There is a record number of women of colour and LBGTQ candidates running for office this year in the United States, but many say there's still a lot to be done to reach reflective representation.
There is a record number of women of colour and LBGTQ candidates running for office this year in the United States, but many say there's still a lot to be done to reach reflective representation.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Fresh off another rejection in Pennsylvania's courts, Republicans on Thursday again asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the battleground state, while the state's lawyers say fatal flaws in the original case mean justices are highly unlikely to grant it. Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of northwestern Pennsylvania and the other plaintiffs are asking the high court to prevent the state from certifying any contests from the Nov. 3 election, and undo any certifications already made, such as Biden’s victory, while its lawsuit is considered. They maintain that Pennsylvania’s expansive vote-by-mail law is unconstitutional because it required a constitutional amendment to authorize its provisions. However, in a sign that the case is likely too late to affect the election, Justice Samuel Alito ordered the state's lawyers to respond by Dec. 9, a day after what is known as the safe harbour deadline. That means that Congress cannot challenge any electors named by this date in accordance with state law. Biden beat President Donald Trump by more than 80,000 votes in Pennsylvania, a state Trump had won in 2016. Most mail-in ballots were submitted by Democrats. Pennsylvania's Supreme Court threw out the case Saturday. Kelly's lawyers sought an injunction Tuesday in the U.S. Supreme Court, then withdrew it while they asked the state's high court to halt any certifications until the U.S. Supreme Court acts. The state's justices refused Thursday, and Kelly's lawyers promptly refiled the case in the U.S. Supreme Court. In the state’s courts, justices cited the law’s 180-day time limit on filing legal challenges to its provisions, as well as the staggering demand that an entire election be overturned retroactively. In addition to challenging the state's mail-in voting law, Kelly’s lawyers question whether the state's justices violated their clients' constitutional rights by throwing out the case on the basis of time limits and barring them from refiling it on the same grounds. Lawyers for Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said in court filings that Kelly's lawyers never before argued that the U.S. Constitution provides a basis for their claims, making it “highly unlikely” the U.S. Supreme Court will grant what they are seeking. In the underlying lawsuit, Kelly and the other Republican plaintiffs had sought to either throw out the 2.5 million mail-in ballots submitted under the law or to wipe out the election results and direct the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to pick Pennsylvania’s presidential electors. ___ Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/timelywriter Marc Levy, The Associated Press
A 94-year-old man is the first Aurora resident to lose their battle with COVID-19 since June 9. The man was a resident of Chartwell Park Place, which is currently in an active outbreak situation. An active outbreak at the Yonge Street residence, formerly Park Place Manor, was first reported by York Region Public Health on November 11 with two cases among its caregiver complement of 40. By press time this week, there were 11 confirmed cases of the virus among the 65 residents and 4 among caregivers and staff. Aurora, as of December 1, has seen a total of 371 cases of the virus, 27 of which remain active. 328 cases are now marked as resolved with the late Chartwell Park Place resident bringing fatalities to 16. His death was the first of an Aurora resident in this second wave of the virus, the day after the Region logged a record of new cases in a single day: 251 on Sunday, November 29. The last victim, an 85-year-old woman who was a resident of Chartwell Aurora lost the battle after a long hospitalization. “Our cases in York Region had been plateauing until the weekend when we saw quite a jump in the numbers of cases and we don’t know exactly what is responsible for this jump and we’re investigating,” said Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s Medical Officer of Health, in his weekly update on Monday. The latest death comes as York Region cracks down on gatherings as new cases of the virus continue to rise. In the lead-up to – and aftermath of – Black Friday, York Region conducted a COVID-19 enforcement blitz, which resulted more than 1,000 visits to businesses across York Region to monitor compliance with public safety measures resulting from York being moved into Ontario’s Red (“Control”) Zone. Throughout the weekend, officers from York’s COVID-19 task force focused on malls, big box stores, restaurants, fitness centres and other public spaces to ensure public health measures were being followed. One Aurora business, Xclusive Fades on Yonge Street near Wellington, faces charges under the Reopening Ontario Act. “Most businesses across York Region are adhering to COVID-19 safety measures and protocols, however there is an increasing number of complaints from the public about overcrowding in malls, big box and retail stores,” said the Region. “Businesses failing to keep their customers and employees safe by not adhering to the mandated COVID-19 safety measures will be subject to fines. Repeat offenders could face temporary closure.” Added Dr. Kurji: “York Regional Council had made the commitment of enforcement of the guidelines on York Region residents as well as businesses. As a result, we have the COVID-19 enforcement task force that has been very busy over the weekend having laid some 32 charges following 867 inspections as well as 1,151 compliance education activities. Fines can be laid even under the Reopening Ontario Safe Act or can be laid under the Health Promotion and Protection Act. The latter can be as many as $25,000 for a corporation. “When it comes to people coming to York Region from the lockdown zones, the Province generally advises them not to move from one zone to another. We in York Region have incidence rates that are similar to those of Toronto’s, although Peel’s incidence rates are higher. Therefore, we have taken the position that whilst people are supposed to stay home and only come out for essential shopping, if they do come here we want to make sure that everybody is kept safe. As a result, over the weekend previously, we had issued a Section 22 order requiring malls and retail outlets to ensure appropriate physical distancing and line management. By doing so, we have strived to keep people safe. However, with the holiday shopping season being here, we urge you first to stay home as much as possible, only to go out for essential trips, see if you can actually get your shopping done online from the local stores. If you can’t and you have to visit one of the stores, please visit them at off-peak hours and try and minimize the time you would spend at the malls or in stores and observe the directional arrows in the stores as well as the physical distancing requirement of two metres or more.”Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
Not content to let the global pandemic get in the way of safe and festive fun, more than 500 carloads of Aurora residents descended upon the Aurora Family Leisure Complex on Saturday night for a Santa Under the Stars parade that was an Aurora first. Rather than travelling down Yonge Street to greet the young and the young at heart, in what has become his storied local tradition, Santa Claus parked his sleigh at the Complex (AFLC) and invited revellers to come to him in the Town’s first “stationary” Christmas parade. More than 20 community groups and local leaders decorated floats and found their place alongside Santa as vehicles came in from Industrial Parkway North and St. John’s Sideroad to do a one-way circuit around the AFLC’s tiered parking lot to pass dazzling displays of holiday cheer. For Sheryl Thomas of Marquee Theatrical Productions, whose group is represented in the parade year in and year out, the present challenge presented a new opportunity. Rather than having a few seconds in front of the thousands that normally line Yonge Street, budding theatre artists had something of a captive audience and used it to their best advantage. “This has been 100 per cent positive,” said Ms. Thomas at the start of the parade. “The only disadvantage is we had too many volunteers and we had to cut back. How often does that happen? We had such a great response from people who are just dying to be part of something for the community.” Volunteers came not just from theatre schools, but local companies as well who stepped up to help them execute their vision, including Priestly Demolition who donated the flatbed for their float – transformed into a capsule stage production of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. “Anything is possible,” said Ms. Thomas. “We’re going to come through this COVID thing and nothing can really get you down. There’s always a way to get through it.” This was a sentiment shared by Amal Mukhlis of Aurora Early Learning Centre, whose youngsters put on their creative caps to put together their own spin on the Grinch. “Our children did everything – they the boxes, they painted them, they did a theme of something