Small Alberta village honours founding families for Black History Month


Long before the province officially recognized Black History Month, the tiny village of Breton in north-central Alberta had been commemorating and honouring the African American immigrants who helped settle the area.

“It started out as very low-key, very humble beginnings with the local tea here at the museum,” said Breton and District Historical Museum curator and manager, Allan Goddard. “At that time, we still had a number of the first generation family members that were still alive.”

Alberta officially recognized Black History Month for the first time in 2017 but the folks in Breton have been celebrating their founding families annually since the mid-90s — around the same time the federal government began recognizing it.

John Ware legacy carries on as Calgary celebrates Black History Month

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Every February the museum holds a special event to commemorate those who helped settle the area which was originally known as Keystone.

At this year’s event, 89-year-old Vant Hayes, who was born in Keystone, shared stories of his and his family’s life in the area.

“My parents came at the turn of the century,” Hayes said. “We lived in a log house and I’m not kidding you, the weather we had a day or two here, we get up in the morning and the water in the pail would be frozen.”

Hayes’ family was one of 52 that immigrated to the area at around the same time. Many, like his parents, were fleeing areas in the southern United States where state and local racial segregation were being enforced and violence was escalating.

“The African American settlers who founded Keystone in 1910, 1911 — they were leaving some very harsh conditions in primarily Oklahoma but some other states too,” Goddard said.

“At that time period, the Jim Crow laws were in effect and [immigrants] looked northward to Canada,” Goddard said. “Supposedly all homestead land was available and conditions of more tolerance.”

Edmonton man shines light on Alberta’s racist past with interactive archive

Hayes didn’t provide details but alluded to stories he was told of violence his parents experienced in both Mississippi and Oklahoma.

While the family wasn’t completely free from racism once they arrived in Alberta, Hayes beamed when he talked about how his family was one of the first to help settle the area.

“I’m the only one left,” he said.

His sentiment is echoed by others whose families also helped settle other parts of Alberta.

“Our people did come up in the early 1900s to help settle the Prairie provinces so we are a part of the development of Alberta and Saskatchewan, so it’s important that the roots are told,” said Deborah Dobbins, whose family settled in the Wildwoods area of Alberta.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Small businesses in Alberta haven’t been this pessimistic in years, lobby group says


Small businesses in Alberta haven’t been this pessimistic in years, according to an industry lobby group who says the oil-price differential is largely to blame — even if prices for Canadian crude have recently recovered.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says confidence among its Alberta members plunged in December and January, according to a monthly survey it conducts.

Prices for Western Canadian Select also plunged in late 2018, reaching a low point in late November, and CFIB chief economist Ted Mallett believes that’s related to the sudden shift in business sentiment.

« Because it’s in such recent memory, I think that’s why you saw a decline in optimism happen so quickly this time, » he said.

The CFIB’s « business barometer index » for Alberta plunged more that 15 points over December and January, falling to a level of 37.5 on a scale of zero to 100.

The index measures how CFIB members feel about the future.

Mallett said a score of zero would represent « perfect pessimism » (meaning every member surveyed expects things will be worse for their business in one year’s time) while a score of 100 would represent « perfect optimism. »

A score of 60 or more is usually associated with a growing economy, Mallett said.

The plunge over the last two months marks the sharpest decline in Alberta since the oil crash of late 2014, when the price for crude on world markets was cut roughly in half in a span of six months.

The CFIB’s ‘business barometer’ results for Alberta (in blue) and Canada (in red) over the past decade. (Canadian Federation of Independent Business)

Mallett said the massive oil-price differential that developed in late 2018 had a similar impact.

« The price for Western Canadian Select vis-à-vis WTI caused some big problems and concerns with businesses in the province, » he said.

« A large shift in the economics of oil-and-gas pricing has a big effect on other businesses all the way down the line. »

In an effort to close the differential, the Alberta government took an extraordinary step in December, mandating temporary cuts in the province’s oil production.

On Wednesday, the province announced it was easing those production limits because prices for Canadian crude had recovered to a sufficient degree.

