Revving up the vaccine rollout and tracking CERB dollars: In The News for Feb. 15

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Feb. 15 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

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OTTAWA - Canada's sluggish vaccination efforts are expected to get a big boost starting this week as the federal government prepares for a ramp up in the delivery of shots from Pfizer and BioNTech.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says more than 335-thousand doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will land this week, the single largest shipment since the pandemic began.

The Public Health Agency's number is based on five doses per vial, but Pfizer says it will actually deliver nearly 400-thousand shots this week after the agency agreed to six doses per vial.

The company is expected to deliver even more doses the following week, and has promised to make good on its promise to deliver a total of 4 million shots to Canada by the end of March.

The ramp up follows a month-long lull in deliveries from Pfizer as the pharmaceutical giant scaled back production to expand a plant in Europe

Canada is not expected to receive any vaccine doses from Moderna this week as the company only delivers shots every three weeks.

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Also this ...

OTTAWA - Data on billions of dollars in Canada Emergency Response Benefits that flowed last year show higher concentrations of the aid in cities compared to rural parts of the country.

The neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood analysis of CERB recipient figures by The Canadian Press reveals a large split between the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in rural communities versus urban centres.

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives economist David Macdonald says the jobs highly affected by the public health restrictions in lockdowns were in urban centres.

Over its lifespan between late March and October of last year, the CERB paid out nearly $82 billion to 8.9 million people whose incomes crashed either because they saw their hours slashed, or lost their jobs entirely.

The data obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act shows there were 6.5 million people who received the CERB at the outset.

The figures from Employment and Social Development Canada show the figure declined from there as conditions improved until there were almost 2.3 million recipients by the time the program wrapped up.

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And this ...

TORONTO - The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic didn't stop a rising tide of reports of domestic violence, experts say, warning that the stress of life in lockdown continues to put victims at risk.

Canada's Assaulted Women's Helpline fielded 20,334 calls between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, compared to 12,352 over the same period the previous year, said Yvonne Harding, manager of resource development at the organization.

"It's very disturbing to know that there are so many women who are in this really precarious situation," she said. "There may have been limited support for them beforehand, but at least they had outlets."

Harding said opportunities to leave the house to get help — such as daily trips to and from school — have in many cases been eliminated during the pandemic. Access to friends and family has also been cut off, she said, leaving victims with fewer options.

Call volumes spiked almost immediately when swaths of Canada first locked down, Harding said.

The Assaulted Women's Helpline has had to expand services, she said, and has received government funding to do so. Police, too, are seeing a spike in domestic-related calls, albeit not as pronounced.

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This too ...

OTTAWA - More than five years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called on the federal government to revise the Canadian citizenship oath and exam guide, newcomers still study a book that contains a single paragraph on residential schools and they take an oath that doesn't refer to treaties with Indigenous Peoples.

The commission called on the government to update the citizenship guide and oath to include better history of Indigenous Peoples and a recognition of their treaties and rights.

Alberta Regional Chief Marlene Poitras of the Assembly of First Nations says Indigenous Peoples' history and culture should be reflected in the materials.

The Liberal government introduced a bill in October to adopt a revised oath of citizenship that will have new Canadians swear to faithfully observe the country’s treaties with Indigenous Peoples.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino told the House of Commons Indigenous and northern affairs committee last month that his department is consulting with national Indigenous organizations to revise the citizenship guide.

The five largest Indigenous organizations in the country say they have not been involved in any formal consultations on the new guide in years.

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

WASHINGTON — A day after former President Donald Trump won his second Senate impeachment trial, bipartisan support appeared to be growing for an independent Sept. 11-style commission into the deadly insurrection that took place at the U.S. Capitol.

Investigations into the riot were already planned, with Senate hearings scheduled later this month in the Senate Rules Committee.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré to lead an immediate review of the Capitol’s security process.

Lawmakers from both parties, speaking on Sunday’s news shows, signaled that even more inquiries were likely.

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And this ...

DALLAS — Snow and ice blanketed large swaths of the U.S. on Sunday, with areas as far south as Texas’ Gulf Coast beginning to get the wintry weather.

Freezing rain and snow were expected overnight in the Houston area.

As snow fell in Texas and Oklahoma, wrecks had shut down portions of interstates Sunday, while parts of Kentucky and West Virginia still recovering from an ice storm last week are expected to get more.

Meanwhile, governors in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas have each activated National Guard units to assist state agencies with tasks including rescuing stranded drivers.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar’s military leaders have extended their detention of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose remand was set to expire today and whose freedom is a key demand of the crowds of people continuing to protest this month’s military coup.

A lawyer for Suu Kyi said she will now be remanded until Feb. 17.

Suu Kyi’s extended detention is likely to further inflame tensions between the military, which seized power in a Feb. 1 coup, and the protesters who have taken to the streets of cities across the Southeast Asian nation seeking the return of the government they elected.

Protesters continued to gather across Myanmar on Monday following a night in which authorities cut the country’s internet access and increased the security presence in major cities.

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And this ...

BRUSSELS — An Associated Press investigation, conducted in collaboration with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, found that powerful political figures and allied media in China, the U.S., Russia and Iran flooded the globe with disinformation about the origins of the COVID pandemic.

As rhetoric from leading U.S. Republicans intensified, China went on the offensive, launching what may be its first truly global digital disinformation campaign.

China used its growing presence on Twitter and Facebook to seed and spread disinformation that coursed through tens of thousands of accounts with hundreds of millions of followers in dozens of languages.

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ICYMI ...

MONTREAL - A pair of Quebec-born cheetahs are adapting to life under the African sun ahead of their planned release into the wild.

The brothers' journey is a rare, international "re-wilding" project that conservationists hope will help ensure the future of the species.

The cats are reportedly settling in well after recently making the multi-day journey from Quebec's Parc Safari to a wildlife sanctuary in Zimbabwe.

They're spending 60 days in quarantine before being released into a 45-hundred-hectare reserve.

The Quebec zoological director who helped raise them says the boys are already starting to act like wild cheetahs.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 15, 2021

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