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Canada's wildfire season is off to a subdued start. Here's what to expect this year | Globalnews.ca – Global News

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Canada is seeing a subdued start to the wildfire season this year thanks to a cooler and wetter spring than usual, but Canadians should be prepared for an increase in fire activity heading into the summer, experts say.

Out west, parts of British Columbia and Alberta are seeing some wildfire activity as expected but nothing that has set off alarm bells yet.

Read more:

Will Canada see a repeat record-setting heat wave in summer 2022?

As of May 3, there were 13 active fires burning in B.C. Since the start of April, a total of 91 fires have been reported in the province but none were highly visible or posed a potential threat to public safety.

Meanwhile, in Alberta, there were nine active wildfires as of Tuesday, but none of note, according to provincial data.

There are currently no active wildfires in both Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Cooler temperatures and high levels of precipitation over the winter and spring period has suppressed the early wildfire season activity compared to the same time last year, meteorologists say.

“Overall, the late spring, I think with added snowpack in some areas and … cool conditions has helped to not allow for a quick start of the wildfire season across the country,” said Global News meteorologist Ross Hull.

“I believe that will start to change as the snowpack melts and areas that are already quite dry, experience warmer conditions and maybe some wind as well, so that will help to increase the fire risk.”


Fire weather severity forecast for the month of May.


Photo credit: Natural Resources Canada

What to expect this year

It is normal for Canada, which has nine per cent of the world’s forests, to experience wildfires during the summer months.

Canada’s wildfire season typically starts in April, hits its peak in July and ends in October.

Read more:

Fires to floods: How extreme weather has played out in B.C. in 2021

Last year, the country saw a record-setting heat wave and an early start to the wildfire season with high intensity and overall numbers, particularly in B.C., where a provincial state of emergency was declared in July.

In total, the BC Wildfire Service says it battled over 300 active wildfires at the peak of the wildfire season, in what was a “tremendously challenging year”.

From April 1, 2021 to March 28, 2022, a total of 1,642 wildfires burned 869,279 hectares of land across the province, forcing mass evacuations and causing catastrophic destruction.


Wildfire outlook for June 2022.


Photo credit: Natural Resources Canada

“We’re definitely in a different spot from last year,” said Chelene Hanes, a physical scientist with Natural Resources Canada.

In B.C., for the month of May and June, below seasonal average temperatures are expected for much of the province, said Derek Lee, a meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada in Vancouver.

This is because of the La Niña climate pattern.

During La Niña years, trade winds are stronger and water temperatures become cooler-than-average in the eastern Pacific Ocean near the equator. Hence, Northern U.S. and Canada tend to be wetter and colder.

Temperature forecast for May-July 2022


Temperature forecast for May-July 2022.


Photo credit: Environment and Climate Change Canada

“I would imagine that with the conditions being wetter than usual, things will take a bit longer to dry out,” said Lee.

A “heat dome,” which is a high-pressure system that traps warm air underneath it, raised the mercury to unprecedented levels in Canada last year, shattering more than 100 heat records across British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon and Northwest Territories.

Hull said the likelihood of that weather pattern occurring again are not as high, but portions of the country could still experience extreme hot conditions this summer, which are a key contributing factor for wildfires.


Fire weather severity forecast for the month of July.


Photo credit: Natural Resources Canada

Lee said it’s still uncertain to forecast if the same heat dome scenario could happen this time around, but it is a possibility that Canadians should be prepared for.

The fire activity could pick up pace as soon as the snow melts and hot, dry and windy conditions kick in, Hanes said.

Read more:

A look at Canada’s wildfires in numbers and graphics over the decades

“There are already areas through the Prairies that are in an extreme drought condition, so it won’t take much if you get hot weather and also strong winds to spark some fires,” added Hull.

Meanwhile, it’s a different story in the United States, where raging fires in the southwest, including New Mexico and Arizona, have already torched homes and forced residents to flee.

In southern U.S., the La Niña pattern has the opposite effect to what Canada or northern U.S. experiences, bringing severe dry conditions.


Click to play video: 'Severe storms rock central U.S. while wildfires burn in the West'



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Severe storms rock central U.S. while wildfires burn in the West


Severe storms rock central U.S. while wildfires burn in the West

Preparing ahead

On Tuesday, the B.C. government announced that it was extending its Alert Ready system beyond tsunami warnings and Amber Alerts to include imminent threats from floods and wildfires.

During a news conference, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the expansion of the system that issues public safety alerts through TV and radio broadcasters, as well as mobile devices, is because of an increase in the frequency of threats due to climate change.


