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North Edmonton business plans to give out 1,000 face masks



A local business owner is planning to give out free cloth masks to help his north Edmonton community.

Ronald Singh, owner of Castledowns Cleanitizing Dry Cleaners, is planning to give out 1,000 masks through the grassroots distribution campaign. It’s currently recruiting volunteers to help hand out the masks at public parks and bus stations.

“I decided as a business to try to help the community that I’m in,” Singh said Saturday. After watching public debate around mask-wearing as numbers spiked across the province, he resolved to order the mass quantity from another northside business, Powerplay Sports.

He said each mask cost about $5 but that there is no price on a life.

“If you’re saving one person, potentially just because of a piece of cloth, then there’s no price to put,” he said. Singh is also inviting other businesses to help support the initiative.

Singh, having experienced homelessness himself, says the focus will be the city’s most vulnerable.

“To spend a few bucks on a mask wouldn’t have been a priority back then.”

Caitlyn Elliot is helping Singh, having made contact with him through Facebook and now acting as the project’s organizer. She was helping him package the masks at his dry cleaning business Saturday, the same day masks were made mandatory in public indoor spaces across the city.

“I think it’s great,” Elliot said of the new bylaw. “I think we have to work collectively in order to get through this.”

She says providing education is a core component of their distribution plan. Written instructions on how to properly wear and clean the cloth masks are included in every package.

The plan is to give out around 100 masks a day until his first order of 1,000 masks runs out. Singh isn’t ruling out purchasing more.

“The goal is really until everybody’s masked.”

Council passed the mandatory mask bylaw on Wednesday, requiring people to wear a mask or something similar in all indoor places where the public has access. There are a number of exceptions, including mental or physical limitations, and it does not apply to schools, hospitals, health-care facilities and child-care facilities.

The city has said it is focused on education, awareness and communication but a $100 dollar fine for infractions is a reluctant possibility.

“We’re not going to be using the stick to enforce this,” interim city manager Adam Laughlin said Wednesday. “It’s not going to be punitive, it’s going to be supporting and helpful in building the awareness that this is the requirement.” 

The provincial government launched a second round of mask distribution in mid-July, giving out non-medical, disposable masks through drive-thrus, municipalities, and other partners.

with files from Natasha Riebe

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Fredericton gains new space for LGTBQ community




The LGBTQ community in Fredericton will soon have a new place to call home after a nightclub in the city closed a little over a month ago.

Diane Wilson, also known as “Queer Mama” to Fredericton’s LGBTQ community, was a regular at Boom! Nightclub. She decided to lease the space when she heard about the nightclub’s closure in late June.

“That was the place where I could go and I could be who I was, and everyone accepted me,” Wilson said, adding her husband and kids are loving and supportive, but not everyone is so lucky.

“If that space is important to me, how much more important was it to somebody whose family doesn’t support them?”

Boom! Nightclub was a staple of the LGBTQ community for 15 years, but closed permanently because of losses caused by the COVID-19 shutdown.

Wilson has been an ally to the LGBTQ community for years and has assisted organizers with a Pride parade in Fredericton. 

“I need everybody to have a home, and home isn’t necessarily where you live. Home is where you can be you,” she said. 

Wilson is leasing the building for $3,700 per month. The new space will be called Monarch because it’s a “place of rebirth and coming into oneself,” Wilson said. 

Monarch will be a community centre by day and a bar by night. 

Alcohol will only be available at night. After consulting the LGBTQ community, Wilson said people were eager to have an alcohol-free space they could go to during the day. 

“It’s more work, but I think it’s important that the youth in the community also have a safe place to go, too,” Wilson said.

Diane Wilson, also known as “Queer Mama” to Fredericton’s LGBTQ community, was a regular at Boom! Nightclub before it closed. (Submitted by Diane Marie Wilson)

The community centre will offer classes like Drag 101, where people can learn how to put on makeup for drag performances, and sexual education classes. Monarch will also hold all-ages dances and all-ages So You Think You Can Drag events.

