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Lac-Mégantic footage allegedly used in 2nd Netflix show

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A day after learning that a science-fiction show on Netflix used footage of the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster, the mayor of the Quebec town said she believes images of the tragedy were used in a second Netflix production, Bird Box.

Lac-Mégantic Mayor Julie Morin wants the streaming service to take a look at its movie and TV catalogue to make sure no other production is using images of the tragedy as entertainment.

“I don’t know if this is happening all the time, but we are looking for assurances from Netflix that… they are going to remove them,” Morin said.

“You can be sure we are going to follow up on this, and our citizens are on our side.”

High school ethics teacher Guillaume Bouchard was watching the most recent season of Travelers on Netflix over the holidays when he noticed something oddly familiar on his screen.

In the science-fiction series, a nuclear device had just exploded on the streets of London, but instead of seeing fires ravaging locations in the U.K. capital, Bouchard was looking at orange flames towering over a small town.

At the end of the street, a black oil tanker burned in the background.

“I thought: No way. No way did they do that,” Bouchard said. He paused the show and after a quick internet search had his suspicions confirmed. The brief images on Netflix were taken from real-life footage of one of the deadliest disasters in recent Canadian history, when a train carrying crude oil derailed, exploded and killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic in 2013. 

“I don’t know anyone who died in Lac-Mégantic,” Bouchard said. “But if I was someone who lost someone close and I was home and I saw this, I don’t know how I would react. It wouldn’t be good.”

Sandra Bullock appears in a scene from Bird Box. Netflix says it needs time to review the film. (Merrick Morton/Netflix via Associated Press)

Images still visible

Travelers, created by Canadian Brad Wright, was shot in Vancouver and produced by Peacock Alley Entertainment Inc., originally in association with Netflix and Showcase. Netflix picked up the show as the exclusive distributor for the latest season, the third.

Carrie Mudd, president of Toronto-based Peacock Alley Entertainment, said her company acquired the footage from a stock image vendor called Pond 5, which is based in New York City, and they “weren’t aware of its specific source.”

A request for comment from Pond 5 was not returned.

“We sincerely apologize and had no intention to dishonour the tragic events of 2013,” Mudd said in an email. “We are already working to replace the footage in the show.”

As of Tuesday evening, the images were still part of the Travelers episode available for viewing on Netflix Canada.

A spokesman for Netflix did not want to be interviewed, but said the company has contacted Peacock Alley Entertainment, and confirmed the images would be removed.

When asked by email to confirm Bird Box also used real-life footage from the disaster, the company said it needed time to look into it.

Morin said she first heard of the images used on Travelers Monday.

“We find that it’s really a lack of respect, to use these images as fiction and entertainment,” she said. “It’s hard enough for our citizens to see these images when they are used normally and respectfully on the news. Just imagine, to have them used as fiction, as if they were invented.”

On Tuesday, a Lac-Mégantic citizen posted images on social media of the movie Bird Box, where in the early moments of the movie, a television newscast used the images for a few seconds to illustrate a town being under attack.

Morin said she viewed the footage posted by the citizen. “We see the images (of Lac-Mégantic) clearly,” she said. The Canadian Press viewed the footage in Bird Box, which is identical to amateur video shot immediately after the derailment. The amateur video can be easily found online.

Bouchard said he felt it was his “duty as a citizen” to go public after identifying the Lac-Mégantic content. He said he knows what happened was a mistake, but “it needed to be talked about.”

He said he also considers it a teachable moment he can use in his ethics class. “Naturally, I will talk about it one day (in school),” he said.

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Federal Budget 2021: Ottawa adds $1B to broadband fund for rural, remote communities

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The federal government will add $1 billion to a fund for improving high-speed communications in rural and remote areas of Canada, bringing the total to $2.75 billion by 2026, the Liberals said Monday in their first full budget since the pandemic began last year.

The money is going to the Universal Broadband Fund, which is designed to support the installation of “backbone” infrastructure that connects underserved communities to high-speed internet.

It’s one of many government and private-sector initiatives that have gained urgency since the pandemic began, as Canadians became more dependent on internet service for applications ranging from e-learning to daily business operations.

Ottawa says the additional money will keep it on track to have high-speed broadband in 98 per cent of the country by 2026, and 100 per cent by 2030.

Money spent on high-speed communications will be good for a recovering economy, said Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, a non-partisan think-tank.

The latest data from Statistics Canada says there were about five million people working from home during the pandemic, up from about two million prior to that, Antunes said in an interview.

“That’s a quarter or so of the workforce,” he added. “And I think a fair number of those people are going to continue to work from home, at least in some part-time way.”

Improved connections to high-speed broadband and mobile communications will add to the productive capacity of the economy overall, especially as it reaches beyond Canada’s cities, Antunes said.

He said there’s been a “real issue” with economic growth outside major urban centres and the improved connectivity “is something that can help stimulate that.”

The Universal Broadband Fund was initially mentioned in the 2019 budget, though specifics were not available until last November’s fiscal update.

The $1-billion top-up to the broadband fund announced today is in addition to $1.75 billion promised to the fund by the federal government’s November fiscal update.

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COVID-19: What you need to know for April 19

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Provincewide

  • Per today’s government report, there are 4,447 new cases in Ontario, for a total of 421,442 since the pandemic began; 2,202 people are in hospital, 755 of them in intensive care, and 516 on ventilators. To date, 7,735 people have died.
  • According to data from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, there are 40 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 36 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 127 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 3,755 confirmed resident deaths and 11 confirmed staff deaths.
  • Per the government’s report on Ontario’s vaccination program, as of 7 p.m. yesterday, Ontario has administered 66,897 new doses of COVID-19 vaccines, for a total of 3,904,778 since December 2020. 3,212,768 people have received only one dose, and 346,005 people have received both doses.

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Federal budget 2021 highlights: Child care, recovery benefits, OAS increases – everything you need to know

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The federal government’s first budget in more than two years certainly looks the part: At 739 pages, it is a hefty document chock full of billions in new spending.

Those funds will be spread among a number of key groups – students, seniors, parents and small-business owners, to name a few – as Ottawa looks to bolster Canada’s recovery from COVID-19 but also plan for life beyond the pandemic.

To that end, the deficit is projected to hit $354.2-billion in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which just ended – better than expected about five months ago, given the economy’s resilience over the winter months. It is estimated to fall to $154.7-billion this fiscal year, before dropping further in the years to come as pandemic spending recedes from view.

Here are some of the highlights from Monday’s budget.

The budget outlines tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies for a national child-care program, a promise the Liberal Party has made in some form since the early 1990s. Child-care supports became a point of national debate during pandemic lockdowns as parents with young children struggled to juggle work and family responsibilities.

In total, the government proposes spending as much as $30-billion over the next five years, and $8.3-billion each year after that, to bring child-care fees down to a $10-a-day average by 2026. The proposal, which requires negotiation with the provinces and territories, would split subsidies evenly with those governments and targets a 50-per-cent reduction in average child-care fees by the end of 2022.

The federal program is largely modelled on Quebec’s subsidized child-care system, implemented in the 1990s in an effort to increase women’s access to the labour market. Since then, labour participation rates for women aged 25 to 54 in the province have grown to exceed the national average by four percentage points.

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