Here’s what employers in Canada are offering workers during the labour shortage

Canadian business sectors have struggled with staffing, and as provinces reopen from COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, employers are going to extra lengths find and keep their workers.

A July survey by staffing firm Robert Half suggests that employers are, in fact, pulling out the extra stops to attract talent. Forty per cent of respondents said they’re offering extra paid vacation, 37 per cent hope to persuade new hires with better job titles, while more than one-in-three are offering signing bonuses.

Read more:
Some salaries up ‘drastically’ as Canada feels impact of labour shortages

Thirty-year-old Ian Blechta’s first foray into homeownership is a three-bedroom, 1,550 square-foot house in Stayner, Ont. The plan is to move in, with his girlfriend, in September. Ian purchased the house pre-construction for about $500,000 and he says similar units now go for $640,000.

The engineer-in-training tells Global News he’s “excited” and “grateful” to reach this milestone that he’s dreamed about, thanks to the home purchasing program announced by his employer, land development firm Crozier and Associates.

The company offers up to $20,000 to employees who have been with Crozier for at least a year and requires them to commit to the firm for three years.

“We needed to prove to the bank that we could have 20 per cent down and it was the money from Crozier that made it possible,” Blechta said.

 

Engineering in training Ian Blechta stands in front of his pre-construction house

Engineer-in-training Ian Blechta in front of the home he purchased with the help of his company's First-Time Home Buyer's Assistance Program.

Photo credit: John Knox Photography

This is a significant incentive for residents, like Blechta, who live in the Collingwood, Ont., area, which has seen home prices climb 40 per cent from May 2020 to May 2021, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).

Cash for homes is just one example of the creative lengths that employers are willing to go to keep workers and attract new hires during a labour shortage. Recruitment experts say the balance of power has shifted to workers in high-demand industries such as technology, food services and retail, who have plenty of job options to choose from.

Read more:
Most of Canada’s job losses are in part-time work. Why that may lead to labour shortages

 

Crozier President Nick Mocan told Global News his firm wanted to offer something that would make a meaningful difference.

“I was hearing stories of struggles, of frustration and the leadership team put our heads together to figure out how we can help our employees in their personal lives and solidify their ability to come to work day to day and really focus on their career,” he said.

Lazer Technologies employees pose with Toronto's CN Tower in the background

Lazer Technologies' flexible hybrid work model is designed to appeal to digital nomads around the world

Photo supplied.

The co-founder of Toronto-based software firm Lazer Technologies says it has to offer something unique to stand out in the tech world because there’s a global labour shortage for the types of workers it hopes to attract.

“It’s one of the toughest labour markets to hire great engineers and what makes it tougher for us is we’re looking for the top one per cent within that pool,” Arif Bhanji told Global News. “Our team of 60 people get multiple offers from Square, Shopify, Facebook, constantly, with numbers that are astronomical. But beyond that, what they really care about is flexibility.”

Read more:
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Bhanji says Lazer’s hybrid work model allows employees to work remotely from anywhere in the world, while also having the option to work in a “traveling office.” The plan is to keep the company headquartered in Toronto but move its secondary office to a new location four times a year.

“Our first country is Costa Rica, because we have a couple of team members that live there today. In addition, we’re planning on Uruguay, the U.A.E. and several other places in the U.S.,” he said.

FILE - In this Saturday, March 14, 2020 file photo, an Apple logo adorns the facade of the downtown Brooklyn Apple store in New York.

FILE - In this Saturday, March 14, 2020 file photo, an Apple logo adorns the facade of the downtown Brooklyn Apple store in New York.

AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File

He said employees in high-demand fields are looking for companies that offer more than just more money.

“At a certain level, the extra $30,000 to $50,000 that you give an engineer is not going to be a strong enough factor for them to move,” he said.

According to Bhanji, flexible work arrangements, a strong work culture and the ability to learn from more experienced co-workers on the job are paramount.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Halifax researcher part of team behind black hole discovery that proves Einstein right

A researcher at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax was part of a team of scientists that observed light coming from behind a black hole for the very first time, confirming a prediction from famous physicist Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

While scientists have seen X-ray emissions around black holes before, it’s the first time light has been spotted behind a black hole – and the new discovery could lead to a better understanding of what’s still largely considered to be an astronomical mystery.

