Sisters Emily and Alyssa Smyth, 13 and 10, both contracted COVID-19. And while Emily had mild symptoms for a few days, Alyssa had more severe symptoms and is still experiencing them months later.
Sisters Emily and Alyssa Smyth, 13 and 10, both contracted COVID-19. And while Emily had mild symptoms for a few days, Alyssa had more severe symptoms and is still experiencing them months later.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is struggling to beat back his biggest political challenge in years from a protest movement which began with disgruntled farmers travelling to New Delhi on tractors and is now gaining wider support at home and abroad. Simmering in makeshift camps housing tens of thousands of farmers since last year, the movement has seen a dramatic growth in recent weeks, getting backing from environmental activists, opposition parties and even A-list Western celebrities. At its heart are three new farm laws passed by the government last September, thanks to the majority Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) enjoys in the lower house of parliament.
(Tasos Katopodis/Pool via AP - image credit) Two days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden met to set a new tone for Canada-U.S. relations, the Biden administration official whose decisions may affect Canada's economy the most sat for three hours of questioning at her confirmation hearing before the Senate finance committee Thursday. Some cabinet confirmations become partisan wrestling matches. By the end of her appearance, the confirmation of Katherine Tai as the next United States Trade Representative felt more like a collective laying on of hands. The chair, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, called her a "superb choice." All ranking Democrats and Republicans from not only the Senate but also the House of Representatives Ways and Means committee applauded the depth of her skills and experience with a long list of complimentary adjectives. Representative Richard Neal from Massachusetts, appearing as a guest Democratic chair of the House committee, told senators he considers Tai to be like family after her seven years as legal counsel for his committee. Tai played a critical role in crafting and negotiating bipartisan support for endgame revisions that ensured Congressional approval of the revised North American trade agreement by delivering more environmental and labour protections. "There is one issue that all of us in this room agree upon: enforcement, enforcement, enforcement of these trade agreements," Neal said, praising Tai's "understated grit." Biden's pick was endorsed by leaders from the environmental, business and labour communities, Neal said. Tai accompanied Neal on a critical trip to Ottawa in November 2019 to persuade Canada to agree to amend the new NAFTA so it could get through Congress. The Trudeau government had thought its negotiations with the Trump administration were over. Canada's ambassador in Washington, Kirsten Hillman, came to know Tai well as Canada's lead negotiator for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. She said she remembers having lunch with her that day and their "vibrant conversation" with the assembled politicians about how international trade can benefit domestic workers — a focus the Biden administration now embraces. Canada's ambassador in Washington, Kirsten Hillman, far right, joined her then-minister Chrystia Freeland as Representative Richard Neal met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Nov. 6, 2019. House Democrats asked Canada to agree to amendments they were making to secure Congressional approval for the renegotiated NAFTA. "I think that's just telling on where some of the priorities may well lie," Hillman told CBC News earlier this winter. "She has specific expertise in that area." Fortunately for the Trudeau government, Tai's vision for "expanding the winner's circle" of beneficiaries of international trade lines up with the beliefs of Canadian Liberals like Chrystia Freeland who have spoken about making deals work for small businesses and middle class workers — not just corporations. Winning with win-wins During Thursday's hearing, Tai said she wants to move away from negotiations that pit one sector's workers against another. It's a sharp contrast with the zero-sum style of the Trump administration, which was more focused on scoring targeted political wins than mutually-beneficial gains. "We must remember how to walk, chew gum and play chess at the same time." - USTR nominee Katherine Tai While that could come as a relief for trading partners like Canada, Tai's hearing also revealed several priorities to watch carefully. For example, will Tai continue Robert Lighthizer's push to "re-shore" as many commodities in as many supply chains as possible, to repatriate jobs for American workers? "There's been a lot of disruption and consternation that have accompanied some of those policies," she said — without specifically calling out Trump administration tactics like using national security grounds to slap tariffs on foreign steel. "I'd want to accomplish similar goals in a more effective, process-driven manner." And what about the critical product shortages the U.S. is facing, especially during the pandemic? President Biden signed an executive order this week to strengthen U.S. supply chains for advanced batteries, pharmaceuticals, critical minerals and semiconductors. "A lot of the assumptions that we have based our trade programs on [have] maximized efficiency without regard for the requirement for resilience," Tai said. Rethinking the China strategy Between 2011-14, Tai was the USTR's chief counsel for trade enforcement with China. On Thursday, she told senators the U.S. needs a "strategic and coherent plan for holding China accountable to its promises and effectively competing with its state-directed economics." The government must have "a united front of U.S. allies," she added. "China is simultaneously a rival, a partner and an outsized player whose cooperation we'll also need to address certain global challenges," she said. "We must remember how to walk, chew gum and play chess at the same time." Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, himself a former USTR during the George W. Bush administration, pushed her to explain how the U.S. could compete with the "techno-nationalist" approach China takes on semiconductors — which he said are subsidized by up to 40 per cent, allowing the Communist regime to dominate the global market. "We can't compete by doing the things China does, so we have to figure out how we can compete by marshalling all the tools and resources that we have in the U.S. government," Tai said. Later she described how the Chinese state is able to conduct its economy "almost like a conductor with an orchestra," while Americans trust the "invisible hand" of the free market. The U.S. government may need to revisit this, she said, "knowing the strategy and the ambition that we are up against." Fellow Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown asked Tai whether she'd make it a top priority to crack down on imports that trace back to China's forced labour program, which human rights investigators believe abuses potentially millions from China's minority Uighur and Turkic Muslim population to pick crops like cotton. "Yes," she said. "I think the use of forced labour is probably the crudest example of the race to the bottom." 