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These are the creatures Canada has failed

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Like almost everything else in 2018, the Living Planet Report Canada from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) was bleak: of 903 monitored vertebrate species in the country, half are in decline. Of those, the average decline since 1970 is—you might want to take a year-end whisky shot here—a massive 83 per cent. Globally, some 26,500 bird, mammal, amphibian and other species are threatened with extinction, and more than 500 currently sit on Canada’s Species at Risk list. So where do conservationists begin? At the WWF, a select few are declared “priority species” worth extra attention. But choosing them can be a heartbreaking task, admits Emily Giles, senior species specialist with WWF-Canada. “Some are selected because of their ecological importance, significance to Canadians, representation of an issue or even social appeal,” she says—though really, any reason that will make Canadians notice, care and take action will do. Here are three species that the WWF wants you to know need help in 2019.

Spotted owl

For decades, the round, knowing eyes of the spotted owl have made it “a sort of poster child for anti-logging, since it’s so sensitive to the effects of industry in their old-growth forests,” says Giles. At last count, just six were spotted in the Canadian wild—and there are zero breeding pairs. “We’re getting to the point that, at any time, they’ll be wiped out of Canada,” she says—but maybe not if an upcoming captive-breeding program in Langley, B.C., sees success: “It’s a last-ditch effort to save the species from extinction. It’s expensive and labour-intensive and not guaranteed to work, but we have no other choices.” Once a species lands on the Species at Risk list, they typically do not come off. But typically is not never, Giles notes. “Conservation successes are few and far between, but they do happen,” she says, citing the bald eagle and peregrine falcon, both rescued through human effort, ingenuity and a sense of obligation.


A 3 year old female killer whale (Orcinus orca) and her cub in Puget Sound, Washington, U.S. (William W. Rossiter/WWF)

Southern resident killer whale

The world watched for 17 days last August as a mother orca carried her dead calf along the West Coast. Some much-needed context: J35, as she is known, is one of just 74 members of the southern resident killer whale pod, which hasn’t had a live birth since 2015. Their population is being decimated, explains Giles, due to their dependence on salmon they must share with a greedy species: humans. “Other orcas are generalists who’ll feed on different things; the southern residents primarily eat Chinook salmon, whose population is also in decline.” The WWF and others requested that Ottawa issue an emergency order for protection; the feds instead promised $60 million to help fund research and conservation in the New Year.


(Peter Mather)

Barren-ground caribou

Caribou also landed in the public consciousness this year when a last-resort conservation effort brought six remaining herd members to a rearing pen north of Revelstoke, B.C. Much farther north, though, are the barren-ground caribou, a subspecies of reindeer spread across Nunavut and the Northwest Territories that munch on lichen, grass and twigs. “Since the 1980s, the population of almost every caribou herd has declined, many by over 80 per cent and others up to 96 per cent,” says Giles. Threats are ample: habitat disturbance from the mining and oil industry, inaccessible food, changing migratory patterns and, of course, climate change. The Arctic is warming at twice the global average, and barren-ground caribou are particularly affected. These regal animals are a priority, too, for their special importance to Indigenous communities, who for generations have depended on them for food and clothing.

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Students call on University of Ottawa to implement pass/fail grading amid pandemic

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OTTAWA — The University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) is calling on the university to introduce optional, one-course-only pass/fail grading for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 semesters amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The students’ union said nearly 5,000 uOttawa students have signed its petition supporting the grading system.

In a letter to the university, the UOSU said it is asking the school to make changes to the grading structure, including allowing one course per semester to be converted to the “pass” or “satisfactory” designation.

The UOSU also made recommendations regarding a reduction of workload and course delivery.

“The adaptation to online learning during the pandemic for students has created unique challenges and disruptions that could not have been anticipated,” wrote Tim Gulliver, the UOSU’s Advocacy Commissioner. 

“The use of flexible compassionate grading options has been introduced in other universities, such as Carleton University which includes a use of Pass/Fail which we feel could be implemented at the University of Ottawa.”

Carleton University approved the use of flexible and compassionate grading for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 terms in early November.

The UOSU also called for all grades that constitute a fail to appear as “Not Satisfactory” on their transcript, which would not be included in grade point average calculations. 

The union represents more than 38,000 undergraduate students at the University of Ottawa.

In a response to CTV News, the University of Ottawa said it is aware of the petition.

“Last spring a decision was made by the (University) Senate to allow the Satisfactory/Non Satisfactory mark to be used, given the unique circumstances of the pandemic, which hit us close to the end of the Winter 2020 semester. The University is aware of the petition and is looking into the matter.”

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OPP warn of phone scams in Ottawa Valley

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Upper Ottawa Valley OPP warn residents of a phone scam that’s been making its way through the region recently. 

Police say a scammer pretends to be from a local business and tells the person their credit card didn’t work on a recent purchase before asking the person on the phone to confirm their credit card number. 

The victim may not have even used the card at the store, but police said the scammer creates a sense of urgency. 

Police remind residents to verify the legitimacy of any caller before providing any personal information over the phone. 

Similar scams have been reported recently in the region, according to police, with scammers posing as police officers, Revenue Canada or other government agencies demanding payment for a variety of reasons. A Social Insurance Number scam has also been reported recently, where a victim is asked for their SIN number under threat of being arrested. 
 
If a scam artist contacts you or if you have been defrauded, you’re asked to contact police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or visit their website at www.antifraudcentre.ca.

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The human history of Ottawa Valley is thousands of years old. Archeologists may have found a piece of it on Parliament Hill

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OTTAWA—Archeologists working on Parliament Hill have discovered a relic of Indigenous life that one Algonquin leader sees as a symbol of his people’s long history in what is now the heart of Canadian political power.

The jagged stone point was unearthed last year on the east side of Centre Block, but its discovery was not publicized as officials worked with Algonquin communities to authenticate the object, the Star has learned.

Stephen Jarrett, the lead archeologist for the ongoing renovation of Parliament’s Centre Block, said this week that while such an object is “not an uncommon find,” the stone point joins just a small handful of Indigenous artifacts ever discovered on Parliament Hill.

“It’s about the size of my palm, and it could be used as a knife or a projectile,” Jarrett said this week in response to inquiries from the Star.

He said the point is made of chert, a type of sedimentary stone most often used for implements of this type. And while the point was unearthed in what Jarrett calls “disturbed soil” — earth that has been dug up and moved, most likely during construction of Parliament — the soil it was in “is natural to the site.”

That means “it came from a source nearby, but finding exactly where it came from is impossible,” Jarrett said.

For Douglas Odjick, a band council member responsible for education and culture with the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, this artifact of “an original world” is a testament to the longevity of his Algonquin nation in an area they still claim as unceded and unsurrendered territory. Based on the assessment of Ian Badgley, the top archeologist with the National Capital Commission, Odjick said the stone point is likely 4,000 years old and dates to a time when the confluence of the Ottawa, Gatineau and Rideau Rivers — along with all their tributaries that stretch out into the surrounding area — served as a great hub of regional trade activity.

“It symbolizes who we are and how long we’ve been here,” Odjick said, comparing the area to an ancient version of a busy hub like New York’s busy Grand Central Station.

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