GUELPH – The County of Wellington won’t be adding an Indigenous land acknowledgement prior to each county council meeting, at least in the short-term, opting instead to focus on education and cultural awareness.
In February of 2020, county council passed a motion to consider implementation of an Indigenous land acknowledgement prior to council meetings. This motion was referred to county staff for further research and deliberation.
The motion led to the establishment of an Indigenous-led staff committee dubbed the Indigenous Advisory Committee (IAC) to advise on the subject of territorial land acknowledgements.
“It was agreed that a county land acknowledgement would need to be delivered in a manner that was genuine, sincere and meaningful,” states a report from IAC chair Colleen Brunelle presented at the Nov. 25 council meeting.
“A failure to focus on these basic elements could result in a perception of tokenism and subsequent criticism.
“In order to effectively achieve this, the IAC determined that education and cultural awareness of Indigenous issues by county staff would need to occur while researching the Crown Treaties of Wellington County.”
The report notes research conducted on the treaties “provided insights into Wellington’s rich history with Indigenous peoples but also detailed many complexities,” including ongoing legal challenges and land claim disputes.♦
This image shows a portion of the Haldimand Proclamation of 1784 depicting lands, granted to Six Nations of the Grand River, in what later became Upper Canada and the province of Ontario. Plots three and four depict modern-day Fergus and Elora. This pictured survey of the lands was completed in 1821 by Upper Canada surveyor Thomas Ridout and is thus known as the “Ridout Survey.” The original survey occurred in 1791 to define the area, but records of it were lost. (Image in the public domain)
“Acknowledging the cultural sensitivity with respect to this issue, the IAC proceeded to construct a respectful land acknowledgement worthy of the county’s rich Indigenous history. Completed in August 2021, it remains in draft form awaiting council approval should they wish to proceed with implementation,” the report states.
The draft acknowledgement states: “The County of Wellington is unique in that it has multiple treaties that sit in the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe people. Throughout time this land has been, or continues to be, inhabited by other nations including the Attawandaron, Haudenosaunee, Métis, Inuit, and many other First Nations. We acknowledge that we are not the original stewards of these lands, but now have the responsibility of not only taking care of the land and its people, but ensuring that future generations are able to thrive here. The county is committed to a better understanding of past, present and future as a gesture of our commitment to the process of reconciliation.”Related Articles
- Council requests staff report on Indigenous land acknowledgement
- Council defeats motion to revisit decision on Indigenous land acknowledgement
- County officials reflect on National Truth and Reconciliation Day
Prior to the completion of the draft version, an event-specific land acknowledgement was utilized as part of the ceremonies at the Warden’s Inaugural on Dec. 11, 2020.
Measures implemented by the county so far in response to the work of the IAC include:
- a bi-monthly newsletter for county staff to educate about the Treaties of Wellington County and Indigenous cultural pedagogy;
- gender-based violence awareness education was shared with staff with plans for training addressing this issue that affects Indigenous women and children;
- encouraging participation by staff in Orange Shirt Day and designing an Indigenous logo for county shirts, with proceeds from the sale of shirts (over $5,500) donated to Anishnabeg Outreach Healing and Wellness programs that support Residential School survivors;
- on Sept. 30, the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the IAC held a virtual Lunch and Learn event on subjects such as Residential Schools and the 94 Calls to Action.
In addition, training opportunities are being offered to county staff through online, self-directed courses, such as Indigenous Canada at the University of Alberta, and numerous other projects are still in the works.
CAO Scott Wilson said he feels the county is addressing the issue of Indigenous land acknowledgment through the measures currently implemented or in development.
“From my perspective, Wellington County, through the great efforts of the Indigenous Advisory Committee, are addressing the issue of land acknowledgement,” said Wilson.
“My recommendation to council would be that we continue to support these efforts … and efforts like them, to educate ourselves, train our staff and raise awareness of the Indigenous issues.”
Wilson added, “And the land acknowledgement that you find in here is something that I would believe council would be wise to continue to use at the Warden’s Inaugural (meeting), every other year.”
Numerous councillors praised the work of the committee, beginning with Warden Kelly Linton.
“I know as a county councillor I speak for all county councillors when I say how proud we are of you and your team and the very, very valuable work that you have done to bring this rich Indigenous heritage that the county enjoys to the forefront,” Linton told Brunelle.
“I really, truly appreciate the work that was done there. I love the live acknowledgement, I thought that was one of the best I’ve read anywhere,” said councillor Alan Alls.
“When I bought this motion forward about a year ago, I hadn’t realized how much work and effort that the staff was going to be putting into this,” said councillor Don McKay.
He added, “I hope that we can continue on doing that work and continue to work together toward reconciliation.”
Councillor Diane Ballantyne echoed praise for “the exceptional work” of the IAC.
“It’s incredible to see the responsibility and the leadership that you’ve taken on to work with county staff to increase their knowledge and understanding,” she stated.
“The part that I will disagree with is the CAO’s position that the land acknowledgement should be given every other year at the Warden’s Inaugural.”
Ballantyne continued, “It’s certainly important for us to continue our learning. But it’s also exceptionally important for us to model both truth and reconciliation by providing land acknowledgements at each of the county council meetings, not as an extra add-on every two years.
“So that’s the part that I would disagree with, but certainly nothing in the report.”
