'Mixed emotions' among N.S. teachers as mask mandate in public schools ends

We talk with Paul Wozney, president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, to get his take on the lifting of mask mandates in schools.

The mask mandate for children in Nova Scotia public schools has been officially lifted as of Tuesday morning.

Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union president Paul Wozney said in a morning interview it’s “a day of mixed emotions.”

Wozney said union members are evenly split on the decision, which was announced just last week.

“There are some folks (who feel) it’s time,” he said. “There have been a lot of complications because masking, particularly with teachers who work with kids at the early language acquisition stages.”

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COVID-19: Nova Scotia ending mandate for masks in public schools

But he said there are also teachers who are immunocompromised or have immunocompromised family members, and are “deeply concerned.”

The province said last week in a Thursday morning release though the requirement is lifted, “masks will continue to be recommended” and those “who choose to wear a mask will be supported.”

It listed warmer weather and the possibility for outdoor learning as reasons for ending the mandate.

Mask requirements were previously lifted everywhere but schools, hospitals and long term care, along with most other restrictions on March 21. Now, school students, staff and visitors will not be required to wear a mask in Nova Scotia.

Wozney said he’s surprised “to some degree” that the measure was lifted before June, but he said Nova Scotia was the last province to do so.

“In some ways we’re the envy of the country. Lots of teachers wish that masking had remained as long as it did (in Nova Scotia),” he said.

The real concern now is seeing how lifting masking will impact staffing levels.

“It’s been hard even with masking to keep the doors open on schools,” Wozney said.

“Teachers are covering off positions that can’t be filled because we have such a desperate need for substitute teachers.”

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COVID-19 communication in N.S. and the hot-button political issue it continues to be

This will be the third consecutive year that the end of the school year has been disturbed by COVID-19.  As a tumultuous school year comes to an end, Wozney said people are barely hanging on as it.

Wozney said the debate around masking “is not a civil one,” and teachers are not able to referee that conflict.

“My plea to Nova Scotians is, whether you support the end of masking or you don’t, if you have views, teachers didn’t make this decision, the people in government did,” he said.

“The best place to take those views are not to the classroom to politicize the work of students and teachers, but to take it to your government representative.”

 

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

Alternating lane closures on Burlington Canal Lift Bridge due to repair work

The federal government is alerting drivers about alternating lane closures of the Burlington Canal Lift Bridge Tuesday through Friday due to maintenance work.

Between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily, one or two lanes will be closed alternately.

One lane will remain open in each direction. Motorists should expect short delays.

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Hamilton to close Lincoln Alexander Parkway for maintenance the last weekend of May

Pedestrian and marine traffic will not be affected but Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) urge caution for those who expect to use the thoroughfare between May 24 and 27.

The schedule may change depending on weather conditions.

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

Finland, Sweden sending teams to Turkey to talk NATO bids

WATCH: Biden backs NATO membership bid of Finland, Sweden during leaders’ visit to White House

Finland and Sweden will send delegations to Ankara on Wednesday to try to resolve Turkish opposition to their applications for membership of the NATO military alliance, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said on Tuesday.

Ankara’s objections have put the brakes on what Sweden and Finland hoped would be a quick accession process as the two countries look to shore up their security following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We understand that Turkey has some of their own security concerns vis-a-vis terrorism,” Haavisto said during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “We think that these issues can be settled. There might be also some issues that are not linked directly to Finland and Sweden but more to other NATO members.”

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Turkey says Sweden and Finland harbor people linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group and followers of Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that talks would start on Wednesday.

On Monday, Turkey outlined five conditions for it to back Sweden’s NATO membership bid, demanding that Sweden lift sanctions against Turkey, including an arms export embargo; end “political support for terrorism”; eliminate sources of terrorism financing and halt arms support to the PKK and its armed Syrian offshoot YPG, according to a list published by the president’s directorate of communications.

“Sweden, which has applied for membership, is expected to take principled steps and provide concrete assurances regarding Turkey’s security concerns,” the directorate said in the statement.

