No more shinny? Thousands of lakes are losing their winter ice, study says


Researchers suggest that by the late 21st century, 35,000 freshwater lakes — across three continents and 50 countries — could see permanent ice loss from warming winters if the global climate warms beyond the two-degree target set by the Paris Agreement.

Ice-free lakes can:

  • Cut access to remote communities.
  • Put an end to outdoor sports like ice fishing and hockey.
  • Disrupt feeding and spawning for fish and other aquatic species.

Since Canada has almost 14 per cent of the world’s freshwater lakes, the country could be particularly hard hit by the warming trend.

More than 40 per cent of the lakes with reduced ice levels in the late 21st century will be in Canada, estimates the lead author of the study, York University biology professor Sapna Sharma.

The study outlines how a small temperature increase can dramatically change a community’s use of lakes. It’s estimated that a 1 C annual increase in air temperature could cause millions of people worldwide to lose access to frozen lakes. That will affect remote communities that rely on ice roads across lakes as main avenues for transporting supplies.

Increased warming on lakes will also impact populations of marine life such as fish, said Lewis Molot, an expert in lake ecology at York University, as the necessary food sources to sustain current populations may not be available.

To draw their conclusions, researchers from Canada, the U.S. Germany, Sweden and the U.K. examined 50 years worth of lake-ice records from around the world.

The study was published last month in the journal Nature Climate Change, assessing 514 lakes for ice loss during winters. Twenty eight of these freshwater lakes, including Lake Superior, stood out to researchers, as their historical data points to a growing number of winters without the presence of ice since the 1970s.  

John Magnuson, one of the study’s researchers, shot this photo of Lake Mendota in Wisconsin in January 2007. Reduced lake-ice could economically damage rural communities who depend on winter ice roads to transport supplies. (John Magnuson/University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Lake Superior’s vulnerability to ice-free winters is due to a combination of its depth and warmer air temperatures, prolonging or preventing the lake’s cooling process, researchers said.

« We discovered that Lake Superior is the second fastest warming lake in the world of all the lakes that we studied. We were able to link its high summer temperatures to its reduced ice coverage in the winter, » Sharma said.

previous study done by Sharma’s team in 2015, notes that over a 25 year span, Superior’s summer water surface temperatures rose by more than twice the rate of oceans, averaging about 0.34 C per decade.

« What worries me is the rapidity at which we may experience the dramatic change, » Sharma said. « I’m not sure if we are prepared for a near future without lake ice: culturally, socio-economically but also ecologically. » 


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Bias against funding Canada’s female scientists revealed in study


A new Canadian analysis in The Lancet validates complaints that the awarding of research grants is biased against female scientists.

The analysis found women are less likely to receive valuable research dollars if their grant applications are reviewed based on who the lead scientist is, rather that what the proposed project is.

The study, titled « Are gender gaps due to evaluations of the applicant or the science?« , analyzed almost 24,000 applications submitted to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) — the federal government agency that awards approximately $1 billion in science grants annually.

The study’s lead author, Holly Witteman, says CIHR created « a natural experiment » when in 2014 it established two new funding streams — the Project Grant Program, which focuses on funding « ideas with the greatest potential, » while the Foundation Grant Program funds « research leaders. »

Men and women performed similarly in Project Grants — 13.5 per cent of male applicants and 12 per cent of female applicants were successful.

But under the Foundation program — 13.9 per cent of male applicants won grants, compared to only 9.2 per cent of women.

The disparity is most striking in the field of public health, where female applicants outnumber male applicants, but men are twice as likely to win Foundation grants — 14.1 per cent vs 6.7 per cent.

Overall, grant applications from men outnumber those by women two to one.

Holly Witteman is a researcher at Laval University’s Faculty of Medicine in Quebec City. (Submitted by Holly Witteman)

The analysis took applicants’ age and field of study into account. 

« This evidence is fairly robust, » said Witteman, a researcher at Laval University’s Faculty of Medicine in Quebec City. 

« When the [grant] reviewers are told to focus on evaluating the scientists … that significantly amplifies success rates for men, » she said.

