Veterans of wars past and present continue to fight mental health battles at higher rates than civilians. Psychiatrist Dr. James Rachal calls the ongoing struggle for those who have served “the unseen sacrifice.” (Nov. 11)
Veterans of wars past and present continue to fight mental health battles at higher rates than civilians. Psychiatrist Dr. James Rachal calls the ongoing struggle for those who have served “the unseen sacrifice.” (Nov. 11)
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
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on Friday a resolution to a bitter dispute with Qatar seemed "within reach" after Kuwait announced progress towards ending a row that Washington says hampers a united Gulf front against Iran. The United States and Kuwait have worked to end the dispute, during which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have imposed a diplomatic, trade and travel embargo on Qatar since mid-2017.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With coronavirus cases surging at a record pace, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new stay-at-home order Thursday and said if people don't comply the state's hospitals will be overwhelmed with infected patients.Newsom's latest effort to keep people from gathering with others from outside their households divides the state into five regions and links business closures and travel restrictions to hospital ICU capacity. When a region has fewer than 15% of its ICU beds available, new restrictions are imposed.Newsom said four regions — all but the San Francisco Bay area — could meet that threshold “within a day or two." A litany of changes would take effect, including closing hair salons, barber shops and movie theatres. Restaurants may only serve takeout and delivery, and playgrounds will be off-limits.Retailers and shopping centres would have to limit stores to 20% capacity during the busy holiday shopping season.The order takes effect Saturday and, once triggered, regions would have 24 hours to implement the rules, which stay in effect at least three weeks. The rules don't apply to public schools with in-person learning.“The bottom line is if we don’t act now our hospital system will be overwhelmed,” Newsom said during an online news conference from his home, where he has quarantined with his family for the past two weeks after his children were exposed to the virus. “This is the most challenging moment since the beginning of this pandemic.”The announcement was a gut punch for retailers and restaurants counting on the shopping season to boost a dismal year.“The loss of revenue many small businesses will experience as a result of this latest shutdown could be catastrophic,” said Allan Zaremberg, California Chamber of Commerce president and CEO.The new rules are the Newsom administration's latest attempt to control a virus that is spreading at rates that astonished health experts. In the last month, the state has pulled the “emergency brake” by imposing restrictions in 52 of the state's 58 counties, including asking people not to leave the state and implementing an overnight curfew.The curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. had little impact, Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's top public health officer, acknowledged Thursday. He said data shows people have not curtailed trips outside their homes during the period that is only supposed to be for essential trips.“We of course had hoped and wanted to see more from that already, but we haven't,” he said.Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles Fielding School of Public Health, said such a broad shutdown wouldn’t be necessary if the state had better data on where people are contracting the virus.“We do not have adequate data to know where transmissions are occurring and that reflects a failure of public health,” he said.Better understanding the data could, for example, show the state if transmissions are occurring at grocery stores, barber shops or restaurants and better target interventions. Klausner likened the current approach to shutting down food production, restaurants and grocery stores because of a salmonella outbreak.“That’s not the way we traditionally work in public health,” he said.California imposed the nation's first statewide stay-at-home order in March. It was open-ended and much more aggressive — all but essential businesses were closed.The order was widely praised by public health experts, but it came with a heavy cost: California lost 2.6 million jobs in March and April, overwhelming the state with claims for unemployment benefits.Since then, California has gotten 44% of those jobs back in a modest recovery as new cases fell dramatically after large gatherings ceased, and people wore masks and distanced in public.But by fall people were congregating more as cooler weather drove them inside, where the virus flourishes. A new wave of cases that began in late October has dwarfed anything the state had seen. California is now averaging nearly 15,000 newly reported cases daily.Unlike in March, when the pandemic was in its infancy and people were more willing to follow rules, the latest mandate will be met by a frustrated population entering its 10th month of restrictions. Some counties have bucked the rules, following cues from state and local elected officials who have criticized the governor for going too far.Shannon Grove, Republican leader in the state Senate, criticized Newsom on Thursday for continuing “to disrupt life as we know it without releasing the full data behind his decisions.”