Snow caused havoc for drivers across Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley this morning. Jennifer Palma has more on the criticism road crews are facing.
Snow caused havoc for drivers across Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley this morning. Jennifer Palma has more on the criticism road crews are facing.
Ontario's new COVID-19 rules and restrictions - from cutting outdoor gatherings to extending police powers - have drawn out mass criticism and condemnation by medical experts, residents.
Coronavirus variants are fuelling a COVID-19 surge in southern Saskatchewan, including the city of Moose Jaw, says medical health officer Dr. David Torr. Torr, who is medical lead for south rural Saskatchewan, said the variant first detected in the U.K. has become the dominant strain in the city, adding pressure on the local hospital. More beds were created at the Dr. F.H. Wigmore Regional Hospital after the intensive-care unit reached capacity. "One of the challenges we're having is the hospitals are full.... You can add a couple of beds," he said. "It's not like you can add 10 more beds. Remember also we have limited staff; we can not expand beyond what our staff can manage." ICU beds have been added to the Dr. F.H. Wigmore Regional Hospital in Moose Jaw to meet the needs of a rising number of COVID-19 patients. (Neil Cochrane/CBC News) In the past month, the south central region has seen a 46 per cent increase in COVID-19 cases, with nearly 400 new cases reported in the area. Not only is the region seeing a surge in cases, but there's also a surge in the number of towns and villages that are impacted. "It's a real fast spread," Torr said. "Where it has not been previously, it is becoming pretty much the dominant factor, the variants of concern." The variants of concern appear to be more transmissible and potentially more deadly, and may also transmit for longer periods of time in infected individuals and bind to our cells more easily — providing more opportunities for infected people to spread the virus. On Wednesday, the Saskatchewan Health Authority issued a public health alert warning residents in Maple Creek, Swift Current, Rosetown, Kindersley, Davidson, Moose Jaw, Outlook and their surrounding areas of increased risk of coronavirus variants. A day later, Health Minister Paul Merriman confirmed a superspreader event in southwest Saskatchewan has been linked to at least 21 cases. New surge stems from Easter gatherings Torr said the recent surge stems from Easter activities, including outdoor gatherings like barbecues where people did not follow public health orders. "We're sort of paying for that with the cases we're seeing and the surges we're seeing," Torr said. He said people were socializing outside of their bubble, and "there was a lot of inter-town and inter-provincial travel" that occurred. Torr said several of the functions had people eating and drinking together while not wearing masks. Before the Easter weekend, Torr was among the province's medical health officers that pleaded with the public in an open letter to stay put over the long weekend. He's still pleading. "Let's not take this as a joke," Torr said. "It's serious stuff." Dr. David Torr says people can help by getting vaccinated and wearing a proper mask.(CBC) Torr said a major driving factor in cases rising has been non-compliance with health orders. "The most important thing, no matter how many measures you put into place, they are only as effective as people complying with them," Torr said. "That's where the challenge is. People need to realize: stay away as much as possible from crowds or forming of gatherings. Now is not the time to do that. We need to stay in our bubbles." His last pieces of advice: get vaccinated and get a proper mask with three layers. "There are so many types of fancy masks out there, and they're unfortunately not effective."
While British Columbia's latest COVID-19 modelling shows a "levelling off" in some key data points, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, stressed that with variants of concern spreading, people need to continue to diligently follows the public health measures in place.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper is working with former leaders of three major intelligence agencies — the Mossad, the CIA and MI5 — in a Canadian private investment company. AWZ Ventures invests in Israeli cybersecurity, intelligence and physical security technologies. Despite the many prominent individuals behind it, the company remains low-profile in Canada. The head office of AWZ (pronounced Oz) Ventures is at 20 Eglinton Ave. West in Toronto, on the 10th floor of an office tower at the corner of Yonge Street. Stephen Harper with AWZ Ventures founder Yaron Ashkenazi (right) and EnsureDR CEO Uri Shay (left).(Business Wire) Harper is one of AWZ's partners and president of its advisory committee. A glance at the company's website shows that, along with the former prime minister, AWZ has assembled an impressive list of leaders from the counter-intelligence and business worlds. According to his bio, the company's founder and managing partner, Yaron Ashkenazi, served for a decade in the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) VIP Protection Division, leading teams that protected several Israeli prime ministers. Edward Sonshine, founding partner of AWZ and chairman of the board, is the founder of RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust, which owns the building that houses AWZ Ventures. Former Conservative public safety minister Stockwell Day is also involved with the company. Then-CSIS director Richard Fadden waits to testify before a committee on Parliament Hill on July 5, 2010.(Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press) AWZ Ventures has recruited former executives of the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. They include Haim Tomer — who spent more than 30 years with the agency, serving as head of Mossad's intelligence, counter-terrorism and international divisions — and Gary Barnea, a former deputy director of Mossad's special operations division. Richard Fadden, former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and a former national security adviser to Harper, also works for the company. Fadden sits on AWZ Ventures' advisory committee. In an interview with Radio-Canada, he described the business philosophy of founder Ashkenazi, who he said reached out to him after attending a conference where Fadden was a speaker. Former Mossad officials Haim Tomer and Gary Barnea.(AWZ Ventures) "Yaron has had a lot of contact with the Israeli security community. But more to the point, Israel is very successful in developing new technology, both for the private sector and for government," said Fadden. "He decided — you'll have to ask him — but I think he decided it would be a good way to make some money while promoting some companies from his home country." Ashkenazi turned down Radio-Canada's request for an interview, saying the company is "extremely occupied with a few major deals." "We are keeping a 'below the radar' position at this point," he added. Harper, who joined the company in 2019, did not reply to Radio-Canada's interview request. The company's website says AWZ Ventures was launched in 2016. According to Ontario government records, it was incorporated in 2013. Two major figures from U.S. and U.K. intelligence circles are also part of AWZ Ventures — former CIA director James Woolsey and former MI5 director general Stella Rimington. "I think they are like many other investment, venture companies on the planet. They picked an area where they think they can make some bucks," Fadden said of AWZ Ventures' leadership. James Woolsey was the director of the CIA under President Bill Clinton.