Seafood City opens 3rd Canadian supermarket — in Calgary — drawing excited customers from hours away

Thousands of Filipinos from Calgary and beyond are celebrating the arrival of a new grocery chain in the city that's making tastes, treats and grocery staples from back home way more accessible.

Seafood City is the latest international grocery store to open on Sunridge Way, joining the Lucky Supermarket across the road and other nearby stores providing Asian-sourced groceries for the city's Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Thai and Korean populations.

This is only the third Seafood City to open in Canada, after stores opened in Toronto and Winnipeg (and many others in the U.S.)

Hundreds of excited customers waited outside in the dark for the doors to open for the first time last Thursday.

Some had travelled from as far away as Saskatchewan to shop, while others rented a bus to make the trip from Edmonton.

Dan McGarvey/CBC

"They drove six to eight hours and they were here outside at 6 a.m.," said Mildred Smith, VP of marketing with Seafood City of the customers from Saskatchewan.

"We did a livestream inside the store before it opened and it reached 78,000 people. I'm amazed because there are only about 75,000 Filipinos in Calgary," Smith said.

Smith says the buzz around the store opening has been huge and excitement has been building for days and even weeks.

"We have strong connections, sources and ingredients and cooked food that migrants miss from home."

Dan McGarvey/CBC

That list includes fresh seafood like milkfish, big eye scad, octopus, Manila clams and and dry goods like snacks and soups, alongside popular Canadian brands. In the vegetable section there are fresh chayote, upo, patola and milk fruit.

'Nothing compares to home but this is the next best thing'

The store has also teamed up with local Filipino businesses, like the popular Pacific Hut restaurant and bakery in Forest Lawn, offering some of their Calgary-made products on its shelves; in their case Filipino breads and other baked goods.

"It's crazy. It feels like home," said Maria Collao, one of hundreds of excited shoppers browsing the packed aisles on opening day, which felt more like a party than a shopping trip.

"I went around looking for hard to find stuff here in Calgary that tastes like the Philippines. It's really good," she said.

"It's so hard to go back to the Philippines, it's so busy and you have to fly for a long time so having this kind of connection within the city is really good. Nothing compares to home but this is the next best thing."

Filipino-style shopping, in-house restaurants

Another big draw for customers are three in-house restaurants: Grill City, Crispy Town and Noodle Street, all selling authentic Filipino food, with hundreds patiently waiting in long lines to get a taste of some Filipino BBQ chicken and pork.

Dan McGarvey/CBC

"This place reminds me of my home. Coming from the Philippines and emigrating to Canada it's like a second home," said Xandy Collao.

"It reminds of being a kid and going grocery shopping with my mom. You have all these treats right here like the chips and candies, all that stuff."

Collao said he expects the unique offerings will bring in curious Calgarians who may have never experienced Filipino-style shopping, with open fish markets and different cuts of meat on display, including whole pig heads and pork belly.

"It's not just the Filipino people, this is one of a kind and every time one of these stores comes, a lot of people go with it. I bought BBQ pork, pork chop, entrails and shrimp. All the crispy stuff, all the good stuff" said Collao.

Dan McGarvey/CBC

The way the store is laid out is different than other Canadian grocery stores too. It features a open wet market with dozens of types of uncut fish and seafood laid out on beds of chipped ice for shoppers to see and touch up close, instead of being hidden behind glass.

"We like looking, we like seeing the fish whole and being able to touch. That's how we like shopping," said Smith.

"Customers, they walk in and say it's like home, like they travelled back home. I still get goosebumps by how warm the welcome is and by how happy they are. The culture is represented," said Smith.

Dan McGarvey/CBC

As well as all the new groceries the store has brought around 200 jobs to the northeast of the city.

Smith said Seafood City plans to open more locations next in Edmonton and Scarborough, Ont.

 

  • Grieving Quebec mother delivers tearful message as hunt continues for girls' father
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Grieving Quebec mother delivers tearful message as hunt continues for girls' father

    ST-APOLLINAIRE, Que. — The mother of two young Quebec girls found dead following an Amber Alert last week delivered a tearful tribute to her "princesses of love" Monday as police continued to hunt for their father, who is suspected of abducting them.Amelie Lemieux, the mother of Norah and Romy Carpentier, sobbed as she made her way to a makeshift memorial at Chutes de la Chaudiere park in Levis, Que., accompanied by a few dozen members of her family.After inspecting the gazebo that has become filled with stuffed animals, flowers and notes since her daughters' bodies were found Saturday, she thanked authorities and the public for their support."My two beautiful princesses of love. I wanted and waited for you so much. From your very first breath, I loved you unconditionally. You are my entire life, my reason to exist," she said through tears."Be my stars in the night who will guide my steps across this immeasurable pain. I love you madly. I love you to infinity."Quebec provincial police continued their intensive search Monday for Martin Carpentier near the wooded area in St-Apollinaire, Que., southwest of Quebec City, where the bodies of Norah, 11, and Romy, 6, were discovered.Provincial police said they found "pertinent elements" in the area on Sunday. Late Monday, police said those items were sent to a laboratory for analysis to see if they are linked to Carpentier."The elements that we possess lead us to think Martin Carpentier could still be around the area, or at least be in transit in that area," said Sgt. Ann Mathieu, a Quebec provincial police spokeswoman.Police did not specify what the items were, but as the search spanned a fifth day, police raised the possibility Carpentier could be unconscious or dead, given the weather conditions and the possibility he was injured in a car crash right before his disappearance."We can't rule out the fact that he could be dead," Mathieu said. "But also, he's a suspect in our case, so it's important for us to find Martin Carpentier, because the key to this event is Martin Carpentier." Mathieu said autopsies on the two girls have been completed, but police won't release details until Carpentier is found.Police deployed a helicopter, a drone and police dogs in the search.The girls were last seen Wednesday and became the subject of an Amber Alert the next day. Police have said they and their father are believed to have been in a serious traffic accident on Highway 20 in St-Apollinaire on Wednesday evening at about 9:30 p.m.Investigators said the car was heading east when it skidded into the median, flipped over and landed on the shoulder on the opposite side of the highway. But police did not find any occupants inside the car when they arrived.On Sunday, the manhunt for the 44-year-old Carpentier had authorities tightening the search in a thickly wooded area near where the young sisters from Levis, Que., were found.Residents had helped with the searches until Saturday, but police asked people to stay away from the area Sunday to let officers work.The case has gripped the attention of the province, especially in the town of just over 6,000 people where it's playing out and in the family's hometown of Levis, across the St. Lawrence River from the provincial capital.The oldest of the sisters, Norah, was a member of a local chapter of the Association de Scouts du Canada — which primarily serves the French-speaking scouting community across the country.Dominique Moncalis, a spokeswoman for the Association de Scouts du Canada, said Martin Carpentier had been a leader with the 128th Groupe Scout de Charny since last September.It was a brief role, cut short when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the suspension of all activities in mid-March.The memorial the family visited Monday was started by two scout leaders over the weekend, and vigils for Romy and Norah were held there Saturday night and again Sunday morning.Quebec Premier Francois Legault began a Montreal news conference on Monday by offering condolences to the family of the young victims."I'm shocked, and I believe all Quebecers are shocked like me," Legault said, adding police will do everything they can to find the father.Legault also urged anyone who sees family members in difficulty or distress to get help, giving out a number for a parent help line."If you have trouble, if you don't feel (in) control or if you see somebody close to you not being in control, having difficulties, you don't need to be shy," he said."You have to do something when you see that you're in trouble before doing something terrible."This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 13, 2020.— By Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal.The Canadian Press

  • Global Affairs official says giving Meng Wanzhou CSIS documents could hurt Canada
    News
    CBC

    Global Affairs official says giving Meng Wanzhou CSIS documents could hurt Canada

    The director general for Global Affairs Canada in South Asia says disclosing sensitive information from CSIS to Meng Wanzhou as part of her battle against extradition could risk Canadian lives, further damage Chinese-Canadian relations and even compromise the fight against COVID-19.David Hartman warned against giving the Huawei executive's lawyers unredacted copies of documents from Canada's spy agency in an affidavit sworn as part of a proceeding that will be heard in federal court later this month.The affidavit was filed in late June in support of the attorney general, who is fighting to keep from public view communication about Meng's arrest between CSIS and the FBI."Generally speaking, such disclosure would inflame tensions between the governments of Canada and China, and would, necessarily, provoke a response harmful to bilateral relations and Canadian interests," Hartman's affidavit says."Given the consular considerations, disclosure could also risk causing harm to individual Canadian lives."Hartman served as Global Affairs' executive director for greater China until August 2017.He and CSIS intelligence officer Michel Guay both filed affidavits in the federal court case, which will be heard during four days of hearings at the end of the month.The first day of proceedings will be held in public on July 27; the remaining three days will be behind closed doors.The fight centres on six heavily redacted CSIS documents the attorney general disclosed to Meng's lawyers after an order from the B.C. Supreme Court judge overseeing her extradition case.The U.S. wants the Huawei chief financial officer sent to New York to face fraud charges in relation to an allegation that she lied to an HSBC executive in August 2013 about her company's control of a firm accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.Prosecutors claim Meng's alleged lies put the bank in danger of violating the same sanctions themselves, risking prosecution and loss as a result.Meng's lawyers plan to argue that the FBI and Canadian authorities mounted a "covert criminal investigation" against their client, sharing technical information about her electronic devices and conspiring to have Canadian border officers detain and question her without a lawyer for three hours before RCMP placed her under arrest.'Perception of influence'The CSIS documents include an email, operational notes, a report and three so-called "situation reports" written before and after Meng's arrest at Vancouver's airport on Dec. 1, 2018.The situation reports state that CSIS received word from the FBI the day before Meng's arrest and that the U.S. agency would "not be present in an effort to avoid the perception of influence."The reports say the RCMP recognized the "highly political nature of the arrest" and predicted from the outset that Meng's detention would "be of great consequence internationally and bilaterally."Large portions of all the documents have been redacted.In their affidavits, both Hartman and Guay stress that they have not viewed the unredacted portions of the documents themselves, so that they won't be at risk of inadvertently disclosing sensitive information during the public proceeding.Hartman describes the damage Meng's extradition case has already caused Canadian-Chinese relations, including the suspension of canola seed imports and the arbitrary detentions of former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor.Kovrig and Spavor have been held in Chinese prisons since the days immediately following Meng's arrest. Last month, the Chinese formally charged them with spying. Canada hasn't had consular access to either man since January.Souring public opinionsHartman says the COVID-19 pandemic has only "underlined the necessity" for Canada to engage in bilateral relations with China."China has been an important supplier of personal protective equipment and pharmaceutical products in global supply chains and accounted for a significant portion of medical supplies procured by the Government of Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic," Hartman wrote.He says "Canadian media coverage and public opinion on China has grown increasingly negative, reflecting public opinion trends globally."The affidavit traces the change in sentiment to the introduction of a new national security law in Hong Kong, "reports of Chinese intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders in China as well as in Canada" and a "Chinese disinformation campaign around the origins of COVID-19."As a result, Hartman says "it is in Canada's interest to ensure that the management of our necessary but complex engagement with China is not negatively affected even further by the public disclosure of sensitive information."Guay's concerns about the redacted material are related solely to the impact it might have on national security. He writes about the importance of maintaining confidential sources and of the need CSIS has to share information on the understanding it will be kept confidential."If foreign agencies were to lose faith in the commitment of the service to protect confidential third party information, there would be significant impact on the willingness of those agencies to provide information to the service in the future," he says.'An ongoing role in her arrest'In federal court documents, Meng's lawyers say the unredacted portions of the CSIS documents make it plain that "not only was CSIS involved in communicating with the FBI and others regarding the planning of Ms. Meng's arrest prior to December 1, 2018, but that CSIS had an ongoing role in the arrest."As such, they are also seeking emails, texts, telephone logs and briefing notes from CSIS as well as the identity of the authors of the reports.Meng's lawyers hope to use that information in upcoming B.C. Supreme Court hearings to argue that she was the victim of abuses of process and breaches of charter rights so egregious that the extradition proceedings should be tossed.The 48-year-old's case is predicted to extend well into 2021. Meng has denied all the allegations against her. She has been living under a form of house arrest — trailed by security guards and ordered to wear a GPS-monitoring ankle bracelet — in one of two multimillion dollar homes she owns on Vancouver's west side, since her release on $10 million bail the week after her arrest.

