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Spiders invade Royal Botanical Garden during kid-friendly exhibit





HAMILTON — Roses and lilacs aren’t yet in bloom but nature enthusiasts can escape the winter cold by visiting a spider exhibit making its Canadian debut this week at the Royal Botanical Gardens.

Spiders Alive, developed by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, runs through mid-April.

Seventeen species of arachnids will be on display at Canada’s largest botanical gardens near Hamilton, Ont. In addition to live critters, the show will feature a 100-million-year-old spider fossil, bilingual days, a climbable spider model for kids, a children’s pyjama party and an after-dark adult social.

An estimated 50,000 people are expected to visit the exhibit, which follows one last year that focused on frogs.

The winter exhibit is part of the botanical gardens’ efforts to cater to families with young children, says spokesman Nick Kondrat.

“Hopefully they develop a relationship with the Royal Botanical Gardens and see all the other things we do and ultimately develop a lifelong appreciation for nature and the natural world and the environment,” he said in an interview.

Admission includes entry to the indoor atrium and Mediterranean Garden that features plants currently in bloom as well as four formal gardens within the 1,100 hectare nature reserve and 32 kilometres of nature trails that welcome leashed dogs.

The vast property situated within the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve is a frequent stop for migratory birds, making it a coveted spot for bird watchers, photographers and artists.

Come spring time, the outdoor gardens begin buzzing with visitors looking at blooms ranging from tulips to lilacs and roses.

The RBG has one of the most diverse lilac collections in the world and the rose garden underwent a $3-million rejuvenation last year to introduce hardy varieties that bloom from mid-June throughout the summer.

The gardens also feature a summer music series, Shakespeare at the rock garden, culinary events along with a pumpkin trail and Christmas displays attractive to children.

Outside groups were contracted last year to conduct concerts in the arboretum, a vast area that is home to dogwood, cherry, magnolia, lilac and native trees.

“You’re not going to get a concert venue with that kind of scenery in very many other places,” said Kondrat.

The not-for-profit facility receives funding from the province, city of Hamilton and Halton Region.

The gardens is the only one in Canada with a royal connection. King George V granted a royal charter in 1930 as it changed its name from Westdale Park.

“We’ve really done a lot of work to try to make sure that this is a year-round kind of event facility beyond just the horticultural collections that we have been known for over 80 years.”

It has a mandated educational component and offers courses for all ages, camps and school programs. It is a conservation leader, helping to eradicate much of the carp from the marshland of Cootes Paradise which flows from Lake Ontario. It also works on turtle recovery to prevent roadside deaths.

Although Hamilton is known as a steel capital and industrial city, the gardens offer free access to greenspace used daily by residents and Borer’s waterfall, one of several accessible in the Hamilton area.

“A lot of people who haven’t made their way down here are surprised to see how many beautify natural areas that we actually have.”

If you go:

Dates: Jan. 19 to April 14

Venue: The Royal Botanical Gardens, 680 Plains Road West, on the border between Hamilton and Burlington, Ont.

Prices: Adults $18, youth/student/senior $15, child 4-12 $10, child under 4 free; Free with membership except Spiders After Dark.

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University of Windsor establishes first Canadian transportation cybersecurity centre





The University of Windsor will be the site of Canada’s first organization dedicated to countering threats to the connected transportation marketplace.

The SHIELD Automotive Cybersecurity Centre of Excellence will focus on developing the skills, innovations and policy to secure connected and autonomous vehicles.

Researchers will partner with industry, government and community stakeholders.

Co-founding and heading up the centre will be Dr. Mitra Mirhassani of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Dr. Ikjot Saini of the School of Computer Science.

In the past year, the two University of Windsor professors were both recognized as being among Canada’s top talents in the automotive cybersecurity field.

“Hardware and software vulnerabilities could put personal information and vehicle safety in jeopardy,” said Mirhassani.

“Transportation systems are especially susceptible to attacks from malicious actors due to the complexity, implementation costs and lifecycles of equipment and platforms.”

The SHIELD centre is a continuation of the Windsor region’s focus on developing its cybersecurity ecosystem.

The province has already designated the area as the regional tech development centre for cybersecurity and border logistics.

The cybersecurity centre got a further boost this week with the announcement of a memorandum of understanding with the Automotive Parts Manufacturing Association (APMA).

APMA and SHIELD will collaborate to develop market-based technologies to meet the needs of producers and consumers and build academic programs to address industry’s evolving requirements.

“We hope that this partnership will help to advance a cybersecurity culture shift in the industry in Canada,” said APMA president Flavio Volpe.

“There is much work to be done to protect our collective interest in advancing this country’s globally competitive automotive sector.”

The centre will also promote the sharing of knowledge among parties to advance standards and enhance policies in the field.

Part of the plan is to offer micro credentialing through the university’s Continuing Education programs.

“We plan to offer consultation and test services to small- and medium-sized Canadian companies that will help them stay up to date,” said Dr. Saini.

“Open-access publications and public webinars will widely share the latest information.”

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Hamilton police charge ‘Hugs Over Masks’ protest organizers in two separate events





TORONTO — Hamilton, Ont., police say they have charged two organizers of an anti-mask protest group for holding events that allegedly violated public health rules.

Police say the events were held in downtown Hamilton on Jan. 3 and Jan. 10.

The force alleges that 40 people attended first event and 60 attended the second.

Current provincial restrictions limit gatherings to a maximum of 10 people outdoors.

Police say they informed the “Hugs Over Masks” organizers that the planned Jan. 10 gathering would result in charges, but they went ahead with the event.

They say a 27-year-old man and 38-year-old woman are facing charges under the Reopening Ontario Act that carry a minimum fine of $10,000 if convicted.

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Ontario issues stay-at-home order to start Thursday as Ford declares state of emergency





Premier Doug Ford is declaring another state of emergency, effective immediately, in response to surging COVID-19 infection rates.

In a news conference on Tuesday, Ford announced Ontario is issuing a stay-at-home order, effective 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

It requires people to stay home except for essential activities such as accessing health care or shopping for groceries.

The new measures also include restricting the hours of operation for non-essential retail stores such as hardware stores to between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Addressing big box stores, which are allowed to remain open, Ford said an inspection blitz is coming to ensure they are following proper protocols.

“I’m going to come down on them like an 800-pound gorilla,” he said.

Schools in Hamilton, Toronto, York, Peel and Windsor-Essex will not return to in-person learning until Feb. 10.

Other public health regions, including Halton and Niagara, will find out when students can return to class by Jan. 20.

Schools will now require students in grades 1-3 to wear masks and masks will be required outside where physical distancing can’t be maintained.

Child-care centres for non-school aged children will remain open.

The premier announced the restrictions shortly after the province released new projections that show the virus is on track to overwhelm Ontario’s health-care system.

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