N.S. child care sector continues calls on government to publicly report COIVD-19 cases numbers

WATCH: Five schools in Nova Scotia this year have already closed their doors temporarily due to rising COVID-19 cases in their community. But while the province publicly reports exposures in schools and information about closures, the same isn’t true for the childcare sector, where many children remain ineligible for vaccines because of their age. Alexa MacLean reports.

Five Nova Scotia public schools within the Halifax Regional Centre for Education have temporarily closed since September because of COVID-19 cases.

Elementary school students in grades 2 to 5 have moved to at-home learning at Beechville Lakeside Timberlea Senior Elementary until Dec. 10.

Public health recommends a school temporarily close when epidemiology points to it as necessary in order to contain further spread of the virus.

Public school closures and exposures are regularly posted online by the provincial government after they heeded calls from parents earlier this year to share case numbers.

The union representing about 200 Early Childhood Educators in Nova Scotia says that sector has also been hit hard during the fourth wave.

“There have been children that have not been attending, there are a lot of short staff because there’s not enough staff to go around, even pre-COVID, and it’s only getting worse now,” said Naomi Stewart, CUPE Nova Scotia’s child care coordinator.

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Stewart says the sector continues to call on the government to publicly share case numbers in child care centres so that the broader public has an understanding of the toll the virus is taking on the front lines of child care.

“It gives people a false sense of security that there is no cases in childcare centres, when actually, that’s not the case,” she said.

An interview request with the provincial minister of education and early childhood development was declined.

An email statement was sent instead by a communications adviser for the department.

“When there is a case of COVID-19 connected to a child care centre, every family and staff member is notified by Public Health. Due to the numbers and how parents interact with centers, we can be confident that everyone receives communication if necessary,” wrote Jenna MacQueen.

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The statement adds that public reporting of cases in schools is required because they are larger facilities than child care centres.

Stewart feels the province should reconsider its position given the stress that many early childhood educators are under in order to adhere to public health measures when there are exposures.

“Even the places that do have sick time, we’ve been using the sick time because of quarantines, and because of illnesses and such. So, it doesn’t matter — they’re all being stressed out and they’re short-staffed to begin with,” she said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Semi truck driver dies in highway collision near Davidson, Sask.

RCMP in Saskatchewan say a semi truck driver died following a serious collision on Monday on Highway 11 between Regina and Saskatoon.

The Craik, Sask. RCMP detachment responded to a collision involving two semi trucks with trailers about 10 kilometres north of Davidson, Sask., just after 2 a.m.

The crash resulted in the northbound lanes of Highway 11 being blocked. However, the northbound lanes were reopened on Monday afternoon.

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Investigators determined that a northbound semi tractor-trailer unit jack-knifed. A second northbound semi travelling behind the first semi collided into it.

There were two occupants in the jack-knifed truck, but no injuries were reported, police said.

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The lone driver of the second semi was pronounced dead at the scene. Police say family members have been notified.

The investigation by members of Craik RCMP and the RCMP Collision Reconstruction team into the cause of the collision is ongoing.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Drake withdraws his two 2021 Grammy nominations

Drake has withdrawn his two Grammy nominations, the organization behind the awards show has confirmed.

A representative for the Recording Academy told the Canadian Press that the Canadian rapper asked to be removed from the two categories for which he received nominations.

He had been nominated for best rap album for Certified Lover Boy and best rap performance for Way 2 Sexy, which was a collaboration with Future and Young Thug.

It’s unclear what led the singer to request the removal, but the Academy has said it will not replace Drake’s positions in the categories, leaving the existing nominations open for voting.

Read more:

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It’s not the first time this year’s Grammy nominations have caused problems for Canadian artists.

Canadian music artists Justin Bieber and The Weeknd (real name Abel Tesfaye) both took aim at the Academy late last month, for different reasons.

Bieber, 26, disagreed with the classification of his music, claiming his songs and latest album, Changes, were meant to be R&B, not pop.

Bieber was nominated four times for best pop vocal album, best pop solo performance, best pop duo/group performance and best country duo/group performance.

The Weeknd, on the other hand, received no nominations and went after the music awards show in a no-holds-barred Twitter post.