  • Police investigate video of woman choked by stranger before Calgary Black Lives Matter event
    News
    CBC

    Police investigate video of woman choked by stranger before Calgary Black Lives Matter event

    Police are investigating an altercation that a group of young Black Lives Matter protesters in Calgary say began with a stranger calling them the N-word and ended with the man grabbing a young Black woman by the neck. The incident, some of which was captured on video, shows the need to address systemic racism both in the community and in policing, according to an academic who studies racism in Canada."When, in the particular culture of the current environment where race issues — and particularly the Black-white police relationship is in such tension — it strikes me as concerning the officer acted the way he acted in the current environment," Kathy Hogarth, an associate professor of social work at the University of Waterloo, said.Rayan Babiker said she and four friends were driving around Sunnyside in northwest Calgary at around 2:40 p.m. on June 3, looking for parking before they planned to meet a friend and head to a Black Lives Matter vigil downtown. One of the women in the car had been holding a Black Lives Matter sign up to the window and shouting the motto as they drove, usually to honks or waves from passersby. The women said they drove past a white man engaged in what appeared to be a heated conversation with a Black man. The woman in the car yelled "Black Lives Matter" as they drove past and in response they said the man yelled back, "Shut the f--k up, [N-words]." The women shouted back "f--k you" and other expletives at him, and drove on.'We were shocked'"We were shocked. Yes, we've experienced racism, but never in broad daylight, and this man felt this was a safe environment for him to say that," said Babiker.The women found parking and were walking to meet their friend when they came across the man again, in a different spot than the direction he had been walking. They said it seemed as if he had walked toward where they had parked. At this point, they start recording video on their phones.The women confronted him, daring him to repeat what he had just shouted at them. "You were so keen on calling us [N-words] when we were in the car, how do you feel now?" one of them asked, while others shouted, "Black Lives Matter."The man swore at them and began to walk away when one of the women splashed water from a water bottle onto his back, wetting the left sleeve of his polo shirt.The man spun, lunging and grabbing 20-year-old Fatima Osman — who hadn't thrown the water — by the neck. * Watch an edited excerpt of cellphone video of the altercation below. CBC News has blurred the face of the man because police have not confirmed his identity or charged him. CBC has also bleeped out profanity."Some water got thrown at him, I'm not sure what happened because it was behind me," she said."He got angry. He choked me and he punched me in the face …. I tried to grab him and do something to defend myself but he ran away."CBC News has not been able to confirm the identity of the man in the video and has blurred his face in the video as he's not currently facing charges. A company, the logo of which is shown on the man's shirt, confirmed he is a former employee but said due to privacy legislation it was unable to comment further as to when the man left the company. "We are deeply saddened to be associated with this in any way as we do not condone racism or violence under any circumstance," a company spokesperson said in an email.Osman said she was hit in the face and a necklace of sentimental value to her was torn off. She shared a photo with CBC showing her bruised cheekbone."My face for a whole week after that, the side he punched, the left side was green and swollen. Even now it's kind of green and it kinda hurts when I touch it."The video's shaky, but as it resumes, it shows Osman pushing back at the man and grabbing his shirt, and the women trying to chase the man off, as he lunges in what the women said seemed to be an attempt to tear off the hijab of another woman in the group, before running off down the street. Police arriveThey followed him, yelling at him and continuing to film. They were about to call the police to respond when they spotted a police officer driving up.Babiker said they had planned on following him until they could get authorities to respond, so they were relieved to see a police officer.The women, yelling over each other, told the officer variations of the same statement, "He hit her, we have it on camera." The officer spoke with the man first, motioning to the women to calm down and give him some space. He asked the man for his ID, then told the man he could walk away before speaking to the women."We were all trying to say the same thing, but he felt like, I don't know, we weren't listening to him, he went to the offender here ... we felt like we wasted our time following this man around trying to get justice," said Babiker. A female officer arrived a few minutes later and, after calming the group down, listened to their accounts of what had happened.Professor troubled by police responseHogarth, author of A Space for Race: Decoding Racism, Multiculturalism, and Post-Colonialism in the Quest for Belonging in Canada and Beyond, said she was troubled watching the video, seeing the officer let the man walk away before trying harder to obtain the women's perspective of what happened. The Calgary Police Service said that, when coming across heated confrontations, it's common practice to separate parties to de-escalate a situation."Given the man was alone, it was easier to speak with him and send him on his way. Officers obtained his identification and followed up with him shortly after," an emailed statement from police read.Osman said while she understands why the officer spoke with the man who hit her first, she felt disregarded."I understand that their protocol is to go to the person who actually punched," she said."At the same time, we were five young girls in distress, I had just told you this man punched me."Osman and her friends said they have since met with police to provide statements about what happened.Osman said the detectives were kind and helpful, and she's hoping for justice, but she was concerned by one question an officer asked her.She said police asked her why it was OK for her, a Black woman, to use the N-word, but when a white man used the same word she got angry."It was frustrating," Osman said, adding that when she uses the word, she's not using it with hate or as a slur against other Black people.Police confirmed they are actively investigating the incident and said they cannot discuss the matter as it may eventually be before the courts."The file is being thoroughly investigated including interviews with those involved to gain full context and perspective before completing the investigation and consulting with the Crown," an emailed statement read.Police said if anyone involved is dissatisfied with the investigation, they are encouraged to file a complaint through the Professional Standards Section.> Our system is not working for all of us ... until it works for all of us, it is not working for any of us. \- Kathy Hogarth, social work professorBabiker said this incident has changed her relationship to the police."I actually see the police as people who can potentially protect me but after [this] incident, that the only time I actually called them in and wanted their assistance, they failed to deliver ... since I had [this incident] on video, I thought I had the upper hand here," she said."It had me think maybe next time I shouldn't say anything or even try to ask for help or defend myself."Hogarth said Babiker's reaction to her experience should resonate with Black, Indigenous and people of colour across the country."This is exactly what happens when victims of crimes cannot trust the system in place through experience, whether that's direct experience or vicarious experience ... but when victims cannot trust the systems that are in place to protect them will actually protect them, those victims are forced to suffer in silence," Hogarth said."We have strayed very far from the model of serve and protect because we serve and protect only a certain class of citizens ... we need change."Our system is not working for all of us ... until it works for all of us, it is not working for any of us."Hogarth pointed to recent comments by Calgary's police chief, who said he used to think systemic racism was not a problem in his force but that now he is not so sure.Hogarth said the growth in that statement shows the dial is moving but perhaps not quickly enough. "Systems that are absolutely built on racism are absolutely trying to deny the existence of it. We cannot begin to address systemic racism when those who hold responsibility for those systems deny the existence of it," she said."Until it becomes in the best interest of leadership to see the problem under their rule, under their responsibility, until it becomes in their best interest to see those issues, we will need change."

  • Look out, Mars: Here we come with a fleet of spacecraft
    Science
    The Canadian Press