they are very fond at the Centre, and that is the Grinch and Whoville,” said Ms. Muklis. “They put everything together. Unfortunately, they can’t be a part of it today, but they will be joining us in waving hello to us. This is something we are very proud of because the children took charge. It is something very authentic and it came from their heads.” Creative muscles were also being flexed by members of the Dynamic Dance Company, who have participated in the last three parades. In the previous two years, they secured honours for the Best Decorated Float, but the stationary aspect of the parade promoted some crafty thinking. “Doing it this year was definitely different because we had to think about the fact it is not a moving object because the cars are coming and we only had to decorate the front,” said Natalie Silia. “Normally we have our entire studio here dancing with us, but unfortunately we can’t so we’re Instagramming to show everybody. “We love being a part of the community, we love our dancers having that community feel and feeling like they are giving back with the holiday spirit. Especially this year in all years, I feel we definitely need the holiday spirit.” Also participating in the parade were Mayor Tom Mrakas and members of Council and, representing the Province, Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill MPP Michael Parsa, who donned a “Shop Local” mask to drive home an issue close to the hearts of so many local businesses struggling due to the pandemic. “People need this, we all need it,” said Mr. Parsa of having the parade continue in the community. “It is nice to get out and see people again – it is nice to see people again! This has been a tough year for all our small businesses. Please, as much as you can, get out there and support them. We hope everyone does that [after the parade] and throughout the holidays as well.”Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
No matter how you look at it, Christmas 2020 is not going to be one you will soon forget. But, as the holidays get ever-closer, Aurora is looking to sprinkle a little extra magic with the annual Aurora’s Christmas Market – re-imagined to reflect our new reality. This year’s free Christmas Market, which will be held at Town Park for the first time, will be spread over six nights, featuring dozens of vendors, artisans and activities both in-person and virtually. Festive vendors, artisans and chefs from across York Region will showcase holiday décor, toys, jewellery and clothes, art, baked goods and more during this physically-distant experience, open to no more than 25 Market-goers in any one time slot between 5 – 9.30 p.m. “The planning for the Market has taken on many different layouts, as well as locations,” says Shelley Ware, Special Events Coordinator for the Town of Aurora. “Due to the ongoing changes within our circumstances, which are beyond our control, the Market has been scaled down from what the original version was. The objective of the Market, for those who are able to register and attend, is to be able to provide an experience that enables people to get lost in the magic of the environment and just take 45 minutes to forget what we’re dealing with on the bigger picture and to actually feel the spirit of the season.” Imparting that spirit of the season will be a number of holiday-themed huts which will house each vendor, with thousands of Christmas lights strung from hut to hut across the pathway bisecting Town Park, which will make for an impressive sight. Organizers are aiming to have 40 different in-person vendors throughout the course of the multi-evening Market, with new vendors each Market day. In addition to the complement of in-person vendors, a total of 70 vendors will also be participating in the virtual market, which will be organized by product and service. Each in-person market will offer 12 or 13 vendors at a time, but all 70 vendors will be online for a full seven days. “I have to say our online components are pretty cool,” says Ms. Ware. “One of the event plans was to house the activities in the park. Those activities we have put online and the park activities are going to be showcasing the vendors that we have, which I have got to say are such high quality this year. Some of our virtual programming, we have Mrs. Claus doing some baking demos so kids can learn how to make Santa’s favourite cookies. We actually have a D-I-Y festive gnome that you can make for your own front porch. We have a full kit prepared with greenery and everything of that nature, as well as a step by step guide for making it. We’re even going to have a workshop on how to make the most of this holiday season and still make it a memorable one. This is in addition to online children’s games and activities. “Whether they come in-person or take part online, we want people to leave with a re-set of their personal energy and a re-set in their ability to look for the blessings that are still around us. Obviously, the holidays are going to look very different, but that just means we have to look at the holidays differently because there are still ways of making them special and memorable – mind you, no one is going to forget the Christmas of 2020. “While they walk through the Market, they get to take a time out of worry or whatever they’re focusing with and be able to literally feel what those lights give them and the atmosphere. Just that Hallmark feeling that Aurora’s small-town charm can deliver, especially at an event like this. Whether it is virtual or in person, is really supporting our local small businesses and the entrepreneurs [and] this is a time for them to shine.” For more information on the Aurora Christmas Market, which runs from Friday, December 4 – Sunday, December 6, from 5 – 9.30 p.m., and again from Friday, December 11 to Sunday, December 13 at the same time, visit aurora.ca/Christmasmarket. There, you can register for your preferred time slots and learn more about how to access the online market and roster of activities.Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
Tofino, BC - Master carver Joe martin normally keeps an open-door policy. It’s been customary for people from different territories and nationalities to drop by Martin’s workshop in Tofino and soak in his teachings. Theatrically waving his hands through the air, Martin would tell stories of how his ancestors used to pierce a whale under its left front flipper by launching a harpoon from a canoe with the strength of one arm. “I’m well over my mid-life,” said the 67-year-old. “It’s the law of nature – one day I’m not going to be here. Having teachings and passing them on is a responsibility.” No longer able to host visitors due to the ongoing pandemic, Martin has turned to social media as a way of sharing his ancestor’s stories. By posting short videos of teachings to his personal Facebook page, the Tla-o-qui-aht elder is hoping to appeal to younger generations. “That’s where we have their attention,” he said of the youth within his nation. Martin thinks back on his childhood with fondness. Considering himself one of the fortunate ones, he didn’t go to residential school. Instead, his father and grandfather were his teachers. Spending their days out on the land, Martin’s father would recount teachings to him over-and-over. Through oral repetition, his family’s histories seeped into his psyche and became a part of his being. As the world changes, the way we interact has transformed. Oral stories are being disseminated online as a way to bring communities together because people are unable to gather. “We have to adjust,” said Martin. “And this is how we’re adjusting.” In trying to capturethe attention of Tla-o-qui-aht’s youth, Martin said that he has also connected with elders of his generation who were forced to attend residential school. Stripped of the teachings from their own grandparents, some have clung to Martin’s stories. During the first week of lockdown at the end of March, Cory Howard, Huu-ay-aht First Nations health and wellness coordinator, began posting live videos of himself singing his family’s songs. It is a practice he has continued every Tuesday evening, drawing in an average of 500 viewers. “People are loving it,” said Howard. “They say it’s medicine for them.” After his cousin was stricken with COVID-19 last week, Howard recorded a song and sent it to him. “It makes [people] feel better when they have culture in their life,” he said. “When they’re down, it lifts them up.” During lockdown in April, Joe’s daughter, Gisele, spent a lot of time connecting with nature and photographing the “beautiful biodiversity” near her home in Esowista. At the time, she struggled on whether to post the photos online, worrying how it might affect people who were confined to their city apartments. But after deciding to share them, she was met with gratitude. “Even though they couldn't be there, it helped them with their day,” she said. “Through social media, I’m connected to people in a lot of different territories and get to hear their stories – it helps me navigate how I do things here.” Gisele has been helping her father with his videos. The recordings extend beyond the technicalities of how to carve a traditional dugout canoe. Collaboratively, they try to weave in stories about how generations of salmon returning to a river system provide nourishment to the surrounding forests, making it possible for a canoe to come into existence. As a Nuu-chah-nulth language and culture educator, Gisele said she recognizes the benefits of social media as a way of increasing cultural awareness, but remains cautious. “I think part of the problem or challenge with sharing things online is that our teachings can get fragmented,” she said. Using plants as an example, Gisele said that she would never go to another nation’s territory to harvest. There are a lot of considerations to be made about the reciprocal relationship people have with plants, along with traditional protocols that might not come through in a video, she said. Being a gathering people, online platforms have provided a space for Nuu-chah-nulth members to come together. But, as important as it is to connect with people, Gisele said it’s equally vital to interact with the landscape around you. Pictures on Instagram may allow people to appreciate the wonders of nature, but Gisele argues it is impossible to interact with nature through a screen. And while the black mirrors are helping to fill the void during this time of social distancing, we need to connect to the places where we live and “support the health of those places,” she said.Melissa Renwick, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Ha-Shilth-Sa