'Laser-focused' on Huawei Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, who also sits on the Senate intelligence committee, urged Tai to form a "coalition of the willing" to compete with the Chinese "authoritarian capitalism" model that's enabled the rise of tech giants like Huawei. Trade negotiations have to protect the security of digital infrastructure, he said, and the U.S. should consider asking trading partners to prohibit certain Chinese technologies. "If we keep Huawei out of American domestic markets but it gets the rest of the world, we're not going to be successful," Warner said. Sen. Tom Carper, left, greets Katherine Tai, Joe Biden's nominee for U.S. Trade Representative, and meets her mother, right, at Tai's confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee Thursday. Tai agreed with him, and said the U.S. government should be "laser-focused" on this, and not just in trade negotiations. To counter China's influence, Delaware Sen. Tom Carper asked whether it would be a "fool's errand" to rejoin partners like Canada in the Pacific Rim trading bloc — which was renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership after the U.S. left it in 2017. Tai said the thinking behind the CPTPP remains a "solid equation" but the world in 2021 is "very different in important ways" to the climate in 2016, when Congress failed to approve the TPP. Carper also asked how trade policy is affected by the Biden administration's renewed multilateral approach to climate change. "The rest of the world is coming up with its own climate solutions, and that means that as other countries and economies begin to regulate in this area, climate and trade policies become a part of our competitive landscape," she said. 'Digging in' on dairy Tai also promised to work closely with senators who raised issues about commodities important to their states — and Canada. But the veteran trade diplomat didn't tip her hand too much on what Canada should expect. Idaho's Mike Crapo was assured she'll work on "longstanding issues" in softwood lumber. She told Iowa's Chuck Grassley she's aware of the "very clear promises" Canada made on dairy as part of concluding the NAFTA negotiations, and how important they were to win the support of some senators. Some of these Canada-U.S. issues "date back to the beginning of time," she said, adding she was looking forward to "digging in" on the enforcement process her predecessor began in December. Several senators pushed for more attention to America's beef, of which Tai said she was a "very happy consumer." South Dakota Sen. John Thune expressed frustration with the World Trade Organization's ruling against the cattle industry's protectionist country-of-origin labelling (COOL) rules, prompting a commitment from Tai to work with livestock producers on a new labelling system that could survive a WTO challenge. One of the toughest questioners Thursday proved to be former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who slammed the lack of transparency in past trade negotiations and told Tai her administration needs to "take a hard line." Warren called for limiting the influence of corporations and industries on advisory committees and releasing more negotiating drafts so the public understands what's being done on their behalf. At the conclusion of the hearing, Chairman Wyden asked Tai to send her ideas for improving the transparency of trade processes to the committee's bipartisan leadership within 30 days. Katherine Tai bumps elbows with Congressional leaders following her Thursday confirmation hearing on Capital Hill. Throughout the hearing, senators described Tai's confirmation as "historic." She's the first woman of colour and first Asian-American (her parents emigrated from Taiwan) to serve as USTR. Pennsylvania's Bob Casey asked if she'd commit to working on women's economic empowerment and participation in trade laws. She answered with just one word: "Yes."
Another O'Gorman Knights product has been recruited for post-secondary basketball, as Abby Couture has signed with Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie. “I'm beyond excited. It's going to be a great experience,” she told The Daily Press. The offer from Algoma U caught Couture off guard. She was surprised when Algoma Thunderbirds head coach Ryan Vetrie texted her to to welcome her to the team. Couture said she is planning on studying in the four-year Law and Justice program. All amateur athletic competitions have been shut down for at least the calendar year, which has posed a challenge for players like Couture, who are in their senior year of high school. However, her creativity and determination have kept her as sharp as possible. “With everything being closed during the first wave, I kind of made my own home workouts. I downloaded this app where you just mimic the screen, and you try to get as many points as you can while you're dribbling. “So I did that a lot, and I was doing home workouts. As soon as the gyms opened up, I've been there working on my fitness, and trying to get ahead of everything,” said Couture. Unfortunately her final season with the Knights has been cancelled, but her three completed seasons have been very fruitful. Couture owns three OFSAA 'A' medals: Two gold and one bronze. She particularly enjoyed the games against bigger, and highly talented teams. “It helped me push myself. Because there's always going to be better players than you, and you always just try to outwork them. It pushed me to do better.” Knights head coach Marcy McCarty was thrilled to hear Couture will be continuing her basketball career. “It's been something she has really wanted, so to see that come true, especially this year, it's great for her.” McCarty believes Algoma is a great fit for Couture. “I would imagine she's going to be getting lots of playing time.” Couture is also a product of the Timmins Selects youth basketball program, which she has been involved with since she was in Grade 7. McCarty saw major talent in her very early on. “First time I met her was in the Selects system, and saw her come up through Grade 8, and develop as a big player in that system, and with me. We pulled her up as an underage to come with us to OFSAA when she wasn't necessarily on the senior team, to get that experience.” Couture had nothing but great things to say about her time with the Selects. “The whole basketball family in Timmins is full of wonderful people. You get to meet a lot of people. The coaches are great, they always push you to reach your full potential.” She took a shine to basketball earlier than many of her peers. “I was always a taller kid, so dance didn't really work out,” said Couture, who was encouraged by one of driving forces behind the Timmins Selects program. “Coach Jamie Lamothe, I saw him at school one day, and he handed me a paper to play in the Steve Nash training league. That's when I started, and at my first practice, I instantly fell in love with the game. “I felt like I belonged. My height wasn't being mocked, or I wasn't being picked on. I just belonged.” Couture will become the seventh player from the McCarty-led Knights in just the last four years to be recruited for post-secondary basketball. Emma Weltz (Queen's University), Arianna Gagnon (Algonquin College), Gabby Schaffner (Laurentian University), Brianna Dodd (Nipissing University), Ally Burke (Lakehead University), and most recently, Jadyn Weltz (Binghamton University, NCAA) have all taken the success they had in Timmins to the next level. Couture said McCarty and Cathy Beard have been instrumental in her development as a player. “They are incredible coaches. Every time I stepped on the