Supervised consumption site user says ID policy could be harmful to Albertans

Alberta's top court will hear an urgent appeal Thursday, led by advocates racing to stop a provincial policy change for supervised drug consumption sites that they say will have deadly consequences. Morgan Black spoke with a woman who will be directly impacted by the change.

Alberta’s top court will hear an urgent appeal Thursday, led by advocates racing to stop a provincial policy change that they believe will have deadly consequences.

The policy will require people who are using substances to show their personal health-care number to access supervised consumption services.

Read more:

Alberta’s top court to hear urgent appeal on ID policy for supervised drug-use sites

It’s a change that could bring harm to people who use the  facilities, according to a Calgary woman who is dealing with an opioid addiction.

Ophelia Cara said the ability to access a supervised consumption service with ease was what led her to finally find stability in her life while using drugs.

Introduction to opioids

Ophelia Cara in Calgary on January 26, 2022

Ophelia Cara in Calgary on January 26, 2022

Global News

Cara went to the hospital after a sexual assault in 2020, where she was given an IV to help with the pain.

“That is the first time in my life that I ever had opioids,” she said.

During the pandemic, Cara said her mental health deteriorated after a string of life-altering events. She began to start injecting substances such as heroin.

She said her path with drug-use was unsustainable, but she was not able to quit opioids entirely, despite various attempts at treatment.

Cara said she is now on track to enter a PhD program specializing in narcotic chemistry and psychoactive pharmacology.

In between her studies, she works as a harm reduction advocate. She does this while using opioids prescribed and monitored by her doctor.

“Fundamentally, I live a normal and happy life now,” she said.

“This prescription provides me the foundation to do that. If I lost it, it would be absolutely catastrophic.”

Read more:

Alberta delays identification requirements at supervised consumption sites amid legal challenge

She hasn’t had an overdose in a year. She said the staff at a nearby supervised consumption service played a key role in helping her get to this point of stability.

“The reason I felt comfortable going to a doctor and advocating for myself was because the site started to repair my mistrust ”

She noted that the ability to get a prescription is not something that everyone has access to. She said that further underscores the importance of low-barrier access to these sites, so people can get the help they need in the moment they need it.

“Some people who use drugs don’t even have a health-care number to provide,” Cara said. “People who use drugs have a lot of mistrust for the medical care system.

“If we institute more barriers into accessing this care, that is going to prevent people from accessing services they really need.”

Court appeal Thursday

Moms Stop the Harm and the Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society, which are the two non-profit societies challenging the Alberta government, argue this policy change could increase barriers to drug-use sites and increase the risk of overdose.

Earlier this month, an Alberta judge dismissed an injunction that would have delayed the implementation of the new rules.

Read more:

Personal health numbers required at Alberta supervised consumption sites until trial ends

“As this matter is once again before the courts, I will not be commenting on any specifics however we are confident in our position,” reads a statement to Global News from Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addiction Mike Ellis.

“These quality standards were introduced to ensure that clients are better connected to the health-care system, to improve the quality of services that are being offered to people with addiction and to ensure community safety in the areas surrounding supervised consumption sites.”

Almost 1,400 people died from substance-related overdoses between January and October 2021.

If you or someone you know is using substances, do not use alone. If you are using alone, you can contact the National Overdose Response Service at 1-888-688-NORS for support, or download the Digital Overdose Response System (DORS) or BRAVE app.

— with files from The Canadian Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Boston man denied heart transplant because he's not vaccinated against COVID-19

WATCH: Anti-vax mandate truck convoy rolls through Alberta

A Boston hospital is defending itself after a man’s family claimed he was denied a new heart for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, saying most transplant programs around the country set similar requirements to improve patients’ chances of survival.

The family of D.J. Ferguson said in a crowdfunding appeal this week that officials at Brigham and Women’s Hospital told the 31-year-old father of two that he was ineligible for the procedure because he hasn’t been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“We are literally in a corner right now. This is extremely time sensitive,” the family said in its fundraising appeal, which has raised tens of thousands of dollars. “This is not just a political issue. People need to have a choice!”

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D.J.’s mother, Tracey Ferguson, insists that her son isn’t against vaccinations, noting he’s had other immunizations in the past. But the trained nurse said Wednesday that he’s been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation — an irregular and often rapid heart rhythm — and that he has concerns about the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“D.J. is an informed patient,” Tracey Ferguson said in a brief interview at her home in Mendon, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southwest of Boston. “He wants to be assured by his doctors that his condition would not be worse or fatal with this COVID vaccine.”