(Reuters) The company manages $130 million and has invested in 17 companies, according to its website. All of those companies have been Israeli so far, said Fadden. "A lot of this technology is useful in fighting terrorism and that was my main interest," he said. "Some of the technology that has been developed helps develop a sense of what's going on, on the one level on social media, so you can accumulate information. But mostly it's defensive." As an example of AWZ's targeted investments, Fadden cited an investment in what he calls "cybersafe control mechanisms for trains or planes. The idea is to simply develop technology that protects whomever from attacks, mostly cyberattacks these days." Israel is not a NATO member, nor is it part of the Five Eyes — the intelligence-sharing alliance that includes Canada, the United States, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. Fadden said he's comfortable with helping to advance technological development in Israel, a friendly country. "We have a very firm policy that there are a number of companies that we do not invest in, that we do not sell to in any shape, way or fashion," he said. "For example, we don't deal with China or Russia, just to pick two." The companies that have benefited from AWZ Ventures' investments include NanoLock — which has developed a remote tool for protecting internet-connected devices from unauthorized access — and Assac, which has come up with an "anti-tapping, anti-hacking and threat management product available for the emerging corporate smartphone security and encryption market," according to AWZ Ventures' website. The Israeli cyber-tech sector continues to grow at a record pace despite the pandemic, according to the Israel National Cyber Directorate (INCD). The Israeli government agency said the sector raised $2.9 billion in 2020 — an increase of more than 70 per cent over the same period in the previous year. The sum of investments in such technology in Israel has reached 31 per cent of the value of such investments worldwide, according to INCD.
A series of attacks in Iraq this week illustrates the increasingly dangerous tangle of local and regional rivalries confronting the country's security in an election year, Iraqi security and government officials say. The violence appears linked to militias seeking to help ally Iran oppose Western and Gulf Arab adversaries in a tussle for influence playing out across the Middle East, as well as to growing domestic strains head of elections in October, they say. Drone and rocket attacks in northern Iraq by pro-Iran groups indicated that militias are expanding the arsenal they are prepared to deploy against U.S. forces stationed in the country.
John Rustad, B.C. Liberal MLA for Nechako Lakes, is standing by his defence of carbon dioxide after Minister for Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman denounced the comments and questioned whether Rustad believes climate change is real. Rustad's statement came during the throne speech debate in the legislature on Thursday. He took the opportunity to quibble with the use of the word "pollution" to describe CO2. "Carbon dioxide is an essential component of life on this planet. It is not a pollution and that sort of misinformation out there is just ridiculous. It's ridiculous to do that, it doesn't serve anybody well," said Rustad. "It doesn't serve the environmental movement well, it doesn't serve us as a province well, so poor choice of words and that's the raspberry," he continued. Heyman posted the excerpt from the debate on social media, asking for the statement to be retracted. "Deeply concerned to hear B.C. Liberal MLA John Rustad say carbon dioxide isn't a pollutant. Increased levels of #CO2 are causing floods, fires and droughts right here in B.C.," said Heyman on Twitter. "Rustad's denial raises real questions about his beliefs on climate change," he said. "This is the time to recognize our growing climate emergency." Asked about his comments by CBC News, Rustad repeated the view that CO2 is essential for life. "Virtually any scientist will tell you that carbon dioxide is an essential component to life, that you need to have about 130-150 parts per million [ppm] in the atmosphere for plant life to even survive," he said. "If something is labelled as pollution, our goal should be to get rid of it, and if we get rid of it, we essentially kill life on this planet," said Rustad. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is now believed to be about 412 ppm — much more than scientists consider a safe level for the planet. It hasn't been below 280 ppm since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Even reducing the amount of additional greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere by humans has been an enormous struggle for humankind. "I'm not suggesting current levels are healthy. I don't know what's healthy — I'm not a scientist," said Rustad. Asked directly if he believes climate change is real and caused by humans, the MLA declined to answer. "I know you asked a very specific question, but at this point I'm not prepared to answer that question," he said, adding that that wasn't the issue he was addressing in his speech to the legislature. "I'm talking about the language that was used in the throne speech, which I believe was erroneous," said Rustad. The B.C. Liberals sent CBC News a statement from interim leader Shirley Bond, which didn't address Rustad's statement in the legislature, but acknowledged the threat posed by climate change: "Our party has been recognized as a leader in global climate policy and we remain fully committed to actions that are necessary to battle climate change here in British Columbia and around the world." Do you have more to add to this story? Email firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker
SANTIAGO (Reuters) -China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine was 67% effective in preventing symptomatic infection, data from a huge real-world study in Chile has shown, a potential boost for the jab which has come under scrutiny over its level of protection against the virus. The CoronaVac vaccine was 85% effective in preventing hospitalizations and 80% effective in preventing deaths, the Chilean government said in a report, adding that the data should prove a "game changer" from the vaccine more widely. Rodrigo Yanez, Chile's vice trade minister who forged a deal with Sinovac to host the drug's clinical trial and buy 60 million doses of the drug over three years, said the results showed Chile had made "the right bet".