Grant awarding system broken

Neuroscientist Jennifer Raymond said the Canadian study is another indication that the research funding « system is broken and really needs to be fixed. »

Raymond is a researcher at California’s Stanford University and wrote a commentary which appears in the same edition of The Lancet.

She said female scientists might find the CIHR analysis both discouraging and vindicating.

« A lot of times women internalize and say ‘Oh it’s me, maybe, I’m not good enough, my male colleague is getting all of these awards and attention. I need to try harder,' » she told CBC News.

But Witteman’s research indicates women are being passed over. « And I think this shows that the system is biased, » Raymond said.

Raymond has also assessed grant applications for the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. equivalent of CIHR.

Getting funding can lead to more publications which can make it easier to attract good scientists to your lab, which in turn can help you do more good science and get more funding– Jennifer Raymond

« I sometimes hear comments that I wonder if they would be saying that if the applicant was a male scientist instead of a female scientist. But in any one of those cases, you can never really know what’s motivating the comment. You can really only see the bias in the statistics. »

Funding begets more funding

Gender equality has long eluded the sciences, especially at the leadership level. Raymond said funding bias plays a role in that disparity. 

« Small advantages over time can become big advantages. Getting funding can lead to more publications which can make it easier to attract good scientists to your lab, which in turn can help you do more good science and get more funding. So you know there’s all of these different levels at which these biases play out. »

Raymond said she supports a « blinded » grant application process to protect female researchers from unintended bias. 

It’s an approach increasingly adopted by recruiters and employers. When the Toronto Symphony Orchestra famously began concealing the identities of musicians during auditions in the 1980s, it transformed what was once a nearly all-male orchestra.

For research scientists early in their careers, the cumulative effect of those first grants is often more opportunities down the road.

Bias stalling innovation

Dr. Laura LaChance, a Toronto research psychiatrist and published academic who finished her residency in 2017, points out how important research is in advancing a career.

« Research is a major way that we’re kind of measured against our colleagues in terms of how productive you are and how good of a candidate you are, » said LaChance.

LaChance said career advancement aside, bias against female researchers also results in « stalling innovation in clinical care. »

She said she also worries some frustrated women may simply quit their research efforts in frustration.

Witteman, the study’s author, credits CIHR for both collaborating on her gender research and taking steps to prevent further bias once the disparity in the Foundation grant program was clearly identified. 

In a statement, CIHR said it was committed to eliminating « systemic biases against any individual or group. » The agency has developed an online course called « Unconscious Bias in Peer Review. »


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Child care costs dropping across Canada, but prices still high in some provinces: study – National


Daycare fees have dropped — or barely inched up — in some Canadian cities in what might be early signs of the influence of federal child-care money, a new survey says.

The fifth annual survey of child care fees from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives being released Thursday says that fees for full-time, regulated child-care spaces have risen faster than inflation in 61 per cent of cities reviewed.

READ MORE: Children who go to daycare are better behaved, more advanced, study says

The left-leaning think tank found that costs were the highest in Toronto and the surrounding area, where fees for children under 18 months average $1,685, and $1,150 a month for older preschoolers.

Cities in Quebec had the lowest fees for full-time, regulated spaces across the country, followed by Winnipeg and Charlottetown – in the three provinces that have fixed fees for years.

The federal treasury is set to spend $7.5 billion over a decade to help fund child-care spaces across the country, with the money flowing through one-on-one agreements with provinces.

WATCH: A look at child care costs across Canada in 2016

The first three years of spending will be $1.3 billion and potentially create or maintain 40,000 subsidized spaces, a target the Liberals say is on its way to being achieved. Once the three years are up – after this year’s federal election – new funding deals will have to be signed.

David Macdonald, a senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, said he expected that government policy aimed at lowering fees will lead to an overall decrease in prices for the first time in five years.

“For the survey that we’ve been doing, it’s just been fees going up every year, year after year, far more than the rate of inflation and we’re seeing fees actually start to go in reverse in a couple of the provinces,” Macdonald said.

He says the initial federal spending appears to have helped provinces moving to regulate the prices parents pay for child care.

