Canada supports U.S. decision to shoot down suspected Chinese spy balloon, Anand says

The U.S. military has shot down the suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina and recovery is now underway. An investigation will soon begin into its mission. Washington says it was sent to monitor strategic sites in the continental United States and is a clear violation of U.S. sovereignty. Meanwhile, China is still insisting the object is a weather balloon that was blown off course. Jennifer Johnson has more on what's next as tensions between the two countries continue to rise.

The federal defence minister says Canada “unequivocally supports” the United States government’s decision to shoot down a high-altitude surveillance balloon that was suspected of spying for China, noting the balloon violated Canadian airspace.

Fighter jets downed the balloon off the Carolina coast on Saturday afternoon after it had travelled over sensitive military sites across North America.

Anita Anand issued a statement hours later saying she and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were briefed on the operation by the national security and intelligence advisor and the chief of the defence staff beginning on Friday night and continuing Saturday.

She said Canada has been closely engaged with its American counterparts on the decision and went on to thank the U.S. for its close collaboration.

A Pentagon official described the object as a manoeuverable surveillance balloon flying at an altitude of about 18,288 metres, with a “payload” or basket underneath.

On Friday, Anand’s office declined to comment on whether the balloon flew over Canadian airspace, but her Saturday statement says it “violated U.S. and Canadian airspace and international law.”

“Officials in the national security community have been working bi-nationally and Canada has been closely engaged with its U.S. counterparts on the decision and unequivocally supports the actions taken,” Anand said in the statement.

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Saturday he ordered U.S. officials to shoot down the balloon earlier this week and that national security leaders decided the best time for the operation was when it moved over water.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has said the balloon was a civilian airship used mainly for meteorological research that “deviated far from its planned course” because of winds.

Anand noted Saturday that Norad, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, had been “tracking and analyzing the trajectory and actions” of the balloon.

“The co-operation between Canada and the United States through Norad ensures the security and defense of North American air sovereignty, and we thank its members for having the watch,” she said.

Pentagon officials have said one of the places the balloon was spotted was over the state of Montana, which is home to one of America’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement the decision to shoot down the balloon “safely” over U.S. waters was “taken in coordination, and with the full support, of the Canadian government.”

“And we thank Canada for its contribution to tracking and analysis of the balloon through Norad as it transited North America,” Austin said in the statement.

Global Affairs Canada said Friday that officials summoned Chinese Ambassador Cong Peiwu to express disapproval over the balloon.

U.S. officials also announced Secretary of State Antony Blinken was postponing a planned high-stakes weekend diplomatic trip to China.

© 2023 The Canadian Press

Canada expands Falooda Drink recall over undeclared milk to include multiple flavours

A recall of certain Kinder brand chocolate products, including Kinder Surprise and Mini Eggs, linked to an outbreak of salmonella in Europe and the U.K. has been expanded to Canada. While the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says there have been no illnesses reported in Canada in association with the affected products, 63 illnesses linked to the product have been confirmed in the U.K. so far.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has expanded a recall for Falooda Drink that was initially issued because the product contains milk that is not listed on the label.

The recall originally covered Nutrifresh Falooda Drink with Almond Flavour, but has now been expanded to include Mango, Pistachio and Rose flavours, all sold in 290 ml bottles.

The distribution area of the beverage has also been expanded to now include all 10 provinces.

The recall was triggered by Canadian Food Inspection Agency test results.

There have been no reports of any illnesses linked to the product.

Customers are being told to either throw the beverage out or return it to where it was purchased.

© 2023 The Canadian Press

How old electric car batteries could power the future

In a warehouse in Port Coquitlam, B.C., sits a large, blue metal box that might help save Canada’s energy grids and prevent people from suffering sky-high electricity bills.

It’s an energy storage device that its makers, Moment Energy, are calling “Flora.” What makes this unit special is what’s inside. Powering it are retired batteries that are no longer good enough for electric vehicles’ high-speed acceleration, but still have a lot of life left.

“These EV batteries have 80 per cent capacity left in them once they reach end-of-life. This makes them perfect for stationary energy storage applications,” said Gurmesh Sidhu, one of the co-founders of Moment Energy.

