Once upon a time in the ancient days, before social media and the internet, all musicians were mysterious. Outside of seeing them live, our only connections with them were through their music, the liner notes on albums, the album artwork, stories in music magazines, and whatever rumours were floating around.
Yes, there were the occasional TV appearances, but relative to today, those were quite rare. In fact, it wasn’t really until music videos started to become a thing in the early 80s that fans began to grasp what their idols looked like in a major way. And consider this: It wasn’t until MTV and MuchMusic started interviewing musicians that we began to discover what their speaking voices sounded like.
Today, though, there are no secrets. Artists are in constant touch with their fanbase through social media. Fans are constantly trading news online. There are a billion sites for music news. Camera phones are everywhere. We live in a world of oversharing and TMI.
Hell, even KISS–a band that spent its first decade hiding behind make-up as a way of creating myth and legend, essentially inventing the concept of the mysterious, unknowable rock star–gave up on that idea in the 80s.
However, I’m happy to report that there are still some mysteries, artists who have managed not only to maintain a sense of distance from their fans but also to enjoy some carefully-protected anonymity. Some of them successfully obfuscated their identities through disguise and subterfuge. Others have disappeared into a hermit-like existence where they remain beyond the reach of the general public while still somehow releasing material and maintaining a fanbase.
Who are these artists? And how do they manage to stay out of the limelight? These are rock’s most mysterious musicians.
We’re still looking for more affiliates in Calgary, Kamloops, Kelowna, Regina, Saskatoon, Brandon, Windsor, Montreal, Charlottetown, Moncton, Fredericton, and St John’s, and anywhere else with a transmitter. If you’re in any of those markets and you want the show, lemme know and I’ll see what I can do
It’s been more than 100 days since dozens of Halifax Regional Police officers descended on parks around the municipality to remove unhoused people staying in crisis shelters, but the event remains on the minds of many as the housing crisis persists.
On Aug. 18, hundreds of people poured into downtown Halifax to call attention to the police-led evictions of unhoused people who had been living in parks because they had nowhere else to go.
The day culminated with officers deploying pepper spray into crowds of people and arresting 24 of the protesters.
The event has drawn condemnation from advocates, homeless service providers, and some members of the general public. A rally earlier this week called on governments and police to issue a public apology over the evictions and for the charges against protestors to be dropped.
But the evictions also led to a shift in the way the community at large looks at homelessness — and at the systems which punish those who are experiencing it.
“For those who were not willing to see that harsh reality, they can’t ignore it anymore,” said Campbell McClintock, the spokesperson for Halifax Mutual Aid.
Halifax Mutual Aid is a group of volunteers who build small wooden shelters for unhoused people to sleep in around HRM. Their shelters were the ones that were torn down in August.
McClintock is not involved in building the shelters — “Nary have I swung a hammer or used weatherproof tape,” he said — but he acts as a public face for the group, whose organizers are anonymous due to fears of retaliation from the city.
The organization started in the winter of 2020. “It was becoming clear to a number of community individuals that there is a growing population of people who are being systemically deprived of housing,” McClintock said.
Such deprivation, he added, is “something that is dangerous year-round, but particularly dangerous in the winter.”
In the days following the shelter evictions, officials from the city insisted that everyone who was displaced was offered alternative housing, but council later admitted that was not, in fact, the case.
Councillors also repeatedly said their hands were tied because housing is a provincial responsibility — a claim McClintock took issue with.
“It does not get us anywhere to continue passing the buck. The city and the province both have responsibilities they can fulfill,” he said.
McClintock said he doesn’t believe those changes would have happened if it wasn’t for the mounting public pressure and work from organizations and advocates in bringing this issue to the forefront.
“It’s really important that all of us as a community come together to continue talking about this issue and holding governments’ feet to the fire until something is done, because they are not going to do it on their own,” he said.
“They will only make concessions if they are humiliated or embarrassed into doing so.”
