There are few experiences on Earth as wild as standing under a glacier. Kyle Brittain had the opportunity to do just that in Jasper National Park.
There are few experiences on Earth as wild as standing under a glacier. Kyle Brittain had the opportunity to do just that in Jasper National Park.
WASHINGTON — Federal law enforcement officials are examining a number of threats aimed at members of Congress as the second trial of former President Donald Trump nears, including ominous chatter about killing legislators or attacking them outside of the U.S. Capitol, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. The threats, and concerns that armed protesters could return to sack the Capitol anew, have prompted the U.S. Capitol Police and other federal law enforcement to insist thousands of National Guard troops remain in Washington as the Senate moves forward with plans for Trump's trial, the official said. The shocking insurrection at the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob prompted federal officials to rethink security in and around its landmarks, resulting in an unprecedented lockdown for Biden's inauguration. Though the event went off without any problems and armed protests around the country did not materialize, the threats to lawmakers ahead of Trump's trial exemplified the continued potential for danger. Similar to those intercepted by investigators ahead of Biden’s inauguration, the threats that law enforcement agents are tracking vary in specificity and credibility, said the official, who had been briefed on the matter. Mainly posted online and in chat groups, the messages have included plots to attack members of Congress during travel to and from the Capitol complex during the trial, according to the official. The official was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation publicly and spoke Sunday to the AP on condition of anonymity. Law enforcement officials are already starting to plan for the possibility of armed protesters returning to the nation's capital when Trump’s Senate trial on a charge of inciting a violent insurrection begins the week of Feb. 8. It would be the first impeachment trial of a former U.S. president. Though much of the security apparatus around Washington set up after the Jan. 6 riot and ahead of Biden’s inauguration — it included scores of military checkpoints and hundreds of additional law enforcement personnel — is no longer in place, about 7,000 members of the National Guard will remain to assist federal law enforcement, officials said. Gen. Dan Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said Monday that about 13,000 Guard members are still deployed in D.C., and that their numbers would shrink to 7,000 by the end of this week. John Whitley, the acting secretary of the Army, told a Pentagon news conference that this number is based on requests for assistance from the Capitol Police, the Park Police, the Secret Service and the Metropolitan Police Department. Whitley said the number is to drop to 5,000 by mid-March. Thousands of Trump’s supporters descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress met to certify Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential race. More than 800 are believed to have made their way into the Capitol during the violent siege, pushing past overwhelmed police officers. The Capitol police said they planned for a free speech protest, not a riot, and were caught off guard despite intelligence suggesting the rally would descend into a riot. Five people died in the melee, including a Capitol police officer who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher. At least five people facing federal charges have suggested they believed they were taking orders from Trump when they marched on Capitol Hill to challenge the certification of Biden’s election victory. But now those comments, captured in interviews with reporters and federal agents, are likely to take centre stage as Democrats lay out their case. More than 130 people have been charged by federal prosecutors for their roles in the riot. In recent weeks, others have been arrested after posting threats against members of Congress. They include a Proud Boys supporter who authorities said threatened to deploy “three cars full of armed patriots” to Washington, threatened harm against Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., and who is accused of stockpiling military-style combat knives and more than 1,000 rifle rounds in his New York home. A Texas man was arrested this week for taking part in the riot at the Capitol and for posting violent threats, including a call to assassinate Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y ___ Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report. Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
After much discussion, the Township of McMurrich/Monteith will remain in the regional fire training program. The Township received 16 letters from residents on Jan. 18, relating to concerns of not entering into the shared fire training agreement. Here are some key quotes from the discussion: “My concern is that I will not be able to get my people trained anymore or be able to get them certified; as a result, I won’t have firefighters to meet what we need to do in our municipality,” said McMurrich/Monteith’s fire chief John Ross. “I do not have the manpower to take on a single-family dwelling, so the automatic aid has been a huge plus for us, along with everything else that comes with it: the training, the bulk purchasing … the collaboration with the other departments. Leaving just the training has such a huge fallout.” “The contract is the problem, not the trainer — I’ve never had a problem with the trainer so to be clear on that, it’s the contract,” said Coun. Alfred Bielke. “The only way I know we’re going to get the service we require is to enter into this agreement because, right now, we’re being told we can’t get the training. We don’t have the personnel to even fight a fire in our own township … we’re putting our people at risk, we’re putting their homes at risk and we’re putting lives at risk, so the only way to get this back is to rescind the motion we defeated and put it back on the table,” said Coun. Dan O’Halloran. “For the authors of our letters, and the people that are listening, this agreement (is) a prelude to the regional fire training and regional fire department …” said Coun. Lynn Zemnicky. “I just want people who are listening to realize that the previous council jumped on board to chip in on this equipment, (the) ice and fire rescue boats … they were thousands of dollars; one is housed in, I believe, Kearney and the other in Magnetawan. If you fall into Bear, Doe or Buck Lake, I hope you can stay treading water until it comes all the way from Magnetawan. That’s where your taxpayer money is sitting.” “Our stations are going to stay our own and be operated by our council and our fire chiefs. Purchases will still be done through our council and not through the region …” said Reeve Angela Freisen. “If we opt out of this, we’re losing the automatic aid and, as Chief Ross said, we don’t have enough personnel to handle our own fires, (and) we’re going to lose the benefit of group purchasing.” “I would like to see council agree to continue with the training and take an active part in the working out of the funding model over the (next three) years, but in the meantime, our fire department doesn’t suffer,” said Ross. McMurrich/Monteith council directed staff to notify the six municipalities participating in the regional firefighter training agreement that the following should be added to the draft agreement. The funding model will be discussed within three months of signing; the proposed allowance be submitted by invoice, not automatic payment, and all cost increases must be decided by unanimous vote of all the municipalities. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