MADISON, Wis. — A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear President Donald Trump’s lawsuit attempting to overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in the battleground state, sidestepping a decision on the merits of the claims and instead ruling that the case must first wind its way through lower courts.In another blow to Trump, two dissenting conservative justices questioned whether disqualifying more than 221,000 ballots as Trump wanted would be the proper remedy to the errors he alleged.The defeat on a 4-3 ruling was the latest in a string of losses for Trump’s post-election lawsuits. Judges in multiple battleground states have rejected his claims of fraud or irregularities.Trump asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in the state’s two biggest Democratic counties, alleging irregularities in the way absentee ballots were administered. His lawsuit echoed claims that were earlier rejected by election officials in those counties during a recount that barely affected Biden’s winning margin of about 20,700 votes.Trump’s attorney Jim Troupis said he would immediately file the case in circuit court and expected to be back before the Supreme Court “very soon.”“It was clear from their writings that the court recognizes the seriousness of these issues, and we look forward to taking the next step,” he said in a statement. Trump's team made the filing late Thursday evening.In asking the conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case directly, Trump had argued that there wasn’t enough time to wage the legal battle by starting with a lower court, given the looming Dec. 14 date when presidential electors cast their votes.Swing Justice Brian Hagedorn joined three liberal justices in denying the petition without weighing in on Trump's allegations. Hagedorn said the law was clear that Trump must start his lawsuit in lower courts where factual disputes can be worked out.“We do well as a judicial body to abide by time-tested judicial norms, even — and maybe especially — in high profile cases,” Hagedorn wrote. “Following this law is not disregarding our duty, as some of my colleagues suggest. It is following the law.”Trump filed a similar lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday.Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, in a dissent where she was joined by Justice Annette Ziegler, said she would have taken the case and referred it to lower courts for factual findings, which could then be reported back to the Supreme Court for a ruling.But she also questioned whether disqualifying ballots was appropriate, saying that "may be out of reach for a number of reasons.”Conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley wrote that the court “forsakes its duty” by not determining whether elections officials complied with the law and the inaction will undermine the public's confidence in elections. Allowing the elections commission to make the law governing elections would be a “death blow to democracy,” she wrote.“While some will either celebrate or decry the court's inaction based upon the impact on their preferred candidate, the importance of this case transcends the results of this particular election,” she wrote in a dissent joined by Roggensack and Ziegler. “The majority's failure to act leaves an indelible stain on our most recent election.”Democratic Gov. Tony Evers praised the decision.“I was frankly amazed that it was not unanimous," Evers said.Trump's lawsuit challenged procedures that have been in place for years and never been found to be illegal.He claimed there were thousands of absentee ballots without a written application on file. He argued that the electronic log created when a voter requests a ballot online — the way the vast majority are requested — doesn’t meet the letter of the law.He also challenged ballots where election clerks filled in missing address information on the certification envelope where the ballot is inserted — a practice that has long been accepted and that the state elections commission told clerks was OK.Trump also challenged absentee ballots where voters declared themselves to be “indefinitely confined,” a status that exempts them from having to show photo identification to cast a ballot, and one that was used much more heavily this year due to the pandemic. The Wisconsin Supreme Court in March ruled that it was up to individual voters to determine their status.Roggensack, the chief justice, appointed Reserve Judge Stephen Simanek of Racine County to hear the case at the circuit court level. Simanek retired in 2010.The court late Thursday also declined to hear a lawsuit brought by a Wisconsin resident, Dean Mueller, that argued that ballots placed in drop boxes are illegal and must not be counted. The court's brief order included a single line noting Roggensack, Ziegler and Bradley all dissented with the denial.One other lawsuit filed by conservatives is still pending with the court seeking to invalidate ballots. In federal court, there is Trump’s lawsuit and another one with similar claims from Sidney Powell, a conservative attorney who was removed from Trump’s legal team.Wisconsin this week certified Biden’s victory, setting the stage for a Democratic slate of electors chosen earlier to cast the state’s 10 electoral votes for him.Scott Bauer, The Associated Press
Clayton Dixon has always had a sweet tooth – with a particular penchant for the sometimes creamy, sometimes dark, always satisfying confections that come out of traditional chocolateries. It was a love he balanced for many years with a career in finance, but, as he approached his 50th birthday, he decided it was now or never to live his dream and bring his sugary vision to the masses, starting in Aurora. Mr. Dixon, a resident of Whitchurch-Stouffville recently opened Chocolate & Company, a chocolate and gelato shop on Yonge Street and Brookland, which operates on the simple philosophy of “quality, decadence, all made on site.” “We wanted something better than what we could find,” says Dixon. “After doing cooking classes in my early 20s, I started playing around about 12 years ago, taking what I thought I could do a bit more seriously. I started practicing, built a little hobby kitchen in the basement and went from there.” From the basement, he decided he wanted to build something for the ground-up. But what? He knew what he had in mind: a chocolate that was more than a chocolate; a chocolate that was a dessert unto itself. At first, he envisioned an industrial kitchen to make his hand-made chocolate which would then, in turn, be sold to restaurants and retail shops. But, as he approached his milestone birthday, he decided he wanted to bring his dream confections directly to customers. “Welcome to my midlife crisis,” he joked, opening his door to The Auroran on Friday morning. “I wanted to sell to restaurants, but it just didn’t fit with what I wanted. I wanted a retail storefront because it would give me much more feedback from customers on what they really want. I take the approach almost like a two-bite brownie; two bites for a really luxurious dessert, something you can have with coffee or a glass of wine. It is not a pastry, but pure chocolate.” The ingredients, he says, are the best of the best. Although he does not roast his cocoa beans himself, he sources his chocolate – the obvious starting point – from Belgium and France. Then come the flourishes: pure hazelnut paste for the nutty confections, real raspberries, mango and more if you like your chocolate on the fruiter side of things, and hand-blended milk and dark chocolates for the perfect flavour balance. “I strive for something different, that extra level of decadence,” he says, noting that he and his daughter are often engaged in a battle over milk and dark chocolate, with his daughter a big fan of the former and dad veering more towards the dark side. “Now that I have opened to the retail market, I am bringing more milk chocolate into my recipes, so my daughter is happier!” As we get closer and closer to the holiday season, particularly during this challenging time, businesses and advocates are doubling down on their efforts to underscore the importance of shopping local. Chocolate & Company is no exception as they offer an array of flavours to suit every taste, with boxes of as few as two treats to as many as 27. “There’s a very strong Support Local base now because of COVID, but I think Support Local has been going on for quite some time, just extra-focused right now,” says Dixon. “People have [asked me] about starting a business at a tough time, but it is the whole Magic 8-Ball thing. I’m not really reinventing the wheel here, but I just figure the first six months are going to be tough anyway, and I am focused…on the store. It was meant to be and I kept being pulled in this direction. “I want to take the level of quality as high as I can take it. That is very important to me.” For more information, visit www.chocolateandcompany.ca.Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
