Harris says volunteer efforts at DC Central Kitchen help to feed people and fight loneliness. (Nov. 25)
Harris says volunteer efforts at DC Central Kitchen help to feed people and fight loneliness. (Nov. 25)
There was no distribution plan for the coronavirus vaccine set up by the Trump administration as the virus raged in its last months in office, new President Joe Biden's chief of staff, Ron Klain, said on Sunday. "The process to distribute the vaccine, particularly outside of nursing homes and hospitals out into the community as a whole, did not really exist when we came into the White House," Klain said on NBC's "Meet the Press." Biden, a Democrat who took over from Republican President Donald Trump on Wednesday, has promised a fierce fight against the pandemic that killed 400,000 people in the United States under Trump’s watch.
A couple of weeks ago, a snowy owl in the care of Atlantic Veterinary College staff was released back into the wild after recovering from severe emaciation. It was an event Dave McRuer says is uncommon — usually, by the time snowy owls are found in this condition, he said it is too late to save them. McRuer is a wildlife health specialist with Parks Canada based at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown. His job takes him to national parks across Canada, where he has periodically come in contact with snowy owls. He was also director of wildlife services for 11 years at the Wildlife Centre of Virginia, where they would occasionally receive snowy owls, and worked with them as intern at the University of Saskatchewan. Since snowy owls are in the news, we asked McRuer to share what he finds most interesting about the rarely seen species, and he generously obliged. 1. Why they're suddenly here Snowy owls breed and usually stay in the North, on the flat, frozen tundra territories of Canada, the U.S., Greenland and Russia. Some, however, migrate even further north to pack ice where they forage on polar bear kills, and to open water there where they feed on sea ducks. Still others will migrate as far south as the Carolinas and do so annually. Every five years or so there's what scientists call an irruption, when large numbers of them migrate south. Rarely — once every few decades or so — there's a "super movement" of snowy owls south. Right now, snowy owls are in an irruption year, which is why more are being spotted in southern locales including P.E.I. These periodic moves south were thought to be because of a lack of food, but scientists have now debunked that theory and are working to discover why, McRuer said. For more on the owls' migration, he suggests checking out the Project Snowstorm website. 2. 'Young and dumb' The snowy owls that show up here in Canada are typically younger, McRuer said. Scientists affectionately call them "the young and dumb" because they haven't had as much practice catching food. If they miss a few attempts in a row, they can become weak, which can lead to a "downhill spiral" ending in starvation and death, McRuer said. "Those are typically the birds that don't move at all when you walk up to them here," he said. They can end up at the AVC and other wildlife rehabilitation centres, and usually die because they are too severely emaciated. "It's pretty rare that they make it through," he said. "There's no muscle left on their bodies whatsoever." 3. Females are bigger Like most raptors, the females of the species are bigger by up to one third. The males are almost pure white, McRuer said. The females have some black marking or "barring" across their chests, wings and heads, and the young snowy owls have even more barring. 4. That's a lot of eggs Normally the females each lay five to seven eggs a year, but in years where food is very plentiful, they will lay 12 to 16 eggs in one nest. "Those years, there is a ton of snowy owls, and when winter comes, there are territories that these owls do have, and there's just not as much room for all of these young owls, so they tend to migrate south," McRuer said. Those are the years people report seeing more snowy owls. 5. 1,000-yard stare Snowy owls can see for up to a kilometre — really well. As in, a mouse half a kilometre away scurrying across the snow. That's lunch! "As soon as they see it they're off, and they can actually fly really quickly" in pursuit of food, McRuer said, even though at four to five kilograms they are the heaviest North American owls. 6. People make them nervous Because they can see so far away, they can of course see you coming, and they don't like people getting too close. McRuer said if they are fidgeting and staring directly at you, you're too close. The best way to observe them, he said, is with binoculars, from your car. "Cars are fantastic blinds," he said. "You can generally get closer to any kind of wildlife in a car than you can just generally walking." If you "bump" the owl, or get so close it flies away, that's a bad thing, McRuer said: It makes them more vulnerable to predation, and it uses up valuable energy they need to hunt and survive. It also stresses their immune system. 7. Mmm, tundra grouse Prey consists of small rodents like lemmings and voles, and the occasional ptarmigan, a small tundra grouse. And, because they are used to hunting in 24-hour darkness in the North, they usually hunt at night. "Never feed owls," McRuer said, even if they look hungry. "It just encourages the owls to come close to cars," and they are often hit by vehicles. 8. Watch out for that eagle Snowy owls are listed as a vulnerable species and therefore hunting is forbidden. There are 100,000 to 400,000 around the world, he said. But other animals don't know that. Arctic foxes eat the owls' chicks and eggs, but McRuer said adult owls can take on a small Arctic fox (about the size of a domestic cat) and win. Arctic wolves and polar bears will also scavenge on the nests if they find them, he said. People hunted them and stuffed them for show in large numbers in the late 1800s and early 1900s, McRuer said. In southern climes such as P.E.I., their main predators are red-tailed hawks and eagles. But mostly they die due to human activities, McRuer said, such as collisions with vehicles or utility wires, eating rodents that have been poisoned, or being snared accidentally by hunters. 9. Where to spot them The owls' habitat in the Arctic tundra is flat, so they're most at home along the shoreline or perching on a sand dune or telephone pole, but not in trees, McRuer said. 10. Life span Wild snowy owls, like most raptor species, can live as long as 15 years but generally most die "pretty quickly," McRuer said. That's why they attempt to have and care for as many chicks as possible. Snowy owls can live close to 30 years in captivity, McRuer said. 11. The myth of the wise owl McRuer is also a falconer, and trains raptors such as hawks, falcons and even some species of owls. "I can tell you owls are not as easily trained as other raptors. They just don't pick up on things as quickly," he said. "I'm not going to say they're dumb, but they're a little slow on the pickup." The birds he has trained are ones rescued at rehabilitation centres and are used for educational purposes, he said. However, he has not trained a snowy owl. "Having a bird on your glove, you get a lot more attention than just sort of standing up there with a power-point presentation," he said. "They make great education ambassadors." McRuer does not encourage people to try to keep them as pets. 12. They can breed with other owls Scientists have seen snowy owls breeding with other large owl species — so far only in captivity, McRuer said. But don't be surprised if climate change brings about a hybrid in the wild soon, he said. "That's occurred in other Arctic species like polar bears and grizzly bears, for example," he said. More from CBC P.E.I.