Brigham and Women’s Hospital declined to comment on D.J. Ferguson’s case, citing patient privacy laws. But it pointed to a response that it posted on its website in which it said the COVID-19 vaccine is one of several immunizations required by most U.S. transplant programs, including a flu shot and hepatitis B vaccines.

The hospital said research has shown that transplant recipients are at higher risk than non-transplant patients of dying from COVID-19, and that its policies are in line with the recommendations of the American Society of Transplantation and other health organizations.

Patients also must meet other health and lifestyle criteria to receive donated organs, and it’s unknown if D.J. Ferguson did or would have met them.

Brigham & Womens Hospital also stressed that no patient is placed on an organ waitlist without meeting those criteria, and rejected the notion that a transplant candidate could be considered “first on the list” for an organ — a claim Ferguson’s family made in its fundraising post.

“There are currently more than 100,000 candidates on waitlists for organ transplantation and a shortage of available organs — around half of people on waiting lists will not receive an organ within five years,” the hospital said.

Hospitals in other states have faced similar criticism for denying transplants to patients who weren’t vaccinated against COVID-19.

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In Colorado last year, a woman suffering from late-stage kidney disease said she was denied a transplant by her hospital because she was unvaccinated. Leilani Lutali, a born-again Christian, said she opposed immunization because of the role that fetal cell lines play in some vaccines’ development.

There is a scarcity of donor organs, so transplant centers only place patients on the waiting list whom they deem the most likely to survive with a new organ.

“A donor heart is a precious and scarce gift which must be cared for well,” said Dr. Howard Eisen, medical director for the advanced heart failure program at Penn State University in Hershey, Pennsylvania. “Our goal is to preserve patient survival and good outcomes post-transplant.”

The United Network for Organ Sharing, the nonprofit that manages the country’s organ transplant system, doesn’t track how many patients refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine have been denied transplants, said Anne Paschke, an organization spokesperson.

She said patients who are denied organ transplants still have the right to go elsewhere, though individual hospitals ultimately decide which patients to add to the national waitlist.

According to the online fundraiser, D.J. Ferguson was hospitalized in late November for a heart ailment that caused his lungs to fill with blood and fluid. He was then transferred to Brigham and Women’s, where doctors inserted an emergency heart pump that the family says is only meant to be a temporary stopgap.

“It’s devastating,” Tracey Ferguson said. “No one ever wants to see their child go through something like this.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Mike Babcock and Huskies men's hockey team return to roots on outdoor rink

WATCH: During the rigors of a season teams are bound to face tightly contested battle and hard driven practices, this is no exception for USports athletes playing in the Canada West. But, even after a grueling week of training for the men's hockey team, they still found a way to have some fun, all while getting the community involved. Brenden Purdy has the story.

It’s a warm and sunny January afternoon in Saskatoon, the temperature hovers right around the freezing mark and a familiar sound bounces around the boards at the newly-constructed outdoor rink at Brunskill Elementary School: pucks hitting posts, sticks tapping as voices call for passes and, of course, laughter.

However, this laughter is coming from the head coach of the Huskies men’s hockey team, Mike Babcock.

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He’s smiling from ear to ear as his team dons their skates, some in snowbanks, some on a tiny bench, all of them embracing a return to their roots on the outdoor rink.

“Obviously this is how they all started and it’s a lot of fun to be out here, this will be a great team builder for us,” Babcock explained.

“We practiced Monday, Tuesday and today, we’re still going to get a lot of work in, but it’ll be a lot of fun.”

The idea for an outdoor practice came to the team’s head coach during one of his many drives in to work.

“I drive by this (rink), I actually drive down this road every morning on the way to campus,” he said. “The lights are always on and people are usually out here getting it ready for the kids.

“Obviously it’s a spectacular facility, so we wanted to come down and enjoy it.”

Read more:

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Getting to the level of spectacular facility was no mean feat for the Varsity View community association. The group raised $70,000 for the complete refurbishment of the rink, which is now complete with poly panel boards, painted lines and a pair of historical nets, both of which came from the Huskies’ old home at Rutherford Arena.

“It’s super cool; it’s really, really neat,” community association member Angela Jones said. “All of the people that helped us with the background work, there’s not a lot of glamour in that, it was a lot of hard work.