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said Friday that Indigenous communities were "crushing the curve" in terms of COVID-19 cases and have been declining since a "scary" peak in January, but he said with 643 active cases in First Nations communities on reserve, as well as "events in Iqaluit" and outbreaks in some communities, "this is not over."
Some trappers and elders from Little Red River Cree Nation in northern Alberta are urging the province to protect a dwindling Wabasca wood buffalo herd. In a letter to Environment Minister Jason Nixon, they ask for immediate action to end unregulated hunting by legally protecting the herd. "Our Woodland Cree Trappers and Elders have seen the Wabasca wood buffalo herd plummet without suitable recovery management actions," says the March 26 letter, which was signed by trappers Johnson Alook, Sylvester Auger and Lorne Tallcree. "We have not seen more than nine animals at a time of this herd this past season." A spokesman for Nixon said in a statement Friday that the province recognizes the importance of the Wabasca herd to Indigenous people and other Albertans. "The Wabasca bison population plays an important role in the conservation and recovery of wood bison in northern Alberta," said the emailed statement from press secretary Paul Hamnett. "Currently the Wabasca bison population is at low levels and at risk of local extinction. At this time, the Wabasca bison population cannot sustain any level of harvesting." The statement said the province is looking at all potential measures and actions that could be taken to conserve and recover the population. The trappers said they have yet to receive a response from the province, but hope officials will take steps to protect the herd before it disappears completely. "When I started trapping, I used to see 40, 30 buffalo," Alook said in an interview. "For a few years now, I haven't seen any buffalo. "There's some buffalo out there, but I haven't seen them. I used to see them every time we'd go out there." Other trappers and elders noticed the same thing, added Auger, so they decided to form a group to express their concerns. "We want to get them protected," he said. 'At this point it's dire' Kecia Kerr, executive director for the northern chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, said it has worked with the group and shares its concerns. "There isn't a very good estimate of population size for this herd. But when you are talking about 20 individuals, at this point it's dire," she said. Kerr said the society would like to see the herd get subject animal status, which is a category that allows for legal protection. It would also like to see hunting become regulated, she said. "Ultimately, in Alberta, there needs to be a change to how bison are provided status across the province." The letter says the herd is culturally and ecologically important as one of the few disease-free, free-ranging wood buffalo herds in Canada. There are only two other healthy herds in Alberta — in Ronald Lake and Hay Zama — and both have protections that prohibit unregulated hunting. "The persistence of this genetically unique, disease-free herd is critical to the recovery of the species," says the letter. "It has been our observation that unregulated harvesting targets the largest members of the herd and that when this herd is faced with the threats originating from predators, the largest members of the herd protect the young by forming a protective shield around them. "Thus, we believe the unregulated harvesting weakens the protective capacity of the herd and has a compounding effect towards herd extinction." Urgent action must be taken so that future generations of the Little Red River Cree Nation can exercise ceremonial use and have food security from the herd, it says. "The current situation, as it trends now towards herd extinction, does not uphold the honour and integrity of the Crown in protecting our treaty right."
INDIANAPOLIS — The former employee who shot and killed eight people at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis was interviewed by FBI agents last year, after his mother called police to say that her son might commit “suicide by cop,” the bureau said Friday. Coroners released the names of the victims late Friday, a little less than 24 hours after the latest mass shooting to rock the U.S. Four of them were members of Indianapolis' Sikh community. The attack was another blow to the Asian American community a month after six people of Asian descent were killed in a mass shooting in the Atlanta area and amid ongoing attacks against Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic. The Marion County Coroner's office identified the dead as Matthew R. Alexander, 32; Samaria Blackwell, 19; Amarjeet Johal, 66; Jaswinder Kaur, 64; Jaswinder Singh, 68; Amarjit Sekhon, 48; Karli Smith, 19; and John Weisert, 74. The shooter was identified as Brandon Scott Hole, 19, of Indianapolis, Deputy Police Chief Craig McCartt told a news conference. Investigators searched a home in Indianapolis associated with Hole and seized evidence, including desktop computers and other electronic media, McCartt said. Hole began firing randomly at people in the parking lot of the FedEx facility late Thursday, killing four, before entering the building, fatally shooting four more people and then turning the gun on himself, McCartt said. He said he did not know if Hole owned the gun legally. “There was no confrontation with anyone that was there,” he said. “There was no disturbance, there was no argument. He just appeared to randomly start shooting.” McCartt said the slayings took place in a matter of minutes, and that there were at least 100 people in the facility at the time. Many were changing shifts or were on their dinner break, he said. Several people were wounded, including five who were taken to the hospital. “You deserved so much better than this,” a man who identified himself as the grandson of Johal tweeted Friday evening. Johal had planned to work a double shift Thursday so she could take Friday off, according to the grandson, who would not give his full name but identifies himself as “Komal” on his Twitter page. Johal later decided to grab her check and go home, and still had the check in her hand when police found her, Komal said. “(What) a harsh and cruel world we live in,” he added. Smith, the youngest of the victims, was last in contact with her family shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday, family members said in social media posts late Friday. Dominique Troutman, Smith’s sister, waited hours at the Holiday Inn for an update on her sister. “Words can’t even explain how I feel. ... I’m so hurt,” Troutman said in a Facebook post Friday night. Weisert had been working as a bag handler at FedEx for four years, his wife, Carol, told WISH-TV. The couple was married nearly 50 years. President Joe Biden said he had been briefed on the shooting and called gun violence “an epidemic” in the U.S. “Too many