How much child care cash do you qualify for? New website, application process goes live

The federal Liberals didn’t expect provinces to set lower fees when it signed funding agreements with all of them last year, but did envision that provincial governments – which are responsible for child care – would find ways to make daycare more affordable for those who need it.

A set-fee regime in St. John’s, N.L., led to a 13-per-cent decline in the fees parents pay, the report says, even though the costs still remain similar to those found in Ottawa, where the rates are set by the market. Reductions were also noted in Edmonton where the provincial NDP has rolled out government-supported $25-a-day daycare.

“There’s a measurable effect,” Macdonald said of federal funding.

“While federal money is certainly flowing out, it in all cases supported pre-existing provincial efforts. So it’s not that the federal money initiated those efforts – the provinces initiated those efforts usually several years prior to the federal bilateral agreements being signed.”

WATCH: More than 40% of kids live in ‘child-care deserts,’ study says

Other provinces are using federal funding towards other efforts, such increasing subsidies for low-income families, Macdonald said, although the impacts won’t be captured in the centre’s survey of what providers charge.

Groups interested in seeing the Liberals boost their child-care pending have come away from talks with the view that the government won’t unveil any new measures in the 2019 budget.

Other groups argue that providing more money to families and letting them make their own child-care decisions is better federal policy.

How did Trudeau’s taxes and benefits affect you? Find out with our calculator

Cardus, a non-partisan, faith-based think-tank, released a report last month arguing that federal spending should be used to expand the income-tested child benefit, allow parents on leave to earn more income before their employment-insurance benefits are clawed back, and allow for a market-based, independent child-care system.

“We are witnessing unnecessary discrimination against market-based, home-based, or other private/independent child care,” the paper argues. “These forms of care are some of the most popular for parents as they often mimic the home environment more closely.”


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‘Little Ice Age’ caused by death of 55-million Indigenous people after colonization: study – National


The elimination of nearly 55 million, or 90 per cent, of Indigenous North Americans during European colonization led to global climate change and the “Little Ice Age” of the 17th century, a recent study finds.

Researchers at University College London found that the Great Dying — the massive loss of life that followed Christopher Columbus’ 1492 conquest of the Americas through genocide and the spread of disease — left roughly 56-million hectares of land abandoned.

The study will be published in the March edition of Quaternary Science Reviews but is already available online.

“This population practised a substantial amount of agriculture,” researcher Alexander Koch told Global News.

New stat holiday proposed to mark Indigenous reconciliation set for Sept. 30

The mass vacancy resulted in a sudden “terrestrial carbon uptake” when the land was reclaimed by nature.

Colonization of the Americas at the end of the 15th century killed so many people, it disturbed Earth’s climate, according to a new study by University College London.

According to the study, a spike in plant life was responsible for up to 67 per cent of a significant drop in carbon dioxide levels between 1520 and 1610. Carbon had been transferred from the atmosphere to the land surface through photosynthesis.

Previously cored Antarctic ice samples were investigated. Researchers observed that 7.4 petagrams — or 7-billion metric tonnes — of carbon had suddenly disappeared at that point in time.

Exhibition ‘Shame and Prejudice’ honours First Nations, questions how Canadians see their history

Carbon absorption was greater in wet, tropical environments but still occurred in the drier, coniferous and deciduous forests of the U.S. and Canada.

“These changes show that the Great Dying of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas is necessary for a parsimonious explanation of the anomalous decrease in atmospheric CO2 at that time and the resulting decline in global surface air temperatures,” the study said.

An undated painting shows Christopher Columbus arriving at one of the Caribbean islands on his voyage of discovery from the Naval Museum in Madrid, seen on May 19, 2006.

AFP/Getty Images

The Little Ice Age was a time period that saw winters in North America and Europe average approximately two degrees colder than the current era. Its coldest period is largely agreed by scientists to be between 1600 and 1800.

A difference of two degrees may not seem like much but, in fact, does make quite a difference to daily life.

New law on Indigenous languages will aim to help them ‘survive and thrive’

“A 1-2 degree Celsius temperature drop would have a significant effect on winter weather around North America,” said Anthony Farnell, chief meteorologist at Global News. “Snow would arrive earlier in the fall and stick around longer in the spring. Borderline storms that now fall as rain or freezing rain would be more likely snow if it was just a couple degrees colder.”

