have a better idea over the next few weeks what will happen to the ice at their arena in the wake of the province's 28-day stay-at-home order. South River council will discuss the issue at its Jan. 25 meeting. South River clerk-administrator Don McArthur says the municipality developed COVID-19 protocols for the arena's four user groups that were working prior to the latest lockdown. The arena was used by the Junior A Spartans, boys' minor hockey, girls' minor hockey and figure skating. The protocols were explained to the users last fall and McArthur says when the arena opened in October, everything “worked wonderfully. “We really felt comfortable with the protocols and with the cooperation of the groups where they took on a lot of the responsibilities,” McArthur says. “They looked after their own contact tracing and what we did was buy disinfectant and sanitized the equipment.” This approach worked well, he says, and the municipality didn't have to put any extra staff at the arena. It would have been a different story had council opened the arena to public skating. “If we allowed public skating, protocols like who's coming and going would have to have been done by us,” McArthur says. “So the staffing level would have gone up considerably in order to police and look after all that information flow.” That would have become too expensive for the municipality, he says. The protocols the municipality has in place are good and “everyone feels confident that we can operate safely. “But we don't have that option (to operate) under the lockdown,” McArthur says. The South River-Machar Community Centre and Arena has been closed since Dec. 21. Assuming there's a reopening in the near future, the user groups will operate under the same protocols in place prior to Dec. 21. McArthur says staff and council are looking at various scenarios depending on when the latest lockdown ends. In the best-case scenario, the lockdown could be lifted earlier in the North, in which case “if we're delayed only two to four weeks then maybe we can add that time and run the season a little later into March or to the end of March. “Council's challenge is we don't know if or when we'll get a green light,” McArthur says. “So at what point does it become too late or no longer economically feasible for us and the user groups?” This is now a waiting game and it's not easy as options are weighed. “The big cost, beyond wages, at the arena is maintaining the ice,” he says. “If there isn't going to be anyone using it and no revenue coming in, then how long do we maintain that ice for?” McArthur adds the arena isn't only used for winter activities. It's also used for a hockey opportunity camp during the summer. In fact, the arena is at its busiest during the eight to 10 weeks of the hockey camp. The facility is only without ice from mid April to mid June. When the lockdowns first started last March, McArthur says the hockey camp “was one of the first (activities) to take a direct hit.” With the arena in shutdown mode, staff were able to carry out considerable maintenance at the site that normally would not be achievable. But with the arena down for the entire summer, it meant no revenue to the municipality. McArthur says 2020 saw the arena lose about $40,000 over and above its normal expenses. McArthur says the province's safe restart agreement helped offset part of the arena loss and council is grateful for that. Council also was able to offset the remainder of the loss by reducing the number of capital projects it had scheduled for 2020. One of those projects involved a compressor rebuild at the arena. So, while the village will still have a balanced budget for 2020, it comes at a cost because it now has to delay some of the scheduled capital projects into the future, McArthur says. Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget
Bumble Inc's plans to go public come at a time when companies are seeking to capitalize on what has been the strongest IPO market in two decades. Companies raised a record $168 billion through IPOs on U.S. stock exchanges in 2020, according to Dealogic data. "The deficiency we identified relates to a lack of defined processes and controls over information technology," it said in the filing.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his entire Cabinet resigned Friday to take political responsibility for a scandal involving investigations into child welfare payments that wrongly labeled thousands of parents as fraudsters. In a nationally televised speech, Rutte said he had informed King Willem-Alexander of his decision and pledged that his government would continue work to compensate affected parents as quickly as possible and to battle the coronavirus. “We are of one mind that if the whole system has failed, we all must take responsibility, and that has led to the conclusion that I have just offered the king, the resignation of the entire Cabinet,” Rutte said. The move was seen as largely symbolic; Rutte’s government will remain in office in a caretaker mode until a new coalition is formed after a March 17 election in the Netherlands. The