Woodpecker hammering a wooden backboard on a basketball net.
Woodpecker hammering a wooden backboard on a basketball net.
The Black Friday, Cyber Monday, pre-Christmas pandemic online shopping frenzy calls for huge fleets of trucks and vans to deliver those gadgets and gifts. But those road-clogging, polluting vehicles are starting to give way to a greener, more efficient option in many Canadian cities: e-cargo bikes and trikes.FedEx started delivering packages in downtown Toronto using e-bikes over the summer and is now looking to expand the program to other cities in Canada.Purolator and two smaller courier companies are part of a similar pilot called Project Colibri that launched in Montreal last year. Purolator has since expanded its bike fleet from one e-bike to six or seven, and Project Colibri has ramped up to 5,000 e-bike deliveries a week — nearly as many as it made over the last four months of 2019.They're some of the bigger companies trying a technology that smaller firms, such as Shift Delivery in Vancouver, have already pioneered in Canada. It's a trend that's already well underway in Europe and has also started in the United States.The problems that e-bikes solveWhy the move toward delivery e-bikes? Because as online shopping grows, the impact of deliveries by trucks and vans become bigger problems. Transportation is already the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, after oil and gas, accounting for 25 per cent.And it's the largest source in Ontario, where fossil fuel production isn't a major part of the economy. There, the freight sector already accounted for 10 per cent of emissions in 2019 and was expected to surpass passenger emissions by 2030, according to the Pembina Institute, a Canadian think-tank focused on clean energy.The COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced businesses and shoppers online, may have sped this up. Statistics Canada reported in September that e-commerce sales rose 74 per cent compared with the year before.But online deliveries also have other negative impacts, including: * Traffic congestion. * Air pollution. * Parking issues. * Threats to the safety of pedestrians and cyclists."We are really tackling all these problems at once," said Mickael Brard, project manager at Jalon Montreal, the city-funded non-profit organization behind Project Colibri.Those impacts don't just affect people who live in cities but delivery companies themselves."Parking tickets are a biggie for us," said Jeff Gilbert, senior manager of operations in downtown Toronto for FedEx. "And then greenhouse gases. So we're really looking for a new, innovative way for that last-mile delivery."More efficient than trucks "Last-mile" refers to the last leg of the delivery from a sorting centre to the customer's home or office. It's a logistically challenging step that can represent 30 to 60 per cent of the cost of delivery.But e-cargo bikes can overcome some of the challenges that narrow, congested urban streets and scarce parking pose for trucks."The bikes are very agile, very nimble, and so we can move throughout the city very quickly," Gilbert said. "The bike allows us to just jump right up and park right in front of the house."That leads to faster deliveries and higher productivity, he added.Now that Project Colibri has been running for more than a full year in Montreal, Brard said an analysis shows that an e-bike is 30 to 40 per cent more efficient than a truck in terms of deliveries per hour."It's one of the rarer sectors where we can [be] both more efficient and more sustainable," he said. "We want to prove it to other companies, and we also want to prove it to governments."Staff say it's also more fun.Yuri Mitroff, a FedEx courier in Toronto, recalled the first time he took one of the company's three e-bikes. The Danish-made Bullets require the rider to pedal to engage the motor, which helps haul heavy loads up hills."It was a really, really great experience," Mitroff said. "It did not feel like work to me, which was the biggest thing. And I got a lot of exercise and a lot of vitamin D, a lot of sunlight."Big expansion plansTheir success so far has prompted both FedEx and Project Colibri to plan for expansions.FedEx has already ordered 40 more e-cargo bikes for the spring and is looking to roll them out not just in Toronto but in Montreal, Vancouver and possibly Ottawa, Gilbert said.Project Colibri, which is using an old bus depot as a loading and distribution hub in Montreal, hopes to add two or three more mini-hubs and invite more companies to get involved. Brard estimates five to 10 mini-hubs could cover deliveries for the entire city.But both projects say they face challenges. For one thing, the pandemic has caused a worldwide bike shortage."One of the problems for us was actually getting the bikes for the expansion," Gilbert said.Sam Starr, a cycle logistics consultant based in Vancouver, said most e-cargo bikes are made in Europe."They are expensive to not just import, but also to service and maintain at this time," he said.He suggested a number of ways that governments could encourage the use of e-cargo bikes: * Incentives to encourage e-cargo bike manufacturing in Canada. * Regulations to enable their use; for example, speed and weight limits for e-cargo bikes vary by province and can be a barrier. * Infrastructure such as bike lanes and curbside loading zones.Hubs, such as the one used in Project Colibri, are also "critical" infrastructure, Starr said, and require partnerships between governments and businesses."It can't just be done by the private industry," he said. "It really needs public collaboration."
Inside of the Department of National Defence they are calling it "a whole of nation effort."And the tasking of Canada's top former NATO commander in Iraq, Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, with the job of running the COVID-19 vaccine distribution campaign is inarguably a point of pride for an institution that often radiates a can-do attitude. It also, however, represents the second time the federal government has turned to the military in a significant way during the pandemic, leading some to question whether federal and provincial public health agencies should have better anticipated what is about to unfold.It is hard to forget how up to 1,700 military medics and ordinary troops had to rescue coronavirus-infested long-term care homes last spring in Ontario and Quebec in a widely acknowledged failure of public health policy.In terms of scale, the effort to run the national vaccine distribution centre is — at the moment — considerably smaller, but no less critical and significant.It involves 28 of the military's top planners and at least two generals, including Fortin, whose day job is keeping the military's joint operations command humming as chief of staff. The Ottawa-based headquarters directs all military moves at home and overseas.Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan insisted on Friday that running the vaccine campaign will not be a distraction in a world, and a year, where crises erupt with unexpected and capricious ferocity. "We have never taken our eye off what's happening around the world," he told CBC News following Fortin's appointment as vice president, logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).One defence analyst says, in a military the size of Canada's, the secondment to PHAC will be felt, but it is in the national interest, and military's own interest, to pitch in."I think the military wants to see this whole pandemic in the rear-view mirror," as much as the rest of Canadians, said Dave Perry, vice president at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. "In one sense, it would be potentially taking bandwidth away to do something else in the short term, but if their assistance means we get this behind us more quickly it also would free them up to take on additional tasks that the government might ask them to do."The involvement of the military "in one of the most significant logistical operations that Canada has engaged in in quite some time" should not be a surprise because it "has real critical, literally life and death implications for Canadians all across this country," Perry said.The military, however, is supposed to be the institution of last resort, the place where the federal government goes when it's out of other options.Co-ordinating the tangled logistics of getting tens of million of doses of coronavirus vaccine from seven different drugmakers — on different approval schedules, from different countries — and getting them to provinces in good condition is clearly a military-grade task.A cargo plane like a "C-17 or a C-130J Hercules could do that task," said Dan Ross, a retired brigadier-general who ran the defence department's purchasing branch during the Afghan war. It could also facilitate "the delivery to remote parts of the country, remote settlements, remote locations that don't have commercial direct access, particularly in winter," he said. Ross knows all about managing a crisis with life-and-death implications, as the senior official in charge of buying and moving equipment on an emergency basis into Kandahar at the height of major combat.It's a unique skill nested within the military."Most public servant departments are not trained or equipped to do that type of role," Ross said. "They don't do command-and-control communications. They are normally policy shops who deliver services to Canadians." And that is an important observation in the minds of public health policy professionals who question why other parts of the federal government — especially those charged with pandemic planning — have not adopted the planning and organizational mindset of the military."I don't know if this has ever happened before," said Mario Possamai, a health and safety expert, who sat on the commission that reviewed Ontario's handling of the SARS crisis in 2002.More than a decade before COVID-19, he said, the largest immunization program was for the H1N1 virus "and the military was not involved there."Having the military so heavily involved, and at such a late date, is, in Possamai's view, an "indictment" of federal and provincial health officials who've had two decades or more to get ready for a pandemic. "And we really need to ask the public health people: You spent a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of resources planning for this, planning for the pandemic and this is the best that you can do?" he asked.The Liberal government has faced similar, specific criticism for its handling of the pandemic early warning system and its failure to issue warnings about the impending COVID-19 catastrophe."PHAC has demonstrated that they just have not learned from H1N1, from SARS, from MERS, from Ebola," said Possamai.The U.S. appointed a senior military logistics general to run its vaccine rollout campaign, called Operation Warp Speed, in May, said Possamai, adding he believes there should be a Royal Commission after the pandemic has passed. Perry agrees and said the country "shouldn't be in a position where we need the military" to carry out some of the tasks that have been asked of it."I don't think that changes the fact — that at least from my vantage point — having the military involved in this right now would be a very good thing for every Canadian that's waiting to get a needle," said Perry.How much more involved the Canadian Armed Forces will get remains unclear because public health is still developing its plan.Sajjan left the door open Friday to further assistance, including the possibility of troops delivering vaccine directly to the public in some parts of Canada."I'm not going to leave anything outside that we won't do — because there is obviously a possibility of that," he said. "But what we want to do is use the existing systems that we have."The minister said he wants Canadians to have "absolute confidence that the CAF will be there where any gap that needs to be filled."
