Tag Archives: 2020′

How hot was 2020? It depends who you ask, but it was another one for the record books, agencies say

Once again, 2020 was a hot one.

According to NASA and recent findings from the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, last year tied 2016 as the warmest on record.

It was the second-warmest according to the U.S.-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — with a global average temperature that was 0.98 C higher than the pre-industrial average. 

But the differences between the findings are negligible, the scientists say, with a 0.02 C difference on either side. But the message is still the same: Earth is continuing to warm.

“Year to year, there are always differences,” said Chris Derksen, a senior researcher at Environment and Climate Change Canada. “We don’t always expect every year to break the record set the previous year. But what’s important is the long-term trend and the consistency of this trend that has emerged.”

That long-term trend pegs the past decade as the warmest on record, dating back to 1880. 

The slight differences between the agencies are due to a few factors, including how they analyze the raw temperature data and how they account for missing temperatures in polar regions.

Ultimately, though, “It’s a statistical tie,” Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist and director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said at a news conference on Thursday.

The record heat comes amid almost a year of lockdowns around the globe due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But the researchers found that didn’t really affect the upward temperature trend.

That’s because Earth is basically playing catch-up with the greenhouse gases that have already been released in the atmosphere, said Ahira Sanchez-Lugo, a physical scientist who compiles global temperature data at NOAA’s National Centres for Environmental Information.


This graphic illustrates how the global land and ocean temperatures differ from the pre-industrial average. (NOAA)

Greenhouse gases live for thousands of years in the atmosphere, acting like a blanket. 

“Just think about yourself, when you’re in bed, and you keep adding extra layers of blanket over you: there’s a point where you’re going to start getting hot,” she said. “[With] COVID, we’ve seen a decrease in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. That does not mean that we’re peeling off these layers that we’ve already added to Earth, it just means that we’re not adding more layers.”

Change in the Arctic

According to NOAA, the Northern Hemisphere experienced its hottest year ever, with the Arctic warming at twice the global average, and some parts as high as three to four times the average.

No one needs to tell Fred Sangris, the community negotiator for the Yellowknife Dene in the Northwest Territories. He said his community is seeing the changes firsthand.

“In the last 30, 40 years, climate change is starting to warm up a bit,” he said. “We have cougars that moved into this area. We have coyotes that moved here from the south. We also have birds like magpies. We have other animals that are moving north. Birds that we’ve never seen before are migrating here.”

But more importantly, it’s changing the way of life in the Arctic, one that has existed for generations: Lakes are drying up, caribou numbers are dwindling, the permafrost is thawing and the ice isn’t as thick as it once was, posing a serious danger for those who depend on it for hunting and fishing. And it’s threatening lives.


Aerial view of melting permafrost tundra and lakes near the Yupik village of Quinhagak on the Yukon Delta in Alaska on April 12, 2019. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

“The rivers are not freezing like they used to,” Sangris said. “I used to cross the river here with the sled dogs, dog teams way back. But now that the rivers are thin ice, they’re not freezing … People are going through the ice as they travel. And if they don’t get injured, then they lose their life.”

Sangris is trying to find a way to make it safer for the younger generation to travel in an ever-changing Arctic, one where the traditions no longer seem to apply.

“In the past year, we’ve been trying to develop a map for a young generation, a community map that they can take with them saying this area is soft here, that river is soft, this point here is open water,” he said. “So we’re trying to educate the younger generation so that they have safe travel.”

While the changes aren’t as dramatic south of the Arctic, Canadians can expect to see more climate-change linked events.

“We should expect temperatures to continue to increase,” Derksen said. “We can expect changes in precipitation, so more extreme precipitation events during the summer. But in overall reduction in water availability, we have changes in glaciers happening in Western Canada that also affects freshwater access for Canadians.”

44 consecutive years 

Canadians can expect more heat waves, a potential increase in fires and more precipitation. 

Weather events across the country in 2020 had an insured loss estimate of close to $ 2.5 billion. And while it was a quiet fire season in the west, southern B.C. was plunged into darkness as smoke from fires in California and Oregon sent thick smoke high into the atmosphere, blanketing the region.

WATCH | 2020 tied for hottest year on record, NASA says:

Last year was also the 44th in a row that Earth’s temperature has been above the pre-industrial average. 

“I’m of the age where Earth has had warmer-than-average temperatures for 44 consecutive years … That means I’ve lived almost my entire life on a planet that’s warmer than average,” Derksen said. “So Canadians should anticipate and expect to continue living in that environment.”

So what does that mean for the Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit pre-industrial warming to 1.5 C by 2100?

“Using baselines now, it’s likely that we will have one year or so of 1.5 C before around 2030,” Schmidt said. “Personally, I don’t think that there’s much that will change [in upward trajectory] that barring a massive volcano that would slow things down for a few years.”

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2020 in sports: photos that defined an unforgettable year

As we ring in the New Year, more than just our view of sport has changed. 

With the spread of the global pandemic, victory and loss have taken on new meaning in 2020. 

As shutdowns took hold in March, the sports world – rocked by waves of cancellations and postponements – struggled to find its footing. 

Locked in a cycle of stutters and halts, the lights may have flickered, but sport – so often considered a mirror to society – became so much more in an era of loss and turmoil. 

It became a voice of conscience.

Here are some moments that helped define an unforgettable year. 

Signs and portends at Aussie Open


While Novak Djokovic may have successfully defended his crown and Sofia Kenin captured her first Grand Slam title, the Aussie Open, in a sign of things to come, already had people wearing masks. As much of Australia burned, after more than a month of raging bushfires, a lingering haze of smoke had spectators and players worried about air quality as practice sessions were temporarily suspended at the year’s first Slam. (Michael Dodge/Associated Press )

The world mourns Kobe 

 
Kobe Bryant along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people killed during a helicopter crash on Jan. 26 in Calabasas, Calif. (Sandy Hooper/USA TODAY Sports)

Sinclair takes over international scoring chart


Canada’s Christine Sinclair, front left, celebrates after scoring her 185th goal (Jan. 29); surpassing American Abby Wambach to become the all-time international scoring leader. (Joel Martinez/Associated Press)

Mahomes becomes youngest QB with MVP trophy and a Super Bowl ring


Patrick Mahomes, right, and Kansas City defeated the San Francisco 49ers to win the Super Bowl thanks to a sensational fourth-quarter comeback. (Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports)

Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira breaks own world record


Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira broke her own world record by five and a half feet, after surfing a 73.5-foot wave on Feb. 11. at the inaugural WSL Nazare Tow Surfing Challenge event in Praia do Norte, Portugal. (Armando Franca/Associated Press)

Fury re-takes heavyweight throne


Britain’s Tyson Fury, right, dropped Deontay Wilder of the U.S. twice in their heavyweight title rematch on Feb. 22 to win the WBC heavyweight title after Wilder’s corner threw in the towel in the seventh round. (Isaac Brekken/Associated Press)