Luigi Gallo, a professor of astronomy at Saint Mary’s University who’s been studying black holes for 20 years, worked on the data analysis and interpretation for this research project, led by Stanford University astrophysicist Dan Wilkins.

“They’re my favourite objects, but I think I’m biased a bit,” Gallo said of black holes. “It’s the most extreme object in space, right? We don’t know a lot about them.”

Read more:
Nova Scotia professor studies light at the edge of supermassive black holes

Gallo’s research focuses on supermassive black holes – the regions in space where gravity is so strong that not even light can escape. Supermassive black holes are 10 million times larger than the sun.

Because of their very nature, black holes themselves can’t be seen. Scientists are only able to observe the objects around them.

As materials in space fall into a black hole, they form what’s called an “accretion disk,” where they spiral around before falling into the black hole.

The flares echo off of the gas falling into the black hole, and as the flares were subsiding, short flashes of X-rays were seen corresponding to the reflection of the flares from the far side of the disk, bent around the black hole by its strong gravitational field.

The flares echo off of the gas falling into the black hole, and as the flares were subsiding, short flashes of X-rays were seen corresponding to the reflection of the flares from the far side of the disk, bent around the black hole by its strong gravitational field.

ESA/S. Poletti

On top of a black hole is a primary light source known as a “corona,” which illuminates the material. When the light shines onto the accretion disk, it bounces off and creates X-ray emissions or flares.

“It’s not exactly like a reflection in a mirror. What happens is that light comes back with different colours and it comes back at different times,” Gallo explained.

Proving Einstein right

What the five-person research team observed was a big flare coming from a supermassive black hole in a galaxy 800 million light-years away known as I Zwicky 1, using two space-based X-ray telescopes from NASA and the European Space Agency.

Shortly after seeing the big flare, Gallo said they observed a smaller flare in a different colour – an “echo” of the first flare.

“We were able to interpret that as light coming from the other side of the black hole,” said Gallo. “Which is really kind of cool, we haven’t ever been able to isolate exactly where light is coming from on the accretion disk … but in this instance, we’re actually able to say, ‘Oh, this light is coming from behind the black hole.’”

That echo could be seen because the black hole was warping space by bending light around itself. Thus, Einstein’s century-old prediction was proven right, Gallo said.

“This is basically confirming how the space-time around a supermassive black hole is shaped,” he said.

“That’s why we can see light coming from behind the black hole, it’s because it’s taken this curved path around the black hole and landing now on us, so that we can see it … Because space is bent, which is a prediction of general relativity, we’re able to see what’s behind the black hole.”

This research, published earlier this week in Nature, opens the door a little further for scientists studying black holes.

Read more:
Astronomers observe collision of 2 black holes — 7 billion years later

Gallo said it will allow them to eventually draw a 3D picture of what the region around the supermassive black hole looks like. As well, he said they will continue to study “coronas” to better understand them, which was actually the driving motivation behind this discovery.

Gallo took note of the “incremental” nature of science and said there are decades of other discoveries that led them to this point.

“The telescopes that we work on get better and better with time, and the techniques that we develop get better and better,” he said.

“The discovery made today … is based on decades of work of many, many other scientists that brought us here.”

Read more:
New ‘black neutron star’ stuns astronomers with its spectacular death

He added that it’s important to study black holes, since their formation and evolution is “tightly linked” to the formation and evolution of galaxies.

“Galaxies are stars, and then the stars are forming planets, and planets are where we are,” he said. “All this is kind of tied in understanding the origins of where we come from.

“So it is an important field of research, but it’s fun. So it’s kind of easy for me to justify doing this kind of work.”

— With a file from The Canadian Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

While you were sleeping: How Canada performed at Tokyo Olympics Friday, Saturday

Canada won its latest swimming medal at the Tokyo Olympics Saturday, while athletes managed to advance to future rounds in multiple track and field events.

Here’s what you may have missed from the day’s events.

Read more:
Olympics medal count: Here’s who won the most medals during the Tokyo Games

Swimming

Kylie Masse won her second silver medal of the Tokyo Games in the women’s 200-metre backstroke, adding to her medal in the 100-metre backstroke.

Taylor Ruck, also swimming for Canada in the backstroke, managed a sixth-place finish.

On the men’s side, Brent Hayden tied for fourth in the 50-metre freestyle semifinal with Russia’s Kliment Kolesnikov — and tied his personal best time — but it wasn’t enough to the final.

