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Lytton, B.C. is Canada’s face-to-face encounter with the future of climate

THE BIG STORY | posted Thursday, Jul 8th, 2021

In today’s Big Story podcast, two people are dead, a town is all but destroyed and more than a thousand people have essentially become climate refugees. And that is the toll of just one of the hundreds of forest fires raging in British Columbia at the moment.

But it’s in the future of Lytton that we can get a glimpse of what Canada must grapple with. Do you rebuild a town in the hottest place in Canada, at a time when fire season is getting longer and more intense every year? Or do you simply expect people, many of whom belong to the Lytton First Nation, to pick up the pieces and head elsewhere—until “elsewhere” is threatened, too?

GUEST: Monika Gul, News 1130, CityNews, Vancouver

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google and Spotify

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

B.C. man guilty of killing Abbotsford teen to find out parole eligibility

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jul 7th, 2021

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — The man who killed a 13-year-old girl and injured her friend at a high school in Abbotsford, B.C., is expected to find out how long he will be in prison before he’s eligible for parole.

Gabriel Klein will serve a life sentence for the second-degree murder of Letisha Reimer and the aggravated assault of her friend in November 2016.

B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes is expected to release her decision today on how long it will be before Klein is eligible to apply for parole.

The Crown argued at the sentencing hearing last month that Klein should serve at least 18 years before he can apply for release, while his lawyer says parole eligibility should be set at 12 years.

Klein was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the months after he stabbed the girls multiple times but was rejected for a defence of not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder.

Reimer’s father, who spoke at the sentencing hearing, expressed doubts that Klein would receive a fit sentence for the damage caused to his family by his daughter’s death.

Klein will also be given the chance to address the victims’ friends and family at today’s hearing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 7, 2021.

The Canadian Press

What’s the fight over returning to the office really about?

THE BIG STORY | posted Wednesday, Jul 7th, 2021

In today’s Big Story podcast, the heated discussion over a full return to business as usual versus an embrace of remote, flexible work is often couched in language of productivity, creativity and efficiency. But as more and more corporations announce their post-pandemic plans, it’s becoming clear that there’s a bigger, deeper issue at stake: Control.

What makes companies feel like in-person office work is essential? Why are workers so reluctant to give up their new flexibility, even when working from home can be fraught with problems? Are we entering a new era that could end the monoculture of the office… or just one more push from labour to be beaten back by The Man?

GUEST: Charlie Warzel, journalist, Galaxy Brain

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google and Spotify

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

Vaccine FAQ: mixing and matching, kids under 12 and are we slowing down?

THE BIG STORY | posted Tuesday, Jul 6th, 2021

In today’s Big Story podcast, now that vaccines are widely available to almost any Canadian who wants one, the focus turns to convincing people who haven’t had one yet to get their needle. It’s easier said than done, for more reasons than just hesitancy. And if our inbox is any indication, after months of mixed messaging, Canadians have a lot of questions.

What does the science say about mixing mRNA vaccines? When will we have data and shots for kids under 12? How do various brands of vaccines cope with the Delta variant? And why does the threshold for herd immunity keep changing?

GUEST: Sabina Vohra-Miller, clinical pharmacologist

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google and Spotify

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

Remains of Canadian found at site of collapsed condo in Florida

NEWS STAFF, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jul 6th, 2021

The remains of a Canadian have been pulled from the rubble of a collapsed condo building in South Florida.

Global Affairs Canada confirmed Tuesday morning that a Canadian citizen was among the 28 dead at the site in Surfside.

Another three Canadians remain unaccounted for and three different families have been affected by the collapse.

Statement from Global Affairs Canada:

“Canada sends its deepest condolences to the family and friends who lost a loved one in the building collapse in Surfside, Florida. Global Affairs Canada can confirm that the remains of one Canadian citizen were found at the site. At least three other Canadian citizens remain unaccounted for. Three different families have been affected by this tragedy.

Global Affairs says Canadian officials in Miami have been providing support to the family of the deceased and the families of the missing individuals.

“We stand ready to provide consular assistance to Canadian citizens as necessary,” reads the statement. “We will also continue to liaise with local authorities in case they have any updates to provide on these Canadians and the situation more broadly.”

A ramped-up rescue effort at the collapsed condo building faced new threats from the weather as Tropical Storm Elsa began lashing Florida, on a path that would mostly spare South Florida.

