Highlights of this day in history: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre; Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini calls on Muslims to kill author Salman Rushdie; Slobodan Milosevic begins his defense against war crimes charges; Dolly the cloned sheep dies. (Feb. 14)
Highlights of this day in history: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre; Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini calls on Muslims to kill author Salman Rushdie; Slobodan Milosevic begins his defense against war crimes charges; Dolly the cloned sheep dies. (Feb. 14)
Several provinces were preparing to loosen COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday, as Canada's chief public health officer expressed optimism over vaccines ahead of the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 crisis.The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic last March 11, and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said it's been a difficult 12 months marked by hardship and sacrifice."Yet, as the months have gone by, I have also witnessed the remarkable courage, strength, and generosity demonstrated by Canadians," she wrote in a statement."Through it all, it is the incredible support that Canadians have shown for one another that has impressed me the most."Tam expressed optimism that brighter days were coming, thanks to the recent approvals of the Johnson & Johnson and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines."This week has been a very good week for Canada's COVID-19 vaccination programs," she wrote.The anniversary comes as all provinces are expanding their mass vaccination programs and some are loosening restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the virus.Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick are among the provinces preparing to lift restrictions on Monday after weeks of stable or declining cases. A stay-at-home order in Ontario's Toronto, Peel and North Bay regions will lift on Monday, while five Quebec regions, including Quebec City, will be downgraded from red to orange on the province's colour-coded regional alert system.All of New Brunswick will transition to the less-restrictive "yellow" alert level Sunday at midnight, meaning residents can expand their contacts from 10 to 15 people and team sports activities may resume.Canada's two biggest cities will remain under fairly strict restrictions, however. Toronto — and neighbouring Peel Region — will enter the "grey lockdown" category, which will allow more retailers to open, with restrictions, but leaves gyms, personal care services and indoor restaurant dining closed.The greater Montreal region remains a red zone, which means an 8 p.m. curfew is still in effect.Tam said the addition of the two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster and help ease the worries surrounding supply disruptions or setbacks.In a long message, Tam said it is not that it is not possible to directly compare the efficacy of different vaccines to one another."Each vaccine was studied in a separate trial conducted at different times, using different populations and conditions," she wrote.She said the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, manufactured by Janssen, was shown to be 66 per cent effective overall in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, while the AstraZeneca vaccine was found to have an efficacy of 62 per cent in generally preventing "symptomatic COVID-19." Both vaccines, she said, were found to protect against severe disease, meaning that those who got COVID-19 after the shot were much less likely to get seriously ill. Currently, Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization does not recommend that the AstraZeneca vaccine be given to those aged 65 or over due to limited data, but Tam stressed that the recommendations could change.She noted both the new vaccines are easier to transport than those produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which require freezer storage. With Canada set to receive more than 900,000 COVID-19 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines this week, many provinces are ramping up their vaccination campaigns.Health authorities across British Columbia will start booking COVID-19 vaccination appointments Monday for people 90 years old and older and Indigenous residents over the age of 65.Quebec, which has been booking vaccine appointments for seniors 70 or 80 and over depending on the region, will speed up the pace this week as more mass vaccination centres open across the province after focusing mainly on hard-hit Montreal last week. Quebec counted 707 new cases of the virus on Sunday, and seven more deaths. Ontario reported administering 30,192 doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday, for a total of 890,604 doses handed out so far. That province logged 1,299 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, and 15 added deaths. Manitoba counted 56 new cases of the virus and two more deaths. Saskatchewan, meanwhile, reported 116 more cases and two more deaths due to COVID-19, including a person who was under 20 years old. Alberta logged roughly 300 new cases of the virus Sunday, though the province said a system upgrade meant precise numbers weren't available. Farther east, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island each recorded two new cases of COVID-19. The government said it would receive more than 14,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week, which will be sent to five different parts of the province.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021 Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
The Champions League talking points ahead of the first set of second-leg matches in the round of 16 on Tuesday and Wednesday: JUVENTUS VS. PORTO (first leg: 1-2) Álvaro Morata is finding his best form at the right time for Juventus. Morata had not scored in the league since December and was sidelined recently with illness but the Juventus forward has scored three times in his last two matches -- including in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Lazio. Morata has scored six goals in this season’s Champions League, two more than teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. The 36-year-old Ronaldo was given some much-needed rest at the weekend and went on only for the final 20 minutes, which should leave him fresh for Tuesday's match against Porto. Juventus has been dealing with illness and injuries. Coach Andrea Pirlo hopes Giorgio Chiellini and Matthijs de Ligt will recover in time to play Porto. Forward Paulo Dybala is still sidelined, while Rodrigo Bentancur is also out after contracting the coronavirus. Porto also has some injury problems, including defender Pepe with a right leg ailment. DORTMUND VS. SEVILLA (3-2) Borussia Dortmund’s 4-2 loss to Bundesliga rival Bayern Munich at the weekend could leave its mark for Tuesday’s visit from Sevilla. Star striker Erling Haaland, who scored twice in Dortmund’s 3-2 win over Sevilla in the first leg, was taken off early with stud marks on the back of his right ankle after a nasty challenge from Jérôme Boateng. Although Haaland told Dortmund coach Edin Terzic “it wouldn’t be a big problem.” The loss in Munich marked the end of Dortmund’s four-game winning run across all competitions. The team was without Jadon Sancho, Raphaël Guerreiro and Gio Reyna. All three face a race to be fit for Tuesday. Sevilla has been struggling since the first-leg loss to Dortmund, losing three of its four matches since then. It is coming off a loss to relegation-threatened Elche in the Spanish league, and was eliminated by Barcelona in the semifinals of the Copa del Rey despite a 2-0 first-leg win. PSG VS. BARCELONA (4-1) Barcelona seems like a different team to the one which played so badly in the second half at home to PSG. Ronald Koeman’s lineup is 16 games unbeaten in the league and the defence appears to be considerably stronger now that he has ditched the ineffective 4-3-3 formation for a 3-5-2 system which offers his central defenders more protection. Veteran defender Gerard Pique is a doubtful starter for the game, however, after hurting his knee midweek. A lot will rest Wednesday on Barça’s French defenders Clement Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti, with PSG is almost at full strength. Goal-scoring winger Angel Di Maria is back from injury and Neymar is close to a return after getting back to training. PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino may see no valid reason to drop the 4-2-3-1 formation which worked so well in Spain, with Kylian Mbappe helping himself to three goals despite playing wide and not as the central striker. Even though PSG defends a big lead at Parc des Princes, there may be some nerves about facing Lionel Messi in top form once again. PSG went out after losing 6-1 in Spain in 2017 having won the home leg 4-0. But this Barcelona lineup is not as strong as the 2017 squad, and PSG is more resilient now. LIVERPOOL VS. LEIPZIG (2-0) The teams return to neutral territory at the Puskas Arena in Budapest with Liverpool's two-goal cushion perhaps not as commanding as it seems given the team's recent problems, particularly in its injury-hit defence. The pressure is on the soon-to-be-deposed English champions because winning the Champions League might be the most likely route back into the competition for next season. Juergen Klopp's squad currently sits outside the Premier League's top four. Leipzig is on a six-game winning run in the Bundesliga and briefly took over top spot on Saturday. Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann omitted Angeliño from the team that beat Freiburg 3-0, but dampened hopes the Spanish winger will return in time for Liverpool. Uncharacteristic defensive lapses helped Liverpool in the first leg. The game is again taking place in the Hungarian capital due to German restrictions on visitors amid the coronavirus pandemic. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 9:30 p.m. ET on Sunday March 7, 2021. There are 886,574 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 886,574 confirmed cases (30,268 active, 834,067 resolved, 22,239 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 2,489 new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 79.64 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 18,880 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,697. There were 26 new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 245 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 35. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.09 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 58.52 per 100,000 people. There have been 25,159,921 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 1,006 confirmed cases (91 active, 909 resolved, six deaths). There was one new case Sunday. The rate of active cases is 17.43 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 19 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 1.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 201,814 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 141 confirmed cases (26 active, 115 resolved, zero deaths). There were two new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 16.29 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of nine new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 112,416 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,659 confirmed cases (29 active, 1,565 resolved, 65 deaths). There were two new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 2.96 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 18 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been 366,679 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,455 confirmed cases (36 active, 1,391 resolved, 28 deaths). There were two new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 4.61 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 25 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There were zero new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.02 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 242,695 tests completed. _ Quebec: 292,631 confirmed cases (7,100 active, 275,059 resolved, 10,472 deaths). There were 707 new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 82.8 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 4,891 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 699. There were seven new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 79 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 11. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 122.13 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,452,036 tests completed. _ Ontario: 308,296 confirmed cases (10,389 active, 290,840 resolved, 7,067 deaths). There were 1,299 new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 70.51 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,480 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,069. There were 15 new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 87 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.08 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.96 per 100,000 people. There have been 11,205,314 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 32,225 confirmed cases (1,130 active, 30,188 resolved, 907 deaths). There were 56 new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 81.93 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 366 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 52. There were two new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 12 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 65.76 per 100,000 people. There have been 541,269 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 29,709 confirmed cases (1,517 active, 27,794 resolved, 398 deaths). There were 116 new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 128.7 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,062 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 152. There were two new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 13 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.16 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 590,938 tests completed. _ Alberta: 135,837 confirmed cases (4,949 active, 128,974 resolved, 1,914 deaths). There were 300 new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 111.92 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,333 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 333. There were zero new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 28 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.09 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 43.28 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,445,307 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 83,107 confirmed cases (4,975 active, 76,752 resolved, 1,380 deaths). There were zero new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 96.64 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,653 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 379. There were zero new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 25 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.07 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.81 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,969,444 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Sunday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,232 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (one active, 41 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 2.21 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 14,849 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 381 confirmed cases (25 active, 355 resolved, one deaths). There were four new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 63.53 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 24 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,852 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 7, 2021. The Canadian Press
Grand Valley will contribute a larger slice of the pie as a conservation authority asked for more funding to make up for a pandemic-related shortfall. “This is probably one of the most difficult budgets we have had in recent years,” said Chris White, chair of the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA). “COVID-19 and its ongoing impact on the conservation authority has made it a moving target.” The overall increase to the municipal levy is 2.5 per cent. The Town of Grand Valley’s levy allocation represents an increase of 5.3 per cent. This is impacted by how the conservation authority levy is prorated for the participating watershed municipalities. The town will pay a general levy of $33,396 for 2021 to the conservation authority as directed by the council. The town paid $31,711 to the organization in 2020. “The Town of Grand Valley’s property assessment is growing at a faster pace than other watershed municipalities, which is why it is higher than the overall 2.5 per cent municipal levy increase,” said Lisa Stocco, manager of communications for the conservation authority. This equates to an average of about $11.09 per watershed resident, an increase of 12 cents per watershed resident compared to the 2020 budget. This comes as staff from the authority presented a draft budget to the town. They proposed a $32 million budget with reserves of $2 million. The town is part of 26 municipalities or regions, in the