Click to play video: 'B.C. firefighters training for upcoming fire season'



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B.C. firefighters training for upcoming fire season


B.C. firefighters training for upcoming fire season – Apr 24, 2022

Preparations are also underway for the core of the wildfire season, with specialized crews receiving training and new staff being recruited, said Brent Martin, deputy director of predictive services with BC Wildfire Service, during that same news conference in Victoria.

“Our crews are already in place and ready to respond,” he said.

The province is also investing over $13 million in community resiliency grants across 107 local governments and First Nations throughout B.C., helping reduce risks this summer, Martin said.

With global temperatures rising, keeping a close eye on short-term forecasts can help better prepare for upcoming disasters, Lee said.

“We can’t really rely on the long-range forecast,” he said, because they are not as accurate.


Click to play video: 'Reviving the practice of cultural burns in B.C. in order to mitigate wildfire risk'



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Reviving the practice of cultural burns in B.C. in order to mitigate wildfire risk


Reviving the practice of cultural burns in B.C. in order to mitigate wildfire risk

At the Canadian Forest Service, Hanes said they are developing models, including using remote sensing, that can estimate the probability of fires igniting and their potential growth based on current weather conditions to help fire management agencies better prepare to respond in time.

“We’re always trying to improve those models so that the fire managers have the best available information to make the decisions that they need to make on a daily basis during the fire season.”

Read more:

Canada’s spring has been cold so far. Why it may linger for longer

With the majority of fires particularly in spring caused by humans, such as through campfires, Hanes urged Canadians to pay close attention to any restrictions issued by their provincial and local fire management agencies.

There are also a number of ways Canadians can mitigate their personal risks and fire impact, she added, pointing to Fire Smart Canada, which offers resources to help fireproof homes among other things.

— with files from Global News’ Richard Zussman

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Why Can’t The Federal Government Eliminate Systemic Racism In The Canadian Military?

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“Racism in Canada is not a glitch in the system; it is the system.

By Harinder Mahil

A recently released report indicates that systemic racism is rampant throughout the Canadian Armed Forces which is putting the country’s national security at risk. 
 
The report released by Defence Minister Anita Anand says that the military has not acted on dozens of previous studies and reviews on racism in the ranks over the past two decades. The report says the military is not doing enough to detect and prevent white supremacists and other extremists from infiltrating its ranks.
 
I have read numerous stories about the racism in the military over the years but never thought it was such a big problem. I am shocked at the extent of the problem as identified in the report.
 
The report concludes that more and more Canadians will have no interest in joining the military until it fixes its long-standing issues of racism, abuse of power, gender discrimination and sexual misconduct.
 
“Unless it is rapidly reined in and addressed, the impact of this toxicity will linger for years, affecting the reputation of the Defence Team to the point of repulsing Canadians from joining its workforce”
 
The report says military leadership must accept that some members will either leave or need to be removed.
 
The report comes after a yearlong review by a panel of retired Armed Forces membersand follows numerous incidents linking some military personnel with violent extremism and hate groups, including white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
 
“Racism in Canada is not a glitch in the system; it is the system,” reads the report by the Minister of National Defence’s Advisory Panel on Systemic Racism and Discrimination.
 
There has been increasing pressure on the military to do more to crack down on hateful ideologies within its ranks.
 
“A common thread was evident throughout these consultations: membership in extremist groups is growing, it is becoming increasingly covert, and technological advances such as Darknet and encryption methods pose significant challenges in detecting these members,” the report said.
 
White men account for 71 per cent of Canadian military members but only 39 per cent of the country’s civilian workforce. The report notes Indigenous Peoples, visible minorities and women are significantly under-represented in Canada’s armed forces.
 

Over the last two decades the military has been seeking recruits from the Indigenous and visible minority communities. Why would Indigenous and visible minority communities’ members join the military if they are discriminated against by others especially those who have links with neo-Nazis?

 
I am of the opinion that the report only scratches the surface of the problem. It talks about consultations but who is consulted. 
 
If the military is serious about dealing with the problem it should monitor the social media posts of its members and weed out those who harbour white supremacist views and recognize those who are likely to be drawn towards extremist groups.
 

Harinder Mahil is a community activist and President of the West Coast Coalition Against Racism (WCCAR).

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Government’s changing vape strategy shifts focus away from cigarettes, advocates fear

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OTTAWA — In the eight years or so since he opened his first vape shop in Ottawa, Ron Couchman said a great sense of community has been lost.

A former cigarette smoker himself, Couchman said he remembers when his store operated almost as a support group for people trying to find a healthier alternative to cigarette addiction.

“We could teach other people how to vape when people were struggling to get off cigarettes, we’d play board games and have movie nights,” Couchman said.

As provincial and federal legislation started to clamp down on those activities, he said the camaraderie has faded.

Couchman is a passionate advocate for the potential of vaping to help people leave more harmful tobacco habits behind. At one point the federal government appeared to be onside with that, he said, but that seems to be changing.