court, they pushed me to do my best. Even off-court, they're always telling me what I can improve on, and how to improve.” They have also worked very hard to promote and showcase local players to the rest of the province and beyond. “They are getting noticed way before their senior year. They are on the radar. They are talking to coaches. Coaches are coming up to us wherever we go. I put miles and miles on that bus to get them in that situation. To get them recognized, to get them noticed, and to give them that experience,” said McCarty, who has four OFSAA medals to her name as a coach, including two golds. Their annual success at the provincials hasn't gone unnoticed by the basketball community, and any negative preconceived notions about players from the North have continuously been shaken. “They know who we are. We've put our name on the map. But I'd say five years ago, when we started travelling with these girls, we'd walk into the gym, and they'd be like 'we've got this' and surprise, you don't. I think that really started to turn the tables,” said McCarty. “I've met a lot of wonderful people, and I have a lot of mentors now in the basketball world that have really helped us in that regard, and have invited us to tournaments, and made sure that we had those connections, and said, 'Hey these girls can play.' Just because they're from Northern Ontario, doesn't mean they don't know how to play ball. I think that has really changed a lot.” For Couture, it will be the culmination of a goal she has had for a long time to be university student athlete. With the 2020-2021 U-Sports seasons cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the upcoming season is still under a cloud of uncertainty. Couture isn't exactly sure when she'll be joining her Thunderbirds teammates, but it will likely be sometime during mid-summer. However, she knows exactly what she'll be working on over the next few months. “A lot of foot work, and a lot of speed work for sure. Improve my cardio. Improve my strength, and my ball-handling skills.” Andrew Autio is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for The Daily Press. LJI is a federally funded program. Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Press
A disengaged lighting system in a vehicle led to a Cardinal man being arrested on multiple drug-related offences earlier this week. Ontario Provincial Police from the Grenville detachment say they were on general patrol Wednesday night when officers noticed a vehicle without its lighting system on and conducted a traffic stop at 9:40 p.m. Police did not identify on what road the traffic stop took place. Police say after speaking with the driver, they found him to be in possession of what is believed to be methamphetamine. After arresting the man, a search of the vehicle found serval packages of the drug, including in pill form. Also found in the search was a scale, packaging material and a quantity of cash, said police. John Fahrngruber, 61, has been charged with two counts of possession of a Schedule I substance, one count of possession of a Schedule I substance for the purpose of trafficking, failure to comply with an undertaking and possession of proceeds of property obtained by crime under $5,000. Police released the accused from custody, and he is scheduled for a court appearance in Brockville on April 30. Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
When the struggling business owners got the call a few weeks ago, it felt like they’d won the lottery. Nearly a year into the pandemic, good news has been hard to come by for both Kings Park Child Care and San Vito Coffee House — especially if it’s something without any strings attached and particularly when it comes to monetary funding. But now, the two Winnipeg businesses are part of only a dozen handpicked to receive $10,000 each, through a partnership between Canada’s leading insurance company and the primary network of commerce. The 12 small firms being awarded the “Business Boost” grant are representative of regional areas and industry sectors across the country, Canada Life and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce exclusively told the Free Press ahead of a wide release today. “Good people coming together is how Canadians have managed this crisis, and this is the very epitome of a good corporate citizen stepping up,” said Chamber president and CEO Perrin Beatty, in an interview. “It’s a business helping other businesses where governments are still behind.” Recipients have been selected from over 4,000 applicants and hope to use the funding to keep their doors open, as thousands of companies face the risk of permanently disappearing. “Truth be told,” said Dawn Forbes, executive director of Kings Park Child Care, “this isn’t just a way to save our bacon. It’s also a boost for our staff to keep doing the important work we’ve been doing as an essential service every single day, throughout all those many shutdowns and closures.” As a facility that supports children and families, especially for kids with autism, Down syndrome and other medical or special needs, Kings Park has had to remain open since the onset of COVID-19. “But we’ve had to do that with barely any enrolment until this January and with most of our staff forced to be let go,” said Forbes. “Everything’s been up in the air and it felt like we were always an afterthought in terms of restrictions and even support — especially from the province,” she said. “If it weren’t for some of the federal government’s support like the rent subsidy, I don’t know if any child-care centres would have even been able to hold their space to operate, let alone do anything else.” For Geordie Wilson, who owns and runs San Vito Coffee House, it’s been a constant shift trying to keep his local eatery and café afloat. When public-health orders and lockdowns first came into effect, Wilson tried to partner with delivery services like DoorDash, Uber Eats and even SkipTheDishes. Fairly quickly, the third-party payouts became far too costly to make ends meet and Wilson started to offer his own free city-wide delivery. “We didn’t really have a choice,” he said. “Our bottom line was being impacted because they were frankly ripping us off. And yes, it felt like being a university student again, but so what? We just had to keep going to survive.” Wilson even started to make videos for social media — something he called “kitchen karaoke,” for which he would sing popular songs but change their lyrics to be more coffee-centric. “We’re not Tim Hortons and we’re not Starbucks, but we are something that represents what makes our city ours,” he said. “I know all our regulars by name and those people we saw every single day who couldn’t come in anymore. That’s why I did everything possible to keep people smiling and just keep trudging along.” Stories like that are “truly the reason behind this kind of grant program,” said Jeff Macoun, president and CEO for Canada Life, in an interview. “It’s the heart of what makes a local business more than just a business to a community. They represent the very cultural fabric of what makes a city or town,” he said. “We wanted to keep seeing that flourishing, especially at our company’s home in Winnipeg. “It’s why we did this small part to help with that.” Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
The Alberta government's latest budget is far from the "fiscal reckoning" Premier Jason Kenney had long promised. Instead, there are very few cuts and lots of debt — a situation the province blames on the pandemic and shrinking oil revenue.
