With meteorologist Jessie Uppal.
With meteorologist Jessie Uppal.
Canada added a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine to its pandemic-fighting arsenal on Friday, approving Johnson & Johnson's product a week after it was authorized in the United States. That gives Canada four distinct vaccines — along with Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca — and it adds flexibility to the country's plan to immunize the majority of its residents by September. Health Canada includes a fifth vaccine, Covishield, which is a separate brand name for doses of the AstraZeneca product made at the Serum Institute of India. The U.S.-based Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for emergency use on Feb. 27. Canada has already secured 10 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine through previous negotiations with the company, with the option to buy another 28 million. The 10 million pre-purchased doses will be delivered before September, but they're not expected to start flowing into Canada until at least April. Here's what we know about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine: HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT? Johnson & Johnson announced promising results from its Phase 3 clinical trials at the end of January, suggesting its vaccine reduced severe COVID-19 disease by 85 per cent, and prevented 100 per cent of COVID-related hospitalization or death. The vaccine had a 72 per cent efficacy in preventing COVID infections after 28 days in the company's U.S. trials. The efficacy dropped to 66 per cent when averaging in results from other global trials, including a South African study that factored in more transmissible variants of the COVID virus. An FDA report last month said the vaccine was 64 per cent effective in preventing infection in South Africa about a month after the vaccines were administered. Pfizer and Moderna showed 95 per cent efficacy in their respective trials, but those were both tested against previous dominant strains of the virus and didn't account for the variants that have popped up since. Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca also had zero hospitalizations and deaths in their trials. The FDA report said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was similarly effective across age, race and people with comorbidities. The agency added that effectiveness appeared to be lower (42.3 per cent after one month) in people over 60 with comorbidities such as diabetes or heart disease. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THIS VACCINE? The potential ease of distribution offered by a one-and-done shot, and its ability to be stored in a regular fridge are among its biggest strengths. Vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca all require two doses. Johnson & Johnson's vaccine can be stored in a regular fridge for up to three months, the company says. Pfizer's vaccine initially required ultra-cold storage temperatures between -60 C and -80 C, though Health Canada said this week it could be stored in a regular freezer for up to 14 days. Moderna's vaccine can also be stored at regular freezer temperatures while AstraZeneca can be stored in a fridge. WHAT KIND OF VACCINE TECHNOLOGY IS USED? Unlike the mRNA technology used in Pfizer and Moderna's products, Johnson & Johnson is a non-replicating viral vector vaccine similar to AstraZeneca's. That means it uses a different harmless virus, which can't copy itself, as a vector to give our cells the instructions they need to make the coronavirus's spike protein. The immune system recognizes the protein and makes antibodies, which then allow us to fend off attack from the same virus if exposed in the future. WERE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS NOTED? No specific safety concerns were identified in participants of the trials, regardless of age, race and comorbidities. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, said in a press conference Friday that almost 20 per cent of participants in the Johnson & Johnson trials were 65 years of age and older, and "no differences in safety or efficacy were seen compared to the younger groups." The FDA said the most common reported side effects were headache and fatigue, followed by muscle aches, nausea and fever. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
NASA's Mars rover Perseverance has taken its first, short drive on the surface of the red planet, two weeks after the robot science lab's picture-perfect touchdown on the floor of a massive crater, mission managers said on Friday. The six-wheeled, car-sized astrobiology probe put a total of 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) on its odometer on Thursday during a half-hour test spin within Jezero Crater, site of an ancient, long-vanished lake bed and river delta on Mars. Taking directions from mission managers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles, the rover rolled 4 meters (13.1 feet) forward, turned about 150 degrees to its left and then drove backward another 2.5 meters (8.2 feet).