Zamboni driver lives Hollywood moment


When both of Carolina’s goalies were injured during a mid-February game against Toronto, David Ayres, a former Zamboni driver for the Maple Leafs’ AHL team, was called upon to stand between the pipes and, incredibly, he won. After allowing two goals on the first two shots he faced, Ayres and the Hurricanes held on for a 6-3 win that will forever go down in the history books. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Ovi reaches 700


Russia’s Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals scored his 700th goal (Feb. 22), becoming just the eighth player in NHL history to reach the milestone. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

And then…everything stopped 


A staff member sprays disinfectant after the final patients were discharged at a temporary hospital set up to treat people with the COVID-19 coronavirus in a sports stadium in Wuhan, China in March. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

NBA goes dark and sports world follows


As the global pandemic took hold, fans were asked to leave the stadium minutes before the Oklahoma City Thunder were scheduled to play the Utah Jazz on March 11. The fallout quickly spread to other leagues as baseball players were sent home, hockey was put on hiatus and the sporting world was suddenly left asking who could be next? (Alonzo Adams/USA TODAY Sports)

Wickenheiser speaks her truth


Hayley Wickenheiser, six-time Olympian and aspiring emergency room physician, sent out a post on social media that was heard around the world. After the IOC insisted that the Tokyo Olympics would go on as scheduled in 2020 despite the pandemic, Wickenheiser famously wrote: “I think the IOC insisting this will move ahead, with such conviction, is insensitive and irresponsible given the state of humanity. We don’t know what’s happening in the next 24 hours, let alone the next three months.” (Hayley Wickenheiser/Canadian Press)

Olympics postponed 


With both the Canadian and Australia Olympic committees saying that they either would not, or could not, send a team to the Tokyo Olympics, the IOC finally bowed to the realities of the global pandemic. Handing perhaps the biggest blow to the sporting calendar, organizers rescheduled the Tokyo Games for the summer of 2021. (Philip Fong/AFP via Getty Images)

Canada’s Laurent Duvernay-Tardif decides he’s needed more off the field, than on it


Months after winning the Super Bowl with Kansas City, Canada’s Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, right, became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season. Instead, the native of Quebec chose to volunteer in a long-term care facility at the height of the first wave of the pandemic. Ultimately, Duvernay-Tardif decided that if he was going to take a COVID-19 related risk, it would be with patients; not on the football field. His selflessness won him a share of the Lou Marsh Trophy along with Alphonso Davies. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

NHL bubbles up


As leagues started to come back, many Canadian teams flew South. TFC headed to Connecticut, the Jays made a surprising, if short-lived, playoff run, after setting up shop in Buffalo. The NHL, however, hunkered down in Canada, with Edmonton and Toronto serving as host cities for the 24 NHL Stanley Cup playoff bubble. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Reds refuses to be deterred as Liverpool wins 1st title in 30 years


More than 2,000 fans chant and set off flares in celebration outside Anfield as Liverpool lifts the Premier League trophy for the first time in 30 years. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Alphonso Davies scales soccer’s heights 


Canada’s Alphonso Davies, right, shone on soccer’s biggest stage in 2020. Davies won world-wide praise for his athleticism and pace as he helped Bayern Munich hoist the Champions League in August. And, in November, he became the first North American to make FIFA’s all-star squad. All this, plus, the 20-year-old was a co-recipient of the Lou Marsh Trophy along with Laurent Duvernay-Tardif as the top Canadian athlete of the year. (Miguel A. Lopes/Getty Images)

NBA players decide slogans aren’t enough and walkout in protest of police shooting of Jacob Blake 


The Milwaukee Bucks kicked off an extraordinary day, in which six NBA teams walked out on their respective NBA playoff games on Aug. 26 in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha Wis. The protest reverberated across the professional sports landscape, leading to further cancellations among some MLB, MLS and WNBA games as players from across the four leagues decided that the best way to use their platforms and demand change was to literally stop playing. (Ashley Landis, Pool/Associated Press )

In night of solidarity, WNBA players pay memorable homage 


In an unforgettable moment in August, WNBA players walked onto the court wearing T-shirts with bullet holes on the back and then walked out in honor of Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times in the back by police. (@WNBA/Twitter)

Cyclist gets 9-month ban for crash that leaves rival in coma


Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen’s bicycle (left, back) flies through the air as he collides with compatriot Dylan Groenewegen (Left, forward) during the opening stage of the Tour of Poland race in Katowice, back in August. Groenewegen was banned from racing for nine months for causing the sprint-finish crash that left Jakobsen in a coma. (Szymon Gruchalski/Forum/AFP via Getty Images)

California wildfires leave Giants’ stadium resembling horror scene


In September, smoke from a number of California wildfires sent a thick, orange-glowing haze around the San Francisco Bay area, leaving the Giant’s Oracle Park resembling a black-and-orange horror scene. (Tony Avelar/Associated Press )

Djokovic’s self-inflicted wounds lead to unexpected U.S. Open exit


Top-seeded Novak Djokovic was favoured to win the U.S. until he hit a ball in frustration toward the back court, during his fourth-round match, that ended up striking a line judge in the throat. While his actions were unintentional, the 17-time Grand Slam winner was ejected from the tournament. (Danielle Parhizkaran/USA TODAY Sports)

Osaka shows how revealing masks can be 


While Naomi Osaka won the U.S. Open for her third Grand Slam title, she also stood out for speaking out against racial injustice and police brutality. (Seth Wenig/Associated Press)

Tampa Bay becomes centre of sports verse


Not only did Tom Brady join the Buccaneers in March, but the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in Sept. The Rays almost added a World Series in Oct. and the nearby Heat made the NBA finals. And now, as if that wasn’t enough, they have the Raptors. (Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Nadal ties Federer’s grand slam record


Rafael Nadal put on a near-flawless performance against Novak Djokovic in the French Open final to draw level with Roger Federer’s record of 20 major singles championships. (Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Lakers romp to record-tying 17th championship


LeBron James won his fourth title and the Los Angeles Lakers won their first championship since Kobe Bryant’s fifth and final one, a decade ago to draw level with the Boston Celtics for most NBA titles (17). (Harry How/Getty Images)

Turner’s return overshadows Dodgers’ celebration


The Lost Angeles Dodgers won their first World Series championship since 1988 after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in Oct. However, their victory celebration was partially overshadowed by the return of Justin Turner, centre, who had initially been pulled from the game in the seventh inning to self quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. (Eric Gray/Associated Press )

Lewis Hamilton’s record-equalling 7th F1 title


Lewis Hamilton won his seventh world driver’s championship in Novemeber, matching Michael Schumacher’s record. However, the British driver left just as much of an impact off the track as he took a stand against racial injustice, following the death of George Floyd. (Bryn Lennon/Reuters)

Fighting Irish fans encapsulate 2020 like no other


Without care for social distancing, approximately 11,000 fans stormed the field after the Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Clemson Tigers 47-40 in double overtime in November. (Matt Cashore-Pool/Getty Images)

Adios Diego: soccer world says goodbye to global icon


In November the world said goodbye to soccer icon Diego Maradona, the Argentine great who led his nation to World Cup glory in 1986. His passing of a heart attack, mere weeks after his 60th birthday, left the sporting world in shock. (Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images)

Romain Grosjean escapes horrific F1 crash


Stewards attempt to extinguish flames after Haas’ Romain Grosjean crashed out at the start of the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix in November. (Bryn Lennon/Reuters)

Barrier breaker: Sarah Fuller becomes 1st woman to score in Power 5 football game


Vanderbilt’s Sarah Fuller became the first woman to score in a Power Five conference game in December. It was a highlight moment in a year filled with female firsts that included, but by no means limited to: Kim Ng becoming the first GM in MLB history; Spur’s Becky Hammon becoming the first woman to coach in the NBA; France’s Stephanie Frappart becoming the first female referee in a men’s Champions League match; and Emily Harrington becoming the first woman to free-climb El Capitan’s Golden Gate route. (@VandyFootball)

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Goodbye, 2020: New Year’s celebrations look different this year

This New Year’s Eve is being celebrated like no other, with pandemic restrictions limiting crowds and many people bidding farewell to a year they’d prefer to forget.

