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Seven Syrian refugee children die in house fire in Canada | News





Seven children from a family of Syrian refugees have died in a house fire in Canada’s eastern port city of Halifax, authorities have said.

“There are seven fatalities resulting from the incident,” police in the Atlantic seaboard city said on Tuesday.

“All deceased are believed to be young children from the same family. A woman and a man remain in hospital.”

Police said that the man had “life-threatening” injuries.

Canadian media reported that the children were aged between four months and 15 years.

The family moved to Canada in 2017 as refugees from Raqqa, Syria and had lived in their home in the province of Nova Scotia for about five months, according to local news reports.

Fire quickly engulfed the house after it started at around 12:30 am on Tuesday. An investigation into the fire’s cause is under way and could take months to complete.

The children’s father, 39-year-old Ebraheim Barho remains in hospital in critical condition along with their mother Kawthar al-Hamad, 40.

Neighbour Danielle Burt told Canadian media that she heard a woman screaming and jumped out of bed.

“I heard a huge bang, and I was laying in bed with my daughter, followed by a woman screaming, so I jumped up out of bed and looked out the back window and all I could see was flames shooting out from the back door going out onto their deck,” she said.

“It happened all so fast. The house went up really quickly.”

Burt said she grabbed her four children, ran outside, where she met the parents and called 911.

“[Kawthar] said that their kids were inside. The dad was sitting on the steps. I think he had gone back in because he was really burned,” Burt told Canadian CTV news. “It was just awful.”

Imam Ibrahim al-Shanti of the local Al-Barakah Mosque which the family attended said that the father is facing life-threatening injuries after running back into the house to try to save his children, while the mother is emotionally distressed.

“The mother, you know, she is trying to cope with it,” Shanti told CBC. “We all have hopes that they will survive this.”

In a Facebook post, the mosque identified the children as Abdullah, Rana, Hala, Ghala, Mohammed, Rola and Ahmed.

Shanti has launched a GoFundMe campaign for the parents which collected the equivalent of more than $150,000 within one day.

“We need to support them in facing their calamity and help them finding a new shelter and pay for expected expenses,” the campaign read.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his condolences on Twitter.

“Words fail when children are taken from us too too soon, especially in circumstances like this. My heart goes out to the survivors of the horrible fire in Halifax this morning, and the loved ones who are mourning this tremendous loss,” Trudeau wrote.

Steve Adams, city councillor for the Spryfield area, called the deaths a “horrible tragedy”. He told Canadian CBC News that most of the homes in the neighbourhood were new, built in the past two to five years.

Deputy Fire Chief Dave Meldrum said the firefighters encountered heavy fire on the first and second floors of the home that made it difficult to fight, CBC reported.

It’s the second fire in Nova Scotia that has claimed lives in just over a year, CBC reported. In January 2018, four children died in a house fire in the southwest part of the province.

Al Jazeera and news agencies


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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling





So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister





Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa





OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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