DENPASAR, Indonesia — A Russian social media celebrity was being deported from Indonesia on Sunday after he held a party at a luxury hotel on the resort island of Bali attended by more than 50 people despite coronavirus restrictions. The party held on Jan. 11 violated health protocols put in place to fight the spread of the virus, said Jamaruli Manihuruk, chief of the Bali regional office for the Ministry of Law and Human Rights. Sergei Kosenko, who has more than 4.9 million followers on his Instagram account, arrived in Indonesia in October on a tourist visa. Immigration officials in Bali decided to examine Kosenko’s activities after he posted to social media a video of him driving a motorcycle with a female passenger on the back off a pier into the sea in December. The stunt was condemned by many Indonesians as reckless and a potentially hazardous to the environment. Manihuruk said the immigration investigation found Kosenko took part in activities that violated his tourist visa, such as promoting companies and products. After the announcement of his deportation, Kosenko told reporters at the immigration office in Bali that he was sorry. “I love Bali. I am sorry and I apologize,” Kosenko said. The deportation comes just days after Indonesia deported an American woman who had been living on Bali over her viral tweets that celebrated the island as a low-cost, “queer-friendly” place for foreigners to live. Her posts were considered to have “disseminated information disturbing to the public,” which was the basis for her deportation. Indonesia has temporarily restricted foreigners from coming to the country since Jan. 1 to control the spread of COVID-19, and public activities have been restricted on Java and Bali islands. Bali regional office for the Ministry of Law and Human Rights recorded 162 foreigners have been deported from Bali in 2020 and 2021. Most of them are being deported for violating the visit visa. Firdia Lisnawati, The Associated Press
Tensions had reached a boiling point over a natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia when a Wet'suwet'en hereditary chief said he made a phone call that changed everything. Na'moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, was among a group of hereditary chiefs whose opposition to the project on Wet'suwet'en traditional territory last year sparked demonstrations and rail blockades across Canada, and provoked debates about Indigenous rights and reconciliation. He was on his way to Victoria to stand with Indigenous youth occupying the B.C. legislature steps when he called home as the new coronavirus spread across Canada. "I thought we were making great strides," Na'moks said in an interview. "We made a few calls home and they said, no, you're coming home." Na'moks said he has been at home near Smithers ever since. Very little seemed like it could draw attention away from the movement but a global pandemic met the threshold. Nearly one year later, talks between the hereditary chiefs and the provincial and federal governments over a rights and title agreement are behind schedule but ongoing. With the pipeline excluded from the agreement, however, tensions remain poised to rise again as work continues and the consequences for both resource development and reconciliation hang in the balance. "We're still in it," Na'moks said. "It makes it difficult. Who expected a pandemic? But that doesn't mean we've stopped." ——— National attention turned to a remote forest service road in northern British Columbia after the B.C. Supreme Court granted Coastal GasLink a new injunction against opponents who blocked the route to a work site. It was the second time in two years that the company turned to the court and ultimately the RCMP to clear the path for its workers after it said attempts at dialogue were unsuccessful. The 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by both the province and all 20 elected First Nations councils along its path to transport natural gas from northeastern B.C. to a processing and export facility on the coast in Kitimat. However, Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs claimed the project had no authority without consent through their traditional system of governance, inspiring supporters across the country to act in solidarity. The hostilities diffused in March when the chiefs announced alongside B.C. and federal officials that they'd reached a tentative agreement setting terms to discuss rights and title. They announced they would sign the agreement in April, opening negotiations over its implementation. The chiefs were in their second or third round of consultations with community members over the agreement when Na'moks said the pandemic made it impossible to meet. Talks with government officials have resumed virtually, but they're delayed by about a year, he said. Although the pipeline is not part of the agreement, the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs have a number of other areas of concern. They include full recognition of their jurisdiction over child wellness, water and 22,000 square kilometres of territory. Na'moks said they want to be clear that the relationship is a nation-to-nation one. "This in no way resembles any form of treaty, we're not here for a treaty," Na'moks said. ——— Some elected Wet'suwet'en council members who argued last year that they should be at the negotiating table remain disappointed that they're not. Karen Ogen-Toews, a councillor with the Wet'suwet'en First Nation, said the pipeline conflict exacerbated rifts within the community that still need healing. She believes the rail blockades meant provincial and federal officials signed under duress. "Our people have been divided," she said. "That needs to be dealt with before we can move forward as a Wet'suwet'en nation." The elected councils may be colonial constructs, she said, but it doesn't change the fact that they've played an important leadership role for decades and want the best for their people, too. For Ogen-Toews, who is also CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance, signing an agreement with Coastal GasLink was an opportunity to continue that work. Jobs on the project represent an opportunity to close the socio-economic gap between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people, who face greater rates of poverty, unemployment, poor housing and poor health. It doesn't mean she isn't critical of the company either. "I think the procurement opportunities can be increased, can be better," she said. "We don’t want just the bare minimum. We would like more opportunities." Coastal GasLink did not respond directly to a question about procurement opportunities. But in a statement, the company said it is delivering significant benefits to Indigenous and local communities. To date, nearly $1 billion in contracts have been awarded, $875-million of which has been won by Indigenous groups or businesses, the statement said. Until the governance question is sorted out, Ogen-Toews said she believes the rights and title issue should come to halt. "At the end of the day it's our people, it's our clan members, our band members who are the same people who will be impacted." ——— Work continues on the Coastal GasLink project and opponents are still resisting, even if gatherings are prohibited under public health orders. Molly Wickham, who also goes by Sleydo, is the spokeswoman for the Gidimt'en checkpoint, one of the camps along the forest road where Mounties arrested pipeline opponents in 2019 and 2020. She said she never expected the Wet'suwet'en resistance to dominate the front pages of newspapers forever and has spent a lot of the past year thinking about more lasting change. "We all know, who are in this movement, that there's a lot of work and a lot of strategizing and a lot of thinking about, how do we make this a sustainable movement for Indigenous sovereignty for the long term?" The answer she's landed on is "quite complex," she said. Occupying the territory is a major step. It's not only important for Indigenous people to reconnect with ancestral lands, but also adds weight to any arguments they make in Canadian courts, she said. Wet'suwet'en members began reoccupying the territory before Coastal GasLink was proposed, she said. She moved her own family into a cabin on the territory in 2014. Reclaiming systems of government is another step forward, even if some knowledge has been interrupted