Athletics

Sage Watson made it through to Monday’s semifinal of the women’s 400-metre hurdles after finishing fourth in her heat. Noelle Montcalm wasn’t so lucky, placing sixth, although she managed a new season best performance.

Marco Arop won his heat in the men’s 800-metres, sending him to the semifinals on Sunday. Brandon McBride won’t join him after finishing sixth in his heat.

Sprinters Crystal Emmanuel and Khamica Bingham were unable to qualify for the women’s 100-metre final. Bingham finished fifth with a time of 11.22 in the first semi-final, while Emmanuel came in sixth place in the second semi-final, with a time of 11.21.

Diving

Jennifer Abel finished third in the women’s three-metre springboard semifinal, guaranteeing her a spot in the final on Sunday. Abel will be seeking her first medal in the event after finishing fourth at the 2016 Games in Rio.

Pamela Ware, who had been ranking just behind Abel in the first four rounds of the semifinal, fell to 18th place after failing her fifth dive and did not qualify for the final.

Rugby Sevens

The women’s team defeated Kenya 24-10 in its final match of the Games, securing a ninth-place finish in the overall rankings.

Triathlon

The team of Amelie Kretz, Matthew Sharpe, Joanna Brown and Alexis Lepage managed a 15th-place finish in the mixed triathlon, nearly three-and-a-half minutes behind gold medallists Great Britain.

Golf

Mackenzie Hughes and Corey Conners both bumped themselves up to a tied 17th-place finish after the third round of play, which started for both men at the 10th hole.

Hughes finished with a score of 65, while Conners scored 66.

Sailing

Tom Ramshaw managed a second-place finish in the day’s first race of the men’s one-person heavyweight finn dinghy event, later placing ninth in the second race. He’ll sail his final two races on Sunday.

The men’s 49er skiff team of William Jones and Evan DePaul placed 13th in their first race of the day, 18th in the second and PLACE in the third, ending their run at the Games.

Alexandra Ten Hove and Mariah Millen’s final three races in the women’s 49er FX skiff event saw the team place 13h in the first and 17th in the second and third.

Boxing

Tammara Thibeault lost all five of her rounds in the women’s middleweight quarterfinal to Nouchka Fontijn of the Netherlands, ending her run at the Games.

Archery

Crispin Duenas was defeated by Germany’s Florian Unruh 6-2 in the men’s individual elimination round — the last round of play before the quarterfinal.

Equestrian

Colleen Loach and her horse Qorry Blue D’Argouges finished 42nd in third session of the team and individual dressage event.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

12-year-old boy seriously injured after shooting at Toronto apartment park

A 12-year-old boy has been taken to a Toronto hospital in serious condition after officials say he was shot multiple times at a playground at a North York apartment complex.

Emergency crews were called by several residents to the playground area on Falstaff Avenue, east of Jane Street and just south of Highway 401, at around 10:50 p.m. on Friday after hearing gunshots.

“A few shooters on foot … in the playground area did discharge a few rounds and subsequently they left in a vehicle,” Insp. Andy Singh told reporters early Saturday.

Read more:
An in-depth look at how Toronto’s paramedics work to save victims of gun violence, trauma

Singh said the victim was found by officers a short time later. A Toronto Paramedics spokesperson said the boy sustained serious, but non-life-threatening injuries. Singh said in his update that the boy was stabilized after being treated for gunshot wounds.

He said police investigators and Toronto Community Housing security were working to pull surveillance video and speak with witnesses to get a more fulsome description of the suspects involved and where they might have gone.

“We have officers from 12 Division and the surrounding divisions not only canvassing for video and witnesses but also checking the area to see if they can find any pieces of evidence,” Singh said.

Read more:
Toronto man dies after being shot while attempting to drive into underground garage

“It’s a very nice night. People might have been on their balconies, might have seen what might have transpired here, so we ask those people to come forward.

“We’re lucky there’s not more injuries because this did happen near a playground, so that really drives it home the senseless nature and really the brazen nature of what these suspects have done and that’s where we need the assistance from the community.”

Anyone with information was asked to call police at 416-808-1200 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-8477.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Off-duty Saskatchewan RCMP officer charged with impaired driving

A Saskatchewan RCMP officer with 15-years of service is charged with impaired driving following back-to-back incidents near Swift Current.