Senior Health Canada officials said Thursday they could be just days away from approving a COVID-19 vaccine as many provinces reported increasing hospitalizations and Quebec cancelled plans to allow gatherings over the Christmas holidays. Chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma said final documents from the American drugmaker Pfizer are expected Friday. They are to include which production lots of the vaccine will be shipped to Canada and when. Sharma wouldn't put an exact date on approval or delivery, but said once the "key information" is delivered from Pfizer, she will be able to tell Canadians the news they have been longing to hear. Moderna's vaccine is expected to receive approval soon after. The supply will initially be limited to about three million people. Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said Thursday they are targeting priority groups that will most benefit from an earlier vaccine while reducing the spread of the virus. “In a country as geographically large and diverse as ours, we are facing some logistical complexities,” he said, including reaching remote communities and co-ordinating between various levels of government. The Canadian Armed Forces received formal orders last week to start planning for the distribution of COVID-19 in the most ambitious and complex vaccine rollout in the country’s history. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading the country's distribution effort, said the speed, scope and scale of this plan makes it unique. A planning directive for Operation Vector includes preparations on vaccine-storage facilities and notes the possibility of flying doses on short notice from Spain, Germany and the U.S. Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals and front-line workers during the second wave of the pandemic as they prepare for upcoming distribution of the vaccine. Premier Francois Legault announced Quebec will no longer go forward with a plan to permit multi-household gatherings of up to 10 people over four days during the holidays. Hospitalizations declined slightly in that province to 737, but the number of people in the intensive care unit remained unchanged at 99 on Thursday. Legault said it was not realistic to think the numbers will go down sufficiently by Christmas. Ontario reported 666 people were in hospital Thursday with COVID-19, with 195 in intensive care — a 34 per cent increase from the week before. There were 1,824 new cases and 14 more deaths due to the virus. Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said there is a team working with the federal government on vaccine distribution. “It’s still early day. We are going to start this process as soon as we can to make strides," he said. "Everything we do is a step in the right direction.” The seven-day rolling average of new cases nationally is 6,044. The Prairie provinces have been a hot spot for COVID-19 in recent weeks. Saskatchewan and Alberta recently brought in more restrictions, with the latter making a request to Ottawa and the Canadian Red Cross for field hospitals to help with the surge. Alberta recorded 1,854 new infections Thursday — a new daily record. There were 511 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 97 in intensive care. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said the contact tracing system is struggling under the volume of new cases. Manitoba reported 367 new infections and 12 additional deaths. Premier Brian Pallister called for more clarity in Ottawa's vaccination rollout, specifically when it comes to how doses will distributed on First Nations. The premier also expressed frustration with people who still don't believe the novel coronavirus is a threat, even though more than 250 Manitobans died from the virus in November alone. "If you don't think that COVID's real right now, you're an idiot," Pallister said. Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia's provincial health officer, announced 694 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 12 additional deaths as she outlined the early details of the province's plan for immunization. Seniors in long-term care homes and hospitals will be the first to get immunized, she said, but more details on the plan won't come out until next week. Henry said health-care workers are tired from the pandemic and it's important to get through the next few months before vaccines are available. "We know that our long-term care homes, in particular, are most vulnerable, and we know right now it's the biggest challenge that we are facing," she said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020. — With files from Mia Rabson Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — As Alberta recorded another daily record of COVID-19 cases Thursday, its chief medical officer of health warned that rural areas are feeling the effects.“While infection rates in Edmonton and Calgary make up the majority of cases in the province, we’re seeing increased spread in many rural communities,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw Hinshaw said.“COVID-19 is not a Calgary problem or Edmonton problem. This is a provincial problem within the context of a global problem.“Our overall active case rates prove that COVID-19 doesn’t care where you live or what your postal code is.“It only takes one case entering a community to cause significant spread.”Alberta has been straining under soaring numbers of COVID-19 and currently leads the country in per-capita case rates.It set a single-day record Thursday with 1,854 new cases, even more than in Ontario.There were 511 Albertans in hospital, 97 of them in intensive care. A total of 575 Albertans have died.The case surge has overwhelmed the contact tracing system and strained the health system. The province is now reassigning staff, space and patients to cope and has begun making contingency plans to bring in field hospitals if necessary.Last week, Premier Jason Kenney introduced new health restrictions.However, some of the key restrictions on businesses and attendance at worship services don’t apply to some rural and remote areas with low infection rates.Also, while Calgary, Edmonton and other municipalities have mandated masks in indoor public spaces, Kenney has refused to follow the lead of all other Canadian provinces to make it provincewide.About 16 per cent of the 17,743 active cases are outside the Calgary and Edmonton health zones.Opposition NDP health critic David Shepherd said if COVID does not respect postal codes, why has the United Conservative government issued half-hearted and varying levels of health restrictions based on geography while refusing to impose a provincewide mask mandate?Shepherd said Kenney is playing politics with the health rules and Albertans are suffering as a result.“Jason Kenney is more concerned about his own political fortunes and concerned about the anti-mask fringe extremists that we know exist in his own caucus and in his own political party and political base,” Shepherd said in an interview.“He is more concerned about satisfying them and losing political capital than he is about showing leadership to protect Albertans.”Kenney has said a provincewide mask bylaw is unnecessary and the health rules are a measured and targeted way to keep Albertans safe while keeping jobs and the economy going.He has also said 90 per cent of Albertans are already under some kind of municipal mask bylaw. During a Nov. 26 Facebook town hall discussion he questioned whether rural residents working and living remotely would even follow it.“Imagine you got a couple of guys working in a big barn way up in the M.D. of Opportunity, hundreds of kilometres away from the closest COVID hot zone,” said Kenney. “Do you really think those guys are going to put on a mask because I ask them to or tell them to?”Kenney said one of his rural caucus members told him some of his constituents would be reflexively rebellious if told to mask up: “He said, ‘You know a lot of these folks who are (masking up) now, they would take it off the moment the government tells them to wear it.’”Provincewide there is a ban on gatherings in homes beyond those who live under the same roof. Outdoor gatherings are capped at 10 people. And students in grades 7 through 12 are learning virtually at home through the Christmas holidays.In areas with high caseloads, there are new restrictions on retailers, businesses, restaurants and entertainment options like casinos.Those restrictions don’t apply to low-case areas, which include some rural regions in north and central Alberta.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Calgary police are cracking down on anti-mask rally organizers and others who disregard public health rules during the COVID-19 pandemic. As Christa Dao reports, CPS have issued dozens of tickets since enhanced measures were introduced.
