Chicago-area residents are digging out Tuesday after a winter storm dumped nearly a foot and a half of snow in some places. (Feb. 16)
Chicago-area residents are digging out Tuesday after a winter storm dumped nearly a foot and a half of snow in some places. (Feb. 16)
That change in the air isn't just the coming of spring: there's a shift happening in the political dynamic surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations. After weeks of the federal Liberal government taking heat for the slow arrival of vaccines in Canada, it's provincial premiers who must now answer to jittery, impatient voters hoping to be immunized as soon as possible. New Brunswick's Liberal opposition is now pushing Premier Blaine Higgs and his Progressive Conservative government for more details about the provincial vaccination plan — details they say other provinces have been providing to their citizens. "We're not trying to play politics with this, but there's certainly not a lot of information being given out to New Brunswickers, and New Brunswickers are asking questions to their MLAs," says Liberal Leader Roger Melanson. Opposition Liberal leader Roger Melanson (CBC News) In January, Higgs said many more New Brunswickers could be vaccinated each week, if only there were enough vaccine. Now those supplies are ramping up fast. New Brunswick received 11,760 doses last week and a similar number is expected this week. Melanson says those doses should be administered as quickly as they arrive. "We're seeing deliveries, much bigger deliveries than what we had been getting since January, so now the onus has shifted onto the provincial governments," says political scientist Stéphanie Chouinard of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. Deputy minister of Health Gérald Richard told the legislature's public accounts committee Feb. 24 that New Brunswick would be ready for what he called "a flood" of vaccines, including those from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. "We are very confident that we have a good plan in New Brunswick," Richard said. "It was approved by the COVID cabinet and ratified by cabinet a few months ago." Department of Health deputy minister Gérald Richard, left(Jacques Poitras/CBC) But the only detail the province provided during Monday's vaccine update was that 2,400 more long-term care residents would be done this week, accounting for about a quarter of the doses expected to arrive. And officials have given varying estimates of how many people can be vaccinated per week. In January, when deliveries to the province were still a trickle, Premier Blaine Higgs said 45,000 could be done, if only the province had enough vaccine. On Thursday he told reporters the province could do 40,000, then added it might be possible to double that to 80,000. Last Saturday, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told CBC's The House that New Brunswick could vaccinate "up to 4,000 people a day," which works out to a maximum of 28,000 per week — below Higgs's estimate. Meanwhile, other provinces are moving faster, or at least providing more detail, on their rollouts. This week, Nova Scotia announced its plan for 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third to be approved in Canada. A health worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press) The doses arrive next week and Nova Scotia doctors and pharmacists will administer the doses to people aged 50-64 in 26 locations around the province starting March 15. New Brunswick has provided no such detail on what it will do with the approximately 10,000 doses it will receive. Higgs says that will be discussed by the all-party COVID cabinet committee next Tuesday and spokesperson Shawn Berry said the province will probably use it for some of the groups identified for early vaccination. Berry said 3,200 people were scheduled to be vaccinated this week but some clinics were delayed because of winter weather. He said doses listed as "available" by the province — more than 13,000 as of Thursday — are earmarked for clinics. "To prevent the risk of disruption of clinics, we don't plan to use them the same week they are scheduled to arrive in case there is a delay," he said. As an example, he said the province received more than 11,000 doses last week and a similar amount will be used at First Nations clinics that started this week. Berry also said Higgs's figure of 80,000 vaccinations per week being possible is correct. Higgs said last Friday one reason for the lack of detail is the uncertainty of supply that plagued the provinces for the first two months of the year. "When we schedule appointments, we will have a vaccine to put with it," he said during last week's CBC political panel on Information Morning Fredericton. "I would like to see a map out over the next two or three or four months of a fixed quantity so that we can plan well." Not when, but how Melanson said he's satisfied with the "who" and "when" so far but wants to know about the "how" — how people will contact, or hear from, the province to arrange their shots. At the Feb. 24 public accounts committee meeting, Liberal MLA Jean-Claude d'Amours also pointed to a Brunswick News report that the province was "urgently" calling for help in long-term care homes from anyone qualified to administer vaccines — another sign of lack of preparedness, he said. Whether New Brunswick's plan is really behind other provinces remains to be seen. The fluctuations in vaccine deliveries to Canada caused short-term alarm and a lot of political finger-pointing but in the end did not endanger the overall vaccine delivery target for the first three months of 2021. Still, Chouinard points out that even those temporary delays probably led to more illness and deaths. D'Amours noted at the public accounts committee that the percentage of COVID-19 doses the province was administering was slipping. Liberal health critic Jean-Claude d'Amours(CBC) The week before the hearing, 21 per cent of all doses received in New Brunswick hadn't been used. It rose to 25 per cent last week and 28 per cent this week. "Supply is not the issue right now," Melanson says. "The issue is capacity to roll it out." The province has been holding back a lot of vaccine for second doses. But with the recent announcement that second doses will be delayed to maximize first doses, those hold-back numbers should now diminish. On Thursday the Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island governments said the delay to second doses will allow everyone in those provinces who wants to be vaccinated to get their first dose by June. Higgs told reporters that's his target as well. He said more details on how delayed second doses and new vaccine approvals will change the province's rollout plan should be coming next week. Berry said 7,503 of 11,000 long-term care residents have received at least one dose of vaccine and first-dose clinics for all long-term care facilities will be finished over the next two weeks.
