Check out the way this cat is "talking" to the birds outside the window. So cute!
Check out the way this cat is "talking" to the birds outside the window. So cute!
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials in Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that vaccination rollout plans for the month included the province's first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some. Chief medical officer Heather Morrison has said people over the age of 80 will get a second dose based on their existing appointments. Going forward, she said, other residents will get a longer interval between their first and second doses, but she didn’t specific how long that will be. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. Quebec announced Tuesday it had reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. Health Minister Christian Dube said about 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the one first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube has said. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. She also says the province will soon share an updated vaccine plan that factors in expected shipments of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The province will do that after getting guidance from the federal government on potentially extending the time between first and second doses, like B.C. is doing, of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to four months, Elliott says She also says Ontario seniors won't receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine since there's limited data on its effectiveness in older populations. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. The province said this week that it may follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. The government says it hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. If that happens, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry says the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means some people will get their first shot sooner than planned. She says B.C. will focus its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among essential workers, first responders and younger people with more social interactions who would have to wait longer to receive their first doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. It's now possible that all adults could get their first shot by July, Henry says. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
A man accused of cyberbullying the parents of a missing Nova Scotia boy on social media said Tuesday a Facebook group devoted to the child's case started with good intentions but spiralled out of control. Tom Hurley is one of the administrators of a Facebook group where people shared information and theories about the case of Dylan Ehler, a three-year-old boy who went missing in Truro, N.S., last year and has not been found. The Facebook group was one of several that became a source of anguish for Dylan's parents, Ashley Brown and Jason Ehler, after participants began accusing them of negligence and even murder. But Hurley said the group was originally meant to assist in the search for the boy. Three-year-old Dylan was last seen near Queen and Elizabeth streets in Truro, N.S., last May. Search and rescue teams have focused their efforts in and around Lepper Brook and the Salmon River, where they found a pair of the boy's boots.(Town of Truro/Facebook) "Our intentions were to try to help them find Dylan," Hurley said. "And it was going good from the beginning. And then something turned somewhere, somewhere along the line, it got turned around." Dylan was playing at his grandmother's house when he disappeared on May 6, 2020. His boots were located nearby shortly afterward, but no other trace of the toddler has ever been found. Police have said they do not believe there was any foul play in the child's disappearance. There were about 13 Facebook groups devoted to the case, Hurley said, but his is the only one that has ended up in court. Hurley said he deleted some posts, but they continued to circulate because users took screenshots of them. The boy's parents are using the Intimate Images and Cyber-protection Act to attempt to have Hurley's group permanently deleted. They are also seeking punitive damages. Lawyer Allison Harris, who is representing the boy's parents, said no monetary value has yet been set for those damages. Group's admin calls for apology 'on both sides' During an interview with reporters Tuesday, Hurley at one point said he didn't see any posts in the group that constituted cyberbullying or harassment, but at another point said "everybody was doing it." "We're not the only ones doing it. The only reason we're here today is because we didn't hide behind fake accounts like everybody else is doing," he said. Hurley also said Jason Ehler cyberbullied and issued threats in a Facebook group. "I think a sorry should be good on both sides," Hurley said. Father of missing boy says damage is done Ehler acknowledged he did make a threat once, but apologized right after. "You guys can't even imagine what they've said about us, you know? So try to sit there and not say anything, sometimes you slip and you say things," he said. Dylan's parents said the accusations in the group have caused them fear and anxiety, but they also worry the posts have distracted people from "the most important thing" — the search for their son. Ehler said an apology from Hurley would be nice, but "the damage is already done." The active search for Dylan was called off on May 12, 2020, 6 days after his disappearance.(Submitted by Ashley Brown) "How do you take that back?" said Ehler. "How do you take Ashley waking up every morning crying, you know, how do they take back us being nervous to go to the store because everybody looks at us like we could be murderers or we can be this or we could be that? "How do you take back the impact they put on my son's searches? How do they take back any of that? They can't take back any of that. What's done is done." The cyberbullying case will be back in court on April 6. Ehler and Brown said the police investigation into their son's disappearance is ongoing, and they will be meeting with police soon to talk about renewed searches this spring. MORE TOP STORIES
REGINA — Saskatchewan is looking to follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. Chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab says information from that province as well as from Quebec and the United Kingdom suggests that a first shot effectively protects against the novel coronavirus. He says he hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. Shahab says if that were to happen, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. He says all adults in the province could be vaccinated with a first dose by June. Premier Scott Moe says such a shift would be a game-changer for how long public-health restrictions would stay in place. "What that (would) look like over the course of the next number of weeks as opposed to having that conversation over the course of the next number of months," Moe said during a briefing Tuesday. The province said when it first outlined its vaccine rollout that it would wait between 21 and 28 days between shots as recommended by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. The province says about 80,000 vaccinations have been given across the province. It says at least one of the approved vaccines to fight COVID-19 has made its way into every long-term care home. Health officials say 91 per cent of residents opted to get their first shot of the two-dose vaccination. Second doses have gone into the arms of long-term residents in about 53 per cent of facilities. The province says it expects to receive about 15,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot approved by Canada last week. Shahab says Saskatchewan will follow advice from a national panel of vaccine experts that it be used on people under 65. The vaccine's effectiveness in people older than that hasn't been sufficiently determined because there were not enough seniors in clinical trials. Another 134 new cases of COVID-19 were reported Tuesday as well as two deaths. Shahab and Moe say daily case numbers and hospitalizations have stabilized and continue to decrease — signs they say could lead to some public-health measures being relaxed. Moe said he would like to see some way for people to have visitors in their homes. That hasn't been allowed under public-health orders since before Christmas. The current health order is to expire March 19. Moe said his government could provide details as soon as next week on what restrictions might be eased. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 2, 2021 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Channing Phillips, a Justice Department official during the Obama administration, will return as acting U.S. attorney in the nation’s capital, a Justice Department official told The Associated Press on Tuesday. Phillips will assume the role Wednesday leading the largest U.S. attorney’s office in the country, which has been historically responsible for some of the most significant and politically sensitive cases the Justice Department brings in the U.S. In recent weeks, prosecutors in the office have brought nearly 300 federal cases following the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Hundreds of other people are still being sought by investigators. The office was involved in some of the most tumultuous and controversial decisions made by the Justice Department under President Donald Trump, including a decision by then-Attorney General William Barr to reverse the sentencing recommendation by career prosecutors in the case against Trump ally Roger Stone. The outgoing acting U.S. attorney, Michael Sherwin, will remain in Washington for a “brief period” to help ensure a smooth transition overseeing the riot investigation and the prosecutions, the Justice Department official said. Sherwin, who for years worked as a career federal prosecutor on drug trafficking, white-collar and top national security cases, will later return to the U.S. attorney’s office in southern Florida, the official said. The official could not publicly discuss the personnel matter and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. Phillips served as U.S. attorney in Washington beginning in October 2015 and was a longtime Justice Department official, having been a senior counsellor to the attorney general and deputy associate attorney general. Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
While many things were shut down due to the pandemic, Tabitha McLoughlin and her team responded to increased demand in their community for fresh food by opening another farmers market. McLoughlin is the executive director of Grow Local Tricities, which manages the Port Moody and Coquitlam farmers markets. In June, the organization started its Port Moody summer market as an emergency response for farmers in their area. “We did it in response to knowing that we had farmer vendors who were losing contracts to restaurants and losing contracts to food suppliers, because those guys were shutting down or being closed down, and they had crops in the ground,” she said. “And it was well enough attended that we’ll continue to do it again this year.” McLoughlin has worked with Grow Local for 15 years and said she wasn’t surprised the new market was so well-received. She has seen a steady interest in farmers markets over the past five to eight years, and COVID-19 has only fast-tracked it. “I think the media really started to push ‘buy local’ ... because, as much as we have preached it for years, the importance of the economic impact that is generated by buying from places within your own community is now being seen on such a massive scale,” she said. McLoughlin said it was interesting seeing farmers markets being used in such a utilitarian manner during the pandemic, after trying on so many different hats to appeal to consumers. “What we saw was people coming specifically to buy at the market ... We have spent years building the farmers markets to be these destinations where you and your kids can do a craft, watch a food demonstration,” she said. “We had to throw all that out the window and be like, 'OK, we need you to come in and shop as fast as you possibly can.'” Jen Candela, communications manager with Vancouver Farmers Markets (VFM) since 2007, said the last decade has seen a lot of growth on their end. The VFM has operated markets since 1995 and now supports 280 small farms and businesses. “I think people are a lot more concerned about where their food comes from than they were 20 years ago,” she said. “Vancouver is also a health-conscious city, so people want the freshest, healthiest food they can find. Unless you grow your own food, farmers markets are the best place to find that.” There is little data on farmers markets in Canada. The last nationwide survey was done in 2009 by Farmers Markets Canada, a now-defunct organization. Even then, total direct sales from farmers markets across Canada was estimated to be $1.03 billion. Although the markets may be expanding and growing, McLoughlin said the sentiment behind them remains the same. “I think (people’s reasons) for putting these things together was always greater than just simply bringing the food into the community,” she said. “Now as it's become more and more common, it's not just like the hippies in the parking lots anymore. It's way more mainstream, to the point where it's almost become trendy.” Cloe Logan / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer Cloe Logan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times eastern): 6:15 p.m. B.C.’s top doctor says the decision to delay second doses of COVID-19 vaccine by four months is based on scientific evidence as well as real-world data. Dr. Bonnie Henry says the data show protection from a single dose is upwards of 90 per cent and lasts for several months, and delaying second doses will maximize the benefit of vaccines for everyone while reducing mortality and severe illness for those most at risk. She adds that the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means people could be vaccinated sooner than planned as the province launches its campaign to immunize the general population. Henry explained the province’s decision to delay second doses while announcing 438 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, as well as two more deaths, pushing the death toll in B.C. to 1,365. --- 6:10 p.m. Alberta is reporting 257 new infections of COVID-19, including 35 new variant cases of the virus. The variant total in the province is now at 492. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical health officer, says 261 people are in hospital with COVID-19 and 54 of them are in intensive care. She says there have also been two additional deaths linked to the virus. --- 4:45 p.m. Saskatchewan will follow the advice of a national committee that recommends the latest vaccine against COVID-19 be used in people 64 and younger. The province's chief medical health officer says it will soon receive around 15,000 doses of the shot from Oxford-AstraZeneca. Dr. Saqib Shahab says the province will select which age groups will be eligible to be inoculated. He says Saskatchewan is also waiting on national advice about how long it could delay giving people a second dose. Premier Scott Moe says waiting up to four months to give people their second shot could be a "game changer" for the province. He says that could mean thousands more people getting vaccinated by June. --- 3 p.m. Health officials are reporting 134 new cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan and two more deaths. The two residents who died were 80 and older. The Ministry of Health says at least one of the approved vaccines has made its way into every long-term care facility in the province. To date, around 80,000 shots have been given provincewide. There are 154 people in hospital, with 20 people in intensive care. --- 2:25 p.m. New Brunswick is reporting four new cases of COVID-19 today and one death attributed to the novel coronavirus. Health officials say the province’s 28th COVID-19-related death involves a resident in their 80s at the Manoir Belle Vue long-term care home in Edmundston. The four new cases are all in the Miramichi region and bring to 36 the number of active reported cases in the province. Three patients are hospitalized with the disease, all in intensive care. Officials say a recent infection reported in the Miramichi region is a suspected case of the B.1.1.7 variant. --- 1:55 p.m. Nova Scotia is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today and confirming seven more variant cases as a result of previous testing. The new case is in the northern zone and is a close contact of a previously reported case and brings the total number of known active cases to 29. The variant cases include two that are the B.1.1.7 or U.K. variant, and five that are the 501.V2 or South African variant. The two cases with the U.K. variant are in western