The Vancouver-based start-up is harnessing the scraps of the electric car revolution to power factories, neighbourhoods and charging stations.

A Chevrolet Volt electric car is charged through Moment Energy's energy storage device.

A Chevrolet Volt electric car is charged through Moment Energy's energy storage device.

Darren Twiss / Global News

Think of the device as a giant rechargeable battery; it can store energy from the grid or renewable systems like solar panels, and then act as a power source when needed.

The idea came to Moment Energy’s four founders, Edward Chiang, Gabriel Soares, Sumreen Rattan, and Sidhu, while they were studying engineering at Simon Fraser University. During a project where they were tasked with building an electric race car, they realized that the transition to EVs would lead to a battery waste problem.

“As we did more research, we realized there was a business opportunity here,” Rattan says.

Moment Energy has been testing its Flora prototype in a variety of environments and gathering data; it’s being used to replace diesel-fuel generators in remote areas, and to store renewable energy from solar and wind farms.

Most recently, they’ve teamed up with Hydro Ottawa to see if the device can supplement power in suburbs where EV adoption is straining the local grid supply.

“By adding a battery, we can then charge it during a low-power time that would normally be unused power, and use the battery to provide excess power to these sites during the evenings when they’re charging all of these electric vehicles,” Sidhu said.

Moment Energy co-founder Gurmesh Sidhu at their new Port Coquitlam, B.C. facility.

Moment Energy co-founder Gurmesh Sidhu at their new Port Coquitlam, B.C. facility.

Darren Twiss / Global News

Canadian towns and cities need more energy storage — and fast. The country’s energy demand is expected to surge by 50 per cent over the next decade, as more cars and businesses electrify, a recent RBC report found.

The federal government has set an ambitious mandatory target for all new car sales to be zero-emission by 2035, faster uptake than the U.S. and many European countries.

“That’s going to completely transform how our electrical grid at a city-level actually works,” said Evan Pivnick, a program manager at Clean Energy Canada, a think tank focused on climate and the energy transition.

Ontario, the country’s most populous province, could see electricity shortages as soon as 2026, according to the same report. That could cause individual and business electrical bills to balloon.

Moment Energy’s Flora system could be a part of the solution. The unit is designed for commercial use to help businesses be more “energy independent,” Rattan said.

More EVs on the road also means more retired batteries that could live out a second act. The average electric car battery is expected to last between 10 to 20 years, longer than expected.

Moment Energy receives it's retired EV batteries directly from car manufacturers. The company currently has partnerships with Mercedes-Benz and Nissan North America.

Moment Energy receives its retired EV batteries directly from car manufacturers. The company currently has partnerships with Mercedes-Benz and Nissan North America.

Darren Twiss / Global News

“The batteries themselves are lasting a lot longer than the car itself,” said Steve Fletcher of the Automotive Recyclers of Canada. It’s been about a decade since the first modern EVs were mass-produced, and Fletcher said auto recyclers are just now seeing those vehicles being brought in.

“We’re seeing enough of them that it’s more than a trickle,” he said.

At some point, due to performance issues or time, all EV batteries will need to be replaced. But they are too valuable to simply throw away. One option is to recycle them, which would reintroduce the precious minerals in the batteries back into the supply chain. But new research suggests that re-use is another viable route.

“We believe in using resources to their full potential. They have so much life left in them it would be a waste to not re-use them,” Rattan said.

EV batteries are expensive and resource intensive to make. So, just like the robust auto parts market that exists today, a new industry around second-life uses for these batteries is taking shape.

Entrepreneurs and car manufacturers are developing creative ways to extend the life of old EV batteries. Nissan has used its old LEAF batteries to power streetlights in Japan. General Motors has retrofitted Chevrolet Volt batteries to be capable of supplying homes with backup power. B2U Storage Solutions in the U.S. is using EV batteries to store excess power from California’s solar farms.

In Canada, Montreal-based start-up EVB360 is remanufacturing LEAF and Volt batteries to create energy storage devices that could be used in off-grid situations.

Martin Ménard, vice-president of operations and supply at EVB360, said he’d like to see the technology used in developing countries where communities don’t have access to electricity.

“That’s where people need energy most in the world,” he said. “Giving communities clean and constant energy will allow them to grow.”