TORONTO — The man who drove a van down a crowded Toronto sidewalk and killed 10 people said his actions are "99 per cent irredeemable" after turning to the bible in jail, court heard Thursday.Alek Minassian made the comment on Dec. 12, 2019, to Dr. Alexander Westphal, a psychiatrist retained by the defence."I think it would be considered probably extremely irredeemable, like 99 per cent chance irredeemable," Minassian said in his orange jumpsuit while in a Toronto jail.Crown attorney Joe Callaghan argued the 10-minute video clip should be put into evidence as it shows a different side of Minassian than the one portrayed thus far by psychiatrists who say he lacks empathy, shows no emotion and has no insight into the minds and feelings of others.Callaghan said the clip shows Minassian engaged in conversation while answering questions at length and shows insight into the thoughts of others.Minassian has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 of attempted murder. He argues he should be found not criminally responsible due to autism spectrum disorder.After admitting to planning and carrying out the attack, his state of mind at the time is the sole issue at trial.Justice Anne Molloy, presiding over the case without a jury, allowed the video into evidence.Molloy said this appears to show a different Minassian, not baffled and unresponsive and stuck in a concrete way of thinking as others have previously testified."This is not concrete, this is very esoteric, philosophical almost — not almost, it is," the judge said.Minassian, an atheist, told Westphal he began reading the bible while under suicide watch at the Toronto South Detention Centre.He said the bible gives him a "sense of hope." During breaks at the trial, which is being held by videoconference due to the pandemic, Minassian can be seen flipping through a red bible in the small room at the jail where he watches the proceedings.He told Westphal he reads it every day. He said he can see how the bible can be used to help change people's lifestyles as a path to redemption. "A preacher, let’s say he tells his nephew God is very disappointed about what you're doing and the nephew might realize he's saying, really, your family is disappointed," Minassian said to Westphal.The Crown said that passage shows Minassian's insight into the perspective of others. Westphal disagreed."I don't think him expressing an analogy the man is controlling his nephew by God is saying anything Mr. Minassian's overall understanding of morality," Westphal said.Minassian's lawyer had said Westphal would be the only expert to say the 28-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., should be found not criminally responsible for his actions, but the psychiatrist has stopped short of making that conclusion. Westphal said Minassian does not truly understand the moral wrongfulness of killing 10 people, but said criminal responsibility is a legal opinion, not a psychiatric one.Earlier, court heard that Minassian said he had a strong desire to commit the attack. "I felt a strong desire to want to especially as the time ... approached, but I didn't feel compelled to do it, I didn't really feel I had to do it," Minassian said.While Minassian said he didn't feel he had to do it, the prosecution said those words seemed at odds with a report by Westphal that said Minassian felt he "had to go through with it" after making the decision to go forward with his plan. Under questioning from the Crown, Westphal said Minassian was not compelled to commit the attack. The Crown repeatedly asked why that was not in the report, a question Westphal seemed confused by."You only included facts that fit your narrative, you're not interested in an objective view," Callaghan said, his voice raised."I think I accurately captured that aspect I don't think he was compelled to do it," Westphal said.Court has heard that Minassian booked the rental van weeks earlier with the idea to use it as a weapon to strike people. He told Westphal that he knew it was wrong by "society’s moral standards, the most important one being that it is extremely wrong to kill people."He has told various people different reasons why he committed the attack including anxiety around a software development job that was to start a week after the attack.Westphal asked Minassian why he did it."An extreme desire to want to do it, the fact I already booked (the van) and was so close to going through with my plan, feeling social isolation and the nervousness about the job, socially and performance-wise," Minassian said.The Crown also pointed out all of Minassian's successes to the psychiatrist. He graduated from high school with a 76 per cent average and completed a software engineer degree at Seneca College. In his last year of college, Minassian achieved a 4.0 grade point average, the highest mark possible.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
York Region residents will not get to vote for who leads Regional Council in the next municipal election. Regional Council, on a vote of 14 – 6, rejected a motion tabled this past February which would have seen the Regional Chair, a position currently occupied by former Whitchurch-Stouffville mayor Wayne Emmerson, directly elected by residents. Instead, the position will continue to be filled through a vote around the Regional Council table, around which Mayor Tom Mrakas is Aurora’s sole representative. Mayor Mrakas was joined by Newmarket Mayor John Taylor in voting in favour of change, alongside Regional Councillors Don Hamilton (Markham), Jim Jones (Markham), Joe Li (Markham), and Joe DiPaola (Richmond Hill). The question, as posed at Aurora Council last week, is now what? York Region has a long history of considering how the Chair should be elected. The most recent series of proposed changes stemmed from a Private Member’s Bill brought forward at Queen’s Park in 2016 from Newmarket-Aurora’s then-MPP Chris Ballard which, following its passage, would have mandated a direct election for York Region. This directive, however, was struck down by the incumbent Provincial government in 2018, leaving Regional Council to decide its own path forward. “Regional Council can, after holding at least one public meeting, pass a bylaw to change the manner of electing the Regional Chair to a Region-wide election,” said Bruce Macgregor, CAO of the Region of York, in a memo to members when they last looked at this matter in February. “Before the bylaw comes into effect it must receive a ‘triple majority’ which occurs when: the bylaw receives the support of the majority of votes on Regional Council; a majority of the councils of all local municipalities pass resolutions consenting to the bylaw; and the total number of electors in the local municipalities that have passed resolutions consenting to the bylaw form a majority of all the electors in York Region.” Aurora Council previously voiced its support of electing the Regional Chair in both 2016 and 2018. Had any change been in the air at the Region, a decision would have needed to be confirmed by December 21, 2021 in order for it to be part of the 2022 Municipal Election. Since its establishment in 1970, the Regional Chair was been appointed in different ways. In the beginning, the Province of Ontario appointed the Chair for two two-year terms. This method changed at the inaugural meeting of Regional Council where the Chair was elected by members around the table. “Four of the six Chairs of York Region were members of a lower-tier council at the time of their appointment,” noted Mr. Macgregor. “The other two Chairs had recently completed terms on the council of a lower-tier municipality.” “Council had the authority to determine whether or not the appointed Chair must also hold office on a local municipal Council. Through inherited provisions from the long ago repealed Regional Municipality of York Act, it has been the practice in York Region for the appointed Chair to resign their seat at the local level. However, Council can enact a requirement for the Chair to retain their local office. This change can be implemented without a ‘triple majority.’” As Aurora Council previously signalled its support for electing the Regional chair, the matter was raised at last week’s meeting. “Which way do you think I voted?” asked Mayor Tom Mrakas when pressed by Councillor Michael Thompson whether he voted the same way as he did when the matter was last up for debate at Town Hall. “I believe the Regional Chair should be an elected position. I voted in favour of having it become an elected position. It is unfortunate it didn’t happen that way. “We’ll see if the Province decides to put it in place for the next election on their own.”Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