It would be easy to look at The Bay's dispute with landlords across the country and make some assumptions: that it can't pay its bills, or that it's being crushed by the pandemic-sized wave crashing into retail everywhere. The truth is a bit more complicated. Retail experts say COVID is a crisis, but it's also an opportunity."Retail was changing drastically before COVID came along," said Avis Devine from the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto. "All COVID did was expedite it to warp speed."HBC went private just weeks before the pandemic started pummeling the economy, with retail one of the hardest-hit sectors. Sales fell off a cliff as stores were closed to stop the spread of COVID-19.To soften the blow to its bottom line, HBC says it tried to reach what it calls a "fair and mutually beneficial compromise with landlords."In many locations, deals were struck. In others, disputes over millions of dollars in unpaid rent boiled over. Courts were asked to weigh in. Eviction notices were dispatched.In a statement to CBC News, Ian Putnam, President and CEO of HBC Properties and Investments, said "HBC believes the burden posed by the pandemic should be shared fairly by both landlords and retailers."And that may be so, but retail analyst Mark Satov says there's more at play here than that. In his view, it's been clear for years that The Bay needs to shrink its foot print. About a year ago, as the company reeled from a $226 million quarterly loss, Satov said this:"I think if they could snap their fingers and say we have half the number of stores and all of them were half or three quarters the size, they'd be doing great."So, he's not at all surprised to see The Bay looking for ways out of less-than-ideal leases in less-than-perfect locations. And that willingness to walk away from some of these leases gives The Bay all the leverage in the dispute, says Satov."The landlords … are going to look at them and say 'Listen, if you don't pay your rent, we're going to evict you,'" he said. "And The Bay says, well, when are you going to scare me, because that's what I'm looking to do."Last of its kind in CanadaDepartment stores like The Bay are still an integral part of shopping malls. As a sort of "anchor tenant," department stores take up one giant corner of the property. Customers come to shop there and get drawn out into the rest of the mall. But two key forces are working against that trend. Retail is shifting online, a transition that's hastened dramatically under COVID. The other issue is department stores like The Bay just aren't the draw they used to be.Devine says customers used to go to one big store to buy everything, now they go to malls to get particular products. She says there's no better example of the new "anchor tenant" than the Apple Store."That's the new destination," said Devine, an associate professor of real estate. "And people are going to other stores in that mall because they've been drawn there for Apple."As that new reality set in, other big department stores like Target and Sears couldn't keep their heads above water. Now, in Canada, The Bay is the last of its kind. Devine says that's the best thing it has going for it now."I don't think department stores are ever going to— or in the next several decades, are ever going to completely disappear," she said. "And if they end up being the only real ... mainstream department store left in Canada, then because of that they will survive."Satov's business gives advice to companies trying to navigate tricky situations. He says The Bay appears to be tackling the core crisis, but keeping a keen eye on how to emerge as a healthier, stronger, leaner retailer. Is it a winning strategy? Satov hedges his bets."They have a shot at a winning strategy," he said. "They are struggling to survive and they're doing what it takes. And I think that's the right thing to do."
When Russia announced this week that its much-hyped COVID-19 vaccine was up to 95 per cent effective, the news was met with a predictable cheer in Russia and uncertainty throughout much of Europe and North America."This is great news for Russia and great news for the world," gushed Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which is pouring countless millions of Russian tax dollars into developing the vaccine it labelled early on as Sputnik V.Whether the V stands for "five" or simply the letter "V" has never been fully explained, but either way the association is obvious: the original Sputnik satellite won Russia the space race more than 60 years ago, and this new Sputnik will make Russia first in this new race to defeat the pandemic.With its hyperbolic announcements and an ambitious — some would say unattainable — timetable, the Putin government has attempted to demonstrate the development of Sputnik V has made Russia a vaccine superpower.WATCH | Russia claims its COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective:Already, among the reputed "firsts" Russia is claiming: the first COVID vaccine in the world to be registered; the first vaccine anywhere to be announced as part of a national vaccination campaign; and trial results that rank it first in terms of effectiveness.Not to be outdone, when Pfizer and BioNTech became the first Western vaccine maker to announce promising results, with 90 per cent efficacy, days later Sputnik V's makers said their vaccine was even better — by two percentage points. Some Western experts have felt opaqueness about the Russian approval process, combined with a rush to get it registered even before trials started, damaged the vaccine's credibility from the outset.Russia licensed it based on early trials involving only 76 people, whereas usually most approvals come after Phase 3 studies involving tens of thousands of subjects. Even after those early results were published in the reputable medical journal The Lancet, a group of 37 scientists from 12 countries wrote the publication questioning the data.Russian officials and state media pundits have decried the skepticism as evidence of an inherent "Western bias" against anything Russian and have accused U.S. and U.K. media of staging a smear campaign to steal away potential international customers. Positive resultsFast forward to this week and news from Sputnik's developer, the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, of very positive results from a much larger data sample. Russia's vaccine has 91.4 per cent efficacy from an analysis of more than 18,000 people, said a release on the Sputnik V website. The vaccine's efficacy rose to 95 per cent after 42 days. Plus, at roughly $20 US per person, Gamalyea says the Russian vaccine is one of the cheapest on the market, making it an attractive option for poorer countries with large populations.Like the vaccine developed by Oxford University and its partner AstraZeneca, the Russian vaccine uses human adenovirus vectors, or common cold genes, to trigger an immune response in the body. An initial shot is followed by a booster three weeks later.The news about the results prompted a change in tone from many Western vaccine experts. "The data [is] compatible with the vaccine being reasonably effective," said Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine."These results are consistent with what we see with other vaccines, because the really big message for global health scientists is that this disease [COVID-19] is able to be addressed by vaccines."Ian Jones, a professor of virology at the University of Reading, concurs."I see no reason to doubt it [the results]," Jones told CBC News in an interview. "I agree that their initial results caused consternation, but I don't think it's because they weren't valid. They were released a bit soon."I think it's going to be a useful vaccine."Their positive assessments are based on the knowledge that the adenovirus delivery method behind the Gamaleya-made vaccine has proven successful over and over again.What was unclear was whether the COVID-19 virus would be resistant, but Evans says the other drug companies' positive results strongly suggest the Russian vaccine will likely perform well, too."We now have four vaccines that have some efficacy [on COVID-19], which is way beyond what we have ever had for an HIV or a malaria vaccine," said Evans.Question of trustUltimately, he says whether a country chooses to buy the Russian-made vaccine comes down to a question of whether they have confidence in the science behind it and trust the regulators who approved it.The Russian vaccine gets treated more skeptically, said Evans, because the processes in the United States and Europe are far more open and transparent than they are in Russia."We do not know how carefully their trials are monitored and how carefully they are reported. We do not know that," he said. "But the countries that are buying it are buying it on trust that the Russians have produced something."Enrico Bucci, an Italian biologist who was part of the original group of scientists questioning the early Russian results, is among those who continue to believe that the Russian developers have not been sufficiently transparent about their data.For example, he says the claim of 91.4 per cent success is based on just 39 people in the 18,000-person sample contracting COVID-19."The sample is too low to claim any percentage of efficacy," Bucci told CBC News.Furthermore, he said, it's not clear where these 39 people came from, how old they were and whether the results from trials in one country were mixed with those from another location.The Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine — which reported a roughly 70 per cent success rate — has been subjected to similar criticisms about how data from its trials was presented, and its developers have now agreed to run new studies.So far, Hungary is the only member of the European