But it’s unlikely business confidence will recover as quickly, Mallett said.

« It takes a long time for optimism to come back, » he said.

And that sentiment can have a broader impact on the entire economy.

The impact of business confidence

The CFIB is a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of small businesses across Canada.

It has roughly 10,000 members in Alberta, which represents about six per cent of the 175,000 total businesses in the province.

If its members’ sentiments are representative of the broader business community, it could present a problem for the economy as a whole, says Anupam Das, an economist with Mount Royal University.

Business confidence matters, he said, because it affects investment decisions.

If there’s an optimistic sentiment out there, he said, businesses are more likely to hire more workers or expand their capital spending. But if the mood is pessimistic, the fear of losing money can make those investments less likely.

« When that fear comes into people, they start making certain decisions, » Das said.

« So I think the perception — or the fear — is, actually, an important factor. »

Political opinions

Speaking to a gathering of mid-sized city mayors in Calgary on Thursday, United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney described Alberta’s current business climate as particularly dire.

Kenney said he’s hearing negative things from people who are looking at investing in the province.

« I was, just last night, meeting with the CEO of a global company visiting Calgary with a market cap of $50 billion who told me people aren’t walking away from investing in Alberta — they are running away from investing in Alberta, » Kenney said.

He didn’t name the CEO or the company.

Premier Rachel Notley spoke during an NDP rally in Calgary on Thursday while UCP Leader Jason Kenney addressed a gathering of mid-sized city mayors. (James Young/CBC, Monty Kruger/CBC)

Premier Rachel Notley, also speaking in Calgary on Thursday, said there’s been billions of dollars of new private-sector investment announced in the past couple of months alone and there is « more investment on the way. »

During an NDP rally at the downtown legion, she highlighted Inter Pipeline’s recent decision to go ahead with a $3.5-billion petrochemical project and Value Creation Inc.’s plan to invest more than $2 billion in an upgrading facility aimed at turning bitumen into higher-grade crude that can flow more easily through pipelines.

Both projects came as the result of government incentives aimed at spurring investment and diversifying the economy, Notley said.

« And we’re already seeing results, » she said.

The CFIB surveyed 276 of its Alberta members in December and January.

A random sample of that size would yield a margin of error of about 5.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


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‘Small explosions’ start scrap yard fire in East Vancouver – BC


A second alarm fire in an East Vancouver scrap yard began with a series of small explosions before spreading to a neighboring commercial building Monday night.

That blaze, which Vancouver Fire Chief Darrell Reid described in a tweet as “difficult to access”, was brought under control by about 11 pm.

Reid tweeted that the blazes in the 1900 block of Triumph Street near Powell and Victoria attracted a large number of police and fire units to the scene, and a large number of onlookers as well.

There were no injuries. The cause of the fires is under investigation.

Powell is closed from Semlin Drive to Salsbury, and Victoria is closed from Powell to Triumph, while fire crews clean up.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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‘This was not small’: Queen’s University professor pinpoints frost quake – Kingston


“For a frost quake this was not small”, says Dr. Alex Braun, a professor with the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

A loud explosion and rumbling was heard at 2:36 p.m. on Monday, January 7.

“Right now, after we have looked at a lot of data sets, we are thinking it was a frost quake,” Braun added.

For Jason Potter from Perth Road, Ont., the noise was so loud, and the rumble that shook his house so pronounced, that he thought his neighbour, who owns a sea plane, had crashed.

“It sounded to me like an explosion,” Potter said. “I did drive down to the lake, to see if there was anything there, but nothing.”

Experts still looking into what caused Monday’s seismic events in Alberta

On social media, at least 34 people in the South Frontenac Township area and in communities just north of Kingston reported the phenomena. Residents in Battersea, Chaffey’s Lock, Sydenham and Sunbury felt and heard something they couldn’t explain.

“I walked to the road because to me the bang had come from that direction,” said Potter.

“I figured it was the local quarry doing some blasting in the off season, and found … it wasn’t them,” said Battersea resident Casey Carlyle. “It was a good bang.”