Bands of heavy rain were expected in Surfside as Elsa strengthened on Tuesday, possibly becoming a hurricane again before making landfall somewhere between Tampa Bay and Florida’s Big Bend and crossing northern Florida. The search crews can work through rain, but lightning from unrelated thunderstorms have forced them to pause at times, and a garage area in the rubble has filled with water, officials said.

The delays frustrated rescue crews, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.

“Truly they live to save lives, and they’ve pushed ahead no matter what is thrown in their way,” she said at an evening news conference.

Still, crews got a big boost when the unstable remaining portion of the Champlain Towers South building came down Sunday. The demolition — prompted by fears that the structure could fall — allowed rescuers into previously inaccessible places, including bedrooms where people were believed to be sleeping at the time of the disaster, officials said.

Four more victims were discovered, raising the death toll to 28 people. Another 117 people remained unaccounted for.

“The site is busier and more active now than I’ve seen it since we began, now that the damaged building is down,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said, adding that heavy equipment was now able to move freely around the site.

Rescuers hoped to get a clearer picture of voids that may exist in the rubble as they search for anyone still trapped under the fallen wing of the building, but they found very few voids, Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah told family members late Monday.

No one has been rescued alive since the first hours after the collapse, but rescuers were still holding out hope of reuniting loved ones.

“We continue to remain focused on our primary mission, and that is to leave no stone unturned and to find as many people as we can and to help bring either some answers to family and loved ones or to bring some closure to them,” City of Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll said.

RCMP working to identify cause of Lytton, B.C., fire as two deaths confirmed

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jul 5th, 2021

LYTTON, B.C. — Mounties are on the scene in Lytton, B.C., working to determine what caused a fire that destroyed much of the village and left two people dead.

Dawn Roberts, the director of communications for the B.C. RCMP, told a news conference Sunday that investigators were able to access the village on Saturday.

“We have no timeline on how long it will take, but it will be thorough. We ask for everyone’s patience to allow the investigation the time and space in order to determine the facts,” she said.

Premier John Horgan previously said he had heard anecdotal evidence linking the start of the fire to a train running through the community.

Roberts said officers are working to track down witnesses or anyone who may have information about what caused the fire.

“We’re very mindful that people that were in the area have likely been evacuated or are in different parts of the province right now,” she said.

Roberts urged anyone who cannot trace or contact unaccounted family members or friends to reach out to RCMP.

But she said there are currently no active missing persons investigations.

Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said in a statement posted to Twitter Sunday that the government has approved a request for assistance from B.C.

More than 100 firefighters are expected to arrive Monday, with preparations underway to limit any potential COVID-19 exposure.

There are 174 active fires across the province, with 37 starting in the past 24 hours.

Cliff Chapman, the director of provincial operations with the BC Wildfire Service, said crews are expecting temperatures to return to seasonal norms this week.

Chapman and Pader Brach with Emergency Management BC also admitted to shortcomings in regard to communication with Indigenous communities.

“I think unfortunately we need to do a better job of ensuring the leader of those communities are part of the planning as we move forward,” said Chapman.

Chief Matt Pasco, the head of the Nlaka’pamux Nation Tribal Council, said the first contact he received from the government came 12 hours after evacuations began, and it was regarding his cattle, not about affected community members.

Elsewhere, the Regional District of Central Kootenay says a wildfire burning near Castlegar, B.C., has been controlled and is expected to be completely contained by Sunday night.

An evacuation order remains in place for more than 100 homes 40 kilometres southwest of Kamloops, B.C., as an out-of-control wildfire continues to burn.

Canada to receive 3.7 million more COVID-19 doses this week

MAAN ALHMIDI, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jul 5th, 2021

OTTAWA — The federal government is expecting to receive 3.7 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccines this week, bringing the total of COVID-19 vaccine deliveries above 53.7 million doses.

The new deliveries will include about 900,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 2.8 million doses of Moderna vaccine.

Those shipments will push Canada’s total vaccine deliveries above 53.7 million doses, enough to administer two shots to more than 75 per cent of eligible residents.

With 18 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines expected to arrive in Canada in July, the country will have enough doses to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined the ranks of the fully vaccinated on Friday. He received  a shot of the Moderna vaccine at an Ottawa clinic. His wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, got her second dose on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters after getting his shot, Trudeau said he feels “safer and quite optimistic about the summer.”

He said close to 80 per cent of eligible Canadians have already received their first shot of COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 35 per cent have received two doses.

Trudeau said more than 50 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been delivered to Canada and the government expects to receive a total of 68 million by the end of the month.

