Robert Pattinson tells Yahoo Movies Canada why he would always work with filmmaker David Cronenberg at the drop of the hat, and his appreciation for "weirdos."
Robert Pattinson tells Yahoo Movies Canada why he would always work with filmmaker David Cronenberg at the drop of the hat, and his appreciation for "weirdos."
TOKYO — Myanmar's security forces have killed scores of demonstrators protesting a coup. The new junta has jailed journalists — and anyone else capable of exposing the violence. It has done away with even limited legal protections. The outside world has responded so far with tough words, a smattering of sanctions and little else. The slide from a nascent democracy to yet another coup, as rapid as it has been brutal, opens up a grim possibility: As bad as it looks in Myanmar now, if the country’s long history of violent military rule is any guide, things could get worse. Protesters have continued to fill the streets despite violence that left 38 people dead one day this week — though in smaller numbers than the weeks right after the Feb. 1 coup. They have used smartphones to capture the brutality. Recent videos show security forces shooting a person at point-blank range and chasing down and savagely beating demonstrators. The military, however, has the clear upper hand, with sophisticated weapons, a large network of spies, the ability to cut telecoms, and decades of fighting experience from civil conflicts in the country’s borderlands. “We are at a crisis point,” Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations with long experience working with Myanmar, told The Associated Press, pointing to the arrests of journalists, including AP's Thein Zaw, and the indiscriminate killing of protesters. “The international community needs to respond much more forcefully, or this situation will degenerate into complete anarchy and violence.” So, will it? Governments around the world, including the United States, have condemned the coup, which reversed years of slow progress toward democracy. Before that opening up began, Myanmar had languished under a strict military rule for five decades that led to international isolation and crippling sanctions. As the generals loosened their grip in the past decade, the international community lifted most sanctions and poured in investment. Despite the flurry of recent global criticism, however, there's not much hope that pressure from outside will change the course of events inside the country. For one thing, co-ordinated action at the U.N. — like a global arms embargo that the world body's independent expert on human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, called for — is unlikely. Russia and China, Myanmar’s most powerful supporter, are still selling arms to the military — and they each have a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council and thus could veto any such measure. The Security Council will take up the crisis in Myanmar on Friday. Myanmar's neighbours, the countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, are generally loathe to “interfere” in one another's affairs — a policy that means they are unlikely to do anything more than call for talks between the junta and the ousted government of Aung San Suu Kyi. That leaves sanctions from the United States and other Western countries. Washington imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s top military leaders after the Feb. 1 coup. More pressure came after a U.N. envoy said security forces killed 38 people on Wednesday. Britain imposed sanctions on three generals and six members of the junta in response to the coup and the crackdown. The European Union is drawing up measures to respond to the coup. But even tough sanctions from those countries are unlikely to yield anything, though they may weigh heavily on ordinary people. Myanmar has ridden out decades of such measures before, and the military is already talking about plans for “self-reliance.” U.N. special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, told reporters this week that she had warned the military that tough sanctions may be coming — and the response was that the generals knew how to “walk with only a few friends.’” “Myanmar’s history suggests the military will use ever increasing brutality and violence in an attempt to put down the protest movement,” said Ronan Lee, a visiting scholar at the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London. “In the past, the military has been prepared to murder thousands to quell civil unrest or to meet its goals.” In the face of such determination, some observers question how long the protest movement can last. “While it may appear at first glance to be a battle of wills, the military has a substantial resource advantage over the average protester and has demonstrated that it’s willing to engage in extreme acts of violence and brutality to try to force compliance,” said John Lichtefeld, vice-president of The Asia Group, a consulting firm. It may get much worse, he said. The military “is an organization with tremendous institutional pride, and it’s possible that hardliners within the military who have been pushing for a more aggressive response are beginning to gain influence.” The military has also gotten away with past abuse. In 2017 the army slaughtered thousands of minority Rohingya Muslims in massacres that U.N. officials have said bear the “hallmarks of genocide” with few consequences so far. In a sign of how limited the options are to influence the junta, when asked what more Britain and other countries could do, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab responded: “We will continue to look at how we hold individual members of the regime to account.” Myanmar’s military is banking on the world going no further than “harsh words, some economic sanctions and travel bans,” Lee, the scholar at Queen Mary University, said. In order to ensure that, it may exercise some restraint in its crackdown — to try to keep violence below a threshold that would compel action — or at least keep it hidden. This is why, he said, authorities are targeting journalists. It suggests they “understand the value of international exposure to the protesters and are aggressively working to limit it.” ___ Milko reported from Jakarta, Indonesia. Associated Press writers Jill Lawless in London, Jamey Keaton in Geneva, Frances D’Emilio in Rome and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report. Victoria Milko And Foster Klug, The Associated Press
Cryptocurrency trading volumes soared by 17% last month in the wake of Tesla's $1.5 billion bitcoin bet, with larger exchanges taking a growing share of the overall volumes, data showed on Friday. Trading volumes jumped to $2.7 trillion in February, with volumes at major exchanges jumping over 35% to $2.4 trillion, researcher CryptoCompare said. Smaller exchanges saw volumes slump by 36% to $381 billion, suggesting growing consolidation of trading at larger venues.
