Ethiopia and the United Nations agreed on Wednesday to channel desperately-needed humanitarian aid to the northern region of Tigray, where a month of war is believed to have killed thousands of combatants and civilians. Federal troops have been battling the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and have captured the regional capital Mekelle, and the pact announced by U.N. officials will allow relief into government-controlled areas of Tigray. The Ethiopian conflict has forced more than 45,000 refugees to flee into Sudan, displaced many more within Tigray and worsened suffering in a region where 600,000 people already depended on food aid even before hostilities broke out on Nov.4.
It only took two days after its launch for the chess drama The Queen's Gambit to make it into Netflix's top 10 most-viewed series — and it hasn't budged since.It has since become the streaming giant's biggest scripted limited series to date, but the show's popularity isn't confined to the screen. Chess enthusiasts believe it's bringing more people to the game and making it more accessible to a group that, historically, has been largely shut out of it — women."After the series came out on Netflix, you could feel the buzz around the club," said Steve Sklenka, president of the Calgary Chess Club. Though COVID-19 restrictions have forced the club's physical location to temporarily close, that hasn't stopped the inquiries. "We have [people] buying memberships online even though we're closed."According to Sklenka, the interest is the most he's seen since 1972, when American chess champion Bobby Fischer played Russian grandmaster Boris Spassky in a match that became a worldwide sensation. Now, Sklenka is fielding daily calls and emails from people asking when the club will reopen. Sklenka isn't the only one to notice a resurgence in interest. According to marketing firm NPD Group, U.S. sales of chess sets rose by 87 per cent in the weeks following the show's debut in late October, while chess book sales jumped more than 600 per cent. An executive at a major U.S. games company told NPR their sales jumped 1,000 per cent as fans around the world connected with the series."It is an international show with an international cast that is dealing with one of the more universal, quote unquote, sports or pastimes or hobbies," said Daniel Feinberg, a TV critic for Hollywood Reporter.WATCH | 'I've made older boys cry' — chess stars on the world of The Queen's Gambit:While chess is played around the world, Feinberg argued other potential pastimes — like football, baseball or hockey — wouldn't connect with international audiences quite as successfully. "Chess really doesn't know any boundaries, so everybody gets to feel some level of connection and they get to understand it on whatever level they do." Sklenka said the show has had another benefit as well."It's a good thing for chess andit's a good thing for female players," Sklenka said, "because it adds a lot of exposure that just wasn't there before." Show's male players depicted as 'too nice'The Queen's Gambit follows the life of orphan and chess prodigy Beth Harmon (portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy) as she rises to become the greatest player in the world. In reality, there has never been a female chess world champion, although many have played at an extremely high level.That includes Judit Polgár, a Hungarian player and the sole woman to be ranked among the top 10 players in the world. In 2005, Polgár became the first woman to play for the world championship title. After watching Harmon's journey in The Queen's Gambit, Polgár had one reaction to the depiction of the male players."They were too nice to her," she told the New York Times.Polgár's experience echoes that of Canadian chess champion Qiyu Zhou. The 20-year-old University of Toronto economics and statistics major has been playing chess since she was four and currently holds the title of Woman Grandmaster. Zhou says she has faced male players who don't take her seriously. "I've made older boys cry because I beat them ... and they're like, 'How did I lose to, like, a six-year-old or a five-year-old?'"Growing up in Finland, Zhou played in "open" sections in tournaments, for all genders, as there simply weren't other girls to compete against. Though she was successful — becoming the youngest-ever winner at the Finnish National Chess Championship, at age five — Zhou said the isolation can push younger players away."If I was a really young girl playing chess but there is nobody around me to be friends with me, would I really want to keep playing the game? Not necessarily," she said. "We're all social people, I believe, especially when we're younger — making friends is a really key part."Earlier this year, Zhou signed with the U.S.-based esports organization Counter Logic Gaming after her popularity as a chess streamer grew on the video game streaming platform Twitch.Zhou said she continues to face sexism in the chess world. She frequently gets online comments about how she dresses or acts — comments she said would not be levelled at male counterparts. WATCH | The Queen's Gambit trailer:"I guess people just have an opinion of what a female chess player should be like, and they really want to push that on girls," Zhou said.'Most of the top streamers are male'Andrea Botez, another Canadian chess streamer, said that even now, gender is often an "obstacle" for women. "Most of the top streamers are male, and if there are females ... there's always people saying you only get attention because you're attractive, not because you're good at the game," Botez said.Like Polgár, Botez believes The Queen's Gambit "toned down" the sexism in the chess world, but said it has also strengthened the sport. Its popularity on Netflix and social media isn't just bringing more people to chess, she said — it's bringing younger people. "The most important audience is the teen audience," Botez said. "They're watching Netflix. On social media, it's very popular on TikTok and stuff. And I think that's very important for the growth [of] chess."For Zhou, the question of why The Queen's Gambit has drawn so much attention has an easy answer. "There's always been an intrigue about chess… but it always takes a little bit of pop culture and mainstream media to push it to that point where everybody is like, 'We can actually play this game, and have a lot of fun playing it,'" she said."I'm not fully surprised, but I've always thought that chess is, you know, an art, a science and a sport, all in one."
