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Campbellton and Listuguj First Nation need healing from border closure, leaders say

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New Brunswick’s bubble might be expanding with a region in Quebec this weekend, but it will take a long time for two communities to heal from the separation, according to the Campbellton mayor and the chief of Listuguj First Nation in Quebec.

The two communities are just a bridge apart and have always been closely intertwined. But they were cut off from one another since the pandemic hit and New Brunswick closed its borders in March. This resulted in families being separated, businesses suffering losses, and people not able to receive essential services. 

“We have to demonstrate there’s healing and reconnecting that needs to happen,” said Darcy Gray, chief of Listuguj First Nation, who describes the reunification as “stitching the two communities back together.”

Gray has expressed his concern over hurtful comments and discrimination directed at Quebecers and Mi’kmaq residents that could linger, even after the border reopens.

“It’s going to take goodwill and lots of understanding of the frustration,” said Campbellton Mayor Stephanie Anglehart-Paulin

New Brunswick will welcome visitors from two Quebec border regions who pre-register for day trips only, starting Saturday, Premier Blaine Higgs announced on Thursday.

Residents of Avignon Regional County Municipality, which borders Restigouche County and includes Listuguj First Nation and Pointe-à-la-Croix, and of Témiscouata Regional County Municipality, which borders Madawaska County will be able to cross into the province without having to self-isolate.

Quebec residents in Listuguj and Pointe-à-la-Croix often travel across the Baie des Chaleurs to get supplies in Campbellton. (Serge Bouchard/Radio-Canada)

“They’re going to be able to freely come across and go to where they need to go and not be followed, [which] to me means everything,” said Anglehart-Paulin.

New Brunswickers will be able to travel to the Quebec communities and not have to self-isolate on their return.

The travel bubble expansion applies only to those regions and not the rest of Quebec, Higgs told reporters Thursday. 

Expansion didn’t come without pressure 

Gray and Anglehart-Paulin said the expansion didn’t come without pressure, a lot of discussion and some education from the two communities.

“It’s been a long haul right from the beginning,” the mayor said.

Listuguj Chief Darcy Gray said it will take a long time for the two communities to ‘stitch back together.’ (Isabelle Larose/Radio-Canada)

Although they were disappointed it took so long to expand the bubble, the leaders are pleased families will be able to reunite. They said people from Listuguj First Nation will be able to access essential services, such as groceries and the hospital. 

Listuguj First Nation adapted to the closed border by shopping and working with businesses in Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula. Campbellton businesses advocated allowing Listuguj and other neighbouring municipalities into the Atlantic travel bubble, which opened earlier this month.

With the daytime bubble, businesses in Campbellton will likely to see an increase in sales. Anglehart-Paulin said most restaurants and stores receive about 50 per cent of their business from the Quebec community, 

“The businesses are ready,” she said. 

Pushing through the noise

Anglehart-Paulin heard about the expansion from the media earlier this month, while Gray found out about it after a phone call he received from Higgs on July 10, which he said was encouraging. 

“It’s not a perfect solution, but I don’t think it’s the end either,” Gray said. “There’s more work to be done.”

Now that the borders will be opening, the two leaders said they will be in constant communication to bring the two communities back together. 

Campbellton Mayor Stephanie Anglehart-Paulin said the two communities are hoping to have an emergency plan in place so a separation like this won’t happen again. (RADIO-CANADA / STÉPHANIE BLANCHET)

“That’s the only way leaders can push through this noise,” she said.

Higgs said any other areas or the rest of Canada won’t be considered for at least two weeks, until he sees how the minor Quebec bubble is working, he said. The coronavirus has an estimated incubation period of up to 14 days.

Anglehart-Paulin said the two communities are also hoping to have an emergency plan in place so a separation like this one won’t happen again.

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Old Navy and IFR Workwear awarded $4.2M contract to make masks for Alberta students

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Alberta has placed two orders for 1.7 million masks for students as they return to in-person classes this fall.

The contracts, valued at a total of $4.2 million, were placed with Old Navy and IFR Workwear.

Old Navy is a clothing company owned by U.S. multinational The Gap. It brought in $4 billion in revenue last year. IFR, according to the company’s catalogue, is a family-owned business founded in 2005, and two of the founders are Métis. The company is based in north Red Deer, which is Education Minister Adriana LaGrange’s riding.

LaGrange said in an emailed release on Saturday that “some have recently questioned the ability” of the provincial government to purchase the needed number of masks in time for the start of K-12 classes this September.

LaGrange said when a decision on how students would return to class was announced on July 21, a decision on masks was still pending, so Alberta Education and the Provincial Operations Centre began preparing in case masks were made mandatory.