Farnell went on to explain how an increase in snow compounded the situation in the 1600s.

“When there is more snow on the ground, the albedo of the earth’s surface increases which means more of the sun’s warming rays are reflected back into space. This then leads to even colder temperatures and more snow which is how a series of cold winters can snowball into a ‘little ice age.’”

The nearly 200-year cold stretch began to decline soon after the first Industrial Revolution began in the United Kingdom in 1760.

WATCH: How researchers determined 55 million killed after colonization

Global News questioned Koch over his team’s data — particularly the population figures. He explained they used a vast amount of data, previous studies and sources to draw their conclusion.

“[The numbers are] based on archaeological evidence, historical documentation and something like house counts,” Koch explained. “For later periods, we didn’t need to do that. We looked into taxation records and census data that was established by the colonizers.”

Those records became more and more robust over time, according to Koch.

Nebraska advances bill requiring tracking of missing Indigenous women, Montana not far behind

Dr. Pamela Palmater is an outspoken Mi’kmaw citizen and faculty member at Ryerson University. She told Global News the population figures aren’t just important — they could change how Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission moves forward.

This report substantiates what the chair of the TRC said that it wasn’t just cultural genocide that Canada committed, it was also physical and biological,” explained Palmater. “This kind of scientific hard data shows just how extensive the genocide was and that means something different for Truth and Reconciliation.

The well-known activist added that she hopes the new scientific data will quiet some of the skeptics.

WATCH BELOW: Activist: ‘Someone’s got to account for this’ after study claims colonization sparked climate change

“One of the biggest struggles in our resistance, in our advocacy and even trying to get someone to talk about reconciliation is denial,” Palmater said. “It’s always a denial from the colonial, or settler, governments about what they did, limiting the harms and denying what the true extent and impact is.”

That impact, according to the study, may have been greater than previously thought.

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


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Calgary city council votes to study safety initiatives for downtown safe consumption site – Calgary


Calgary city council has voted unanimously to take a look at a dozen actions that could lead to increased public safety around the safe consumption site at the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre.

Councillor Evan Woolley said it’s natural to get angry emails from upset residents on various issues, however, what he’s getting from Beltline residents is a sense of fear and he said that is from people who were initially supportive of the safe consumption site.

Woolley and Councillor Diane Colley Urquhart have come up with 12 recommendations that include things such as daily needle cleanups and increased security. They are also asking Alberta Health Services to add additional on-site psychologists and psychiatrists that specialize in addictions and mental health.

“As someone who really supported the facility I support the incredible work that’s being undertaken by some of our best minds to address this problem,” Woolley said. “But it won’t be successful if we cannot keep the people that live in and around this community safe.”

Calgary supervised consumption site given 1-year extension by Health Canada

WATCH BELOW: Tour of supervised consumption site

The councillors’ initiatives follow a recent police report about a spike in crime in the vicinity of the centre.

Councillor Peter Demong voted in favour of Woolley and Colley Urquhart’s initiatives but expressed concern about the city having to provide funding for the issues that were created by the province when the consumption site was opened.

“We’re basically having to clean up something a different level of government instituted,” Demong said.

A report will come to a city hall committee on Feb. 13 with an update and possible costs associated with the 12 initiatives.

Spike in crime around Calgary supervised consumption site leads to questions about resources

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


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Many pregnant women don’t think cannabis is harmful, UBC study finds


A new report by researchers at the University of British Columbia has found that up to one-third of pregnant women believe it is safe to ingest cannabis during pregnancy.

The study, published in the journal Preventive Medicine, pored over data from six U.S. studies and found that some women considered cannabis safe because their health-care provider hadn’t communicated to them that it wasn’t.

Lead author Hamideh Bayrampour, assistant professor in the UBC department of family practice, said the study is important for public health officials to understand perceptions of cannabis use, especially since the drug became legal in Canada.

« What we looked at was perception, not actual risk, » Bayrampour said. 