Americans are dying every single day from gun violence. It stains our character and pierces the very soul of our nation,” he said in a statement. Later, he tweeted, “We can, and must, do more to reduce gun violence and save lives.” A FedEx employee said he was working inside the building Thursday night when he heard several gunshots in rapid succession. “I see a man come out with a rifle in his hand and he starts firing and he starts yelling stuff that I could not understand,” Levi Miller told WTHR-TV. “What I ended up doing was ducking down to make sure he did not see me because I thought he would see me and he would shoot me.” Paul Keenan, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis field office, said Friday that agents questioned Hole last year after his mother called police to say that her son might commit “suicide by cop.” He said the FBI was called after items were found in Hole’s bedroom but he did not elaborate on what they were. He said agents found no evidence of a crime and that they did not identify Hole as espousing a racially motivated ideology. A police report obtained by The Associated Press shows that officers seized a pump-action shotgun from Hole’s home after responding to the mother's call. Keenan said the gun was never returned. McCartt said Hole was a former employee of FedEx and last worked for the company in 2020. The deputy police chief said he did not know why Hole left the job or if he had ties to the workers in the facility. He said police have not yet uncovered a motive for the shooting. Police Chief Randal Taylor noted that a “significant” number of employees at the FedEx facility are members of the Sikh community, and the Sikh Coalition later issued a statement saying it was “sad to confirm” that at least four of those killed were community members. The coalition, which identifies itself as the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the U.S., said in the statement that it expected authorities to “conduct a full investigation — including the possibility of bias as a factor.” Varun Nikore, executive director of the AAPI Victory Alliance, a national advocacy group for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said in a statement that the shootings marked “yet another senseless massacre that has become a daily occurrence in this country.” Nikore remarked that gun violence in the U.S. "is reflective of all of the spineless politicians who are beholden to the gun lobby.” FedEx Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Frederick Smith called the shooting a “senseless act of violence.” “This is a devastating day, and words are hard to describe the emotions we all feel,” he wrote in an email to employees. The killings marked the latest in a string of recent mass shootings across the country and the third mass shooting this year in Indianapolis. Five people, including a pregnant woman, were shot and killed in the city in January, and a man was accused of killing three adults and a child before abducting his daughter during at argument at a home in March. In other states last month, eight people were fatally shot at massage businesses in the Atlanta area, and 10 died in gunfire at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said the community must guard against resignation and “the assumption that this is simply how it must be and we might as well get used to it.” ___ This story has been edited to correct the spelling of several names. ___ Associated Press reporters Michael Balsamo and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report. Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Casey Smith And Rick Callahan, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — A gay Liberal MP is calling on Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole to disavow a remark by one of his caucus members that appeared to suggest he and other LGBTQ people are "unclean."Toronto MP Rob Oliphant was indignant Friday after Conservative MP Tamara Jansen responded to a highly personal speech he'd given on a bill to ban the discredited practice of conversion therapy.Oliphant, a United Church minister, argued that objections to the bill are rooted in the belief that "God made a mistake" when he created people like him and that they should change who they are. He quoted from the Bible to urge MPs to "do justice and to love kindness."Jansen responded with a Bible quote of her own: "Woe to you, teachers of law and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean."Oliphant retorted that people like him are not "unclean.""It is deeply offensive to to play Bible baseball like that ... It is offensive even to use that word in the context of this debate."In an interview later, Oliphant called on O'Toole to disavow Jansen's comments.Jansen later said she used the quote "in reference to hypocrisy.""I plan to reach out to Mr. Oliphant and apologize for the misunderstanding," she said in a statement.The furor erupted during final debate on Bill C-6, which would criminalize the practice of forcing children or adults to undergo therapy aimed at altering their sexual orientation or gender identity.Liberal, Bloc Quebecois, New Democrat and Green MPs all support the bill.But some Conservatives have expressed fears that the wording of the bill would outlaw conversations between parents and their children or prohibit young people struggling with their sexual identity from seeking religious or other counsel. O'Toole himself has suggested it needs to be amended and has given his caucus a free vote on the bill.Oliphant, who kicked off final debate on the bill for the government, said those fears are "tired and worn out" excuses for objecting to the ban on conversion therapy."The political rhetoric is they're trying to not sound like they are still living in the Stone Age, saying they are not against (banning) conversion therapy but just this bill," he told the Commons."It is time to talk truth in this place. If someone is against this bill, they are against me and against people like me. They are saying ultimately that we are less than they are, that somehow God made a mistake when God created us and that we should change who we are or at least consider changing who we are."Jansen countered with the story of "Charlotte," a young woman she's heard from whose parents had helped her find a counsellor when she decided she no longer wanted "to continue with her lesbian activity" and who now fears the bill would outlaw that kind of support.Edmonton Conservative MP Michael Cooper prefaced his speech by stressing that conversion therapy is "absurd, it is wrong and it is harmful" and should be banned.But he went on to argue that the bill's failure to precisely define conversion therapy means the ban could apply to voluntary counselling and "good faith" conversations between persons struggling with their sexual identity with medical professionals, parents and other family members, religious leaders and others.This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — La Soufriere volcano shot out another explosive burst of gas and ash on Friday as a cruise ship arrived to evacuate some of the foreigners who had been stuck on a St. Vincent island coated in ash from a week of violent eruptions. The explosions that began on April 9 forced some 20,000 to flee the northern end of the eastern Caribbean island for shelters and contaminated water supplies across the island. Friday morning's blast “wasn’t a big explosion compared to the ones that we last weekend, but it was big enough to punch a hole through the clouds," said Richard Robertson, lead scientist at the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Center, in an interview with local NBC radio. “Probably got up to 8,000 metres (26,000 feet)." During a comparable eruption cycle in 1902, explosive eruptions continued to shake the island for months after an initial burst killed some 1,700 people, though the new eruptions so far have caused no reported deaths among a population that had received official warning a day earlier that danger was imminent. Meanwhile, British, U.S. and Canadian nationals were being evacuated aboard Royal Caribbean Cruises' Celebrity Reflection from the harbour in the Kingstown, capital of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The ship was due to arrive Saturday in Dutch Sint Maarten. Dozens of foreigners toting luggage descended from tour buses and cars at the port terminal in Kingstown and patiently waited in a line that began in the parking lot and reached deep into the terminal. They included students from the Trinity School of Medicine along with stranded tourists, including families with young children in arms. “As of right now, we are being evacuated for our safety and to keep the island as safe as possible," said LLeah Ransai, a Canadian student at Trinity. "Between the school, the government and the embassies of the US and Canada, we’re being evacuated now.” The U.S. Embassy said those aboard would have to make their own travel arrangements home. It also noted in an official statement that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recommended against travel on cruise ships because the chance of getting COVID-19 and said people who had been in close contact with suspected COVID-19 cases were barred from the trip. All aboard were supposed to have a negative rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours of boarding. Meanwhile, thousands of locals were stuck n emergency shelters with no idea when they might be able to return home. Levi Lewis, 58, a retired public servant from the town of Fancy, said the eruption had left him trying to get by with practically nothing. “I just reusing clothing cause i didn't walk with much," he said. "Plus water is an issue, so I’m trying to conserve it still.” “I want to go back home, or to whatever is left of it," he added. A few people, however, never left, defying evacuation orders. Raydon May, a bus conductor in his late 20s who stayed in Sandy Bay throughout the eruptions, said he had always planned to stay if the volcano erupted and was trying to protect properties in the community while making occasional trips outside the evacuation zone to pick up water and supplies. He said so much ash had fallen that the roofs of houses were collapsing under the weight. “One roof might get on like three truckloads of sand," he said. “We trying to help ... but we can’t help everybody.” Kristin Deane, The Associated Press
Calgary's hospitals are filling up with COVID-19 patients once again as an unrelenting third wave — driven primarily by the B117 variant first identified in the U.K. — rages through Alberta. The number of COVID-19 patients in Calgary has jumped by 51 per cent in just over two weeks, from 112 on April 1 to 169 on Friday. At the start of the month, 28 people were in ICU, compared with 42 on Friday. COVID-19 wards are fully operational across the city. As of Thursday afternoon, roughly 128 of the 188 designated beds on these units were full. An additional 25 intensive care unit beds have been added to deal with the influx — bringing the total in Calgary's four adult hospitals to 91. With those surge beds, the city's ICUs were running at 80 per cent capacity as of Thursday. And health-care workers have — yet again — been redeployed to care for patients in those ICU surge beds and on the COVID wards. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tremendously frustrated," said Dr. Peter Jamieson, an associate medical director with Alberta Health Services, Calgary zone. "We all just desperately want this to be over.… And I think within the walls of the hospital, we all have those same kinds of feelings and frustrations." Many staff already reassigned to vaccination clinics Jamieson has been watching as the number of COVID-19 patients swells all over again. He says Calgary's hospitals have the capacity to expand further, and he's confident patients can be cared for. But, he warns, this will come at a cost. "In order to do that, we're at … significant risk of having to slow down other services to free up the staff in order to look after the COVID patients," he said. Surgeries and outpatient services may have to be put on hold yet again. And the third wave brings with it a new complication, according to Jamieson. Many of the workers who will be needed have already been redeployed to provide vaccinations. "So a big surge in COVID patients means that we may need to cut back on our usual services and it may lead to stresses in being able to deliver the other important COVID services like vaccinations." Dr. Daniel Niven is an intensive care physician at Peter Lougheed Centre and assistant professor in the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary.(Erin Brooke Burns) Patients younger, sicker A Calgary intensive care specialist, Dr. Daniel Niven, says there has been a steady increase in patients coming to the intensive care unit at the Peter Lougheed Centre over the past few weeks. "There's no doubt that there's been a rise and we're seeing more of these patients everyday," he said. "While we're still seeing patients that are 60 or 70 years of age with a few well controlled medical problems, we're seeing a number of younger patients who come in with no medical problems and then have severe COVID-19 and need to be placed on a ventilator for life-support." Patients also appear to be deteriorating more rapidly. "There seems to be a higher rate of younger people getting severely ill and getting severely ill very quickly," said Jamieson. He says young people can progress from having initial symptoms to critical illness — potentially requiring a ventilator — in just days. All this leaves Jamieson with a plea for Albertans. "For our health system to continue to deliver all the services that we want it to, we desperately need the public health measures to be effective, and we really, really need the people of Calgary and Alberta to hang in there and stick the landing on, hopefully, this last wave of public health measures."
