Quebec town of Asbestos votes to change name to Val-des-Sources

A new name for Asbestos

The Quebec town synonymous with the cancer-causing fibre asbestos has voted for a new name: Val-des-Sources.

During a livestreamed council meeting Monday night, Mayor Hugues Grimard announced that Val-des-Sources beat five other proposed names with 51.5 per cent of the vote after three rounds.

"It's a name that represents our area, and especially, it's inspiring for the future," he said.

The 7,000-person town of Asbestos, located about 130 km east of Montreal, had been looking to shed its association with the toxic mineral. Political and business leaders in the town complained for years the name attracted ridicule and disgust in the rest of the country and internationally.

Asbestos, Que., helped make Canada one the world's leaders in asbestos exports. The Jeffrey mine, once Canada's largest, closed in 2012.

Asbestos residents over the age of 14 and local property owners were eligible to cast their votes among six proposed names: L'Azur-des-Cantons, Jeffrey-sur-le-Lac, Larochelle, Phenix, Trois-Lacs and Val-des-Sources.

Grimard said the new name reflects "the landscape and our roots." The word "source," he said, describes how town is located at the confluence of three lakes. And it's a symbol, he said, of what the town wants to become.

"Together, we will be the source of the development of our city."

Long used in building materials such as ceiling tiles and cement, asbestos is now banned in many countries.

The name Val-des-Sources was officially adopted by council and Grimard said it will be proposed to the provincial government for approval. He said there is no prescribed deadline for the Department of Municipal Affairs to accept or reject the proposed new name.

In total, 2,796 people voted between Oct. 14-18, representing about 48 per cent of eligible voters.


Opposition parties demand passenger refunds as condition of any airline bailouts

Refunds before bailouts

The Liberal government should ensure airline passengers receive refunds for flights cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, opposition parties demanded Monday.

The demand follows seven months of trickling revenues for carriers devastated by the collapse in global travel, with passenger numbers in Canada down 90 per cent year over year in July and little improvement since.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc left the door open to a bailout, including the purchase of airline shares by Ottawa, in an interview with CTV's Question Period on Sunday.

LeBlanc said Canadians expect stringent conditions on any federal airline funding, such as addressing the issue of travel vouchers.

The Conservatives and NDP highlighted reimbursement as a key condition of a potential bailout.

“If sector support is provided, it absolutely must be tied to refunds for passengers," Conservative transport critic Stephanie Kusie said in an email, calling the need for aid "beyond urgent."

NDP transport critic Niki Ashton said thousands of customers have been "ripped off" after paying for a service that was never rendered and receiving travel vouchers instead of reimbursement, leaving many out of pocket during a recession.

"It’s not about helping CEOs, it’s about protecting Canadian jobs and making sure passengers get their money back," Ashton said during question period in the House of Commons.

She called for a rescue package that shields both jobs and consumers, prompting an acknowledgment from Transport Minister Marc Garneau that there have been "great difficulties" facing airlines and airports.

"We are working on solutions that will ensure that Canadians are able to have safe, reliable and efficient travel when we pull out of this pandemic," Garneau said.

Regional airlines are also demanding immediate action from Ottawa to prop up the beleaguered sector, but reject the idea of a federal stake in carriers — one of several prospects being floated.

John McKenna, president of the Air Transport Association of Canada, says the government has not responded to requests for cash over the past six months, leaving Canada as the only G7 country to hold off on pledging major financial aid for an industry devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"God, no, we don’t need a stake in airlines … The cost controls would be incredible," said McKenna, whose trade organization represents some 30 regional airlines.

"We need liquidity, no-interest loans, maybe forgivable loans … because fixing is a lot easier than replacing."

The United States and some European countries have demanded airlines provide reimbursement while offering them billions in financial aid, with other strings attached that include 20 per cent government ownership in the case of Lufthansa and emissions-reduction commitments from Air France-KLM.

John Gradek, who heads McGill University's Global Aviation Leadership program, says a federal stake does not necessarily trigger a shift in management behaviour or market practices.