A piece of sophisticated equipment at Queen’s University, a superconducting gravimeter, is one of only 30 in the world that can detect frost quakes.

“It costs about a half million dollars,” says Dr. Braun. “It is the most sensitive gravimeter on earth.”

Mystery behind noise in northwest Calgary revealed

According to Dr. Braun, the frost quake was caused by recent sub-zero temperatures that warmed up to above zero in less than 24 hours. As a result, the great difference in temperature reacted with a mix of water and ice below the ground. The epicentre of the frost quake the reaction triggered occurred in the Perth Road area.

“So people around that area, about a five- to 10-kilometre radius, they would have heard what was happening,” Dr. Braun said. “And the instruments here at Queen’s University, farther away, they felt the seismic waves which traveled through the ground.”

For those who experienced it, a mystery has been solved.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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A small Ontario town welcomed this Egyptian immigrant. Now he’s buying its church — to save it


HENSALL, ONT.—Joseph was broken; ditto for one of the wise men. Storage had been hard on the nativity scene.

“I had my husband glue the heads back on,” says Tracey Cooper in amid a scramble to get ready for an unexpected Christmas Eve service. “It’s not going to be perfect, and you know what, that’s OK.”

Local pharmacist Michael Haddad outside the United Church in Hensall, Ont., this month. Part of why he is putting up money to buy the church is that he worries that because Hensall has an older population they’d be unable to attend another church. “How about all those people who don’t drive?” he wondered. “How can they pray?”
Local pharmacist Michael Haddad outside the United Church in Hensall, Ont., this month. Part of why he is putting up money to buy the church is that he worries that because Hensall has an older population they’d be unable to attend another church. “How about all those people who don’t drive?” he wondered. “How can they pray?”  (GEOFF ROBINS / For the Toronto Star)

Out of another box came the Advent wreath. Then the candles, battery operated just to be safe, as Cooper and her friends decorated the church sanctuary. A tree? They found one tucked away in the darkness, set it up near the pulpit and gave it life with a festive mishmash of artificial poinsettia leaves and silver garlands. They were trying to create a certain ambiance.

“We want warm and welcoming,” says Cooper. “It’s a new era, that’s what we’re going for.”

If urgency can be joyous, that’s what is unfolding on the main street of this village north of London.

In an astonishing reversal, Hensall United Church, officially shuttered in November, has been saved — imbued with new life just in time for Christmas by an Egyptian immigrant’s spirit of giving.

At a time when rural congregations are shrinking and small-town churches are closing — the United Church of Canada alone has been losing seven a year in southwestern Ontario recently — Hensall has a saviour in its midst, an improbable one at that.

The 131-year-old Protestant church, in a community not known for its diversity, is being resurrected by a Roman Catholic from the Middle East.

Michael Haddad, the town’s pharmacist for the last eight years, stepped forward to purchase the building. That he will reopen it as place of worship makes this an unusual story of rebirth.

It’s not rare for a church to be sold. They are then typically retrofitted for another use or torn down for the land. Rev. Tom Dunbar, a United Church minister from nearby Mitchell helping navigate the sale, says he’s never heard of an individual buying a church to keep it as a church.

The United Church in Hensall could host other denominations as well, and become more of a community hub.
The United Church in Hensall could host other denominations as well, and become more of a community hub.  (GEOFF ROBINS)

Haddad will pay $250,000 for the building, a price within a range provided by appraisers. The proposal has been approved by Hensall United’s trustees and its congregation. Lawyers are drawing up the paperwork to be submitted to the United Church of Canada.

As part of the agreement, Haddad and his wife, Asteir Hanna, will bequeath the property to their 20-year-old son, Andrew. If Andrew has no interest in maintaining it, or dies himself, the church will return to the congregation.

“I will never get one penny back of my money,” says Haddad, an infectiously friendly 58-year-old. “I did it for two reasons. One, and this is maybe 90 per cent, I did it for religious reasons. I consider it a duty as a Christian to keep a church of Christ open. It hurt me to hear it was closing.

