In "The X Change Rate," award-winning drag queen, entertainer and TV personality Monét X Change brings her signature wit, heart and style to BUILD Series. The fabulous host sits down to chat with actor Garrett Clayton and UK drag queen The Vivienne.
In "The X Change Rate," award-winning drag queen, entertainer and TV personality Monét X Change brings her signature wit, heart and style to BUILD Series. The fabulous host sits down to chat with actor Garrett Clayton and UK drag queen The Vivienne.
An envoy hired to defuse tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous commercial lobster fishermen in Nova Scotia has released a bleak interim report highlighting poor communication and a lack of trust between both sides. The report by Université Sainte-Anne president Allister Surette found perhaps the only thing the fishermen can agree on is blaming the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for the situation. "The lack of trust and respect has been presented to me by many of the individuals I interviewed," Surette said in his interim report filed with Federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan and Carolyn Bennett, minister for Indigenous-Crown relations. "Firstly, I have heard from Indigenous and non-Indigenous parties of the lack of trust in government," Surette wrote. "Added to this level of the lack of trust and respect, some interviewed also expressed the lack of trust and respect within parties involved in the fishery and I also heard of the lack of trust and respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals, stakeholder groups and organizations." Appointed by Ottawa Surette was named special federal representative by the Trudeau government after an outbreak of violence and protests at the launch of an Indigenous moderate livelihood lobster fishery by the Sipekne'katik band in St. Marys Bay last fall. The band cited the Mi'kmaq's right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood, recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1999 but never defined by Ottawa. The fishery was conducted outside of the regulated season for commercial lobster licence holders in Lobster Fishing Area 34, who objected saying the fishery was a blatant violation of fishery regulations. The reaction included alleged assaults, arson, blockades, volleys of wharfside profanity and online venom. It garnered international attention. The blowup capped years of tensions over an escalating Sipekne'katik food, social and ceremonial lobster fishery in St. Marys Bay that was, in some cases, used as a cloak for a commercial fishery. Lobster caught under food, social and ceremonial licences cannot be sold. In one case, a Crown prosecutor said the lobster caught under those licences from Sipekne'katik supplied an international "black market operation." Despite a number of federal initiatives to integrate the Mi'kmaq into the fishery since 1999 — including half a billion dollars for training and buying out and providing commercial licences — there has been a lack of progress defining moderate livelihood and implementing the fishery. Expectations of the First Nations were not met, leaving many of them to doubt the sincerity of DFO, Surette reported. Debate over enforcement Surette said the issue is complex and will not be easily solved. Non-Indigenous fishermen have argued there is not enough enforcement when it comes to Indigenous lobster fishing while the bands have complained of harassment. "However, the point to note on this matter, and more closely related to my mandate, seems to be the lack of clear direction from the government of Canada and the multiple facets and complexity of implementing the right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood," he said in the report. Surette's mandate is not to negotiate but rather to "restore confidence, improve relations" and make recommendations to the politicians. His interim report calls for more dialogue to build trust, suggesting areas of declared common interest like conservation and marketing. A lack of information from DFO was a recurrent complaint from the commercial fishermen, said Surette. "There should be some type of formal process for the non-Indigenous to be kept up to speed, especially the harvesters, since this could affect their livelihood. Some process, even though they're not involved in negotiation, that they could have input or at least understand what's going on," he told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Friday. Improving communication He made three suggestions for improving communication: a clearinghouse for accurate information, a formal process for talks between the commercial industry and the government of Canada, and forums to create a "safe space" to talk on important issues without extreme emotions. Surette interviewed 85 people — 81 per cent were non-Indigenous. "In some cases, they were heavily focused on the fishery. Others said that they preferred dealing with the ministers at this present time," he told CBC News. Surette said he will be reaching out to gather more perspectives. MORE TOP STORIES
Saskatchewan will start to stretch out the time between COVID-19 vaccine doses, as supplies run short. Second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine will be administered up to 42 days after the first dose. Official guidelines say the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is meant to be given as two doses, 21 days apart, while Moderna recommends spacing doses 28 days apart. The National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI), a body made up of scientists and vaccine experts, say provinces should follow the dosing schedule as closely as possible, but the panel is now offering some wiggle room. WATCH | Canada's COVID-19 vaccine advisory committee approves delaying 2nd dose NACI recommends spacing out the doses up to 42 days when necessary. The recommendation is also supported by the World Health Organization and Canada's chief medical health officer. "The flexibility provided by a reasonable extension of the dose interval to 42 days where operationally necessary, combined with increasing predictability of vaccine supply, support our public health objective to protect high-risk groups as quickly as possible," reads a statement released Thursday from Dr. Theresa Tam, as well as the provincial and territorial chief medical officers of health. The same day, Saskatchewan announced it would further space out its doses. "Saskatchewan will be implementing these recommendations of up to 42 days where operationally necessary in order to deliver more first doses to eligible people," the government of Saskatchewan said in a news release. WATCH | Dr. Howard Njoo addresses questions on taking first and second dose of vaccine 42 days apart: Saskatchewan's supply runs short As of Friday, 96 per cent of the province's vaccines have been administered, and new supplies coming in are not enough to replenish what has been used. Pfizer has said it will not ship a single vial of its highly effective vaccine to Canada next week as the pharmaceutical giant retools its production facility in Puurs, Belgium, to boost capacity. Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, says it's very reassuring to have the length between doses extended to 42 days. "When there's a sudden, further disruption that does present challenges," Shahab said during a news conference on Tuesday. "Most provinces are able to give the second dose of both Pfizer and Moderna within 42 days ... and that becomes very important with the disruption of shipment." Scott Livingstone, the CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, agreed. "It does mitigate some of the decreased doses coming in. We also know through contact with the federal government that once the Pfizer plant is back online, they'll be increasing our shipment," Livingstone said during Tuesday's news conference. Livingstone said the new shipments coming in will be allocated for an individual's first and second shot. WATCH | Canada facing delays in vaccine rollout More vaccines on the way Another shipment of vaccines will arrive in Saskatchewan on Feb. 1, says the government. The province is expecting 5,850 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine and 6,500 doses of Moderna's vaccine. The government says they will be distributed to the Far North West, Far North East, North East and Central West. A second shipment of 7,100 doses from Moderna will arrive on Feb. 22, and will be distributed to the Far North East, North East and Central East. "Our immunization team is trying to be as nimble as possible knowing that we could at any time through the pandemic receive more vaccines, but also then having to readjust our targets and still focusing on the most needy in this Phase 1, and we will continue to do that as vaccine supply keeps coming back up," Livingstone said.
