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Slain OPP Const. Greg Pierzchala remembered at funeral

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Const. Greg Pierzchala

Const. Greg Pierzchala enjoyed nature, was a fan of art, excelled at his job as a new police officer and above all, loved protecting his family and the communities he served.

Loved ones, friends and fellow officers gathered Wednesday at a funeral for the Ontario Provincial Police constable who was killed in a shooting ambush last week, remembering the 28-year-old as “humble, generous, funny and competent.”

Justyna Pierzchala said her older brother took his job of watching over her very seriously.

“He was always making sure that I was in a good place, both mentally and physically, and was always checking to make sure that I was headed in the right direction … Greg was so much more than just a police officer,” she said.

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“Greg died a hero and he lived as an inspiration.”

Greg Pierzchala was attacked as he responded to a call for a vehicle in a ditch west of Hagersville, Ont., police have said. Two people have been charged with first-degree murder.

Police have said Pierzchala had been a provincial officer for just over a year and had been notified hours before his death that he had passed his 10-month probation period. He was also previously a member of the Canadian Armed Forces and a constable at the provincial legislature.

Pierzchala dreamt of joining the police ranks as a boy and his colleagues have remembered him as a wonderful officer with a big heart made of gold.

His brother Michal Pierzchala remembered the officer as someone with exacting standards who also acknowledged when a person had done something right.

“I think what really separated him from others were his high standards for everything in his life,” he said.

“He made you want to be a better person. He made you want to make your own life better and I can’t think of a better influence someone can have than that.”

The officer’s family said Greg Pierzchala enjoyed martial arts, loved nature, was an avid reader and could stare at paintings in a museum for hours. His colleagues said the young man loved serving his community.

A procession that was held before Pierzchala’s private funeral in Barrie, Ont., saw a police motorcade make its way through city streets as several members of the public watched.

Inside the Sadlon Arena, officers were asked to remove their peaked caps as Pierzchala’s casket was carried to the front of the venue.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who joined the hundreds of officers in attendance at the arena in the officer’s hometown, said the constable’s death had highlighted the difficulties of the job.

“This brave young man died just two days after Christmas,” Ford said at the beginning of the ceremony. “It’s yet another difficult reminder that the job of a police officer is one of total commitment.”

Ford told the service that Pierzchala’s death was a “painful reminder that policing is a family calling.”

“The people he really served will never forget your sacrifice,” Ford said to the officer’s family. “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your son and brother with us.”

The commissioner of the provincial police force became emotional during Wednesday’s funeral as he remembered how often he heard inspiring stories about Pierzchala.

Thomas Carrique said Pierzchala was “extraordinary” and a “total package.”

“I am truly humbled to have shared the same uniform as Greg,” he said.

Court documents show 25-year-old Randall McKenzie – one of two people accused in the attack on Pierzchala – had been denied bail in an unrelated case involving a number of assault and weapons charges months before the shooting, but was released after a review. A warrant was issued for his arrest when he failed to show up for a court date in August, the documents show.

Pierzchala’s brother said his sibling was aware of the risks of the job but chose to serve nonetheless. He also said his brother, who visited the family home every week, would always make it a point of saying a proper goodbye to his loved ones when he left.

Michal Pierzchala said the words of one of his brother’s favourite authors, Charles Dickens, was fitting for the funeral.

“I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss,” he read. “I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy … It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2023.

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UPEI students offered $1,500 to leave residence during Canada Games – CBC.ca

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Some UPEI students are earning extra money during the mid-semester break this year, simply by packing up and leaving campus. 

The 2023 Canada Winter Games Host Society offered $1,500 each to students living in Andrew Hall if they give up their residence rooms to make space for arriving athletes. 

The students have to leave a few days before the break starts, on Feb. 17, and can return March 7. They also had to give up their meal plan for the duration.

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Many athletes are staying at UPEI’s new 260-bed residence, built to meet accommodation requirements for the Games’ temporary athlete village.

But Wayne Carew, chair of the Games, said there are 120 more athletes coming than originally planned. 

A portrait of a man standing outside, wearing a jacket with the Canada Winter Games logo.
Organizers want the athletes all to stay on the UPEI campus so they can have ‘the experience of a lifetime,’ says Wayne Carew, chair of the 2023 Canada Winter Games Host Society. (Tony Davis/CBC)

“We ended up getting 44 rooms [in Andrew Hall] and that’s great,” said Carew.

He said the athletes staying at UPEI “are going to have a wild experience on the campus of the beautiful University of Prince Edward Island.” 

Carew said the costs of doing this are a “lot cheaper” than arranging accommodations elsewhere. But he said the main reason is to provide all athletes the same, “once-in-a-lifetime” experience.

“Where they live, the food and the camaraderie and the experience of a lifetime: that’s what they’ll remember in 20 years’ time about P.E.I.,” he said.

‘Pretty good deal’

Some students were eager to take the organizers up on their offer.

“I’m going away to Florida during the two-week break anyways. So I was like, ‘May as well let them use my room then,'” said Hannah Somers. 

Portrait of a man in a toque and a grey sweater standing in front of a residence hall.
UPEI student Benji Dueck is moving in with a friend during the Canada Games so he can get the $1,500 offer. (Tony Davis/CBC)

“It’s $1,500. Pretty nice,” said Benji Dueck, who agreed to vacate the room with his roommate.  “We’re moving out, living with a friend in the city. So, sounds like a pretty good deal to me.”

As part of the agreement, the students had to clear out their rooms. Canada Games organizers made arrangements so students could store their belongings.

But not all students thought it was a good deal.