Australia was among the first nations to ring in 2021 because of its proximity to the International Date Line. It is a grim end to the year for New South Wales and Victoria, the country’s two most populous states, which are battling to curb new COVID-19 outbreaks.

In past years, 1 million people crowded Sydney’s harbour to watch fireworks that centre on the Sydney harbour Bridge, but most had to watch on television as authorities urged residents to stay home.

Locations on the harbour were fenced off, popular parks closed and famous night spots eerily deserted. A 9 p.m.  fireworks display was scrapped, but was still a seven-minute pyrotechnics show at midnight.

People were only allowed in downtown Sydney if they have a restaurant reservation or were one of five guests of an inner-city resident. People were not allowed in the city centre without a permit.

Some harbourside restaurants charged up to 1,690 Australian dollars (roughly $ 1,660 Cdn) for a seat, Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported Wednesday.

Sydney is Australia’s most populous city and has had its most active local transmission of the coronavirus in recent weeks.

Melbourne, Australia’s second most populous city, cancelled its fireworks this year. “For the first time in many, many years we made the big decision, difficult decision to cancel the fireworks,” Mayor Sally Capp said.


People line up to get into nightclub section 8 on Thursday for New Year’s Eve celebrations in Melbourne, Australia. (Asanka Ratyayake/Getty Images)

“We did that because we know that it attracts up to 450,000 people into the city for one moment at midnight to enjoy a spectacular display and music. We are not doing that this year.”

In notable contrast, the west coast city of Perth — which has not had community spread of the virus since April — was gearing up to celebrate the new year almost normally with large crowds expected to watch two fireworks spectacles.

New Zealand, which is two hours ahead of Sydney, and several of its South Pacific island neighbours have no COVID-19 cases, and New Year celebrations there were the same as ever.


People enjoy the music in the Americas Cup Village during the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Auckland, New Zealand. (Fiona Goodall/Auckland Unlimited/Getty Images)

In Chinese societies, the Lunar New Year celebration that falls in February in 2021 generally takes precedence over the solar New Year, on Jan. 1. While celebrations of the Western holiday have been growing more common in recent decades, this year will be more muted.

Taiwan’s plans go ahead

Beijing is holding a countdown ceremony with just a few invited guests, while other planned events have been cancelled. And nighttime temperatures plunging to -15 C will likely discourage people from spending the night out with friends.

Taiwan is hosting its usual New Year’s celebration, a fireworks display by its capital city’s iconic tower, Taipei 101, as well as a flag-raising ceremony in front of the Presidential Office Building on New Year’s morning. The flag raising will be limited to government officials and invited guests after a traveler who recently arrived in Taiwan was found to be infected with the new variant of the coronavirus.

The island has been a success story in the pandemic, registering only seven deaths and 700 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Spectacular displays of fireworks are lighting up night skies around the world as people welcome a new year. 1:22

Hong Kong, with its British colonial history and large expatriate population, has usually seen raucous celebrations along the waterfront and in bar districts. For the second year running, however, New Year’s Eve fireworks have been cancelled, this time over coronavirus rather than public security concerns.

Hong Kong social distancing regulations restrict gatherings to only two people. Restaurants have to close by 6 p.m. Live performances and dancing are not allowed. But crowds still throng shopping centres.

Much of Japan was welcoming 2021 quietly at home, alarmed after Tokyo reported a record number of daily coronavirus cases at about 1,300. It was the first time that daily cases in the capital have topped 1,000.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike asked people to skip countdown ceremonies and expressed concern about crowds of shoppers.

“The coronavirus knows no yearend or New Year’s holidays,” she told reporters.


People visit Sensoji temple in Tokyo on New Year’s Eve. (Hiro Komae/The Associated Press)

Many people skipped what’s customarily a chance to return to ancestral homes for the holidays, hoping to lessen health risks for extended families.

Meiji Shrine in downtown Tokyo, which normally attracts millions of people during New Year holidays and is usually open all night on New Year’s Eve, closed at 4 p.m. this year.

Bell-ringing ceremony cancelled in Seoul

In South Korea, Seoul’s city government cancelled its annual New Year’s Eve bell-ringing ceremony in the Jongno neighborhood for the first time since the event was first held in 1953, months after the end of the Korean War.

The ceremony, in which citizens ring a large bell in a traditional pavilion when the clock strikes midnight, normally draws an estimated 100,000 people and is broadcast live.

Authorities in eastern coastal areas closed beaches and other spots where hundreds of thousands of people typically gather on New Year’s Day to watch the sunrise. The southeastern city of Pohang instead planned to broadcast live the sunrise at several beaches on its YouTube channel.

South Korea’s central government banned private social gatherings of more than five people and shut down ski resorts and major tourist spots nationwide from Christmas Eve until Jan. 3 to help bring a recent viral resurgence under control.

Millions of Indians planned to usher in the new year with subdued celebrations at home because of night curfews, a ban on beach parties and restrictions on movement in major cities and towns after the new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus reached the country.

In New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, hotels and bars were ordered to shut at 11 p.m. The three cities have been the worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic.


A woman walks past a painting outside an art school in Mumbai earlier this week. Bars and hotels in New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, were ordered to shut at 11 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. (Francis Mascarenhas/Retuers)

Drones were keeping watch on people’s movements in Mumbai, India’s financial and entertainment capital. Large gatherings were banned, but there were no restrictions on visiting friends, relatives and public places in groups of not more than four people, police said. Face masks and social distancing were mandatory, they said.

Many revelers flocked to Goa, a former Portuguese colony and popular backpacking destination with numerous beach resorts. Authorities decided against imposing a curfew with coronavirus infections largely controlled there.

In Sri Lanka, public gatherings have been banned due to a resurgence of COVID-19, and health and law enforcement authorities urged people to limit celebrations to close family members. Health officials have warned of legal action against hotels and restaurants that hold parties.

Officials have also closed schools and restricted public transport in response to the renewed outbreak.