resignation brings to an end a decade in office for Rutte, although his party is expected to win the election, putting him first in line to begin talks to form the next government. If he succeeds in forming a new coalition, Rutte would most likely again become prime minister. The Netherlands is the third European country thrown into political uncertainty this week in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. In Estonia, the government resigned over a corruption scandal, while Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte’s governing coalition is at risk of collapse after a small partner party withdrew its support. Rutte said earlier this week that his government would be able to keep taking tough policy decisions in the battle against the coronavirus even if it were in caretaker mode. The Netherlands is in a tough lockdown until at least Feb. 9, and the government is considering imposing an overnight curfew amid fears about new, more contagious variants of the virus. “To the Netherlands I say: Our struggle against the coronavirus will continue,” Rutte said. On Thursday, the leader of the Dutch opposition Labor Party stepped down because he was minister of social affairs in a governing coalition led by Rutte when the country’s tax office implemented a tough policy of tracking down fraud with child welfare. Lodewijk Asscher’s decision put further pressure on Rutte ahead of Friday's Cabinet meeting. Ministers were to decide on their reaction to a scathing report issued last month, titled “Unprecedented Injustice,” that said the tax office policies violated “fundamental principles of the rule of law.” The report also criticized the government for the way it provided information to parliament about the scandal. Many wrongfully accused parents were plunged into debt when tax officials demanded repayment of payments. The government has in the past apologized for the tax office’s methods and in March earmarked 500 million euros ($607 million) to compensate more than 20,000 parents. One of those parents waited near parliament as the Cabinet met and said she wanted it to resign. “It's important for me because it is the government acknowledging, ‘We have made a mistake and we are taking responsibility,’ because it's quite something what happened to us,” Janet Ramesar told The Associated Press. Rutte plans to lead his conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy into the March election, and polls suggest it will win the most seats. That would put Rutte, who has been in office for a decade at the head of three different coalitions, first in line to attempt to form the next ruling coalition. Deputy Prime Minister Kajsa Ollongren, who serves as interior minister, said as she entered Friday's meeting that “it is very important to be accountable and also to show responsibility in the political sense, and we are going to talk about that in the Council of Ministers today.” Mike Corder, The Associated Press
An Angus man is recovering from a house fire that left him bandaged from head to torso, and with no clear sense of what caused the blaze that destroyed his Margaret Street home. Justin Hunt, 33, suffered burns to his esophagus, back and left arm as he escaped through the smoke and fire that tore through his home shortly after 5 a.m. on Jan. 9. Once outside, he sliced open his right arm punching in a window in an attempt to rescue the family dog, Molly, but he was unable to retrieve her. “He was in an induced coma on a ventilator, but woke up from that Sunday night at 11 p.m.,” girlfriend Cassandra Brunelle said Jan. 13. Brunelle said Hunt’s daughter Kaede, 10, and son Masen, 8, were staying with their grandparents that evening and are living with her while their father remains in hospital. With four children of her own, Brunelle said she’s busy, yet she can’t get over the support from the community since Hunt’s house burned down. “It’s been an amazing response by everyone,” she said. Both Angus Morrison Elementary and Baxter Central Public schools have offered school supplies, there have been a few local fundraisers, and several Facebook groups have rallied around the young parents. “As soon as everybody heard, there was a large outpouring from the community,” Brunelle said. Donations of food, toys and clothing have been dropped off at Cristina’s Place Portuguese and Keto Bakeshop on Mill Street in Angus. The Office of the Fire Marshal was called to determine the cause of the fire, said Essa Township Deputy Fire Chief Doug Burgin. “Unattended cooking caused the fire,” he said, adding there was extensive damage to the house. A GoFundMe account has already received more than $11,000 in donations. To donate, visit www.ca.gf.me/v/c/rpyw/justin-hunt-family-community-outreach.Cheryl Browne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
The deal will be largely paid through cash and Lazy Audio's management team will get post-acquisition equity-settled awards, Tencent said. The acquisition comes at a time when the music streaming site is looking to bolster its content library in order to put it behind a paywall and add more paid users.