“Doing it twice through a term of council, to me, does not seem appropriate,” agreed councillor Mary Lloyd.
“I think the wording here is very embracing of the whole of what’s happened in our history and it’s a good way for us to have a gentle reminder that we weren’t here first, someone else was here before us.”
“I think it’s a great report. A lot of effort’s been put in,” said councillor Earl Campbell.
However, he added, “I’m standing here a little confused as to whether or not we’ve actually progressed to the point where we’re in a position to respectfully give that land acknowledgement.”♦
Wellington County settlement services program manager Colleen Brunelle, a member of the county’s Indigenous Advisory Committee, conducted a smudging ceremony and provided a land acknowledgement at an event in Harriston on June 10. Advertiser file photo
“This report came after a long time of writing and consideration,” said Brunelle.
“We talked a lot about what our place is. It’s not our place to advise county council what to do. However … in order to do something justice, and do it in a meaningful way, and not just check a box, we decided that it needs to be done with education and cultural awareness and sensitivities.”
Brunelle added, “I’ve gone to different functions, where I’ve listened to land acknowledgments read through a piece of paper, mispronounced, and it all goes out the window, the intentions are lost. I value the county, I value my employer and … I didn’t want to see that happen.”
Brunelle acknowledged council was under public pressure to avoid the perception “you weren’t doing enough.
“And that criticism was hard to hear, but one of the things we know through traditional Indigenous ways of knowing is not to rush things. So this is why we weren’t rushing it. We wanted to get it right,” she explained.
“Do I feel we’re at a position to do land acknowledgements every time we have a meeting? I don’t think we’re there yet.”
Brunelle continued, “Wellington is pretty unique in the amount of treaties that we have and the research that’s had to go into that.
“And it’s further complicated, by the fact that we’re a government body dealing on the Haldimand Tract where things are before the courts.”
Brunelle said the committee didn’t want to “open the proverbial Pandora’s box” without letting council “know exactly what we found out.”
A motion to receive the Indigenous Advisory Committee’s land acknowledgment update report for information was approved by council.
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WELLINGTON COUNTY – As of Nov. 30, there are 19 active cases of COVID-19 reported at schools across the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH) region.
Since students returned to classrooms on Sept. 7, a total of 183 cases have been reported at 60 schools in the region.
Ten cases have been reported at three child care facilities in the WDGPH region over the same period.
Confirmed cases are currently being reported at the following schools:
- John F. Ross CVI in Guelph, three cases, three cohorts closed;
- Norwell District Secondary School in Palmerston, one case, one cohort closed;
- Centennial CVI in Guelph, one case, two cohorts closed;
- Arthur Public School in Arthur, two cases, all classrooms remain open;
- King George Public School in Guelph, one case, one classroom closed;
- Wellington Heights Secondary School in Mount Forest, one case, all cohorts remain open;
- J.D. Hogarth Public School in Fergus, one case, one classroom closed;
- Sacred Heart Catholic Elementary School in Guelph, two cases, one classroom closed;
- St. John Catholic Elementary School in Guelph, two cases, two classrooms closed;
- St. Ignatius Catholic Elementary School in Guelph, one case, one classroom closed; and
- A private child care setting in Wellington County, three student cases (outbreak declared by WDGPH).
A positive case at a school or child care facility does not mean the individual was exposed to COVID-19 in that setting; they may have acquired it elsewhere.
In all cases, officials conduct case management and contact tracing and students and families are advised to follow the direction of public health and their school board or child care provider.
*This article will be updated as new cases are reported. It was originally published on Sept. 15, 2021.
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WELLINGTON NORTH – It’s not Christmas time quite yet, but council members here have already experienced some sticker shock with the township’s 2022 budget wishlist.
Township staff have proposed $3.37 million in taxpayer contributions to fund capital projects in the preliminary budget, a 73 per cent ($1.42 million) increase over the 2021 total of $1.95 million.
The cost of paying for government and its services is also proposed to rise to $5.47 million next year, a 4.69% year-over-year increase over this year’s $5.23 million.
Once new tax base growth (1.48%) is accounted for, existing taxpayers would see a 19.2% increase to the tax levy to pay for everything.
“I look at the total levy requirement proposed in the budget here … and I’m glad I was sitting down when I first read it,” said Mayor Andy Lennox following a Nov. 22 report from township finance director Adam McNabb.
Overall, the total dollars proposed in the budget for capital projects works out to over $15.14 million—similar to last year’s $15.11 million capital budget.
But the onerous portion taxpayers would have to cover has raised the multi-million-dollar-question of what projects can wait and how the township would like to pay.
Most notably, the capital tab consists of:
- $1.87 million for council- and development-driven projects;
- $1.15 million for road fleet upgrades and replacements;
- $655,000 for new bridges;
- $6.13 million for “transportation initiatives” like new sidewalks and infrastructure assessments;
- $2.64 million for various road reconstruction projects consisting of everything from engineering to resurfacing; and
- $1.32 million for parks and recreation projects.
“Certain assumptions have been made in this preliminary budget draft to show potential impact on tax levy and gain insight into council’s direction on priority projects, levy setting direction, and the comfort level with the utilization of reserve and reserve funds to facilitate the 2022 capital program,” McNabb explained.
This particular budget iteration assumes a capital contribution from reserves of only $347,000, whereas last year’s total was around $2.39 million.
