When travellers cut through British Columbia‘s Prince George Airport this summer, Owen Ritz and Reed Horton envision them browsing and buying more than duty-free treats and baubles.
The American roommates-turned-business partners hope passengers will stop by Copilot, a cannabis store they’re seeking approvals to open and believe will be the world’s first airport pot shop.
“Our goal from day one has been to create a differentiated retail experience that stands out from any store you might see downtown,” said Ritz.
Airport stores are nothing new for most retailers, but cannabis shops are seldom, if ever, seen at aviation hubs, so Copilot is a sign of the new territory pot stores are eager to break into.
In recent months, they’ve cropped up at malls, gas station plazas and beside breweries. Some like B.C. pot retailer Seed and Stone are even planning to open virtual dispensaries in the metaverse – an immersive and emerging digital world.
The push to get into these spaces comes more than three years after Canada legalized recreational cannabis. Since then, pot shops have speckled many cities – Ontario alone had 1,115 stores last September – and clustered so heavily in areas like Toronto‘s Queen Street that some are calling for legislation to dictate how close to each other stores can be.
The proximity is amping up competition among stores and has some observers predicting closures are on their way as entrepreneurs realize owning a pot shop isn’t a guaranteed money-maker, when you’re in a crowded market.
“The whole industry completely misunderstood what would happen because they thought the only barrier is legalization and once we’re legal, people will just buy,” said Joanne McNeish, a Ryerson University professor specializing in marketing.
But breaking into airports and malls could curtail some of the disappointment by helping companies stand out from other brands with a store on every street corner and by catering to time conscious customers.
“For a user, it could make it that much more convenient,” said McNeish.
She believes these locations also help destigmatize cannabis for people who still see the substance as a stoner pastime or are intimidated by marijuana culture and terminology.
“If they’re walking around Sherway Gardens and they stumbled upon it, maybe it’ll be slightly less overbearing to take a step in,” said Justin Farbstein, Tokyo Smoke’s vice-president of business development.
“It could give a safer, more approachable feel.”
That locale was part of why Canopy brought Tokyo Smoke cannabis shops to malls through a partnership with Edmonton Oilers owner, the Katz Group.
Now, there are Tokyo Smoke stores across eight shopping centres, including the Eaton Centre in Toronto, the Rideau Centre in Ottawa and Devonshire Mall in Windsor. At least another three are on their way.
In the few months they’ve been open, Farbstein noticed purchases have a “slight skew” toward edibles and drinks, but hasn’t seen any particular demographic flock to the store more than others.
The company also has stores in a Scarborough gas station plaza and beside Cool Beer Brewing Co. in Toronto.
In an effort to stand out, High Tide Inc. is also moving beyond busy streets.
“On Queen Street, you’ve got a cluster of stores and they’re all competing with each other heavily and there’s just no unique edge that any retailer has,” said chief executive Raj Grover.
He’s been targeting large shopping areas with anchor tenants like grocers, liquor stores or Costco because Hide Tide can typically score cannabis exclusivity there, but he’s also delving into malls by opening Canna Cabana shops at Winnipeg‘s St. Vital Centre and Alberta‘s Prairie Mall.
Those locations will resemble Hide Tide’s 113 stores, but leverage more digital kiosks and lockers to speed up browsing, ordering and pickup.
Their locations will also be chosen to avoid enticing children.
“Mall management is sometimes not too excited about locating a cannabis store where there’s a food court or where families get together, so it can be a little bit more challenging than locating on the streets,” Grover said.
The trickiest part of opening mall locations, said Farbstein, is ensuring security cameras trace every part of the journey cannabis deliveries make from the loading dock to the store shelf – a requirement for all pot shops.
At the airport, there are even more challenges because travellers cannot board flights departing Canada with cannabis. Copilot plans to ask customers where they are headed and remind people they can’t fly internationally with pot.
Several airlines don’t feel those measures are enough and are worried an airport store would encourage pre-flight and on-board cannabis consumption. Air Canada and WestJet have urged Prince George’s city council not to permit airport pot shops.
Horton called their concerns “really valid” and said Copilot had “productive” discussions with airlines to ensure they’re able to work together.
“We want to improve passenger experiences, not make it worse,” he said.
But even Grover has hesitations about airport pot shops.
“I wouldn’t rush to the airports,” he said.
“Cannabis at the airports may be still pushing the limits because it’s so new and we want to be mindful of how the public would react.”