The sun had not yet crested the horizon on a cold Tuesday morning when a group of women from Six Nations crossed into a Caledonia construction site and set up a teepee. The occupation of the planned Douglas Creek Estates subdivision on Argyle Street started a chain reaction that would lead 15 years later to the ongoing standoff at 1492 Land Back Lane. “Some parts of it are like déjà vu,” said Dawn Smith, who stepped onto DCE on Feb. 28, 2006, and became a public face of the movement asserting Haudenosaunee land rights along the Grand River. “They experience what we experienced, but they’ve been there a lot longer than we were,” Smith said of land defenders who have held the McKenzie Meadows construction site since July, indefinitely delaying a 229-unit subdivision planned by Foxgate Developments while blocking key roadways in response to clashes with police. Within four months of Smith and her compatriots occupying DCE, after violent clashes and failed negotiations, the province bought the land from local developers to hold in trust, essentially surrendering the 99-acre property to Six Nations members who control it to this day as an unofficial extension of the reserve. How the occupation on McKenzie Road will end remains anyone’s guess, but a look back to 2006 may offer some clues. Origins of a conflict It’s easiest to start with what hasn’t changed. In July 2020, much like 2006 and two centuries before that, who owns the land along the Grand River remains an open question. Land defenders point to the Haldimand Proclamation of 1784 as the justification for their claims of sovereignty over the DCE and McKenzie sites. Governor Frederick Haldimand granted approximately 10 kilometres along either side of the entire length of the Grand River — just shy of one million square kilometres in all — to the Haudenosaunee in gratitude for their allyship during the American Revolutionary War. Depending on who tells the story, the Haldimand Tract land was then legally surrendered by Haudenosaunee chiefs or “stolen fair and square” by corrupt colonial authorities, said Rick Monture, a Mohawk from Six Nations and professor of Indigenous studies at McMaster University. A land claims lawsuit launched by Six Nations Elected Council in 1995 to settle the question inches toward a November 2022 court date. In the meantime, developers of the Douglas Creek and McKenzie Meadows projects thought they were in the clear since the lawsuit seeks financial compensation and not the return of privately held land. Monture said the builders, and the governments who approved the land sales, should have known better. “I can’t believe they would even try to negotiate a land deal in an area that’s hotly contested. That makes no sense,” he said. The Douglas Creek occupation followed a pattern that has repeated itself at Land Back Lane — builders sought a court injunction to oust the occupiers, who refused to leave, and police tried different approaches to enforce the court order. “By April 20, the police came in and it was a full-scale raid,” said Smith, recalling the 2006 predawn clash between OPP officers and hundreds of land defenders and supporters who rushed to Douglas Creek. In response, demonstrators set up roadblocks and lit tire fires on the roads, just as happened after smaller-scale skirmishes between the OPP and those occupying McKenzie Meadows. “Where it sits right now — the precariousness of the situation, how it’s been this way for how long now — they’re experiencing a lot more than we did,” Smith said of the ongoing stalemate at Land Back Lane. Skyler Williams of Six Nations was 23 when he fought police on the ground at DCE. Now the spokesperson for 1492 Land Back Lane, Williams says he turns to people like Smith for guidance. Smith said Williams and others in the camp share her motivation for defending the land. “It’s my job as a woman to protect Mother Earth for the seven generations that are coming,” she said. “I feel that if more people sat and spoke with these young men and women, they would get a different understanding. They’re not there just to tear up roads and instigate riots. They’re there for a reason, and that reason I tuck into bed every night.” Passing the buck Things moved quickly after Smith and her compatriots stopped work at DCE, which her group calls Kanonhstaton, “the protected place” in Mohawk. Hundreds of residents and home buyers massed at the barricades to demand an end to the occupation and protest police inaction. Thus began what Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett has described as “15 years of anarchy” in Caledonia. After the failed police attempt to clear the site, Ottawa and Queen’s Park started negotiating with Six Nations elected and hereditary leaders — a first for the area. Soon afterward, the province declared an indefinite moratorium on construction on the DCE land. This time, there have been no federal talks, and Premier Doug Ford has taken a hard line against the occupation. “What I’m hearing from residents is exactly what I heard 15 years ago,” said Barrett, a Conservative politician who at the time was also the provincial representative for Six Nations. “One thing has changed. They know it’s a different government now.” When news of the Douglas Creek occupation reached Queen’s Park, Barrett said he immediately crossed the floor to confer with the Liberal minister in charge of Indigenous affairs. The next day, he visited the site and met with clan mothers and some Confederacy chiefs, who asked for his help to liaise with elected council, the OPP and the federal government. “There is a bit of a formula here that’s followed,” Barrett said of the land defenders’ strategy of seeking nation-to-nation negotiations. “The messaging about rights and in this case land back, and the talk about, ‘It’s federal, and we want to meet with the governor general.’ I heard all this in 2006. That stuff just endlessly gets dragged out.” That’s exactly the problem, Monture said. No leader wants to solve the underlying issue. “It’s just this endless cycle of punting the ball to the province, the feds, First Nations, back and forth,” he said. “Meantime, our people grow more and more frustrated with it, and our neighbours grow more and more frustrated with us. So it works out in the best interest of Canada to let it simmer, since you let the next political party deal with it.” Monture worries what could happen “when that frustration boils over.” “They have to get serious about it soon,” he said. “We are a peaceful people. We’ve tried and tried and tried to put forward our complaints and our story. We’re just asking for some justice here.” Growing awareness, lingering frustration What was a conflagration in 2006 has been a slow burn this time around. Aside from minor clashes, the McKenzie Meadows occupation has not been marked by widespread violence. Still, there are those in Caledonia virulently opposed to what they consider a kind of urban warfare being waged against their community. Residents decry the vandalism in angry Facebook comments and invective-filled letters to the editor, saying if Canadians tore up roads and rail lines, they would be carted off to jail. Williams shrugs off such criticism. “We’re the nicest terrorists you’re ever going to meet,” he says with a laugh, referring to a since-retracted statement from Haldimand’s police services board calling the land defenders domestic terrorists. Williams said public sentiment feels different now than it did in 2006. Back then, Caledonia residents marched to the barricades with confrontation on their mind, whether with land defenders or police. This time around, residents organized a protest with Six Nations members, pushing the federal government for action on the land claim file. “The climate is way different. Way different,” Williams said. “We got people from town here walking across the police line to bring us food and love, and to come sit by the fire and talk and laugh. Gary McHale (a leader of the anti-Indigenous protests at DCE) wasn’t coming across the (barricade).” Canadians today are better educated about Indigenous issues, he added. “In 2021, the atrocities that have been committed against Indigenous people across the country aren’t secrets anymore. It is common knowledge now,” Williams said, listing off residential schools, the over-incarceration of Indigenous people, and murdered and missing Indigenous women as examples. “The government has said, yes, we are guilty of all those things, and so we need to reconcile with Indigenous people on a nation-to-nation basis.” Haldimand County Mayor Ken Hewitt said opinion regarding Land Back Lane is “mixed” among his constituents, with many upset at seeing quiet detour routes clogged with traffic and having their tax dollars repeatedly go to repair damaged roads. “They’re frustrated that, once again, the community is the whipping stick of an ongoing dispute between the federal government and Six Nations,” Hewitt said. “They do not like the idea that if people in Caledonia choose to take a different position on this protest or other protests, that it could result in further closure of roads.” In 2006, Hewitt was a financial services adviser who headed the Caledonia Citizens’ Alliance, a group that lobbied the province to help the town during the crisis. “The federal government — whether it was today, 10 years or 100 years ago — has always known that there was a collision course that’s been set between First Nations people and our government,” Hewitt said. “There’s many opportunities along the way that that