Lennox said the past two years have been “tumultuous” and asked McNabb about potential income flows from parks and recreation, Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF) dollars and reserve funds, wondering if the finance director had a “crystal ball” on where the township may land.
“If we’re going to get [the levy] into a range that I think our taxpayers can live with, how much do we need to pare out of the capital budget?” Lennox asked.
McNabb said estimates for revenue from parks and recreation are “conservative”— slashed in half from 2020 figures.
As for OCIF, McNabb said there’s word funding could be doubled from last year’s $1 million, but he cautioned “uncertainty still remains.”
Reserves, however, are in good shape.
As of this year’s third quarter, the balance sits at $21.62 million, up from last year’s $16.16 million closing balance.
McNabb said if the capital contribution from reserves were to be upped to a similar level seen this year, taxpayers would be shouldering a levy increase “in the vicinity” of 2%, including all capital projects outlined for funding in the budget.
Capital projects listed in the budget, but without funding connected to them, are valued at $650,000.
If those unfunded projects were to be covered, the overall pull from reserves would need to be bumped to $2.6 million, according to McNabb, impacting his vicinity forecast.
He requested council provide guidance for a “palatable” levy increase for next year’s budget and asked councillors if they were comfortable with funding the township’s proposed capital funding in its current state.
Lennox said thinking about how much would need to be trimmed out of the budget to whittle down a 19.2% levy increase “scares” him, but said “we do have a nice flow of dollars into reserves that we can afford to take some out of.”
Councillor Dan Yake said he would be comfortable with an increase between 2 and 2.5% and councillor Lisa Hern said she would be comfortable with an increase to meet inflation.
“I’m not entirely sure what staff’s hope was with this version of the budget, but I think the next iteration is what I’m looking forward to,” Lennox said, asking staff to aim for a 2.5% levy increase and “see where it ends up.”
Council tasked staff with crunching the numbers and revising the preliminary budget to suit different levy increases, with the goal of providing council better insight into what projects could be accommodated within their desired range.
“I think we need to ask our local taxpayers to contribute more than they did last year regardless of what we’re able to do with our capital program,” Lennox said, citing capital shortfalls and a need to pad reserves for future long-term projects.
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WATERLOO — An investigation is underway after a fire was reported at a student residence in Waterloo.
At around 7:40 p.m. Monday, emergency services responded to a small fire inside the apartment building at 328 Regina St. N., also known as Bridgeport House.
The fire was contained to one unit and the damage was minimal, Waterloo Regional Police said.
There were physical injuries reported and the cause of the fire is undetermined.
Police are asking anyone with information about this fire to contact investigators at 519-570-9777. Anonymous tips can also be left with Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
WATERLOO REGION — COVID-19 vaccination clinics will be held at several schools across Waterloo Region to immunize children aged five to 11.
After-school and full-day vaccination clinics are being hosted in December by the Region of Waterloo in partnership with Waterloo Region District School Board and the Waterloo Catholic District School Board.
“Parents and guardians may also find it easier to get their children vaccinated close to home in a familiar school setting,” said a news release.
The vaccines are also being offered at regional clinics as well as doctor’s offices and pharmacies.
At the school clinics, older siblings and family members can also catch up on a first or second dose. A parent must be at the school vaccination clinic with their child.
After-school vaccination clinics will have appointments available from 4 to 8 p.m. Full-day school clinics will have appointments from 9:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.
Book an appointment at regionofwaterloo/GetaVaccine or find other opportunities to get the vaccine in the community.
Scheduled school clinics:
After-school vaccination clinics
- Dec. 2: St. Peter Catholic Elementary School, 92 Avenue Rd., Cambridge
- Dec. 9 & 14: Wilson Avenue Public School, 221 Wilson Ave., Kitchener
- Dec. 15 & 16: Sunnyside Public School, 1042 Weber St. E., Kitchener
Full-day school vaccination clinics
- Dec. 4: Queensmount Public School, 21 Westmount Rd., Kitchener
- Dec. 19 & 20: St. Bernadette Catholic School, 245 Lorne Ave., Kitchener
- Dec. 21 & 22: St. Anne Catholic School, 250 East Ave., Kitchener
- Dec. 23: Linwood Public School, 50 Pine St., Linwood.
Children aged five and 11 were able to start getting the vaccine in the region on Friday, following Health Canada’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine in a lower dose for younger children.
The region’s vaccine dashboard was updated on Monday to include this newly eligible group.
“The protection the vaccine will give will not only help prevent COVID infections, but it will help get their lives back to normal. School, activities, family and friends are all safer when vaccinated,” Vickie Murray, operations lead for the vaccine distribution task force, said at Friday’s media briefing.
Johanna Weidner is a Waterloo Region-based general assignment reporter for The Record. Reach her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Tuesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
9 a.m. Statistics Canada says the economy grew at an annual rate of 5.4 per cent in the third quarter of this year.
The result is a turnaround for an economy that shrank in the second quarter, and outpaced economists' expectations for growth in real gross domestic product between July and September. Statistics Canada says household spending rose in the quarter as restrictions eased, creating a greater demand for exports.
The quarter ended with the economy edging up by 0.1 per cent in September. The agency also says that preliminary data suggests the economy grew by 0.8 per cent in October to start the final quarter of the year. Statistics Canada says that with that estimate, total economic activity was about 0.5 per cent below the pre-pandemic level recorded in February 2020.