Ménard said they are testing a prototype with an existing solar panel system in Dakar, Senegal.

Finding new uses for spent EV batteries lessens their overall emissions by extending their life. Researchers at Cornell University found that the carbon footprint of these batteries can be reduced by up to 17 per cent if they are reused before being recycled.

Re-use can also lower the cost of energy storage devices. In 2025, second-life batteries may be 30 to 70 per cent less expensive than new ones, according to a report from the consulting firm McKinsey. But as battery manufacturing ramps up, those cost savings could drop to 25 per cent by 2040.

Based on its own market analysis, Moment Energy says its device is 25 per cent cheaper than other commercial storage devices.

EVB360’s unit will retail for CAD $10,000 to $12,000, which Ménard said is cheaper than energy storage units that use new batteries. Their device could be used as supplementary power for individual residences.

Retired EV batteries waiting to be tested at EVB360's facility in Vaudreuil-Dorion, QC.

Retired EV batteries waiting to be tested at EVB360's facility in Vaudreuil-Dorion, QC.

Courtesy Martin Ménard

Both EVB360 and Moment Energy are currently seeking certification for their new technology in order to be able to sell it directly to customers. Batteries, after all, are fire-prone goods.

It’s an emerging field with significant potential, but more research is needed to assess how quickly retired batteries degrade in re-use applications. Based on testing data, Moment Energy estimates their device will last seven to 10 years.

“We’re assuming a minimum of seven years, but it could be much longer than that,” said Rattan. “We have a seven-year warranty.”

Moment Energy gets its batteries directly from car manufacturers. They then test each module to make sure it is safe and reliable before adding it to one of their Flora devices.

Moment Energy calls its energy storage device "Flora." It's intended for commercial or industrial uses.

Moment Energy calls its energy storage device "Flora." It's intended for commercial or industrial uses.

Darren Twiss / Global News

Because the technology is so new, little real-world data exists to support claims that these refurbished batteries will last long enough to compete with new units and the recycling industry.

“The economics for second life will need to be greater than the economics of recycling,” said Pivnick. “It’s going to be a competitive space.”

Evolving battery technology could also hamper the re-use field. Lithium-ion batteries are the favourite for cars today, but already automakers are experimenting with other chemistries such as solid state.

All innovation comes with uncertainty at first. Where we are with electric vehicle technology is equivalent to the 1920s and 1930s combustion-engine car, said Pivnick.

“There’s a lot of innovation still out there.”

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Ontario fell thousands short of its autism program target, new figures show

RELATED: The Ford government said it would get 8,000 kids into core clinical services by the end of the fall but, as of last month, that number was only about 888.

The Ford government fell thousands of spaces short of its own target to provide core clinical services to children with autism by fall 2022, figures obtained by Global News show.

The province set a target of signing up 8,000 Ontario children with autism into its newly created needs-based therapy program by the fall of 2022. By August, however, it had reportedly managed to register just 888 children, leaving officials with a seemingly impossible task to hit the target.

An internal progress report dated Oct. 31, 2022, obtained by Global News through a freedom of information request, shows that by mid-fall, the province remained thousands of spaces short of the government’s promise.

The report said that just 3,304 children had been enrolled in core clinical services by the Autumn of 2022, while just 1,511 children had entered into service funding agreements by Oct. 31.

The report defined an enrollment as having been completed when a family accepted an invitation to core clinical services, and not when children were actually seeing the benefits or funding flowing to families.

“The numbers clearly indicate what our community suspected was the case,” Alina Cameron, president of the Ontario Autism Coalition, told Global News.

“Up until at least Oct. 31, this whole thing has been an exercise in paper pushing. (I believe) most of the people in that 1,500 came from the legacy cohort, families that were previously in service … that wasn’t taking anyone off the waitlist.”

The figures are a far cry from the promise the province made to the families of children with autism at the end of 2021.

“This will provide stability for families, while enabling more children to access core clinical services,” the province said of its Ontario Autism Program in a Dec. 3, 2021, media release.

“The government is on track to meeting its commitment of providing 8,000 children with funding for core clinical services by fall 2022.”

In a statement to Global News, the Ford government argued it had not missed its target.