“Since 2017, our country has requested the extradition of PKK/PYD and FETO terrorists from Sweden but has yet to receive a positive response,” it said, referring to Syria’s main Kurdish party PYD and Gulen’s group FETO in addition to PKK.

A Turkish official said Turkey would not backtrack in its talks with Sweden and Finland unless concrete progress was made to address Ankara’s security concerns, adding it was not separately negotiating with Washington over the Nordic countries.

“There are a number of diplomatic initiatives ongoing,” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said in a statement. “We have no further comments.”

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Turkey’s Erdogan flatly rejects Sweden, Finland NATO bids: ‘We would say no’

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who has objected to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, held phone calls with the leaders of the two Nordic countries on Saturday and discussed his concerns.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said the talks were “open and direct.”

“I stated that as NATO allies Finland and Turkey will commit to each other’s security and our relationship will thus grow stronger,” Niinisto tweeted after the call.

Erdogan spoke also with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Saturday, telling him that Ankara would not look positively on Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids unless they clearly show cooperation in the fight against terrorism and other issues.

© 2022 Reuters

Ukrainian authorities unearth 200 bodies in Mariupol ruins

WATCH: Ukrainian soldiers surrendering from Mariupol considered prisoners of war: Red Cross

Workers digging through rubble found 200 bodies in Mariupol, Ukrainian authorities said Tuesday, another grim discovery in the ruined port city that has seen some of the worst suffering of the three-month-old war.

The bodies found in the basement of a collapsed apartment building were in a state of decomposition and a stench permeated the neighborhood, said Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the city’s mayor.

Mariupol, which the Russians recently claimed full control over, has endured some of the worst suffering of the war and became a worldwide symbol of defiance for the diehard defence put up for months by fighters at a steelworks.

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Russia launches all-out assault in Ukraine’s east as war hits 3 month mark

The announcement of the discovery of the bodies came shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of waging “total war,” seeking to inflict as much death and destruction as possible on his country.

“Indeed, there has not been such a war on the European continent for 77 years,” Zelensky told Ukrainians Monday night, on the eve of the three-month anniversary of the start of the war.

He pointed to a missile attack that killed 87 people last week in the town of Desna, 55 kilometres north of Kyiv, one of the deadliest single strikes in the war.

“And it was only four missiles,” he said, noting the many hundreds of such strikes since the beginning of the war on Feb. 24.

The conflict began with expectations that Russia might overtake the country in a blitz lasting only days or a few weeks. But stiff Ukrainian resistance, bolstered by Western weapons, has bogged down Moscow’s troops, forcing them to pursue more a limited objective.

The Kremlin is now focused on the eastern industrial heartland of the Donbas, where Russian forces have intensified efforts to encircle and capture Sievierodonetsk and neighboring cities, British military authorities said Tuesday. That’s the only part of the Donbas’ Luhansk region that remains under Ukrainian government control.

Russian forces have achieved “some localized successes” despite strong Ukrainian resistance along dug-in positions, the U.K. Defence Ministry said, but the fall of Sievierodonetsk and the area around it may cause logistical problems for the Russians.

“If the Donbas front line moves further west, this will extend Russian lines of communication and likely see its forces face further logistic resupply difficulties,” the ministry said.

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In its effort to secure a victory in the Donbas, Moscow has withdrawn some forces from around Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv.

There, residents lined up for rations of tea, sugar, pasta and cereal, holding out plastic bags to receive cups of flour and other supplies.

Meanwhile, a Russian-installed official in Ukraine’s Kherson region said the pro-Kremlin administration will ask Moscow to set up a military base there.

“It is vitally important and will become a security guarantee for the region and its residents,” said Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the administration.

Ukrainian officials have speculated Russia plans to stage a referendum in the region to declare its independence, similar to ones held years ago in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of the Donbas. Moscow recognized the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics two days before invading Ukraine, using that as a pretext to send troops to its ex-Soviet neighbor.