When women were asked about their perception of general harm associated with cannabis use, 70 per cent of both pregnant and non-pregnant cannabis users responded that they perceived slight or no risk of harm.

In one study, when asked if they believed cannabis is harmful to a baby during pregnancy, 30 per cent of pregnant women responded « no. » When women were asked to identify substances most likely to harm the baby during pregnancy, 70 per cent chose alcohol, 16 per cent chose tobacco, while only two per cent chose cannabis.

« One of our review findings revealed that some people don’t consider cannabis to be a drug, » said Bayrampour.

Treat morning sickness

« With this in mind, it’s especially important for health-care providers to ask specific questions about cannabis use during pregnancy and breast feeding to help spark a productive conversation about the potential health impacts. »

The research found pregnant cannabis users were more likely to be under 25, unemployed, single and African American. Anxiety and depression were also associated with cannabis use while pregnant.

« Based on what we found, their motivation for use was … they wanted to treat their morning sickness, » Bayrampour said.

Health Canada requires cannabis companies to have warning labels on all their products. (

In an effort to get ahead of marijuana legalization in Canada last October, earlier in 2018 the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) warned pregnant and breastfeeding women that legal pot doesn’t mean safe pot.

The society says THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis, crosses the placenta into fetal tissue and can also accumulate in breast milk — whether from vaping, smoking, or eating.

Potential effects, according to the SOGC include:

  • Pre-term labour.
  • Low birth weight.
  • Lower IQ scores.
  • Impulsivity and hyperactivity in childhood.


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Fort McMurray homes see normal levels of contaminants following 2016 wildfire: study


A new study indicates dust from homes in Fort McMurray, Alta., had normal levels of indoor contaminants a year after a devastating forest fire hit the city, suggesting residents did not face an elevated health risk in the aftermath of the blaze.

Arthur Chan, a chemical engineering professor at the University of Toronto, said pollutants in house dust his team analyzed actually contained fewer toxins than homes in many other Canadian cities.

“We don’t see any cause for alarm,” Chan said. “We found that the levels are below what the guidelines considered as risky.”

Wood Buffalo councillors approve $2M to help Fort McMurray residents rebuild after wildfire but some are disappointed

The results were published last week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Chan said he and two other researchers spent three weeks going house to house in July 2017, about 14 months after the blaze, sucking up dust from bedrooms and living rooms — areas with the highest exposure — with commercial grade vacuums. They later analyzed what they collected in a lab.

The team went through more than 60 houses for the study.

2 years after wildfire, insurance frustrations flare up during Fort McMurray rebuild

The researchers were driven to perform their work after residents raised safety concerns in wake of the massive wildfire that forced 88,000 people from their homes. Chan said the research was believed to be the first to look for the retention of “fire-derived pollutants” indoors.

“That’s partly because these kinds of fires are rare and it’s hard to mobilize quickly to go into the community to do the study,” Chan said.

The research team was examining the house dust for the levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are found in high concentrations in burned forests, and heavy metals that are found in high concentrations in ashes from burned buildings.

Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo sees nearly 11% population drop since 2015

They found trace elements of the heavy metal arsenic in house dust in neighbourhoods that were heavily damaged by fire compared to non-damaged neighbourhoods, but the levels weren’t above Alberta’s health guidelines, Chan explained. The researchers found no evidence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in Fort McMurray house dust.

“We still don’t know why, but we think maybe people did a very good job cleaning or maybe from this event there isn’t that much of an impact indoors,” Chan said. “Whatever it is, it is minimizing the health risk.”

Mental-health struggles, depression linger after Fort McMurray wildfire: study

He said he hopes his results informs rebuilding and recovery efforts after wildfires.

“We expect this will be an important set of results for the future because there are likely going to be more wildfires because of climate change and difference in land uses,” he said.

Chan and his team are working on several other related studies. They have gone back to Fort McMurray three other times to look at long-term levels of pollutants inside homes as well as seasonal effects.

They are also working with a lung specialist who is conducting a parallel study looking at the residents of the same houses Chan’s team has examined.

“The idea is to compare what’s around you to what’s in you,” Chan said.

Watch below: A wildfire that forced 80,000 people in northern Alberta to flee more than a year ago has finally been extinguished. (Filed September 2017).