“And to be clear, it’s not just about the numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations he runs through in his almost-daily press conferences, but the data and facts about the toll his shutdown orders are taking on Californians’ mental health, on our children’s education, including the achievement gap, on domestic violence and child abuse rates,” she said.In San Luis Obispo, hairstylist Amy Lovece said she was angry because “salons are not the problem.”“I just go between home and work. I don’t go to parties or bars and I just want to keep working,” she said.California’s virus hospitalizations have nearly quadrupled since mid-October and now stand at 8,240, including 1,890 in intensive care units. California Hospital Association President and CEO Carmela Coyle said 80% of ICU beds in the state are occupied.“Hospitals are doing everything possible to address this crush of acute care needs but are challenged by a lack of needed critical care nurses, worldwide shortages of personal protective equipment and testing supplies,” Coyle said, adding hospitals support the governor's new restrictionsNewsom acknowledged the difficulty in following the rules. But he urged people to stay vigilant, promising the worst is almost over.“There is light at the end of the tunnel. We are a few months away form truly seeing real progress with the vaccine,” Newsom said. “We do not anticipate having to do this again but we really all need to step up. We need to meet this moment head on.”Adam Beam And Kathleen Ronayne, The Associated Press
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020.There are 396,270 confirmed cases in Canada._ Canada: 396,270 confirmed cases (69,255 active, 314,608 resolved, 12,407 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.There were 6,495 new cases Thursday from 86,875 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 7.5 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 43,173 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,168.There were 82 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 608 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 87. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.23 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.01 per 100,000 people. There have been 11,739,689 tests completed._ Newfoundland and Labrador: 340 confirmed cases (29 active, 307 resolved, four deaths).There were zero new cases Thursday from 420 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 13 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 63,583 tests completed._ Prince Edward Island: 73 confirmed cases (five active, 68 resolved, zero deaths).There was one new case Thursday from 584 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.17 per cent. Over the past seven days, there has been three new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 61,621 tests completed._ Nova Scotia: 1,343 confirmed cases (119 active, 1,159 resolved, 65 deaths).There were 11 new cases Thursday from 1,300 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.85 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 86 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 12.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people. There have been 150,559 tests completed._ New Brunswick: 520 confirmed cases (111 active, 402 resolved, seven deaths).There were six new cases Thursday from 1,179 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.51 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 55 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is eight.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.9 per 100,000 people. There have been 103,791 tests completed._ Quebec: 146,532 confirmed cases (13,198 active, 126,179 resolved, 7,155 deaths).There were 1,470 new cases Thursday from 11,594 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 13 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 9,638 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,377.There were 30 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 208 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 30. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.35 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 84.33 per 100,000 people. There have been 2,215,810 tests completed._ Ontario: 121,746 confirmed cases (14,795 active, 103,239 resolved, 3,712 deaths).There were 1,824 new cases Thursday from 51,144 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 3.6 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12,385 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,769.There were 14 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 137 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 20. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 25.48 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,197,157 tests completed._ Manitoba: 17,751 confirmed cases (9,130 active, 8,268 resolved, 353 deaths).There were 367 new cases Thursday from 2,804 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 13 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,463 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 352.There were 11 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 87 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.91 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 25.78 per 100,000 people. There have been 354,449 tests completed._ Saskatchewan: 9,244 confirmed cases (4,017 active, 5,173 resolved, 54 deaths).There were 262 new cases Thursday from 1,696 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 15 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,882 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 269.There was one new reported death Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 14 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.17 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 4.6 per 100,000 people. There have been 265,300 tests completed._ Alberta: 63,023 confirmed cases (17,743 active, 44,705 resolved, 575 deaths).There were 1,854 new cases Thursday from 8,049 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 23 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 11,145 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,592.There were 14 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 65 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is nine. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.21 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 13.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,495,622 tests completed._ British Columbia: 35,422 confirmed cases (10,013 active, 24,928 resolved, 481 deaths).There were 694 new cases Thursday from 7,929 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 8.8 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,449 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 778.There were 12 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 97 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 14. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.27 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 9.48 per 100,000 people. There have been 815,367 tests completed._ Yukon: 50 confirmed cases (20 active, 29 resolved, one deaths).There was one new case Thursday from 89 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 1.1 per cent. Over the past seven days, there has been 11 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 5,488 tests completed._ Northwest Territories: 15 confirmed cases (zero active, 15 resolved, zero deaths).There were zero new cases Thursday from 48 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 6,482 tests completed._ Nunavut: 198 confirmed cases (75 active, 123 resolved, zero deaths).There were five new cases Thursday from 39 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 13 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 43 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is six.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 4,384 tests completed.This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Dec. 3, 2020. The Canadian Press
Police have issued a Canada-wide warrant for a high-risk offender who is at large and suspected to be in the Calgary area.Police say Louis Henry Bear, 42, failed to return to his halfway house Wednesday.Bear has a lengthy history that includes convictions for attempted murder, weapons, forcible confinement, criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving.He is described as five feet five inches tall and about 170 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.Bear was previously convicted in the hit-and run deaths of Grant Liu, 26, and Brian Suh, 29, both of Calgary. The two men were standing beside parked cars outside the Whiskey nightclub on Aug. 4, 2007, when Bear ran into them with a stolen vehicle.Police ask that anyone who does spot Bear should not approach him but call police immediately.Anyone with information on the suspect is asked to contact police at 403-266-1234 or provide the tip anonymously through Crime Stoppers.
RED DEER, Alta. — Alexis Lafreniere will not play for Canada in the world junior hockey championship.Hockey Canada said in a statement Thursday that the NHL’s New York Rangers will not loan Lafreniere to Canada’s team for the tournament in Edmonton.The Rangers selected Lafreniere with the No. 1 pick this year in the NHL draft.Lafreniere led Canada to a gold medal at the 2020 junior championship in the Czech Republic. He had four goals and six assists in five games and was named tournament MVP.All activity at Canada’s camp has been suspended from Nov. 25 until at least Sunday after two players and a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.The Associated Press
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
If everything goes according to plan, everyone in B.C. who wants the COVID-19 vaccine will be immunized by next September, Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday.The provincial health officer explained that a more detailed plan for vaccine rollout will be available early next week, but the first shots should be available early in the new year."We're going to make sure we are absolutely ready by then," Henry said. "We are planning to be able to put vaccine into arms in the first week of January."She expects that two vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna will begin arriving in B.C. early in the new year but only about six million doses will be available across Canada."That's not enough for everybody," Henry said.The first priority will likely be to immunize the most vulnerable populations, including residents of long-term care homes, as well as health-care workers.Two other vaccines produced by AstraZeneca and Janssen are anticipated in the second quarter of 2021."By the time we get into April of 2021, we're expecting increased numbers of all the vaccines to be available and that's when we can start offering it to more people across British Columbia," Henry said.It won't be possible to reach everyone at once, so there will have to be a strategy for sequencing who receives it."As long as the vaccine continues to come in, as long as the safety and the effectiveness is good … we hope to have everybody done by September of next year," Henry said.She has repeatedly said the vaccine will not be mandatory.