Dysart et al council continued to kick the can on its service delivery review process last week, with township CAO Tamara Wilbee providing a thorough breakdown of seven key initiatives outlined by the consultancy firm hired to evaluate the municipality’s operations. Toronto-based firm StrategyCorp was enlisted last year to complete the review. They recently finished an extensive 215 page report, noting that some work and attention to the high-priority initiatives outlined within could represent, at minimum, around $700,000 in direct operating savings and new revenues for the township. The seven initiatives outlined by StrategyCorp centre around strategic planning and performance management; customer service; landfill strategy; recreation facilities; short-term rentals; the municipal sewage treatment plant; and bringing more digital infrastructure to Dysart’s public works department. Mayor Andrea Roberts was particularly excited about the potential for an overarching multi-year strategic plan. Council has already earmarked $25,000 this year to help with its development. “I want to get the plan finalized. It’s going to be beneficial for all staff, all councillors and Dysart council. Even going beyond this term, the next council will know what the priorities are,” Roberts said. Roberts noted she’d like to see a plan finalized by May 2022. Ward 4 Coun. John Smith said that while he is a “big believer” in the importance of establishing a strategic plan, he worried about the possible implications of this council essentially directing the township’s next council on several potential projects and initiatives. “It would be unfair of this council to harness next council in terms of restricting them in some fashion,” Smith said. Wilbee confirmed the document would be open to change, and suggested the municipality consider adopting recurring four-year planning cycles moving forward. While council were happy to hold off an any real discussion surrounding recreational facilities, Wilbee noted there are some big-ticket items on the horizon. The A.J. LaRue Arena is going to need significant capital investment within the next 10 years, the CAO explained. One area that drew significant discussion last week was short-term rentals. Wilbee noted that implementation of regulations could address community concerns and increase municipal revenues, which in turn would support costs involved with additional enforcement, education and tourism promotion. One of the suggestions outlined by StrategyCorp is to create a licensing fee for anyone who wishes to rent out their property. Roberts noted the regulation of short-term rentals has been a long standing issue across Haliburton County. She feels Dysart has the opportunity to be a leader on this front. Ward 3 Coun. Tammy Donaldson asked what benefits would come with the introduction of licensing fees. Roberts noted it could establish clear rules for operators regarding septic requirements, insurance, parking and fire safety. Donaldson said she has been researching this issue for close to four years, dating back to when she was chair of the municipality’s economic development committee, and feels the introduction of a license would be a mistake. “Short-term rentals bring more people to the area to experience what our area is all about,” Donaldson said. “In my opinion, licensing is not the answer to get homeowners educated to comply to different rules, as the majority do a good job of being respectful already.” While the majority of renters may be operating respectfully at present, Ward 2 Coun. Larry Clarke feels a small minority may be ruining it for the rest. “I get complaints about short-term rentals more than anything else. A lot of what I’m getting is about [these rentals] changing the nature of neighbourhoods. These people bought a lakefront home or cottage, and want to be a part of a community, but when they’ve got a transient community coming and going, many of them partiers, it creates a lot of dissatisfaction,” Clarke said. “A short-term rental property primarily [being used] for that purpose is a business. It’s not a residence, so it has to be looked at differently.” Deputy Mayor Pat Kennedy suggested the municipality could adopt a two-tier system, separating regular cottagers who rent out their property a couple of times a year from those who own simply to operate as a full-time rental. It was decided that council would invite iHost, an online platform, to discuss the merits of establishing an online licencing system for short-term rentals in Dysart. Wilbee said a special council meeting will be scheduled over the coming weeks to further debate the issue. Mike Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Haliburton County Echo
The Ontario government has introduced changes to the COVID-19 school screening protocol, now calling on students who display even a single symptom to stay home for at least 10 days, or until they have received a negative COVID-19 test result or been cleared by a health care professional. Since schools returned to in-person learning last month, students have been required to be screened for symptoms prior to entering the classroom. Those symptoms include: fever and/or chills; cough or barking cough; shortness of breath; decrease or loss of taste or smell; sore throat; difficulty swallowing; runny or stuffy/congested nose; pink eye; headache; digestive issues like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain; muscle aches; extreme tiredness; and falling down often. Previously, there was no set timeframe on how long students were expected to stay home if they displayed symptoms. Instead, parents were informed to continue screening children until such a time as their symptoms cleared up, or they received a negative COVID-19 test result. All Trillium Lakelands District School Board students and staff are required to screen for COVID-19 symptoms every morning before coming to school using the Ministry of Health’s Ontario COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Other safety measures implemented by the province include: all students from kindergarten to Grade 12 being required to wear a mask while at school and on the school bus; elementary students wearing masks outside during recess and breaks; secondary students outside on school property or leaving the property for breaks must wear a mask, and are not to congregate in groups larger than five and outside of their cohort. Also last week, the Ministry of Education announced plans to expand targeted COVID-19 testing for staff and students in all school boards across the province. “In addition to daily screening, masking and the other health and safety measures, targeted testing in schools is an important layer of protection that helps to limit the spread of COVID-19. Targeted testing will help ensure that our schools remain a safe environment for all to learn and work in,” a recent press release states. Targeted COVID-19 testing is voluntary for asymptomatic students and staff. Consent will be required from parents and guardians of students under the age of 18. All local COVID-19 information and updates can be found at tldsb.ca/covid19. Mike Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Haliburton County Echo
