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Tragedies in Arctic hamlet sparking talk of a Franklin ‘curse’

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Some residents of an Arctic hamlet located near the Franklin shipwrecks have linked a spate of tragic deaths in the community to divers poking around the sea floor resting places of long-dead crew members.

“They feel the wrecks are cursed and should not be disturbed,” Parks Canada official Tamara Tarasoff said of the reactions of some Inuit living in Gjoa Haven, a Nunavut community about 1,000 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife.

Local resident Jacob Keanik also confirmed that members of the community, still reeling from the unexpected deaths of six residents, were pointing the finger at the ships that took part in Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated 1845 expedition to locate the Northwest Passage.

“People are superstitious. They feel there is a connection between the deaths and disturbing the wreck sites,” he said.

Both comments were made Aug. 24, during a teleconference between eight members of the Franklin Interim Advisory Committee (which includes Parks Canada staff), representatives of the Nunavut government and Inuit heritage organizations.

Louie Kammokak (left) and Jacob Keanik (right) in 2015 at the blessing of the wreck of HMS Erebus. (Parks Canada)

The committee makes recommendations on the investigation of the wrecks and potential related tourism. At the time the teleconference took place, the committee was doing preparatory work for Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s pending visit to Gjoa Haven.

The committee decided to warn the minister about the so-called curse in case a resident asked her about it.

CBC News obtained minutes of the meeting through the Access to Information Act, and confirmed the observations directly with Keanik.

“People like to talk, you know,” he said in an interview. “People thought after … finding these shipwrecks … they seemed to notice we’re losing so many people and they thought it was from that.”

Keanik is president of the Nattilik Heritage Centre in Gjoa Haven, which is to expand by 2023 to showcase artifacts retrieved from the Franklin wrecks. He lost a brother and nephew to a boating accident in the recent string of deaths, all of which took place over two weeks in August. Two other men died in an all-terrain vehicle rollover, a community elder passed away and a staff member at a local school succumbed to a heart attack. 

All crew perished

HMS Erebus and HMS Terror left England in 1845 under Franklin’s command, seeking a Northwest Passage to the Pacific through the ice-choked Arctic. Every crew member perished, although the precise details of their fate eluded searchers for more than a century.

Canadian search teams eventually found the sea floor wreck of Erebus in 2014. Searchers found what was left of the Terror in 2016, on the bottom of Terror Bay at King William Island, west of Gjoa Haven.

The Franklin committee decided to respond to the community’s concerns by telling residents that no human remains had been found on the two wrecks.

The small community of Gjoa Haven is on King William Island in Nunavut. The wreck of HMS Terror was found in an island bay, while HMS Erebus was found further south. (CBC News)

“It is only artifacts that are being found and being taken off wreck sites and … there are plans in place that if any bodies are found, they will be left in place,” Fred Pedersen, of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, is quoted as telling the group. “[We] will not bring up or disturb human remains.”

The late Louie Kamookak, an Inuit oral historian and Gjoa Haven resident who helped find the Erebus, blessed the shipwreck site in 2015 with sand taken from the community and sprinkled on the sea.

Keanik, who also participated, said the brief ceremony carried out from a boat was meant “to have things better in the future.” (Kamookak died of cancer at age 58 in March this year.)

The whole King William Island has non-human people that we cannot see.– Jacob Keanik, resident of Gjoa Haven, NU, on his mother’s warning about supernatural beings.  

But the Terror shipwreck site did not receive a similar traditional blessing until two years after its discovery, following the deaths of the six Gjoa Haven residents.

The Franklin committee was told that the Guardians — Inuit caretakers appointed to monitor the Franklin shipwreck sites — felt that a blessing of the Terror shipwreck was needed.

“We have spoken to the Guardians and they feel the Terror wreck needs to be blessed, as so far only the Erebus has been blessed,” say the Aug. 24 minutes.

Parks Canada spokesperson Dominique Tessier said this second blessing has since been carried out.

“This summer, following the tragedies, elders blessed sand from Gjoa Haven and the Terror Guardians brought it to the wreck of HMS Terror, where they sprinkled it over the wreck and performed a blessing,” she told CBC News.

“Both of these blessings were led by Inuit from Gjoa Haven.”