by colonialism, Wickham said. There's also strength in numbers. There's no way government would have agreed to negotiate had it not been for others, like Mohawk supporters who led rail blockades in Ontario, she said. "I see it as a collective struggle," she said. "Absolutely every situation is unique but we're all in this together." Wickham said she doesn't believe the rights and title negotiations affect what happens on the ground with Coastal GasLink. As long as the work is ongoing, she's prepared to resist. "It doesn't matter whether they talk for another year or another 10 years. The Wet'suwet'en remain opposed to this project and will take action in accordance with our government," she said. Occupations on the scale seen in 2019 and 2020 aren't likely while COVID-19 remains a real threat. In the past, the opposition relied heavily on allies who flocked to the territory to occupy the camps, so elders wouldn't be put at risk, she said. But local members have begun occupying new parts of the territory nonetheless, including a hunting blind in a ravine near Wedzin'kwa, also known as the Morice River, which has been a focal point of the movement to protect the land. The river is critical habitat for salmon and is central to Wet’suwet’en identity and survival, she said. A Coastal GasLink work schedule suggests the company plans to divert part of the river to lay pipe and locals are prepared to fight if that happens, she said. Coastal GasLink did not respond directly to a question about whether the new occupations were affecting progress or whether diverting or drilling under the river was planned in spring. ——— Beyond the pandemic, the provincial election also saw a new Indigenous relations minister take charge of the Wet'suwet'en file. Murray Rankin served as British Columbia's lead negotiator in talks with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs in 2019 before replacing cabinet minister Scott Fraser, who did not seek re-election last year. Rankin, who has a background in Indigenous law, sees his role as offering assistance as the Wet'suwet'en mend internal conflicts and confirm a governance structure. "It's obviously for them as a nation to decide amongst themselves how they wish to go forward. I want to do whatever I can in assisting in moving forward in a positive way," Rankin said. The unresolved issues could be seen as dating back to 1846, when Britain asserted sovereignty. Or it could date to the 1997 Delgamuukw case, which won the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and their Gitxsan neighbours recognition of their Aboriginal title as an ancestral right in the Supreme Court of Canada. The court did not specify where it applied. "The chief justice said we're all here to stay and encouraged the governments of Canada and British Columbia to negotiate a lasting resolution. Well, here we are a generation later and we're doing that work," Rankin said. "I wish we had done it earlier, but there's no time like the present to make progress." During his time as negotiator, Rankin said it was made clear that the agreement over rights and title would not affect Coastal GasLink, which was a permitted and approved. "They were coincident in time, but our work did not involve CGL, nor does the current negotiation involve that particular project," he said. The tentative agreement is only a starting point to engage the province, federal government and Wet'suwet'en nation in a process for determining what their relationship looks like in the future, he said. In addition to the ongoing negotiations, the province is also working with non-Indigenous communities and others with a stake in the outcome. "We want to make sure that when we do come up with an agreement that it attracts the support of the communities affected," he said. Of course, the pandemic isn't helping. "You can imagine how difficult it is to negotiate by Zoom, negotiating by Zoom is never easy. The pandemic has required us to honour the health protocol," he said, but "that is to the detriment, I think, of the honest conversations that occur when you're sitting around a table." Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett declined an interview request, but in a statement she said the Supreme Court encouraged parties in the Delgamuukw case to pursue good faith negotiations and that's what Canada is focused on. "We firmly believe strong and self-reliant Indigenous nations that are able to fulfil their right to self-determination will lead to healthy and sustainable Indigenous communities with improved well-being and economic prosperity. Supporting Indigenous communities as they choose their path to rebuild their nations is critical to reconciliation and renewing our relationship," the statement said. "Our commitment to continue our negotiations to implement Wet’suwet’en rights and title is strong." ——— When Coastal GasLink announced in 2018 that it had signed agreements with all 20 First Nation along its proposed path, then-president Rick Gateman declared it an important milestone. "When we first began this project over six years ago, our goal was to build more than just relationships with First Nations communities in B.C.; it was to build trusted partnerships, and that has made all the difference," he said in a statement at the time. Gary Naziel, an elected councillor of the Witset First Nation on Wet'suwet'en territory, called it a testament to what can be achieved when industry and First Nations work together. In addition to opposition from the hereditary leadership, the project has faced the added challenge of COVID-19. In an update Friday, the company said one quarter of construction is complete but long-term impacts on the project schedule were still being assessed. The company declined to make anyone available for an interview but provided a statement on what happened a year ago. "When we reflect on the events of early 2020 and the blockades across Canada, we are reminded of the importance of constructive dialogue based on mutual respect, working together to resolve the issues that affect all of us and perhaps more importantly, the vital importance of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples," it said. "These are discussions that transcend a single project." The company continues to communicate with Indigenous communities across the route, including hereditary and elected Wet'suwet'en representatives, it said. "While we understand there are those who will never support the project, we appreciate the opportunities to remain engaged in open dialogue." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2020. Amy Smart, The Canadian Press
The councillor whose ward encompasses Mooney's Bay says he's disappointed with the City of Ottawa for banning sledding on the park's toboggan hill on short notice, as other plans had been discussed to limit crowds. The city announced late Friday afternoon — ahead of a sunny weekend — that people would no longer be allowed to sled down the hill. "This is one of the few amenities, outdoor winter amenities, that's free for families to go to," said River Ward Coun. Riley Brockington on Saturday. "Yes, it's popular. There have been capacity concerns in past weekends, but there really hasn't been a reservation system implemented or anything else." Brockington said he'd spoken with the city's bylaw department earlier in the week about problems with crowding, after a 25-person cap was put on toboggan hills and outdoor skating rinks earlier this month to try to limit the spread of COVID-19. He said he thought he'd come to an agreement with the city to implement parking restrictions, increase bylaw enforcement and install more signage to let people know about capacity limits. 'A two-sentence email' "I heard nothing throughout the week from anyone else. And late [Friday] afternoon, I get a two-sentence email that says we're closing the hill." Brockington said it was the city's parks and recreation department that decided to close the toboggan hill. He's reached out to city staff to discuss other options, especially considering the hill is not nearly as busy during weekdays, and hopes it can reopen. He also said it would be interesting to see what happens once the Rideau Canal Skateway opens. "The canal is much longer than a toboggan hill. I get that you can spread out more," he said. "But on weekends of very nice weather, in past years, the canal has been elbow-to-elbow in some spots."
