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Crisis lines face volunteer, cash crunch even as COVID-19 drives surge in calls

TERESA WRIGHT, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Apr 27th, 2020

OTTAWA — Despite a surge in demand due to COVID-19, many distress centres across Canada are dangerously close to folding thanks to major declines in both volunteers and revenue.

Stephanie MacKendrick, CEO of Crisis Services Canada, which runs the only national suicide-specific helpline in Canada, says community distress centres across the country have seen 30 to 50 per cent more crisis calls since the pandemic began.

Yet they have also seen fewer volunteers, with some reporting a loss of up to 90 per cent.

While centres have started turning to paid staff to make up the difference, their cash flows have also been hit hard as their main sources of revenue — training and workshops — have dried up overnight due to the pandemic.

MacKendrick calls this the “perfect storm” for these centres, with many now struggling to stay afloat.

MacKendrick says that is why her organization has asked Ottawa to provide $15 million in emergency funding to keep distress centres from having to close their doors.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 27, 2020.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Wage subsidy program for businesses opening for applications Monday

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Apr 27th, 2020

Some key developments are coming this week in the country’s relentless struggle with the coronavirus pandemic.

They begin Monday with businesses being allowed to apply for the federal government’s $73 billion wage subsidy program.

Companies that qualify will get a subsidy worth 75 per cent of each employee’s wages, up to $847 per week, retroactive from March 15 to June 6. And for those organizations that can, the government is asking employers to fill in the remaining quarter.

First payments are expected to arrive by the end of next week.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be talking about that, as well as some other coming initiatives, at his daily coronavirus briefing.

 

Wage subsidies and crisis lines in crisis ; In The News for April 27

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Apr 27th, 2020

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of April 27 …

COVID-19 in Canada …

Some key developments are coming this week in the country’s relentless struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting today businesses can apply for the federal government’s $73 billion wage subsidy program.

Companies that qualify will get a subsidy worth 75 per cent of each employee’s wages, up to $847 per week, retroactive from March 15 to June 6.  And for those organizations that can, the government is asking employers to fill in the remaining quarter.

First payments are expected to arrive by the end of next week.

Later this week, Quebec and Ontario, which account for the vast majority of Canada’s COVID-19 cases, are expected to unveil frameworks for reopening their locked down economies.

Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick have already announced tentative timelines for a return to some semblance of normality.

Despite evidence of some flattening COVID-19 curves, both politicians and public health officials are stressing the need for a cautious, go slow approach to guard against a surge of second wave infections.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also said that none of the recovery plans hinge on people being immune to catching COVID-19 twice.

In other Canadian news …

OTTAWA  — Despite a surge in demand due to COVID-19, many distress centres across Canada are dangerously close to folding thanks to major declines in both volunteers and revenue.

Stephanie MacKendrick, CEO of Crisis Services Canada, which runs the only national suicide-specific helpline in Canada, says community distress centres across the country have seen 30 to 50 per cent more crisis calls since the pandemic began.

Yet they have also seen fewer volunteers, with some reporting a loss of up to 90 per cent.

While centres have started turning to paid staff to make up the difference, their cash flows have also been hit hard as their main sources of revenue — training and workshops — have dried up overnight due to the pandemic.

MacKendrick calls this the “perfect storm” for these centres, with many now struggling to stay afloat.

MacKendrick says that is why her organization has asked Ottawa to provide $15 million in emergency funding to keep distress centres from having to close their doors.

Also this …

These are trying times for Canada, but we’re all in this together and hope is on the horizon.

Such was the message of last night’s “Stronger Together, Tous Ensemble,” a star-studded show of support and solidarity for those on the front lines in the fight against the COVID-19 crisis.

A who’s who of Canadian artists, athletes, authors, activists and even astronauts appeared from their respective locations during the 90-minute broadcast benefit.

Many English and French Canadian broadcasters aired the show on dozens of T-V, streaming and radio platforms.

The event was centred around a 150-million dollar fundraising campaign for Food Banks Canada.

Artists who appeared included singers Celine Dion, Michael Buble, and Anne Murray, who addressed her home province of Nova Scotia, which is reeling from a recent shooting rampage.

COVID-19 in the U.S. …

WASHINGTON — After two months of frantic response to the coronavirus, the White House is planning to shift President Donald Trump’s public focus to the burgeoning efforts aimed at easing the economic devastation caused by the pandemic.

Days after he publicly mused that scientists should explore the injection of toxic disinfectants as a potential virus cure, Trump has now rejected the utility of his daily task force briefings, where he has time and again clashed with scientific experts. Trump’s aides are aiming to move the president onto more familiar — and safer, they hope — ground: talking up the economy, in tighter controlled settings.

