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Food inspection agency: Vegan chocolate bars contain milk

Vegan bars contain milk

The Canada Food Inspection Agency has issued a warning that a brand of vegan chocolate bars actually contains milk.

The agency put out the allergen alert late Sunday, saying that two varieties of iChoc vegan bars contain improperly labelled milk.

It says the affected bars are the White Vanilla Vegan bar and the Classic Vegan Bar.

The bars are advertised as being made with "rice drink" and note in the nutrition information that they may contain "trace amounts" of milk.

But the CFIA says that anyone with an allergy to milk should not consume the bars, because it could be dangerous to their health.

The agency says the allergen alert was prompted by consumer complaints and has not caused any known illnesses.





Toronto officials say crowds eased at park flooded by thousands

Park flooded by thousands

A downtown Toronto park flooded by a crowd of thousands on Saturday had largely emptied on Sunday as police and bylaw officers turned up in full force.

Officials condemned the gathering at Trinity Bellwoods Park on Saturday and reminded residents that people who aren't from the same household must keep two metres apart under city bylaws during the COVID-19 pandemic — a rule parkgoers respected on Sunday, according to police.

Police Chief Mark Saunders said public drinking was a large part of the problem at the Queen Street West park, and unruly people were defecating and urinating near people's homes.

"(Homeowners) certainly didn't buy to have people defecating in their laneways, in their backyards," Saunders said. "If you're going to be bringing beer here and then utilize someone else's house as a toilet, then there's a bit of self entitlement there."

Saunders pointed out that people in other parks around the city were acting responsibly, and even people in other ends of Trinity Bellwoods Park were keeping their distance.

But police said that by Sunday, the crowds had eased significantly.

City officials said they only issued four tickets at Trinity Bellwoods Park on Saturday. They say their focus remains on educating the community.

Police did not immediately say how many tickets their officers issued.

City spokesman Brad Ross implored residents to take advantage of the city's many other parks rather than crowding and drinking together at some of the most popular destinations.

"It became a bit of a party atmosphere frankly, and alcohol was a contributing factor to that," said Ross.

"There are 1,500 parks in this city, use them please, but please do so responsibly."

He added that there are no plans to close popular parks like Trinity Bellwoods, and said a recent closure of High Park in the city's west end was only done because the space's cherry blossoms attract massive crowds in the spring.

Mayor John Tory went to the park on Saturday in what he said was an effort to educate people while trying to understand their behaviour.

But he faced criticism for adding to the crowd, and for failing to properly wear a mask — something he apologized for on Sunday evening.

"I want to apologize for my personal behaviour yesterday. I visited Trinity Bellwoods Park to try to determine why things were the way they were," he said in a written statement. "I fully intended to properly physically distance but it was very difficult to do. I wore a mask into the park but I failed to use it properly, another thing I'm disappointed about."

He said that going forward, he'll set a better example.

City officials are continuing to warn people that they can face a fine of up to $1,000 for not following social distancing orders.

They say 370 people were spoken to or cautioned at parks around the city Saturday.

Toronto remains one of the hardest hit cities by COVID-19 and the total number of confirmed cases in the city topped 10,000 on Sunday.

A total of 759 deaths are related to the virus in the city.



Terry Fox Run celebrates 40th anniversary by going virtual

Terry Fox Run goes virtual

The 40th annual Terry Fox Run has been transformed into a virtual event this year, as a result of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on large event gatherings.

This year's event hosted by The Terry Fox Foundation will take place from coast to coast on Sunday, Sept. 20 as participants throughout the nation complete their run virtually. 

The tag line for the annual event is “Terry Fox Run 2020. One Day. Your Way.” The event will unite Canadians in spirit, not in person, "because cancer research cannot wait for COVID-19 to be over, because Terry asked us to try, [and] because it's the 40th anniversary of Terry's Marathon of Hope!" 

