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

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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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LIFESTYLES

University of Windsor establishes first Canadian transportation cybersecurity centre

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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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LIFESTYLES

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

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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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Ontario has a stay-at-home order, so why are 5 movies filming in Hamilton?

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While the Ontario government has asked the public to stay home and only leave when it is essential, it has also approved production crews to film movies in Hamilton, provided they follow COVID-19 safety guidelines.

A team of roughly 60 people in Ancaster is filming Loving Christmas, according to the city. It adds there are four other movies being filmed in Hamilton, but the city wouldn’t disclose any more information about them.

When 29-year-old Daniel Norwood saw the Ancaster crew working in front of the old town hall on Thursday morning, he says he had questions. He also says other locals are confused.

“It just seems there’s not a lot of alignment on what should be happening during the pandemic,” Norwood said.

“On the first day of the stay-at-home order, it kind of stood out to me this was happening right as we were getting the notification on our phone and a large group of people was gathering and filming a movie, which didn’t seem essential to me,” he said.

But it is essential, according to the Ford government’s rules.

Film crews are allowed to operate per page 28 of the province’s workplace safety measures

Those measures include screening for COVID-19, maintaining physical distancing, disinfecting areas, and limiting the number of people physically on set. Some sets are also doing temperature checks throughout the day, and diagnostic testing when available. 

Crews also have to monitor entrance and exit points from behind a plexiglass screen, the regulations say.

Michelle Williams, a spokesperson for the city, also said the stay-at-home order permits working where “the nature of the work requires the individual to leave their residence. So this section gets the people out of the house.”

“Film and television production continues to help support overall economic recovery. In 2020, there were 113 productions that filmed in Hamilton spending a combined total of approximately $50 million,” read Williams’ email.

“Location rental fees provide a welcome source of additional revenue for businesses who’ve had to change the way they operate in the face of the pandemic.”

Norwood says he understands it is a luxury to be able to work from home, but has questions about what is considered “essential.”

“A movie, it doesn’t seem as essential when you have people working in health-care getting overrun.”

“We’re asking people to sacrifice certain things and it just seems if people can work at a movie during the pandemic yet our ICU and emergency rooms are being filled, you hope nothing would ever happen with all these people outside having to need to go to the hospital and they can’t because the beds are filled.”

Hamilton’s hospitals are close to capacity as they treat 110 COVID-19 patients. Hamilton Health Sciences previously said it is close to or at capacity and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton said it still has some space.

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