On Tuesday, LaGrange and Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced that all Alberta school staff and students from Grade 4 to 12 will be required to wear masks — and that all staff and students will be given two reusable masks from the government.

“Given the expediency required, the [Provincial Operations Centre] has directly approached experienced, established vendors to fulfil personal protective equipment (PPE) needs for school reopenings,” LaGrange said. 

“Government of Alberta contracting policies allow for this expedited process in urgent situations, as a standard request for proposal tendering process would not allow the government to fulfil our schools’ needs in the timely manner required.”

LaGrange said the province appreciates the eagerness of local businesses that have offered to help with the effort, but that often those businesses manufactured non-PPE products before the pandemic and/or have limited production capacity.

Timothy Gerwing, a spokesperson for the minister of municipal affairs, which the Provincial Operations Centre falls under, said companies had to meet both quality requirements and the demands of filling such a large order in a manner of weeks. 

“The primary goal is getting the masks into the hands of Alberta families for the resumption of classes,” he said in an emailed statement. 

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Meet the U.S. park ranger who welcomes Canadians at a unique open section of the border

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Even though the Canadian side of the border-straddling Peace Arch park was closed in June, people have continued flocking to the American portion of the park.

The self-described lone ranger who oversees the American side of the park greets them all.

Rickey Blank, 68, has no problem with Canadians hopping over a shallow ditch by 0 Avenue in Surrey, B.C., to mingle, picnic and often embrace Americans, then head home — even though the international border has been closed to non-essential traffic since March 21 due to COVID-19.

In the first few months of the pandemic, the unusual park that straddles two countries at the B.C.-Washington state border became an oasis of human connection in a time of profound isolation. 

It was the only spot on the border where people could wander in and out from either side, offering a loophole for couples and family members cut off from each other when the border was closed.

Peace Arch Provincial Park — the park’s Canadian side — was closed on June 18 due to concerns about overcrowding. But that hasn’t deterred many Canadians from crossing over into Peace Arch Historical State Park — the park’s U.S. side — by using 0 Avenue, the nearby road that runs parallel to the border.

But that’s led to concerns among some about a porous border, given the rising numbers of COVID-19 infections in the U.S.

‘A special spot’

In his almost 50 years as a U.S. park ranger, Blank has never seen a summer like 2020.

In the parking lot on the U.S. side — where the site is called the Peace Arch Historical State Park — there are licence plates from almost every state.

“I would have never imagined anything like this ever happening. Our borders are closed and people from America and Canada are just unable to share time together. This is a special spot, right now in this time, for folks to go ahead and meet,” Blank said.

Ranger Rick Blank snaps a photo for a group touring the park on Aug. 5. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

On patrol, he says he sees people seeking a bit of normalcy. He’s watched a woman meet her granddaughter for the first time, a mother and daughter reunite after 50 years and three marriage proposals — and that was just last Saturday.

Canadians have walked freely into the American park for 99 years and COVID-19 has not seen it fenced — so far.

“The park has been looked at to close but I was never worried. I just knew this would be treasured, and especially after the provincial park had to close — this is now more treasured,” said Blank, who is expecting up to 250,000 extra visitors this year.

Blank took over as park manager about a year-and-a-half ago. He’s in charge of 20 acres of grass, 21 flower beds and the white Peace Arch monument owned by Washington State Parks. The 20-metre-high structure was built to honour the War of 1812 treaties that ensure a peaceful border.

Ranger Rick Blank patrolling the Peace Arch Historical State Park on Aug. 5. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

‘Now is not the time’

But some park neighbours do not like the new crowds. They fear nefarious things are happening there, like people crossing into Canada and not returning. Some fear COVID-19 could also be transmitted. Visitors to the U.S. side of the park can walk in and out with no controls or quarantine provisions.

Surrey resident John Kageorge, 20, lives across from the park and wants it kept empty and safety rules followed.

“I know there’s this pent-up cabin fever. People have just got to get across. But now is not the time,” he said.

Surrey RCMP Cpl. Daniel Michaud says police have surveillance on the park and know people are circumventing quarantine rules.

But officers are focusing on education and erring on the side of compassion, he says.

As for asylum seekers, B.C. has seen 39 since January and only a few were near Peace Arch Provincial Park, Michaud says.

Sera Acacia under the park’s sequoia tree on Aug. 5. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Ask Blank if he’s concerned about criminals and he appears more concerned about the health of the park’s sequoia.

Sitting under the tree is Sera Acacia, an American waiting to meet a romantic interest who he’s not seen since February.