Recent developments:What's the latest?Ottawa has 46 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths, according to Ottawa Public Health's (OPH).Some key indicators suggest the city is moving further away from a potential change to yellow on the pandemic scale next week.Quebec is tightening health guidelines in stores and malls for the holiday shopping season, adding enforcement to rules many businesses already have in place.We've made a timeline of key local moments of the pandemic, which we'll keep updating.WATCH LIVE | Ontario's daily update at 1:30 p.m. ET:How many cases are there?As of Wednesday, 8,567 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in Ottawa. There are 362 known active cases, 7,827 cases now considered resolved and 378 people who have died of COVID-19.Public health officials have reported more than 14,000 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, including more than 12,600 resolved cases.Ninety people have died of COVID-19 elsewhere in eastern Ontario, along with 81 in western Quebec. CBC Ottawa is profiling those who've died of COVID-19. If you'd like to share your loved one's story, please get in touch.What can I do?Both Ontario and Quebec are telling people to limit close contact only to those they live with, or one other home if people live alone, to slow the spread of the coronavirus.Ontario says this will apply through December's holidays, with people who live away from home such as post-secondary students asked to reduce close contacts for 10 to 14 days before going back.Quebec has shared what it will take to have at most two small holiday gatherings this month, though that may change by the end of next week.Travel from one region to another is discouraged throughout the Outaouais.Ontario says people shouldn't travel to a lower-level region from a higher one and some lower-level health units want residents to stay put to curb the spread.Ottawa is currently in the orange zone of Ontario's five-colour pandemic scale, which allows organized gatherings and restaurants, gyms and theatres to bring people inside.WATCH | Where researchers get wastewater for COVID-19 tests:Three other eastern Ontario health units are under yellow zone restrictions: * The Eastern Ontario Health Unit. * Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health. * Hastings Prince Edward Public Health.That means restaurant hours, table limits and rules around capacity fall somewhere between those in place in Ottawa and the rest of eastern Ontario, which is currently green, the lowest level.In Gatineau and the surrounding area, which is one of Quebec's red zones, health officials are asking residents not to leave home unless it's essential.There is no indoor dining at restaurants and gyms, cinemas and performing arts venues are all closed.The rest of western Quebec is orange, which allows private gatherings of up to six people and organized ones up to 25 — more in seated venues.Its rules won't be loosened until mid-January at the earliest.What about schools?There have been about 200 schools in the wider Ottawa-Gatineau region with a confirmed case of COVID-19:Few have had outbreaks, which are declared by a health unit in Ontario when there's a reasonable chance someone who has tested positive caught COVID-19 during a school activity.Distancing and isolatingThe novel coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, breathes or speaks onto someone or something. These droplets can hang in the air.People can be contagious without symptoms.This means people should take precautions such as staying home when sick, keeping hands and frequently touched surfaces clean, socializing outdoors as much as possible and maintaining distance from anyone they don't live with — even with a mask on.WATCH | More research on COVID-19 'long-haulers':Ontario has abandoned its concept of social circles.Masks are mandatory in indoor public settings in Ontario and Quebec and should be worn outdoors when people can't distance from others. Three-layer non-medical masks with a filter are recommended.Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate, as should those who've been ordered to do so by their local public health unit. The duration depends on the circumstances in both Ontario and Quebec.Health Canada recommends older adults and people with underlying medical conditions and/or weakened immune systems stay home as much as possible. Anyone who has travelled recently outside Canada must go straight home and stay there for 14 days.What are the symptoms of COVID-19?COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a cough, vomiting and the loss of taste or smell. Less common symptoms include chills, headaches and pink eye. Children can develop a rash.If you have severe symptoms, call 911.Mental health can also be affected by the pandemic and resources are available to help.Where to get testedIn eastern Ontario:Anyone seeking a test should book an appointment.Ontario recommends only getting tested if you have symptoms, or if you've been told to by your health unit or the province.People without symptoms, but who are part of the province's targeted testing strategy, can make an appointment at select pharmacies.Ottawa has nine permanent test sites, with mobile sites wherever demand is particularly high.Kingston's test site is at the Beechgrove Complex. The area's other site is in Napanee.People can arrange a test in Bancroft and Picton by calling the centre or Belleville and Trenton online.The Eastern Ontario Health Unit has sites in Alexandria, Cornwall, Hawkesbury, Limoges, Rockland and Winchester.The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark health unit has permanent sites in Almonte, Brockville, Kemptville and Smiths Falls and a mobile test site visiting smaller communities.Renfrew County residents should call their family doctor or 1-844-727-6404 for a test or with questions, COVID-19-related or not. Test clinic locations are posted weekly.In western Quebec:Tests are strongly recommended for people with symptoms or who have been in contact with someone with symptoms.Outaouais residents can make an appointment in Gatineau seven days a week at 135 blvd. Saint-Raymond or 617 avenue Buckingham.They can now check the approximate wait time for the Saint-Raymond site.There are recurring clinics by appointment in communities such as Gracefield, Val-des-Monts and Fort-Coulonge.Call 1-877-644-4545 with questions, including if walk-in testing is available nearby.First Nations, Inuit and Métis:Akwesasne had its most known COVID-19 cases of the pandemic in November. Its council is asking residents to avoid unnecessary travel and its curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. is back.Akwesasne schools and its Tsi Snaihne Child Care Centre are temporarily closed to in-person learning. It has a COVID-19 test site available by appointment only.Anyone returning to the community on the Canadian side of the international border who's been farther than 160 kilometres away — or visited Montreal — for non-essential reasons is asked to self-isolate for 14 days.The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte had its first confirmed case last month.People in Pikwakanagan can book a COVID-19 test by calling 613-625-2259. Anyone in Tyendinaga who's interested in a test can call 613-967-3603.Inuit in Ottawa can call the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team at 613-740-0999 for service, including testing, in Inuktitut or English on weekdays.For more information
Speaking to Euronews, German Marshall Fund Vice President Ian Lesser, said NATO's original mission hasn't changed. "That's about countering Russia's very significant force posture and that's very meaningful for the alliance - that hasn't gone away.
The City of Toronto's continued operation of homeless shelters with shared sleeping areas defies widespread acknowledgement that COVID-19 can effectively spread via airborne transmission, say health experts and advocates for people experiencing homelessness.There are concerns that shelter users sleeping in those environments face a heightened risk of transmitting or contracting the novel coronavirus."We should be deeply concerned that shelters are still being operated like this," said Zoe Dodd, who works with Toronto's homeless population through the Overdose Prevention Society.Aerosol transmission of COVID-19, in which the virus spreads through microscopic airborne particles, has been acknowledged as a threat by Toronto Public Health.The U.S. Centers for Disease Control notes in its guidelines that aerosols containing the virus can stay afloat for hours, in some cases leading to COVID-19 transmission even when people are more than two metres apart.Jeffrey Seigel, an engineering professor at the University of Toronto, called the prospect of aerosol COVID-19 transmission in homeless shelters "a critical issue" that the city should immediately address.He said similar congregate settings, such as the living quarters of farm workers and some long-term care facilities, indicate that aerosol transmission can be a dangerous driver of COVID-19 outbreaks."A substantial amount of transmission is happening in some spaces because of long range aerosol," Siegel told CBC Toronto.He identified three factors that can increase the risk of transmission when people gather indoors: crowding, the amount of time spent in a location, and ventilation.The environment in congregate homeless shelters, he said, "hits two, maybe three of the high-risk triggers for COVID-19 transmission."City says shelter precautions working well so farToronto has revamped its shelter system since the onset of the pandemic and now offers thousands of private rooms in hotels and motels. However, congregate spaces still make up a significant portion of the more than 6,000 beds offered by the city.As many as 2,874 spaces reserved for individual users are in congregate dorms, the city said, though it did not provide a specific figure.The city has introduced heightened physical distancing measures in those shelters, including a standard of two metres of lateral space between beds, among other precautionary measures.Mary-Anne Bedard, general manager of Toronto's Shelter, Support and Housing Administration, said those changes have contributed to the city's "relative success" at slowing the spread of the virus within its shelter system."While there is a certain amount of aerosol transmission … it is relatively limited," said Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa during a Monday news conference, before adding that close contact between people remains the primary source of transmission.But Siegel said people underestimate the risk of aerosol transmission in a shared, indoor environment. He said particles containing the virus have been demonstrated to travel more than 10 metres in some cases, and that dry winter air can help those particles travel more easily."I have to honestly say that, no, two metres is not enough. I often say that physical distancing indoors is fiction," he said.There have been 659 cases of COVID-19 among shelter users over the course of the pandemic, though it is unclear how many of those infections took place within shelters.Calls for more private rooms, or other mitigating solutionsSiegel said solutions such as increased ventilation, the use of portable air purifiers or germicidal ultraviolet lights could be introduced within shelters to mitigate the risk of transmission.He said those measures could be beneficial even after the COVID-19 pandemic, since infectious respiratory diseases are a long-standing issue within homeless shelters.Dodd and other homeless outreach workers are calling for a more substantial change, and say the city must open at least 2,000 new hotel rooms and stop operating shelters with shared sleeping areas and washrooms.Ginger Dean, an outreach worker with the Encampment Support Network, said a lack of private shelter spaces means people will choose to stay outdoors this winter rather than risk sleeping in a potentially unsafe shelter."Most people aren't interested," she said of the congregate dorms."It sounds harsh, but I feel like it just leaves residents feeling like the city doesn't really care about them."