“We are well on the way to a good summer and an even better fall,” he said.

“That said, we are not out of the woods yet.”

Trudeau said that Yukon is facing its biggest spike in COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic despite 86 per cent of eligible people having already received their first dose  and over 76 per cent with their second.

Yukon’s chief public health officer Dr. Brendan Hanley last week said the territory has the highest active case rate in the country and has asked the federal government for help in controlling the outbreak.

On Friday, there was a total of 146 active cases. Three people have died since the outbreak began. Two others died earlier in the pandemic.

This report was first published by The Canadian Press on July 5, 2021.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

A look at COVID-19 reopening plans across the country

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jun 30th, 2021

As COVID-19 vaccination rates increase and case numbers drop across the country, the provinces and territories have begun releasing the reopening plans for businesses, events and recreational facilities.

Most of the plans are based on each jurisdiction reaching vaccination targets at certain dates, while also keeping the number of cases and hospitalizations down.

Here’s a look at what reopening plans look like across the country:

Newfoundland and Labrador:

The province’s reopening plan begins with a transition period during which some health restrictions, like limits on gatherings, will loosen.

Requirements for testing and self-isolation lift entirely for fully vaccinated Canadian travellers on Canada Day, while those requirements ease over the next few months for travellers with just one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

If case counts, hospitalization and vaccination targets are met, the province expects to reopen dance floors as early as Aug. 15, and lift capacity restrictions on businesses, restaurants and lounges while maintaining physical distancing between tables.

As early as Sept. 15, mask requirements for indoor public spaces would be reviewed.

Nova Scotia:

Nova Scotia has moved into Phase 2 of its five-step reopening plan, which allows such things as indoor dining at restaurants and bars, a 50 per cent customer capacity for retail stores and increased gathering limits.

The province has allowed all public and private schools to reopen. A limit of 10 people gathering informally indoors is in place, and up to 25 people are allowed to gather informally outdoors without social distancing.

Festivals and special events may take place at 25 per cent of the venue’s capacity with a maximum of 50 people indoors and up to 75 people outdoors with social distancing.

Indoor and outdoor restaurant dining is allowed with two metres between tables and a maximum of 10 people at each table. Restaurants can only serve dine-in customers until 11 p.m. and must close by 12 a.m., however take-out, delivery and drive-thru service can still be offered after 12 a.m.

Hair salons, barber shops, spas, nail salons and body art establishments are open but by appointment only.

New Brunswick:

New Brunswick has moved into Phase 2 of its reopening plan, having reached its goal of having 20 per cent of people 65 or older vaccinated with two doses of a COVID vaccine.

Premier Blaine Higgs says the change opens travel without the need to isolate to all of Nova Scotia after opening to P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Travellers from elsewhere in Canada who’ve had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine will be allowed into the province without the need to isolate, while those who haven’t had a shot will have to isolate and produce a negative test before being released from quarantine.

Other changes allow restaurants, gyms and salons to operate at full capacity as long as customer contact lists are kept.

In the third phase, the province will lift all COVID-19 restrictions.

Prince Edward Island: 

The province has allowed personal gatherings to increase so that up to 20 people can get together indoors and outdoors. Restaurants are allowed to have tables of up to 20. Special occasion events like backyard weddings and anniversary parties of up to 50 people hosted by individuals are permitted with a reviewed operational plan.

The province projects that on July 18, its non-medical mask requirement will ease, and organized gatherings hosted by a business or other organization will be permitted with groups of up to 200 people outdoors or 100 people indoors.

On Sept. 12, the province expects physical distancing measures to be eased, as well as allowing personal and organized gatherings to go ahead without limits.

Quebec: 

All of Quebec is now at the lowest alert level under the province’s COVID-19 response plan as public health restrictions continue to ease.

Nine of Quebec’s 17 regions, including the province’s largest cities and the areas surrounding them, move from yellow to green on the pandemic alert level system as of today. The province’s other regions were already at the green level.

Several green zone restrictions were relaxed further today, with up to 20 people now allowed to share a table on restaurant and bar patios.

Outdoor gatherings on private property can also now include up to 20 people. Capacity for weddings and funerals is also rising to 250 people, but wedding receptions will be capped at 25 attendees indoors and 50 outside.

Earlier this month, the province permitted gyms and restaurant dining rooms to reopen. Supervised outdoor sports and recreation are also allowed in groups of up to 25 people.