Instead, Stremousov said the region would ask the Kremlin to make it part of Russia. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said it is up to the people of Kherson to decide how and where they want to live.

Meeting in Tokyo with fellow leaders in the Indo-Pacific security coalition known as the Quad, President Joe Biden said Tuesday that Russia’s war in Ukraine had brought a “dark hour in our shared history.”

Global defence leaders on Monday agreed to send more advanced weapons to Ukraine, including a Harpoon launcher and missiles to protect its coast, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Moderate livelihood fishery launched by First Nation in Cape Breton

First Nations fishers in southwest Nova Scotia received a show of support on Thursday from the Assembly of First Nation national chief. They’re calling on the federal government to recognize treaty rights and uphold the Supreme Court’s decision allowing Indigenous fishers to fish for a moderate livelihood. Callum Smith reports.

A Nova Scotia First Nation has launched a moderate livelihood lobster fishery in Cape Breton with approval from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

The department issued a statement Friday saying it came to an understanding with the We’koqma’q First Nation that authorizes fishers in the community to harvest and sell their catch in accordance with the Netukulimk Livelihood Fisheries Plan.

The understanding is linked to the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision that affirmed the treaty right of Indigenous harvesters to fish for a moderate livelihood, but the court later clarified that Ottawa could regulate the treaty right for conservation and other limited purposes.

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A statement from We’koqma’q Chief Annie Bernard-Daisley says the time for such an agreement has come, adding Mi’kmaw harvesters should be able to exercise their rights “without fear of their gear and equipment being seized.”

A number of Mi’kmaw fishing traps have previously been seized by DFO officers or targeted in acts of alleged vandalism.

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Federal enforcement in N.S. fisheries dispute ‘political’: Mi’kmaw lawyer

We’koqma’q is now the sixth First Nation to come to an agreement with Ottawa for moderate livelihood fishing in Nova Scotia, along with Potlotek, Pictou Landing, Acadia, Bear River and Annapolis Valley.

The understanding between the DFO and We’koqma’q limits fishers to 210 traps in each of two designated fishing zones where lobster stock is considered to be in the “Healthy Zone,” said the department of fisheries’ release.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 22, 2022.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Monkeypox outbreak ‘containable,’ WHO says with 131 cases confirmed

WATCH: Monkeypox patterns of transmission ‘not typical,’ but virus is ‘containable’: WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday there have been 131 confirmed monkeypox cases and 106 further suspected cases since the first was reported on May 7 outside the countries where it usually spreads.

While the outbreak is unusual, it remains “containable” and limited, the WHO said, and it is convening further meetings to support member states with more advice on how to tackle the situation.

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Monkeypox could spread through sexual contact, but it’s not an STI: WHO adviser

Monkeypox is a usually mild viral infection that is endemic in parts of west and central Africa. It spreads chiefly through close contact, and until the recent outbreak has only rarely been seen in other parts of the world. The majority of the recent cases have been reported in Europe.

“We encourage you all to increase the surveillance of monkeypox to see where transmission levels are and understand where it is going,” said Sylvie Briand, WHO director for Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness.

She said it was unclear if the cases were the “tip of the iceberg” or if the peak in transmission has already passed.

Speaking at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Briand reiterated WHO’s view that it is unlikely that the virus has mutated but said that transmission may be being driven by a change in human behaviour, particularly as people return to socializing as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted worldwide.

Many, but not all, of the cases have been reported in men who have sex with men, and Briand said it was particularly important to try to prevent sexual transmission.

Symptoms include a fever and a distinctive bumpy rash. The West African strain of monkeypox, which is the one identified in the current outbreak, has a mortality rate of around one per cent.

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Monkeypox spread ‘unusual’ but risk to Canadians is ‘low,’ officials say

While she said the outbreak was “not normal,” she stressed that it was “containable.” There are also vaccines and treatments available for monkeypox, she added, calling for appropriate containment measures, more research, and global collaboration.

