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Wet’suwet’en chiefs to spend Friday with Mohawk supporters in Ontario

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Feb 21st, 2020

A group of hereditary leaders from the Wet’suwet’en Nation in British Columbia is to spend the day with Mohawk supporters in Ontario.

The B.C. hereditary chiefs are thanking the Mohawks for supporting them in opposition to a pipeline project on their traditional territory by blocking a critical rail line between Toronto and Montreal.

A notice telling police and reporters to stay away says the gathering is to celebrate friendship, healing, peace and optimism, and to talk politics.

The rail blockade, and others like it across the country, went up after the RCMP enforced a court injunction against the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and supporters, forcing them off an access road to a worksite for the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

It’s part of a multibillion-dollar project to send natural gas to a terminal on the B.C. coast for export, which has broad support from elected band councils along the route.

The hereditary Wet’suwet’en leaders say they’re willing to talk with representatives of the Crown, but only after the RCMP and Coastal GasLink workers have left their traditional lands.

B.C. woman returning from Iran diagnosed with coronavirus

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Feb 21st, 2020

A sixth case of the novel coronavirus has been diagnosed in British Columbia after a woman in her 30s returned to the province this week from travel in Iran.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday the woman’s presumptive case is relatively mild and a number of her close contacts have already been put in isolation.

She said health officials are working on a detailed investigation of the woman’s travel and when her symptoms started to help determine if they need to notify those who travelled with her on the same aircraft.

Henry said the woman lives in the Fraser Health region, which is located east of Vancouver.

Iran announced three more infections Thursday, a day after it reported its first two deaths.

It is a presumptive case of the virus until positive test results come back from samples sent to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.

Henry said the woman went to a local hospital concerned about influenza-like symptoms. She was examined and released, Henry added.

“My understanding, from initial discussions with the clinician who saw her as well as the patient herself, was they did think it was influenza,” Henry said.

She said the woman’s novel coronavirus diagnosis was surprising, primarily because of her travel only to Iran.

“That could be an indicator there’s more widespread transmission,” said Henry. “This is what we call an indicator or sentinel event. A sentinel event means it’s a marker that something many be going on broader than what we expect.”

She said B.C. has reported the case to the Public Health Agency of Canada and it will also be reported to the World Health Organization.

Henry said the diagnosis shows B.C. has a robust system for identifying people who have the virus.

“We still believe the risk in Canada and here in B.C. is low,” she said.

Henry said earlier this week that four of the five people already diagnosed with the virus were symptom free. The fifth person, a woman in her 30s who returned from Shanghai, China, is in isolation at her home in B.C.’s Interior.

Henry said over 500 people have been tested for the virus in B.C. and many of those tested positive for the flu.

In Ontario, the first person in Canada to test positive for the novel coronavirus has now been completely cleared of the virus.

Ontario health officials say the man in his 50s has now had two negative tests 24 hours apart, which is the standard for being cleared.

Associate chief medical officer of health Dr. Barbara Yaffe says the man is no longer infectious to others and has recovered.

The man returned to Toronto in January from the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak, and had to be hospitalized.

His wife, who had travelled with him, also fell ill, but had less severe symptoms and is still in self-isolation at home.

Yaffe says the woman is doing well and is expected to be cleared soon.

A third person has since completely recovered, with tests showing she no longer has the virus in her system.

1st round of Wuhan evacuees to be released from quarantine at CFB Trenton today

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Feb 21st, 2020

OTTAWA – Hundreds of Canadians and their family members are to be released from quarantine today after two weeks in isolation at an Ontario Canadian Forces base.

They’ll get to leave their quarters at CFB Trenton just hours after a new planeload of people potentially exposed to the novel coronavirus called COVID-19 arrived from Japan overnight.

The evacuees leaving quarantine were the first to arrive from the centre of the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, on Feb. 7.

The 213 Canadians and accompanying family members were flown from the quarantined city aboard flights chartered by the Canadian and American governments and taken to the base for isolation and observation.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu says the government is helping all the evacuees with their travel plans, but all will be expected to make their own ways home from Ontario.

