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Quebec City, Lévis, Gatineau head back into lockdown as COVID-19 variants spread

Quebec Premier François Legault says Quebec City, Lévis and Gatineau will be essentially shut down for 10 days starting Thursday at 8 p.m. ET to curb the “exponential” rise of COVID-19 cases in these three cities.

Schools will be closed, and students will move to full-time online learning in those three cities.

Gyms, theatres, hairdressers and other non-essential businesses are also shutting down in the three cities, Legault said on Wednesday. Religious gatherings will be limited to 25 people, and there will also be an 8 p.m.– 5 a.m. curfew until at least April 12.

“The situation is critical. It is deteriorating in these three cities,” Legault said. “People have to remain at home unless they absolutely have to go to work.”

With Easter weekend on the way, Legault stressed the importance of staying home and not gathering because COVID-19 variants are on the rise throughout Quebec.

More than half of the cases of COVID-19 recorded in the province will be linked to variants by the beginning of April, according to modelling by Quebec’s public health institute. Public health officials have confirmed that a third wave is underway, and those who are unvaccinated in the 40 to 60 age range are at particularly high risk.

The variant first detected in the United Kingdom is the most prevalent in Quebec. Of the more than 7,400 cases linked to variants in the province, Montreal has the highest concentration, with about 3,000 so far. Quebec City is nearing 1,000 variant infections, and Outaouais is nearing 500.

“The alarm is sounding,” Legault said. “We cannot make any exceptions.”

Hospitalizations have not spiked in these three areas, he added, but they may soon.

“We must act quickly,” Legault said. “Everywhere in Quebec, we have to be more careful.”

Though schools will be closed, daycare services will be made available to those who work in essential services. Parents are expected to keep kids home if they can, and only use these services if they are leaving home to work.

WATCH | Legault explains the new lockdown measures:

Quebec Premier François Legault announced a return to strict restrictions for several cities in the province including Gatineau, which will close non-essential businesses and schools and return to an 8 p.m. curfew. 1:14

Legault is also announcing that four regions are moving from orange to red, in accordance with the province’s colour-coded alert system.

The Outaouais, Chaudière-Appalaches, Lower Saint-Lawrence and the Quebec City region will return to red zones.

Legault said it is time to crack down now and adjust as needed as more data is gathered. Montreal is not affected by the increased restrictions, but that may change as the situation evolves, he said.

Cities see spike in cases

Quebec City, Lévis and Gatineau have been orange zones for more than two weeks, allowing restaurants to welcome diners and gyms to open. But bars remained closed, and indoor gatherings were still prohibited, with guests allowed only under specific circumstances.

With restrictions loosened, cases jumped. In the Quebec City area, 194 more cases were recorded on Wednesday, for a total of 990 active cases there.

“When we go from 50 to 200 cases per day, we are going to have an impact on hospitalizations,” Legault said.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said there may be 250 cases reported Thursday and that’s why the government can no longer wait. If hospitals fill up with COVID-19 patients, other medical services will have to be delayed, he said.

Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province’s public health director, said the variants are spreading fast, and it is likely because people are ignoring public health rules.

“We have to intervene,” he said.

Travel to 3 cities only for essentials

Arruda said travel to Quebec City, Lévis and Gatineau will not be restricted, but it is “highly recommended” that people avoid these zones because there is such a high rate of transmission. People should only go there for essential reasons, he said.

Earlier in the day, Quebec City’s public health director, Dr. André Dontigny, voiced his concern about the rise in cases and said the current measures weren’t sufficient. A local gym linked to nearly 70 infections was shut down. 

The gym’s management sent out a notice to patrons late last week encouraging anybody who attended the facility since March 14 to get tested as they may have contracted what is suspected to be a COVID-19 variant.

Dubé said the rate at which the disease spread at the gym shows just how extremely contagious COVID-19 variants are when people gather indoors. He said this outbreak should serve as a reminder to those thinking about ignoring public health restrictions and gathering over the holiday weekend or in the weeks to come.

In the Ottawa-Gatineau region, the number of active cases surpassed 2,000 over the weekend as the situation in Ontario worsened.

Legault scaled back public health restrictions in all but the Montreal region on March 8.

Since then, the curfew has been eased — from 8 to 9:30 p.m. — in the Montreal area, gyms were allowed to open and a few other rules were relaxed in the metropolitan area.

Specialist says restrictions should be tightened

Dr. Fatima Kakkar, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist in Montreal, said tightening the restrictions in some of the harder-hit areas in Quebec is going to send an important message to the residents there — showing them that they need to avoid gathering indoors and close contact with others so as to prevent transmission.

“One of the things that has to be clear is that we are not out of the woods, and we are back in dangerous territory,” Kakkar said.

She suspects a false sense of security is spreading through the population as spring approaches, but, she said, people are forgetting that the pandemic is still very real.


Students enter the Pierre Laporte Secondary School in Montreal Monday as all high school grades return to classes full time. Montreal is unaffected by the new lockdown, but in Quebec City, Lévis and Gatineau schools will move to full-time remote learning. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Kakkar supports sending high school students back to school full time and says it is crucial because kids need social interaction for their mental health. 

“As pediatricians, we weigh the risk of infection versus not being in school, and that risk of not being in school has just been so detrimental to so many teens that I think it’s still worthwhile trying to keep kids in school,” Kakkar said.

