Good morning. Wendy Cox in Vancouver today.
How do you keep a mask on a kindergartener? How do you keep a jumble of teenaged highschoolers from being handsy? How do you keep hallways clear and orderly in schools that were built decades or longer ago? How do you keep fresh air flowing through classrooms in January? How do you look after the mental health of young people who have built their social lives and much of their well-being around sports teams or choirs or bands or theatre troupes – activities that likely won’t resume in the same way?
The weight of what feels like a million questions and uncertainties is sitting on the shoulders of every parent and educator across Canada right now and the Globe will be spending considerable time over the coming weeks addressing those questions.
But it’s not just the younger kids and teens for whom going back to school next month seems an odyssey. Young adults in post-secondary institutions have their own, unique set of challenges. Most universities in Canada have moved to offer their programs online, which will work out just fine for many of them. But how do you learn to repair a helicopter engine online? Or bake and decorate the perfect cake? Or examine a patient and administer treatment? Or sculpt and paint?
“At some point, if you’re teaching carpentry, you have to hammer in a nail,” James Rout, associate vice-president of education support and innovation at the B.C. Institute of Technology, told reporter Frances Bula for a story she and Xiao Xu wrote for this weekend about how some of these programs are having to adapt.
Postsecondary institutions across the country offering programs for everything from construction trades to health care specialties are having to figure out how to deliver them. That means virtual classrooms and efforts to limit in-person class sizes, and the use of innovative tools.
BCIT has developed unique teaching tools that allow students to study helicopter engines through holograms or treat virtual patients with a variety of health problems. The augmented-reality tools reduce the time students have to be in a classroom, workshop or clinic.
The nursing department had already developed 19 types of cases for students to practise on through its program called Virtual Pulse, ranging from a child rescued from a burning house to a man who’d had a stroke.
In Calgary, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology’s culinary instructors are using Microsoft Teams and YouTube to teach the intricacies of cake decorating, and pipe-trades instructors are incorporating 3-D modelling into teaching.
At Seneca College’s Markham campus just outside Toronto, students in the School of Creative Arts & Animation studying illustration are working in a video-conference group, sketching a live model in real time.
Spokeswoman Caroline Grech said after much testing, including rehearsals with the model, live drawing sessions began this summer with the model posing while responding to the professor’s instructions.
Students, administrators say, are loving the new technologies. School, at any age it seems, will never be the same again.
AROUND THE WEST
CALLS TO MAKE POLICE DISCIPLINE PUBLIC: Alberta must rewrite the rules for the oversight of police conduct, experts argue in the wake of a secretive disciplinary process for officers who targeted a cabinet minister. The province’s system for investigating and disciplining police officers has been under scrutiny after a case in Lethbridge in which two officers admitted to improperly surveilling and photographing Shannon Phillips in 2017, when she was the minister of environment and parks in the NDP government. Ms. Phillips and the current government only learned of the July disciplinary decision through a local news report. According to a copy of the decision obtained by CHAT News Today in Medicine Hat, Sergeant Jason Carrier and Constable Keon Woronuk pleaded guilty to several counts of misconduct and received temporary demotions. The document says the officers disagreed with the government’s decision to limit activities such as ATV use in newly created provincial parks. Ms. Phillips, who had filed a complaint at the time, did not know the officers were still being investigated, let alone that there was a disciplinary hearing, because the police force told her in 2018 that the officers had received warnings and that the case was closed. She has now filed a legal challenge and wants the officers fired. Now, critics are using the Phillips case to highlight what they believe is an array of problems with police transparency and discipline.
PARTY CRACKDOWN: Neighbours across British Columbia can now call in the authorities to levy a $2,000 fine against anyone holding a party that is too crowded, a move the province says is necessary to slow the number of COVID-19 infections among younger adults intent on partying in private. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor-General Mike Farnworth announced a ticketing regime Friday that also enables B.C.‘s police and other agents, such as conservation officers as well as liquor, cannabis and gambling inspectors, to issue $200 tickets to anyone who promotes events that break the pandemic rules or refuses to leave such a party.
CHURCHES ADAPT TO COVID: Alberta and British Columbia have traced dozens of new cases of COVID-19, which is caused by the novel coronavirus, to recent religious gatherings in the landlocked province. Health officials declared outbreaks tied to a prayer gathering on the August long weekend near Deadwood and, separately, Edmonton’s Bible Pentecostal Church. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, this week noted scores of social gatherings, rather than just the two faith-based events, are fuelling COVID-19 in the province. At St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Calgary, the outbreaks are a reminder of the risks that come with meeting in confined spaces, and the importance of following public-health orders.