People on reserve have received the coronavirus vaccine at a rate of six times higher than Canadians, yet Dr. Evan Adams said he is still fielding questions about whether or not people should be signing up for injections. “People are so suspicious that we’re trying to do something bad to them, when we’re trying to do something good for them… I find it sad that some people don’t trust. In a way, of course, it’s understandable we don’t trust particular things, but I hope there are somethings that you would trust and I hope you would trust, say, an Indigenous physician like me, who says, ‘Let me help. I’m very interested and very concerned about you and your family and your knowledge keepers and your community’,” said Adams, deputy chief medical officer of Public Health, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC). Adams, who was speaking today on the weekly edition of the First Nations Health Managers Association’s (FNHMA) virtual town hall, said he was grateful that science offered such an efficient method to protect against COVID-19. “I’m looking forward to having a vaccine. If I get a sore arm, if I feel a little bit tired, I’ll probably just smile through all of that because … the vaccine is teaching my body to fight off the natural virus,” he said. FNHMA CEO Marion Crowe, who hosts the town hall, said it was important that First Nations people were able to hear such information from a First Nations physician. “I’m grateful to have an Indigenous physician here with us … so that we know to trust in the words that you speak, the inherent knowledge that you share, and the wisdom of your experiences and education… while understanding that some of us are a little bit mistrusting when it comes to any government initiative,” said Crowe. She added that mistrust has stemmed from a health system that continues to prove itself to discriminate systemically and from history where Indigenous people were test subjects. Adding levity to the serious discussion, Crowe said she was willing to be a “guinea pig.” “This is one time I’m happy that I’ll be a guinea pig because I’m right in there with all the front line – police, ambulance, doctors, nurses, … (personal support workers), long term care folks. If we’re going to wipe out everyone, that’s the group we’ll be with, so we’re not going to do that. So just having confidence in the science is going to be so welcoming and evidence-based,” said Crowe. Evans said the impact of the virus is beginning to lessen on reserves thanks to the vaccine coupled with other measures such as handwashing, physical distancing and masking. But statistics to this point have been sobering and demonstrate that First Nations people in community, and Indigenous people in general, contract COVID-19 at a rate 1.67 higher than Canadians. However, hospitalization rates (at 0.6 times Canadians) and fatality rates (at 0.42 times Canadians) are lower because COVID is hitting more First Nations youth and less Elders. As of Feb. 24, ISC is aware of 222 deaths on reserve. While there are new variants of the coronavirus appearing throughout Canada, none have been officially reported on reserves. “We expect that one day we will hear about cases on reserve because that’s the nature of how viruses work … so we will eventually see more and more cases of that variant and probably will start to see it in communities,” said Evans. Evans offered reassurance, though, saying that Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were “excellent” for the UK variant and offered “partial” coverage for the South African variant. Evans said that when people were tested for the virus, further screening followed to indicate if a variant was involved. The variant was confirmed by testing in a provincial or national lab. Although ISC is not in charge of the vaccination roll-out, which falls into the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories, Evans said his department would still provide support where needed. “The provinces are supposed to speak to Indigenous leadership and confirm with them that the plans that they’re making for their communities are acceptable, are well organized, are giving priorities where they should be,” said Evans. He pointed out that depending on the community and leadership, the vaccine will be rolled out differently. However, he said, that roll-out must be “evidenced-based,” which means it would comply with the latest National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) guidelines. Those guidelines have “adults in Indigenous communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences” recommended for Stage 1. NACI also acknowledged that in urban settings where poverty, systemic racism and homelessness were factors, “these populations may be considered for immunization concurrent with remote and isolated Indigenous communities if feasibly identified within jurisdictions, understanding that these are traditionally hardly reached populations for immunization programs.” Evans said it has been “nerve-racking” waiting for the vaccine because of production issues experienced by manufacturers, but the shipment of both vaccines will be ramping up. He said while people are waiting for their vaccines, they “should be happy” for the Elders and others who have received theirs. “If you are relatively well, you shouldn’t mind having to wait. And those of you with the most risk, yes, you should be prioritized. Let’s keep speaking up for those amongst us who are most at risk and help them get vaccinated,” said Evans. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
WASHINGTON — Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm won Senate confirmation Thursday to be energy secretary, joining President Joe Biden's Cabinet as a leader of Biden’s effort to build a green economy as the United States moves to slow climate change. The vote was 64-35, with all Democrats and 14 Republicans, including GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, voting yes. Granholm, 62, served two terms as governor in a state dominated by the auto industry and devastated by the 2008 recession. She has promoted emerging clean energy technologies, such as electric vehicles and battery manufacturing, as an answer for jobs that will be lost as the U.S. transitions away from oil, coal and other fossil fuels. Granholm, who was sworn in late Thursday, is just the second woman to serve as energy secretary. She tweeted her thanks to senators and said, "I’m obsessed with creating good-paying clean energy jobs in all corners of America in service of addressing our climate crisis. I’m impatient for results. Now let’s get to work!'' Sen. Joe Manchin, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Granholm has the leadership skills, vision and compassion needed at the Energy Department to “develop innovative solutions for the climate challenge'' while preserving jobs. Granholm is committed to working every day “to ensure that we don’t leave any workers behind as we move towards a cleaner energy future,'' said Manchin, D-W.Va. During her confirmation hearing last month, Granholm pushed her plans to embrace new wind and solar technologies. But her position caused tension with some Republicans who fear for the future of fossil fuels. “We can buy electric car batteries from Asia, or we can make them in America,” Granholm told senators. “We can install wind turbines from Denmark, or we can make them in America.'' Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee, said Biden “seems to want to pull the plug on American energy dominance. So I cannot in good conscience vote to approve his nominee for secretary of energy.'' Barrasso and other Republicans have complained that a freeze imposed by Biden on oil and gas leases on federal lands is taking a “sledgehammer” to Western states’ economies. The moratorium could cost tens of thousands of jobs unless rescinded, Barrasso said. He and other Republicans also bemoaned Biden’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, saying thousands of jobs will be lost and a friendly source of oil left idle. Granholm assured lawmakers that creating jobs was her top priority — and Biden's. “We cannot leave our people behind. In West Virginia, and in other fossil fuel states, there is an opportunity for us to specialize in the technologies that reduce carbon emissions, to make those technologies here, to put people to work here, and to look at other ways to diversify,'' she said at her Jan. 27 hearing. During her introduction as Biden's nominee, Granholm described arriving in the U.S. at age 4, brought from Canada by a family “seeking opportunity.” She said her father found work as a bank teller and retired as head of the bank. “It’s because of my family’s journey and my experience in fighting for hardworking Michigan families that I have become obsessed ... with gaining good-paying jobs in America in a global economy,” she said. In other action Thursday on Biden's Cabinet nominees: SURGEON GENERAL Surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy said Americans must not lose track of opioid addiction and other health emergencies amid the intense national focus on overcoming the coronavirus pandemic. He told senators at a hearing that “we cannot neglect the other public health crises that have been exacerbated by this pandemic, particularly the opioid epidemic, mental illness and racial and geographic health inequities.” After dipping slightly, opioid deaths have risen again, the result of street formulations laced with the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Murthy told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that the overdose rescue drug naloxone should be even more widely available and that medication-assisted treatment must be expanded. Murthy, who was surgeon general in the Obama administration, has drawn opposition from gun rights groups because of his assessment that gun violence is a public health problem. But he tried to dispel notions that he would launch a crusade against guns. He told Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., that while he supports government studying the problem, “my focus is not on this issue, and if I’m confirmed it will be on COVID, on mental health and substance use disorder.” TRADE REPRESENTATIVE Biden’s pick for U.S. trade representative promised to work with America’s allies to combat China’s aggressive trade policies, indicating a break from the Trump administration’s go-it-alone approach. Katherine Tai told the Senate Finance Committee that rebuilding international alliances would be a priority, as well as "reengaging with international institutions? to present Beijing with “a united front of U.S. allies.? Tai did not address whether the Biden administration would drop former President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum or whether it would revive the Obama administration's Asia-Pacific trade deal, which Trump killed. BUDGET DIRECTOR Another key Republican lawmaker came out against Biden’s embattled pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, raising further questions about her viability. Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters he won't support her nomination. He and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski were two Republicans seen as potentially gettable votes for the White House, as Grassley had previously said he’d had good conversations with Tanden. Murkowski has yet to say how she'd vote. With a handful of other key centrist Republicans coming out against her in recent days, Tanden’s path to confirmation hinges largely on Murkowski and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., neither of whom have made their positions known. The White House was forced to search for a Republican to support Tanden after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced his opposition last week. Lawmakers have largely cited Tanden’s controversial and at times harshly critical tweets about members of both parties in explaining their opposition to her. ___ Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Paul Wiseman contributed to this report. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
Two B.C. filmmakers are being featured at this year’s Vancouver International Women in Film Festival, which runs March 4 - 14,2021. Jessie Anthony wrote and directed Brother, I Cry, a harrowing take on the demons of addiction and inter-generational trauma. Itpremiered last fall at the Vancouver International Film Festival where Anthony won the emerging filmmaker award. Established horror genre director Karen Lamhas has The Curse of Willow Song on the bill, a movie set in Vancouver that delvesinto stark socio-economic divide with a supernatural-horror lens. RELATED: Q&A with VIFF’s B.C. Emerging Filmmaker Award winner, Jessie Anthony The festival theme this year is Resilience. Challenge. Change. “I’m excited to share this year’s film program, which celebrates the complexity and diversity of ways girls and women choose tochallenge, overcome, and inspire—themselves, each other, their communities, and our world today,” said Marena Dix, FestivalProgramming Committee Chair. On the list are three feature documentaries, three feature dramas, and 26 short films that include animation, dance,documentary and comedy from around the world. All the films and events will be hosted online, making the festival accessible to all British Columbians. Single tickets are $10, $7for members and $5 for seniors and students. Full festival tickets are also available. Festival hosts have planned a series of free live-streamed events, including panels, workshops, artist talks and an awardspresentation. Women in Film and Television Vancouver that puts on the festival is a non-profit organization founded in 1989 to addressbarriers to equality in screen-based media. This is the 16th annual Vancouver International Women in Film Festival. Tickets went on sale Feb. 25 through partner organization VIFF’s Connect program. Zoë Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Island Gazette
Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) CEO Scott Livingstone addressed concerns about how vaccinations are rolling out in the province during a media availability on Thursday. Livingstone explained that the province is still working on strengthening processes and communication around availability. “We are committed to a vaccine distribution process that is fast, fair, transparent and safe. As you have seen, we are making great strides in getting our infrastructure up quickly to manage higher volumes of vaccine as they arrive,” Livingstone said. There have been as many as 4,000 vaccines delivered in a single day and he is confident Saskatchewan can deliver more that. “As an example, out of those 4,000 vaccines that were delivered on the weekend, on Saturday, 3,300 were in rural and northern Saskatchewan and were not using our large vaccination capabilities in either Regina and Saskatoon,” Livingstone said. In recent weeks, the process for notifying individuals 70-years-old and over has been a hot button issue for the SHA. Livingstone explained that in phase one of the rollout vaccines are distributed at community long-term care and personal care home residents and certain prioritized healthcare workers as a priority group. “After those populations are vaccinated, local public health officers or officials will be establishing clinics for residents 70 plus. To fill these clinics, we are contacting eligible recipients wherever possible by phone based on their age and location until all available appointments are filled,” Livingstone said. The subject of vaccination in Prince Albert was addressed during the regular councillor’s forum at the end of the city council meeting on Monday by Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick. He used part of his time in the forum to let the public know that public health was contacting people to get vaccinated in the city. “So just for people that are watching, make sure you answer your phone when you see that unknown number because that is your chance to get vaccinated. And I thank the health district and public health for actually making it a lot easier for seniors to get vaccinated rather than posting it on social media and you have to phone in and hope to heck that you are one that gets in there and a lot of those seniors don’t have access to technology,” Ogrodnick said. Priority sequencing continues in phase two as the oldest residents are contacted first and then descending ages are contacted. “Note that the appointment availability is driven by vaccine availability. At this time there isn’t a clinic in the province that is able to receive enough vaccines to immunize all residents eligible in phase one. Once these appointments are filled, the clinic must be suspended until more vaccines are made available to the province,” the province said. Livingstone explained that shifting vaccine availability creates challenges for residents who are aware of clinics but have not been contacted and for public health officials who have to shift each week because of lack of consistent supplies. “We are currently looking at many ways to improve the booking process, not just for phase one but also phase two in the province and you will see some important changes very soon,” Livingstone said. In the future, the system will be moving to residents contacting health authorities to choose a local vaccination site and vaccination time which will improve the process. “It will still be hampered by a lack of vaccine supply — until that vaccine starts flowing in a consistent manner,” Livingstone said. Livingstone explained that a website and phone number with this information will be available in the next 10 days. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