More than 3,000 industrial workers are set to arrive this month at work camps and construction sites at an energy mega project in northern B.C., with the majority coming from outside the region. That's according to LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink, as work on their $46-billion natural gas pipeline and LNG export terminal ramps up after slowdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The influx of workers has raised concerns from health officials and residents in the area about the risk of coronavirus transmission in communities close to work sites and camps. But LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink, who are partners in the project to move natural gas from northeast B.C. to the province's North Coast for export to Asia, say that's being mitigated by the rollout of mandatory COVID testing for all workers, whether they're symptomatic or not. This work camp, the Cedar Valley Lodge, will eventually be able to accomodate 4,500 workers at the LNG Canada site in Kitimat, a small community with a population of just over 8,000 people. (LNG Canada/Contributed) Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry permitted LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink to gradually increase the number of workers on site earlier this year, under stringent conditions. By the end of March, the number of people working on the pipeline and export terminal is scheduled to increase to almost 6,000 from fewer than 1,000 at the start of the year. Even while operating with reduced staff, the mega project wasn't immune to the spread of COVID-19. Northern Health declared four different COVID-19 outbreaks at Coastal GasLink and LNG Canada work sites or camps between November and January, with a total of 128 workers infected. Airport testing To allay fears of potential future outbreaks, company-funded rapid testing is ramping up for fly-in workers from outside the region, with testing in place at airports in Vancouver, Nanaimo, Kelowna, Calgary, Edmonton, and Ontario. An LNG Canada spokesperson says the company has already administered antigen tests to 1,700 workers before they boarded charter flights at the Edmonton and Calgary airports. The company said out-of-town workers are prohibited from leaving the job site except to return home on their days off, and they will be re-tested each time they return to the region. They're also barred from visiting local businesses. Local workers will be tested every three weeks, said LNG Canada, which is already operating three on-site private health clinics with COVID-19 isolation wings. A worker is tested for COVID-19 at Coastal GasLink's Vanderhoof Lodge work camp. (Pop Media Inc/Contributed) Coastal GasLink said it has started testing employees at two work camps using PCR testing, which can deliver results within 48 hours, and plans to expand that to workers along the pipeline's 670-kilometre construction route. "This is another layer of protection, to keep our workforce and communities safe," said Michael Gibb, Coastal GasLink's director of health, safety and security. Previously, the private sector wasn't able to requisition test kits and labs, Gibb said. "In the early days of the pandemic, any available testing and supplies, the government immediately grabbed, as they should, for public health," he said. An on-site medical professional with Coastal GasLink conducts a daily health screening for COVID symptoms. The company says the addition of COVID-19 testing adds 'another layer of protection.' (Coastal GasLink/contributed) 'Cadillac private health system' But Dr. David Bowering, a retired chief medical health officer with Northern Health who lives in the region, says the elevated risk of transmission remains. He also said it's unfair that mega projects like these can afford to "import this deluxe, Cadillac private health system and level of testing," while the public health system is "rationing COVID testing for people just doing ordinary things like trying to run restaurants and stores." "It doesn't feel right, the granting of essential service status to these huge projects ... while everything else stops and shuts down and changes so dramatically," Bowering said. Coastal GasLink's Gibb said it's up to public health officials to determine if there's a need for expanded community testing. Last year, LNG Canada donated $500,000 for COVID-19 response measures in Kitimat, Terrace, and local Indigenous communities. A member of Coastal GasLink's testing crew prepares a COVID-19 test sample during a training session in northern B.C. in February. (Pop Media Inc/Contributed) District of Kitimat Mayor Phil Germuth welcomes the return of workers to his community, where the LNG export terminal is under construction. "It's good to see they're going to start ramping up again and get the project back on track," Germuth told CBC News. "Honestly, I haven't had a single person come to me with concerns." Germuth said LNG Canada's new testing protocols make him "very confident that ... everything will go as smoothly as it can." Three other large industrial projects in northern B.C. have also been granted permission by provincial health officials to increase their work force. A spokesperson for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project said the company expects as many as 1,000 workers will be on the job in the Valemount area, between Jasper and Prince George, within the next three months, as work proceeds on twinning an oil pipeline between Alberta and Burnaby, B.C.. In the Kitimat area, Rio Tinto's B.C. Works project is planning for a "gradual ramp-up ... when it is safe to do so," a company spokesperson told CBC News. A spokesperson for BC Hydro's Site C dam project near Fort St. John said the number of workers on site is expected to increase to more than 2,300 in the coming weeks, with additional workers expected in summer.
The gymnasium at the new school in Miawpukek First Nation looked a little different than usual on Wednesday — Conne River Health and Social Services was holding the third of three planned COVID-19 vaccination clinics in the community. Stations were set up throughout the gym as workers diligently went about administering vaccinations to 419 residents. “I am absolutely encouraged,” Miawpukek First Nation Chief Mi’sel Joe said about the number of people who were vaccinated. “I was encouraged by the first one that got it started.” This latest effort featured the help of Central Health, members of the local fire department and a host of others. “Working collaboratively with our community is always an amazing experience,” Miawpukek health and social services director Ada Roberts wrote on the band’s social media page. “Words cannot express how much your co-operation contributed to the success of today’s clinic.” Joe was amongst the first to get the COVID-19 vaccination in Miawpukek when the band held its first vaccination clinic Feb. 20-21. At that time, 140 people got the vaccine. Joe said he had no issues getting the shot, and he knows of others who felt the same way. A couple of weeks after the chief got his shot in the arm, Miawpukek held its second vaccination clinic at the new school in the community. Of the community of almost 1,000, vaccinations have been given to 559 people. Miawpukek hopes to meet soon with Central Health to figure out the next step. “We’re hoping to get the full community vaccinated,” said Joe. “So far, so good.” Provincially, the regional health authorities have administered 24,757 doses of the province's vaccine stores. That means 8,427 people have been fully vaccinated so far. The Miawpukek vaccination rollout comes after a similar rollout in Labrador. In Phase 1 of the rollout, Indigenous communities in northern Labrador received their vaccinations, due to their remoteness and lack of medical resources. During the regular COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said all of the Indigenous communities around the province that were identified in Phase 1 of the vaccine rollout had received at least one dose. “We certainly are engaged and going out to other communities as well, and we will certainly be connecting going forward with our Indigenous partners for Phase 2,” Fitzgerald said. That rollout has sometimes been dependent on geography. Communities in northern Labrador are remote and can only be reached at certain times by certain modes of transportation. In those instances, the provincial government has entered the community and given the vaccine to all adults who wished to receive it. Other Indigenous communities, such as Miawpukek, are easier to reach and have meant a different kind of rollout. At those times, there have been doses given to different subgroups, such as people over the age of 70. “It has varied depending on the community, depending on the situation and the geography of the community,” said Fitzgerald. — With files from Andrew Waterman Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice
Spanish automaker SEAT's parent company Volkswagen wants a firm commitment from Brussels to support a potential project to manufacture electric cars in Spain, the German group's chief executive officer Herbert Diess said on Friday. The Spanish government announced on Thursday it will use European Union funds to create a public-private consortium with SEAT and power company Iberdrola that would build the country's first factory for electric-car batteries. SEAT said last year it was considering producing a small electric vehicle in Spain from 2025, but tied it to receiving public aid as carmakers ramp up production of electric vehicles to meet tougher emissions regulations.
KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal’s government and a communist rebel group formally signed a peace agreement on Friday aimed at ending violent attacks, extortion and bombings by the rebels. Rebel leader Netra Bikram Chand, better known by his guerrilla name Biplav, emerged out of hiding on Friday after the government lifted a ban on his Nepal Communist Party group so it could take part in the public signing of the peace agreement. “Nepal has entered a peaceful era. There is no more violence in Nepal or any any violent conflicts left in Nepal,” Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli said at the ceremony. Under the peace deal, the government will lift its ban on the group, release all party members and supporters from jail and drop all legal cases against them. In exchange, the rebel group agreed to give up all violence and resolve any issues through peaceful dialogue. This group had split from the Maoist Communist party, which fought government troops between 1996 and 2006, when it gave up its armed revolt, agreed to U.N.-monitored peace talks and joined mainstream politics. The fighting had left 17,000 people dead, hundreds missing and many more maimed. The Associated Press
The European Union has promised legal action after the British government unilaterally extended a grace period for checks on food imports to Northern Ireland, a move that Brussels said breached the terms of London's EU divorce deal. Provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement and the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland set out the EU's course of action. Britain signed them when it formally left the EU in January 2020.
NORTH PERTH – PC Connect, which initially launched in November under a partial service model with reduced stops and adjusted hours, has now transitioned to the full-service model throughout Perth County, to Kitchener-Waterloo and London. The 50 per cent discount on fares has been extended until at least March 31. The lockdown from Dec. 26 to Feb. 16 had a substantial impact on current ridership. The project team is doing some outreach to local industries to see what adjustments can be made to the route schedules so that they work for employees using PC Connect. An update is being proposed to Route 1, which runs between Listowel and Conestoga Mall in Waterloo and the GO station in Kitchener. “Based on feedback and observations from the customers we’re proposing to change the route from direct Listowel to K-W to more of a loop which does allow us to put back in the St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market stop and also permits us to have a bust stop for this route in Atwood,” said North Perth CAO Kriss Snell. After examining the stop times and locations it was determined the only location that is drastically affected is the change to Conestoga Mall. “It gets to Conestoga Mall a little later than originally proposed, but considering that stop is mostly with respect for people wanting to do shopping or excursions outside of the community I don’t see that as a drastic concern,” he said. “Unless someone has some concerns we’ll be asking the City of Stratford to make the route change.” The proposed route will run in a loop starting in Listowel and stopping in Atwood, Newton, Millbank, St. Jacobs, Conestoga Mall, Grand River Transit GO station, Elmira and back to Listowel. Mayor Todd Kasenberg asked whether council needed to give firm direction for this route change. “Not really because it’s not our project,” said Snell. “The City of Stratford is setting the routes though they have said many times they will take direction from North Perth on this.” Council agreed with the suggested route change. Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner
Of all the restrictions placed on Manitobans during the pandemic, those that restrict funerals and those grieving the loss of a loved one may be the most damaging of them all. "The health of people is my concern, the wellness of people, their mental wellness, which plays out physically, emotionally, spiritually. Those restrictions that are in place right now, I’m finding are detrimental to people’s mental health," said David Klassen, a funeral director with Braendle-Bruce Funeral Service in Russell. Klassen noted an Alberta funeral that took place last year, where many people contracted COVID-19. But, he said, the funeral was not governed by a funeral director. "The families did it on their own. There are some, there are very few, but there are some communities where funeral directors aren’t actually present at the ceremony and the burial," he said. "Kevin (Sweryd) from MFSA (Manitoba Funeral Service Association) will quickly tell you that best practices as far as funeral directors is that we’re promoting the health guidelines." In fact, Sweryd, who is president of the association, has been trying to get basic answers from a variety of government agencies for almost a year. In a document provided to The Brandon Sun, Sweryd questions the internal logic of the orders with regards to funeral homes and churches. "I can go to a church service on Sunday and attend with 100 people. But, on Monday, if a member of the exact same church has to have a (funeral) service for his wife at the exact same church 24 hours later, then it is only safe to have 10 people in the exact same space," Sweryd states. He also wonders why funeral gatherings are restricted to 10 people while other businesses with far fewer safety protocols in place are allowed 25 per cent of their capacity, without tracking, without contact lists and very little management of crowd flow to ensure that there is adequate distancing. Currently the public orders state that up to 10 persons, other than the officiant and a photographer or videographer, may attend a wedding or funeral if the operator of the premises where the wedding or funeral takes place implements measures to ensure that all persons attending are reasonably able to maintain a separation of at least two metres from other persons at the wedding or funeral. Meanwhile, for worship, the orders state churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship may open to hold regular religious services if (a) the number of persons attending a service does not exceed 25 per cent of the usual capacity of the premises or 100 persons, whichever is lower. "Funerals can be conducted safely. We can keep contact lists and we can have proper social distancing in our chapels. What is the reason for treating our profession differently?" asked Sweryd. He stated he has asked this question of the previous health minister, the MECC (Manitoba Emergency Co-ordination Centre), Dr. Brent Roussin and Premier Brian Pallister. "I have been asking this question for almost a year. And I have not received even the courtesy of a reply that I can share with our membership," he stated. Klassen recalled one situation where a woman called three days after she had been in Braendle-Bruce’s, then tested positive for COVID-19. Staff went back through their contact information, determining who had been working and who might have been in contact with her. "We called the public health office and explained the situation. What do we do now? What are the protocols? And, they ask the question, ‘Was anybody within six feet of her, unmasked, for 15 minutes?’ Of course, nobody was. Everybody was masked throughout the whole time. So they actually told us that that wasn’t considered contact," said Klassen. "We were allowed to continue operating, nobody ever developed symptoms. There was no follow from that." Public health orders relating to gathering, consistently group weddings and funerals together, including the orders dated March 4. Klassen objects because gathering for a funeral is unlike any other type of gathering. "It’s not the same as a wedding. It’s far from the same as a wedding. The wedding can be planned at any time and everybody can change their plans. But a funeral happens only when someone dies. And immediately, grief takes over. Grief can’t be put on hold. Grief starts immediately, with a loss," he said. He added we face all sorts of losses — divorce, loss of a job, for example. The process of grief is very similar, but grief of loss through death is irreversible. A person can get another spouse, another job. "But you can’t establish that same relationship with a deceased spouse or a parent or a child," said Klassen. When the strictest restrictions were announced, Braendle-Bruce adapted with livestreaming — a practice the company will likely continue even after the pandemic for far-flung relatives. But it’s not the same as being physically in a room. "In the last little while, we handled the funeral service for a young mother, a 38-year-old wife, mother (of four), and of course her parents are still living, her in-laws are still living. She became ill with cancer and her death was way more premature than they anticipated with her illness," said Klassen. "How do you choose 10 people to be at that funeral? In that situation, there would have been 500 people at the funeral. You’re gathering with a family that’s waiting to begin a service where they’re walking into a church or a hall and just warmed by the fact that there are 450 people physically there to help participate in a memorialization and in the compassion of being together with this family who desperately is hurting, as well as all the other 450 people that are there. "And now what we have to do is just walk into a big empty facility. Nobody there. The only ones there are the cameraman, the minister and the organist." Klassen said it weighs heavy. In the last while, funeral services have had the ability to rotate. As one person leaves, another goes in. That happened after Klassen observed people rotating in and out of Tim Hortons. He spoke with MLAs and a provincial minister. "It’s fantastic. We need coffee. I said to them, why is it more important for people to be able to rotate in and out of Tim Hortons? Not diminishing the need to have coffee, OK, by any means. But why can’t people at least rotate in and out of the funeral home?" asked Klassen. That helped improve the situation, involving more people in the funeral service. Braendle-Bruce has handled roughly 250 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Add to that number, in the Westman/Prairie Mountain Health region, another two dozen funeral service providers. That’s a lot of grief. Some postpone the service, as public health officials have suggested, but Klassen said when grief doesn’t start out properly, it becomes dysfunctional, which will cause more strain on society down the road. The restriction on gathering outdoors are just as onerous and, when applied to the graveside, is also incomprehensible to Klassen. "A funeral service is very different than your weekend barbecue with your neighbours," he said. "The weekend barbecue, you can have any night of the week and as many times in a year as you want. But a graveside service to say that only 10 people can be in a space that’s 100 acres — that just doesn’t make sense." Braendle-Bruce serves several First Nations, and one chief said to Klassen, "Where’s the common sense?" With regard to First Nations, Klassen said there is always someone from the community designated to work with Braendle-Bruce to regulate the protocols of the public orders. "So they’ve established within their own community a leader to promote or encourage people to follow the guidelines," he said. While he said he has the utmost respect for those in the position of authority and responsibility, Klassen said he and others in his profession would like direct communication with Manitoba Public Health. "They’re doing the best they can, but what I’d like to see is a liaison between funeral service, those that are involved in it directly, and the public health office. I see a lot of people are able to communicate directly with the public health office, and then establish guidelines and protocols that are suitable for each different segment of society," said Klassen. Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
Prince Harry, grandson of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, and his American wife Meghan give a highly-anticipated interview with U.S. chat shot host Oprah Winfrey which airs on Sunday. Here is a timeline of the couple's relationship, culminating in their split from the British royal family. July 2016: Harry, who is now sixth-in-line to the British throne and Meghan, a divorced actress from Los Angeles best known for her role in TV legal drama "Suits", go on a blind date after being introduced by a friend.
Democrats in the U.S. Senate said Friday they had resolved their differences over unemployment aid in President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid bill, enabling them to move forward with the sweeping package after hours of delay. The deal would scale back the level of jobless benefits provided in the version of the bill that passed the House of Representatives last week and set up new tax breaks for people receiving them, according to Democratic aides. "We have reached a compromise that enables the economy to rebound quickly while also protecting those receiving unemployment benefits from being hit with (an) unexpected tax bill next year," said Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, a key centrist who had pushed to scale back the aid.