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Boston Dynamics Says Goodbye to 2020 With a Robot Dance Party

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One day, robots may be dancing on our graves, and they’re going to be surprisingly good at it! Boston Dynamics, the robotics firm once owned by Google and now a part of Hyundai, has posted another fascinating and mildly disconcerting video showing off the smooth movement and agility of its robots. This time, the company put together a little dance routine set to the 1962 hit track “Do You Love Me” by The Contours. 

The song, which peaked at number 3 on the Billboard charts, is less than three minutes long, but it’s jam-packed with robots. The video starts with Atlas, a 6-foot humanoid robot that has previously leaped on top of boxes and done a flip, getting down with its bad self. The clever thing about the video is how it ramps up. You start with the single robot, and just as you’re about to get bored, boom, there’s another Atlas dancing in lock-step with the first. They’ve got great rhythm — digital, I assume. 

Again, you don’t have time to truly come to terms with the lifelike movement of the humanoid robots, because here comes Spot just a minute later. This quadrupedal robot is the only product Boston Dynamics sells to the public — you can get your own for a mere $ 75,000. Although, I imagine it’s not easy to program it to dance like this. Still, this shows how limber Boston Dynamics’ robots can be with a skilled operator, similar to the “Uptown Funk” dance from 2018. Even the clunky-looking Handle box-lifting robot joins the fun, rolling around like Big Bird on wheels. 

Boston Dynamics says in the video description that the demo features its “whole crew,” but there’s no sign of the classic BigDog robot that was the company’s first online hit. Presumably, it means just the bots it’s still actively developing. BigDog probably wasn’t agile enough to get its dance on anyway. 

Hyundai recently acquired 80 percent of Boston Dynamics from SoftBank for $ 880 million. SoftBank kept a 20 percent stake in the company via an affiliate but won’t have any say on how the company is run. Hyundai hasn’t announced any plans for Boston Dynamics, but at least the new management hasn’t put a stop to Boston Dynamics’ cheeky YouTube videos. The videos will have to do until we can all have robotic servants that definitely won’t rise up and destroy humanity while dancing to “Do You Love Me.” To answer that question: We kind of do, but only so we don’t have to be afraid.

Now read:

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DeBues-Stafford foresees future track success after quiet 2020 racing season

In February, Gabriela DeBues-Stafford set Canadian indoor records in the 1,500 metres and mile, and probably had many wondering if 2020 would rival the runner’s 2019 season of eight national marks and 11 personal-best times.

About a month later, she moved back to Toronto from Scotland with husband Rowan just before the sports world would be shut down by coronavirus. By June, COVID-19 restrictions were eased and races resumed, but there wasn’t a track open for DeBues-Stafford to train.

“I could have forced a trip to Europe for some races, but it wouldn’t have made sense for where I was in my training and my health,” DeBues-Stafford, the world’s No. 2-ranked woman in the 1,500, told CBC Sports recently.

Despite not competing outdoors in 2020, the first Canadian woman to run the event under four minutes will carry a 3:56.12 personal best into 2021 and said she’s “in a good place” entering an Olympic year.

“I feel proud about the hard work I put in this summer. I did what I needed to do to set myself up for success,” added DeBues-Stafford, who, after her stop back in Toronto, moved to Portland, Ore., in September to work with renowned coach Jerry Schumacher at Bowerman Track Club.

Debues-Stafford focused on strength and endurance work in the fall rather than race-specific workouts on the track — though the team did some speed work — and is expecting to train at altitude in the new year.

“I’m not as snappy and speedy as a year ago but I definitely feel stronger over longer distances than I’ve felt in the past,” said the Toronto native, who secured equipment to train in her apartment since the team has no gym access. “I’m building a strong foundation for 2021.

“Building up to [the] Tokyo [Olympics] is going to be all about consistency and slowly building the intensity so I arrive fresh and ready to go.”

DeBues-Stafford’s 2019 Canadian records

INDOORS

  • Jan. 4, Glasgow, 5,000 metres — 14:57.45
  • Jan. 26, Boston, mile — 4:24.80

OUTDOORS

  • July 20, London, 1,500 — 4:00.26
  • Aug. 29, Zurich, 1,500 — 3:59.59
  • Oct. 5, Doha, 1,500 — 3:56.12
  • July 12, Monaco, mile — 4:17.87
  • May 30, Stockholm, 5,000 — 14:51.59
  • Sept. 6, Brussels, 5,000 — 14:44.12

‘I did what was best for my future’

Health will be paramount for DeBues-Stafford, who experienced a relapse of Graves’ Disease — an autoimmune disorder that causes an overactive thyroid — during a break in training in August after a “training effort” racing in a 400 at Birchmount Stadium in Toronto.

“It physically wouldn’t have been possible to do late summer races,” she said.

In DeBues-Stafford’s absence, Faith Kipyegon, Sofia Ennaoui and Laura Muir ran 3:59.70 in the 1,500 while several others clocked under 4:01. Muir and Jemma Reekie, an emerging star who ran 4:02.20 on Sept. 3, had trained with DeBues-Stafford in Scotland since the summer of 2018.

“Some athletes had some unreal seasons dropping crazy times and that’s awesome for them and for the sport, but I’m confident I did what was best for me and my future,” said DeBues-Stafford, who is under contract with Nike through the next Olympic cycle.

“2020 was one disruption after another but I can still take a lot from the experience, knowing I can take that kind of disruption and quickly get back on the horse and do workouts.”

WATCH | Gabriela DeBues-Stafford runs 3:56.12 PB at 2019 worlds:

Canada’s Gabriela DeBues-Stafford places 6th with a time 3:56.12, Sifan Hassan claims gold. 7:02

Becoming a better race tactician was DeBues-Stafford’s focus for 2020 before the pandemic derailed her season.

“The 1,500 is very tactical and you get jostled,” she said. “I was racing so much in 2019 and had so many opportunities to learn that I was able to apply the corrections to my mistakes quickly which was an invaluable experience. I’m more experienced racing at this [elite senior] level.”

These days, DeBues-Stafford is happy being in a team environment where it’s easy to get your “social fix” in a safe way by running outdoors with a teammate.

“Everyone has been super welcoming, and to Rowan as well. He’s been able to sneak in a few runs with us and that is always fun,” said DeBues-Stafford of the former University of Toronto rugby player.

“The West Coast is beautiful, too, which is just icing on the cake. I definitely feel at home and comfortable with the group.”

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Sports in 2020: Disruptions aplenty, only constant was loss

2020 reminded us that the show mustn’t always go on. Disrupted by the coronavirus, sports stopped cold three months in and then started up again in emptied-out stadiums, stumbling, skidding and finally staggering across the finish line — all the while shadowed by loss.

Celebrations were muted, crowd noise was piped-in and dozens of games were cancelled at the last minute even as the sports industry hemorrhaged jobs. Facing increasingly long odds, some mega-events — the Olympics, March Madness, the Boston Marathon and Wimbledon — pushed the starting line into 2021. Those were hardly the only dislocations.