“Let’s not make a mountain out of a molehill,” she said.

© 2022 Reuters

Marigolds and Murals Project in Saint John reaches 25th anniversary

A community initiative providing more colour to the Saint John region is marking 25 years. The Marigolds and Murals project is responsible for millions of planted flowers and over 100 pieces of artwork – all by the hands of volunteers. Robert Lowthian reports.

The Marigolds and Murals Project has embedded the details of neighbourhood flowers into Saint John’s culture for 25 years.

And, by mid-June, visitors and residents can be captivated by the real flowers planted throughout the city.

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“Bright colours on the brain makes people happy. Greenery lowers aggression, and the marigold is a very hearty flower,” said project founder Barry Ogden.

Ogden acknowledged that if you had asked him over two decades ago, he never would have thought the project would last 25 years.

It’s become a favourite for many who live locally, and is equally adored by tourists here for a visit, he said.

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“We had a site in the city where they were growing things and came up with the idea that we’ll get school children, and it comes from when I was a child we would get marigolds,” Ogden recalled.

To date, the project is responsible for 171 murals, 1,000 planted trees, and 100 painted homes.

According to Ogden, the five million marigolds planted over the lifespan of the project have been responsible for nine Guinness World Records. They have also become a staple in teaching curriculums, he added.

“The children use it as a theme in their learning, so they use photosynthesis, they use math germination rates, poetry, art.”

In the coming weeks, students from 44 schools will begin planting the marigolds they have nourished since the winter.

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22nd Marigolds Project underway in Saint John

Marigolds and Murals has grown to its current level nearly entirely on private funding and the work of 80,000 volunteers and 1,600 local artists. When asked about its purpose in the community, Ogden stated it’s meant to empower residents.

“Out of the five million marigolds and the 170 murals, we’ve never had one vandalized, so that tells you that empowerment is really the way to change society,” he proudly remarked.

Its Ogden’s hope that the work of the Marigolds and Murals Project will continue long after his life.

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

Man stabbed at Toronto's Ashbridges Bay Park on Victoria Day Monday

Toronto police say a man was injured in a stabbing at Ashbridges Bay Park on Victoria Day Monday.

Police said the stabbing was reported at around 10:50 p.m.

Officers found a man with a stab wound, police said.

He was taken to hospital by paramedics with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

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7 officers injured, 19 arrests made after violent night at Toronto’s Woodbine Beach: police

The stabbing comes as the city’s Woodbine Beach area saw a rash of violence on Sunday.

Police said 19 people were arrested that night, including several minors, for incidents that involved a shooting, stabbing, two gunpoint robberies, and fireworks shot at officers.

Due to Sunday’s events, officers said there would be an increase in police presence for Monday night at Ashbridges Bay and Woodbine Beach.

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

Russia launches all-out assault in Ukraine’s east as war hits 3 month mark

WATCH: Ukraine sentences Russian soldier in first war crimes trial

Russian forces were launching an all-out assault to encircle Ukrainian troops in twin cities straddling a river in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, a battle which could determine the success or failure of Moscow’s main campaign in the east.

Exactly three months after Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, authorities in the second-largest city Kharkiv were expected to open the underground metro, where thousands of civilians had sheltered for months under relentless bombardment.

The reopening is a symbol of Ukraine’s biggest military success over the past few weeks: pushing Russian forces largely out of artillery range of Kharkiv, as they did from the capital Kyiv in March.

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But the decisive battles of the war’s latest phase are still raging further south, where Moscow is attempting to seize the Donbas region of two eastern provinces, Donetsk and Luhansk, and trap Ukrainian forces in a pocket on the main eastern front.

The easternmost part of the Ukrainian-held Donbas pocket, the city of Sievierodonetsk on the east bank of the Siverskiy Donets river and its twin Lysychansk on the west bank, have become the pivotal battlefield there, with Russian forces advancing from three directions to encircle them.