Quebec ended its nightly curfew on May 28. It also lifted travel bans between regions and increased the number of people allowed to attend sporting events and festivals to 3,500.

Ontario:

The province will allow outdoor concerts, open-air movie screens and performing arts shows starting Wednesday as it moves to the next stage in its reopening plan.

Audience capacity will be capped at 25 per cent of the outdoor space or seating area, with organizers required to have the maximum capacity restrictions visibly posted within the outdoor space. All tickets must be sold as reserved seats.

Other measures also allow musicians to perform at indoor concert venues for a limited number of reasons.

Live streaming shows are permitted after being outlawed by the province in April. However, the performances cannot host any spectators.

Indoor venues can hold band rehearsals with certain distancing and safety measures in place.

The film and TV industry will see its restrictions lowered as well. In particular, a cap of 50 performers on a set is being eliminated, though studio audiences are still not allowed.

The second stage of reopening was originally slated to begin July 2, but the province moved the plan forward two days, saying COVID-19 vaccination targets have been met.

Indoor cinemas and public concerts still won’t be permitted with capacity restrictions until the third stage.

Manitoba:

Manitobans can return to restaurants, go to church and meet with larger groups as the province brings in the first step of its reopening plan ahead of schedule.

More than 71 per cent of eligible residents have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and about 27 per cent have had a second shot. That means some restrictions have been loosened earlier than planned.

Restaurants and bars are limited to 25 per cent capacity indoors and 50 per cent on patios. Hair salons, gyms and indoor sports can resume operating, but with capacity restrictions. Hair and nail salons, as well as barber shops, are available by appointment only.

Outdoor gatherings on private property are capped at 10 people and groups in public areas are limited to 25.

The number of worshippers at faith services are also capped.

Businesses, such as casinos and movie theatres, will remain closed. They are expected to open at later stages of the plan this summer.

Saskatchewan:

Saskatchewan has announced it will remove all public health orders as of Sunday, July 11 — and that includes the removal of the province-wide mandatory masking order, as well as capacity limits on events and gathering sizes.

Premier Scott Moe says the province is going ahead with full implementation of Step 3 of its Reopening Roadmap because 70 per cent of residents over the age of 18 and 69 per cent of those over 12 have now received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Currently, large retailers must reduce the capacity of their stores to 25 per cent, while other retailers must cut their capacity to 50 per cent.

Restaurants and bars must maintain two metres of physical distance between tables or erect a structural barrier between tables if distancing isn’t possible. Tables are limited to six people at a time. Dance floors and buffets remain closed.

Places of worship are allowed up to 30 per cent of their seating capacity or 150 people, whichever is less. And individuals must be separated by two metres, unless they are part of the same extended household.

A maximum of 30 people are allowed to attend gatherings at banquet and conference facilities, which includes wedding and funeral receptions. No food or beverages are allowed.

And a maximum of 30 people are allowed in a movie theatre, but staff and customers must be able to maintain two metres of physical distance. The same rule applies to live theatre.

Alberta: 

Outdoor social gatherings of up to 20 people are allowed with proper distancing.

Indoor recreation, entertainment and other settings can open at one-third of fire code occupancy. Places of worship can also open to one-third capacity and restaurants are allowed up to six people per table, indoors or outdoors.

Youth activities have resumed with restrictions and outdoor public gatherings, such as concerts and festivals, are allowed with up to 150 people. A work-from-home order has been lifted, but it is still recommended.

All remaining restrictions will lift on July 1.

There will no longer be limits on weddings, funerals or bans on indoor social gatherings. There will also be no more limits on gyms, sports or fitness activities, no more capacity limits at restaurants, in retail stores or in places of worship.

Anyone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 will still be required to self-isolate and protective measures at continuing care centres may remain.

The overall requirement for masks in public indoor spaces will end, but masks will likely still be required in taxis, on public transit and on ride shares.

British Columbia:

The province will take the next step in its reopening plan on Canada Day when most COVID-19 restrictions are removed and outdoor gatherings of up to 5,000 people are allowed.

As of Thursday, restaurants and pubs will no longer have limits on the number of diners, but people will still not be allowed to mingle with those at other tables. Masks will no longer be mandatory and recreational travel outside the province can resume.

Casinos and nightclubs will open for the first time in 16 months, but some barriers will be in place and socializing between tables will not be allowed.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says some businesses may want people to continue wearing masks for now, and everyone should comply with those requirements or face the potential of fines.

All COVID-19 restrictions are expected to be removed on Labour Day.

