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‘Nothing has been done’ to save remote First Nation from mould, leaders complain

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Frustrated leaders of a remote First Nation in northern Ontario say they may be forced to evacuate the community unless they get immediate help dealing with mould-infested housing and sick children.

Cat Lake First Nation, located about 600 km north of Thunder Bay, declared a state of emergency a month ago after inspections found black mould in most houses in the community and recommended that more than three-quarters of the homes “be entirely replaced” because of mould and other issues.

A door-to-door survey also found that at least 100 children in the community of 700 people suffer with respiratory problems and severe skin conditions caused by squalid living conditions, band councillor Joyce Cook said.

She described the situation as desperate and said  widespread health problems are also taking a psychological toll. Many houses are already overcrowded and there’s nowhere for people living in mould-infested homes to go.

But Cook said that despite repeated calls for help from the federal government, the band is still no closer to getting the help it needs.

“We’re not even being recognized or heard,” she told a news conference in Toronto. “It’s just an echo through the woods.”

A photo of a wall inside a home in Cat Lake taken in June 2017. The photo was part of a presentation to federal government officials at a meeting with the Cat Lake chief and council. (Submitted by Gerald Paulin)

“Nothing has been done. No action has been taken,” Deputy Chief Abigail Wesley added.

The band has asked Indigenous Services Canada to immediately tear down and replace 87 homes and repair those that can be fixed. Cook said a meeting with federal officials in Cat Lake on Thursday ended without an agreement on how to proceed.

Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan said in a statement on Friday that “the wellbeing of children and families remains our top priority.”

A pediatric respirologist arrived in Cat Lake on Thursday to start an independent assessment of people with health problems identified by the community and a dermatologist is expected next week.

O’Regan said in his statement that the ministry “will address the results of the assessment as soon as they are available, on an urgent basis.”

MP Charlie Angus, centre, inspects housing on Cat Lake First Nation on Feb. 5, 2019. (Submitted by Charlie Angus)

He said officials reiterated and expanded upon our previous commitments to begin repairs immediately and to identify, with the community, units requiring replacement on an urgent basis.”

Provincial Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford said he is looking at the possibility of providing at least some immediate housing relief, but refused to say what specific measures the province is looking at.

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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year

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Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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