    Look out, Mars: Here we come with a fleet of spacecraft

    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Mars is about to be invaded by planet Earth — big time.Three countries — the United States, China and the United Arab Emirates — are sending unmanned spacecraft to the red planet in quick succession beginning this week, in the most sweeping effort yet to seek signs of ancient microscopic life while scouting out the place for future astronauts.The U.S., for its part, is dispatching a six-wheeled rover the size of a car, named Perseverance, to collect rock samples that will be brought back to Earth for analysis in about a decade.“Right now, more than ever, that name is so important,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said as preparations went on amid the coronavirus outbreak, which will keep the launch guest list to a minimum.Each spacecraft will travel more than 300 million miles (483 million kilometres) before reaching Mars next February. It takes six to seven months, at the minimum, for a spacecraft to loop out beyond Earth's orbit and sync up with Mars' more distant orbit around the sun.Scientists want to know what Mars was like billions of years ago when it had rivers, lakes and oceans that may have allowed simple, tiny organisms to flourish before the planet morphed into the barren, wintry desert world it is today.“Trying to confirm that life existed on another planet, it’s a tall order. It has a very high burden of proof,” said Perseverance’s project scientist, Ken Farley of Caltech in Pasadena, California.The three nearly simultaneous launches are no coincidence: The timing is dictated by the opening of a one-month window in which Mars and Earth are in ideal alignment on the same side of the sun, which minimizes travel time and fuel use. Such a window opens only once every 26 months.Mars has long exerted a powerful hold on the imagination but has proved to be the graveyard for numerous missions. Spacecraft have blown up, burned up or crash-landed, with the casualty rate over the decades exceeding 50%. China's last attempt, in collaboration with Russia in 2011, ended in failure.Only the U.S. has successfully put a spacecraft on Mars, doing it eight times, beginning with the twin Vikings in 1976. Two NASA landers are now operating there, InSight and Curiosity. Six other spacecraft are exploring the planet from orbit: three U.S., two European and one from India.The United Arab Emirates and China are looking to join the elite club.The UAE spacecraft, named Amal, which is Arabic for Hope, is an orbiter scheduled to rocket away from Japan on Wednesday, local time, on what will be the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission. The spacecraft, built in partnership with the University of Colorado Boulder, will arrive at Mars in the year the UAE marks the 50th anniversary of its founding.“The UAE wanted to send a very strong message to the Arab youth,” project manager Omran Sharaf said. “The message here is that if the UAE can reach Mars in less than 50 years, then you can do much more. ... The nice thing about space, it sets the standards really high."Controlled from Dubai, the celestial weather station will strive for an exceptionally high Martian orbit of 13,670 miles by 27,340 miles (22,000 kilometres by 44,000 kilometres) to study the upper atmosphere and monitor climate change.China will be up next, with the flight of a rover and an orbiter sometime around July 23; Chinese officials aren’t divulging much. The mission is named Tianwen, or Questions for Heaven.NASA, meanwhile, is shooting for a launch on July 30 from Cape Canaveral.Perseverance is set to touch down in an ancient river delta and lake known as Jezero Crater, not quite as big as Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. China’s much smaller rover will aim for an easier, flatter target.To reach the surface, both spacecraft will have to plunge through Mars' hazy red skies in what has been dubbed “seven minutes of terror” — the most difficult and riskiest part of putting spacecraft on the planet.Jezero Crater is full of boulders, cliffs, sand dunes and depressions, any one of which could end Perseverance’s mission. Brand-new guidance and parachute-triggering technology will help steer the craft away from hazards. Ground controllers will be helpless, given the 10 minutes it takes radio transmissions to travel one-way between Earth and Mars.Jezero Crater is worth the risks, according to scientists who chose it over 60 other potential sites.Where there was water — and Jezero was apparently flush with it 3.5 billion years ago — there may have been life, though it was probably only simple microbial life, existing perhaps in a slimy film at the bottom of the crater. But those microbes may have left telltale marks in the sediment layers.Perseverance will hunt for rocks containing such biological signatures, if they exist.It will drill into the most promising rocks and store a half-kilogram (about 1 pound) of samples in dozens of titanium tubes that will eventually be fetched by another rover. To prevent Earth microbes from contaminating the samples, the tubes are super-sterilized, guaranteed germ-free by Adam Stelzner, chief engineer for the mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.“Yep, I’m staking my reputation on it,” he said.While prowling the surface, Perseverance as well as China’s rover will peek below, using radar to locate any underground pools of water that might exist. Perseverance will also release a spindly, 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) helicopter that will be the first rotorcraft ever to fly on another planet.Perseverance's cameras will shoot colour video of the rover’s descent, providing humanity’s first look at a parachute billowing open at Mars, while microphones capture the sounds.The rover will also attempt to produce oxygen from the carbon dioxide in the thin Martian atmosphere. Extracted oxygen could someday be used by astronauts on Mars for breathing as well as for making rocket propellant.NASA wants to return astronauts to the moon by 2024 and send them from there to Mars in the 2030s. To that end, the space agency is sending samples of spacesuit material with Perseverance to see how they stand up against the harsh Martian environment.The tab for Perseverance’s mission, including the flight and a minimum two years of Mars operations, is close to $3 billion. The UAE's project costs $200 million, including the launch but not mission operations. China has not disclosed its costs. Europe and Russia dropped plans to send a life-seeking rover to Mars this summer after falling behind in testing and then getting slammed by COVID-19.Perseverance's mission is seen by NASA as a comparatively low-risk way of testing out some of the technology that will be needed to send humans to the red planet and bring them home safely.“Sort of crazy for me to call it low risk because there’s a lot of hard work in it and there are billions of dollars in it," Farley said. “But compared to humans, if something goes wrong, you will be very glad you tested it out on a half-kilogram of rock instead of on the astronauts.”___The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press

  • Much of Ontario heading into Stage 3 of COVID-19 reopening plan this Friday
    Health
    CBC

    Much of Ontario heading into Stage 3 of COVID-19 reopening plan this Friday

    A large swath of Ontario will move to Stage 3 of the province's reopening plan on July 17, with the exception of the Greater Toronto Area and other parts of southern Ontario, which will remain in Stage 2 for now.The province's plan will allow for activities such as indoor dining in restaurants, live performing arts shows and the reopening of movie theatres and playgrounds — albeit with significant health and safety measures in place, including physical distancing, enhanced cleaning protocols and Plexiglas barriers."Every corner of our province is getting back to work," Premier Doug Ford said at a Monday news conference. "Today, we are ready to take the next step."The province says it will allow indoor gatherings of up to 50 people in Stage 3 and outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people. However, according to the plan, physical distancing remains a requirement for all people who are not from the same household or established social circle. Work colleagues, including performers and crews, do not count toward gathering limits, according to the province.The following public health units will remain in Stage 2 for the time being: * Durham Region Health Department. * Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit. * Halton Region Public Health. * Hamilton Public Health Services.  * Lambton Public Health.  * Niagara Region Public Health. * Peel Public Health.  * Toronto Public Health. * Windsor-Essex County Health Unit. * York Region Public Health."These regions entered Stage 2 later on, so we need just a little more time," Ford said. "I want the people in these regions to know we won't leave anyone behind."We will keep working until every part of this province gets to Stage 3."WATCH | Premier Doug Ford outlines what Stage 3 of reopening in Ontario will look like:The plan also says that people gathering inside for religious services, weddings or funerals can continue to fill up to 30 per cent of a room's capacity in Stage 3.It also dictates that sport facilities and gyms can reopen but notes that physical distancing still must be maintained, "except if playing a team sport or as needed for personal training."Amusement parks and water parks are not being allowed to reopen in Stage 3 at the moment.Health measures still in place in Stage 3Health Minister Christine Elliott said Monday that health measures such as wearing face coverings, hand washing and physical distancing remain key to ensuring that Ontarians can "safely enjoy the loosening of restrictions."We expect the province will remain in Stage 3 for the foreseeable future," Elliott said. She also said that health officials will be monitoring for any COVID-19 outbreaks and can tighten restrictions if there are flare-ups. Provincial Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said Monday that he is hoping the entire province will be able to be in Stage 3 by the end of July.Elliott also said social circles for people in Ontario will remain capped at 10 for now. The province can gradually expand them, but "just not right yet," she said.Finance Minister Rod Phillips said Ontario is in a "strong position" to reopen right now, especially compared to areas in some other countries being hard hit by COVID-19."We're in this position because we have made the choice to act responsibly and treat each other with respect," he said.He said that respect is key in Stage 3 to "avoid taking a step backwards."Provincial officials pointed to the situation in the United States as a cautionary tale Monday. Canada's southern neighbour opened the week grappling with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world after Florida shattered the national record for a state's largest single-day increase in new confirmed cases.The World Health Organization warned that the pandemic is worsening globally and that "there will be no return to the old normal for the foreseeable future."Williams said it seems the U.S. opened too quickly and is now having to backtrack."We do not want to repeat or have anything like that," he said.116 new cases reported MondayThe loosening of restrictions comes as the spread of COVID-19 continues to slow in Ontario, with new daily case numbers having steadily declined over the last five weeks. Ontario reported 116 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 today. In a series of tweets this morning, Elliott noted that 29 of Ontario's 34 public health units reported five or fewer additional cases today, while 21 of those 29 confirmed no new cases at all. There are currently fewer than 1,500 active cases provincewide. Further, the number of patients in Ontario hospitals with infections of the novel coronavirus also continues to fall, she said. There were five times as many people being treated in hospital for COVID-19 at the beginning of June than there are now. "Having seen a continued decline in the number of new [COVID-19] cases as the province entered Stage 2, and with hospitalizations being at all-time lows, today we're providing details about Stage 3 of our plan to continue the safe and gradual reopening the province," Elliott wrote.Twenty-four public health units entered Stage 2 on June 12, and seven more on June 19. Toronto and Peel, the province's most populous health units, then proceeded into Stage 2 five days after that. The move included reopening patios and hair salons.The president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association is already expressing some hesitations at the prospect of entering the third phase."Given that hospitals continue to act as the anchor of Ontario's response to COVID-19, [the OHA] will be giving this announcement some serious scrutiny," Anthony Dale wrote on Twitter."We can't have hallway health care in a pandemic."Nearly 89% of confirmed cases resolvedThe additional cases of COVID-19 reported today mean that Ontario has now seen a total of 36,839 infections of the novel coronavirus since the outbreak began in late January. Of those, 88.7 per cent are considered resolved by the Ministry of Health. The province's official death toll from the illness grew by three in today's report and now sits at 2,722. A CBC News count based on data provided directly by public health units, however, puts the real toll at 2,756 as of yesterday evening. About three quarters of all deaths were residents in long-term care homes. Health officials are currently tracking ongoing outbreaks in 23 facilities.Meanwhile, Ontario's network of about 30 community, commercial and hospital labs processed some 20,896 test samples for the virus since the last update. Another 7,837 are in the queue waiting to be completed. You can read the province's plan for Stage 3 here:

  • Indigenous groups paying the price for Russia's massive Arctic fuel spill
    News
    CBC