Residents are encouraged to register as an individual, family or team, to participate from their own neighbourhoods or backyards in a virtual walk, ride or run. 

To register or for more information, click here.





Residents evacuated for Porters Lake blaze allowed to return home

Evacuated residents go home

Residents of more than 500 homes that were threatened by a forest fire in an area east of Halifax are being allowed to return now that officials have lifted an evacuation order.

Halifax Fire tweeted late Sunday afternoon that the order for West Porters Lake area was ended, noting the weather has been in firefighters' favour.

Word of the fire first emerged early Saturday afternoon, leading to the closure of area roads and the evacuation of more than 150 homes, involving more than 1,000 residents.

Erica Fleck, the Halifax Region fire emergency management chief, said earlier that 523 homes had been evacuated as of noon local time Sunday and that another 500 homes could be evacuated if conditions worsened.

The tweet says residents were being allowed to return home as of 6 p.m. local time, although it noted a highway exit would remain closed until 9 p.m. this evening.

Firefighters had described the work as "a challenge" and "extremely trying" due to rough terrain that made it difficult to reach some areas.



Boeing reduces workforce by 400 in Winnipeg due to virus impact

Boeing cuts 400 jobs

Boeing says it plans to cut 400 positions at its Winnipeg facilities due to the impact of COVID-19.

A statement from the company says the reductions will come from voluntary and involuntary layoffs and normal attrition.

According to Boeing's website, the company employs approximately 1,600 people in two locations in the city, where they produce components mainly for its commercial airplanes.

The statement notes that Boeing previously announced it would adjust the size of the company to "reflect new market realities" from the pandemic.

Earlier this month, Boeing said it failed to sell a single commercial airplane in April and also saw orders for 108 planes cancelled last month as a sharp drop in air travel erased any demand among airlines for new jetliners.

The company announced April 29 it would cut 10 per cent of its 161,000-person work force through attrition, early-out offers and layoffs.



Fire crews continue battling 'out-of-control' Porters Lake blaze

'Out-of-control' blaze

Nova Scotia fire crews faced rocky terrain and dry conditions as they battled an out-of-control blaze Sunday that forced the evacuation of 523 homes in an area east of Halifax.

David Steeves of the province's lands and forestry department said the wildfire in the Porters Lake area was 60 per cent contained by early afternoon Sunday, up from 30 per cent the previous evening.

But he also described the work as "a challenge" and "extremely trying" due to rough terrain that made it difficult to reach some areas.

"We are still very involved in a suppression effort, and we're taking this extremely seriously," Steeves said in a media update.

"You can imagine some of the large boulders and whatnot that Halifax County is known for. So they are dragging lots of equipment up and over that. It's difficult work. It's tiring work."

Nevertheless, Steeves said fire crews "are going to bite and claw for every inch."

Word of the fire first emerged early Saturday afternoon, leading to the closure of area roads and the evacuation of more than 150 homes, involving more than 1,000 residents.

Erica Fleck, the Halifax Region fire emergency management chief, said 523 homes had been evacuated as of noon local time Sunday but there was the possibility that another 500 homes could be evacuated if conditions worsened.

Steeves said strong winds out of the west could push the fire toward the community, noting that weather and extremely dry conditions have made the situation difficult to predict.

Of particular concern is the fact the fire has "hopscotched" through the woods, leaving behind unburned areas Steeves described as "tinder dry and ready to go."

He described the blaze as a "dirty burn" as opposed to a "clean burn" which consumes all the fuel.

"So if the fire is to kick back up and come through that area again, we have what we call a reburn," said Steeves.

"Reburn is extremely dangerous for folks on the ground (and) the potential for reburn is high with the winds that are coming out of the west."

A rough estimate early Sunday pegged the affected region at approximately 50 hectares.

Steeves said approximately 45 Halifax firefighters were in the woods alongside 30 firefighters with lands and forestry, including an incident management team.