The Saskatchewan Health Authority is considering lengthening hours and opening more locations for drive-thru COVID-19 testing, with current sites under pressure due to surging case numbers.New projections released Thursday suggest the number of new COVID-19 cases could reach 560 per day by mid-December. Testing centres, which are located in Prince Albert, Regina, Saskatoon and Yorkton, are already under strain due to the recent increase in community transmission of the virus. On its first day of operation, the Prince Albert centre had to turn people away more than two hours before its scheduled closing time of 4 p.m. CST. Jennifer Nygaard drove for about an hour from her home in Struthers Lake to line up for drive-thru testing. She said she joined the line at about noon and was turned away before 2 p.m."If people are having to be sent home at 1:00 in the afternoon, that says to me that they're well below the capacity to test the people that want to be tested right now," said Nygaard. She said nobody should be turned away because the province is in an emergency situation, and because they might not have the means to try again.Longer hours, 2nd centres among optionsSHA chief executive Scott Livingstone said at a news conference Thursday work is underway to expand testing capacity. "Particularly in Saskatoon and Regina we are looking at how we extend hours as well as put more staff in place, or even look at second locations for drive-thru testing in both the centres because of the popularity," said Livingstone. Livingstone said a pilot program is also being used to proactively test long-term care workers and residents at eight facilities. The program will be expanded provincewide after the initial pilot period to help identify cases earlier, he said.He added that about 15 new laboratory staff have been hired and about 20 more are in training to improve testing capacity and timeliness.GeneXpert machines are in 19 communities across the province to reduce the need for people to travel for testing, Livingstone said."We are working with GeneXpert to continue to expand the access to cartridges so we can use that platform better."Questions about accessBut Nygaard said the system for COVID-19 testing relies too heavily on having access to a vehicle. "What are they doing for people who are in rural communities? What are they doing for seniors who may not have vehicles to get there?" she said. "What are they doing for people with disabilities that are not in the city?… You cannot access this testing through public transit. So maybe they need to look at an in-home testing model."On Wednesday, 3,247 tests were completed in Saskatchewan, the province said in its Thursday COVID-19 update.Of the total 353,638 tests completed since the beginning of the pandemic, 100,945 were in Saskatoon and 54,561 have been completed in Regina.In the north central region, where Prince Albert is located, 26,429 test have been done.
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):6:23 p.m.Another 12 people have died from COVID-19 in British Columbia, continuing a daily surge in deaths in the last week and bringing the death count to 481 since the pandemic started.Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says 694 people have tested positive for COVID-19 for a total of 35,422 people.Henry says when vaccines become available in the province, there will be limited amounts available, so for the weeks and months ahead, people must stay strong and stick to the restrictions.She says she knows the majority of people are following the rules and she recognizes the sacrifices that everyone is making in the province.\---5:43 p.m.Alberta has recorded 1,854 new COVID-19 infections, a new daily record.The province also reported 14 additional deaths in Thursday's update, bringing total fatalities to 575.There are 511 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 97 in intensive care.Out of the more than 19,600 tests conducted since the last update, 9.4 per cent came back positive.\---4:16 p.m.Health officials in Saskatchewan are diverting hundreds more staff to fight COVID-19 as daily cases are forecast to exceed 500 in two weeks.The Saskatchewan Health Authority expects the number of people in hospital and receiving intensive care could soon double.Officials are planning for the surge by redeploying 600 health-care staff, which means other health services will be temporarily suspended.\---3:57 p.m.Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says people who don't think COVID-19 is real are idiots. Pallister says he knows he is unpopular in some quarters because of the restrictions his government has imposed on public gatherings and businesses. But he says the rules are needed to save lives, and everyone needs to work together to reduce the spread of the virus.\---3:51 p.m.Public health officials in Prince Edward Island announced one additional positive case of COVID-19 in the province Thursday.The individual is a man in his 20s, a rotational worker who recently travelled to P.E.I. from outside of the Atlantic region and has been in self-isolation since arriving.This case is not related to any of the other recent positive cases of COVID-19 in the province. P.E.I. currently has five active cases of COVID-19, and there have been 73 positive cases since the onset of the pandemic.\---2:40 p.m.Saskatchewan is announcing 259 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death.Health officials say the person who died was in their 80s.Most of the new infections are located in and around Regina and Saskatoon.There are 104 people in hospital, with 24 people receiving intensive care.The seven-day average of new daily cases sits at 269.\---1:56 p.m.Nunavut is reporting five new cases of COVID-19 in Arviat today, bringing the community's active case count to 68.All cases in Rankin Inlet have now recovered.There are seven active cases in Whale Cove.Nunavut has 75 active cases of COVID-19 and 123 recovered cases.\---1:50 p.m.Public health officials in New Brunswick are reporting six new cases of COVID-19 in the province Thursday.There is one new case in the Moncton region, three new cases in the Saint John region and two in the Fredericton area.There are now 111 active cases in the province.New Brunswick has had a total of 520 cases and seven deaths since the pandemic began.\---1:32 p.m.Manitoba is reporting 367 new COVID-19 cases and 12 additional deaths today. The province continues to have a high rate of people testing positive — 13 per cent, on average, over the last five days.\---1:15 p.m.The Quebec government is cancelling its plan to allow gatherings over four days at Christmas.Premier Francois Legault announced today the province will no longer permit multi-household gatherings of up to 10 people between Dec. 24 and 27, as had been planned.Legault first announced the Christmas plan on Nov. 19, saying people could get together as long as they quarantined for a week before and a week after the holiday period.But with COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths on the rise and a health system deemed fragile due to a lack of staffing, Legault says it’s not realistic to think the numbers will go down sufficiently by Christmas.\---1:12 p.m.Health Canada's chief medical adviser, Dr. Supriya Sharma, says she expects to get some final documents from Pfizer on Friday that will provide information on the manufacturing process and which lots of vaccine doses will be sent to Canada.That is the final thing needed before Canada can approve the vaccine.Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer, says he fully expects the decision to be "favourable."\---12:45 p.m.Moderna's vaccine is to be delivered to one site in Canada rather than to each province and Canadian logistics will then distribute it to the provinces as required.\---12:30 p.m.Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo says while initial supplies of vaccines will limit vaccinations to three million people, there will eventually be a COVID-19 vaccine for every Canadian.Pfizer's vaccine is expected to start being delivered first in January, and will be sent by the manufacturer to predetermined points in each province.