Three years ago, Erin Archer told local residents that renewing a permit to take water from the Teedon Pit was an open and shut case. "It is the world's purest water after all," she said believing officials would move to protect the water at the Tiny Township aggregate quarry. So imagine her surprise when she learned last week that the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) had renewed the water to take permit for CRH Canada Group Inc. "There are several wells experiencing quantity and quality issues," said Archer, who lives in Tiny Township. "The aquifer becomes more and more vulnerable as the layers above it get peeled back. In Tiny Township, (there is) not much protection for drinking water sources as approximately 80% of households are on a well. "The water speaks to me; I know her to be a living entity. I can't stand by and watch how she is being abused, without acting." The action Archer is taking has many layers. She has already contacted her township's mayor and deputy mayor to express her concerns around the issue and she will be mobilizing supporter through her Facebook group The Friends of the Waverley Uplands. Then, Archer said, she will be watching Tuesday's special council meeting, which has an open session at the beginning to discuss the township's response to this issue. Coun. Tony Mintoff, who brought it up at a recent council meeting, told MidlandToday he would be willing to provide clarification after that meeting. "Quite frankly, I’m rather shocked as the host municipality on this business venture we weren’t copied on," he said at the meeting. "We’ve taken the position quite some time now that we have some fundamental principles to be adopted, a water study that needs to be taken into consideration. Having said that and having said we disagree with any issuance of licensing, it follows that we should be initiating an appeal of the decision." Even though Mintoff wouldn't discuss the issue before the special council meeting, plenty others were ready to talk. Judith Grant and Lynne Archibald, members of Federation of Tiny Township Shoreline Associations (FoTTSA), were more than willing to share background on the issue and talk about next steps residents could take. "The company that owned the well and the pond and the pit had a 10-year permit to take water, which ended in 2018," said Grant, who is past president of FoTTSA. "It wasn't a concern until 2009 when they suddenly increased the amount of gravel they were taking and their water use. Before that, they didn't need to wash gravel because they weren't taking much." The company was allowed to take 6.5 million litres a day, she said. In 2009, when the county's proposal for dump site 41 was defeated, the pit owners decided to up the amount of gravel they were taking, consequently increasing their use of water, said Grant, who noted residents living near the quarry are worried about their wells' water quality. A hydrogeologic study included in CRH's 2018 renewal application answers Grant's concerns. The aggregate company's consultant's hydrogeologic assessment concluded that the silt in the domestic wells and the reduced water supply is not due to the operations at Teedon Pit. "The distance of these domestic wells from the Teedon Pit and their shallow nature preclude Teedon Pit from being the cause of silt in the water supply," reads the report. "The shallow aquifer contains a significant amount of silt." The provincial ministry concurred with this assessment, adding that poor well maintenance and/or construction may be the cause for the presence of silt in the domestic wells. When the renewal application came up in 2018, the township hired a consultant to complete a study. Their response: But matters escalated to the point of litigation. The township has held a number of in-camera meetings since then to discuss the issue. "At the end of February, there's another LPAT (Local Planning Appeal Tribunal) meeting of the three parties: the township, FoTTSA and CRH," said Grant. "The ministry has been dragging its feet on this. We've been doing this since 2019 and we still haven't gotten to a hearing." The renewed permit lists one Springwater and two Tiny hamlets, which contain the wells from which CRH is permitted to extract tonnes of water annually. "At the Teedon Pit, water from the on-site pond (referred to as a wash pond) is used for washing the aggregate, and separating silt and sand from coarser material," reads the permit renewal decision. "The water that is used is sent to two settling ponds where the silt and sand settle to the bottom. Water from the settling ponds is directed back to the Wash Pond for reuse. The water level within the Wash Pond is topped up as needed from the on-site Production Well." The amount allowed from the well is The permit details also mention the thousands of comments (5,246) received, as well as the ministry's response to those concerns, such as that of the impact of the washing operations on the aquifer. "Teedon Pit will only use water with no additives in their washing process," reads the explanation. "The silt and sand contained in the used wash water settles to the bottom of the settling ponds. Any water that infiltrates into the ground at the bottom of the ponds is filtered, much like rain water. Therefore, the ministry is satisfied that the operation is unlikely to adversely impact the groundwater quality." Archibald said residents, however, are not satisfied. "All our water comes from groundwater, wherever you are," she said. "The problem is, once it gets to the point when all our water is contaminated, good luck trying to uncontaminate it." In addition, Archibald said, she can't understand why the township wasn't informed of the renewal. Archibald, who noted FoTTSA plans on fighting this decision. said more public action may be required to make an actual change. "There's unanimous concern for the water and people are working together," said Archibald, adding it might require similar action to when citizens gathered in large numbers to oppose Site 41. Unfortunately, Archibald added, the pandemic prevents large gatherings so the case has to be fought in the courtroom. "There's a little bit of David and Goliath going on here," she said. "You've got Tiny Township and a mega-corporation like CRH that's based in Europe that has hired high-end lawyers." Her association, Archibald said, is relying on the pro bono work of the Canadian Environmental Law Association. But there's still money to be paid to expert witnesses and those who will conduct studies on FoTTSA's behalf. To raise awareness and funds, the association has set up a website dedicated to the issue. "The township benefits very little from this operation," Archibald said. "It's not making jobs. It's just environmental damage and not much else." CRH did not respond to a request for comment before publishing time. The Tiny Township special council meeting begins at 1 p.m. and will be streamed live on the municipal YouTube channel. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
TOPEKA, Kan. — Republicans on Friday pushed a proposed anti-abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution through the state House, a bitter reminder of election setbacks for abortion rights Democrats on the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide. The vote was 86-38 on a measure that would overturn a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision that declared access to abortion a “fundamental” right under the state's Bill of Rights. Abortion opponents had two votes more than the two-thirds majority necessary for passage, sending the proposal to the Senate, where a debate could occur as early as next week. The measure would add language to the state constitution declaring that it grants no right to abortion and that the Legislature can regulate abortion in line with U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The measure is not a state abortion ban, but it could allow one if a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision protecting abortion rights. “I think it’s about as ugly as you can get,” said Rep. Annie Kuether, a Topeka Democrat who supports abortion rights. Republicans said the timing of the debate was a coincidence, but abortion rights Democrats, particularly women, saw it as a pointed message that GOP legislators and anti-abortion groups intend to keep moving toward a state ban. A similar proposal failed last year in the House when four GOP members objected, and elections last year left the Republican supermajority more conservative. “It’s remarkable and it shows you that Kansas, that we are a pro-life state,” said Rep. Tori Arnberger, a Republican from the central Kansas town of Great Bend, who led the anti-abortion side during the debate. Anti-abortion lawmakers said that if the Kansas court decision stands, two decades' worth of restrictions on abortion enacted with bipartisan support could fall in state court challenges. The 2019 ruling put on indefinite hold a law banning a common second trimester procedure — designated as “dismemberment abortion” in its language. Special health