“But to see these guys here enjoying themselves and thinking that the ice is really great for playing, and to have Mike Babcock, it’s really neat.”

When the idea was broached to the players it was met with unanimous excitement, especially for all of the home grown talent that grew up playing on this rink and others like it around the Bridge City.

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“It’s awesome, I spent some time on this rink as a kid, not as much as over at Egnatoff, where I went to school. But, it’s familiar waters for me, (Tate) Olson and (Ty) Prefontaine, my three-on-three (teammates) for this tournament,” said Huskies defenceman Connor Hobbs.

“This rink is for everyone,” Jones said. “It’s for everyone in our community, everyone in our city because it’s so central.”

Besides the team breaking up a bye week with a unique internal competition, the showcase also allowed for local children to see some of their idols up close, a positive experience for both the athletes and kids alike.

“(You) sometimes forget how big guys seem when you’re a little kid, like the ones that are watching us,” Hobbs said.

“We’ve got to remember that we’re role models and they are looking up to us, it’s the biggest crowd that we’ve played in front of in a couple of weeks.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

B.C.'s top court extends old-growth logging protest injunction to next fall

A court injunction against old-growth logging protests on Vancouver Island has been extended until next fall in a British Columbia Court of Appeal decision that overturns a lower-court ruling.

In a unanimous decision Wednesday, a panel of three judges granted the appeal by forestry company Teal Cedar Products Ltd. of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that denied the company’s application to extend the injunction by one year.

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RCMP has spent $6.8M so far enforcing Fairy Creek injunction, docs show

More than 1,100 people have been arrested while protesting old-growth logging in the Fairy Creek area near Port Renfrew, about 110 kilometres west of Victoria.

Company spokesman Conrad Browne said some timber harvesting activities are now taking place.

“There are areas that we can’t get to because of winter weather, but that doesn’t preclude us from going and harvesting other areas in tree farm licence 46,” said Browne, who is Teal Cedar’s director of Indigenous engagement and strategic relations.

The company is pleased the court granted the appeal and extended the injunction until Sept. 26, he said.

“Given the reading of the reasons in their decision to do this, it is quite telling and very supportive of all of the arguments we put in front of the courts,” Browne said.

The court panel overturned the lower-court ruling, saying the judge erred in denying Teal Cedar’s application to extend the injunction.

Read more:

B.C. forest company says rule of law must apply to ongoing protests at Fairy Creek

“The public interest in upholding the rule of law continues to be the dominant public interest in cases involving civil disobedience against a private entity,” says the written decision from the panel.

In September, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Douglas Thompson refused to extend the injunction, saying police enforcement at the Fairy Creek site led to serious infringements of civil liberties including freedom of the press.

He said the factors in favour of extending the injunction did not outweigh the public interest in protecting the court’s reputation.

However, the Appeal Court panel said the court’s reputation isn’t depreciated by granting an injunction to stop unlawful conduct.

“The conduct of police does not tarnish the reputation of the court; the court and police are constitutionally independent,” the decision says.

Read more:

Injunction against Fairy Creek old-growth protesters reimposed on interim basis

A lawyer representing the protesters, known as the Rainforest Flying Squad, said the decision was a disappointment and his clients are considering their next steps.

“There’s the possibility of an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada,” said Malcolm Funt. “In our view these issues of climate change and ecological destruction are of significant national importance.”

During a two-day Appeal Court hearing in November, a lawyer for Teal Cedar argued that the company has the right to pursue its economic interests while facing an organized protest campaign that disrupts its legal right to harvest timber.

Company lawyer Dean Dalke told the court the lower-court judge made a mistake in concluding the court’s reputation would be diminished by extending the injunction.

The panel agreed.

“In conclusion, and with respect, we are of the view that the judge erred by giving weight to irrelevant considerations and by giving too little weight to the public interest in upholding the rule of law, which must be the dominant consideration in all cases involving significant and persistent acts of civil disobedience.”

The Rainforest Flying Squad issued a statement Wednesday saying protesters are losing patience with the B.C. government’s refusal to stop the logging of the province’s old-growth forests.

Read more:

B.C. logging injunction at Fairy Creek extension denied by judge

“Now our court system further protects corporate rights above those of its citizens,” says Kathleen Code, a defendant and member of the Rainforest Flying Squad, in the statement.

Teal Jones said in a statement Wednesday that more than half of the old-growth forest in the area it is logging is protected, including the Fairy Creek watershed. It also says large areas within the tree farm licence have been protected in the past 30 years, including the 16,500-hectare Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park.