Ontario expects to give all adults 60 and older a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by early June, officials said Friday, as they detailed who will qualify for a shot during Phase 2 of the province's immunization campaign. That's at least a month sooner than originally planned. Ontario's rollout strategy was recently revised amid a wave of vaccine-related news, including the approvals of a third and fourth vaccine for use in Canada and the option to space out shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines by up to four months. Notably, however, the updated rollout plan presented by officials was put together before some significant announcements today. This morning, Health Canada gave a green light to the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada should expect up to 1.5 million more doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in March than expected. At a news conference, provincial officials said those developments could speed up implementation of the rollout, especially during Phase 2, which is set to run between now and the end of July. Officials said they expect to begin immunizing Canadians with some underlying health conditions, caregivers in congregate settings and adults in some COVID-19 hotspots by the start of April. WATCH | Hillier talks about vaccine rollout: Another category of residents, defined as those who cannot work from home, could start getting first doses at the beginning of June. That includes educators and school staff, first responders and workers in sectors such as manufacturing and food processing. A list of eligible health conditions and COVID-19 hotspots can be found in the province's slide show embedded at the bottom of this story. At a news conference Friday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford said the province is "making incredible progress" in its vaccination plan. "The light at the end of the tunnel gets brighter, so let's keep working together to beat this," Ford said. Retired general Rick Hillier, who is running the province's vaccination task force, called this a "seismic shift." Officials are "gaining confidence" in the steady flow of vaccines, and those numbers are growing each week, he said. Hillier also said he hopes everyone who is eligible to get a vaccine and wants it will be able to get their first dose by the first day of summer. A provincial spokesperson later clarified that Hillier was referring to Ontarians over 18 — but added that those plans hinge on vaccine supply. No vaccines have yet been approved for children. WATCH | Ford on vaccine plans: Choices about vaccines? Members of the vaccine task force said they expect 133 mass vaccination clinics to begin operating in 26 of 34 health units by the end of March. About 80 per cent of all vaccine doses administered during phases two and three will be done through these clinics, officials said. They stressed, though, that what vaccine someone receives will depend on where they live and how they choose to get it. Premier Doug Ford said Friday that he's starting to feel more optimistic about the province's vaccine supply and rollout.(Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press) Because each of the four vaccines approved in Canada have different characteristics, some people will be limited in terms of choice. AstraZeneca-Oxford will be administered mostly through pharmacies and primary care clinics, for example, because it can be stored safely in a regular fridge. Ontario anticipates 194,500 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to arrive the week of March 8. They will be used to give first doses to adults aged 60 to 64. Stay-at-home orders lifted Meanwhile, stay-at-home orders in Toronto, Peel and North Bay Parry Sound are being lifted, the province also announced Friday, with those regions transitioning back into Ontario's previous COVID-19 framework effective Monday, March 8. North Bay Parry Sound will be returning to the framework at the red-control level, the province said in a news release, while Toronto and Peel will enter the grey lockdown level. "Our government is taking a safe and cautious approach to returning to the framework and due to our progress, all regions of the province will soon be out of the provincewide shutdown," Minister of Health Christine Elliott said in a statement. "Despite this positive step forward, a return to the framework is not a return to normal. As we continue vaccinating more Ontarians, it remains critical for everyone to continue to follow public health measures and stay home as much as possible to protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities." You can read the province's breakdown of each tier of the framework here. Several recent developments forced members of the vaccine task force to revise Ontario's immunization strategy. AstraZeneca's vaccine was approved for use by Health Canada late last week, while this morning, the agency gave a green light for use of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The federal government has ordered 10 million doses of the vaccine — the fourth to be approved in Canada — with an option for 28 million more. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) subsequently recommended that the AstraZeneca vaccine only be used for people under the age of 65. As more real-time evidence on the efficacy of the vaccine has become available, however, pressure has mounted for NACI to change course. Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones suggested this week that, at least for now, Ontario will use the AstraZeneca vaccine for adults between the ages of 60 and 64. Both France and Germany had originally implemented similar guidance for the vaccine but have since reversed those decisions, citing evidence from countries such as the United Kingdom and Israel, where the AstraZeneca vaccine is already being administered to adults 65 and over. A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a site in Toronto earlier this year.(Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press) And earlier this week, NACI said that provinces can safely extend the time between shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines up to four months. The move followed an announcement by health officials in British Columbia, who said just days earlier they would implement a 16-week interval to ensure that more people got a first dose of vaccine earlier. Both vaccines have been shown to be more than 90 per cent effective at preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19 after a single dose. According to the ministry, health units administered 35,886 doses of vaccines yesterday, a third straight record high day in the province. A total of 269,063 people in Ontario have now been given both shots of a vaccine. Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said on Thursday that he remains concerned about the presence of "variants of concern." "These are not insignificant numbers," he told reporters. "We want to be cautious at this time." Most new cases in a week Meanwhile, public health units reported another 1,250 cases of COVID-19 this morning, the most on a single day in a week. The new cases include 337 in Toronto, 167 in Peel Region and 129 in York Region. They come as Ontario's lab network completed 64,748 test samples for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and logged a test positivity rate of 2.3 per cent. Labs also confirmed 155 more cases linked to the virus variant first identified in the United Kingdom, bringing the total thus far to 799. On Wednesday, 1,002 test samples provincewide were screened for the tell-tale spike gene that suggests the presence of a variant of concern. The spike was detected in 308, or nearly 31 per cent, of those samples. Those samples are then sent for whole genomic sequencing to determine the specific variant of concern. The seven-day average of daily cases stands at 1,063. The Ministry of Education also reported another 96 school-related cases: 82 students, 13 staff members and one person who was not identified. Twenty-nine schools are currently closed due to the illness. That's about 0.6 per cent of Ontario's 4,828 publicly funded schools. Public health units recorded the deaths of 22 more people with the illness, pushing Ontario's official toll to 7,046. Health officials said today that Phase 1 of the vaccination effort has dramatically reduced cases of COVID-19 in long-term care homes and the number of deaths across all age groups.