© 2022 The Canadian Press
Montreal sauna suspected origin of Canada’s monkeypox outbreak: doctors – Global News
The country’s first two cases were reported by Quebec public health officials on May 19.
Dr. Robert Pilarski, a general physician in Montreal, who treated one of those patients last week, said the individual likely got the virus from a sauna he recently visited.
“He actually got it from G.I. Joe. So this is the suspected epicentre of the epidemic,” Pilarski told Global News.
Another doctor, who did not wish to be identified, also said the source of Montreal’s monkeypox outbreak was Sauna G.I. Joe.
Government officials have so far stayed clear of confirming the origin of monkeypox in Canada due to concerns of privacy and stigmatization.
“As it was the case with COVID-19, we never confirm publicly outbreaks for both privacy and identification matters,” Jean Nicolas Aubé, a spokesperson for Montreal public health, told Global News in an emailed response.
“Rest assured that we always intervene directly with businesses or settings where an outbreak occurs or where our investigation could lead us,” Aube added.
Quebec confirms 25 cases of monkeypox, plans to administer vaccine
Despite multiple attempts and inquiries from Global News about health regulations and tracing measures, there was no response from Sauna G.I. Joe by the time of publication.
Recent cases of monkeypox around the world have researchers scrambling to find out how the virus is spreading in countries that typically don’t see it.
Monkeypox, a rare zoonotic infectious disease, is usually found in certain parts of Africa, where it is endemic.
What started out as a small cluster of cases in Quebec is now being called a “serious outbreak” of the virus by provincial health officials.
As of Thursday, 25 cases have been confirmed in the province and about 20 to 30 suspected cases are under investigation.
The majority of confirmed cases in the province are tied to men aged between 20 and 30 years, who have had sexual relations with other men. There has been one case in a person under 18.
Monkeypox is not considered a sexually-transmitted infection, but the virus can survive on surfaces such as bedding and is transmitted through prolonged close contact.
“It’s not sexual activity as such that transmits it. It’s skin-to-skin contact that transmits it as far as we know at this moment,” said Dr. Michael Libman, a tropical disease expert and professor of medicine and infectious disease at McGill University.
Scientists trying to identify origins of Monkeypox cases detected in Canada
Stigmatization and transparency
Cases of monkeypox started emerging in Europe earlier this month.
Montreal public health said it had alerted physicians about a week before the first cases were confirmed. It also contacted “local actors” and communicated advice on hand hygiene and environmental cleaning procedures, Aubé said.
According to social media posts, Sauna G.I. Joe hosted a sex party on May 19, the same day Canada confirmed its first cases of monkeypox.
During a press conference on Thursday, Quebec public health officials said they do not think it’s necessary to single out locations over fears of “stigmatization,” adding that there are now measures in place.
“The enemy is the virus, not the people affected,” said Dr. Luc Boileau, Quebec’s interim public health.
However, experts stress that there should be greater transparency and omitting key public health information can be problematic.
Monkeypox is not a sexually-transmitted infection, WHO says
David Brennan, research chair in gay and bisexual men’s health at the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN), believes not disclosing information can have a negative impact on the community.
Hiding information could be interpreted as “men having sex with men is bad,” said Brennan.
There needs to be a culture shift and harm-reduction approach as has been the case in the past with sexually-transmitted infections, such as HIV/AIDS, added Nolan Hill, gay men’s health specialist at the Center for Sexuality in Calgary, Alta.
“I think it really does speak to this broader culture where we’re uncomfortable with the idea of sex and we’re uncomfortable talking about sex,” he said.
What is monkeypox and how is it transmitted?
Outside of Quebec, only one other case of monkeypox has been confirmed in Toronto.
On Saturday, Toronto Public Health (TPH) identified two locations connected to possible cases of monkeypox: Axis Club and Woody’s bar.
Kerry Bowman, a professor of bioethics and global health at the University of Toronto, said these details matter, especially when it comes to higher risk settings.
“I would argue it is important to identify where it is coming from because if you don’t then people are not in a position to protect themselves,” he said.
However, disclosing that information comes with the “added responsibility” of not feeding into any prejudice, Bowman added.
Federal public health officials are working to finalize and release guidance on case identification, contact tracing, isolation as well as infection prevention and control.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says this updated guidance will be released in the next few days.
Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said Thursday mass vaccinations are not yet needed, but people can avoid infection by maintaining physical distance, masking and hand hygiene.
Monkeypox: 26 confirmed cases in Quebec, Ontario, officials recommend physical distancing
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Supreme Court of Canada to rule on sentencing for Quebec City mosque shooter
The high court decision in Alexandre Bissonnette’s case will determine the constitutionality of a key provision on parole eligibility in multiple murder convictions.
Bissonnette pleaded guilty to six charges of first-degree murder in the January 2017 assault that took place just after evening prayers.
In 2019, Bissonnette successfully challenged a 2011 law that allowed a court, in the event of multiple murders, to impose a life sentence and parole ineligibility periods of 25 years to be served consecutively for each murder.
A judge found the provision unconstitutional but did not declare it invalid, ultimately ruling Bissonnette must wait 40 years before applying for parole.
Quebec’s Court of Appeal struck down the sentencing provision on constitutional grounds and said the parole ineligibility periods should be served concurrently, meaning a total waiting period of 25 years in Bissonnette’s case.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2022.
The Canadian Press
‘Always hope’: Remains of Cree woman sent home to Alberta decades after disappearance
Violet Soosay’s search for her missing aunt began four decades ago.
The pursuit took her to parts of Alberta and B.C. and down paths of uncertainty as weeks, months and years passed without word of Shirley Ann Soosay.
On Friday, about 43 years after she was last heard from, the body of Shirley Ann Soosay is expected to be returned to her home community of Samson Cree Nation, south of Edmonton.
Her remains had been buried in a California cemetery in 1980 under the name Kern County Jane Doe. Last spring, the county sheriff’s office identified the remains as belonging to 35-year-old Soosay.
Violet Soosay has worked since then with the county coroner’s office and the California cemetery to transport the body back to Alberta.
“Now there’s closure. There’s healing that can start happening,” Violet Soosay said in a phone interview.
The website for the American non-profit group DNA Doe Project says the Jane Doe’s body was found in an almond orchard near Bakersfield, Calif., in July 1980. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed.
Wilson Chouest was convicted of killing the Jane Doe, along with another unidentified woman in 2018.
Violet Soosay said she last saw her aunt in 1977 at a family funeral. She remembers her as caring, supportive and a free spirit.
“That was my constant memory that I kept because it gave me that sense of connection,” she said.
Shirley Ann Soosay was close with her mother and had maintained regular contact with her, whether it was through holiday cards or letters, said Violet Soosay. The last correspondence came in 1979.
“After that, she just disappeared. Nobody knew. My grandmother was very frantic and heartbroken. She knew something happened.”
A few years later, Violet Soosay said she promised her grandmother she would bring Shirley Ann Soosay home. Her grandmother died in 1991.
In early 2020, Violet Soosay said she came across an artist’s rendering of the Jane Doe on a Facebook post from the DNA Doe Project. She believed the woman was her aunt.
The volunteer organization formed in 2017 to help identify unidentified deceased persons using forensic genealogy. The Kern County Sheriff-Coroner Division contacted the project in 2018 hoping to determine the identity of its Jane Doe.
Dawn Ratliff, the coroner division chief, said her office set up tip lines and worked with media to broadcast stories hoping to identify the woman, but every effort led to a dead end.
“In all the years that we had her, we never received a single inquiry. And at that point I just knew she wasn’t local. But I just didn’t know where she would be from.”
Ratliff said when she eventually heard from Violet Soosay, she asked her to submit a DNA sample. It was processed and compared to DNA they had from the remains. The two were a familial match.
Violet Soosay said that when she got the call with the results, she was flooded with years of emotions, including frustration, anger and elation.
“It was a crazy moment when I found out that she was my aunty.”
The family is planning to bury Shirley Ann Soosay in a cemetery at Samson Cree Nation.
Violet Soosay said bikers are supposed to follow her aunt’s casket from a funeral home in Wetaskiwin to her final resting place. There will also be a wake with traditional drumming.
Before the body was disinterred in California, the Tule River Tribe performed a ceremony there with prayers and drumming, added Ratliff.
“To be able to restore her name has really been tremendous,” she said.
Violet Soosay said she is grateful for the support and work of Ratliff, investigators and those involved with confirming the identity of her aunt’s remains.
She said she also has a message for Indigenous families with missing loved ones: “There’s always hope. There’s always some way to bring them home.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2022.
Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press
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