“We also believe that forestry can harvest responsible amounts of both old- and second-growth forest, based on science and engagement with local First Nations,” the statement says.

The B.C. government announced an old-growth logging deferral program last year.

A temporary injunction preventing protests against logging activities in the Fairy Creek area had been in place since September.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Second World War veteran turns 102 years old in Penticton, B.C.

Henry Kriwokon, a Second World War veteran, turned 102 years old on Wednesday.

Kriwokon moved to Penticton, B.C., in 1999 and still lives in the same home he settled down in over 20 years ago.

“I am just enjoying life — today is just another day,” said Kriwokon.

The walls of Kriwokon’s home are covered with photographs, awards and newspaper articles that he has collected over the years.

Those include one of the most famous photos from the Second World War, “Wait for me, Daddy”, and pictured in the lineup of soldiers is Kriwokon.

“As of today, there are only two of us still living from the photo, myself and one of the other soldiers,” said Kriwokon.

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After he returned home from war, he worked as a millwright before retiring.

“Then I thought, ‘What I am going to do,’ and just about then the camcorders came out. I got one and I was on the road all day taking photographs,” he said.

Meanwhile, he still lives on his own and although independent he does rely on friends for some help.

“I still have my vehicle and my neighbour drives me around a lot. He loves driving and I love sitting there and enjoying it,” he said.

Denis Ebner volunteers to help Henry run errands and the two of them have become friends.

“I found Henry to be a very inspirational person. When you want to talk politics, or the economy or world affairs, Henry is way ahead of me. And when it comes to computers, he is way smarter than I’ll ever be,” said Ebner.

Ebner and Kriwokon spent time working in Saskatchewan, nearly 20 km away from each other.

“It is very inspiring what he has been through — starting as a dirt farmer and very poor in the 1930s from a little place in Saskatchewan. I worked at a place close to there and although we never met, we had some common ground of a Saskatchewan farming background,” said Ebner.

Henry says that he has no big plans for his birthday other than a few visits with friends and many phone calls.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Omicron-fuelled wave nearly triples Calgary police COVID-19 count

The fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Calgary has hit police as hard as the greater community.

During a meeting of the Calgary Police Commission on Wednesday, the Calgary Police Service reported it has accumulated nearly double the positive cases among CPS members since the Omicron variant’s arrival in the province than during the entire pandemic before that.

Between March 2020 and November 2021, 239 CPS members had tested positive for COVID-19. In the last two months, 428 members tested positive.

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Alberta records 22 more COVID-19 deaths

Currently, CPS has 61 active COVID-19 cases, with 83 per cent of those among sworn members.

Deputy Cheif Raj Gill said 93.75 per cent of CPS members have been fully vaccinated with two or more doses.

An internal analysis revealed of those members who tested positive for the coronavirus, 94 per cent had been vaccinated.

“That number is reflective of what’s happening in the greater society, in terms of fully-vaccinated people that are testing positive for COVID,” Gill said.

But the police service isn’t planning on changing its masking guidance.

“We continue to follow the orders of the chief medical officer of health in Alberta and in addition to that, our occupational safety officers are examining every time we have a COVID-positive case — through our incident management team and our health nurse — to see if there’s any prevention efforts we could take in those environments,” the deputy chief said.

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At its peak, around 100 members had tested positive and around 50 were self-isolating, CPS Chief Mark Neufeld said, adding it’s been steady at an 80-20 split between sworn and civilian members.

“The most challenging impact, of course, has been at the front line,” Neufeld said. “Obviously, we’ve got some staffing shortages that we’re experiencing at the front line in any event. And so on top of it, when we lose people on the front line, it can actually make it very difficult.”

CPS members have been pulled from other areas to be redeployed on the front lines, known as patrol support advisory teams.

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“We started off with seven members working day shifts (and) seven members working night shifts that are available to be redeployed across the city whenever we have shortages,” Gill said. “And then we continue to pivot and monitor the resource needs and we will be able to adjust it and look at other resources if required.”

Neufeld acknowledged the redeployments have impacted other areas of CPS, but commended the work done to manage officer resources “quite effectively.”

“I think primarily we will use overtime if we have to, of course, but for the most part, I think the incident management team and the group that’s been working on that has been dealing with the logistics to make sure there is extra bodies out there as frequently as they can,” he said.