The Rainbow District School Board reported a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the preschool room at the daycare at Algonquin Road Public School on Tuesday. All staff and the parents/guardians of children who are required to self-isolate have been notified, and Public Health Sudbury & Districts will follow up directly with close contacts. “Public Health has advised the service provider that there is no evidence of transmission at this time,” said the Rainbow District School Board in a letter to parents. “The daycare remains open and the before and after school programs continue to operate. Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting will take place throughout the school, including the daycare, before classes begin this morning.” Although the school does not operate the daycare, the school board wanted to inform parents/guardians of the situation. At this time, there has been no Public Health direction related to the school as a result of the confirmed case at the daycare. Parents/guardians are reminded to screen their children daily for symptoms of COVID-19 using the screening tool on the school board's website at www.rainbowschools.ca. Anyone who is sick must stay home. It is also important to continue to follow COVID-19 prevention measures. This includes washing your hands often with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, avoid touching your face, practice physical distancing, and wear a face covering, especially when physical distancing cannot be maintained. For more information about COVID-19 or the measures taken to address COVID-19, visit www.phsd.ca/COVID-19 or contact Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705-522-9200 ext. 524. “As always, we will monitor our school population closely for any signs of COVID-19, remain vigilant, and follow any guidance that we may receive from Public Health,” said the school board. “Thank you for working together to keep everyone safe.” Also Tuesday, Public Health Sudbury & Districts reported two new cases of COVID-19 in its service area on Tuesday. Both cases are located in Greater Sudbury, and the individuals are currently self-isolating. One of the individuals was a close contact of a confirmed case, and the other one’s exposure category was not specified because the information is either pending or missing. No other information about the confirmed cases was provided. Two more cases have now been resolved in Public Health’s service area, bringing the total number of active cases to 9. There are two active COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care homes in Sudbury. An outbreak was declared at Extendicare Falconbridge on Nov. 23 and Extendicare York on Nov. 24. Visit www.phsd.ca/COVID-19 for more information or call the health unit at 705-522-9200. The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. email@example.com Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
Joshua Wong, 24, one of Hong Kong's most prominent democracy activists, was jailed on Wednesday for more than 13 months over an unlawful anti-government rally in 2019, the toughest and most high-profile sentence for an opposition figure this year. Wong's sentence comes as critics say the Beijing-backed government is intensifying a crackdown on Hong Kong's opposition and chipping away at wide-ranging freedoms guaranteed after the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, a charge authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong reject. Reacting to the court ruling, Britain's foreign minister Dominic Raab urged Hong Kong and Beijing authorities to stop their campaigns to stifle the opposition.
Le conseil municipal a autorisé hier soir une dépense de 7,2 M$, taxes incluses, pour l’acquisition de 66 % du site du musée Armand-Frappier, situé au 520, boulevard des Prairies. Le terrain appartenant désormais à la municipalité correspond à «toute la bande riveraine», a indiqué le maire Marc Demers lors de l’assemblée. Le parc municipal que la Ville y aménagera donnera sur 320 mètres de berges en bordure de la rivière des Prairies. D’une superficie de 27 715 mètres carrés, cet espace public équivaut à 17 patinoires de la Ligue nationale de hockey, illustrait M. Demers dans un communiqué publié en fin de soirée. Avec la marina Le Commodore, dans Pont-Viau, le terrain boisé adjacent à la berge des Baigneurs, dans Sainte-Rose, et les deux grandes îles de l’archipel Saint-François, ce terrain en rive de Laval-des-Rapides porte à quatre le nombre d’acquisitions aux fins d’aménagement de parcs et d’espaces verts ou de conservation depuis le printemps. Maison des aînés Le parc riverain voisinera avec la première maison des aînés que le gouvernement Legault implantera sur le territoire lavallois. L’annonce avait été faite la veille par la ministre responsable des Aînés et des Proches aidants, Marguerite Blais. Il s’agira d’un complexe de huit bâtiments climatisés de 12 places chacun, totalisant 96 chambres individuelles. Un projet évalué à 52 M$, dont la mise en chantier n’a toutefois pas été précisée. L’Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) a ainsi vendu le dernier tiers du terrain au ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux afin de répondre aux besoins du CISSS de Laval en matière d’hébergement. La transaction globale, qui s’est conclue le 18 novembre, s’élève à 15,34 M$. Le Ministère aurait donc payé 8,5 M$, avant taxes, pour 34 % du terrain, soit 1,66 M$ de plus que la Ville qui met la main sur un terrain deux fois plus grand, incluant le bâtiment patrimonial qui abrite le Musée. «Par la vente de ce terrain situé sur le campus de notre établissement de recherche universitaire, nous sommes heureux de contribuer à la réalisation des projets structurants de la Ville de Laval, du CISSS de Laval et du ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux», a déclaré par communiqué le directeur général de l’INRS, Luc-Alain Giraldeau. L’administration Demers convoitait ce terrain depuis 2014, avait laissé savoir le maire à la séance du conseil de juillet 2018 lorsqu’un citoyen du secteur, Raymond Lamothe, était venu proposer à la Ville d’en faire l’acquisition. Même que les pourparlers entre la Municipalité et l’INRS étaient déjà engagés, précisait Marc Demers. M. Lamothe rêvait de ce parc riverain que le corridor vert piétonnier du boulevard Armand-Frappier relie au centre-ville. En octobre de la même année, le conseil municipal avait adopté à l’unanimité la proposition formulée par le conseiller de l’opposition officielle, Claude Larochelle, à l’effet d’entreprendre «des démarches urgentes auprès du propriétaire»… avant qu’un promoteur immobilier ne flaire la bonne affaire. L’espace vert sera baptisé du nom de Parc Armand-Frappier en l’honneur de ce pionnier de la recherche en microbiologie et de la médecine préventive au pays. Rappelons qu’en 1938, s’inspirant du modèle de l’Institut Pasteur, Dr Armand Frappier (1904-1991) fondait à Laval l'Institut de microbiologie et d'hygiène de l'Université de Montréal. Trente-quatre ans plus tard, en 1972, cette institution devenait une des constituantes de l'Université du Québec, puis un des quatre centres de recherche de l'Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) en 1999. C’est autour de l’Institut Armand-Frappier que se déployait en 1989 le Parc scientifique et de la haute technologie et, en 2001, la Cité de la biotechnologie et des sciences de la vie au Québec.Stéphane St-Amour, Initiative de journalisme local, Courrier Laval
