COVID-19 PANDEMIC, not doubt the pandemic takes first place, Early in January, we started to hear stories about a virus outbreak in China, and within mere weeks, the virus had made its way internationally around the world and grew to become a pandemic. The World Health Organization announced the pandemic world-wide on March 11th, 2020. Businesses shut down except for essential services, schools closed and virtual learning and graduations became the norm. Toilet paper, bleach, flour and hand sanitizer ran out on the shelves, but the public forged on. And, we have to mention some COVID favs; The Tiger King on Netflix and Alone with our own Kielyn Marrone of Lure of the North in Espanola on the History Channel kept us glued to our television sets. Sour dough bread, shared recipes, pajamas, Zoom meetings and mask designing became the norm. The virus continues to be a challenge heading into 2021. On December 09th, 2020, Health Canada approved the Phizer vaccine and the process of vaccination began around the globe. The three basic rules of protocol still include wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing and staying within social circles.
THE PASSING OF ALEX TREBEK – One of the most well-known voices and personalities in television history passed away after a battle with prostate cancer. The final new “Jeopardy!” episodes hosted by Alex Trebek will air this week, starting tonight with highlights that promise to be memorable. The first of the five episodes starts this evening with Trebek’s “powerful message about the season of giving,” producer Sony Pictures Television said in a release last week. The final episode, on Friday, will conclude with a tribute to the long-time and beloved host. He died of pancreatic cancer on November 8 at age 80. Trebek, who had been candid about his condition, worked until 10 days before he died, soldiering on despite debilitating treatments and the disease’s toll. It was unexpected that the episodes taped in late October would be his final ones, Sony said. Trebek had been fighting the disease for nearly two years. Veteran “Jeopardy!” champion Ken Jennings will take over as guest host starting on January 11. A permanent host has yet to be announced.
THE DEATH OF MANITOULIN OPP CONSTABLE MARC HOVINGH was devastating, not only to the policing family, but to people not only in Ontario, but across Canada. Ontario Provincial Police Const. Marc Hovingh faced each day with “bravery and resolve” and was “nothing short of heroic,” OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique told mourners attending the funeral service for the 52-year-old officer on Saturday, November 28th. “I stand before you today with a broken heart, asking myself how, how it is possible to be so sad but yet so proud at the same time,” Carrique said. “We are grateful and forever indebted to you for your service.” Hovingh died November 19th in the line of duty on Manitoulin Island in a shoot-out with Gary Brohman who also died in the altercation. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the funeral held at the high school in the First Nations community of M’Chigeeng was by invitation only. The service was livestreamed online, and some Manitoulin residents watched the livestream together at a drive-in in Little Current. Premier Doug Ford and Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell were among those in attendance. The investigation continues.
INTEGRITY COMMISSIONER INVESTIGATIONS – If you do not know the name Robert Swayze by now, you have definitely not been in tune with the times. Swayze, the Integrity Commissioner for Espanola and Elliot Lake, and who also stepped in to oversee a serious allegation in the Township of Sables-Spanish Rivers, was kept busy this year dealing with councillor infractions and a more serious death threat made by a mayor in Massey. He also cashed in, nearly $500,000. Will he play as strong a role in 2021? Only time will tell.
BLACK LIVES MATTER PROTEST – On May 25, George Floyd, a Black 46-year-old man, died after a police officer pressed a knee on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, despite Floyd repeatedly crying out, “I can’t breathe.” Cellphone video of Floyd’s death quickly drew attention to the treatment of Black Americans by police and the criminal justice system. Peaceful protests started taking place in the U.S. against racial injustice and police brutality, with Black Lives Matter demonstrations quickly spreading all across the globe. In the months that followed, people would also protest in the names of other Black Americans who had been killed, such as Breonna Taylor, 26, Ahmaud Arbery, 25, Eric Garner, 44, Michael Brown, 18, Tamir Rice, 12, and Trayvon Martin, 17, to name a few. In Canada, solidarity protests broke out in, with Canadians calling out racism and police brutality within their own country including protests in Little Current, Espanola and Massey standing in solidarity with the movement and acknowledging Indigenous racism as well.
NOVA SCOTIA MASSACRE – Over the span of 13 hours between April 18 and 19, 22 people were killed across 16 crime scenes in several towns in Nova Scotia in what became Canada’s deadliest mass shooting. The 51-year-old gunman was heavily armed, drove a replica RCMP cruiser, and was dressed, in part, as an officer as he targeted some of his victims and shot others at random. Investigators believed the killing spree began following a domestic dispute with his common-law partner, who was later charged, along with two others, with supplying ammunition after it was revealed some of the guns were bought illegally and in three cases, smuggled into Canada from the U.S. Among those killed were a teacher, a pair of corrections officers, a pregnant nurse, a retired firefighter, a 17-year-old girl, and an on-duty Mountie. After repeated demands from the victims’ families, the federal and provincial governments gave in and a public inquiry was launched to prevent something similar from ever happening again. The inquiry is still underway.
THE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION – It was a vote like no other in American history. Like many things last year, the U.S. presidential election was made even more complicated by COVID-19. The way the Trump White House managed the pandemic not only affected how Americans voted but perhaps who they voted for. A record number of ballots were cast early and by mail. Some swing states saw delays in vote counting and reporting because of the larger-than-usual number of mail-in ballots. Trump sowed the seeds of doubt early, months before the election. As a result of the unprecedented advance voting numbers, major news outlets delayed their projection of the winners until four days after the election. Ultimately, it wasn’t all that close. Biden won 306 Electoral College votes to Trump’s 232.
LOSS OF SOME OF OUR MILITARY – Snowbirds crash: People across Canada were stunned when a Canadian Forces Snowbirds plane crashed in Kamloops shortly after takeoff on May 17. Captain Jennifer Casey was killed that day, while Captain Richard MacDougall managed to eject himself from the plane before impact, surviving despite some serious injuries. Canadian Armed Forces confirmed the identities of the six crew members who were on board the military helicopter that crashed during a NATO training exercise off the coast of Greece in April. Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough of Nova Scotia, Capt. Brenden Ian MacDonald from New Glasgow, N.S., Capt. Kevin Hagen from Nanaimo, B.C., Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin, from Trois-Rivieres, Que., Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke from Truro, N.S. and Master Corp. Matthew Cousins from Guelph, Ont.
INDIGENOUS RIGHTS – People throughout the North Shore took to the streets in support of First Nations across Canada. Before COVID-19 and demands for racial equality took over headlines, it looked like Indigenous land rights would be the top story in 2020. This came after RCMP arrested several self-identifying land defenders on Wet’suwet’en territory, sparking solidarity protests across the world. Further protests were triggered when in western Nova Scotia, there were reports of ugly confrontations over a First Nation’s commercial lobster fishing operation. Some non-Indigenous fishermen say they believe the Indigenous business is illegal because the regular fishing season is now closed. But the Sipekne’katik First Nation says their people have a treaty right to fish at any time. First Nation communities across Manitoulin Island and the North Shore corridor took part in protests in support of their brothers and sisters on both coasts. There was also a major push to eliminate water advisories on First Nations with local leaders, Mike Mantha and France Gelinas taking part in bone-chilling dips to advocate the cause.
FIRES IN AUSTRALIA: It was a devastating and deadly wildfire season in Australia, and has been referred to as “Black Summer.” Record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought in a number of cities — including Sydney and Adelaide — fuelled the fires, which left 34 people dead across the country. The fires were the costliest natural disaster in Australia’s history — with economists estimating the fires may have cost over $100 billion in property damage and economic losses. Hundreds of animals needed protection and the world answered, including many people in the North Shore corridor making blankets for koalas and pouches for joeys. A massive movement across Canada led to thousands of these items being air-lifted to Australia to help as best we could. Let’s hope this year’s summer will be a safer, fire-free one down under.