    Indigenous groups paying the price for Russia's massive Arctic fuel spill

    In 2017, the New York Times called Norilsk "Russia's coldest and most polluted industrial city." It may not be getting colder but it's certainly now much more polluted than before.The Arctic town, built on the site of a former gulag, is the site of a massive fuel spill that environmentalists have compared to the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.On May 29, an aged fuel tank at the Norilsk Nickel plant lost pressure and released 21,000 tonnes of diesel into the Arctic subsoil and the waters of the nearby river Ambarnaya."In modern history, this is the biggest spill that I have ever seen," said Alexey Knizhnikov, a leader with the World Wildlife Fund in Russia. It's the biggest on-land spill in Russia since 1994."The scale of the damage to Arctic waterways is unprecedented," said Dmitry Kobylkin, Russia's ecology minister, in a statement.The incident is an embarrassment for a Russian government that has tried to pursue an environmental agenda in some places while also aggressively expanding industrial operations in the Arctic. It's also a devastating blow to an already withered landscape and the people who rely on it for their way of life."If you look at the country around Norilsk, it's a real dead zone," said Rodion Sulyandziga, an Udege Indigenous advocate and director of the Centre for the Support of the Indigenous People of the North. "It's affected … people's river, reindeer, lakes [and] soil."Historic amount of 'voluntary compensation' requestedThe fallout from the spill has been swift. On June 10, Russian state investigators arrested three plant managers. A few days later, the mayor of Norilsk was charged with criminal negligence for his delayed response.Even before the arrests, Russian President Vladimir Putin scolded the region's governor in a live television address for learning of the incident only days after the fact, on social media. He also castigated Norilsk Nickel's executives in a widely-televised conference call."If you had changed [the fuel tank] on time there would not have been this ecological damage," he said to a grim-looking quartet of executives, speaking from a field in Norilsk. "Study this as closely as possible inside the company."Norilsk Nickel is the world's largest producer of nickel and palladium. It has made its majority shareholder, Vladimir Potanin, the richest man in Russia.Facing Putin's public disapproval, Potanin said his company would cover clean-up costs, which he estimated at nearly $200 million.But Russia's regulator, Rosprirodnadzor, came in with a higher estimate: $14 million for soil restoration alone, plus a further $2.8 billion for cleaning up the waterways."This is definitely a huge amount. We've never got such penalties for other environmental violations," said Knizhnikov.The company is contesting the request for "voluntary compensation" — which is equivalent to about one-third of one year's profits. There is precedent they may succeed."Very often companies go to the court, and unfortunately, very often, [the] company wins," said Knizhnikov. "It's very likely this huge amount will not be paid."Kobylkin said the company had "every right" to contest the fine in court. But for Knizhnikov, it may be in the company's long-term interests to take a bigger hit."If they refuse to pay big money, they will get [an] even worse image, not only in Russia but on a global scale," he said.Spill undermines Russia's development agendaOne reason the spill has attracted such a severe response, experts say, is its consequence for Russia's own image.Small spills are a chronic issue in the Russian Arctic, according to Laura Henry, a Russia expert at Bowdoin College — just yesterday, Norilsk Nickel reported another one, of 45 tonnes of aviation fuel, from a pipeline to the west of Norilsk. But Henry says, more often than not, they are covered up before they make the headlines.The magnitude of this spill meant images were spreading on social media before Russian authorities were even informed, attracting international attention and marring Russia's environmental image.Vladimir Chuprov, the campaign director for Greenpeace Russia, says it also "hit Putin's image personally."Russia will chair the Arctic Council again next year and Putin has publicly stressed environmentally sustainable Arctic development as a key part of its mandate, he said.The spill has domestic consequences as well. Putin has suggested the economic opportunity posed by a warming Arctic means climate change is "maybe bad for the world but not so bad for Russia," Henry said. The spill — originally blamed on melting permafrost — has undermined that message.It has also thrown into relief Putin's complex relationship with oligarchs like Potanin. Henry said many already complain that Potanin's "special relationship" with the Kremlin has allowed Norilsk Nickel to escape close environmental scrutiny, even as it makes public commitments to sustainability."Potanin is making an incredible fortune off of this company," Henry said. That such a lucrative company failed to update such basic infrastructure "is probably frustrating" for Putin, she said.Russia's other oligarchs may also balk at this setback to their country's environmental image. Bruce Forbes, a researcher at the University of Lapland's Arctic Institute who studies Indigenous land use in Western Siberia, said many companies working in the Russian Arctic are actively increasing the amount of Indigenous consultation and environmental review they perform."They're doing a job like Western countries would have to do if they went into the Arctic [National Wildlife] Refuge," he said."The kinds of processes that need to go on, remarkably, have been going on. But that isn't counting the spills."Indigenous groups bear the brunt of disasterFor the Indigenous people of the region, this spill can be seen as another indication of the "gap between declarations and reality," Sulyandziga, the Indigenous advocate, said."On the one hand, the Russian constitution guarantees Indigenous people's rights but in terms of implementation … it's poor. It's nothing," he said.The Dolgans, Nenets, Nganasans, Evenki and Enets all hunt, fish, and herd reindeer among the lakes and rivers north of Norilsk. But the land has long been poisoned by industrial waste.In 2016, local Indigenous groups noted with alarm that the waters of the nearby river Daldykan had turned blood red, which Norilsk Nickel suggested was natural. They later acknowledged a spill of industrial wastewater was responsible.The waters of that river eventually flow into Lake Pyasino — now so toxic it is almost entirely devoid of fish. The waterways downstream are crossed by the world's largest wild reindeer herd, which has shrunk by more than 40 per cent since 2000."The legacy of the past, it's very destructive," said Sulyandziga. "It is still very dangerous to hunt, to eat."Sulyandziga said once the scale of the environmental damage is clear, work should start on a "working plan for Indigenous people … [to address] access to traditional food, access to traditional activity."But Indigenous people's power to advocate for their interests is weakening. Government crackdowns on foreign-funded NGOs led to Sulyandziga's own Centre for the Support of the Indigenous People's of the North being deemed a "foreign agent" and liquidated by the courts last year.Indigenous activism, as a form of ethnic activism, can be interpreted as separatism, said Sulyandziga."We should be very careful."But in light of this latest spill, he said, Indigenous advocacy is even more important."I believe nature already is avoiding us because something is wrong," he said. "Indigenous people should continue fighting, not only for our cultural heritage but also for our natural heritage."

  • Young female-staffed business could be out of luck if Mahone Bay bylaws change
    Business
    CBC

    Young female-staffed business could be out of luck if Mahone Bay bylaws change

    More than a dozen teenage girls in Mahone Bay may be out of work soon if the town moves forward with changes to their bylaws.All of the girls will be in high school next year and they say they've been getting an excellent business education by operating the Seaside Creamery."It's just been nice to learn about everything like how to handle money and how to talk to customers," said Taylor Johnson. "We know them by first-name basis and the locals are really good to us."The business was opened last summer by Mark Lowe as an ice cream shop on Edgewater Street.The business has expanded their menu and now offers donuts, hot dogs, hamburgers and lobster rolls.But it recently hit its first snag. The town of Mahone Bay is looking to change its temporary vending bylaws.The proposed change would mean the creamery would only be allowed to be open one week per month unless it moved to another location."I essentially would have to shut down the creamery," said Lowe. "The kids would be thrown out of work, which I don't think is fair."Zoning issuesThe business is set up on Lowe's waterfront property and is not zoned commercial.The town says it's in the "open shoreline" zone, where no structure can be any higher than five feet in order to preserve the view plane of the harbour and the town's iconic three churches, one of the most photographed sights in Nova Scotia."The problem comes back to the notion of having zoning on properties in the town and protecting what council sees as the best interest of the entire town and not just one individual," said Mahone Bay Mayor David Devenne, who said there may be options that could save the shop from having to move."There is a possibility for rezoning, or a variance or a development agreement."The budding entrepreneurs say they're learning how to provide the best service for their customers, and the idea of having their business shut down to just one week a month would ruin their summer plans."It's pretty upsetting to hear about it," said Marjanah Kalau. "It's a really good experience to work here, we're learning a lot and everyone seems to like it."How the zoning issue will play out could come to a head at this week's town council session.Council will meet Tuesday night and it will be decided then if further bylaw revisions are required.Lowe says if the town changes the bylaws, they will be forced to move their business out of town. But that's not what he wants to see happen."We live in Mahone Bay, we love Mahone Bay," said Lowe. "But if push comes to shove, I can't have a viable business for the students for one week per month."MORE TOP STORIES

  • Britain's Queen Elizabeth not told before Australia's historic PM sacking: archived letters
    News
    Reuters

    Britain's Queen Elizabeth not told before Australia's historic PM sacking: archived letters

    Queen Elizabeth's representative in Australia fired a prime minister without warning the palace - or the prime minister - because "under the constitution the responsibility is mine", according to archived letters released on Tuesday. In a Nov. 11, 1975 dispatch, Governor-General John Kerr told the Queen's private secretary he took the unprecedented step to sack Prime Minister Gough Whitlam as Whitlam prepared to end a months-long budget standoff by calling a partial Senate election. "I decided to take this step ... without informing the Palace in advance," Kerr wrote to former private secretary Martin Charteris on the day of Whitlam's dismissal.

  • Nova Scotia university wants students to sign COVID-19 liability waiver
    News
    CBC

    Nova Scotia university wants students to sign COVID-19 liability waiver

    St. Francis Xavier University is asking students to sign a liability waiver before attending class. By signing, they give up the right to sue the university for any illness, injury or death 'as a result of COVID-19 risks.'

  • Loved ones hold memorial on Piikani First Nation for lives lost to Canada's other pandemic — opioids
    News
    CBC

    Loved ones hold memorial on Piikani First Nation for lives lost to Canada's other pandemic — opioids

    About two dozen figures stood silhouetted on Piikani Nation land on Sunday, two metres apart, holding white crosses for a memorial photoshoot with the Rocky Mountains in the background.Some were First Nation members, while others came from nearby southern Alberta communities.They all share one thing in common — they've lost loved ones to overdoses.Lori Vrebosch held a cross, a braid of sweetgrass and a photo of her son, Mitchell.He was 24-years-old on Oct. 2, 2018, when he accidentally overdosed on a mix of carfentanyl, fentanyl, meth and cocaine.The photoshoot was the seventh of its kind organized by advocacy group Moms Stop the Harm, but the first on a First Nation, a partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous families.> ...fentanyl does not discriminate but our drug policies are discriminatory... \- Petra Schulz, co-founder of Moms Stop the HarmVrebosch said it hurt her soul to see the number of photos, and the look in the eyes of those holding the frames clutched to their chests or balanced on the white crosses."We share the same look in our eyes, the same broken heart," Vrebosch said. Vrebosch's husband Brian Jackson is a Piikani band councillor. The nation has lost six people to substance use in the past five weeks — one who collapsed at a wake held for another overdose victim.Jackson and Vrebosch described the opioid crisis as a pandemic that's affected First Nations for years that has only increased in severity since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic."We're seeing a spike not with the other pandemic that we're dealing with but we're seeing spikes with drug addiction and it's hitting First Nations extremely hard," Jackson said. "It's running rampant. It's increased since COVID-19."Jackson was unable to attend Sunday's event, as he was self-isolating after possibly coming into contact with family of the first Piikani Nation member diagnosed with COVID-19.One case of COVID-19 in months. Six overdose deaths in a few weeks — and Vrebosch said she'd like to see a proportional health response from the government. She hopes the group's powerful photo will send that message.> Indigenous and non-Indigenous need to stand united ... to battle this failed war on drugs. \- Lori Vrebosch, member of Moms Stop the Harm"Every fire starts with a spark. And I think Indigenous people really need additional resources, tools, information, education, strategies, initiatives to help them deal with this massive loss of lives that we're experiencing here," she said."We wanted to show that Indigenous and non-Indigenous need to stand united at these times of racial tensions to show that we're a united community of Canadians who stand together, who have to stand together to battle this failed war on drugs. We have to be smarter, we have to do more."Petra Schulz, co-founder of Moms Stop the Harm, lost her son Danny, 25, to an accidental fentanyl overdose in April 2014.Schulz said it was important to the group to partner with the First Nation for the photo, although she made the point that, in essence, all of the photos so far have been taken on Indigenous land."The overdose crisis, while it affects everyone … fentanyl does not discriminate but our drug policies are discriminatory, that's why Indigenous people are feeling the pain in the same way but just have really so many people [affected] in their small communities and probably have fewer resources available to help their people," she said."If we are really truthful about truth and reconciliation … we have to address overdose deaths and other substance use related harms in Indigenous communities. Otherwise, it's just lip service."1.6 deaths each dayAccording to the province, 142 people died from apparent accidental opioid overdoses during the first three months of 2020 — 1.6 people each day, on average. Of those deaths, 127 were related to fentanyl.First Nations are disproportionately affected by opioid use — representing six per cent of Alberta's population, but 13 per cent of all overdoses between 2016 and 2018.