Le 1er décembre fut la 33 journée mondiale de lutte contre le sida, et l’organisme MAINS BSL a voulu souligner en cette journée qu’il est toujours possible de mettre fin à l’épidémie de VIH/sida d’ici 2030, du moment où l’ensemble de la société se mobilise à cette fin, tout comme elle le fait pour enrayer la pandémie de COVID-19. Même si cette pandémie mondiale a exposé de multiples failles dans notre société et a été connue comme source d’isolement, de détresse et même de stigmatisation, elle est également le moteur d’une mobilisation sans pareil. Le combat contre le nouveau coronavirus est devenu logiquement le leitmotiv de l’ensemble de la société québécoise. Pour appuyer cela, MAINS BSL fait référence aux points de presse journaliers du gouvernement, aux sommes d’argent investies pour enrayer la contagion, soigner les personnes infectées et créer un potentiel vaccin, et à la réponse positive de la majorité de la population aux mesures restrictives imposées. À cela, l’organisme MAINS BSL ne peut s’empêcher de tracer des parallèles entre la pandémie de COVID-19 et celle du VIH/sida. Les iniquités mises en lumière par la pandémie de COVID-19 sont aussi celles que le milieu VIH combat depuis des décennies : lutte contre les iniquités qu’engendrent le sexisme, l’hétérosexisme, la pauvreté et le racisme – ces iniquités qui, dans le contexte du VIH, fragilisent l’accès au dépistage, aux soins et aux traitements. La mobilisation a été forte dans les premières décennies de la lutte contre le VIH/sida, et elle a permis de grandes avancées scientifiques et sociales. Malheureusement, cette mobilisation s’est effritée avec le temps, selon les dires de MAINS BSL, faisant en sorte que, dans les pays occidentaux, un plateau a été atteint où le taux annuel de nouvelles infections stagne. Voilà pourquoi en cette journée de lutte contre le sida, MAINS BSL a invité les gouvernements de tous les paliers à se remobiliser et à réinvestir adéquatement dans la lutte, dans l’idée d’y mettre fin d’ici 2030. « En ces temps de COVID-19, nous voyons très bien que la mobilisation et l’investissement en temps et en ressources humaines et financières dans la lutte contre une pandémie portent fruit », ont-ils expliqué. Il serait donc important d’y assurer les ressources nécessaires pour garantir un accès universel au dépistage, aux soins et aux traitements.Claudie Arseneault, Initiative de journalisme local, Mon Matane
Canada is joining 13 other countries in a non-binding pledge to sustainably manage 100 per cent of its oceans by 2025, continuing the Trudeau government's international declarations on the environment.The undertaking commits — or, in some cases, recommits — Canada to a variety of measures, including protecting 30 per cent of marine waters by 2030, rebuilding fish stocks, reducing plastic in the ocean and creating a sustainability plan."Having the world's longest coastline, Canada recognizes that our economy and our well-being are deeply connected with the health of our oceans, and that we have a responsibility to protect them," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement accompanying the document."That is why we are committed to working with our international Ocean Panel leaders, and to developing a comprehensive blue economy strategy. We are also calling on more world leaders and other partners to join us in turning our goals into reality."Other countries supporting the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy include Norway, Australia, Japan, Ghana, Indonesia and Chile."Historically, the ocean agenda has never been focused and integrated on an international basis, and we're at the point, I think, in history where everybody recognizes the health of the ocean should be a concern," said Jean-Guy Forgeron, senior assistant deputy minister of strategic policy at Fisheries and Oceans Canada.Canada has made these promises beforeThe commitment to conserve 30 per cent of Canadian oceans by 2030 was announced in July when Canada joined the Global Ocean Alliance, led by the United Kingdom.Ottawa has so far reached 14 per cent of the target by creating marine protected areas and marine refuges.The process has met opposition from the fishing industry and some provincial governments in Atlantic Canada, which questioned the economic impact of closing areas to extraction activities."This is not easy," said Forgeron. "There is no low-hanging fruit in creating protected ocean space. And it's a very aggressive agenda."Fisheries and Oceans Canada is expected to introduce draft regulations this month to the Fisheries Act that will spell out how it intends to rebuild fish stocks that are being harmed by over-fishing.The federal government is also promising a discussion paper in the new year on "boat-to-plate traceability" to assure consumers they are getting what they are paying for and to help stamp out illegal fishing and human rights issues on board vessels elsewhere."I think we'll see in the next months, not years, whether this government is moving on this new strategy that they've signed on to," said Josh Laughren, executive director of the environmental group Oceana Canada."This isn't the first time governments have signed on to non-binding, long-term commitments, and people tend to get wary of more of those."Anya Waite of the Ocean Frontier Institute based at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said oceans are too important to the planet's future not to act to protect them."The ocean controls our climate, carries 100 times the heat of the atmosphere and 50 times the carbon," she said. "If we don't have the oceans front and centre, we can't understand climate change and we need development of the blue economy to include sustainability."A contrary view to a key commitmentWhile the steps are being welcomed by the environmental movement, there remains skepticism about the effectiveness of setting aside 30 per cent of the ocean by 2030 — known as 30 by 30.It has been proposed in the United States Congress and is under consideration by the incoming Biden administration.Ray Hilborn, from the University of Washington's school of aquatic and fisheries sciences, said it is misguided."All the 30 by 30 will do is move the fishing effort from one place to another," Hilborn told CBC News. "So if fishing effort is causing the problem, you're not solving it; you're simply moving the problem from one place to the other."He said countries like Canada and the United States have fishery regimes that can better protect species with specific measures like gear changes.'A lot left to do'Hilborn acknowledged some areas need to close, although not permanently. He cited the North Atlantic right whale, which moved away from critical habitat zones off southern Nova Scotia and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence in search of prey."If climate change is going to change where the problems are, we need dynamic management," he said.Laughren supports the measures coming from the High Level Panel and is giving the Trudeau government the benefit of the doubt."I think the government deserves some credit for making oceans and oceans conservation a priority over the last few years, with a lot left to do," he said.MORE TOP STORIES
Nine-year-old Bedahbun 'Bee' Moonias can't bring herself to drink the running water in her Thunder Bay, Ont., hotel room. "Since we can't drink the tap water back in Neskantaga, I'm scared to use the tap water here to drink it," Moonias said. "So I use water bottles."Moonias has spent her whole life worrying about the water flowing from her faucets back home in Neskantaga First Nation, a remote fly-in Ontario community about 450 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.Neskantaga has the longest-duration boil water advisory of any reserve in the country — 25 years and counting."Sometimes, I feel like we don't exist," Moonias said. "Like, nobody knows that we don't have no clean water. Like, we're just ghosts and we're just put in a drawer, in a box."Moonias and nearly 300 other Neskantaga members have been staying at the Victoria Inn Hotel in Thunder Bay since an oily sheen was detected in their reservoir on Oct. 19 and running water was shut off.Before the film was deemed non-toxic, its discovery left residents with a choice: go without water or evacuate during a pandemic. They decided the safest option was to pack their bags.Now, more than 40 days later, the evacuation is taking a toll, but community members say they are determined to maintain some kind of normal life away from home until clean drinking water starts flowing in Neskantaga for the first time this century.At chief and council's request, all the rooms at the Victoria Inn are being rented by the federal government for Neskantaga members to protect them from the COVID-19 pandemic.Inside the hotel's front doors, visitors are screened through temperature checks and questions about symptoms.Elder Laura Sakanee spends her days sitting in her wheelchair, watching people come and go."We miss our home so badly," Sakanee said. "We just left everything in there, even our moose meat. And I filled up my freezer before we left."'Really disruptive' for studentsOne of the hotel's ballrooms has been turned into a classroom for Moonias and another nine-year-old named Jayla Troutlake. One recent afternoon saw them learning to sew Christmas stockings as a cellphone played "O Little Town of Bethlehem."When asked if she is having