Nunavut:

Public health orders affecting what is allowed to open vary by community.

Restrictions in Iqaluit will be eased starting Friday. Travel restrictions in and out of Iqaluit will be lifted. A household can have up to 10 people in their home and up to 50 people can gather outdoors.

Theatres and restaurants can also open at 25 per cent capacity or 25 people, whichever is less.

Meanwhile in Kinngait and Rankin Inlet, outdoor gatherings are limited to 100 people and those indoors are restricted to a household plus 15 people. Restaurants and bars are allowed to open for regular business at 50 per cent capacity, and there must be a two metre distance between tables, with no more than six people seated or around each table.

Northwest Territories:

Up to 25 people are allowed in a business that is following an approved COVID-19 plan. Households can have up to 10 people with a maximum of five guests from another household.

Non-essential travel outside the territory is not recommended, and leisure travel into the territory is not permitted.

The territory is no longer requiring masks to be worn in public places in Yellowknife and three other communities.

Chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola says it is still a good idea to wear a mask indoors when there is a crowd, poor ventilation, or shouting or singing.

Yukon:

Bars and restaurants are allowed to operate at full capacity with restrictions, while social bubbles have increased to 20 people. Social gatherings indoors of up to 20 people are allowed with physical distancing, while outdoors up to 100 people can gather. Organized gatherings, such as festivals or weddings, of up to 200 people are allowed with physical distancing.

Camp and recreational programs are allowed to have 20 participants indoors with physical distancing and mask wearing; and 100 participants outdoors with physical distancing. Gyms and recreation centres can operate with up to 200 people with physical distancing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2021.

The Canadian Press

A Day to Listen: Canadian radio stations join to amplify Indigenous voices

NEWS STAFF | posted Wednesday, Jun 30th, 2021

In recognition of National Indigenous History Month, Rogers Sports & Media will be joining together with radio stations across Canada in an unprecedented collaboration to amplify, elevate, listen to, and learn from Indigenous voices with A Day to Listen on Wednesday, June 30.

In partnership with the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund (DWF), A Day to Listen is dedicated to sharing stories from Indigenous leaders, residential school survivors, elders, musicians, and teachers throughout the day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time.

With more than 500 radio stations participating, spanning different markets, regions, and formats, A Day to Listen aims to leverage the power of radio to enact real change and begin to set a course for a better future.

The collaboration follows public announcements in B.C. and Saskatchewan, where the remains of more than 900 unmarked graves were discovered at the sites of former Indian Residential Schools.

“Many Canadians were shocked to learn of the remains of 215 children buried in Kamloops and now growing numbers at other residential school sites, something Indigenous communities have known – and shared – for years,” said Sarah Midanik, President & CEO, Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund.

“We hope that A Day to Listen, and the ongoing work that we do at DWF, begins a new chapter in our reconciliation journey so that no Canadian is ever shocked again by the horrors inflicted upon Indigenous Peoples.”

Canadians are invited to visit DWF throughout the day to learn more about their programming, including the Legacy Schools program, which provides educators with free resources to teach about the true history of residential schools. Donations will be accepted via text or by visiting local station websites.

The mission of DWF is to create a pathway towards reconciliation, and to improve the lives of Indigenous people by building awareness, education, and connections between all Canadians.

Radio stations participating in A Day to Listen include those from:

  • Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta
  • Acadia Broadcasting Limited
  • Arctic Radio
  • Bayshore Broadcasting
  • Bell Media
  • Blackburn Radio Inc.
  • ByrnesMedia Inc.
  • Centre Wellington Community Radio Inc.
  • Central Ontario Broadcasting
  • CINB-FM Communications Inc.
  • Coast Broadcasting Ltd.
  • Corus Entertainment Inc.
  • Durham Radio Inc.
  • First Peoples Radio Inc.
  • Five Amigos Broadcasting Inc.
  • Golden West Broadcasting
  • Harvard Broadcasting
  • Huber Radio Ltd.
  • Kahnawake Broadcasting Services
  • My Broadcasting Corporation
  • Northern Native Broadcasting
  • Pattison Media
  • Quinte Broadcasting
  • Radio Fanshawe Inc.
  • Rawlco Radio
  • The Rock 98.5
  • Rogers Sports & Media
  • Saugeen Community Radio Inc.
  • Starboard Communications
  • Stingray
  • Thunder Bay Information Radio
  • Vista Radio Ltd.
  • Wellport Broadcasting Inc.
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