Educators teaching students with special needs are raising concerns about returning to physical classrooms in southern Ontario while schools otherwise remain closed to in-person learning due to COVID-19. Students in southern Ontario are learning online until at least Jan. 25 and the government extended virtual classes for those in five hot spots until Feb. 11. Special education students who cannot participate in remote learning, however, were back in physical classrooms on Monday – a move the government said was recommended by experts. But as COVID-19 cases rise, some special education teachers say they are worried about their safety, as well as the safety of their students, some of whom are immunocompromised. "For my five- and six-year-old (children), it's not safe for them to go to school, but it's totally safe for my immunocompromised students to go to school?" asked Katie Swallowell, a teacher working for a Catholic school board in London, Ont. Swallowell, who teaches high school students with special needs, said some of her students may not wear masks or may have mask exemptions. "Some of them don't wear masks or they take them off because they hate them. Sneezing, coughing, hugging," she said. "Some of them you can't say no to. You try to say no, but they don't understand and you feel bad." Among 16 of her students, only five opted for remote learning, while the remaining 11 resumed in-person classes, said Swallowell. The teacher said she's worried about bringing the virus home to her three children, including a one-year-old. "It's either safe or it's not safe," she said, adding that there have been no added COVID-19 measures at her school since coming back from winter break. "It looks the same as it did in December." The education ministry said students with special needs can benefit from the routine and consistency of in-class learning and noted that their return to physical classrooms comes with "strong health and safety measures." "We have followed that advice, supported by the chief medical officer of health, to ensure a small number of the most exceptional children can receive the care they desperately need," said ministry spokeswoman Caitlin Clark. Laura Kirby-McIntosh, a parent of two children with autism and president of Ontario Autism Coalition, said the government's choice to resume in-person learning for special education students is the right one. Keeping schools open for those students helps them maintain normalcy and routine during the pandemic, she said. But more needs to be done to ensure consistency for students and a safe working environment for educators, she said. A good supply of personal protective equipment, regular asymptomatic testing, temperature checks and access to vaccinations are just some of the things that can help, she said. Jennifer Windsor, a physical education teacher at Huron Park Secondary School in Woodstock, Ont., said her school board only informed educators about coming back to teach in-person two days before classes resumed. "We're being told, it's not safe for students. Yet our most vulnerable sector, you're telling us it's safe to return and no changes since we left in December have been made," she said. Windsor, also a mother of three, said she had to ask her ageing parents for help with her own kids as she returned to teach at school. "For me, the potential of exposing my parents – that has a certain burden and stress. I have barely slept since Thursday, I can barely eat," she said. The resumption of special needs in-person learning means unrecognized increased risks for many education workers, students and families, the union representing Windsor and other teachers in her school board said. "(We are) concerned that the Ford government’s announcement is a half measure that does not go far enough in protecting student and staff safety during the COVID-19 pandemic," District 11 of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation said in a statement. Union district president John Bernans said he can't understand how the government believes it's safe for the group of students and staff to return to in-person learning when it is not safe for any other group. “This government has had 10 months to put social supports in place for parents of children with special needs that keep students, families and workers safe. They have failed to do that," said Bernans. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship Denise Paglinawan, The Canadian Press