OTTAWA — A member of the Canadian Armed Forces has died in Afghanistan. The Defence Department says Master Warrant Officer Guy Adam Law was found dead in his quarters at the Canadian Embassy in Kabul on Feb. 25. A statement says the cause of death is under investigation and is being assessed as "non-operational." Law was originally from Saskatoon and had been working at the Embassy since last August as a facility operations and maintenance officer. He had joined the Armed Forces in 1991 and had deployed on four operational tours. The Defence Department says his body will return to Canada on March 7. "Our thoughts are with the family, friends and loved ones of Master Warrant Officer Law, and our focus remains on providing them support during this difficult time," the department said in a statement. "The Canadian Armed Forces is a family and it is heartbreaking when we lose one of our own. We stand together, we grieve together, and we will always remember them." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
HALIFAX — Nova Scotia welcomed Ottawa's go-ahead for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Friday as health officials geared up for the opening of the first of 10 community inoculation clinics across the province next week. Premier Iain Rankin called the approval of Canada's fourth vaccine a "positive step forward." "As you can see this is a very dynamic situation that is dependent on the federal government's regulatory approval process," Rankin said. "Our vaccine rollout is ramping up as more clinics open and we receive more doses from the federal government." Rankin confirmed that Nova Scotia would be adopting a 16-week interval between first and second shots as recommended by the national panel of vaccine experts, meaning all Nova Scotians who want vaccine will get one shot by the end of June. "We are committed to being ready to getting shots in arms when it is available," the premier said. He added the province's goal remains to achieve full immunity by this fall. Keeping with its aged-based approach to vaccine distribution, Nova Scotia will open community clinics for those 80 and over in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro on Monday. Clinics are also scheduled for Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth on March 15, and Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth on March 22. Frustrations mounted earlier this week when the province's appointment booking web page had to be temporarily taken off-line after traffic was double what had been anticipated. About 48,000 people aged 80 and over in the province are eligible to receive vaccinations. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said booking for new appointments would resume online and by telephone on Monday for those who were born between Jan.1 and April 30. Those with later birthdays will be informed when they can register later this month. "It is early days, and our supply is still limited, but we are on the cusp of rapidly expanding the volume of vaccine we'll get," Strang said. Officials said they would also have more specific details next week on the rollout of the 13,000 doses the province is receiving of the recently approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The shipment must be used by April 2 and is targeted for those aged 50 to 64 years. It will be administered starting March 15 at 26 locations. Health officials said that as of Thursday, they had administered 38,676 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, with 14,395 people having received a booster shot. Meanwhile, the province reported two new cases of COVID-19 Monday in the Halifax area. Health officials said one case involved a close contact of a previously reported infection and the other was under investigation. The province has 31 active reported cases of novel coronavirus. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press
History was likely made at the Haliburton BIA’s 2021 annual general meeting on Thursday evening [Feb. 11] as the organization announced it would be reducing its annual tax levy for downtown merchants. Luke Schell, board chair of the local BIA, admitted it had been a “strange year” for most downtown businesses, and that lower-than-expected expenses over the course of 2020 would allow the organization to give a break to their around 120 members this year. “What’s happened is we didn’t spend as much of our levy in the budget as we needed to last year, so for the first time in the [many years] of the BIA, our levy is going to be reduced,” Schell said. As well as paying property taxes to both the local and regional municipal councils, downtown businesses with a valid membership to their BIA also pay a levy to their downtown association. That money helps to pay for various events, programs and initiatives over the course of a year. For example, here in Haliburton, the local BIA organizes events such as the Frost Festival, Midnight Madness, Colourfest and the Santa Claus Parade. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of those events were cancelled last year. Nelly Ashworth, BIA treasurer, noted there was a surplus of $12,825 left over from the 2020 budget. She was hopeful that the BIA would have an opportunity to host some of its more popular events later in 2021. Mayor address Dysart et al mayor Andrea Roberts said she was “immensely proud” of the way the local business community had adapted during the ever-changing circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. “2020 was a really hard and strange year,” Roberts noted. “Some of you were busier than you ever have been, while others have been hurting immensely.” She noted that one of the “great successes” of 2020 was the extension of summer patios for downtown bars and restaurants. Roberts said she hoped to see those patios return again in 2021. New board member At the conclusion of the meeting, Schell noted that long-time board member Sharon Rowden, of Touch of Class Spa, would be vacating her seat following years of service. Mike McKeon, from Up River Trading Co. was the sole nominee to come forward to replace her. That means the 2021 BIA board consists of Schell [The Photo Shop], Ashworth [BMO], McKeon, Clay Glecoff [Glecoff’s Family Store], Brandon Nimigon [Century21], Brad Park [Foodland], Renzo Rosati [MooseFM], Andrea Wood-Roberts [Dysart et al council] and David Zilstra [Haliburton County Echo]. Schell paid homage to the outgoing Rowden in his closing remarks, while noting the impressive longevity of the local BIA’s board. “Sharon has been an incredible member – she’s sad that she’s had to step down, and so am I. One of the things she’s always done is the fall decorations. We’re really going to miss her,” Schell said. “That aside, I believe we have the longest running consistent executive committee in a long, long time in Haliburton. This is a great group that represents the BIA for all the right reasons. They are doing this because they are interested in the benefit of downtown Haliburton.” He concluded, “It has been another great year for the BIA. As a board, we all enjoy serving this community in this fashion. Here’s hoping for a positive year in 2021, and that hindsight really is 2020.” Mike Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Haliburton County Echo
Toronto police say they have suspended an officer following his arrest for an alleged indecent act in Whitby, Ont. Police in Durham Region said Tuesday that they received reports of a man committing an indecent act near an arena in Whitby. The force says a witness tried to confront the man but he drove off through a nearby parking lot. Police say they found him in his car and he was arrested. They say the 33-year-old is charged with committing an indecent act in a public place and dangerous operation of a conveyance. Toronto police say the officer has been with their force for six years and has been suspended with pay. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