"When the French and German governments invested, they received up to 20 per cent ownership, with board seats, and that was acceptable to airline management. And they remain fierce commercial competitors," Gradek said.

"Having a government provide a say through board representation would keep the airline from making decisions against the public interest, a notion that seems to be abhorrent to some Canadian airline managers."

If market trends continue, some airlines may have little leverage in aid talks with the government.

Last week, WestJet Airlines announced it will suspend operations to four cities in Atlantic Canada and slash service to others in the region. Air Canada halted service on 30 regional routes starting in July, mainly affecting travellers to and from the Maritimes, Quebec and Saskatchewan.

The two carriers have laid off or furloughed more than 30,000 employees since March. Air Canada continues to bleed about $16 million per day, though it has also secured $6 billion in liquidity and held on to more than $2.4 billion in advance ticket sales — unrefunded fares — as of July 31.

On Monday, Bloc Québécois transport critic Xavier Barsalou-Duval was poised to table a petition with 32,789 signatures calling on the government to require carriers to allow customer refunds for cancelled flights.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged $41 million in emergency funding for northern airlines to ensure services for remote communities.

In 2009, Ottawa contributed $13.7 billion to the bailouts of Chrysler Group and General Motors as part of its response to the global financial crisis, and ultimately left taxpayers $3.5 billion short of breaking even on their investment after the government sold off the last of its shares in the auto giants in 2015.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees has said a federal stake in airlines should be a condition of any assistance from Ottawa, on top of significant carve-outs to protect the 15,000 flight attendants it represents.

Airlines hope Ottawa will co-ordinate changing current travel restrictions, which include two-week quarantines for new arrivals in Canada and the Atlantic "bubble" mandating two weeks of self-isolation for anyone entering the region.

McKenna says rapid testing could take the place of such barriers.

"The thing they really need to do is to make sure that these quarantines are abolished. We have control measures, temperature checks," the trade group president said.

Health Canada warning about counterfeit hand sanitizer

Counterfeit hand sanitizer

Health Canada has issued a alert after a counterfeit version of a hand sanitizer brand was found for sale in Ontario and may have been on shelves across the country.

The bottles of liquid, found on sale at a Dollarama in Thunder Bay, have an unknown liquid in them, according to Health Canada, and may not kill bacteria or viruses.

"A counterfeit version of Daily Shield hand sanitizer (labelled with NPN 80098979, Lot 6942, Expiry May 2023) has been found for sale at a Dollarama location in Thunder Bay and may have been sold at Dollarama stores across Canada. Health Canada is confirming the complete list of locations where the product was sold," states the federal agency.

Health Canada was alerted to the issue by Bio Life Science Corp., the company that produces the Daily Shield Brand. As the source of the counterfeit bottles isn't known, it could be a health risk.

"This counterfeit product is suspected to contain methanol, which is not authorized for use in hand sanitizers and could cause severe adverse reactions or death when ingested," states Health Canada on their website.

Dollarama is pulling the Daily Shield brand from its shelves across Canada and Health Canada is investigating further, including figuring out where else it may have been sold. Dollarama has over 1,000 stores across Canada including more than a dozen throughout the Thompson-Okanagan.


Nova Scotia restaurants boycott lobster in support of Mi'kmaq self-regulated fishery

Restaurants boycott lobster

Restaurants in Nova Scotia are cutting lobster from their menu in support of Mi'kmaq fishers, who have been targeted with violence in a dispute with commercial harvesters.

Matt Boyle, co-owner of Dear Friend bar in Dartmouth, N.S., said today he removed the lobster roll from his menu as a way to raise awareness to the conflict between Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishers.

Boyle says he received some backlash on social media but says his patrons and colleagues in the local bar community have been supportive.

Kourosh Rad, owner of Garden Food Bar in Halifax, says his restaurant will keep the crustacean off the menu until he can buy the product from Indigenous fishers.

Commercial fishers are angry the Mi'kmaq have started a self-regulated lobster fishery that harvests the animals outside the federally regulated fishing season.

The RCMP is investigating a fire over the weekend that destroyed a lobster pound in Middle West Pubnico containing the lobster catch of Mi'kmaq fishers.