However, she said, facilities and businesses associated with elective activities, such as gyms and restaurants, should remain closed mainly because of the variants of the disease, which are proving to be more contagious and dangerous.

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CBC | Health News

‘Right now, I’m scared,’ CDC head says as she warns of potential 4th pandemic surge in U.S.

This story is part of Watching Washington, a regular dispatch from CBC News correspondents reporting on U.S. politics and developments that affect Canadians. 

What’s new

U.S. officials issued what was intended to be a sobering warning Monday that the COVID-19 pandemic could still get a whole lot worse.

Their unusually emotional message carried obvious international implications, especially given that the U.S. has already vaccinated its citizens at a rate triple Canada’s.

The theme of a White House briefing Monday was that this is a terrible time for the country to let down its guard and reopen as some states are doing.

The head of the Centers for Disease Control, Rochelle Walensky, said she plans to speak with state governors Tuesday to encourage continued mask-wearing and physical distancing.

She said U.S. case loads had risen 10 per cent in a week, and hospitalizations and deaths are ticking up again. She said the country is on the same trajectory as some European countries were a few weeks ago before they hurtled into their latest wave.

“We are not powerless; we can change this trajectory of the pandemic,” she said. “But it will take all of us recommitting to following public health-prevention strategies.”

Walensky said she was pleading with Americans as a physician who had seen the death and human suffering caused by COVID-19, and as a wife, mother and daughter.

“I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom,” she said as she went off script.

“We have so much to look forward to … so much reason for hope, but right now, I’m scared.”

When later asked to elaborate on her reference to “impending doom,” Wilensky said:

“We know that travel is up, and I just worry that we will see the surges that we saw in the summer and the winter again.”


Cases are still way down in the U.S. since January. What has the CDC worried is a 10 per cent uptick last week, along with more hospitalizations. It sees the coming days as a race between vaccinations and a new pandemic wave. (U.S. Centers For Disease Control)

It’s an abrupt change in tone after weeks of growing confidence in the U.S. The country is expecting to have vaccines for 90 per cent of its adults by the end of April and for all adults in May.

Numerous states have already dropped restrictions.

Yet the federal government is telling states it’s too soon to do that: only 15 per cent of the country is fully vaccinated, while the virus continued to kill 1,000 Americans per day last week as case numbers rose to 63,000 a day. 

Why it matters to Canada

Any U.S. setback would hold a series of cross-border consequences. Starting with the obvious point involving public health: that the virus and its new variants are outpacing vaccinations.

It’s especially true in places with a slower vaccination rollout.

It could also have repercussions on the economic recovery and on cross-border travel. Businesses and politicians have been urging governments, without success so far, to define a plan for reopening the border. 

Some of the states experiencing the worst surges happen to be near the Canadian border, including New York, and Michigan, which has seen its case totals more than triple in a single month. 

The virus is still infecting, and killing, a far higher proportion of Americans than Canadians, although the gap had been narrowing in recent weeks with cases growing faster in Canada.   


Lots of states have eased restrictions. However, Miami subsequently imposed a local curfew, for public health reasons, during spring break festivities seen here earlier this month. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a chief medical adviser to U.S. President Joe Biden, said that if this recent spike turns into another wave, it’s because Americans let their guard down too soon. “We’re essentially pleading,” he said.

What’s the good news

At the same news conference, officials delivered encouraging details on a new CDC study showing vaccines performing extraordinarily well in limiting infection and transmission.  

This is atop clinical trials that, Fauci said, showed 100 per cent effectiveness in avoiding hospitalization and death from vaccines approved in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere.  

Another Biden adviser, Andy Slavitt, said Monday: “Hope is around the corner. But we’re not there yet… The worst thing we could do now would be to let up. We cannot get complacent. We cannot let our guard down.”

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CBC | World News

Netanyahu tries to inoculate himself against defeat as Israel’s voters head to polls in pandemic

Elbow to elbow in Jerusalem’s old market, they pick through strawberries and Jaffa oranges. Diners jam Tel Aviv’s sunny seaside restaurants and partygoers without face masks fill its nightspots. Across Israel, fans have returned to cheer on soccer teams in newly reopened stadiums — up to 5,000 spectators at a time.

Israel is “back to life,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared at a campaign stop this month. “We’re coming out of it, and there’s not much more,” he said.

Netanyahu has fought to bring an air of post-pandemic normalcy to Israel in time for the country’s fourth trip to the polls in two years. Chief among his government’s promises is a vow that after multiple national lockdowns due to COVID-19, there won’t be any more.

He’s taking credit for a vaccination program that has led the world — already fully inoculating about half the Israeli population and triggering a sharp drop in infections — hoping that the country’s win over the novel coronavirus will bring him victory on Tuesday.

But Israel’s vaccine rollout hasn’t been without controversy. Some Palestinians have argued that Israel neglected its obligations as an occupying power by not including them in the mass vaccination program.

The prime minister personally negotiated a deal to deliver millions of doses of the vaccine in a series of phone calls that Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla called “obsessive”.

“Netanyahu’s done a lot,” Gaby Nissanov told a freelance CBC News crew as he waited for his turn at a vaccination centre in Jerusalem on Thursday. “He deserves credit for this.”

