Max and Katie relax in the pool with their new cowboy hats. Coolest dogs ever!
Max and Katie relax in the pool with their new cowboy hats. Coolest dogs ever!
The Burmese-Canadian community is calling on the federal government to provide more material support to anti-military protesters after a week that saw some of the deadliest clashes between police and demonstrators in Myanmar since the military coup in that country. The Burmese Canadian Action Network (BCAN) sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Minister Marc Garneau this week, just one day after police killed 18 people and wounded 30, according to the United Nations. "We, Burmese Canadians across Canada, are calling on the Government of Canada to provide tangible support for Burmese people struggling for freedom and democracy," the letter reads. The crisis began after Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide re-election as state counsellor of Myanmar — a position equivalent to a prime minister -- on Nov. 8 last year. The military questioned the results, accusing the winning party of fraud, before seizing power and placing Suu Kyi and other senior members of her government under arrest on Feb. 1. Since then, dozens of protesters have died -- 34 on Wednesday alone -- at the hands of police and more than 1,000 civilians and elected officials have been arrested. Anti-coup protesters maintain their position behind a barricade despite smoke from tear gas in San Chaung township in Yangon, Myanmar, on Friday, Mar. 5, 2021. Demonstrators defy growing violence by security forces and stage more anti-coup protests ahead of a special UN Security Council meeting on the country’s political crisis.(The Associated Press) From pot-banging to protesters taking to the streets clad in hard-hats and goggles to protect themselves from assaults by police, the demonstrations are happening daily, in spite of bans on political protests and on social media. The letter to Trudeau and Garneau says Canada should take further action, including helping people who are now struggling with food scarcity. The civil unrest has caused major shutdowns in the country and interrupted the people's daily lives, especially those who joined the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). BCAN appealed to Canada to send food and material support via UN agencies and civil society organizations. "We encourage you to find ways to provide such essential assistance urgently," its letter reads. The letter also calls on Canada to officially recognize the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Htaw (CRPH). The CRPH, which was created soon after the coup with the support of 400 elected MPs, combines the Lower and Upper Houses of Myanmar's parliament. Protesters hold up placards demanding the release of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration against the military coup in Naypyidaw on March 4, 2021 (AFP via Getty Images) According to Tin Maung Htoo, spokesperson for the BCAN, the CRPH is currently working underground in defiance of the police and supporting the demonstrators under the radar, by releasing information and making announcements to the public. "We are quite encouraged by the [Canadian] government's stand and this stand and actions from the government is very encouraging for people on the ground in Burma, especially," he said, referring to a move by Canada and Britain to impose economic sanctions on Myanmar. The two countries made the move under the Special Economic Measures Act on Feb 18 after police violence escalated against demonstrators. We don't want to go back 20, 30 years -- back to the dark age. That is why this is the time for us to do whatever we can. - Tin Maung Htoo Maung Htoo was a student when he fled Myanmar during in 1988 after organizing protests against the military dictatorship. "More than 3,000 people, mostly students, were killed in the streets," Maung Htoo recalled. "There was no freedom of expression, association, student unions were banned." The regime lasted over 20 years, finally ending when Myanmar achieved partial democracy in 2010. Tin Maung Htoo, with the Burmese Canadian Action Network, says the people of Myanmar 'are showing their strong stand and support for democratization in the country.'(Submitted by Tin Maung Htoo) Two years before the country opened itself to the world, the military wrote a new constitution, which allowed it to keep some of its former powers, including 25 per cent of seats in parliament and control of the defence, border affairs and home ministries. When the military moved to take power in February, General Min Aung Hlaing announced the removal of 24 democratically elected ministers, naming 11 replacements.. Maung Htoo said he believes the coup is an act of desperation. He said the the military was gradually losing not only political control under Suu Kyi's leadership but also economic power, since big business organizations are military-backed and military-owned. "People are showing their strong stand and support for democratization in the country." Maung Htoo said. "We don't want to go back 20, 30 years ... back to the dark age. That is why this is the time for us to do whatever we can."
Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccination program is being extended into pharmacies, but only in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer for now. All Albertans aged 75 and older can book an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. In addition to Alberta Health Services (AHS) sites, a list of participating pharmacies is available through the website of Alberta Blue Cross (ab.bluecross.ca). Appointments at participating pharmacies are starting this week. As more doses become available, more pharmacies will begin to offer the vaccine, including in more communities. “As the vaccine supply increases in the province, we look forward to expanding the program to include all community pharmacists in pharmacies across the province,” said Margaret Wing, Alberta Pharmacists’ Association CEO, in a Feb. 24 government news release. By providing flu and other vaccines in the past, pharmacies have the skills needed to safely provide COVID-19 vaccines, according to the government. Albertans are being encouraged to have both doses of vaccine at the same location, so any first doses booked at a community pharmacy will be followed by the second dose at the same place. The pharmacies must be called directly to book an appointment through them. Residents must select the pharmacy that is located closest to them. No walk-ins are permitted. Booking for vaccination at AHS sites can still be made online (albertahealthservices.ca) or by calling 811. On Feb. 25, the government announced more than 100,000 Alberta seniors and 22,000 other seniors in congregate care settings have booked for a vaccination appointment. Combined with the 28,000 seniors in long-term already vaccinated, over half of Alberta’s 75-plus population either have already been vaccinated or are scheduled to receive a first dose. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
VANCOUVER — A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has reserved his decision on a request from three churches to throw out provincial health orders that prevent them from holding in-person services. Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson said Friday he doesn't want to delay unnecessarily and he appreciates the urgency of the matter from the petitioners' point of view, but he must give the case careful thought. "You've presented me with very difficult issues to resolve and I will take the time necessary to try and resolve those issues fairly." Hinkson gave no date on when he would release his decision. Jacqueline Hughes, a lawyer for B.C.'s attorney general, told the court the orders by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry do not single out or ban all in-person religious services and Henry has invited exemption requests. The petitioners include the Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley, Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford and the Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack. Hughes said the churches are now permitted to hold in-person services of up to 25 people, outdoors and with safety measures in place, through a "variance" to Henry's orders granted late last month. Individual worship and drive-in events are also permitted under the orders, subject to conditions, she said, while weddings, funerals and baptisms may include no more than 10 guests. Henry has the statutory powers during an emergency to issue orders she reasonably believes are necessary to prevent and mitigate further harm from a health hazard, including restricting