8:50 a.m. The president of a club enduring a COVID-19 outbreak is planning to sue the Portuguese league official who said his team wanted to play last weekend despite having only nine players.
Belenenses kicked off on Saturday and trailed Benfica 7-0 by halftime. The match was abandoned early in the second half after Belenenses went down to six players.
Health authorities later determined that 13 cases of the new omicron variant were detected within club members.
Benfica released a statement on Monday lamenting “one of the saddest episodes in the history of Portuguese soccer."
8:15 a.m. The Team Toronto Kids COVID-19 vaccination plan has helped more than 10 per cent of five to 11-year-olds in Toronto receive their first dose in the first week that the COVID-19 vaccine for children was available in Canada,” the city of Toronto said in a release on Tuesday.
More than 21,536 doses of vaccine for children aged five to 11 have now been administered in Toronto.
8:05 a.m. When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Toronto, Lorraine Lam’s life as an outreach worker supporting Toronto’s homeless population felt increasingly lonely and distant.
She struggled to meet and connect with her clients due to social-distancing measures. Some were hard to track down because they didn’t have phones. Others were difficult to meet during the winter, as most public spaces were closed. Her inability to help, especially as the colder months approached, left her tired and wary.
As people sheltered at home during lockdown, Lam became hyper-aware of not only the lack of resources and stark inequities facing her clients, but also how different her day-to-day was from people who worked from home, far from the pandemic front lines.
Read the full story from the Star’s Nadine Yousif
7:52 a.m. In a pandemic that has illuminated how the lives of seniors, parents and children were upended by COVID-19, new research shows that young adults are among the Canadians most battered by the economic impact of the public health crisis.
According to survey results shared exclusively with the Star, the number of Canadians aged 18 to 24 who were neither working nor enrolled in education programs increased during the first nine months of the pandemic. Nineteen per cent of those aged 18 to 34 stopped or postponed their post-secondary studies — a finding that particularly affected Indigenous, Black and disabled young people.
Read the full story from the Star’s Raisa Patel
6:50 a.m. The European Union’s medical agency chief said Tuesday that it is ready to deal with the new Omicron variant, and that it will take two weeks to have an indication whether the current COVID-19 vaccines will be able to deal with it.
Emer Cooke, the Executive Director of the European Medicines Agency, said that if it does require a new vaccine to counter Omicron, it will take up to four months to have it approved for use in the 27-nation bloc.
“We are prepared,” Cooke told EU lawmakers, adding that cooperation with the medical industry is already ongoing to prepare for such an eventuality. “We know that at some stage there will be a mutation that means we have to change the current approach.”
Cooke sounded more reassuring than the World Health Organization, which warned Monday that the global risk from the omicron variant is “very high,” saying the mutated coronavirus could lead to surges with “severe consequences.”
6:37 a.m. (updated) The Omicron variant was already in the Netherlands when South Africa alerted the World Health Organization about it last week, Dutch health authorities said Tuesday, adding to fear and confusion over the new version of the coronavirus in a weary world hoping it had left the worst of the pandemic behind.
The Netherlands' RIVM health institute found omicron in samples dating from Nov. 19 and 23. The WHO said South Africa first reported the the variant to the U.N. healthy agency on Nov. 24.
It remains unclear where or when the variant first emerged — but that hasn't stopped wary nations from rushing to impose travel restrictions, especially on visitors coming from southern Africa. Those moves have been criticized by South Africa and the WHO has urged against them, noting their limited effect.
Much is still not known about the variant — though the WHO warned that the global risk from the variant is “very high” and early evidence suggests it could be more contagious.
The Dutch announcement Tuesday further muddies the timeline on when the new variant actually emerged. Previously, the Dutch had said they found the variant among passengers who came from South Africa on Friday — but these new cases predate that.
Authorities in the eastern German city of Leipzig, meanwhile, said Tuesday they had confirmed an infection with the omicron variant in a 39-year-old man who had neither been abroad nor had contact with anyone who had been, news agency dpa reported. Leipzig is in the eastern state of Saxony, which currently has Germany’s highest overall coronavirus infection rates.
6:11 a.m. A federal judge on Monday blocked President Joe Biden’s administration from enforcing a coronavirus vaccine mandate on thousands of health care workers in 10 states that had brought the first legal challenge against the requirement.
The court order said that the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid had no clear authority from Congress to enact the vaccine mandate for providers participating in the two government health care programs for the elderly, disabled and poor.
The preliminary injunction by St. Louis-based U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp applies to a coalition of suing states that includes Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. All those states have either a Republican attorney general or governor. Similar lawsuits also are pending in other states.
5:55 a.m. The emergence of the new Omicron variant and the world's desperate and likely futile attempts to keep it at bay are reminders of what scientists have warned for months: The coronavirus will thrive as long as vast parts of the world lack vaccines.
The hoarding of limited COVID-19 shots by rich countries — creating virtual vaccine deserts in many poorer ones — doesn’t just mean risk for the parts of the world seeing shortages; it threatens the entire globe.
That's because the more the disease spreads among unvaccinated populations, the more possibilities it has to mutate and potentially become more dangerous, prolonging the pandemic for everyone.