Still, it might not be enough to keep Israel’s longest-serving prime minister in power — or out of jail — after 12 years.

WATCH | Challenges and success of Israel’s vaccine rollout:

Israel is leading the world with its COVID-19 vaccine rollout and it’s already seeing results, but the campaign has been met with some hesitant demographics and criticism for not vaccinating Palestinians. 6:05

Election a matter of political, legal survival

Netanyahu is currently on trial in three separate cases involving fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes. This election is as much about his effort to avoid prison as it is about his political survival, say his critics, who expect Netanyahu to try to pass legislation giving himself immunity if he stays on as prime minister.

And it’s been emotional. On Saturday, tens of thousands of Israelis protested against Netanyahu outside his official residence in Jerusalem, the largest of 39 weekly demonstrations denouncing political corruption.


Protesters in Jerusalem take part on Saturday in a weekly demonstration against Netanyahu’s alleged corruption and his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, ahead of Tuesday’s general election. (Ammar Awad/Reuters)

The last spate of opinion polls suggests Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party is in the lead but is currently expected to win only about half the 61 seats required for a majority in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Even counting likely coalition partners, his conservative and religious bloc may be just short of the support it needs to govern — an inconclusive result, as in the previous three elections.

It’s not that Israelis don’t appreciate the “amazing” vaccination effort, said shopper Clil Levin, “but we need a change” from Netanyahu. She hasn’t decided who will get her vote, but it will be “someone new,” she said.

“As a democracy … it’s essential for us to be switching the system and the characters,” said Dean Graubard, a student drinking coffee in the cobblestone lanes of the Jerusalem market.

Indeed, the election has become a polarized referendum on Netanyahu’s continued leadership, his character and his policies supporting ultra-religious groups and settlers, says political and public opinion analyst Dahlia Scheindlin.


An Israeli woman receives a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a medical centre in Dimona, southern Israel, in February. About half of the Israeli population has been inoculated, bringing a sharp drop in infections. (Tsafrir Abayov/The Associated Press)

The vaccination issue is having only a marginal impact on voters’ views, she told CBC News in a Skype interview from Tel Aviv.

“What it really does is make people who were already voting for Netanyahu feel more strongly about it and those who were already voting against him feel more passionately about it,” said Scheindlin, a fellow at the U.S.-based Century Foundation.

Netanyahu courting Arab voters

There are three other main candidates campaigning to replace him, though Israel’s fragmented proportional representation system depends as much on post-election wheeling and dealing among more than a dozen parties as it does on voter desires.

Netanyahu — nicknamed “Lord of Pulling Strings” by critics — has proven a wizard at managing the system, co-opting some of his most dangerous rivals while playing others off against each other to ensure his own political survival. Still, it hasn’t taken long for his last three coalition governments to tumble from gridlock and instability.

The strongest opposition party is Yesh Atid, led by former TV anchorman Yair Lapid. It represents much of Israel’s large secular centre and includes some social activists of the left who feel they have few other options. But so far, the party has failed to find enough allies in the Knesset to take power.


Former TV anchorman Yair Lapid, shown in May 2020, leads Yesh Atid, the strongest opposition party in Israel. It represents much of Israel’s large secular centre and includes some social activists of the left who feel they have few other options. (Oded Balilty/The Associated Press)

In this campaign, Lapid has warned against Netanyahu’s “illiberal” impulses. If he wins again, Lapid said in an interview with the Times of Israel, the country is in danger of becoming more authoritarian: “Not a dictatorship [but] an in-between, a hybrid, anywhere between Hungary and Turkey.”

Two other potential leaders are on Netanyahu’s political right: Naftali Bennett of the Yamina party, supported by religious Zionists who don’t accept a Palestinian state, and Gideon Sa’ar, Netanyahu’s former interior minister who split off from Likud to form his own business-oriented party, New Hope.

Israeli Arabs have never had a place in Knesset coalitions, but this time these voters have become an unlikely target for Netanyahu. In the 2015 election, he outraged many Arabs in a now-infamous campaign video by warning Likud supporters that “the Arabs are voting in droves” and that he needed Jewish Israeli votes to protect the Israeli state.


Palestinians hold a protest against Netanyahu’s visit to the heritage site of ancient Susya as Israeli soldiers stand guard in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on March 14. (Mussa Qawasma/Reuters)

Now, Netanyahu is seen touring Palestinian villages in Israel, urging Arab citizens to vote for him. In Nazareth in January, he was greeted by demonstrations and denunciations from Arab members of the Knesset. “Netanyahu came like a thief to try to scrape together votes from the Arab street,” said Aida Touma-Suleiman.

But he has managed to attract prominent supporters, such as the mayor of Nazareth, and the Islamist party United Arab List says it’s open to co-operating with Likud in the Knesset.

‘The master of doing the unexpected’

Whether that actually happens or not, Gayil Talshir, a political scientist at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, says Netanyahu’s “dramatic” overtures to a group his Likud supporters have frequently vilified — and even centrist parties have avoided — may now open the door to greater political participation for Israeli Arabs.

“That means he gave legitimacy to all the other players on the political scene to actually say, ‘Yes, it might be a viable option to have a government with support of the Arab parties,'” she said at a forum organized for foreign media.