Officials also reminded people of a province-wide ban on burning, saying fire risk in the province is high because of dry conditions, winds and low humidity.



Procession for Snowbirds crash victim makes its way to Halifax

Casey honoured in Halifax

A procession honouring the Canadian Forces Snowbirds aerobatic team member killed in a recent plane crash began under blue skies in Halifax Sunday evening, as the remains of the young officer remembered for her bright smile arrived in her hometown.

Close friends and family members wearing black and the official Snowbirds colours of red and white laid flowers on Capt. Jennifer Casey's casket during a homecoming ceremony on the tarmac near Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

The 35-year-old military public affairs officer and Halifax native died in the crash of a Snowbirds Tutor jet in a residential area of Kamloops, B.C., last Sunday.

The national aerobatics team was on a cross-country tour to boost residents' spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Governor General Julie Payette wore face masks as they stood at the airport ceremony along with dozens of military members.

Payette said the Snowbirds do a risky job and said she was proud to be in Halifax honouring Casey.

"The fact that this happened during Operation Inspiration, where they were going around cheering us Canadians, is even more tragic," Payette said after the ceremony.

A bagpiper played while military members carried Casey's casket from the CC-130J Hercules that had taken off from Abbotsford, B.C., Sunday morning after an earlier private ceremony with her Snowbirds teammates.

A police-escorted motorcade left the Halifax airport to transport Casey's remains through the city to Atlantic Funeral Home.

Spectators were encouraged to wear red and white, and to respect social distancing measures while observing the procession.

Early in the procession, footage showed supporters parked along Highway 102, many standing beside their vehicles holding Canada and Nova Scotia flags.

In the week since the crash, Casey's family said she possessed a beautiful smile and a "positively infectious personality" that made her the ideal person to carry out a mission aimed at stirring hope during a time of uncertainty.

Friends and former colleagues have remembered her as upbeat, professional and enthusiastic with lasting pride about her hometown.

Casey's "final journey home to Halifax" began Sunday morning, according to a tweet posted from the official Snowbirds account.

The Snowbirds thanked Canadians and singled out the residents of Kamloops and local First Nations for supporting Casey, the squadron and Capt. Richard MacDougall, who survived the crash with injuries the military has said are not life-threatening.

"Your love and support is very deeply appreciated, and will never be forgotten," the tweet read.

Casey earned bachelor's degrees in arts and journalism from Dalhousie University and the University of King's College in Halifax, as well a master's of interdisciplinary studies from Royal Roads University in Victoria.

Before joining the Armed Forces, Casey had a career as a radio reporter, anchor and producer in Halifax and Belleville, Ont.

She began her military career as a direct entry officer August 2014 and was assigned to the Snowbirds in 2018.

Operation Inspiration has been suspended while the team's jets are subject to an "operational pause," the team's commander said last week. Lt.-Col. Mike French said the events were the "absolute worst nightmare" for the Snowbirds.

It's the second time this month that Haligonians have held a motorcade for a military member who called the city home.

The remains of Sub.-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough, a Royal Canadian Navy sailor killed last month in a helicopter crash off the coast of Greece, were transported through the city by a police-escorted motorcade on May 11.

Thousands of people attended the motorcade for the 23-year-old Cowbrough, who was originally from Toronto but had lived in the Dartmouth area.



RCMP facing 'systemic sustainability challenges' due to provincial policing role

'Systemic' RCMP challenges

The RCMP's costly contract policing obligations across Canada are draining resources from the force's federal duties in areas such as organized crime and national security, an internal government memo warns.

The demand for contract officers in the provinces and territories where they provide regular local policing services outstrips the RCMP's capacity to recruit and train them, causing shortages that have led to officer health and wellness concerns, says the Public Safety Canada document.

In turn, there is "growing dissatisfaction" in contract jurisdictions about costs and officer vacancies, and the resulting effect on community safety, the starkly worded memo says.