“The virus is a ruthless opportunist, and the inequity that has characterized the global response has now come home to roost,” said Dr. Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, one of the groups behind the U.N.-backed COVAX shot-sharing initiative.
5:35 a.m. Canada’s doctors say the COVID-19 pandemic took a staggering toll on the health of Canadians, including those who didn’t contract it, with delayed surgeries and procedures costing thousands of lives and continuing to ravage people’s health.
In a new report prepared by Deloitte for the Canadian Medical Association, researchers said it would cost at least $1.3 billion to end some of the most dangerous backlogs in key health services by June 2022 and return to pre-pandemic service levels.
The report said in one four-month period alone last year, the number of “excess deaths” in Canada not related to COVID-19 infections was more than 4,000 for the period August to December 2020.
Read more from the Star’s Tonda MacCharles.
5:10 a.m. Unvaccinated travellers over the age of 12 won't be able to board a plane or train in Canada beginning today, and a negative COVID-19 test will no longer serve as a substitute for most people.
The policy came into effect on Oct. 30, but the federal government allowed a short transition period for unvaccinated travellers who could board as long as they provided a negative molecular COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before their trip.
The stringent new requirement comes into effect as Canada reacts to the emergence of the new, highly mutated Omicron variant of COVID-19.
The discovery of the new variant has prompted border closures and heavier screening in Canada and abroad over fears it could prove more transmissible.
Read more from The Canadian Press.
5 a.m. Food bank usage in Ontario rose 10 per cent during the first year of the pandemic to the highest levels since the recession, a new report has found.
Nearly 600,000 people made more than 3.6 million visits to food banks in Ontario between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, according to an annual report from Feed Ontario, a collective of hunger-relief organizations in the province.
Siu Mee Cheng, the interim executive director of the group, said COVID-19 has exacerbated the income insecurity and affordability issues in the province.
"This is an extremely alarming trend," she said in an interview. "The pandemic has had an impact on individuals and families and, as a result, they are coming to the food banks."
The number of those who needed basic food support has increased by 10 per cent this year compared to the year before – the highest single-year rise since 2009, said the report.
4:40 a.m. Japan and France confirmed their first cases of the new variant of the coronavirus on Tuesday as countries around the world scrambled to close their doors or find ways to limit its spread while scientists study how damaging it might be.
The World Health Organization has warned that the global risk from the Omicron variant is “very high” based on early evidence, saying it could lead to surges with “severe consequences.”
French authorities on Tuesday confirmed the first case of the Omicron variant in the French island territory of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. Patrick Mavingui, a microbiologist at the island’s research clinic for infectious diseases, said the person who has tested positive for the new variant is a 53-year-old man who had traveled to Mozambique and stopped in South Africa before returning to Reunion.
The man was placed in quarantine. He has “muscle pain and fatigue,” Mavingui said, according to public television Reunion 1ere.
Japan on Tuesday confirmed its first case in a visitor who recently arrived from Namibia, a day after banning all foreign visitors as an emergency precaution against the variant. A government spokesperson said the patient, a man in his 30s, tested positive upon arrival at Narita airport on Sunday and was isolated and is being treated at a hospital.
WHO said there are “considerable uncertainties” about the Omicron variant. But it said preliminary evidence raises the possibility that the variant has mutations that could help it both evade an immune-system response and boost its ability to spread from one person to another.
The WHO stressed that while scientists are hunting evidence to better understand this variant, countries should accelerate vaccinations as quickly as possible.
Despite the global worry, doctors in South Africa are reporting patients are suffering mostly mild symptoms so far. But they warn that it is early. Also, most of the new cases are in people in their 20s and 30s, who generally do not get as sick from COVID-19 as older patients.
4:25 a.m. Cambodia has barred entry to travelers from 10 African countries, citing the threat from the new Omicron coronavirus variant.
The move, announced in a Health Ministry statement issued late Monday, came just two weeks after Cambodia reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travelers.
The Health Ministry said the entry ban included anyone who has spent time in the previous three weeks in any of the 10 listed countries, including South Africa where the variant was first reported. Other countries include Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Angola and Zambia.
OTTAWA—Canada’s doctors say the COVID-19 pandemic took a staggering toll on the health of Canadians, including those who didn’t contract it, with delayed surgeries and procedures costing thousands of lives and continuing to ravage people’s health.
In a new report prepared by Deloitte for the Canadian Medical Association, researchers said it would cost at least $1.3 billion to end some of the most dangerous backlogs in key health services by June 2022 and return to pre-pandemic service levels.
The report said in one four-month period alone last year, the number of “excess deaths” in Canada not related to COVID-19 infections was more than 4,000 for the period August to December 2020.
That’s about five per cent greater than the expected mortality rate for a normal year and in line with excess mortality in international jurisdictions as well.
It’s also in line with numbers that Statistics Canada has reported for the first 18 months of the pandemic, from March 2020 to the beginning of July 2021. The agency says there were an estimated 19,501 excess deaths in Canada, or 5.3 per cent more deaths than would be expected if there were no pandemic after accounting for changes in the population, such as aging.
The CMA report is titled “A Struggling System” and is released just as public policy makers and the medical community scrambles to prepare for what could be a fifth wave, driven by an even more transmissible virus variant called Omicron.
“If this variant does end up being more significant, or the impacts on the system are similar to Delta again, or worse, we were in a situation already where there’s no backdrop to the system. It is starting to fail,” said CMA president Dr. Katharine Smart.
