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Good evening, let’s start with today’s top coronavirus stories:

Will vaccines stop the spread of COVID-19? How long will protection last? Success may delay answers

Scientists and clinicians studying the first COVID-19 vaccine to win approval in Canada, the United States and Britain say the high efficacy it has shown may come with a downside: It may be harder to find out how long the immunity it provides will endure.

The answer to that question – as well as whether the vaccine can reduce the transmission of COVID-19 to others – could have an enormous impact on the public immunization effort next year and will ultimately determine whether the pandemic can be wrestled to the ground over the long term.

As the vaccination rollout continues, health-care workers have become the first people inoculated against COVID-19 in four more provinces: Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Manitoba.

Opinion:

  • If only Scott Moe fought the coronavirus the way he battles the carbon tax - Robyn Urback
  • I lived through Melbourne’s strict COVID-19 lockdown. My fellow Canadians should consider that approach - Graham Barron

Read more: Health officials warn of holiday spike in cases as more vaccine doses set to arrive

Video: Watch a drone tour of empty Paris squares as COVID-19 curfew takes effect

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Assembly of First Nations National Chief disappointed by Erin O’Toole’s comments on residential schools

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde is expressing dismay about comments made by Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole on residential schools, suggesting they were used to score political points.

In a statement, Bellegarde said he looks forward to helping O’Toole better understand how First Nations continue to grapple with the lasting effects of the residential school system that was “wrong from the start and made worse by decades of political mismanagement and indifference.”

In a video posted to the Ryerson Conservatives Facebook group last month, O’Toole said the government-sponsored schools aimed initially to educate Indigenous children but later devolved into harmful practices.

Ottawa signs agreement with U.S. to send Canadian astronaut around the moon

The federal government has signed an agreement with the United States to send a Canadian astronaut around the moon as part of a broader effort to establish a new space station above the lunar surface.

Industry Minister Navdeep Bains unveiled the new Gateway Treaty today, which formalizes Canada’s involvement in the U.S.-led effort to build the new station, known as the Lunar Gateway.

The treaty includes a commitment to having a Canadian on board when the U.S. conducts a manned fly-by of the moon in 2023, as well as a second yet-to-be-scheduled flight to the future station.

Aphria and Tilray announce merger, Aurora Cannabis laying off staff

In the latest sign of the cannabis industry’s efforts to streamline its operations and take advantage of what they hope will be a promising U.S. market, two of Canada’s most prominent companies say they plan to merge.

Ontario-based Aphria and B.C.-based Tilray announced they will unite under the Tilray name – a move they say will help them slash costs, control the biggest slice of the Canadian retail market and dominate the burgeoning U.S. cannabis industry.

Separately, Aurora Cannabis today says it is laying off 214 workers, the latest of a series of cuts to hit the Edmonton-based company. Operations at its flagship Aurora Sky facilities will be reduced by 75 per cent.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Belarusian opposition wins human rights prize: Former Belarus presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya urged the European Union to step up its support for embattled democracy protesters in her country, as she picked up the EU’s top human rights prize today on behalf of a group of opposition leaders. Read more: How Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya went from school teacher to Belarus president-elect in exile

Negro Leagues get major status: Major League Baseball has announced it is reclassifying the Negro Leagues as a major league, saying it was “correcting a longtime oversight in the game’s history” on the centennial of the Leagues’ founding.

Bitcoin bonanza: Cryptocurrency Bitcoin soared past US$20,000 for the first time today, its highest ever, amid increased institutional and corporate interest.

Mackenzie Scott giveaway: MacKenzie Scott, philanthropist, author and former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has announced that she has given away US$4.1-billion in the past four months to hundreds of organizations as part of a giving pledge she announced last year.

MARKET WATCH

North America stocks were mixed today, with the Nasdaq closing at record highs as investors awaited a potential U.S. fiscal economic stimulus package and after the Federal Reserve repeated a pledge to keep its benchmark interest rate near zero.

The S&P/TSX Composite Index closed up 60.94 points or 0.35 per cent at 17,567.42, but its performance was dragged down by the energy sector.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 44.77 points 0.15 per cent to 30,154.54 points, the S&P 500 gained 6.55 points or 0.18 per cent to end at 3,701.17, and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 63.13 points or 0.5 per cent to 12,658.19.

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TALKING POINTS

What Canada’s Conservatives need to unlearn from Donald Trump

“Canadians should be very careful about what they absorb from the political culture – part genius, part bedlam, part freak show – to the south. Both right and left in Canada can learn from U.S. politics. But a lot of that learning should be a cautionary tale. Because no matter where you sit on the ideological spectrum, the American political diet, whether left or right, contains many ingredients whose regular consumption is certifiably harmful to our country’s health.” - Globe editorial

Justin Trudeau’s political legacy will be defined by his carbon tax

“The Conservatives talk about broadening their tent, but it’s hard to see how they do that when the party seems so at odds with popular sentiment on the most pressing issue of our time. The values represented by those who care about the environment, who want our political leaders to take serious action on climate change, are being embraced more broadly among citizens in Western democratic countries, not the opposite.” - Gary Mason

LIVING BETTER

Rate-wise, this may be a once-in-a-generation chance to buy a home

At current interest rates, this could be the best time to consider buying a home. Price-wise, however, it’s a different story. Buyers should not rush into a major purchase without first doing an affordability analysis. Can you afford a mortgage, property taxes, maintenance, in addition to daily expenses such as daycare and car loans, as well as saving for the future? A low mortgage rate is a false economy if your housing expenses are too high and you start adding higher-cost debt on your line of credit – or worse, credit card.

TODAY’S LONG READ

Off the court: How drama at a rec centre led to an Ontario town’s reckoning with race

Security footage captured the incident as a pixelated blur of activity in the hallway of a recreation centre. In the foreground, a few white girls are practising figure skating moves. In the background, a group of boys – nearly all of them racialized, many of them Black – are huddled together chatting. Suddenly, some start chasing others, and a cluster end up on the floor in a struggle. After several seconds, the fight is broken up.

No one was injured. Police didn’t attend the scene. No one was charged. Yet several staff at the BWG Leisure Centre in Bradford West Gwillimbury, Ont., described this March, 2017, incident as “the most violent” one they’d ever witnessed. Five of the boys were given a year-long ban from the centre, where many played basketball daily.

A police officer, warning that “the problems could migrate,” suggested the boys’ photos be posted at the town’s only public library and the ban extend to that space, too. To the racialized children and their families, being barred from the only library and rec centre in the community was tantamount to excommunication. Read Dakshana Bascaramurty’s full story here.

Evening Update is written by S.R. Slobodian and Dianne Nice. If you’d like to receive this newsletter by e-mail every weekday evening, go here to sign up. If you have any feedback, send us a note.