A Regina teen has been digitally building the Queen City, block by block.Nicholas Fuzesy, 16, is part of the "Build the Earth" project in the incredibly popular video game Minecraft, in whichplayers can "mine" 3D objects in the game world to create new environments.The Build the Earth project started in March, with the goal of recreating the entire planet in the video game. Its relies on a modification that can track Google Earth data and put it into the Minecraft world, including streets and building outlines.Builders have to apply to be added to the server and then can pick a region to create. They'll eventually be merged together to create the entire world in Minecraft.For his application, Fuzesy created the Hill Towers. He was accepted immediately. "I didn't think many people would be working on Regina," said Fuzesy. "I wanted to sort of do it on my own."He's starting the job of creating the Minecraft version of Regina with the 12 blocks around Victoria Park. He's already created some of the city's most iconic buildings, like the Canada Life building, Blessed Sacrament and Hotel Saskatchewan.His favourite so far is the SaskPower tower on Victoria Avenue.The Grade 11 student, who attends Miller Comprehensive High School, said he first got into the game watching people play on YouTube. He decided to try it himself in 2014 and was hooked because of its versatility, he says.The game can be played online alone or with friends, in survival mode (where players have to battle computer-controlled characters while collecting resources and building structures) or in creative mode (where players can freely build with unlimited tiles and no real threats).At first, Fuzesy was joined by eight other builders from around the world working on creating Regina in the game world. But a system update wiped out their work, and Fuzesy was the only one who decided to start the city over again. He said it's rewarding work, because he sees it as a digital archive."It's surprising to look at what you've created and it's surprising to look at all the detail, and to mentally map it and say, 'Oh, … that's the building I've seen countless times in Regina," he said."And it's nice to be able to look at that and think that, like, you did it and and you're the person behind that."So far, Fuzesy said he's probably spent about 50 hours on the project. He's conscious of the time he spends on his computer, but his parents don't discourage his work on the project, because they see it as educational. "They weren't really surprised," he said. "I get passionate about something, and then I go for it."He's looking forward to creating other recognizable landmarks in the downtown area as part of the first leg of his project, including the public library and the Globe Theatre. "That location is sort of like the heart of Regina," Fuzesy said. "I feel like people [who] are joining the project would feel inspired to keep going because there's a significant portion of it done."He aims to finish the area around the park within a year, but is hoping for help completing the rest of the city."I estimate it'll take about 100,000 hours to finish the entire city.… And obviously I can't do that myself," he said."But if 100 people joined, it could maybe be done in, like, two years."Fuzesy hopes Regina residents will one day be able to find their street, their house and their favourite store in the digital world. As for whether Fuzesy sees this translating into a career in architecture, engineering or computer science when he graduates, he said he is considering coding — but is actually leaning more toward writing.
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
When a COVID-19 vaccine is approved by Health Canada and becomes available, Dr. Lorne Tyrrell plans to be first in line when it's his turn to get it.But the virologist says data about the vaccine must be transparent to the public, so that enough people can also feel they can safely trust it.Tyrrell, founding director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology at the University of Alberta, is a core member of Canada's COVID-19 task force."We need to be very transparent, very clear with the science and clear with the data so people can have trust in science in this area, and that these vaccines, when they go into people, will be very safe and very effective," he said in an interview Thursday with CBC's Edmonton AM.Premier Jason Kenney unveiled part of Alberta's vaccine distribution plan Wednesday. Paul Wynnyk, deputy minister of municipal affairs, is leading the provincial task force.Phase 1 of Alberta's vaccine rollout is projected to happen in the first three months of 2021. Phase 1 will focus on the province's most at-risk populations including long-term care home residents, staff in these facilities, on-reserve First Nations people and other health-care workers.Phase 1 will focus on the province's most at-risk populations including long-term care home residents and staff, on-reserve First Nations people over age 65, seniors age 75 and older, and health-care workers most needed to ensure workforce capacity and who are most likely to transmit the disease to those at greatest risk.Phase 2 will run from April to June, the province projects, with the goal of getting 30 per cent of the population immunized by the end of that period. The province said on Thursday the specific groups immunized during this phase will be determined after Phase 1 has begun."Clinics will be set up by AHS across the province where people who are in