According to a press release, his first run-in with officers happened at around 10 p.m. on July 27.

Swift Current Rural RCMP responded to a call for an impaired driver in the Village of Waldeck, about 18 kilometres east of the city.

Kevin Granrude was arrested at the scene, held overnight, and released the next day with conditions and a suspended licence.

Read more:
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Early in the afternoon on July 28, the detachment was called about an erratic driver on Highway 1. Officers pulled the vehicle over near Rush Lake, about 16 km east of Waldeck.

Saskatchewan RCMP said Granrude was driving the vehicle. He failed a roadside test and was taken and held in custody.

He faces three charges, including two for impaired driving. According to a press release, Swift Current RCMP is actively investigating the second incident and more charges are pending.

Granrude, a constable with Swift Current Combined Traffic Services and 15 years of experience, is suspended with pay while the national police service reviews disciplinary options.

He was not on duty at the time of either incident and was not using a police vehicle, according to the Saskatchewan RCMP.

Read more:
Saskatchewan Mountie makes court appearance on first-degree murder charge

“I understand hearing about incidents like this is very concerning to the public,” Saskatchewan RCMP Commanding Officer Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore, said. “I too share these concerns. These are not the standards we hold our police officers and employees to. The Saskatchewan RCMP will ensure these matters are thoroughly investigated.”

Granrude was in court on July 29 and will appear again on Aug. 18.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Alberta Medical Association head concerned over province lifting COVID-19 protocols

WATCH ABOVE: Some recent videos about Alberta's COVID-19 situation.

The head of the Alberta Medical Association says he has significant concerns with the province’s decision to suspend almost all of its COVID-19 public health protocols.

In an open letter to members, Paul Boucher says the pace at which the United Conservative government is ending restrictions is troubling.

READ MORE: Albertans protest ending mandatory COVID-19 isolation, masking and testing changes 

He says the government should release the data on which the decision was made.

Boucher adds the government’s planned reliance on hospitalization data and monitoring wastewater for viruses isn’t likely to provide enough information on the spread of COVID-19, especially as new variants take over.

The letter says easing back restrictions more slowly would be safer, easier on the health care system and cause less public worry.

Boucher says Alberta will eventually have to move away from pandemic measures, but concludes the government is doing so too quickly.

“The pace at which public health measures are ending is troubling,” he writes.

“I do not disagree that moving from pandemic state to endemic state is the future but would strongly advocate for a less precipitous approach.”

READ MORE: Alberta COVID-19 policy shift raising concerns for parents, teachers before school year 

Boucher says he has shared his concerns with the province.

This week, Alberta announced that close contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19 are no longer legally required to isolate, nor are they notified by contact tracers.

READ MORE: Canada’s top doctors say Alberta’s COVID-19 plan could have ripple effects across the country 

As of Aug. 16, infected individuals won’t need to isolate. Testing will also be curtailed.

The moves come as the province’s active case numbers and infection rate increases.

The lifting of Alberta’s restrictions has been viewed with concern by other top doctors.

Canada’s chief medical officer of health Theresa Tam has warned against opening too quickly. The Canadian Pediatric Society has written to her Alberta counterpart Dr. Deena Hinshaw urging her to reconsider.

Watch below: (From July 29, 2021) Alberta is pushing forward with the province’s pandemic recovery plan, removing nearly every public health order despite a surge in COVID-19 cases. Heather Yourex-West explains the strategy, and how health-care experts strongly disagree with it.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

U.S. Treasury sets new sanctions against Cuba as Biden meets with Cuban-Americans

WATCH ABOVE: Thousands of Cubans continue to take to streets to push for global action

The Biden administration announced new sanctions on Friday against Cuba’s national revolutionary police and its top two officials as the U.S. looks to increase pressure on the communist government following this month’s protests on the island.

The Police Nacional Revolcionaria and the agency’s director and deputy director, Oscar Callejas Valcarce and Eddie Sierra Arias, were targeted in the latest sanctions announced by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. The police are part of Cuba’s interior ministry, which was already the subject of a blanket designation by the Trump administration back in January.

Read more:
Cuban president admits government failings but urges protesters to not be ‘hateful’

“We hear the cries of freedom coming from the island. The United States is taking concerted action to bolster the cause of the Cuban people,” President Joe Biden said at the start of a White House meeting with Cuban Americans not long after Treasury announced the sanctions.