“We can confirm that we have met our target of enrolling 8,000 children and youth in core clinical services,” a spokesperson said. “Moving forward, our government remains focused on registering as many children and youth with AccessOAP as quickly as possible.”

They did not address a detailed list of questions, including examples of previous public statements and the data obtained by Global News. The spokesperson did not respond to follow-up questions.

The target referenced by the province was to “enroll” 8,000 children and young people in services, with no reference to a time frame.

That stands in contrast to previous pledges the province made. For example, the Dec. 3, 2021, media release promised 8,000 children would have “funding for core clinical services by fall 2022.”

The number of actual funding agreements in place by Oct. 31, halfway through the fall, was just 1,511 — 19 per cent of the stated 8,000 target.

Since the Ford government overhauled autism programs in Ontario, families face a complicated journey — one that has generally been slow.

First, a letter must be sent to eligible families asking them to enroll in the province’s new online portal. The portal is the gateway to autism services and, without it, families cannot begin the process required to get a funding agreement in place.

As of Oct. 31, a total of 25,517 letters were sent to families inviting them to transition to AccessOAP, the registration portal. That is a drop in the bucket of the roughly 60,000 families on Ontario’s registration list.

The list was recently removed from the government’s website, advocates with the Ontario Autism Coalition note.

The letters sent to families come with a code to enter the online system, effectively accepting the invitation. As of Oct. 31, roughly 40 per cent of those invited to transition to the new system — 10,032 — have accepted.

“Doug Ford’s record on autism funding is abysmal, but this is a new low,” said Monique Taylor, the Ontario NDP’s critic for children and community services.

“Today’s revelations show that Ford and Minister Fullerton couldn’t even come close to their own pitiful benchmark of funding just 8,000 kids in 2022.”

Once a family is in the system and registered, more steps follow before a funding agreement to receive services can be finalized.

After a child is registered for core services, a needs determination interview is scheduled. During that meeting, the funding level is calculated based on several factors.

Advocates with the Ontario Autism Coalition said they have heard reports from parents of interviews being scheduled far into the future. Then, once a needs determination has been completed, the funding agreement needs to be completed and sent off.

In some cases, errors in the paperwork and other delays can put the actual payment of a funding service even further into the future, advocates say.

“They destroyed a program without having another one ready to go and left tens of thousands of families at the edge of a cliff,” Cameron said.

— with files from The Canadian Press

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Logan Mailloux's magic leads London to their fourth win in a row

A natural hat trick is tough to come by.

A natural hat trick that happens with three consecutive power play goals is rare.

A natural hat trick with three power play goals that is completed with a lacrosse shot is a feat unto its own.

Logan Mailloux made it happen Saturday night in Erie.

Mailloux’s deluge in the final 20 minutes helped to lift the London Knights to a 5-1 victory over the Erie Otters at Erie Insurance Arena on Saturday night.

Toss in the fact that it was Star Wars night and things just seem to have been that much more surreal.

Mailloux scored at 8:03, 16:26 and 17:28 of the final period. He now has four goals in his past two games and 17 on the year.

Ryan Winterton helped to open the scoring in the first period when he picked off a puck in centre ice and zipped a pass ahead to Easton Cowan at the Otters blue line. Cowan skated into the Erie zone on the left side and snapped his 13th goal of the season over the glove of Nolan Lalonde just two minutes and 18 seconds into the game. The goal gave Cowan his 30th point on the year.

The Otters goal came short-handed at 12:16 of the first when Pano Fimis stole a puck deep in London territory and spun a pass in front to Noah Sedore to make it 1-1.

Sean McGurn broke the tie in the second period when he put on an exhibition in determination. The London co-captain got to a loose puck in centre ice on a penalty kill, poked it around a defender and somehow managed to control the bounces while fending off whacks and hacks from two Erie pursuers all the way to the Otter net. By that point McGurn had been fouled enough that a penalty was upcoming against the Otters but the call was never needed because McGurn finished the job by putting a shot past Nolan Lalonde for his 19th goal of the season. That gave the Knights a 2-1 lead.

Knights goalie Zach Bowen made 24 saves for his tenth consecutive win. Bowen is 10-1 on the year.

London outshot Erie 29-25.