PERTH COUNTY – After receiving an email update from the Perth County Economic Development and Tourism department regarding steps being taken to draft a charter for inclusivity and anti-racism, the Multicultural Association of Perth-Huron (MAPH) decided to cancel a protest at the county courthouse on Feb. 26. According to Sarah Franklin, economic development communications officer, Perth County has been hard at work planning the next steps in the process of the development of an anti-racism and inclusivity charter. She said a draft public engagement survey has been developed and is currently under third-party review. “We have engaged the assistance of Pillar Non-profit Network’s Equity and Inclusion Team to assist in the survey development and design,” she wrote in an email to the Listowel Banner. “They will also be assisting in the community roundtable process. Details for accessing the survey and roundtable opportunities will be released in the coming week.” A landing page has been created where updates about the project can be accessed: www.perthcounty.ca/Charter. Franklin told the Banner that Perth County has received input from the MAPH during this process and that there has been direct correspondence with them advising of the upcoming public engagement process. “We look forward to receiving further input from them and other community members as we launch the public engagement in the Charter development process,” she wrote. In its reply to Franklin which was also shared with local media outlets, the MAPH asked for flexibility in the timeline for the development of the charter. “We hope that the timeline can be extended if you need more input, to ensure the best possible result,” they wrote in their email. Regarding the survey, the MAPH asked for the opportunity to see it in advance, so as residents with lived experience, they could provide input to ensure it is inclusive in its design and has the opportunity for all to voice their thoughts and concerns. Regarding the survey, Franklin repeated that the county has “engaged the expertise of a third-party equity and inclusion team to assist in survey development and design before public release. The survey will gather some information and the community roundtables will be more in-depth conversations and information gathering.” Amina Musa, a volunteer with MAPH, said the reason they are asking to have input into the survey is that they want to make sure that this is something the county is acting in good faith. “If you are doing something in good faith don’t involve us in pieces,” she said. “We should be there from the beginning and make sure that the right questions are asked in the survey. That’s why we wanted to be involved from the beginning and not just piece by piece. We don’t want to be included when they are feeling ‘oh, we should call them in for this part.’” Personally, Musa said she feels this process is a step forward. “If we are going to take this route to reach our goal we’re willing to work together with them and make sure that we reach our goal,” she said. The MAPH has asked for a citizen’s committee to be involved in the development of the charter. They also feel a committee focusing on diversity and inclusivity would be a positive thing for the county to continue. “Our main goal is to have a committee,” said Musa. “Maybe they sat down and thought ‘oh – maybe we should start with the survey and doing all those things’ but to us, we will not stop until we make sure there is a committee that has been set up.” She said the committee should represent more than just visible minorities in Perth County such as people with disabilities and the LGBTQ+ community. “There is no voice for them so we want to make sure their voice is heard and if we are going to need one person from each or one person who will speak for all of them that’s fine but we want to make sure there is somebody there who is going to be their voice,” she said. MAPH founder Gezahgn Wordofa said they cancelled plans to protest because the MAPH wanted to treat the email from Franklin as a positive step. But, he said the decision to cancel the protest was not unanimous amongst their supporters throughout the county. “We have to assume good faith until you know otherwise, I think,” said MAPH board member Stephen Landers. “If down the road we realize that they are taking us for a ride – they are not acting in good faith then we’ll revert to protesting,” said Musa. Wordofa said a positive thing that has come out of recent events in Perth County is that many residents have stepped forward to show their support for the MAPH and newcomers. “You know we are so blessed with how many people we have behind us,” he said. “A lot of groups support us.” One thing Landers would like to see in the process to develop the charter is transparency. “Otherwise how do I know what you are doing and how is it coming,” he said. “Are you just letting it fall by the wayside or are you having regular reviews, updates and monitoring?” Wordofa said Franklin was not even letting the MAPH know who the third party is. “They should be more transparent with that,” said Musa. “That’s why we are asking to be involved from the beginning.” “We want to know with whom we are working,” said Wordofa. “We want to know with whom we are affiliated. Who is this organization?” The MAPH has seen a recent decline in its newcomer program. “Most of the newcomers have tried to move from here, from the area because of this situation,” said Wordofa. “They have a lot of anxiety now.” He wondered how economic development in this area is surviving because there is a close relationship between farms, factories and the newcomer population in the county. “We try to work together – we’re dealing with this every day because if (newcomers) are not included why should they come,” said Wordofa. “This is affecting us… If they are advertising to bring diversity to the area then they need to be welcoming.” The MAPH wants the charter to include concrete actions. “Broad principles won’t do it,” said Landers. Musa said many newcomers don’t want to live in big cities so they want to move to rural towns to raise their families. “When they come to… Perth or Huron County and they find all this racism – somebody like Gezahgn, he’s been living there for so long and yet he’s been told ‘go back to your country’ – you don’t want to experience that,” she said. “So we want to have somewhere that people are willing to come, they are looking forward to it – this is home.” Landers pointed out that if diversity is welcomed, new people with start putting down roots and a wider base of culture will develop in the area. “I am telling you the place is going to develop so much because Canada is built by immigrants and we have vast lands,” said Musa. “Changes will happen whether you resist or not. Change is going to happen so we may as well do it properly and work together as a team as opposed to having animosity and all those things.” “You waste your money bringing people here and then driving them away,” said Landers. “Why bother?” Wordofa said church groups and the community spend money to bring newcomers to the area and he feels sad when they end up moving away from the area. “It makes me cry,” he said. “It’s a loss for the community. That’s why most of the Listowel church groups are working with us. I want to say thank you to the community members who are supporting us.” Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner
TORONTO — HBC has signed a deal to sell a minority stake in Saks Fifth Avenue's ecommerce business and turn it into a separate company.The retailer says private equity firm Insight Partners has agreed to invest US$500 million in a deal valuing the standalone business that will be known as Saks at US$2 billion.The retailer’s 40 stores will operate separately as an entity referred to as SFA, which will remain wholly owned by HBC. Marc Metrick, previously president and CEO of Saks Fifth Avenue, will serve as CEO of Saks and a member of the company’s board of directors. Larry Bruce will be president of SFA.HBC says Saks and SFA will be better able to plan and invest in their respective models as separate but related companies.The company says Saks and SFA will work together to continue delivering a seamless customer experience.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
Walter Gretzky, the father of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and the man who taught and nurtured the hockey player considered the "Great One," died on Thursday at the age of 82. He had been battling Parkinson's disease and other health issues in the past few years, but his son in a statement said he never let his health "get him down."