“The Grammys remain corrupt,” he wrote in the biting tweet. “You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…”

with files from Chris Jancelewicz

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Toronto committee pushes to ban robots from sidewalks, bike paths

TORONTO — A Toronto committee is pushing for the city to ban some robots and other automated or remote controlled devices from sidewalks, bike paths and pedestrian ways.

The Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee is asking city councillors to vote next Wednesday in favour of prohibiting devices from these spaces that run on anything but muscle power.

The committee’s recommendation is aimed at reducing hazards for people with low mobility or vision, as well as seniors and other children, who may be impeded by stopped or stalled devices or unable to quickly detect their presence and manoeuvre around them.

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The recommendation permits mobility devices like scooters used by people with disabilities, but would ban food delivery robots like Tiny Mile’s pink, heart-eyed ones named Geoffrey, which some Toronto restaurants have used to courier orders.

Tiny Mile did not respond to requests for comment, but circulated a petition on social media, which calls for a stop to the “illogical” ban accused of hurting innovation.

However, the committee’s chair insists the proposed ban is not about stifling innovation, but rather encouraging accessibility.

“We want to remove external barriers so that people can participate in public life,” said Kristyn Wong-Tam, a city councillor, who represents the Toronto-Centre area and recently put forward a motion calling for the ban.

“With people who are facing barriers, with disabilities, our job is to make sure that that community has a voice to city council.”

Wong Tam’s motion was prompted by discussions the committee and city staff had after Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation solicited feedback on a pilot allowing micro-utility devices, including automated personal delivery devices, for off-road use in places such as sidewalks in September.

The 10-year pilot proposal suggested such devices travel at no more than 10 km/hr on sidewalks, be marked with an operator’s name and contact details, and have mandatory audible signals, reflectors with lights, brakes, insurance and a requirement to yield to pedestrians.

These measures are not enough, said David Lepofsky, chairman of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and a visiting professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School.

He worries about all the dangerous situations that could arise for people with disabilities and even those without.

“It’s everything from a robot, which could be in your path or travelling becoming a tripping hazard, to a robot that’s fallen over or could be in motion and could injure you,” he said.

“If you have a guide dog or you have got a kid with you, they could also be injured.”

Wong-Tam has similar concerns and feels if they aren’t addressed early, tech companies may continue to push limits and the devices could become even more dangerous.

“Will (the devices) become taller and larger?” she said.

“Unless there are regulations that tell us how fast they can operate or how large they can be, how tall they can be, how wide they can be, they’ll just keep on going.”

While the province is mulling collision reporting for the pilot, Lepofsky feels there will be little recourse for pedestrians.

“You can’t arrest a robot and prosecute them,” he said.

And worse, he says the province’s plan to allow municipalities to opt into the pilot could put the onus on Canadians with disabilities to repeatedly defend their rights and ensure they can safely use sidewalks.

“We don’t want to have to fight robots one city after the next all the way across Ontario,” he said. “That is totally dumping an unfair burden on people with disabilities.”

If Wong-Tam’s motion succeeds at city council on Dec. 16, accessibility advocates like Lepofsky will have one less battle to fight and an example of a region that took a hard stand to use elsewhere.

The motion was already approved by the city’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee last week.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

Stock markets rally on hopes about Omicron variant as crude oil prices climb

Canada’s main stock index surged as reassurances about the latest COVID-19 variant powered the energy sector higher and prompted a broad-based rally.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 227.83 points to 20,861.10.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 646.95 points or 1.9 per cent at 35,227.03. The S&P 500 index was up 53.24 points at 4,591.67, while the Nasdaq composite was up 139.68 points at 15,225.15.

The gains, which followed last week’s selloff, were largely prompted by reassuring comments about the Omicron variant, said Angelo Kourkafas, investment strategist at Edward Jones.

He pointed specifically to White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci saying that data shows hospitals aren’t overwhelmed by the latest wave of COVID cases in South Africa and reports suggest the cases from the variant are relatively mild.

“It’s going to take a while longer to figure out what’s the impact of the Omicron variant, but so far I think that was the positive commentary that came out on Sunday night that provides some relief,” he said in an interview.