CALGARY — A judge has sentenced a man with a benign brain tumour, who lost consciousness while driving and killed a Calgary woman, to 27 months in prison. James Beagrie, 48, was originally charged with criminal negligence causing death after his truck hit Anjna Sharma, a mother of three, who had been on a walk during a work break in May 2017. Beagrie pleaded guilty last fall to a lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death. Court heard he had been told by his doctor not to drive and, three months before killing Sharma, blacked out and got into a single-vehicle crash. "I would describe this offence in two words -- tragic and senseless," Alberta Court of Queen's Bench Justice Richard Neufeld said in his sentencing decision Thursday. "Mr. Beagrie ignored all of those warnings and drove anyway, and he will live with that for the rest of his life. It's exactly that type of behaviour that must be denounced and deterred so other lives can be saved." Neufeld said Beagrie deserved a sentence of 30 months, but he lowered it to 27 months because of the man's "precarious medical condition." "In my view, justice without compassion is not justice at all ... he is on borrowed time himself. A sentence of 2 1/2 years may turn out to be a life sentence," said Neufeld. The Crown had asked that Beagrie serve 2 1/2 years in prison. His defence lawyer suggested two years. The judge also ordered Beagrie be banned from driving for 7 1/2 years after his release. "If you do recover, as I hope you will, you will have served your debt to society and will deserve a chance after a period of time to return to normalcy," Neufeld said. "This ordeal does not need to define the rest of your life, just as I truly hope that it will not define the rest of the lives and happiness of the Sharma family in the years to come." On Monday, Beagrie apologized in court and promised not to drive when he get out of prison, unless it's a matter of "life and limb.'' This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. -- Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Kyle Connor scored two goals and the Winnipeg Jets spoiled the debut of the Montreal Canadiens' new head coach Dominique Ducharme with a 6-3 win on Thursday. Nate Thompson scored the go-ahead goal in the third period, while Pierre-Luc Dubois and Mark Scheifele each had a goal and an assist. Blake Wheeler also scored and added two assists for the Jets (12-6-1), who've won three in a row. Joel Armia scored twice for the Canadiens (9-6-4), who've lost four straight. Tomas Tatar scored the Habs other goal while Jeff Petry had two assists. The Canadiens fired head coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller on Wednesday, promoting Ducharme to interim head coach. The move came on the heels of Montreal's 5-4 shootout loss to Ottawa the previous night. Ducharme originally joined the Canadiens coaching staff in 2018 after 10 seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. After lofty pre-season expectations and a hot start to the season, the Habs have struggled, plummeting to fourth in the North Division. The misery continued despite the coaching change, and raised more questions about struggling goalie Carey Price, with Habs fans calling for backup Jake Allen. Price allowed five goals on 29 shots, while Winnipeg netminder Connor Hellebuyck only had to make 18 saves for the win. Armia got Montreal on the scoreboard in the first period with his third goal of the season, firing a shot through the legs of Hellebuyck at 13:45. Armia notched No. 4 at 17:29 with the Canadiens in transition again. After a gesture from Jonathan Drouin to head for the net, Armia redirected Drouin's pass past Hellebuyck. Connor sliced the difference in half on the power play with his ninth goal of the season at 5:37 of a second period that saw three Jets goals, poking in the puck past Price in a scramble in front of the net. The Habs answered with their own power-play goal from Tatar at 7:33 of the second, but Connor cut the lead to a goal once again, finishing a tic-tac-toe passing play at 11:50. Wheeler scored at 14:31 to tie the game 3-3- heading into the third period. Mason Appleton slid the puck to Thompson, who scored through Price's legs for the go-ahead at 6:37 of the third. Dubois padded the Jets lead at 12:37, and Sheifele had an empty-netter at 18:22. Montreal lost forward Josh Anderson to an injury in the first period. Anderson collided with Jets defenceman Dylan DeMelo. He finished his shift but then headed to the locker-room, and was ultimately ruled out. The Habs and Jets meet again on Saturday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The Canadian Judicial Council says a Quebec judge has resigned after the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear his appeal. Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner says Michel Girouard's decision to step down from the Quebec Superior Court "narrowly avoids his removal from office by Parliament." A 2012 complaint alleged that Girouard, while he was still a lawyer, had bought illegal drugs from a client. An inquiry committee rejected the allegations but cited contradictions and implausibilities in Girouard’s testimony. A second complaint about Girouard’s credibility during the initial proceedings led a majority of judges on the council to recommend he lose his job. The Federal Court and the Court of Appeal dismissed Girouard's attempts to overturn the recommendation, prompting his application to the Supreme Court. In a news release Thursday as chairperson of the judicial council, Wagner said Girouard's resignation "is the last chapter in a prolonged saga that has undermined expectations of access to justice and has cost Canadians millions of dollars." Wagner said Canada benefits from outstanding judges who demonstrate the highest ethical integrity but the Girouard matter shows that the disciplinary process that deals with instances of judicial misconduct must be re-examined. "In the matter of Michel Girouard, proceedings have been going on for eight years now. Throughout this entire period, Michel Girouard has continued to receive his full salary despite not sitting, and he will now receive a pension for life, all at the expense of Canadian taxpayers," said Wagner. Earlier Thursday, Justice Minister David Lametti said he would seek parliamentary approval to remove Girouard from the bench. Lametti said Thursday on Twitter that as the "lengthy process has unfolded, I have made it clear that I fully intended to act if Justice Girouard exhausted his avenues of appeal and the revocation decision was upheld. That moment has arrived." Lametti said he intended to proceed with Girouard's removal by seeking the necessary approval of the House of Commons and Senate. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
Canada's ministry of finance called a media report that the head of the country's largest pension fund had traveled to the Middle East and received a COVID-19 vaccination "very troubling". Mark Machin, the 54-year-old chief executive of the C$475.7 billion ($377 billion) Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), received a Pfizer Inc vaccine shot after arriving in the United Arab Emirates with his partner this month, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.