It may have been short of participants, but truly the best pilots came out last weekend, for the first annual Cardboard Sled contest in Kanesatake. Panzer Wagon and Sweet Victory, two homemade cardboard vehicles, competed for the grand prize of $250 on Saturday, February 27. With a name like Sweet Victory, community member Tanner Etienne said he was 90 percent sure that he was going to win. And whether it was a premonition or just luck, the 12-year-old boy came in first against Kanehsata’kehró:non Sage and Nation Harrington. “I think I’m ready to go pro, I’m definitely the best out there,” said Etienne during his victory speech, after he congratulated his opponents. For Etienne, becoming a professional only took him a day of construction, some green spray paint and a Home Depot box. While they suffered some engine trouble during their hill run, the Harringtons’ green two-seater sled was a little bit more sophisticated, compared to the winning box. “We decided to make a Jeep at first, but it turned into something else,” explained the siblings. The Harringtons received $150 for second place, while the third prize was handed to the media outlet APTN. Journalist Jeff Dorn donated the $75 toward the Tsi Ronterihwanónhnha ne Kanien’kéha Language and Cultural Center. Co-organizer Al Harrington said that this year, he invited different media outlets to take part in the contest, as a way to strengthen the relationship between the community and the media. He explained that while the community has had bad experiences with the media’s tendency to focus on negative stories, this was the opportunity to share something positive. “Not all journalists and media are bad,” said Harrington. APTN was selected as the contest’s judge by default as they were the only media who responded with their own personalized cardboard sled. APTN journalist Sylvie Ambroise arrived in Kanesatake thinking she was taking part in a team activity, only to discover that she was the test pilot. “They told me there was a race and that we would all compete,” she said. “But then I realized I’m the one representing them all!” The APTN mobile’s Innu name, Ka Tshepennte Mishkumit, meaning fast on ice, could have dangerously competed against Etienne’s cardboard sled. Right before the competition, Dorn, the engineer behind the APTN sled, shared its secret tool and wondered how safe it was. “Lots and lots of tapes,” said Dorn with a laugh. “It may be fast, it might not be... We will see.” The lack of participants didn’t keep the smiles off everyone’s face during the event. All enjoyed hot chocolates and snacks sponsored by the Medicine Box, who also donated the monetary prizes. By the end of the afternoon, participants around the bonfire were secretly dreaming of their potential international bobsleigh careers while planning for their future vehicle creations. email@example.com Virginie Ann, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door
Asymptomatic testing for COVID-19 isn't expected to begin at schools in Windsor-Essex until at least March 19 — nearly a month after it was mandated to begin. That date is tentative, according to Stephen Fields, spokesperson for the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board (WECDSB), and could be different if circumstances change. The delay is due to complications caused by coordinating the testing plans with the local health unit and all four school boards, he said. The first site where testing will be carried out has yet to be determined. "Our plan is to identify particular neighbourhoods and select schools within those neighbourhoods where all students from that community can be tested regardless of which school board they attend," Fields explained in an email. Testing would be offered on a weekly basis and on an alternating schedule. "It might be at a WECDSB school one week, a GECDSB school the following week and CSCP the following week," Fields added. "As you can probably appreciate, in addition to ensuring that all of our information materials are offered in both of Canada's official languages, this takes some time and effort to coordinate." Education Minister Stephen Lecce sent a memo to larger school boards across the province in mid-February directing them to offer targeted testing in at least five per cent of their schools, reaching two per cent of their student populations weekly. The memo called for testing to begin in regions outside of Toronto, Peel and York as of Feb. 22. School testing was announced as modelling suggested COVID-19 variants could cause case numbers to rise, with Lecce referencing the initiative and stricter masking rules for young students as ways to keep cases low in Ontario classrooms. Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky has been pushing for local boards to start the voluntary testing as a way to protect students and staff. "There is evidence showing this would help stop the spread of COVID-19," she said in an interview with CBC Friday. "I think it's really dangerous and really unfortunate that the Minister of Education would put this perception out there that this is happening when it's not." When asked if the fact testing had not begun in Windsor-Essex schools was a concern, a spokesperson for Lecce did not answer the question directly. Instead, his office issued a statement saying the government has taken action to deploy asymptomatic testing and sees it as "an additional layer of protection in our schools." "We will continue to support our school board partners in deploying asymptomatic testing in their regions in a manner that best suits their local needs," added Caitlin Clark. 'Important to do it right' The COVID-19 lead for the WECDSB said she isn't "overly concerned" about to wait to start testing, pointing to the efforts of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit. "In the few cases that we have had since schools reopened they have been very quick to have testing take place with those cohorts that require testing," said Melissa Farrand, Superintendent of Education. WECDSB superintendent Melissa Farrand says local boards are working to get asymptomatic testing up and running.(Dan Taekema/CBC) The board is working to start testing as soon as possible, she said, but the number of other boards and the third-party vendor has meant juggling availability. "I think it's important to have a well-developed plan that is communicated effectively to all parties," said Farrand. "I would rather have a plan that is as collective, well thought out and developed, rather than rushing. so I think it's important to do it right." Outbreak at Bellewood Public School Representatives of Conseil Scolaire Catholique Providence, Conseil Scolaire Viamonde and the Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB), also confirmed testing has not begun and said the boards are still working with the vendor that will carry out testing. "I understand part of the delay is connected to the recent involvement of all 4 boards in the testing plan," wrote GECDSB spokesperson Scott Scantlebury in an email, adding that previously just the English public and Catholic boards were working together. Students in Windsor-Essex returned to class on Feb. 8. Since then, the WECDSB has had seven cases and no outbreaks or school closures, said Fields. Fourteen cases have been reported at GECDSB schools. There have been no school closures since the return to class, but an outbreak was declared at Bellewood Public School on Friday after one student and one staff member tested positive for the virus. "The school will remain open," said Scantlebury. "All affected students and staff have been notified."