The order has been delivered, and now it’s up to Niagara’s police and bylaw officers to enforce it. The province’s new stay-at-home order came into effect just after midnight on Thursday, requiring people to remain at home unless leaving for “essential trips” to access medical services, pick up groceries, exercise outdoors or go to work. In multiple responses to questions from Niagara This Week about what enforcement of the order will look like across Niagara, “collaboration” was the keyword as municipalities, police, the Region and public health work together to hammer out details of how the stay-at-home order will be enforced. The province has handed down additional power to police and bylaw officers, allowing for officers to disperse gatherings over the allowable limit of five people and to order temporary closures of premises in violation of the order. The Niagara Regional Police Service has received “clarification and direction” from the province about changes to regulations and enforcement during what is now Ontario’s second state of emergency, communications manager Stephanie Sabourin said in an emailed response. Sabourin did not provide specifics but said “there is no one correct answer” to what enforcement will look like because circumstances vary with each incident. “When appropriate, [officers] will educate individuals on the legislation and the compliance requirements. When and where appropriate to do so, the legislation will be enforced with fines and penalties,” Sabourin said. “The service is working diligently to ensure our members understand their responsibilities and the limitations of their authority to enforce this order,” Sabourin said, without providing specific detail on what those responsibilities or limitations are. Joe Couto, spokesperson for the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, said during a phone call Thursday, that a government memo was sent to police chiefs across the province on Wednesday giving clarity to police powers. Police cannot stop a person exclusively to find out whether they are complying with the stay-at-home order, Couto explained. “It’s very clear we don’t have those powers,” he said of the province’s memo. “We wouldn’t be just randomly pulling people off the street and going, ‘Why are you here?’” According to Sabourin, police are also not permitted to stop a vehicle “for the sole purpose of determining whether a person is acting in compliance” with the order. Since the early stages of the pandemic, staff have been redeployed from the Region’s business licensing and tobacco enforcement teams to enforce the province’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act and the Re-Opening Ontario Act. An educational approach to enforcement of the stay-at-home order will still be the common approach across Niagara’s municipalities, with some shifting attitudes as reviews of the order are ongoing. In Lincoln, a security company has been retained to “assist with monitoring of a park space that contains an outdoor ice rink to disperse gatherings,” according to communications manager, Liliana Busnello. St. Catharines has made enforcement of pandemic-related orders a priority for bylaw officers. In Fort Erie, bylaw patrols have already increased 33 per cent since entering into the red stage, said Town enforcement manager, Paul Chudoba, in an email. Niagara-on-the-Lake’s community engagement coordinator, Lauren Kruitbosch, said decisions have yet to be made about whether by-law enforcement efforts will be increased but noted council has appointed staff from other departments to supplement officers if needed and that “the province is expecting enforcement at this point.” In an emailed statement to Niagara This Week, Niagara’s acting medical officer of health, Dr. Mustafa Hirji, said he believes “further measures are needed to nudge the population to stay home, break off social contacts outside of one’s household, and stop the spread of COVID-19.” Hirji noted similar orders have been used with success elsewhere, but said success in Niagara will depend on “whether the public voluntarily adheres to the order” and the province effectively enforcing the order. Questions submitted by Niagara This Week to the Premier’s Office about the stay-at-home order went without responses at the time of publishing. Jordan Snobelen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara this Week
Slovenia's leftist opposition submitted a no-confidence motion against the centre-right government of Prime Minister Janez Jansa on Friday, and a secret parliamentary ballot is expected next week. Karl Erjavec, leader of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), said the opposition had gathered 42 signatures in favour of the motion from among deputies in the 90-seat parliament. Until recently DeSUS was part of the ruling coalition, but it quit saying it was unhappy with the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, its jeopardising of media freedom and siding with Hungary and Poland in disputes within the European Union over democratic standards in those countries.
U.S. president-elect Joe Biden has unveiled a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan to turn the tide on the pandemic, speeding up the vaccine rollout and providing financial help to individuals, governments and businesses.