Union to sign up for the Russian vaccine, although Russian media reports that 50 nations have either already signed deals for the vaccine or are in the process of negotiating them. On Friday, Russia announced a partnership with Indian pharmaceutical company Hetero to produce 100 million doses of the vaccine by the end of 2021.Canada has signed agreements with five vaccine manufacturers, but the list does not include Sputnik V.Gamalyea's initial estimates that Russia would be able to produce 200 million doses of Sputnik V by the end of next month turned out to be wildly optimistic. The health ministry now says it may be able produce two million doses, at best.Russians uncertainSince the summer, Russia's Health Ministry has been promising a national vaccination campaign was imminent, but it has been slow to roll out. President Vladimir Putin said one of his daughters was among the first to get the vaccine, although the Kremlin acknowledged this week that Putin himself has not. A spokesperson said it would be irresponsible for the head of state to take an "uncertified" vaccine, although the distinction the official was trying to make between a registered vaccine and a certified one was unclear. The mayor of Moscow has said authorities plan to set up 300 vaccination centres in the month of December and the plan is to get as many people in the capital inoculated as possible.Independent public opinion surveys suggest many Russians remain uncertain about the vaccine and whether they will actually take it. In early November, the polling group Levada Centre reported 59 per cent of Russians may refuse to get vaccinated.On Russian state TV, however, criticism or probing questions about any of the assumptions underlying the government's claims about Sputnik V have largely been absent. As is standard on TV talk shows, the discussion is framed in geopolitical terms.Their 60 Minutes program (no relation to the U.S. program of the same name) even cited a CBC News report by The National as purported proof of Western bias, with the host suggesting it was an example of "active propaganda" against Sputnik V. In fact, the report contained comments from Prof. Evans, the British expert, suggesting that the vaccine worked and was most likely effective. But his clips were cut from what was shown on Russian TV.
He worked through the SARS outbreak in 2003, battling exhaustion and overtime on top of 12-hour shifts helping to save lives.But a veteran Toronto paramedic says that was nothing compared to the call volumes he and his co-workers are seeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, he says, those who answer the calls for help need help themselves."Mentally, physiologically, emotionally, I'm definitely burnt out," he told CBC Toronto, but he also realizes he can't stop to rest — not when daily case counts of COVID-19 have spiked to the point that the province has put the city under a lockdown that will last at least 28 days. "I know I also have a duty to respond."CBC News has agreed to withhold the paramedic's identity to protect him from possible reprisals. The 20-year veteran says he's worried."I've seen paramedics doing calls at the end of their shift and their hands are trembling, and I don't know if that's hunger, exhaustion, or what," he said. "But they're still out there doing the calls because they know the citizens need them."System 'in dire straits right now'Mike Merriman, who heads the unit that represents Toronto paramedics as part of CUPE Local 416, spoke to CBC News at an ambulance bay in Scarborough as an emergency vehicle pulled in after a call. Five minutes later, it sped out again."The system is really in dire straits right now," he said. "We're running on overtime daily and something has to give."> We're running on overtime daily and something has to give. \- CUPE Local 416 president Mike MerrimanParamedics, Merriman added, are used to going above and beyond, but work at its current pace isn't sustainable and many, he said, are reaching a breaking point."They're calling me all the time, some in actual tears, because they just can't keep up the pace [and are] needing relief." "They're not getting their lunches. They're not getting any breaks," he said.Repeated deep cleaning between calls and the safe donning and removal of personal protective equipment add another layer to the already heavy workload, Merriman says.Another paramedic, speaking on CBC's Metro Morning on condition of anonymity because of concern about reprisals, added "every day I'm not at work, I check my phone and there will be an overtime call out for every single shift, sometimes up to a week in advance." Ontario Nurses Association also concernedOther front-line workers are also feeling the pressure. Ontario Nurses Association president Vicki McKenna is hearing from her members about burnout. "I can hear it in their voices," said McKenna."Nurses are telling me ... 'I just don't know how long I can keep this up.'"Burnout, therapist Amy Deacon explains, often presents itself as mental and physical exhaustion, but detachment is also a symptom. "We can't afford for these front-line workers to be detached from their work, but that's one of the most common signs of burnout," said Deacon, the founder of an organization called Toronto Wellness Counselling."It's been well researched that people are less effective.There's lower productivity because they are just so spent, they are so exhausted that they don't have the resources to show up at work and be their best selves."The union representing Toronto paramedics is calling for part-time staff to be made full-time to help ease some of the pressure.City to address fatigue and mental healthThis week, Toronto council adopted an amendment requesting the city's chief people officer and the chief of Toronto Paramedic Services, in collaboration and consultation with CUPE Local 416, address staff fatigue and mental health among front-line paramedics. They're expected to report back in February of next year.While they wait, Deacon says there are several things she would tell front-line workers to do."Put down your phones, put down your social media and do a 10-minute meditation, watch one less episode of Netflix and go for a walk outside."Sleep, she says, is vital. And if front-line workers are not sleeping well, she recommends connecting with a doctor."I think it's also incumbent on us as a community and as a collective to really show up for these front-line workers, people ... putting their lives and their families at risk to protect us."Protecting people is something the veteran paramedic says he wants to continue doing, but he doesn't know how much longer he can do it.."Being able to do the job well and properly needs to be a priority as well, and we're getting to a point where we are not able to do that."
As the holiday season accelerates into full swing, local businesses are hoping to avoid ringing in the new year with for-lease signs hanging in store windows by encouraging customers to spend their dollars at the shop around the corner.While December is normally the time of year when many small businesses are able to switch from breaking even to turning a profit, business groups are warning that this year they're simply trying to survive.> We're asking consumers to really make a conscious choice this year to shop small because the big box stores and the online giants are doing fine. \- Laura Jones, executive VP, Canadian Federation of Independent Business"Without a doubt, they are worried," said Nathalie Carrier, executive director of the Vanier BIA."There is stress. Nobody's looking at a bright Christmas. Everybody's just hoping to get through and to have a business when the vaccine arrives."1 in 7 businesses expected to closeThe Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has launched its Small Business Saturday campaign, which is running this weekend Black Friday and Cyber Monday to encourage people to shop local."It's a time of year when sometimes consumers can default almost automatically without thinking about it to big box stores and online giants like Amazon," said Laura Jones CFIB's executive vice-president. "And we're asking consumers to really make a conscious choice this year to shop small because the big box stores and the online giants are doing fine."The places in trouble are the small, street-front shops that may not survive without a brisk holiday season."It's your local retailer, your local restaurant, your local independent business that is struggling and having a really tough time," said Jones. "If we don't support them today, they won't be with us tomorrow."The organization estimates one in seven independent businesses across Canada are at risk of shuttering their doors because of the pandemic.Many of those businesses aren't brand new ones, but those that have been around for decades, even generations, she said. "It's still very, very tough times. I mean, 2020 has been a year that we're hearing from our Ottawa members has been more difficult for many of them than any other year they've ever experienced in business."Beyond holidays also a worryEven small businesses who expect to make it through the holiday season are worried about what January will bring."Christmas will be fine — sales are always good at Christmas for me," said Molly van der Schee, who owns the niche gift and card shop, The Village Quire. "My real concern is come January and February when it's already slow in the store and on top of it I can't get product into the store."What she's worried about is making ends meet early next year, especially as overseas supply problems have meant dwindling stock.Even now, van der Schee is low on some stock, though she said her customers have been understanding."My customers are very forgiving. They want to see me succeed. They want to see the store succeed."
