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Loud, smelly and ‘spellbinding’ — hundreds of huge sea lions converge on Powell River

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Hundreds of sea lions have converged on a beach in Powell River, B.C., as photographers and nature lovers arrive to take in the sight. 

Powell River resident Lesley Armstrong says the sea lions started arriving around Christmas and their numbers have been growing to the point where the animals are covering nearly every inch of the barges, beach and breakwater at Second Beach. 

“It’s just become the most amazing visual spectacle. And everybody’s going down there,” Armstrong said over the phone from her home. 

“It’s really spellbinding because they’re so loud and they’re so raucous and they’re all playing in the water — those that aren’t sleeping and lying on the rocks.”

Armstrong says there were up to three dozen cars parked at the beach on Sunday morning to watch the large mammals snuggle up against each other.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans put up a sign warning people not to interact with them, but Armstrong says the sea lions are packed so tightly together that no one could even try to walk among them. 

‘I was just amazed’

It’s not the first time sea lions have converged in the area at this time of year, Armstrong says, but even long-term residents have never seen them in such great numbers. 

She says some of the sea lions appear to weigh up to a tonne. 

“I stood there with both my dogs on leashes about ten feet from them and they just didn’t even care that I was there. I was just amazed,” she said.

“When they wake up they bark and bark and bark and it’s very social. It’s very entertaining.”

Armstrong says her loud new neighbours appear to be a mix of Steller and California sea lions. 

Growing populations

According to the Vancouver Aquarium, Steller sea lions are quite common off the coast of B.C., but their populations had been mysteriously dwindling over the past few years. 

They were declared endangered in 1997, the aquarium says on its website, but their numbers are slowly growing. 

The Marine Mammal Centre says California sea lions are found as far north as Vancouver Island and as far south as Baja California in Mexico.

The organization’s website describes them as “opportunistic eaters” that feed on squid, octopus, herring, rockfish, mackerel and small sharks. Their numbers also appear to be growing.

Some groups say seals and sea lions have been booming in the past few years, to the chagrin of some fishermen who want to start hunting them. 

Advocates of a hunt are also pitching it as a way to help B.C.’s endangered southern resident killer whales, which feed mainly on salmon. 

‘You can smell it’

Armstrong says she doesn’t think the sea lions will be in Powell River much longer.

That may be a blessing — she says warmer weather in the past few days has led to a rather pungent odour from the huge beasts. 

“You can smell it. It’s much more fetid,” she said.

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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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

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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

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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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