  • News
    The Canadian Press

    Victim of targeted fatal shooting in Abbotsford, B.C., identified

    Investigators say a shooting that killed a 43-year-old man east of Vancouver on Friday night was likely targeted. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has released more details about the slaying that happened July 10, just before 8 p.m. in Abbotsford, B.C. Sgt. Frank Jang says in a statement that officers found Karmjit Sran dead at the scene as they responded to reports of shots fired at a home.

  • Albertans 'strongly' encouraged to wear protective masks in public places
    Health
    CBC

    Albertans 'strongly' encouraged to wear protective masks in public places

    Alberta's chief medical officer of health is "strongly recommending" that people wear non-medical masks whenever they visit indoor public places where physical distancing may not be possible."Masks are part of our personal responsibility to manage the risk for ourselves and for others," Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Monday at a news conference to announce that the province is handing out another 20 million free masks. "Wearing one is the right thing to do."When used properly, masks can protect others and limit the spread of COVID-19, Hinshaw said. "I am strongly recommending that all of us wear masks anytime we are out and can't maintain a two-metre distance from others, especially in indoor spaces. Wearing a mask is a common sense precaution that should be part of everyone's new normal."The Alberta government plans to distribute another 20 million non-medical masks in the second wave of a program that will be expanded to include more outlets for people to get their free personal protective equipment.Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced the expanded program at the same news conference on Monday.New case numbers 'concerning,' premier saysKenney said the province has no target date for Stage 3 of its relaunch plan, adding that the most recent data on the number of new cases was "concerning.""I would love to get to Phase 3 as quickly as possible but that will be up to how Albertans conduct themselves in the days and weeks to come," he said.Alberta Health reported one more COVID-19 death on Monday, a man in his 80s from the North zone, bringing the total number of deaths to 161.The province reported 80 new cases on Sunday, 96 cases on Saturday and 54 on Friday.As of Monday there were 676 active cases in the province, with 45 people being treated for the illness in hospital, including 10 in ICU beds.The regional breakdown of active cases by zone: * Calgary zone: 267 cases. * Edmonton zone: 199 cases. * South zone: 110 cases. * North zone: 53 cases. * Central zone: 35 cases. * Unknown: 12 cases.The premier said the demographics of the illness have changed, with 55 per cent of actives cases now among people under the age of 40.Alberta is averaging about 7,000 tests per day, Kenney said, and has done far more tests per capita than any other province in Canada.Masks now available over the counter In addition to drive-thrus at A&W, McDonald's and Tim Hortons outlets, the program need now hand out masks over the counter in more than 700 restaurants across Alberta, Shandro said.This time around, the packages will include eight masks, twice as many as packages handed out during the first wave of the program.Free masks for members of the public will also be distributed to more than 1,000 places of worship."A larger number of long-term care and supportive living, seniors facilities, community groups, social service organizations, libraries, court houses and places of worship will be distributing masks to their residents, clients and members," the government said in a news release about the program."Municipalities without easy access to a partner restaurant location are again being supplied with masks to distribute to their residents, as are First Nations communities and Métis Settlements."  Four million masks will be provided to 20 transit systems across Alberta, including Calgary and Edmonton, to be used by transit riders.The first 20 million free masks were distributed by the province in mid-June. At the time, Shandro said the masks are one of the best ways to keep Albertans safe as the economy slowly reopened.The masks are for situations where physical distancing is difficult to maintain, such as on public transit or while shopping, Shandro said.Instructions for proper care and use of non-medical masks are available at alberta.ca/masks.

  • Alberta universities plan to do away with dormitory residences during COVID-19 pandemic
    News
    CBC

    Alberta universities plan to do away with dormitory residences during COVID-19 pandemic

    First-year University of Calgary students who were destined for dormitory-style residences will now be moved to apartment-style residences to allow for better physical distancing due to COVID-19 — but the move comes with a price increase of $3,000.The University of Alberta has also decided not to offer dorm-style rooms this coming year, only offering shared apartments or single rooms with bathrooms at about $2,000 more a year on average than the cheaper accommodations.The University of Calgary's website says it has chosen not to use traditional dormitory-style residences this fall because of the shared washroom facilities, and that first-year student communities would be established in buildings with two and three-bedroom suites."You can expect a rate increase of about $3,000 for the academic year, compared to a traditional double room," the website reads. It adds a meal plan is not included."We understand this may cause some challenges. However, the new room assignments are in place to maintain everyone's health and safety while staying with us."Despite the move, it remains mandatory for first-year students living in residence at the U of C to purchase a meal plan.Assad Ali Bik, student union (SU) vice-president of student life, said the increase in cost to students is why the SU is advocating for emergency funding — especially for first-year students.The U of C did not make anyone available for an interview but asked CBC News to check back for updates in July."Maintaining the safety of students living in residence is a priority of the University of Calgary," the university said in a statement."Residence Services is currently exploring various options to house students, including residence life programming, adhering to [the] Alberta government's re-opening rules and guidelines."Esther Nwafor has lived in multiple U of C residences and moved out in June after experiencing persistent internet issues brought on by a shortage of IT staffing.She said life in residence has become lonely during the pandemic. "I would probably not stay in residence if I was a first-year student right now," she said.Nwafor said higher costs may make staying in residence prohibitive. In addition, physical distancing will make it more difficult to build community."Residence did help me make some of my friends that I still have today," she said. Other Alberta universities are also making changes to their residences for the fall in case COVID-19 restrictions remain in place. Here's what you can expect at some of the province's post-secondary institutions.No more dorm lifeThe University of Alberta and the University of Lethbridge will also either close or significantly reduce the capacity in dormitory style residences this fall for the same reasons.The U of A said it is not offering its most economical accommodations, dorm rooms, so the available rooms will be apartments or single rooms with bathrooms — usually reserved for upperclassmen. They're about $2,000 more than dorm rooms, on average.The U of A said the rates being charged for September 2020 were approved by the board of governors and presented to students in November."Those rates have been set and there will not be an impact on students," said  Katherine Huising, associate vice-president of ancillary services with the U of A.She said no students had been made room offers prior to the pandemic, so they were not sold any dorm rooms at lower rates.At the University of Lethbridge, Jim Booth, executive director of ancillary services, said students will now live in apartment-style residences, with their own cooking facilities and rooms but a shared living room and kitchen space.Both schools say that at most, two students will share a bathroom.Students in Lethbridge won't see any price increases.Booth said prices quoted as early as November to students are the prices that can be expected by U of L students."We believe that the students have enough anxiety in figuring out how they're going to do classes, which have pivoted online, and if they're moving away from home in this very, very difficult and high anxiety time, the last thing we want to do is throw anything additional anxiety at them," he said."So we've said the price is the price."Mount Royal University does not offer dormitory-style residences, but said they are reducing capacity in their apartment style units."We are now going to be housing two people in our four-bedroom units and one person in our two-bedroom units just to make them safer," said Keller. "And they don't have to share a bathroom which is good."In most cases, the schools said students will not be permitted to have visitors in residence for the time being."Unless there's an extraordinary circumstance which we will facilitate for those particular cases," said Booth. "But otherwise it's not just anybody coming and going. It will be very controlled."He said students can also expect some help with cleaning."We will kind of impose ourselves on the students a little bit because we're gonna come in and we're going to make sure that we wipe down bathrooms and kitchens," he said.Move inThe University of Lethbridge, University of Alberta and Mount Royal University all said they won't have their usual one-day move-in process."Rather than focusing all of our move on a single day we're looking at, can we spread it out over a period of time to allow them to arrive with one or two family members and set up," said Huising of the U of A.This is because schools must adhere to Alberta's guidelines for reopening post-secondaries and residences."So social distancing, doing all of the health checks prior to entry, students that are coming from distance and under the Alberta government guidelines are required to self isolate — we will work to facilitate that process as well," said Booth for U of L.In many cases students will be assigned a specific time slot to move in."Because we want to make sure we're doing it in such a way that that students aren't crowding spaces [like elevators and stairwells]," said Mark Keller, director of residence services at MRU.Food servicesThe University of Alberta said their food services will remain open, but students should not be expecting the bustle of a cafeteria or the ability to eat at tables with their peers."They go into the dining hall where we have takeaway containers. They make their selections and they're served by the staff there and then they take their containers back to their room," said Huising, adding that the process is being tested over the summer in preparation for fall.Usually first-year students at the U of L living in University Hall, Kainai House or Piikani House are automatically enrolled in a dining plan, with no opt-out option, but this year that will not be required as all students will have access to their own cooking facilities.MRU does not offer meal plans.When it comes to other shared spaces in residences, the schools say they will all be enhancing cleaning and sanitization, as well as placing a number of hand-sanitization stations at entrances.Some shared spaces at the residences will be closed for now."We do have some spaces and we'll be monitoring those to see how they're being used will but we will likely take the furniture out of most of them to keep students from gathering," said Keller."We do have laundry rooms ... and we'll be taping off some of the machines so that the capacity in those rooms is less."At the U of L, students will be required to wear masks when in shared spaces, including hallways. They'll also be required to wear a mask within their apartments if they can't ensure two-metre spacing.Booth said each student living in residence will be provided with at least three reusable masks.Students will also get a coloured lanyards to denote which residence they belong to."This is in addition to their ID card, so that we can tell at a glance that a student belongs in a specific residence unit so we can create bubbles," he said, adding that these rules are subject to change depending on government recommendations.The universities say that while they know these changes are not ideal, campus officials will be doing everything they can to welcome students and build community.Student isolation spacesWith many students potentially travelling from other countries or provinces, and knowing some students may get sick while in student housing, the schools said they've set aside spaces for isolation.At MRU, Kellery said they've got a plan in place to support those students."And make sure they're being communicated with and if they need anything that it's being brought to them and left outside their door," he said.Similar steps have been taken at the U of A and the U of L."We have flex up to about 56 beds but we're putting aside initially 20 beds on standby," said Booth. Those beds will be available for students required to isolate upon arrival, or for any students who may develop COVID-19 symptoms during the year."We will ensure we can take the individual and isolate them into a unit where they can undergo 10 to 14 days isolation," he said.