entry to a place, said Hughes. The province's top doctor has made efforts to consult faith leaders while weighing their charter rights against data about COVID-19 cases in B.C. and explaining her reasoning in public briefings and in writing, she said. Paul Jaffe, legal counsel for the petitioners, has argued Henry's orders reflect a value judgment. On Friday, he said his clients have been subjected to discriminatory treatment compared with other groups. Orthodox Jewish synagogues were granted variances to hold indoor services on the Sabbath around the time Henry and the attorney general sought an injunction to stop his clients from worshipping in person, Jaffe said. Hinkson dismissed the province's injunction application last month, saying the provincial health officer has means under the Public Health Act to enforce the rules without a court order. Jaffe told the court on Friday there has been no change in the degree to which Henry's orders arbitrarily infringe on his clients' charter right to freedom of religion from the time they were made last November to now. "All the Crown has been able to show you are the opinions of Dr. Henry," he said. "But opinions aren't evidence. You need cogent, persuasive evidence to justify those opinions and there simply isn't any." He told the court earlier this week that his clients have adopted safety measures similar to those approved by the provincial health officer in places that remain open. Jaffe works with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a Calgary-based legal advocacy group that's also asking the court to dismiss tickets of up to $2,300 each for alleged violations of the public health orders. Hughes told the court on Friday "there's no absolute rule that constitutionally protected interests must be preferred to those that are just pressing and substantial" in matters such as the petition at hand. The only requirements, she said, are that any balance struck is reasonable, that "sincere religious practice" is accommodated where possible, and that religious and non-religious beliefs are treated neutrally. "We say Dr. Henry understood these requirements and applied them to best of her ability," Hughes told Hinkson. Henry's mandate to protect public health is a balancing exercise, she said, and "charter rights do not trump the public health mandate that she has and is continuing to exercise over the course of this pandemic." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 10:00 p.m. ET on Friday, March 5, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 85,376 new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,253,514 doses given. Nationwide, 561,238 people or 1.5 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 5,946.061 per 100,000. There were 8,190 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,622,210 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 85.94 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 4,472 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 24,757 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 47.279 per 1,000. In the province, 1.61 per cent (8,427) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 35,620 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,105 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 13,281 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 83.724 per 1,000. In the province, 3.32 per cent (5,273) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 14,715 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 90.25 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 6,657 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 38,676 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 39.631 per 1,000. In the province, 1.48 per cent (14,395) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 61,980 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 62.4 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 7,424 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 33,741 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 43.255 per 1,000. In the province, 1.56 per cent (12,142) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 46,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 72.13 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 19,975 new vaccinations administered for a total of 510,479 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 59.659 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 638,445 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 79.96 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 35,886 new vaccinations administered for a total of 820,714 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 55.872 per 1,000. In the province, 1.83 per cent (269,063) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 903,285 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 90.86 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,358 new vaccinations administered for a total of 84,937 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 61.682 per 1,000. In the province, 2.17 per cent (29,847) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were 8,190 new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 124,840 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 68.04 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 2,789 new vaccinations administered for a total of 86,879 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 73.679 per 1,000. In the province, 2.37 per cent (27,945) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 74,605 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 116.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 9,488 new vaccinations administered for a total of 275,719 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 62.634 per 1,000. In the province, 2.06 per cent (90,486) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 274,965 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 100.3 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 12,357 new vaccinations administered for a total of 311,208 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 60.646 per 1,000. In the province, 1.69 per cent (86,865) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 385,080 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 80.82 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting 1,279 new vaccinations administered for a total of 19,437 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 465.769 per 1,000. In the territory, 17.00 per cent (7,093) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 18,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 102.8 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 19,775 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 438.285 per 1,000. In the territory, 10.10 per cent (4,558) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 19,100 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 42 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 103.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 158 new vaccinations administered for a total of 13,911 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 359.216 per 1,000. In the territory, 13.28 per cent (5,144) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 23,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 62 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 58.21 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