The Gwich'in are once again facing down a threat to their way of life, as outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump makes a late-game effort to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration before he leaves office.The refuge, known as ANWR, is just inside Alaska's border with Yukon. It is a vast, pristine area of wilderness. The Porcupine caribou herd migrates there each spring from The Northwest Territories, Yukon and other parts of Alaska to calve on its coastal plain over the summer.But the refuge also sits on top of an estimated 10 billion barrels of oil. Indigenous and conservation groups argue that opening the area to energy exploration would have a significant, negative impact on the herd.Dana Tizya-Tramm, the chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation in Yukon, said the survival of the Porcupine caribou is linked to the survival of his nation, its culture and identity."Our people have been intrinsically tied to this herd for millennia, our village being aligned with the traditional migratory routes," Tizya-Tramm said in an interview airing Saturday on a special co-production between The House and CBC North."To this day, our children are born and are fed caribou broth [and] teethe on the bones, as our elders are fed choice parts from the caribou. So in every way, shape and form, even our government and our way of life is informed by the Porcupine caribou herd."Trump isn't the first U.S. president to covet the jobs and tax revenue that would come from opening up the refuge to drilling. What he and proponents of the work fail to acknowledge, said Tizya-Tramm, is the staggering potential cost to the Gwich'in on both sides of the border.'A last-ditch effort'"It's all about development for development's sake. So at this time, we do find ourselves in a last-ditch effort, as David versus Goliath, to ensure the protection of these lands, the protection of our nation moving forward," he said."But unfortunately, that doesn't translate into Trump's lexicon and it does not find its way into legislation."The Gwich'in and conservation groups are leading a campaign to convince banks and insurance companies to refuse to take part in any energy projects in the refuge. So far, a number of Canadian and international banks have indicated they will not underwrite exploration in the area.Meanwhile, media reports suggest interest in bidding for drilling rights in the refuge might be modest, as oil prices drop and governments around the globe look for ways to reduce emissions.Opponents of drilling in the refuge hope that president-elect Joe Biden will follow through on his campaign commitment to permanently protect ANWR and other public lands from energy exploration."I feel now more than ever this opportunity is on the horizon for us to engage with this administration to levy the highest level of protections that can be designated from the U.S. government on these lands," Tizya-Tramm said.The wild card in all of this, as always, is Trump.His efforts to put in place lease agreements before his term expires on Jan. 20 underscore the difficulties involved in balancing the demands of those who want to exploit the oil and gas reserves with the interests of those intent on preserving the refuge, and of the people who depend on the animals there for survival.Seismic testing to scope out oil reserves in the ANWR might happen before the year is out. So the clock is ticking."We still may see seismic activity in this area, which in and of itself will lead to irreparable damage done to the tundra permafrost and the sensitive caribou calving grounds," Tizya-Tramm said.Without the herd to sustain the Gwich'in, the chief warned, it could fall to the federal government to keep his community afloat.Canada and the U.S. are supposed to be united in their efforts to protect the herd; the two countries struck a legally-binding agreement in 1987 to conserve the Porcupine caribou population and its habitat."Unfortunately, there are no provisions in this agreement for dispute resolution," Tizya-Tramm said.Canada 'actively working' to protect refugeIn a statement to CBC News, Global Affairs Canada said the government was "actively working" to respond to the Trump administration's move to sell oil leases in the refuge."We continue to work closely with the governments of the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and affected Indigenous peoples to bring forward to the U.S. government our shared concerns," the department wrote.Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson also told CBC that he is working to convince the U.S. to protect the ANWR from exploration."I will be doing everything that I possibly can to advocate both to the existing Trump administration and the incoming Biden administration that this should not happen and this not the appropriate way to think about development in this day and age," he said.Tizya-Tramm said he also plans to get in touch with Biden's camp in the coming weeks. He said he applauds the Liberal government's efforts on the issue so far, and its recognition of the intimate connection between the Gwich'in and the Porcupine herd."As a young man, to have access to the upper echelons of the federal government, it goes a long way for me, bringing back successes to our people," he said.
Recent developments: * A heated centre for homeless people is opening in Gatineau next week. * Ottawa reported 46 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Saturday. What's the latest?Ottawa reported 46 new cases of COVID-19 Saturday, but public health officials have actually slightly reduced the city's overall death toll.Following an investigation, two deaths couldn't be confirmed to be related to the virus and were removed from Ottawa Public Health's (OPH) COVID-19 dashboard. Because OPH also reported one new death Saturday, the total number of deaths has only gone down by one. It now sits at 372.In western Quebec, public health officials recorded 33 new cases Saturday and one new death.The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has launched its Small Business Saturday campaign, which is running this Black Friday to Cyber Monday, encouraging people to shop local.The organization estimates one in seven independent businesses across Canada are at risk of shuttering their doors because of the pandemic.A heated, overnight homeless shelter is opening in Gatineau, Que., on Dec. 4, the local health authority says. A space at the Centre Robert Guertin arena will be available for overnight stays from 4:30 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. the next day.The area will be cleaned and disinfected during the hours the room is closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. How many cases are there?As of Saturday, 8,379 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in Ottawa. There are 309 known active cases, 7,698 cases now considered resolved and 372 people who have died of COVID-19.Public health officials have reported more than 13,700 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, including more than 12,300 resolved cases.Ninety people have died of COVID-19 elsewhere in eastern Ontario, along with 80 in western Quebec. CBC Ottawa is profiling those who've died of COVID-19. If you'd like to share your loved one's story, please get in touch.What can I do?Both Ontario and Quebec are telling people to limit close contact only to those they live with, or one other home if people live alone, to slow the spread of the coronavirus.Ontario says this will apply through December's holidays, with people who live away from home such as post-secondary students asked to reduce close contacts for 10 to 14 days before going back.Quebec has shared what it will take to have at most two small holiday gatherings next month. Rules won't be loosened until mid-January at the earliest.Travel from one region to another discouraged throughout the Outaouais.Ontario says people shouldn't travel to a lower-level region from a higher one and some lower-level health units want residents to stay put to curb the spread.Ottawa is currently in the orange zone of the provincial pandemic scale, which allows organized gatherings and restaurants, gyms and theatres to bring people inside.Ottawa's medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches has said Ottawa's situation is stable and people should focus on managing risks and taking precautions, such as seeing a few friends outside at a distance, to bring the spread down further.Communities in the Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington (KFL&A), and Eastern Ontario health units are yellow. The Belleville area will join them on Monday.That means restaurant hours, capacity and table limits and other rules that are between orange Ottawa and the rest of eastern Ontario, which is green, the lowest level.The Hastings Prince Edward region was moved from the green zone to yellow on Friday, and stricter public health measures will be in effect in that area starting Monday at midnight.In Gatineau and the surrounding area, which is one of Quebec's red zones, health officials are asking residents not to leave home unless it's essential.There is no indoor dining at restaurants and gyms, cinemas and performing arts venues are all closed.The rest of western Quebec is orange, which allows private gatherings of up to six people and organized ones up to 25 — more in seated venues.What about schools?There have been about 200 schools in the wider Ottawa-Gatineau region with a confirmed case of COVID-19:Few have had outbreaks, which are declared by a health unit in Ontario when there's a reasonable chance someone who has tested positive caught COVID-19 during a school activity.Distancing and isolatingThe novel coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, breathes or speaks onto someone or something. These droplets can hang in the air.People can be contagious without symptoms.This means people should take precautions such as staying home when sick, keeping hands and frequently touched surfaces clean, socializing outdoors as much as possible and maintaining distance from anyone they don't live with — even with a mask on.Ontario has abandoned its concept of social circles.Masks are mandatory in indoor public settings in Ontario and Quebec and should be worn outdoors when people can't distance from others. Three-layer non-medical masks with a filter are recommended.Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate, as should those who've been ordered to do so by their local public health unit. The duration depends on the circumstances in both Ontario and Quebec.Health Canada recommends older adults and people with underlying medical conditions and/or weakened immune systems stay home as much as possible. Anyone who has travelled recently outside Canada must go straight home and stay there for 14 days.What are the symptoms of COVID-19?COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a cough, vomiting and the loss of taste or smell. Less common symptoms include chills, headaches and pink eye. Children can develop a rash.If you have severe symptoms, call 911.Mental health can also be affected by the pandemic and resources are available to help.Where to get testedIn eastern Ontario:Anyone seeking a test should book an appointment.Ontario recommends only getting tested if you have symptoms, or if you've been told to by your health unit or the province.People without symptoms, but who are part of the province's targeted testing strategy, can make an appointment at select pharmacies.Ottawa has nine permanent test sites, with mobile sites wherever demand is particularly high.Kingston's test site is at the Beechgrove Complex. The area's other site is in Napanee.The Eastern Ontario Health Unit has sites in Alexandria, Cornwall, Hawkesbury, Limoges, Rockland and Winchester.The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark health unit has permanent sites in Almonte, Brockville, Kemptville and Smiths Falls and a mobile test site visiting smaller communities.People can arrange a test in Bancroft and Picton by calling the centre or Belleville and Trenton online.Renfrew County residents should call their family doctor or 1-844-727-6404 for a test or with questions, COVID-19-related or not. Test clinic locations are posted weekly.In western Quebec:Tests are strongly recommended for people with symptoms or who have been in contact with someone with symptoms.Outaouais residents can make an appointment in Gatineau seven days a week at 135 blvd. Saint-Raymond or 617 avenue Buckingham.They can now check the approximate wait time for the Saint-Raymond site.There are recurring clinics by appointment in communities such as Gracefield, Val-des-Monts and Fort-Coulonge.Call 1-877-644-4545 with questions, including if walk-in testing is available nearby.First Nations, Inuit and Métis:Akwesasne has had its most known COVID-19 cases of the pandemic this month, with 22 and counting in its Ontario portion and more on the American side of the border. Its council is asking residents to avoid unnecessary travel.Akwesasne schools and its Tsi Snaihne Child Care Centre are temporarily closed to in-person learning. It has a COVID-19 test site available by appointment only.Anyone returning to the community on the Canadian side of the international border who's been farther than 160 kilometres away — or visited Montreal — for non-essential reasons is asked to self-isolate for 14 days.The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte reported its first confirmed case this month.People in Pikwakanagan can book a COVID-19 test by calling 613-625-2259. Anyone in Tyendinaga who's interested in a test can call 613-967-3603.Inuit in Ottawa can call the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team at 613-740-0999 for service, including testing, in Inuktitut or English on weekdays.For more information
A cash-stuffed purse that sat at the bottom of an eastern Ontario Lake for two years has been reunited with its astonished owner after a father-and-son diving team discovered it and made it their mission to return it.On a sweltering day in July 2018, Ashley Spencer and a friend spontaneously decided that they would cool off by bailing out of their rented canoe, midway across Charleston Lake.The hurried disembarkation upset the craft and sent Spencer's treasured purse containing a drawing by her young daughter and more than $200 in cash to the bottom.In all likelihood, the sunken treasure would have stayed there it weren't for the extraordinary efforts of two complete strangers.Yet, more than two years after her purse had settled to the murky bottom of Charleston Lake near Brockville, ON, Spencer got a call from provincial police telling her it had been found."I was floored," said Spencer this week. "I started laughing because I couldn't even believe it. Like— there's no possible way."A stroke of serendipity and a global pandemic made the unlikely happy ending possible.At about the same time as Spencer's purse was settling to the bottom of Charleston Lake in 2018, an Ottawa boy named Stephen Svarckopf was perfecting his snorkeling technique at a Key West, Florida hotel pool."My dad would throw pennies in, then I would dive down grab the pennies and come up," explained Svarckopf, now 11.But the COVID-19 pandemic grounded the Svarckopf family's normal vacation plans in 2020, so Stephen and his father, Todd, spent the summer snorkeling the waterways of eastern Ontario.During their dives, they have pulled hundreds of pounds of rusted bicycles, snowmobiles, tires, fishing lures and other trash from the bottom of lakes and rivers.The pair cleaned up a modern kayak seat they recovered from the bottom of the Rideau River and sold it on Kijiji donating the proceeds to help with the cancer care of a local hockey coach.It was in June, while staying at Charleston Lake Provincial Park, that the father and son brought up their most mysterious find yet — a small brown handbag containing more than $200 and belonging to a woman named Ashley Spencer.Todd Svarckopf and his girlfriend Allison Gougeon searched for months online. Gougeon reached out to women named Ashley Spencer as far away as Texas,"And just couldn't, couldn't come up with anything," said Svarckopf, who used a pressure washer to strip two years worth of zebra muscles from the small bag.The also took it open themselves to dry out the cash, and a water-logged piece of paper bearing a colourful drawing by Spencer's young daughter, which they then carefully pressed and framed.This week, after CBC's Ottawa Morning put out a call for feel-good stories, Svarckopf contacted CBC to say that he'd found a purse, but couldn't find the owner. With some help from CBC News and the Ontario Provincial Police, the purse was finally handed over to the right Ashley Spencer, a 29-year-old bar manager from Brockville. Before its long sleep at the bottom of Charleston Lake, the purse accompanied Spencer on trips across Canada and to El Salvador.Never expecting to get the bag back, Spencer says she's paying the Svarckopf's good deed forward, donating the long-lost $200 to a Christmas charity in Brockville."There are really good people out there and I'm really happy they came and found me."
For the last few years, Janice Wabie and her family have made a Christmas decoration of epic proportions.A giant dreamcatcher adorned with hundreds of Christmas lights stands on the front lawn of Wabie's aunt and uncle's house in Timiskaming First Nation, an Algonquin community in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region of Quebec. With about a 3.5 metre diameter, it features over 900 lights."It's amazing how many people stop at night just to take pictures of this dreamcatcher," said Wabie.About four years ago, Wabie's uncle had the idea to upcycle an old trampoline."He spoke to my aunt and saw that they had this old trampoline in the yard and said 'Why don't we make it into a nice big dreamcatcher and put lights on it?'" said Wabie."Since I was little, I've been making dreamcatchers for everyone, so they gave me a call one day and I came up and I put together this big dreamcatcher."She's remade the decoration every Christmas since, with assistance from her family members throughout the entire process. Each year, they think of new ways to improve the design to withstand harsh Quebec winters."Every year so far, it's broken by the end of the season from the wind, snow and ice buildup. This year, they put wire to reinforce behind it to avoid the web from blowing in and out. Hopefully it works," said Wabie.This year, Wabie put another old trampoline frame to good use by making an additional dreamcatcher for her own yard. It's decorated with LED light strips that connect to an app that allows the colours to change in synchronization with music.Wabie said when she was younger, there were not a lot of cultural activities in Timiskaming. She was among the first people in her community to take up jingle dress dancing, and now teaches others and hosts regalia workshops.She's passed on that passion to sew, bead, and craft to her daughters and hopes her family's holiday decorations inspire others in her community to reconnect to their culture."Bringing things out like this, I want people to not be afraid to show who we are and just be proud of our culture," she said.