First of a two-part series Matilda Emma Padhi was born on Nov. 3, 1933 in what was then the independent country of Newfoundland. She was still a baby when Newfoundland gave up its independence and reverted to colonial status under Great Britain. Such events likely mattered little in her native fishing village of Belleoram, where her father, John Whatley, owned a store and the livelihood of most residents centred around the deep, blue waters of Fortune Bay. Belleoram harbour was sheltered by a natural breakwater, and Emma would have carried two striking images of her birthplace with her throughout her life: St. Lawrence Anglican Church, perched on a hill behind the town, and the imposing rock face of Iron Skull Mountain across the water. Emma’s mother, Irene, would later give birth to two sons. “She used to talk about how they were poor, and they didn’t have a lot of money, and they would eat a lot of wild meat,” says Sarah Railton, Emma’s granddaughter, who lives in British Columbia. “She valued community, the relationships she kept. I really feel that all is rooted in the maritime energy she carried, and that kind of open-door policy that friends are always welcome.” From such modest beginnings, Emma would go on to spread her compassion, faith and an irrepressible sense of humour from Halifax to Saskatoon and then halfway around the world to India. When she died in Calgary on Jan. 3, she left behind an adoring legion of family and friends who will never forget her larger-than-life personality. Emma moved to Halifax as soon as she graduated high school, when Newfoundland was on the cusp of voting to join Canada. There, she worked in the Moirs chocolate factory before deciding she wanted to become a nurse. She entered the Halifax infirmary School of Nursing in 1950, and lived in a dorm where she nurtured many lifelong friendships. According to friends and former classmates, she had no fear of the doctors or the nuns and didn’t hesitate to speak her mind. The nuns apparently liked her spunk, as she was the only one who had a key to the linen cupboard — a rare privilege. In 1954, she headed west to Saskatoon, where she worked in a sanatorium, and became head nurse at St. Paul’s Hospital. It was here she met her husband-to-be, Dr. Radhakrishna (Rad) Padhi. They were married in 1956. Rad became a cardiac surgeon, but his native country soon beckoned. He left by ship in 1960 to get things settled. Emma followed in November of 1961, with two toddlers in tow and another on the way. Emma flew from Halifax to London, and then to Egypt. In Cairo, the authorities took her passport and sent her to a hotel. She worried all night that she might never get her passport back. The next day was the last leg of her journey. Boarding the inaugural United Arab Airlines flight from Cairo to Mumbai — then Bombay — she soon realized she was the only adult female on the plane. The flight was late arriving, and Rad waited anxiously, wondering if he should even have booked her on the flight. There were no screens displaying arrivals and departures in those days. Hours later, Emma of Belleoram finally arrived in in India, where Jawaharial Nehru— the first prime minister of the fledgling democracy — was still in power. “My Nana’s stories of India abounded,” says Sarah. “She loved the culture, loved the people, loved the food. She would wear the kaftans.” Their first destination in India was Wanlesswadi, southeast of Mumbai. They worked at a medical centre which also served as a TB sanatorium and a leprosy hospital, with a capacity of 500 beds. Rad soon realized there was an acute need for heart surgery in the region. On April 13, 1962, Emma assisted her husband by running the bypass machine for the first successful open-heart surgery in Wanlesswadi. As news grew of their successes, the hospital got busier and attracted heart surgeons from the U.S. who brought along much needed equipment. In less than a year after arriving in India, Emma was not only assisting in surgery, but also running the lab and the hospital kitchen. “One of my fondest memories was of my mom working in a clinic she had set up in a building behind our house,” says Pam Railton, Sarah’s mother and Emma’s eldest, who lives in Saskatchewan. “Every morning, she and a nurse she hired would make porridge and mix powdered milk for the underprivileged children in the area. They would come with their tin cup and bowl and line up. It always amazed me how long the line was.” Emma told Pam the morning meal guaranteed they had at least one meal that day. “Once a week she would give them vitamins and, whenever possible, vaccinations.” Pam says she asked her mother recently how she supported the project. “Turns out she bought silk scarves and linens in India and sent them to a friend in Kingston (Ontario) who would sell them and send her the money, and she would buy whatever she needed to run the clinic. Mom said the line seemed long to me because it was — there were often up to 200 children waiting.“ Emma and Rad continued to work beside each other in India for six years, but soon decided that Canada was in their future once again. Tuesday: Back to the Dominion Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
Returning to work after layoffs in the first wave of the pandemic was daunting for Brampton resident Nathan Aitken. Between managing his asthma and fibromyalgia, and having just welcomed a newborn at home, COVID-19 was a significant risk due to his serious underlying conditions. As a welder, Aitken said there was some peace of mind in knowing his mechanic-grade respirator and uniform provided an added layer of protection at the Milton auto-industry plant where he works. “I'm just very diligent about…how I do my job, cleaning and everything else, but it’s definitely something I worry about all day,” Aitken said. In the building, floor markings indicate the pathways for workers to follow to promote safe distancing, and staff are also asked to sanitize their stations every four hours. Despite the protocols, Aitken said he’s concerned about the diligence of individual workers, especially those like him with no paid sick days. “I've never gotten that. If I call in sick, I don’t get paid,” he said. Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, has joined the Opposition NDP, labour unions and other increasingly frustrated voices across the province calling for paid sick days. She characterized them as “essential” protection during the pandemic in a report two weeks ago and called for the ruling PCs under Premier Doug Ford to legislate five permanent paid sick days, and 10 during a pandemic like the one causing the current public health crisis. Ford continues to ignore the pleas, claiming there’s “no reason” for sick days. He has said the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit program, and its $500 weekly payout (with a maximum of two weeks) to sick workers is enough for Ontario’s frontline employees. He has repeatedly said he would do anything to support these heroic residents who have kept the province running throughout the pandemic. From the early second-wave public health restrictions to the current stay-at-home order, little has changed for essential workers who continue to show up on the frontline, said Tim Deelstra, a spokesperson for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Locals 175 and 633, which represent about 70,000 members in the province. Data included in the 2016 Census provide a picture of Peel’s labour force that shows why the region has been particularly hard-hit by viral spread among the essential work force. The sector that employs more Peel residents than any other is manufacturing, including jobs that are deemed essential to keep supply chains running and the flow of needed products uninterrupted. Some 90,000 Peel residents worked in the sector, according to the Census figures. Other job categories that also include large numbers of essential workers are also heavily represented in the region’s labour force: There were 69,920 resident working in transportation and warehousing; 59,270 in healthcare and social assistance; 44,755 in construction; and 42,205 in accommodation and food services. Labour unions like UFCW have been calling on the government to implement more robust protections to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus at essential workplaces, including paid sick days as part of the Employment Standards Act and priority vaccine access for those workers most at risk. For many who may be experiencing minor symptoms, the risk of losing pay or even their job, is enough to keep them going to work, potentially putting their colleagues at risk. “Even before the pandemic, we were very critical of the Ford government, that one of the first things they did upon getting elected was removing the two paid sick days” from the Act, Deelstra said. He points to former Progressive Conservative party leaders, Toronto Mayor John Tory and Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, as being vocal supporters for sick leave. “They’re now seeing the need for their constituents,” he said. Mayor Brown is spearheading a campaign and motion – endorsed by Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie – at the Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario and GTHA Mayors group to advocate for higher levels of government to support better sick-day policies. He told Brampton city council on Wednesday the provincial and federal governments would be discussing the issue in a conference call this week. “I hope that there's going to be a mechanism that can be found to bring this to the table,” he said. Some of Peel’s largest employers include Maple Lodge Farms, Fiat Chrysler, and PepsiCo Foods Canada, as well as airport-related warehouses and businesses, including airline food catering company Gate Gourmet Group Inc., in Mississauga. In April, Maple Lodge Farms suspended operations