A motion to share costs on a road project with the Rural Municipality of Prince Albert to upgrade a part of 48th Street East was defeated during Prince Albert City Council’s Executive Committee meeting on Monday. Surface Works Manager Marcel Gareau recommended that the proposal be moved to future budget deliberations after Marquis Road is upgraded between Central Avenue and 4th Avenue East. The focus on Marquis Road upgrades was a contentious issue with council in making their decision. In his report to council, Gareau emphasized that upgrading that section of road was listed as a high priority in the 2017 Transportation Master Plan. The two options were to include the 48th Street upgrade in the 2022 budget or decline it. Mayor Greg Dionne made the motion to decline the proposal. “I’m still confused. We have a request from the RM, so I expect administration to come back with a report denying the request for cost sharing because there is no positive benefit for us,” Dionne said during the meeting. “I don’t want to talk about Marquis Road. I am here today to talk about 48th Street. We have a request, I read it, from the RM about cost sharing. (Administration) has just told us there is no benefit, so the recommendation should be that we notify the RM (that) at this point we are not prepared to cost share (for) the road.” Dionne said that the discussion was over after Gareau explained that no benefit for the city existed at this time. “We are not twinning Marquis from Central to Fourth I don’t know why the department keeps bringing that up. So I am here to deal with 48th Street and I just heard from him now that there is no benefit so the request from the RM be denied at this time,” Dionne said. Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick disagreed with Dionne on the substance of the upgrade on Marquis but agreed on the denial of the proposal. He explained that the project on Marquis should be undertaken at a latr date. “I don’t see any advantage in spending money on that particular upgrade when we have Elevator Road, which is in the RM, that I see is a primary grid and then we have Marquis Road which also goes east west,” Ogrodnick said. Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards also did not support the original motion because it was tied to Marquis Road. He understood the idea but did not see a reason to link the two. “I do have some concerns about upgrading 48th and spending money on it and I think that it can be addressed today,” Edwards said. Edwards asked what the purpose of upgrading 48th Street East would be at this time. “From the administration point of view there is no reason to upgrade 48th street at this time because we already have the infrastructure to handle the traffic volume,” Gareau said. In the report it explained that the upgrade to four lanes of that section of Marquis Road was unfunded in the 2021 budget and remains a priority for administration. The report states that upgrading 48th Street for use by heavy trucks as an alternate route does not solve the main issue of the bottleneck on Marquis Road. Marquis Road needs to be upgraded to support growth in the West Hill, Crescent Acres and the new recreation centre project, administration said. According to the report, the pavement condition on Marquis Road at that section in currently poor. The RM has hired a consultant who recommended that the street be built to primary grid heavy haul standards and that the right-of-way be widened. The report explained that the city of Prince Albert has no plans to expand into the area. The main developments are in the West Hill and Crescent Heights and expected to continue for at least 20 years. RM of Prince Albert Reeve Eric Schmalz was disappointed, but respected council’s decision. “The city has some budgetary commitments that they need to meet before they can pursue partnership with the RM apparently, so we respect that and we look forward to discussing it with them in the future,” Schmalz said. “We are still in a relationship. They are our partners in the region and we need to focus on the entire relationship, not just on one particular aspect. I think that we can still move forward beyond this.” Schmalz said the RM has other projects to focus on, like the construction of a new shop and office, and the building of other roads. The total cost of the project is estimated at $371,000. It would have been split to $185,500 each for the RM and city under the proposal. The proposal would have seen RM equipment and labour used during construction. The idea dates back to Nov. 5, 2019, when the RM sent a letter to the Mayor’s Office requesting joint funding for the upgrade. In March, 2020 the proposal was declined and sent to 2021 budget deliberations. The RM sent a letter updating the proposal to city council. In December 2020, executive committee moved that the report from administration be prepared by Public Works. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
Pope Francis is on a historic visit to Iraq despite the global pandemic. After a year of laying low in Vatican City, he's resumed his travels with a message of unity for a country ravaged by religious violence.
A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed by three Democratic state attorneys general that had sought to force the federal government to recognize Virginia's vote last year to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and add it to the Constitution. Shortly after Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the amendment that supporters say will guarantee women equal rights under the law, the archivist of the United States declared he would take no action to certify the amendment's adoption, citing an opinion from the Department of Justice under the Trump administration. constitutional amendments must be ratified by three-quarters of the states, or 38, but Congress enacted a ratification deadline for the ERA that passed decades ago. In a ruling Friday evening, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras said that Nevada, Illinois and Virginia's motives were “laudable” but that they came too late because the U.S. Congress set deadlines for ratifying the ERA long ago. Contreras also said the Archivist's publication and certification of an amendment are “formalities with no legal effect” so the archivist's failure to do that doesn't cause harm and there's no standing for the states to sue. In their lawsuit, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul argued that the deadline, which was first set for 1979 and later extended to 1982, was not binding. Herring said in a statement after the judge's ruling that he is not giving up the fight and is considering an appeal, hopeful of backing from Democrat Joe Biden's administration and Congress. “While I do not believe that the arbitrary deadline Congress imposed on the Equal Rights Amendment is binding in any way, I welcome any support from both the Biden Administration and Congress in ensuring that this amendment is recognized as part of the Constitution once and for all," he said. The U.S. Department of Justice, which represented the archivist of the United States David Ferriero, declined to comment. An emailed message seeking comment from the press office of the National Archives and Records Administration was not immediately returned. In a January 2020 opinion, the Justice Department said it was too late for states to sign off because of the deadline set by Congress decades earlier. Ford in Nevada said in a statement Friday that women have always been endowed with equal rights but it's past time for the country to recognize that. “Unfortunately, today’s decision requires women to continue waiting. Though I’m disheartened by this decision, all women can rest assured that, regardless of this court’s decision, my fight for your equal rights does not end today, tomorrow, or any day," he said. The ERA states, in part, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Supporters contend the amendment would offer stronger protections in sex discrimination cases and give Congress firmer ground to pass anti-discrimination laws, among other protections. Opponents of the measure warn it could be used to erase protections such as workplace accommodations during pregnancy. Anti-abortion activists worry that the amendment could be used by supporters of abortions rights to eliminate abortions restrictions on the grounds that they discriminate against women. Michelle L. Price, The Associated Press
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 9:15 p.m. ET on Friday, March 5, 2021. There are 881,761 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 881,761 confirmed cases (30,146 active, 829,423 resolved, 22,192 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 3,370 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 79.32 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,214 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,888. There were 41 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 277 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 40. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.1 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 58.39 per 100,000 people. There have been 24,938,790 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 1,003 confirmed cases (117 active, 880 resolved, six deaths). There was one new case Friday. The rate of active cases is 22.41 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 27 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There were zero new reported deaths Friday. 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 0.03 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 200,703 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 139 confirmed cases (24 active, 115 resolved, zero deaths). There was one new case Friday. The rate of active cases is 15.04 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 18 new case. 