Rapid testing for COVID-19 will be expanding in the province in the near future. The rapid test kits allocated by the federal government will now be available in available in a variety of settings to test asymptomatic individuals. Saskatchewan has created a strategy to deploy more than 700,000 rapid point-of-care tests received through a federal government allocation. The tests will be used in a variety of settings including walk-in or drive-thru sites, mobile testing and pop-up testing sites. In media availability on Thursday, Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) CEO Scott Livingstone explained that testing is an important part of the strategy in maintaining offensive work around containing, mitigating and delaying the virus spread. “These are simple tests, are readily available and some of the new sites that will be included in this expansion include personal care homes, group homes, detox facilities, emergency shelters and schools. Rapid tests will also be made available to ambulance, police and fire services as well as pharmacy and dental offices for staff that work within those areas to insure that we are screening essential workers in those areas,” Livingstone said. The tests are already available at over 150 long-term care facilities and over 100 areas in acute care. Livingstone explained that the Medical Laboratory Licensing Regulations have been amended to exempt point of care COVID-19 specimen collection and testing sites from requiring a laboratory license when those sites have entered into an agreement with the Saskatchewan Health Authority. He explained that the lab license was a barrier and was lifted because the test is simple and safe. “These changes give us the ability to move swiftly to expand testing options,” Health Minister Paul Merriman said in a release. “We know that testing plays a crucial role in helping to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus and now with variants of concern surfacing in our province it is more important than ever that testing is expanded to make it easier, quicker and more convenient to access.” Many of these sectors may not have the capacity to use these tests on their own, so the Ministry of Health is working with SaskBuilds and Procurement to develop a Request for Pre-Qualifications (RFPQ) tender for third-party providers to deliver testing to these locations. This will enhance the number and variety of venues where rapid testing is offered. Livingstone explained that one example of why the RFPQ tender was in place was for ambulance, fire and police and participating pharmacies and dental offices. “This is going to take a little bit of time but we are committed to using these tests widely across many venues in the province as soon as possible. There are still some operational and logistic details to sort out but there is hope that the delivery and support for the expanded venues can happen over the next few weeks,” Livingstone said. Livingstone stated that the program could move quicker in schools because they have existing public health infrastructure with public health staff to do testing. The SHA is also looking at pop-up point of care testing sites and the ability for health care workers to carry out weekly surveillance testing on themselves. The Ministry of Health and SHA will work with various sectors and provider groups to ensure training and support is in place to use these testing resources to their full potential. Any rapid point-of-care tests that return a positive result will need to be retested to confirm the result using a PCR test with the Saskatchewan Health Authority labs. However, negative tests do not need to be retested for confirmation, which is expected to reduce pressure on provincial lab resources. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
NEW YORK — Is it Mr. Potato Head or not? Hasbro created confusion Thursday when it announced that it would drop the “Mr.” from the brand’s name in order to be more inclusive and so all could feel “welcome in the Potato Head world.” It also said it would sell a new playset this fall without the Mr. and Mrs. designations that will let kids create their own type of potato families, including two moms or two dads. But in a tweet later that afternoon, Hasbro clarified that the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head characters will still live on and be sold in stores, but under the Potato Head brand. In a picture posted on Twitter, the “Mr.” and “Mrs.” names are less prominently displayed at the bottom of the box, instead of the top. “While it was announced today that the POTATO HEAD brand name & logo are dropping the ‘MR.’ I yam proud to confirm that MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD aren’t going anywhere and will remain MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD,” the company tweeted. The tweet came after news of the brand name change exploded on Twitter, with people asking if Barbie will change her name next. “I think Hasbro needs to drop the “Bro” and just be “Has,'” another person tweeted. Hasbro appears to want to have it both ways: expand the brand, while not killing off its most iconic characters, which appeared in the “Toy Story” films. “They are looking to broaden the franchise,” said Robert Passikoff, founder of marketing consultancy Brand Keys. “You take the focus of what is essentially one character and now allow it to be a platform for many characters.” Kimberly Boyd, a senior vice-president at Hasbro, said the intention of the brand name change was to be more inclusive and to have the characters still live within the Potato Head universe. “It created a lot of excitement," she said about the reaction. GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy group, applauded the more inclusive Potato playset. “Hasbro is helping kids to simply see toys as toys, which encourages them to be their authentic selves outside of the pressures of traditional gender norms,” said Rich Ferraro, GLAAD’s chief communications officer, in a statement. Many toymakers have been updating their classic brands in recent years, hoping to relate to today’s kids and reflect more modern families. “It’s a potato,” said Ali Mierzejewski, editor in chief at toy review site The Toy Insider, about the new playset. “But kids like to see themselves in the toys they are playing with.” Barbie, for example, has tried to shed its blonde image and now comes in multiple skin tones and body shapes. The Thomas the Tank Engine toy line added more girl characters. And American Girl is now selling a boy doll. Mr. Potato Head first hit the toy scene in 1952, when it didn’t even come with a plastic potato — kids had to supply their own vegetable to poke eyes, a nose or moustache into. Hasbro, which also makes Monopoly and My Little Pony, bought the brand and eventually added a plastic spud. Joseph Pisani, The Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. — A former U.S. Olympics gymnastics coach with ties to disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar killed himself Thursday, hours after being charged with turning his Michigan gym into a hub of human trafficking by coercing girls to train and then abusing them. John Geddert faced 24 charges that could have carried years in prison had he been convicted. He was supposed to appear in an Eaton County court, near Lansing, but his body was found at a rest area along Interstate 96, according to state police. "This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved," Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said. Nessel earlier announced that Geddert was charged with a bushel of crimes, including sexual assault, human trafficking and running a criminal enterprise. The charges were the latest fallout from the sexual abuse scandal involving Nassar, a former Michigan State University sports doctor now in prison. Geddert, 63, wasn't arrested and transported to court. Rather, Nessel's office allowed him to show up on his own. “We had no indication that Geddert intended to flee or hurt himself or others. We had been in contact with his attorney and were assured of his co-operation,” Nessel spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney said. Calls seeking comment from attorney Chris Bergstrom weren't immediately returned. Geddert was head coach of the 2012 U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team, which won a gold medal. He was long associated with Nassar, who was the Olympic team’s doctor and also treated injured gymnasts at Twistars, Geddert’s Lansing-area gym. Among the charges, Geddert was accused of lying to investigators in 2016 when he denied ever hearing complaints about Nassar. But the bulk of the case against him involved his gym in Dimondale and how he treated the young athletes whose families paid to have them train under him. The charges against Geddert had “very little to do” with Nassar, said Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark. Geddert was charged with using his strong reputation in gymnastics to commit a form of human trafficking by making money through the forced labour of young athletes. “The victims suffer from disordered eating,” Nessel said, “including bulimia and anorexia, suicide attempts and attempts at self harm, excessive physical conditioning, repeatedly being forced to perform even when injured, extreme emotional abuse and physical abuse, including