Three of the women who came forward about Coun. Rick Chiarelli's inappropriate behaviour in the workplace have launched a petition seeking changes to Ontario's Municipal Act to allow for an elected official to be removed from office for egregious behaviour. Two separate integrity commissioner reports found Chiarelli violated the code of conduct for councillors when dealing with job applicants and staff by engaging in shocking behaviour, including speaking to women about going braless to work, pressuring them to go to bars to hit on men as a way of recruiting volunteers and commenting on their bodies. Ottawa's commissioner recommended some of the strictest sanctions be brought against Chiarelli. Council voted to suspend Chiarelli's pay for 15 months and demanded he resign. They couldn't force him to resign, and he hasn't. "He's still my city councillor right now," said Nancy O'Brien, who used to work in the councillor's office and provided sworn testimony to the commissioner. "I live in College Ward. He's still in a position of power." Chiarelli has denied all allegations Act missing 'accountability piece' The petition, addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, asks for a legal framework to be created that allows members of municipal councils be removed "for occupational health and safety violations related to emotional or sexual harassment and physical or sexual violence." According to the petition, mechanisms are in place to unseat a councillor for a number of reasons, including being absent from meetings, conflict of interest violations or being convicted of specific crimes outlined under the Municipal Elections Act. But it doesn't address abuses of power involving exploiting people for personal gain or as a way to protect women from being sexually assaulted or harassed. "It doesn't address egregious behaviour," O'Brien said. "So it kind of, in my opinion, almost enables a toxic environment or sexual harassment because the accountability piece just isn't there." The petition will be sent to the legislative assembly in early April.
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden is enjoying an early presidential honeymoon, with 60% of Americans approving of his job performance thus far and even more backing his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. At a moment of deep political polarization in America, support for Biden’s pandemic response extends across party lines. Overall, 70% of Americans back the Democratic president's handling of the virus response, including 44% of Republicans. Still, Biden faces more skepticism from Americans on the economy, which has been battered by the pandemic. Fifty-five per cent of Americans approve of Biden’s approach to the economy thus far, and 63% say the U.S. economy is in poor shape, the AP-NORC survey shows. Republicans are also less likely to back Biden on the economy than they are on the pandemic, with just 17% supporting his fiscal stewardship. Less than two months into his presidency, Biden has made the pandemic his central focus, urging Americans to follow stringent social distancing and mask guidelines and vowing to speed up distribution of critical vaccines. He’s also argued that until the spread of the virus is under control, the economy won’t fully recover. To address financial shortfalls in the meantime, he’s asking Congress to pass a $1.9 trillion pandemic rescue plan that would provide direct payments to millions of Americans and surge funds into state and local governments. The measure has already passed the House. But Biden is having to make compromises to keep all Democratic senators in support of the measure, including agreeing this week to narrow eligibility for $1,400 stimulus checks. In a concession to moderate Democratic senators, Biden agreed that individuals making more than $80,000 annually and couples making more than $160,000 won’t receive any benefits. Biden's original proposal extended the stimulus funds to Americans with higher annual wages. The administration estimates that 158.5 million households will still receive checks under the Senate compromise. The prospect of a pandemic relief bill is welcome news to John Villegas, 58, an Illinois Democrat who supports Biden's handling of both the virus response and the economy. “With the closure of so many businesses, there are a lot of people suffering,” said Villegas, who called Biden’s approach a “180 degree shift” from his predecessor, Donald Trump. Trump argued that the U.S. economy couldn't afford the hit that came from enacting restrictions on business and travel. The worst fears of economists were averted as Republican-led states followed Trump's lead and resisted restrictions, but COVID-19 cases skyrocketed. More than 520,000 people have died in the United States from the virus over the past year. Despite their differing approaches to managing the economy during the pandemic, Biden’s approval ratings on the economy are similar to Trump’s, whose handling of the economy since the virus took hold was consistently backed by about half of Americans. The key difference: That level of support made the economy Trump’s strongest issue, while it’s a relative weakness for Biden compared with Americans' views of his handling of the pandemic and other issues. In a reflection of the partisanship that continues to rage in the U.S., many Americans' views of the economy have flipped since the new president was inaugurated. In December, 67% of Republicans and just 15% of Democrats described the economy as good. Now, 35% of Republicans and 41% of Democrats describe the economy positively. There’s been little change in overall growth or unemployment over that time. Biden’s handling of the pandemic may well determine the course of his presidency and the political capital he has to pursue significant legislation on other matters. Democrats are working urgently to tee up bills addressing infrastructure investment, policing reforms and voting rights. Biden has also vowed to tackle climate change and build on the sprawling health insurance measure signed into law when he served as Barack Obama’s vice-president. His promises of action have garnered him solid approval ratings on some of those fronts. For example, about 6 in 10 Americans say they approve of Biden’s handling of health care and race relations. Overall, 48% of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction, compared with 37% who said that in December. The poll also shows that 43% of Americans expect things in the country overall to get better in the next year, while 34% think things will get worse and 23% think they will remain about the same. Biden himself has been purposefully cautious in predicting when life in the U.S. will return to a pre-pandemic normal. Even as he promises that the U.S. will have enough vaccine supply for all Americans by the end of May, he’s said it could be the end of the year or early 2022 before Americans can stop wearing masks or fully return to normal activities. His team’s goal in setting expectations? Underpromise, then overdeliver. ___ The AP-NORC poll of 1,434 adults was conducted Feb. 23-March 1 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. ___ Online: AP-NORC Center: http://www.apnorc.org/. Julie Pace And Emily Swanson, The Associated Press