zone and Halifax area and are connected to a previously reported U.K. variant case, while the five South African variant cases are in the Halifax area, with one case related to travel and the other four being household contacts of the traveller. This brings the total number of cases of the U.K. variant identified in Nova Scotia to eight and South African variant to six. --- 1:45 p.m. Manitoba is reporting two additional COVID-19 deaths and 64 new cases. However, eight cases from unspecified dates have been removed due to a data correction, for a net increase of 56. --- 1:20 p.m. The Manitoba government is offering another round of grants to businesses and charities that have been forced to scale back operations by COVID-19 public health orders. The third round, like previous ones, will provide up to $5,000 to help make up for lost revenue. --- 1:20 p.m. Quebec’s health minister says the government has reached a deal that will see 350 pharmacies in the Montreal administering COVID-19 vaccines by March 15. Christian Dube says the vaccines will be available for people as young as 70 and that the locations of the pharmacies will be publicized in the coming days. He is also warning Quebecers that the drop in daily cases across the province may be deceiving because cases of the B.1.1.7 mutation are rising. He says Montreal may be in the “eye before the storm” regarding a possible surge in infections caused by the variant. --- 1 p.m. Ontario seniors won’t receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Health Minister Christine Elliott says the province plans to follow advice from a national panel of experts who recommend against giving the vaccine to people older than 64. Elliott says the vaccine could be used in correctional facilities as it does not require the same cold storage as the other two vaccines in use. She says the province will share an updated vaccination plan that factors in the new supply soon. --- 1 p.m. Three-hundred thousand of the 500,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine arriving this week expire in just a few weeks' time. Federal government officials note all COVID-19 vaccines do have expiry dates and it's not the time for hoarding doses anyway. Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says all vaccines should be administered as soon as they arrive. She says it is up to provinces to determine who is best placed to get which vaccines, but all are safe and effective. --- 12:55 p.m. Newfoundland and Labrador health authorities are reporting five new cases of COVID-19, including one infection involving a health-care worker at a rural hospital. Four of the cases reported today are in the Eastern Health region, where authorities have been battling an outbreak in the St. John's area. The fifth case involves a health-care worker at a hospital in St. Anthony, a town of about 2,200 on Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula. Public health says there are now 203 active cases of COVID-19 across the province, with nine people hospitalized because of the disease and five of those in intensive care. --- 12:50 p.m. The Manitoba government is loosening some of its COVID-19 restrictions as its case numbers continue to drop. Starting Friday, people will be allowed to have another entire household visit in their home, and outdoor public gatherings can increase to 10 people from five. Maximum capacity at stores and restaurants will increase to 50 per cent from 25, and indoor religious services can run at 25 per cent capacity, up from 10 per cent. Licensed establishments can reopen their video lottery terminals. Some facilities, such as casinos, bingo halls and concert venues, must stay closed. --- 12:45 p.m. The federal procurement minister says there's no reason to doubt delivery of 20 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine set to come from the United States. Anita Anand says she's received assurances from the vaccine manufacturer that it does not see any problems with exporting those doses. But she says a delivery schedule for those doses is up in the air. The U.S. government has said it wants Americans all vaccinated first before it shares vaccine doses with other countries. --- 12:30 p.m. Canada's top public health officials say shifting knowledge of how the available COVID-19 vaccines work is behind the changing guidance on how they should be used. Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo says initial advice for provinces to stick with manufacturers' guidelines on vaccine use was based on that being the best information available at the time. He says there is now real-world evidence those rules can be adapted. A decision by B.C. health authorities to stretch the interval between doses to long as four months has drawn criticism for potentially going too far off existing guidelines. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is set to release updated guidance on how the various vaccines can be used, including the extent to which one dose is effective. --- 12:15 p.m. Canada's chief public health officer says what's been a daily decrease in new COVID-19 cases is now levelling off. Dr. Theresa Tam says there is now a moderate increase in case counts at the national level. Tam says there is an increase of new variants circulating in Canada, and no province has been spared. But she says more ground is being gained on the vaccine front every day with the authorization of new vaccines that will all help to fight the novel coronavirus. --- 12:10 p.m. Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand says half a million doses of the latest COVID-19 vaccine to be approved for use in Canada will arrive tomorrow. She says the first shipment of the version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India is on the way. Anand says that means Canada is on track to receive about 945,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine in total this week. --- 12:05 p.m. The Quebec government has reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. A source close to the provincial government who was not authorized to speak publicly confirmed the agreement, which was first reported today by 98.5 FM. About 50 pharmacies in the Montreal area will be the first to receive shipments of the Moderna vaccine before the program is extended to pharmacies across the province. Health Minister Christian Dube is scheduled to release details of the plan at an afternoon news conference. --- 11:50 a.m. Nunavut is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today. The new case is in Arviat, the only place in Nunavut with active cases of COVID-19. Arviat, a community of about 2,800 people, has been under strict lockdown since November, with all schools and non-essential businesses closed. The community's hamlet council has also put a nightly curfew in place to help curb the spread, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. There are nine active cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut, all in Arviat. --- 11:45 a.m. Health officials in Prince Edward Island are reporting four new cases of COVID-19. The cases involve three men and one woman, all in their 20s, and they are self-isolating. There are now 22 active cases on the Island. Test results from the National Microbiology Laboratory have confirmed that two earlier COVID-19 cases involving two women in Charlottetown are linked to the variant first identified in the United Kingdom. --- 11:15 a.m. Quebec is reporting 588 new cases of COVID-19 and eight more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. Health officials say hospitalizations rose for a third consecutive day, up by 16 today, for a total of 628. The number of people in intensive care dropped by one, to 121. The province says it administered 16,458 doses of vaccine Monday, the first day of Quebec’s mass vaccination campaign for the general public. Quebec has reported a total of 288,941 COVID-19 infections and 10,407 deaths linked to the virus. --- 10:30 a.m. Ontario is reporting 966 new COVID-19 cases and 11 more deaths from the virus. The new data is based on 30,737 tests. There are 284 hospitalized people in intensive care and 189 people on ventilators. The province says it administered 22,326 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine since the last daily report. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said in the 12:55 p.m. item that all five new cases in Newfoundland and Labrador were in the Eastern Health region. In fact, only four of them were, while the fifth was in the northern town of St. Anthony.