collision could’ve been avoided. Yet here we are, having the same conversations over and over again.” Hewitt contends the DCE occupation “was fully supported by many, if not the majority of those on the territory,” while in his view, the McKenzie standoff is not as broadly popular on Six Nations. “Fundamentally, they certainly do support a resolution of these outstanding claims that exist within the Haldimand Tract,” Hewitt said. “But to close roads to and destroy property, those efforts are not supported by most members of Six Nations.” Monture was quick to point out that he could not speak for the entire community — indeed, the diversity of opinion on the reserve is often cited as a complicating factor in talks with the federal government — but his sense is most residents are “quietly supportive” of the Land Back movement. “I think most of it is, ‘Here we go again, unfortunately,’” he said. “The mood in the community is, ‘Can’t we just resolve this and move forward?’” Monture has noticed a sea change in attitudes toward Indigenous grievances among Caledonians, even as the bypass and two key thoroughfares have been closed more often than not since July. “It’s tricky, because unfortunately the only way we can call attention to these things is when we make those stands that aren’t wildly popular,” he said. “There are friends and acquaintances of mine (in Caledonia) who kind of silently cheer us on, but they don’t want to do that (publicly) because they’re going to look bad to their white neighbours in town.” But that sympathy is not universal. Several Caledonia residents told The Spectator they are wary of publicly criticizing the current occupation because they fear retribution from land defenders and their allies. Some cited the violence and property damage carried out against residents living near DCE in 2006 — and the lack of police response — as the reason they are staying silent this time. But Bill Stoneman, who has lived in Caledonia for 65 years, said the McKenzie occupation feels less tense. Stoneman said while the roadblocks are “annoying,” he does not feel personally threatened. “It’s calmer. In ’06, they were terrorizing the town. It’s a lot calmer now,” he said. “It’s a safe area. They’re not antagonizing. In ’06, it was unsafe back in that area. This time they’re trying to stick to the issues.” Tension on the ground As the political wheels spin, the reality on the ground is dictated by land defenders and the police, who are tasked with enforcing a pair of Superior Court injunctions ordering the roads cleared and the McKenzie site returned to Foxgate Developments. The altercation between OPP officers and land defenders on the night of Oct. 22 — which saw a failed arrest attempt at the back entrance to 1492 Land Back Lane lead to supporters pelting a police cruiser with rocks and officers deploying a Taser and shooting rubber bullets — brought reinforcements to the scene near Kanonhstaton, Smith among them. “There’s quite a few people down there I care for a great deal, and I had to make sure everybody was OK,” she said. “The feeling down there that night, it was exactly the same as when it happened in 2006. It wasn’t the numbers that came out, but the numbers that were needed showed up.” Barrett has repeatedly encouraged the police to enforce the injunctions, while making it clear governments “do not interfere or direct operational decisions” of the OPP. “If I’ve been asked once, I’ve been asked several thousand times to tell the police to go in there and clear it,” he said. “The first reaction is, yes, this has to be nipped in the bud. Because, you know, reinforcements gradually arrive. Then it settles into something much more insidious for people who are living right next door.” Haldimand OPP Const. Rod LeClair said police “take no position” in land disputes and instead seek “open and peaceful dialogue” with demonstrators, an approached codified by the OPP Framework that guides the force’s reaction to “critical Indigenous incidents.” Williams said in practice, officers seek to “exploit divisions” within Indigenous communities while laying “nuisance charges” to deter supporters. “This is something that is playing out exactly the same today as it did 15 years ago,” he said. Police services board chair Brian Haggith — a retired Haldimand OPP officer who policed the DCE occupation — says the OPP’s Framework is flawed. “When lawlessness starts, it just doesn’t seem to be able to control it,” he said. Residents in 2006 criticized the OPP for letting Six Nations members wantonly break the law in plain sight, and Haggith said officers again stood by last fall as streets were torn up using stolen construction equipment. “Police officers in uniform are watching this occur, and no attempt to stop it. People just don’t understand,” he said. “When the circumstances change — when the protesters or demonstrators are no longer peaceful — it’s incumbent upon the OPP to change strategies in order to restore order and preserve public safety.” Ga’nogae, a Seneca chief from the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, said officers are rightly showing more restraint this time. “(The government) kept the cattle prod to the OPP’s butt and said, ‘Come on, get those people off that land. Get those roads open,’” the chief said. “And the OPP, they learned from Ipperwash. They’re handling this with kid gloves, as they should be.” Split attention Beverly Jacobs, a Mohawk lawyer from Six Nations and associate dean of the University of Windsor law faculty, says the onus is on the government to avoid another standoff. She noted that Queen’s Park committed to “reconciling” Haudenosaunee land claims after the Douglas Creek standoff, but no progress was made, while more than 800 Caledonia residents and business owners wrung a $20-million settlement out of the province to compensate for their losses. Caledonia lawyer Peter Murray was involved in paying out that class-action lawsuit, and in November, his firm took the lead on organizing another legal action against the province and the OPP, prompted by roadblocks again cutting off access to town. “It’s fair to say that it’s less confrontational between the residents of Caledonia and the protesters than it was in 2006,” Murray said. “I’m not seeing the gatherings up at the Canadian Tire parking lot that we saw in 2006 — marching with the Canadian flag, that kind of stuff. It could be social media playing more of a role today. A lot of people are expressing their thoughts on social media as opposed to physically going there. But as far as the businesses are concerned, I’m afraid it could be very similar if it’s not resolved.” One problem with getting action from Ottawa is the Caledonia disputes, while disruptive locally, can’t compete for national attention with higher-profile conflicts such as the burning of Mi’kmaq fishing boats in Nova Scotia or Wet’suwet’en pipeline protests out west. “This isn’t that important to the majority of people in the country, which is why these steps these people are taking are counterproductive,” Hewitt said. “It’s not achieving the goals. Look at ’06. Show me the success as the result of that protest. Sure, you stopped a development, but that land — nothing’s happened, nothing’s changed.” That criticism misses the point, Williams said. “The way we live is quite a bit different than covering everything in concrete and asphalt and calling that progress,” he said. “To let the wildlife come back here, for the earth here to regrow and heal itself — that’s what progress is for us. To let Mother Nature do her bit, and let her take this land back.” Some residents have questioned the timing of the McKenzie Meadows occupation, wondering why land defenders let contractors clear the former farmland and install sewer lines before moving in. Williams blamed the pandemic, saying his group was ready to go in when work started in the spring, but that coincided with the arrival of COVID-19 to Six Nations. “Our entire community was locked down for those three months,” Williams said. “We were very concerned about (the virus) and wanted to make sure that everybody was going to be safe.” The pandemic didn’t stop some Six Nations members from blockading the Highway 6 bypass and the CN rail line from Feb. 24 to March 19, in solidarity with Wetʼsuwetʼen resistance to the pipeline. The protesters eventually retreated to Kanonhstaton, which has been a safe zone for land defenders throughout the McKenzie occupation. Monture suspects politicians are too busy managing the pandemic to pay much attention to a relatively low-priority land dispute in rural Ontario. “I don’t think people have the mental or emotional, or even the physical stamina now to put a lot of good thinking toward this,” he said. “We need to get through the pandemic first, and then go at it.” Sharing the land Things have not always been this tense in Caledonia. Locals remember decades, if not centuries, of neighbourly relations between Haldimand County and Six Nations, with residents intermarrying and intermingling at schools, shops, and social events. Some contend the DCE occupation soured that closeness and created divisions between the two communities. “The relationships were good. They worked for each other, helped each other out. It was a friendly camaraderie amongst people back then,” said Monture, whose father and grandfather were farmers on the reserve. They told him that in the 1940s and 1950s, their non-Indigenous neighbours knew the history and understood that the land along Plank Road — better known today