It’s also the kind of political surprise Netanyahu is known for pulling on voters, the media and his opponents. He almost threw in another twist in the dying days of the campaign — an unprecedented official visit to an Arab state.

Netanyahu, who likes to showcase his connections to foreign leaders like Donald Trump when he was U.S. president or Russia’s Vladimir Putin, planned to jet to Abu Dhabi for high-profile talks with Emirati leaders.


Netanyahu, right, and then-U.S. president Donald Trump arrive to deliver joint remarks on a Middle East peace plan proposal at the White House in Washington, D.C., in January 2020. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

It was to be the first visit to the United Arab Emirates since Israel and the Gulf state established official ties last year. That is, until the itinerary was leaked to Israeli media, and officials in Abu Dhabi balked at being drawn into Netanyahu’s campaign. They had expected low-key talks instead.

“The UAE will not be a part in any internal electioneering in Israel, now or ever,” tweeted Anwar Gargash, an adviser to the country’s president, in a stinging official rebuke that also saw other meetings cancelled and cold water thrown on a $ 10 billion US investment fund to be established between the two countries.

“Netanyahu is the master of doing the unexpected, and he is not shy about it,” said analyst Scheindlin. “It shows an incredible level of confidence on his part, which is well earned.”

It’s not at all impossible that there could be more surprises in the dying hours of this campaign — or indeed after, once the haggling for coalition support is likely to begin.

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CBC | World News

Wilfried Nancy named head coach of CF Montreal, team to start season in Florida

After overhauling their name and look, CF Montreal have announced their latest adjustments — a new coach and a new temporary home.

The club announced Monday that former assistant coach Wilfried Nancy has been promoted to the top job. He takes over from Thierry Henry, who resigned last month citing family reasons.

“I’m not going to lie — soccer, football, it is my passion,” Nancy told reporters Monday. “For me, this is a good step.”

Montreal also announced it will open the season playing home games in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., because of border restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nancy, a 43-year-old Frenchman, has been an assistant coach with the first team since 2016, and said he wants to build on what the group accomplished last season.

Montreal finished the regular season with a 8-13-2, good for ninth spot in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference. The club — known as the Montreal Impact before a rebrand in January — made the playoffs for the first time since 2016, but was eliminated by the New England Revolution in the play-in round.

‘We’re going to be a good team’

The team established a style of play last year, Nancy said.

“We will continue that style of play,” he said. “We’re going to be a good team, proactive, dynamic and we will be able also to put produce on the opposition.”

Working under Henry — formerly a marquee striker with Arsenal in the English Premier League — was an illuminating experience, Nancy said.

“I worked with a champion,” he said. “Thierry was a star as a player and I understood why he was a star,.”

Henry was a demanding coach who found it hard to accept that players would make mistakes, but he also set a strong example for the team, Nancy said.

“For me, it was good to learn from Thierry about the desire to win and the desire to succeed,” he said. “This is the first time that I can see that close to me.”

CF Montreal announced on Feb. 25 that Henry was stepping down after a single season as the club’s head coach.

There was a lot of interest in the job from people across Europe and North America, sporting director Olivier Renard said. While he declined to say who else was considered, Renard added that the pandemic wasn’t an obstacle in the hiring process.

What set Nancy apart from other applicants was his determination and his familiarity with the club, Renard said.

“I know his philosophy, I know what he wants to do for the club. And the club knows also what he makes the last 10 years of the club,” he said.

“It’s not only we gave him the chance, he deserved the chance also.”

While’s Nancy’s contract is for one year, Renard said in French that the new coach doesn’t have a sword hanging over his head.

Nancy said he understands the situation and is OK with it.

“I have to do my job now as a coach to go forward,” he said.

Experience developing young talent

Before joining the first team as an assistant coach, Nancy worked as a coach in the club’s academy system.

His experience developing young talent is part of what makes Nancy a good fit for the head coach role, Renard said.

“One of the best qualities of Wil is his communication with young guys,” he said. “We need that.”

Assistant coaches Kwame Ampadu and Laurent Ciman, goalkeeper coach Remy Vercoutre and fitness coach Jules Gueguen will complete Nancy’s staff.

The newly minted coach and his team opened training camp in Montreal last week, but will soon make the move to a warmer locale.

Club to play in Fort Lauderdale

The club announced Monday that it will begin its season in Florida, playing at Inter Miami CF Stadium in Fort Lauderdale and using Inter Miami CF’s facilities for daily training.

CF Montreal is set to move south on April 6 and plans to play two pre-season games in Florida before the MLS season begins on April 17.

The club will have ample Canadian company in the Sunshine State. The Raptors, Blue Jays and Toronto FC are all playing in Florida due to border restrictions and the Canadian national men’s soccer team also will play a home World Cup qualifying game in the state.

The restrictions forced all three Canadian MLS teams to move south last season. Montreal finished out the year in Harrison, N.J., sharing a stadium with the New York Red Bulls.

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CBC | Soccer News

Thierry Henry, citing family, steps down as CF Montreal head coach

CF Montreal lost a head coach and Major League Soccer said goodbye to a marquee name with news Thursday that Thierry Henry was stepping down.

Citing family reasons, the 43-year-old former star striker said he was quitting the club after one season at the helm to return to London. Kevin Gilmore, Montreal’s president and CEO, called it a “difficult day” but said Henry was leaving on good terms.

“I’m surprised but given the circumstances it doesn’t shock me that this has happened given what he went through last year,” he told reporters.

Separation from his children plus the prospect of having to spend another season on the road due to pandemic-related travel restrictions contributed to Henry’s decision.

“Last year was very difficult on this club across the board,” said Gilmore. “But especially with those that had to spend the last four months of the season outside of Montreal. And the prospect of starting a season like that again is very difficult. And it’s taken its toll on a lot of people. Obviously it’s taken its toll on Thierry and his children.

“He made a difficult decision — although I keep saying when you make decisions based on family, they’re always good decisions — to stay in London and give up his position as the head coach of the club in order to be close to his family.”

‘Heavy heart’

The announcement comes on the eve of training camp. Players report Monday for a seven-day quarantine period, medicals and COVID-19 testing prior to the start of team training March 8. The MLS regular season kicks off April 17.

Montreal said it will take a committee approach to coaching led by assistant coach Wilfried Nancy until a successor is found. The new head coach will take charge of a roster that has been radically changed since last season with 11 players having left and eight new faces.

Henry spoke to the Montreal players and staff Thursday via video but not the media.

“It is with a heavy heart that I’ve decided to take this decision,” the French native said in a statement. “The last year has been an extremely difficult one for me personally. Due to the worldwide pandemic, I was unable to see my children.

“Unfortunately due to the ongoing restrictions and the fact that we will have to relocate to the U.S. again for several months, [this year] will be no different. The separation is too much of a strain for me and my kids. Therefore, it is with much sadness that I must take the decision to return to London and leave CF Montreal.”


Henry was hired in November 2019, succeeding interim coach Wilmer Cabrera on a two-year contract with an option for the 2022 season.

Henry has been linked to the managerial opening at England’s Bournemouth in recent days. But Montreal officials said there had been no contact with the Championship side, which recently handed the manager’s job to Jonathan Woodgate through the end of the season.

“Bournemouth was nothing more than a rumour,” Gilmore said.

Still, Montreal says it will be entitled to compensation if Henry takes a position with another club in the near future.

Gilmore said Henry was not focused on a job hunt. “Right now his sole and only focus is his children and his family.”

But Montreal sporting director Olivier Renard said he hopes Henry returns to coaching as soon as possible.

“He deserves it. I can say that I was very proud of him last year ΓǪ You could see he was in difficulty about his family, about the players. He was the leader of the team.”


Henry, seen taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, led Montreal (8-13-2) to the playoffs last season, for the first time since 2016. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Henry led Montreal (8-13-2) to the playoffs last season, for the first time since 2016. Montreal, which finished out the 2020 campaign based in Harrison, N.J., exited in the play-in round in November thanks to a 95th-minute goal by New England’s Gustavo Bou.

Gilmore said Henry flew home for the holidays, returning to Montreal the last week of January. After finishing quarantine in early February, he told the club he had to fly home to deal with some personal issues.

“His children were struggling with him having just left,” said Gilmore.

Last Thursday, Henry indicated he was leaning toward not coming back. Gilmore said while the club tried to find ways to ease his burden, Henry told them Monday he was stepping down.


“Is it perfect timing? Absolutely not. But like I said there is no deadline or prescription date on personal decisions and we fully understand where he’s coming from,” Gilmore said.

“Of course it’s a loss when you lose a person like Thierry Henry, who’s a football legend known worldwide and is associated with your club,” he added. “The thing is he’ll always be associated with this club.”

Gilmore said the team is in the process of finalizing where in the U.S. it will play home matches this season while the border restrictions continue. A return to New Jersey or Florida are possibilities.

Toronto FC is also looking at Florida, with Orlando and Tampa possible venues. Vancouver is reportedly looking at Utah.

Henry was an elite forward whose playing resume includes Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal, Barcelona, the New York Red Bulls and France. He retired in December 2014 after a 20-year career that saw him score 411 goals in 917 matches.

Henry was an academy coach at Arsenal and an assistant coach with the Belgian national team before taking charge of AS Monaco and then Montreal.

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CBC | Soccer News

Montreal Canadiens fire head coach Claude Julien

The Montreal Canadiens have fired head coach Claude Julien and assistant coach Kirk Muller.

The team announced that Dominique Ducharme will serve as interim head coach and Alex Burrows has joined the coaching staff. Luke Richardson and Stéphane Waite retain their respective duties within the coaching group.

Julien ends his tenure with the Canadiens with a record of 129-123-35. In his four years with the team, Montreal missed the playoffs twice and lost in the first round the other two years. The Canadiens were the lowest-ranked team to qualify for the 24-team post-season last year and then upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the qualifying round. They then lost in six games to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round.

“I would like to sincerely thank Claude and Kirk for their contributions to our team over the past five years during which we worked together. I have great respect for these two men whom I hold in high regard,” general manager Marc Bergevin wrote in a press release.

WATCH | Habs lose 2nd straight game to Senators:

Ottawa edges Montreal 5-4 with Josh Norris’ shootout winner. 1:20

“In Dominique Ducharme, we see a very promising coach who will bring new life and new energy to our group. We feel that our team can achieve high standards and the time had come for a change.”

Ducharme joined the Canadiens coaching staff in April 2018 after 10 seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He won the Memorial Cup with Halifax in 2012-13 and has twice been Canada’s head coach at the world junior championship, winning silver in 2017 and gold in 2018.

Bergevin and Ducharme addressed the media Wednesday afternoon in Winnipeg.

“It’s not fun. It’s a tough part of my job. To walk into these two men’s room this morning, it was not easy,” Bergevin said.

In a pandemic-shortened 56-game season, Bergevin said he didn’t want to wait to make a change behind the bench.

“The hard thing to watch is the swing from being a really good hockey team that was playing with pace, was engaged, playing to our identity, which is speed, then going to the other side to a team that’s looking for anything,” he said.

WATCH | Bergevin asserts confidence in Ducharme:

Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin confirms that Dominique Ducharme will be the coach for at least the rest of this season after firing coach Claude Julien on Wednesday. 4:56

“We’re chasing our tail, we’re chasing the puck, we’re not in sync. And that was frustrating for me.

“If the message is the same and they’re acting differently, then change needs to be made.”

Bergevin said he wanted to give Julien and Muller an “honest try” to fix things over the squad’s recent six-day break.

“After that week off, I thought we would really come out flying, refocused, re-energized and back in sync. And I didn’t see that,” he said.

Putting Ducharme in charge gives the players a “different voice,” Bergevin said.

The Canadiens also promoted Alex Burrows to assistant coach. Burrows, formerly a winger for the Senators and Vancouver Canucks, has been a member of the coaching staff for the Habs’ AHL affiliate in Laval, Que., the past two seasons.

‘A new model of coach’

Ducharme will “100 per cent” remain at the helm for the rest of the season, Bergevin said.

“Quarantine or no quarantine, [Ducharme] was my guy from the time I made my decision,” the GM said. “The reason why, he’s a new model of coach, a young coach that came a long way, had success at the junior level, had success at the world junior level. I feel that a new voice is what the team needs.”

Ducharme, who will make his debut when Montreal plays Thursday in Winnipeg, said he wants the Canadiens to spend less time in their zone, create more turnovers and give more support to the player who has the puck.

Taking on the role of head coach is much like sitting down to take an exam when you know you’ve studied hard, he said.

“I feel comfortable, I feel ready. I’m confident in the group, I’m confident in the guys I’m working with. And I’m ready to go,” said the 47-year-old native of Joliette, Que.

Still, being appointed to the position came with a range of emotions.

“I’m losing two colleagues and two great people. To see them leave, obviously, it’s a mixed feelings,” Ducharme said. “But I’m proud to be here. It’s been a long road for me. I didn’t take the highway, I went the side road, but I’m proud of that. And I think it made me grow as a coach. And today I’m ready for it.”


Julien returned to the Habs for his second go-round as head coach midway through the 2016-17 season.

He previously lead the team from January 2003 through January 2006. After being dismissed by Montreal in 2006, he joined the New Jersey Devils for a brief stint, then went on to coach the Bruins from 2007 until 2017, winning a Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011.

Julien, 60, had to leave the team during the first round of the playoffs last year in Toronto when he had a stent installed in a coronary artery. Muller took over the head coaching duties and the Habs extended the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers to six games before bowing out.

The Habs were the lowest-ranked team to qualify for the 24-team post-season last year and then upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the qualifying round.

This season, a tightly contested all-Canadian North Division has heightened the stakes for the seven teams north of the border, said Calgary Flames coach Geoff Ward.

“I think really what we’re starting to see is that the emotion of the Canadian division is starting to come to the front,” he said. “And because of that, the rivalries are ramping up a bit and with the division being so tight, it can sway perspective very easily one way or the other.”

Ward said he owes Julien “a lot” and sent him a text Wednesday morning when he heard the news.

“He’ll bounce back, if he wants to and when he wants to. He’s a great coach. And somebody else now will benefit from what happened today,” he said.

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Timberwolves officially hire former Raptors assistant Chris Finch as head coach

Chris Finch is the new coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team announced Monday after dismissing Ryan Saunders the previous night.

Saunders was fired Sunday after the team with the NBA’s worst record this season lost for the eighth time in the last nine games. The team quickly hired Finch, who was in his first season as an assistant with the Toronto Raptors.

“Chris brings a wealth of basketball experience from his time in the NBA, G League and Internationally,” Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said. “He is one of the most creative basketball minds in the NBA, has success maximizing players, and I am excited to see him bring our team to the next level and beyond.”

At 7-24, Minnesota has the league’s worst record this season and already is 7 1/2 games out of what would be the final play-in spot for the Western Conference post-season. The Timberwolves next play on Tuesday, visiting Milwaukee.

“We would like to thank Ryan for his time and commitment to the Timberwolves organization and wish him the best in the future,” Rosas said. “These are difficult decisions to make, however this change is in the best interest of the organization’s short and long-term goals.”

Key players sidelined

It had been a wildly disappointing season for the Timberwolves, who started 2-0 and haven’t had much to savour since. Karl-Anthony Towns, the team’s best player, dislocated his left wrist in the season’s second game and missed six games, returned and missed 13 more after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

D’Angelo Russell, the other key piece for the Timberwolves, had surgery last week on his left knee and may be out until April.

There was no sign the Timberwolves had stopped playing for Saunders; they were down by 21 points in the third quarter at New York earlier Sunday, then took the lead in the final minutes before falling 103-99.

“Unfortunately we ran out of time,” Saunders said after that loss.

He was talking about the game.

Before long, that sentence had a very different meaning.

Connection to Rosas

Finch has history with Rosas, working together with the Houston Rockets. He coached the team’s affiliate in what is now called the G League, winning a championship with Rio Grande Valley, then became a Rockets assistant. He went on to have assistant jobs in Denver and New Orleans and was hired by the Raptors in November.

“I look forward to working hand and hand with Gersson to build and lead a team Timberwolves fans will be proud of,” Rosas said. “We have excellent pieces in place and I can’t wait to get to work.”

Saunders, the 34-year-old son of longtime Minnesota coach Flip Saunders, was with the Timberwolves for parts of three seasons, going 43-94. Flip Saunders died in 2015.

Dismissing Saunders was the first coaching change in the league since this season began. There were nine coaches in new jobs entering this season.

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Pfizer Canada head says company ‘extremely committed’ to meeting vaccine delivery targets

The head of Pfizer Canada says the pharmaceutical giant is entirely focused on meeting its upcoming delivery targets and that it’s possible the company could continue to accelerate shipments of its COVID-19 vaccine to the country.

“Pfizer is extremely committed to meeting its contractual obligations, and we have every intention of meeting the four million commitment by the end of March that the prime minister has been talking about,” Pfizer president Cole Pinnow said Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.

“As long as we’re honouring our contract, we don’t really feel that it’s value added to talk about hypotheticals,” Pinnow said, when asked by CBC Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton about potential penalties for missed deadlines.

The early months of Canada’s COVID-19 inoculation campaign have been beset by disruptions to the delivery schedule. But on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the country’s vaccine supply would see a boost in the months ahead.

Pfizer is now set to deliver 2.8 million more shots between April and June than originally planned. Deliveries previously earmarked for later in the year have also been moved up, meaning Canada will receive 6.2 million more doses than expected between July and August. Four million extra doses of the Moderna vaccine are also expected to arrive this summer.

As far as the Pfizer-BioNTech product is concerned, Pinnow said it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the company’s deliveries to Canada could be shifted forward again.

“We’re going to continue to look for opportunities to accelerate delivery. We recognize that we want to bring back as much vaccine to Canadians as soon as possible.”

Belgian plant provided Pfizer with ‘certainty’

Pfizer’s shipments to Canada dropped in recent weeks as the company’s manufacturing plant in Puurs, Belgium, underwent upgrades to increase the production of its vaccine. 

The company told the Globe and Mail last November that Canada would be sent doses from Pfizer’s plant in Kalamazoo, Mich., but the company backtracked on that statement earlier this year.

“We were working to accelerate the delivery to Canada of [the vaccine], based upon the accelerated review process that Health Canada had put in place,” Pinnow told Barton. “So as part of that, we re-evaluated what our supply chain plan was going to be.”


A driver pulls his truck out of the Pfizer plant in Puurs, Belgium, on Dec. 21, 2020. Work to scale up manufacturing operations at the facility is now complete. (Valentin Bianchi/The Associated Press)

When he was U.S. president, Donald Trump signed an executive order late last year aimed at ensuring Americans are given priority for receiving vaccines developed or procured by the United States government.

“There was some uncertainty with the prior administration, and so we wanted to have confidence in where we were sourcing the product, and we felt that Belgium really provided us with more certainty at the time,” Pinnow said.

Contracts under wraps

Canada is projected to receive 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by September — the federal government’s target month to vaccinate all Canadians seeking a jab.

But under the agreement the country has signed with the pharmaceutical company, Canada can receive up to 76 million doses in total.

“We’re always open to talking about incremental demand or incremental supply,” Pinnow said.

Last week, federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand told Barton she was in talks with pharmaceutical companies about disclosing elements of the contracts Canada signed with its vaccine suppliers.


Procurement Minister Anita Anand told CBC’s Rosemary Barton that Ottawa cannot release information from its deals with vaccine suppliers without approval from companies. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Ottawa and Pfizer have made public delivery schedules shared by suppliers, but other details — including how much Canada has paid per dose — remain under wraps.

“I think both the government and Pfizer recognize that there are commercial and geopolitical sensitivities to releasing details in the contract,” Pinnow said Sunday. “And so at this point, we’re both honouring the contract, and there really isn’t the need to release those details.”

The Pfizer Canada head also said that while it’s too soon to determine whether Canadians will need a booster shot of the vaccine in the years ahead, COVID-19 likely won’t be eradicated right away.

“We’re in the process of analyzing all the known variants, and we’ll continue to monitor for others that might crop up in the future,” Pinnow said. “The scientific opinion right now seems to come to consensus that this virus will become endemic in the population in one capacity or another.”

WATCH | Too early to say if COVID-19 booster shots will be needed, Pfizer Canada head says:

Pfizer Canada president Cole Pinnow told Rosemary Barton that while the pharmaceutical company is studying coronavirus variants, it’s still too early to know whether COVID-19 booster shots will become a reality. 1:30

You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service.

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Head of Tokyo Olympics resigns over sexist comments

Yoshiro Mori resigned Friday as the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee following sexist comments implying women talk too much.

“As of today I will resign from the president’s position,” he said to open an executive board and council meeting. The board was expected to pick his successor later on Friday.

“My inappropriate comments have caused a lot of chaos,”he said. He repeated several times he had regret over the remarks, but also said he had “no intention of neglecting women.”

Mori’s departure comes after more than a week of non-stop criticism about his remarks earlier this month. He initially apologized but refused to step away, which was followed by relentless pressure from television pundits, sponsors, and an online petition that drew 150,000 signatures.

But it’s not clear that his resignation will clear the air and return the focus to exactly how Tokyo can hold the Olympics in just over five months in the midst of a pandemic.

The Olympics are to open on July 23, with 11,000 athletes and 4,400 more in the Paralympics a month later. About 80 per cent in recent polls in Japan say they want the Olympics cancelled or postponed, with clear support from about 15 per cent.

Early reports said the 83-year-old Mori had picked 84-year-old Saburo Kawabuchi, the former president of the governing body of Japanese soccer and a former player himself. He played for Japan in the 1964 Olympics.

WATCH | Head of Toyko Olympics under fire for sexist comments:

Tokyo Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori acknowledged that his comments that women board members talked too much were ‘inappropriate’ and against the Olympic spirit. Mori said that he would not resign, however. 2:03

Kawabuchi is even older than Mori and will raise the issue of why a woman was not appointed. This is the centre of the entire debate that Mori triggered over gender inequality in Japan and the absence of women in boardrooms, politics, and sports governance. Women are also largely absent in leadership roles at the organizing committee.

Kawabuchi indicated on Thursday he had been contacted by Mori. But he said later he indicated he might not be the appropriate choice.

Japanese media immediately pointed out there were three qualified women — all athletes and former Olympians and at least a generation younger — who could fill the job.

Kaori Yamaguchi won a bronze medal in the 1988 Olympics in judo. Mikako Kotani won two bronze medals in the 1988 Olympics in synchronized swimming. And Naoko Takahashi was a gold medallist in the marathon in the 2000 Olympics.


The Olympics are to open on July 23, with 11,000 athletes and 4,400 more in the Paralympic a month later. About 80 per cent in recent polls in Japan say they want the Olympics cancelled or postponed. (Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images)

Spotlight on gender equality

Seiko Hashimoto, the current Olympic minister and a former Olympian, has also been mentioned as a candiate.

Mori’s remarks have put the spotlight on how far Japan lags behind other prosperous countries in advancing women in politics or the boardrooms. Japan stands 121st out of 153 in the World Economic Forum’s gender equality rankings.

Koichi Nakano, a political scientist at Sophia University in Tokyo, characterized Japan as a country still run “by a club of old men.” But he said this could be a watershed.

“Social norms are changing,”he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “A clear majority of the Japanese found Mori’s comments unacceptable, so the problem is more to do with the lack of representation of women in leadership positions. This sorry episode may have the effect of strengthening the call for greater gender equality and diversity in the halls of power.”


A lifebuoy is pictured on a shore near the Olympic Rings in Tokyo. With less than six months to go until the start of the Games, speculation persists about the viability of the Games going ahead as scheduled in July. (Getty Images)

Though some on the street called for Mori to resign — several hundred Olympic volunteers say they are withdrawing — most decision makers including Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga stopped short of this and simply condemned his remarks.

A comment a few days ago from Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda seemed to move the needle.

Toyota is one of 14 so-called Olympic TOP sponsors that pay about $ 1 billion US every four-year cycle to the International Olympic Committee. The company seldom speaks out on politics, and Toyota did not call for Mori’s resignation. But just speaking on the matter might have been enough.

“The (Mori) comment is different from our values, and we find it regrettable.” Toyoda said.

Toyota and Coca-Cola also are major sponsors of the torch relay.

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Head of Tokyo Olympics expected to resign over sexist comments: reports

The long saga of Yoshiro Mori appears to be near the end.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency and others reported on Thursday — citing unnamed sources — that Yoshiro Mori will step down on Friday as the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee.

The move follows his sexist comments about women more than a week ago, and an ensuing and rare public debate in Japan about gender equality.

A decision is expected to be announced on Friday when the organizing committee’s executive board meets. The executive board of Tokyo 2020 is overwhelmingly male, as is the day-to-day leadership.

The 83-year-old Mori, in a meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee more than a week ago, essentially said that women “talk too much” and are driven by a “strong sense of rivalry.” Mori, a former prime minister, gave a grudging apology a few days later after his opinions were reported, but declined to resign.

This is more than just another problem for the postponed Olympics, which have made the risky choice of trying to open on July 23 in the middle of a pandemic with 11,000 athletes — and later, 4,400 Paralympic athletes.

Country lags in gender equality

More than 80 per cent of the Japanese public in recent polls say the Olympics should be postponed or cancelled.

Mori’s remarks have drawn outrage from many quarters and have put the spotlight on how far Japan lags behind other prosperous countries in advancing women in politics or the boardrooms. Japan stands 121st out of 153 in the World Economic Forum’s gender equality rankings.

Though some on the street have called for him to resign — several hundred Olympic volunteers say they are withdrawing — most decision makers have stopped short of this and have simply condemned his remarks. Japan is a country that works largely on consensus with politicians — often elderly and male — acting behind the scenes and leaking trial balloons to sense public sentiment.

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