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Monday, Oct. 19

COVID-19: today's numbers

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of Oct. 19, 2020:

There are 199,973 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 94,429 confirmed (including 6,044 deaths, 79,529 resolved)

_ Ontario: 65,075 confirmed (including 3,050 deaths, 55,978 resolved)

_ Alberta: 21,775 confirmed (including 288 deaths, 18,651 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 11,189 confirmed (including 251 deaths, 9,387 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 3,382 confirmed (including 42 deaths, 1,597 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 2,330 confirmed (including 25 deaths, 1,963 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 1,097 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,026 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 310 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 203 resolved)

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 287 confirmed (including 4 deaths, 272 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 63 confirmed (including 60 resolved)

_ Yukon: 15 confirmed (including 15 resolved)

_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)

_ Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved), 3 presumptive

_ Nunavut: No confirmed cases

_ Total: 199,973 (3 presumptive, 199,970 confirmed including 9,772 deaths, 168,699 resolved)

More RCMP deployed in Nova Scotia to keep peace in lobster dispute

More RCMP to lobster war

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says more RCMP officers have been deployed to respond to the escalating treaty dispute between commercial fishers and Mi'kmaq fishers in southwest Nova Scotia.

Speaking in an Ottawa news conference with three other ministers, Blair said Nova Scotia RCMP are now able to draw on RCMP resources from neighbouring provinces within the Atlantic bubble.

"The RCMP reports that they have deployed ground resources, resources on the water, liaison teams and investigative resources required to maintain the peace and uphold the law at that location," Blair said.

He said a number of Indigenous officers from the community are being supplemented by Mounties from Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.

"These officers are conducting supplemental uniform patrols to high risk areas maintaining a strong presence," he said.

"The officers have access to an RCMP vessel, and they're able to patrol in the water."

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said the acts of violence that targeted Mi'kmaq fishers in the past days and weeks are disgusting, unacceptable and racist, and that Indigenous people have been let down by the police who are sworn to protect them.

"Every person in Canada, whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous, must be able to feel safe in their home communities," Miller said,

"The Mi'kmaq have a constitutionally protected right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood."

He said Indigenous people have experienced continuous discrimination and still suffer the consequences of colonial practices.

Blair said there is a need for significant reform to how police work in Indigenous communities.

"I do acknowledge that there are there are concerns within Indigenous communities," Blair said. "We're working hard to resolve them."

Non-Indigenous fishers in Nova Scotia take issue with the Mi'kmaq people fishing outside the federally determined fishing season, but the ministers say a treaty right for the Mik'maq to fish for a moderate living is constitutionally protected.

The RCMP is investigating several assaults that targeted Indigenous people and properties including an attack on Chief Michael Sack. A suspect was arrested and released from custody with conditions to have no further contact with the chief.

Sack has said he doesn't welcome the RCMP's involvement. He said the military is needed on the ground to protect Mi'kmaq fishers.

Blair said this isn't a military operation.

"It is a peacekeeping operation and it is the responsibility of the police," he said. "We have taken steps necessary to ensure that (the RCMP) have adequate resources to do the job."

He said the RCMP know that they have a responsibility to maintain the peace, and when crimes are committed people are to be charged and held to account.

"Those investigations are ongoing. Those court cases will proceed."

Trudeaus' speaking fees, expenses disclosed by WE Charity

How much WE paid Sophie

WE Charity covered nearly $24,000 in expenses for Sophie Grégoire Trudeau's attendance at eight events over eight years.

The dollar amount was released today as part of several documents published by WE Charity that had been sought by the House of Commons finance committee.

At the same time, the minority Liberals have released a list of all paid speaking engagements taken on by Justin Trudeau before he became prime minister.

That disclosure had also been sought by the Opposition, and both come as political tensions ratchet up over how deeply MPs can dive into the WE Charity issue and COVID-19 spending as a whole.

The Opposition wants a special committee struck, one the Tories have framed as being an "anticorruption" probe, and may put that idea up for a vote Tuesday.

