Many Canadians were not prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic, but Dave MacDonald wasn’t one of them.
While some people rushed to stores to buy toilet paper and food, MacDonald was living peacefully at his remote home in southern Manitoba with his wife and two sons.
They live “off-grid” near the town of Lac du Bonnet and grow about half their own food in their backyard. MacDonald also hunts.
“I don’t even need toilet paper,” the 55-year-old says.
“I can use snow, leaves or my hands. Snow is most stimulating.”
MacDonald is a part of a growing community of survivalists or “preppers,” who ready themselves for possible catastrophes that could crumble governments and infrastructure.
Some say they have noticed an uptick in interest in the movement since the pandemic began.
MacDonald, who teaches survivalist courses, also had a long career as a search-and-rescue specialist with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
“I’ve seen plane crashes. I’ve seen boats on fire. I’ve seen people fall overboard. I’ve seen helicopters crash. I’ve seen trains derail. I’ve seen factories explode. I’ve seen wars break out everywhere,” he says.
“People get themselves into trouble because they figure, ‘Oh, that’s never gonna happen to me.’ And then when it does happen, because it does happen, they’re not prepared.”‘
COVID-19 is one of those events that people weren’t prepared for, says MacDonald, who believes that’s why many have enrolled in his International Canadian School of Survival.
He teaches firearm training and basic survival skills such as food rationing, land navigation and building fires. The number of students in his courses have doubled — and in his online classes they have quadruped — since the pandemic began.
Some survivalists may be prepping for the end of the world, but for MacDonald it’s about being prepared.
“There are three classifications: emergency survival, primitive living skills and bush craft. I teach mostly emergency survival. Bush craft is when you’re out in the wilderness and refining your skills in the wilderness. And primitive living is when people want to do things the old-fashioned way.”
Ryan Pearce, 35, of Saskatoon doesn’t live off-grid. He says he is a hobbyist who enjoys learning bush craft.
His online group called “Preppers & Survivalists of Canada” has more than 6,000 members. Since the pandemic began, the group has seen a 50 per cent increase in participants, he says.
“Some of them are moms asking, ‘How do I refrigerate my meat like our grandparents used to do?’ or just preparing food out of your gardens or hunting,” Pearce says.
Jonathan Rawles is a co-founder of a website called Survival Realty based in the United States.
More Americans and Canadians are buying remote properties in rural Alberta and British Columbia, he says.
“Since the coronavirus pandemic and panic started, we’ve seen our web traffic for interest in rural off-grid remote survival properties double,” Rawles says from his home in Idaho.
Many buyers are attracted to the simple way of living that survivalism offers, he adds.
“We see people concerned about the virus being in a densely populated city. But then we also see people who now have freedom to relocate and live where they want to be because of remote work,” Rawles says.
“And so this has been something that’s really pushing people to make changes perhaps they’ve been intending to or wanting to for a long time.”
The Canadian government recommends people be prepped for at least a 48-hour disaster, MacDonald points out.
“You should be prepared to scoop your family and move out of an area if there’s a natural or man-made disaster. And then you need to sustain yourself for 72 hours and hope for the best, yet prepare for the worst.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 29, 2020.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Trudeau nominates first judge of colour to sit on Supreme Court
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday made history by nominating the first judge of color to sit on the country’s Supreme Court, which has only ever had white justices in its 146-year existence.
Mahmud Jamal, who has been a judge on Ontario‘s court of appeal since 2019, trained as a lawyer and appeared before the Supreme Court in 35 appeals addressing a range of civil, constitutional, criminal and regulatory issues.
“He’ll be a valuable asset to the Supreme Court – and that’s why, today, I’m announcing his historic nomination to our country’s highest court,” Trudeau said on Twitter.
Trudeau has frequently said there is a need to address systemic racism in Canada.
Jamal, born in Nairobi in 1967, emigrated with his family to Britain in 1969 where he said he was “taunted and harassed because of my name, religion, or the color of my skin.”
In 1981 the family moved to Canada, where his “experiences exposed me to some of the challenges and aspirations of immigrants, religious minorities, and racialized persons,” he said in a document submitted to support his candidacy.
Canada is a multicultural country, with more than 22% of the population comprised of minorities and another 5% aboriginal, according to the latest census.
“We know people are facing systemic discrimination, unconscious bias and anti-black racism every single day,” Trudeau said last year.
Jamal will replace Justice Rosalie Abella, who is due to retire from the nine-person court on July 1.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis)
Donors pledge $1.5 billion for Venezuelan migrants, humanitarian crisis
More than 30 countries and two development banks on Thursday pledged more than $1.5 billion in grants and loans to aid Venezuelan migrants fleeing a humanitarian crisis, as well as their host countries and vulnerable people still in the country.
The $954 million in grants announced at a donors’ conference hosted by Canada – which included pledges of $407 million from the United States and C$115 million Canadian dollars ($93.12 million) from Canada – exceeded the $653 million announced at a similar event last year.
But that fell short of the needs of countries hosting the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have left their country since 2015, as the once-prosperous nation’s economy collapsed into a years-long hyperinflationary recession under socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
Most have resettled in developing countries in Latin America and the Caribbean who have themselves seen their budgets stretched thin due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Does this cover all needs? Of course not,” Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters. “We will have to continue to encourage donors to support the response.”
At the conference, Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso announced that the country – which hosts some 430,000 Venezuelans – would begin a new process to regularize migrants’ status. That came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the 1.8 million Venezuelans it hosts.
Karina Gould, Canada‘s minister for international development, said the amount pledged showed donors were eager to support such efforts.
“There is that recognition on behalf of the global community that there needs to be support to ensure that that generosity can continue, and can actually deepen, in host countries,” Gould said.
In addition, the World Bank and Inter-American Developmemt Bank pledged $600 million in loans to address the crisis, Gould said.
($1 = 1.2349 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Luc Cohen, Michelle Nichols and David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Aurora Ellis)
Ecuador to start new ‘normalization process’ for Venezuelan migrants
Ecuador will implement a new “normalization process” for the 430,000 Venezuelan migrants living in the South American country, President Guillermo Lasso said on Thursday, without providing further details of the plan.
Lasso’s announcement, at a conference hosted by Canada intended to raise money to support the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have fled an economic crisis in the South American country, came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the nearly 2 million Venezuelans it hosts.
“I am pleased to announce the beginning of a new regularization process, which in order to be an effective, lasting and permanent policy should be complemented by strategies for economic integration and labor market access,” Lasso said.
Ecuador in late 2019 launched a regularization process for Venezuelans who arrived before July of that year. That included two-year humanitarian visas meant to facilitate access to social services.
Lasso said Ecuador needed outside funding to continue caring for Venezuelan migrants, estimating that more than 100,000 additional migrants were expected to arrive before the end of the year.
“I call on our partners in the international community to be co-responsible and have solidarity with Venezuelan migrants and refugees, and with the countries that receive them,” he said.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen; editing by Barbara Lewis)