There are currently more than 400 people struggling with homelessness in the Halifax region, according to the latest numbers from the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia. More than a quarter of those experiencing homelessness are Indigenous or Black.
Homelessness data is sparse outside of the city, but there are dozens to hundreds of others who are unhoused outside of Halifax.
Vicky Levack is the spokesperson for P.A.D.S Community Network, which advocates for permanent, accessible, dignified and safe housing.
The organization started after the encampment evictions in August. A group of volunteers set up camp at Meagher Park — also known as People’s Park — where unhoused people can stay, and P.A.D.S helps provide of food and personal items.
Levack said she’s heartened by the community effort to protect unhoused people.
“I am so proud of our community for coming together and saying, ‘This is bull crap, what can I do to help?’” she said, though she added that it’s disappointing this work is falling on members of the public.
“The fact that we have to do it is so sad, and I have never felt more ashamed of our government.”
Around 20 people were staying at People’s Park at the end of November, but Levack said the numbers are fluid.
She said the province’s housing crisis needs to be treated with much more urgency, especially with winter around the corner.
“As far as I’m concerned, we should be treating this just as urgently as we’re treating the COVID crisis,” she said.
Jeff Karabanow, a professor of social work at Dalhousie University, said he believes the government “misread their tactics for responding to the encampments.”
“I think that they were extremely surprised to see the community’s reaction, not only in disavowing, a bit, the techniques of the state, but in getting to the ground, creating allyship, continuing to argue for more caring and more meaningful responses that continued from that day forward,” he said.
‘We need to get angrier’
Karabanow also noted that the government may be paying more attention to the housing crisis because it’s no longer just impacting those who are most marginalized.
“We’re seeing lower and middle-income families and communities also hit very, very dearly with the housing crisis,” he said.
“I think all those elements as well started to make a larger claim that this was not something that was simply impacting those living in shelters and those on the streets.”
He said people and organizations need to hold governments to account to ensure they continue to work toward a solution.
WATCH: COVID-19: WHO deploys surge team to South Africa’s Guateng province amid Omicron variant fears
World Health Organization officials in the Western Pacific say border closures adopted by some countries may buy time to deal with the omicronCOVID-19 variant, but measures put in place and experience gained in dealing with the delta variant should remain the foundation for fighting the pandemic.
While a few regional countries are facing surges, COVID-19 cases and deaths in many others have decreased and plateaued, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr. Takeshi Kasai told reporters Friday in a virtual news conference broadcast from Manila, Philippines.
“Border control can delay the virus coming in and buy time. But every country and every community must prepare for new surges in cases,” Kasai said. “The positive news in all of this is that none of the information we have currently about omicron suggests we need to change the directions of our response.”
Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, or if it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart the vaccine.
Kasai said omicron has been designated a variant of concern because of the number of mutations and because early information suggests it may be more transmissible than other variants of the virus. More testing and observation is necessary, he said.
Thus far, four countries and regions in the Western Pacific — Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea — have reported cases of the omicron variant, said WHO Regional Emergency Director Dr. Babatunde Olowokure. That number is likely to go up as more cases are discovered globally, Olowokure said.
Singapore and Malaysia have also reported their first cases in the last 24 hours, along with India, which falls just outside the WHO Western Pacific Region.
In the Philippines, government epidemiology bureau director Althea de Guzman said Friday that one of 71 people located by authorities after arriving in the country from South Africa in the last two weeks had tested positive for the coronavirus and still more tests are underway to determine if it’s the omicron variant.
“We are preparing and bracing our health system in case, first, omicron enters here and, second, we suddenly see a spike in cases,” de Guzman said.
The emergence of omicron is of particularly concern for organizers of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, now just weeks away.
Beijing is adopting a “series of comprehensive prevention and control measures to minimize the risk of the spread of imported outbreaks, effectively protect the health of all participants and people of the hosting cities, and ensure that the competition runs safely and smoothly as scheduled,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Weidong.