For two Virginia police officers who posed for a photo during the deadly U.S. Capitol insurrection, the reckoning has been swift and public: They were identified, charged with crimes and arrested. But for five Seattle officers the outcome is less clear. Their identities still secret, two are on leave and three continue to work while a police watchdog investigates whether their actions in the nation's capital on Jan. 6 crossed the line from protected political speech to lawbreaking. The contrasting cases highlight the dilemma faced by police departments nationwide as they review the behaviour of dozens of officers who were in Washington the day of the riot by supporters of President Donald Trump. Officials and experts agree that officers who were involved in the melee should be fired and charged for their role. But what about those officers who attended only the Trump rally before the riot? How does a department balance an officer's free speech rights with the blow to public trust that comes from the attendance of law enforcement at an event with far-right militants and white nationalists who went on to assault the seat of American democracy? An Associated Press survey of law enforcement agencies nationwide found that at least 31 officers in 12 states are being scrutinized by their supervisors for their behaviour in the District of Columbia or face criminal charges for participating in the riot. Officials are looking into whether the officers violated any laws or policies or participated in the violence while in Washington. A Capitol Police officer died after he was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher as rioters descended on the building and many other officers were injured. A woman was shot to death by Capitol Police and three other people died after medical emergencies during the chaos. Most of the officers have not been publicly identified; only a few have been charged. Some were identified by online sleuths. Others were reported by their colleagues or turned themselves in. They come from some of the country’s largest cities — three Los Angeles officers and a sheriff’s deputy, for instance — as well as state agencies and a Pennsylvania police department with nine officers. Among them are an Oklahoma sheriff and New Hampshire police chief who have acknowledged being at the rally, but denied entering the Capitol or breaking the law. “If they were off-duty, it’s totally free speech,” said Will Aitchison, a lawyer in Portland, Oregon, who represents law enforcement officers. “People have the right to express their political views regardless of who’s standing next to them. You just don’t get guilt by association.” But Ayesha Bell Hardaway, a professor at Case Western Reserve University law school, said an officer’s presence at the rally creates a credibility issue as law enforcement agencies work to repair community trust, especially after last summer's of protests against police brutality sparked by the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Communities will question the integrity of officers who attended the rally along with “individuals who proudly profess racist and divisive viewpoints,” she said. “It calls into question whether those officers are interested in engaging in policing in a way that builds trust and legitimacy in all communities, including communities of colour.” In Rocky Mount, a Virginia town of about 1,000, Sgt. Thomas Robertson and Officer Jacob Fracker were suspended without pay and face criminal charges after posting a photo of themselves inside the Capitol during the riot. According to court records, Robertson wrote on social media that the “Left are just mad because we actually attacked the government who is the problem … The right IN ONE DAY took the f(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk) U.S. Capitol. Keep poking us.” Attempts to contact the pair were unsuccessful and court records do not list lawyers. Leaders in Rocky Mount declined to be interviewed. In a statement, they said the events at the Capitol were tragic. “We stand with and add our support to those who have denounced the violence and illegal activity that took place that day,” said Police Chief Ken Criner, Capt. Mark Lovern and Town Manager James Ervin. “Our town and our police department absolutely does not condone illegal or unethical behaviour by anyone, including our officers and staff.” On the other side of the county, five Seattle officers are under investigation by the city’s Office of Police Accountability. Two officers posted photos of themselves on social media while in the district and officials are investigating to determine where they were and what they were doing. Three others told supervisors that they went to Washington for the events and are being investigated for what they did while there. Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said his department supports officers’ freedom of speech and that those who were in the nation's capital will be fired if they “were directly involved in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.” But police leaders need to evaluate more than just clear criminal behaviour, according to Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a policing research and policy group. They must also consider how their actions affect the department credibility, he said. Officers' First Amendment rights “don’t extend to expressing words that may be violent or maybe express some prejudice,” Wexler said, “because that’s going to reflect on what they do when they’re working, when they’re testifying in court.” Through the summer and fall, Seattle police — along with officers elsewhere — came under criticism for their handling of mass protests against police brutality following the death of George Floyd. The city received more than 19,000 complaints against officers, most for excessive use of force and improper use of pepper spray. Andrew Myerberg, director of the Seattle Office of Police Accountability, said none of the officers now under investigation were involved in those cases. But Sakara Remmu, cofounder of Black Lives Matter Seattle/King County, said the officers should be fired regardless. Their public declarations of solidarity with Trump fosters not just community distrust, but terror of the entire department, she said. “It absolutely does matter when the decorum of racial peace cracks and racial hatred comes through, because we already have a documented history and legacy of what that means in this country,” Remmu said. In Houston, the police chief decried an officer who resigned and was later charged in the riot. A lawyer for Officer Tam Pham said the 18-year veteran of the force "very much regrets” being at the rally and was “deeply remorseful.” But many chiefs have said their officers committed no crimes. “The Arkansas State Police respects the rights and freedom of an employee to use their leave time as the employee may choose,” department spokesman Bill Sadler said of two officers who attended the Trump rally. Malik Aziz, the former chair and executive director of the National Black Police Association, compared condemning all officers who were in Washington to tarring all the protesters who took to streets after the killing of George Floyd with the violent and destructive acts of some. A major with the Dallas Police Department, Aziz said police acting privately have the same rights as other Americans, but that knowingly going to a bigoted event should be disqualifying for an officer. “There’s no place in law enforcement for that individual,” Aziz said. Martha Bellisle And Jake Bleiberg, The Associated Press
Saskatchewan's premier says the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline isn't over yet. In a recent interview with CBC's Rosemary Barton, Premier Scott Moe says conversations around the TC Energy project are ongoing, despite U.S. President Joe Biden's recent cancellation of the pipeline's permit by executive order. "I wouldn't say this project is over by any stretch. There is a lot of conversation to have on KXL," Moe said in an interview on Rosemary Barton Live. The 1,897-kilometre pipeline would have carried 830,000 barrels of crude oil daily from oilsands in Hardisty, Alta., to Nebraska, connecting to the original Keystone pipeline running to the U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. A portion of the project would have crossed into southern Saskatchewan. Moe, along with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Ontario Premier Doug Ford, has pushed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal government to take action against the pipeline's halt. That could include economic sanctions, Moe suggested — a possibility also raised by Kenney. "I haven't said that we should go to sanctions and sanctions should be utilized first," Moe said in his interview with Barton. "But sanctions are always on the table in any conversation or any challenge that we may have with our trading relationship with our largest partner." The project, originally blocked by U.S. President Barack Obama, was then approved by President Donald Trump, who wanted to negotiate the terms of the project, before ultimately being blocked again by Biden in the first days of his presidency. Federal Opposition leader Erin O'Toole has also expressed frustration over the cancellation of the project, saying in a statement it "will devastate thousands of Canadian families who have already been badly hurt by the economic crisis." Trudeau's government has repeatedly said that it supports the project and has made that clear to the new U.S. administration, but both the prime minister and Canada's ambassador to the U.S. have said it is time to respect the decision and move on. Speaking on Friday morning, Trudeau reiterated his disappointment with the cancellation and said he would raise the issue during his phone call with Biden scheduled for later in the day. "Obviously the decision on Keystone XL is a very difficult one for workers in Alberta and Saskatchewan who've had many difficult hits," he said. "Over the past years we have been there for them and we will continue to be there for them and I will express my concern for jobs and livelihoods in Canada, particularly in the West, directly in my conversation with President Biden." Trudeau stressed he and the new president are on the same wavelength on fighting climate change and middle-class job creation, as well as the "values of Canadians." Moe called the cancellation a "devastating blow to North American energy security," and said in the interview with Barton he'll continue to advocate for the pipeline, which he says has both economic and environmental benefits for Canada.