The administration says it is considering a wide range of additional options in response to the protests, including providing internet access to Cubans, and has created a working group to review U.S. remittance policy to ensure that more of the money that Cuban Americans send home makes it directly into the hands of their families without the government taking a cut. Biden added that more sanctions were in the offing.

The White House meeting comes almost three weeks after unusual July 11 protests in which thousands of Cubans took to the streets in Havana and other cities to protest shortages, power outages and government policies. They were the first such protests since the 1990s.

The Cuban regime deployed the PNR to attack protesters, the Treasury Department said in a statement. The police were photographed confronting and arresting protesters in Havana, including members of the Movement of July 11 Mothers, a group founded to organize families of the imprisoned and disappeared, according to Treasury.

In Camaguey, a Catholic priest was beaten and arrested by the PNR while he was defending young protesters, according to Treasury. PNR officers also beat a group of peaceful demonstrators, including several minors, and there have also been documented instances in which the PNR used clubs to break up peaceful protests across Cuba, Treasury said.

“The Treasury Department will continue to designate and call out by name those who facilitate the Cuban regime’s involvement in serious human rights abuse,” said Andrea Gacki, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control. “Today’s action serves to further hold accountable those responsible for suppressing the Cuban people’s calls for freedom and respect for human rights.”

Among the Cuban American activists meeting with Biden was Yotuel Romero, one of the authors of the song “Patria y vida!” which has become a kind of anthem for the protests, said an official.

Others present included L. Felice Gorordo, CEO of the company eMerge Americas; Ana Sofia Pelaez, founder of the Miami Freedom Project, and Miami’s former mayor, Manny Diaz, and Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

White House officials said Biden would discuss the new sanctions as well as ways to potentially establish internet access for the Cuban people.

Internet access is a sensitive issue in Cuba. In the days before the recent protests, there were calls on social media for anti-government demonstrations. Cuba’s government said anti-Castro groups in the United States have used social media, particularly Twitter, to campaign against it and blamed Twitter for doing nothing to stop it.

Read more:
Cuba protest: 1 dead after clash with police

Internet service was cut off at one point during the July 11 protest, though Cuban authorities have not explicitly acknowledged that they did it.

Some U.S. leaders, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have said the White House should do something to maintain internet service in Cuba, including using balloons as Wi-Fi access points for the population.

The Biden administration is also considering proposals put forward by U.S. advocates of trade with Cuba that would restore ways for Cuban-Americans to send money to relatives on the island.

Biden and others have rejected the outright restoration of remittances because of a percentage fee of the transaction paid to the government. But under one proposal being considered, the transfer agents would waive that fee until the end of the year, according to proponents.

The proposal would have to be cleared by the Cuban government, however, and it is not at all clear it would agree.

Last week, the U.S. government announced sanctions against the minister of the Cuban armed forces, Alvaro Lopez Miera, and the Special Brigade of the Ministry of the Interior — known as the “black berets” — for having participated in the arrest of protesters.

International organizations have harshly criticized the Cuban government, which has said that while people affected by the country’s crisis participated in the protests there were also “criminals” who took advantage of the situation to create disturbances. At times, the protests turned into vandalism with looting, robbery and confrontations with the police.

Government sympathizers also took to the streets to defend the authorities and the revolution.

So far it is unclear how many people were detained, although the judicial authorities have said there have been 19 trials involving 59 people.

___

Castillo reported from Mexico City. Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Alexandra Jaffe contributed reporting.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

Toronto Blue Jays celebrate return to Rogers Centre with 6-4 win over Kansas City Royals

WATCH ABOVE: After a season like no other, the Toronto Blue Jays returned to Rogers Centre after being away for close to two years. Shallima Maharaj was there.

TORONTO — Teoscar Hernandez and Bo Bichette homered to help the Blue Jays celebrate their first game in Toronto in 670 days with a 6-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Friday.

Leading 3-2, the Jays (52-48) loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh against hard-throwing Domingo Tapia, scoring one when Marcus Semien hit into a double play. Bichette then hit his 19th homer of the season to right-centre field to add two more runs.

The Royals (45-57) added an unearned run in the eighth, taking advantage of a Bichette throwing error, and another run in the ninth. The Jays ended it on a dazzling bare-handed catch by third baseman Santiago Espinal.