After 11 years in the trades – from scaffolding and metal work, to her current role in concrete forming – Mulisius Joe has also become skilled at navigating the male-dominated construction industry. “I've worked with a few men who didn’t think I should be there,” she said, citing times when empty reasons were given to exclude her from contributing to a job. “It’s never said out loud but you could feel it…where you don't know if it’s racist or it’s sexist, but you know it's something.” Calls for equity among construction labourers in the GTA were made decades ago, with African-Canadian carpenters and their allies protesting the exclusion of Black workers from trades unions and construction companies in the early ‘70s. Trade union programs are now slowly helping to change that. Joe said she has seen a shift in how journeypersons, or mentors for trade apprentices, are increasingly focused on the treatment of women and visible minorities on site, and are better prepared to foster an equitable environment. These changes make her hopeful the industry will develop a similar awareness around issues of discrimination and equity, especially after the racist incidents this past summer, when five nooses were found tied onto scaffolding or hanging in view at GTA construction sites. Despite police and union investigations – and the firing of at least one worker – another two nooses were found at Michael Garron Hospital in East York in late September. “It didn't just go away because we said how we feel,” said Brampton resident Chris Campbell, of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario. In November, Campbell became the union’s first Equity and Diversity Representative. He will work to include racism in the scope of “toolbox talk” – trades-speak for frank discussions about safety issues – in an attempt to change the culture of silence around workplace discrimination in the construction industry. The Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario represents more than 30,000 workers across 16 affiliated trades unions. Campbell completed his apprenticeship in the early ‘90s, and became a project supervisor at various sites across the GTA before teaching at the College of Carpenters and Allied Trades, based in Woodbridge. An active member in the Jamaican Canadian Association and other Black community organizations, Campbell went on to become a Local 27 Toronto Carpenters’ Union rep prior to his current appointment. Following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last spring, Black Lives Matter demonstrations underscored the urgent need to confront anti-Black racism in the workplace. Campbell said he and other union representatives marched in the downtown Toronto protests in June, sporting the union flag. Mulisius joined the marches, and commended the union for making their presence visible. “It feels good, because as a woman on site, and also as a Black person, I’m always the minority. To see our union jump behind this, it makes me feel so much prouder to be a Local 27 member,” she said. But later that month, the first noose was found at the Eglinton Crosstown LRT job site. Campbell said one of the union’s members admitted to tying it and was fired, had his union membership revoked and was banned from working on projects operated by Crosslinx Transit Solutions. “It’s not just a noose for some people. It’s a health issue, because they’re traumatized, they can’t mentally handle it,” Johnson said, adding that there were Black workers at the site. “Some people, they become emotional and they cannot go back to work because to them, it symbolizes an extreme aggression. To them, it symbolizes what their grandparents went through a few decades ago.” According to 2016 Census data, close to one-fifth of Brampton’s workforce was in the trades, transport and equipment operations industry, compared to about 12 percent in Mississauga. Peel Region also has the highest proportion of immigrants compared to its bordering regions – at about 52 percent of the population – and the highest proportion of visible minorities, at 62 percent, compared to 51 percent in Toronto, and the GTA average of 48 percent. The booming construction industry holds the potential to dramatically improve the employment prospects of Peel’s large visible minority communities. Many of these residents have not been well represented in the trades, traditionally. The BOLT (Building Opportunities for Life Today) program was launched by construction giant Tridel in 2009, and in 2013 it was established as a charitable foundation aimed at introducing career opportunities to marginalized and other “under-resourced” youth across the GTA. It has provided more than 400 post-secondary scholarships for construction-related programs, in an effort to help young people from all backgrounds pursue a career in the trades. Opening up one of Ontario’s largest industries to reflect the province’s population, is a challenge the unions are now taking up as well. Whether it’s because of cultural issues, for example the view among some South Asian-Canadian communities that trades jobs are not traditionally socially acceptable, or because of discriminatory dynamics within the industry, the lack of representation means many Peel residents are being cut off from highly lucrative careers. In 2018, the average wage of workers in the construction industry across the country was almost $32 an hour, according to Statistics Canada. The average minimum wage in the country (which is what many