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Sunday Jan. 24, 2021. There are 737,407 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 737,407 confirmed cases (65,750 active, 652,829 resolved, 18,828 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 5,957 new cases Saturday from 101,130 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 5.9 per cent. The rate of active cases is 174.92 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 41,703 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 5,958. There were 206 new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 1,100 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 157. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.42 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 50.09 per 100,000 people. There have been 16,996,450 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 398 confirmed cases (10 active, 384 resolved, four deaths). There was one new case Saturday from 146 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.68 per cent. The rate of active cases is 1.92 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been three new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 77,472 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 110 confirmed cases (seven active, 103 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Saturday from 418 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 4.46 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of six new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 88,407 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,570 confirmed cases (22 active, 1,483 resolved, 65 deaths). There were five new cases Saturday from 721 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.69 per cent. The rate of active cases is 2.26 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people. There have been 200,424 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,087 confirmed cases (332 active, 742 resolved, 13 deaths). There were 30 new cases Saturday from 1,031 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 2.9 per cent. The rate of active cases is 42.74 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 203 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 29. There were zero new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.02 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.67 per 100,000 people. There have been 133,199 tests completed. _ Quebec: 250,491 confirmed cases (17,763 active, 223,367 resolved, 9,361 deaths). There were 1,631 new cases Saturday from 8,857 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 18 per cent. The rate of active cases is 209.35 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 11,746 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,678. There were 88 new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 423 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 60. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.71 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 110.32 per 100,000 people. There have been 2,695,925 tests completed. _ Ontario: 250,226 confirmed cases (25,263 active, 219,262 resolved, 5,701 deaths). There were 2,662 new cases Saturday from 69,403 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 3.8 per cent. The rate of active cases is 173.43 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 18,918 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,703. There were 87 new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 412 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 59. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.4 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 39.14 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,895,862 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 28,260 confirmed cases (3,261 active, 24,204 resolved, 795 deaths). There were 171 new cases Saturday from 1,998 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 8.6 per cent. The rate of active cases is 238.12 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,118 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 160. There were two new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 36 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.38 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 58.05 per 100,000 people. There have been 448,638 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 21,643 confirmed cases (3,196 active, 18,200 resolved, 247 deaths). There were 305 new cases Saturday from 1,326 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 23 per cent. The rate of active cases is 272.12 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,928 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 275. There were eight new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 37 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.45 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 21.03 per 100,000 people. There have been 327,151 tests completed. _ Alberta: 119,757 confirmed cases (9,987 active, 108,258 resolved, 1,512 deaths). There were 643 new cases Saturday from 12,969 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 5.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 228.47 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 4,387 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 627. There were 12 new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 110 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 16. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.36 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 34.59 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,061,844 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 63,484 confirmed cases (5,901 active, 56,455 resolved, 1,128 deaths). There were 508 new cases Saturday from 4,088 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 12 per cent. The rate of active cases is 116.36 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,367 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 481. There were nine new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 81 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.23 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 22.24 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,044,931 tests completed. _ Yukon: 70 confirmed cases (zero active, 69 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Saturday from six completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,216 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 31 confirmed cases (seven active, 24 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Saturday from 105 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 15.62 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of six new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 9,064 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 267 confirmed cases (one active, 265 resolved, one deaths). There was one new case Saturday from 62 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 1.6 per cent. The rate of active cases is 2.58 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been one new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 7,241 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
New U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, during his first phone call with his Japanese counterpart, reaffirmed America's commitment to Tokyo to defending a group of East China Sea islets claimed by both Japan and China, the Pentagon said. Austin, in talks with Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, confirmed that Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan security treaty, which stipulates U.S. defence obligations to Japan, covers the uninhabited islands, the Pentagon said in a statement.
Dene elders are working to get terminology around COVID-19 in their traditional dialects so fellow elders are informed about the disease and the vaccine. It can be difficult for Dene elders, who either don't speak English or for whom it's a second language, to make well-informed decisions because there's no terminology about the disease in their language. A lot of material about COVID-19 is only in English. "Some of the elders do not have any reading skills in English," said Rose Betthale-Reid, an elder in Fort Liard, N.W.T. She said she's been frustrated by the communication surrounding COVID-19 in her community, where a cluster of cases has led to a two-week containment order, which are a number of measures to prevent the spread. Even those who do speak English don't necessarily understand the terminology surrounding COVID-19, Betthale-Reid said. "Look, even the word containment order. What does that mean?" she asked. "Those people from the government world, they can understand that, but it's frustrating for Native people that are fluent in their [own] language." Urgently needed Paul Andrew, a Dene elder and former CBC broadcaster, is trying to make the situation better. He recently helped organize and conduct a virtual Dene language terminology workshop, inviting three members from the five major Dene regions, to talk about COVID-19 and how to start translating some medical terminology in the different dialects. It's urgent to get it done, Andrew says, because the N.W.T. government has started to vaccinate people in the communities and many, including elders, don't have the proper information to make well-informed decisions. Look, even the word containment order. What does that mean? - Rose Betthale-Reid, Fort Liard elder One of the terms that he says is difficult to understand is "getting a dose of vaccine." "What does that mean? We had to ask the medical professionals," said Andrew. Terms like immune system, side effects, antibody, pandemic, and contact tracing are also difficult to translate. "These are not terms we've used in the past," he explained. He says the lack of terminology in the Dene language is causing a lot of confusion and fear. "There are a number of Indigenous people who do not function at all, and some do not function very well in the English language, and that special care must be given for them," he said. "They can't access programs or services from the government of Northwest Territories. And I think this particular, very fluid situation that we see with COVID-19, is evident. It has become very real now." Gov't trying to translate brochures, posters Premier Caroline Cochrane said the territorial government has tried to translate its brochures and posters in the territory's nine official Indigenous languages. She said the government is also using community radio to distribute information about COVID-19 in Fort Liard, and contracting people who speak the local language to go door-to door with information sheets about how to keep safe during the pandemic. "We're trying to do everything we can to get the information and to reach as many people as possible," she said. Putting more COVID-19 information out on community radio that broadcasts in the Dene dialects was also an idea at the Dene workshop, said Andrew, along with having youth work with elders to make sure they understand about COVID-19 and the vaccine, and training more translators. It would help reassure elders that it's OK to take the vaccine, said Andrew, but it needs to happen now. "One of the things we found with [Fort] Liard is that things can happen so quickly, so we need those people on the ground ready."