It's been a huge return on a small investment: Mike Doehl turned a $5 poinsettia bought at a Montreal grocery store three years ago into a looming giant. His wife, Joanne Hill, describes the festive red and green plant she brought home as "a little, crappy half-dead plant from Maxi."But Doehl used the magic of his green thumb to help it grow into a behemoth that now takes up a good part of a room in the basement of their home in Mont Saint-Hilaire, a Montreal suburb."When things are really beautiful, I want to keep them and cherish them," Doehl said about the poinsettia."I just love this thing. The colours make me happy, especially during this COVID time."Besides constant watering and a bit of liquid fertilizer, Doehl said he doesn't do much else to coax the growth. With the help of his nephew, he's transferred the plant outside during the warm months and then back in over winter."Put some lights on it and we won't need a Christmas tree," Hill laughs."I'm just worried, will it get bigger?!"
England needs tough restrictions after its current lockdown ends if hospitals are not to become overwhelmed, a senior minister said, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote to lawmakers to say the measures would end in February to try to quell opposition. Britain upped preparations for a vaccine roll-out on Saturday as Johnson named Nadhim Zahawi as a new health minister to oversee its deployment and the Financial Times reported that the UK is set to approve the BioNTech Pfizer vaccine next week. Sky News reported that Johnson wrote to lawmakers ahead of their vote on the new measures on Tuesday to say that the tiered approach has "a sunset of 3 February" and they will be reviewed every two weeks before then.
LONDON — Teams from Britain and the European Union resumed face-to-face talks on a post-Brexit trade deal Saturday, with both sides sounding gloomy about striking an agreement in the little time that remains.EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier returned to London to meet his U.K. counterpart David Frost. Talks have been held virtually for the past week as Barnier completed a spell of self-isolation after a member of his team tested positive for the coronavirus.COVID-19 is just one complication in negotiations that remain snagged over key issues including fishing rights and fair-competition rules. Barnier said Friday that the remote talks had made little progress and the “same significant divergences persist.”The U.K. left the EU early this year, but remained part of the bloc’s economic embrace during an 11-month transition as the two sides tried to negotiate a new free-trade deal to take effect Jan. 1. Talks have already slipped past the mid-November date long seen as a deadline to secure a deal in time for it to be approved and ratified by lawmakers in Britain and the EU.If there is no deal, New Year’s Day will bring huge disruption, with the overnight imposition of tariffs and other barriers to U.K.-EU trade. That will hurt both sides, but the burden will fall most heavily on Britain, which does almost half its trade with the EU.While both sides want a deal, they have fundamental differences about what it entails. The 27-nation EU accuses Britain of seeking to retain access to the bloc’s vast market without agreeing to abide by its rules, and wants strict guarantees on “level playing field” standards the U.K. must meet to export into the EU.The U.K. claims the EU is failing to respect its independence and making demands it has not placed on other countries with whom it has free trade deals, such as Canada.To reach a deal the EU will have to curb its demands on continued access to U.K. fishing waters, and Britain must agree to some alignment with the bloc’s rules — difficult issues for politicians on both sides.British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Irish leader Micheal Martin on Friday that he remained committed “to reaching a deal that respects the sovereignty of the U.K.,” Johnson’s office said.Jill Lawless, The Associated Press
The late Fred Sasakamoose, one of the first Indigenous people to play hockey in the NHL, had a tremendous impact on his community.As a residential school survivor, he also had a tremendous impact on the work of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), especially for one of its commissioners.Sasakamoose died earlier this week at the age of 86, due to complications from COVID-19.Two years after the TRC started traveling across Canada to hear testimony from residential school survivors, it visited Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, for three days.On that third day, Sasakamoose gave his testimony.It was a pivotal moment for commissioner Marie Wilson."There was a point in the commission where I thought to myself, what if we do all this work and we bear witness to people spilling literally blood, sweat, and tears, and nothing changes and nothing happens?" she said.However, after he spoke, Wilson realized that all the work the commission was doing would never be a waste."For those who are participating and for those who are taking part and for those who were in the room, things were shifting and things were lightening and things were transforming," she said."Fred Sasakamoose epitomized that."'The red man in the middle, that was me'Sasakamoose played 11 games with the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1953-54 season. He played for a few more years in junior and senior leagues after that, before returning to his home in Northern Saskatchewan. There, he became heavily involved in youth sports, and served as a band councillor and then chief of the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, where he grew up. Before he rose to prominence, though, there was residential school. In 1940, when Sasakamoose wasn't quite seven years old, he and his eight-year-old brother were forcibly taken from their parents and sent to St. Michael's Residential School.It would be two years before the boys saw their parents again.Sasakamoose told his story to the commission, beginning "with tears and [an] inability to speak," Wilson said."And he pushed through it … he found beautiful things to give the room."Wilson said she can still picture Sasakamoose, eight years later, talking about how his hockey career began, and using the word "shame.""[Shame] was a common residential school storyline, unfortunately--and he talked about his shame of being this Indian in the dressing room. That's the language that he used," she said.Later in his testimony, though, Sasakamoose told commissioners about how the sport had helped him heal.Later in his hockey career, Wilson said, Sasakamoose played in the middle of a line with a Black right winger and Chinese left winger.Sasakamoose told the commission he fashioned his skates to reflect that, putting a black lace on his right skate and a yellow one on his left skate.Wilson said Sasakamoose then told them, "the red man, in the middle, that was me."She remembers exactly what he said after that:"What an international flavour," she recalled him saying. "It carried me to realize that the world was not only meant for the white man, that there was a place for me, too.""We were one. It didn't matter the colour. We were there for one another."The heart of reconciliationIn that moment, Wilson said, Sasakamoose's sentiments were at the heart of the spirit of reconciliation."But it was also about the purpose and the hope and the dreams that survivors have put on trying to find a place in a country that has been so exclusive," she said. "Where they've been left on the fringes of caring, for so many, all of that shame and loss."Wilson said toward the end of Sasakamoose's testimony, he spoke about giving back, from the survivors table.She was listening with commissioner Chief Wilton Littlechild, himself a residential school survivor, and friends with Sasakamoose.He said to Littlechild that he was a survivor, and told Wilson that she was a woman, and women were strong, she recalled."It was an encouragement to us. It was an encouragement to the room," Wilson said."And it was, I think, just such a snapshot of his generous, generous character to push through his own difficulties and to have a lot to offer to everyone around him. "That's how I remember him."
INSOLITE. Lieux de sépulture, capsules temporelles ou objets de convoitise, les épaves fascinent. Le Québec et son fleuve Saint-Laurent n’y font pas exception. C’est à cette histoire maritime que Samuel Côté s’intéresse dans son livre Le monde des épaves au Québec publié aux Éditions GID. «Reposant en eau profonde, partiellement ensablées ou détruites, petites ou grandes, les épaves évoquent diverses époques et nous aident à mieux comprendre la vie de nos ancêtres. Au cours des deux dernières décennies, plus d’une quarantaine d’épaves chargées d’histoire furent repérées au Québec grâce aux nouvelles technologies, dévoilant ainsi des pans souvent méconnus de notre histoire maritime. Même si nous connaissons l’emplacement exact de dizaines d’épaves, bon nombre d’entre elles n’ont pas révélé tous leurs secrets. Le Saint-Laurent, qui est le plus grand musée du Québec, a encore des histoires à raconter », souligne Samuel Côté, un auteur qui est né les pieds dans l’eau dans le Bas-Saint-Laurent. C’est à Price, son lieu de naissance, qu’il a justement développé une grande fascination pour l’histoire maritime du Québec. Conférencier et historien, il a d’ailleurs identifié plusieurs épaves et documenté des naufrages aux quatre coins du Québec. De 2014 à 2017, Samuel Côté a également été recherchiste, consultant et personnage principal de la série Chasseurs d’épaves, diffusée sur la chaîne spécialisée Historia. Il est de retour à la télévision, toujours à Historia, avec l’émission Les sombres secrets du Saint-Laurent. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
British and EU Brexit negotiators remain sceptical about the chances of a breakthrough in talks on a follow-on agreement, which are still stalled over fishing rights and fair trade rules.