Grand River watershed, transferring money to the authority. The GRCA board approved the budget on Friday, Feb. 26. Municipalities will contribute $12.2 million in the general municipal levy to the conservation authority in 2021, about 38 per cent of the conservation authority’s total budget. “We recognize that our municipal partners, a major source of our funding, continue to face significant challenges,” said White. “Our staff and our board worked hard to ensure the budget was balanced. In 2021, COVID-19 will continue to pose challenges as we continue to work through the global pandemic.” These include $1 million in special projects, $31 million to expenditures, and a general municipal levy of $12,225.00. “The GRCA provides critical flood mitigation services, as well as unparalleled outdoor recreation opportunities, which continue to be vital to ensuring the health and well-being of the residents in our communities throughout the Grand River watershed,” said White. They also received federal and provincial grants such as $700,000 from the water and erosion control infrastructure (WECI) program and $640,000 from the source protection program grant. Included in this is a capital spending budget for water quality management equipment, software systems and gauge equipment for its flood forecasting and warning program, as well as significant maintenance for dams and dikes. “In 2021, WECI funds will be applied to the costs associated with the capital and maintenance of these structures,” said Stocco. “We are planning a WECI project in 2021 for Luther Dam to replace the stop logs. Major upgrades were completed to Luther Dam in 2012.” It also includes funds for regular maintenance, major repairs and new construction. Some of the major capital projects planned within the conservation areas include expanding the north side gatehouse, new fencing at Elora Gorge, and bridge replacement and Harris Mill masonry repairs at Rockwood. The GRCA continues to work on the updates and implementation of a drinking water source protection plan for each of the four watersheds in the Lake Erie source protection region, including the Grand River watershed. Along with supporting municipalities and other agencies in implementing the plans, the focus in 2021 will continue to be completing updates to the Grand River Source Protection Plan. This includes the development of water quantity policies, updating water quality vulnerability assessments, and developing the annual progress report for the Grand River Source Protection Plan. Joshua Santos, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Orangeville Banner
Memorable quotes and major revelations from Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Meghan and Harry, their first since stepping away from royal life: “I just didn’t want to be alive anymore. And that was very clear and real and frightening.” — Meghan, on the suicidal thoughts she had after joining the royal family. There were ”concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.” — Meghan, on the royal reaction to her son Archie. “I wouldn’t have been able to, because I myself was trapped as well” — Harry, on whether he would have stepped down from his royal duties had he never met Meghan. “I left my career, my life. I left everything because I love him. Our plan was to do this forever.” — Meghan, on allegations that she schemed from the start to pull Harry from the royal family. “I think she would feel very angry with how this has played out. And very sad. But ultimately, all she’d ever want is for us to be happy.” — Harry on his late mother, Princess Diana. “To have a boy and then a girl, what more can you ask for? But now we’ve got our family. We’ve got the four of us and our two dogs.” — Harry, after revealing the couple’s forthcoming second child is a girl. “It made me cry and it really hurt my feelings. And I thought in the context of everything else that was going on in those days leading to the wedding that it didn’t make sense to not be just doing whatever what everyone else was doing, which was trying to be supportive.” — Meghan, on a dispute with her sister-in-law Princess Kate, which she said the press got exactly backward by reporting she had made Kate cry. “I’ve never blindsided my grandmother. I have too much respect for her.” — Harry, on whether he failed to prepare Queen Elizabeth II for the news he was stepping down from royal duties. “The queen has always been wonderful to me.” — Meghan. “I wasn’t planning to say anything shocking. I’m just telling you what happened.” — Meghan. The Associated Press
The world’s most renowned hockey dad, remembered for having a “love for life” and being important to the “culture of Canada” by his legendary hockey son, was laid to rest on Saturday. Walter Gretzky’s funeral took place at St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Brantford, Ont., but was significantly scaled back from anywhere near the scope and grandeur fitting the mark he left, with capacity limited to 30 per cent due to pandemic protocols. “I don’t think I met a prouder Canadian than my dad,” Wayne Gretzky said of his father. Dozens of community members, including throngs of youngsters donning hockey uniforms, gathered outside the church, located near the home where Gretzky raised his family. Wayne told the sombre gathering of family and friends that his father, who suffered a brain aneurysm in the early 1990s and had a decade-long battle with Parkinson’s disease, had sustained a bad hip injury a few weeks ago. Gretzky clung to life for 21 days, with his family sitting with him, similar to how he fought after numerous other debilitating health complications over the years. He died March 4. He was 82. “We thought weeks ago that the end was here,” Wayne told the mourners. “He had a love for life and he didn’t want to leave.” Wayne called his late father a remarkable man who had a “heart of gold.” He said the world would be better off if there were many more people like him. “It’s been a tough time,” Wayne said. He thanked the community for leaving food and sandwiches as the family waited for the worst. Wayne told a fond story about how his father missed the birth of one of his sons, Brent, so that the two of them could attend a tournament in Whitby. When bothered by family and friends about missing the birth of his boy, an irritated Gretzky responded, “Yes, but we got the trophy,” Wayne recounted. “Every grandchild loved him,” Wayne said describing Walter’s close relationship to his grandchildren. “They understand how important he was, not only to our family but to the culture of Canada.” Gretzky was remembered as a man of faith who cherished family, hockey and church. The gathering also heard how he treated everyone equally and was willing to volunteer his time and raise money for charities. “Walter was great with kids, our kids, and all those kids he coached in minor league over the years, and those kids who came up to him for an autograph,” said Tim Dobbin, the former parish priest at St. Mark's who presided over the funeral. He left that church late last year. " The retired Bell telephone technician was often referred to as Canada’s most famous hockey dad. Son "Wayne tweeted the news of his father’s death on behalf of the family late Thursday: “He bravely battled Parkinson’s and other health issues these last few years but he never let it get him down ... He was truly the Great One and the proudest Canadian we know. We love you Dad.” Walter Gretzky rose from humble beginnings to become the patriarch of this country’s most legendary hockey family. Wayne honed his skills in a backyard rink that Walter built for his children and neighbourhood kids. It was dubbed “Wally Coliseum.” That’s where he taught his sons the basics of the game. Walter was born on the family farm in Canning, Ont., in 1938, where his mom made “good, old country Polish food,” including perogies that were “second to none,” he wrote in his autobiography, “On Family, Hockey and Healing.” His father, from Russia, specialized in making wine. Walter went to work for Bell Canada as a technician after finishing school, and is reported to have lost hearing in one ear after an on-the-job injury. He stayed with the company until 1991, when he retired after 34 years. Wayne had barely learned to walk when Walter had him out on his backyard patch of ice, teaching him to skate. His eldest son became a child phenomenon at hockey, annually scoring hundreds of goals and skating rings around older, stronger kids. Walter also coached two other sons. Keith Gretzky is assistant general manager of the Oilers. Brent Gretzky played 13 games in the NHL, all with Tampa Bay, and played a season in the Maple Leafs system when the top farm team was in St. John’s, N.L. Friends recalled that Walter was also an astute coach of other boys in the Brantford minor hockey system, including former Boston Bruins tough guy Stan Jonathan. In 1991, three days after his 53rd birthday, Gretzky suffered a stroke." In 2007, he was named to the Order of Canada, recognized for his contributions to minor hockey and support for numerous charities and non-profits, including the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. In 2010, he carried the Olympic torch hours before the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Winter Games. Two years later, Gretzky was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease." That same year, an elementary school in Brantford was named in his honour. Walter Gretzky’s wife, Phyllis, died in 2005. He leaves behind daughter Kim and sons Wayne, Keith, Glen and Brent. With files from Star staff Jason Miller is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering crime and justice in the Peel Region. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him on email: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
