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Flexibility key as B.C. faces new wildfire reality, forests minister says




It’s been a trial by fire from day one for Doug Donaldson. When he stepped into the job of forests minister in July 2017, the province was already in a state of emergency because of out-of-control wildfires in central B.C.

That summer saw fires consume more of the province’s landscape than any year on record, as well as the largest evacuations in B.C. history.

It wasn’t an aberration. Even more of B.C. burned in the summer of 2018, and a state of emergency was declared once again.

Now eighteen months into the job, Donaldson says it’s clear we need to adjust to a new reality.

“When you see the types of fires we’ve had the last two seasons, when you see that fire behaviour, when you factor in the effects of climate change, then yes we have to be innovative, we have to be responsive, and we have to be flexible,” he told CBC in a year-end interview.

By the end of the 2018 wildfire season, 13,538 square kilometres of B.C. had burned, about 6,000 people had been ordered to leave their homes, and another 25,000 were placed on evacuation alert.

More of B.C.’s landscape has burned in the last two years than in the previous 25 years combined, and hundreds of families across the province have been left to rebuild their lives after losing their homes and belongings.

‘Frustrating’ delay in action on prevention

Human-caused climate change helped create ideal conditions for fire in 2017 and 2018, bringing hot and dry summer weather along with more lightning, scientists say.

But weather is just one necessary ingredient for catastrophe. Wildfires also need fuel, and forest management practices have long contributed to the severity of fires in B.C.

After the devastating wildfires of 2003, an independent review urged immediate action to remove potential fuels, such as dead wood and shrubs, from the landscape in the areas surrounding communities.

By the time 2017 rolled around, little of that work had been done.

“I think it’s frustrating for people who’ve been impacted by the fires in the last two seasons,” Donaldson acknowledged.

It’s going to take at least a decade for B.C. to catch up on necessary prevention work, according to Kevin Kriese, the chair of the Forest Practices Board.

Nonetheless, Donaldson is optimistic that we’ll be able to gain some ground before the 2019 wildfire season. Part of that will be accomplished through the new Community Resiliency Investment program that funds fuel management work on Crown and private land.

B.C. residents may have to adjust to occasional smoke from controlled burns, Donaldson said. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

The B.C. Wildfire Service has also conducted numerous prescribed burns since the fall, and Donaldson said there will be a renewed focus on controlled burning after years of hesitation.

That will require a lot of training to conduct safe burns, as well as understanding from the public.

“We can prepare ourselves by being more accepting of practices that could put smoke into the air for shorter periods of time,” he said.

Taking another look at glyphosate use

He also acknowledged the province will have to reconsider policies that promote a monoculture of highly flammable conifer trees in managed forests. As CBC has reported, B.C. mandates that thousands of regenerating forest stands be sprayed with the herbicide glyphosate every year to prevent the growth of broadleaf trees like aspen.

That’s even though aspen and other broadleaves serve as natural fuel breaks in the forest, often dramatically slowing the spread of a wildfire.

Donaldson said his ministry is looking into how to update forest regulations to promote a mosaic of different tree species.

“In some ways, because of these large fires, we have an opportunity to really rethink how we manage a forest,” he said.

Wildfire fringes the night sky at Fraser Lake, with the northern lights in the background, during the 2018 wildfire season. (Submitted by David Luggi)

It’s far too early to say what the 2019 wildfire season will bring, but long-range forecasts from Environment Canada suggest a strong probability it’ll be another warmer than normal summer.

For his part, Donaldson is hoping next summer will be a bit wetter, but he’s still haunted by the thought that more than homes could be lost next time around.

“I just am incredibly amazed at the … response that we’ve had so far that has ensured we’ve haven’t lost one life even though we’ve had 2.5 million hectares consumed,” he said.


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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa




With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV




A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence




Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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