at its Brampton poultry plant after three cases of the novel coronavirus were identified in the facility. At that time, there were about 2,864 confirmed and probable cases of infected residents throughout the Region, with about one-fifth of them in long-term care homes. Now, there have been almost 53,000 confirmed and probable cases in Peel since the start of the pandemic, along with 204 outbreaks, according to the Region’s January 22 epidemiological summary and its most recent data. In the 14 days up to January 21, 232 cases were reported as being linked to a workplace outbreak. The region’s test positivity rate fell to 11.9 percent for the week that ended January 16, down from 13.8 percent the previous week. Anything above 2.5 percent in a jurisdiction suggests viral spread is not under control. Peel’s weekly incidence rate, which has consistently been the highest of all Ontario regions since early in the pandemic, decreased slightly to 247 positive cases per 100,000 residents for the week that ended January 16, compared to 262 the previous week. Once the current emergency order is lifted, to be moved down through the grey-lockdown and red-control categories and into the Province’s orange-restrict category, under Ontario’s COVID-19 reopening framework, a region’s incidence rate has to be below 40 cases per 100,000 residents. Of the federal government’s $19-billion Safe Restart Agreement, about $1.1 billion is dedicated for helping workers through the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. It has been criticized by some advocates who say that narrow eligibility criteria, including the requirement of an at least 50 percent reduction in income in the prescribed period, while only $500 per week is offered for a maximum of two weeks, leaves many without proper support. “Paid sick days are necessary. Continuing to lob things off to the federal government is not acceptable. We need people to know that they can immediately take time off, make the right decision, and not have to worry that their next pay packet is going to be short,” Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said at a media conference Tuesday. She urged the premier to call Ontario MPPs back to the legislature to advance a private member’s bill introduced last month by Peggy Sattler, opposition critic for employment standards. Following the current winter break, Queen’s Park is set to resume business in mid-February. Among proposed amendments to the Employment Standards Act in Bill 239 (the Stay Home If You Are Sick Act) the NDP are tabling the requirement of 14 paid sick days instead of “unpaid leave in situations related to declared emergencies and infectious disease emergencies.” In Brampton, in addition to the risks facing essential workers in the City’s prominent manufacturing, transportation and food processing sectors, non-unionized workers face even more precarious conditions. “They should be confident enough that if I'm feeling any symptoms, right away, I go [get] tested, and I sit at home…I don't have to worry about three or four days that I lose or how I eat, or how I will pay my bills. That should not be the thing to worry right now,” said Gurbaaz Sra, a community advocate and team member of Humans in Brampton, a social media campaign calling attention to the plight of essential workers. Sra, a mechanical engineer, has heard dozens of stories from members of the South Asian-Canadian community in Brampton who also fear professional reprisal for speaking out, and share their experiences anonymously with Humans in Brampton via their Instagram and Twitter. Despite the reach of social media, Sra said digital literacy among new immigrants remains a barrier for accessing updates about the local COVID-19 picture and public health guidance. “The information is changing rapidly…so that needs to be understood,” he said. “To capture that, they need to make sure that the messaging reaches everyone.” Language barriers can also affect workers who are trying to advocate with their employer for further protections. “In certain cases…they are not really able to express their demands fully because a lot of workers in the warehousing industry are new immigrants to this country,” said Gagandeep Kaur, a postal worker and an organizer at the Brampton-based Warehouse Workers Centre for Peel. Social distancing concerns within warehouses is another common concern, said Kaur, who has worked in warehouses for the last 12 years and with the Centre when it launched last January. “Employers are not doing enough to protect the workers, we know with this new variant of COVID-19 that spreads like crazy…people are scared,” she said. In Mississauga, a recent outbreak at the International Mail Processing Centre, also known as the Gateway Postal Facility located at Eglinton Avenue and Dixie Road, resulted in a total 182 postal employees testing positive for the novel coronavirus as of January 1, Canada Post confirmed in a statement to The Pointer. Rapid tests were used on-site to identify new cases. Responding to The Pointer at a Mississauga press conference on Wednesday, Peel’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, explained how rapid tests have been deployed in the community but did not detail where, specifically, this has been done. “The idea would be to try to deploy things in a bit of a concentric circle, around the cases and clusters that have been initially identified,” he said. For Nathan Aitken, the option of on-site rapid testing at his auto-sector plant, complemented by an app-based pre-screening protocol to pass through the security checkpoint, and frequent temperature checks, are “good standards and practises to keep things safe, and keep people safe,” he said. While the advocacy around paid sick days continues in Peel, Aitken is facing work precarity on another front, in his role as a hip-hop and R&B emcee and producer under the moniker TempoMental. He previously toured Ontario and did a small project in Japan right before the pandemic, relying on show and merchandise revenue to fund his art. He is holding back his latest music to release it when touring will be possible, but did one show when some venues could reopen, between the first and second waves. Aitken appeared behind a large plastic screen, with a barricade between the stage and audience, with masks mandatory inside the venue, likening the show to a jazz club experience. “I’m a hip-hop dude so everybody usually crowds the stage and jumps around, and we really can’t do that now,” he said. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @LaVjosa COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Vjosa Isai, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
TORONTO — Scientists and health experts are launching a nationwide campaign to counter misinformation about COVID-19 and related vaccines. The #ScienceUpFirst initiative is an awareness and engagement campaign that will use social media to debunk incorrect information and boost science-based content. The campaign team says in a news release that it emerged from conversations between Nova Scotia Sen. Stan Kutcher and Timothy Caulfield, Canadian research chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta. The initiative is now being led by the Canadian Association of Science Centres, COVID-19 Resources Canada, and the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta. Anyone interested in participating can follow @scienceupfirst and use the #ScienceUpFirst hashtag on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and tag the account to amplify science-based posts and alert it to misinformation posts. The campaign says there is a marked rise in misinformation and conspiracy theories related to COVID-19 vaccines, virus transmission and government response, and it represents a threat to the health and safety of Canadians. "Misinformation is a dire, imminent threat to the lives of all Canadians and is proven to be one of the factors fueling COVID-19 infections, and dissuading Canadians from getting vaccinated," says Caulfield. "The #ScienceUpFirst initiative seeks to help fill an urgent need to beat back misinformation with the truth, and save lives." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
The U.S. House of Representatives delivered to the Senate on Monday a charge that former President Donald Trump incited insurrection in a speech to supporters before the deadly attack on the Capitol, setting in motion his second impeachment trial. Nine House Democrats who will serve as prosecutors in Trump's trial, accompanied by the clerk of the House and the acting sergeant at arms, carried the charge against Trump to the Senate in a solemn procession across the Capitol. Wearing masks to protect against COVID-19, they filed through the ornate Capitol Rotunda and into the Senate chamber, following the path that a mob of Trump supporters took on Jan. 6 as they clashed with police.