Nonetheless, Kourkafas said volatility remains elevated because there are still many unknowns about the variant.

The S&P 500 moved up or down by more than one per cent in six of the last trading sessions, including Monday.

“Clearly the headlines are moving equity prices today, but if we look at under the surface what we are observing is that for today stocks that are linked to the economic reopening are outperforming.”

READ MORE: Despite record-setting output, Alberta oilpatch keeps lid on spending

U.S. airlines, travel related stocks are energy were up while tech stocks continued to underperform.

Air Canada shares rose 3.3 per cent to help industrials, while a 4.9 per cent gain in crude oil prices pushed the energy sector up 2.6 per cent.

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The January crude oil contract was up US$3.23 at US$69.49 per barrel and the January natural gas contract was down 47.5 cents at nearly US$3.66 per mmBTU.

Shares of Crescent Point Energy Corp. surged 7.9 per cent after the Calgary company raised its quarterly dividend and increased its production guidance for next year.

READ MORE: Alberta predicts smaller $5.8B deficit because of rising energy prices: Q2 budget update

The Canadian dollar traded for 78.25 cents US compared with 78.05 cents US on Friday.

All 11 major sectors on the TSX were higher, with nine increasing by at least one per cent. Consumer discretionary rose 2.2 per cent higher while health care was 1.9 per cent higher.

Materials was up 1.1 per cent on strong copper prices.

However, gold prices fell as the 10-year bond yield increased and upcoming central bank meetings will likely lay out interest rate hike plans in 2022.

The February gold contract was down US$4.40 at US$1,779.50 an ounce and the March copper contract was up 7.1 cents at almost US$4.34 a pound.

The Bank of Canada is expected to say Wednesday it sees rates beginning to rise in the first quarter because of improvements in the labour market and inflation readings coming in above three per cent for seven months. That would be sooner than it has previously signalled.

Kourkafas says expectations call for five rate hikes over the next 12 months, something he labels a bit aggressive.

In the U.S., the Federal Reserve could double the pace of bond tapering and move up interest rate increases to mid 2022.

“Right now the market is pricing in we’re going to see between two to three rate hikes from the Fed next year.”

Technology was one of the weaker sectors in the U.S. It gained 1.5 per cent in Canada with shares of Dye & Durham Ltd. climbing 9.3 per cent as it announced a deal to buy Telus’ financial solutions business for $500 million.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

Border officials told travellers no longer have to use ArriveCan app: Minister

WATCH: COVID-19 - Confusion over ArriveCAN app lands southern Alberta couple in quarantine

Travellers who can’t access the government’s ArriveCan app, or simply forget to fill it out, may start to receive some clemency at the border after Canada’s public safety minister gave new instructions to border officials to allow people to provide their travel details in person.

Checking in on the app has become a mandatory part of crossing into Canada, regardless of how long the traveller has been out of the country.

It collects information about where the traveller has been, the purpose of their trip, their contact information, vaccination information, pre-travel COVID-19 test results, and their quarantine plan once they are in Canada.

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Foreign nationals who fail to give their information have until now been barred from boarding planes into the country. Canadians, permanent residents and others with right of entry have so far been subject to two weeks of quarantine if they fail to offer their information to the app.

Members of Parliament have received hundreds of complaints about the policy, over inaccessibility and unreliability. Conservative public safety critic Raquel Dancho said Monday during question period in the House of Commons.

“The ArriveCan app has crashed for some users. Many can’t access it from poor cell service. Many seniors don’t have smartphones. For others costly data plans are out of reach for them,” she said.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told the House the government will never hesitate to put measures in place to protect Canadians at the border, particularly in light of the emergence of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19.

“With regards to ArriveCan, I want to assure my colleagues that I’ve spoken with the (Canada Border Services Agency) so that there’s additional guidance to provide the opportunity for travellers to provide the information that is necessary on ArriveCan in person at the borders,” he said.

The government created several new border restrictions in response to the spread of the Omicron variant, including closing borders to foreign nationals who spent time in 10 African countries, and instituted new testing and quarantine requirements for all incoming travellers.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

Saint Mary's University honours Montreal massacre victims on 32nd anniversary

A ceremony in Halifax commemorated the victims of the mass shooting in Montreal 32 years ago. As Amber Fryday reports, it was a call to action to end gender-based violence.