and safety standards for abortion providers, described by them as unnecessary and burdensome, have been on hold since 2011 because of a lawsuit. Abortion opponents also worry that also in jeopardy are a 24-hour waiting period for an abortion, a requirement that most minors seeking abortions notify their parents and rules for what providers must tell their patients. “The people, over the last three decades, have supported very strongly reasonable regulations on the abortion industry, and they want those protected,” said Jeanne Gawdun, a lobbyist for Kansans for Life, the state's most influential anti-abortion group. But several Republicans said in explaining their yes votes that they would continue to push for a ban on abortion if the amendment is added to the constitution. Freshman Republican Rep Patrick Penn, of Wichita, said his late mother, a survivor of abusive relationships, had been urged by family to abort him “in accordance with every excuse promoted by the pro-death forces.” If the Senate also approves the measure by a two-thirds majority, it would go on the ballot in the August 2022 primary, when approval by a simple majority of voters would add it to the state constitution. “It will almost certainly lead to an abortion ban," said freshman Democratic Rep. Lindsay Vaugh, a Kansas City-area abortion rights supporter, noting moves for near bans in other states, including Alabama, Tennessee and West Virginia. The timing of the statewide vote was a key issue last year, when anti-abortion groups pushed to have the measure on the ballot in the August 2020 primary. Four Republicans voted then against that measure, joining many Democrats in arguing that the larger and broader group of voters in the November general election should decide. In Kansas since 2010, an average of 3.5 times as many Republicans as Democrats have cast ballots in primaries, and the primary electorate tends to be more partisan. Three of those Republican dissenters retired, and another lost his GOP primary race. The GOP had a net gain of two seats in the November election, making its majority 86-38, with one independent House member. In Friday's vote, only Republicans backed this year's proposal, and only Democrats and the independent House member voted no. The failure of last year's proposal led to an intensified focus by both anti-abortion and abortion rights groups on legislative races. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, sent hundreds of thousands of text messages, made tens of thousands of phone calls and knocked on thousands of doors. The national anti-abortion group Students for Life also became involved in Kansas races for the first time. “It was, ‘This is the time to protect life,’” said Kristan Hawkins, Students for Life's president. “We need to stand up and hold elected officials accountable, regardless of what party they're in.” But Kuether argued that Kansas legislators keep repeating the same decades-old “debates over controlling women" even after the U.S. elected its first female vice-president, Kamala Harris. She said there's no debate over any proposal “to deny a right to men.” “Equality?" she said. "Not in Kansas.” ___ Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna John Hanna, The Associated Press
Nipissing First Nation Chief Scott McLeod says the public health directive supporting in-class learning in northern Ontario schools is more political than scientific. The community’s high school opted to keep Nbissing students online until at least February 16 after the province extended its COVID-19 pandemic emergency order. The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit is one of the few in Ontario to support in-class learning, a decision panned by many in light of it closing down toboggan hills, outdoor skating rinks and snowmobile trails. “We're just trying to deal with the Covid and we just shut our rinks down and we're just kind of monitoring what provinces and municipalities are doing and making sure that we're consistent or more stringent in areas like our school being closed,” McLeod said about Nbisiing Secondary School Thursday. “It's all online right now, despite the provinces still allowing it, at least in northern Ontario, the high schools are still open,” he said, noting that seems to be out of step with what some provincial experts are saying. “I was listening to Dr. Kevin Brown. He's the co-chair of the Covid Science Table for Ontario,” said Chief McLeod. “He was giving an update to the Chiefs of Ontario and he honestly can't understand why the schools in northern Ontario are still open. And you know, that, to me was troublesome, right? ‘You have one of the top epidemiologists saying that he doesn't understand. I was expecting ‘Here, this is the data, shows this or that,” because I like listening to the data, not just listening to people rant on Facebook. But, yeah, he was lost for an answer as to why it's still open. “And so obviously it's a more political call than a science one,” McLeod said. The school posted the update on its website, as did the community. “In response to Ontario’s second declaration of emergency and to align Nbisiing with Nipissing First Nation’s response to the provincewide stay-at-home order and shutdown restrictions, Nipissing First Nation (NFN) Council has approved changes to Nbisiing’s return to in-person learning date,” it reads. “In order to keep people home as much as possible to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19 in our community, protect vulnerable populations, and keep our school community safe, Nbisiing will continue to teach all classes virtually and will return to in-person learning on Tuesday, February 16th, 2021 (Monday the 15th is Family Day).” Nipissing FN only closed its outdoor rink in Garden Village, which is enclosed with walls and roof, because they don’t want people from outside the community taking advantage of it while their rinks are ordered closed. “Our problem with the skating rinks, as soon as North Bay and Sturgeon closed, we have to close because they all come down hours and we don't want them there,” he said. Chief McLeod did what many others are doing in response by creating their own ice sheets, whether that’s in a yard or on the lake. They can control the numbers and make it safe by following the known protocols, he added. “Well, I made one in my backyard and I Facebooked all my family members saying, ‘You want to come skating with your family, book it … just message me so I know that there's no other family there and you can have it to yourself.’” Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada. Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca
P.E.I. will further ease its COVID-19 pandemic restrictions starting at 8 a.m. Saturday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said in a written release late Friday afternoon. "Prince Edward Island's participation in the Atlantic bubble continues to be suspended until mid-February as the COVID-19 situation within the region continues to be regularly assessed," the statement notes. Saturday's easing of restrictions means: An additional cohort of 50 will be allowed to attend organized gatherings such as concerts, worship and theatrical shows, to a maximum of 200. A return to full capacity for retail stores, markets and craft fairs as long as physical distancing can be maintained (only 50% capacity was being allowed in recent weeks). a return to capacity for fitness facilities/gyms, museums and libraries, again as long as physical distancing can be maintained. For fitness centres, a distance of three metres must be maintained during high-intensity activities such as hot yoga, boot camps, spin and high intensity interval training. Restaurants and bars may stay open for on-premises consumption of food and beverages until midnight, rather than having to shut at 11 p.m. Personal indoor gathering limits remain at a household plus 10 other people, with those 10 remaining as consistent as possible. P.E.I. is currently in a post-circuit-breaker phase of restrictions. On Dec. 6, the province introduced circuit-breaker measures to interrupt an outbreak of cases. Sports came to a halt, gyms and dining areas were closed, and gatherings of more than 10 people were forbidden. Restrictions were eased somewhat Jan. 5. There are currently seven active cases of COVID-19 on P.E.I. with a total of 110 positive cases since the pandemic began last March. The other Maritime provinces are experiencing a wave of new cases, with New Brunswick the hardest hit. On Friday, that province reported 30 new cases and placed the Edmundston region into a full lockdown as of Saturday at midnight, due to a series of outbreaks in the area. Nova Scotia confirmed only four new cases Friday, but officials said two cases diagnosed in December have been determined to involve the U.K. and South Africa variants of COVID-19. Reminder about symptoms The symptoms of COVID-19 can include: Fever. Cough or worsening of a previous cough. Possible loss of taste and/or smell. Sore throat. New or worsening fatigue. Headache. Shortness of breath. Runny nose. More from CBC P.E.I.