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 zero per 100,000 people. There have been 110,916 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,651 confirmed cases (31 active, 1,555 resolved, 65 deaths). There were two new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 3.17 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 17 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been 356,686 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,447 confirmed cases (34 active, 1,385 resolved, 28 deaths). There were four new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 4.35 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 19 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There were zero new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 240,032 tests completed. _ Quebec: 291,175 confirmed cases (7,290 active, 273,430 resolved, 10,455 deaths). There were 798 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 85.02 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,030 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 719. There were 10 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 83 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.14 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 121.93 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,397,936 tests completed. _ Ontario: 306,007 confirmed cases (10,378 active, 288,583 resolved, 7,046 deaths). There were 1,250 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 70.44 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,438 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,063. There were 22 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 102 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 15. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.1 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.82 per 100,000 people. There have been 11,082,737 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 32,104 confirmed cases (1,133 active, 30,067 resolved, 904 deaths). There were 53 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 82.15 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 385 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 55. There was one new reported death Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 15 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.16 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 65.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 539,166 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 29,432 confirmed cases (1,507 active, 27,532 resolved, 393 deaths). There were 212 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 127.85 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,088 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 155. There were two new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 13 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.16 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.34 per 100,000 people. There have been 584,905 tests completed. _ Alberta: 135,196 confirmed cases (4,639 active, 128,644 resolved, 1,913 deaths). There were 411 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 104.91 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,408 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 344. There were two new reported deaths Friday. 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 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 43.26 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,434,748 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 83,107 confirmed cases (4,975 active, 76,752 resolved, 1,380 deaths). There were 634 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 96.64 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,767 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 538. There were four new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 25 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.07 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.81 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,959,060 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Friday. 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 2.38 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,216 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (one active, 41 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 2.21 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 14,790 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 373 confirmed cases (17 active, 355 resolved, one deaths). There were four new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 43.2 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 17 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,819 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
The Strathmore Overnight Shelter is tweaking its yearly March for Cold fundraising event by providing both virtual and in-person events to raise operating funds. Through this event, the organization usually raises between $5,000 and $10,000, about 10 per cent of its yearly operating budget, explained Carrilyn Fisk, a member of the shelter’s board of directors. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization is taking a different approach this year. A virtual event is being held the week of March 13 to 20, in which participants step up to walk or run two to five kilometres wherever they want that week. To raise funds, participants can donate or garner pledges for them braving the cold, explained Fisk. Donation forms are available through the shelter’s Facebook page. Once complete, these forms can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to the Harvest Healing Church. Participants are being encouraged to post photos of their activities to social media, using the hashtag #strathmorecoldmarch. They can also be emailed to Carrilyn_f@hotmail.com, to be posted to the shelter’s Facebook or Instagram pages. But for anyone still wanting to participate in person, the shelter is also holding the March for Cold at Kinsmen Park at 5 p.m. on March 20. But due to COVID-19, there will be no opening ceremonies and the registration and start will be staggered for participants. The registration and waiver are also available on the shelter’s Facebook page or its website, strathmoreovernightshelter.com/march-for-cold/. Once they are received, each participant will be given a start time for their walk. The registration table and start point will be in the parking lot of the new Strathmore town hall. All proceeds will go to the Strathmore Overnight Shelter, which was stretched thin this year, with many businesses and facilities closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. During some of the colder winter days, the shelter started opening 24-hours per day, requiring extra staff and increasing costs. Holding the event to help meet some of these costs is essential to the shelter, said Elizabeth Karp, the shelter’s director. “It’s one of our bigger fundraisers that we have throughout the year, helping us to pay our utilities and bills, and cover all the needs we have in the shelter.” Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
A tree disease caused by a fungus has been identified in Wheatland County and, if left unchecked, may result in the stunting or death of trees. Black knot, caused by the fungus Apiosporina morbosa, is a disease affecting certain fruit trees (in the genus Prunus), including cherries and plums. The stems of affected trees show a blackish growth or swelling. On Feb. 17, Wheatland County announced its maintenance crews identified black knot in some of its communities. The county’s hamlet operations foreman said black knot was seen a few years ago, and while it does not seem widespread, residents should be aware of it and how to deal with it, wrote Mackenzie Maier, the county’s communication specialist, in an email. While the disease is considered common and widespread in Alberta, if it is left to progress, it can disfigure and reduce the growth of branches, sometimes leading to the death of the tree. It also stresses the infected tree, leaving it more prone to infection from other pathogens. The county cut the infected portions out of the trees areas it maintains. However, diseased branches were identified on private properties, so the county is asking landowners to assess their properties for its presence and remove any infected materials. To control black knot, all knot-bearing branches should be pruned out in late fall, winter or early spring, when plants are dormant and knots visible. Infected branches should be removed six to eight inches below the knot. To avoid spreading the spores of the fungus, shears should be cleaned and disinfected after use. Diseased wood should be either burned or removed from the site, as they may release spores for up to four months after removal. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