Accidental handballs in the buildup to a teammate scoring will no longer lead to the goal being ruled out after the law was eased on Friday. The move by the International Football Association Board follows irritation in the game about how goals seem to be harshly ruled out since the law was changed two years ago. “After analyzing everything it was felt this was maybe one step too far," FIFA President Gianni Infantino said. "This was the perception of the public and the perception we had at IFAB. For this reason we amended this regulation. It’s not embarrassing or a climbdown." IFAB said an “accidental handball that leads to a teammate scoring a goal or having a goal-scoring opportunity will no longer be considered an offence.” On the eve of the virtual meeting, Fulham was denied an equalizer in its English Premier League match against Tottenham when Davinson Sanchez's clearance hit the hand of Fulham's Mario Lemina, whose arm was down the side of his body, before Josh Maja netted. “What happened yesterday is evidence that the decision taken today is correct, but it was not a reaction to the incident,” said Pierluigi Collina, the chairman of FIFA’s referee committee. Goals will still be ruled out if a player using their hand before or while scoring. But referees are being urged to “use their judgment” when assessing the position of hands and arms when a ball hits them. “As the interpretation of handball incidents has not always been consistent due to incorrect applications of the law, the members confirmed that not every touch of a player’s hand/arm with the ball is an offence,” IFAB said. Changes to the laws of the game take effect from July 1, although IFAB said competitions have the flexibility to introduce them sooner. Another thorny spinoff from the introduction of VAR in recent years is how forensic decisions are being taken on offsides with an array of dotted lines being used to assess the position of often blurred body parts. FIFA is trialling semi-automated offside mapping of the players and the pitch to provide an offside decision as quickly as technology determines if the ball has crossed the line by buzzing a referee's watch. “The fan experience is negatively impacted by waiting to see if a goal has been scored,” said English Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham, who holds one of the eight IFAB votes. IFAB also received a presentation from Arsene Wenger, the former Arsenal manager who is FIFA’s chief of global football development, on a proposal to change the offside law. He thinks a player should be deemed onside if any part of the body that can score is in line with the second-last defender. “We have been seeing that maybe we can think about a new law which allows a bit more attack in football,” Infantino said. IFAB also opened the door to the use of five substitutes being extended through the 2022 World Cup. The congested calendar due to the pandemic saw competitions last year permitted to give teams two additional substitutions in matches. That currently runs through July 2022 for national team competitions but IFAB said it will “remain under review.” ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Rob Harris, The Associated Press
The United States on Friday called China's moves to change the Hong Kong electoral system a direct attack on its autonomy and democratic processes and said Washington was working at "galvanizing collective action" against Chinese rights abuses. Earlier on Friday, Beijing proposed legislation that would tighten its increasingly authoritarian grip on Hong Kong by making changes to the electoral committee that chooses the city's leader, giving it new power to nominate legislative candidates. The measure, set to be approved during a week-long session of China's rubber-stamp parliament, would further marginalize a democratic opposition decimated after Beijing imposed national security legislation following anti-government protests that rocked Hong Kong in 2019.
Haliburton’s Friends of the Rail Trail [FoRT] are hoping to kick-start a brand new annual event. Pamela Marsales, a FoRT member, says the organization want to organize a family-friendly bike challenge that would take place during the second weekend in September. She spoke to Dysart Council last week to explain the group’s plans. “The event will be after Labour Day and before Hike Haliburton – we’re just sneaking in there [when] there’s nothing else happening in the village,” Marsales said. “We believe this could become a signature event for Dysart and Haliburton, and can be developed almost as a self-guiding tour.” The event itself was initially conceived around 10 years ago by Marsales herself, but a safe and complete route couldn’t be finalized. However, the opening of Barnum Creek Nature Reserve late in 2020 presented a new opportunity. Outlining a route, Marsales says participants would begin in downtown Haliburton, by the skate park, before climbing the Sky Slider path. Travelling through the woods, bikers would eventually reach Skyline Park and continue on to Skyline Park Road, turn onto Parish Line through ‘Four Corners’ and go to the end of Cowan Road. Entering Barnum Creek through a “back gate”, riders will then travel along forestry road before reaching the Heritage Hike marked trail. They will then exit Barnum Creek, onto a multi-use trail – the site of Haliburton’s oldest pioneer road. This eventually transitions into Gould Crossing Road and, later, the Haliburton County Rail Trail. Eventually, after crossing Gelert Road, participants will come out near Haliburton Highlands Secondary School, cross Highland Street, and complete their ride by travelling along the shore of Head Lake, coming to a final stop at Head Lake Park. “This is an opportunity to show how different routes in and around our community can be connected to create one big loop,” Marsales said. Various community groups have already voiced their support for the event, including the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust, Rails End Gallery, Sir Sam’s Ski/Ride and both the Real Easy Ryders Cycling Club and Haliburton Highlands Trekkers. The Haliburton Highlands Museum is also interested in taking part, largely in an attempt to shed some light on and educate participants on the various historical sites scattered throughout the loop. “The crazy history of the Sky Slider, the history of a pioneer farm in Barnum Creek, and of course the oldest road in Haliburton – the unopened road allowance between Cowan Road and Gould Crossing Road,” Marsales said. “The museum really wants to help convey some of our local history.” In operation since 2007, FoRT has regularly provided public programming to the community either free of charge, or for a nominal fee. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the group has had to cancel two seasons of its Sunday Rambles, which, Marsales says, is where they get most of their membership renewals. “This is a first-time fundraiser for us. We’ve been around for a lot of years, and have always provided public programming for free, or very affordably. If we ever had to do a ticketed event, it was designed to break-even because we wanted to welcome the greatest number of people,” she said. Marsales expects a registration fee for the ride will run around the $20 or $25 mark. All money raised will help support the Haliburton County Rail Trail Linear Park project. Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts said the event has some potential. “It seems a really great route… I’m sure it will be a very successful event. People will be looking forward to doing something fun like this in September,” Roberts said. Council directed township staff to assist FoRT with planning the event. Mike Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Haliburton County Echo
Mourners left flowers and hockey sticks outside the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre in Brantford, Ont., on Friday. The city is mourning Walter Gretzky, a fixture in the community, who died Thursday at age 82.