A staff member sprays disinfectant after the final patients were discharged at a temporary hospital set up to treat people with the COVID-19 coronavirus in a sports stadium in Wuhan, China in March. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in late January, and the toll of beloved figures we mourned kept mounting — Diego Maradona, Don Shula, John Thompson and Bob Gibson, among others — until Phil Niekro passed away two days after Christmas. But those moments of unity lasted only so long. Straining under the combined weight of a pandemic and a nationwide reckoning on race, the last few bricks in the wall between sports and politics crumbled and fans and athletes quickly chose sides — take Naomi Osaka, for one, who used her U.S. Open-winning run to speak out on racial injustice.

Time will tell what was won or lost by playing on. Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse experienced both, but wasn’t sure which memories would prove lasting. Easier to settle was what he missed most: everything that goes on around the games themselves.

WATCH | 2020 showed that the sports world is greater than the sum of its parts:

Athletes around the world raised a collective voice in an unprecedented show of power. 5:03

“The `electricity’ in the streets on game day, the tremendous buzz in the city,” said Nurse, who won NBA coach of the year honours, but saw his team’s chances to repeat as champions squashed by the Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Technically that was a “home” game, but it was played in the nearly-empty NBA “bubble.”

“We certainly missed that [energy],” he added.

Sports world ‘plows through’

Stretched between public health concerns and a worsening economy, leagues and teams scrambled to innovate and return to play. With access to robust COVID-19 testing and deeper pockets than most businesses, some sports gathered players in isolated spots — like the NBA’s use of a sports complex at Walt Disney World in Florida — while others attempted to restore some semblance of home-and-away normalcy.

It worked for nearly all of them, but just barely. The Denver Broncos ran out of healthy quarterbacks at one point in the NFL season and the San Francisco 49ers called Arizona home as the coronavirus surged in California late in the season. Preparations to rush back college football and basketball games were so inconsistent from one program to the next, the schedules might as well have been written in invisible ink.

“We’re just plowing through this,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski griped in early December.

“I know the NCAA is worried about the endgame,” he added, referring to plans for the lucrative 2021 NCAA tournament. “They’re not as worried about the game we’re playing right now.”

Germany’s Bundesliga took advantage of their countrymen’s successful effort early in the pandemic and became the first big leaguers on either side of the Atlantic back on the pitch. Even less surprising, its perennial champion, Bayern Munich, beat PSG in the Champions League final, claiming the first major team sports title of the COVID-19 era.

WATCH | From refugee camp to international soccer stardom:

Canada’s breakout soccer star, 19-year-old Alphonso Davies, is now the first member of Canada’s national team to play for — and win — the coveted Champions League as a member of the victorious German team Bayern Munich. Davies, born in a refugee camp in Ghana, has become an inspiration to a new generation of Canadian soccer fans. 2:02

“It was a difficult situation, playing without fans, without atmosphere in the stadium,” said Bayern scoring ace Robert Lewandowski.

“It wasn’t just the specific nature of football. It was also in our private life. This was something new,” he added. “We didn’t want it, nobody did.”

Bayern players celebrated afterward like a team that won a rec league championship, not one of soccer’s grandest trophies. Whatever joy they felt — relief might be more accurate — was tempered knowing the 2020-21 season would kick off barely two weeks later.

Reading the room

Of course, not every champion or their fans celebrated that responsibly. After Liverpool ended a 30-year drought with an English Premier League title in June, some 2,000 fans gathered outside Anfield stadium and set off enough flares to turn the night sky red. Police made no attempt to disperse the crowd.

“It was mostly good-natured,” explained constable Rob Carden. He heaped even more praise on the “overwhelming majority of fans that recognized now is not the time to gather together to celebrate and chose to mark the event safely.”

Try telling that to Los Angeles Dodgers’ slugger Justin Turner. Pulled during the deciding game of the World Series because of a positive COVID-19 result, Turner ran back out on the field for the after-party, hugging teammates and posing for photos without a mask on.

WATCH | Justin Turner celebrates with teammates:

Justin Turner was removed from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays after registering Major League Baseball’s first positive test in 59 days, but he returned to join the celebrations about an hour after the game. 2:16

He subsequently apologized, but defended his “mindset” in that moment: “Winning the World Series was my lifelong dream and the culmination of everything I worked for in my career.”

Now imagine just-as-hungry and even-younger athletes winning one of the more than 300 gold medals handed out, which is one reason why the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee took a pass on 2020. It marked the first time the Games, sports’ biggest global event, had been postponed or cancelled for something other than war.

“It’s a bummer,” said teenage Swedish pole vault world record-holder Armand Duplantis. “But you have to understand the situation, understand that some things are a little bigger than sport.”

LeBron James said as much moments after he and the Los Angeles Lakers wrapped their hands around the NBA championship trophy. James was one of the principals in a growing movement that saw athletes loudly and visibly pushing for social justice reforms like never before. He considered leaving the NBA bubble when the Milwaukee Bucks nearly shut down all of sports again in August by refusing to play a scheduled game after Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot in the back by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

WATCH| Milwaukee Bucks players make joint statement after boycotting Game 5 against Orlando:

After becoming the first team to boycott games in the NBA bubble, the Milwaukee Bucks players made a joint statement to the media. 1:54

“We know we all want to see better days,” James said. “When we leave here, we got to continue to push that. Continue to push [against] everything that’s the opposite of love.”

If only for a moment, the pandemic receded into the background.

“If we can continue to do that, all of us,” James concluded, “would be a much better place.”

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CBC | Sports News

In 2020, athletes around the world refused to shut up and just play

Normally when we reflect on a year in sports, athletes hoisting shiny trophies are the lasting memories — overtime goals, buzzer-beaters and breathtaking photo finishes.

Sometimes etched in our minds, too, are images of heartbreak. 

Sports is for many an anchor, a place where unscripted joy and disappointment play out and fans collectively revel in it. A sweet escape. A distraction. 

But 2020 was anything but normal. 

The notion that athletes should just shut up and stick to sports and leave politics out of it has for too long seemed outdated. But the show does always have to go on and often, athletes do in fact just have to shut up. Because money. 

This year, though, in the uncertainty of the chaos and the tedium of the pandemic, the pendulum swung and sporting heroes found their voices and used their platform in an unparalleled way.

WATCH | Devin Heroux on the year that was:

Athletes around the world raised a collective voice in an unprecedented show of power. 5:03

It has changed the games forever. 

Halting the Olympics

It began during those turbulent 48 hours in mid-March, when, almost simultaneously, the world and sports shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The seriousness of what was unfolding was clearly articulated in March by Canadian hockey superstar Hayley Wickenheiser, who sent out a post on social media that was heard around the world.

With the Summer Olympics looming in Tokyo in July, Wickenheiser provided the reality check the sports world so badly needed.


“I think the IOC insisting this will move ahead, with such conviction, is insensitive and irresponsible given the state of humanity. We don’t know what’s happening in the next 24 hours, let alone the next three months,” she wrote. 

The IOC wasn’t happy with Wickenheiser. But not long after, in an unforgettable move, the Canadian Olympic Committee said it would not be attending Tokyo if the Games went on.

Shortly after, the Olympics were postponed. 