Local police and town authorities are warning the public about the dangers of thin ice after four teens fell into a pond on the weekend. The incident happened on a pond at the Vollmer Culture and Recreation Complex on Sunday, just after 2 p.m. Police said the teens went out to play hockey, but shortly after getting on the ice, it broke apart. One of the group members ended up under the water, according to Const. Terry Seguin. "They were all scared," he said. "You're just getting ready to go out and have a little fun and you don't expect the ice to give way underneath you." Police say a parent who was standing on shore called 911, and paramedics assessed the teens for any injuries or hypothermia. The group member who was submerged was sent to hospital for further assessment. Seguin said people should never go out on ice without first telling someone where they'll be. Having that parent on shore gave the teens a chance to contact emergency services immediately, rather than if or when they managed to scramble out of the water. 'It is very, very terrifying' Ice needs to be at least 10 centimetres thick to be considered safe, said Seguin. Thickness can also vary in different places and it can be difficult to know just how much ice there is without chopping a hole to be sure, he added. Regardless, police say it hasn't been cold enough — for long enough — for any ice to be safe. "It takes a good two, three weeks for sure, at least, of sub-zero temperatures, to develop a thickness of ice that can be considered safe," Seguin explained. Lakeshore is also cautioning residents to stay off of ice in the municipality. Mayor Tom Bain said in a news release that retention ponds in the municipality are not safe for skating. The news release added that several of the ponds in the area have pumps that are set to automatically turn on and off depending on conditions in Lakeshore's drainage system. As a result, ice on the ponds doesn't get very thick. For his part, Seguin said a fall into freezing water decades ago taught him just how much of a shock it can be. "I can speak from experience. It ... instantaneously takes your breath away and it is very, very terrifying," he said. "The key is, keep your wits about you and get out of the ice as quick as possible and get help as quick as you can."
Structure and rhythm are important for Ayden Rana. The six-year-old is on the autism spectrum and requires a little extra help to complete his studies. When the winter break turned into an extended period away from the classroom, keeping most children and teachers at home, it presented a unique challenge for Ayden and his mother, Karen, who found herself playing the role of teacher, therapist, support worker and parent. “He was very receptive the first two days, I would say, to virtual learning because he got to see the teacher and the educational assistants,” Karen said. But the novelty quickly wore off. Studying became much harder. Learning became even more challenging than usual. Touch and sense are key to Ayden’s educational development, meaning the curiously flat, two-dimensional world of pixels on a screen, fell far short of meeting his needs. “The educational assistant realized his needs for tactile material — he’s not grasping the Chromebook — so she put together a binder with all the activities,” Karen explained. “All the math, English, all the subjects he would do at school, along with his puzzles, his timer [and] his favorite pens [are included].” The binder is carefully prepared by his educational assistant every week and left for Ayden to pick up, offering new material to make the best of a difficult situation. For some other students with special needs, learning at home — even with the extra work and resources — isn’t a possibility. As a result, despite the province-wide shutdown and stay-at-home-order, some are still physically in school. A few teachers are on hand, along with a small army of special education assistants. At the Peel District School Board, they are referred to as educational assistants (EAs) and a large number of the board’s 3,800 EAs are reporting for duty. At Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, where they are known as educational resource workers (ERWs) 40 school sites are open and staffed. A major issue for EAs working at PDSB is a lack of coordination and tracking by the board, Natacha Verdiel, president of OPSEU Local 2100, the union representing EAs at PDSB, explained to The Pointer. Unlike students and teachers who cohort together, EAs do not have to sign into classrooms and are not included in contact tracing efforts when an outbreak is declared. “An EA might cross cohorts 14 times on any given day,” she explained. “They might report to 12 different classrooms to provide support to high needs students. They’re now cross contaminating between students, that’s alarming, and no one knows they’ve been in that classroom.” As a result of their specific profiles, many children with special needs are unable to wear a mask. Some even find staff wearing them to be upsetting and can attempt to physically remove them. Depending on a child’s age, size and unique needs, such behaviour can be challenging. In some instances the desire to create normalcy can even lead to aggressive actions by some students. That’s why some personal protective measures to mitigate the risk of viral spread can’t be used. “Here’s what I don’t think the public understands: the students that are reporting to the physical building right now are students who cannot wear masks,” Verdiel said. “They are all unmasked, all of the students are unmasked. Most of them are extremely behavioral, they are our highest needs students in the system.” Verdiel described one situation where a particular student coughs, spits and sneezes as part of their behavioural profile. “The staff in there are covered in bodily fluids, all day long,” she said, lamenting the lack of effective personal protective equipment and how masks can act “as a target” for some students who attempt to remove them or strike the workers wearing them. For the parents of children with special needs, the role EAs, ERWs and the education system play can be nothing short of a miracle. Staff are able to look after children during the day, calm them and tend to their various behavioural and physical needs. “Some of our workers have phenomenal skills… some of them are outrageously amazing at what they can do,” Pam Bonferro, president of the Dufferin Peel Educational Resource Workers’ Association, told The Pointer. “They’re like pied pipers, they walk into a room and the students calm down.” Karen Rana agrees, describing Ayden’s EA as a rock. “He changed three classes [due to COVID-19 attendence variations], so you can imagine,” she said. “Three classes, three teachers, three sets of students, but with the same assistant. She has been the constant and it’s been very positive for Ayden.” The work of classroom assistants is often born of passion. As a vocation, many pursue the work out of a desire to help care for children and assist with their challenging development. “It’s not that they don't want to support the students that are there,” Verdiel added. “They want the Province to acknowledge that those who are reporting in person are unable to maintain any kind of physical distancing at all. Their job is very, very, very high risk in terms of exposure to bodily fluids.” Highlighting the fact the government is working hard during a crisis, but still missing key supports, Bonferro said ERWs and EAs are being inadvertently positioned in opposition to the very families they support. “What they have technically done is they have pitted the EAs against the parents,” she said. “They are taking the EAs voice away, if an EA speaks up, they’re going to be kind of vilified as the bad guy [in the] situation. So they are way beyond stressed and what’s really tearing them apart is: they have a conscience, they care about the kids they work with.” The Ministry of Education did not provide a response in time for publication. Despite working in the same space as teachers, classroom assistants have unique demands, detailed by the unions who represent them. Where teachers can safely distance from pupils, even in the same classroom, EAs and ERWs are unable to make the space. Their duties include helping students use the bathroom, feeding and, when needed, physically helping them to calm down. “The exposure level that a teacher has when they’re standing in front of a classroom teaching versus the exposure that