EDMONTON — A judge has ruled that an Alberta pastor will remain in jail until his trial this spring because religious beliefs are not above public health orders. James Coates with GraceLife Church, west of Edmonton, has been in jail for more than two weeks and was appealing his bail conditions. Coates is charged with violating Alberta's Public Health Act and with breaking a promise to abide by conditions of his bail release, which is covered under the Criminal Code. GraceLife Church has been holding services that officials say break public-health orders on attendance, masking and distancing. Queen's Bench Justice Peter Michalyshyn said in his decision Friday that public health laws remain valid and the pastor will stay in jail for eight more weeks until his trial begins in May. "The law that Mr. Coates clearly intends not to be bound by remains valid and enforceable against him. Mr. Coates's strongly held religious beliefs and convictions do not overcome those valid and enforceable laws," Michalyshyn said. Coates has said his religious convictions mean he cannot abide by a bail condition that he not conduct services. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor and said in a news release that it was disappointed with the judge's decision. "Pastor Coates is a peaceful Christian minister," said centre president John Carpay. "He should never have been required to violate his conscience and effectively stop pastoring his church as a condition to be released. Charter freedoms do not disappear because the government declares regular church services to be outlawed while allowing hundreds of people to fill their local Walmarts." Coates's lawyer, James Kitchen, told the judge on Thursday that a determination on whether Coates's charter rights are being violated should be made before he is jailed. "We are putting the cart before the horse, doing things backwards. This is a matter of deep, deep personal conscience and personal beliefs. He is compelled to obey the God he loves ... as are his congregants." The public-health prosecutor, who asked the court to address her only by her title because she is concerned for her safety, argued that the pastor's release is a danger to the public. The judge noted that Coates did not want the publication ban that is normally imposed on bail hearings. The church has continued to hold weekend services, even though Coates is in custody. Many gathered for a service last Sunday, as RCMP and Alberta Health Services monitored the situation. "Observations were again made that the church held a service beyond the designated capacity,'' the Mounties said in a news release. In an affidavit, Coates's wife Erin Coates told the judge that since he was taken into custody at the Edmonton Remand Centre, he has lost weight and can't sit for too long because of pain in his neck. "The days since February 16 have been very stressful for our two sons, aged 11 and 18," she said. "Many congregants of GraceLife rely on James for counselling regarding marriages and personal problems such as addictions. I have observed that many children at GraceLife Church are heartbroken that James is in jail. They are confused and concerned about him." More than 50 people were gathered outside the Edmonton courthouse on Thursday and prayed for Coates. Some held a banner that read #freejamescoates. The judge noted that dozens of others had tuned into the bail hearing online as well. Police fined the church $1,200 in December and a closure order was issued in January. Coates had been addressing the province's health restrictions in his sermons. He told worshippers that governments exist as instruments of God and there should be unfettered freedom of worship. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. --- This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press
A local performing arts theatre is looking to raise money to keep the lights on, doors open, and music live. The Mary Webb Centre for the Arts, located in the Village of Highgate, is a century-old round church with near-perfect acoustics. On any given night, music performers would play in front of sold-out crowds. The shows would engage and inspire performing and visual arts in partnership with the local community within a historic and architecturally significant heritage venue. Originally built as a Methodist Church in 1898, the Mary Webb Centre has always conquered adversity. From having the building burning down in 1917, to being rebuilt in 1918, to current-day challenges of furnaces no longer working, replacing a roof, stage and windows were redone, the centre has always found a way to keep the lights on. In April, the Mary Webb Centre for the Arts Board closed the doors and effectively stopped all programs taking place there. This includes scheduled performances by the WSO 14 Piece String Orchestra, Danny Michel, Paul Anthony and his CASH tribute, “Talent at the Webb,” and the Hotel California tribute to the Eagles and the Jim Cuddy Band (of Blue Rodeo fame). The last event at the MWC was one year ago, on March 7, when Rant Maggie Rant performed to a full house, back when most were still wondering if COVID-19 was something to be concerned about. However, with no visitors since then, there has been no revenue from shows, community events or the art gallery. With the shutdown of the live entertainment industry and without the revenue from concerts and art sales, the Mary Webb Centre’s budget has quickly become a challenging one to balance. “Numerous applications have been submitted to various government grants, but oddly and frustratingly, there seem to be no programs that a not-for-profit without paid staff can access,” said the centre’s Music Director and Chair of the Board of Directors, Peter Garapick. Nearly a year into a global pandemic, the Mary Webb Centre for the Arts is launching a collaborative campaign, Weave a Webb of Support, where everyone can help out a little to make a big difference. Weave a Webb of Support aims to familiarise donors with the centre’s ongoing expenses, even when the doors are closed. “The Mary Webb Centre for the Arts is very grateful for the community’s incredible support throughout the past year,” said Garapick. “The