For now, Monarch will turn into a lounge in the evenings. Once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, it will transform into a bar and dance club at night. 

Wilson has been inside the former Boom! building several times since it closed.

She said she plans to change the layout and add frosted windows. The exterior walls will also be painted and a new sign installed.

Monarch’s staff will be trained in mental health first aid and will have to take a safe space training run by the University of New Brunswick’s 203 Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity.

“I want my staff to be the best-trained staff in Fredericton, so that when people come into our space they know that everybody that works there is trained to help them in any way that they need.”

Wilson is hoping to open Monarch on Oct. 1, but she said renovating may take longer than that.

“I really look forward to opening the space and seeing people walk through the door and feeling welcomed and feeling loved.”

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Government of Canada invests in Saskatchewan Indigenous businesses and communities




As we walk the road of reconciliation together, the federal government remains strongly committed to creating economic opportunities for Indigenous businesses and communities.

Government of Canada supports Saskatchewan Indigenous Economic Development

In celebration of this important day, Terry Duguid, Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD), today announced $895,000 in funding to support initiatives that aim to bring culturally-relevant programming for Indigenous peoples to fully participate in the economic growth of Saskatchewan.

Delivered by WD, this funding will support two made-in-Saskatchewan projects led by Indigenous communities, businesses, and organizations in the region. It will create good local jobs and spur entrepreneurship and career development by helping the Ya’thi Néné Land and Resource Office develop training and employment opportunities for residents of northern Saskatchewan affected by the slow-down of uranium mining in the Athabasca Basin. Funding will also support the Gabriel Dumont Institute Training and Employment Inc. to build on a successful entrepreneurship pilot program focused on Métis entrepreneurs in Saskatchewan.


“True reconciliation means supporting Indigenous communities and businesses by providing opportunities for their success. This investment from WD will do just that – helping Indigenous business people to seize opportunities, helping Indigenous organizations deliver important local projects and supporting Indigenous communities on their path to self-sufficiency and prosperity. I’m excited to see the difference that this investment will make for Indigenous communities across Western Canada.”

– The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada

“Our government is making strategic investments to help communities and businesses capitalize on economic development and growth opportunities and kick-start the country’s economy. Indigenous small- and medium-sized businesses exemplify the ingenuity and drive that is at the core of the region’s entrepreneurial spirit.”

– Terry Duguid, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada

Quick Facts

  • International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is observed each year on August 9 to promote and protect the rights of the world’s Indigenous population. This event also recognizes the achievements and contributions that indigenous peoples make to improve world issues such as environmental protection.
  • The funding announced today is provided through WD’s programs, which strategically invests in projects that promote sustainable community economic diversification, enhance business development and growth, and facilitate innovation.

Associated Links

Stay Connected
Follow the department on Twitter: @WD_Canada 

WD Toll-Free Number: 1-888-338-WEST (9378)
TTY (telecommunications device for the hearing impaired): 1-877-303-3388

Backgrounder: Western Economic Diversification Canada’s investments support Indigenous skills development and jobs in Saskatchewan

As we walk the road of reconciliation together, the Government of Canada remains strongly committed to creating economic opportunities for Indigenous businesses and communities.

The Government of Canada, through Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD), is investing $895,000 to support Saskatchewan Indigenous communities.

Indigenous-focused projects supported by WD

Gabriel Dumont Institute Training and Employment Inc.                                    $745,000
Build on a successful entrepreneurship pilot program focused on Métis entrepreneurs in Saskatchewan. The intent is to train 350 individuals, while creating 20 jobs and completing 13 community-based projects. The funds will also help in the creation or expansion of 100 Métis-owned businesses.

Ya’thi Néné Land and Resource Office                                                                  $150,000
Create training and employment opportunities for residents of northern Saskatchewan affected by the slow down of uranium mining in the Athabasca Basin. The intent is to train 50 Indigenous participants while creating 25 jobs. Training will be tailored to employment opportunities available in northern Saskatchewan such as health, trades, hospitality and aviation.