an EA has when they’re being spat in the face or restraining a student [is significantly different],” Verdiel said. The unions have several specific asks of the Doug Ford government to improve the situation. They include pandemic pay, more robust PPE and rapid access to the vaccine. Under the Province’s current vaccination rollout, teachers and classroom assistants find themselves on the list at the same time. The second phase, which also includes older adults living in the community and several other key worker categories, could run as late as July, which risks some EAs and ERWs not being vaccinated until during the summer break. “The government has taken on the position that EAs are now essential workers; however, they are not being provided with the same level of pay or protection,” Verdiel said. “The NDP has long called for pandemic pay for all frontline workers, and believes educators should be included among the groups prioritized to get their vaccine,” NDP Education Critic Maritt Stiles told The Pointer. “Special education assistants, who are now working in classrooms with vulnerable people, should be vaccinated as soon as possible, when the vaccine becomes available.” PDSB provided a statement offering extensive instructions to EAs around wearing PPE. It did not address questions around contact tracing and EAs working in multiple classrooms. “Since returning from the winter break, all students and staff, including EAs, who have returned to in-person learning and working are required to follow the Active Daily Screening process,” a spokesperson told The Pointer. At DPCDSB, contact tracing does not appear to be an issue and ERWs are carefully monitored. “School principals maintain a record of any ERWs that are working in the school and should a positive COVID case be reported, any staff and students that worked with, or could be considered to be a close contact, would be identified for contact tracing,” Bruce Campbell, general manager of communications and community relations for the board, told The Pointer. As most schools remain closed and the majority of children learn at home, EAs and ERWs continue to show up for work feeling increasingly isolated and vulnerable. “Everybody is sympathetic, everybody understands,” Verdiel said. “Nobody is willing to do anything.” Email: email@example.com Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
Sea ice, ice sheets and glaciers melting 60 per cent faster than in the 1990s
Sylvia Sassie liked to listen to CBC Radio One in her kitchen, her bedroom or her car. She tuned in to the N.W.T. morning show, The Trailbreaker, and to Dehcho Dene, CBC's daily South Slavey language program. That all came to a halt about a year ago. "I didn't know what had happened," she said. "I thought maybe it just went digital?" Sassie, who lives in Fort Liard, N.W.T., called the CBC in Yellowknife and began exchanging emails with technical staff about how to diagnose the problem. "I guess it's the wiring or something that's disconnected here," she said. "I was supposed to take pictures [of the radio equipment] but I can't because there's too much snow." Fort Liard is now in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak. Six people in the hamlet of 500 have tested positive and the community was put under a 14-day containment order (that is, people were advised not to travel) starting Jan. 16. The community has two other radio stations: CKLB 101.9, run by Native Communications Society of the NWT; and 95.1, which was recently established as a Christian radio service. "I prefer personally to listen to CBC North because they talk about all kinds of things," Sassie said. "What I would really like about this channel is listening to the information on the COVID." Not 'CBC-owned' "Unfortunately," said Philippe Aubé, "since this is not CBC-owned infrastructure we are ... limited in the way we can support these issues." Aubé is the CBC's senior director of transmission operations in Montreal. His department looks after about 750 transmitters across the country. He also looks after CBC-owned satellite receivers in about 70 small, mostly northern locations known as "community-owned rebroadcasters" or CORBs — including Fort Liard. As Aubé explains it, decades ago, a program was launched to help small communities take control of transmitters, antennas and radio towers installed for radio. CBC maintained control of the satellite receivers bringing in the signal, but the community — which could be a communications society or the hamlet — took ownership of the transmitter that relays that signal into the community and any other hardware. 'Community-owned rebroadcasters' Several people interviewed for this article said that at one point, the N.W.T. government played a role in funding the CORBs. In an email, a spokesperson for the department of Municipal and Community Affairs said the department does not specifically fund community-based radio, though local budgets could be used for the purpose. The same spokesperson said "most community-based radio societies are established as societies separate from the community government." The Fort Liard Communication Society, established in 1979, dissolved in 2002, according to the N.W.T. Legal Registry. It's slightly different in the Yukon. "The Department of Highways and Public Works maintains community radio sites in some Yukon communities where there would otherwise be no radio broadcast service," spokesperson Brittany Cross said in an email. That includes five sites where they "maintain the equipment and radio licensing for the CBC FM transmitters ... as well as covering the costs of building maintenance and electricity." They also make room for other Yukon radio broadcasters' equipment. "These sites are generally low maintenance, but ongoing support ... is provided through a combination of in-house staff, contractors and contributions from the other radio tenants," Cross said. 'For them, it's a CBC service' But few people know how exactly their radio gets into their houses, workplaces or vehicles. "That's where it gets a bit sketchy sometimes," said the CBC's Aubé, "when one of those communities loses their signal and people start sending emails or chat on Facebook, saying, 'Hey our transmitter's off.' Because for them, it's a CBC service." "We try to help them over the phone as much as we can, but that's pretty much where it stops." Aubé said Friday that he still hasn't confirmed what's going on in Fort Liard, though he's asked staff to follow up. "It appears it is not related to our satellite receiver," he said. 'You can always Google stuff' Chief Wilbert Kochon of Colville Lake, N.W.T., has experienced some of that technical assistance over the phone. When the community's transmitter gave out a few weeks ago, Kochon volunteered to sort it out. "I talked to your technician who helped me on the phone," Kochon said. They discovered the heat had gone out in the old band office where the transmitter is. Kochon put a portable heater on in the building and in the morning, it started working again. Kochon says repairs like these are something he does for the elders. "CKLB, they always call me too," Kochon said. "You can always Google stuff and then figure it out really fast." Even better, he laughed, would be if the community could hire its own technician and get some training from the CBC. A costly 'conundrum' That's exactly what Bert Cervo would like to see. Cervo retired from the CBC in 2015 and lives in Whitehorse. He started as a remote area transmitter technician (RATT for short) in the 1980s and has visited nearly every small community in the North. He sees the situation in Fort Liard as part of a bigger problem. He's been contacted by people in several communities where CBC radio is down, "in some locations for two years," asking whether he can help get the signal back. The cost to fly in and do so, however, is simply too high, as is the cost of moving equipment or worse, buying new gear. All of which is made worse by the pandemic, which has severely restricted northern travel. "This is a conundrum that we've all been looking at for quite a while," Cervo said. He'd like to see the CBC take over the care and maintenance of the sites, or at least reimburse whoever goes there. He'd also like to see local people trained and paid to handle technical problems. "It's just not a cheap enterprise," Cervo said. Especially if older equipment needs to be replaced. "There is nothing that costs less than $1,000 or $2,000. Nothing. Then comes travel and everything else."