Gill added that the CPS vaccination policy has resulted in only a pair of resignations and “several members” are in the disciplinary process.

CPS members who don’t get vaccinated are subject to twice-weekly rapid antigen testing to stay in line with the policy.

The current stock of rapid tests are due to expire in March, a matter CPS said it is working with the City of Calgary to address.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Free tuition aims to fill B.C.'s health care assistant vacancies

WATCH: B.C. has a shortage of health care assistants and the pandemic has only made that worse. Now a program that provides free education for those looking to enter the profession is trying to fill that gap. As Megan Turcato reports, a new cohort of Okanagan students will start training next month and could be working in local care homes by the end of the year.

B.C. has a shortage of health care assistants and the pandemic has only made that worse.

But a program that provides free education for those looking to enter the profession is trying to fill that gap.

Read more:

Okanagan care home offers free program to deal with severe care aide shortage

A new cohort of Okanagan students will start training next month and could be working in local care homes by the end of the year.

The training program is needed because, while a large number of people have become care aides in the last year, the BC Care Providers Association estimates there are still hundreds of unfilled jobs.

“The demand before COVID was high and there was a lot of vacancies in these positions around the province,” said Terry Lake, the CEO of the BC Care Providers Association.

“COVID made that worse in a number of ways: some people left the sector because of COVID and the single-site order means you can only work in one care home at a time. So that increased the number of health care assistants that were needed across the sector.”

With the help of government grant funding, the BC Care Providers Association, which represents seniors facilities around the province, is working with Discovery Community College to provide a free 38-week training program for those interested in becoming care aides.

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The college said past graduates of the Health Care Assistant Training Program have found employment right away.

“There is really no stutter in employment,” said Joanne Funk, the director of student operations the college’s health and human sciences programs.

“Those employers are trying to capture them before they are finished their training and they are graduated…If a student has those right skills and a great attitude they get to pick really where they want to work.”

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A cohort of over 30 aspiring health care assistants will start the program in Vernon and Kelowna next month.

“We have such a need to care for our vulnerable population. Our senior citizens need well-trained health care professionals to be at long-term care facilities at assisted living. Our goal is to try to alleviate the pressure that the current health care workers are experiencing right now,” Funk said.

The training program is still taking applications for the upcoming Vernon and Kelowna sessions.

Graduates are expected to be filling job vacancies by the end of 2022.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Life expectancy in Canada took its biggest-ever dip in 2020, and COVID-19 was a factor: StatsCan

New statistics show the average life span in Canada has declined by almost a year. This is due to the pandemic directly increasing mortality in all age groups and indirectly by fuelling the opioid overdoes crisis . The leading cause of death remains cancer and heart failure. Aaron McArthur reports.

Canadians’ average life expectancy fell to the largest degree ever recorded during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data released this week by Statistics Canada.

COVID-19 became Canada’s third-leading cause of death in 2020, and Statistics Canada says the country saw 7.7 per cent more deaths that year than in 2019.

The agency says Canadians’ average life expectancy dropped to 81.7 years in 2020 from 82.3 year in 2019 — a drop of more than half a year.

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“It is substantial, because that is the largest decline ever observed — at least since 1921, the year our national vital statistics registration system was introduced,” Statistics Canada demographer Patrice Dion explained.

Despite the historic decline, Canada’s 2020 life expectancy remained among the highest in the world, according to Statistics Canada.

“Most other countries have (also) seen a decline. In some countries like the United States, Spain or Italy, the decline has been one year and a half. Few countries managed to have their life expectancies stable or increasing,” Dion said.

The largest declines were recorded in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

Nationally, the decline was greater for men, at 0.7 years, than women, who saw the average life expectancy fall by 0.4 years.

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The gender trend was generally reflected at the provincial level, except in Quebec, where women’s life expectancy fell by more than men, and in B.C., where the life expectancy of women remained stable.

Mortality rates increased in nearly all age groups, with the death rate among people aged 25 to 39 years old the highest it has been in more than 20 years, according to Satistics Canada.

“That’s another indication of the indirect impacts of the pandemic, so not only COVID-19 related deaths, but also deaths related to other causes,” Dion said.

COVID-19 itself was directly responsible for more than 16,000 deaths in 2020 but statistics agency says the pandemic may have had indirect consequences that led to increased deaths across the country — particularly among younger Canadians.