one of the identified priority groups can go to get their immunization," Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan said in emailed statement."Long-term care and designated supportive living residents will be immunized in their facilities and will not need to travel. More information will be shared once vaccines are ready to be distributed."Phase 3 will involve rolling out vaccinations to the general Alberta population. It's expected to start by fall 2021.Jason Tetro, a microbiologist and author of The Germ Files, said the province's Phase 1 timeline is realistic.Once the vaccine is approved by Health Canada, Tetro expects a rapid rollout where the most vulnerable people will be immunized within a couple of months.Vaccine development often takes years to complete. So the availability next year of COVID-19 vaccine is quicker than some expected, which Tetro attributes to improving technology.He and Tyrrell both said they trust any vaccine approved by Health Canada will have undergone enough scrutiny to be effective and safeBut Tetro said he'd still like to see more public information about the vaccine."At the moment, we are running off of very limited data in the public," he said. "We hear about the regulators going line by line or case by case to better understand how these vaccines work. I, personally, would like to see those."Tetro said the distribution timeline is dependent on pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Moderna not experiencing any setbacks.On Thursday, Pfizer lowered the number of doses it expects to produce this year, days after it was approved for use in the United Kingdom.Kenney said Wednesday any COVID-19 vaccine will not be mandatory. Because of the pushback against mandatory measures like masking, Tetro said governments would be best served to not worry about that, and focus effort instead on getting the vaccine to the people who want it."As soon as you bring up mandatory, you're going to immediately annoy probably 20 to 30 per cent of the population who believe it's their right to do what they want," Tetro said."We can start talking about mandatory vaccinations and other things like that when we're at a point that we're not worried about our ICUs being double-bunked, and the elderly all of a sudden dying simply because of inadvertent infections because somebody went to a house party. It's prioritizing."Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an assistant professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of Alberta, agreed the vaccine and the provincial government's plans for distribution look promising. On the point of mandatory vaccination, he emphasized it doesn't need to be discussed because nobody is calling for the measure."This isn't on the table, nobody has suggested it, nobody supports it," Schwartz said."The most important thing to emphasize is this is a safe and remarkably effective vaccine, and it's potentially getting us back to a point where life can return to normal."
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
Long-term care and assisted living facilities in B.C. are facing an increasingly deadly second wave of COVID-19 outbreaks, while at the same time imposing restrictions that leave seniors increasingly isolated. And the province’s seniors’ advocate Isobel Mackenzie says the government needs to overhaul the measures put in place in the pandemic’s early weeks and ease restrictions on visitors that are depriving residents of essential care and time with loved ones, and which could be costing more lives than they are saving. Mackenzie said this will be the last holiday season for about a quarter of residents, and the province needs to do everything in its power to support meaningful connection between residents and their families. “I don’t think it was ever intended that these measures would be in place for as long as they have been. I think it was intended to give care operators the opportunity to figure out how to manage these visits,” she said. “And we just got stuck in how we started out the visits in July, with how we’re doing the visits now, in December. We just need to shift that.” COVID-19 case numbers and deaths, the majority of which have been long-term care residents, have risen to unprecedented levels. About 35 people in long-term care died of the disease last weekend alone. B.C. introduced policies to limit the number and frequency of visitors quickly in the spring, also requiring staff to work at a single site to prevent spread between facilities. Each resident could have one 30-minute essential care visit per week. About half the people who applied to be designated as essential were rejected. The restrictions worked, quelling outbreaks that resulted in lower care-home deaths than in Ontario and Quebec. In June, B.C. announced each resident could have a designated social visitor as well, an expansion that rolled out slowly and inconsistently across the province. But after 10 months, the restrictions have devastated the physical and mental health of residents and failed to prevent outbreaks as community cases increase. There are now 54 active outbreaks in B.C.’s long-term care and assisted living facilities. “The challenge that we are facing right now, is that this surge in our communities has dramatically increased the risk in long-term care,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Wednesday. But earlier in the week Henry noted visitors are not causing outbreaks, which are more often caused by staff unknowingly spreading