In an interview Smart said that throughout the pandemic the system relied on “temporary Band-Aid type solutions (and) this sort of hope that things are just going to fix themselves. Instead, what we have is a system that’s continuing to decline. We’re not really hearing from any level of government an actual plan about how to fix it.”
Smart said “one of the issues is that the system needs more investment. But I think it’s also quite clear that the system itself is broken in many ways, and it needs to be reimagined for modern, the modern times … Otherwise, it’s going to be Canadians who pay the price with their health, and that’s obviously what’s already happening.”
To date, 29,618 Canadians have died of COVID-19 directly. When the pandemic first hit, medical professionals switched to virtual consultations with patients which helped offset a bigger toll.
But in-person specialist visits with people suffering from chronic diseases plunged in the early months of the pandemic, and are still lagging.
Nearly a year into the crisis, by January this year, visits for patients with hypertensive heart disease were still 60 per cent lower than usual, and 87 per cent lower for patients with diabetes.
“Missed or delayed chronic disease management can lead to serious and expensive complications, like heart attacks or even death,” said the report.
The report estimated backlogs in Ontario for key cancer screening services: it lists a gap of 389,347 Pap tests, 307,617 mammograms, and 297,299 fecal tests that detect colon cancer that needed to be performed.
Other services like home care assessments by nursing home care providers — which are a form of health screening for seniors to determine what their health needs are — declined during the first wave between March and April 2020 by 44 per cent, and while they rebounded somewhat, it said the majority are still virtual appointments.
The report looked at backlogs for eight procedures: breast cancer surgeries, coronary artery bypass graft, CT scans, MRI scans, colectomies, knee replacements, cataract surgery and hip replacements, and found backlogs due to COVID delays ranged from 46 to 118 days.
It also comes as another group, Health Charities Coalition of Canada, also called on MPs on Monday to act to fill the health gaps revealed by the pandemic.
“It is impossible to understate the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on health care delivery and, in consequence, on patients,” the coalition said in a release.
It cited examples people with diabetic foot problems who during the pandemic had more severe infections and “increased emergencies necessitating more amputations, and the amputations they had tended to be more extensive.”
To date, Health Canada says 1.7 million Canadians have been infected with COVID, and public health doctors again on Monday urged those who have not yet been vaccinated to get their shots, even as countries now confront the decision to broaden booster shots for the general population.
Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @tondamacc
WATERLOO REGION — Despite community calls to freeze or cut police budgets, Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin said rising crime, especially violent crime, means the police service urgently needs more officers and resources.
“These are challenging times in our society. These are divisive times in our society, and our members are at the front of that,” Larkin told regional councillors Monday as he presented the proposed 2022 police budget.
In a presentation lasting more than an hour, Larkin urged council to approve a budget that includes the hiring of 35 more police officers and millions more in spending.
The proposed budget would boost the tax-supported police budget by 6.7 per cent — $12.4 million. That increase would add $44 a year on the average regional property tax bill, not including any increases to the rest of the regional budget, which is now proposed to add $63 to the average tax bill.
While acknowledging that there are many demands on regional tax dollars, Larkin argued that the police service urgently needs an injection of cash and more officers to deal with increasing crime, especially violent crime, and the toll that is taking on an overworked police service.
“Organized crime and gangs, they don’t respect geographical boundaries,” Larkin said. With the busiest highway in the country cutting through Waterloo Region, “what’s travelling through our region is drugs, guns, humans and probably likely some stolen property.”
While the region retains its rural-urban mix and charm, “the reality is we also have big-city challenges,” he told council, noting that the region has seen 16 shootings so far this year.
In violent crime, “we’re outpacing the provincial average. We’re outpacing the national average. That equates to heavy workloads and heavy demands and, at times, reactive police work,” Larkin said.
The workload also affects clearance rates, or how long it takes to close a case, he said.
Larkin noted it can take 12 to 18 months for officers to investigate non-violent incidents such as a financial crime.
“It just seems to me the entire system isn’t working very well,” said Coun. Tom Galloway. “For your members it’s not working very well. In some cases in the community, it’s not working very well for marginalized groups who feel that they’ve been harmed by the police. ... And then we throw money at it year after year and the investments in upstream (crime prevention) activities is diminished because the pie is only so big.”
Pressure to cut police budgets has intensified from groups such as Reallocate Waterloo Region, especially in the face of the request for such a large budget increase, said Coun. Sean Strickland.
“From my perspective I support the increased investment in new officers for the police. I think you’ve made a good case for that ask,” Strickland said. But he asked if it were possible to phase in the 35 new hires over two years rather than hire them all this year.
Larkin said the plan was to hire 18 officers in August 2022, and the remaining 17 in December to ease budget pressures. It’s difficult to spread hirings over two years because it takes about a year to fully deploy and train new officers, and they’re needed now, he said.
Many councillors expressed sympathy for the difficult work police do. “Each year the needs in the community seem to be increasing the demands on the services,” said Coun. Jim Erb. “The calls for the reallocation of funds and more upstream funding, we’re taking that seriously, but the need in the community is significant.”
Some, such as Coun. Karl Kiefer and regional Chair Karen Redman, said police spikes in hiring every few years make budgeting far more difficult, and they would prefer to see more gradual hiring increases. Larkin said police are working on a five-year plan for hiring to avoid future spikes.