Ontario teachers plan large protest at Queen’s Park during provincewide strike

ALLISON JONES AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Feb 21st, 2020

Ontario’s public school teachers are planning a huge protest at the legislature on Friday to coincide with their provincewide strike.

The job action by the four major teachers’ unions is expected to shut down schools across Ontario, leaving about two million students out of class. Teachers and education workers will be picketing at various schools and politicians’ offices across the province but, in Toronto, the legislature is the only picket location.

The unions say that means as many as 30,000 people will attend. Legislative security is bracing for a large crowd and has said the road around the building will be closed.

Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, said he hopes it sends a message to the government.

“The minister of education points the finger of blame at everybody but himself,” Bischof said. “What’s clear in this historic event is that the common denominator for all of the chaos in Ontario’s publicly funded education system is the destructive (Premier Doug) Ford education agenda.”

This is the first time since 1997 that teachers and education workers from Ontario’s main education unions will all be out of their classrooms on the same day, the unions say.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said he wants union leaders to heed the concerns of parents who want their children in school.

“Two million students should be in class (Friday),” he said. “These strikes are impacting the very kids that we all purport to care about.”

Members of the four unions in Peel Region were also planning a mass picket, with teachers set to form a 30-kilometre line from Caledon down to the lakeshore in Mississauga.

Meanwhile, bargaining between English Catholic teachers and those in the French system and the government ended Thursday after two straight day of talks.

OECTA President Liz Stuart said while the discussions were “respectful” they did not result in an agreement.

“We will also continue planning for rotating strikes the week of February 24, although the Association remains ready to go back to the bargaining table if the mediator believes it is possible for the parties to continue making progress,” Stuart said in a statement.

Lecce has been signalling flexibility on class sizes – one of the most contentious issues in ongoing negotiations, particularly for secondary teachers. He has said he would rather make further moves on class sizes than on compensation for teachers.

The government announced last spring it would increase average high school class sizes from 22 to 28 and require students to take four e-learning courses to graduate.

Lecce has since offered to instead increase average high school class sizes to 25 and require two online learning courses, but the unions have been pressing for no class size increases and for no mandatory e-learning courses.

All the teachers’ unions are asking for around two per cent in annual salary increases, while the government won’t budge beyond offering one per cent. It passed legislation last year capping wage hikes for all public sector workers at one per cent for three years. The teachers’ unions and several others are fighting the law in court, arguing it infringes on collective bargaining rights.

Catholic, French teachers resume talks with Ontario government as strike looms

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Feb 20th, 2020

Bargaining is set to resume Thursday between the Ontario government and two teachers’ unions, just one day before a planned joint strike by all four major teacher groups in the province.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, or OECTA, the French public teachers’ union and the unions representing elementary and secondary school teachers are planning a provincewide strike on Friday.

OECTA is also planning rotating, one-day strikes starting next week if they can’t make progress toward a new agreement.

Thursday marks the third day of talks for OECTA since negotiations broke down in early January, while the French teachers’ union has had sporadic bargaining dates over the past few months.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has expressed frustration with the strikes, which he says have adverse impacts on kids and their families.

He’s signalled flexibility on class sizes, one of the most contentious issues in the ongoing negotiations, but the government hasn’t budged on compensation for teachers.

Canadians from coronavirus stricken cruise ship in Japan to fly home Thursday

LAURA OSMAN AND HINA ALAM AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Feb 20th, 2020

Canadians who have spent weeks on a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship in Japan will board a government-chartered plane to take them home Thursday evening, the foreign affairs minister says.

Thousands of passengers who’d been taking a cruise on the Diamond Princess have been stuck aboard the ship, docked in Yokohama while the illness dubbed COVID-19 has sickened hundreds.

Japanese authorities will test Canadian passengers for the virus before allowing them to leave the ship, where they’ll be taken by bus to the airport to board the chartered plane, Francois-Philippe Champagne said Wednesday.

Anyone who wants to come home and has been cleared to fly will be checked out again at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, in Ontario, before being moved on to quarantine at a hotel and conference centre in Cornwall, Ont., a few hundred kilometres east.

But those passengers who have tested positive for COVID-19 will remain in Japanese health facilities, Champagne said.