Stan Butler made his coaching debut for the Otters against the Knights. Butler was hired on Jan 26. He has 737 career OHL victories.

All-Star weekend in the NHL

Former Knights Matthew Tkachuk and Mitch Marner were reunited and led the way at the 2023 NHL All-Star 3-on-3 tournament.

Tkachuk had five points in Team Atlantic’s semi-final victory and then added another goal and two assists in the final as they defeated Nathan MacKinnon and Team Central 7-5. Marner had three assists and Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin recorded a hat trick for Team Atlantic.

Tkachuk and Marner won the Memorial Cup playing in London, Ont., in 2016

Londoner Nick Suzuki won the Pitch ‘n Puck event that put players on the golf course with hockey pucks and hockey sticks. They had to go from tee to green using a white puck and were then able to switch to golf balls from there.

Suzuki tapped in for birdie like he was finding a teammate back door at the net and walked away with the inaugural title for an event that may or may not ever happen again. Brock Nelson edged Londoner and former Knight Nazem Kadri in the final of the Accuracy Shooting event and former Knight Mitch Marner was a runner-up in the Breakaway Contest.

Milestone watch

London Knights head coach Dale Hunter is 12 wins away from 900 career victories. Hunter is just 21 wins away from tying the late Bert Templeton for 2nd place all-time. Former Ottawa 67’s head coach Brian Kilrea is the winningest coach in OHL history. Kilrea amassed 1194 victories in his career.

Knights goalie Brett Brochu is just two wins away from tying Gene Chiarello for second place in all-time wins by a London goalie. The OHL began tracking goalie wins in the 1979-80 season. Brochu’s three saves in the shootout against the Kingston Frontenacs on Jan. 28 gave the overage netminder 81 career wins. Brochu is 11 wins away from Michael Houser for top spot on the Knights list.

Former London forward Patrick Kane is 25 points away from 800 in his career.

Up next

London will host the Flint Firebirds on Monday, Feb. 6 for Mitch Marner Bobblehead night.

The first 2,000 fans inside Budweiser Gardens will receive a Mitch Marner bobblehead.

The Knights and Firebirds have split the two games they have played against one another this year with each team winning i the other’s team’s building.

London will host Kitchener on Wednesday, Feb. 8 for the Don Brankley Hall of Fame induction game that will honour three new members of the hall: Dan Maloney, Rick Green and Dennis Wideman.

Coverage of both games will begin at 6:30 on 980 CFPL, at http://www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Tesla raises Model Y prices after U.S. alters tax credit rule

Tesla is in the spotlight once again, this time for claims the company faked its self-driving technology. Digital Living Expert Mike Agerbo has more on that story. Plus, move over Apple AirTag, Google is developing its own location tracker.

Tesla has raised prices on its Model Y in the U.S., apparently due to rising demand and changes in U.S. government rules that make more versions of the small SUV eligible for tax credits.

The Austin, Texas, electric vehicle company bumped up the price of the Model Y Long Range version by about 2% to US$54,990 and the Performance version by about 2.7% to US$57,990, according to its website. The prices exclude shipping and an order fee.

The moves, made Friday, come three weeks after Tesla cut prices nearly 20% on some versions of the Model Y, the company’s top-selling vehicle. The price cuts were made to boost sagging demand, and also to make more versions of the Model Y eligible for the US$7,500 electric-vehicle tax credit in the Inflation Reduction Act. The full tax credits will be available at least into March.

On Friday, The Treasury Department revised vehicle classification definitions to make more EVs — including SUVs made by Tesla, Ford and General Motors — eligible the full US$7,500.

The change came after lobbying by automakers that had pressed the Biden administration to change vehicle definitions to allow higher priced vehicles to qualify for a maximum credit. Tesla CEO Elon Musk met with top aides to President Joe Biden last week to discuss the EV industry and the broader goals of electrification.

Under the sweeping law approved last summer, pickup trucks, SUVs and vans with a sticker price up to $80,000 qualify for EV tax credits, while new electric cars, sedans and wagons can only be priced up to $55,000. The rule had disqualified some higher-priced SUVs, such as GM’s Cadillac Lyriq and some versions of the Model Y, prompting complaints from Tesla and other automakers.

The January price cuts apparently worked. On Tesla’s earnings conference call last week, CEO Elon Musk said that so far in January the company had seen the strongest number of orders year-to-date in company history. He also said the company had raised the Model Y price “a little bit in response to that.”

After Tesla’s price cuts, Ford responded by reducing the price of its Mustang Mach-E, in part to qualify for the tax credit and also to spur buyer interest. But crosstown rival General Motors said it had no plans to cut EV prices.

The EV tax credits are among a host of changes enacted in the Inflation Reduction Act, which Congress approved in August with only Democratic votes. The law is designed to spur EV sales as part of a broader effort to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

But a complex web of requirements, including where vehicles and batteries must be manufactured to qualify, has cast doubt on whether buyers can receive the full US$7,500 credit.

The Treasury Department said Friday that it hopes to make it easier for consumers to know which vehicles qualify for the credit. Under the revised rule, vehicle classifications will be determined by a consumer-facing fuel economy labeling standard, rather than a more complicated formula set by the Environmental Protection Agency, Treasury said.

A message was left Saturday seeking comment from Tesla on the price increases. The increases were reported Friday night by Bloomberg News.

© 2023 The Canadian Press

Object with balloon 'characteristics' flew over Colombia, air force confirms

The U.S. military has shot down the suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina and recovery is now underway. An investigation will soon begin into its mission. Washington says it was sent to monitor strategic sites in the continental United States and is a clear violation of U.S. sovereignty. Meanwhile, China is still insisting the object is a weather balloon that was blown off course. Jennifer Johnson has more on what's next as tensions between the two countries continue to rise.

An object with “characteristics similar” to a balloon entered Colombian airspace on Friday, according to the country’s air force command.

“On Feb. 3, 2023 in the morning, the National Air Defense System detected an object over 55,000 ft., which entered Colombian airspace in the northern sector of the country,” a press release from the air force said Saturday in Spanish.

The report comes the same day as the United States military shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast on orders from President Joe Biden after it traversed sensitive military sites across North America.

In a statement Saturday, Canada’s Minister of Federal Defence Minister Anita Anand says the nation “unequivocally supports” the United States government’s decision to shoot down the balloon, noting it violated Canadian airspace.

In Colombia, the air force tracked the suspected balloon until it left the airspace.

“It was determined that this element did not represent a threat to national security and defence, as well as to aviation safety,” Colombia’s air force said in the release in Spanish.

“The Institution carries out the pertinent investigations and coordination with different countries and institutions, to establish the origin of the object.”

– With files from The Associated Press

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Cartoon characters come alive at Vernon Winter Carnival Parade

There was a lot of excitement in Vernon this morning, hundreds of people gathered together to watch the annual Vernon Winter Carnival parade. Sydney Morton has the highlights.

Favourite cartoon characters through the decades leapt from the screen onto Vernon’s 27th street for the Vernon Winter Carnival Parade.

Local businesses decorated floats, automobiles and themselves as the Flintstones, Jetsons, Care Bears, Scooby Doo and more for the parade that brought hundreds of people to the downtown core of Vernon, B.C.

It’s all in accordance with this year’s theme, ‘CarnivalTV’, which celebrates TV Shows from past and present.

“So anything that you have ever seen on TV you can dress up as,” said Vernon Winter Carnival Society executive director Kris Fuller.

The spectacle marked the first full on festival since 2020.

“After two years of hosting a modified festival due to COVID-19 restrictions Vernon Winter Carnival is excited to return to regularly scheduled programming,” states a press release from the Vernon Winter Carnival Society.

Providing music in the parade were the Vernon Girls Trumpet Band, The Okanagan Military Tattoo and others.

“It’s good family fun, good community time,” said Jodie Dennison, who watched the parade with Dyson Dennison and their one-year-old french bulldog, Oreo.

This is just day two of 10 days of winter fun planned for the Vernon Winter Carnival happening all over town until Feb. 12. For a full list of events visit www.vernonwintercarnival.com

 

 

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

'Bit of a band-aid': Starbright contract extended two years

The Ministry for Children and Family Development has extended Starbright's contract for another two years, this comes after a month of parents and staff desperately trying to stop the closure. A rally was held in Kelowna Saturday morning, both celebrating the extension, but also fighting to keep the centre open permanently. Victoria Femia reports.

After a month of parents and staff desperately trying to stop the closure of the Starbright Children’s Development Centre, the Ministry for Children and Family Development has extended its contract for another two years.

A rally was held in Kelowna, B.C. Saturday morning, celebrating the extension, and also fighting to keep the centre open permanently.

“When you’re organizing this sort of thing you don’t really know what the uptake is. But we’ve had so many people join our group, signing petitions and we just knew the community was behind us,” said Amy Johnston, rally organizer and Support Starbright founder.

The extension was confirmed late Friday evening and on the surface, it appears to be a huge win for Starbright, but it’s also being looked at as a temporary solution for an inevitable problem.

“It is a bit of a band-aid as we will be running parallel to the FCC (Family Connection Centres) pilot, but it does give an opportunity for some of our waitlists to be addressed, and the FCC to see if they can handle the complex cases that we have. Although we are going to be regrouping and looking at what our next asks are,” said Carol Meise, Starbright Children’s Development Centre board chair.

The fight to keep Starbright open has caught the attention of BC Liberal leader Kevin Falcon, who urged premier David Eby to visit the centre after he was invited by Starbright staff.

Kelowna-Mission MLA Renee Merrifield says the extension is only a temporary solution.

“Really it’s not enough, it’s unnecessary trauma that this community is experiencing right now, having that support threatened,” said Merrifield.

The new system created by the government is called Pilot Family Connection Centres and is for children ages zero to 18 in four B.C. communities including Kelowna.

Ultimately this would end the ministry’s contract with Starbright. It would be given to ARC Programs, which is a private company that will contract out services to other private companies and non-profit organizations.

Parents are hoping Starbright and ARC can co-exist.

“I’m actually excited that there could be a new centre in town, but I want it to be building on the experience and the systems we already have in place not tearing it down,” said Johnston.

“We need to have more. There are kids who are falling through the cracks. It’s not about trying to do something new, it’s about figuring out what’s working and building to make it even better.”

The announcement to extend Starbright’s services came as a surprise to many parents, making some feel like there was a major lack of communication from the Ministry leaving some parents in the dark.

“There’s been no direct outreach with the parents and when you’re dealing with children who are higher needs, consistency and having a plan is the most important thing. You’re building on months and months if not years, of work,” Johnston said.

Parents and staff involved with Starbright say they will continue to fight to keep the centre open in the community.

The centre has helped children like 9-year-old Ania, who has now finished with Starbright and is hoping it will be here for other children.

“A lot of kids here need Starbright and if Starbright is shut down then they won’t have anywhere to go or anyone to help them,” said Ania.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Vandals target Penticton, B.C. BMX Club with racist graffiti

A bike park in Penticton has been targeted by vandalism and racist graffiti, leaving volunteers who run the Penticton BMX Club to clean up. As Jayden Wasney reports, hate-motivated graffiti appears to be on the rise in the Okanagan. Also, a warning to our viewers, the images depicted in this story are offensive.

A Penticton, B.C. BMX bike club was recently targeted by racist graffiti, marking a disturbing trend in the South Okanagan to start the new year.

On January 27, volunteers at the Penticton BMX Club were notified that a shed on their property had been hit by vandals.

Graphic imagery, racist and hate-motivated language can be seen spewed across the front of the building’s exterior wall, including references to the KKK and white power. The vandals also damaged parts of the shed.

Unfortunately, racist graffiti appears to be on the rise in the region.

In Summerland, just a day after the BMX park’s shed was defaced, a string of vehicles were spray painted with what police are calling “alarming words.”

“While someone may think that spray-painting a vehicle, or tagging or vandalism could come off as a joke, in incidences like these, this wasn’t received as a joke. Property offences and property crimes are very serious,” said Const. Dayne Lyons on Feb. 2.

Prior to that, several Penticton Indian Band signs were subjected to spray-painted racist remarks, drawing the ire of the public.

Although it is unknown if the events are connected at this time.

The BMX club is receiving an outpouring of responses on social media, denouncing the despicable act, including some members of the community offering to help clean up the mess.

Global News reached out to the organization, as well as the Penticton RCMP on the most recent incident, but did not receive responses.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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