the virus. Mackenzie said health officials should allow more frequent and longer visits with the current designated visitors rather than increase the number of visitors per resident. When asked by The Tyee, Henry said the province is working to maintain and extend the current visitation level allowing one designated visitor. “But expanding to allow more social visits is not going to happen during this risky period right now,” she said Henry did not say when current visitors might be allowed to see loved ones more frequently. “I understand the reluctance,” said Mackenzie, who used to run care homes before being appointed B.C. seniors advocate by the government. “But increasing the frequency of visits, allowing their visits to happen in the privacy of the residence room, that’s not going to significantly increase the risk at all, and arguably could be decreasing the risk, because the care home is going to be able to rely on those family members to provide some help.” Current protocols that require visits occur in common areas also put strain on already overworked care workers and nurses by requiring them to transport residents from their rooms for visits. Visitors also need to be screened and escorted to the space, rather than finding their way to the residents’ rooms. “Irrespective of how meaningful visitors’ increased presence will be for the resident, their increased presence is going to help us as well,” said Mackenzie. “There’s going to be an extra pair of hands there to help with the feeding, to help with the toilet, to help with things that some of them were helping with before the pandemic.” And experts say the increased workload around visits and decreased family support has shed further light on the overworked and fragmented sector, where many care workers don’t have paid time off, sick days or health benefits. “Everything has changed, but nothing has changed,” said Joanie Sims-Gould, an expert in seniors’ health at the department of family practice at the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine. “But everything’s changed in the wrong direction.” Research co-conducted by Farinaz Havaei at UBC’s school of nursing found that during the pandemic’s first wave residents’ direct nursing care plummeted by about 10 hours per month as facilities scrambled to control the virus. Nurses are responsible for just under 30 patients in an average shift, while care aides look after around 10 patients each shift. Havaei, who researches human resources in the health-care sector, said the pandemic placed alarming pressure on staff. “I even get goosebumps, because I think... it’s a very stressful context for long-term care staff.” Registered nurses recorded the largest decline in hours compared to licensed practical nurses. Their hours had already been in slight but steady decline since 2018. Meanwhile, the relative hours of care performed by care aides is steadily increasing, leading Havaei to ponder how care aides may be replacing nurses in some care situations. Based on research from her coming report, Havaei says supporting staff with flexible sick leave, paid time off and proper personal protective equipment can improve their lives, which in turn will improve the care residents receive. “If you think about the mental health implications of all of that (stress), and how that influences staff’s work behaviours and decisions when giving care, you can see that the implications are really huge,” said Havaei. The federal government announced $1 billion in funding for the long-term care sector, and B.C. has committed $44.1 million to hire more than 5,000 new health-care support workers. “Adequate resources translates directly to safe staffing levels,” added Sims-Gould. “The situation is so grave, and these facilities are doing the best they can.” Henry would not commit to a timeline when families could see visits expanded, but Mackenzie hopes the right balance will be found and implemented as soon as possible. “Time is marching on,” she said, noting residents won’t have access to a vaccine until February or March at the earliest. “Arguably, not only can we [expand visits] now, I think now makes it more important to do it, because the system is under more stress,” said Mackenzie. “And these family members can actually help us, in addition to visiting their loved one, and all of those positive quality-of-life benefits.”Moira Wyton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — Police in Abbotsford, B.C., say a federal inmate is back in custody following a brief escape. They say in a statement that they responded to a report of shots fired Thursday just before 3 p.m. Police say Correctional Service Canada officers were escorting a federal offender to a medical appointment when he escaped.Police say that while officers tried to apprehend the offender, a correctional officer shot a gun but no one was injured. They say the inmate, who was not identified, was found with the help of police, police dogs and an RCMP helicopter.Police say the public is not at risk and major crime detectives are investigating.