When Jack Amos was approached by his friend Joe Robertson last spring with the idea of running the length of Vancouver Island, Amos demurred.Amos, originally from Dawson City, Yukon, is an avid long-distance runner but he worried about injuring himself. He also wasn't wild about running for days alongside roads and highways.Robertson wouldn't let the idea go, though."He called me back a few months later and said there's a group of people who said they don't think we could do it," Amos recalled."I said, 'OK, well, we've got to do it now.'"Amos and Robertson started from Port Hardy, B.C., at the northeast end of Vancouver Island, a couple of weeks ago and they're expecting to finish their journey in Victoria this weekend. They're using their feat to raise money for the 1Up Victoria Single Parent Resource Centre."Basically what they provide is, counselling, emotional support, parent coaching, clothing and other goods for single parents in Victoria," Amos said.It's a cause that's close to Amos's heart, as his mom raised Amos mostly on her own through his teenage years."I just got to look at, you know, just kind of watch my mom working like seven days a week, maybe one day off a month, supporting my running, supporting [Amos's sister] with her endeavours," Amos said."I was just like, oh my God, that looks like one of the hardest things ever. Yeah, I still can't really comprehend how she did it." A little more than a week into their run, Amos and Robertson had reached their fundraising goal of $10,000 and were aiming to raise even more.Van trouble and 'awful' weatherAmos and Robertson would each run about 25 kilometres per day, but often more. They would take turns running and driving their support van.The journey has not been without incident — they've had some "awful" weather, and they were also involved in a minor collision with their van.They were OK, Amos said but they ended up spending a few nights in Campbell River, B.C. They've also had a few mechanical issues with the van since then.But they're still moving along, and the goal was to finish in Victoria by Sunday. Robertson is from Victoria, and Amos went to high school there after moving from Dawson City.Amos said the fundraising effort is a way to give back to his adoptive city. "It is an opportunity to return, I guess, the kindness and the support that I had received," he said.Amos also gave credit to his former hometown. He said he owes a lot of thanks to people in Dawson City."I have no idea who I would be without them ... When I think of Dawson, I think of the town and all the wonderful people, and they have truly supported me with everything that I've pursued."
WASHINGTON — The oldest prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre went to his latest review board hearing with a degree of hope, something that has been scarce during his 16 years locked up without charges at the U.S. base in Cuba.Saifullah Paracha, a 73-year-old Pakistani with diabetes and a heart condition, had two things going for him that he didn't have at previous hearings: a favourable legal development and the election of Joe Biden.President Donald Trump had effectively ended the Obama administration's practice of reviewing the cases of men held at Guantanamo and releasing them if imprisonment was no longer deemed necessary. Now there's hope that will resume under Biden.“I am more hopeful now simply because we have an administration to look forward to that isn’t dead set on ignoring the existing review process," Paracha's attorney, Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, said by phone from the base on Nov. 19 after the hearing. “The simple existence of that on the horizon I think is hope for all of us."Guantanamo was once a source of global outrage and a symbol of U.S. excess in response to terrorism. But it largely faded from the headlines after President Barack Obama failed to close it, even as 40 men continue to be detained there.Those pushing for its closure now see a window of opportunity, hoping Biden's administration will find a way to prosecute those who can be prosecuted and release the rest, extricating the U.S. from a detention centre that costs more than $445 million per year.Biden's precise intentions for Guantanamo remain unclear. Transition spokesman Ned Price said the president-elect supports closing it, but it would be inappropriate to discuss his plans in detail before he's in office.His reticence is actually welcome to those who have pressed to close Guantanamo. Obama's early pledge to close it is now seen as a strategic mistake that undercut what had been a bipartisan issue.“I think it’s more likely to close if it doesn’t become a huge press issue,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch.The detention centre opened in 2002. President George W. Bush's administration transformed what had been a sleepy Navy outpost on Cuba's southeastern tip into a place to interrogate and imprison people suspected of links to al-Qaida and the Taliban after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.U.S. authorities maintain the men can be held as “law of war” detainees, remaining in custody for the duration of hostilities, an open-ended prospect.At its peak in 2003 — the year Paracha was captured in Thailand because of suspected ties to al-Qaida — Guantanamo held about 700 prisoners from nearly 50 countries. Bush announced his intention to close it, though 242 were still held there when his presidency ended.The Obama administration, seeking to allay concerns that some of those released had “returned to the fight,” set up a process to ensure those repatriated or resettled in third countries no longer posed a threat. It also planned to try some of the men in federal court.But his closure effort was thwarted when Congress barred the transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo to the U.S., including for prosecution or medical care. Obama ended up releasing 197 prisoners, leaving 41 for Trump.Trump in his 2016 campaign promised to “load” Guantanamo with “some bad dudes,” but largely ignored the issue after rescinding Obama's policies. His administration approved a single release, a Saudi who pleaded guilty before a military commission.Of those 40 remaining, seven men have cases pending before a military commission. They include five men accused of planning and supporting the Sept. 11 attacks. Additionally, there are two prisoners who were convicted by commission and three facing potential prosecution for the 2002 Bali bombing.Commission proceedings, including death penalty cases related to the Sept. 11 attacks, have bogged down as the defence fights to exclude evidence that resulted from torture. Trials are likely far in the future and would inevitably be followed by years of appeals.Defence attorneys say the incoming administration could authorize more military commission plea deals. Some have also suggested Guantanamo detainees could plead guilty in federal court by video and serve any remaining sentence in other countries, so they wouldn't enter the United States.Detainee advocates also say Biden could defy Congress and bring prisoners to the U.S., arguing that the ban wouldn't stand up in court.“It’s either do something about it or they die there without charge,” said Wells Dixon, a lawyer for two prisoners, including one who has pleaded guilty in the military commission and is awaiting sentencing.The remaining detainees include five who had been cleared for release before Trump took office and have languished since. Advocates want the Biden administration to review the rest, noting that many, had they been convicted in federal court, would have served their sentences and been released at this point.“Whittle it down to the folks who are being prosecuted and either prosecute them or don’t, but don’t just hang on to them,” said Joseph Margulies, a Cornell Law School professor who has represented one prisoner. “At great expense, we walk around with this thing around our necks. It does no good. It has no role for national security. It’s just a big black stain that provides no benefit whatsoever.”Over the years, nine prisoners have died at Guantanamo: seven from apparent suicide, one from cancer and one from a heart attack.Paracha's attorney raised his health issues, which include a heart attack in 2006, at his review board, speaking by secure teleconference with U.S. security and defence agencies.She also raised an important legal development. Paracha, who lived in the U.S. and owned property in New York City, was a wealthy businessman in Pakistan. Authorities say he was an al-Qaida “facilitator” who helped two of the Sept. 11 conspirators with a financial transaction. He says he didn't know they were al-Qaida and denies any involvement in terrorism.Uzair Paracha, his son, was convicted in 2005 in federal court in New York of providing support to terrorism, based in part on the same witnesses held at Guantanamo that the U.S. has relied on to justify holding his father. In March, after a judge threw out those witness accounts and the government decided not to seek a new trial, Uzair Paracha was released and sent back to Pakistan.Had his father been convicted in the U.S., his fate might have been the same. Instead, it will likely be in Biden's hands and, Sullivan-Bennis said, time is of the essence. “It could be a death sentence.”Ben Fox, The Associated Press