Le professeur en Techniques de comptabilité et de gestion du Cégep de Chicoutimi Benoît Rochefort compte sur un nouvel outil pour intéresser ses étudiants au contenu de ses cours et à l’actualité: le balado appelé Benlala. Il compte en quelques mois environ 5000 écoutes pour l’ensemble de ses émissions produites. Benoît Rochefort est depuis près de 10 ans professeur en comptabilité et gestion au Cégep de Chicoutimi. Il a longtemps travaillé dans le domaine du marketing, ce qui l’a mené vers l’enseignement. Au cours de l’été, il a longuement réfléchi à l’enseignement à distance et cherchait un moyen de rejoindre différemment les étudiants. C’est à ce moment qu’il a imaginé la création d’un balado. Son podcast a été lancé le 20 août dernier, sur une foule de plateformes. Puisqu’il avait déjà du matériel à la maison et que le Cégep lui donnait accès à certains logiciels, celui qui est également chroniqueur pour certaines radios a pu rapidement monter un produit de qualité. Dans son balado, il aborde plusieurs sujets qui touchent son contenu enseigné et l’actualité régionale. « Je prends l’actualité comme trame de fond pour parler de la théorie. Je fais référence à ce qu’on apprend, pour amener les étudiants à bien réfléchir. Je veux fournir aux étudiants des outils pour être capable d’interpréter de façon intéressante ce qui se passe, en lien avec ce qui est enseigné », raconte M. Rochefort, dans un entretien par visioconférence avec Le Quotidien. Pour lui, son balado ne doit pas être une charge de travail lourde pour les étudiants, mais une façon différente d’apprendre tout en s’intéressant à l’actualité régionale. Il souhaite avec son initiative encourager la persévérance scolaire. Les épisodes sont de courte durée, d’une dizaine à trentaine de minutes. Les jeunes peuvent facilement l’écouter, n’importe où et n’importe quand. « J’espère qu’avec cet outil-là, en complément avec ce que j’enseigne, que ça puisse contribuer à ce que les jeunes aient du plaisir et à diversifier les plateformes de communication qu’on utilise pour enseigner. Je pense que ça peut les aider à rester motivés », souligne-t-il. Hors série Des épisodes hors série ont également été enregistrés en collaboration avec l’ancien animateur radio Sylvain Carbonneau. Le duo a reçu une foule d’invités spéciaux pour ces épisodes, dont la ministre Andrée Laforest, l’avocat Charles Cantin, le directeur général de la fromagerie Boivin Luc Boivin, l’homme d’affaires Robert Hakim, et bien d’autres. Certains de ses épisodes seront obligatoires pour les élèves de certains cours lors de la session d’hiver, tant leur contenu touche directement la matière qui sera enseignée en classe. Le hors série a amené de la crédibilité à l’émission et a fait exploser le nombre d’écoutes. « Le hors série a vraiment été un succès, qui a permis de propulser la saison 1 à un public plus large », continue M. Rochefort. L’homme compte aujourd’hui près de 5000 écoutes pour tout son contenu produit, ce qui le rend particulièrement fier. C’est au-delà de ses objectifs, pour lui qui n’a jamais vraiment fait de publicité. L’homme est comblée de voir que ce ne sont pas seulement ses étudiants qui sont intéressés par ce qu’il produit. La saison deux La deuxième saison commencera très bientôt. Toutes les semaines, un nouvel épisode sera publié. Déjà, le professeur a plusieurs idées par rapport au contenu. Il touchera les concepts de gestion de projets, commerce international, mais aussi la publicité, entre autres avec un épisode en lien le Super Bowl. Il pense aussi consacrer un épisode sur la fiscalité étudiante avec sa collègue du Cégep de Chicoutimi, Marie-Ève Tremblay, et sur les finances personnelles avec son collaborateur Sylvain Carbonneau, qui est courtier hypothécaire. M. Rochefort espère également trouver des invités jeunesse, qui pourront se servir du balado pour parler directement aux jeunes. Les intéressés sont invités à suivre la page Facebook du projet Benlala balado, ainsi que visiter le site Internet benlala.ca, pour tout savoir sur le projet.Myriam Arsenault, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Quotidien
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday brought an end to lawsuits over whether Donald Trump illegally profited off his presidency. The justices threw out Trump’s challenge to lower court rulings that had allowed lawsuits to go forward alleging that he violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause by accepting payments from foreign and domestic officials who stay at the Trump International Hotel. The high court also ordered the lower court rulings thrown out as well and directed appeals courts in New York and Richmond, Virginia, to dismiss the suits as moot now that Trump is no longer in office. The Associated Press
The township of Muskoka Lakes published its new plan for how it wants to organize and upgrade the community throughout the next four years, with plans to focus on protecting the environment, boosting the township’s economy, upgrading infrastructure and more. Mayor Phil Harding said he is “very excited” to move forward as a township with the finished plan, made public on Wednesday, Jan. 13. “It really is the focus of Muskoka Lakes for the next four years,” he said. The plan is divided into four pillars organizing the goals council decided on throughout 2020 with consultation from the public. Some of the goals are short-term, being set in motion this year, while others are for down the line, in 2022 and 2023. Here are the standout goals in the strategic plan: The township is looking at its official plan to consider development restrictions, and a mandatory septic inspection program, as part of its strategic plan to preserve and protect the environment. Harding said during public consultations, many expressed concern about overdevelopment taking place in Muskoka Lakes affecting water quality and shorelines: the clear-cutting of trees and run-off from hardscaping projects, for example. Council and staff started developing their Community Improvement Plan for Port Carling and Bala and plan to make it a key project in 2021. “We want to try and build a year-round economy,” Harding said. “We need to understand what limitations businesses are having: why is it just seasonal?" He noted COVID-19 has been a challenge for businesses in 2020 but added more people are up in Muskoka Lakes during the fall and winter. One of the short-term goals listed for 2021 for strengthening Muskoka Lakes’ economy is assessing the challenges with broadband and internet connectivity in the township and working to expand internet access for everyone. In November, council discussed an effort to request the Ontario Energy Board reduce or remove the “egregious” charges broadband providers pay in rural Ontario communities like theirs to attach fibre-optic broadband to hydro poles. Internet connectivity became a pronounced issue in several rural Ontario communities throughout the pandemic. The township is working on new master plans for its recreation, parks, trails and facilities: the plan indicates it wants to implement the recommendations it forms in the plans in 2023. He added council and staff are working on a master plan for their fire services. In a previous plan, they considered closing down some of their 10 stations in the township and upgrading the remaining stations, which could have ATVs or fire boats, an idea Harding might consider for this master plan. The final pillar indicates the township wants to forge better relationships with all levels of government. Harding said his relationships with other mayors in the district and the province, including MPP Norm Miller and Premier Doug Ford, have improved since council took office in October 2018. The strategic plan is also for the next term of council that will take over late 2022. He said building good relationships now will help them down the line. Zahraa Hmood is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering the municipalities of Muskoka Lakes, Lake of Bays and Georgian Bay. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Zahraa Hmood, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
Niagara College now requires staff and students to wear enhanced personal protective equipment where physical distancing is not possible. In a recent release, Niagara College said in consultation with Niagara Region Public Health, and in light of the spread of the new United Kingdom variant of COVID-19 in Ontario, it has implemented the enhanced PPE requirements on campus. A medical-grade face mask and eyewear is now required for all staff and students attending classes, labs and workspaces where it is not always possible to maintain a physical distance of two metres. The college said a reusable fabric face mask is acceptable when outside of classrooms and labs and when physical distancing can be maintained, It will be providing staff and students enhanced PPE with medical-grade face masks and eye protection. The college will address staff and students who have a medical exemption that prevents them from wearing PPE on a case-by-case basis. The college also implemented schedule changes. To comply with provincial orders regarding on-campus/in-person instruction that requires classes and labs to be limited to 10 students or fewer plus faculty, several courses will be re-sectioned to ensure class sizes are within provincial limits. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org Sean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