\---12:05 p.m.Nova Scotia is reporting 11 new cases of COVID-19 today.The number of active cases in the province s now stands at 119, that's down from the 127 cases reported on Wednesday.Nine of the new cases are in the central health zone, which includes Halifax, while the other two cases are in the northern zone.The province has had a total of 1,342 cases, while 1,159 are resolved and there have been 65 deaths.\---11:12 a.m.The Quebec government is reporting 1,470 new cases of COVID-19 and 30 additional deaths linked to the pandemic.Twelve of the deaths occurred in the last 24 hours, while the rest happened earlier.Hospitalizations declined by three to 737, while the number of people in intensive care remained unchanged at 99.There have been a total of 146,532 cases and 7,155 deaths in the province since the pandemic began.\--11 a.m.Ontario is reporting 1,824 new cases of COVID-19, and 14 new deaths due to the virus.Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 592 new cases in Peel Region, 396 cases in Toronto, and 187 cases in York Region.The province says it has conducted 52,873 tests since the last daily report.In total, 666 people are hospitalized in Ontario due to COVID-19, including 195 in intensive care.\--This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec 3, 2020.The Canadian Press
On Wednesday evening the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division notified the public that a case of COVID-19 had been identified in an individual at John Diefenbaker Public School. “The division is hoping the recovery is quick and thorough and we extend our get-well wishes to this member of our school community and offer our support to the surrounding family. We also extend our support to the staff and students in our schools affected by the isolation,” the release stated. As has been the case in the past, this case was not school-acquired. The division was informed on Wednesday of the positive COVID-19 test result and communication is being shared with the classroom/cohort, the connected staff, as well as with the school community. The learning program will continue remotely for those students affected. John Diefenbaker will remain open for in-person classes for students who are not required to self-isolate. The division, in this case, did not announce the length of the isolation. As is the circumstance in all cases in the division due to privacy concerns, further details of the case will not be shared. The school’s COVID Response Plan contains many important measures, processes and protocols that add layers of protection for students and staff. School personnel will continue to be informed and guided by SHA as they manage this case. Staffs at schools in the division remain vigilant in ensuring proper safety measures are in place and personnel from the SHA continue to guide and inform school administration and staff. The division explained that although there has been no evidence that transmission has occurred within any Sask. Rivers schools and we all share responsibility to minimize the risk of COVID transmission. “The division deeply appreciates the support that students, parents and community members have demonstrated, especially as the number of cases in our region climbs.” The SHA’s local public health team continues to provide expert advice and strong support for our dedicated staff as we manage the pandemic in our communities. “The division is thankful to have such a cohesive team of administration and staff supported by our partners in Health.”Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
Urban design guidelines to help steer new builds in long-established local communities were formally endorsed by Council last week. The extensive list of guidelines provides parameters on everything from size to materials in order to ensure the new builds fit into what is already in the Regency Acres and Aurora Heights communities, as well as neighbourhoods on Temperance Street and around Town Park. Along with the guidelines, Council approved a semi-annual report that will outline to lawmakers the variance applications that have come forward and what has been approved. “The report will allow staff to identify trends and allow Council to better understand what development activity is taking place within the established Stable Neighbourhoods,” said the Town in a statement. “Under the Official Plan, stable neighbourhoods are protected from incompatible forms of development, and new development in these areas must respect and reinforce the area’s existing physical character and uses.” While a semi-annual update to Council was a request made by residents, particularly those in the Regency Acres neighbourhood, the report process as approved did not go far enough. They requested the semi-annual updates include a list of what applications were denied and why, a process which staff said would be too “onerous” to compile. Council agreed while sitting at the Committee level the previous week and when their decision came up for ratification on November 24, Councillor Wendy Gartner renewed the call. The main concerns of residents, she said, stemmed from privacy, particularly concerning rear yards, and the maintaining of the existing streetscape. Privacy concerns included minimizing the location of second floor balconies on rear side elevations. Additional issues ranged from the protection of trees to setting a maximum of three entrance steps to “encourage low profile entrance features close to the ground.” “The residents have requested reporting when consistency with the design guidelines is not adhered to by the developer,” said Councillor Gaertner, making a motion that the report “include instances where staff-approved variances regarding front and side yard setbacks, privacy and streetscapes are not consistent with the stable neighbourhood guidelines.” “Staff should be keeping a record of what they recommend to developers, that the developers aren’t interested in following,” she continued. “I think it is information Council should know and the residents want to have.” But this motion was ultimately unsuccessful with other lawmakers stating they were unsure what was hoped to be achieved by the report. “I am always happy to provide the residents with more information [but] I just fail to see the value it will get by doing this,” said Councillor John Gallo. Also casting doubt on including that in the report was Councillor Michael Thompson, who said as what was being recommended were guidelines for developers, the ultimate tools for compliance are the Town’s zoning bylaws. “The guidelines [are] meant to be able to shape the design, but there is a degree of flexibility in it,” he said. “If we want compliance in these areas, let’s reopen the zoning bylaw and put it back in the zoning bylaw and go down that road. Guidelines are just a tool and what Councillor Gaertner refers to in all those [areas] are subjective terms and they are open to interpretation. “The design guidelines are not meant for that kind of compliance. They are just meant to shape it and that is why producing this report would be so onerous because then it becomes a question of debating the subjective determination of what each term means and whether it was correct or incorrect. I don’t want to go down that road at all.” Councillor Harold Kim agreed, noting that the motion would take these guidelines in the direction of a bylaw. “I want to keep it high level and even if we went to that level of detail, what are we going to do with that information? I suspect we’re going to try and create bylaws out of that and we go back to Square 1 where we started two or three years ago. It is for those reasons as well intended as the amendment is, I cannot support that,” he said. Keeping an eye on how the guidelines go was something Councillor Rachel Gilliland said she supported, and that she understood what the residents were looking for, but what was being asked was too broad. “I feel if they came with their Top 2 or Top 3 concrete things that were the most important [and] relevant, maybe we can have a conversation, but it is almost the entire urban design guidelines that are being asked here,” she said. “It is so subjective and it is so many topics. I would think it would be very a very onerous thing for our staff to be reporting back on. “We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place here with some subjective opinions, but it is not really going to do us any service.”Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