NEW YORK — NBC News veteran Tom Brokaw said Friday that he is retiring from the network after 55 years. Brokaw, author of “The Greatest Generation,” was NBC's lead anchor at “Nightly News” and for big events for more than 20 years before giving way to Brian Williams in 2004. The 80-year-old newsman did documentaries and made other appearances for the networks after that, but he has fought cancer and his television appearances have been more sporadic. He said he will continue to be active in print journalism, writing books and articles. Brokaw began at NBC in its Los Angeles bureau in the 1960s, where he covered Ronald Reagan's first run for public office and the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. He was a White House correspondent during Richard Nixon's presidency, and began co-hosting the “Today” show in 1976. He started hosting “Nightly News” in 1983. For two decades, the triumvirate of Brokaw, ABC's Peter Jennings and CBS' Dan Rather were the nation's most visible broadcasters, anchoring major stories like the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. “During one of the most complex and consequential eras in American history, a new generation of NBC News journalists, producers and technicians is providing America with timely, insightful and critically important information, 24/7." Brokaw said. "I could not be more proud of them.” The Associated Press
Recent turmoil in Kahnawake required the Task Force to clarify safety measures that were put in place. Starting on December 31, Directive # 55 mandated that all non-essentials stores be closed until the end of January. This measure included tobacco stores while allowing convenience stores to continue selling cigarettes strictly to Kahnawa’kehró:non. “The Task Force decided to close retail stores, which includes cigarette/tobacco stores, as they often cater mainly to non-local clients and are therefore at risk of increasing the spread of the COVID-19 virus to the community,” said Frankie McComber, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake lead liaison for the Task Force, in a press release. The executive director of Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre (KMHC) Lisa Westaway said that the decision was met with a strong response. She explained that there was a big outcry in the community, as people felt like the tobacco industry was being targeted. On January 15, the Task Force announced that stores that met certain requirements, such as selling a significant amount of food, essential toiletries and cleaning products, could be reclassified to remain open. As a result, some tobacco stores have requested to be categorized as convenience stores. “There are many businesses that have rebuilt themselves differently in order to survive during the pandemic,” said Westaway. “I think it’s part of innovation and growth, we all have to adapt.” One of the stores was the tobacco shop on Highway 132 that had received more than $15,000 in fines for going against the measures. Under the new classification, it was allowed to remain open - a decision that was also met with disagreement. “This has nothing to do with politics, these decisions are about safety,” said Westaway, in response to the backlash they received for allowing stores to be reclassified as convenience stores. The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) issued a statement in which it explained that decisions are made on a daily basis “to the best of everyone’s abilities and based on the best information available.” The Task Force also implemented new measures regarding outdoor rinks. Starting on January 14, it is now required that only one household at a time be found at any rinks across the territory. The decision was taken after the presence of a positive COVID-19 case was reported on January 10 at the town rink, along with several other community members. “The Local Public Health Team is unable to identify all potential contacts and therefore is asking any person who was at the town rink during those times to self-isolate until the end of the day on Sunday, January 24,” read an MCK statement. All Kahnawa’kehró:non need to reserve their one-hour spot with the Sports and Recreation Unit, who will be monitoring the rinks. Kahnawake extended its state of emergency for an additional 30 days, but the recent safety measures remain effective until January 31. email@example.com Virginie Ann, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door
FREDERICTON — New Brunswick's Edmundston region is moving into full lockdown as health officials try to curb rising infections in the area bordering Quebec. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell said today the 14-day lockdown begins midnight Saturday. The new health order forces the closure of all non-essential businesses as well as schools and public spaces, including outdoor ice rinks and ski hills. Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said today all non-essential travel is prohibited in and out of Edmundston, which borders northern Maine and Quebec's Bas-St-Laurent region. New Brunswick is reporting 30 new COVID-19 infections — 19 of which were identified in the Edmundston area. Russell says Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton will remain at the red pandemic-alert level, while she says Campbellton, Bathurst and Miramichi will stay at the lower, orange level. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. — — — This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
An Indigenous youth who was in care of Robert Riley Saunders when he was working as a social worker in Kelowna, B.C., says they would like youth to have a chance to tell Saunders how his alleged actions have affected them. Saunders is alleged to have stolen basic living allowances from more than 100 — mostly Indigenous — youth who were in his care between 1996 and 2018. He’s facing 13 criminal charges, including ten counts of fraud over $5,000, one count of theft over $5,000, one count of breach of trust, and one count of uttering a forged document. “He certainly deserves anything more than what he’s going to get in jail, but I also think we need some sort form of restorative justice,” says ‘Alex’ — whose real name we are withholding due to a court-ordered publication ban prohibiting the sharing of information that could identify victims, including their gender. Alex says they would like youth who were in Saunders’ “care” to have the opportunity “to come and talk with him or write to him, or somehow get their message across to [him] about how he’s affected them.” Saunders was released on bail on Dec. 18 by B.C. Provincial Court judge Monica McParland. His trial is set to resume at the B.C. Provincial Courts in Kelowna on Monday, Jan. 25, but Saunders won’t be appearing in person, according to an email from a B.C. Prosecution Service spokesperson. Instead, he’ll be represented by his lawyer. As the trial unfolds, Alex says self-care will be “quite difficult.” “I have PTSD, so I have days where I can’t manage and my [partner] has to do a lot of the work,” they say. “And then there are days where, you know, I’m feeling better and I do the work.” “I have lots of therapy ahead of me,” they add. “It’s hard when you have a young child and you have to explain to them what intergenerational trauma is.” Asked what message they have for other youth who were in Saunders’ care, Alex says, “Always remember that you’re a warrior and that nothing can take that away from you.” “I’m really proud of those people who have come forward and those who couldn’t, I’m proud of as well. “I’m proud of all the people who help us