Hernandez gave the Rogers Centre crowd of 13,446 — considered a sellout under current COVID-19 restrictions — something to celebrate early, crushing a solo home run 441 feet to left field to open the second inning. His 16th homer of the season was clocked at 112 m.p.h.

George Springer doubled home another run in the inning for a 2-0 Jays lead. A Bichette single, stolen base and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., single made it 3-0 in the third.

READ MORE: Toronto Blue Jays fans flock to Rogers Centre for team’s return

Jays right-hander Ross Stripling (4-6) gave up just a double and a walk in his first four innings. But the Royals cut the lead to 3-1 in the fifth on Nicky Lopez’s RBI triple. Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez hit a solo homer with one out in the sixth, ending Stripling’s night after 76 pitches (47 strikes). He gave up four hits and two walks, striking out one.

It was the 26th homer of the season for Perez, who has homered in each of the last three games.

Rookie left-hander Daniel Lynch (1-3) went six innings for the Royals, giving up three runs on seven hits. Brad Hand came on in the eighth for his Blue Jays debut with Canadian Jordan Romano pitching the ninth for his ninth save of the season.

Toronto outhit Kansas City 10-7.

The Jays’ last game at Rogers Centre was Sept. 29, 2019, when they finished out their season with an 8-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. Toronto went 83-76 on the road since then, forced south of the border due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.

“I’ve felt an incredible amount of energy from it, from just coming here,” GM Ross Atkins said before the game when asked about the homecoming.

“Really the biggest things is how excited I am for our young players to feel things I’ve experienced here in this stadium, in this city, in this country. And what that means for our future.

“I don’t know the right words to express (it) but it’s an incredibly gratifying feeling to be here today.”

The return home came in game No. 100 of the season for the Jays.

It marked the longest away run in Major League Baseball history. The Marlins went 327 days between the end of 2019 and their delayed 2020 home opener.

The Jays came into the game having won two of their last three after losing five of the previous six. The Royals, who lost 11 in a row in May, had won eight of their last nine, including the last two.

The enthusiastic crowd made its presence felt, despite the limit on attendance.

“They’ll be loud enough for us,” Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said before the game.

He was right.

The Toronto players emerged before the game from an opening in centre field to a thunderous standing ovation, running through a flag-bearing honour guard with the Rogers Centre roof open. A loud chant of “Let’s Go Blue Jays” followed as the players lined the infield which was adorned with huge letters spelling out the word Home.

The crowd roared when Stripling fired a 90 m.p.h fastball for a strike to open proceedings. And it sounded like a jet engine in welcoming Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to the plate, building to an MVP chant.

Still the fans showed some rust, needing several attempts to get the wave going.

Montoyo was beaming at being back home, despite not walking through the door until 4 a.m. after the flight back from Boston.

“I just walked here today,” he said. “I couldn’t really sleep because I had so many people texting about (trade) moves and stuff”

“Nothing against the fans that we had in Dunedin and in Buffalo, they were great. But it’s nothing like being in Toronto,” he added.

Toronto strengthened its starting rotation Friday by acquiring right-hander Jose Berrios from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for two top prospects: infielder Austin Martin and right-hander Simeon Woods Richardson. Berrios, a two-time all-star, is 7-5 with an earned-run-average of 3.48 in 20 starts this season.

Later in the day, the Jays acquired veteran reliever Joakim Soria from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange fortwo players to be named later.

The Jays are the first team to play home games in three different cities in the same season (Dunedin, Buffalo, Toronto) since 1903, when both the Cleveland Naps and the Detroit Tigers did it.

Toronto set up shop in Buffalo, its minor-league affiliate, for last year’s condensed 60-game schedule and started this year’s campaign in Dunedin, Fla., its spring training home, before moving back to Buffalo.

Eight players on the Jays active roster had never played at Rogers Centre. Another six were set to make their debut here as a Blue Jay.

Read more:
Red Sox hit 5 home runs, beat Blue Jays 7-4 in Buffalo finale

The 11-game homestand, which also includes series against Cleveland and Boston, was made possible by the granting of a National Interest Exemption that allows players and staff who aren’t fully vaccinated to cross the border with a modified quarantine.

Major League Soccer and its three Canadian teams have been granted the same exemption.