fun in her new temporary home, Troutlake answered without hesitation: "No."Troutlake said she misses her home and her dog Gizmo, one of roughly 80 dogs left behind in Neskantaga.The dogs are being fed by the Canadian Rangers, who are also gathering wood for the few band members who have agreed to stay behind to keep the houses warm.Troutlake's teacher Miko Oyakawa is tired of hotel living as well. At first, she said, she tried to get her students to pretend they were on a field trip. She would bring in different types of fruits and vegetables they can't get back home."I remember kids looking at peppers and thinking they're plastic," Oyakawa said. "Pomegranate was by far the favourite."But more than a month into this extended field trip, she said, it's becoming harder to stay isolated, both physically and emotionally. So she tries to maintain a sense of normality with daily lessons and activities."For everyone, it's been really disruptive," Oyakawa said."Kids are staying up really late. Families are going out … Some people are just not sending their kids to school, so it's hard that way, but we're trying the best we can"Oyakawa is also making preparations in case they have to spend the holidays at the hotel. She said the Matawa Tribal Council and people in Thunder Bay have reached out already to donate Christmas trees and fill wish lists for the children."All this generosity is so great and touching," she said. "That gives us hope and keeps us going."'You can't leave your homeland'When can Neskantaga's residents go home? Band councillor Gary Quisess said he can't offer an answer. The tentative return date has changed several times. The latest estimate is Dec. 15 at the earliest. Quisess said he is skeptical. Two weeks of water tests must take place before anyone can return. Deficiencies discovered at the water treatment plant have delayed the start of those tests. A report from the Ontario Clean Water Agency last month found numerous problems at the plant, including leaks, mislabelled piping and tags missing from almost all items of equipment.The community is now drafting the terms of reference for a third-party investigation with the federal government of Neskantaga's 25-year-long water crisis, and of the business practices of the contractors, engineers and project management firms that have worked on Neskantaga's water system and those of other First Nations.Chief and council were asked to sign off on a draft version of the terms of reference last month by the Ontario regional director general for Indigenous Services Canada. Those terms of reference were not developed with the community's consent and the regional director general was taken off the community's repatriation file."This investigation is going to open a can of worms," Quisess said."We want Canadians to know the full story. We want Canadians to know how the tax dollars are used."Neskantaga's plant was built in 1993 and has never adequately treated and disinfected water.A long-term drinking water advisory was put in place on Feb. 1, 1995, less than two years after the plant was commissioned. It's been in effect ever since. As part of its fiscal update, released this week, the federal government is proposing to spend $1.5 billion this year and $114.1 million per year afterwards to speed up work on lifting all long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations, and fund water and wastewater infrastructure.But money isn't the issue in Neskantaga. The Liberal government already earmarked $8.8 million to upgrade Neskantaga's water treatment plant in 2016. The work was supposed to be completed by 2018, but the project has run into a cascade of delays and the budget has doubled to more than $16 million.Despite all the problems, Quisess said he doesn't want to live anywhere else. "You can't leave your homeland," Quisess said. "We were born and raised there. Our ancestors lived there."'Trying to celebrate Christmas here'Charla Moonias, walking a support worker's Pomeranian down the hotel hallways, tried to maintain a sense of optimism."It's been really hard to get motivated to come down here because this isn't our normal," she said."I don't feel optimistic about it. I feel like we're going to be here until the new year. I already picture us trying to celebrate Christmas here."Moonias said she spends her days binge-watching TV shows, ordering food and — when she finds the strength — going downstairs to the common rooms to meet with people.Moonias said she used to deal with substance abuse issues herself and it's been a struggle to live at the hotel."It's taking a toll on my depression, my mental health, my addictions," she said. "I'm really struggling to stay away from all the bad influences and bad people."Moonias was born in Winnipeg and started living in Neskantaga after she was adopted by Chief Chris Moonias.In 2016, Moonias met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as part of a youth delegation from Northern Ontario First Nations pressing for clean drinking water in Neskantaga. She said her skin used to break out into blisters after showering with Neskantaga's water.Now, she wonders whether taking the community's case to Trudeau accomplished anything."I went there feeling hopeful … I'm now 23," she said. "Where's the change?"'See how it feels'Bee Moonias is now being raised by her grandparents, who also live without clean tap water."I don't want to go through what my grandpa has been through 25 years ago," Moonias said. "Go live in Neskantaga and see how it feels getting no clean water. You're welcome to sit in my house. Stay in my house."The federal government has said repeatedly it is committed to ensuring Neskantaga has a source of clean running water.But even at the tender age of 9, Moonias doesn't have much faith in Ottawa's promises."I would be shook if they fixed the water really properly," she said.
Mike Goodyear knew what he was getting into when he first plugged his Tesla Model S into the charger at his Grand Falls-Windsor home three years ago.Newfoundland and Labrador was "the last holdout" for high-speed chargers, he told CBC News recently — but that was fine with him."I understood that going in, and that was part of the thing that I accepted," he said.Goodyear has no regrets — "it's been absolutely delightful" owning an electric car, he said, adding it costs him about $8 for the journey from his driveway to St. John's. That may be a bargain and emissions-free, but with only a few places to charge his car along that route, it requires a lot of patience: a charging stop in Clarenville takes upwards of three hours, Goodyear says.But the province's distinct status as the only one in Canada without public high-speed electric vehicle chargers is ending.Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is installing 14 Level 3 charging stations along the Trans-Canada Highway from Port aux Basques to St. John's, plus one in Rocky Harbour. The chargers were tendered in October 2019, and as each charger is completed and tested, it will come online. NL Hydro expects all the work to be done by the end of this year."We want to be an enabler, to enable EV adoption in the province," said Jennifer Williams, the president of NL Hydro. Williams herself bought an electric vehicle this past summer."We believe the electric vehicles are coming, and we want to be ready for when those vehicle comes, so we're planning the system and getting ourselves ready," she told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.Williams estimates there are 200 electric vehicles in Newfoundland and Labrador, and 90 per cent of those are charged at home. But she said research suggests the lack of a charging network is a major impediment to increasing sales.Welcoming EVs from elsewhereEach station will have one Level 2 charger and one Level 3. The Level 3 chargers will cost $15 per hour, similar to chargers in the Maritimes, and can bill by the minute. Goodyear estimates they will shave hours off his St. John's trips, with a 20-minute stop enough of a boost to make it to the city. The network will make it far easier to sway people who have so far been on the fence about EVs, he said, particularly in rural areas that require longer trips."I know lots of people in the area who said, 'Oh, I wouldn't mind having an electric car, but I can't take it and drive to St. John's, I just don't have the range,'" he said.