protest this man and help us take him down, but I need people to continue fighting,” they say. “This is not just one corrupt person, in my opinion. This is a group of corrupt people we’re up against, and we’re up against systematic racism.” Beyond a restorative justice process, Alex wants a total overhaul of the child welfare system. For example, they would like to see it become mandatory for social workers with B.C.’s Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) to register with the B.C. College of Social Workers (BCCSW). Saunders allegedly faked his credentials on his résumé in order to get hired by MCFD as a social worker, according to documents disclosed in a separate legal matter, which was settled in 2020. In B.C., social workers employed by MCFD may voluntarily register, but “mandatory registration is only required of those social workers employed by BC’s health authorities,” says Michael Crawford, president of the B.C. Association of Social Workers. Crawford says he’s been pushing MCFD to make registration mandatory for all B.C. social workers, as he believes it will “improve services to children, youth, and families.” “The BCCSW has a code of ethics, standards of practice, a duty to report, and a scope of practice statement,” he wrote in an email to IndigiNews. “Additionally, the BCCSW has the authority to receive and investigate complaints, and it has the authority to discipline registrants.” For Alex, mandatory registration represents the tip of the iceberg. “I would like to see [social workers] have to have more credentials than they currently do and to be registered — that would be awesome,” says Alex. “But if we could abolish the system entirely, that would even be better. “These systems, no matter how much we change them, are still designed against specifically Indigenous people because they’re designed to take our children. “I would like to indigenize our systems, and I don’t mean delegating Aboriginal agencies for child protection … I mean truly indigenizing communities, like, in our traditional knowledge,” they say. “Uproot the systems that keep us oppressed and create an entirely new one, because clearly the one we have, no matter how we change it, it’s still not working for us.” The Saunders case should be “thoroughly examined” by Indigenous leadership, Alex says. “I don’t mean, like, governmental departments. What I mean is departments like the missing and murdered Indigenous women department where they can approach it from a culturally appropriate and meaningful way,” they say. “I think that our traditional governing systems need to be put in place to help with this process.” Chehala Leonard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
MADRID — Public outrage is growing in Spain as cases of politicians and well-connected opportunists jumping the queue in the national coronavirus vaccination campaign come to light, even as delivery delays have forced some regions to stop new inoculations. Spain’s Defence Ministry has been the latest governmental department to launch an internal inquiry to find out if the military top brass dodged coronavirus vaccine protocols by receiving a jab before their turn. El Confidencial Digital, an online news site, first reported that Chief of Staff Gen. Miguel Ángel Villarroya and several other high-ranking officers in Spain’s Armed Forces had recently received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. In Spain, top government and other officials have not been granted preferential access to the vaccine — unlike other European countries where they were among the first to get the jab, to encourage members of the public to follow suit. Nursing home residents and staff, as well as first-line health workers, are currently receiving jabs as priority groups in the national vaccination plan. The rollout is suffering delays due to a shortage of deliveries by Pfizer-BioNTech, currently the main supplier of vaccines. Having administered over 86% of the 1.1 million vaccine doses received, several regions have halted new vaccinations until fresh supplies arrive. The Health Ministry announced this week that the next group will be those above 80 years old. Defence Minister Margarita Robles said Friday that the Armed Forces had their own vaccination plan but that she nevertheless had requested a report from Gen. Villarroya, who is 63, to clarify the issue. The questions follow several cases of queue-jumping by politicians or people with connections that have come to light in recent weeks, drawing widespread criticism and leading to high-profile dismissals. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's Socialist Party on Friday issued a statement urging any elected official who has skipped the line to resign immediately. Top members of the Popular Party, the conservative leader of the opposition, have made similar remarks. But whereas the regional health chief of the south-eastern Murcia region, a PP member, appeared on television, tearful, after he lost his job when media revealed that he had received the first vaccine jab, party colleague Javier Guerrero, who has the equivalent position in Ceuta, a Spanish outpost in northern Africa, refused to resign saying that fieldwork often exposed him to contagion. Guerrero, who is a physician himself and has diabetes, said at a press conference Thursday that he accepted getting the jab because his staff insisted. “I didn't want to get vaccinated, but my technical staff told me that unless I did it they wouldn't do it themselves,” he said. “I really didn't want to. I don't even get the flu vaccine. I don't like vaccines.” Pressure from the public has so far led to resignations or dismissals of several local mayors and councillors, as well as some hospital directors. At the San Carlos Clinic Hospital in Madrid, retired health workers and family members were asked to show up for a vaccine so as not to waste soon-to-expire doses. Experts have highlighted the need to ramp up vaccination to counter the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected 2.5 million and killed over 55,400 people in Spain. The health ministry reported 42,885 new infections and 400 additional confirmed deaths on Friday, as several regions launch new restrictions aimed at curbing the contagion. One in five hospital beds and over 37% of ICU beds are now devoted to treating coronavirus patients. In six of the country’s 19 regions, half or more of ICU beds are already filled with patients that need ventilation or other acute treatment. Authorities say that while the number of new cases continues to soar, the daily percentage increases are diminishing, indicating the surge could be levelling out. Some experts have argued that a strict stay-at-home order is needed urgently. ___ Follow AP coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at: https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Associated Press, The Associated Press