China has adopted a zero-tolerance policy for COVID-19 transmission and has some of the world’s strictest border controls. Games participants will have to live and compete inside a bubble and only spectators who are residents of China and have been vaccinated and tested will be permitted at venues.
Beijing’s measures would seem to be adequate for now.
In terms of what countries should be doing now, our experiences over the last few years, especially in responding to delta, provides a guide of what we need to do, as well as how to cope with future surges in a more sustainable way, Olowokure said in Manila.
Those include full vaccination coverage, social distancing, mask wearing and other measures. The goal is to “ensure we are treating the right patients in the right place at the right time, and so therefore ensuring that ICU beds are available, particularly for those who need them,” he said.
Despite the positive trends in handling the pandemic in the Western Pacific region, largely through high vaccination rates, “we cannot be complacent,” Kasai said.
Globally, cases have been increasing for seven consecutive weeks and the number of deaths has started to rise again too, driven largely by the delta variant and decreased use of protective measures in other parts of the world, he said.
“We should not be surprised to see more surges in the future. As long as transmission continues, the virus can continue to mutate as the emergence of omicron demonstrates, reminding us of the need to stay vigilant,” Kasai said.
He warned especially about the likelihood of surges due to more gatherings and movement of people during the holiday season. The northern winter season will likely bring other infectious respiratory diseases such as influenza alongside COVID-19, Kasai said.
“It is clear that this pandemic is far from over and I know that people are worried about omicron,” he said. “But my message today is that we can adapt the way we manage this virus to better cope with the future surges and reduce their health, social and economic impacts.”
The WHO Western Pacific Region includes 37 countries and areas from Palau to Mongolia.
WATCH: Prosecutors say ‘mountain of digital evidence’ in Michigan school shooting case
A teenager accused of killing four students at a Michigan high school was called to the office before the shooting but “no discipline was warranted,” the superintendent said Thursday in his first extended remarks since the tragedy.
Tim Throne, leader of Oxford Community Schools, said Oxford High School looks like a “war zone” and won’t be ready for weeks. But he repeatedly credited students and staff for how they responded to the violence Tuesday.
“To say that I am still in shock and numb is probably an understatement. These events that have occurred will not define us,” Throne, grim-faced and speaking slowly, said in a 12-minute video.
Ethan Crumbley, 15, has been charged as an adult with two dozen crimes, including murder, attempted murder and terrorism, for the shooting at the Oakland County school, roughly 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Detroit.
“I want you to know that there’s been a lot of talk about the student who was apprehended, that he was called up to the office and all that kind of stuff. No discipline was warranted,” Throne said. “There are no discipline records at the high school. Yes this student did have contact with our front office, and, yes, his parents were on campus Nov. 30.”
Throne said he couldn’t immediately release additional details. Sheriff Mike Bouchard has said Crumbley’s classroom behavior was a concern on the day of the shooting.
In his remarks, the superintendent said he was asking the sheriff’s office to publicly release school video from Tuesday.
“I want you to be as proud of your sons and daughters as I am,” Throne said.
Earlier Thursday, a prosecutor repeated her criticism of Crumbley’s parents, saying their actions went “far beyond negligence” and that a charging decision would come by Friday.
“The parents were the only individuals in the position to know the access to weapons,” Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said. The gun “seems to have been just freely available to that individual.”
Four students were killed and seven more people were injured. Three were in hospitals in stable condition.
The semi-automatic gun was purchased legally by Crumbley’s father last week, according to investigators.
Parents in the U.S. are rarely charged in school shootings involving their children, even as most minors get guns from a parent or relative’s house, according to experts.
There’s no Michigan law that requires gun owners keep weapons locked away from children. McDonald, however, suggested there’s more to build a case on.
“All I can say at this point is those actions on mom and dad’s behalf go far beyond negligence,” she told WJR-AM. “We obviously are prosecuting the shooter to the fullest extent. … There are other individuals who should be held accountable.”
Later at a news conference, McDonald said she hoped to have an announcement “in the next 24 hours.” She had firmly signaled that Crumbley’s parents were under scrutiny when she filed charges against their son Wednesday.