> Twenty years from now, you'll be hard-pressed to find a gasoline-powered car on the road. \- Mike GoodyearGoodyear has offered up his own home charger, even listing it on public charging apps, to EV drivers across the province, as well as tourists in need. He predicts the new network will attract even more people in search of a scenic, all-electric drive, across the island after the COVID-19 pandemic."This is for a very large community, and it'll open the island up to a lot of visitors from the mainland, that's another big thing. When our pandemic has come to an end, you'll see a lot more people coming and staying," he said.Network set to expandThose tourists might soon get a chance to explore further afield than the TCH.On the heels of the current network construction, NL Hydro and Newfoundland Power is also looking to install 19 other charging stations in Newfoundland communities from Robinsons to Roddickton to Port Rexton, and three in Labrador, with applications currently being accepted for most of them."We're certainly keeping an eye on where else we can expand," said Williams.Those extra stations are expected to be built by late 2021, depending on funding; the $2.1-million cost of the existing charging network is being split by the provincial and federal governments, along with NL Hydro.For Goodyear and many other drivers, the more chargers, the better to reduce range anxiety: the very real response EV owners have trying to stretch their batteries to make it to the next charge.That's usually not an issue for Goodyear, who does most of his driving around town. He's always had an eye on the future — he named his Tesla Galileo, after a Star Trek spaceship — and as he as idles in the drive-thru and sees exhaust pouring out of every other car, he can't help think of those younger than him."You know, all the driving I've done — I've just tipped over 91,000 kilometres in my car — and the car itself hasn't produced any noxious gases toward my kids and grandkids," he said.Quebec announced last week it would ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles in 2035. Goodyear would like to see more incentives in this province, as he's certain such change will soon come east."Right now you're hard-pressed to see an electric vehicle on the road. Twenty years from now, you'll be hard-pressed to find a gasoline-powered car on the road," he said.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Hong Kong pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam have been sentenced to jail on charges related to an unauthorized anti-government protest last year at the city’s police headquarters. Wong, who pleaded guilty to organizing and participating in the protest, received 13 1/2 months behind bars. Chow, who also pleaded guilty to participating in the protest and inciting others to take part, received 10 months, while Lam received 7 months after pleading guilty to incitement. The protest took place on June 21 last year, and saw thousands surround the police headquarters as they demonstrated against excessive force by police against protesters, as well as a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to be extradited to mainland China.Zen Soo, The Associated Press
Imagine watching your brain activity on a computer screen in real time.For Gord Luke, a Wawa, Ont., resident with Parkinson's disease, that's now a reality. Sitting in a room at the Krembil Brain Institute in Toronto's west end, the 66-year-old can see his brain signals being tracked digitally, thanks to surgically implanted electrodes in his brain and a newly approved device in his chest.Building on decades-old technology known as deep brain stimulation (DBS), which can help control the shakes and muscle tightness tied to brain disorders such as Parkinson's, the device puts a new high-tech tool in physicians' tool kits: the ability to capture brain activity of DBS patients such as Luke around the clock."We can actually stream live from his brain," said Krembil neurologist Dr. Alfonso Fasano.As Fasano fiddles with the laptop, his patient's sturdy frame is still, with the electrode stimulation keeping his symptoms at bay.WATCH | What it's like to live stream you brain:Controlling symptoms in real timeWith a couple of clicks, Fasano tweaks the level of stimulation from the electrode in the right hemisphere of Luke's brain, and he quickly starts shaking — his left foot is tapping up and down involuntarily. With another tweak, his foot is back firmly on the ground.The short-term hope, according to Fasano and his colleague, neurosurgeon Dr. Suneil Kalia, is that patients will be able keep a digital diary of their symptoms, which physicians can match up to the ongoing log of their brain activity. "Physicians can later look at that brain diary to see when symptoms were severe or better and fine-tune their therapy," Kalia said.In Luke's case, Fasano hopes he'll eventually be able to adjust the settings on the device from the comfort of his own home, in consultation with his medical team by phone, from thousands of kilometres away."We can record for days, months, the different signals in the brain," Fasano said. "This will be, like never before, a window into their activities."The personalized treatments that follow could help alleviate symptoms for years on end, according to Fasano and Kalia.Approved by Health Canada in October, the Percept PC deep brain stimulation system was developed by Medtronic, a Dublin-based medical technology company.Working alongside surgically implanted brain electrodes, the small, pacemaker-like device is placed under the skin of a patient's chest, which sends electrical signals through thin wires to a targeted area of the brain and offers real-time recording.Patients with brain disorders such as epilepsy and Parkinson's tend to see symptom improvements once their DBS electrode implants are turned on. With the chest and brain implants working in tandem, physicians can now see exactly what's happening inside their patients' brains when that switch is flipped.WATCH | Using an MRI to monitor a patient's brain activity and responses:Automatic adjustments may one day be possiblePreviously, medical teams could only track those signals during brain surgery, according to Kalia."What this new device allows is whether it's the first day after surgery or even five years after the surgery, we can interrogate the device," he said.Through ongoing research, Fasano says, the technology may lead to "adaptive stimulation" in the longer term, where the device adjusts the level of stimulation automatically.It's a bit like a smart home thermostat. At first, those high-tech temperature controls require a homeowner to adjust the settings manually. Too cold in the morning? Crank up the heat. Too hot by the afternoon? Turn it back down.Over time, as the technology learns someone's patterns and preferences, the thermostat can start making those adjustments on its own — regulating the temperature and keeping people inside the house comfortable automatically.Kalia said that's a lot like how the implants could one day regulate — or even predict and ward off — symptoms, including seizures and tremors. The first three Canadians underwent surgery to install their new smart technology this fall, and there are more to come.WATCH | What the Percept PC deep brain stimulation system allows doctors to do:'Like being with them all the time'Though wary at first of having the procedure, Luke said he jumped at the chance to try the new device in November. His Parkinson's symptoms have worsened over the last six years."Your muscles tighten up, everything shakes, you shuffle more than walk, you're prone to falls," he said. "It really changes your life, big time."Speaking to CBC News outside his downtown Toronto hotel, he said the day before his medical team at Krembil turned on the electrode, he was barely able to walk. Now, much of his shaking and unsteadiness has subsided. Driving a car, spending more time outdoors, and carving wooden animal figurines are all pastimes Luke plans to pursue back home in Wawa. It's not a cure, to be clear. But it offers Luke, who's a 10-hour drive from the Krembil specialists, a way to manage his disease's progression with fewer trips to Toronto and log a treasure trove of data for his medical team at the same time.Fasano says that's a welcome change from the small glimpses of someone's life physicians typically get when patients like Luke visit, which can't possibly capture their day-to-day symptoms and flare-ups. "It will be like being with them all the time," he said.