Rental tenant advocates say the the province’s new legislation to stop false renovictions is good, but doesn’t go far enough to protect existing affordable housing stock nor address “exponential” rate increases over the last few years. The B.C. government announced Mar. 1 it would extend the freeze on rent increases, and proposed a new policy that would have landlords to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch to be able to evict people for renovations. They would have to show renovation permits, demonstrate that renovations are significant enough to require vacancy and prove that renovations are necessary. Currently, there’s no onus to prove renovations are significant or actually required, allowing opportunistic landlords to flip suites and jack up rent for the new tenant after a few superficial improvements. The Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre is excited about the change, saying it will help curb illegal renovictions, which they think happen often, thought it’s impossible to track. But the new legislation, which if approved will go into effect July 1, does very little to protect affordable rental stock, said Zuzana Modrovic, a lawyer with TRAC. “A lot of the affordable rental stock is in buildings that are aging, where renovations are likely needed. When a landlord does those renovations, they can charge whatever they think the market will bear,” she said. RELATED: B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021 The task force’s solution also fails to address “exponential rate increases” over the last few years, and it doesn’t help people who fell behind on rent during the height of the pandemic. “At the start of this emergency, we were told by Premier John Horgan and Selina Robinson, who was the housing minister at that time, that nobody would lose their housing due to COVID-19. They have not kept that promise. People are now losing their housing because they can’t afford rent, never mind the repayment of missed rent, and there’s no protection for them,” Modrovic said. Now tenants are facing paying regular rent, plus a repayment plan to make up missed rent. The province has said landlords must give renters until August 2021 to repay rental debt owed from the first five months of the pandemic. “Essentially that’s just like a temporary rent increase. They have to pay an additional $200 or $300 a month, or more.” A ministry spokesperson said B.C. has the second lowest rate of rent arrears in the country, and that there has not been a significant increase in the number of disputes in recent months. TRAC has been asking the government for rental arrears forgiveness across the province, or at the least another eviction freeze. The government initially said no one could be evicted for not paying rent due to COVID-19, but that ban lifted July 30. Landlord BC, an association for landlords was also included in the task force, said they welcome the change but said the Rental Tenancy Board will have to handle the application process efficiently. Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: email@example.com Zoë Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Island Gazette
TOPEKA, Kan. — Former Congressman Steve Watkins of Kansas has entered a diversion program to avoid trial over allegations that he voted illegally in a 2019 municipal election. Watkins, a Republican from Topeka who served only one term in the U.S. House, was facing three felony charges. He was accused of listing a postal box at a UPS store as his home on a state registration form when he was living temporarily at his parents' home. He was also charged with lying to a detective who investigated the case. The Shawnee County district attorney filed the charges just weeks before the August 2020 primary, and Watkins lost to now-Rep. Jake LaTurner. “I regret the error in my voter registration paperwork that led to these charges. I fully co-operated from the beginning and had no intent to deceive any one, at any time. I am glad to resolve the ordeal,” Watkins said in a statement Tuesday. Watkins acknowledged he lied to the detective when he said he did not vote in the Topeka City Council election, The Kansas City Star reported. Under the diversion agreement entered into Monday, Watkins' prosecution will be deferred for six months. If he meets the terms of the agreement, the case will be dropped by September. The Associated Press
Washington targeted seven mid-level and senior Russian officials along with more than a dozen government entities.View on euronews
Two and a half years ago, longtime safe drug supply advocate Dr. Mark Tyndall imagined an ATM-like machine that could dispense opioids. Now these machines are operating in four cities to help address the overdose crisis. The federal government announced nearly $3.5 million in funding for the MySafe project, an initiative that provides people medical-grade opioids through a biometric vending machine. This comes on the heels of the BC Coroners Service reporting 165 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in January — the largest-ever number of lives lost due to illicit drugs that month, accounting for an average of 5.3 lives each day. This is a jump from the 4.7 deaths per day recorded in B.C. last year, which saw the most people ever die due to overdose in that province. “We need to meet people where they’re at and that’s what harm reduction is all about,” said parliamentary secretary Darren Fisher, who made the funding announcement Tuesday on behalf of Health Minister Patty Hajdu. “Creative solutions like this one will help us change the course of the overdose crisis.” In order to access the MySafe machines, people must undergo a medical assessment and have a physician prescribe them the hydromorphone pills that the machine supplies. The machines are programmed to only provide the amount prescribed by the physician. They are also tamper-proof, bolted to the floor, and can only be accessed after a person scans their palm. While the machines mean no human contact, people are supervised by a health practitioner and can be connected to treatment and other health and social services. So far, more than 5,000 packets have been dispensed, according to the MySafe Society. The new funding will go towards operating and evaluating the existing five sites that were launched in late 2020. Two machines are in Vancouver, with one each in Victoria, London, Ont., and Dartmouth, N.S. Each machine can provide medication to up to 48 people, totalling about 240 people nationwide, according to Health Canada. This funding is part of the $66 million the federal government pledged in the 2020 fall economic statement to support community-based organizations responding to substance use issues. Tyndall, a University of British Columbia professor who specializes in public health, says the best way to alleviate the problem is through preventative measures. “We really need to step back and not just wait for people to overdose and intervene, but to try to offer them an alternative to prevent overdoses in the first place,” Tyndall said. While Tyndall says the five machines aren’t enough to curb the spiking overdose deaths, he notes they’re able to quickly get a safe supply to those who need it. “We’re going to continue to lose people if we’re just waiting for everybody to get into recovery or drug treatment,” Tyndall said. “All these things need to happen, but it’s just too slow.” There are 15 other machines awaiting deployment, which Tyndall hopes can be put to use in the next few years in other parts of the country. Yasmine Ghania, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
The Biden administration sanctioned seven mid-level and senior Russian officials on Tuesday, along with more than a dozen government entities, over a nearly fatal nerve-agent attack on opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent jailing. The measures, emphasizing the use of the Russian nerve agent as a banned chemical weapon, marked the Biden administration's first sanctions against associates of President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader was a favourite of former President Donald Trump even during covert Russian hacking and social media campaigns aimed at destabilizing the U.S. The government officials included at least four whom Navalny's supporters had directly asked the West to penalize, saying they were most involved in targeting him and other dissidents and journalists. However, the U.S. list did not include any of Russia's most powerful businesspeople and bankers, oligarchs whom Navalny has long said the West would have to sanction to get the attention of Putin. Tuesday's step “was not meant to be a silver bullet or an end date to what has been a difficult relationship with Russia,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “We expect the relationship to continue to be a challenge. We’re prepared for that.” The Biden administration also announced sanctions under the U.S. Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act for Russian entities, including those the U.S. said worked to research, develop and test chemical weapons. The U.S. intelligence community concluded with high confidence that Russia's Federal Security Service used the Russian nerve agent Novichok on Navalny last August, a senior administration official said. Russia says it had no role in any attack on the dissident. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Tuesday denounced the new U.S. sanctions as part of its “meddling in our internal affairs.” “We aren’t going to tolerate that,” Zakharova said in a statement, adding that “we will respond in kind.” “Attempts to put pressure on Russia with sanctions or other tools have failed in the past and will fail again,” she said. The Biden administration has pledged to confront Putin over alleged attacks on Russian opposition figures and alleged malign actions abroad, including the hacking of U.S. government agencies and U.S. businesses. Trump spoke admiringly of Putin and resisted criticism of Putin's government. That included dismissing U.S. intelligence findings that Russia had backed Trump in its covert campaign to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. The administration co-ordinated the sanctions with the European Union, which added to its own sanctions Tuesday over the attack on Navalny. The U.S. and European Union shared concerns about “Russia’s deepening authoritarianism,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. “The U.S. government has exercised its authorities to send a clear signal that Russia’s use of chemical weapons and abuse of human rights have severe consequences,” Blinken said in a statement. The individuals sanctioned by the U.S. included the head of Russia's Federal Security Service, the head of prisons, Kremlin and defence figures, and Russia's prosecutor general. The Biden administration had forecast for weeks that it would take action against Russia. Besides the Navalny sanctions, officials have said the administration plans to respond soon to the massive Russian hack of federal government agencies and private corporations that laid bare vulnerabilities in the cyber supply chain and exposed potentially sensitive secrets to elite Kremlin spies. Navalny, 44, was sickened by the Russian nerve agent in an attack that the United States and others linked to Putin’s security services. After months of recuperation in Germany, Navalny flew home to Moscow in January and was arrested on arrival for an alleged parole violation. His detention sparked street protests across Russia. Police arrested thousands of demonstrators. Authorities have transferred the opposition leader to a penal colony to begin serving a sentence, after what rights groups said was a show trial. Long a target in Russian government attempts to shut down dissent, Navalny has repeatedly appealed to the West to start targeting the most powerful business and financial oligarchs of his country, saying only then would Russian leaders take international sanctions seriously. Russia critic Bill Browder, a London-based investor, tweeted that he feared the new U.S. sanctions would be “way too little and not touch Putin’s billionaire cronies.” Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and chair of the House Intelligence Committee, called the U.S. move overdue. Working with U.S. allies, “we must use an array of tools, including sanctions, to meaningfully deter, repel, and punish Moscow’s transgressions,” Schiff said in a statement. The U.S. government has previously censured behaviour by Russia that American officials saw as having violated international norms. In 2016, for instance, the Obama administration responded to interference by the Kremlin in the presidential election by expelling dozens of Russian diplomats who officials said were actually spies and by shuttering two Russian compounds in Maryland and New York. Trump's administration also took a handful of actions adverse to Moscow, including the closure of Russian consulates on the West Coast and the suspension of a nuclear arms treaty. ___ Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington, Aamer Madhani in Chicago, Lorne Cook in Brussels and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report. Ellen Knickmeyer, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Canada's chief public health officer says new COVID-19 cases are starting to tick back up after a month-long decline, giving urgency to the question of who should receive doses of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine due to arrive in Canada Wednesday. The "moderate increase" at the national level noted by Dr. Theresa Tam is in keeping with models forecasting a spike in cases over the next two months unless stricter public health measures are imposed to combat more contagious strains of the virus. “The concern is that we will soon see an impact on hospitalization, critical care and mortality trends," Tam said Tuesday. Canada saw 2,933 new cases on average over the past week, a figure similar to last Friday's numbers that revealed week-over-week increases of between eight and 14 per cent in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. The uptick comes as provinces figure out how to allocate their various vaccines, especially as Canada receives 500,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced at the Serum Institute of India. About 445,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are also arriving this week, said Procurement Minister Anita Anand. Guidance on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has caused some confusion. Health Canada authorized its use last week for all adults but the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends it not be administered to people 65 and over. The advisory committee cites concern over limited data from clinical trials for older patients. Health Canada also acknowledges that issue. But the advisory panel, which recommends how vaccines should be used, says the limitation means seniors should take priority for the two greenlighted mRNA vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — where dearth of data is not an issue. Alberta's health minister said Monday the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca's vaccine to anyone over 65. British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Prince Edward Island are on similar courses, though details on who will get those jabs is not always clear. "With clinical testing of AstraZeneca limited to those under 65, we will need to adjust our plan to look at a parallel track for some of these more flexible vaccines in order to cast the widest net possible," the B.C. health ministry said in an email. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C. will use the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to target younger people who have more social interactions and who would have to wait much longer for the other vaccines. Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott characterized Oxford-AstraZeneca as "very versatile " because it lacks the same cold-storage requirements as the two other vaccines in use in Canada. It won't go to seniors, but she said shots might be administered in correctional facilities for that reason. P.E.I. will target AstraZeneca at "healthy younger individuals who are working in certain front-line, essential services," said Dr. Heather Morrison, the province's chief medical officer of health. Health officials in Quebec and New Brunswick say they await further advice from health authorities and are taking time to examine how to deploy the latest vaccine. Nova Scotia's chief medical health officer Dr. Robert Strang said the province has yet to give an answer to Ottawa "about whether we actually want to take the vaccine." All provinces must provide a response by midday Thursday, he said. Two experts say essential workers who are more likely to contract and transmit COVID-19 should be prioritized for immunization with the Oxford-AstraZeneca doses. Caroline Colijn, a COVID-19 modeller and mathematician at Simon Fraser University, and Horacio Bach, an adjunct professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia, also say the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could be better promoted by provincial health officials as a strong alternative to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Oxford-AstraZeneca reported their vaccine is about 62 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 while Pifzer-BioNTech and Moderna have said the efficacy of their vaccines is about 95 per cent. But Colijn and Bach say the fact there have been no hospitalizations from severe illness and no deaths among those receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine needs to be underscored because people awaiting immunization seem to be fixated on the higher efficacy data for the first two vaccines approved in Canada. "If the AstraZeneca vaccine will prevent you from getting really sick that's still a win for you," Colijn said. "I see this huge, huge benefit of vaccinating young people, particularly people with high contact, essential workers, sooner." No province has been spared from the increase in new variants circulating across the country, though several continue to ease anti-pandemic restrictions. Modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada projected a steep surge in new cases starting late last month — and reaching 20,000 new cases a day before May — if public health measures weren't tightened. Since that Feb. 19 forecast, restrictions in many regions have loosened as Canadians return to restaurants, cinemas and hair salons. But Tam said Canada is gaining ground on "the vaccine-versus-variants leg of this marathon" every day. "Canada is prepared, and Canada remains on track," she said. Provinces have now reported 1,257 cases of the B.1.1.7 mutation that was first identified in the United Kingdom, 99 cases of the B. 184.108.40.206 strain first identified in South Africa, and three of the P. 1 variant first identified in Brazil. There have been 870,033 cases of COVID-19 in Canada and 22,017 deaths as of Monday night. There were 30,430 active cases across Canada, with an average of 42 deaths reported daily over the past week. Provinces are also figuring out whether to stick to the original injection schedules or extend the interval between doses beyond three or four weeks. The national advisory committee is expected to update its recommendations this week. Ontario is waiting for that guidance, while B.C. is pushing ahead with its plan to prolong the interval to four months. Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer, said Monday the decision was based on local and international evidence that shows the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines provides "miraculous" 90 per cent protection from the virus. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. — With files from Camille Bains, Kevin Bissett, Laura Dhillon Kane and Holly McKenzie-Sutter. Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
CALGARY — A Calgary man has admitted to slitting his girlfriend's throat and, days later, stabbing to death his mother and stepfather. Crown prosecutor Shane Parker said Tuesday that Dustin Duthie, 27, pleaded guilty to the second-degree murders of Taylor Toller and Shawn Boshuk and the first-degree murder of Alan Pennylegion. An agreed statement of facts said Toller, Duthie's girlfriend of five years, was last seen on video footage from outside her condo unit about 4 a.m. on July 26, 2018. Duthie was captured on video leaving the condo alone about an hour later. Police found Toller, 24, five days later with her throat slit and "tucked into her bed as if she was asleep." The agreed statement of facts mentions a torn-up note in which Duthie explains why he killed Toller, but the document does not detail the note's contents. On the same day Toller was found, Duthie stabbed Boshuk, his mother, six times in their home and covered her with a plastic sheet, the statement said. Boshuk had messaged Toller's grandmother a day earlier, concerned about how her son would react to police contacting him about Toller's disappearance. The statement said Pennylegion witnessed Duthie cleaning his mother's blood in the kitchen and Duthie attacked his stepfather, stabbing him eight times. Duthie and his stepfather had a tense relationship at the time and Duthie had threatened violence against Pennylegion over the years, the statement said. One of Duthie's pit bulls was stabbed but survived with surgery. Pennylegion's pet dog, Odie, found with his owner in the main floor bathroom, was also stabbed and died. The statement said Duthie shaved his head, showered, and changed his clothes after killing his mother and stepfather. About 10:50 a.m. on July 31, he called 911 and confessed to the killings. The document said he was "contemplating 'suicide-by-cop.'" A sentencing date has not yet been set. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021 The Canadian Press
With B.C. and other regions opting to delay the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, doctors are weighing in on whether it's the best course of action.