International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, wearing a face mask, visits an empty National Stadium, main venue for the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, in November. (Getty Images)

Anti-racism statements

In those waiting and wondering months of April and May, words like “bubble” and “hub city” became part of everyday sports lingo. But in the background, leagues were plotting their triumphant return. And many did. 

The pandemic put sports on pause and athletes at all levels were suddenly in the same place as everyone else. 

But the atmosphere became charged in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police in the first half of the year. Protests rose up across North America night after night in the spring, and many sports superstars showed they had had enough. 

In August, in another unforgettable 48 hours, the NBA again shut down, this time after players refused to play in continued protest, while WNBA players walked onto the court wearing T-shirts with bullet holes in them — and then left. 


Benfica supporters wear face masks and keep a social distance before a UEFA Europa League match in October in one of the few sporting events around the world that even permitted fans. (AFP via Getty Images)

A united front for a social cause like never before.

Coaches and players cried at podiums, their pain spilling over in a way we’ve never seen.

“We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones … denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. And all you do is keep hearing about fear,” L.A. Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, tears rolling from his eyes in late August. 

In the same way the pandemic swiftly and simultaneously halted sports, athletes shut down the game together. 

It made sports commentators and casual fans pause. Reflect. And, in a lot of cases, sit in the discomfort of challenging social issue conversations

The concern going into all of these bubbles and resuming play for many athletes was that their voices would get lost in nightly game highlights. And on many nights, they did. And so they stopped. 

It forced powerful, mostly white sport owners to have conversations that for too long just weren’t being had. 

Stadiums and arenas became voting stations. Players put pressure on politicians. 


Doc Rivers, centre, then head coach of the L.A. Clippers, gave a heart-felt plea for social justice in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. (Getty Images)


Ademola Lookman of Fulham takes a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement prior to his team’s Premier League match in October. (Getty Images)

2020 triumphs

But even in our mourning, sports found a way to make us smile.

The Houston Dash of the National Women’s Soccer League captured the first championship in a bubble setting. 

Soccer prodigy Alphonso Davies became the first Canadian men’s player to win a Champions League title. 

Lightning struck in the form of a Stanley Cup win in a hockey bubble. And a Zamboni driver helped lead the Hurricanes to a victory over the Leafs. 

The Lakers and LeBron added another title. The Dodgers are baseball champions.

Canadian tennis continues to surge, with Denis Shapovalov, Leylah Annie Fernandez, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Vasek Pospisil leading the way — all while Bianca Andreescu works in the background, plotting her return. 


Bayern Munich’s Canadian midfielder Alphonso Davies celebrates with Champions League trophy after his team defeated Paris Saint-Germain in August. Davies is the first Canadian to play on a UEFA championship team. (Getty Images)

We the North went south, and took the lead on social issues, rolling up to the Florida bubble in buses with Black Lives Matter plastered on the side

The Blue Jays flew south, too — a young and exciting team that surprised many by making the playoffs, even if it was a short-lived run. 

Fledgling sports leagues Canadian Elite Basketball League and the Canadian Premier League successfully took to the court and pitch and cemented themselves in the country’s sporting landscape. 

The Canadian Football League did not play — and the Grey Cup was not awarded for the first time since 1919. 

A Masters in November without fans making for majestic views. And The Last Dance, a documentary series about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, that, for a week weeks at least, entertained us. 


Canada’s Christine Sinclair, front left, celebrates with teammates after scoring against St. Kitts and Nevis during a CONCACAF women’s Olympic qualifying game on Jan. 29, 2020, setting the international record for goals scored. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Before the shutdown, Canadian soccer star Christine Sinclair broke the record for the most international goals scored by any player ever to take to the pitch. 

Curlers Kerri Einarson and Brad Gushue won the Scotties and Brier, respectively, only to have their opportunity to represent Canada at the world championships taken away due to the pandemic. 

The world and sports will discover its new normal. And the Olympic Games will eventually go on.

We endure. But 2020 has changed us. 

Too much and too many lost.

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2020 is the year athletes saw the evidence of their true power

This is a column by Morgan Campbell, who writes opinion for CBC Sports. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

No matter how many recounts lame-duck U.S. president Donald Trump finagles, he’ll never win Georgia. He’ll keep losing at the ballot box, where president-elect Joe Biden garnered 49.5 per cent of the vote, compared with 49.3 per cent for Trump. And he won’t win in the courtroom, where judges have rejected Team Trump’s legal challenges with the fervour of a prime Dikembe Mutombo.

We could attribute Biden’s margin of victory to several Georgia municipalities, densely populated blue islands in a largely red state, but let’s focus on Fulton County, which encompasses downtown Atlanta, and where locals could vote early at State Farm Arena, home of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. According to published reports, 40,000 Georgians voted at the State Farm Arena’s COVID-safe polling site.

Fulton County is also Biden Country, where the president-elect won nearly 73 per cent of votes. If the people casting ballots at State Farm Arena fit that statistical profile, Biden likely collected roughly 29,000 votes there — in a state he won by fewer than 12,000.

Erasing those votes — the fast-receding dream of Trump and his surrogates — would likely alter the outcome and divert Georgia’s 16 electoral college votes to Trump. But those votes accrued to Biden for a variety of reasons, including people like Stacey Abrams, whose relentless, years-long registration campaign yielded a bumper crop of African-American voters.

And also NBA players, who walked off the job in August to protest the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisc. They wouldn’t return to work until the NBA pledged to use its arenas as polling places in the November election, setting the stage for Biden to run up big numbers against Trump in downtown Atlanta during a pandemic.

Moves like that helped prompt Sports Illustrated to name The Activist-Athlete as its Sportsperson of The Year. The magazine singled out five individuals, including Kansas City Chiefs’ lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a Super Bowl champion and a medical doctor who opted out of the 2020 season to care for COVID-19 patients in his native Montreal.

So if anyone questions whether activism among high-profile athletes can yield concrete results, we can point to the U.S. electoral map, where Biden became the first Democrat to win Georgia since Bill Clinton did it in 1992.

Or to the WNBA, where since the summer players have supported Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock in his Georgia senate race even though his opponent, Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler, co-owns the league’s Atlanta franchise. The WNBA was also the home of Maya Moore until the star forward paused her career to help free wrongfully-convicted Jonathan Irons, who is now her husband, from a Missouri prison.

WATCH | Bring It In, with Morgan Campbell:

In the pilot episode of Bring It In with Morgan Campbell, panelists Meghan McPeak and Dave Zirin discuss the history made by Sarah Fuller, debate the need for novelty events in sports and participate in a rapid game of In or Out on this week’s biggest stories. 34:24

From Kaepernick to Dumba

Or we can witness major pro leagues’ quick and warm embrace of anti-racism messages once considered too politically fraught to coexist with their on-field product.

In 2016-17, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick was essentially blackballed for sitting out the national anthem to protest police brutality and systemic racism. This past summer the NHL handed Matt Dumba a microphone so the Minnesota Wild player could make a pre-game speech reminding fans that Black Lives Matter.