Dismisses ‘curse’ theory

Keanik dismisses talk of a Franklin “curse,” saying the community has been touched by tragedy in the past. “It was always like that, even before these shipwrecks were found.”

But he said he does accept his mother’s warnings about invisible, non-human beings inhabiting King William Island, the Arctic island that harbours Gjoa Haven at its east end.

“My late mom told me even before these shipwrecks were discovered, she mentioned you have to watch out,” he said. “The whole King William Island has non-human people that we cannot see.”

He said his mother used to warn him: “Don’t let them get to you – just do what you have to do.”

Keanik said that when he travels with a friend across the tundra, he senses the presence of these beings.

The late Louie Kamookak was a Gjoa Haven historian who spent more than 30 years recording oral stories of Inuit encounters with the ships and Franklin’s men — stories that were key to resolving the nearly 170-year-old mystery. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

“It’s a funny feeling when once we get on the other side of the island … You sense that somebody’s around you, but there’s nobody around you,” he said.

“That’s a funny feeling we always have every time we get on the other side.”

Keanik said his mother never made it clear whether she thought the invisible beings are the spirits of the lost Franklin crew, or whether they haunted the dying crew members in the mid-19th century.

“I couldn’t answer that,” he said.

The tragic and mysterious Franklin story has inspired songs, paintings, books and even a recent AMC television series that imagined a menacing supernatural force tormenting the crew members.

Follow @DeanBeeby on Twitter

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The 3 Best Canadian Tech Stocks I Would Buy With $3,000 for 2021

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The majority of the Canadian tech stocks went through the roof in 2020 and delivered outsized returns. However, tech stocks witnessed sharp selling in the past 10 days, reflecting valuation concerns and expected normalization in demand. 

As these high-growth tech stocks shed some of their gains, I believe it’s time to accumulate them at current price levels to outperform the broader markets by a significant margin in 2021. Let’s dive into three tech stocks that have witnessed a pullback and are looking attractive bets. 

Lightspeed POS

Lightspeed POS (TSX:LSPD)(NYSE:LSPD) stock witnessed strong selling and is down about 33% in the last 10 days. I believe the selloff in Lightspeed presents an excellent opportunity for investors to invest in a high-growth and fundamentally strong company. 

Lightspeed witnessed an acceleration in demand for its digital products and services amid the pandemic. However, with the easing of lockdown measures and economic reopening, the demand for its products and services could normalize. Further, it faces tough year-over-year comparisons. 

Despite the normalization in demand, I believe the ongoing shift toward the omnichannel payment platform could continue to drive Lightspeed’s revenues and customer base. Besides, its accretive acquisitions, growing scale, and geographic expansion are likely to accelerate its growth and support the uptrend in its stock. Lightspeed stock is also expected to benefit from its growing average revenue per user, innovation, and up-selling initiatives.     

Shopify 

Like Lightspeed, Shopify (TSX:SHOP)(NYSE:SHOP) stock has also witnessed increased selling and has corrected by about 22% in the past 10 days. Notably, during the most recent quarter, Shopify said that it expects the vaccination and reopening of the economy to drive some of the consumer spending back to offline retail and services. Further, Shopify expects the pace of shift toward the e-commerce platform to return to the normal levels in 2021, which accelerated in 2020.

Despite the normalization in the pace of growth, a strong secular shift towards online commerce could continue to bring ample growth opportunities for Shopify, and the recent correction in its stock can be seen as a good buying opportunity. 

Shopify’s initiatives to ramp up its fulfillment network, international expansion and growing adoption of its payment platform are likely to drive strong growth in revenues and GMVs. Moreover, its strong new sales and marketing channels bode well for future growth. I remain upbeat on Shopify’s growth prospects and expect the company to continue to multiply investors’ wealth with each passing year. 

Docebo 

Docebo (TSX:DCBO)(NASDAQ:DCBO) stock is down about 21% in the last 10 days despite sustained momentum in its base business. The enterprise learning platform provider’s key performance metrics remain strong, implying that investors should capitalize on its low stock price and start accumulating its stock at the current levels. 