Nominations for this year’s Everyday Hero Awards are now open. The Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) is looking for the school community to select a person who went above and beyond in the school system. Nominations are open until March 26 and are collected digitally. “This year more than ever, it is important to host these awards to celebrate folks in our system, have something positive to look forward to, and also to recognize those individuals who go beyond what is expected of them to contribute to a positive and thriving learning and working environment,” said board chair Martha MacNeil. Winners will be honoured during a virtual ceremony on May 10 at 7 p.m. More information at the virtual ceremony will be communicated by the board closer to the date. The first ceremony was held for the 2007 to 2008 school year. The board of trustees established the Everyday Hero Awards to celebrate staff, students and community members in our school system. “The Everyday Hero Awards are important to our Board because their goal is to publicly recognize those individuals in our school system who continually go above and beyond for students and staff,” said MacNeil. Eligible candidates for the awards include UGDSB employees, students, community members or volunteers. Nominations can be for an individual or for a group that has made a difference to the school system. “When nominating an individual or group, people should reflect on whether the nominee performs their duties at a high level at all times, has made a significant school or system-related achievement, or has a unique circumstance that would be considered worthy of recognition,” said Megan Sicoli, communications administrative officer. Criteria for the award include the performance of duties at a high level, a significant school or system-related achievement, a specific innovation or achievement of substantial value or importance to the system, or a unique circumstance considered worthy of recognition by the board. “Nominators should also consider that the selection committee takes into consideration not only the achievements of the nominee but also the quality of the nomination package,” said Sicoli. “That said, before submitting their nomination package, nominators should look at whether they have supporting documentation from more than one person or organization and that their nomination package was put together with quality and care.” Joshua Santos, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Orangeville Banner
Freezing temperatures and a lack of appropriate snow pants didn't stop one family from tobogganing down a hill. Brad Brown and his son, Dylan, slid down Murray’s Mountain Park wearing swim trunks. The challenge was part of the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics Ontario. Brown said ride down wasn't the only chilly part. “My son looking at me trying to push off, and I told him to wait,” said Brown. "He’s pointing behind me, I look up, and there’s the mascot standing there with a bucket of cold water. He threw it on me just as I went down the hill.” He had an idea they would throw ice water on him as they were talking about it before. He thought it would happen as he made his way down, but they splashed at the top. Despite everything, Brown said it was worth it. “I’d do it again, absolutely,” said Brown. “It’s for a great cause.” Brown is one of the basketball coaches for Special Olympics Dufferin. He is also involved in curling and bocce ball. His son is an athlete with autism. He and his colleagues, of about four coaches, participated in various activities. As a group, they set a goal of $3,000 and raised $6,020. He set a goal of $300 himself and has surpassed the amount with $460. His son raised $430 himself as well. Special Olympics sports are modified so athletes can play at their level and pace. “A lot of these special athletes don’t have a whole lot,” said Brown. “A lot of our athletes are older, in their 30s, 40s and 50s, some of them. They look forward to these (games). It’s such a fabulous organization and cause because a lot of them can’t play regular sports.” About 70 per cent of the funds raised will be sent to Special Olympics Dufferin, with the remaining 30 per cent going to the parent organization, Special Olympics Ontario. His colleagues dipped in a lake or river to raise awareness and money for the organizations. He would have been in the annual event in Shelburne but wanted to stay local to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Joshua Santos, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Orangeville Banner
A new food delivery service offers an alternative selection of fresh food right to your door. Orangeville Vegan Meals provides healthy vegan and gluten-free meals. This includes green curry, baked orange tofu with broccoli and rice, chunky lentil stew, vegan cookies and brownies and more. “One of my favourite things is to cook,” said Blake Speers, owner of Orangeville Vegan Meals. “I wanted to do that on a wide scale. I was inspired by catering companies, but I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do.” With Orangeville Vegan Meals, families can buy ready-made meals or freeze them and not spend time cooking in a kitchen. Those interested can visit orangevilleveganmeals.com, view a menu and check out products worth trying. Orders should be in by Wednesday at noon for delivery on Thursdays between 4 and 8 p.m. The menu changes every week. Delivery to Orangeville, Alton and Mono is complimentary, while a $50 order minimum is required for Erin, Hillsburg, Elora, and Fergus residents. Speers has been vegan for six years now. She does not miss cheese or meat. She became a vegan after noticing there was a lot of cholesterol in eggs and meat that can clog arteries. “In vegan meals, there’s no cholesterol at all,” said Speers. “Your cholesterol is monitored by your own body.” Foods that are high in saturated and trans fats increase blood cholesterol levels, she said adding it may increase one's risk of developing heart disease. She developed the business at the end of August 2020, working with two to three cooks and two delivery drivers who dropped off her food to families in Dufferin Country. “It was like a dream come true because I was doing social media for other people, but then I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for it, if I wanted to have a company,” said Speers. “Once I thought about the idea, I was inspired to create the social posts and websites. I find it fun, mostly.” She rents out a commercial kitchen in Orangeville to make all the food, saying that the business has been good so far. “It keeps growing,” said Speers. “The most popular items have been the green curry and banana bread.” Other menu items include vegan cheeses, cookies, soups and burrito bowls. She previously cooked healthy meals for families with a busy lifestyle working as a nanny for five years. Speers plans to attend farmers markets in the summer to showcase her palette of food. “I went to one last year called the Mom’s Market at Hockley Valley, and I also went to one at GoYoga last summer.” When not in the kitchen or practising yoga, Speers can be found at one of her favourite Mexican or Thai restaurants. Joshua Santos, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Orangeville Banner
Thousands of people defied a night time curfew to take to the streets of Myanmar's main city in support of the youths in the Sanchaung district, where they had been holding the latest daily protest against the Feb. 1 coup. The army takeover and arrest of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi has plunged Myanmar into chaos.