There was a glimmer of hope Burk's Falls council would have ice installed in the Armour Ryerson and Burk's Falls Memorial Arena early in the new year. However, that glimmer is all but extinguished. Acting on a report from arena manager Graham Smith, council will now consider putting ice in the arena next March for summer ice programs. COVID-19 remains the culprit for the ice not being installed because user groups are reluctant to commit to using the arena in a coronavirus environment. Mayor Cathy Still says the most hours the municipality has been able to secure from users is nine a week. And that's a far cry from what's needed to make it financially worthwhile to open the arena up to skating-related activities. “We've tried for six months to get more users,” she says. As a result, Still says the municipality is referring any inquiries from potential users to the arenas in Sundridge and South River since they have their ice in place. By doing so, both communities can at least bolster their ice time, she says. Still says money isn't the only reason why Burk's Falls isn't installing ice at this time. Enforcing COVID-19 protocols also is a factor. If a minor hockey group or association wants to use the ice, that group “would be in charge of the COVID rules and they would have to make sure those rules are put in place,” she explains. “But if we had public skating, the arena staff have to make sure COVID rules are followed and that becomes a logistical nightmare for them because we just have two employees. “The burden would fall on our staff and I'm not really comfortable with that.” The last thing the municipality needs is for someone to contract COVID as a result of municipal staff failing to enforce COVID rules, Still says. As an alternative, the municipality is making the arena surface available for non-ice activities such as pickle ball, archery, cadets and soccer. Still says social distancing is easy to accomplish with pickle ball and archery because there are only a small number of participants involved at one time. In the case of cadets and soccer, both groups are responsible for any COVID oversight. Still speculates the only way for the ice to go in early in 2021 is if the plant at one of the arenas in the surrounding communities breaks down and Burk's Falls is asked to take on minor hockey teams. With this being only a remote possibility, Still says the municipality is now turning its attention to March, when the winter ice would normally be taken out and replaced with summer ice. Winning Techniques of Emsdale has been renting the arena in June, July and August for about 10 years for camps focused on figure skating, coaching in general and hockey coaching. Still says COVID interrupted the camps last summer, but she hopes COVID rules are downgraded by the spring so the program can resume next June. Burk's Falls shares responsibility for the arena with Ryerson and Armour townships. Rod Ward, an Armour councillor, is disappointed the ice won't go in the arena this winter. He says Armour council has been of the opinion that the ice should be installed. While Ward acknowledges that only a handful of groups have committed to using the arena, he's wondering if there's a silent group of potential users no one knows about. “We may have people hiding and not bothering to (commit) because there's no ice in the arena,” Ward says. “But if the ice was in, they might pursue it.” Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget
The province's largest school outbreak is taking place in a Windsor neighbourhood that faces a number of social barriers known to facilitate the spread of COVID-19. Forty-nine cases of COVID-19 — 40 students and nine staff members — are now connected to the outbreak at Frank W. Begley Public School in Windsor's downtown. According to a map on the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit's website, the area surrounding the school has some of the highest active cases in the city, with a case rate ranging from 9.1 to 49 per 1,000 people. The school, which closed on Nov. 17, remains shut until further notice. The community surrounding the school is known to be home to a demographic that is diverse and of low-income. As for Begley itself, Windsorite Leslie McCurdy, a member of the Black Council of Windsor and a local performing artist, says what she's noticed from performing in the school is it's "probably one of the most multicultural schools in the city." These factors suggest, according to experts, that people in this area may struggle with a language barrier and are possibly working frontline, low-paying jobs that prevent them from being able to work from home.While these issues are known to exist, its unclear how much information the school board and public health have on the population they are serving and how well equipped they are to address these challenges. Both the board and local health unit have deflected questions on the demographics of the school population and have not outlined the steps they have taken to help families cope. "If you don't have the data then you don't know what to do," said McCurdy, who lives relatively close to the school's neighbourhood. "When you have the information that you need, then you can answer the questions as to what that need is and that tends to be something that's not done well in this area — proper studies and research and data on how things should function and the impact of things on all of our communities." COVID-19 discriminatesWhat we do know, says University of Windsor associate law professor and director of the Windsor Law Centre for Cities Anneke Smit, is that COVID-19 impacts populations differently. "What is clear is COVID doesn't hit everybody in the same way," she said. "I think there have been challenges publicly discussed by those in government and public organizations in terms of their ability to tailor responses to the communities in question." Low-income populations tend to have a number of barriers working against them, including living in smaller and more dense areas, working front-line jobs, a lack of child support and a dependency on public transit. Some of these factors mean they aren't "able to isolate as effectively," if need be, nor take time off of work to stay with their children, United Way's Windsor-Essex director of continuous improvement and advocacy, Frazier Fathers said. Fathers added that many newcomer families are also multigenerational, meaning everyone from grandparents to grandchildren live under one roof. "So what you see there is they're just larger family units and so if one person happens to get sick, the multiplier effect is a bit bigger there because you have maybe four or five, six people in a household," he said. And when it comes to language barriers, Fathers said he can understand how that makes things even more difficult. He noted that the people in the Begley area speak a range of languages, including Arabic, Spanish and Chinese. "One of the challenges is just getting that information out there in the appropriate language and ... that's really difficult to do ... in an ideal world you would want to go door-to-door or something like that but you're not going to because it's COVID," he said. In an email to CBC News Wednesday, the Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) said in terms of supports and resources, "teachers are in contact with students / families. All the available supports are being provided to students and staff." Lack of demographic dataWhile dealing with the outbreak, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit said what's been challenging are some of the social barriers the school community faces, including a low socioeconomic status and language barriers that affect public health literacy. "There are a lot of issues there that have always been there, but I think because of the spread, it is just now showing more and more evident in terms of how some of these families are impacted more than the others," medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed said Monday. Chief Nursing Officer of the health unit Theresa Marentette said during Tuesday's COVID-19 briefing that the health unit has been able to provide specific resources and supports to the community based on demographic data provided by the public school board. But when CBC News asked the board for the demographic profile of the school, they said they don't keep that information. In an email to CBC News Wednesday, the board said they cannot share information on how many families require help with technology, such as wifi access or laptops.But earlier this week, the board wrapped up a technical needs survey to know families' "technology needs for home learning." According to the board, 391 students were attending Begley in person. Meanwhile, 146 others were in online learning or with paper packages and that based on these numbers, it's one of the schools with low virtual or paper enrolment. Aside from the hospital providing testing and the school board offering support, Ahmed said he's not "aware of any other agencies or any other departments who are supporting these families."He added that they haven't heard any specific concerns at this point. "To what degree is there actually consultation with the folks that are the most affected at this point," Smit said, adding that she presumes the board is talking to the families. "Decisions don't need to be made without them at the table ... so if the data isn't there then figuring out the best way to talk to parents and again that may well be happening, the board is best placed to do that." Pandemic has exacerbated social inequities Should this continue more long-term, Fathers said one concern would be children's education suffering due to a lack of technology or ability to learn online. He's also worried about parents being unable to go to work and losing a job or getting sick themselves. "COVID has really exacerbated the existing inequities in our society in many ways and so those who were in precarious positions are more precariously placed now," Fathers said."There's a lot of potential downstream impacts and it'll take time for those to play out ... The longer that they're sort of in their own sort of mini lockdown, with that school being out, it has more and more impacts [that] sort of begin to compound." Due to where the school is located in the community, sometimes it's thought of as a "disadvantaged school," but McCurdy said she hopes that label isn't placed on the children. "I'd hate for them to be labelled in some way as disadvantaged because again that's a single story about who they are and they're so much more than that," she said. "We really need to make sure that we're putting the resources into giving them the best opportunities to show that and the first thing is to keep them healthy."