It’s a political imperative as allies have seen an erosion in support for the president. What had been his greatest asset in the re-election campaign, his ability to blanket news headlines with freewheeling performances, has become a daily liability. At the same time, new Republican Party polling shows Trump’s path to a second term depends on the public’s perception of how quickly the economy rebounds from the state-by-state shutdowns meant to slow the spread of the virus.

Some states have started to ease closure orders, and Trump is expected to begin to highlight his administration’s work in helping businesses and employees.

COVID-19 around the world …

— Some countries and U.S. states are starting to ease COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and focus on fixing their battered economies.

In Spain, the streets echoed again with joyful cries as the nation let children go outside for the first time in six weeks.

In Italy, the premier laid out a long-awaited timetable for getting back to normal, announcing that factories, construction sites and wholesale supply businesses can resume activity as soon as they put safety measures in place.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is going back to work today at 10 Downing St. after being hospitalized with the coronavirus.

Johnson spent a number of days in intensive care and after he got out thanked  health-care workers for saving his life.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 27, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Chef Massimo Capra’s ground chicken lettuce wrap

Massimo Capra | posted Monday, Apr 27th, 2020

INGREDIENTS

  • 1lb ground chicken
  • 2 minced cloves garlic
  • 1tbsp minced ginger
  • ½ chopped white onion
  • 1cup mixed diced colour peppers
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 3 julienne green onions
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 1 leafed iceberg lettuce
  • matchstick potatoes (optional)
  • toasted peanuts (optional)
  • salt & pepper to taste

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat a pan on hi-heat, to it add the oil and immediately add the chicken, stir and make sure to break up the chicken as much as possible.
  2. Once the juices have dried up add the garlic and the ginger and sauté for a minute add the peppers.
  3. Add the hoisin, soy, vinegar, cook for a minute and taste for correct seasoning, serve at once with a stack of lettuce leaves. Garnish with matchstick potatoes, some toasted peanuts or crispy cereal.

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Apr 24th, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on April 24, 2020:

There are 42,105 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 21,838 confirmed (including 1,243C deaths, 4,484 resolved)

_ Ontario: 12,879 confirmed (including 713 deaths, 6,680 resolved)

_ Alberta: 3,720 confirmed (including 68 deaths, 1,357 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 1,824 confirmed (including 94 deaths, 1,092 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 827 confirmed (including 16 deaths, 358 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 326 confirmed (including 4 deaths, 261 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 251 confirmed (including 6 deaths, 174 resolved), 11 presumptive

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 256 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 199 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 118 confirmed (including 104 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 26 confirmed (including 24 resolved)

_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed

_ Yukon: 11 confirmed (including 8 resolved)

_ Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)

_ Nunavut: No confirmed cases

_ Total: 42,105 (11 presumptive, 42,094 confirmed including 2,147 deaths, 14,746 resolved)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 24, 2020

The Canadian Press

Farmers markets looking for ways to stay afloat during the pandemic

MICHELLE MCQUIGGE, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Apr 24th, 2020

Canada’s farmers markets, traditionally reliant on bustling crowds paying cash for locally produced food, seem particularly ill-suited to the age of physical distancing.

But those in the industry say business is surprisingly robust as they find ways to stay afloat in the present while hopefully modernizing the field for the future.

Farmer Dave Kranenburg said he’s never been busier despite not setting foot at a traditional market for weeks.

When faced with the prospect of losing 95 per cent of his annual revenue due to pandemic-related shutdowns, the co-owner of Kendal Hills Farm near Orono, Ont., set about creating an online alternative to the sorts of spaces that allowed him to make a living prior to the outbreak.

By teaming up with at least 35 nearby farmers, Kranenburg and his partner set up a virtual farmers market. Shoppers can browse a list of what local food growers expect to have on hand in the coming week and arrange to have their purchases either delivered to their homes or dropped off at a handful of regional businesses.

Kranenburg said the notion of turning the farm into a local food hub had been under discussion for years, but seemed like nothing more than a pipe dream until circumstances caused by COVID-19 forced their hand.

“At first it was very, very scary around what it meant for the future of my farm and small food businesses,” Kranenburg said in a telephone interview. “It’s morphed into a very exciting and hopeful period now. A lot of us are hoping that … it’s not just an emergency solution. It’s addressing some of the challenges we’ve always faced as farmers.”

Kranenburg said he and others in the field have long struggled with the distribution side of the business, noting that spending time driving to markets, restaurants and other potential customers significantly decreases the amount of time farmers can spend raising crops and animals.