“Ten per cent is for the people of Hensall who really support me. If I came here as a foreigner in this town and people said, ‘We are not going to support a business like that,’ within a month or two I would leave. But I felt very welcome. My heart is for this town. I felt like the pharmacy would be a success from day one.”

Haddad says he worried, too, that because Hensall has an older population — 20 per cent is over 65 — they’d be unable to attend another church. “How about all those people who don’t drive?” he wondered. “How can they pray?”

Haddad’s plan is to turn Hensall’s last church into a community hub that any denomination can use for worship. All revenue raised through events such as car washes, rummage sales or Sunday collections will go to maintenance.

“This is very much a story of hope,” says Dunbar. “That’s what our faith is all about and it has all these other threads in it, too, that are so wonderful, the idea of peace and working together and breaking down barriers when we’re in a time when it seems to be OK to raise barriers. This is definitely going against that flow.”

Cooper, keeping with the season, sees it in another light.

“It’s cheesy but it’s kind of a Christmas miracle. It couldn’t have happened at a better time.”

They’d gathered in this building countless times; sometimes there’d be laughter, sometimes tears. A church, especially in a small town, isn’t just a place for Sunday service. There are lunches, dinners, AA meetings, horticultural clubs, baby and wedding showers, community gatherings and of course weddings, funerals and baptisms.

It really is woven into the fabric of the community and, on Nov. 25 with a closing service, that community said goodbye.

The number of church attendees on any given Sunday had fallen to somewhere between 16 and 20. And Jeffrey Dale, Hensall United’s last regular minister, said the average age “was in the 80s.”

That aging congregation did everything it could to keep it alive but it wasn’t sustainable. There was only enough money in the coffers to shut it down.

But Haddad, who attends church in London, heard of the imminent closure and drafted a proposal to Hensall United’s trustees.

“I think it is so amazing that somebody from the outside said, ‘I’m your neighbour. I see you struggling. Let me help you,’ ” says Dale.

Organist and church trustee Chuck Mallette invited everyone from the village of about 1,000 to gather at Hensall United recently to hear one man's vision to save Hensall United Church, not sure how many would show up.
Organist and church trustee Chuck Mallette invited everyone from the village of about 1,000 to gather at Hensall United recently to hear one man’s vision to save Hensall United Church, not sure how many would show up.  (GEOFF ROBINS)

Given that potential lifeline, Chuck Mallette — a church organist and trustee — invited everyone from the village of about 1,000 to gather at Hensall United on a December Monday to hear one man’s vision to save it. Mallette and his wife lined up 50 chairs in a church community room. He wondered if that was too optimistic.

In the end, about 80 people came in out of the cold to hear what the pharmacist had to say.

Haddad stood at the front of the wood-panelled room and, exuding earnestness, read from a letter, his accent still evident after two decades in Canada. He quoted Scripture, he spoke of his plans to bring in foosball and ping-pong tables and have movie and video game nights to attract young people. He explained how he’d like to bring back Sunday school, which once thrived in the church. He explained his business plan because, he joked, the gas and water bills can’t be paid with prayers and God’s good wishes. People laughed.

Warming up and no longer needing notes, he spoke of how everyone could participate in a new vision. It would cost people nothing other than their willingness to help and take part.

“This church has millions of memories. I couldn’t imagine a truck would come and remove it,” he said. “This church is a historical treasure and holds a place in everyone’s heart in Hensall.”

This was a revival meeting in every sense of the word and Haddad won over the crowd. It felt like a scene from an old Frank Capra movie as those gathered started presenting their own ideas about revitalizing the yellow-brick showpiece that would be renamed Hensall Community Church.

Maybe there could be music again, it had been so long since the church had a choir. Perhaps it was possible to have special services for the migrant farm workers who arrive in the area every spring. And wouldn’t it be great for the town’s youth to have somewhere safe to hang out.

Mallette had placed sign up sheets on tables at the side of the hall for those who wanted to take an active role in the church’s direction. By the end of the gathering, 20 people had left their names.

A private, smaller meeting of congregation members was held afterward. They agreed to accept Haddad’s proposal. Apparently, there wasn’t much pushback.