"Public Safety Canada and the RCMP have confirmed there are systemic sustainability challenges impacting the whole of the RCMP."

The coming unionization of rank-and-file Mounties will only intensify these pressures, the memo says.

The heavily censored memo, newly released under the Access to Information Act, was included in a collection of briefing materials prepared for the incoming cabinet following the fall election.

Over 60 per cent of RCMP's multibillion-dollar budget and over 70 per cent of the force's officers are assigned to contract policing in 153 municipalities, the three territories, and all provinces but Ontario and Quebec, the memo notes.

This makes the RCMP the police of jurisdiction for over one-fifth of Canada's population in a geographic area accounting for three-quarters of the country.

Under 20-year agreements signed in 2012, provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP's services.

The federal share is approaching $750 million annually, up from $618 million in 2012-13.

Policing is part of the provincial responsibility for the administration of justice and the federal government has been aiming since the 1960s to "decrease its contract policing financial liability," the memo says.

At the same time, the national force's federal policing responsibilities include serious and organized crime, financial crime, terrorism, espionage, cybercrime, protective security for officials, criminal intelligence and other areas.

"Federal policing responsibilities have been and are being eroded to meet contract demands," the memo says.

Since 2010, the number of contract RCMP officers increased 17 per cent while federal officers decreased 30 per cent.

Meantime, Surrey, B.C. — the largest RCMP contract municipality, in suburban Vancouver— is pursuing creation of its own police force and, the memo says, "others are also considering alternatives."

The challenges come as the national police force tries to modernize, including unionization of frontline officers, following a series of revelations about internal bullying and harassment.

The National Police Federation is the certified bargaining agent for more than 20,000 RCMP members and reservists, and officer salaries are expected to increase under a negotiated agreement.

A second Public Safety memo, on RCMP governance and transformation, says a recent review of the force's budget looked at gaps in programs and needed technical improvements.

"Some of the pressures identified have been addressed, while others remain," it says.

"The pending unionization of officers — which will magnify fiscal and human-resource pressures — heightens the need to modernize the RCMP."

Public Safety is working with the RCMP and the Treasury Board Secretariat to develop a bargaining strategy that goes beyond human-resource issues to consider bringing the force into the future, controlling costs and the overall impact on contract jurisdictions, the memo says.

The RCMP says a $508-million injection in the last federal budget has helped stabilize the force's funding over the medium term. Obtaining additional monies will mean showing that existing resources are being used effectively, the force adds.

However, the RCMP referred questions about the contract policing challenges to Public Safety.

Mary-Liz Power, a spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, declined to provide details of behind-the-scenes discussions.

The government is working with the RCMP and provincial and territorial partners "to address issues of mutual interest" such as frontline policing priorities and modernization, she said.



The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada

COVID: latest numbers

The latest numbers of confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 12:38 p.m. ET on May 24, 2020:

There are 84,082 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 46,838 confirmed (including 3,940 deaths, 14,044 resolved)

_ Ontario: 25,500 confirmed (including 2,073 deaths, 19,477 resolved)

_ Alberta: 6,818 confirmed (including 135 deaths, 5,869 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 2,517 confirmed (including 157 deaths, 2,057 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 1,050 confirmed (including 58 deaths, 973 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 630 confirmed (including 7 deaths, 535 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 281 confirmed (including 7 deaths, 268 resolved), 11 presumptive

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 260 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 254 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 121 confirmed (including 120 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 27 confirmed (including 27 resolved)

_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)

_ Yukon: 11 confirmed (including 11 resolved)

_ Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)

_ Nunavut: No confirmed cases

_ Total: 84,082 (11 presumptive, 84,071 confirmed including 6,380 deaths, 43,653 resolved)



First Nations health authorities tell Commons committee they need more PPE

First Nations need more PPE

OTTAWA - Indigenous health authorities that service Western Canadian First Nations say they are experiencing problems accessing enough medical and protective equipment needed to protect their citizens from COVID-19.

