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Ontario could see 50,000 education workers fired if vaccines mandated: Lecce

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TORONTO — Up to 50,000 education workers in Ontario could be fired if COVID-19 vaccines were mandated for that sector, the province’s education minister said Tuesday.

Responding to the NDP in question period, Stephen Lecce said such a policy would mean pink slips for tens of thousands of educators when Ontario already faces staffing challenges.

“I think we have to be coupled by realism and ensure that any staff member who enters our school has a double test, a negative antigen test, to ensure they are safe, to ensure our schools could be staffed, and these kids can continue to go to school every day,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Lecce said unvaccinated staff have to test negative twice a week.

“We expect absolute compliance with our directive, approved by the chief medical officer of health, or else those staff are not to enter Ontario schools,” Caitlin Clark said in a statement.

The 50,000 figure includes education workers such as teachers, educational assistants, early childhood educators, principals, board staff, occasional staff and custodians, who are unvaccinated or won’t disclose their status.

More than 85 per cent of education staff are fully vaccinated, while the remaining approximately 15 per cent have attested to not being fully vaccinated, including having medical exemptions, or haven’t said either way.

Some school boards, such as the Toronto District School Board, have enacted tougher policies that include possible termination.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2021.

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Boy killed in Brampton fire called 911 to report that he was trapped

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BRAMPTON, Ont. — The mayor of Brampton, Ont., says one of the three boys killed in a house fire Thursday called 911 to report the blaze, but firefighters couldn’t get there in time to save the children.

Patrick Brown says the boy told the emergency dispatcher that he was stuck in the house.

Brown says it only took six minutes for fire trucks to reach the burning house, but by then, the home was fully engulfed in flames.

The boys, who have not been publicly named, but who were aged nine, 12, and 15, died after being taken to hospital.

The local fire department and Office of the Fire Marshal are investigating.

Peel Police Const. Akhil Mooken said Thursday that a mother left her home that morning to drop a younger child off at school, and returned to find the house engulfed in flames.

It’s one of five fatal fires across Ontario that have together claimed 15 lives so far this month.

The Office of the Fire Marshal, which is tasked with investigating such fires in the province, said the numbers of both fatal fires and deaths have dipped compared to January of last year, but there are significantly more deaths than in January 2020.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2022.

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Alberta

Alberta RCMP investigating after child found wandering on highway near St. Paul

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ST. PAUL, ALBERTA — Alberta RCMP say they are investigating after a child was found wandering on a highway near a town northeast of Edmonton earlier this week.

Police in St. Paul say in a news release that they received a report about the child at about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

They say a concerned motorist found the child on Highway 881 near Township Road 582 and brought the child to the RCMP detachment.

Police say they have started an investigation and are looking for dashcam footage from the area on Tuesday morning.

Earlier this week, St. Paul Education issued a statement on its website saying it was investigating after kindergarten student remained on a bus after it was returned to the driver’s yard following morning drop off.

They say the child left the bus and found their way to a road in a rural area, where a concerned citizen intervened and took the child to the RCMP.

“Drivers are trained to do a mandatory walk through of their bus to ensure it is empty before leaving it,” said the statement from board chairwoman Heather Starosielski and Glen Brodziak, superintendent of schools. “Our initial review indicates this was not done.”

They said the driver has been removed from his duties pending an investigation.

The statement said schools also typically call home to confirm any student absences.

“Our normal procedure is for schools to start to make in-person phone calls at 8:45 a.m. each day beginning with the youngest children first,” it said. “The delay in noting the absence was in part due to the large number of absences that day in the school as a result of several buses not running due to varying road conditions.”

The statement said the school division is reviewing its transportation practices as well as its student absence reporting process.

“We will also fully co-operate should there be an RCMP investigation,” it added.

They said they are thankful for the safe return of the child and the quick response from the concerned citizen.

Environment Canada shows the temperatures in the area hovered around -24 C on Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2022.

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