The Liberals say they support a special COVID-19 spending committee, but the Tories' pitch, if it goes ahead, would raise questions about whether the House has confidence in the government. 

Canada-US border closure extended until at least Nov. 21

Border closure extended

The ban on non-essential travel between Canada and the U.S. has been extended until at least Nov. 21.

Canada’s public safety minister, Bill Blair, made the announcement on social media on Monday morning.

The news extends the current ban – which includes vacations, day trips and shopping – which has been in place since close to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March.

The ban, however, doesn’t apply to people that provide essential services in either country, including trade shipments and cross-border workers.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the ban won’t be lifted until there’s clear evidence that the pandemic is slowing across the border.

Alberta air tanker fleet helps in U.S. as fewer fires in Canada this year

Slow year for fire tankers

A family-run company providing air-tanker support to control menacing wildfires in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Yukon is a little less busy these days, but it has nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It has been really quiet on the fire front in both Alberta and B.C. the past two or three years. You get areas of intense activity and then a lot of tedium waiting for things to happen," says Paul Lane, vice-president and chief operating officer of Airspray Airtankers, which has a maintenance hangar at the airport in Red Deer, Alta.

There have been about 700 wildfires in Alberta this year with 32 square kilometres lost compared with the five-year average of 1,300 fires and 4,100 square kilometres burned.

In B.C. there have been about 650 fires with 154 square kilometres lost compared with to the average of 1,758 blazes and 3,690 square kilometres of forest burned.

Airspray has contracts with governments and is on call each fire season.

The backbone of its western Canadian fleet is the Lockheed Electra, a four turboprop-engine plane, about the size of a 737, It's equipped with a 12,000-litre belly tank that drops a mud slurry fire retardant from about 45 metres above the ground.

"It allows the ground crews to go in and work safely in terms of extinguishing the fire. It creates essentially a firebreak and we can drop anywhere from a twelfth of a load to a full salvo," says Lane.

"Typically these are the first guys out, particularly in Western Canada."

The fleet also includes 10 smaller bird dog aircraft, which carry command-and-control air-attack officers, who oversee how a fire is fought, including management of ground crews and helicopters dropping water.

Lane says the business that has been in operation for nearly 50 years. It has 54 aircraft with 35 based in Canada. The U.S. operation is located in Chico, Calif.

"We are running skimmer aircraft in Washington and Oregon and so those aircraft were quite busy particularly toward the end of the season."

Raging fires in both states, as well as in California, have burned millions of hectares, caused deaths and destroyed hundreds of structures in the U.S. west coast’s worst fire season in 70 years.

The winter months involve full maintenance on the air fleet.

Lane says the 60 pilots working for Airspray have at least 8,000 hours experience before being hired. They are recalled at the end of February for retraining before the fire season gets underway.

"Many of our pilots have been with us for many years and so they work for us in the summer and many of them did work for the airlines or did other types of flying in the winter.

"What you don't want is any complacency in the cockpit, particularly when you're flying that close to the ground."

Lane believes wildfires have become more dangerous in recent years because people are living closer to where fires start.

"If you look at the canyons in California, they're more and more becoming populated with extremely large houses and infrastructure," he says.

"Even in Alberta, even in B.C., you'll see much more pipeline infrastructure, much more infrastructure around cellphone towers, much more infrastructure with pipelines. Those elements give a greater need of defensible infrastructure."

Canada inches toward to 200,000 COVID-19 case mark, with most new cases in Quebec

Closing in on 200,000 cases

Canada's COVID-19 caseload edged closer to the 200,000 mark on Sunday after a weekend in which Quebec had the majority of new infections and public health officials urged Canadians to remain united in their efforts to combat the pandemic.

The country reported 1,827 new cases Sunday, for a total of 198,151 infections.

Quebec accounted for 1,094 of those new cases, marking the third day in a row the province has had more than 1,000 infections.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube tweeted that the number of hospitalizations in the province continues to rise and urged residents to "break the wave to slow this down" and "protect the most vulnerable."