In a horrific act of gender-based violence 32 years ago, 14 victims, all engineering students, were gunned down by an attacker who stormed into their classroom. He then ordered the men to leave and proceeded to open fire on the female students.

Every year since the deadly attack, Saint Mary’s University has a commemorative event to honour the women. Students took turns reading names of all the victims then individually placed 14 white roses in a vase.

The Dean of Science at Saint Mary’s University, Dr. Lori Francis says the women were gunned down for “simply being engineers” and that women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) still face gender-based microaggressions and gender-based stereotypes today.

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“Their careers were cut short in a very tragic way but their impact on women who are in science fields live on in us remembering, us creating action and in us really questioning the stereotypes and barriers that prevent women from feeling welcome in scientific fields,” she said.

There was also a scholarship presented to an engineering student. Third-year student Amy Kehoe wasn’t even alive when the massacre occurred, but she has done plenty of research about the tragic day and believes the scholarship is an action that shows commitment to helping women in STEM fields.

“It’s something we’re still missing. We’re trying but we’re not there yet. I think you can pretty much ask any female in STEM and they will tell you at least some story about where it they didn’t quite feel like they belonged. But, things like this scholarship and days like this when we recognize that is a good step towards including women in STEM fields,” she said.

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Francis is committed to action toward violence against women and is mindful of the microaggressions against women in science.

“Did you know that there have been studies done that when children are asked to draw a picture of a scientist, whether that child is a boy or a girl, often times they will draw a picture of a male scientist?” said Francis.

“That work is ongoing. It’s a continuous reflection and continuous effort is needed to create spaces where women are included and feel safe in the sciences. And we have been successful in these areas and we have some work to do.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Toronto Board of Health votes in favour of application to decriminalize drug possession

WATCH ABOVE: (Nov. 29) Toronto’s medical officer of health says she’d like to see personal drug use decriminalized. Dr Eileen de Villa says the city needs to take a holistic approach to drug use as Toronto Public Health tallies a rise in the number of overdoses leading to death. Morganne Campbell has more.

Toronto’s Board of Health has voted unanimously to ask the federal government to decriminalize possession of small amounts of illegal drugs in the city.

At a meeting Monday, the board requested that the city’s top doctor submit an application to Health Canada for an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act by the end of the year.

It’s the latest step in the city’s effort to combat the opioid overdose crisis.

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A recent report from Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said there were 531 opioid toxicity deaths in the city last year, an 81-per-cent increase from 2019.

De Villa has said the increase is due to multiple factors, including an unregulated drug supply, as well as pandemic-related service reductions.

The city hosted consultations and engaged with stakeholders on the decriminalization issue between August and November.

The board asked Monday that de Villa, continue consulting closely with people with lived and living experience of drug use, as well as their family members and community-based service providers.

Vancouver made the same decriminalization request to Health Canada earlier this year.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

Chinese rover spots odd, cube-shaped object on the moon

China’s moon rover, Yutu-2, has spotted something strangely geometric on the moon’s surface and is now on its way to check out the mysterious cube captured in photos.

The robotic rover was travelling along the Von Kármán crater on the moon’s far side when it captured photos of a cubic-shaped object about 80 metres in the distance, reports Space.com.

Our Space, a Chinese outreach channel with affiliations to the China National Space Administration, called the unidentified shape a “mystery hut.”

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The solar-powered robot was too far away to capture the true nature of the mystery object, but will take the next two to three months — or two to three lunar days — travelling toward the object to get a better look.

Space journalist Andrew Jones, who tracks China’s space programme, tweeted about the rover’s finding late last week, pointing out it’s “hard to discern” from the photo what the object could be, but ruled out an obelisk or aliens. He does wonder if it’s a large boulder that’s been excavated by an impact event.

In its Yutu-2 diary, Our Space notes there is an impact crater near the cube, so Jones’ theory could be the answer.

Our Space even had a little bit of fun, jokingly asking if it is “a home built by aliens after the crash landing? Or is it the pioneer spacecraft of the predecessors to explore the moon?”