Another temporary modular housing project may soon be built in Richmond. BC Housing has applied for a three-year permit for properties on Smith Street and Bridgeport Road. The intention is to construct a three-storey supportive housing building with 40 studio units. “I’m excited to see another modular housing (project) come in,” said Coun. Carol Day. The city’s director of development Wayne Craig said a memorandum of understanding will be developed between the non-profit operator, the construction company and BC Housing to ensure the security of the space. The existing modular housing project on Elmbridge Way will serve as a model for the new proposed project. “Elmbridge was very successful and it’s continuing to be successful,” said Coun. Bill McNulty. “I think we need to tell people about the successes that we have. This modular housing is working, and this is our second one, and we should continue maybe to do a third one somewhere down the road.” If approved by council, the building’s completion and occupancy is targeted for early next year. The issue will be discussed at a March 15 public hearing. Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel
WASHINGTON — Last year's confluence of COVID-19 and Donald Trump exposed the urgent need to reinvent North America, experts across the continent agreed Tuesday as they explored how best to fortify its trilateral ties. The Washington-based Wilson Center convened a virtual gathering of 13 different academics, ambassadors and diplomats from all three countries to flesh out the idea of renewing the North American relationship. The prospect has been much discussed in recent days, thanks to a flurry of high-profile political meetings between American leaders and their Canadian or Mexican counterparts aimed at signalling U.S. President Joe Biden's post-Trump commitment to multilateral diplomacy. But there's a risk that the movement never rises beyond the level of well-crafted political rhetoric, said Alan Bersin, former chief diplomatic officer of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. To work, he said, the endeavour will need buy-in at the grassroots level in all three countries, as well as from the business community. Trump "did create an impetus for business, for the first time, to recognize that they better defend the shared production platform that has arisen in the last 25 years in North America," Bersin said. "We can do it much better together than we can do it alone." That will be more easily said than done, he added — noting the fact that each of the three countries has a different name for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which replaced NAFTA last year. Each country puts its own name first. "We've got to actually start to create an atmosphere and an understanding broadly that it's better for us to face the world together in the next generation than to concentrate on our separate paths." Perhaps the starkest illustration of the fragility of North American supply chains, even in the age of the USMCA, came last April when Trump ordered Minnesota-based 3M to stop exporting American-made N95 respirators outside the country. The company itself, which pushed back on humanitarian grounds, eventually defused the crisis by promising to meet demand in the U.S. by importing masks from its overseas facilities. Trump's protectionist instincts have lingered, however: the Biden administration has so far shown no interest in reversing the former president's insistence that U.S.-made vaccines be reserved for American arms. Canada needs to take stock now about how to inoculate itself from similar problems before the next pandemic hits, said Michael Grant, assistant deputy minister for the Americas with Global Affairs Canada. "We need to be prepared for something like this happening again," said Grant, calling for a "Fortress North America" approach that would prioritize supply lines within the continent itself. "There are some fragilities there that I think we need to work on." For 20 years, businesses and ordinary citizens alike have embraced the idea of North America as a single, unified region, said Bill Crosbie, formerly director general of the North America Bureau, which oversees Canadian embassies and consulates across the continent. Only at the political level have relations between the three seen ups and downs, he said. "The government, top-down side of things, it waxes and wanes, and it has waned over the past few years," Crosbie said. "But if we can bring back to the table ... the areas where we have joined up, where we've been successful — either as governments or as the private sector or as civil societies — we can build on those successes to demonstrate that this collaboration is delivering real benefits for people in all three countries. Tuesday's virtual conference kicked off the Wilson Center's "North America 2.0" project aimed at floating policy recommendations for a more unified trilateral relationship. But it also followed nearly a solid week of earnest bilateral conversations between high-level leaders in all three countries, beginning with Biden's virtual meeting Feb. 23 with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The centrepiece of that meeting — a "Road Map for a Renewed U.S.-Canada Partnership" — detailed a "whole-of-government" effort to co-operate in a number of areas of mutual interest. Those included beating back COVID-19 and resurrecting the pandemic-battered North American economy, a united front against climate change, addressing income inequality and social injustice on both sides of the border and restoring global faith in multilateral institutions like the World Trade Organization. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. James McCarten, The Canadian Press
At least 165 more British Columbians died of illicit drug overdoses in the first month of 2021, more than double the number of deaths recorded last January. An average of more than five people died each day in the deadliest January recorded since the overdose crisis was declared a public health emergency nearly five years ago in April 2016. January was the 10th consecutive month where more than 100 people died as pandemic-driven border restrictions contributed to an increasingly toxic street supply, and progress dragged on promises of safer supplies for substance users. The devastating report comes just weeks after the province confirmed 1,726 people died in 2020, making it the deadliest year for overdoses. “We’re particularly concerned about the toxicity of the drugs detected in many of the deaths recorded in January,” chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a news release. “The findings suggest that the already unstable drug supply in B.C. is becoming even deadlier, underscoring the urgent need for supervised consumption options, prescribing for safe supply, and accessible treatment and recovery services.” As the province’s death rate per capita climbed to 38 per 100,000 in January, up from 33.1 in 2020, no community has been left untouched. Northern Health, where harm reduction services are sparse and access to health care can require expensive and time-consuming travel, experienced the highest rate with 71 deaths per 100,000. Vancouver Coastal Health region was second with 52 deaths per 100,000. According to the most recent data from the First Nations Health Authority, First Nations individuals in B.C. represented 16 per cent of overdoses in the first four months of 2020, up from 9.9 per cent in 2019, despite only representing 3.3 per cent of people in B.C. Extreme fentanyl concentrations were present in nearly one in five deaths, the most ever recorded, the Coroners Service reported. Benzodiazepines, including analogues like etizolam, were found in almost half of deaths in January. Etizolam was found in 31 per cent of deaths. In combination with fentanyl, it can repress the respiratory system and significantly increase the risk of overdose. The province has been spending on new treatment and recovery bed spaces and training nurses to be able to prescribe some first-line opioid substitutes. It has also approached the federal government about decriminalizing personal possession of illicit substances. Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson said in a statement the province had “stepped up our response to these emergencies as quickly as possible in B.C., but the effects of the pandemic on the illicit drug supply chain has made drugs dramatically more toxic than a year ago and, tragically, more lethal. “We know people are hurting now and we have to do more to stop this terrible surge in overdose deaths,” she said. But critics have accused the government of moving far too slowly to address the deadly public health crisis. People who use drugs and advocates say more has to be done to separate people from the illicit supply and provide safer alternatives, particularly for those who can’t or don’t want to access treatment. In September, the ministry announced it would massively expand eligibility and substances available in safe supply programs in the province. Safe supply programs aim to separate people from the poisoned street supply by providing pharmaceutical-grade alternatives to illicit drugs. This prevents overdoses because people can be more certain of what they are taking as well as the exact dosage. The Globe and Mail reported in February that the province is considering a variety of substances, including powdered fentanyl and fentanyl patches, in its safe supply guidance. But details on the expansion are still scarce six months after it was announced, with hundreds more lives lost in the meantime. Vancouver is still pursuing its own application to the federal government to decriminalize possession of drugs for personal use. It sent its first submission to Health Canada Monday as a step toward formal negotiations. The city saw 411 people die in 2020, and an additional 42 in January alone. “Today’s news that 2021 has started off with an even higher level of overdose deaths makes decriminalization and ending the war on people who use drugs even more urgent,” said Mayor Kennedy Stewart in a release. Staff consulted with Vancouver Coastal Health, community groups and the Vancouver Police Department in the initial submission, which aims to divert people who use substances away from the criminal justice system. A spokesperson for the mayor said this so-called “Vancouver model” is still being developed. The city doesn’t plan to use administrative penalties or mandatory treatment as alternatives to criminal sanctions, as seen in the recently approved Oregon model. But police will be able to determine if the individual is in personal possession and to refer them voluntarily to the city’s Overdose Outreach Team. Further details and community consultations are expected in April. Moira Wyton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
McMurray Métis elder Anne Michalko said she felt like she was on her way to freedom when she learned she would be getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Michalko, 83, spent much of the past year in quarantine. On Thursday, she made a rare venture outside her home for her first vaccine shot. Her second shot comes one month before her birthday in May. She hopes she can celebrate turning 84 with family. “Can you imagine feeling excited to go out and get a needle?” she said. “I’m looking forward to sitting around the fire pit and enjoying each other’s company. Maybe I’ll take my great grandson for a walk.” Alberta’s vaccine rollout plan entered Phase 1B on Feb. 7, allowing anyone born before 1946 to get a vaccine. Anyone living in retirement centres, senior citizen lodges and other supportive living homes can also get vaccinated. There have been 546 people in Fort Chipewyan that have had their first vaccine dose. The community has been prioritized because of its remote location and limited health care services. The rollout has given some relief to a community with a long memory that includes the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, which wiped out three-quarters of the community. One victim was Chief Alexandre Lavoilette, the first chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. Chief Allan Adam of ACFN remembers stories of the Spanish Flu from his late grandmother. She was 18-years-old when the pandemic hit the community, he said. “She said people were lost because they had also lost their chief,” said Adam. “Nobody knew where to go.” Adam is thankful Fort Chipewyan has not experienced anything like the Spanish Flu over the past year. He said he is proud of the work the work the community is doing to keep people safe. “A lot of history was lost from the older people at that time,” he said. “We were lucky and we dodged a bullet this time.” Chief Peter Powder of Mikisew Cree First Nation said stories of the Spanish Flu made some people anxious to get vaccinated. “That’s where people’s heads were at, just hearing about that and how bad it was back in the day,” said Powder. Powder said encouraging young people to get vaccinated has been a priority, since they are more likely to travel outside the community. Some people have been excited to get vaccinated, but Angela Conner, a nurse with Nunee Health, said she has seen some hesitancy in the community. Nunee Health is promoting vaccination and trying to fight false information shared online. The hamlet received a second shipment of vaccines on Feb. 28. “Everything that we use is evidence-based,” said Conner. “We’ve been opening up our facility here for any questions. Quite a few people have called and we did have our nurse practitioner open for any kind of consults.” Other Métis leaders feel they have been left out of Alberta’s vaccination program. Since the first vaccines arrived in Alberta, elders on First Nations or Métis settlements have been getting vaccinated if they are between 65 and 74. Some communities that are mostly Métis are not considered settlements, meaning those elders must wait until the general public can be vaccinated in the fall. A community like Conklin, for instance, is mostly Métis and has seen 11 per cent of its population get COVID-19. But the community is considered a rural hamlet under the responsibility of the municipality. Fort McKay’s Métis community is also on municipal land and not considered a settlement. McMurray Métis has 45 elders between 65 and 74 who will be left out of Phase 1B because the Local is based in Fort McMurray. “In Alberta, it is recognized that Indigenous elders are part of a first priority,” said Bryan Fayant, McMurray Métis’ disaster and recovery strategist. “Our elders are a part of the regular rollout and I just don’t think that’s enough.” firstname.lastname@example.org Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today