“The last few bouts of legislation (have) really swung the other way to the point that it’s serving as a disincentive to quit smoking,” he said.

The government is in the midst of its first review of the 2018 legislation that legalized vaping, and appears to be veering away from the narrow path between treating vapes as a harm reduction tool, or a danger in and of themselves.

The harms of vaping relative to smoking tobacco cigarettes are still something of a mystery, but the government’s website suggests it’s safer than inhaling cigarette smoke.

Advocates on both sides of the issue say regulations have become tougher on vapes and have more or less abandoned the product as an alternative to cigarettes, leaving them to wonder how the government plans to deal with cigarette smoking in Canada.

“They bet heavily on harm reduction as a way to address tobacco. It hasn’t worked for them, and they didn’t have a more comprehensive plan,” said Cynthia Callard, executive director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.

Health Canada’s goal is to reduce the number of people who smoke tobacco to just five per cent by 2035, from about 14.8 per cent in 2019.

An audit of the department shows tobacco smoke is declining in popularity, but mainly because young people aren’t picking up the habit and existing smokers are dying.

Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Canada, with approximately 48,000 people dying from smoking-related illnesses every year, the government says.

Vaping remains relatively unpopular for adults over the age of 25, with just three per cent reporting that they vaped within the last month in 2020, according to the results of the Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine Survey. That’s about the same it was in the 2017 Canadian Tobacco Alcohol and Drugs Survey.

But vaping has spiked among youth between 15 and 19 years old, to 14 per cent in 2020 up from six per cent in 2017.

In response, the government clamped down on vaping with a range of regulations, banning promotion and advertising of the products in certain spaces and putting limits on the amount of nicotine that can be in them. It’s also expected to restrict which flavours can be sold.

In their most recent budget, the Liberals proposed an excise tax on vape products as of Oct. 1.

Now, it’s as if Health Canada is fighting the war on two fronts, Callard said.

The department has been focusing resources on youth vaping, leaving anti-smoking groups like Callard’s concerned that a tobacco strategy may be falling by the wayside.

The recent audit shows the department has been taking on projects to reduce tobacco use, but it won’t be enough to meet their own targets.

Meanwhile, advocacy groups like Rights4Vapers say smokers are being punished for making a healthier choice.

“It is probably the only addiction currently where we continue to use fear and shame to get individuals to quit,” said Maria Papaioannoy, the group’s spokesperson and a vape store owner.

The strategy does appear to be at odds with the harm-reduction approach the government has embraced when it comes to to drug use, said David Sweanor, chair of the University of Ottawa’s Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics.

“We’ve seen the success replicated numerous times simply by giving people alternatives, which is consistent with what we’ve done with things like clean needles, safe injection sites,” said Sweanor, who contributed to the 1988 Tobacco Products Control Act.

The government must table its legislative review this year. The discussion paper the department released touches almost exclusively on how to toughen vaping regulations, Sweanor said, though that’s not what the legislation was primarily set out to do.

“Is it accomplishing what it’s supposed to be accomplishing? Are there ways that you can improve it?” he said.

“Instead, what we got is a document that takes very few aspects of, primarily, their anti-vaping strategy.”

In the paper the government says the review will focus on vaping regulations because the vaping products market in Canada has changed so much in the years since the law was passed.

The review gives the opportunity to examine whether the act offers the government enough authority to address the rise in youth vaping, the paper said.

“A full assessment of whether the measures taken since the legislation was introduced in 2018 have been effective in responding to the rise in youth vaping will benefit from more time and data. Subsequent reviews will continue to monitor youth use along with other dimensions of the Act,” the document reads.

Advocates for and against using vaping as a way to transition people away from harmful cigarette smoke agree, tobacco is being left out of the conversation.

“Tobacco remains the fundamental problem,” said Callard. “It’s tobacco that continues to kill.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2022.

 

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

 

 

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Multiple reports say Marner’s SUV was stolen in an armed carjacking in west Toronto

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There are multiple reports that an SUV belonging to Toronto Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner has been stolen in a carjacking in the city’s west end.

The Toronto Sun, Global News and City TV all quoted unnamed police sources as saying Marner’s black Range Rover was taken outside a movie theatre in Etobicoke.

Police confirmed there was a carjacking without any injuries, but would not give any information out on the victims or witnesses.

The Sun says Marner was shaken but not hurt.

Police tweeted they were called to The Queensway and Islington Avenue area around 7:46 p.m. for reports of a man robbed of his car.

Authorities are looking for three suspects armed with two handguns and a knife, who took off in the stolen vehicle.

Marner and the Leafs were eliminated from the playoffs on Saturday in a seventh and deciding game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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