Senior representatives from regional First Nations health authorities in Saskatchewan and British Columbia told a Commons committee Friday they need more personal protective equipment.

"We have delays in accessing PPE," said Tara Campbell, executive director of the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority in Saskatchewan.

"On-reserve populations' PPE in Saskatchewan are distributed by the province and unfulfilled requests are then forward to the national emergency stockpile."

She also said medical supplies such as thermometers and testing supplies are not readily available and that nursing capacity "remains a critical issue."

Campbell noted the key role that testing played in addressing an outbreak in the northern Saskatchewan community of La Loche earlier this month, where extensive door-to-door and mobile testing was done to identify and stop the spread of the virus.

"By being able to test and get results sooner, we were able to isolate individuals to make sure that transmission was minimal," she said.

"We aren't able to do this in every community because testing supplies are limited."

Chief Charlene Belleau, chair of the First Nations Health Council of B.C., said access to PPE has also been a concern for First Nations across her province.

"We also recognize the limitations across the country, but we are constantly advocating for PPE not only for our health care providers but also for our people that are providing security on the lines or at band offices," she told the committee.

The federal government has said it has been delivering large amounts of protective equipment to Indigenous communities to ensure they are able to protect their citizens and front line workers against the novel coronavirus.

On Friday, Indigenous Services Canada tweeted that as of May 22, it had shipped 845 orders of PPE to First Nations communities and had one order in progress.

But Conservative MP Bob Zimmer, who is the party's Northern affairs critic, says the accounts coming from First Nations chiefs and advocates at committee over the last few weeks indicate more of these critical supplies are needed in many Indigenous communities.

"It's a federal responsibility to provide PPE to the Indigenous communities and it was supposed to be established that way. We're hearing of shortages across the board, across Canada," Zimmer said Friday.

Richard Jock, interim chief executive officer of British Columbia's First Nations Health Authority, said his agency has developed a system to distribute PPE to its communities and regions to ensure there is a few weeks' supply to try to prevent critical shortages.

But supplies are low.

"I would not want to say that there's a stockpile or an accumulated surplus," he said.

Bellau also noted a rising dispute in B.C. about what level of government — federal, provincial or Indigenous — should pay the increased costs being incurred by First Nations that have hired security personnel to block or limit access to their communities to prevent outbreaks COVID-19.

"(Indigenous Services Canada) cannot rely on First Nations utilizing our own resource revenue as a means of protecting our communities," she said.



The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada

COVID-19: today's numbers

The latest numbers of confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 2:30 p.m. on May 23:

There are 83,603 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada.

  • Quebec: 46,838 confirmed (including 3,940 deaths, 14,044 resolved)
  • Ontario: 25,040 confirmed (including 2,048 deaths, 19,146 resolved)
  • Alberta: 6,800 confirmed (including 134 deaths, 5,801 resolved)
  • British Columbia: 2,517 confirmed (including 157 deaths, 2,057 resolved)
  • Nova Scotia: 1,049 confirmed (including 58 deaths, 969 resolved)
  • Saskatchewan: 630 confirmed (including 7 deaths, 535 resolved)
  • Manitoba: 281 confirmed (including 7 deaths, 268 resolved), 11 presumptive
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 260 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 254 resolved)
  • New Brunswick: 121 confirmed (including 120 resolved)
  • Prince Edward Island: 27 confirmed (including 27 resolved)
  • Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)
  • Yukon: 11 confirmed (including 11 resolved)
  • Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)
  • Nunavut: No confirmed cases

Total: 83,593 (11 presumptive, 83,592 confirmed including 6,354 deaths, 43,250 resolved)



Plastics bans, environmental monitoring get shelved during pandemic

Environmental plans on hold

In mid January the British Columbia government announced it was looking at a wide ban on single-use plastic grocery bags to put an end to a piecemeal, city-by-city approach to the problem of plastic pollution.