Frances Wesley said a sense of relief could be felt in the room at the first vaccine clinic held for off-reserve First Nations members living in Thunder Bay. The smell of sage burning from the smudge bowl used to bless the Pfizer COVID-19 doses and the nurses administering them also filled the room with reassurance as a lineup formed outside of people scheduled to get their first shot. Ms. Wesley, the executive director of the Matawa Health Co-op, an organization that serves nine First Nations communities in Northern Ontario, said close to 200 doses were administered to its off-reserve members in a clinic that first opened this week. She said the Matawa group prioritized vulnerable people including those older than 60, the homeless or precariously housed and those with mental-health illnesses. Thunder Bay moved back into the province’s grey lockdown zone last week as it continues to struggle to get a handle on the virus, which has spread significantly among the city’s homeless and precariously housed, many of whom are Indigenous and First Nations. Chief Chris Moonias from Neskantaga, one of the Matawa First Nations, declared a state of emergency last month after an outbreak infected 12 members living in the city. Chief Moonias said most of those cases have been resolved, however one of his nephews remains in the ICU. According to a 2018 community report, close to 500 people are in homeless situations, such as couch surfing or accessing emergency shelters in Thunder Bay. Ms. Wesley said the doses for Matawa’s clinics are being provided by the Thunder Bay health unit based on how many people register. She said Matawa was able to move quickly because it has extensive health care resources, including nurses and physicians on staff. She said Matawa worked with health directors from each of their communities to get a list of those living in the city for registration. There are about 4,000 members from the nine Matawa First Nations who live in Thunder Bay, according to Ms. Wesley. “Some people will say no,” she said. “Others are so excited they can hardly wait.” She said they’ve already been approached by other First Nations and groups about holding clinics for their off-reserve members and communities accessible by road. Remote Indigenous communities were given immediate priority because of their isolation and inadequate access to health care. Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a political organization representing 49 mostly remote First Nations, said more than 9,000 members living in remote communities have been vaccinated so far as Operation Remote Immunity nears completion. Meanwhile, public-health units and regional health authorities are leading the rollout in urban Indigenous and road-access communities. Nishnawbe Aski Nation noted there’s a sense of urgency for those close to hot spots such as Thunder Bay as COVID-19 cases and outbreaks in the city continue to put lives at risk. Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald is a member of the provincial vaccine task force and says the goal is to vaccinate all First Nations in Ontario by April 30. She said clinics to vaccinate people 55 years and older have already begun in some urban locations such as Anishnawbe Health Toronto and Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre in Sudbury. The Thunder Bay District Health Unit says it’s already vaccinating the homeless population in the city with partners at different clinics and that many road-access communities in the district have received their first doses. The health unit said it is still in the planning stages with Indigenous organizations for vaccinating off-reserve members in the district. Ontario announced Friday its plans to move to Phase 2 of its vaccine rollout plan based on age and risk, focusing on ages. Indigenous communities and people were identified as a priority group at the beginning of the pandemic and vaccine rollout because of higher rates of poorer health outcomes and higher risk of COVID-19 infections and transmission. Thunder Bay wasn’t listed as a COVID-19 hot spot region slated to get additional doses in the province’s transitional plan. Dr. Dirk Huyer said it was based on historical, not current, data of hot spots such as Peel and Toronto. Willow Fiddler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Globe and Mail
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former President Donald Trump on Friday endorsed South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster's bid for a second full term in 2022, continuing their yearslong alliance in a move to strengthen ties with the early-voting state that Trump won twice. In a statement through his Save America PAC, Trump commended McMaster's efforts on behalf of the military, veterans and law enforcement, saying the Republican “has my Complete and Total Endorsement as he runs for re-election!” The endorsement, along with other recent moves, continues to signal Trump's desire to maintain ties with South Carolina, home of the first presidential primary votes in the South. Earlier this week, Trump formally endorsed U.S. Sen. Tim Scott in his own 2022 reelect bid, also complimenting Scott’s work on behalf of the military, law enforcement and veterans. Last month, Trump gave backing to Drew McKissick for a third term as chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, signalling a desire to wade not only into state-level politics but also to play a role in maintaining the local party framework in places that backed his presidency and where his support remains steady. But the former president’s relationship with McMaster goes deeper, predating either man’s administration. In early 2016, then-Lt. Gov. McMaster threw his support behind Trump’s presidential bid, becoming the first statewide-elected official in the country to do so. That summer, McMaster was one of two speakers to formally nominate Trump at the Republican National Convention. The move helped boost Trump to a double-digit victory in South Carolina’s early primary. It also surprised many allies and friends of McMaster, a longtime member of South Carolina’s establishment GOP circles. But McMaster’s wager paid dividends a year later, when Trump picked Nikki Haley as his U.N. ambassador, allowing McMaster to ascend to the governor’s office, a post he had long sought. In 2018, as McMaster sought his first full term in office, Trump campaigned for his ally roughly 12 hours before polls opened in a GOP runoff race, which McMaster ultimately won. ___ Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP. Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press
Booking a provincial campsite is a high-stakes venture — like getting a front row seat to a concert. Everyone goes in with a plan, refreshing and calling furiously just to snag a coveted spot. And now, some worry about another parallel: campsite scalpers. Alberta Parks acknowledged the concern Friday on its social media channels after receiving several reports and complaints from campers. "We're committed to ensuring access to camping in Alberta Parks is fair and equitable," read a statement from Alberta Environment and Parks. While the ministry told CBC News that reselling is rare, it has posted a reminder on social media because it's something it wants to prevent. "We had some social media followers reach out to us today saying there were a couple of resale ads online," the Facebook post says. "We ask Albertans if they see any ads or posts attempting to resell reservations to call our Contact Centre at 1 (877) 537-2757. We will cancel the reservations of those trying to resell their campsites." By the time staff were able to look into reports, the solicitations had already been pulled, Parks told CBC. For many, May long weekend is the kickoff of camping season in Alberta. They take a chance on spring weather to secure a spot. With all the competition, it can be tough to land a site that weekend. Camping enthusiast Lisa Gabruck said she's already seen at least one for sale on Facebook groups. "The non-refundable reservation fee is too low at the moment," Gabruck said. "Most resellers are willing to take the hit as they will make it back on other sites they are reselling." According to the Alberta Parks website, changing a reservation costs $5, the campsite reservation fee is $12 and non-refundable. 