“The enemy has focused its efforts on carrying out an offensive in order to encircle Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk,” said Serhiy Gaidai, governor of Luhansk province, where the two cities are among the last territory still held by Ukraine.

“The intensity of fire on Sievierodonetsk has increased by multiple times, they are simply destroying the city,” he said on TV, adding there were about 15,000 people in the city and the Ukrainian military remains in control of it.

Reuters journalists in the Donbas, who reached Bakhmut further west, heard and saw intense shelling on the highway towards Lysychansk on Monday. Ukrainian armored vehicles, tanks and rocket launchers were moving towards the front lines, with and buses carrying soldiers.

Further west in Slovyansk, one of the biggest Donbas cities still in Ukrainian hands, air raid sirens wailed on Tuesday morning but streets were still busy, with a market full, children riding on bikes and a street musician playing violin by a supermarket.

Two empty public transport buses were driving towards the frontline town of Lyman to evacuate civilians from heavy shelling there, escorted by police and a military car.

Gaidai said Ukrainian forces had driven the Russians out of the village of Toshkivka just to the south of Sievierodonetsk. That could not be independently confirmed. Four people had been killed in the shelling of one home in Sievierodonetsk overnight.

The battle there follows the surrender last week of Ukraine’s garrison in the port of Mariupol after nearly three months of siege in which Kyiv believes tens of thousands of civilians have died.

Petro Andryushchenko, an aide to Mariupol’s Ukrainian mayor now operating outside the Russian-held city, said on television the dead were still being found in the rubble there.

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Around 200 decomposing bodies were found buried in rubble in a basement of one high-rise building, he said. Locals had refused to collect them and Russian authorities had abandoned the site, leaving a stench across the district.

Russia is now in control of an unbroken swathe of eastern and southern Ukraine, but has yet to achieve its objective of seizing all of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that the “ruthless” offensive in Donbas showed Ukraine still needed more Western arms, especially multiple launch rocket systems, long-range artillery and armored vehicles.

Russia’s three-month long invasion, the biggest attack on a European state since 1945, has seen more than 6.5 million people flee abroad, turned entire cities into rubble and brought down severe economic sanctions on Moscow.

In neighboring Moldova, where a pro-Western government has warned of a risk unrest could spread to a border region controlled by pro-Russian separatists, investigators searched the office and home of pro-Russian former president Igor Dodon.

Local media reported the searches were in connection with an investigation into alleged corruption and treason. Dodon’s Socialist Party said accusations against him were baseless.

In Russia itself, where criticism of the war is banned and independent media has been shut, jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny used a court appearance by video link from a prison colony to denounce the “stupid war which your Putin started.”

“One madman has got his claws into Ukraine and I do not know what he wants to do with it – this crazy thief,” Navalny said.

At a cemetery outside Mariupol, treading through long rows of fresh graves and makeshift wooden crosses, Natalya Voloshina, who lost her 28-year-old son in the fight for the city, said many of Mariupol’s dead had no one left to honor their memory.

“Who will bury them? Who will put up a plaque?” she asked.

“They have no family.”

© 2022 Reuters

Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard's sex assault trial set to resume in Toronto on Tuesday

WATCH ABOVE: Hedley singer Jacob Hoggard turned into ‘monster’ in hotel room, woman testifies at trial.

TORONTO — The sex assault trial of Canadian musician Jacob Hoggard is set to resume in Toronto today.

The Crown finished presenting its evidence early last week, and the defence is expected to begin making its case today.

Hoggard, the frontman for the band Hedley, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual assault causing bodily harm and one of sexual interference, a charge that relates to the sexual touching of a person under 16.

The charges relate to incidents involving two complainants, one of whom was a teenager at the time.

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Complainant in Jacob Hoggard trial seemed in pain after alleged sex assault: friend

Prosecutors allege Hoggard arranged to have the complainants meet him at Toronto-area hotels, where they allege he violently and repeatedly raped them, leaving them bleeding and bruised.

The defence, meanwhile, argues Hoggard had consensual sex with the complainants.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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