Jennifer and James Crumbley did not return a message left by The Associated Press.
The sheriff disclosed Wednesday that the parents met with school officials about their son’s classroom behavior, just a few hours before the shooting.
Crumbley stayed in school Tuesday and later emerged from a bathroom with a gun, firing at students in the hallway, police said.
“Should there have been different decisions made?” McDonald said when asked about keeping the teen in school. “Probably they will come to that conclusion. I have not seen anything that would make me think that there’s criminal culpability. It’s a terrible, terrible tragedy.”
William Swor, a defense lawyer who is not involved in the case, said charging the parents would require a “very fact-intensive investigation.”
“What did they know and when did they know it?” Swor said. “What advance information did they have about all these things? Did they know anything about his attitude, things of that nature. You’re talking about a very heavy burden to bring on the parents.”
Just over half of U.S. states have child access prevention laws related to guns, but they vary widely. Gun control advocates say the laws are often not enforced and the penalties are weak.
“Our laws haven’t really adapted to the reality of school shootings and the closest we have are these child access prevention laws,” said Kris Brown, president of the Brady gun control advocacy group.
In 2000, a Flint-area man pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to two years in prison. A 6-year-old boy who was living with him had found a gun in a shoebox and killed a classmate at school.
In 2020, the mother of an Indiana teen was placed on probation for failing to remove guns from her home after her mentally ill son threatened to kill students. He fired shots inside his school in 2018. No one was injured but the boy killed himself.
In Texas, the parents of a student who was accused of killing 10 people at a school in 2018 have been sued over his access to guns.
Meanwhile, dozens of schools in southeastern Michigan canceled classes Thursday due to concerns about threatening messages on social media following the Oxford shooting. Others planned to join them and close on Friday.
“We know from research and experience that learning is nearly impossible when students and staff do not feel safe,” Grosse Pointe Superintendent Jon Dean told families.
Bouchard said no threats in Oakland County were found to be credible. Just to the north in Genesee County, a Flint teenager was charged with making a false threat when she recorded a video while riding a school bus and posted it online.
“If you’re making threats, we’re going to find you,” Bouchard said. “It is ridiculous you’re inflaming the fears of parents, teachers in the community in the midst of a real tragedy.”
AP reporters Kathleen Foody and Sophia Tareen in Chicago contributed to this story.
WATCH ABOVE: The removal of an encampment outside the Calgary Drop-In Centre has sparked disappointment from the city's mayor. Both Jyoti Gondek and advocates are now pushing for a change to the practice. Adam MacVicar reports.
The removal of an encampment outside of the Calgary Drop-In Centre has sparked a larger conversation inside city hall and disappointment from Mayor Jyoti Gondek.
Calgary bylaw officers along with police began removing the tents from the area along Dermot Baldwin Way and Riverfront Avenue S.E. on Tuesday, with efforts continuing into Wednesday outside the Drop-In Centre.
“It’s something that has been deemed a cleanup, which is not acceptable,” Gondek told reporters Wednesday. “That is not how we characterize looking after people in positions of vulnerability, when we take down the only home they have.”
Homeless care advocates said the camp has grown significantly in recent weeks with incoming colder weather.
According to Calgary Bylaw, there has been a “shelter-in-place” strategy for homeless encampments in the city since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning those tents wouldn’t be removed if there was no risk to public safety or the vulnerable people inside.
However, Calgary chief bylaw officer Ryan Pleckaitis said the encampment around the Drop-In Centre had “significant safety risks” to those inside the tents and the public, which prompted complaints from the surrounding business community.
“There’s so many encampments that sometimes they encroach and block access into the Drop-In Centre, which creates significant challenges for EMS, for fire and for Calgary Police Service personnel,” Pleckaitis said.
“There’s the use of propane heaters, candles (and) other sources of open flame, which obviously create risks not only to the individuals who are using those sources of heat, but to all the other individuals in that area.”