'I have an extra site' Last year, Nathan Larson missed out on reservations and saw upselling behaviour first hand. He wanted a site and messaged a couple of people advertising provincial sites for sale. He said they were looking for $20 to $30 on top of the typical cost of the site. This year, he's turned to private sites to avoid the hassle and the crowds. But on opening day this week, Larson was curious if the Alberta Parks reservation system had improved this year. He hopped on Facebook groups to see what campers were saying. What he saw on some social media groups was frustrating. "I kept seeing people saying, 'I have an extra site here, I have an extra site there,'" Larson said. "It just seemed a little odd you would spend all this time and effort, frustration, to book multiple sites and immediately go online and try to offload them." Booking should be fair, says camper Opening day 2021 produced 23,830 bookings by the end of the day, compared with 11,628 reservations for last year's opening. By Friday at 1:30 p.m., there were 27,538 bookings. This flood of activity came with issues. Alberta Parks' reservation site crashed, and people were repeatedly told to be patient. Larson isn't sure how the reservation system can improve, but it's frustrating enough for him to avoid the provincial park system altogether. "It's supposed to be a fair site for everybody to use," he said. Alberta Parks says there has been a surge in demand over the past couple of years — people aren't able to book vacations so they are exploring parks instead.(CBC) When she first moved to Alberta from Ontario years ago, Tamara Higgins said she was surprised at how difficult it can be to get a provincial campsite. She has also decided to primarily book through private campgrounds because of repeated issues and frustrations. The problem, Higgins said, is a complicated combination of a poor booking system, desperation to get a site, and little enforcement of the rules. Higgins doesn't believe people are making extra cash from the practice. Many, she thinks, are prone to overbook to secure a spot for themselves and a group before their plans have firmed up, and sometimes plans change, or life happens. The overbooking then leads to those who genuinely want a site for a certain time and date missing out, and those who have sites to spare with a place to make an arrangement. "Because of the rush to book, they just book a whole bunch and then they start selling them off as they realize they are not able to go," Higgins said. In the past, despite the warnings that sites aren't transferable, Higgins said she's been able to pick up a stranger's reservation. Alberta Parks told CBC News there has been a surge in demand over the past couple of years — people aren't able to book vacations so they are exploring parks instead. "We encourage those who aren't able to use their sites to please let us know because there are a lot of people who could use them," read the statement from Alberta Environment and Parks. "Albertans can get a full refund, minus the reservation fee, three days ahead of their arrival date."
OTTAWA — Cole Maier had a pair of goals as the Manitoba Moose downed the Belleville Senators 3-1 on Friday in American Hockey League play. Mikhail Berdin made 21 saves to help Manitoba halt a four-game slide. C.J Suess also scored for the Moose (5-6-0), AHL affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets. Cody Goloubef found the back of the net for the Senators (1-5-0), who have dropped three straight games. Filip Gustavsson stopped 24-of-26 shots for the Ottawa Senators' AHL affiliate. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — Dentists, teachers and bus drivers are among the essential workers who hope to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in British Columbia, as a provincial committee decides who should be prioritized for the shot. BC Teachers' Federation president Teri Mooring said her members should be included in the plan expected to be released by the B.C. Immunization Committee around March 18. Education staff have had the second-highest number of COVID-19 claims accepted by WorkSafeBC, behind only health-care workers, and teachers have faced challenging conditions, Mooring said. "It's been a very difficult and stressful environment for teachers in B.C.," she said Friday. "Teachers have not, from the very start, been satisfied with the preventative measures that have been in place in classrooms. What we see is one of the most lax mask policies in all of Canada." The province does not require elementary students to wear masks, unlike in Ontario and high-risk areas of Quebec. B.C.'s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has said young children don't get as sick from COVID-19 or pass it on as well as others. Henry has said the immunization committee will use public health principles, vaccine science and an ethical framework to reach its decision on which essential workers and first responders should receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. Once the plan is finalized, the vaccine will be administered in a parallel program to the province's age-based strategy for the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a joint statement Friday that the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine will become another tool in its program to accelerate the protection of more people in the province. The officials reported 634 new cases and four more fatalities, pushing the death toll to 1,380 in B.C. Four new cases were confirmed to be variants of concern, bringing the total to 250. The BC Dental Association said in a statement it would be "extremely pleased" if its members were included in the group to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot. Dentists and their teams cannot treat patients remotely, work in very close proximity to the mouth and often use aerosol-generating procedures, it said. The association also pointed out that dentists, dental hygienists and certified dental assistants are included in Henry's recent order to help administer the vaccines. "We would expect that any dentist choosing to participate in mass vaccination clinics would be required to have been vaccinated themselves prior to providing them," it said. Balbir Mann, president of Unifor Local 111, which represents Metro Vancouver bus drivers, said his members should receive the vaccine because they have been at risk throughout the pandemic. "When people get on the bus to pay their bus fare, they're literally a couple feet away. Our members, day to day, they're scared of the sneezes and coughs they have to deal with on a daily basis." Henry has suggested that workers in food processing plants will be prioritized because there have been a number of outbreaks in the facilities that have led to broader community transmission. James Donaldson, CEO of BC Food and Beverage, said his organization has been advocating for food production workers to receive priority access to vaccines since they became available. "Our industry is essential as it ensures the continuity of the food supply for people in B.C. and around the world," he said. Kim Novak, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Local 1518, represents food plant workers including those at Grand River Foods in Abbotsford who recently grappled with a COVID-19 outbreak. "It's because of the nature of the work. People are working in close proximity. Even with enhanced (personal protective equipment), staggering breaks and other health and safety protocols that have been implemented, there is still a high level of exposure," she said. Novak's union also represents grocery store workers and she hopes they will be included in the plan for the vaccine. "In grocery stores in particular, there is a lot of exposure to different people in the public," she said. "That exposure not only is a risk for our members ... but also the public who interact with them." BC Trucking Association president Dave Earle, meanwhile, said his group represents both long-haul truckers and local drivers who return home every night. He wants to hear from the province about where the COVID-19 hot spots are in the transportation system. For example, in B.C., there are 300,000 people with a Class 1 licence allowing them to operate a semi-trailer truck, Earle said. "Not everybody with a Class 1 licence operates a heavy truck at the moment and many of those who do don't do it in an environment where they're at any greater risk than you and I just going about our daily lives," he said. In some European countries, people have been hesitant to receive the AstraZeneca shot because of fears it is less effective than the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization has also not recommended AstraZeneca for people over 65, while Health Canada has approved it for all adults. Henry sought on Thursday to assure essential workers that the AstraZeneca vaccine is extremely effective. The clinical trials for all three vaccines were done under different conditions and cannot be fairly compared, she said. The groups representing essential workers said Friday they hadn't heard any concerns about the AstraZeneca shot from members. Earle said his association takes guidance from public health officials and they've been abundantly clear. "Whatever you're offered, take it. Let's get out of this." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. Laura Dhillon Kane, The Canadian Press