“When you meet her in person, her whole personality, her eyes, her face, lights up. She's just such a strong example of a powerful human being,” Jennifer Gillivan, president and chief executive officer of IWK Foundation, describes her mentee Sylvia Gawad. Gillivan first met Gawad at a conference in Halifax in 2013, when the young college student approached her after hearing her speak. At the time, Gawad had just started her first social enterprise, Project 360, a non-profit that helps to empower newcomers through entrepreneurship. Gillivan was immediately impressed by her energy and the two have fostered a close relationship. “I just knew the minute I met her, I thought, 'I don't know where you're going to end up, but you're going to end up somewhere,'” said Gillivan. The impression Gillivan had summarizes who Gawad is. She talks passionately about her cause and Gawad is unapologetic when it comes to advocating for newcomers, especially immigrant women. The young professional now works at Placemaking 4G, a social enterprise that helps employers to attract and retain talent. Signing on with Placemaking 4G, Gawad said, was a strategic move. Her position as the research, innovation, and immigration manager allows her to continue to educate the community about the value of immigrants as well as the hardships many face — a cause that she has been dedicated to for 10 years. “It's beyond just the passion. It's who I am,” said Gawad. Since coming to Halifax in 2010, Gawad has worked relentlessly in the non-profit sector to help newcomers get settled before starting her own social enterprise. She sits as a volunteer on multiple boards, sometimes as the only woman of colour under 30, to champion the rights of underrepresented communities. Speaking up in Nova Scotia is always not easy. Gawad has been told that she is too gloomy, too loud, too difficult. But she refuses to be silenced. There were times when she feared that she'd lose her job or hurt her own reputation but she persevered — all because, according to her account, of the “glimpse of change” she saw in those moments. “Just being told that this is not gonna go anywhere; all you're gonna do is hurt yourself; you're gonna hurt your reputation. Going through it and knowing that that has created an impact is what motivates me. It's what inspires me to become who I am.” Personal journey Gawad, originally from Libya, arrived in Halifax just over a decade ago as an international student. She says she has firsthand experience of the difficulties newcomers face when looking for help. During her second year at Saint Mary's University, a civil war broke out in her home country. Both of her parents lost their jobs and she was stranded abroad. “During that time, I really felt the struggle of being an immigrant, being a woman, and not being able to access support and feeling alone,” said Gawad. Gawad said although she's a resourceful person and was able to tap into the community, she is aware that not everyone is able to do the same. “Not all people from immigrant communities know how to do that because the system is so complex here, let alone no language (skill); let alone no community to bring you in. You'd feel so alone,” she said. The personal struggle spurred her nto setting up her first social enterprise in Halifax: Project 360. Through Project 360, she was able to empower 188 women in the first year and provide jobs to 21 women through entrepreneurship efforts. The success of the project inspired Gawad to take her commitment to a global level. Soon, she found an opportunity in Uganda working with Reach One Touch One, an organization that supports senior citizens and their dependents in the remote villages of Kabale and Mukono. For the following year, Gawad carried on with her work to help immigrant women to settle in Canada and continued with her passion by pursuing a master's degree in global health at McMaster University. Upon graduation, she returned to Halifax and joined YMCA as their newcomer co-ordinator. Going through it and knowing that that has created an impact is what motivates me. It's what inspires me to become who I am.” Sylvia Gawad Sylvia Gawad talks about her passion for helping newcomers at the Halifax Social Network event. - ContributedNova Scotia has over 6,000 non-profits, twice the number of small businesses. And Gawad thinks that's too many and they should work together instead of “working in silos.” “If your mandate is to help people elevate people, then why are people year over a year still accessing your services?” Gawad continued to sit on different boards to revamp the structure of the nonprofits but left the YMCA and joined another social enterprise, Placemaking 4G, where she does a variety of things to connect the dots between immigrants and employers. But one would be wrong if they think Gawad will stop pushing boundaries and moving forward. “I can't even predict what that girl's gonna do. That's how I feel about her,” said Gillivan. Lu Xu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle Herald
NORTH PERTH – At its council meeting on Feb. 22, North Perth agreed to enter into a partnership with the Township of Perth South, the Township of Perth East, the Municipality of West Perth and Perth County to launch a new service delivery model for planning services. “Council will recall our efforts in addressing the creation of a single planning service for Perth County and some of the effort during the process… was to establish… revised fees,” said Mayor Todd Kasenberg. “The guiding principle of the costs to be fully covered by developers and no longer subsidized for land and planning matters.” As of March 1, planning services for Perth County will be streamlined to provide services in a new single-tier model. The new model will allow for a more coordinated approach, creating one-window access to all planning services in each lower-tier municipality. “Certainly if all the fees are the same across the board, which I suspect they should be, it would be advantageous to have one-stop shopping,” said Coun. Allan Rothwell. A working group consisting of the Perth County warden, mayors and CAOs was formed to oversee the development of an implementation plan, and a planning staff advisory team was established in 2019. As a result of the review, the recommendation was to implement a single-tier service model delivered by the county. This was supported by the five municipalities. Following analysis of neighbouring communities, the county provided a planning application chart for the upper and lower tiers. Through the analysis, it was noted that current application fees are on average covering only 45 per cent of the service cost. “As the mayor said these fees are intended to cover the true costs of planning applications and not have them subsidized through the tax levy,” said CAO Kriss Snell. “This is a significant jump in the fees so I just want that to be noted. Staff recognizes that as well.” Within the new model, planners will be assigned responsibility to deliver planning services in each of the lower-tier municipalities. They will be on-site in each municipality to provide a local presence and resource for all types of planning applications and services. Also, there will be centralized support at the county for the administrative side of operations. Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard says authorities have disrupted the attempted hijacking of a passenger jet in flight on Thursday night. The Guard said on its official website the hijacking targeted a flight heading from the southwestern city of Ahvaz to the northwestern city of Mashhad. The Guard announcement on Friday did not identify the hijacker. It said the Iran Air flight made an emergency landing in the central Iranian city of Isfahan. It said no one was injured in the incident. The Associated Press