HAIDA GWAII FISHING RESORTS: Haida Gwaii fishing resorts say next season – and possibly their entire businesses – are in jeopardy after British Columbia banned vacations to the rugged archipelago in response to a community outbreak of COVID-19 on the islands. For three weeks in July, the luxury resorts had ignored the Haida Nation’s ban on tourism, enacted in late March. The two resorts had discussions with the Haida Nation before opening, but ultimately decided their operations posed no threat to locals as they were respecting provincial health and workplace guidelines and flying workers and guests in and out of their remote sites. But Queen Charlotte Lodge and the West Coast Fishing Club closed their facilities and shipped out the last group of mainland guests immediately after the provincial government prohibited non-essential travel to Haida Gwaii on July 30 in response to the community outbreak.
SASKATCHEWAN CHIEF DEMANDS ANSWERS: The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations wants answers after an elder says she suffered burns to her arm at a Saskatchewan hospital. Janette Sanderson said she went last month to the Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert, Sask., after tripping in her hotel washroom and injuring her ankle. While in emergency, she said, a nurse injected her with a needle that caused her arm to start swelling. “It started burning,” Ms. Sanderson, 53, of the James Smith Cree Nation said at a news conference in Saskatoon on Wednesday. She recalled asking the nurse what was in the needle and why it was being injected. Ms. Sanderson believes hearing the nurse telling her it was potassium, which kept burning. The federation, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, said what happened to Ms. Sanderson is an example of discrimination Indigenous people face in health care.
MANITOBA DISCRIMINATION HEALTH CASE: A human-rights adjudicator has ruled that the Manitoba government discriminated against a disabled Indigenous boy by not providing adequate health care. The province has been ordered to pay the boy and his mother $42,500. The case centres on Alfred (Dewey) Pruden, who was 16 years old when his human-rights complaint was heard last year. Pruden was born with a neurological disorder, is on the autism spectrum, and suffers from vision loss and poor motor skills. The hearing was told the province provided some health care services, but denied others on the basis that the federal government is responsible for health care in First Nations communities. Adjudicator Robert Dawson ruled Pruden did not get the care he needed, because of the jurisdictional divide between the federal and provincial governments.
TECK COAL MINE EXPANSION: The federal government will join an environmental assessment of a major expansion to a proposed southern British Columbia coal mine. Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson used the analysis to make his decision, released Wednesday, on the Teck Resources project. He had already reversed an earlier ruling and announced that Ottawa would take part in a review of the proposed Vista coal project in Alberta. Several other companies have made known their plans to mine coal in that province. Teck is planning an expansion to its network of coal mines in the Elk Valley area of southeastern B.C. The Castle project would increase the area being mined by about one-third and allow the company to maintain production of steelmaking coal at 27,400 tonnes a day.
ALBERTA TEACHERS’ ASSOCIATION: The Alberta Teachers’ Association is calling on the Kenney government to delay the start of the school year until after Sept. 7, Labour Day. Association president Jason Schilling made the announcement Wednesday after meeting with Education Minister Adriana LaGrange to discuss concerns about the province’s back-to-school plan. The government has said students are to return to class as early as Sept. 1. Schilling says teachers, principals and other staff need more time to prepare for students. He says there needs to be increased physical distancing through reduced class sizes, funding for better protective equipment and better plans for screening and testing students and staff for COVID-19.
B.C. TEACHERS FEDERATION: The union representing B.C. teachers wants smaller classes and stricter mask policies as part of increased safety protocols when schools resume next month. The B.C. Teachers Federation said in a statement on Wednesday that although the union has been working with the provincial government, reopening plans announced late last month do not go far enough, and some of the teachers’ main concerns have yet to be addressed. Earlier this week, the B.C. government announced students in middle and high schools would need to wear masks in common areas such as hallways and school buses where physical distancing isn’t possible. But the union wants masks mandated for students as young as 10, including in the classroom, labs and libraries.
LUMBER AND WOOD: New record high prices for lumber and wood panel products thanks to continuing robust demand from renovation and new home markets are driving stock prices higher for Canadian producers. Five of the largest producers – West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd., Interfor Corp., Canfor Corp., CanWel Building Materials Group Ltd. and Norbord Inc. – all set 52-week-high share prices Wednesday in trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The strong prices are expected to continue for some time, said RBC Capital Markets analyst Paul Quinn in a report.
Kelly Cryderman on the West’s hopes for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland: “The details of what will be a massive recovery plan have yet to be laid out. A number of oil sands companies are promising – albeit with few details – that they can get to net-zero emissions by 2050, which is Ottawa’s climate goal. Some of those same Alberta conservatives hope Ms. Freeland will make headway in persuading her colleagues that technology and progress might somehow allow Alberta and Saskatchewan’s industries and workers to play a role in the country’s economic recovery from the pandemic – even a green one.”
Mauro Chiesa, Harry Swain and Mike Harcourt on the urgent need for a serious objective review of B.C.‘s Site C dam: “BC Hydro says it discovered some anomalies in January, confirmed them in March after some more drilling – and has been studiously quiet about just what those problems are. It was, of course, a terrible surprise and had nothing to do with the competence of a corporation that hasn’t built a major dam in 40 years.”
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.