Yutu-2 recently surpassed its 1,000-day milestone on the moon, after its lander touched down on Jan. 2, 2019. Despite the intense temperature swings that occur between day and night on the moon, it’s still working well, says the China Lunar Exploration Program.

In 2019, Queqiao sent back to Earth photos of the Yutu-2 rover leaving humankind's first "footprints" on the far side of the moon.

In 2019, Queqiao sent back to Earth photos of the Yutu-2 rover leaving humankind's first "footprints" on the far side of the moon.

Our Space

The spacecraft often shuts down during the lunar night, which lasts about 14.5 earth days.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Vancouver police recover $75K in stolen goods from downtown core in just one month

Vancouver police are releasing some shocking details about the number of thefts in the downtown core Monday following a month-long anti-shoplifting campaign.

Police arrested almost 200 offenders and recovered more than $75,000 in stolen property.

They investigated 323 incidents, 23 of which involved a weapon, made 195 arrests, recommended 330 criminal charges, recovered $75,052 in merchandise and seized 35 weapons.

“Business owners and their staff continue to struggle with prolific, and often violent thieves, who seem to think they can steal with impunity,” Sgt. Steve Addison said in a release.

“Since Nov. 4, a dedicated group of VPD officers has worked directly with retail staff in the downtown core to identify and apprehend shoplifters. The results are alarming.”

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Incidents of note included a 48-year-old man trying to steal a bottle of perfume valued at $184. When a 22-year-old staff member followed the man out of the store, he turned and charged at them with a metal chain. The suspect was later arrested and charged with theft and assault.

Another suspect who was already on probation for theft was caught stealing a $2,500 laptop from a computer store on West Georgia Street, police said. He was taken to jail but later released and told to attend court another day. Police said the man has 69 criminal convictions and was re-arrested 11 days later when he tried to steal $60 in hair tongs.

“It’s troubling for our officers to see the same offenders – many of whom are living with complex social needs like drug addiction, poverty, and mental illness – repeatedly getting arrested for such low-level crimes,” Addison added. “Sadly, 60 per cent of the people arrested during the month-long campaign said they did not have a permanent place to sleep, and many told us they were planning to sell the stolen goods either online or in the Downtown Eastside to make a few bucks.”

This investigation has contributed to “renewed concerns that criminal networks are trafficking massive amounts of stolen property in the Downtown Eastside,” police said in a release.

Vancouver police’s anti-fencing unit initially launched an undercover sting in April, sending undercover officers to the Downtown Eastside.

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Much of the criminal activity centres around the open-air street market on East Hastings Street, between Columbia and Carrall streets, police added, and the local residents who used to make some money by selling second-hand goods are being pushed out by people who go there to “traffic property.”

“These officers saw people openly selling drugs and stolen property – everything from power tools and electronics still in-store packaging to cosmetics, designer clothing, and sunglasses that still had anti-theft devices attached,” Insp. Gary Hiar, the officer in charge of VPD’s General Investigation Section, said in a release

“Using sophisticated investigative techniques, detectives confirmed that thousands of dollars in stolen property are being moved in and out of the Downtown Eastside every day by people who don’t even live in the community.”

Insp. Alison Laurin, who oversees VPD’s patrol deployment in the Downtown Eastside said the demand for stolen goods is being fuelled by greed and desperation.

The BC Prosecution Service has now approved charges against two men police believe were using the Downtown Eastside street market to traffic stolen property.

Surrey resident Nezamoddin Jelali, 60, has been charged with three counts of possession of stolen property and one count of trafficking stolen property, for incidents that occurred between April 20 and June 23, police said. He was arrested by Vancouver police on June 24, and released from custody pending his next court appearance. Jelali’s release conditions prohibit him from entering Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Vancouver resident Aaron Castillo-Anguiano, 43, has been charged with three counts of possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking and two counts of possession of proceeds of crime, for incidents that occurred between April 20 and June 15. He was arrested on June 16 and released from custody pending his next court appearance. Castillo-Anguiano is now banned from all flea markets and any place in Vancouver that deals in second-hand goods, as part of his release conditions.

Vancouver police said more arrests could be coming as investigations continue.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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