“Michael is willing to put his money where his faith is,” says Mallette.

Cheryl Rader, left, Tracey Cooper, Asteir Hanna and her husband, Michael Haddad, and Chuck Mallette in the United Church in Hensall. Rader, Cooper and Mallette are among those scrambling toorganize the Christmas Eve service.
Cheryl Rader, left, Tracey Cooper, Asteir Hanna and her husband, Michael Haddad, and Chuck Mallette in the United Church in Hensall. Rader, Cooper and Mallette are among those scrambling toorganize the Christmas Eve service.  (GEOFF ROBINS)

Haddad and his wife didn’t have to leave Egypt. They were both pharmacists there as well and had a good life. But they were also adventurous and, while not political, they both yearned to live in a country with more freedom.

They looked to Canada or Australia but it was Canada that was in need of pharmacists. They arrived in 1995.

Michael first worked as a Domino’s Pizza delivery man and at a gas station. Asteir served customers at a Coffee Time. In their off-hours, they upgraded their education to be licensed in Canada.

Now they feel like they live in a type of paradise.

“It’s a beautiful country,” says Haddad. “It’s a rich country. Even just driving home, it’s dark and it’s winter but you feel your spirits are up. You are very lucky to be in Canada.”

Hanna has her own pharmacy in London. Haddad has had his store in Hensall since 2011 after working in places such as Goderich and Exeter as an employee. He knew this village lacked a pharmacy and loved the intimacy of small-town life. He makes the 45-minute drive to London most nights but stays in an apartment over Hensall Pharmacy when the weather is bad.

He regularly attends Saint Elias Maronite Catholic Church in London where he is a director and treasurer. He is also a financial adviser at London’s Almanarah Presbyterian Church. He understands the business side of religion.

He also understands that King St. in Hensall – known as the White Bean Capital of Canada — isn’t what it was. Haddad keeps a postcard behind his pharmacy counter that depicts that main street as thriving. He guesses the image is from about 1980. The big grocery store was gone before he got here. There are many empty storefronts. The bank just left. Haddad must now drive the nine kilometres south to Exeter just to make change.

“The closing of the church, had it happened, would’ve been another gut punch to the village,” says Mallette.

Haddad says he loves it here and feels loyalty to a town that has treated him so well. He says he longed to give something back.

“But I never feel like I’m doing something great or amazing,” he says. “God put me in this town for a reason and maybe that reason came now.

“Maybe it is a Christmas gift for this lovely town.”

"We decided that if there was a way it was going to be saved, we were going to get involved," says Cheryl Rader. "We'd sat back long enough."
« We decided that if there was a way it was going to be saved, we were going to get involved, » says Cheryl Rader. « We’d sat back long enough. »  (GEOFF ROBINS)

They’re hoping for a packed house at Hensall United on Christmas Eve. The service will take on additional meaning, and an extra sense of celebration, given what was almost lost.

Cooper and her friend Cheryl Rader were among those who signed up at the meeting. Now they, along with Mallette and Heather Forrest, are organizing the service.

“We decided that if there was a way it was going to be saved, we were going to get involved,” says Rader. “We’d sat back long enough.”

Kathy Mann has been a member of Hensall United since 1962. She taught Sunday school there and remembers full pews with weekly attendance close to 300. Mann has always taken it upon herself to decorate for Christmas. This year, until Haddad offered to save the church, she couldn’t even bring herself to go into the sanctuary. Now she is part of the crew getting the church spruced up.

She remains “cautiously optimistic” about her church’s long-term viability.

“You’ve got to have faith and hope,” she says. “Never more than now.”

Paul Hunter is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @hunterhockey


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For 1 small Ontario town, it’s déjà vu when it comes to French cuts


There’s a storied history of fighting for French services in Sturgeon Falls, Ont., but you wouldn’t know it just driving through town.

The tiny West Nipissing community, tucked between Sudbury and North Bay, looks like many other small towns around the province, anchored by one main street lined with fast food restaurants and strip malls. It’s one of the province’s larger francophone communities; 62 per cent speak French as a first language. 