A resounding no from council will force Georgian Bay Snowriders to find an alternative for the strip near Port McNicoll. A couple months ago the club’s agreement was up for renewal. At that time, when the request came to council, the club asked for access to a part of the municipal trail along Highway 12 towards Triple Bay Road. The agreement was renewed before its Nov. 1 deadline, however, a new request from the club came forward at a later council meeting asking for access to approximately 400m of the TransCanada Trail, just east of Triple Bay Road. “Due to recent water level increases from Hog Bay, the ditch parallel to the highway is incredibly flood sensitive and has become very difficult to maintain,” reads the letter to council. “It also has a new utility line running through the centre that may become difficult to navigate around.” But their request wasn’t enough to melt the hearts of council members. “With me, it's a hard no,” said Coun. Mary Warnock. “I would not even entertain this. There's no recourse to get repairs done to the trail after it's been used and we all know what happened last time they were allowed a little stretch, it got torn up.” She had support from other council members, too. “It's not worth the risk for our bikers, our walkers and our roller-bladers,” said Deputy Mayor Gerard LaChapelle. “I'm not in favour of this. We spend a lot of time and money on that trail and I'm not about to let it go at this point.” Coun. Paul Raymond said he could understand the club’s frustration at having to reimagine a trail on a temporary basis, but he was still against it. “We all know the damage (that) will happen,” he said. “What are we saying when we allow a motorized vehicle on the trail when we spend so much time trying to prevent motorized vehicles on trails? “Sorry to the Snowriders, but they have the ability to find alternate routes, I think,” added Raymond. Council voted to take no further action on the request. The Georgian Bay Snowriders did not respond to a request for comment.Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
VANCOUVER — Metro Vancouver's transit authority is confirming that it was the target of a ransomware attack on part of its information technology systems.Ransomware is a type of malicious software that disables part of a computer system or access to data until a ransom is paid. TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond says in a statement that the transit authority is conducting a comprehensive forensic investigation to determine how the incident occurred and what information may have been affected.Desmond offers assurance to customers that TransLink does not store fare payment data and uses a secure third-party payment processor for all fare transactions, so TransLink doesn't have access to that information. He says the transit authority took immediate steps to isolate and shut down key software and systems to contain the threat upon detection and is now working to resume normal operations. Customers can once again use credit and debit cards at Compass vending machines and tap-to-pay fare gates, features that were put on hold for several days. Customers who recently purchased monthly passes or stored value will soon see the credit loaded on their Compass Card, the statement says.It says all transit services continue to operate regularly and no transit safety systems are affected."We are sharing as much as we can at this point considering this is an active investigation," Desmond says in the statement. "We will provide further updates as more information becomes available."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020. The Canadian Press
VICTORIA — Seniors in British Columbia's long-term care homes and hospitals will be the first to get immunized against COVID-19 starting in the first week of January with two vaccines, the province's top doctor says.Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday that vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna will be the first to be rolled out after approval by Health Canada.However, Henry said only about six million doses are expected to be available across Canada until March."So we won't be able to broadly achieve what we call community immunity or herd immunity, but that will come," she saidAt least two other companies, including AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, are in the process of submitting data to Health Canada and regulatory agencies around the world in hopes of getting approval for their vaccines. "Those ones we hope will be available sometime in the second quarter of 2021," Henry said."We hope to have everybody done by September of next year," she said of the province's efforts through "Operation Immunize.""By the end of the year, anybody who wants vaccine in B.C. and in Canada should have it available to them and should be immunized."Henry said B.C. health officials worked with their federal counterparts Thursday on ways to facilitate the delivery of vaccines as they anticipated various challenges that could come up in the immunization process.More details will be provided about the province's vaccine plan next week, Henry said.She reported 694 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, for a total of 35,422 infections in the province.There have been 12 more deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities in B.C. to 481.Henry noted health-care workers are tired from the pandemic as everyone deals with an "anxiety-provoking time," but that it's important to stay "100 per cent committed" to getting through the next few months before vaccines are available."We know that our long-term care homes in particular are most vulnerable and we know right now it's the biggest challenge that we are facing," she said.Henry has banned all indoor and outdoor sports teams for adults, saying a team in the province's Interior recently tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from Alberta."What we have seen in the past few weeks to months is that 10 to 15 per cent of cases have been related to physical fitness and sports activities," she said, an estimate based on cases that have been linked.Most transmissions of COVID-19 among adult involved in sports have been through social activities related to the gatherings, Henry said.— By Camille Bains in VancouverThis report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.The Canadian Press
A small addition to a stretch of Peel Street sidewalk will aid town snowplows to access the traditional tricky area. The solution is to extend the width of the sidewalk by a metre, using asphalt between Main Street and Simcoe Street. The existing parking signs within this area would also be removed and relocated to accommodate the extension. The pavement markings would also be added to define the new sidewalk and parking area. “Adding to the sidewalk, especially given it's a one-way street is a brilliant solution,” said Coun. Debbie Levy. “If I recall, it was $10,000 to shovel and clear the snow and doing this for $15,000 and just whipping our snowplow down is perfect.” Where most of council was sure this was the best solution, one council member wasn’t sure if it was saving the town any money. “It may alleviate some of that $10,000,” said Coun. Brian Cummings, “but we still have the stairs, the Canada House parking lot and the church to be shoveled, so I'm not sure how that reduces the cost.” Brian Murray, director of public works, said it won't affect the maintenance of those areas. “The Canada House walkway and the church staircases on municipal right of way will continue to be cleared by town staff,” he said. “This just allows the section adjacent to the buildings on the west side of Peel Street to be maintained by our trackless sidewalk plow, which reduces our time to clear snow in that area.” Cummings persisted in getting a clear answer on the cost savings. “So just to be clear the $15,000 is on top of the $10,000?” he asked. Murray didn’t have a clear answer. “We will save staff time and reduction in cost on an annual basis to clear the stairs,” he said. Coun. George Vadeboncoeur brought to attention the feasibility of the option, given the season. “Can we still do that given the onset of winter?” he said. Murray said he had confirmed with the roads supervisor about the availability of asphalt. “We are able to place it ourselves with our hotbox trailer, so that won't be an issue,” he added.Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com