The city's official youth advisory body is calling for free menstrual products to be made available in all public schools across Ontario. Amid the movement to end "period poverty", Toronto's Youth Cabinet launched a petition asking for the province to fully fund menstrual products in all publicly-funded elementary and secondary schools by the end of 2021, saying the matter comes down to equity, privacy and accessibility. "This is really a human rights issue.... It's really important that we make sure we take down any barriers that prevent people who menstruate from succeeding, and one of those barriers may be accessibility to period products," said Vanessa Erhirhie, a member of the educational working group with the Toronto Youth Cabinet. The Ryerson University student said the products should be normalized and considered essential in all washrooms, adding that it shouldn't be a scramble to access a tampon or a pad when they're needed. "We don't go to our locker for toilet paper and it should be the same for menstrual products," she said. She says while products are available in some schools, they are often found at the front desk or the guidance counsellor's office, which still causes people stress and requires effort to access them. The cabinet is asking that menstrual products be readily available in female washrooms, male washrooms and gender-neutral washrooms. Two-thirds of Canadians impacted by inaccessible products The online petition, which has garnered over 10,700 signatures as of Sunday, details how the lack of access to menstrual products can negatively impact students' school attendance, their social and emotional well-being, as well as contribute to the stigma that is attached to menstruation. "Providing all students with convenient access to free menstrual products helps to support their full participation in school activities, reduces stigma and promotes gender equality," the petition reads. A 2019 report conducted by Plan International Canada found that a third of Canadian women under the age of 25 say they've struggled to afford menstrual products, and almost two-thirds of people aged 14 to 55 missed out on an activity because of their periods and the lack of access to menstrual products. Stephen Mensah, education lead for the Toronto Youth Cabinet, emphasized the need for the province not only to mandate free menstrual products, but to fund the overall initiative, including literacy on menstrual health to help end the stigma. "No one should feel stigmatized over something that is a normal part of life.... Menstrual products are a necessity, not a luxury," said Mensah . 'School boards cannot do this on their own' The cabinet said the demands of this social movement should have been met a long time ago, but lack of funding remains an issue. In 2019, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), Canada's largest school board, passed a motion to ensure free menstrual products in their schools. But Mensah said he has spoken to student trustees from the TDSB who say the move hasn't been fully rolled out yet. "School boards cannot do this on their own," said Mensah. "[They] lack the funding to necessarily sustain [this] for a long period, and to ensure all schools and all of their students can benefit from it. I think this enforces the need for the province to fully fund this initiative." Mensah pointed to other provinces, including British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, which have made menstrual products free in all public schools. In late January, the Ottawa Carleton District School Board voted unanimously to make tampons and pads available in its washrooms by September 2022. Mensah said it's high time Ontario followed suit. The Youth Cabinet will officially launch their initiative on Monday, which happens to be International Women's Day, in a joint statement with the province's four major teachers unions, the Ontario Human Rights Commission and other provincial stakeholders. "We really want to send a clear, unified message to the province that this is something that needs to be done, and most importantly, it needs to happen now," said Mensah.
U.S. crowd-safety company Evolv Technology said on Sunday it is combining with blank-check firm NewHold Investment Corp to go public in a deal that will value it at about $1.7 billion. Evolv is backed by investors including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and venture capital firm General Catalyst. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter, and the company expects to trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker "EVLV", according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news.
RIMOUSKI, Que. — Val d'Or Foreurs goalie Jonathan Lemieux made 38 saves on 39 shots in a 4-1 win over the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in Rimouski Sunday. Up 2-0, Lemieux allowed his lone blemish in the second period when Simon Pinard scored to reduce the deficit to a goal for the Armada. The Foreurs would then score two more goals to put the game out of reach for Blainville-Boisbriand (16-8-2-0). Armada goalie Olivier Adam allowed three goals on 35 shots. Val d'Or added their fourth goal in an empty net. Nathan Legare, Emile Lauzon, Justin Robidas, and Justin Ducharme each scored a goal for Val d'Or (23-3-2-2). --- HUSKIES 3 TIGRES 1 GATINEAU— Samuel Richard made 35 saves on 36 shots in a 3-1 Rouyn-Noranda Huskies win over the Victoriaville Tigres. Edouard St-Laurent, Samuel Johnson, and William Rouleau each scored a goal for the Huskies. Brooklyn Kalmikov scored Victoriaville's lone goal. --- CATARACTES 5 DRAKKAR 3 CHICOUTIMI—Justin Bergeron scored a pair of goals and added an assist in a 5-3 Shawinigan Cataractes win over the Baie-Comeau Drakkar Sunday. Mavrik Bourque, Vasiliy Ponomarev, and Xavier Bourgault each scored a goal for the Cataractes. Raivis Kristians Ansons, Xavier Fortin, and Alex Labbe scored for Baie-Comeau. --- PHOENIX 3 OLYMPIQUES 2 (OT) GATINEAU—Justin Gill scored the game-winning goal with 26 seconds left in overtime to give the Sherbrooke Phoenix a 3-2 win over the Gatineau Olympiques. Anthony Munroe-Boucher and Milo Roelens also scored for Sherbrooke. Zachary Dean and Alexei Prokopenko scored for Gatineau. --- SAGUENEENS 3 REMPARTS 0 CHICOUTIMI—Pierrick Dube, Tristan Pelletier, and Hendrix Lapierre each scored a goal in a 3-0 Chicoutimi win over Quebec. Lapierre assisted on Pelletier's goal before scoring one of his own in the third. Sagueneens goalie Alexis Shank made 20 saves in the victory. --- VOLTIGEURS 3 OCEANIC 1 RIMOUSKI— Charlie De Fonseca scored twice in a 3-1 Drummondville Voltigeurs win over the Rimouski Oceanic. Justin Cote also scored for Drummondville. Rimouski's lone goal came from Xavier Cormier. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021. The Canadian Press
Toyota Motor Corp's first venture capital fund is investing in startups that help the Japanese automaker refine everyday processes by bringing sharper supply-chain management and robotics to the factory floor, a fund executive said. The Silicon Valley-based Toyota AI Ventures fund, with $200 million under management, has so far invested in 36 early-stage startups, including self-driving car software firm Nauto, factory video analytics company Drishti and air mobility firm Joby Aviation. Toyota, the world's largest automaker by vehicle sales, and many car companies such as Volkswagen AG are funnelling money into startups to help gain an edge in artificial intelligence as investor interest shifts to self-driving cars.