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A Canadian high blood pressure study sees ‘exciting’ early results as investors bank on healthy returns


It is early days, but investors in a unique health promotion experiment are bullish.

A six-month regime of personal coaching, exercise and healthy eating sponsored by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada has succeeded in keeping blood pressure in check — without drugs — for several hundred Toronto-area adults at risk of developing hypertension.

Doug Purdy, 73, walks his Wheaten terrier Chloe near his home in the Keele and Finch area. Purdy says he’s lost 16 lbs. since he signed up for the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Activate program aimed at curbing high blood pressure.
Doug Purdy, 73, walks his Wheaten terrier Chloe near his home in the Keele and Finch area. Purdy says he’s lost 16 lbs. since he signed up for the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Activate program aimed at curbing high blood pressure.  (Richard Lautens / Toronto Star)

The three-year, $3.4 million project that will eventually involve 7,000 participants in the GTA and Vancouver was launched last year as Canada’s first health-related social impact bond, or “pay-for-success” initiative.

Results for the first 500 enrolled last May are “very exciting,” says Heart and Stroke senior manager Erin Kim, who is leading the “Activate” project in partnership with the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing.

Eleven private investors, including businesses, charitable foundations and wealthy individuals, are funding the initiative through the MaRS Centre. The Public Health Agency of Canada will pay up to $4 million depending on how many participants are recruited, complete the program and see their blood pressure stay the same or go down.

Hypertension is the leading cause of stroke, a key risk factor for heart disease and one of the most common reasons for a person to see a doctor and be prescribed a drug, says Kim. It affects more than 6 million Canadians and costs the health-care system more than $14 billion a year.

Left untreated, half of Canadians over 60 with blood pressure in the “high-normal” range (121-139 systolic/80-89 diastolic) will develop hypertension within four years.

In the first cohort, more than 90 per cent stuck with the program for the full six months. And blood pressure readings for a sample of 100 of the first 500 participants showed an average 5.2-point drop. It means some participants moved their blood pressure readings from “normal-high” to “normal” — a significant finding for a drug-free intervention, researchers say.

Heart and Stroke is enrolling its second cohort of 4,100 participants from across the GTA between January and May. Another 2,400 participants in Vancouver will be signed up in 2020.

If the prevention initiative keeps average blood pressure stable for all 7,000 participants during the six-month program, Ottawa will pay the MaRS investors a return of 6.7 per cent. If the program overshoots this target and average blood pressure goes down, investors will receive an 8.8 per cent profit, or $600,000 in total. If the program fails to meet its goals, investors lose most of their money.

“Health promotion is hard. But it’s much better for individuals and society to adopt healthy lifestyle changes and prevent high blood pressure and the need for medication,” Kim says. “And that’s what this program is trying to demonstrate.”

Most of the support is provided through the Heart and Stroke’s “Activate” website and a specially designed app which includes coaching, health information, recipes, mindfulness training and goal setting, says Kim.

Participants with elevated blood pressure must be over 40, non-diabetic and not on medication for hypertension. Once enrolled, they are encouraged to keep a daily log of what they eat and how much exercise they get. The program includes free access to a Loblaws dietitian, a two-month YMCA membership and opportunities to meet others enrolled in the project through periodic community events. Participants receive PC Optimum Points as a reward for healthy behaviour.

The six-month program aims to help participants make “small, healthy choices” to help prevent the onset of high blood pressure, Kim says.

Toronto retiree Doug Purdy, who lost 16 lbs. “and two belt loops” between May and October, says the program changed his life.

“I always had good intentions about exercising. But this helped me get with the program,” he says.

Purdy, 73, credits his Wheaten terrier Chloe and a new exercise partner he met at the YMCA for keeping him on-track. He became so accustomed to working out at the Y, that he took out his own membership when the two-month free trial was up.

“My blood pressure is down to normal now,” he adds.

Regular exercise, along with healthy shopping and eating also produced positive results for Mississauga accountant Babatunji Farinloye, 50.

“I had a health club membership, but this program really helped me develop a habit,” he says. “Now, if I don’t work out, my body feels like something is wrong.”