The provincial government has established a new one-time benefit for parents for daycare costs during the pandemic. The Working Parents Benefit, announced during a government news conference on Feb. 24, will provide a one-time payment of $561 to parents in the province. To be eligible, parents must make less than $100,000, have children in childcare, and have paid three months of childcare between April 1 and Dec. 31, 2020. Examples of eligible childcare include licensed or unlicensed daycare, day homes, out-of-school care, or preschool. This new support will help families invest in childcare and preschool, but will also create economic stimulus, said Rebecca Schultz, the province’s minister of children’s services. The program is being funded with $108 million of unspent funds from Children’s Services to support the families of up to 192,000 children, according to the government. Applications for the benefit are made online, the date of opening varying regionally to manage volume, between March 1 to March 5. Applications will be open until March 31. A MyAlberta Digital ID is required to apply for the benefit. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
Grimsby council voted down a third-party audit in relation to a breach of conduct committed by Mayor Jeff Jordan after a review of the breakdown of costs incurred by the town. At the committee of the whole meeting on March 1, Grimsby council reviewed the $1302.62 charged to the town as a result of a breach of conduct by Mayor Jeff Jordan. The breakdown for the cost outlined 2.6 hours of phone calls between Jordan, CAO Harry Schlange and an anonymous individual, broken up between three phone calls of various lengths, each with a charge of $440 per hour. This totalled $1,144 and a $9 telephone conference charge and HST, that number was finalized as $1302.62. On Feb 1, Jordan was found by integrity commissioner Charles Harnick to have violated conduct due to email/correspondence between the mayor and an anonymous individual in relation to a closed session council meeting in July 2020. When the charge to the town was presented at the Feb 16th meeting, council voted to have Jordan pay back this amount. During the meeting on March 1, a motion was brought forth by Coun. Dorothy Bothwell to see if council's previous decision to have the mayor pay back the money was a violation of the municipal act. This motion was then deemed a reconsideration by council and no vote for a reconsideration was accounted for, so Bothwell’s motion was dismissed. A motion to have a third party audit of the breach was then forwarded by Coun. Lianne Vardy. She cited her reason for this being a lack of public trust expressed by constituents, who per the motion, are hesitant to communicate by email, “as they fear an invasion of their privacy or the possibility of being 'targeted' by the Town.” Among others, one of the listed resolutions in the motion was “that the CAO reassure Council and residents and restore public trust that a remedy to this breach has been implemented and email security will be vigorously monitored.” Coun. Kevin Ritchie, who had come into possession of the email correspondence, then explained to council that the correspondence did not include Town of Grimsby emails nor did Harnick’s report conclude that the breach was that of the security of the town itself. The motion for an audit was defeated as Dunstall, Kadwell, Ritchie, Sharpe and Vaine voted against, with Bothwell, Freake, Vardy and Jordan voting in favour. Moosa Imran, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News
A newly formed organization is encouraging Black people in Western and Northern Canada to run for office and get more involved in electoral politics. Throughout March, Black Voters Matter Canada will be hosting an event series offering opportunities for potential Black candidates to network, ask questions and learn about the process of running a campaign. The series will feature national chair of the Conservative Black Congress of Canada Tunde Obasan, NDP member of Parliament Matthew Green, Ontario representative to the Green Party of Canada Federal Council Adrian Currie and Liberal member of Parliament Greg Fergus. Juliet Bushi, a co-founder and organizer of Black Voters Matter Canada, hopes this event series will help lower some of the barriers to Black candidates running for office. Last year, Bushi herself ran a successful campaign for Regina Catholic School Division trustee, becoming the first Black woman elected to the role. She believes Saskatchewan politics would benefit from more Black candidates participating at every level. "Given that our population in Saskatchewan is increasing, we need better representation and equal voices at the table, especially given the current pandemic as well as the unending social inequalities that continue to plague our society," she said. For Petros Kusmu, also a Black Voters Matter co-founder and organizer, these conversations are particularly important right now, when there are murmurs of a possible snap federal election in the spring. Petros Kusmu is a co-founder and organizer of Black Voters Matter Canada.(Petros Kusmu) "We know, historically, [a snap election] doesn't bode well for parties having more diverse candidates," he said. "We have to work with parties to help them scout some of the best-qualified Black candidates in the West and in the North. "But we also have to engage with our communities and really start telling them … 'Hey, you're a pretty amazing person. You do a lot of great work in the community, You're a smart small-business owner. You're a brilliant teacher. You are the type of person that we think should be considering running for office.'" In the 2019 federal election, there were no Black candidates in Saskatoon or Regina. In fact, the Black Voters Matter Canada event series does not feature any speakers from Saskatchewan because, according to Kusmu, "we don't have any of our own that we can claim here." He says it's not just a matter of convincing more Black people to run — parties decide how much to support the candidates who do put their names forward. "I think the challenge you often see is that you'll get a lot of diverse candidates who are then placed in areas, or encouraged to run in areas, where there isn't a shot of winning," he said. Political engagement discouraged While Black Voters Matter Canada is focused on all forms of civic engagement, not just supporting Black candidates for office, Bushi says a lack of meaningful representation on campaigns and in office can do a lot to reduce participation and erode confidence from marginalized communities. "Oftentimes, politics — and especially campaign slogans — become redundant and quite boring for a lot of marginalized people, because it's the same thing over and over again," she said. "And once that election is done, they're gone with their promises. So people are discouraged to actually get interested and active and engaged in politics." Kusmu believes all Canadians would benefit from having more diverse political representation, and that Western Canada is particularly ready to see more Black people run for office and win seats. He points to Leslyn Lewis, who recently ran for the federal Conservative Party leadership, as an example. "She was so popular out in the Prairies and in Western Canada — which was a surprise, because she's from Ontario — that the Saskatchewan Conservatives threw their support behind her. "And there are so many more Dr. Leslyn Lewises and future potential Barack Obamas that are hidden gems here in the West and North." Kusmu hopes Black Voters Matter Canada will help cultivate "a larger growing garden of amazing Black leaders for Canadians to have the pleasure of picking from" as more Black candidates get the resources, information and support they need to throw their hat into the ring. "For Black folks who are thinking about running, I want to remind them that no one Black candidate is coming to save us," he said. "We are the ones we have been waiting for, in terms of who is going to be in office to help change things. It's not going to be the silver bullet, but it's going to be part of this transformation of having a more just and more equitable Canada at the end of the day."