The agency said just 50 deaths among people under the age of 40 were attributed to COVID-19 in 2020, while deaths linked to substance use climbed among that cohort.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of deaths related to substance use — that’s something we’ve seen in British Columbia,” Dion said.

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Advocates and health officials British Columbia have drawn a link between the pandemic and surging deaths attributed to illicit drug toxicity.

Statistics Canada said alcohol-related deaths also climbed in 2020.

Dion said the annual figures are calculated on deaths occurring in a specific year, and as a result should the worst impacts of the pandemic begin to wind down the country’s average life expectancy would be expected to quickly rebound.

Life expectancy data for 2021 should be available near the end of this year or in early 2023.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Boy, 13, charged after Toronto pharmacy robbed: police

WATCH: 13-year-old boy charged in death of 15-year-old in Toronto

A 13-year-old boy has been arrested in connection with a robbery in Toronto, police say.

According to Toronto Police, the robbery took place at a pharmacy on Jan. 18 in the Dawes Road and Chapman Avenue area.

Officers said a “firearm was produced and narcotics were stolen.”

Police said a 13-year-old boy from Toronto was arrested on Monday in connection with the robbery.

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According to police, the boy has been charged with robbery with a firearm, disguise with intent and possession of property over $5,000.

Officers said he is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.

The accused cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Toronto police confirmed to Global News that the boy was previously charged on Jan. 20, in connection with the shooting death of 15-year-old Jordan Carter.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Alberta doctors, teachers express interest in leaving the province

New numbers show Alberta could be facing a new kind of brain drain, with doctors and teachers saying they want to work outside of the province. Breanna Karstens-Smith reports.

New numbers show Alberta could be facing a new kind of brain drain, with doctors and teachers saying they want to work outside of the province.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association has been conducting what it calls ‘pulse surveys’ throughout the pandemic.

The latest edition saw nearly a third of about 1,300 members saying they expect they will not be teaching in Alberta come the next school year.

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Nearly one in six, or 16.4 per cent, of respondents said they will have retired by next year. One in seven — 14.3 per cent — planned to leave teaching to join another profession. Nearly seven per cent of respondents said they would be leaving Alberta to teach in another location.

“When you talk to teachers as to why, (they say it is) the lack of response that is clear from the government around COVID,” said ATA president Jason Schilling.

He said teachers reported being frustrated they still had not received rapid test kits or medical masks.

Schilling also said educators were interested in leaving because of the contentious draft curriculum.

Compared to the previous survey asking the same questions, the number of teachers looking to leave the profession had doubled.

Recently-retired principal Sue Bell appeared at a press conference with the NDP this week.

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She said she retired early because of the challenges teachers have had to face during the pandemic.

“I would have worked for a few years more, but the last year-and-a-half just burnt me out, so I was done,” explained Bell.

The educator of nearly 3 decades said the breaking point came when Alberta Health stopped doing contact tracing in schools.

Teachers and support staff had to take over the task and Bell described working overtime, including on weekends, to notify families they had been in contact with a case of COVID-19.

“From that point on, I did not have a day off until we went online in December.”

In a statement, a press secretary for the Minister of Education disagreed with the findings.

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“Alberta’s government recognizes how challenging the past two years have been,” wrote Katherine Stavropoulos. “We are grateful to all parents, students, teachers and education partners for their continued flexibility and dedication during the pandemic.”

She went on to call the validity of the survey into question.

“The ATA’s recent report is based on a survey of approximately 1,300 K-12 Alberta teachers, representing only 2.8% of the 46,000 teachers in Alberta. It also appears this is a pulse survey of a self identified group of teachers who have indicated they will participate in surveys from the union,” Stavropoulos wrote.

Alberta doctors appear to be leaving the province too.

In its 2021 quarterly update, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta found the province gained 33 physicians in 2021 over 2020.

While the south, central and north zones saw decreases, both Calgary and Edmonton saw increases with the capital seeing 60 additional registered physicians.

Read more:

Two family doctors explain why they’re leaving Alberta: ‘Physicians are just feeling powerless’

Still, 140 physicians left the province in 2021. That was up from 87 in 2020.

In a statement, the press secretary for the Minister of Health said the net gain was positive.

“We’re pleased to see that more physicians chose to enter practice in Alberta last year than leave, but we recognize that the pandemic has been hard on physicians, as it has for all Albertans,” wrote Steve Buick.

Buick went on to tout Minister Jason Copping’s work with the Alberta Medical Association to address concerns for physicians including increasing payment for virtual care.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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