There’s no obvious mention of the fierce battle that took place here in the early ’70s known as the Sturgeon Falls school crisis. That’s when the town’s francophones fought for a French-speaking high school. Almost five decades later, that battle is drawing parallels to the current one for French services — spurred by the province’s proposed cuts and subsequent partial backtrack.

The PCs have reinstated the French language services commissioner position they planned to scrap and roll into the ombudsman’s office. They have also promised to make the Office of Francophone Affairs a ministry. 

But Ontario will not be restoring funds for a French language university they had promised. And that doesn’t sit well with Edgar Gagné, who sees another fight brewing to protect his culture.

He was in his first year teaching at the bilingual high school when the school crisis escalated and he headed the association asking the school board and the province for a French school. 

Edgar Gagné sits in his kitchen in Sturgeon Falls, hours before the PCs backtracked on some of their French service cuts. He expected it to happen, just not that fast. (Haydn Watters/CBC)

When he finished teaching for the day, he shifted into an organizing role, getting demonstrations and protest fliers ready. Students went on strike, locking out fellow students, teachers and parents.

« We were brought up not to fight against another person’s culture. We were brought up to defend our own … I always say, if francophones don’t stand up for their own rights, the anglophones certainly won’t, » he said.

« It’s not an issue for them. They have never had to fight for their cultural rights. »

‘Watch out, we’re coming’

The Sturgeon Falls fight took years, but francophones eventually got their French high school: École secondaire catholique Franco-Cité. It’s still in operation today. 

École secondaire catholique Franco-Cité was at the centre of the schooling crisis in the 1970s. Now students there have been plotting out their own protests to oppose the cuts to French services. (Haydn Watters/CBC)

Back in the ’70s, the province was supportive of francophone issues. It was the local school board in nearby North Bay that didn’t want the French school built.

Gagné says it’s different this time around.

« They’d like us to get in line. The boss speaks and [we] say yes. The boss jumps. We should say how high. Well to hell with the boss. We’re not going to jump, » he said.

The Franco-Ontarian flag flies over École élémentaire catholique La Résurrection, a French elementary school in Sturgeon Falls. (Haydn Watters/CBC)

« I’ve always said that to mobilize the francophone community, we always need a crisis. Well, we’ve got one now. We’ve got a new one now. And watch out, we’re coming. »

‘We need to mobilize’

Gagné is 75 now, so he’ll be sitting this fight out from an organizational standpoint.

He’s counting on young activists to lead the charge, like Alexandre Aimée Rivet.

Artist Alexandre Aimée Rivet works at the local museum. She said it is important to be polite while protesting. It is something she was taught at a young age. (Haydn Watters/CBC)

She’s an artist who works at the local museum and has travelled the province, teaching art workshops in French schools.

Rivet is particularly saddened about the cancellation of the university. She struggled when she was taught in English at university and was hoping future students would be able to learn in French.

French is thriving in Sturgeon Falls, a community in West Nipissing. An estimated 62 per cent of the community speaks French as a first language. The population is 14,115. (Haydn Watters/CBC)

« Working in French schools, we’re always having to defend that we’re French, » she said. « We are feeling a lot of pain that we’ve been feeling for a very long time … we need to mobilize. »

Inspired by protesting predecessors

That’s exactly what is happening at Franco-Cité.

Students there are taking inspiration from their predecessors in the ’70s. When the initial cuts were announced, they texted each other and planned an impromptu green, white and black day the day after — their first sign of protest.

Daphnée Veilleux-Michaud, a grade 12 student who sits on the school’s student council, has been busy organizing rides to Saturday’s rally in front of Finance Minister Vic Fedeli’s office in North Bay. He’s the MPP for the area.

Grade 12 student Daphnée Veilleux-Michaud sits on the student council at Franco-Cité. She also is involved with FESFO, a group for young Franco-Ontarians. (Haydn Watters/CBC)

The rally is part of a larger province-wide protest day, with around 40 demonstrations taking place in front of MPP’s offices.

Veilleux-Michaud said some of her friends have been scared to speak out, so she’s encouraging them to start small.