An Iqaluit man under the protection of Nunavut's public guardian is being forced into homelessness while government officials struggle to figure out how to help him and who should pay for that help, according to a case at the Nunavut Court of Justice. The Inuk man in this case, whose identity CBC is withholding, has schizophrenia and an intellectual disability. He was placed into the care of the public guardian according to an order under Nunavut's Public Guardianship Act in November last year. Those who fall under such protective orders do not have the capacity to make some basic life decisions for themselves. Last month, the man left Iqaluit's men's shelter in order to attend a court appearance in Kinngait. When he got back, the shelter was full. A couple days later, his defence lawyer noticed bruising and scratches on his face. The man reported the injuries were a result of frostbite due to homelessness. Legal aid lawyers quickly filed documents with the court demanding the public guardian secure temporary housing for the man under its care. But the guardian's office filed its own court documents refusing. It says it contacted numerous facilities in Iqaluit, none of which could house the man. It added that it is not its responsibility to house people under its care, especially in light of Nunavut's longstanding housing crisis. If it were their responsibility, the public guardian argued, it would have a long line at its door of people looking to be placed in its care for housing purposes. And the budget approved by the Legislative Assembly for the Office of the Public Guardian does not include such housing costs, the office argued. But Beth Kotierk, the man's legal aid lawyer, argued that the government cannot allow a person in its care to go homeless while it figures out which agency should pay for their care. Jordan's Principle should apply: legal aid lawyer In documents submitted to the court, Kotierk argues that Jordan's Principle should apply in the man's case. That principle was approved by a motion in the House of Commons in 2007, two years after five-year-old Jordan River Anderson died. The child, who was from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba, died while different levels of government argued in court about who should pay for his care. The principle named in his honour aims to prevent a similar situation from occurring. Although the man in Nunavut's public guardianship case is not a child, the same principle applies, Kotierk argued. The case went before Justice Paul Bychok on April 1, but due to administrative errors by legal aid lawyers, the case was dismissed without prejudice, which means it can be brought to court again. It was scheduled to go before the court again in late May. But the discovery of a case of COVID-19 in the capital suspended operations at Nunavut's Court of Justice on Thursday, and it's not clear when the case may be heard again. In the mean time, Kotierk said Nunavut's legal aid agency is working to secure a hotel room for the man.
WARSAW, Poland — Three members of an advisory council for the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum in Poland have resigned after the government appointed a former Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, a top member of the country's right-wing ruling party, to serve on the council. Culture Minister Piotr Glinski recently appointed Szydlo to a four-year term on the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Council, a nine-member body made up of Poles who meet once a year to advise the museum's director. It is separate from the International Auschwitz Council, which is made up of Holocaust survivors and international experts. The first advisory council member to resign was philosopher Stanislaw Krajewski, who said he took the step Tuesday to protest what he called the “politicization” of a group that so far had been made up of experts. He was followed by historians Marek Lasota, who also belongs to the ruling party, and Krystyna Oleksy, a former deputy director of the Auschwitz Museum. Krajewski, who was about to begin his third four-year term, told The Associated Press on Friday that he does not remember a politician ever being named to the council and he did not feel comfortable with the step, particularly given the of the populist and nationalist Law and Justice Party. “It’s hard to say what would happen, but it would change the nature of the body very considerably,” Krajewski said. “I don’t want to be on the same council with a major politician of the ruling party today.” Krajewski is a co-creator of a post-World War II history section at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and a co-founder of the Polish Council of Christians and Jews. He is also a leading member of Warsaw's Jewish community who since the 1970s has worked to revive the Jewish life in Poland that was nearly wiped out by the Holocaust. After Law and Justice took power in 2015, its leaders launched what they described as a “historical policy offensive” aimed at building national pride in the nation's past. The party has used museums, state media and other tools to push a patriotic vision of Poland which critics say has veered into an abuse of history and distortion. Poles are extremely proud of the nation's role in resisting the German occupation during nearly six years of World War II, both at home and abroad. The government has sought to focus on that aspect of Polish behaviour during the war, including the Poles who saved Jews, while seeking to discourage examinations of the role some Poles had in helping occupying German forces in their roundup and mass killing of Jews. The strategy has led to accusations of historical whitewashing and created international controversies in recent years. “The fear is that this would be another move in the direction of making also the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum part of their historical policy," Krajewski said. Szydlo, who was prime minister from 2015-2017, made commented at a memorial observance at Auschwitz in 2017 that appeared to defend her government's tough anti-refugee policies. Szydlo later denied that her comments were about migration. Szydlo is now is a member of the European Parliament for the Law and Justice party. She has studied ethnography and history, and is from the area of Oswiecim, the Polish town where the site of the former Auschwitz death camp is located. Earlier this week, she called her appointment “an honour and a great duty for me, an inhabitant of the Oswiecim region.” Emails to her office and the Culture Ministry seeking comment on the council resignations went unanswered. Vanessa Gera, The Associated Press