COVID-19's disastrous effects on Canada's hotel industry are well-documented, but as owners struggle to survive the pandemic, they are also battling a second crisis: skyrocketing insurance rates. It seems counterintuitive, since hotels are serving fewer guests and many of their restaurants and lounges are closed, but hospitality insurance rates across the country have increased dramatically in the past year, putting more pressure on an already pinched industry. Michael Mazepa, who is part of an ownership group for the St. Albert Inn and Suites, the Continental Inn and Suites in west Edmonton, and a Best Western in B.C. said rates doubled at two of the hotels, with insurance for each now costing more than $135,000 annually. "It's a lot of money and you don't have the money rolling in," Mazepa said. Dave Kaiser, president and CEO of the Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association, said in the past year, members have reported insurance increases of 100 to 300 per cent. Most of the association's members were part of a large group of businesses from British Columbia to Ontario that pooled their resources to help stabilize rates. The system worked well for years, Kaiser said, but this year, the group failed to find an insurance company that would insure this kind of model. The group turned to traditional insurance, but premiums went up, and in some cases, hotels failed to stay in the group or find insurance at all. Jay Deol, who owns the Westgate Motor Inn in west Edmonton, said his annual insurance rate quadrupled this year, rising from about $8,600 to $34,000. He can't afford the hike and said he was baffled because he has never made a claim. Deol said he tried shopping around for another option, but could not find a company that would even give him a quote. Why did rates rise? Industry experts say hospitality insurance has become more expensive for several reasons. The first is there have been more claims and losses in recent years. A recent report by Deloitte, relying on statistics from the Insurance Bureau of Canada, found that over the past 15 years, insurance loss ratios have climbed faster than premiums have. On the property insurance side, water damage and catastrophic weather events like hail in Calgary and flooding in Fort McMurray have been costly for insurers. On the liability side, slips and falls have led to expensive lawsuits. Recognizing this, some companies have stopped offering hospitality insurance, with the result being fewer players in the market and higher rates for hotels and restaurants. The pandemic is exacerbating the problem. "The lower the interest rates, the higher the insurance premiums because insurance companies can't make money on the investment behind the scenes," explained Brett Kanuka, marketing director for CMB Insurance Brokers in Edmonton. Pandemic-related closures and suspensions in the hospitality sector have also meant fewer hotels and restaurants are paying into the pool of money that covers losses. Experts say the issue is global and goes beyond hospitality insurance — condominiums, shopping malls, recycling plants and school districts are also struggling to pay for higher rates. "We're not immune to some of the events that are happening around the world," said Rob de Pruis, a director of consumer and industry relations for the Insurance Bureau of Canada. Some hotels ditch property insurance Some hotel owners who can't afford the increases are choosing to accept the risks that come with reducing coverage. Kaiser said he is aware of hotels foregoing property insurance and only paying for liability. "To me, that's very scary," said Nona McCreedy, owner of Aurora Underwriting Services in Edmonton. "It must make it difficult for them to sleep at night because they're suddenly taking on that risk themselves." Though hotel owners cannot do much to prevent catastrophic weather events, they can ramp up their risk management systems in an effort to avoid making claims. At Mazepa's hotels, staff are checking rooms for damage weekly, even if they are not occupied, and Kaiser said risk management education and training will be a key focus for the hotel association going forward. Helping businesses find insurance In the meantime, there are efforts underway to help companies that have been unable to find insurance. The Insurance Bureau of Canada launched a business insurance action team in December to help connect hospitality businesses in Ontario with insurance companies. The pilot project may expand, if demand persists, to other parts of the country. For companies like Echelon Insurance, the problem presents an opportunity. In the fall the company expanded its commercial insurance offerings for small and medium-sized hospitality businesses in Ontario and as of Jan. 1, it has made those available to companies across Canada. "We are definitely hearing the noise from some businesses and brokers, which tells us that there's a need for this particular coverage because there's a gap in the industry," said Echelon Insurance president Robin Joshua. Experts say that with rates likely remaining high for at least another year, business owners should scrutinize their policies, go over them in detail with brokers and look for opportunities to reduce coverage or increase deductibles. "Most of us are really trying to do the best we can for the insured and get them the fairest price possible," McCreedy said.
Former President Donald Trump considered replacing the acting attorney general with an official willing to pursue unsubstantiated claims of election fraud, and he pushed the Justice Department to ask the Supreme Court to invalidate President Joe Biden’s victory, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday. Citing people familiar with the matter, the Journal said the efforts in the last weeks of Trump's presidency failed because of resistance from his Justice appointees who refused to file what they viewed as a legally baseless lawsuit in the Supreme Court. Other senior department officials later threatened to resign if Trump fired then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, several people familiar with the discussions told the Journal.
Canada has a patchwork of different policies in place regarding the public disclosure of COVID-19 outbreaks in workplaces, and expert opinion seems as divided as the regulations on whether making outbreaks public helps or hinders the spread of the virus. Earlier this month, the city of Toronto moved to publish the names of companies seeing multiple COVID-19 infections, even though the province of Ontario doesn't disclose outbreaks. "Across Canada, workplace reporting is not being done nearly enough," said Joe Cressy, the chair of Toronto's Board of Health and a councillor in Ontario's capital. In Quebec and Ontario, workplace outbreaks surpassed those in long-term care facilities for a time before the new year arrived. Recent Ontario outbreaks at a 9-1-1 dispatch centre and a Canada Post distribution facility, plus outbreaks at industrial settings in Alberta and B.C., and others at food processing plants and warehouses late last year have renewed concerns about workplace spread. CBC News looked at how provincial and territorial governments disclose COVID-19 workplace outbreaks across the country — and the pros and cons of making them public. Who names companies and who doesn't In Newfoundland and the rest of Atlantic Canada, workplaces are only named publicly if health officials cannot identify and contact people who may be at risk of infection and should isolate and monitor themselves for symptoms or get tested. This means workplaces that are not open to the public are rarely named, while grocery stores and transportation services, such as ferries and flights, for instance are common on Nova Scotia's published list of exposure risks. Newfoundland does publish a list of workplace outbreaks at industrial sites in Alberta and B.C., because so many of its residents travel for work to those provinces. In Canada's North, territorial governments will publish the locations where there was a risk of public exposure, which can include workplace names. Manitoba's policy mirrors the practice in Atlantic Canada, with businesses named only if health officials are not able to complete contact tracing. Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. all publish the names of workplaces with outbreaks. Canada's largest provinces Quebec and Ontario, however, do not publish the names of specific workplaces experiencing outbreaks. WATCH | Why Toronto has decided it needs to disclose workplace outbreaks: In a statement, Ontario's Ministry of Health said disclosing the names of companies or workplaces "is within the purview of local public health units." Though Toronto just began publishing workplace outbreak names, Hamilton has been doing so since last spring. Meanwhile, some disclosures come from companies themselves, or from workers or union officials publicizing the issue. Naming brings accountability While standard public health practice is to only name outbreak locations for communicable diseases when there's a risk of exposure for the public, Cressy believes the best way to make government and companies accountable for protecting workers is to name every workplace outbreak, everywhere. "COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting low income frontline workers," he said. "In a pandemic, information is power. And information can also provoke change." Dr. Nitin Mohan, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at Western University in London, Ont., thinks naming workplaces could lead to changes that would protect essential workers. "Understanding how government is responding to a once-in-a-generation pandemic requires us to have the available data. So if we're seeing workplace outbreaks, and we know that a government is not supportive of providing paid sick leave, essentially, folks are armed with more information for the next election cycle." For Mohan, naming workplaces would also "provide us with a lot of data about community spread." However, he said the privacy of individual workers must be protected, which would mean some small companies couldn't be identified. Naming could backfire Cynthia Carr, an epidemiologist with Epi Research Inc. of Winnipeg, says naming businesses could backfire. She says it could actually scare