“Let Me Tell You What I Mean,” by Joan Didion (Alfred A. Knopf) Back in 1968, Joan Didion identified a problem with the mainstream media. “The only American newspapers that do not leave me in the grip of a profound physical conviction that the oxygen has been cut off from my brain, very probably by an Associated Press wire …,” she begins in an essay that goes on to criticize traditional news outlets, including the wire service carrying this review, for pretending that there is such a thing as neutral, unbiased, objective reporting. That article, “Alicia and the Underground Press,” was a snarky ode to alternative newspapers in the 1960s like the East Village Other and Berkeley Barb that might have been “amateurish and badly written” but at least had the virtue of speaking directly to their readers, and speaking to them as friends. Some 50 years later, in a media landscape dominated by players who present “alternative facts” with a straight face, and consumers who get their news through platforms tailored to their specific interests, Didion’s critique seems more prescient than ever. The essay is one of 12 she wrote between 1968 and 2000 that have been collected in a new volume, “Let Me Tell You What I Mean,” sure to be of interest to Didion completists and fans of such cultural touchstones as “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” and “The Year of Magical Thinking.” Others haven’t aged as well. Another piece from 1968, about Gamblers Anonymous, quotes the people at a meeting in ungrammatical English, speaking “as if from some subverbal swamp.” In “A Trip to Xanadu,” she sneers at tourists at the Hearst Castle in their “slacks and straw hats and hair rollers.” But when she punches up instead of down, the results can be devastating, as in her portrait from the same year of Nancy Reagan, then the wife of the California governor, portrayed as a media-savvy control freak and distant mother to her then 10-year-old son. Similarly, her 2000 profile of Martha Stewart captures what most observers missed at the time — that Martha wasn’t selling homemaking, she was selling success. The best of the bunch have to do with the subject Didion, 86, knows and cares about most — being a writer. In essays like “Why I Write,” whose title she borrowed from George Orwell, “Telling Stories” and “Last Words,” she makes it clear why she has been an essential voice in American arts and letters for more than half a century. Ann Levin, The Associated Press
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Chinese state media have stoked concerns about Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, despite rigorous trials indicating it is safe. A government spokesperson has raised the unsubstantiated theory that the coronavirus could have emerged from a U.S. military lab, giving it more credence in China. As the ruling Communist Party faces growing questioning about China's vaccines and renewed criticism of its early COVID-19 response, it is hitting back by encouraging conspiracy theories that some experts say could cause harm. State media and officials are sowing doubts about Western vaccines and the origin of the coronavirus in an apparent bid to deflect the attacks. Both issues are in the spotlight because of the rollout of vaccines globally and the recent arrival of a World Health Organization team in Wuhan, China, to investigate the origins of the virus. Some of these conspiracy theories find a receptive audience at home. The social media hashtag “American’s Ft. Detrick,” started by the Communist Youth League, was viewed at least 1.4 billion times last week after a Foreign Ministry spokesperson called for a WHO investigation of the biological weapons lab in Maryland. “It’s purpose is to shift the blame from mishandling by (the) Chinese government in the pandemic’s early days to conspiracy by the U.S.,” said Fang Shimin, a now-U.S.-based writer known for exposing faked degrees and other fraud in Chinese science. “The tactic is quite successful because of widespread anti-American sentiment in China.” Yuan Zeng, an expert on Chinese media at the University of Leeds in Great Britain, said the government’s stories spread so widely that even well-educated Chinese friends have asked her whether they might be true. Inflaming doubts and spreading conspiracy theories might add to public health risks as governments try to dispel unease about vaccines, she said, saying, “That is super, super dangerous.” In the latest volley, state media called for an investigation into the deaths of 23 elderly people in Norway after they received the Pfizer vaccine. An anchor at CGTN, the English-language station of state broadcaster CCTV, and the Global Times newspaper accused Western media of ignoring the news. Health experts say deaths unrelated to the vaccine are possible during mass vaccination campaigns, and a WHO panel has concluded that the vaccine did not play a “contributory role” in the Norway deaths. The state media coverage followed a report by researchers in Brazil who found the effectiveness of a Chinese vaccine lower than previously announced. Researchers initially said Sinovac’s vaccine is 78% effective, but the scientists revised that to 50.4% after including mildly symptomatic cases. After the Brazil news, researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a government-supported think-tank , reported seeing an increase in Chinese media disinformation about vaccines. Dozens of online articles on popular health and science blogs and elsewhere have explored questions about the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine at length, drawing on an op-ed published this month in the British Medical Journal that raised questions about its clinical trial data. “It’s very embarrassing” for the government, Fang said in an email. As a result, China is trying to raise doubts about the Pfizer vaccine to save face and promote its vaccines, he said. Senior Chinese government officials have not been shy in voicing concerns about the mRNA vaccines developed by Western drug companies. They use a newer technology than the more traditional approach of the Chinese vaccines currently in use. In December, the director of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control, Gao Fu, said he can’t rule out negative side effects from the mRNA vaccines. Noting this is the first time they are being given to healthy people, he said, “there are safety concerns.” The Pfizer mRNA vaccine and another one developed by Moderna have passed both animal and human trials in which they were tested on more than 70,000 people. The arrival of the WHO mission has brought back persistent criticism that China allowed the virus to spread globally by reacting too slowly in the beginning, even reprimanding doctors who tried to warn the public. The visiting researchers will begin field work this week after being released from a 14-day quarantine. The Communist Party sees the WHO investigation as a political risk because it focuses attention on China’s response, said Jacob Wallis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. The party wants to “distract domestic and international audiences by pre-emptively distorting the narrative on where responsibility lies for the emergence of COVID-19,” Wallis said. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying got the ball rolling last week by reviving earlier Chinese calls for a WHO investigation of the U.S. military lab. State media have referenced past scandals at the lab, but China has given no reliable evidence to support the coronavirus theory. “If America respects the truth, then please open up Ft. Detrick and make public more information about the 200 or more bio-labs outside of the U.S., and please allow the WHO expert group to go to the U.S. to investigate the origins,” Hua said. Her comments, publicized by state media, became one of the most popular topics on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo. China isn’t the only government to point fingers. Former U.S. President Donald Trump, trying to deflect blame for his government’s handling of the pandemic, said last year he had seen evidence the virus came from a Wuhan laboratory. While that theory has not been definitively ruled out, many experts think it is unlikely. Huizhong Wu, The Associated Press
