COVID-19: Saskatchewan Set To Announce First Stage Of Pandemic Exit Strategy

Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe is scheduled to address the province tonight at 6 p.m. to recap where Saskatchewan stands six weeks into the pandemic. Then on Thursday morning the government is supposed to unveil a plan to begin loosening restrictions on economic activity.

Discussions of this type are taking place around the world. In countries that have had success in limiting the spread of the virus, such as South Korea, Taiwan and New Zealand, there is cautious optimism that this can be done safely. In countries/jurisdictions where the pandemic is still spreading, though, suggestions that widespread economic activity could be resumed are generally seen as contrary to public health interests.

As a relatively remote province with a small, widely dispersed population, Saskatchewan was likely never going to be at risk for a major outbreak. And with the measures the province has put in place, we have been reasonably successful at limiting the spread of COVID-19.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Saskatchewan Set To Announce First Stage Of Pandemic Exit Strategy”

COVID-19: Different Countries Have Responded To The Pandemic In Different Ways

Most of the coverage we’ve done has focused on the U.S. and Canada. There are some interesting stories happening in other areas of the world, though, that highlight different aspects of how the pandemic is being managed. Here are a few:

Russia While Vladimir Putin’s government initially tried to play dumb about the virus, insisting that everything is under control, in recent days it’s become clear that the pandemic is spreading there as well. As of April 17 at noon, Russia’s case count stood at 32,008 infections and 273 deaths. Those numbers should probably be taken with a grain of salt because of Putin-inspired propaganda, but Moscow (population 12.5 million) and Saint Petersburg (5.3 million) have reportedly been especially hard hit.

Sweden Unlike most countries, Sweden hasn’t implemented major physical distancing requirements to address the pandemic. Schools have remained open, and businesses such as restaurants have continued to operate. Initially, the policy seemed to be working, and Sweden (irony of ironies, since it’s a socialist country) was being touted by conservative pundits as an example of how the pandemic could be managed without inflicting too much economic harm.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Different Countries Have Responded To The Pandemic In Different Ways”

Sad Irony: COVID-19 And The Environment

Photo credit: Taken by Apollo 8 crew member Bill Anders on December 24, 1968

With our March 26 print publication, like pretty much everything else around the world, suspended, we’re making an effort to revive our blog.

We can’t match the capacity of the CBC to cover the local, national and international impacts of the COVID-19 situation, but one side consequence that I would like to highlight is the sharp reduction that’s occurred in greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of pollution in countries that have experienced significant outbreaks. Continue reading “Sad Irony: COVID-19 And The Environment”


SavetheDate2016FlyerThis event is being hosted by the Regina chapter of Grandmothers 4 Grandmothers. As the organization’s name indicates, it’s a group of local grandmothers and those with a similar life perspective who conduct periodic fundraisers in the city to help support grandmothers in Africa who find themselves caring for young children who have been orphaned by the AIDS pandemic that has hit many countries on the continent extremely hard.

The support is channelled through the Stephen Lewis Foundation, and the guest-speaker at this fundraising dinner is Lewis’s daughter Ilana Landsberg-Lewis who is the executive director of the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

As you can see from the accompanying poster (click to enlarge), Jabula is being held at Queensbury Centre on Saturday April 30. In addition to the dinner and guest-speaker, there will be a performance by the Campbell Collegiate Choir and a silent auction.

More information on Grandmothers 4 Grandmothers Regina can be found on the G4G website.

Lean: The Musical

lean-the-musical-poster-finalThe Lean program that the Saskatchewan Party government introduced a few years with much fanfare and considerable expense to try to improve efficiency in the health care system has been a hot topic of debate in the run up to the April 4 election.

Some regard it as the greatest thing since sliced bread, while others pillory it as a huge waste of money and time.

On March 20-21, Saskatchewan Public Interest Theatre takes a satirical poke at the whole idea of Lean and the wisdom of trying to apply market-driven audit principles from the factory floor to so-called caring professions such as health, or in SPIT’s case, education, that defy easy analysis in economic terms.