In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kick-start your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Dec. 2 ... What we are watching in Canada ... The Manitoba government has signed a pay agreement that will allow nurses to be shifted to priority areas in the fight against COVID-19. It says the agreement with the Manitoba Nurses Union will allow nurses to be redeployed in personal care homes, intensive care units and designated COVID-19 units. Health Minister Cameron Friesen says it will allow for changes to work assignments, locations, schedules and shifts to support the changing needs of hospital patients and care home residents. He says nurses affected by these changes, including those already working in facilities dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks, will get extra pay. The agreement also establishes a COVID-19 northern allowance for staff redeployed to the north, as well as an allowance for current northern nurses who work in one community but pick up additional shifts elsewhere in the region. Union president Darlene Jackson says the deal will help keep nurses on the job and give them some security and recognition. --- Also this ... Nunavut's two-week lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19 is to end today as the territory continues to see a drop in new cases. Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut's chief public health officer, said earlier this week that schools, businesses and workplaces could reopen. Restrictions are to lift in all communities except Arviat, which has 76 active cases and will remain shut down for at least two more weeks. Patterson says that's because his team hasn't determined if community transmission there is ongoing. Nunavut had 93 active infections and 89 recovered cases on Tuesday for a total of 182. The territory had not had any cases at all until early November. --- What we are watching in the U.S. ... Disputing U.S. President Donald Trump’s persistent, baseless claims, Attorney General William Barr declared the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election. Barr's comments, in an interview Tuesday with the The Associated Press, contradict the concerted effort by Trump, his boss, to subvert the results of last month's voting and block president-elect Joe Biden from taking his place in the White House. Barr told the AP that U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.” The comments, which drew immediate criticism from Trump attorneys, were especially notable coming from Barr, who has been one of the president's most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voting could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls and instead chose to vote by mail. More to Trump's liking, Barr revealed in the AP interview that in October he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel, giving the prosecutor the authority to continue to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe after Biden takes over and making it difficult to fire him. Biden hasn't said what he might do with the investigation, and his transition team didn't comment Tuesday. --- What we are watching in the rest of the world ... Pfizer and BioNTech say they've won permission Wednesday for emergency use of their COVID-19 vaccine in Britain, the world’s first coronavirus shot that’s backed by rigorous science -- and a major step toward eventually ending the pandemic. The move makes Britain one of the first countries to begin vaccinating its population as it tries to curb Europe’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak. Other countries aren’t far behind: The U.S. and the European Union also are vetting the Pfizer shot along with a similar vaccine made by competitor Moderna Inc. Pfizer said it would immediately begin shipping limited supplies to the U.K. -- and has been gearing up for even wider distribution if given a similar nod by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a decision expected as early as next week. But doses everywhere are scarce, and initial supplies will be rationed until more is manufactured in the first several months of next year. --- On this day in 2006 ... Liberal delegates chose Quebec MP Stephane Dion as their new federal leader at a Montreal convention. --- Holiday news ... The Canadian Christmas Tree Growers Association says people planning to buy a live Christmas tree this season should start shopping now and expect to pay more. Farmers anticipate 2020 will be a record sales year. Association head Larry Downey says it's simple supply and demand: a shortage of trees coupled with a greater appetite from people hoping to liven up their living spaces amid widespread stay-at-home orders. “Personally, we don’t see COVID affecting us,” says Downey, whose family farm in Hatley, Que. sells up to 30,000 Christmas trees each year. Most wholesale farmers Downey has spoken this year with have already reached sales records, he adds, with much of the demand coming from vendors in the United States. Retailers typically place their orders for trees as early as June, Downey says. The Christmas tree market is still feeling the effects of the Great Recession, which put many U.S. growers out of business and led others to reduce planting. Since saplings take eight to 10 years to reach the size of a typical Christmas tree, the effects of the lower supply have only recently emerged. In entertainment ... Experts believe the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies such as Netflix will go up under a taxation plan the government wants to put in place next year, Ottawa says in its fiscal update released Monday it will require multinationals to collect GST or HST on digital products and services, which it said would add up to $1.2 billion over five years. Sometimes labelled a "Netflix tax," the measure would also apply to other services such as Amazon.com Inc.'s Prime Video or the Spotify audio streaming service, as well as digital products such as software applications. The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales, so it's only fair that foreign multinationals should do the same. KPMG tax partner Joe Micallef says it's likely Canadians will end up paying the taxes collected for the government by foreign multinationals. "Right now, the way in which they're delivering their services, they're not responsible for the collection," Micallef says. "And so, effectively, it would mean that these charges would be appearing on (their) invoices." Dwayne Winseck, a media industry researcher at Carleton University in Ottawa, also expects companies will add the price of the tax to the total sale price. --- ICYMI ... The Oscar-nominated Canadian star of the film "Juno" has come out as transgender. The Halifax-raised Elliot Page, formerly known as Ellen Page, has made the announcement in a powerful post on social media. The star of the Toronto-shot Netflix series "The Umbrella Academy" says his preferred pronouns are he/they. Page's letter thanks those who have supported him along the journey, and addresses the trauma trans people face from discrimination, hateful acts, and a lack of rights. He says it feels remarkable "to finally love" who he is enough to pursue his "authentic self." And he's been "endlessly inspired by so many in the trans community." "Thank you for your courage, your generosity and ceaselessly working to make this world a more inclusive and compassionate place. I will offer whatever support I can and continue to strive for a more loving and equal society," Page says.. "I also ask for patience. My joy is real, but it is also fragile. The truth is, despite feeling profoundly happy right now and knowing how much privilege I carry, I am also scared. I'm scared of the invasiveness, the hate, the 'jokes' and of violence." --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020 The Canadian Press
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences moved the 73rd Academy Awards ceremony to April 25, 2021, so that theaters would be open again in the spring, which will allow more films to compete in the awards, the report said. "The Oscars in-person telecast will happen," Variety https://variety.com/2020/film/news/oscars-in-person-show-will-happen-2021-1234843255 reported on Tuesday, citing a representative from the Academy. The Academy Awards are traditionally held at the 3,400-seater Dolby Theater in Los Angeles.
Christmas tree grower Milt Agate has worked in the Christmas tree business since 1990, but said this year will be his last.His 34-acre farm in Ilderton, about 30 minutes northwest of London, Ont., has been a staple for Christmas tree shoppers. For decades, families have been visiting to pick out their tree and enjoy a warm cup of hot cider and cookies.For the past several years, he has seen a decline in sales. To his surprise, demand was high this year — which caused the sales to skyrocket."It's been such a weird year, people are just itching to decorate," Agate said. "Families want to get together and this is what is bringing them together."Now, people are also expecting a lot more from "just a traditional Christmas tree farm", he said."They want the wagon rides, they want the petting zoo, the Christmas knickknacks."Agate said he simply cannot afford that, considering the amount of land, manpower and money he would need to operate. It's pushing him to leave the market."When you start adding the experience part of it, you've got to start looking at manpower," he said. "Which I don't have."Trees at the farm are marked down and selling for $35 apiece, as he is looking to close for good and needs everything to go. With the growing demand, Agate said he should have considered marking them up instead.The past weekend was a busy one, and most of the supply is gone."A lot of people are wanting to come out and get their trees before December," he said.Agate says he has even been receiving calls from people in Toronto wanting to make the drive down to pick up a tree but has to turn them away as he halted wagon rides and other activities due to COVID-19. This year, no wagon rides, hot cider or cookies are offered because of that reason.As a farmer, Agate said one of the biggest issues for him is mother nature.In the early 2000s the farm experienced two years of drought, which made Agate lose 25 per cent of his crop, he said.Another issue is the time it takes to grow the trees.Agate said it can take up to 10 years to grow a Christmas tree in "ideal conditions", making it impossible for farmers to increase their supply with this sudden surge that is largely being driven by the pandemic.Less travel, more customers"People are wanting to get out, wanting to get trees. They're staying home for Christmas as opposed to traveling — and so we are seeing the numbers on an increase," said Shirley Brennan, executive director of the Christmas Tree Farmers of Ontario.Farms across the province have experienced tree shortages for the past couple of years, she said, but demand this year has increased substantially.Brennan told CBC London that COVID-19 increased the demand for trees in particular this season because of the isolation many have felt this year and a desire to get into the holiday spirit.She said the association has seen a 25 per cent increase in sales across the board.The tree with the highest demand is the fraser fir which Brennan says "everyone goes for" and is in short supply.> It's not even about the size or the species this year, [people] just want the experience. \- Shirley Brennan, Christmas Tree Farmers of Ontario executive directorShe said younger generation couples in particular who have recently bought their homes are embracing this tradition as a way of bringing together their families during a trying time."This is just one more thing that adds to the family dynamics. Having that real Christmas tree and having that experience, people are really, really embracing that this year," Brennan said.However, Brennan said the Christmas tree industry is steadily increasing each year."Our industry across Canada went from a $53 million industry to a $100 million industry since 2015, so it has been steadily increasing over the years," Brennan said. "And because it takes 10 years to grow a tree, we just can't put more trees in the ground for next year and so it was just a forecast that we couldn't even speculate was going to happen."She said it's "alarming" that a number of farms have already sold out of the trees they had available for this year."I have spoken to farm owners who have said it has been a record-breaking year," she said. "But it's not even about the size or the species this year, [people] just want the experience."