Mary Webb Centre is fully appreciative of these kind and gracious offerings. Thank you.” The Weave a Webb of Support campaign summarizes the 18 monthly and annual expenses and displays the cost per month for each. Supporters may choose an expense and the number of months for which they would like to pay. In total, there are 18 expenses and 12 months in a year, meaning 216 opportunities for donors to help pay the annual $30,000 a year worth of bills. Donors can make a contribution via cheque, eTransfer or in-person with cash. Those interested in donating are encouraged to visit www.marywebbcentre.ca for more information. Donations over $20 merit a tax receipt. In the meantime, during the past several months, many volunteers have spent several mornings working on the grounds of the centre. Together, they have trimmed all the dead and low lying branches on the trees in the back, cleaned up all of the brush around the trees and put it all through a chipper, spreading all the resulting material around the plants and rocks in the rock gardens at the front and sides of the centre. “Once restrictions are lifted, these volunteers will be ready to keep the centre as virus-free as possible so we can hopefully get back to what they do best, run concerts, morning and afternoon programs and other special events,” said Garapick. Garapick added at its recent meeting, the Marketing Committee has put forth many exciting ideas for the future. “We will let you know all the details as soon as we can. And of course, our wonderful art gallery is anxiously waiting to have in-person visitors, but everyone can virtually visit it now through our on-line marketplace on the Webb Site,” said Garapick. Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News
Hackers prevented the Williams Formula One team from giving fans a first glimpse of their car's new livery via an augmented reality app on Friday. Rendered images of the FW43B car were published instead with a predominantly blue, black and white look but few visible sponsors other than those linked to Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi. "It's a shame the Augmented Reality app got hacked and we couldn't use it because it was honestly really cool," said British driver George Russell, who later gave a demonstration on Twitter.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today he still has confidence in his defence minister despite the ongoing sexual misconduct scandal in the Canadian military — and despite testimony from a former ombudsman claiming Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan mishandled concerns about possible misconduct by Gen. Jonathan Vance. The prime minister also insisted again today that he did not know about allegations of inappropriate behaviour by the former chief of the defence staff until they were reported a month ago in the media. Women who were victims of sexual assault in the military have said they were disappointed and dismayed to hear Gary Walbourne, the former military ombudsman, tell MPs he warned Sajjan about the allegation against Vance in a private meeting three years ago, but that the minister refused to look at evidence presented by the ombudsman. One of those women — retired master corporal Stephanie Raymond — told Radio Canada she had lost confidence in Sajjan and called for him to resign or be fired. Others have expressed dismay that Sajjan has not been more forthcoming about what he knew and when regarding the allegations against Vance. "It is the responsibility of elected officials upon learning of allegations to ensure that they get followed upon appropriately, by responsible, independent officials and investigators," Trudeau said Friday. "That is exactly what we did in this situation." Walbourne said he raised an informal complaint about Vance in a private meeting with Sajjan on March 1, 2018. After that meeting with Walbourne, Sajjan notified the Privy Council Office (PCO), which is responsible for governor in council appointments such as the chief of the defence staff. The PCO in turn asked the former ombudsman for the complainant's name and details of the allegation. Then-Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance responds to a question during a news conference Thursday May 7, 2020 in Ottawa.(Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press) "The ombudsperson did not provide sufficient information to the officials in place to be able to follow up on these allegations," Trudeau said. Last month, CBC News reported that the PCO investigation into Vance was stymied by a lack of cooperation from Walbourne. Emails obtained by CBC News show a senior PCO official, Janine Sherman, tried over several months to convince the former ombudsman to hand over information, even after he explained the cloak of confidentiality that is supposed to be the hallmark of the watchdog's office. "The purpose of my call with you is not to complicate or overstep the processes in place for your office but to be able to better understand the nature of the complaint in order to provide advice to the Minister on next steps in his role of supporting the Prime Minister and the Governor in Council on appointments," Sherman wrote on March 6, 2018. "It is in respect of these responsibilities that the Minister has asked that you share information concerning the complaints with me. Given the sensitivity of this matter, I would appreciate having a quick call with you as soon as possible and can make myself available this evening or tomorrow at your convenience." In the same email thread, Walbourne said he could only cooperate if he had the written consent of the complainant — something he did not receive. Sherman said she "empathized" with his circumstances. During his testimony this week before the House of Commons defence committee, Walbourne said he had given the woman in question his assurance of confidentiality and had specifically asked the minister not to notify PCO. Vance is under investigation by military police for possible violations of the Code of Service discipline after media reports surfaced stating that he had a long-standing, inappropriate relationship with a female subordinate and that he had sent a racy email to another woman — a junior non-commissioned member. His successor as defence chief, Admiral Art McDonald, is also being investigated by military police after a misconduct allegation was raised. CBC News reported last week that a decade-old incident aboard HMCS Montreal, involving a junior officer and a party where alcohol was served, is at the centre of that investigation. McDonald is on leave with pay. An acting chief of the defence staff has been appointed. WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reacts to former ombudsman's allegation