Portrait of a woman in a black down jacket standing in front of a residence hall.
UPEI student Maria de Torres won’t be leaving residence during the Canada Games. ‘It’s just too hard to pack up. It’s just too hectic,’ she says. (Tony Davis/CBC)

“I’m not giving up my spot in Andrew Hall for $1,500,” said Maria de Torres. “It’s just too hard to pack up. It’s just too hectic. And since I’m an international student, I got a lot [of things] right now.”

Shelby Dyment is also staying in Andrew Hall. Dyment said she and her roommate are working as residence life assistants during the mid-semester break and she’s also doing directed study, so she has to stay on campus.

“There’s a lot of people doing it. It’s just for our situation it just wasn’t working for what we were doing,” she said.

In a statement, UPEI said that enough students had accepted the offer to host all the athletes. 

It said the host society made all the arrangements with the students, including paying for their incentives and arranging for storage.

Organizers expect about 3,600 athletes, coaches and officials to participate in the Games. The event will run from Feb. 18 to March 5.

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Germany won't be a 'party to the war' amid tanks exports to Ukraine: Ambassador – CTV News

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The German ambassador to Canada says Germany will not become “a party to the conflict” in Ukraine, despite it and several other countries announcing they’ll answer President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s pleas for tanks, possibly increasing the risk of Russian escalation.

Sabine Sparwasser said it’s a “real priority” for Germany to support Ukraine, but that it’s important to be in “lockstep” coordination with other allied countries.

“There is a clear line for Germany,” she told CTV’s Question Period host Vassy Kapelos, in an interview airing Sunday. “We do want not want to be a party to the conflict.”

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“We want to support, we want to do everything we can, but we, and NATO, do not want to be a party to the war,” she also said. “That’s I think, the line we’re trying to follow.”

Defence Minister Anita Anand announced this week Canada will send four Leopard 2 battle tanks — with the possibility of more in the future — to Ukraine, along with Canadian Armed Forces members to train Ukrainian soldiers on how to use them.

Canada first needed permission from Berlin to re-export any of its 82 German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. After a meeting of 50 defence leaders in Germany earlier this month, it was unclear whether Germany would give the green light.

But following what German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called “intensive consultations,” Germany announced on Jan. 25 it would send tanks to Ukraine, and the following day, Canada followed suit. It is now joining several other countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Poland, which are sending several dozen tanks to Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said this week the tanks would allow Ukraine to “significantly strengthen their combat capabilities.”

“It demonstrates also the unit and the resolve of NATO allies in partners in providing support to Ukraine,” he said.

Meanwhile Sparwasser said Germany is “walking that fine line” of avoiding steps that could prompt escalation from Russia, while supporting Ukraine, and staying out of the war themselves.

“I think it’s very important to see that Germany is very determined and has a real priority in supporting Ukraine in its struggle for freedom and sovereignty,” Sparwasser said. “But we also put a high priority on going it together with our friends and allies.”

Sparwasser said despite warnings from Russia that sending tanks to Ukraine will cause an escalation, Germany is within international law — specifically Article 51 of the United Nations Charter — to provide support to Ukraine.

“Ukraine is under attack has the right to self defence, and other nations can come in and provide Ukraine with the means to defend itself,” Sparwasser said. “So in international law terms, this is a very clear cut case.”

She added that considering “Russia doesn’t respect international law,” it’s a more impactful deterrent to Russia, ahead of an expected spring offensive, to see several countries come together in support of Ukraine.

With files from the Associated Press

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COVID: Canada retaining Evusheld – CTV News

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While Health Canada says it is “aware” of the U.S. decision to withdraw the emergency use of Evusheld, a drug by AstraZeneca used to help prevent COVID-19 infection— the agency is maintaining its approval, citing the differences in variant circulation between Canada and the U.S.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Jan. 26 that its emergency use authorization of the drug was pulled due to its inefficacy in treating “certain” COVID-19 variants.

The FDA stated in a release on its website that as the XBB.1.5. variant, nicknamed “Kraken”, is making up the majority of cases in the country, the use of Evusheld is “not expected to provide protection” and therefore not worth exposing the public to possible side effects of the drug, like allergic reactions.

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In an email to CTVNews.ca, Health Canada said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration pulled the drug as the main variant of concern in the U.S. is XBB.1.5.

“Dominant variants in the [U.S.] may be different from those circulating in Canada,” the federal agency said in an email. “The most recent epidemiological data in Canada (as of January 1, 2023) indicate that BA.5 (Omicron) subvariants continue to account for more than 89 per cent of reported cases.”

On Jan. 6 the FDA said in press release that certain variants are not neutralized by Evusheld and cautioned people who are exposed to XBB.1.5. On Jan. 26, the FDA then updated its website by saying it would be limiting the use of Evusheld.

“Evusheld is not currently authorized for use in the U.S. until further notice by the Agency,” the FDA website states.

On Jan. 17, Health Canada issued a “risk communication” on Evusheld, explaining how it may not be effective against certain Omicron subvariants when used as a preventative measure or treatment for COVID-19.

“Decisions regarding the use of EVUSHELD should take into consideration what is known about the characteristics of the circulating COVID-19 variants, including geographical prevalence and individual exposure,” Health Canada said in an email.

Health Canada says Evusheld does neutralize against Omicron subvariant BA.2, which according to the agency, is the dominant variant in many communities in Canada.

The drug was introduced for prevention measures specifically for people who have weaker immune systems and are unlikely to be protected by a COVID-19 vaccine. It can only be given to people 12 years and older.

“EVUSHELD is not a substitute for vaccination in individuals for whom COVID-19 vaccination is recommended,” the agency’s website reads.

Health Canada says no drug, including Evusheld, is a substitute for vaccination.

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