The Jays arrived home on a winning note, having battered Boston 13-1 Thursday. Guerrero led the way with his 33rd homer of the season, a blast that cleared the Green Monster and exited the ballpark. Jays ace Hyun Jin Ryu held Boston to two hits over six innings.

In their long-awaited home debut, the Jays hosted staff from Toronto General Hospital’s intensive care unit. The club will host “Frontline Champions” and guests in a dedicated section for each game of the first homestand.

The club also honoured a COVID-19 survivor and a Toronto Transit employee representing “ the thousands of Canadian workers that bravely showed up to their jobs to help our community so that others could stay home.”

Forte, Toronto gay men’s chorus, performed the anthems with 250 members of the military unfurling a giant Canadian flag.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

RCMP say highway crash east of Okotoks sends 4 people to hospital

A two-vehicle crash on Highway 2 east of Okotoks, Alta., sent four people to hospital on Friday.

The RCMP said officers were called to Highway 2 and 370 Avenue E. at 5:19 p.m. They said investigators believe one vehicle was trying to cross Highway 2 when it was T-boned by another vehicle.

The driver of one of the vehicles was airlifted by STARS Air Ambulance to Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary in serious condition although they were expected to survive.

Three other victims were taken to hospital by ground ambulance. Their condition was not disclosed.

Police did not say which victims were in which vehicle but said both vehicles had two occupants inside.

Late Friday afternoon, police said a portion of Highway 2 near the scene of the collision would be shut down for some time.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

'An incredibly high figure': Victoria police say new crime stats show resources stretched

The latest numbers from Statistics Canada show that the crime severity index, which measures police-reported crime in the country, for Victoria rose last year. The index was even higher than Vancouver's and the provincial average. Kylie Stanton reports.

The City of Victoria has seen a notable uptick in crime over the last year, according to data released by Statistics Canada.

The crime severity index (CSI), which measures the volume and severity of police-reported crime, showed Victoria well ahead of any city policed by a municipal department, including Vancouver.

Victoria scored a 168, compared to Vancouver’s 105 and the B.C. average of 96.

Read more:
Victoria police urge patience as non-emergency callers face over 50-hour waits

“It’s an incredibly high figure,” Victoria police spokesperson Const. Cam MacIntyre said.

“When we look at this figure for an extremely high severity of crime, we really think about the strain and ability of our officers to contribute to community safety.”

While Victoria’s CSI was high, several small communities came in much higher. Hope came in at 226, Prince George at 223 and Tofino at 196.

2020 was the first year Statistics Canada separated Victoria from Esquimalt — both communities are policed by VicPD — in calculating the CSI.

The latter community’s score, at 39, spoke to the challenges police in Victoria’s downtown are facing, MacIntyre said.

“When we look at homelessness, I can tell you the issues around multi-unit temporary housing facilities, sheltering in parks as well as shelters in general, for the six months that we tracked it, those were well over 50 per cent of our priority one and priority two calls,” he said.

“When we’re talking about crime severity we’re talking about priority one and priority two calls.”

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The intersection of homelessness and policing has been a flashpoint in Victoria in recent years.

There have been multiple high-profile assaults and deaths in some of the city’s homeless encampments, and for a time the city was funding additional police officers to patrol the sites with its bylaw officers, citing safety concerns.

Grant Mackenzie, spokesperson for Victoria social service non-profit Our Place, said the crime statistics may not tell the whole story.

“It isn’t broken down to what they mean by violent incidents. Is somebody pushing someone rated the same way as someone shooting somebody?” he asked.

The fact that the police are being called frequently also doesn’t necessarily mean there has been more crime, he argued.

“There are a lot of instances where you have to call 911 because there is no alternative. And I think that can skew the statistics as well,” Mackenzie said.

“A lot of time, working with the homeless, we call 911 because we are not equipped to deal with people having a crisis.”

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Mackenzie is among those advocating for alternatives to the use of police in mental health or drug-related incidents.

Victoria city council voted last year to explore such an initiative, citing a program in Eugene, Oregon, that deploys crisis intervention services through the traditional 911 dispatch centre.

Victoria police, who have been pushing the city for more officers for years, however, argue the stats show the need for more resources on the ground.

MacIntyre said the department is also supportive of amalgamating police agencies across the capital regional district, to better distribute the resource pressures faced by police in the city core.

While Victoria’s CSI figure was 168, the index for the entire Victoria census metropolitan area was just 75.8.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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