The Holiday Host volunteer program put on by the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada (PEIANC) will change to a more virtual format this year.For the past 15 years, the program would match up about 20 host families on P.E.I. with newcomer families. The two families would join together for a meal, seasonal activity or party.It was a way the families could build connections and share during the festive season.PEIANC decided it could be a challenge this year to have two families meet up so they decided to move the seasonal sharing online."I wouldn't say a little different — I would say it is a lot different," said Valerie Fitzpatrick, community connections program co-ordinator with PEIANC.Fitzpatrick said they are looking for people to send in their holiday traditions new and old."It's just a way for people to show a little bit about, you know, what's your Christmas tradition and you get to share it, not just with one family but with the whole world virtually," Fitzpatrick said.She said they will be reaching out to people through the association for other holidays they celebrate and traditions they may have."What new Christmas traditions have they adopted since they have been in Canada or what Christmas traditions or other holiday traditions did they do in their home country that maybe they brought with them."The submitted videos should be between 90 seconds and two minutes. Fitzpatrick said people looking to take part can share the videos with them online or reach out to the co-ordinators.They will also be posting holiday messages from staff on their social media platforms. Fitzpatrick said they wanted to do this to encourage people to still try to connect during the pandemic."We have volunteers that have taken part with a new family every year in the program so we hope that they look at this as an opportunity instead of another one of those things that we can't do because of COVID," Fitzpatrick said."It's something we wouldn't have done otherwise but I think that it is a really neat way to reach out to more people."More from CBC P.E.I.
Halifax has awarded a $288-million tender to Harbour City Resources to build and operate a new composting facility over 25 years.The new plant will replace the two aging systems operating in Burnside and Goodwood."It will be a state-of-the-art facility, with advanced screening and odour mitigation," said Andrew Philopoulus, HRM's manager of solid waste. "It will incorporate what's known as an airlock on all shipping doors."The new plant will be constructed at the current Goodwood site and will be able to deal with 60,000 tonnes of organic waste a year. Harbour City Resources has built and operated facilities in Calgary, Hamilton and Guelph, Ont.The new system will increase Halifax's annual composting costs by 17.5 per cent or $2.2 million.Coun. Tim Outhit said he hopes a brand new plant will mean grass clippings will be allowed back into the green carts."We will be able to look at some program changes knowing that they can be accommodated in the new facility," said Outhit. "That's encouraging."Coun. Patty Cuttell, who represents Goodwood, is worried about the increased truck traffic on Prospect Road."This is also the road to Peggys Cove," said Cuttell. "So could a road be put through the Ragged Lake industrial park?"Cuttell plans to ask for a staff report to consider community compensation for the Goodwood area since it will be the host for the municipality's composting operation for another 25 years.MORE TOP STORIES
As the folk tales tell us, it is a fool who tries to please everyone.But as the finance minister in a minority government that will one day soon have to face the electorate, Chrystia Freeland must do her best to satisfy a majority.Critics, including some in the suffering airline industry, complained that this week's fiscal plan does not spend enough on them. Fiscal conservatives worried about the deficit and wonder how Freeland will pay for what she has spent already. Pundits are already demanding to know details about how she will fulfil her plan to restart the economy once the coronavirus has been driven off by vaccines.Despite Freeland's tone of confidence, the disruptive impact of COVID-19 has generated many long-term uncertainties.Even as she scrambles to solve current and pressing economic problems, the list of potential future pitfalls is long and the effects of each are highly uncertain. The problem — for her, for us and for business — is that this recession is so different from the economic crises we have suffered in the past. None of us know how things will turn out.Borrowing is easyDespite a projected deficit of more than $380 billion and a debt expected to soar past $1 trillion, Freeland, who is also deputy prime minister, has reassured Canadians that payments on that debt remain affordable. But just as in your own household, debt is notoriously easy to run up and hard to run down.While interest rates are low now and the U.S. Federal Reserve — which strongly influences rates here in Canada — has promised to keep them low until the economy bounces back, market forces are telling us that long-term commercial interest rates are on the rise.Extraordinarily low interest rates have led to extraordinary borrowing by governments, businesses and ordinary Canadians — and some say we are reaching the limit.Some financial observers, including Martin Wolf at the Financial Times, have warned that the world may be on the cusp of a sudden shift from 40 years of falling to rising inflation. If that were to happen, governments and their central bankers would be forced to decide whether to quell it with higher interest rates in spite of the effect on their own borrowing costs.While Freeland said that her spending will be based on long-term borrowing locked in at current low rates, costs could rise. Just as you must periodically renew your mortgage, each year governments and companies must go back to the market to replace their portfolio of existing bonds as they come due, and that must be done at the interest rate when they do it.So long as interest rates stay low and the economy continues to grow, Canadian personal borrowing — which Equifax just reported has hit a staggering $2 trillion — is nothing to worry about. A lot of that debt is backed by high and rising house prices. But rising rates and falling house prices, or a continuing recession that leads to job losses, could make that debt unbearable, damaging a crucial motor of the Canadian economy.300-year recessionCanada is a trading nation, and even if the domestic economy continues to tough it out, it will be hard to prosper if our trading partners weaken.Last week the economy of the United Kingdom, with whom Canada is now negotiating a trade deal, plunged into its deepest recession in 300 years — forcing it to cut overseas aid to places that are even worse off.Many countries around the world, including our nearest neighbour, continue to suffer from the economic impact of the pandemic — making things much worse than when a disaster hits a single part of the world, allowing other economies to help bail them out. Our trade partners may not be in a buying mood. Trade protectionism will be a temptation.While economic growth slows and businesses go broke, among the bright spots have been financial markets that keep nudging new highs. Rising stock prices are cheering for those with cash invested, but there are growing fears that market darlings such as Tesla, up 600 per cent this year, may have become detached from the real economy.Some analysts worry that the current casino mentality cannot be sustained and will lead to a reckoning. With interest rates already at rock bottom and borrowing already so high, preventing damage to the crucial financial markets from a new panic will be harder than during previous bailouts.This gloomy list of long-term potential worries for the finance minister is only partial. Some fear disruption to education will lead to a news skills gap and put an even greater wedge between the rich and the poor. Others fear a crash in the value of commercial property will have a lasting effect.Lower immigration, a loss of entry-level jobs in restaurants and retail and a long-term hollowing out of the economy are only some of the effects that could make things worse.But rather than just make us sick with worry instead of sick with COVID-19, the point is that in the wake of a major recession of the kind the world is facing now, there is no way that Chrystia Freeland or anyone else — no matter how smart — can tell us with any certainty how the economy will unfold over the next few years.WATCH | From education to jobs, how to manage the pandemic's financial challenges:What Canada needs is a capable person in charge, a safe pair of hands, to help us make the best of a perilous and unknown future.And there is no reason that future could not also include a strong recovery as new businesses take advantage of plentiful labour, less expensive office and retail space and a flood of pent-up demand to come back even stronger than before the pandemic struck.Follow Don Pittis on Twitter: @don_pittis