CENTRE WELLINGTON – Pedestrian-only areas in downtown Elora and Fergus are going ahead this summer. Mayor Kelly Linton confirmed in a phone interview Friday the county has given all necessary approvals for weekend street closures, similar to last year in Centre Wellington. Last summer in downtown Elora, most of Metcalfe Street and Mill Street were closed to vehicles starting Saturday morning to Sunday evening. Linton said this was made easier with Badley Bridge closed and a traffic detour already in place but this year the newly constructed bridge will remain open to traffic. “We need to keep that connecting link open and keep the traffic flowing,” Linton said. “This year, we’re not going through that whole detour process but we’re going to be making sure that we put in barriers going into Elora so that there’s lots of room for people to move around.” This means traffic coming from south of the river will have to turn right down East Mill Street, which will remain open to vehicles. “We’re going to take out the parking there and expand the sidewalks so the businesses along East Mill can also benefit from additional pedestrian traffic,” Linton said. “We’re going to make sure there’s lots of signage to remind people that they can turn the corner and go to East Mill and frequent our restaurants and shops on East Mill but we need to keep that road open.” Fergus will also see pedestrian-only areas on weekends. Last year, a portion St. Andrew’s Street was closed to traffic on weekends but Linton said this didn't work out very well. Instead the town will do what they shifted to last year, which is closing Provost Lane for an expanded patio area. “Fergus BIA has some really exciting plans to make it even better than last year so people can come to downtown Fergus and have an outdoor dining experience,” Linton said. Kim Jefferson, Fergus BIA chair and owner of Joanie’s, explained they are investigating how to beautify Provost Lane. She said this could be done through “greening-up” concrete barriers, improving the garden area, adding more attractive garbage cans and installing permanent colourful sun shades as opposed to the blue umbrellas they had last year. Linton said a patio bylaw will be coming to Centre Wellington council this month that aims to allow restaurants to expand their patio into the street, using platforms similar to decks. “We want to have that feeling where people can have a streetside patio experience all throughout the summer, not just on weekends but during the week as well,” he said. Ultimately, Linton said he hopes they can replicate the “Old World European vibe” locals and visitors got to experience last summer and in turn help the businesses. “I don’t know how many comments I got from residents and visitors that Elora was such a great place to be and we want that to continue,” Linton said. “We want to do whatever we can to support our downtown restaurants, cafes and other shops in 2021.” Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com
Squamish Nation says the rollout of vaccines for its communities on the North Shore and in the Squamish Valley next week is a welcome “relief” for many of its residents. Vancouver Coastal Health and First Nations Health Authority confirmed this week that Squamish Nation will be receiving a first round of doses of COVID-19 vaccines for its community the week of March 8. “I think people are relieved and excited,” said Khelsilem, Dustin Rivers, spokesperson for Squamish Nation. “I know for our elders and a lot of our members who are vulnerable, they have had to really do their best to protect themselves, and to avoid COVID-19, and they are looking forward to having that extra layer of protection.” Khelsilem said the nation was hoping around 600 members would be vaccinated in the first round of doses, but it would depend on the supply they are given. The first community members who will get the vaccine are elders 65+ and those with serious underlying health conditions, including people living with a compromised immune system. Khelsilem said once elders have their appointments booked, Yúustway Health and Wellness will continue booking vaccination appointments based on age, starting with those ages 55-64, then ages 45-54 etc., until all of the vaccine has been used. “We're encouraging people to get the vaccine, but we welcome any members that might have concerns or questions,” he said. “They can talk to their doctor, if they feel that's an option, but they can also talk to our health nurse and our staff to address any concerns that they might have about the vaccine.” He wanted to remind community members that this is only the first of several vaccine shipments to the nation and they are planning on holding clinics in the coming months to vaccinate all nation members who want to receive the vaccine. “We anticipate that most of the community or many community members are going to access it when they have the opportunity too,” Khelsilem said. Yúustway Health and Wellness will be scheduling clients by appointment only for the COVID-19 vaccine at clinics in the Squamish Valley at the Totem Hall, 1380 Stawamus Rd., and on the North Shore at the Chief Joe Mathias Centre, 100 Capilano Rd., West Vancouver. Appointments will begin at Totem Hall on Tuesday (March 9) and the Chief Joe Mathias Centre on Wednesday (March 10). Members unable to attend an on-reserve clinic, Indigenous people ages 65+, can book an appointment close to their residence starting March 8. The nation has listed further details on how to contact clinics and make appointments in a notice on its website. Elisia Seeber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News