as Highway 6 — was Haudenosaunee. He suspects the residents who massed at the barricades in 2006, some waving Confederate flags, were ignorant of the underlying issues at play. “I was shocked at the amount of animosity that was hurled at our people from folks in Caledonia,” Monture said. “Not so much this time — maybe it’s online more — but there was a palpable anger and mob mindset happening around Douglas Creek.” What’s next? With the occupation of McKenzie Meadows well into its eighth month and the trenches blocking the roads now repaired, the question of when the police will move in hangs over the camp. Williams knows McKenzie Road could yet become a battlefield. But, he says, they won in 2006. They may win again. “The amount of support across the country for our stand here has been amazing,” he said. “We know that resistance movements from Indigenous communities are growing. Our ally networks are massive and far-reaching across all Turtle Island. I think all of us have a shared struggle.” Smith sees an emotional parallel to DCE in what is happening on the ground in Caledonia today. “The way everybody’s come together as a family, that’s the way it was back in 2006,” she said. “Blood is blood. Whether we’re related by family or just we’re all Onkwehonwe. Just to know that this fight has been happening since day one. From 1492 — or the way our stories go, before that — we have fought to hold onto our way of life.” To Hewitt’s mind, protests at DCE did not spur political action on land claims, and this time will be no different if violent confrontation is the result. “What I’ve seen in the last 15 years is we’re more likely to see success for both communities by working together to find common ground than we are working opposed to each other, as we have been,” he said. “Sitting here blocking a road into a small town of 10,000 people isn’t getting the attention of Ottawa. It’s not getting the attention of Toronto. All it’s done is fan some flames of anger.” Thus far, Ford has given no indication he plans to follow former premier Dalton McGuinty’s lead and buy out the developers as a way out of the standoff. Rather than politicians simply waiting out the land defenders, Monture would like to see “a fair and sincere effort” to address land claims. “True leadership and courage — that’s what it’s going to take,” Monture said. Barrett said the answer must come from Six Nations, where elected and hereditary leaders have begun to smooth over decades of mistrust — created, Monture noted, by Ottawa supplanting the Confederacy with the band council — in order to negotiate with Ottawa as a united front. “The question I’ve been asking for 15 years — do you know who’s in charge?” Barrett said. “It’s really not the role of the provincial or federal government to step into that kind of argument. That’s internal to the community.” With occupations allowed to continue virtually unchallenged, Barrett sees the rule of law weakening. “It’s chaos. I really resent the intimidation that’s used to generate fear,” he said. “That’s not how we operate in Ontario or Canada.” To Smith, each land reclamation moves First Nations peoples one step forward to self-determination. “My passion is to see my governments sit at the table with your governments — face to face, heart to heart — and really try to come to a compassionate understanding that will benefit everybody,” she said. J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
TORONTO — Martinrea International Inc. capped a difficult year in which it faced automotive plant closures with its net profit falling 12 per cent to nearly $45 million in the final quarter of 2020. The autoparts manufacturer says it earned 56 cents per diluted share in the fourth quarter, down from 63 cents per share or $51.2 million a year earlier. The adjusted profit surged 30.7 per cent to $44.2 million or 55 cents per share, up from $33.8 million or 42 cents per share in the fourth quarter of 2019. Revenues for the three months ended Dec. 31 increased 16.7 per cent to $1.07 billion from $917.6 million in the prior year. Martinrea was expected to report an adjusted profit of 52 cents per share on $1 billion of revenues, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv. For the full-year, it lost $27.3 million or 34 cents per share, compared with a profit of $181.2 million or $2.19 per diluted share in 2019. Adjusted profits dropped to $46.9 million or 58 cents per share, down from $187.7 million or $2.27 per share a year earlier. Revenues decreased 12.6 per cent to $3.37 billion, from $3.86 billion in 2019. "Looking at 2020, after a challenging second quarter where we generated minimal sales and an operating loss, our results rebounded sharply in the back half of the year, which saw us generate record adjusted diluted net earnings per share in both the third and fourth quarters," stated CEO Pat D'Eramo. "Our fourth-quarter results were characterized by continued strong volumes and an adjusted operating income margin above year-ago levels — a strong result despite renewed lockdowns and other public health restrictions in November and December as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which impeded some integration and launch activities." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:MRE) The Canadian Press
Cases of COVID-19 variants of concern continue to escalate in B.C., with 46 new ones announced today. Sixteen of the 246 total variant cases to date are currently active. Of the variant cases, 218 are the so-called U.K. variant and 28 of the South African variant. The majority of these cases are located in the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health regions—178 and 60 in those two health areas respectively. About a quarter of the cases continue to be untracked in terms of transmission. Four of the people currently in hospital have variants of concern and two deaths in recent days have been in people with variants. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also reported 564 new cases, 12 of which are epidemiologically linked. B.C.’s cumulative case total has reached 82,473. Of the new cases, 168 are in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 279 in the Fraser Health region, 35 in the Island Health region, 36 in the Interior Health region and 46 in the Northern Health region. As cases rise across the province, particularly in the Lower Mainland, Richmond is also experiencing a surge. Between Feb. 21 and 27 there were 100 new cases recorded here, compared to 80 the previous week and less than half that number the week before. There are 4,743 active cases and 248 people hospitalized with the virus, 63 of whom are in critical care. A further 8,659 people are under active public health monitoring. Sadly, four people lost their lives due to COVID-19 since yesterday. There were no new healthcare outbreaks announced. To date, 298,851 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, 86,746 of which are second doses. Henry also spoke today on an additional vaccination plan for first responders and other essential workers, using the AstraZeneca vaccine. Delivery of this vaccine will run “in parallel but separate from our age-based community-based immunization program,” she said. The province’s immunization committee is establishing who should receive that vaccine and in what order. Henry hopes to deliver a detailed plan to the public in the next two weeks, and she targeted March 18 as a possible date for that announcement. The initial AstraZeneca shipment will be used to address “ongoing clusters and outbreaks that are leading to rapidly increasing numbers in some places, some communities, to best protect our communities,” Henry said. She also acknowledged the uptick in new cases, and the rise of more transmissible variants, particularly in the Lower Mainland. “We can’t let these successes—the vaccines we have now—be diminished by a surge in cases that will lead us to a third wave.” Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel
PARMA, Italy — Alexis Sánchez scored twice to help Inter Milan win 2-1 at relegation-threatened Parma on Thursday to open up a six-point gap at the top of Serie A. Romelu Lukaku had a hand in both Inter goals in the second half before Hernani pulled one back for Parma. Inter moved six points above second-place AC Milan, which was held to a 1-1 draw by Udinese on Wednesday. Nine-time defending champion Juventus is third but has played a match less. Parma remained second from bottom, six points from safety. Inter had won six of its past seven league matches heading into the game at Parma, scoring 17 goals and conceding just one. It was Parma which had the better of the earlier chances, but Inter broke the deadlock nine minutes into the second half. Lukaku chested down a pass on the edge of the area and tried to turn but the ball ended up ricocheting into the path of Sánchez. Sassuolo defender Riccardo Gagliolo tried to clear his shot off the line but it had already gone over. Lukaku did even better eight minutes later as he powered through from his own half and then rolled a great ball across for Sánchez to drive into the bottom right corner. Parma briefly threatened a comeback when Hernani volleyed in Germán Pezzella’s cross in the 71st. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Canada's health officials spoke about the recent change in guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on the time between two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and how that may contribute to vaccine hesitancy in Canada.
It's the little touches that help to make a place feel more like home, and while the Out of the Cold Warming Centre isn't a permanent home for any of its visitors, it is proof that little things can still make a big difference. The warming centre has recently come into possession of a pair of guitars for those who visit to make use of. The idea itself came from Out of the Cold's Dave Ashworth, who is also a prominent local musician, and he put out the call on social media to help make the idea a reality. "I started here last November," Ashworth explained. "What really happened was one of the staff said 'hey, one of the guests that comes in plays guitar.' He was going to bring down his guitar that he has at home, and I was going to bring mine whatever night this guest came in, and I thought it would be nice to have something here a little more permanently, so that's when I thought I'd use the power of social media and put it out there, and it works. People have a genuine desire, I think, to help out or donate whatever they might have." Once the call went out, there were a few false starts and missed connections, but eventually Ashworth managed to secure one acoustic and one electric guitar for those visiting the warming centre to play, which he said are comforts to people who might not otherwise have an instrument to play on. "It's a universal language," he said. "Music is good in good times and in bad times." The call for instruments must have struck a chord with people in the community, as Ashworth noted there were plenty of people offering to make donations in one form or another, either of instruments or of monetary donations that could be put towards musical accessories like wall hangers for the guitars. "Businesses helped out too and gave us some discounts on strings," Ashworth said. "A number of people donated. I had one guy, and this was kind of unique, but he was on the Borderland Musicians and Enthusiasts Facebook page, and he offered to send an acoustic guitar. I started talking to him and asked if he was from here, and he said 'No, I'm from Saskatchewan, I'm living out north of Red Deer right now.' He was willing to send it, but we started considering shipping costs and the length of time we're going to be open [this season] so I thought for this year we're good." So far Ashworth said there have been a handful of occasions where guests have played songs together, with others lending their voices or picking up a tambourine to play along. But the instruments are also there for solo use, allowing anyone at the warming centre to pick up a guitar and keep themselves company. "Even in the last week we had a new guest come in and he grabbed it the first night and wanted to play it," he said. "He got it in the morning too. It's nice to see. If it wasn't here then you might not even know some of these people have a musical background. It's been very laid back." The Out of the Cold Warming Centre might be full up on instruments right now, but Ashworth says as the program continues there's always a chance it could grow in some way. He also added that the centre could still do with a donation of another guitar strap and a small practice amp for their electric guitar, should anyone still be looking to help support the initiative. Still, Ashworth said he's grateful to all of those who did reach out to him with offers of instruments or other donations to help provide a little bit of music and a creative outlet to those in need. "I think you want to provide any opportunity you can to dive into things they might not normally have access to," he explained. "Maybe for various reasons they don't have a guitar at home, or don't have any instruments, and this is an option for them to come in and use. We encourage all the guests to just relax and treat it like your home, be respectful and we'll be respectful in return. They seem to enjoy it. Like I said earlier, music is a feel good thing. The feedback has been really good so far." Ken Kellar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times
SAN DIEGO — More than 260 refugees who were vetted, approved and booked to come to the United States have had their flights cancelled by the State Department over the past two weeks because they do not qualify under restrictions imposed by former President Donald Trump, refugee resettlement agencies say. The restrictions came when Trump capped refugee admissions at a record low of 15,000. President Joe Biden proposed quadrupling refugee admissions and eliminating Trump's restrictions in a plan that was communicated to Congress three weeks ago. Meantime, the State Department, which co-ordinates flights with resettlement agencies, booked the refugees with the anticipation that Biden would have replaced Trump’s orders by now, according to the agencies. But Biden has not issued a presidential determination since his administration notified Congress, which is required by law, and Trump’s orders have remained in place. The action does not require congressional approval and past presidents have issued such presidential determinations that set the cap on refugee admissions shortly after the notification to Congress. As a result, the State Department has cancelled the flights of at least 264 refugees and more cancellations are expected, according to resettlement agencies. Most of the refugees are from Africa and do not qualify for entry under the restrictions that Trump implemented that allocated most of the spots for people fleeing religious persecution, Iraqis who have assisted U.S. forces there, and people from Central America’s Northern Triangle, the resettlement agencies say. Mark Hetfield, president of HIAS, a Maryland-based Jewish non-profit that is one of nine agencies that resettles refugees in the U.S., said all flights for refugees who don't qualify under Trump's restrictions have been cancelled through March 19. “Real lives are being impacted," Hetfield said. “To say I am very disappointed that the Biden administration would treat refugees this way would be an understatement." Many of the refugees had sold their belongings and left places they were renting and now are scrambling to find another place to stay until they get word they can come to the United States. Melaku Gebretsadik, 54, an Eritrean refugee who lives in Greeley, Colorado, was on his way to the Denver airport Tuesday with flowers and gifts to greet his wife and three children when he was told their flights were cancelled. He has been waiting to be reunited with them for a decade. “My heart was broken," Gebretsadik said through an interpreter. His family was told they should be re-booked on a flight in a couple of weeks but Gebretsadik is not going to get his hopes up. “I don't know what to believe," he said. The Biden administration gave no explanation about the delay or cancellation of flights when asked about the situation Thursday. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Secretary of State Antony Blinken “believes that it is very much in our DNA to be a country that welcomes those fleeing persecution, welcomes those fleeing violence the world over. It is precisely why discriminatory travel bans were done away with." But he said he had no updates at this time on “our efforts to undo some of the damage to the program.” Krish O’Mara Vignarajah of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, which also resettles refugees, said many are in precarious situations. “After four years of draconian Trump administration policies, it’s critical that the Biden administration expeditiously issue its presidential determination to ensure these new Americans can safely enter their new home country," she said. ___ Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report. Julie Watson, The Associated Press
Canada's premiers are demanding that Ottawa immediately give them an extra $28 billion for health care this year, with a promise of at least a five-per-cent hike in the annual transfer payment each year thereafter.
VANCOUVER — Results of a study led by Metro Vancouver's transit operator reveal copper on high-touch surfaces is lethal to bacteria. A statement from TransLink says the findings of the industry-leading trial show copper products kill up to 99.9 per cent of all bacteria within one hour of surface contact. As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, TransLink was the first transit agency in North America to test copper on high-touch surfaces. The pilot study was launched after unrelated studies showed copper is both durable and effective at killing germs. Phase 1 of the pilot, which was fully funded by mining firm Teck Resources, began last November and continued for five weeks on surfaces of two buses and two SkyTrain cars. A second phase will begin in the coming months using a larger sample to verify the results, testing copper over a longer period on more transit vehicles, and focusing tests on the most effective products identified from Phase 1. TransLink interim CEO Gigi Chen-Kuo says they are excited to find out more about the impact of copper on viruses such as the ones that cause COVID-19. "This research could help us, other transit agencies, and anyone with surfaces in shared public spaces keep high-touch areas as clean as possible,” she says in the statement. The project stems from a partnership between TransLink, Teck, Vancouver Coastal Health, the University of British Columbia and the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation. Teck funded the initial phase as part of its Copper & Health program and the company will also support Phase 2. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
REGINA — The Saskatchewan government has shot a boost of optimism into its fight against COVID-19, announcing it will join other provinces by delaying the second dose of vaccines to speed up immunizations. Speaking Thursday at a news conference with other premiers, Premier Scott Moe said people will get their second shot up to four months after the first, which falls in line with a recent recommendation from Canada's national immunization committee. Alberta, Manitoba and other provinces made similar announcements after British Columbia first said Monday it was moving to a four-month delay. The shift comes as health experts point to people being well protected against the novel coronavirus with a first dose, noting the country faces a limited supply of vaccines. "The benefits are tremendous," Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, said during a briefing. "We can emerge out of the pandemic three months earlier than we had anticipated. With a two-dose program, it would have taken us till September. Now we can vaccinate everyone 18 and older as early as June." Provincial health officials said that starting Friday, staff will only be giving first shots. The change will not apply to people who have appointments booked to receive a second dose, long-term care residents and staff, as well as those in personal care homes. Shahab said since vaccinations started in long-term care homes, there have been fewer outbreaks and infections in the facilities. To date, about 84,000 vaccinations have been done in Saskatchewan out of the roughly 400,000 shots needed to inoculate residents 70 and older and health-care workers at risk of COVID-19 exposure. Scott Livingstone, CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said he expects most of these vaccinations under the first stage of the province's immunization program will be finished in early April. He also asked for patience, as the authority has to adjust how it delivers vaccines with the new four-month window between doses. Saskatchewan reported 169 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths on Thursday. The province of 1.1 million people also continues to lead the country with the highest rate of active cases per capita in Canada. Moe said earlier in the week that delaying the second dose of vaccine would be a game-changer for how long public-health restrictions need to stay in place. The current order is in effect until March 19. Shahab said decisions about what rules might be relaxed could come next week. "I know it's been very hard for people not to be able meet each other in their houses," he said. "In the past, we did have, you know, two to three households as a bubble of up to ten. So that's something that we're looking at." The Ministry of Health also said it would use 15,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on people aged 60 to 64 and certain health-care workers. A national panel has recommended it not be used on seniors. The province said these vaccinations will start later this month and eligible residents will be able to book an appointment by phone through a system that is expected to launch next week. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Breaking with other Southern GOP governors, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey extended her state’s mask order for another month Thursday but said the requirement will end for good in April. The move came a day after President Joe Biden slammed the governors of Texas and Mississippi for deciding to lift their mask mandates, saying their actions reflect “Neanderthal thinking.” Ivey has faced political pressure to lift the mask order like her Republican counterparts but said she will follow the recommendations of medical officials and keep the mandate that was set to expire Friday in place until April 9. “We need to get past Easter and hopefully allow more Alabamians to get their first shot before we take a step some other states have taken to remove the mask order altogether and lift other restrictions. Folks, we are not there yet, but goodness knows we’re getting closer," Ivey said at a news conference. The governor called masks “one of our greatest tools” in preventing the virus’ spread but emphasized that she will not extend the mask order further, saying it will become a matter of personal responsibility when the mandate ends. “Even when we lift the mask order, I will continue to wear my mask while I’m around others and strongly urge my fellow citizens to use common sense and do the same,” Ivey said. Medical officials welcomed Ivey’s decision after urging an extension, arguing that easing restrictions before more people were vaccinated could reverse recent improvements. Alabama’s rolling seven-day average of daily cases has dropped from 3,000 in early January to below 1,000 and hospitalizations are at their lowest point since summer. “This is very good news. This gives us a month to vaccinate more people and to get a better handle on the role of the UK variant,” said Dr. Don Williamson, the former state health officer who now heads the Alabama Hospital Association. So far only about 13% of Alabama’s 4.9 million people have received one dose of vaccine, according to state numbers. State Health Officer Scott Harris said vaccine supplies are increasing and if the state can get a cumulative total of 1.75 million shots delivered by early April, that would be a “terrific place to be.” Harris said about 500,000 people in the state have tested positive for the virus and there are likely others who had it but didn’t know. “We are striving to reach this herd immunity point at some point,” Harris said. Dr. Ellen Eaton, who specializes in infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said schools and organizations serving people who’ve yet to receive a vaccine will need to “carefully consider how to proceed” once the order ends. “For many, continuing masking will be necessary, such as in schools and colleges. But leadership in these spaces needs time to think through the health and policy implications of recommending masks in the absence of a mandate,” she said. Ivey faced backlash on social media for her decision, with some users sharing the phone number to the governor’s office and asking callers to voice opposition to the rule. And the Alabama Senate approved a resolution Wednesday evening urging Ivey to end the mask mandate. Republican Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth also asked Ivey to end the mask requirement, which he has opposed all along, saying individuals can make decisions for themselves and follow safety rules until vaccinations and immunity levels are sufficient. “But we can do all of these things without a Big Brother-style government mandate looming over us,” Ainsworth said in a statement. The governor did lift some restrictions on how many people can sit as a restaurant table, but tables are still required to be 6 feet (2 metres) apart or have a partition. The order also allowed senior citizens to resume some activities and hospitals to increase the number of visitors patients can have from one to two ___ Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak. Kim Chandler, The Associated Press
Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s memoir "Guantánamo Diary," has been adapted into a movie, The Mauritanian, which also awarded Jodie Foster her most recent Golden Globe.
U.S. President Joe Biden's refusal to offer upfront sanctions relief to Iran may have angered Tehran's clerical rulers but it has won some praise at home despite his failure so far to draw Iran into nuclear talks or deter attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. "Sensible," said Elliott Abrams, former President Donald Trump's special envoy for Iran, of Biden's unwillingness to give Tehran sanctions relief before any talks on both sides resuming compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
The province is sending some pandemic relief money to Lighthouse Festival Theatre in Port Dover to help the cultural institution get back on its feet. Lighthouse will receive $71,858 through the government’s Arts Recovery Support Fund. Lisa MacLeod, the minister overseeing the province’s tourism and cultural industries, announced the funding this week as part of a $25-million package for artists and arts organizations in Ontario. “Ontario’s arts sector was among the first and hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a ‘high-touch’ sector that depends on gatherings of people, and will take the longest to recover,” MacLeod said in a statement. Reopening venues like Lighthouse “will play an important role in the mental health and well-being of Ontarians and an equally important role in the province’s economic and social recovery,” MacLeod said. The funding was available for organizations and individuals who already receive grants through the Ontario Arts Council. Venues with operating budgets of over $1 million automatically qualified. “We’re so grateful for it, and we’re thrilled,” said Lighthouse executive director Nicole Campbell. “The government recognizes the arts and culture industry as being devastated during this time, with not being able to open for the last year.” Lighthouse closed its doors in mid-March of last year, which meant scrapping the entire summer season, the popular community show starring local amateur actors, and a crowded slate of off-season events. It added up to “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in lost revenue, Campbell said. While the provincial money will help — as will almost $215,000 brought in by a summertime fundraising campaign — Campbell cautioned that there are more financial and logistical hurdles to overcome before the theatre can welcome patrons back. “We don’t want anyone to think that just by receiving this money, we can reopen,” she said. “With the regulations, up until a few weeks ago we couldn’t have anyone in the building. So we keep having to adapt.” One challenge for Lighthouse is even the loosest of the province’s COVID-19 restrictions means “severe revenue limitations,” Campbell explained, because a theatre that usually fits 350 patrons is limited to 50 per show. When Lighthouse can reopen is of keen interest to restaurants, hotels and bed and breakfasts throughout the region that rely on the theatre to bring in customers, as mentioned by Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett in the funding announcement. “This is quite welcome news for our Lighthouse Festival Theatre and all who enjoy its offerings,” Barrett said. “Lighthouse Theatre is an anchor for our area’s visitor-based economy.” Campbell expects to make an announcement about the summer season in the next few months. “We’re waiting as long as we can to announce anything,” she said, explaining that she and artistic director Derek Ritschel are mulling over scenarios that will ensure the safety of artists, patrons and staff. “We can pretty confidently say that we’re going to have theatre this summer,” Campbell said. “We just have a few different options of what it’ll look like.” J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
DALLAS — A Dallas police officer was arrested Thursday on two counts of capital murder, more than a year and a half after a man told investigators that he kidnapped and killed two people at the officer's instruction in 2017, authorities said. Bryan Riser, a 13-year veteran of the force, was arrested Thursday morning and taken to the Dallas County Jail for processing, according to a statement from the police department. A lawyer for him couldn't immediately be identified. Riser was arrested in the unconnected killings of Liza Saenz, 31, and Albert Douglas, 61, after a man came forward in August 2019 and told police he had kidnapped and killed them at Riser's direction, police Chief Eddie Garcia said during a news conference. He said investigators don't know the motives for the killings, but that they were not related to Riser's police work. Garcia did not explain why Riser was arrested nearly 20 months after the witness came forward, and police did not immediately respond to questions about the timing. Riser joined the department in 2008, and Garcia acknowledged that he had been patrolling Dallas while under investigation for the killings. The chief stressed that his homicide division and the FBI were still investigating the killings and said the department was reviewing Riser's arrests. Saenz’s body was pulled from the Trinity River in southwest Dallas on March 10, 2017, with several bullet wounds, the chief said. Douglas was reported missing that year and his body hasn’t been found. Three people were previously arrested and charged with capital murder in Saenz’s killing, according to an affidavit for Riser's arrest. It does not identify any of them by name. One of them allegedly told police that he and Riser were involved in burglaries when they were young. They more recently hatched a plan to rob drug stash houses, but they didn't follow through with it, according to the affidavit. Instead, the man told investigators that Riser offered to pay him a total of $9,500 to kidnap and kill Douglas and later Saenz. Both were shot and their bodies were dumped in the river, according to the court record. The affidavit states that Riser told the hired killer Saenz was an “informant.” The document does not elaborate, and police did not immediately respond to questions about whether Saenz had some connection to the department. The murder charges are not the officer's first alleged crimes. In May 2017, Riser faced a domestic violence charge for allegedly assaulting and injuring an ex-girlfriend. It wasn't immediately clear how that case was resolved, and Garcia declined to comment on it Thursday. Riser has been put on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation. Garcia said “we’re going to expedite our process” toward his firing. “We will not allow anyone to tarnish this badge," the chief said. Riser had not been booked into the jail as of early Thursday afternoon, a sheriff’s spokesman said. A spokeswoman for the Dallas County district attorney’s office said her office didn’t have information on the case. ___ Associated Press writers Jamie Stengle in Dallas and Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas, contributed to this report. Jake Bleiberg, The Associated Press
Windsor will be working with existing shelters when it comes to providing services at a hotel it's in the process of purchasing to house people experiencing homelessness, according to a city councillor. Rino Bortolin says organizations such as the Salvation Army, Downtown Mission and The Welcome Centre Shelter for Women will not lose funding or be left in a lurch because of the city's plan to buy a facility of its own. "We as a city are not really the most direct [or] hands-on. We will be working with our partners on the ground to provide these services," explained the Ward 3 councillor, who represents a large section of the downtown core. "This is about everyone working together for a better system. By no means is the city leaving our partners and doing something rogue." Few details of the plan, including the location of the facility, have been released right now. But Bortolin said he anticipates more information will be provided in the next week or two. Andrew Teliszewsky, chief of staff for Mayor Drew Dilkens, told CBC News in an email Wednesday that city council had approved the deal during an in-camera meeting earlier this year and the legal steps to acquire the site are already underway. The planned purchase follows the Review of Emergency Shelter Services in Windsor Essex. A copy of the review on the city's website is dated July 14, 2020. Teliszewsky said it went to council in the fall of 2020. Among its findings was the need for more shelter space dedicated to women with or without children, youth and young adults. "The one thing that was a glaring need for specifically for families and specifically for women was increased services," said Bortolin. "So increased services means a bigger shelter." City tapping into provincial funding However, the recommendations section of the review also advises that the city deliver services through third-parties — namely the shelters and organizations already doing the work. "Direct delivery has the potential for higher costs and would not allow the city to leverage the resources and existing expertise of community partners to meet shelter needs," it reads. The review goes on to add that Windsor should explore opportunities for more family shelter beds and a dedicated facility, but notes funds "are currently not available to support" the investment in a building. When asked why buy a hotel, rather than investing in the services already running shelters in the city, Teliszewsky said the city is already regularly paying to house families in hotels when shelter space runs out. He also pointed to provincial funding that includes a grant program under which municipalities can buy a facility. "The province made available funding and we didn't want to leave it on the table," he said. "It provides the opportunity for the city to acquire a property, where in previous years we have been renting, so it relives an operating budget line item and will give us flexibility to implement some recommendations from the Emergency Shelter Review, which council had endorsed." Long-term goal is permanent housing Officials also said that just because the city is purchasing the site, does not mean it will be the one operating it. Ron Dunn, executive director of the Downtown Mission, said Wednesday evening that he was just hearing about the plans to purchase a hotel, but described the move as "progressive." "We need maybe smaller shelters. The hotel seems to fit that bill," he said. "[The mayor] did state that he's going to work with existing shelters. There's only three of us, so I think it's great." The Downtown Mission on Victoria Avenue is one of three shelters currently operating in the city. A review which went to council states ore services for women and young persons are needed in the community. (Dale Molnar/CBC) Bortolin said the need for services for the homeless community should be clear to anyone walking through downtown. While shelters serve an immediate need and can offer a bed for a night, they're just a start. "The long-term effort is permanent housing," he said. "The one cure for homelessness is housing"
Once upon a time, dear children, before you were born, they made a fairytale movie about a kingdom called Zamunda. “Coming to America,” starring Eddie Murphy at the height of his popularity and charisma, became a huge hit and a cult classic. In this film, dear children, Murphy played Prince Akeem — he didn’t need to be called Prince Charming, because he was already so darned charming. We met him on the morning of his 21st birthday, awakening in his palace bedroom to a full orchestra, servants tossing rose petals at his feet, and gorgeous naked women servicing him in the bathtub until his royal appendage was deemed clean. Oops! Sorry, kids. Some parts of “Coming To America” didn’t age very well. Including most of the stuff about women. But 33 years and one #MeToo movement later, it’s time for a reboot. The good news about “Coming 2 America,” directed by Craig Brewer, is that things have gotten better for women in Zamunda. Yes, it’s still a patriarchy (more on that soon) and yes, there are still obedient royal bathers. But we don’t see their naked breasts or backsides. There’s also a bathtub gag involving the great Leslie Jones that flips the gender dynamic entirely and gratifyingly (especially for her). And now, Prince Akeem is not a randy young heir but an established family man. Happily married for 30 years to Princess Lisa — the bride he found in Queens in the last film — he has three daughters, brave and feisty. The eldest wants to be his heir. A female heir? That’s not done, in Zamunda. But the times, they are — or might be — a-changin'. That’s the good news. The bad news is that this sequel, despite (or perhaps because of) its nod to modern sensibilities, isn’t nearly as funny or edgy as the original. It has seemingly everything -- the original cast, some well-known newcomers, high-profile cameos — and eye-popping costumes by the great Ruth E. Carter (an Oscar winner for “Black Panther”). It has set pieces and choreography and de-aging technology and overlaying plot lines. What it has less of, is fun. Still, just like we go to college reunions 30 years later to recapture the magic, fans of the first will flock to it on Amazon Prime. They likely won’t be too disappointed. Especially because, despite the knowing references to urban gentrification, transgender offspring, Teslas and even unnecessary movie sequels, little has really changed. Obviously Murphy is back, as producer and star. So is Arsenio Hall, as trusty sidekick Semmi (and a bunch of other roles). Also back: the stately James Earl Jones as King Jaffe Joffer; Shari Headley as Lisa (a seriously underwritten role); and Louie Anderson as Maurice. John Amos is back as Lisa’s dad, still ripping off McDonald’s. And of course the My-T-Sharp barbershop crew is back in Queens. A new presence is the casually appealing Jermaine Fowler as Lavelle, Akeem’s previously unknown son. Celebrity guests include a highly amusing Wesley Snipes as flamboyant General Izzi, leader of Nexdoria (next door); Tracy Morgan as Lavelle’s uncle; and Jones as his uninhibited mother. Another “Saturday Night Live” face, Colin Jost, makes the most of a brief cameo. Among notable musical appearances, Gladys Knight sings “Midnight Train From Zamunda.” The plot follows a familiar trajectory, beginning in Zamunda and travelling to Queens to solve a major need. In this case, the need is not a bride, but a male heir. Akeem, who becomes king upon his father’s death, learns he unknowingly sired a son during that Queens trip three decades ago (it was Semmi’s fault!) He needs a male heir to cement his power. So he brings Lavelle, a ticket scalper who aspires to much more, back to Zamunda, along with Mom. But Lavelle needs to learn royal ways, and pass a “princely test” which includes facing down a lion. There’s also the matter of Akeem’s daughter, Meeka (a luminous KiKi Layne, not given enough screen time), who rightly deserves to be queen one day. Complicating matters entirely, Lavelle falls not for his intended bride, Izzi's daughter, but for his royal barber, Mirembe, who aspires to her own shop one day (women don’t own businesses in Zamunda). Again, it all feels like a 30th reunion — maybe because it IS one — where the liquor flows, old stories are rehashed, the men haven’t aged quite as well as the women, the kids steal the show, and by the end you’re happy to have gone but feel no need to be at the next one. “Coming 2 America,” an Amazon Studios release, has been rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America “for crude and sexual content, language and drug content.” Running time: 110 minutes. Two stars out of four. MPAA definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned, Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
Canadian prosecutors told a court on Thursday that it was not a judge's role to decide whether national security and geopolitical concerns can be used to strike down a U.S. request to extradite Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Meng, 49, was arrested in December 2018 on a U.S. warrant accused of misleading HSBC about Huawei's business dealings in Iran, putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions.
TORONTO — North American stock markets dropped Thursday despite efforts by the chairman of the Federal Reserve to reassure investors that interest rates aren't about to increase. The S&P/TSX composite index closed down 194.95 points at 18,125.72, despite strength in the energy sector as oil reached its highest level in more than two years. In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 345.95 points at 30,924.14 and the S&P 500 index lost 51.25 points at 3,768.47. The Nasdaq composite fell 274.28 points or 2.1 per cent to 12,723.47, the lowest level since early January. Market jitters followed as the 10-year U.S. bond yields again increased above 1.5 per cent. Investors are worried that the U.S. vaccine rollout will spur a quicker economic recovery and prompt the central bank to hike interest rates sooner than they expect. Fed chairman Jerome Powell tried to tame expectations by insisting Thursday that rates won't rise and quantitative easing won't taper off until the U.S. reaches his maximum employment goals. "The market was not reassured by that because after the speech the market continued to go down," said Pierre Cleroux, chief economist for the Business Development Bank of Canada, adding he thought Powell's message was clear. The United States is still down 10 million jobs from before COVID-19 struck. "The initial recovery was quite strong, but since November they haven't created a lot of jobs because the second wave of the virus was very important in the U.S.," Cleroux said in an interview. Powell said he's willing to accept inflation rising above two per cent, saying it won't change the bank's long-term inflation goals. Canada's largest stock index dropped even though the energy sector had a strong day on higher crude oil prices. The April crude contract was up US$2.55 at US$63.83 per barrel after hitting an intraday high of $64.86. The April natural gas contract was down seven cents at nearly US$2.75 per mmBTU. Crude climbed to its highest level since October 2018 after OPEC decided Thursday not to raise its production for April despite a recent rise in prices. "This is sending the signal that they are going to wait until they readjust production to the increase of the demand," Cleroux said. Canadian oil producers got a lift with shares of MEG Energy Corp. surging 9.8 per cent while Vermilion Energy Inc. rose 5.6 per cent and Cenovus Energy Inc. gained 4.9 per cent. Despite the oil price increase, the Canadian dollar slipped, trading for 79.13 cents US compared with 79.17 cents US on Wednesday. Consumer staples were the only other positive sector on the day. Health care, technology and consumer discretionary were the biggest laggards among the nine losing major sectors. The health care sector, which includes cannabis producers, lost 4.9 per cent as Aphria Inc. fell 8.2 per cent. Technology decreased 3.3 per cent as shares of Kinaxis Inc. plunged 17 per cent, Lightspeed POS Inc. fell 9.1 per cent and Shopify Inc. was down 5.8 per cent. Materials were also lower as metal prices fell with gold hitting its lowest level in nine months. Hudbay Minerals Inc. decreased 7.7 per cent. Cleroux believes Thursday's market sell-off will be temporary because inflation is still low. "This worry that interest rates are going to increase faster than expected, I don't think it's based on solid grounds so I think the market is going to come back." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:HBM, TSX:SHOP, TSX:LSPD, TSX:KXS, TSX:APHA, TSX:MEG, TSX:VET, TSX:CVE, TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X) Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press