What’s less clear is whether, for sports industry cheque-writers and decision-makers, the current dedication to combating anti-Blackness is a permanent feature or just a trend. We don’t know if it’ll stick around, like the NBA’s three-point line has, or vanish when reactionary zeal subsides, like the NBA’s dress code did.


Minnesota Wild’s Matt Dumba takes a knee during the national anthem flanked by Edmonton Oilers’ Darnell Nurse, right, and Chicago Blackhawks’ Malcolm Subban after making an anti-racism speech before a playoff game in Edmonton on Aug. 1. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

Leagues’ messaging rings hypocritical

Symbols of the fight against racism abound in myriad sports. The knee-taking and fist-raising before NBA games is now so widespread that it has become part of the spectacle, like the New Zealand All-Blacks performing a haka before an international match.

And we see slogans like “End Racism” stenciled into NFL end zones, or players with the names of Black victims of police shootings printed on the backs of their helmets. This season’s embrace of Black activism marks a stark departure for a league whose previous attempt at fighting racism involved hiring Jay-Z as a consultant, and promoting the self-consciously race neutral slogan “Inspire Change.”

But if you think the messaging rings hypocritical, you’re not wrong. Between positive tests and the isolation of close contacts, the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged NFL rosters so thoroughly that the Denver Broncos had to field a practice-squad wide receiver at starting quarterback two weeks ago — yet somehow NFL teams can’t seem to find Kaepernick’s phone number.

WATCH | The year athletes en masse refused to shut up and play:

Athletes around the world raised a collective voice in an unprecedented show of power. 5:03

A comfort with racism

NFL team owners, let’s remember, overwhelmingly support Trump and other Republicans. According to OpenSecrets.org, 85 per cent of the money donated by NFL owners to political campaigns in 2020 went to Republican candidates. Even team owners in the comparatively progressive NBA tend to give more money to Republicans — 53.4 per cent of donations since 2015, according to The Ringer — than to Democrats.

Those numbers alone don’t paint team owners as personally racist, but they certainly indicate a comfort with racism, and with a political party whose leader, Trump, has a high-profile history of racist acts.

In the early 1990s he campaigned for the execution of five Black and Latino teenagers wrongfully convicted of raping a white jogger in New York City’s Central Park. This year, instead of rejecting an endorsement from a white supremacist group, The Proud Boys, Trump told them to “stand back and stand by.” And since the election Trump’s legal team has tried, unsuccessfully, to disqualify votes in places like Detroit and Atlanta, where NBA arenas served as polling places, and where a critical mass of Black residents voted overwhelmingly for Biden.

We won’t know until the next election cycle whether this past summer’s activism and this fall’s electoral result will prompt sports team owners, who proclaim in public that they’re committed to fighting racism, to recalibrate their relationship with the Republican party.

Racism built into the structure of for-profit sports won’t disappear in a week, or a season, or a year. It took until this autumn for the NFL to accept that the words “End Racism” wouldn’t trigger an exodus of longtime fans. And it’ll probably still take years before NFL teams are as comfortable hiring Black head coaches as they are drafting Black defensive backs.

This year has reminded us that phasing racism out of the sports industry, and society, isn’t an event — it’s a process, non-linear and littered with pitfalls and setbacks alongside success. So, the activism driving can take the form of big acts, or a string of small acts forming an ongoing campaign.

Either way, 2020 has taught us that athletes don’t just intend to benefit from changing the sports industry’s racist habits. Athlete-activists intend to drive that transformation.

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CBC | Sports News

The great vaccine panic of 2020 is over — for now

The leader of the Official Opposition opened Wednesday’s question period with a complaint about the design of the federal wage subsidy. So the prime minister took it upon himself to bring up the day’s big news.

“Mr. Speaker, I will get to the question in a moment,” Justin Trudeau said, “but allow me to begin by thanking the doctors, the researchers, the scientists at Health Canada and elsewhere who worked tirelessly over the past many weeks and months to approve the first COVID-19 vaccine safe and effective for use by Canadians today.”

The vaccine fever that gripped Parliament for much of the last two weeks — caused by a mix of politics, ambiguity and desperation — seems to have been abruptly cured, at least for the time being. Now, in the fever’s wake, Canadians suddenly appear to be among the world’s luckiest ones.

The frenzy began on November 24, when Trudeau warned that the citizens of some other countries — the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany — might receive vaccines before Canadians. This, he said, was because those countries had access to domestic production of the leading vaccine candidates.

Trudeau’s description of Canada’s domestic pharmaceutical industry wasn’t quite accurate, but the government’s bigger problem was that it couldn’t quite answer the obvious follow-up questions. If not now, when? If Canadians aren’t first, where are we?

Setting aside the basic facts of the situation — that there are 195 nations on Earth and not all of them can go first — the potential political problem was obvious.

Canadians might broadly accept that they are not entitled to get vaccinated before everyone else — but they might quickly grow impatient if Canada seemed to be lagging far behind other rich nations. In the ninth month of isolation and anxiety, everyone is daydreaming about when this will all be over. Watching our neighbours get back to normal first would be a hard thing to tolerate for very long.

WATCH: Erin O’Toole and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spar over vaccine timing

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole digs into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for reasons behind COVID 19 vaccine candidates in Question Period. 2:39

No doubt realizing what a point of weakness this might be for the Liberal government, the Conservatives rushed in with questions. They also floated some rather creative accusations.

The Official Opposition could have limited itself to demanding clarity and a plan, or to asking questions about the specific actions taken by the Liberals to date. Instead, they went so far as to claim that Canada was now at the “back of the line” for vaccines. After apparently pulling together reports from other countries, the Conservatives insisted that Canadians were now behind some 2.7 billion people in the global queue for a COVID-19 vaccination.

Not being first was presented as something a lot like being last (otherwise known as the Ricky Bobby principle).

Messaging problems

The Liberals could point to the fact that they had signed contracts with a number of potential suppliers. In fact, Canada has reserved more doses per capita than any other country. But they could not say when exactly the vaccines would arrive and how quickly Canadians would be vaccinated.

Explaining things has never been one of this government’s strengths — and such weaknesses make governments vulnerable in the midst of a fast-moving and unprecedented crisis.

The fever began to dissipate this week when the Liberals announced that 249,000 doses of one vaccine would arrive in Canada by the end of this month. The Conservatives dismissed that announcement — but on Wednesday the vaccine was officially approved by regulators at Health Canada and officials released a plan that projects all Canadians will be vaccinated for COVID-19 by the end of next year.

When question period convened shortly thereafter, the Conservatives had no questions about vaccines. Such is the nature of Parliament — if it’s not an outrage, it’s not worth talking about.

It won’t all be error-free

As happy as the prime minister appeared on Wednesday, it still would be rather early to hang up the “mission accomplished” banner. If anything, the last two weeks were a demonstration of how fraught the issue of vaccines can become — and the coming year inevitably will see delays, complications and any number of hiccups.

The largest mass vaccination in this country’s recent history won’t go perfectly smoothly. The Liberals might have put some people at ease by laying out a basic schedule for vaccination, but now the government has to actually meet those targets.