Pleckaitis said the first priority for bylaw officers is to try to bring those sleeping rough into shelters or into “more suitable living arrangements,” before removing the tents and any debris, waste or garbage in the area.
“A cleanup is fine if you’re removing debris. It is not fine if you’re removing people,” Gondek said. “It is not something we will stand for in our city. We must be better than this.”
Chaz Smith is with Be The Change YYC, a homeless care advocacy group that provides emergency essentials to the city’s homeless community.
According to Smith, the group provides tents and sleeping bags, many of which were being used in the encampment outside the shelter.
He told Global News that members of his team were on hand on Tuesday evening when the encampment was being torn down by officers.
“What we saw further into the East Village was many medical calls that we made to ambulances, where then people were exposed to the elements too long and excessive aspirated any conditions that they had,” Smith said.
In response to the removal of the tents, Gondek called a meeting between city staff, bylaw, fire and police, as well as social agencies, including the Drop-In Centre and Alpha House.
According to a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, the goal of the meeting was to “pull key stakeholders together to drive towards greater collaboration and co-ordination to better serve those sleeping rough and all Calgarians.”
“The conversation involved tackling greater access to shelters, public washrooms, supervised consumption sites, needle disposal and access to more permanent wrap-around supports (housing, mental health and addictions),” said the statement from the mayor’s office.
Sandra Clarkson, the executive director of the Calgary Drop-In Centre, participated in the meeting and described the conversation as productive.
According to Clarkson, outreach teams with the Drop-In Centre have been tasked with determining who the people sleeping outside of the building are, what circumstances they are under and why they haven’t accessed services inside the shelter.
The Drop-In Centre is described as a low-barrier shelter without sobriety requirements, but Clarkson said there is zero tolerance for violence towards clients and staff or predatory solicitation of drugs.
Clarkson told Global News the Drop-In Centre will undertake a review of its policies to determine if there are any barriers that have developed for people to access the shelter.
“As a result of COVID, have we inadvertently put up barriers without realizing it,” Clarkson said. “So we’re exploring our internal operations to see if there are barriers that we can remove to increase access to shelter.”
Pleckaitis confirmed Calgary Bylaw would also be reviewing its internal practices to ensure the response is effective and compassionate towards the city’s more vulnerable populations.
Ultimately, homeless care advocates agree that the issue is complex, and believe access to housing is a major factor in the situation.
“They all want housing, and while we’re all continuing to scramble to get people experiencing homelessness into housing, we simply just do not have enough housing for this population,” Smith said. “With a 30 per cent vacancy rate in the downtown core, we could all agree that’s fairly unacceptable that anyone that wants housing should have to sleep outside.”
The mayor’s office said Gondek hopes the meeting is a first step at “better aligning services and response.”
The Calgary Police Service’s homicide unit is investigating what it considers to be a suspicious death after a woman was found dead in a parked vehicle.
Police said officers were called to the 500 block of Cranston Drive S.E shortly before 3 p.m. on Thursday after someone reported a “medical event.”
“Upon arrival, officers found a woman in a parked vehicle who appeared to be unconscious and unresponsive,” police said in a news release. “EMS were also on scene and pronounced the woman deceased.
“Our investigators are working to identify the woman and notify next of kin.”
Police said an autopsy has been scheduled for Friday.
Anyone with information about what happened or who saw any “suspicious activity in the area in the early hours of Dec. 2,” is asked to call the CPS at 403-266-1234. Tips can also be submitted anonymously to Crime Stoppers.
The president of the local realtors association says despite current home listings and sales being higher than the 10 year average, inventory numbers for the Hamilton area in November remained low.
Donna Bacher says of the four regions covered by the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington (RAHB), total sales were off month over month by about 10 per cent and off three per cent year over year.
She says that’s not unusual for November as sales tend to slow at the end of the year, but listings across the region are down everywhere, signifying a continuing issue with supply.