« You don’t need to do big stuff to demonstrate that you aren’t happy with what happened. You can just for example wear a pin with a small Franco-Ontarian flag on your shirt, » she said. « Little stuff may seem insignificant but it does a big impact on the big screen. »

Francophone protest day

  • Saturday, December 1
  • Around 40 demonstrations planned in front of MPP offices around the province — and not just at PC MPP offices
  • Protests continue despite the province’s partial backtrack

She’s knows she is far from Queen’s Park, where the decisions are made, but she’s eager to make a difference. She’s been using social media to coordinate protest and have her voice heard beyond her small town. 

« A lot of people don’t know where Sturgeon Falls is, » she laughs. « Even though we are a small community, we are going to rise up and just let the people know our voice. »


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‘At whose expense?’: B.C. entrepreneur says small business owners caught in postal strike crossfire


A Delta small business owner says operations like hers are getting caught in the crossfire between Canada Post and striking postal workers.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has been engaging in rotating strikes since late October, with health and safety concerns a key sticking point in stalled negotiations.

The federal government has issued a 9 p.m. PT deadline for the union to accept its latest deal; CUPW said it would reject the offer on Friday.

But Carol Jolly, co-owner of CanEngrave Signs and Printing says the two sides need to get on with it, with the strike holding up key deliveries — both products she ships out, and payments coming in.

Striking Canada Post employees rally outside federal Liberal convention in Kelowna

“It’s very frustrating when you have bills to pay and you have supplies that you need to buy so you can get your products out, and you have products out in the mail that aren’t getting to your customers,” she said.

“You’re missing deadlines.”

Jolly said customers have for the most part been accommodating, but said it’s tough for her to have custom plaques destined for clients’ awards banquets not show up in time.

She added that with payment cheques not coming in on time, it’s also making it hard for her to pay her staff and keep her business operating.

WATCH: (Aired Nov. 15) Is it time for the government to end the Canada Post strikes?

“I have a piece of equipment here waiting for inks. I can’t go and get my inks because I don’t have any money… which means I have products sitting here which need to be imprinted so they can be sent to the customer,” she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned last week that all options would be on the table when it comes to ending the postal disruptions, which according to a government source, could include back-to-work legislation.

Canada Post’s rotating strikes: Everything you need to know about it

Meanwhile, about 100 members of the union gathered outside the federal Liberal convention in Kelowna on Saturday, some toting signs with messages including “negotiate, don’t legislate.”

The federal government has offered a two per cent wage increase and a $10-million health and safety fund, along with increased job security for rural and suburban workers.

The union says it’s not enough, arguing mail carriers are the most injured group of all federal employees.

Jolly said she’s sympathetic to the postal workers’ plight, but that they need to understand the effects on small businesses like hers.

“As they want to feed their family, we want to feed ours too,” she said.

With files from Jordan Armstrong and the Canadian Press

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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1 dead after mid-air small plane collision near Kanata


One person is dead after a mid-air​ collision involving two small aircraft in Carp, Ont., Sunday morning.

Police said one of the planes crashed near McGee Side Road. The second plane, carrying two people, was redirected to the Ottawa International Airport, where it landed safely. 

The occupant of the aircraft that crashed died at the scene due to critical injuries, paramedics said. Those on board the second aircraft were not injured. 

The pilot of the second plane, a twin-engine 11-seat Piper Cheyenne, reported to air traffic control that the first aircraft hit the bottom of his plane and affected his right landing gear.

The incident happened around 10:00 a.m.

Police close off William Mooney Road And McGee Side Road in Carp, Ont., after a plane crash involving two aircraft. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

Police close off road 

Police closed off a section of McGee Side Road between the westbound off ramp of Highway 417 and William Mooney Road. Police are asking commuters to avoid the area. 

Ottawa paramedics and police are at the scene. Investigators with the Transportation Safety Board are expected to arrive soon.

Carp is approximately 30 kilometres west of downtown Ottawa.