A health care worker directs vehicles to a COVID-19 test area. Testing efforts haven’t gone entirely smoothly in this country. There’s no reason to think the vaccination project will be error-free either. (Ross D. Franklin/The Associated Press)

But when a question about vaccines did finally come on Wednesday, it was the NDP’s Daniel Blaikie wondering whether Canada would support a proposal at the World Trade Organization to make it easier for other countries to access a vaccine. That question was an implicit reminder of how lucky Canadians are compared to a great many people around the world.

In a statement issued on Wednesday morning, the People’s Vaccine Alliance — a coalition of non-governmental organizations that includes Oxfam and Amnesty International — released a new statement warning that the world’s richest nations have snapped up a disproportionate share of the doses expected to be produced by the leading vaccine candidates. According to the alliance’s calculations, 67 lower-income countries may only be able to vaccinate 10 per cent of their population by the end of 2021.

Canada the vaccine hoarder?

Canada was singled out for having reserved five times as many doses as it has people to vaccinate.

This is not the first time Canada’s ample pre-order has been cited as a possible concern. And even while the debate in Ottawa has focused on how close to the front of the line Canadians might be, it’s been obvious that a significant number of people were going to end up behind us. Even if Canadians were somehow “behind” 2.7 billion people, that would still leave another five billion behind us.

“We’re pretty much going to be covered … And if it’s not now, it will be gradual. It will happen,” said Anne-Catherine Bajard, manager of policy and campaigns for Oxfam Canada.

“We do have to watch out for the rest of the world … even if it wasn’t about generosity or about thinking about our fellow brothers and sisters. Because there is no border for viruses.”

COVID-19 has ably demonstrated that fact.

Canada has contributed $ 440 million to COVAX, an international effort to ensure equitable access to vaccines across countries. If Canada ends up with more vaccine doses than it needs, the federal government inevitably will be pressured to share its windfall. Canadian officials can also use their voice, Bajard said, to promote the sort of collaboration and humanitarian efforts that would ensure vaccines reach all of the world’s 7.8 billion people.

While saying that the possibility of excess supply remains “hypothetical,” International Development Minister Karina Gould said in an interview Wednesday that the government is committed to making sure all countries get the vaccines they need.

“We recognize that we will not end the COVID-19 pandemic until we end it everywhere,” she said. “So we have absolutely been working hand in glove with our international partners to make sure that the developing world has access to a vaccine.”

Canadians, as individuals, will surely judge the federal government by how quickly they receive a vaccine. But Canada, as a country, might be judged how much its government contributes to ensuring a vaccine also gets to the rest of humanity.

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A sad day for CFL fans as Grey Cup Sunday goes dark for 2020

This time, on this Sunday in late November, there are no horses roaming around in a hotel lobby, a tradition dating back to 1948.

There’s no Pigskin Pete chanting ‘Oskee Wee Wee!’ from street corners or the sidelines.

Groceries stores in the host Grey Cup city aren’t running low on watermelons, after a green wave of fans from Saskatchewan showed up to party.

And there will be no fly-over above the stadium just minutes before game time, the surge of the jet engines injecting excitement and electricity into the venue.

Fans, many bleary-eyed from a week-long bender, aren’t waking up on this Sunday having to will themselves awake and muster up one last push to kick-off.

For the first time since 1919 the Grey Cup won’t be awarded to a deserving Canadian Football League team and that means the shenanigans that goes with a quintessentially Canadian and quirky celebration isn’t playing out either.

Instead, Mosaic Stadium in Regina which was meant to host this year’s championship game sits empty, more than 33,000 green, plastic chairs out in the cold. The snow hasn’t been cleared from the aisles awaiting the rush of fans to take their seats.


A Saskatchewan Roughriders fan wears the traditional watermelon helmet as he arrives for the 97th Grey Cup game in Calgary in 2009. (File/The Canadian Press)

The lights and buzz and hum of Grey Cup Sunday, hushed.

This is a dark time in the league’s history. Unable to play in 2020 after the league officially cancelled the season in August, many questions still remain as the CFL tries to remain optimistic about its future, earlier this week releasing a “comeback” 2021 schedule.

But this isn’t the first time the CFL has been in a precarious position. In past decades, there have been times the league teetered on the edge of collapse, only to find a way to play another season. And much like the league itself, the Grey Cup trophy has also endured.

Commissioned at a cost of $ 48 in 1909, the 13-inch silver chalice with a wooden base certainly comes from humble beginnings. That small trophy has grown mightily over the years, becoming the grand, shiny, prize players hold over their heads after winning it – sometimes they break it too.

WATCH | Examining the decision to cancel 2020 CFL season:

Between other leagues starting up again and the CFL’s livelihood depending on ticket sales, Devin Heroux explains the ramifications of the lost season. 12:05

In fact, the Grey Cup has been broken too many times to count now – overzealous players so thrilled to finally hoist it, snapping the original top from its base. The trophy has been stolen twice, held ransom once and even survived a 1947 fire that destroyed numerous artifacts housed in the same building.

This Sunday, though, the trophy won’t be ushered out by Mounties and presented to the champions.

And for as much as the championship has been about two teams waging war on the field in the hopes of names being etched into the side of the trophy, forever being a champion in Canada’s football league, it perhaps more importantly has been about bringing people together.

Whether a Ticats, Stamps, Bombers, Riders, Edmonton, Als, Argos, Lions or Redblacks fan and whether you’re a diehard or casual observer of the CFL, for millions of Canadians on this one Sunday in late November, the Grey Cup has symbolized community and celebration.

Forget the beach or some exotic foreign country, people plan their annual holidays around Grey Cup week — attend any one of these national celebrations and you’ll get the feeling it’s more like a family reunion, many of the same faces and costumes appearing year after year. The country this one week in November feels a little smaller and a lot more united.

It’s meant Shania Twain riding a dog sled into the stadium to perform the halftime show. It’s meant 13th Man heartbreak. The Fog Bowl in 1962, Ice Bowl in 1977 and the Snow Bowl 1996. John Candy in a long leather coat in Winnipeg, watching his Argos win it all. Tom Hanks and Martin Short in Regina.


Shania Twain performs during the halftime show during the 105th Grey Cup in November of 2017 in Ottawa. (File/The Canadian Press)

It’s meant last-second field goals, body-contorting catches and plot twists in the waning minutes only the CFL can manufacture. No lead is ever safe.

It’s produced heroes, from Warren Moon to Tony Gabriel, Rocket to Pinball and Ridgway to Flutie. The list goes on.

The weight of not playing a CFL season is being felt today more than any other time throughout the last seven months because on this Sunday in late November, millions of Canadians are supposed to be gathering in their homes, placing their bets and enjoying their favourite snacks and beverages. It’s just what’s happened on this day in November for decades.

The league will survive. It always has. And that treasured trophy will be lifted to the heavens again as confetti swirls and the bright lights of the stadium shines down on the champions.

But on this Sunday in late November, the promise of what might just happen next over 60 minutes of Grey Cup football is gone.

And it’s missed.

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CBC | Sports News