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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


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.

CN Rail temporarily laying off around 450 employees due to pipeline protests

NEWS STAFF AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Feb 19th, 2020

Canadian National Railway is temporarily laying off around 450 of its employees in response to nationwide blockades erected in opposition to a British Columbia pipeline project.

The affected staff work in the company’s eastern Canada operations department.

“With over 400 trains cancelled during the last week and new protests that emerged at strategic locations on our mainline, we have decided that a progressive shutdown of our Eastern Canadian operations is the responsible approach to take for the safety of our employees and the protestors,” CN Rail said in a statement.

“Unfortunately … we had to send notices of temporary layoffs (approx. 450) to some of our Eastern Canadian operational staff, including employees working at Autoport in Eastern Passage, Moncton, Charny and Montreal.”

“This situation is regrettable for its impact on the economy and on our railroaders as these protests are unrelated to CN’s activities, and beyond our control.”

Hereditary chiefs in the Wet’suwet’en First Nation oppose the natural-gas pipeline through their traditional territory, though it’s received approval from elected band councils.

Since the RCMP moved in to enforce an injunction and keep the hereditary chiefs and their supporters away from the pipeline worksites, protests by Indigenous people and supporters have shut down the CN rail network in eastern Canada, suspended most Via Rail passenger service, and temporarily blocked traffic on streets and bridges and at ports in multiple cities.

On Tuesday night, VIA Rail announced that service in southwestern Ontario would resume on Thursday morning.

“Beginning Thursday morning, February 20, all trains running between Toronto-London-Windsor, Toronto-Sarnia and Toronto-Niagara will resume service,” VIA said in a release. “For operational and safety reasons, please note that trains may encounter certain delays.

“Since all other VIA Rail services are not operating until further notice, with the exception of Sudbury-White River (CP Rail) and Churchill-The Pas (Hudson Bay Railway), VIA Rail has cancelled all affected departures until the end of the day on Thursday, February 20, and all customers will be receiving a cancellation notice.”

VIA Rail says as of today, 532 trains have been cancelled because of the blockades, affecting more than 103,000 passengers.

With files from The Canadian Press

79 more virus cases confirmed on cruise ship after 2-week quarantine ends

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Feb 19th, 2020

Japan says 79 more virus cases confirmed on cruise ship after its two-week quarantine ends, bringing total to 621.

Hundreds of passengers began leaving the Diamond Princess cruise ship Wednesday after the end of a much-criticized, two-week quarantine that failed to stop the spread of a new virus among passengers and crew.

Results were still pending for some passengers who’ve been tested for the coronavirus that has infected tens of thousands of people in China and hundreds on the ship.

The Japanese government has been questioned over its decision to keep people aboard the ship, which some experts have called a perfect virus incubator. The Diamond Princess is the site of the most infections outside of China, where the illness named COVID-19 emerged late last year.

Many foreign governments say they won’t let in passengers from the ship until they have another quarantine period, so it was striking to see passengers disembark, get into taxis and disappear into Yokohama.

Meanwhile, Canadians who were stuck in quarantine aboard the cruise ship could be flying home ahead of the weekend. Ottawa is sending a plane to evacuate healthy Canadians, which should be arriving in Tokyo on Thursday.

As many as 43 Canadians are listed among the 600-plus people from the Diamond Princess had tested positive for the virus known as COVID-19.

Man shot multiple times near Eglinton and Martin Grove

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Feb 19th, 2020

A man is in hospital with serious to life-threatening injuries after a shooting Tuesday night near Eglinton Avenue and Martin Grove Road.

Emergency crews were called to the scene at Willowridge Road and Richgrove Drive just after 11 p.m. after reports of multiple shots fired in the area.

Officers found multiple shell casings in the parking lot of a highrise apartment building, but no victim.

Police heard reports the victim was loaded into a vehicle after the shooting and then dropped off at a local hospital.

He was then rushed to a trauma centre with wounds reportedly to his chest and head.

Despite the serious nature of his injuries, police say his condition is now stable.

There has been no word on suspects at this time.

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