“I had difficulty sleeping last night because I’m very excited to see them,” Acacia says.

Blank greets Acacia and moves on. He knows that the odd stuffed toy or gift has made it over the border through this park, but he shrugs. He said his job is to mow the lawns and tell visitors to split into clusters of five, stay six feet apart and wear masks in the washroom.

Peace Arch Provincial Park — the Canadian side of the border-straddling park — was closed because of overcrowding concerns on June 18. (Yvette Brend/CBC News)

He is confident that activities in the park are caught on camera, and few crimes pierce this peaceful bubble.

“If I saw something overt I’d have to take action, but I have not seen that. I just think it would be foolhardy to do something like that. Has it happened? Probably, yes. I don’t know,” said Blank.

He apologizes that the Peace Arch monument is under wraps, as it gets refurbished for its upcoming 100th anniversary in 2021.

Blank strides along, speaking of his daughters, two of whom live in Vancouver.

“I think it’s pretty special that we’ve had a border that hasn’t been fenced — and we are so intermingled and intertwined,” said Blank.

“I love the people that are here.”

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Ontario reporting incidents of mosquitoes positive with West Nile virus

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Expert urges residents to take steps to make their properties less mosquito-friendly

We are only halfway through the mosquito season in Northern Ontario, but already mosquitoes have been discovered that tested positive for the West Nile virus in Ontario. It has prompted public health officials in a couple of Southern Ontario communities (Hamilton, Alliston) to advise residents to take precautions.

The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes and usually produces only mild flu-like symptoms for most people. In some cases it can result in serious illnesses such as meningitis and encephalitis, usually in older adults (50+) and those with weakened immune systems. 

According to Health Canada a West Nile virus infection can result from the bite of an infected mosquito, usually one that has previously fed on the blood of an infected bird. 

Sean Rollo, an entomologist with Orkin Canada, a company that specializes in pest control, said in most situations mosquitoes are just a nuisance, but they are still troublesome.

“In terms of West Nile virus it is certainly something to be concerned about, perhaps a senior citizen with a compromised immune system; sometimes the very, very young as well do not have a well-developed immune system. That’s where West Nile tends to be more of a concern,” said Rollo.

He said the reports on positive cases for mosquitoes caught in traps in Ontario may be some of the first reported in Canada this year. Rollo said that doesn’t mean there are not other cases, just that cases do not always get reported. He said the mosquito season in Northern Ontario 

usually runs from late May to early September. 

He said the first human clinical case reported in Canada was back in 2002. There were 414 human cases reported in Canada that year. Since then, said Rollo, the numbers have risen and fallen over the years. The high was 2007 with more than 2200 cases. The lowest year was 2010 with only five human cases reported in Canada.

He said in most cases mosquitoes can be controlled by the application of a non-toxic larvae killing agent that can be applied to a specific area. In some cases it can be a large area such as a municipal park. In other cases it can be a smaller area such as a commercial or residential property. Rollo said for privacy reasons he could not reveal the names of any clients in Greater Sudbury or Northern Ontario that have purchased control services. He said there are many in both the public and private sectors.

In past years, Public Health Sudbury and Districts has carried out surveillance and mosquito trapping programs. The health unit has also provided education and awareness programs directed at encouraging property owners to remove areas of standing water, such as bird baths, roof gutters or large puddles where mosquitoes could lay eggs.  

Rollo said this year with the COVID-19 pandemic Orkin has experienced a big spike in the number of calls from people concerned about mosquitoes. He said many companies had decided to cut back maintenance service budgets to save money. 

“In doing so you are inadvertently creating environments that are very conducive for pests,” said Rollo. “The interesting thing with COVID with everybody working from home, or a large percentage of people working at home especially during the shutdown period, people are noticing the pests around their home.”

He said this has led to an increase in calls not just for swarms of mosquitoes but for things such as wasps and ants.

“We have seen an extraordinarily high spike in calls for residential pest control,” Rollo revealed. 

We certainly don’t want to create any widespread panic about West Nile virus. We’ve got enough on our minds with COVID-19. With that said we don’t want to downplay the fact that West Nile exists. 

Rollo said the cases have been relatively low in the past couple of years, but the numbers have roller-coastered as well over several years.  

“A lot of that will definitely coincide with municipalities doing mosquito control services, or not doing them.” 

He said municipalities that do take mosquito control services will see a lot less mosquitoes meaning a lot less exposure to the virus. Rollo said most West Nile virus cases reveal very mild symptoms and in many cases no follow up testing is done.

“People are not likely to be tested. Because of that we don’t know the true extent or what the true numbers are,” he said.



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