WATCH: When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor 80 years ago, it set off a chain of events on the west coast. Fearing that the coast of British Columbia could also be targeted, military activity ratched it up . The small islet in the Johnston Strait soon became filled with military personnel. Jay Durant looks at this history in This is BC.
Dec. 7 marks the 80th anniversary of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, an event that put defences along North America’s west coast on high alert.
That effort included tiny Yorke Island in Johnstone Strait, a site the Canadian military had picked as a good location for coastal defence before the outbreak of the Second World War.
“That made the war suddenly feel very real, people on the west coast of Canada hadn’t felt the significance of the war,” Catherine Gilbert, author of Yorke Island and the Uncertain War explained.
WATCH: Biden 'disappointed' by Republican pushback on his plan to mandate vaccinations
The U.S. Senate passed a stopgap spending bill Thursday that avoids a short-term shutdown and funds the federal government through Feb. 18 after leaders defused a partisan standoff over federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The measure now goes to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.
Earlier in the day, congressional leaders announced they had finally reached an agreement to keep the government running for 11 more weeks, generally at current spending levels, while adding $7 billion to aid Afghanistan evacuees.
Once the House voted to approve the measure, senators soon announced an agreement that would allow them to vote on it quickly.
“I am glad that in the end, cooler heads prevailed. The government will stay open and I thank the members of this chamber for walking us back from the brink of an avoidable, needless and costly shutdown,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
The Senate approved the measure by a vote of 69-28.
The Democratic-led House passed the measure by a 221-212 vote. The Republican leadership urged members to vote no; the lone GOP vote for the bill came from Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger.
Lawmakers bemoaned the short-term fix and blamed the opposing party for the lack of progress on this year’s spending bills. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the measure would, however, allow for negotiations on a package covering the full budget year through September.
“Make no mistake, a vote against this continuing resolution is a vote to shut government down,” DeLauro said during the House debate.
Before the votes, Biden said he had spoken with Senate leaders and he played down fears of a shutdown.
“There is a plan in place unless somebody decides to be totally erratic, and I don’t think that will happen,” Biden said.
Some Republicans opposed to Biden’s vaccine rules wanted Congress to take a hard stand against the mandated shots for workers at larger businesses, even if that meant shutting down federal offices over the weekend by blocking a request that would expedite a final vote on the spending bill.
It was just the latest instance of the brinkmanship around government funding that has triggered several costly shutdowns and partial closures over the past two decades. The longest shutdown in history happened under President Donald Trump — 35 days stretching into January 2019, when Democrats refused to approve money for his U.S-Mexico border wall. Both parties agree the stoppages are irresponsible, yet few deadlines pass without a late scramble to avoid them.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said Democrats knew last month that several Republicans would use all means at their disposal to oppose legislation that funds or allows the enforcement of the employer vaccine mandate. He blamed Schumer for not negotiating and for ignoring their position.
If the choice is between “suspending nonessential functions” or standing idle while Americans lose their ability to work, “I’ll stand with American workers every time,” Lee said.
Lee and Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., authored an amendment that prohibited federal dollars being spent to implement and enforce a series of vaccine mandates put in place by the Biden administration. The amendment went down to defeat with 48 yes votes and 50 no votes. But having the vote opened the door to taking up the full spending bill immediately.
Lee said millions were being forced to choose between an unwanted medical procedure and losing their job.
“Their jobs are being threatened by their own government,” Lee said.
“Let’s give employers certainty and employees peace of mind that they will still have a job this new year,” Marshall urged before the vote.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., countered that the federal government should be using every tool to keep Americans safe and that is why the Biden administration has taken steps to urge employers to make sure their workers are fully vaccinated or test negative before they come to the workplace.
“No one wants to go to work and be worried they might come home to their family with a deadly virus,” Murray said.
The White House sees the vaccinations as the quickest way to end a pandemic that has killed more than 780,000 people in the United States and is still evolving, as seen Wednesday with the country’s first detected case of a troubling new variant.