Regional council has limited authority over the police budget, and cannot approve or deny specific line items. Council can only approve or reject the entire budget, or ask the police board to come back with a global budget amount that’s either larger or smaller than the one submitted.
The police board can appeal council’s decision to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, a provincial tribunal whose decision is binding.
No decision was made Monday. Regional council will vote on the police budget, as well as the overall regional budget, on Dec. 15.
Catherine Thompson is a Waterloo Region-based reporter focusing on urban affairs for The Record. Reach her via email: email@example.com
KITCHENER — City council has asked staff to find up to $2 million to invest in affordable housing after last week’s controversial evictions at a homeless encampment.
Councillors also floated the possibility of working with the Region of Waterloo to tackle the housing issue.
The request comes after five people were evicted Friday from an encampment at Charles and Stirling streets. Regional workers used a backhoe to clear the encampment as police watched.
About 100 people gathered on Sunday to protest the region’s forceful tactics and called on better responses to support those who don’t have adequate housing.
“It is a critical issue we need to be working on as a community as a whole,” Mayor Berry Vrbanovic told a capital budget meeting on Monday.
Coun. Paul Singh also asked staff to come back with information on what resources would be required for more purpose-built rental units. The land could be owned by the city and managed by the region.
“We want to have a discussion around affordable housing. It is top of mind for our community,” said Coun. Margaret Johnston.
Johnston said she would like to see a “fulsome” conversation with other local municipalities about creating more affordable housing units.
“We need to champion this discussion,” she said.
Coun. Bil Ioannidis said he “wants to see everything on the table” and suggested staff look at a “special levy” to raise money for creating affordable housing units.
Coun. Scott Davey said he supports building more units and using an unallocated $1 million to do so, but he’s worried about a special tax levy to raise additional monies.
“Am I concerned with a lack of affordable housing? Absolutely. My concern is whether it is our jurisdiction to deal with it,” he said.
Davey said he doesn’t want to burden residents with more tax who can’t afford to pay it. A tax levy affects everyone from “the single mother in a house to a tech couple in a condo.”
Staff is expected to return Dec. 16 with recommendations, which is the last day for budget talks. The final budget is expected to be approved on that day.
During Monday’s capital budget discussions staff suggested spending the unallocated $1 million on three areas: affordable housing, facility upgrades at community centres or maintenance of community trails.
Most councillors agreed that the money should be spent on affordable housing, while others would also like to see some of the money used on winter maintenance of the city’s trails.
The 2022 projected capital budget is $134 million. The 10-year forecast is $1.4 billion for 400 projects, such as parks, roads, sewers and community centres.
Next year’s capital budget outlines expenditures such as $1.6 million on a centralized customer service counter at city hall, first-year implementation of a 40-kilometre speed limit on neighbourhood streets costing $550,000, and $3.6 million for downtown infrastructure improvements.
The budget also includes $350,000 for Indigenous placemaking in Victoria Park. The city has had ongoing discussions with local Indigenous groups who say there is a need for a permanent gathering space, said Niall Lobley, director of parks and cemeteries.
“The goal of the Indigenous placemaking project and funding requests is to support the creation of outdoor spaces that are safe and welcoming to Indigenous groups and community members looking to host ceremonies, events and gatherings,” he said. The project is Indigenous-led and supported by the city.
More than 50 per cent of the money for the capital budget comes from utilities, including water, sewer and stormwater, as well as parking and revenues from golf courses. Other monies come from taxes and development charges and grants.
Kitchener is proposing a 1.9 per cent property tax hike, resulting in an average increase of $21. It is also looking at a 2.2 per cent increase, or $26, for water, sewer and stormwater fees.
The gas portion is the biggest increase at 10 per cent or $75 a year. Councillors are expected to approve the utilities and gas rates on Tuesday.
The 2022 operating budget is projected at $445 million. In reserve funds, the city has $113 million.
Liz Monteiro is a Waterloo Region-based general assignment reporter for The Record. Reach her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
KITCHENER — The eviction of five homeless people from a strip of regionally owned land was mishandled and was “not who we are,” the region’s top civil servant said Monday.
“There’s no question that our approach on Friday was wrong and as chief administrative officer, I take full accountability,” Bruce Lauckner told regional councillors at a budget meeting Monday afternoon.
Lauckner apologized for the way the people were evicted Friday from a strip of public land about 10 metres from the light rail tracks that run down the centre of Charles Street in downtown Kitchener.
Bylaw officers delivered the eviction notices, but called in police and outreach workers after two of the squatters refused to leave. A bulldozer was used to clear out the campers’ belongings, including a couch and mattress.
Lauckner accepted responsibility for the way the eviction was handled, saying “we need to do better and we will do better.”
“Seeing the images from Friday hit a lot of people hard. It hit me hard. This is not who we are,” he said.
The eviction was enforced by two bylaw officers. About six police officers and some outreach workers were present. They called in police after two of the five campers refused to leave.
Regional bylaw acted after receiving complaints from residents, who were worried about public safety, including the nearness to a high school and a bus shelter, as well as discarded needles, said Rod Regier, the commissioner of planning, development and legislative services.
Staff from the licensing and enforcement division visited the tents and found out it was on public property and had been there since late September.