employees into not reporting feeling sick if they fear being blamed for bad publicity from an outbreak. At the same time, she worries it could create a stigma around businesses that might have good safety practices, but still had an outbreak. "My concern is always that we don't make that mistake of equating shaming with accountability. It's not the same thing." Carr supports public health transparency when it helps give people the power to make choices or take action. Publicizing outbreaks at long-term care facilities and hospitals, she said, "has an associated action people need to understand," like: "I can't visit my loved one." She thinks workplaces should be named when COVID-19 could be spread in the community, but naming every single workplace with an outbreak doesn't give the public useful information about whether they need to self-monitor or go for testing. Keeping workers safe In Alberta, where workplace outbreaks are published, a union spokesperson says the naming policy is mostly a public relations issue for employers. "On the ground, on the shop floor, in the workplaces ... it hasn't meant a whole lot," said Micheal Hughes of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 401. "Certainly not enough to stop outbreaks from happening." Before Alberta started naming workplaces, it was workers and UFCW that exposed what became the largest COVID-19 workplace outbreak in Canada at the Cargill meat packing plant in High River, Alberta. WATCH | Family of Cargill worker who died of COVID-19 pushed for police investigation: At least 950 workers, almost half the plant's staff, tested positive for COVID-19 by early May 2020. Recently, the RCMP launched an investigation into possible criminal negligence by the company in the death of Benito Quesada, a 51-year-old Cargill worker who died from COVID-19. Hughes believes the best way to keep workers safe is to have "a worker-centred, robust kind of regulatory system" including clear and mandatory guidelines for workplaces and more inspections by labour officials. In the fall, Ottawa began giving cash to food processors across the country to help them deal with COVID-19. The $77.5-million emergency fund is meant to help the sector implement measures to fight the coronavirus, including acquiring more protective equipment for workers. Epidemiologists say meat plants present ideal conditions for the COVID-19 virus to spread, because workers are in close contact, windows can't be opened for fresh air and the temperature is cool. Hughes said while naming businesses as workplace outbreaks continue may help "motivate a company to do things," the focus of the UFCW is to continue the push for safety measures and benefits like paid sick leave.
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador’s thousands of rotational workers are once again at the top of the province’s policy discussions, this time in relation to the timing of the provincial election. In a release Saturday, Chris Tibbs, a Progressive Conservative candidate in central Newfoundland, says a snap election called in the middle of winter makes it tough for rotational workers to vote. His concerns are echoed in a local Facebook group for rotational workers, which began in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, when health authorities were rolling out special quarantine rules for people regularly travelling back and forth to other provinces for work. Many in the group are sharing information on how to vote by mail, urging their fellow rotational workers to be sure they get a ballot. In an interview, Gillian Pearson, who co-chairs a local group supporting women and gender-diverse people in politics, says snap elections can also make it harder for women to run, as they are often in charge of child- or elder-care and must make arrangements. According to the province’s election rules, Liberal leader and incumbent Premier Andrew Furey had to call an election before August 2021. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
The Nova Scotia government has quietly dissolved a non-profit arm's-length government organization dedicated to funding gambling prevention and research groups, moving the money to a more general mental health pool. The decision to end Gambling Awareness Nova Scotia (GANS) is being criticized by a community group that received grants through the organization, and which says there's now looming uncertainty about whether its work will be supported. "In the middle of COVID ... isn't there more of a need to do this prevention work and community awareness work?" said Bruce Dienes, chair of Gambling Risk Informed Nova Scotia, a non-profit that aims to reduce the community harms associated with gambling. "This is the time when people are most vulnerable." Part of the funding for GANS, according to the government's website, was "generated from a percentage of VLT revenues, matched by the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation." The province said in a statement that VLT retailers provide about $250,000 annually to support mental health and addictions services. The province did not say when the organization was dissolved, but Dienes said he learned of it in the fall and GANS's regulations were changed in October. He said he was told by the Department of Health and Wellness that because of "new information" it had come to realize there are comorbidities with gambling also associated with depression and anxiety, which justified sharing the funds more widely. "The idea that this is new information is ridiculous, we've known this for decades," he said. Dienes believes the province made the move as a way to deal with the "profound lack of funding for mental health in Nova Scotia." No one from the Department of Health and Wellness was available to speak to CBC for this story. In a statement, spokesperson Marla MacInnis confirmed that GANS will become part of the overall mental health and addictions budget — which is roughly $300 million annually — citing changes in the last two decades around gambling and how best to support it. "Problem gambling often occurs with other mental health and addictions issues, and due to the stigma, people often initially seek help for other issues. It's best if people can access support that addresses these issues together," MacInnis said. One of the consequences of the pandemic has been the restrictions placed on gambling in Nova Scotia related to public health protocols. There were no sports games to bet on, and many casinos and bars were ordered to closed. In the height of the spring COVID-19 lockdown, counselling therapist Elizabeth Stephen said some of her clients simply stopped gambling. "It was like a gift to some people that have problems that never really get that break," said Stephen, who is based in Halifax. "Of course, that didn't last long." After a second shutdown late in 2020, the province reopened the Halifax and Sydney casinos, video lottery terminals and First Nations gaming establishments on Jan. 8. Igor Yakovenko, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University, said international data found that gambling decreased in all forms as things were closed globally. When restrictions loosened in Nova Scotia, Stephen said some of her clients returned to gambling, but it varied case by case. In some instances, she said people who hadn't gambled in a long time returned to VLTs because of the "wearing-you-down kind of stress of COVID." Yakovenko, who is a clinical psychologist, said there are many barriers for people to get help, including not knowing where to go in Nova Scotia. He said research suggests that harm reduction and prevention are the most effective ways to help people. "We need services and public health resources that minimize problems from developing in the first place or, if you're already gambling, they prevent you from escalating that gambling," he said. Earlier this month, CBC News reported that the Atlantic Lottery Corporation is preparing to expand its online casinos to Nova Scotia and P.E.I., which would allow for bigger bets than what is currently allowed on in-person VLTs. The pandemic is believed to have made a significant dent in Atlantic Lottery's revenues. Dienes said having VLTs available online goes against the province's VLT moratorium, which removes the gaming devices if a bar shuts down instead of reallocating them. "They call them the crack cocaine of gambling," he said. "To backtrack on that acknowledgement of the danger of VLTs and to be slowly getting rid of them, and to move to amplifying that on the internet with essentially unlimited access is appalling. It's totally irresponsible." According to the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation's website, there are 2,012 VLTs in the province and 651 VLTs in Mi'Kmaw communities. Both the Nova Scotia Department of Finance and Atlantic Lottery say the implementation of online casino-style games in Nova Scotia is still being evaluated. Neither provided a timeframe for when a decision will be made. Greg Weston, a spokesperson with Atlantic Lottery, said they regularly consult with responsible gambling experts when developing new products. He also said he believes it's important to offer a regulated alternative to the 3,000 offshore gambling websites available to Atlantic Canadians. "One benefit would be to repatriate players now playing with illegal offshore providers, and by doing so repatriating money being spent on offshore sites to help fund public services to benefit Atlantic Canadians," he said in a statement. Both Yakovenko and Stephen hope the province consults with experts in the area and uses current research in deciding whether Atlantic Lottery should be allowed to move to an online casino model. "From my perspective, the risks far outweigh the profits," Stephen said. "Someone has to lose in order for us to make money." MORE TOP STORIES
What reason did the federal government give for denying funding to a local Somali centre? Which neighbourhood is in line for a $129-million revitalization? And why is a 13-year-old boy and his surveillance cameras being feted by his neighbours? These are just a few of the questions designed to vex and perplex you in this week's CBC Ottawa news quiz. On a desktop computer? For the best quiz-taking experience, click on the arrows in the bottom right-hand corner of the quiz widget to expand it.