Ten weeks later, the province's chief public health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, issued guidance saying the exact opposite. Stores were to provide clean carry-out bags, she told retailers on March 30, as the province was closing in on 1,000 positive cases of COVID-19.

"Customers should not use their own containers, reusable bags or boxes," reads the written instruction.

It was but one sign that environmental policies were to be among the first things cast aside or suspended as the COVID-19 pandemic descended on Canada.

Fear of contamination from reused packaging and the need to operate with reduced staff and with fewer interactions between people, prompted retailers to bar reusable packaging, from bags to coffee cups. Restaurants were forced to go to a take-out only model, pushing the need for plastic and Styrofoam containers through the roof.

And as the use of plastic containers went up, some cities were forced to cut back, or even cancel outright, municipal recycling programs.

Last week Calgary suspended blue-bin operations entirely because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the city's recycling plant. Edmonton has said about one-quarter of what it collects from blue bins is going to the landfill now because it don't have the staff to handle all the material. In eastern Ontario, Quinte Waste Solutions, which provides recycling to nine municipalities, suspended collection of most hazardous and electronic waste for proper disposal. In Nova Scotia, several recycling depots were closed.

Alberta's Energy Regulator has suspended almost all environmental monitoring requirements for the energy sector, including soil, water and air pollution. Initially just applicable to some oilsands operations, on Wednesday the regulator expanded the exemption for the entire energy sector, saying it was no longer safe to do so with the threat of COVID-19.

In early April, Ontario passed a regulation under its Environment Bill of Rights that suspends the requirement for a 30-day consultation with the public on any policy that affects water, air, land or wildlife. The government cited the need to be able to respond quickly to COVID-19 as the reason, although the requirement was not lifted only for any COVID-19 policies, but for anything.

Environmental Defence executive director Tim Gray said governments that were already less inclined to care much about the environment are abandoning policies the fastest, but there are also delays to promised protections because of COVID-19 that could become a longer-term problem.

Federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said last week the government remains committed to its climate-change and plastics ban plans, but that some policies are being delayed a bit because of the virus.

"My concern is that this will go on for so long it will push it so far down the road it can't get done before another election," said Gray.

He said decisions to suspend plastic-bag bans are a "panicked response" that may cool as more information and science is understood about the virus. Just this week, the Centers for Disease Control in the United States changed its wording about how the virus is transmitted to say it does not spread easily from touching contaminated surfaces.

Canada's deputy public health chief Dr. Howard Njoo said Friday rigorous and frequent hand washing and not touching your face without washing your hands will prevent any virus you may have picked up on your hands from making you sick.

The plastics industry has seen an uptick in demand in the midst of the virus, said Bob Masterson, the president of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada.

"What I would say has changed is people, as a result of COVID, have a much better appreciation of the benefit of plastic as a sanitary material for the food industry," he said.

Stores across the country rushed to wrap their checkout counters with plastic shields and equip their employees with plastic gloves and face shields. Demand for hand sanitizer — mostly bottled in plastic — soared.

John Thayer, a senior vice-president at petrochemical manufacturer Nova Chemicals, said while some orders were cancelled because of COVID-19, demand has increased for plastics used to make food packaging, e-commerce packaging and shipping requirements and medical packaging and protective equipment. Everything from face masks to surgical gowns to ventilators, test tubes and COVID-19 testing kits, use plastic.

"Polyethylene and other polymers are helping prevent COVID-19 transmission and treat those impacted by the virus," said Thayer.

Sarah King, head of the oceans and plastics program at Greenpeace Canada, disputes that plastics are safer as a means to protect consumers. She said plastics have a place in the medical world but studies have shown the virus actually lives longer on plastic than any other material.

A cloth bag that is washed regularly is less likely to be contaminated than a plastic one, she said.

"There is a lot of misinformation about plastics as a healthy alternative," said King.



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