  • Ontario anticipates Stage 3 of its pandemic plan as concerns rise in Quebec
    Health
    The Canadian Press

    Ontario anticipates Stage 3 of its pandemic plan as concerns rise in Quebec

    A lot of businesses across Ontario are eagerly awaiting an announcement today from the provincial government.With recent data indicating a gradual but steady decline in Ontario's COVID-19 caseload Premier Doug Ford is expected to unveil the next phase of the province's reopening strategy.The province said in a document released in late April that Stage 3 would include "opening all workplaces responsibly" and "further relaxing the restrictions on public gatherings."The document didn't get into specifics, though it did say restrictions would remain on large gatherings such as concerts and sporting events.Meanwhile, health officials in Quebec, the epicentre of the pandemic in Canada, are concerned about a spike in COVID-19 cases in Montreal linked to the reopening of the city's bars.Over the weekend Montreal's public health authority urged patrons and employees who have frequented bars since Canada Day to get tested for the coronavirus.Quebec reported 114 new COVID-19 infections Sunday, boosting its total to 56,521 cases.The province is to introduce mandatory masks on public transit starting today, with a two-week grace period before users will be denied service as of July 27.Montreal has also indicated that it intends to bring in mandatory masks for enclosed public spaces as of that date.On the East Coast, Prince Edward Island is reporting another new case of COVID-19 — a woman in her 80s from Queens County tested positive and is self-isolating at home.P.E.I. has reported four new cases of the infection since July 4 after being COVID-free during the months of May and June.Canada's COVID-19 case total currently stands at 107,589, including 8,783 deaths and 71,467 cases considered resolved.This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 13, 2020.The Canadian Press

  • Aylmer hydro ruins to be removed if no buyer found
    News
    CBC

    Aylmer hydro ruins to be removed if no buyer found

    Quebec's transportation ministry has issued a mid-August deadline for a buyer to come forward to purchase the Deschênes Rapids ruins, or they'll be removed.That's according to a memo obtained by newspaper Le Droit and confirmed by Radio-Canada.The deadline has sparked an outcry, however, from politicians and businesspeople alike who wanted to turn the 135-year-old ruins into a whitewater rapids park.The memo sent June 12 by François Asselin, the ministry's regional director, announced the province's plans to remove the ruins within two months. Aylmer district Coun. Audrey Bureau believes the ministry isn't listening to local residents and businesses who have long campaigned to save the site.She said a group of local organizations hopes to transform the ruins into a world-renowned nautical centre, and they've already completed a soon-to-be-filed feasibility study."It doesn't make sense," Bureau said in a French-language interview with Radio-Canada. "The ruins are a collective asset for the entire population."She's asked the ministry to meet with the group and to allow time to review the feasibility study before going ahead with their removal.'A witness to our history'The president and CEO of Tourisme Outaouais, France Bélisle, received the minister's memo last month. She said she considers the removal plan premature, given local companies' interest."This project has immense potential that would generate economic spinoffs and would also help strengthen Gatineau's position in outdoor and sport tourism," she told Radio-Canada in French.The president of the Deschênes Residents Association, Howard Powles, expressed similar concerns about the Aug. 12 deadline."It's the most beautiful place," said Powles. "With the rapids and the ruins and the green spaces around, it's a glorious spot, and it's a witness to our history."The site was home to sawmills that gave way to power plants, he said, which powered a tram that connected Aylmer to Ottawa. Ruins also dangerousAccording to the government's memo, however, the combination of the ruins and the fast currents make rescue operations at the Deschênes Rapids perilous for both Gatineau and Ottawa first responders.Between 2007 and 2017, six people died or went missing in the water near the ruins, the province has said.Powles admits the waters around the rapids can be dangerous, but points out there haven't been any serious incidents in some years. Mathieu Lacombe, MNA for Papineau and the provincial minister for the Outaouais, told Radio-Canada he's prepared to support local MP André Fortin in pushing back the Aug. 12 deadline, noting the area's popularity with whitewater enthusiasts.

  • Canada adds health officials at U.S. border crossings to screen for COVID-19
    Health
    CBC

    Canada adds health officials at U.S. border crossings to screen for COVID-19

    As the volume of travellers entering Canada through the U.S. has increased in recent weeks, public health officials are being placed at land borders to bolster screening for COVID-19.The Public Health Agency of Canada is adding on-site employees at 36 points of entry, including New Brunswick crossings in St. Stephen, Woodstock and Edmundston.Tammy Jarbeau, a Health Canada spokesperson, said the "increased presence" of officials is at the points of entry — including air and land — that see 90 per cent of travellers. "PHAC officials, including quarantine officers, clinical screening officers and screening officers will be on-site to screen travellers entering Canada at these ports of entry," she said.The news follows a surge in new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., with large daily increases in some of the country's most populous states. That uptick is paired with an increase in traffic across the international border at airports and land crossings, as restrictions are loosened.Travel across the border has been linked to a new cluster of cases in Prince Edward Island tied to an individual who came from the U.S. with a student visa. Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Toronto, said medical screening for the virus falls outside the job of Canadian Border Service Agency officers."That's a problem," he said. "We just assume that we can just charge the customs and immigration folks with essentially doing public health work."Furness said he believes the health officials will be used for secondary screening if there is an issue, which could be a question that creates cause for concern. He thinks the decision might have been prompted by the recent increase in cross-border travel.Land crossings nearly doubleTraffic between the U.S. and Canada has dropped since the border closed to non-essential travel on March 21. But recent exemptions have allowed for traffic to enter, including immediate family members, who are required to stay in the country for a minimum of 15 days, with 14 days in quarantine.  Cross-border travel is also permitted for work and study, medical care, health reasons and to maintain the flow of goods and services for essential supply chains. Two government orders currently restrict travel into Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first blocks entry to foreign nationals except for certain circumstances, while the second closes the U.S.-Canada land border to non-essential travel until July 21.The volume of people crossing the land border has increased since restrictions began in March, from about 115,000 a week from late April to early May to 175,000 a week in late June. The CBSA says those figures include commercial and non-commercial traffic. The number of non-commercial highway travellers entering Canada has nearly doubled over that time period, going from about 3,300 a week to about 6,500.Secondary health screeningMark Stuart, an agency spokesperson, said officers ask all travellers about their purpose of visit and state of their health and look for visible signs of illness."CBSA officers remain vigilant and are highly trained to identify travellers seeking entry into Canada who may pose a health and safety risk," he said.Officers will refer any traveller suspected of being ill to a Public Health Agency staff member for further assessment, regardless of how they responded to questions. They also consider if a person is able to properly self-isolate or quarantine. The health agency said all ports of entry, including land borders, always have access to quarantine officers through a tele-health system. Only the 36 high-traffic sites will have that staff onsite. All travellers entering Canada are required to isolate if they have symptoms or quarantine for 14 days without signs of the virus. International arrivals must also complete a contact-tracing form and provide information to allow for physical checks that they are following isolation rules. People 'want it shut down'St. Stephen Mayor Allan MacEachern said he believes residents in his border community will feel safer with the new measures. "People knowing that is put in place, how people will try to bend the rules and try to sneak through even though they could be arrested, you don't know — they won't take that chance now," he said. The mayor said his town is in a "tough situation" with the shutdown with families divided and daily life disrupted. St. Stephen also relies on a steady flow of American tourists at its businesses. Despite close ties with neighbouring Calais, Maine, fears over COVID-19 are prompting calls for the closure to continue."Walking on the street or reading comments on Facebook, you can definitely see people want it shut down, they really do want it shut down," MacEachern saidTravel restrictions helpingFurness said travel restrictions — despite some flare-ups — have been largely effective at preventing the spread of the virus from the U.S. and internationally. But the risk remains."It doesn't take that many people to cause a lot of COVID," he said. "I mean one person can spark a whole outbreak."In February and March, CBSA officials began asking screening questions and taking temperatures sporadically.Those measures do little to catch asymptomatic individuals. Furness said he'd like to see the use of pulse oximeters, a device that checks how much oxygen is dissolved in blood. That level could indicate decreased lung capacity and the possibility of having COVID-19. The infection control epidemiologist said the key measure of how well governments are managing the crisis is looking at the response when a case gets through. "The one thing to be afraid of is someone presents at the hospital, they've got COVID, and they have no idea how they got it," he said. "That's what's scary."