Eleven workers trapped for two weeks by an explosion inside a Chinese gold mine were brought safely to the surface on Sunday.View on euronews
Chinese air force planes including 12 fighter jets entered Taiwan's air defence identification zone for a second day on Sunday, Taiwan said, as tensions rise near the island just days into U.S. President Joe Biden's new administration. China views democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory, and has in the past few months increased military activity near the island. But China's activities over the weekend mark a ratcheting up with fighters and bombers being dispatched rather than reconnaissance aircraft as had generally been the case in recent weeks.
OTTAWA — Under fluorescent lights, Wendy Muckle surveys the supervised consumption site that sits in quiet contrast to Ottawa's peppy ByWard Market nearby. Users filter into the brick building — dubbed "the trailer," a nod to the service's former digs — offering up greetings and grins en route to 16 basement booths, each furnished with a chair, a shatter-resistant mirror and a needle disposal box. The injection facility halved the number of booths to ensure distancing when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in March, resulting in a "huge increase" in overdoses in the surrounding community, says Muckle, who for 20 years has headed Ottawa Inner City Health, which provides health care for vulnerable populations. She restored full capacity in response to the spike in overdoses but many services remain reduced or accessible only virtually. “We've seen a really frightening, rapid increase in the number of people using drugs in this pandemic," Muckle says. "I think people feel like maybe they just aren't going to make it through this one." Drug users face greater dangers as the second wave forces harm reduction sites and outreach programs to curtail their services, leaving at-risk communities out in the cold. Shorter hours, physical distancing measures and a curfew in Quebec, combined with a more lethal drug supply due to border closures, have sent addictions services scrambling to help users across the country as opioid overdoses and the attendant death toll continue to mount. In British Columbia, fentanyl-related deaths had been on the decline for more than a year until April, when monthly numbers routinely began to double those of 2019. Deaths linked to fentanyl, a lethally potent synthetic opioid, reached 360 in B.C. between September and November compared to 184 in the same period a year earlier, according to the B.C. Coroners Service. Opioid-related deaths countrywide could climb as high as 2,000 per quarter in the first half of 2021, far surpassing the peak of nearly 1,200 in the last three months of 2018, according to modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada. It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply and users turning to substances as a way of coping with high stress. Social services have limited capacity or shut down communal spaces, while programs from meal provision to laundry — some of which are near injection sites, encouraging their use — are now tougher to access. Canada's ongoing border shutdown has disrupted the flow of illicit drugs, and dealers looking to stretch their limited supplies are more apt to add potentially toxic adulterants. Benzodiazepines, or benzos, have been detected in drugs circulating in parts of several provinces. Users can be difficult to rouse and slow to respond to naloxone — the drug that reverses opioid overdoses — and more likely to overdose when fentanyl or other opioids are also in the mix. “With the benzodiazepine, there is no antidote for that," said Paula Tookey, program manager for consumption and treatment at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre in Toronto. "People are sedated deeply for hours, often 10 hours or even more," forcing workers to turn away other users who then may shoot up alone, she said. The Riverdale site saw 42 out of 1,110 visitors overdose last month — none fatally — compared to just two overdoses in 700 visits in December 2019, Tookey said. Pared-down services have also diminished harm reduction sites' role as de facto community spaces, cutting off a key point of social contact. "We used to have memorials, which were super important for people because we have constant deaths," Tookey said. “A lot of our folks don't have families ... The community and other people in their situations and the workers are kind of the informal family that people have." Limits on gathering in the pandemic have also closed off a critical source of knowledge sharing. "There’s no people to say, ‘Hey, that’s really, really strong, don’t use that much,'" said Karen Ward, a drug rights advocate as well as a drug policy and poverty reduction consultant with the City of Vancouver. "Those facts, that social information, is really, really important to have. You know, ‘Hey, there’s a bad batch,’ that sort of thing.” Health authorities run alert systems for poisoned drugs across B.C., but their patchwork structure leaves lives in jeopardy, she said. In Quebec, Montreal's four supervised consumption sites have seen visits drop sharply since the 8 p.m. provincial curfew came into force earlier this month. Even a mobile unit has reached far fewer users, says Kim Charest, outreach program coordinator at L'Anonyme, which runs the portable site. "Unfortunately, people are less likely to go outside their door basically past 8 p.m.," she said. "But we do know that people don't necessarily stop taking drugs." Even before the curfew, the number of EMS calls where paramedics administered naloxone to opioid users in Montreal and the suburb of Laval nearly doubled last year, reaching 270 compared to 146 in 2019, according to the Urgences-santé ambulance service. Another danger lies in sharing needles — injection sites provide clean ones — and the risk of blood-borne infections. Advocates, outreach workers and users are calling for better drug alert systems and broader support services in the short-term. However, nothing short of decriminalization of possession of small quantities of drugs — requested by Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart to the federal government — and more stable housing will help beat back the tide of overdoses, Muckle says. "At the end of the day, if people are unhoused, all of the things that you're doing really have a marginal benefit," Muckle says. "You cannot heal in a shelter .... A home is such a fundamental part of our health." Meanwhile, the social isolation and unsupervised consumption of tainted drugs ratcheted up by the pandemic bode ill for vulnerable Canadians. "We had a pretty significant problem with addiction when this pandemic started. We're going to come out of it way worse." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2021. Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
German car manufacturer Volkswagen is in talks with its main suppliers about possible claims for damages due to a shortage of semiconductors, a company spokesman said on Sunday. Automakers around the world are shutting assembly lines due to problems in the delivery of semiconductors, which in some cases have been exacerbated by the former Trump administration's actions against key Chinese chip factories. The shortage has affected Volkswagen, Ford Motor Co, Subaru Corp, Toyota Motor Corp, Nissan Motor Co Ltd, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and other car makers.