“Over the past several years the Saskatchewan government implemented Lean initiatives in health care services and started implementing them in education,” said playwright Trish Elliott in a SPIT press release.  “This play is a fun tongue-in-cheek take on the Lean program. When it comes to Lean, there’s no shortage of absurdities to poke fun at!”

The above poster has all the performance details, and you can find out more by visiting the Saskatchewan Public Interest Theatre website.

Weekly Reckoning: Soup Erbo Wl Edition

weekly-reckoningLet’s play Reckonopoly! It’s like regular Monopoly, except you reckon with things. And there are no tokens, or cards, or money, or a board. It isn’t like Monopoly at all!

WHERE’D ALL THE ZIKA COME FROM? A New York Times (google them! They’re a newspaper) article goes into detail on the emergence and discovery of the Zika virus. It reads like a medical mystery thriller, but with hydrocephaly.

THE COYOTES OF NORTH BAY ARE GETTING HIGH Whaaaaat? Traffic-disrupting coyotes near San Francisco are probably getting schwacked on local wild mushrooms. The article is at pains to point out that the mushrooms in question aren’t psylocibin-containing “magic mushrooms” but muscimol-containing fly agaric mushrooms. I’m not sure why reporters are so keen on parsing the source of a coyote’s high, but whatever.

AD BOWL, A BIG BOWL OF ADS Sure, men with helmets and shoulder pads squared off against each other today in a choreographed ritual of symbolic violence, but the real show lies in the ridiculous and entertaining ads that companies pay outlandish sums of money to spread in front of your eyesball eyeballs. But where can you find all those ads now? Here. Spoiler: they’re pretty stupid.

SASKATCHEWAN MAY STILL BE A VAPING PARADISE, BUT FOR HOW LONG? Cigarette smoking looks cool. It has always looked cool. Vaping, on the other hand, makes you look an overheated engine with a sleeve tat. I don’t care how many flavours you can vape in: you’re still vaping. Here’s a story relevant to vapers’ interests though.

WHATEVER HAPPENS/ HAS HAPPENED WITH TODAY’S SUPERBOWL, WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE BEYONCÉ I imagine a team is winning, or has won? I’m not a sports journalist. Anyway, Beyoncé’s “Formation” is great. End of story. But since this is the Internet, there’s always supplemenary material (that is to say, a complete guide to the video below).

Smokin’ Hot Regina

Downtown Regina looking south from Dewdney Ave
Downtown Regina looking south from Dewdney Ave

I’m not sure if the above photo does the smoke from northern forest fires justice, but it’s definitely thick out there this afternoon. (click to enlarge the photo)

According to this CBC report, Environment Canada has issued air quality warnings for most of the province except for the southwest corner.

Art Conversation Series

amanda CachiaThe MacKenzie Art Gallery holds these events periodically. Typically, they involve a guest speaker discussing some aspect of contemporary art practice. There’s one tonight, in fact, that features Amanda Cachia (pictured).

Cachia was in Regina for a short time around 2010, when she served as director/curator of the Dunlop Art Gallery. Born in Australia, she’s studied in Europe and the United States. Currently, she lives in San Diego, where she’s carving out quite a career for herself as a curator with a special focus on artists and work that address themes of disability.

Cachia has dwarfism in her background, and her status as a little person does help inform her curatorial projects. The title of her talk tonight is: Curating Disability and Access: Ethics, Pragmatics, Effects. The talk will be held tonight at the MacKenzie at 5:30 p.m., and admission is free.

Not So Exciting Goings On In Victoria Park

VictoriaPark(BBQ Festival)I don’t want to slag anyone involved in the BBQ event that’s been going on since Friday night in City Square Plaza and Victoria Park. But somebody somewhere is dropping the ball here. Whether it’s the festival organizers or the city, when you have a special event on involving food you have to make arrangements to ensure that the residue of said event doesn’t get out of hand.

This photo was taken around 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night, but even in the afternoon the garbage can was overflowing. And as might be expected, with the wind we had yesterday the mess wasn’t confined to this particular spot.

Supreme Court Rules Again

CannabisIIAnother defeat for the Harper Conservatives at the Supreme Court today. This time, it was the regulations that Health Canada has set up to govern medical marijuana that the court determined were an undue infringement on the constitutional rights of Canadians to liberty and security.

The regulatory regime restricted patients to smoking dried cannabis only. Through research, though, the medical marijuana community has developed a number of different products such as edibles, ointments, salves, teas and tinctures to treat a wide range of medical conditions.

By restricting patients to dried cannabis, medical marijuana advocates argued, Health Canada was limiting the right of Canadians to access effective medical treatment. As well, anyone caught distributing or possessing these products could be charged under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act with trafficking and illegal possession.

Health Canada’s position wasn’t surprising. In its literature around medical marijuana, it’s very upfront about the fact it doesn’t believe marijuana offers legitimate medical benefits and that it only permits licensed use because it’s been mandated by previous court rulings. So it was more or less indifferent to the health concerns of Canadians who had found relief by using different cannabis products.

Today, in a case related to a Victoria man arrested for baking marijuana cookies in 2009, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld an earlier B.C. Supreme Court ruling that Health Canada’s regulations on dried cannabis were unconstitutional and that if Canadians have obtained medical clearance from their doctors to use cannabis they should be able to use it in the form that provides the most effective treatment for their condition.

You can read more in this CBC report.

Introduction To Backyard Beekeeping

There’s been a lot of talk lately about declining bee populations in North America, and the important role bees and other pollinators play in the life cycle of flowers, fruit trees, berries and other plants.

On Thursday May 7 Regina Public Library is hosting a presentation by a local beekeeper on how to raise bees as a hobby. Teens and children are welcome at the presentation, which goes at Central Library (Public Meeting Room 1) from 7-8:30 p.m.

You’re asked to register in advance on the RPL website. And here’s a link to an interview with the beekeeper that appeared in our April 30-May 13 issue.

Health Canada Ruled In Breach Of Privacy Act

MarihuanaPrivacyAbove is a photo that’s making the rounds of a Facebook page maintained by an advocacy group for Canadians who use marijuana for medical purposes. In 2013, you might recall, Health Canada was in the process of changing regulations related to how people who were licensed to use marijuana for health reasons were able to access their medication.

The biggest change was that after April 1, 2014 licensees would no longer be able to grow their own medication but instead would have to purchase it from a grower licensed by Health Canada. The changeover hasn’t gone as smoothly as patients would have liked and, in fact, licensees under the old regulations are currently in litigation to have the new provisions declared unconstitutional for unjustly infringing on their health and well-being.

While all that was going on, Health Canada sent envelopes to the approximately 40,000 licensees in mid-November 2013 reminding them of their obligation under the new regulations to dispose of all their plants and existing medication by the April 1 deadline. In contrast to the usual steps Health Canada took to protect the privacy of the licensees’ health information (primarily by using unmarked envelopes delivered by courier) Health Canada elected to use the regular postal system and envelopes that clearly identified the recipients as participants in the medical marijuana program.

Health Canada claimed later that it was an administrative oversight. But licensees were understandably upset, both at the breach of their privacy, and the potential threat the letters posed to the safety and security of them and their families by publicly outing them as possessing marijuana. They regarded it as an attempt by Health Canada to intimidate them and cow them into complying with the new regulations.

A privacy complaint and class action lawsuit were subsequently initiated, and as the above image indicates, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has found that the plantiffs’ privacy rights were contravened by Health Canada. A Federal Court challenge is currently underway, and the privacy commissioner’s ruling should be a pretty powerful piece of evidence when the plaintiffs return to court in Vancouver in early May.

2015 Woodrow Lloyd Lecture

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANamed after the former CCF/NDP cabinet minister/Saskatchewan premier Woodrow Lloyd, this annual lecture goes Wednesday, Jan. 21 at the University of Regina. Speaking will be Dr. Cindy Blackstock (pictured), who is the Executive Director of the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada. The topic of her talk is “Reconciliation: The Children’s Version”.

Through the university’s communications department, I received this synopsis of the talk:

There is a growing conversation about reconciliation in Canada and addressing contemporary inequalities and injustices facing First Nations children is a vital part of the conversation. This lecture by Cindy Blackstock will explain how children and young people are working with First Nations to achieve equity and uplift the country at the same time.

Again, the talk goes Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in Rm 106.1 of the Education Building. If you’d like some more information, the number to call is 306-337-3114.  

Douglas Vs. Manning

Presented by the University of Regina’s History Department, this colloquium is subtitled The Political and Religious Battle Over Medicare In Postwar Canada.

Participants will be discussing competing models of universal healthcare that were developed in Saskatchewan under the CCF government of Tommy Douglas and in Alberta under the Social Credit government headed by Ernest Manning. As the sub-title indicates, those visions were informed by both both political and religious values of the two premiers in the period from 1940s to the 1960s.

Douglas Vs. Manning goes Friday, Jan. 9 from 3:30-5:30 p.m. in room 348 in the university’s AdHum building. For more information, visit the university’s website.

31 Days Of B-Movie Horrors: Donovan’s Brain

Donovans brainCurt Siodmak wrote a ton of horror movies for Universal Studios and RKO in the 1940’s. The Wolf Man, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, I Walked With a Zombie and Son of Dracula just to name a few. Siodmak also wrote a few novels, one of them was Donovan’s Brain.

Donovan’s Brain was first made into a movie in 1944 with the film The Lady and the Monster. It’s not bad but the 1953 movie Donovan’s Brain is better. The good Dr. Cory (Lew Ayres) has discovered a process where he can keep the brain alive after the body dies. Prophetically W.H. Donovan, a crooked multimillionaire is flying near by and crashes. Dr. Cory tries to save Donovan but is only able to save his brain.
Continue reading “31 Days Of B-Movie Horrors: Donovan’s Brain”

Regina Dragon Boat Festival

Later today the 23rd annual Regina Dragon Boat Festival gets underway in Wascana Centre. There’s some sprint action on the lake tonight starting at 6 p.m., then there’s races all day tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with an awards ceremony to follow.

Last time I checked the Regina Dragon Boat Festival website, all the details about the entertainment and other activities beyond the racing had yet to be ironed out. But I’m sure by now all that’s been taken care of by the dedicated volunteers who make the festival happen each year. So props to them, and if you’d like to become involved yourself you can find out how by visiting the website.

Cannabis Becoming A Wedge Issue In Canadian Politics

CannabisIIThe B.C. Court of Appeal delivered an important ruling yesterday when it found that restrictions placed on the manner in which medical cannabis can be used were unconstitutional. The case dates back to 2009, and concerns a man charged with trafficking after he produced marijuana cookies and topical cannabis creams for a medical marijuana club in Victoria.

The case predates the coming into force of the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations in April, but the ruling would seem to be applicable to it as well. That’s because under MMPR patients who receive a prescription from a doctor to use cannabis are limited to purchasing dried cannabis.

Research done by medical cannabis advocates, though, has shown that smoking dried cannabis isn’t the only way to obtain medical benefits. Rather, edible products, creams, tinctures and other cannabis off-shoots can also provide patients with relief. Indeed, in some instances, depending on the patient’s circumstances, they provide superior results to simply smoking or vaporizing the herb.

By a 2-1 majority the justices who heard the case, which resulted in charges being dismissed against the man, gave the federal government one year to amend the regulations to permit the consumption of other cannabis products beyond dried cannabis.

Whether the Harper government will comply is another matter. Heading into the October 2015 election, the Conservatives seem determined to use marijuana (be it for medical or recreational use) as a wedge issue to inflame their base. In recent months several Conservative MPs have distributed bullshit brochures in their ridings warning that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who has come out in favour of legalizing marijuana and regulating it like alcohol and cigarettes, wants to make marijuana available to children.

Of course, Trudeau’s position, which is also largely supported by the federal NDP, would do no such thing. Instead, by decriminalizing marijuana and developing a regulatory framework, the black market for marijuana would dry up, organized crime would be deprived of a lucrative cash cow, billions in police, court, and prison costs would be saved, and hundreds of thousands of Canadians would no longer be subjected to criminal sanction for doing something that is already legal in two American states: Colorado and Washington.

In the U.S., an additional 20 states permit the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Here in Harperland, though, Veteran Affairs announced recently that it was considering capping the benefits it provides to veterans who use cannabis for relief of pain, PTSD and other combat-related conditions. As well, Health Canada has apparently approached three doctors groups (the Canadian Medical Association, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the College of Family Physicians of Canada) to enlist their aid in an anti-marijuana advertising campaign that would have obvious partisan political overtones and would compromise the integrity of the above-noted organizations.

Given that integrity is largely an unknown concept to the Harper government, that’s not surprising. Instead, the Conservatives seem determined to put ideology ahead of the health and well-being of tens of thousands of Canadians who currently use cannabis for medical purposes, and pursue an asinine “tough on drugs/crime” policy that has proven to be a disastrous failure in the United States and the rest of the Western world.

Big Step For Quebec

At Sherbrooke University Hospital today in Quebec, doctors, dentists and pharmacists unanimously approved the right of patients to use medical marijuana in their rooms. Here’s a link to the CBC story.

The decision arose out of a request of a patient suffering from stage 4 liver cancer (now deceased) to be allowed to use cannabis in his room. He didn’t actually smoke it, but used a vaporizer, which pretty much eliminates all the potentially harmful toxins. Other patients find relief with edibles, ointments and tinctures that don’t impact on other patients or staff in any way.

I’ve spoken with people in the medical cannabis community in Regina and they say they’ve encountered obstacles in the past when they’ve tried to deliver medication to people licensed by Health Canada to use medical cannabis when they’re hospitalized.

It’s a smart decision by the medical professionals at Sherbrooke, and it needs to be done at hospitals across the country.

Meanwhile, in the world of Big Pharma, opiate overdose deaths are on the rise in Canada. And most of the increase is being attributed to prescription drug abuse. People go in for surgery, or maybe wrench their back a bit, so they get prescribed an opiate such as oxycontin to control the pain.

Opiates are drugs like heroin and morphine, and they’re hugely addictive. If you check out the above link you’ll learn that Canadians are the second largest users of opiates in the world behind Americans and that opiate overdoses are a growing cause of death in Canada.

Bad Blood

Joey tremblayJoey Tremblay (pictured) has strong roots in Saskatchewan. He was raised in Ste. Marthe, and has been involved in numerous productions at the Globe Theatre as a writer, director and performer.

His best-known play is Elephant Wakeand in recent years he’s done a fair bit of work as part of the National Arts Centre’s English Theatre company in Ottawa.

On Friday and Saturday, the local theatre company Curtain Razors is presenting a workshopped reading of his latest play Bad Blood. It’s set in a hospital room and was inspired by a health challenge Tremblay faced a couple of years ago that required him to undergo fairly extensive medical treatment.

Bad Blood shouldn’t be mistaken for a medical drama like House or Chicago Hope, though, as the room is outfitted with archaic medical equipment and the Greek goddess of the hunt Artemis also makes an appearance. So in typical Tremblay style, the play really serves as a broader metaphysical exploration of life.

Bad Blood is being held at the Artesian on 13th April 25-26 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10, and more information can be found here.

International Development Week

Gwynne DyerEvery year the Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation hosts a ceremony to honour local citizens for efforts they’ve made to promote social justice and development in distant corners of the world. The awards, which are held as part of International Development Week, will be at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum tomorrow night at 7 p.m. Being hounoured are Florence Stratton, Bev Maxim, Lori Latta, and members of Stop UR Deportations. You can find out more information on the 2014 honourees here.

Also being held as part of International Development Week is a lecture Friday night at the University of Regina by international affairs columnist Gwynne Dyer. If you’re a regular reader of Prairie Dog you’ll have had ample opportunity to read Dyer’s insights into various geo-political crises and calamities that unfold with regularity on our planet. Typically, Dyer goes beyond the sound-bite journalism practiced by corporate media to ask tough questions about the root causes of these conflicts.

On Friday, he’ll be speaking on “The Triumph of Non-Violence” as it relates to the 2011 Arab Spring and other peaceful protests that have occurred since then. The talk goes at the Education Auditorium at 7:30 p.m.