WELLINGTON COUNTY – The County of Wellington is undertaking a large study to improve and identify needs on its road network. The Road Master Action Plan (RMAP) intends to map out improvements to all county roads that connect the seven municipalities. Provincial and municipal roads are not included in the scope of the study. Don Kudo, county engineer, said the last time Wellington County did a transportation master plan was in 2005 making this a good time to take another look. “There’s also a number of different current issues and concerns that residents have with respect to road safety and needs that we’d like to review in this plan,” Kudo said. He explained the study is looking long range to 2041 which will help with budget forecasts and more currently at operational improvements. A press release lays out four key objectives that are guiding the study: The county is seeking public input throughout the process with a survey and mapping tool available until Feb. 11. “Community engagement is critical to the success of the RMAP,” said Andy Lennox, county roads committee chair, in a press release. “By engaging, we can be certain that the RMAP is shaped by our community. Residents have an opportunity to participate in meaningful engagement.” The map allows participants to pin points on particular county roads or intersections to highlight areas that have speeding issues, safety concerns, improvement suggestions or general comments. “We thought we would try to either see if there’s other new locations or confirm the issue we’ve heard in the past and the mapping tool allows residents to really provide a direct input,” Kudo said. “We can see how many other residents will have the same concerns and that’ll point us in the direction for areas of focus to look at what we can do at some of these locations.” Although geared toward county residents, Kudo said they welcome input from those in other municipalities who regularly use county roads. Those who provide input before the deadline will receive a $5 voucher for Ride Well, the county’s rideshare program, and a chance to win a $25 gas gift card. The survey and mapping tool can be found here. Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com
It was a normal shift for Value Village manager Jeffrey Stonehouse. He and a colleague were in the back room of a Vancouver store on Monday, sorting through donations. Then, while going through "a very old bag," he noticed there were some envelopes mixed in with the other household items. That's not too uncommon, says Stonehouse, who expected to find some personal papers stuffed inside. But when Stonehouse and his colleague opened up the envelopes, they found much more than personal papers. "This was certainly the largest sum of money I have ever come across," he said. Inside the envelopes was $85,000 in cash. Stonehouse says the cash appeared very old, as if someone had stashed it away and forgotten about it. "When you're dealing with this you know immediately that the person didn't intend to have it come your way," he said. "We take every step we can to make sure it gets reunited with the person it belongs to." Stonehouse then contacted police who, thanks to an old bank receipt in the bag, were able to identify the money's owner — an elderly woman who now lives in a retirement home. Her family had cleared out her storage locker and unknowingly donated the bag containing the envelopes full of cash. "It was nice to get that money back to her," Stonehouse said.
For years, Jordan Murphy longed to complete her weight-loss transformation with another round of cosmetic surgery. It was a matter of finding the right time. The Toronto social media influencer knew from her prior procedures that going under the knife could require weeks of bedrest. She was also conscious of the fact that medically altered beauty doesn't come cheap. But when the COVID-19 crisis cleared her calendar, Murphy found herself with a sudden abundance of time and money she would typically spend on travel and recreation. The 27-year-old filled the hours by scrolling through social media, sizing up how her body compared to others, particularly the before-and-after photos plastic surgeons posted to their feeds. "I think it just put the idea into my head: This is the perfect time to do this," said Murphy, adding that she's been barraged by questions from her online followers since documenting her "360 lift," an operation that removes excess skin and fat from the abdomen, waistline and back, last summer. "(The only downside is) that I haven't been able to dress up cute and go out anywhere to rock the new bod." Murphy is one of many Canadians who plan to emerge from lockdown looking leaner, lifted or augmented in all the right places as several clinics report an uptick in demand for cosmetic procedures during the pandemic. Some cosmetic physicians say more patients are seeking out their services as the crisis has afforded people more time to scrutinize their perceived flaws, and the flexibility to get work done without raising eyebrows among friends and coworkers. But critics worry that people could be rushing into serious medical procedures as the psychological toll of the pandemic has fuelled body image issues, in part because of the distorting powers of video-chat platforms and social media. Others in the medical community, including a Quebec doctors' association, say private clinics shouldn't be performing cosmetic surgeries as COVID-19 caseloads have strained the health-care system, forcing many patients to wait for medically necessary operations. There's little data available on the number of cosmetic procedures that are performed in Canada. But according to a Google Trends analysis published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, U.S. searches for some of the most popular ones dropped off in the early months of the pandemic, before rebounding to hit two-year peaks over spring and summer of last year. This is consistent with what Dr. Mathew Mosher, president of the Canadian Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, is hearing from members who, in some cases, have been struggling to keep up with the increased interest in their services. "The sustained nature of the added interest has surprised many of us," said Mosher, who operates out of the YES Medspa and Cosmetic Surgery Centre in Langley, B.C. When private clinics started to reopen last spring, Mosher said surgeons were bracing for a backlog of postponed procedures, but didn't expect they'd be fielding an influx of calls from first-time patients and regulars. It's hard to gauge whether this spike in inquiries is translating into more surgical bookings, Mosher said, noting that COVID-19 precautions have curtailed many clinics' operational capacity. It also seems that demand has ebbed to some degree as many jurisdictions ramped up lockdown measures. Still, he said, it's clear that the pandemic has opened up new possibilities for patients to revamp their natural assets. While job losses have forced many Canadians into financial precarity, Mosher said those fortunate enough to have maintained a steady paycheque may have more money to spend on esthetic concerns. Moreover, he said, patients are able keep up with their professional duties while recouping at home. "Doing something that is in some ways empowering and positive has come up on the to-do list for a few more patients." While most of his patients are seizing the chance to move ahead with procedures they've been thinking about for a while, Mosher said he's also sensed a concerning "urgency" among clients who seem to be fixated on a newly detected imperfection or acting on an impulse to make a change during a stressful time. "I've seen more patients coming to the office where they frankly have been given poor advice," he said. Toronto dermatologist Dr. Julia Carroll said she credits the surge in demand for cosmetic services such as Botox, lip fillers and laser peels in part to what some have dubbed the "Zoom boom." As our conversations have shifted to video conference calls, many people are spending more time staring at their own faces, and some don't like what they see. "Most people get up in the morning, brush their teeth or put on their makeup, and they don't look at themselves for the rest of the day," said Carroll. "But now, you're seeing yourself in animation