Docebo’s annual recurring revenue or ARR (a measure of future revenues) continues to grow at a brisk pace. Its ARR is expected to mark 55-57% growth in Q4. Meanwhile, its top line could increase by 48-52% during the same period. The company’s average contract value is growing at a healthy rate and is likely to increase by 22-24% during Q4. 

With the continued expansion of its customer base, geographical expansion, innovation, and opportunistic acquisitions, Docebo could deliver strong returns in 2021 and beyond.

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Manitoba to invest $6.5 million in new systems

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WINNIPEG – The province of Manitoba is investing $6.5 million over three years to replace technical systems used in healthcare facilities, including replacing current voice dictation and transcription services with more modern systems and upgrading the Provincial Health Contact Centre (PHCC)’s triage, call-recording and telephone systems, Health and Seniors Care Minister Heather Stefanson (pictured) announced.

“Our government is investing in the proper maintenance of information and communications technology to ensure digital health information can be safely stored and shared as needed,” said Stefanson. “These systems will ensure healthcare facilities can continue to provide high-quality services and allow Manitobans to get faster access to healthcare resources and information.”

Dictation, transcription and voice-recognition services are used by healthcare providers to write reports. There are currently approximately 80 healthcare sites across Manitoba using some combination of dictation, transcription and voice-recognition services. Many of these systems are nearing the end of their usable lifespans.

“Across our health system, radiologists and nuclear medicine physicians use voice-dictation services to help create diagnostic reports when reading imaging studies like ultrasound, nuclear medicine studies, X-rays, angiography, MRI and CT scans,” said Dr. Marco Essig, provincial specialty lead, diagnostic imaging, Shared Health. “Enhanced dictation and voice-recognition services will enable us to work more efficiently and provide healthcare providers with quicker access to these reports that support the diagnoses and treatment of Manitobans every day.”

The project will replace telephone-based dictation and transcription with voice-recognition functions, upgrade voice-recognition services for diagnostic imaging and enhance voice-recognition tools for mobile devices.

“Investing in more modern voice-transcription services will help our health-care workers do the administrative part of their jobs more quickly and effectively so they can get back to the most important part of their work – providing top-level healthcare and protecting Manitobans,” said Stefanson. “The transition to the new system will be made seamlessly so that services disruptions, which can lead to patient care safety risks, will not occur.”

The new systems will be compatible with other existing systems, will decrease turnaround times to improve patient care and will be standardized across the province to reduce ongoing costs and allow regional facilities to share resources as needed, Stefanson added.

The PHCC is a one-stop shop for incoming and outgoing citizen contact and supports programs such as Health Links–Info Santé, TeleCARE TeleSOINS and After-Hours Physician Access, as well as after-hours support services to public health, medical officers of health, home care and Manitoba Families.

The current vendor that supplies communications support to the PHCC is no longer providing service, making it an opportune time to invest in an upgraded system that will provide better service to Manitobans, the minister said, adding the project will provide the required systems and network infrastructure to continue providing essential services now and for the near future.

“The PHCC makes more than 650,000 customer service calls to Manitobans per year to a broad spectrum of clients with varied health issues. This reduces the need for people to visit a physician, urgent care or emergency departments,” said Stefanson. “The upgrade will also allow Manitobans in many communities to continue accessing the support they need from their home or local health centre, reducing the need for unnecessary travel.”

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Telus and UHN deliver services to the marginalized

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Telus’s Health for Good program has launched the latest of its specially equipped vans to provide medical services to the homeless and underserved, this time to the population of Toronto’s west end. The project relies not only on the hardware and software – the vans and technology – but on the care delivered by trained and socially sensitive medical professionals.

For the Toronto project, those professionals are working at the University Health Network’s Social Medicine program and the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre. The city’s Parkdale community, in the west end, has a high concentration of homeless and marginalized people.

First launched in 2014, Telus’s Health for Good program has delivered mobile clinics to 13 Canadian cities, from Victoria to Halifax. Originally designed to deliver primary care, the program pivoted to meet the needs of patients in the COVID-19 pandemic, said Nimtaz Kanji, Calgary-based director of Telus Social Purpose Programs.

Angela Robertson of the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (CHC) asserted that marginalized people are particularly susceptible to the spread of COVID-19, as they don’t have access to the basic precautions that prevent its spread.