newcomers earn) at the time sat at about $12 an hour. A 2016 Peel-Halton Workforce Characteristics Report notes that women, racialized minorities and newcomers face disadvantages when holding precarious positions in Peel, with the largest proportions of people earning lower incomes located in Brampton and Mississauga compared to Halton municipalities. In the construction and industrial sectors, about 97 percent of Peel and Halton journeypersons and apprentices are male, though there is no race-based data provided or notes on discrimination trends in the workplace. The recent rash of racist incidents raises questions about what the industry is doing to confront discrimination. At the large LRT construction site where the Fairbank Station in Toronto, near Dufferin Street and Eglinton Avenue will open in 2022, Campbell said the union interviewed people on site and had a “toolbox talk” after a noose was tied there. The union has partnered with the Toronto and York Region Labour Council to create a charter document and establish standards for an inclusive workplace that rejects racism, xenophobia and discrimination. The document is now posted at some construction sites, Campbell said, adding that the union is planning to address racism in the workplace through new educational initiatives and training for members and senior leadership. In his new role, Campbell will be notified and involved in the complaints resolution process related to racism in the workplace, and encourages workers to report these incidents. “It’s a health and safety issue,” he said. With the work of craft and trade unions based in skill development, at the forefront of efforts to address racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination is the question of whose skills are being recognized, said Tania Das Gupta, a professor in the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at York University. As part of her research into racism in the labour movement, Das Gupta interviewed visible minority workers in leadership roles within larger unions, who expressed feeling obstructed in their work. “In other words, you could have diversity, but sometimes it becomes tokenism and the [union] structures are not conducive to inclusion,” she said. Education is integral to making anti-racism programs a success, she added. “If the workers are prepared, and they’re educated on why these changes are happening, then they're likely not to feel threatened.” Professional associations and developers such as Tridel and Ellis Don have launched anti-racism campaigns in response to the incidents this past summer, including quarterly roundtable discussions with 21 industry partners, spearheaded by the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON). The group is meeting for the second time this month. “These incidents didn’t happen in isolation, and it wasn’t just one incident…so we realized that this is an issue that we need to dive deeper into combatting,” said Amina Dibe, manager of government and stakeholder relations at RESCON. The collective launched the Construction Against Racism Everyone (CARE) Campaign, distributing more than 2,000 hardhat stickers for workers to show their solidarity, while launching educational webinars and subcommittees to tackle education, communication and training within the industry. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @LaVjosa COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you.Vjosa Isai, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
It has been another chaotic week of curling cancellations in Canada as more member associations finally surrendered to a seemingly inevitable fate, in the most fair way possible, hand picking their representatives for this year's Scotties and Brier. And while there is more clarity about what the fields will look like just over a month from the beginning of the curling frenzy set to take place in the Calgary curling bubble, there are still a lot of unknowns. To recap, eight jurisdictions across Canada have now cancelled their playdowns — they include: B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Northern Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Nunavut played a best-of-five men's showdown last weekend. P.E.I., N.L., N.B., N.W.T., and Yukon are all still endeavouring to play some sort of championship to determine their representatives. With so many cancellations, many curlers and fans continue to wonder why Curling Canada is so determined to go on with the show in Calgary. There are a number of factors — we know money and keeping sponsors happy is at the top of that list. But there's more to it. Niche sport Outside of Canada, curling is a niche sport in most countries. However, in Canada, it's on TV throughout the winter and early spring a lot between Curling Canada events and the Grand Slam of Curling. It's disappeared from the sports landscape for nearly a year. It's not lost on officials close to the sport as well as the curlers to continue to be relevant and hold onto valuable sponsors - they need to be on the ice and on TV. And it's also important to note that this is all leading to 2022 Beijing Olympics. Remember, Canada is coming off its worst performance ever at the Games, having missed the podium in the women's and men's events. The pressure on Curling Canada and athletes is immense. What many people take for granted and have assumed, incorrectly, is that Canada already has a place at the Olympics with just over a year away. Canadian curlers will