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Three former presidents say they'd be willing to take a coronavirus vaccine publicly, once one becomes available, to encourage all Americans to get inoculated against a disease that has already killed more than 275,000 people nationwide. Former President Barack Obama said during an episode of SiriusXM’s “The Joe Madison Show" airing Thursday, “I promise you that when it’s been made for people who are less at risk, I will be taking it.” “I may end up taking it on TV or having it filmed," Obama added, “just so that people know that I trust this science.” That may not be possible for a while. The Food and Drug Administration will consider authorizing emergency use of two vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna later this month, but current estimates project that no more than 20 million doses of each vaccine will be available by the end of this year. Each product also requires two doses, meaning shots will be rationed in the early stages. Health care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line, according to the influential Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. That encompasses about 24 million people out of a U.S. population of around 330 million. Still, former President Bill Clinton would “definitely” be willing to get a vaccine, as soon as one is "available to him, based on the priorities determined by public health officials,” spokesman Angel Ureña said. "And he will do it in a public setting if it will help urge all Americans to do the same,” Ureña said in a statement Thursday. Ureña declined to say whether Clinton's team has been in touch with other former presidents about perhaps setting up a joint public immunization session, whenever that might be possible. Former President George W. Bush's chief of staff, Freddy Ford, told CNN that Bush recently asked him to meet with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response co-ordinator, to let them "know that, when the time is right, he wants to do what he can to help encourage his fellow citizens to get vaccinated.” “First, the vaccines need to be deemed safe and administered to the priority populations," Ford told the network. "Then, President Bush will get in line for his, and will gladly do so on camera." The only other living former president, Jimmy Carter, who at 96 is the oldest ex-president in U.S. history, also encouraged people to get vaccinated, but stopped short of pledging to do so himself in public. “Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, said today that they are in full support of COVID-19 vaccine efforts and encourage everyone who is eligible to get immunized as soon as it becomes available in their communities,” the Carter Center said in a statement. The voice of support comes as the U.S. recorded more than 3,100 COVID-19 deaths in a single day, far outpacing the record set last spring. The number of Americans hospitalized with the virus also has eclipsed 100,000 for the first time. President Donald Trump was asked this summer if he would consider being the first to take the vaccine to send a message that it was safe. The president said that going first could also lead to accusations that he was being selfish, but that he would take it if recommended to do so. “I would absolutely, if they wanted me to, if they thought it was right. I would take it first or I would take it last,” Trump said during a July interview with Fox News. “You know that if I take it first, I will be, either way, I lose on that one, right?” Making Trump among the first to get the vaccine could indeed be controversial, given that he tested positive for the virus so recently. Vaccine trials excluded volunteers who had diagnosed infections — including those who had gotten treatment for the virus, which Trump had in October. Still, Trump is promoting the vaccine. At the ceremony for the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, which was taped Monday and streamed Thursday evening, Trump said, "It is truly a Christmas miracle, one of the great achievements medically, they say, ever in history.” During a Thursday roundtable in Memphis, Tennessee, with Vice-President Mike Pence, Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the U.S. must restore national trust in immunizations. “There’s been a great deal of challenge over the years of this growing concern of what I call ‘vaccine hesitancy,'" Redfield said. "It’s really sad as an infectious disease physician to see many people choose to leave vaccination on the shelf for themselves, their family and the community.” Asked if he’d personally be taking a vaccine, Pence gave a thumbs up and replied, “Absolutely.” President-elect Joe Biden said months ago that he'd take “a vaccine tomorrow” as soon as doing so was possible. Biden told CNN during an interview Thursday that he too would be happy to get his vaccine publicly to encourage people to follow suit. “People have lost faith in the ability of the vaccine to work," Biden said. "Already the numbers are really staggeringly low, and it matters what the president and vice-president do.” That follows Biden's warning on Wednesday that the spread of the coronavirus pandemic over the next two months could kill as many as 250,000 more people, though he didn't offer details to back up such a bleak assessment. “You cannot be travelling during these holidays,” Biden told the public "as much as you want to.” ___ Associated Press Writers Kevin Freking and Darlene Superville in Washington and Adrian Sainz in Memphis contributed to this report. __ This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of Birx. Will Weissert, The Associated Press
British Columbia's top doctor says seniors in long-term care homes and hospitals will be the first to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as the first week of January. Dr. Bonnie Henry says they hope to have everyone who wants to be immunized vaccinated by September.