The clinic is located near a Pizza Pizza franchise; homeless people shelter under its overhang on the weekends, she said. Some have encampments under nearby bridges.

“The public health guidelines and requirements call for things that individuals who are homeless don’t have,” Robertson said. “If the response calls for isolation, that suggests people have places to isolate in.”

And in the shelter system, pre-COVID, the environment was very congregate, with many people in the same physical space, said Robertson. Some homeless persons, in order to keep themselves safe, have created encampments, and the city has opened up some hotel rooms across the city to create spaces for physical distancing.

Even proper hand-washing and hygiene becomes a challenge for the homeless.

“COVID calls for individuals to practice constant hand-washing. Oftentimes, individuals who are homeless use public washroom facilities that may be in restaurants or coffee shops, and many of those spaces are now closed. So there are limitations to accessing those facilities. It’s not like they’re in a community where there are public hand-washing facilities for people who are homeless.”

The mobile health clinic allows the CHC to take “pop-up testing” into communities where there is high positivity and where additional COVID testing is needed. The CHC can take testing into congregate sites and congregate housing to provide more testing, Robertson said.

“The other piece that we will use the van to do is, when the vaccine supply gets back online, and when the health system gets to doing community vaccinations … we hope that we can be part of that effort.”

COVID has contributed to a spike in cases of Toronto’s other pandemic: opioid overdoses. Some community members are reluctant to seek care because of the stigma attached to substance abuse; and COVID has a one-two punch for users.

The first rule of substance abuse is, don’t use alone; always be with someone who can respond to a potential overdose, ideally someone who can administer Nalaxone to reverse the effects of the overdose, Robertson said. “It’s substance abuse 101,” and the need for social distancing makes this impossible.

Secondly, COVID has affected the supply chain of street drugs. As a result, they’re being mixed increasingly with “toxic” impurities like Fentanyl that can be deadly.

The van itself is a Mercedes Sprinter, modified by architectural firm éKM architecture et aménagement and builder Zone Technologie, both based in Montréal. According to Car and Driver magazine, the Sprinter line – with 21 cargo models and 10 passenger versions – is “considered by many to be the king of cargo and passenger vans.”

Kanji said the platform was chosen for its reputation for reliability and robustness.

While the configuration is customized for each mobile clinic, it generally consists of two sections: A practitioner’s workstation and a more spacious and private examination room, so patients can receive treatment with privacy and dignity, Kanji said. The Parkdale clinic is 92 square feet.

“While the layouts vary across regions, they typically include an examination table and health practitioners’ workstation, including equipment necessary to provide primary healthcare,” the Telus vice-president of provider solutions wrote in an e-mail interview. The Parkdale Queen West mobile clinic is designed for primary medical services, including wound care, mobile COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts, harm reduction services, mental healthcare and counseling.

The clinic equipped with an electronic medical record (EMR) from TELUS Health and TELUS LTE Wi-Fi network technology.

Practitioners will be able to collect and store patient data, examine a patient’s results over time, and provide better continuity of care to those marginalized citizens who often would have had undocumented medical histories.

The EMR system is Telus Health’s PS Suite (formerly Practice Solutions). It is an easy-to-use, customizable solution for general and specialty practices that captures, organizes, and displays patient information in a user-friendly way. The solution allows for the electronic management of patient charts and scheduling, receipt of labs and hospital reports directly into the EMR, and personalization of workflows with customizable templates, toolbars, and encounter assistants.

But like others tested for COVID, it’s a 24-48 hour wait for results. Pop-up or not, how does the mobile team get results to patients who have no fixed address?

The CHC set up a centre for testing in a tent at the Waterfront Community Centre. Swabs are sent to the lab. “We are responsible for connecting back with community members and their results,” Robertson said.

“This is the value of having Parkdale Queen West being in front of the testing, because many of the community members who are homeless we know through our other services, and there is some trust in folks either coming to us to make arrangements to collect their results, or we know where they are.”

This is a key element of the program, said Kanji – leveraging community trust. In Vancouver downtown east side, for example, where there is a high concentration of marginalized members of the indigenous community, nurse practitioners are accompanied by native elders in a partnership with the Kilala Lelum Health Centre.

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