need a top-six finish at both the men's and women's world championships to lock up a spot. That shouldn't be a problem if past history is any indication. But in a pandemic, with curling mostly shut down across the country because of health restrictions, Curling Canada knows how crucial it is for the top curlers to be on the ice — that's why they're pushing forward with the Scotties and Brier. It should be noted that the United States and Scotland, and there could likely be more countries, are not holding playdowns to determine their representatives for the world championships. Denmark's national championships were halted in December after 14 of the 16 curlers competing got COVID-19. The women's worlds are scheduled to take place in Switzerland in late March and the men's world championship is set for the Calgary bubble in early April. WATCH | Heroux, Jones break down Calgary bubble: Expanded field Which brings us to an expanded field at this year's championships. It's looking more and more likely there will be 18 teams at both the Scotties and Brier — the largest fields in the history of both events. The reason this is happening is because there will be no wild-card game this year. That match, played on the Friday night before the main event, has been a dramatic one-game showdown for the top two Canadian teams that did not qualify through their regional championships. Win and you're in, lose and you head home. Curling Canada did not want two wild-card teams traveling to the bubble to play one game and possibly have to leave if they lost. These unprecedented times called for unprecedented measures, says Curling Canada. They want to make sure the best teams in the country are on the ice. "So much is riding on this Olympic qualifying season, we had to make sure that the fields for both the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and Tim Hortons Brier includes Canada's top teams. With many of them not having the chance to earn their way into these events through the traditional route, we feel this is the best possible way to remedy that issue," said Katherine Henderson, CEO of Curling Canada. For instance, Alberta has yet to name their representatives but should they go with the format many others have, Brendan Bottcher will get the nod as he was last year's provincial champion. Here's the snag: Kevin Koe's team did not compete in provincials as they wear Team Canada colours after winning the previous Brier. Making space for Koe So instead of punishing Koe for not winning last year's championship and not letting him in this year's event, Curling Canada is making space for them. A lot is hinging on who Alberta selects as its representatives — that will then create a domino effect on the rest of the field. The expanded field is increasing from 16 to 18 teams — the two teams that would have played in the wild-card game and then a third team. Third team that is going to be selected based on criteria is unknown at this point. There will be no shortage of drama over who that third team is on both the men's and women's side. A quick note on team's who made off-season changes. To be eligible, three of four players need to be returning. If it's two of four, then they are ineligible for, at the very least, the two wild-card spots. We'll see if Curling Canada is willing to make exceptions for that third spot. Here is the field as it stands right now: Women Canada — Kerri Einarson. B.C. — Corryn Brown. Saskatchewan — Sherry Anderson. Manitoba — Jennifer Jones. Ontario — Rachel Homan. Northern Ontario — Krysta Burns. Quebec — Laurie St-Georges. Nova Scotia — Jill Brothers. Nunavut — Lori Eddy. Men Canada — Brad Gushue. B.C. — Steve Laycock. Saskatchewan — Matt Dunstone. Manitoba — Jason Gunnlaugson. Ontario — John Epping. Northern Ontario — Brad Jacobs. Quebec — Michael Fournier. Yukon — Dustin Mikkelsen. Nunavut — Peter Mackey. There are six major curling events planned for the Calgary curling bubble starting with the Scotties on Feb. 19. That will then lead into the men's national championship beginning of March. 5. Following these two events, the mixed doubles championship will take place all leading to the men's world curling championship, set to begin in early April. The final two events held inside the bubble include two Grand Slam of Curling bonspiels.
MONTREAL — Quebec's labour minister is threatening to impose more restrictions on the province's construction and manufacturing sectors for allegedly flouting health orders. Jean Boulet said today in a statement he's received many reports of non-compliance connected to the two sectors since the government imposed new restrictions Jan. 9. The new measures — in effect until at least Feb. 8 — require the two industries to limit operations to essential activities and to reduce the number of workers in factories and on construction sites. Quebec's new health orders also include a provincewide curfew from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m., in an attempt to reduce COVID-19 transmission and reduce the strain on the health system from rising hospitalizations. Boulet does not enumerate the violations, but says it's zero tolerance for those who don't follow the rules and is warning the government could impose additional restrictions. The Canadian Press recently contacted three construction industry associations, who all said they hadn't reduced operations since the new health order was imposed. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021. The Canadian Press