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‘Its hooves came within 6 inches of my eyes,’ Quebec senior says of terrifying encounter with ox

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Last Tuesday, innkeeper Laura Chouinard set off on her afternoon run with her dog, Princess.

It was a typically crisp winter day in Saint-Alexis-de-Matapédia, a quiet village in Quebec’s Gaspé region.

Soon, though, as Chouinard told CBC Radio’s Quebec AM, that tranquility turned to turbulence.

Chouinard noticed an ox trundling down a side lane, headed for the busy main road.

“I thought that beast could be in danger,” Chouinard said. She decided to turn it back, away from the high-speed traffic.

“I grew up in farming country, so I am not at all afraid of animals.”

Seeing that the ox was still hornless, she guessed it was a two-year-old steer that had escaped from a nearby field.

She made a racket to scare the animal, but it wouldn’t change its course. Noticing the commotion, a couple of passing motorists swerved over to help.

Finally, after about ten minutes of shooing and honking, the ox turned tail and Chouinard resumed her run.

Beset by a beast

Chouinard had gone barely 15 feet along the main road when the ox came back for her. And this time, the signs were ominous.

“It was scraping the ground with its hooves — it looked angry,” Chouinard said. The ox charged full tilt and caught her squarely in the breastbone with its massive head.

A swollen right arm is one of Laura Chouinard’s battle scars from her encounter with the runaway ox. (Submitted by Laura Chouinard)

The impact knocked her down, but the beast was unsated. It thundered on toward her.

“Its hooves came within six inches of my eyes,” Chouinard said.

Gripped by fear, she resolved, “I am not going to die today.”

Rolling with the punches

Gathering her wits, Chouinard took stock of her situation. She was hemmed in by tall snow banks and had little room to manoeuvre.

Then, she remembered her karate training from 20 years ago. “It’s like swimming, you know. Even if you’ve not done it for a long time, you remember it quickly.”

The scene of the “crime”: Rustico Street North, to the left, is where the ox attacked Laura Chouinard. (Submitted by Laura Chouinard)

Her martial arts moves helped Chouinard protect her vital organs. “I had learnt how to defend my belly and my head. I presented my sides to the ox.”

The ox kept pummelling her. It hit her some six or seven times.

Chouinard said calmly, “I’m nearly 70 years old, but I’m in very good shape.” Her extraordinary agility helped her roll away from the animal’s deadly hooves every time it knocked her down.

Shaken, but not shattered

Drawn by Chouinard’s screams, a few drivers stopped to help. When their presence distracted the ox, she scrambled to safety up a snow bank.

Meanwhile, the ox was briefly slowed in its tracks by a truck. But it soon went chasing after passersby, scattering them over the snowy countryside. It was finally subdued by the roar of a looming tractor that a neighbour drove over.

The snowbank that Laura Chouinard climbed to escape from the ox. (Submitted by Laura Chouinard)

“The whole thing lasted only two or three minutes,” Chouinard said. “But it seemed like a lot longer.”

An onlooker drove a shaken Chouinard home and a friend called an ambulance.

At the hospital, doctors X-rayed her whole body and were relieved to find no broken bones. “The only reason I was not badly hurt is that I am fit and strong,” she concluded.

Chouinard is phlegmatic about her ordeal and bears the beast no ill will.

“It was just being an energetic animal enjoying its freedom,” she said with a laugh. “Cattle escape from fields all the time.”

Although she doesn’t blame him at all, the farmer who owns the ox was very apologetic and decided to sell off the offending animal.

Bruised all over and in considerable pain, Chouinard said gamely, “I’ll probably start running again next week. I was running four or five miles a day. I’m training for a half-marathon.”

Having been on Laval University’s running and cross-country skiing teams in her youth, Chouinard had a simple message for Quebec AM listeners — “keep fit,” she advised.

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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