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
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
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
Growing up in Aurora, Keenan Hull says he experienced little racism in his youth – but there came a point where the tide began to turn. “I didn’t see any aggressive racism until I got older, turning into a Black man instead of a Black boy,” he said. “It was more microaggressions and [people] would just have those assumptions about me.” He saw those assumptions manifest themselves in many ways, including systemic, and it is that lived experience he has brought to the table as a member of Aurora’s recently established Anti-Racism and Anti-Black Racism Task Force, which convened for the first time last Wednesday night. “My goal [on the Task Force] is to make sure that people like me will be able to just live in Aurora and surrounding areas without having any fear of persecution from other people in the community that should be protecting us,” he told the group. Mr. Hull, who was one of the co-organizers of this spring’s Solidarity Walk following the death of George Floyd, outlined his goals near the start of the November 25 meeting where he and his fellow Task Force members began the process of hammering their goals and priorities. Although a list is still a work in progress, their initial message was clear: action rather than education is key to making a difference. Aurora’s Anti-Racism and Anti-Black Racism Task Force represents a cross-section of the community. Chaired by Noor El-Dassouki, joining her and Mr. Hull at the table are Tricia Wright, Phiona Durrant, Mark Lewis, Mae Khamissa and, representing Council, Councillor Harold Kim, who brought the idea to Council alongside Mayor Tom Mrakas. Like Mr. Hull, Ms. El-Dassouki grew up in Aurora. As a Muslim Arab woman, she told the Task Force she has experienced her “fair share of racism and discrimination” over the years, but she also recognizes “a lot of the privileges” in her life. “I acknowledge the fact I am not the target of anti-Black racism or anti-Indigenous racism and I think it is really important to centre those experiences, especially Black and Indigenous people, in experiencing racism because their lives are the ones who have been most affected and most at risk because of systemic racism,” she said. “I would like to see some real action and some actionable change, especially in the institutional racism of Aurora [in that] I hope we can work to kind of look at policies and practices that are embedded in institutions and understand how they are designed in a way that is inherently biased and racist. [It] might not be intentional, necessarily, but that is the way systems are designed in this country and a lot of areas around the world.” “The more effective way of bringing about change is to increase the implementation of anti-racist actions as opposed to just raising awareness of diversity and anti-racism and all of those items.” Added Ms. Durant: “From a leadership perspective, our community knows how our leaders feel about racism, about any form of discrimination, anything that makes anyone feel less than. As long as we know where they stand, it is easier for us to know how to move forward.” A native of Markham, Mr. Lewis says he experienced systemic racism every day as he watched his parents, teachers with the Toronto District School Board, “navigate racist constructs within our community and the education system while trying to provide a high quality of life for me and my siblings.” He moved to Aurora 17 years ago, choosing this community to raise his family as it reminded him of “Markham of the 1980s.” “I was not disappointed,” he said. “Like any fast-growing municipality, I watched Aurora’s growth drive more diversity among residents in our Town, which challenges the community to respond to growing racism, which has to be dealt with by both residents and business owners. For me, the biggest challenge as a father and a resident in Aurora is a little heartbreaking that my daughter is still experiencing the same [type and level] of racism that I experienced when I was her age so many years ago. It is time for us to make a positive impact and make Aurora a great place for all of us to raise our families.” Ms. Wright has lived in Aurora for 17 years as well, having come to Canada in her teens from a country where Black people are the majority. “If I did experience racism [in Canada], I didn’t take it that way, it was more that they didn’t like me because of something else because that isn’t necessarily what I grew up with,” she shared. “I think my goal on this would be to really continue to sort of raise the awareness. I think the more people know, the less they become afraid of something, with lack of knowledge and lack of information there is huge fear. Bringing topics and displaying different cultures, I think that will be a huge part of breaking down any barriers.” While the Task Force is just getting off the ground, several directions are being explored. In addition to Council’s recent efforts on workplace diversity within the municipal structure, Mr. Lewis suggested more can be done to examine diversity “within the construct of Aurora itself…ensuring the diversity of its suppliers in all aspects of the Town’s business.” Members also pointed out there should be a concerted effort to ensure Indigenous voices are also represented at the table after this integral group was not represented amongst the applicants who came forward, as well as to clarify their mandate. “I see a distinction between anti-racism and diversity and inclusion-related work,” said El-Dassouki. “I think there is a little bit of a distinction to me and I think it would be important for us as a group to have a common understanding and identify kind of common goals around those terminologies to guide our work going forward.”Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran