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B.C. to offer COVID-19 booster for 12-plus starting this fall

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VANCOUVER — COVID-19 booster shots will be available to British Columbians aged 12 and over starting this fall.

Dr. Penny Ballem, the lead on B.C.’s COVID-19 immunization plan, said Friday that invitations will start going out Monday for those most vulnerable aged 65 and older.

The advantage of getting the shot this fall is that new Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are expected to be more tailor-made to fight Omicron variants, she said.

Almost 94 per cent of B.C. residents have had their first shot, 91.2 per cent have had a second, but just 59.5 have had their booster.

She said 1.3 million people in B.C. have yet to receive their first booster and they should get that right away.

For those who have had their third shot, Ballem said the risk will be highest in the fall when COVID-19 will be circulating with other respiratory illnesses.

“Fall is the best time to get your next shot.”

However, Ballem said people who feel they need their second booster now can contact health authorities and they will get their shot.

Up until now, B.C. has been offering second booster shots for people 70 years and older and Indigenous people 55 years and older.

Ballem said officials also hope to get approval by the end of July to give children aged six months to four years their vaccinations, but that still needs regulatory approval.

Acting provincial health officer Dr. Martin Lavoie said the latest wave of the Omicron variant BA.5 is increasing hospitalizations.

Lavoie said vaccine makers have learned a lot about adapting to variants and the developments are promising.

“What’s important to know now is that manufacturers have developed vaccines that will be better adapted to Omicron, which is great news,” he said.

“As the virus goes further away from the vaccine that we have now, we need to have a vaccine that is closely related to what circulates to be more effective.”

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s most recent update reports 765 COVID-19 cases for the week of June 26 to July 2, up from 620 the previous week.

It also says there were 172 COVID-19 hospital admissions for the week of June 26 to July 2, while there were 209 admissions for the week prior.

The BCCDC says there were 24 COVID-19-related deaths this past week compared to 33 deaths from June 19 to 25.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 8, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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Sask. woman, accused of faking own death, says she had 'no choice' but to flee – CBC.ca

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The Saskatoon woman accused of staging the disappearance of herself and her son has issued a statement to CBC News from an Oregon jail.

Dawn Walker, 48, was the subject of an extensive missing persons search after she disappeared with her son about two weeks ago. She was found and arrested in Oregon City on Friday and has been detained in the U.S. since.

“I left Saskatoon because I feared for my safety and that of my son,” Walker said in a written statement to CBC News. She didn’t name the person she said she fears, but Walker has previously made domestic violence allegations against her ex, who is the father of her seven-year-old son. 

Police have said the domestic violence allegations were investigated, but no evidence was found to support them. 

Walker’s friend, Eleanore Sunchild, recorded Walker’s statement during a visit at the Multnomah County Jail in Portland on Monday. 

Walker is charged in the U.S. with aggravated identity theft, which, if convicted, would lead to a minimum prison sentence of two years. She has also been criminally charged with parental abduction and public mischief in Canada. 

U.S. prosecutors allege that Walker faked her and her son’s deaths as part of an elaborate scheme that involved stolen identities and a fraudulent bank account. Police were able to locate Walker and her son last Friday by following bank transactions for gas, food, Netflix and Airbnb rentals. 

Walker says justice system failed 

Walker said she was “failed by the Saskatchewan Justice system, the family law system and child protection.”

She said she previously filed domestic abuse reports with Saskatoon police and RCMP and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The police services did nothing to assist me. I reported my concerns to the child protection authorities and again nothing was done. I am fighting systems that continuously fail to protect me as an Indigenous woman and protect non-Indigenous men,” Walker said.

“So many women and children before us have had to run for their lives to protect their children. The SPS and RCMP only cared when they thought I was dead and the pressure they were under because of their blatant failures.”

Before Walker was located by police, her friends and family suggested foul play or interpersonal violence could be involved in her disappearance. Saskatoon police were asked Monday about the allegations. 

“Any potential or any previous allegations made by Dawn Walker were thoroughly investigated and no charges resulted as a result of those investigations,” Saskatoon police Deputy Chief Randy Huisman said. 

The allegations of domestic abuse were also put directly to her ex, the father of the seven-year-old, by CKOM before Walker and her son were found. 

Andrew Jansen told CKOM he “would never hurt Dawn or [her son]. There’s no truth to any of that, and that’s all I can say.” CBC News contacted Jansen about the allegations. He declined to comment, saying he is taking time to focus on his son and family. 

After Walker was arrested, agents found and reviewed a series of notebooks with handwritten notes she possessed. Within those materials agents ‘found the defendant’s check list for how to stage her death and disappearance,’ according to the court documents. (United States Attorney District of Oregon)

Walker says she had ‘no choice’

In her statement, Walker had a message for the dozens of family members, friends and others who prayed and searched for her in the days after she was declared missing.

“I apologize to anyone I hurt. I was left with no choice. No one heard me. I love my son so very much. He is my only child…I was motivated out of my immense love for [him],” she said.

She said she witnessed something involving the boy “that scared me to the core,” but did not elaborate.

“More will come out as I further tell my story upon my return to our Treaty lands,” she said.

Sunchild and Walker’s family also emailed written statements to CBC News. They are pressing for Walker’s extradition to Canada and encouraging others to do the same. 

“We, her supporters, urge the Canadian and Saskatchewan governments to commence extradition proceedings immediately so Dawn can return to Canada to deal with her matters there,” said Sunchild, a Cree lawyer in Saskatchewan who is in the U.S. supporting Walker as a friend.

The family said Walker “deserves our compassion and understanding.… It’s not easy being an Indigenous woman in Saskatchewan. All she wanted to do was raise her son in peace.” 

Saskatoon police said the criminal investigation into Walker — and those who may have helped her — is ongoing. They said there could be more criminal charges laid depending on the outcome.

A rally is being held Tuesday evening at the Legislature building in Regina in support of Walker, who appears back in court next month.

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Stable weather allows fire crews to focus on containment of B.C. wildfires

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Crews battling the wildfire that has forced the evacuation of more than 500 properties in British Columbia’s southern Okanagan are taking advantage of calm winds and stable conditions to bolster fire lines.

The BC Wildfire Service says the the wildfire covers 68 square kilometres southwest of Penticton, with most of the recent growth due to planned ignitions needed to create the control lines.

An update from the wildfire service says newly created control lines are “holding well.”

It says a key objective is to continue mop-up work along Highway 3A in an effort to reopen the route connecting Keremeos and the evacuated community of Olalla with towns further north.

Crews are keeping a close eye on weather conditions as a storm approaches from Washington state, bringing showers later this week and possible lightning strikes on Wednesday.

The wildfire service has recorded 564 blazes since the season began, 58 of them in the last seven days, and lists the fire danger rating as high to extreme on Vancouver Island, the entire B.C. coast and across the southern quarter of the province.

Of the eight wildfires of note currently burning in the Kamloops and Southeast fire centres, only the blaze near Penticton continues to keep residents out of their homes.

None of the other seven have grown significantly in recent days and the wildfire service website says the roughly three-square-kilometre fire in grasslands northwest of Kamloops is now listed as “being held,” allowing crews to finish building control lines.

Wildfires of note are either highly visible or pose a threat to people or properties.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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Warrant issued for man in Amber Alert, Saskatchewan children believed to be in U.S.

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REGINA — Saskatchewan RCMP say an arrest warrant has been issued for a convicted sex offender at the centre of an Amber Alert for two children.

Police say seven-year-old Luna Potts and eight-year-old Hunter Potts, along with their mother, are believed to be in South Dakota with 50-year-old Benjamin Martin Moore.

“We are very concerned about the well-being of those children,” RCMP Chief Supt. Tyler Bates said Tuesday.

“We feel they are in danger.”

Bates said Moore has a history of sexual offences against children and was previously convicted of sexual interference with a minor.

Moore now faces a charge of failing to report information within seven days of changing his address, which is required for convicted sex offenders.

RCMP said Moore was being investigated by social services when he left with the children and their mother.

Officers went last week to their home in Eastend, southwest of Regina, to question Moore but found it abandoned.

Police issued the Amber Alert on Monday evening for the girl and boy. Bates said RCMP enacted the alert after social services received an apprehension order for the children.

Bates did not say why police believe Moore crossed the border into the United States, but said RCMP were looking to extend the Amber Alert into South Dakota.

Moore is described as being five feet 10 inches tall and weighing 200 pounds with black hair.

Police also said Moore, the children and their mother may be travelling in a 2015 dark blue Chevrolet Equinox with the Alberta licence plate CGC 2492.

Police have received a slew of tips in the case.

Bates said officers have also been contacted by a person who is believed to be a victim and encouraged any others to come forward.

Court records show Moore was convicted in 2009 for sexual interference of a minor. He was sentenced in Regina provincial court to two years and two months in prison.

Records also say he served another three months in jail in 2011 after he was convicted of breaching a recognizance order.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2022.

 

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press

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