  • Furniture stores have no shortage of customers. The same can't be said for the appliances
    Lifestyle
    CBC

    Furniture stores have no shortage of customers. The same can't be said for the appliances

    With their supply chain interrupted by the pandemic — and an unusually large number of customers eager to open their wallets for things like freezers, washers and dryers — furniture stores in the St. John's area are struggling to keep up."People are coming in. We have lineups at the store. It's been great," said Dan Mercer, appliance manager at Atlantic Home Furnishings in Mount Pearl.But while there's no shortage of customers — many of them turning their attention to their homes as the COVID-19 pandemic wears on — the same can't be said for appliances."I've got containers of product on order of the basic products; I don't know when I'm going to see it. There's no ETA on it," added Mercer."The supply and demand chain has actually switched. There's more demand for product than it is supply."That's bad news for people like Maxine Tucker, a decorator for the annual dream home lottery organized by the N.L. chapter of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association.She's decorated two dozen dream homes over the years, spending about $40,000 each time on everything from rugs and lamps to ovens to bedroom and living room suites. Every product that goes into the dream home is of the best quality.But her visit to Cohen's Home Furnishings in St. John's on Friday was an exercise in frustration."Usually we come in and the product is available immediately. Now there's quite a wait," she said."Right now we are very limited to the amount of stock that's here. We're very limited to the appliances."The dream home has to be ready for this fall, when tickets go on sale, and Tucker is crossing her fingers that she'll accomplish her mission."Hopefully we'll meet our goal. If not I'm in trouble. The appliance people are really going out of their way to get us the product that we need. If not they're substituting."Factories slowing ramping up productionIt's a perfect storm for those in the furniture and flooring business.Beginning in March, the pandemic forced the closure of factories throughout the world, and most furniture stores in this province either closed their doors completely, or scrambled to offer online services and things like curbside pick-up.At around the same time, there was an unprecedented run on items like freezers as people began stocking up on food supplies, and washers and dryers became hot commodities because of the increased emphasis on sanitization in this new era of COVID-19.With public health measures slowly being relaxed, the industry is slowly coming back online, but things are far from normal.While Cohen's has been receiving shipments, and can meet the needs of most customers, "it's been difficult obtaining inventory from our suppliers," said Kim Dwyer, who sources appliances, electronics and flooring for Cohen's, which operates 13 stores throughout the province.With shoppers eager to part with their money after months of being asked to shelter in their homes, appliance specialists like Mercer and Dwyer can only shake their heads at the unprecedented scenario."We've been extremely busy," said Dwyer."I think what's happened is that customers are at home more so they're wanting to change things at home like furnishings and appliances and flooring, so we've had an influx of people interested in purchasing new things for their home."'I haven't seen anything like it before'"I haven't seen anything like it before," added Mercer, who's been in the furniture sales business for 25 years.Mercer took receipt of eight new upright freezers on Thursday. What's unique about that? Well they were ordered in April. And they were all gone by Friday afternoon."It's the same with washers. I had a shipment in (Wednesday). They'll be gone by the end of the weekend. It's impossible to get the product," he said.With shipments from factories throughout North America and around the world gradually increasing, the situation is slowly improving. But anyone looking to purchase a new freezer to preserve their fall berries or codfish from the recreational fishery may be out of luck. Those looking for that special model of washer and dryer may have to lower their expectations and go with another option.That's because wait times that used to be four to six weeks have now grown to eight to 12 weeks. For for those really special orders, it could take months before it arrives.Thankfully, prices have remained stable, said Erika Barrow-Barmak, who buys furniture and bedding for Cohen's."We don't know exactly what is going to come down the pike, especially as maybe some supplies are harder to source and find. But as of right now we are very lucky that we have not had to absorb any extra costs and pass that on to the customer," said Barrow-Barmak.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

  • St. Francis Xavier University wants students to sign COVID-19 liability waiver
    News
    CBC

    St. Francis Xavier University wants students to sign COVID-19 liability waiver

    Students at a Nova Scotia university must sign a COVID-19 liability waiver in order to attend classes in the fall.St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish is offering a mixture of online and in-person classes in the fall semester.The university's board of governors sent the waiver to students. By signing, students give up the right to sue the university for any "loss, damage, illness, sickness, expense or injury including death … as a result of COVID-19 risks."It applies to all activities and locations at the campus, as well as any off-campus locations where St. FX activities — like research, recreational activities or sporting events — take place.But fourth-year psychology student Juliana Khoury said many students are feeling pressured since they must sign the waiver by Aug. 1 or have their student account suspended, and class registration also just began.She said St. FX isn't offering enough classes online for those who are not comfortable going back to campus, so the waiver is essentially forcing all students to sign it or take a gap year.Khoury said she's heard from many students who are immunocompromised or have loved ones who are, and they would prefer to learn from a distance."I would really like to see more online options so that students can make a real choice. And then the waiver wouldn't be a problem, because it would be a true choice made by the students," she said."And so then, like any other waiver, the students would be signing it acknowledging that the choice they have made comes with elevated risk."To graduate, Khoury herself needs 10 courses next year and only one is being offered online.Waivers not always 'airtight'Halifax law expert Wayne MacKay has observed that such waivers seem to be popping up more and more."It seems that's now becoming a more common thing," said MacKay, professor emeritus at Dalhousie University's Schulich School of Law. "And, obviously, the risks are particularly difficult to deal with because there's still so many things we don't know about COVID-19."MacKay said it's a way for the university to get some legal protection, but he said the document is not necessarily "airtight" if someone tries to take the university to court."The starting assumption is that you're bound by the contract," he said. "But in most waivers of liability, the courts would be very reluctant to interpret that to include a situation where there was negligence or bad conduct on the part of, in this case, the university."The waiver has a clause specifically referring to negligence. MacKay said broader language means better protection for the university, but that doesn't make it unlimited."But in spite of that fairly clear language, I think a court could still, in an extreme case, say that the waiver doesn't cover it," MacKay said.The Halifax Regional Municipality has also included a liability waiver for summer camps, but MacKay said there's a "big difference" when adults sign waivers for themselves."The courts have been much more willing to go beyond the waiver partly because it's parents acting on behalf of their children, not the children themselves making the choice," he said.MacKay said it's crucial for the person signing the contract to read it in full to understand what they're giving up.'A choice for students'Andy Hakin, St. FX's president, sent an email to the school community Sunday. It addressed concerns about the waiver and provided more context.The waiver, he said, is just one piece of the university's overall risk-management approach during the pandemic.The university was told by its insurers that insurance companies will not provide pandemic-related coverage by the end of the year.Hakin said reopening campus would never be a "zero-risk scenario" when it comes to COVID-19, and the university is working hard to prepare for the fall semester with new protocols in place."The waiver, by no means, absolves the university of doing everything it can to meet the standards expected by public health.… If, at any time, we believe we cannot maintain the health and safety standards prescribed by our public health experts, we will not proceed," he said.These types of waivers are not unusual at the university, Hakin said. They do not impact any student's existing health coverage.Students must sign the waiver in order to return to campus, but Hakin said there are other "mandatory behavioural expectations" for students related to COVID-19."Ultimately, this is a choice for students.… These documents are extraordinary measures implemented due to the extraordinary times we are navigating," he said.Student union proposes two-way agreementSarah Elliott, president of the StFX Students' Union, said she's heard from many students frustrated about the waiver and few number of online classes.She said their union is meeting with the school's vice-president academic to make sure online or different styles of learning can be accessible for students.Elliott also said the union has begun the process to draft a memorandum of understanding involving expectations for both students and the St. FX administration.It would not be a legal document like the waiver, but would hold the school accountable as they ask students to do the same, Elliott said."So instead of being kind of a one-sided thing, it will be both of us working together to make sure that we'll be upholding the safety measures," she said.After the memorandum is signed, Elliott said their next step is making sure there's more consultation of all students across campus so "no student feels like their voice isn't being listened to."MORE TOP STORIES

  • Homeless advocates slam Oshawa's decision to pay $100K for private security downtown
    News
    CBC

    Homeless advocates slam Oshawa's decision to pay $100K for private security downtown

    Anti-homelessness advocates in Oshawa are raising the alarm over the city's decision to pay a private security firm $100,000 to patrol the downtown core."One hundred thousand dollars could pay for a lot of hours of counselling, drug and alcohol treatment, psychological treatment, shelter spaces," said Christeen Thornton, executive director of DIRE, an anti-poverty group. "All this is going to do is worsen the relations between an already extremely marginalized group and the city."On June 9, city council approved a motion to hire CDN Protection Limited for three months. The contract began July 1. The motion, put forward by Ward 3 Coun. Bradley Marks, argued there has been an increase in drug use, vandalism, graffiti and "public defecation" during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with an "increase of unsheltered people in the downtown."So the security company was hired to "keep people aware of some of the bylaws that may be infracted in the downtown core," Marks explained.Marks told CBC Toronto that without regular traffic in and around the downtown area because of COVID-19 restrictions, people experiencing homelessness, substance abuse and mental health issues "were highlighted in an even more unfavourable light.'Where are we asking people to go?'"Nobody had any malice in their hearts toward any of the people who are down there," Marks added. "It's just that we needed to create a welcoming atmosphere to all of the people of Oshawa, not just the people who are suffering from addictions, for instance." But Sandra McCormack, executive director of Denise House, a shelter for women fleeing violence and abuse, believes the plan is "missing some pieces."What is the second part to that," she asked. "Where are we asking people to go and how are we supporting them?"The president of CDN Protection Limited, Andrew Clarke, says while the private security firm makes it a priority to connect people on the streets with resources in the region, like local hubs, health services and emergency shelter spots, doing that is not always possible.Kevlar, batons and guard dogs"We have a job to do; we're not outreach workers. I know some people have difficulty getting into shelters — we hear about that all the time — but that is where we would direct them." Clarke said. He adds that his company has built a relationship with the local community through volunteering security services to downtown missions, reversing multiple overdoses using Naloxone and generally taking a non-confrontational approach while on patrol.In fact, Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter says one of the reasons CDN Protection Limited was chosen was because of their training in de-escalation and emergency medical aid.But Thornton questions whether uniformed private guards should be providing these services in the first place — especially a company that has used guard dogs to escort people experiencing homelessness off private property in the past. The mayor says CDN Protection Limited guards will not use dogs when on the city contract.Thornton argues, however, that it makes little difference since the CDN guards are already known among those experiencing homelessness in the city for patrolling in protective Kevlar vests, with batons and guard dogs while carrying out private contracts."Even police officers who walk the beat don't have huge dogs. It sends a message to people on the streets that they're not welcomed here," she said.Oshawa council also voted this year to extend a pilot program called Welcoming Streets, in which a community outreach worker pairs with a health professional to get people experiencing homelessness into shelters or to get them other kids of support they need.The mayor, who has experienced homelessness himself in the past, said at the time it was part of a comprehensive approach the city is taking. "That's what we need to be looking at," Thornton argued. Fear or compassion?Coun. Derek Giberson, who represents a downtown ward, acknowledges that individuals on the streets struggling with mental health and addictions may feel traumatized, cornered and intimidated by uniformed guards. But he says there are times when the skill-set of a community worker or nurse isn't enough.Giberson says the community workers at the Back Door Mission, a community space he helps run, have reported feeling safer with CDN guards on patrol.There are situations, he argues,  in which security guards need to help deal with people who may become belligerent or refuse to comply.Thornton, however, says she is a "5' 1", 130 lbs soaking wet woman" who has worked effectively with people experiencing homelessness for years."I think the city should assess whether their approach is coming from a place of fear or coming from a place of compassion."

  • Hong Kong leader says pro-democracy 'protest' vote might have violated new security laws
    News
    Reuters

    Hong Kong leader says pro-democracy 'protest' vote might have violated new security laws

    Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Monday that an unofficial city-wide election conducted by the pro-democracy camp over the weekend might have violated new national security laws by "subverting state power". The weekend election drew more than 600,000 votes, in what democrats described as a symbolic protest vote against tough new laws imposed by Beijing on the freewheeling former British colony. The vote at around 250 polling stations was held to decide the strongest pro-democracy candidates to contest key Legislative Council elections in September.