sexual assault. “Many of these victims still carry these scars from this behaviour to this day,” the attorney general said. Nessel acknowledged that the case might not fit the common understanding of human trafficking. “We think of it predominantly as affecting people of colour or those without means to protect themselves ... but honestly it can happen to anyone, anywhere,” she said. “Young impressionable women may at times be vulnerable and open to trafficking crimes, regardless of their stature in the community or the financial well-being of their families.” Geddert was suspended by Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics during the Nassar scandal. He told families in 2018 that he was retiring. USA Gymnastics said in a statement late Thursday that news about the charges against Geddert would “lead to justice through the legal process.” “With the news of his death by suicide, we share the feelings of shock, and our thoughts are with the gymnastics community as they grapple with the complex emotions of today’s events,” the organization said. On his LinkedIn page, Geddert described himself as the “most decorated women’s gymnastics coach in Michigan gymnastics history.” He said his Twistars teams won 130 club championships. But Geddert was often portrayed in unflattering ways when Nassar’s victims spoke during court hearings in 2018. Some insisted he was aware of the doctor's abuse. Sarah Klein, a gymnast who trained under Geddert for more than 10 years and was assaulted by Nassar, said the coach's death was an “escape from justice” and “traumatizing beyond words.” “His suicide is an admission of guilt that the entire world can now see,” said Klein, a lawyer. Rachael Denhollander, the first gymnast to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual abuse in 2016, said she was proud of the women who stepped forward against Geddert. “So much pain and grief for everyone," she said on Twitter after his death. “To the survivors, you have been heard and believed, and we stand with you.” ___ White reported from Detroit. Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Anna Liz Nichols And Ed White, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says he assumes security authorities signed off on an arrangement to allow a company owned by a Chinese police force to run Canada's visa application centre in Beijing. Blair says he can only make assumptions because the arrangement was put in place in 2008, under the previous Conservative government. Still, he says he's been assured by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that the personal information provided by visa applicants is secure. He says the information is handled according to Canada's privacy laws, that no application or biometrically collected data is stored at the centre and that all databases containing personal information are located in Canada. Questions have been raised about the centre since The Globe and Mail reported earlier this month that its operation has been subcontracted to Beijing Shuangxiong Foreign Service Company, which is owned by the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau. Opposition MPs questioned Blair about the possibility that visa applicants' personal information could be relayed to the Chinese government and cause negative repercussions, particularly for dissidents trying to flee the country's repressive Communist regime. Bloc Quebecois MP Stephane Bergeron and New Democrat MP Jack Harris pressed Blair to explain which of Canada's national security agencies signed off on the subcontract to the Chinese police. "I have some difficulty frankly answering your question Mr. Harris about the origins of this contract," Blair told the special committee on Canada-China relations Thursday. "It was signed in 2008. So it's been in place for 12 years now and so its origin and who actually authorized this contract predates me or my government and frankly my knowledge." Blair said there are "normal procurement processes" in place for contracting out services and he assumes they were followed in this case. "I want to make sure that it's clear. I'm only able to make an assumption that those processes were in fact followed because it did take place 12 years ago." "That's not much comfort, I have to say," Harris responded. Blair acknowledged that IRCC is not a security agency but he said it does have an information technology specialist department that has provided assurances that the visa information is secure. He said inspections and audits are regularly conducted to ensure there is no privacy breach of sensitive information and there has been no evidence of a problem. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A headline on a previous version said Bill Blair testified a Conservative government authorized the contracting-out of visa services in Beijing specifically to a company owned by Chinese police.
(Scott Crowson/CBC - image credit) Parks Canada is welcoming six plains bison to Waterton Lakes National Park, a move that is ecologically significant for the park and culturally significant for Indigenous communities in southern Alberta. "Every time a tribe or a park starts a herd, that's wonderful news for our people because it means strengthening our culture, it means revitalizing of our grasslands and the bringing back biodiversity, which is good for the land," said Prof. Leroy Little Bear, a member of the Kainai Nation and a special advisor to the president at the University of Lethbridge. The six young bison were released into the winter bison paddocks on Feb. 19. Little Bear says the bison are a key species in the songs, stories and ceremonies of Indigenous culture. There are buffalo jumps and "all over the Waterton Lakes area," he said, noting some of those historical sites were exposed by the Kenow wildfire that tore through the area four years ago. Little Bear said the Blood Tribe has been working with national parks, and Waterton in particular, to bring buffalo back to the area. This is one of the inhabitants of the summer bison paddock at Waterton Lakes National Park in 2008. "Sometime in the foreseeable future, we might use them, as the herd grows, for economic purposes. But right now, our intent is to focus on cultural purposes and research, you know, cultural aspects, the land and so on," Little Bear said. "Those are the kind of things we want to work on with Waterton. And we're very, very thankful to the national park service for working with us, partnering with us in this buffalo restoration." Bison welcomed with prayer ceremony On Feb. 19, as the animals arrived, they were blessed in a physically distanced prayer ceremony by Blackfoot Confederacy elders from Kainai Nation, Piikani Nation and Siksika Nation. "It was a wonderful sight to see those buffalo come off the trailers and running to the paddock.… It was a wonderful sight to see them, you know, coming to their new homes," said Little Bear. Parks Canada says people will be able to view the bison when they move to the summer paddocks in the spring. At that time, visitors will be able to cruise around the summer paddock loop road for viewing. Leroy Little Bear, a University of Lethbridge professor, welcomed the return of bison to Waterton Lakes National Park. It's a welcome return, said Kimberly Pearson, a nature legacy ecosystem scientist with Parks Canada at Waterton, for a park that has hosted a herd of bison since 1952 — until the 2017 Kenow fire. "Since 1952, there's been a small herd within the summer and winter bison paddocks. They alternate between those paddocks through the year," Pearson said, noting the herd was relocated as the fire approached, mostly to Grasslands National Park. Impact on ecosystem Pearson said there is quite a bit of research surrounding the return of the bison and their impact on the ecosystem. "Waterton Lakes National Park has some science happening on the ground, actually a fairly large science program around post-fire ecology, the ecology within the landscape following the Kenow wildfire. And some of that research includes the bison paddock," she said. "One researcher, in particular, has really taken a close look at the vegetation, both before and following the wildfire. And going forward, they can now look at the ecological impacts of bison on that area as well as fire." Pearson said the impact of the bison is expected to be positive, especially in the wake of the fire. "They're called ecosystem engineers. They alter the landscape in ways that are really beneficial to virtually all plants and animals, and restoring them benefits the entire ecosystem from top predators all the way down through the soils," Pearson said. Parks Canada welcomed six plains bison from Elk Island National Park to the Waterton Lakes National Park bison paddock last week. The new bison have been transferred from Elk Island National Park. There are four females and two males. "In a couple of years, they will start reproducing, and building up their numbers," Pearson said. "So we will start seeing calves on the ground, probably a couple of springs from now — so something to look forward to."
Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams told Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission that he was initially reluctant to restrict workers to a single home early in the pandemic because care home positions "didn't pay a large amount."