A grocery store tour along with instructions from a dietitian on how to read product labels, “was a real eye-opener” Farinloye says.

“No more white bread,” he says with a laugh. “I am eating a lot more vegetables, especially colourful ones.”

Mississauga accountant Babatunji Farinloye, 50, says he's happy with the positive results produced by regular exercise and healthy eating since he became part of the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Activate project.
Mississauga accountant Babatunji Farinloye, 50, says he’s happy with the positive results produced by regular exercise and healthy eating since he became part of the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Activate project.  (J.P. MOCZULSKI)

Elementary school teacher Teresa Galati, 56, says the program has helped her manage stress — and her elevated blood pressure.

“I have learned how to take time to meditate and it really helps,” she says.

Galati found the personal coaching particularly useful.

“I was able to go online and ask questions and even if my coach wasn’t available, someone always got back to me,” she says. “If you don’t have time to meet with someone, it’s great to be able to go online. It was phenomenal.”

Investors are also happy.

“We are very pleased with how the first cohort worked,” says MaRS director Adam Jagelewski. “We are setting ourselves up for the second and third cohorts that will ultimately dictate whether investors will get their returns or not.”

While some critics say government should not be paying a “middle man” to deliver public health and social services, Jagelewski says the pay-for-success premium makes everyone involved work harder and allows public officials to show taxpayers what their money has been able to accomplish.

“It doesn’t have to be a social impact bond,” he says. “Outcome-based contracts that have rigour around outcomes-based measurement are where we ought to be going generally.”

A social impact bond using private investors to take on the risk is just one way to do it. Governments could just as easily take this approach, he adds.

“The question is how can we learn from the way this program was designed and apply it to diabetes and other chronic disease and even mental health and addictions,” he says. “I’m hoping this program is a beacon of light for preventative programs across the board.”

As Heart and Stroke gears up to enrol its next cohort, the foundation is inviting employers, unions, health care providers, community associations and other groups to encourage their staff, members, patients and clients to join the free wellness program. Staff from Loblaws, Shoppers Drug Mart and CAA Club Group have already participated and Deloitte and others are on board for the next cohort, Kim says.

For employers with more than 500 staff, Heart and Stroke will send volunteers to the workplace to measure blood pressure and enrol those who qualify. Those who don’t qualify still get access to the foundation’s health resources and a free two-week YMCA membership.

“As everyone knows, a healthier workforce is a happier workforce, with less days off etc.,” Kim says. “We are really keen to know if corporations would spread the word for us because it could really benefit them too.”

Laurie Monsebraaten is a Toronto-based reporter covering social justice. Follow her on Twitter: @lmonseb


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Study gives scientists unprecedented data on young Atlantic salmon in East Coast rivers


A 14-year tracking study is giving scientists an unprecedented range of data on young Atlantic salmon in four major East Coast rivers.

The iconic species is famous for drawing anglers to the region, but researchers wanted to know more about their juvenile survival rates.

The findings, by the Atlantic Salmon Federation in partnership with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Ocean Tracking Network, are in a paper published Thursday in the ICES Journal of Marine Science.

READ: Number of wild Atlantic salmon drops for second straight year

“The study started just due to interest and a lack of understanding as to how these fish are behaving and their survival as they are migrating downstream,” said Jason Daniels, a research scientist with the federation and report co-author.

“Acoustic telemetry has allowed us to have a bit of a window into what’s going on.”

The complex technical study tracked more than 2,800 juvenile wild Atlantic salmon, known as smolt, from populations in four rivers that empty into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. They include the Southwest Miramichi, Northwest Miramichi, and Restigouche rivers in New Brunswick and the Cascapedia River in Quebec.

Smolt were collected each spring as they made their way downriver and were tagged with small acoustic transmitters that monitored migration speed and survival rates.

“Across the 14 years of study survival estimates varied without trends for the population of the Chaleur Bay, but declined for the populations migrating through Miramichi Bay,” the study report says.

WATCH: Halt on commercial salmon fishing in Greenland to help grow shrinking North American population

The collected data indicated that fish survival depended on factors such as smolt size, distance travelled to open water, the conditions encountered, and the presence of predators.