  • With new name and album, The Chicks' voices ring loud again
    Entertainment
    The Canadian Press

    With new name and album, The Chicks' voices ring loud again

    NASHVILLE — The Dixie Chicks are no more. Breaking their ties to the South, The Chicks are stepping into a new chapter in their storied career with their first new music in 14 years.The Texas trio of Emily Strayer, Martie Maguire and Natalie Maines have been teasing new music for a year, and “Gaslighter” finally drops on July 17 when the nation is embroiled in divisive politics, cancel culture and a racial reckoning.“It just seemed like a good reflection on our times,” said Maines. “In 20 years, we’ll look back at that album cover and title and remember exactly what was going on in the country right then.”“Gaslighter” is a term that describes a psychological abuser who manipulates the truth to make a person feel crazy. In recent years, it’s been used to describe powerful men like Harvey Weinstein or Donald Trump.“I think most everybody has a gaslighter in their lives somewhere,” said Strayer. “But, yeah, it was so weird how it echoes our current administration.”As the bestselling female group in RIAA history, The Chicks appealed to a generation of country fans who saw themselves in the band’s stories, whether it was “Wide Open Spaces” or “Cowboy Take Me Away.” Their first major label record in 1998 has sold 13 million copies in the U.S. alone.With Maguire on fiddle and Strayer on banjo, they were all steeped in bluegrass and classic country, but relished in fun country pop on crossover songs like “Goodbye Earl.” They were country music’s next big thing until suddenly the door was slammed on them.In 2003, as then-President George Bush was preparing to invade Iraq, the trio were playing a show in London when Maines announced they were ashamed that the president was from Texas.The fallout became country music lore, a warning to stay away from political talk, especially of the liberal kind. They were booed on awards shows, radio stations pulled their music and fans destroyed their CDs. Maguire only recently showed her daughters the 2006 documentary called “Shut Up and Sing,” that showed how the backlash affected them behind the scenes.Maguire feared her 11-year-old might be too young for some of the material, which included death threats.Instead, her social media-savvy daughters were confused by the reaction to Maines’ tame comments compared to today's vitriolic criticism.“And it was just funny hearing 16- and 11-year-olds going, ‘Why? What? Wait. She said that? And people got so mad?’” said Maguire.The trio are all now parents of teenagers when youth activists are taking the lead on gun control, climate change and racial inequality. Their song, “March March,” which was released the same day they announced they were dropping the word Dixie from their name, was inspired by student-led gun control demonstrations in 2018.On “Juliana Calm Down,” their daughters and nieces are name-checked in a song that encourages young women to keep their heads held high when struggling through life’s obstacles. Maines speaks to her two teenage boys on “Young Man,” a song for all those divorced parents who feel like they’ve let down their kids.Hit pop songwriter Justin Tranter, who has co-written hits for Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and Lady Gaga, helped The Chicks co-write some of the album's most raw, vulnerable break up songs, including “Sleep At Night."“Some of those pre-choruses are not songs,” said Tranter. “Natalie was just talking and I was literally writing down what she was saying and then I found a way to put it to a melody.”“Gaslighter” was recorded and co-written with Jack Antonoff, a Grammy-winning producer-artist known for recording with Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey and Lorde. He pushed them to use their core strength, the three-part harmonies backed by fiddle and banjo, in new ways.Their last album, 2006's “Taking The Long Way,” earned five Grammys, including album of the year, and won over masses of fans who never listened to them before. But it’s unlikely the fans who turned their back on The Chicks 17 years ago are going to feel any different about their return.When The Chicks and Beyoncé performed at the Country Music Association Awards in 2016, a vocal minority unleashed their anger on social media at the idea that both artists would be invited to perform.Although their fallout occurred before Twitter or Facebook, The Chicks have a unique viewpoint on the rise of cancel culture, when prominent people are attacked online in an almost mob mentality.“On one hand, you know, it’s freeing now. People just are way more vocal," said Maines. "But then the downside is one slip up, one major slip up, and no publicist can make that go away.”Maines said for movements like MeToo, those speaking out online held people accountable. “And you can’t silence or quiet them when you’ve got so many women coming forward."The phrase “shut up and sing” is still used as a weapon against women, minorities and anyone straying from their musical lane. But The Chicks think younger music fans don’t adhere to that idea.“There’s not a whole lot of respect anymore if you’re just going to smile and entertain,” Maines said. “They want you to have a point of view.”Kristin M. Hall, The Associated Press

  • California shuts down businesses, schools as coronavirus outbreak grows
    News
    Reuters

    California shuts down businesses, schools as coronavirus outbreak grows

    California's governor on Monday clamped new restrictions on businesses as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations soared, and the state's two largest school districts, in Los Angeles and San Diego, said children would be made to stay home in August. Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, ordered bars closed and restaurants, movie theaters, zoos and museums across the nation's most populous state to cease indoor operations. "It's incumbent upon all of us to recognize soberly that COVID-19 is not going away any time soon, until there is a vaccine and/or an effective therapy," Newsom said at a news briefing.

  • US rejects nearly all Chinese claims in  South China Sea
    News
    The Canadian Press

    US rejects nearly all Chinese claims in South China Sea

    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration escalated its actions against China on Monday by stepping squarely into one of the most sensitive regional issues dividing them and rejecting outright nearly all of Beijing’s significant maritime claims in the South China Sea.The administration presented the decision as an attempt to curb China’s increasing assertiveness in the region with a commitment to recognizing international law. But it will almost certainly have the more immediate effect of further infuriating the Chinese, who are already retaliating against numerous U.S. sanctions and other penalties on other matters.It also comes as President Donald Trump has come under growing fire for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, stepped up criticism of China ahead of the 2020 election and sought to paint his expected Democratic challenger, former Vice-President Joe Biden, as weak on China.Previously, U.S. policy had been to insist that maritime disputes between China and its smaller neighbours be resolved peacefully through U.N.-backed arbitration. But in a statement released Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. now regards virtually all Chinese maritime claims outside its internationally recognized waters to be illegitimate. The shift does not involve disputes over land features that are above sea level, which are considered to be "territorial" in nature.“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire,” Pompeo said. “America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law. We stand with the international community in defence of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose 'might makes right' in the South China Sea or the wider region.”Although the U.S. will continue to remain neutral in territorial disputes, the announcement means the administration is in effect siding with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, all of which oppose Chinese assertions of sovereignty over maritime areas surrounding contested islands, reefs and shoals.“There are clear cases where (China) is claiming sovereignty over areas that no country can lawfully claim,” the State Department said in a fact sheet that accompanied the statement.In a statement Monday night from its embassy in Washington, China accused the State Department of “deliberately distorting the facts and international law.” It added that the U.S. “exaggerates the situation in the region and attempts to sow discord between China and other littoral countries. The accusation is completely unjustified. The Chinese side is firmly opposed to it.”China also accused the U.S. of interfering in disputes in which it was not directly involved and “throwing its weight around in every sea of the world.”“We advise the US side to earnestly honour its commitment of not taking sides on the issue of territorial sovereignty, respect regional countries’ efforts for a peaceful and stable South China Sea and stop its attempts to disrupt and sabotage regional peace and stability,” the embassy statement said.The U.S. announcement came a day after the fourth anniversary of a binding decision by an arbitration panel in favour of the Philippines that rejected China's maritime claims around the Spratly Islands and neighbouring reefs and shoals.China has refused to recognize that decision, which it has dismissed as a “sham,” and refused to participate in the arbitration proceedings. It has continued to defy the decision with aggressive actions that have brought it into territorial spats with Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia in recent years.However, as a result, the administration says China has no valid maritime claims to the fish- and potentially energy-rich Scarborough Reef, Mischief Reef or Second Thomas Shoal. The U.S. has repeatedly said that areas regarded to be part of the Philippines are covered by a U.S.-Philippines mutual defence treaty in the event of an attack on them.In addition to reiterating support for that decision, Pompeo said China cannot legally claim the James Shoal near Malaysia, waters surrounding the Vanguard Bank off Vietnam, the Luconia Shoals near Brunei and Natuna Besar off Indonesia. As such, it says the U.S. will regard any Chinese harassment of fishing vessels or oil exploration in those areas as unlawful.The announcement came amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and China over numerous issues, including the coronavirus pandemic, human rights, Chinese policy in Hong Kong and Tibet and trade, that have sent relations plummeting in recent months.But the practical impact wasn't immediately clear. The U.S. is not a party of the U.N. Law of the Sea treaty that sets out a mechanism for the resolution of disputes. Despite that, the State Department noted that China and its neighbours, including the Philippines, are parties to the treaty and should respect the decision.China has sought to shore up its claim to the sea by building military bases on coral atolls, leading the U.S. to sail its warships through the region in what it calls freedom of operation missions. The United States has no claims itself to the waters but has deployed warships and aircraft for decades to patrol and promote freedom of navigation and overflight in the busy waterway.Last week, China angrily complained about the U.S. flexing its military muscle in the South China Sea by conducting joint exercises with two U.S. aircraft carrier groups in the strategic waterway. The Navy said the USS Nimitz and the USS Ronald Reagan, along with their accompanying vessels and aircraft, conducted exercises “designed to maximize air defence capabilities, and extend the reach of long-range precision maritime strikes from carrier-based aircraft in a rapidly evolving area of operations.”China claims almost all of the South China Sea and routinely objects to any action by the U.S. military in the region. Five other governments claim all or part of the sea, through which approximately $5 trillion in goods are shipped every year.Matthew Lee And Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press

  • Exclusive: Canadian firms warn over Mexico energy policy at dawn of trade deal
    News
    Reuters

    Exclusive: Canadian firms warn over Mexico energy policy at dawn of trade deal

    As Mexico celebrated a new trade deal with the United States and Canada on July 1, a group of Canadian energy investors warned their government that Mexico could already be violating the agreement for failing to respect contracts. In a letter to Canada's Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and other officials, four companies voiced concern their Mexican investments were under threat and urged the government to press Mexico on the matter. The letter, seen by Reuters, adds to evidence of frustration among investors over energy policy under the administration of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador just as Mexico is trying to revive its battered economy from the impact of coronavirus.

  • Trudeau apologizes for not staying out of WE decision
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    Canadian Press Videos

    Trudeau apologizes for not staying out of WE decision

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he didn't know how much money his relatives had made speaking at WE organization events, but he should have. And he should have fully recused himself from the decision to have WE Charity run a $900-million volunteering program for students who can't find work in the COVID-19 pandemic.