LOS ANGELES — Catherine Zeta-Jones was already a fan of “Prodigal Son,” so when the chance came to join the show, she jumped, lured by the prospect of working alongside Michael Sheen. The Welsh actors were born in cities about an hour apart and moved in similar circles during their youth without ever knowing each other. She was born in Swansea and Sheen was born in Newport seven months apart. “We have all these mutual friends, but we’ve never crossed. My mom and dad know his dad,” she said Tuesday in a virtual Television Critics Association panel. “It’s bizarre. That was, of course, a huge pull for me.” Zeta-Jones joins Fox’s “Prodigal Son” in Tuesday's episode, directed by co-star Lou Diamond Phillips. Previously, the Oscar winner had done guest episodes and appeared in TV movies and miniseries, but never a regular series role. She plays Dr. Vivian Capshaw and Alan Cumming appears in two episodes as a cocky Europol agent. “It’s a family drama with a twist of danger and it’s a dark family,” Zeta-Jones said. “I gravitate to kind of dark material.” Sheen’s presence increased the comfort level for Zeta-Jones to come onto a set where the cast and crew had already been together for a season. He plays an incarcerated serial killer surgeon. “As soon as Lou shouted, ‘Cut,’ Michael and I went into inside jokes, Tommy Cooper impressions,” she said, referring to the British comedian. Phillips said, “She came like a team player, she came to play. It was seamless.” Zeta-Jones told her agent she wanted to join the show on the same day she was watching “The View” talk show. “Whoopi Goldberg just randomly gives it this incredible kind of thumbs up and I’m like, ‘Yes, that’s what I’m talking about,’” she said. “That was like a stamp of approval that came from nowhere.” The show’s second season is currently airing on Fox, and the first season began streaming Tuesday on HBO Max. Beth Harris, The Associated Press
Les cultures dites « émergentes » gagnent du terrain au Québec, à tel point qu’elles devraient bientôt être incluses dans le plan conjoint des Producteurs de grains du Québec, la fédération de l’Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA) active dans ce secteur. Cela permettra d’aller chercher davantage de financement pour la recherche et la promotion de grains tels que la cameline ou le quinoa, aujourd’hui marginaux mais qui pourraient rapidement devenir beaucoup plus visibles. Au Québec, il n’existe qu’un syndicat agricole, l’UPA, formé de plusieurs fédérations représentant les différentes productions agricoles. Pour organiser la mise en marché de leurs produits, ces fédérations adoptent des plans conjoints, qui ont force de loi. Ils permettent notamment d’adopter des règlements et de négocier collectivement avec les acheteurs. Certains plans conjoints sont très contraignants, comme les fameux quotas de lait ou de poulet. Dans le cas des grains, le plan conjoint impose une contribution de 1,45 $ par tonne produite. L’argent ainsi récolté permet de financer les associations régionales des Producteurs de grains, de faire de la promotion et de payer des projets de recherche. « On soutient un centre de recherche, le CÉROM. Mais on a aussi des projets avec des institutions, par exemple avec l’Université du Québec en Abitibi » explique le directeur général des Producteurs de grains du Québec, Benoit Legault. Le CÉROM est célèbre pour avoir été au cœur de l’affaire Louis Robert : cet agronome avait été congédié du ministère de l’Agriculture après avoir dénoncé l’ingérence du secteur privé dans les résultats de recherche de ce centre. Des chercheurs étudiant l’effet des pesticides avaient notamment été la cible de pressions, et plusieurs avaient alors décidé de démissionner. Peu de producteurs dans l’Est Les cultures émergentes qui pourraient rejoindre le plan conjoint incluent la cameline, le chanvre, le quinoa, le pois chiche, les lentilles, le riz et le sésame, entre autres. D’après M. Legault, il se fait déjà de la recherche sur ces grains, mais financées à partir des contributions des autres cultures. Selon lui, c’est donc « une question d’équité avec les autres productions », d’autant plus que dans le cas du chanvre, les producteurs demandent depuis longtemps à rejoindre le plan conjoint. Les producteurs de grains ont déjà voté une résolution pour étendre le plan conjoint en 2019, et ont soumis cette demande à la Régie des marchés agricoles et alimentaires, qui décidera si elle l’accepte ou non. Avant cela, elle tiendra une séance publique virtuelle le 7 avril pour écouter les producteurs, qu’ils soient pour ou contre. Ils peuvent également envoyer leurs commentaires écrits à la Régie avant cette date. Au cours des trois dernières années, 693 entreprises ont déclaré avoir vendu du grain au Bas-Saint-Laurent ou en Gaspésie, ce qui représente 20 à 30 000 tonnes annuellement. Les cultures émergentes sont cependant rares : on trouve par exemple un producteur de quinoa à Sainte-Florence, et un producteur de cameline à Baie-des-Sables, Nature Highland. Ce dernier est en train de se renseigner sur le sujet et préfère s’abstenir de commenter pour le moment. La contribution sera retenue par l’acheteur au moment où le grain est vendu. Cela signifie que si un fermier utilise du grain pour nourrir ses animaux, celui-ci ne sera pas concerné, mais seulement un éventuel surplus qu’il déciderait de vendre. De même, le grain transformé au sein d’une même exploitation – comme la cameline de Nature Highland, qui est destinée à faire de l’huile – n’est pas visé. Réactions mitigées Le président des Producteurs de grains pour l’Est-du-Québec, Francis Caouette, voit d’un bon œil ce changement : « Par exemple, le quinoa n’est pas typique au Québec. Il faut qu’on ait de la recherche pour savoir comment le produire », dit-il en faisant notamment référence au climat. « Pour qu’il y ait une diversité dans l’Est-du-Québec, il faut qu’on aide ceux qui font des productions marginales. » Mais l’ancien président de l’Union paysanne Maxime Laplante ne veut pas de cette aide. Ayant une petite production de céréales biologiques à Sainte-Croix-de-Lotbinière, il n’était même pas au courant de l’histoire quand Le Mouton Noir l’a contacté pour lui demander son avis, disant ne pas avoir été invité à l’assemblée générale de 2019 où la résolution a été votée. « J’explore la possibilité de faire du chanvre, du quinoa ou des lentilles l’année prochaine, et dès le départ ils vont m’exiger une cotisation et un contrôle de mes opérations? Et ils ne m’informent même pas? », s’emporte M. Laplante. La somme à payer serait minime, mais il considère que les recherches menées par les Producteurs de grains ne lui ont pas été utiles jusqu’à présent. « Je dois avoir à peu près le dixième de la surface moyenne des producteurs de grains en moyenne au Québec. Je n’ai pas intérêt à payer des prélevés à gauche et à droite pour l’industrie », lance-t-il. Malgré sa démission survenue en novembre, Maxime Laplante reprend ainsi la critique que l’Union paysanne a toujours faite à l’UPA : cette dernière s’intéresserait davantage aux gros producteurs conventionnels qu’aux petits défendant une agriculture paysanne écologique. Ceux qui pensent comme lui ont jusqu’au 7 avril pour se faire entendre… Rémy Bourdillon, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Mouton Noir