Orangeville Transit is getting government funds to help it ride out the pandemic. The transit authority will receive $81,309 as part of the $150 million the provincial government provides to municipalities. “The $150 million noted by the report was just announced on Monday,” said Doug Jones, general manager of infrastructure services. “It is to offset operational losses due to COVID-19. The transit hub is a capital expenditure and is not eligible for this funding.” Council requested town staff to investigate the possibility of using the Edelbrock Centre as a transit hub. This came after councillors reversed their decision on the Broadway hub in a 4-3 vote on Nov. 23, after hearing numerous concerns from downtown businesses and the BIA. This allocation builds upon the first phase of the federal and provincial Safe Restart Agreement announced in summer 2020. It was developed to help municipalities deliver critical services during COVID-19. “The town has received Phase 1 SRF funding of $96,000 for the 2020 fiscal period,” said Nandini Syed, treasurer. “We have also received $1.5 million in ICIP (Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program) funding.” The first phase of Safe Restart funding for transit flowed $700 million to municipalities in 2020, and to date, $1.5 billion in funding has been allocated. As part of the Safe Restart Agreement funding, municipalities need to work with the province to explore options to ensure transit is safe, sustainable, affordable and integrated, both during the COVID-19 pandemic and after. "We heard from municipalities, and we are responding to their need for more support as COVID-19 continues to result in lost revenue and additional costs for transit systems," said Caroline Mulroney, minister of transportation. The town also received an ICIP grant of $2.09 million, of which 26.67 per cent is the responsibility of the municipality. The federal and provincial governments provide the other 73 per cent. “These funds will be utilized to purchase new buses to accommodate the system going to an expanded four-route system, new transit station, new transit shelters and stop amenities and finally for a specialized transit service, not until 2024,” said John Lackey, manager of transportation and development. Joshua Santos, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Orangeville Banner
Seven current and former inmates in British Columbia, along with prisoner advocacy organization the John Howard Society, have filed a constitutional challenge in B.C. Supreme Court. In a notice of civil claim, the inmates say the Correctional Service of Canada and the attorney general of Canada have failed to provide them with basic rights during the pandemic and failed to adequately protect them against COVID-19. The group says the restrictions and conditions they have endured during the pandemic — which they say include extended lockdowns, suspended parole hearings, inadequate health care and withholding visitation and religious services — have infringed on their rights. The Correctional Service of Canada has yet to file a counter claim. In a written statement, the service said the health and safety of its employees, offenders and the public continue to be its top priority. "We continue to implement the rigorous health measures we've implemented in order to mitigate the spread of the virus," the statement said. 'Cruel and degrading' Catherine Latimer, executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada, says many people have been worried about how prisoners have been treated during the pandemic. "The UN would describe the conditions in which vast numbers of federal prisoners were detained during this period as cruel and degrading, inhumane and torture," Latimer said. "Not even a global pandemic can justify the way in which prisoners' rights have been eroded or ignored during this period." The Mission Institution in British Columbia was the site of a COVID-19 outbreak in 2020.(Rafferty Baker/CBC) The correctional service's main tactic for containing COVID-19 appears to be putting prisoners in isolation, Latimer says, with little access to the outdoors or other inmates. Prisoners and their advocates say doing so for long periods of time is detrimental to their physical and mental health. Seeking injunctions Other complaints mentioned in the notice of civil claim include withholding services like educational or substance abuse programs that prisoners need to secure parole eligibility, inadequate training for staff on how to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, inadequate sanitization and a lack of access to cleaning supplies. The group is seeking injunctions to prevent any further charter violations during the pandemic, including restoring paused programs and services, limiting the use of lockdowns, and increasing access to personal protective equipment, among other actions. Latimer says the John Howard Society has advocated for correctional institutions to release prisoners as much as possible, especially those who may be vulnerable to infection or severe complications, but little has been done. She hopes the correctional service will find better solutions to keeping COVID-19 at bay. But the CSC says it has put infection prevention measures in place. These include mandatory masks for inmates and staff, physical distancing measures, screening for people entering its institutions and increased cleaning and disinfection. The procedures are highlighted in a commissioner's directive on the matter, the service says, as well as its integrated risk management framework. 10% of prisoners infected A recent status update from the Office of the Correctional Investigator says just over 10 per cent of prisoners have contracted the virus since the start of the pandemic, compared to about two per cent of the general population in Canada. During that period, four inmates have died from COVID-19. The update also says the number of inmates in custody in federal institutions has dropped by 10.5 per cent since the beginning of the pandemic — the lowest count for the past decade. During the pandemic, the office has received nearly 500 complaints or inquiries from inmates regarding COVID-19. The CSC says it has provided 1,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine to 600 offenders across the country as part of its additional measures to limit the spread of the virus. It says it will offer more vaccines in consultation with public health partners and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
While the federal Liberal government vowed in its 2015 election campaign to end water advisories in Indigenous communities by the end of March 2021, a recent report from the auditor general says they haven’t taken action to make this happen. Auditor General Karen Hogan says 100 water advisories have been lifted since the Liberals came to power, but 60 remain across 41 communities. “I am very concerned and honestly disheartened that this longstanding issue is still not resolved,” said Hogan, who presented her report to parliament in late-February. “Access to safe drinking water is a basic human necessity. I don’t believe anyone would say that this is in any way an acceptable situation in Canada in 2021.” She attributes this situation in part to an outdated funding model that hasn’t been changed in 30 years, as well as the lack of a regulatory regime similar to those in settler communities. “Until these solutions are implemented, First Nations communities will continue to experience challenges in accessing safe drinking water,” Hogan’s report reads. Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller, whose government has contributed $3 billion to address the issue, acknowledged in December that the government would not meet its target. He says he accepts the report’s findings and that the government is committed to fully funding operating and maintenance costs. Although COVID-19 is to blame for some of the delays, Hogan’s report says that delays were apparent in early-March 2020. Miller didn’t provide a concrete date by which the AG’s recommendations will be fully implemented. “While there are some plans in place or under development, those solutions won’t be in place until at least 2025; that’s a very long time for a community to go without safe drinking water,” said Hogan. In a statement, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde called on the government to make ending water advisories an urgent priority. “Access to safe, clean water is more important now than ever to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep us all safe,” said Bellegarde. “I want to see significant and sustained investments in water treatment and water distribution for First Nations, a renewed commitment by the federal government to end boil water advisories within realistic timelines and real investments in First Nations infrastructure to close the infrastructure gap by 2030.” Chief Bellegarde highlighted the importance of water to Indigenous people, not only as a source of sustenance but spiritually. “Water is sacred to First Nations and key to the health and well-being of all living things,” he said. “We must see the human right to safe drinking water prioritized by our government partners. Sustained funding, including investments in operations and maintenance that reflect the true costs, not formula-driven numbers, is the only way to address long-standing issues and ensure safe drinking water for our people and nations.” NDP leader Jagmeet Singh says the AG’s findings demonstrate the Liberals’ flakiness when it comes to upholding Indigenous rights. “There is no excuse that anyone in our country doesn’t have access to clean drinking water, particularly the first people of this land,” he said. This sentiment was also expressed by Conservative Indigenous Services critic Gary Vidal. “Government success isn’t measured by funding announcements, it’s measured by outcomes, and it is unacceptable that any Canadian is without clean drinking water,” said Vidal. “The Liberals like to make eye-catching promises in order to win elections but their consistent failure to deliver on these promises is undermining trust and hurting reconciliation.” The water advisories are based on quality tests and fall into three categories — boil water advisories, which require the water to be boiled for consumption, and use in cooking and cleaning; do not consume advisories, which means the water can only be used for adult bathing; and do not use. Most advisories fall into the boil category, according to Hogan’s audit. According to reporting from APTN, 15 percent of First Nations homes depend on water delivered to them in trucks, while thousands rely on cisterns attached to their homes. That’s because the government’s $1.74 billion dedicated to water infrastructure in First Nations communities doesn’t include enough funds for the pipelines needed to bring water from the treatment plants directly to people’s homes. Perry Mcleod, a water treatment plant operator in Peepeekisis First Nation in Saskatchewan, said he’s found dead mice, snakes and a car battery in water cisterns he’s cleaned. “They’re always testing positive for E. coli and bacterias and whatever,” said Mcleod. “There’s standing boil water advisories on all the cisterns and we’re never going to lift it, until we get water trucked, or our water piped to every household.” Jeremy Appel is a LJI reporter for Alberta Native News. Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alberta Native News
Ontario pharmacists start a COVID-19 vaccine program this week at 330 locations to provide the AstraZeneca vaccine to customers aged 60 to 64 as lockdown restrictions ease in two major regions.
ATLANTA — Even in the strangest NBA All-Star Game of them all, LeBron James was still the perfect captain. Team LeBron showed off its high-flying and long-range skills during a dominating run to close out the first half, setting up a 170-150 romp over Team Durant in the league's 70th midseason showcase Sunday night. This one sure was different than the previous 69 All-Star contests. Determined to pull off an exhibition that is huge for TV revenue and the league's worldwide brand, the NBA staged the game in a mostly empty arena in downtown Atlanta, a made-for-TV extravaganza that was symbolic of the coronavirus era. Even with intense safety protocols in place, two players didn't even make it to tipoff. Philadelphia stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were ruled out because they got haircuts from a barber who tested positive for COVID-19. But once the game began, it fell right in line with the three previous All-Star outings with the captain format. The top vote-getters in each conference pick the teams, a duty that James has earned all four years. He's now 4-0, having defeated Stephen Curry's squad in 2018 and teams selected by Milwaukee's two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo the last two years. This time, James drafted his two former adversaries to assemble a dominant squad that blew away Kevin Durant's team. Antetokounmpo was the game MVP after shooting 16 of 16 for 35 points. Curry chipped in with 28 points, while Damian Lillard had 32. James spent most of the night admiring his drafting skill, playing less than 13 minutes and finishing with four points. The only good thing for Durant: He didn't have to participate in this shellacking, sitting out the game with an ailing hamstring. Bradley Beal led Team Durant with 26 points. On a night highlighting Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Team LeBron swept the first three quarters and was first to reach the final target score, earning a total of $750,000 for its charity, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. The game got out of hand late in the second quarter. With scant defence being played, Team LeBron took turns dunking off alley-oop passes. Chris Paul delivered back-to-back lobs that Lillard and Curry slammed through. Then, it was Paul on the receiving end of a payback pass from Curry. After showing they could handle shots up close, Team LeBron headed outside in the final seconds of the half. Lillard pulled up for a 3-pointer from the half-court line. Not to be outdone, Curry knocked down one from virtually the same spot. The atmosphere at State Farm Arena was downright eerie compared to a normal All-Star Game. Instead of a packed house, with A-list celebrities crammed into prime courtside seats, this game was attended by a smattering of hand-picked guests. They had plenty of room to spread out in a 17,000-seat venue that was essentially transformed into a giant television studio, with socially distanced spectators kept far from the court. Towering video screens were set up behind the benches. Vegas-style lights flashed around the arena. Recorded crowd noise blared over the sound system. The entertainment was provided by the host Atlanta Hawks, who didn't have any players in the game but were represented by their cheerleaders, drum line and DJ. To address fears that one of its biggest events would become a super-spreader for a virus that has killed more than a half-million Americans, the NBA pared down its usual weekend-long ritual of extravagant parties, gridlocked streets and people watching This All-Star Game was a one-night-only event, with a pair of skill competitions held shortly before the game and the Dunk Contest squeezed into the halftime break. The players flew in Saturday afternoon and were largely confined to a nearby hotel except for their time on the court. “This is when everyone in basketball all over the world comes to one city,” James said during a Zoom call before the game. “We’re able to sit back and go, ‘Wow, this is the game we have built.’ It’s a beautiful weekend for all walks of life, on the floor and off the floor. "But I'm sitting here in my hotel room, isolated. My family’s not here. I’m by myself. It’s just different, to say the least, compared to previous years.” TIP-INS Team Durant: Zion Williamson of New Orleans started the game in place of Embiid. The Pelicans forward had 10 points. Team LeBron: Paul had 16 assists. ... Lillard ended the game with another long 3-pointer. UP NEXT The 71st All-Star Game will be held Feb. 20, 2022, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. The 2023 game is set for Salt Lake City, followed by Indianapolis in 2024. ___ Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Paul Newberry, The Associated Press