Forty-seven of about 250 Canadian passengers had been struck by the bug at last count, according to Canadian authorities.

“The best approach to dealing with Canadians who have been infected with the coronavirus in Japan is for them to be treated locally,” Champagne said in Ottawa after question period Wednesday.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu added that not only would transporting sick patients home to Canada pose a risk to others on the same plane, a long flight without the necessary health care on board could cause an infected person’s condition to deteriorate.

COVID-19 is thought to have an incubation period of about two weeks, and the evacuees will wait out that period in quarantine once they arrive home to make sure they don’t get sick and spread the illness in Canada.

But if patients have tested negative for the virus, have had no contact with infected patients and show no symptoms, Canada’s chief medical officer has the discretion to release passengers from quarantine early, Hajdu said.

The much-criticized quarantine of the cruise ship was to end later Wednesday. The Diamond Princess’s 542 virus cases are the most in any place outside of China, and medical experts have called its quarantine a failure.

Canadian officials were waiting on final authorization from those in Japan before the plane ferrying people home is able to take off, according to Champagne, who added that the government wanted to make sure every Canadian on board the ship had been contacted and was fully aware of the options.

He said the plane landed in Japan after some unforeseen technical issues prior to takeoff Tuesday. The Canadian evacuation had previously been scheduled for earlier in the week.

One healthy Canadian passenger said she’s eager to go home and the departure date’s being moved is “discouraging.”

“We’d like to hear what the explanation might be instead of being left in the dark once again,” said Trudy Clement of Callander, Ont.

Lolita Wisener of Red Deer, Alta., who is also looking forward to coming home, said she was not happy.

“The smiles are getting a little bit more brittle now, you know,” she said via Skype.

The “hope” they had when it was announced last Saturday that the government would take Canadians from the Diamond Princess is now fading, she said.

“It’s a good thing we’re not drowning, eh?” Wisener said.

“I’m starting to feel bad for me.”

Evacuees from the centre of the coronavirus outbreak have spent nearly two weeks at CFB Trenton under quarantine are preparing to return home.

They were placed in isolation after they returned to Canada from Wuhan, China. The government is now working to help them make their final travel plans once they are released from quarantine.

4 injured in violent bank robbery in Markham, 3 youth suspects arrested

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Feb 20th, 2020

Police have arrested three youth suspects following a violent armed robbery at a bank in Markham.

York regional police say they were called to an RBC branch in the area of 16th Avenue and Markham Road just as the bank was closing around 8 p.m.

Police said two handguns and a knife were recovered from the scene.

Police said four employees of the bank were injured — two men were stabbed while another man and one female sustained head injuries from a blunt object. All were taken to local hospitals by paramedics, one with serious but not life-threatening injuries. Police said they are expected to recover.

680 NEWS reports it was a passersby who noticed the robbery in progress and called 911.

As officers arrived on the scene, the three suspects fled on foot but police said, with the help of the canine unit, all three were captured within 45 minutes and taken into custody. 680 NEWS reports they were located in a semi-built townhouse.

The suspects, who are all believed to be under 17-years-old, are expected to appear in a Newmarket court on Thursday morning.

Police believe the three suspects are responsible for a number of similar robberies across the GTA – from Peel to Durham regions.

Because of their ages, the suspects cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Driver sought after vehicle, hydro pole end up on GO train tracks in Scarborough

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Feb 20th, 2020

Police are searching for a driver after a car crashed into a hydro pole and ended up on the train tracks at the Rouge Hill GO station in Scarborough.

Authorities believe a white BMW missed a sharp turn on Lawrence Avenue East, went off the road and through a fence, and struck the pole around 3 a.m. Thursday.

The impact of the crash caused the top of the hydro pole to snap off and fall onto the train tracks below. The vehicle also ended up stuck on the tracks.

Police said the driver fled the scene and that the vehicle is registered to someone in Durham Region and has not been reported stolen.

Rail crews assisted authorities in removing both the pole and the vehicle from the tracks.

As of 5:30 a.m. Thursday, Metrolinx said the tracks have been cleared and they don’t anticipate any delays for the morning commute.

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