all day long.... So you see things that bother you." Carroll cautions that these virtual visages probably aren't accurate, because most webcams use short focal lengths that can warp how certain features appear onscreen. But while she doesn't think anyone "needs to look a certain way," Carroll says cosmetic procedures can boost a person's confidence. "For some people, there's a real disconnect between how they feel on the inside and what they present to the world," Carroll said. "I think a lot of patients are just trying to reconnect those two parts of themselves." Catherine Sabiston, a University of Toronto professor and Canada research chair in physical activity and mental health, says the lack of in-person social interaction under lockdown means people are spending more time online comparing themselves with filtered images of others, which can negatively impact body image. The internet is also filled with counterproductive messages about the COVID-19 crisis being a time for self-improvement, feeding into the guilt many feel about changes to their exercise and eating habits, she said. As these forces conspire to make people feel bad about themselves, Sabiston said it's no surprise that people are turning to the scalpel as a quick-fix solution. The fact that cosmetic surgeries are moving forward when many patients can't access cancer treatments speaks to the social disconnect that seems to prioritize people's appearance over their health, said Sabiston. She urged authorities to adopt a more balanced approach that would allow people to access the services they need to ensure their bodies are healthy and help them feel better in them. "Our bodies are miracles in so many ways, and yet, we hone in on the appearance aspects when there's so much more to what our bodies can do," she said. "We should be putting our emphasis on how to help people so that more plastic surgery isn't necessarily the bottom line." In a statement Wednesday, the Quebec College of Physicians called for all non-essential cosmetic procedures to be postponed in light of the measures the province is taking to limit COVID-19 spread. Health Minister Christian Dube told reporters last week that the province is considering how to address the medical staffing crisis, but suggested it would be easier to bring in intensive care personnel from other regions than to enlist nurses from private care and cosmetic surgery clinics. A spokeswoman for Quebec's health ministry added that staff from private cosmetic surgery clinics can still volunteer in the public health sector without shutting down operations. In Ontario, some clinics that offer cosmetic procedures have opted to scale back services or shut down altogether. While health practices remain open under the province's latest directive, a spokesman for Ontario's health ministry said "it's up to each professional's clinical judgment to determine what services should be offered," in accordance with the rules set out by their regulatory colleges. On its website, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario says regional restrictions on personal care services, such as facials and hair removal, apply to medical practices, but clinics can continue to offer procedures that can only be performed by health-care professionals. Mosher appreciates the frustrations front-line medical workers feel as the recent surge in infections pushes health-care systems to their limits, but argues that closing private clinics will do little to assuage capacity concerns. Cosmetic surgeons report relatively low rates of complications, so there's little risk that their patients will need urgent care in overburdened hospitals, he said. Mosher said the cosmetic surgery industry isn't large enough to provide the reinforcements that hospitals require, and while some cosmetic surgery providers work in both the private and public sector, many don't have the expertise to help much with urgent care. "Health-care workers that are involved in delivering (cosmetic surgery) services would be more than happy to step up and assist if we were called upon," he said. "But like everybody else, we rely on the guidance from the health authorities." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021 Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press
Five years later, reminders of a tragedy linger in La Loche. On Jan. 22, 2016, violence unfolded at a community home and in Dene High School as a 17-year-old shot and killed four people, and injured seven others. As La Loche observes the fifth anniversary of that horrible day, Mayor Georgina Jolibois says "moments of healing" and grief remain in the community. "No doubt today is a heavy day," she says. "Not only for myself, but for many in the community and educators across Canada who were here that horrible day.” The first people to die five years ago were teenage brothers. Seventeen-year-old Dayne Fontaine and 13-year-old Drayden Fontaine were shot at their home by their cousin, Randan Dakota Fontaine. Randan then went to Dene High School, where he killed teacher’s aide Marie Janvier and teacher Adam Wood. La Loche began the difficult task of healing from the tragedy as Randan's case wound through the courts. More than two years later, in February 2018, he was sentenced as an adult for two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder. The court gave him a life sentence with no chance of parole for 10 years, which is the maximum for a youth sentenced as an adult. In 2019, a Saskatchewan Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal. Jolibois says La Loche is "rebuilding and learning from this horrible experience." Community members were expected to attend a virtual mass Friday, after which they would receive a prepared supper in their vehicles and later be able to tune into a local broadcast of a gospel performance. In a prepared statement, Premier Scott Moe praised the "strength and resiliency of the people of La Loche" who he said would be "a beacon of hope for future generations across Saskatchewan.” During a time of grief, he said "we also saw great courage, we saw compassion, we saw a community united and determined to recover and rebuild in the face of adversity that most of us could never imagine." In a video recorded for Dene High School, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he mourned with the community over the "senseless act of violence" five years ago and promised more supports. "This terrible loss will never be forgotten. Together, we will remember, together, we will heal," he said. Also in the video, local students shared their positive experiences at Dene High School and in their community. One noted the success of a modular farm, a wellness centre, some outdoor education programming and the availability of elders for students. Another simply thanked her teachers and expressed her pride in being from La Loche. As Jolibois prepared for the day, she said there was more left to do. She says the community still needs more support in areas like mental health and addictions and pledged to build on the progress of the last five years. "There were moments of healing and giving together, rebuilding families and friendships, refocusing the community," she said. "We just have to keep going with those positive moments and build on that." Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix
Speaking to reporters outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is thinking about getting Canadians the COVID-19 vaccine "when I wake up in the morning, when I go to bed, and every hour in between."
A deep dive into the hidden side of the animated No Frills commercial.