A surge in patients with COVID-19 means Vancouver General Hospital's intensive care unit is under intense strain with patients arriving "back to back," according to a critical care physician who works there. Dr. Hussein Kanji, the hospital's medical director of the high acuity unit, said everyone working in the ICU is stretched to the limit. "Our hospital system is incredibly, incredibly stressed right now. Our ICUs are more stressed than they've ever been," Kanji told reporters Friday. "We're all exhausted." Friday saw a record 425 patients in hospital with COVID-19 across B.C., including 127 in intensive care — more than ever before. Between 50 and 70 patients a week are now entering critical care with the disease. On the ground, that's translating into hectic days at VGH. "They seem to be coming back to back or even at the same time needing admission into the ICU. Just right now we've had two simultaneous admissions into the emergency department needing our care," Kanji said. 'Way, way, way beyond the call of duty' He said patients are coming in more quickly after their initial diagnosis, they're much sicker and they're younger than what was seen previously in the pandemic. Younger patients are now needing ventilators and other lifesaving interventions more frequently as well. Data presented by health officials on Thursday shows a significant spike over the last month in the number of patients between the ages of 40 and 59 who are ending up in hospital with COVID-19. In Ontario, doctors have begun discussing "triage" measures in the event hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. In these scenarios, because of insufficient staff and resources, doctors would have to decide which critically ill patients will receive lifesaving care. Dr. Hussein Kanji is the medical director of the high acuity unit at Vancouver General Hospital.(CBC News) Kanji said B.C.'s medical system is not in immediate danger of being overwhelmed and "I very much hope we'll never be in that position." But he added that the availability of health care professionals will be the limiting factor in B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix told reporters Friday that B.C. has enough beds and equipment to handle a significant surge in hospitalizations, but the province cannot spare any workers. There are reports that Ontario Premier Doug Ford has asked other provinces to send health-care workers to support the crunch in his province, but Dix said it's not possible for B.C. to help out. Despite the pressures at VGH, Kanji said he's never seen staff working with such a high level of devotion to patient care. "There isn't a single staff member who hasn't gone way, way, way beyond the call of duty, and it's heartwarming," he said.
Michael Brisson hasn't been vaccinated against COVID-19, but it hasn't been for lack of trying. The 66-year-old lives in Emerald Woods, the neighbourhood with Ottawa's second-highest rate of COVID-19. Tucked just south of Bank Street and Hunt Club Road, local landmarks include a mosque, a Shawarma Station and Sawmill Creek Elementary School, named after the narrow stream that flows through the community. The neighbourhood falls within the K1T postal code, and has therefore been designated by the province as a COVID-19 "hot spot," where since last week residents as young as 50 have been eligible to receive a dose at one of the city's public vaccination clinics. But when Brisson, who doesn't own a computer, tried calling Ottawa Public Health (OPH) last week to book an appointment, he gave up after waiting nearly an hour on the phone. "I've gone to several pharmacies nearby, and they don't provide the service. And they're telling me, 'Well, go online, go online," Brisson said. "Well, I don't have online." Michael Brisson, 66, says he hasn't been able to book a vaccination appointment.(Jean Delisle/CBC ) Already at high risk due to his age, Brisson lives in a 12-storey apartment building where he said not everyone keeps their distance, especially in the elevator. Brisson doesn't own a car, and said even if he had been able to book an appointment, it would take him an hour to get to the nearest OPH vaccination clinic by bus. "I don't have time and it's inconvenient," he said. Immigrants, single parents According to the Ottawa Neighborhood Study, 51 per cent of the 5,600 people who call Emerald Woods are racialized, predominantly immigrants and refugees. Five per cent don't speak English or French, and the median annual income is less than $25,000. One-quarter of the neighbourhood's residents are single parents, many with school-age children who are suddenly home indefinitely. Sumaiya Hirsi, 11, worried about infecting her family after two classmates tested positive for COVID-19 at the end of March.(Jean Delisle/CBC) Sumaiya Hirsi, 11, hasn't attended class since March 29, when her entire Grade 5 class at Sawmill Creek Elementary School was sent home after two students tested positive for COVID-19. Hirsi, who shares a four-bedroom rowhouse on Bridle Path Drive with her mother, her aunt and four older siblings, worried about infecting her family. "I had to stay upstairs until I got my test [results] back. I could have infected my mom and her daycare. My siblings all work," said Hirsi, who normally shares a bed with her mother, a child-care worker. Stephanie Mitra, 33, who has lived in Emerald Woods for four years, said the neighbourhood's high infection rate comes as no surprise to her. "I think there are a lot of younger and ... essential workers, people who don't necessarily have sick leave or even have the ability to stay home," Mitra observed. Stephanie Mitra says many of her neighbours are essential workers who don't have sick pay.(Jean Delisle/CBC) Mosque steps in OPH said it's using neighborhood census data to improve access to vaccines for residents who have been disproportionately affected by the virus, and in the case of Emerald Woods, has enlisted the help of the neighbourhood mosque. Masjid ar-Rahmah — the Mosque of Mercy — has previously hosted virtual seminars with doctors to answer residents' questions and concerns, and is currently a COVID-19 testing site. Now, in a neighbourhood with no community health centre of its own, the mosque will become a vaccination site during the holy month of Ramadan. Hindia Mohamoud, executive director of the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership, said that's the kind of initiative that will get results, because people in the city's hardest-hit neighbourhoods are often least likely to have the time or resources to get vaccinated. "The focus on hot spots doesn't necessarily result in vaccination of the most vulnerable," Mohamoud said. "We have to bring the vaccination to them." (CBC)
TORONTO/OTTAWA (Reuters) -The Canadian province of Ontario expanded and extended a stay at home order on Friday and said police will be given new powers to stop and question people who leave home as expert advisors warned that new cases of COVID-19 will continue to soar, overwhelming hospitals. Ontario also announced restrictions on non-essential travel from neighbouring provinces starting Monday and said non-essential construction, including building projects at malls, hotels and office towers will shut down as of Saturday to deal with a raging third wave. "The reality is there are few options left," said Premier Doug Ford.