Trustees in the River East Transcona School Division have approved a $201.8-million budget for the upcoming school year that takes into account the impact COVID-19 has had on student well-being. The budget has few changes in store for 2021-22, aside from a modest increase of 5.1 new full-time equivalent resource teacher and clinician positions. “This health crisis has thrown everything upside down, and we know come the fall, there are going to be a lot of children, a lot of families, who are going to require a lot more support from education — academically, and for their mental health and well-being,” said Jerry Sodomlak, chairman of the board. The province has allocated $98.9 million in operating funding, the equivalent of a 0.6 per cent increase, for the Winnipeg-based division next year. Divisions have been directed to freeze property education taxes, with the province instead offering one-time grants the equivalent of a two per cent hike; in River East Transcona, that means a resident with an average home valued at $287,500 will see an approximately $27 decrease on their tax bill. Sodomlak said revenues don’t keep pace with inflation and growing enrolment costs, and could result in larger class sizes next year. “The government has dropped the ball… but I believe that we have an extremely capable and strong senior administration team in our division and teaching staff who will be able to continue our programming,” he said Wednesday, adding the division has strong inclusion supports, unique bilingual programs and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) offerings. Trustee Brianne Goertzen, chairwoman of the finance committee, echoed those sentiments Wednesday: “We’re looking at trying to maintain a status quo.” Not unlike other boards, staffing and benefit costs in the River East Transcona account for nearly 90 per cent of its total budget. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
The Yukon government unveiled its strategy on Friday to ease some of its pandemic restrictions. The strategy outlines what will need to happen before the territory will reduce or modify some of its COVID-19 restrictions, including changes to self-isolation requirements, expanding social bubbles and easing capacity limits inside bars and restaurants. The two-step approach titled A Path Forward: Next Steps, will look to strengthen some current public health measures and vaccinate as many people as possible before gradually reducing restrictions. The plan hinges on the territory's overall vaccination rate, the new case count remaining low, the understanding and impact of the COVID-19 variants, no community spread and ongoing adherence to public health measures. "The coming weeks will be a balance between keeping some key measures in place while easing others. Restrictions will need to remain in place as we work to immunize as many Yukoners as possible," said Premier Sandy Silver in a statement. "Measures such as the requirement to self-isolate upon entry to Yukon continue to be our best means of keeping the virus out of our communities." Potential changes to self-isolation When it is safe to do so, the territory plans to ease some self-isolation restrictions. It will look to broaden the scope for alternative self-isolation plans to include more work-isolations, tourism industry isolation and consider expanding alternative locations to self-isolate. Yukon will also look to bubble with other provinces and territories. The plan will also look to change physical distancing or mandatory mask requirements, in partnership with other Canadian jurisdictions, and increase social bubbles to 20 people or fewer. A move toward 100 per cent capacity in bars and restaurants will be considered with high vaccination rates, coupled with compliance with operational plans. Gyms and recreation centres would be allowed to increase capacity, with approved plans. The territory will look to relax distancing and masking requirements in schools, and look to return to full day of classes for Grades 10 – 12 when the territory achieves "high vaccination rates" and "improved understanding of variants." It will also look to relax some requirements for education and childcare facilities. "Unorganized" social gatherings would go up to 20 from 10 people currently. Organized indoor gatherings would be allowed up to a venue's capacity. Outdoor organized events would be allowed up to 200 people, up from the current 100. The plan also looks to consider ways to modify guidelines to allow for larger and safer gatherings for potlatches, celebrations of life and weddings when supported by high vaccination rates and low COVID-19 activity. No specific dates of when the territory may start to ease restrictions were mentioned. The territory expects to remain in this next phase until the end of 2021. The territory's state of emergency under the Civil Emergency Measures Act will continue to be in place "as long as there is significant risk to our population of COVID-19 infection, or until we establish another tool to enforce public health measures," according to the strategy. A further easing of restrictions, including lifting the state of emergency and eliminating most public heath measures, will be based on risk assessments that consider vaccine effectiveness against the COVID-19 variants, the progress of the national vaccine rollout and the epidemiology of the virus in the territory and in neighbouring jurisdictions. "The need to create and maintain the best balance between protecting Yukoners from the spread of COVID-19 and protecting their health and well-being will be our biggest challenge in the coming months," said Yukon's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley in a statement. "We are facing very different circumstances today than when we released our original Path Forward plan in May. We will need to maintain some restrictions in order to reduce others. There is no quick or easy resolution to living with COVID-19."