They followed the procedure for evicting people from regional property, outlined in a 2013 bylaw, Regier said. The bylaw includes provisions to call in police if needed.
Regier said the licensing and enforcement division then contacted staff from regional housing.
“These staff worked with mobile homeless outreach services to meet and connect with the people at the encampment (and) aid them with information about shelter and support availability,” he said.
“As these conversations about services were taking place, we can confirm that there was sufficient space in the shelter system for all individuals at the encampment.”
On Nov. 24 eviction notice was given out by hand and posted on the tents, detailing an order to leave the area by Nov. 26 at 9 a.m.
Regier said when staff arrived at the encampment on Friday at 10 a.m., only two of the five people living there remained and said they did not intend to leave.
That’s when police were called, he said, arriving 45 minutes later. The remaining two people left by 2 p.m. and cleanup of leftover personal belonging began.
Regier said heavy equipment was used because of unsanitary conditions, large items like a mattress and couch, and exposed sharps.
“While the decision to remove belongings with heavy equipment was made to protect the health and safety of staff and community, the manner in which this was carried out does not reflect the dignity of those living at the encampment,” he said.
Lauckner said the region is still waiting to hear back from outreach services about the well-being of the five people who were evicted.
On Saturday, the region said a review of this eviction process would be conducted, including ways to improve them in the future. The questions of whether police should be involved in this process will be addressed, as the report is worked on throughout December, said Lauckner
Coun. Sean Strickland described the eviction as a “complete operational and governance breakdown” within the region.
“For such a sensitive operation and contemplating using such an excessive amount of force, council and the chair needed to be briefed,” said Strickland.
Regional council Chair Karen Redman did not comment or ask questions to the regional staff.
Cheyenne Bholla is a Waterloo Region-based reporter at The Record. Reach her via email: email@example.com
CAMBRIDGE — City staff have completed their update on rebuilding the Riverside dam in Cambridge.
Included in the report is a recommendation from the city manager to end the project.
The recommendation is that the project “not be approved to proceed” and that the detailed design of the project “not continue and the account be closed with the year-end capital forecast report.”
Additionally, the manager recommends that the current dam be passively managed with inspections and monitoring, at a cost of up to $30,000 per year.
The design of the dam is 60 per cent complete, according to the report. Originally, a total of $493,266 was approved for the Riverside dam detailed design assignment. Now, staff are asking for an additional $375,000 for “potential future archeological and design work not included as part of the original design scope.”
The estimated costs of completing the dam itself have risen substantially. Originally, city staff estimated the dam would cost just over $6.2 million. Now, the total construction cost is estimated at $15.2 million, and $35,000 annually to operate it.
This increase is due mainly to extra requirements the Ministry of Environment added to the design, including gates to reduce flooding potential and allow sediment to pass, a way for fish to pass through, health and safety measures for staff, and fencing, signs and barriers to prevent recreational use near the dam.
Other reasons the cost increased include inflation, lack of accuracy in the initial estimate, and additional costs to finish the design of the project, according to the report.
The project will be financed by debt, according to the report.
The alternative to re-naturalize the river and remove the dam is estimated to cost $8.5 million, plus $600,000 to reopen the environmental assessment and change the design.
If the dam is built, staff propose the dam’s gates are left open in the fall and closed in the spring. While the gates are open, the river will flow freely and sediment and fish will pass through. When they are closed, they will provide the same water levels and park vista that exist now.
In the report, staff suggest salvaging stone from the original dam to create a historic, interpretive landscape feature to “commemorate the heritage value of the existing dam,” as well as creating another landscape feature to recognize the historic Indigenous use of the area.
Staff will present the report to council at the budget meeting which begins this week.
Leah Gerber is a Waterloo Region-based general assignment reporter for The Record. Reach her via firstname.lastname@example.org
KITCHENER — Police found hundreds of firearms in a 90-year-old Kitchener man’s house.
On Oct. 30, 2019, passersby called 911 after seeing the man in medical distress in his Kitchener neighbourhood. Paramedics found him on his porch. They asked police officers to enter the house to find his identification or someone who knew his medical history.
Police saw rifles “propped up in the living room,” Crown prosecutor Aaron McMaster said in Kitchener court.
When officers returned with a search warrant, they found 325 firearms and multiple rounds of ammunition.
Many of the guns were non-restricted and legally possessed either by the 90-year-old man or his son, McMaster said.
But a few of the firearms were fully automatic and some were restricted and not registered to either man.
It wasn’t made clear in court why the man, now 92, had so many guns in his house, although McMaster said some of the firearms have “historical or sentimental significance to the family.”
The guns and ammunition were seized and charges, including careless storage of firearms, were laid. The older man’s firearms licence was revoked because of the charges and he can’t get it restored due to a medical condition.
Because of the man’s age and medical issues, “there is effectively no public interest in prosecuting this gentleman at this point in time,” McMaster said.
As part of a deal to withdraw the charges, the son agreed to a three-year weapons ban. A handful of the firearms with sentimental value will be transferred to his brother, who has a firearms licence. The rest will be forfeited.
The son did not live with his father and did not own any of the illegal firearms, said his defence lawyer, Fady Mansour. The father was represented by defence lawyer Sarah Cheshire.
Gordon Paul is a Waterloo Region-based reporter focusing on crime for The Record. Reach him via email: email@example.com