When it comes to roads, Tahsis always has to drive a hard bargain with the provincial government. And this has always been a “historical issue” according to Mayor Martin Davis, who said that the remote west Vancouver Island village has repeatedly raised the need for improvements with the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. Head Bay Road connects Tahsis to Gold River and Highway 28. Along the 60km road, there are segments that are still unpaved. For Tahsis the most recent concern is increased logging traffic. The ongoing road dispute between Mowachaht Muchalaht First Nations (MMFN) and Western Forest Product has seen loaded trucks rerouted from the Gold River log sort to the Nesook Dump, said Davis. In October last year, MMFN announced that it was restricting access to the portion of Highway 28 that passes through Ahaminaquus Indian Reserve Number 12 (IR 12) to the logging company until a land-use compensation agreement was reached. READ MORE: Vancouver Island First Nation blocks highway access to logging trucks in Gold River With this rerouting, the road leading into Tahsis is seeing “a lot more wear and tear and damage,” said Davis. The concerns were communicated to the ministry and Mainroad Contracting – contracted by the ministry to maintain the road leading to Tahsis – in December 2020. That was when ministry staff submitted a report on Head Bay Road FSR after completing 53 monitoring records, including surface condition deficiencies and other maintenance activity. Mainroad also provided the ministry with 58 quality inspection reports on work they had done or identified for the future. In addition the ministry completed two audits of the Head Bay FSR – a short response time audit and a snow and ice audit. The audits identified road segments that were quite rough, surface condition issues and a number of potholes in the paved section that needed to be addressed. The report concluded that Mainroad was performing their maintenance at regular intervals to meet the highway maintenance specifications. Since then, there have been “noticeable improvements,” said the mayor and added, “It’s never perfect, but it seems that holding their feet to the fire does drive results.” In the meeting with the transportation minister, the mayor also raised concerns about road safety and asked for markers along corners where rollovers are common. “It’s a very dangerous road, we keep getting rollovers on the road,” said Davis and added, “I’m trying to get the transportation ministry to put in better signage warning people of tight corners or even reflectors along the side of the road.” In response, new delineators have been installed at a number of locations along Head Bay FSR and old culvert replacement is ongoing this month. But despite these improvements, there’s more work that needs to be done, says mayor Davis. “We are not receiving any commitment to further paving on the road and my suggestion to test an embedded plastic road grid to stabilize gravel bridge approaches received a half-hearted commitment to ‘look into it.’ This is an issue as there are often bad potholes on each side of bridges, which makes braking and vehicle control more difficult. ALSO READ: Tahsis to improve transportation service for senior residents Binny Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Campbell River Mirror
Yukon is getting a new health care research unit that will include more patient and community participation than has been the case in many research projects. The federal government will contribute more than $5 million to develop the Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR). The territorial government will provide staff, facilities and other in-kind contributions. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research say in a news release the Yukon will be joining all 10 provinces and the Northwest Territories in a network of similar units. "Patients in Yukon will benefit, as the SPOR SUPPORT Unit will ensure that research has direct impacts on their lives in ways that are important to them by making them partners in research and giving them a say in which topics are researched," the release says. Yukon Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost said there has been an ongoing research project in the North that has already demonstrated the importance of community participation. People in Old Crow, Yukon, Fort MacPherson, N.W.T., and communities in the Mackenzie Delta have worked with researchers for more than a decade looking at the higher prevalence of a stomach bacteria and stomach cancer in the region, Frost said. "So the attention and the research that was done... was to look and work with the communities to figure out what triggers that. What can we do to prevent that from advancing to a further stage," she said. Yukon's deputy minister of health, Stephen Samis, said research driven by Yukoners for Yukoners can help the territory focus on important areas like prevention. "So rather than someone sitting in a chair at the University of Alberta or somewhere thinking up what they would like to research and how that might be able to be undertaken in Yukon, these are going to be research priorities that are really driven by Yukoners," Samis said. The unit will be based at Yukon University, but it will also involve the health department, Yukon hospitals and other organizations, said Bronwyn Hancock, associate vice-president, research development at the Yukon University Research Centre. Citizens are involved in the process from the start helping researchers sort out what they want to look into, she said, with researchers taking a holistic approach. "Which will include the person interacting with the health system, but also their families, their caregivers, the support network that they have around them," Hancock said. The university will host the unit's scientific director and operations manager with other positions located at other facilities, she said. Hancock said she expects the position of scientific director to be posted in February or March. In the meantime an interim oversight committee will begin meeting next month.
When drug companies like Pfizer and Moderna learned to successfully incorporate messenger RNA technology into a COVID-19 vaccine, experts say they likely opened the door to a significant shift in the future of immunization.The milestone in vaccine development was met with enthusiasm from most, but the seemingly swift pace and novel approach is causing hesitancy in others. Experts say the new technique shouldn't dissuade people from getting the vaccine. While the mRNA method is new to inoculations, the actual technology has been around for decades. The difference now, they say, is scientists have ironed out the kinks to make a useful product."It sounds fancy, mRNA, but there's nothing outlandish about it," said Dr. Earl Brown, a virology and microbiology specialist with the University of Ottawa. "This is the way our cells operate — we live by mRNA."Vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna were the first inoculations approved for humans to use mRNA, which provides our cells with instructions to make proteins. In the case of COVID vaccines, the injected material shows cells how to make a harmless piece of the coronavirus spike protein, which then teaches our immune system to recognize the virus and fight off a future infection.Scientists made the vaccine by programming genetic material from the spike protein into mRNA, a process that theoretically could work for other viruses."As long as you know how to create those instructions — that genetic code you need to convince your body to create that target — you can design an mRNA vaccine against any antigen," said Nicole Basta, an associate professor of epidemiology at McGill."But the question is whether it will be effective, and whether it will be safe."The development of future mRNA vaccines might be quick, Basta says, but they would need to go through the usual evaluation process and clinical trials to ensure safety and efficacy. So vaccines for other viruses won't be popping up overnight.Still, Basta adds, there's potential for using mRNA to either improve upon existing vaccines or to develop new ones against other pathogens.Dr. Scott Halperin, a professor at Dalhousie University and the director of the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology, sees mRNA vaccines as "evolutionary rather than revolutionary."Part of the reason COVID vaccines came together so quickly was the technology had been developing for years, Halperin said. The global pandemic offered scientists a pressing opportunity — and unprecedented funding and collaboration — to try again for a viable injection.Previous research had been done on creating mRNA vaccines against Zika and other viruses, Halperin added, and there were earlier efforts focused on cancer treatments. Coronavirus-specific research was further sped up by spike protein analysis from SARS and MERS.While the mRNA technology itself is impressive, Halperin says improvements need to be made to create a more temperature-stable product before these types of vaccines and treatments "truly take over.""The logistics of delivering mRNA vaccines right now, we wouldn't want to have to do that for every vaccine we produce," he said, referencing the ultra-cold storage temperature that's currently needed. "But I do think it's an important milestone."Scientists are expected to continue advancing the technology, just as they did recently in solving two confounding problems with mRNA — its fragility and instability.Brown says fragility was resolved by packaging the mRNA in a fat coating, giving it something to help bind onto cells so it wouldn't disintegrate upon injection. The instability was conquered by modifying the uracil component of RNA, one of the four units of its genetic code."The technology application is new, but the science is mature," Brown said. "We've just reached the point at which we can apply it." Traditional vaccines typically contain a killed or weakened virus, Brown said. Those methods are still being used in COVID vaccine development, including by AstraZeneca-Oxford, whose product has not yet been approved in Canada.A benefit to using mRNA is the speed at which a vaccine can be developed or updated once scientists know what to target, Brown says. While experts believe current vaccines will work against recent variants of the COVID virus — including one originating in the U.K. that's more transmissible — Brown says mRNA's adaptability could theoretically come in handy if new strains emerged that necessitated an update. "In six weeks they could produce something," he said. "It would still have to go through Phase 3 trials, but it does give you more flexibility and a big leg up."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press