Courts have knocked back against the mandates, including a ruling this week blocking enforcement of a requirement for some health care workers.
For some Republicans, the court cases and lawmakers’ fears about a potentially disruptive shutdown were factors against engaging in a high-stakes shutdown.
“One of the things I’m a little concerned about is: Why would we make ourselves the object of public attention by creating the specter of a government shutdown?” said Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a GOP leader.
The administration has pursued vaccine requirements for several groups of workers, but the effort is facing legal setbacks.
A federal judge this week blocked the administration from enforcing a vaccine mandate on thousands of health care workers in 10 states. Earlier, a federal appeals court temporarily halted the OSHA requirement affecting employers with 100 or more workers.
The administration has also put in place policies requiring millions of federal employees and federal contractors, including military troops, to be fully vaccinated. Those efforts are also under challenge.
Polling from The Associated Press shows Americans are divided over Biden’s effort to vaccinate workers, with Democrats overwhelmingly for it while most Republicans are against.
Some Republicans prefer an effort from Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., to vote to reject the administration’s mandates in a congressional review action expected next week, separate from the funding fight.
Separately, some health care providers protested the stopgap spending measure. Hospitals say it does nothing to shield them from Medicare payment cuts scheduled to go into effect amid uncertainty about the new omicron variant.
Associated Press staff writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.
WATCH: Before the Canadian Armed Forces could reach flood-stricken and isolated parts of British Columbia, a small army of private pilots stepped in to get aid where it was needed. Now there are questions whether this volunteer army shouldn't get government funding to keep the service ready when it's needed. Neetu Garcha reports.
For more than two weeks, a tiny air force has been buzzing in and out of the Langley Regional Airport, laden with critical cargo for B.C.’s flood ravaged Southern Interior.
They aren’t members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Instead, they’re private pilots backed by a small army of volunteers who have been collecting food and other essential supplies from around the Lower Mainland to pack into the dozens of daily flights.
“There’s so many communities that are still cut off. There’s no roads between Boston Bar and Spences Bridge, and Spences Bridge and Merritt. There’s no supplies. So that’s what we’re doing,” organizer Shaun Bradley Heaps, a pilot and member of the West Coast Pilot Club told Global News.
“These pilots are donating their time and their planes and everything, without expecting anything.”
In the wake of the Nov. 14 atmospheric river that triggered flooding and landslides throughout southwestern B.C., Pritpal Singh Sekhon, who coordinates donations for the initiative, said local gurdwaras and other community groups began looking for ways to help.
They connected with the flying club, then began the difficult job of trying to open communication with local food banks, many of whom had also been flooded out of their properties.
The group has now connected with 30 to 35 communities — many with temporary food banks set up in schools, community halls and churches, Sekhon said.
Those flights are now supplied by a growing network of religious and community groups throughout the Lower Mainland gathering food and other essentials that have been requested by the affected communities.
“Lots of other organizations working on the ground,” he said. “Hard to say how many people are working — maybe thousands and thousands.”
Some of the volunteers pouring energy into the initiative have been directly affected by the disaster themselves.
Tracie Fawcett got trapped on Highway 7 when it was washed out in a mudslide and rescued by helicopter, only to connect with a pilot’s wife who was handling phone calls trying to coordinate relief efforts.
“I was like, can I help? Because I don’t know anything about planes but I have receptionist experience,” she said.
Since then, she’s been back again and again to help, energized by the feeling of solidarity on the ground and in the air.
Sekhon said between the long days and nights of coordinating donations and getting them off the ground, volunteers are already working on organizing so the B.C. initiative — from pilots to community groups — can spring back into action if they’re needed again.
“We want one platform: whenever there is any disaster that happens in the future, we need to help people within 30 minutes to 40 minutes. That is our goal,” he said.
In the meantime, Heaps said the little army and air force of volunteers will keep working as long as they’re needed, through Christmas if they must.
“People need it,” he said.
“If I was in that community I would hope that someone who was in my position was looking after me.”