“There was a positive size-dependent probability of survival through the freshwater and estuary areas,” says the study. “The odds of survival of a 16 centimetre smolt were 1.5 to 1.7 times higher than for a 13.5 centimetre smolt length at tagging.”

Survival rates for smolt tagged in the Restigouche and Cascapedia through their shared estuary Chaleur Bay fluctuated from year-to-year but remained relatively high – 67 to 95 per cent over the 14-year period.

Those rates were initially similar for smolt leaving the Southwest and Northwest Miramichi rivers and into Miramichi Bay, but that changed in 2010 when a “pronounced downward trend” began with survival rates fluctuating between 28 and 82 per cent.

The drop in survival rates on the Miramichi was attributed to a rise in the population of the predatory striped bass population. The spawning population of striped bass in the river increased from about 15,000 at the beginning of the study to about 300,000 by 2016.

“The spawning period overlaps in timing with the downstream smolt migration,” says the report. “Atlantic salmon smolts have been identified in stomachs of striped bass sampled from the Miramichi.”

READ MORE: Conservation group says no wild Atlantic salmon detected at site in N.B. river

Other factors affecting the smolt survival estimates may include water chemistry in the Northwest Miramichi watershed and changing experimental conditions.

Daniels said the higher mortality numbers for the Northwest Miramichi are a cause for concern given that the average return rate of smolts to the river is around two to three per cent.

“When you see 80 to 90 per cent of those smolts disappearing just in the estuary before they even get to the ocean, you really scratch your head and wonder how you are going to see three or four per cent of those smolts make it back as adults,” he said.

The study confirmed that most mortality takes place in the first few days or weeks after smolt leave fresh water. However, the researchers said fish survival improves as the smolt move offshore.

“The estuary is where the majority of the mortality seems to be occurring,” said Daniels. “These fish have lived their entire lives in a freshwater environment and they are undergoing a lot of different physiological changes, so they are already in a state where they are stressed out.”

Aside from adapting to a saltwater environment, he said they also have to deal with another set of predators, so the results really aren’t that surprising.

“Being able to study multiple rivers at once across multiple years allows you to see these trends and compare them to rivers that don’t have the same types of pressures,” said Daniels. “You can see the relative impact some of these pressures may be having on particular populations of salmon.”


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Study finds Canadians concerned about shipping petroleum by water


A new Angus Reid Institute study suggests Canadians have a much greater concern over marine shipping when petroleum is involved.

The survey of over 2,200 people found 94 per cent of Canadians believe marine shipping is either “very safe” or “generally safe.”

But when asked about shipping petroleum products in Canadian waters, only 61 per cent of respondents said they are more confident about the safety of the procedure than they are worried.

B.C. chief says a single major oil spill could ruin her nation’s economy forever

Research associate Ian Holliday also notes that more than half of those surveyed mentioned the potential for an oil spill as a major risk associated with the shipping industry.

But Holliday tells Alberta Morning News that concern shows people may be overestimating how many major oil spills have taken place in Canadian waters, where at least 700 tonnes of oil have spilled.

Bellegarde says Trans Mountain pipeline expansion may go forward if shipping terminal is moved

“Most Canadians guess that over the last 10 years, there have been at least three such spills,” Holliday says.

“In fact, there have been zero spills of that size.”

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According to the study, the support for marine shipping petroleum also varies depending on geographic location.

In Alberta and Atlantic Canada, more than 60 per cent of respondents would support an increase in oil tanker traffic around B.C.’s South Coast.

Thousands take part in Montreal climate march opposing Trans Mountain pipeline

But most British Columbians and Quebecers oppose more petroleum-carrying vessels in the same area.

The survey also found 75 per cent of Canadians are confident in the safety rules and regulations covering marine shipping, but a majority still feels the government needs to focus more on safety oversight and enforcement.

The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from Oct. 19-29, 2018, among a representative randomized sample of 2,250 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. The sample plan included large over-samples in British Columbia and Atlantic Canada, which were then weighted back to provide a national snapshot. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size with this sample plan would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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


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