By creating a food hub and contracting out the deliveries to students looking for work, Kranenburg said that problem has been addressed through the virtual market.

Some traditional markets have also had to adopt virtual practices to reach their usual patrons while they’re heeding public health advice and remaining at home.

Evergreen Brickworks, a popular year-round market in central Toronto, now allows customers to order and pick up boxes filled with local produce, bread and cheese.

Others have adopted a community-supported agriculture model that sees customers pay at the start of the season for a share of the year’s harvest.

But Kranenburg and other market regulars said there’s still a need for traditional spaces to buy and sell local goods, though concedes the constraints of the public health crisis may change how those spaces look and operate.

A list of directives prepared by Farmers’ Markets Ontario outlines some of the new measures that will be in place once markets reopen for business. The organization said only food should be available for sale in order to comply with government emergency legislation that shutters non-essential businesses but allows food retailers to keep their doors open.

The list also says stalls will have to be sufficiently spaced out to allow for proper physical distancing protocols, and customer traffic should be monitored or managed to keep patrons safe.

Food samples and reusable containers should be banned, the directives say, adding that hand sanitizing stations and washrooms will have to be readily available and properly maintained.

“Markets should not be viewed as a place to linger or socialize and should be viewed as a ‘shop and go’ market,” Catherine Clark, executive director of Farmers’ Markets Ontario, said in an email. “It won’t be business as usual.”

But the head of an industry group in Atlantic Canada said that may well prove to be a boon rather than a drawback.

Justin Cantafio, executive director of the Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia Co-Operative, said it has been exhilarating to see how quickly markets across the province have embraced online sales and other alternative sales methods.

He said challenges remain for markets in more remote communities that may not be able to tap into the same resources, but said the months ahead will hopefully see the industry as a whole become more innovative than it has been for years.

“We have a great new tool in the form of these online stores, but we’re also going to have a unified people seeking being together again after being isolated for so long,” Cantafio said.

“A farmers market is going to be that perfect blend of that cultural vibrancy and abundance mixed with the ability to get your food and necessities in one place. I think a farmers market will be one of the most important institutions moving forward if we play our cards right.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 24, 2020.

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

Mass killing in Nova Scotia began with attack, binding of girlfriend: source

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Apr 24th, 2020

HALIFAX — A source close to the investigation says a killer’s murderous rampage across Nova Scotia began with him attacking and binding his girlfriend, and that she managed to escape and eventually give crucial details to police.

The woman was in a domestic dispute with Gabriel Wortman and was beaten and allegedly bound in some way Saturday night before she managed to get away from a residence in Portapique, N.S., the source said.

The source said the woman hid, but emerged early in the morning to provide police with the critical information that the 51-year-old denturist was driving a replica RCMP patrol vehicle and wearing a police uniform.

The details are the latest to emerge about the chaos that ensued as police in rural Nova Scotia sought the gunman as he went about the province killing people in five communities and setting homes on fire.

The search for the suspect stretched from late Saturday night to Sunday morning, when the death toll rose to 22 as the gunman, wearing an authentic RCMP uniform, evaded police in his replica RCMP cruiser.

RCMP could not immediately be reached for comment on the reports but have said they will release a detailed account of the April 18-19 incidents later this morning.

Police have also said he didn’t have a firearms licence for the guns he was using, though how Wortman obtained the weapons remains unclear.

Audio recordings of first responders communicating on two-way radios provide a glimpse of the frantic attempts to help the first victims found Saturday at 10:40 p.m. amid burning homes in the village of Portapique.

On one of the recordings, stored on the Broadcastify website, first responders dispatched to the scene along Highway 2 tell the dispatcher they can see something burning in the distance.

“I’m seeing huge flames and smoke from where we are,” says one, minutes before the dispatcher says police have discovered a gunshot victim on Portapique Beach Road.

Within the next 20 minutes, the extent of the carnage comes into sharp focus as police call for more ambulances — twice.

It’s unclear exactly how many people were killed along Portapique Beach Road, which includes many seasonal and permanent homes along the picturesque north shore of Cobequid Bay.

Police confirmed Wednesday that the suspect managed to escape from a perimeter they had set up around the rural area, but they didn’t realize he was gone until some time between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Sunday when his girlfriend revealed details about the fake police car.

At 8:02 a.m., police issued an alert on Twitter saying they were looking for an active shooter in the Portapique area.

Over a 12-hour period, the 51-year-old Halifax man killed the 22 victims — some he knew, others he met randomly as he fled.

His victims include an RCMP officer, two nurses, two correctional officers, a family of three, a teacher and some of his neighbours in Portapique.