Ontario reported the second-highest number of new cases Sunday at 658, while Manitoba had 44, Saskatchewan logged 24, New Brunswick posted five and Nova Scotia had two. Health authorities said the new cases in the Atlantic provinces were related to travel outside the region

Ontario has taken steps to curb the spike in cases in four hot spots by reverting them to a modified Stage 2 of pandemic recovery, which includes the closure of gyms and movie theatres, and a ban on indoor dining in restaurants or bars.

Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa moved to the modified Stage 2 on Oct. 10 and York Region will join them on Monday.

"Our challenge now and going forward is to remain united in our efforts to get all of Canada back on a 'slow burn,'" Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said Sunday in a statement.

"Our goal is to reduce cases of COVID-19 infection to manageable levels. But public health cannot do this alone. Everyone is needed on the frontlines, from essential workers to volunteers to businesses, workplaces, and everyday citizens across Canada."

Tam added individuals "can go the extra mile" by downloading the COVID Alert contact tracing app or "sharing credible information" on COVID-19 risks and prevention measures via social media.

Her sentiments echoed those in a statement on Saturday, when she stressed the importance of a "collective effort," even though the pandemic is affecting each part of the country differently.

As of Sunday, there have been 9,760 COVID-19-related deaths in Canada.

The federal Conservatives on Sunday called for the House of Commons’ health committee to investigate Ottawa’s preparations for a second wave of COVID-19, with Tory health critic Michelle Rempel Garner accusing the Liberal government of being caught flatfooted despite expectations that there would be a resurgence in the number of cases in the fall and winter.

"As businesses are closed in another series of COVID related economic shutdowns, we are looking for answers as to why the federal government left Canadians unprepared to deal with this second wave,” Rempel Garner said during a news conference as MPs prepared for the resumption of Parliament on Monday.

“We need these answers so that we can move forward and keep Canadians safe while also keeping things open.”

Nine out of ten Canadians won't trick or treat, shows new survey

Trick or treating not popular

New data reveals 62 per cent of Canadian adults will opt out of celebrating Halloween this year, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The survey published by global comparison site Finder.com also shows about nine out of 10 Canadians will turn down the opportunity to go trick or treating. 

One in 20 Canadians say they are planning to either host or attend a Halloween party, and young people aged 18 to 24 years old are the most likely to attend these celebrations, with one in 10 saying they will celebrate. 

Despite 90 per cent of Canadians saying they won't trick or treat this year, the tradition is most likely to occur in the Prairie provinces, with 13 per cent saying they would participate. 

In B.C., just nine per cent of survey respondents say they have plans to trick or treat, and in Quebec, this is reduced to seven per cent. 

Canadians aged 35 to 44 years old, likely those with young children, are the most likely to participate in trick or treating.

The research suggests about $1.4 billion is spent by Canadians each year on Halloween celebrations, which could be significantly less this year given current indications. 

To view the full report, click here

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Oct. 18

COVID-19: latest numbers

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 11 a.m. on Oct. 18, 2020:

There are 198,127 confirmed cases in Canada.

  • Quebec: 93,391 confirmed (including 6,038 deaths, 78,559 resolved)
  • Ontario: 64,371 confirmed (including 3,046 deaths, 55,371 resolved)
  • Alberta: 21,775 confirmed (including 288 deaths, 18,651 resolved)
  • British Columbia: 11,189 confirmed (including 251 deaths, 9,387 resolved)
  • Manitoba: 3,302 confirmed (including 40 deaths, 1,587 resolved)
  • Saskatchewan: 2,306 confirmed (including 25 deaths, 1,955 resolved)
  • Nova Scotia: 1,097 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,026 resolved)
  • New Brunswick: 310 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 203 resolved)
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 287 confirmed (including 4 deaths, 272 resolved)
  • Prince Edward Island: 63 confirmed (including 60 resolved)
  • Yukon: 15 confirmed (including 15 resolved)
  • Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)
  • Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved), 3 presumptive
  • Nunavut: No confirmed cases

Total: 198,127 (3 presumptive, 198,124 confirmed including 9,760 deaths, 167,104 resolved)

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