The captain of the Vancouver Canucks has a message for the masses: take COVID-19 seriously. Bo Horvat, one of 21 Vancouver players recovering from the outbreak, said he unwittingly infected his wife with the virus. The couple's infant son, Gunnar, has not been tested. "It hit her a little harder than it hit me. I'm one of the lucky ones, my symptoms were fairly mild … I got through them and am continuing to get through them," he said. "I'm not going to lie, it was tough to know my family got it from me." On Friday the NHL once again adjusted the Canucks schedule to give players more time to recover from their illnesses and a three-week layoff. Vancouver returns to game play Sunday versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, with a repeat match up on Tuesday. P1 variant confirmed General manager Jim Benning confirmed the P1 variant originally detected in Brazil is the outbreak's cause. He also said the variant is why the Canucks were hit harder than other NHL teams that have dealt with COVID. Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning has confirmed the teams COVID-19 outbreak was caused by the P1 variant initially detected in Brazil. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press) "What was different with our situation is with the regular COVID it seemed that after 10 days players were ready to get back on the ice and start working out and performing," he said. "But we had players that when they did that, they still had symptoms." Benning said the virus "buckled" some of the players, and that three or four regulars likely won't be ready when games resume. Head coach Travis Green, who also contracted COVID-19, has yet to return to practices. Originally, the Canucks were supposed to host Edmonton Friday night in their first game back. But after forward J.T. Miller publicly questioned the wisdom of forcing games when so many on the team were still recovering, the schedule was delayed. 'Guys were not healthy' "[J.T.] spoke on behalf of the team and it was needed. He basically got the ball rolling," said Horvat. "Guys were just not healthy enough to play.… I think a lot more guys will be ready to go on Sunday." According to Horvat, no Canucks players have yet been vaccinated. That's in comparison to the majority of players on U.S. teams — and their family members — who have. "It's a little bit of a slower rollout here in Canada. We've got to get the essential workers done first," he said. "That's out of our control and I guess we have to wait our turn." According to a Vancouver Coastal Health spokesperson, the Vancouver Canucks organization does not qualify for the program of accelerated vaccinations to target workplace outbreaks because employees are not essential workers. Benning said Canucks practices will remain closed to media for the time being to give recovering players some privacy. "Some haven't been on the ice for three weeks," he said. "We don't want them to be judged."
The mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Edmonton Expo Centre can administer 7,000 shots per day, if operating at full capacity. On Wednesday, it did 280. The rapid-flow clinic is solely offering the AstraZeneca vaccine and only to Albertans aged 55 to 64. An Alberta Health Services spokesperson said the Expo clinic did not run at full capacity this week because a slow uptake was expected for the shots. On its opening day on Monday, the clinic administered 1,632 doses. That dropped sharply the next day to 520. As of Thursday mid-morning, AHS said around 400 people were booked for the day. Another mass clinic at the Calgary Telus Convention Centre is also facing low appointment numbers after it opened last week. "The first day we were doing about 5,000. Right now, we have bookings for between 500 and 1,000 people," Dr. Cheri Nijssen-Jordan, AHS's vaccine task force co-lead, said in an interview with the Calgary Eyeopener on Thursday. Calgary's Telus Convention Centre is now offering two free transit tickets for anyone who takes the bus or CTrain to their COVID-19 vaccine appointment.(Submitted by Calgary Telus Convention Centre) Nijssen-Jordan said part of the issue is hesitancy brought on by reports of extremely rare blood clots occurring in people who have received AstraZeneca, also known as Covishield. On Wednesday, Health Canada announced it had completed a safety review and found that AstraZeneca is safe, and that Canadians over 18 shouldn't hesitate to take it if offered. Eligibility is still limited to those over 55 for the time being as the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is still reviewing research and hasn't updated its recommendation. An Alberta Health spokesperson confirmed Wednesday that the province is following NACI's recommendation and will continue to only offer AstraZeneca to Albertans aged 55 to 64. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said Thursday that the province's Alberta Advisory Committee on Immunization would discuss expanding the age eligibility this week. For now, it's up to public health officials like Nijssen-Jordan to try to encourage 55- to 64-year-olds that AstraZeneca is safe and effective. "People are focusing on very rare events that may show up for other things, but it's also a lot more common for people in that age group to get COVID and have more serious side effects from the disease itself," she said. Dr. Michael Zakhary, a medical officer of health in Edmonton, said Thursday that AHS is working with Alberta Health, community practitioners and all levels of government to make sure the messages going out to the public are consistent, accurate and evidence-based. "We do have provincial teams with AHS for community engagement, making sure that all questions around vaccines, around vaccine hesitancy are being appropriately addressed," he said. Another factor holding up AstraZeneca jabs is that the 55- to 64-year-old demographic deemed eligible by the province isn't that large. As of Wednesday, only 24 per cent of 55- to 59-year-olds had received one dose of vaccine while 43 per cent of 60- to 64-year-olds had gotten their first shot. Alberta Health Services said 28,000 doses of AstraZeneca have been administered so far, as has the entire shipment of 58,500 doses of Covishield that was shipped to Alberta a few weeks ago.