SOURCE Western Economic Diversification Canada

For further information: Alexander Cohen, Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, [email protected]; Rhonda Laing, Director, Policy, Planning and External Relations, Western Economic Diversification Canada, [email protected]

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University students frustrated by fees ahead of online semester amid COVID-19




In about a month, Nina Jeffery will begin her fourth year studying media production at Ryerson University, and like many post-secondary students in Canada, most of her courses will be online.

But even though her education now looks radically different, she says her tuition breakdown doesn’t. 

“The fact of the matter is that I am not paying for the same type of education I signed up for when I started my program,” she told CBC Toronto in an email. “Fees should reflect that.”

Maeve McNaughton, a fellow Ryerson student, explains it this way: “We are paying a good amount towards campus maintenance, campus building access, athletics access, recreation… and we can’t access any of them.” 

That frustration isn’t limited to students at Ryerson. 

Ryerson University tells CBC Toronto its moving many of its services, for example its career centre, online. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

Nate Denaro, a student at York University, has calculated that even with a reduced fee, he’ll spend about $270 this coming school year on athletics and recreation, saying the school’s decision to not drop the fee altogether is “outrageous.” 

Fifi Wei, set to start her first year at Sheridan College, was also surprised by what she saw when she looked at the fine print of her tuition. 

“I realized, ‘Oh my god, they charge a lot of fees that actually aren’t applicable for students who study at home,’ she said, citing an on-campus health centre charge as an example. 

Wei wrote Sheridan, asking them to reconsider, but was told the fees are not optional. 

Petitions call for reduced tuition

Almost as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic began and university classes began migrating online, students began lobbying for refunds and tuition and fee reductions. 

At Ryerson and other schools, online petitions have sprung up to ask university administrations to reconsider how much they charge. 

Julia Pereira, president of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), says the frustration around fees and tuition in general reflect the deep economic uncertainty students are facing.

“We know that students have really struggled to find a job over the summer,” she said. 

Pereira says student unions at the eight universities her organization represents have been trying to bring down fees to reflect that. 

For example, at her own school, Laurier University, Pereira says the student union has reduced clubs fees, while other universities have negotiated to remove the fee for bus passes.   

Pereira also says that OUSA has been trying to address the larger affordability problem by calling on the province to “enhance OSAP and give students more financial aid” as well as asking it to better fund universities so they don’t need to rely on ancillary fees paid by students. 

Some schools reduce, cut fees

For their part, the post-secondary institutions contacted by CBC Toronto say they are sensitive to the economic difficulties their students are facing, and some are adjusting fees to reflect that.

At Sheridan, for example, fees that support athletic facilities have been cut altogether. 

York and Ryerson stress that many services, like career and library services, are being moved online, so the fees must remain in place. 

Ryerson also says it’s still exploring a mix of online and on-campus learning for students and that it’s hopeful it will open its athletic facilities soon, given that Toronto has now entered Stage 3 of its reopening plan. 

The two universities told CBC Toronto that overall tuition can’t be changed, saying virtual instruction costs the same amount and has the same outcome as in-person classes.  

Meanwhile, the burst of student lobbying to lower costs that began with the pandemic began appears to be winding down, says Jeffery. 

Ryerson student Maeve McNaughton understands the need to pay tuition to support her professors, but believes ancillary fees should be lowered. (Submitted by Maeve McNaughton)

People feel “burnt out” after months of pushing, she said. 

Between paying for housing, finding jobs and trying to stay safe during a pandemic, young adults “have so much else to worry about,” she said.

For her part, McNaughton isn’t hopeful that anything will change in the final weeks before school begins, but says she’ll continue to advocate all the same.   

“I do think it’s the university’s responsibility to prepare for events like this. And they shouldn’t be asking students individually to pay for their maintenance when we can’t use the campus.” 


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