Heavily armed RCMP officers fatally shot him at a gas station in Enfield, N.S., about 90 kilometres south of Portapique at around 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Police said the gunman acted alone during his violent rampage, but investigators said they are trying to determine whether anyone assisted him before the shooting began.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 24, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Tamara + Noah’s DIY Marbled Paper

Tamara Robbins | posted Thursday, Apr 23rd, 2020

Quick and Easy Paper Marbling with lifestyle expert Tamara Robbins Griffith:

This is a great craft that Noah and I have done a couple of times, and I love the simplicity relative to the sophistication of final results! If you use a harder cardstock, it can be turned into really nice greeting cards, or pop the artwork into an inexpensive frame with matting and it will be sure to impress.

Supplies:

• Shaving cream

• Food coloring

• White cardstock or watercolor paper

• Wooden skewer, toothpick or other utensil

• Ruler or shower squeegee

Instructions:

1. Spray shaving cream onto a cookie sheet or similar pan with a lip.

2. Level out shaving cream with a spatula.

3. Squirt food colouring onto the surface of your shaving cream.

4. Swirl designs into your shaving cream using the wooden skewer or any other tool. Have fun and experiment here!

5. Lay your paper down on the shaving cream and pat it gently so all of paper is covered on the underside with shaving cream.

6. Gently pull off your paper and lay it down with the shaving cream side up.

7. Scrape off excess shaving cream with a metal ruler or shower squeegee and let the paper dry.

@tamararobbinsg on Instagram

@Tamara_Robbins on Twitter

Easing coronavirus restrictions presents challenges between provinces: experts

COLETTE DERWORIZ, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Apr 23rd, 2020

Infectious disease experts say provinces looking to relax restrictions related to coronavirus need to consider their neighbours.

Prince Edward Island, where the caseload is low, is aiming to ease measures put in place to slow the spread in late April and reopen businesses in mid-May.

The Saskatchewan government is to outline a plan Thursday for how some businesses and services could be allowed to resume next month if the number of cases stays low.

Dr. Craig Jenne, an infectious disease researcher at the University of Calgary, said easing restrictions in one province could present challenges for others.

“Many provinces in Canada have no hard borders,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba — we are not exactly islands where we can cut off travel between provinces.

“We are going to have to make sure we’re on the same page with this.”

As of Wednesday, Saskatchewan had recorded 326 cases, including four deaths, but less than 20 per cent of cases were considered active.

The province’s chief medical health officer has said any easing of restrictions would have to be done carefully.

Next door, in Alberta, there are more than 3,000 cases, including 66 deaths.

Dr. Stephanie Smith, an associate professor in infectious diseases at the University of Alberta, said it may make sense for provinces with a low number of cases to consider letting up on COVID measures.

“When they do that, the most important thing is that they still have an ability to identify new cases and new contact tracing,” she said. “(They need) really robust testing and tracing so that you can identify any new patients and make sure they are actually self-isolating.

“It’s important in terms of ensuring you don’t get into an uncontrolled situation again.”

Jenne added that outbreaks in High River, Alta., and several long-term care homes show how quickly a situation can change once the novel coronavirus starts spreading.

“As soon as we let our vigilance down in screening and isolation … we will see a spike back in Canadian communities, we will see an increase in cases, we will see an increase in hospitalizations and, unfortunately, we will see an increase in deaths once these hotspots start popping up.”

For example, an outbreak at Imperial Oil’s Kearl oilsands project in northeastern Alberta has been linked to cases in Saskatchewan, British Columbia, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

“This virus does not travel in the air,” said Jenne. “It travels on people and the more people move between provincial borders and even within their own community, this is how this virus gets around.”

Jenne and Smith said that’s why social distancing has been so effective in reducing the number of cases in Canada.

Each province and territory has different approaches for how to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Manitoba has set up checkstops on major highways to help inform travellers about public health measures in place.

Some jurisdictions such as New Brunswick and the northern territories have restricted non-residents from entering or require anyone who comes into the province to self-isolate for up to 14 days.

Valorie Crooks, a geographer who specializes in health services research at Simon Fraser University, said it would be difficult to control movement across provincial boundaries.

“It raises a whole lot of questions about how you enforce and what kinds of abilities you have to enforce measures you put in place,” she said.

Crooks added that it would be easier to protect populations in the North or on Canada’s islands, but it’s simply not practical to patrol every road between provinces.

Both infectious disease experts said closing the border with the United States has been an effective tool, but Jenne noted it’s not a perfect solution.

“It has to be done in concert with everything else, including high levels of screening, contract tracing and self-isolation within communities,” said the professor.

“Closing a border alone is really a false sense of security if it’s not coupled with enhanced measures.”

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