As pandemic restrictions loosen in Toronto and neighbouring Peel Region, businesses across the personal care services industry say they’re being left behind. Several professionals and proprietors who spoke to the Star on Sunday complained they’re being treated unfairly as they continue to be barred from opening under the “grey” lockdown category. Outcry from the sector, which includes salons, barbershops and other cosmetic services, comes on the heels of the province announcing Friday that it was lifting the strict stay-at-home orders in those jurisdictions. Michele Bonnick, the owner of Amani Hair Studio in Toronto, said anticipation built as dozens of people were on a waiting list, expecting to get the green light to book hair appointments this month. Bonnick instead had to tell them she was remaining closed indefinitely. She slammed the provincial rule book for what she sees as favouritism towards big-box stores and other retailers, while struggling entrepreneurs are left to bear the brunt of the restrictions. “It’s just garbage,” she said. “The standards that they’ve set for us are so high.” Her salon has been closed for more than three months, since the November lockdown. “The problem is the ongoing shutting down and opening up, shutting down and opening up,” she said. “It’s so inconsistent.” Bonnick dipped into her savings to stay afloat during last spring’s lockdown. She’s now relying on government loans to stave off closure, but says it’s not sustainable. Bonnick pivoted last year to offer online services like consultations and product sales. “I’ve been feeling like trying to find something outside of my field in order to survive,” she said. Toronto and Peel, along with North Bay—Parry Sound, were the last ones still under the stay-at-home order imposed in December amid surging cases of COVID-19. Most of the province transitioned back to the government’s colour-coded pandemic response framework last month. Toronto and Peel will be placed in the strictest “grey lockdown” category of the framework starting Monday, as was recommended by public health officials in the two areas. That will allow more retailers to open, with restrictions, but leaves gyms, personal care services and indoor dining closed. Social gatherings remain banned indoors, and are capped at 10 people outdoors. The province said Friday it opted to place Toronto and Peel in the lockdown category because the two regions are making progress but their case rates remain high. Anosha Swalah, the creative director of Saboohi’s Salon & Spa in Mississauga, is part of a collective of about 30 salons and spas across Peel Region that have been lobbying local politicians and sharing the plight of the industry. “We’ve only operated for about three months of the entire year,” she said, adding that there was at least an 80 per cent decline in business due to closures and the crash of the wedding industry in 2020. Swalah defends the industry, saying that there is no evidence, to her knowledge, that salons have been drivers of outbreaks in Peel. She says people in the profession are feeling undermined even when they follow strict protocols, including proper sanitization, which she says is typical of the industry before the pandemic. “I feel degraded in some form,” she said. “That’s the anger that our industry is feeling.” She said the laser treatment part of the industry has taken a huge hit because they were unable to do any work during the peak winter season. Reeya Tanna, a registered nurse and owner of the Etobicoke-based Plumpitupp, a medical spa offering cosmetic injections, medical facials and esthetic treatments, said, “It has been difficult to stay motivated and hopeful when there is no end to the lockdown in sight.” Tanna worked in the industry for a few years before deciding to open her own clinic. She was on verge of opening her own private clinic on Jan. 1, but those plans were halted by ongoing restrictions. After months of not being able to offer her services in 2020, Tanna is now grappling with the uncertainty of when her clinic can get up and running. “I have little hope of opening any time soon as the government has put our industry (as cosmetic nurses) in the personal care services sector on hold,” she said. When asked why salons and other personal care services are not yet being allowed to reopen, Toronto Public Health referred to the province’s general COVID-19 response framework, which establishes thresholds based on criteria such as case counts and test positivity rates for when regions are allowed to ease restrictions on certain sectors. Peel’s medical officer of health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, told the Star in a statement on Sunday: “Given the nature of the service provided, with a recognition that precautions cannot be consistently maintained (e.g., distancing) and are not always foolproof, many jurisdictions have targeted these settings for closures. “There have also been notable outbreaks in these settings reported in other areas of the province, notably a large nail salon outbreak in Kingston. This resultant evidence and data have been built into the framework set by the provincial government.” The debate over the science behind the lockdown was front and centre during Mississauga council meetings last week. Coun. Ron Starr criticized the provincial and regional rationale for extending the closure of the personal care industry. “What is the empirical data?” he asked. “What is the rationale, in certain areas, when we don’t have that data? Yet, this is the way medical people are saying it’s going to happen?” Starr said that women, many of whom own businesses in the industry, are feeling the brunt of pressure from the uncertainty surrounding the closures. “I don’t think our message from Peel is going through,” he said during a council meeting. “Why are they shut down,” Carr asked. “Yet, we’re opening up other areas." In responding to Mississauaga council on Wednesday, Loh said the region has not achieved the critical mass of vaccinations needed to achieve herd immunity. In spite of public fatigue over restrictions, Loh said he’s avoiding prematurely reopening then having to close again. Loh said there needs to be an uptick in vaccination to lower the chance of severe outcomes for vulnerable segments of the community. “Until that time, this still remains a novel threat,” he said, adding, “There is still the storm of the century that is raging out there.” He cautioned that while some people question the science behind his decisions, “the reality is, we’ve seen what happens in other countries where they get this wrong.” “We’re so close to the vaccine,” he said. “We’re so close to warmer weather, where we can start to open with confidence again.” With files from The Canadian Press Jason Miller is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering crime and justice in the Peel Region. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him on email: email@example.com or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star