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Pilot seriously injured after small plane crashes on house in Ottawa’s west end


First responders say the pilot of a small, ultra-light plane that crashed into a house in Ottawa’s west end has been extricated from the aircraft and taken to hospital with serious injuries.

The crash reportedly occurred near the intersection of Old Almonte Road and Howie Road, just outside of Stittsville in Ottawa’s west end.

A spokesperson for the Ottawa Paramedic Service said he couldn’t confirm the exact nature of the pilot’s injuries.

There was only one person in the plane, the spokesperson said.

Ottawa police say Old Almonte Road is closed to traffic between Howie and Beavertail roads.

— More to come…

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Small group of Ontario family MDs orders too many unnecessary tests, study finds


A small group of Ontario family doctors is responsible for ordering a disproportionate amount of unnecessary screening tests on patients, new research shows.

A paper published Friday in JAMA Network Open found that 441 primary care physicians in the province order nearly 40 per cent of tests considered “low-value.”

This subset of the province’s 11,448 family doctors demonstrates “a general pattern of overuse,” according to the study by researchers at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and Women’s College Hospital.

Lead author Dr. Sacha Bhatia said the findings are relevant because they can help better target future efforts to reduce low-value care.

“The reality is that most doctors don’t get a lot of feedback on how they’re doing. But if we know who needs this the most, we can make big strides to improve the care patients get and save much needed health-care dollars in the process,” he said.

Researchers looked at the ordering rates of four low-value screening tests between 2012 and 2016. They correctly hypothesized that physicians who frequently order one of these tests are more likely to frequently order at least one of the others as well.

The four tests studied are:

  • Repeat bone density tests, formally known as dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans. This kind of screening is done to look for conditions such as osteoporosis. Evidence shows there is little value in having more than one of these scans within a two-year period.
  • Electrocardiograms (ECGs) for patients 40 and older who are considered at low risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Chest X-rays for patients at low risk for cardiopulmonary disease.
  • Pap tests on women younger than 21 and older than 69, a demographic considered at low risk for cervical cancer.

These four tests were studied because of an abundance of evidence showing they are overused and that there is much variation in how often doctors order them.

They have been identified as low-value by Choosing Wisely Canada, which is part of an international clinician-led campaign, running in 20 countries, aimed at reducing the frequency of low-value care.

Bhatia, a cardiologist, is the evaluation lead for Choosing Wisely Canada. He is the director of the Women’s College Hospital Institute for Health System Solutions and Virtual Care. Bhatia is also an adjunct scientist with ICES

He explained that low-value tests are not particularly helpful in diagnosing or treating disease. They also include tests for which the harms of undertaking them outweigh the benefits. For example, patients may be unnecessarily exposed to radiation.

Bhatia noted that it costs only about $5 to do one ECG. But the concern, he said, is that unnecessary ECGs are being done in large numbers and can result in patients getting even more tests they may not need. This is because screening tests can cause false positive results that require some further testing to rule out real disease. But this additional testing may be more invasive and expensive.

A report released last year by the Canadian Institute for Health Information and Choosing Wisely revealed that Canadians have more than 1 million potentially unnecessary tests, treatments and procedures annually.

The report found that 30 per cent of selected tests, treatments and procedures are potentially unnecessary. They waste health system resources, increase wait times for patients in need and can lead to patient harm.

The JAMA study was a retrospective one, which saw researchers pore over data on health-care claims held by ICES.

They identified 2,394 Ontario family doctors who see the most patients and order the most tests.

Researchers found that 18.4 per cent of this group — or 441 doctors — orders 39.2 per cent of all of the low-value tests.

“When you look at the overall trends on how doctors order these tests, most actually practise reasonably well. But for the minority who order these tests unnecessarily — the one in five — we can see clearly where there is a big opportunity for change,” Bhatia said.

Doctors with increased odds of frequently ordering low-value tests are male, further removed from medical school graduation (meaning they are older), and receive much of their income by billing OHIP on a fee-for-service basis. They are also more likely to be graduates of Canadian medical schools.

Theresa Boyle is a Toronto-based reporter covering health. Follow her on Twitter: @theresaboyle


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