QUETTA, Pakistan — A Pakistani dissident and civil rights activist who died in exile in Canada last month was returned to Pakistan and laid to rest in her home village in southwestern Baluchistan province under tight security, activists said Monday. Only immediate family members of 37-year-old Karima Baloch were allowed to attend her funeral Sunday in the village of Tump in Baluchistan. Her supporters claim that Pakistani troops had sealed off the village and prevented them from attending her burial. Her remains were brought to Pakistan from Canada earlier Sunday. Baloch’s body was found Dec. 22 near Toronto’s downtown waterfront, a place that she liked and often visited, a day after she was reported missing. Toronto police have not treated her death as suspicious though there were allegations by her supporters that she was killed. A fierce critic of Pakistani spy agencies that are often accused of abducting activists in Baluchistan and elsewhere in Pakistan, Baloch was granted asylum in Canada in 2016. Her death has raised suspicions among rights activists, who on Monday denounced authorities for holding the funeral in near secrecy. “It is appalling to see how Karima Baloch’s dead body was treated," said Mohsin Dawar, a lawmaker from Pakistan's former tribal regions who campaigns for Pashtun minority right but like Baloch, has also criticized Pakistani spy agencies. “It is not difficult to understand how this will deepen the divide and fuel separatism," he tweeted. "Is this the strategy to deal with the Baloch insurgency, to sprinkle salt on the wounds of Baloch?" There was no immediate comment from the government, but a video that surfaced on social media shows soldiers turning back several mourners who are heard in the footage saying they wanted to pay their last respects to Baloch. Angered over the situation, a Baloch nationalist group — the Baloch Solidarity Committee — issued a call for a daylong strike and complete shutdown in Baluchistan on Monday. Its statement said Pakistani troops spirited Baloch's coffin away on its arrival from Canada and foiled a move by her supporters to hold her funeral in Karachi, instead taking her remains to her home village. Later on Sunday, hundreds of Baluch activists rallied in Karachi, denouncing the government for not allowing that Baloch's funeral be held in the city. They chanted antigovernment slogans and demanded justice for Baloch, who they say was a “voice of the Baloch people” that was “silenced.” The activists insisted she did not die a natural death though they offered no evidence to support their allegation. Baluchistan has for years been the scene of a low-level insurgency by small separatist groups and nationalists who complain of discrimination and demand a fairer share of their province’s resources and wealth. Although there are also militant groups in Baluchistan that stage attacks on soldiers, separatists also often attack troops in the province, prompting authorities to detain suspects. Human rights activists often blame security forces of illegally holding people. Such detainees are usually not charged and do not appear in court, which draws protests from their families and rights activists. ___ Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report. Abdul Sattar, The Associated Press
Environment Canada has lifted the last of its remaining weather warnings for B.C.'s South Coast, as the weather system that was expected to dump heavy snow faded away. A final snowfall warning for Metro Vancouver was lifted just before 8:30 a.m. on Monday. Weather alerts were in effect for much of the South Coast over the weekend, but many residents expecting a dump of snow woke up to rain on Sunday instead. The snow that did fall was not as heavy as expected in areas like the Fraser Valley, though the central and northern areas of Vancouver Island saw a healthy amount of snow. Shelter available Despite the lack of snow, temperatures are still cold. The City of Vancouver has opened additional indoor shelter spaces until Jan. 27 for people experiencing homelessness. The Powell Street Getaway, at 528 Powell St., from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. The Vancouver Aquatic Centre, at 1050 Beach Ave., from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. The Creekside Community Centre, at 1 Athletes Way., from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. The Odd Fellows Hall, at 1443 West 8th Ave., from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. First Avenue Shelter at 1648 East 1st Ave., from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. The Gathering Place, 609 Helmcken St., from 8:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. The city said these centres will allow people who have pets and carts, and hot drinks and snacks will be provided. All sites have reduced their capacity to meet the province's COVID-19 physical distancing requirements. In Abbotsford, B.C., people can warm up at the Gateway Christian Reformed Church on Gladys Avenue, which is open from 7:30 p.m. to 8 a.m. whenever the weather dips below freezing or there is snow on the ground. Jesse Weygand, an extreme weather shelter coordinator in Abbotsford, said all shelter guests are screened for COVID-19. "We've been resourced to isolate people who are exhibiting symptoms, who are then brought often to hotel rooms as they await their test results," said Weygand, speaking Monday on CBC's The Early Edition. In Surrey, B.C., seasonal shelters are open at Pacific Community Church at 5377 180th Street and Peace Portal Church at 15128 27B Ave. Tap here, or dial 211, to find a shelter location in Metro Vancouver.
JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska held the enviable position of having the highest rate of coronavirus vaccinations per capita in the nation as of last week, the state's top health official said. Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink said last Thursday that the progress was the result of community efforts to quickly distribute vaccinations and additional allotments for federal agencies within the state, KTOO-FM reported. Zink told the Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce that Alaska receives more doses of vaccine because of allowances above the state’s share for the Department of Defence, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Indian Health Service. “We have the highest veterans per capita population. We have a large military presence. And we have a large Indigenous population with over 229 sovereign tribes,” Zink said. “And so, because of those reasons, we did get some additional vaccine in the state via those federal partnerships.” The allotment for the Indian Health Service, which works with tribal entities to deliver health care to Alaska Native residents, could have been subtracted from the state’s share of the federal supply, but ultimately was allowed to be added, Zink said. “That’s been transformational for Alaska, that decision for Operation Warp Speed,” Zink said of the Trump administration's name for the national vaccine distribution initiative. More than 14,000 people had received both required doses of a vaccine cycle as of last Thursday, while more than 67,000 people had received at least one of the shots in the series. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The Associated Press
AGRICULTURE. Une campagne de sensibilisation aux réalités du milieu agricole bat son plein en Montérégie. Cette initiative publique, lancée au printemps dernier sous la thématique Notre campagne, un milieu de vie à partager entre dans sa seconde phase. Elle doit aborder plusieurs thématiques, dont celles de la santé des sols, des odeurs, du partage de la route et des bruits générés par les activités agricoles. La MRC de la Haute-Yamaska participe à ce projet, de même que douze autres MRC partenaires de la Montérégie, la Fédération de l’UPA de la Montérégie et l’agglomération de Longueuil. «Plusieurs outils de communication ont été développés, portés par le réseau des municipalités afin de déboulonner les croyances, atténuer les contrariétés et aborder les enjeux liés au travail agricole. Cette campagne vise à favoriser le vivre ensemble et le dialogue entre les producteurs agricoles et les résidents de la zone agricole en Montérégie», précise Joëlle Jetté, porte-parole de la Fédération de l’UPA de la Montérégie. Avec l’étalement urbain, les secteurs résidentiels se rapprochent inéluctablement des campagnes. Et les irritants se multiplient. Les municipalités en sont conscientes et cherchent à les désamorcer. «La vie a changé. Les agriculteurs de la Montérégie souhaitent dialoguer avec leurs voisins. Résider dans un milieu agricole nécessite parfois de la patience, mais l’agriculture locale nous garantit un approvisionnement en quantité suffisante de produits frais et de qualité supérieure», explique Jérémie Letellier, président de l’UPA de la Montérégie. «L’agriculture est un secteur innovant, à la recherche de solutions en matière d’agroenvironnement et de lutte aux changements climatiques. Il était temps, surtout en Montérégie, de faire le point», ajoute Mme Jetté. «Les commentaires sont très positifs. Quand on parle des réalités et des contraintes des agriculteurs, les gens apprécient.» L’agriculture, ma voisine! Chaque MRC a en main son Plan de développement de la zone agricole (PDZA). L’enjeu de la cohabitation avait souvent été soulevé par le secteur municipal. «La Montérégie est le garde-manger du Québec. Quand on veut privilégier les circuits courts, l’agriculture de proximité, cela veut dire, l’agriculture, ma voisine. Il faut comprendre ce que ça implique que de vivre dans un territoire agricole», affirme Joëlle Jetté de l’UPA. La première phase de la campagne lancée au printemps. Le projet avait l’été dernier rejoint avec succès les enfants dans plusieurs camps de jour. L’initiative a permis de sensibiliser près de 700 enfants aux réalités du monde agricole. Au total, 36 activités ont eu lieu dans 27 municipalités de la Montérégie. Il est probable que l’expérience soit reconduite l’an prochain. La campagne se poursuit jusqu’au mois d’octobre 2021. Les questions entourant la gestion de l’eau et des pesticides seront abordées au cours des prochains mois. Boris Chassagne, Initiative de journalisme local, La Voix du Sud