Canada to match donations to Lebanon relief

OTTAWA — The federal government will match all individual donations from Canadians to humanitarian relief efforts in Lebanon following this week’s deadly explosion in Beirut.

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OTTAWA — The federal government will match all individual donations from Canadians to humanitarian relief efforts in Lebanon following this week’s deadly explosion in Beirut.

International Development Minister Karina Gould says Canadians can help the Lebanese people who have lost loved ones, been injured or lost homes from the explosion by giving generously.

“Concerted humanitarian action is required to meet the immediate needs of people impacted by the blast, including health care food, shelter and water,” she said.

“My message to Canadians is this: the best way that you can help is to donate money, and for your contribution to be matched by the government of Canada, donations must be made to the humanitarian coalition or one of its partners.”

Donations made by Canadians before Aug. 24 to the Humanitarian Coalition — a group of 12 established aid organizations working on the ground in Lebanon — or to one of the coalition’s members will be matched by the federal government, up to a maximum of $2 million.

This matching fund is part of $5 million in emergency aid pledged by Ottawa earlier this week after Tuesday’s blast in Lebanon’s capital. Another $1.5 million of aid has been earmarked for the Lebanese Red Cross.

Canada is directing all of its aid for this crisis directly to humanitarian organizations, not the Lebanese government, to ensure the assistance goes to those in need, Gould said.

“What we are focused on right now is responding to the emergency at hand, working through trusted NGOs and international partners that are operating on the ground to make sure that we’re getting the assistance to the Lebanese people in need, the most vulnerable, so that we can save lives, so that we can protect the vulnerable and make sure that we are helping them get through this crisis as fast as possible.”

Earlier this week, Gould told reporters any direct aid to the government of Lebanon would only come with “significant fiscal and political reforms” in light of widespread domestic and international concerns about corruption and poor governance in the country.

The country is led by a political ruling class, made up mostly of former civil war-era leaders, and it is now being blamed for incompetence and mismanagement that contributed to Tuesday’s explosion.

This has sparked protests of anger, which led to clashes between security forces and demonstrators Saturday in central Beirut.

The blast is believed to have happened when a fire touched off a stockpile of 2,750 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate that authorities left sitting in a warehouse for years – despite years of repeated warnings from officials that it posed a danger.

The Aug. 4 explosion has left at least 150 people dead, and thousands injured. More than 300,000 people have lost their homes.

Bill Chambers, president and CEO of Save the Children, one of the Humanitarian Coalition’s member organizations, says he hopes Canada’s matching fund program will encourage Canadians to seize the opportunity to double the size of their donation.

“This horrific incident could not have occurred at a worse time and has hit communities that were already suffering from the impact of COVID-19 and the economic deterioration in Lebanon,” he said.

“Over 100,000 children are now homeless and in need of immediate care.”

Even before the explosion, thousands of people were struggling to feed themselves and their families due to an economic and financial crisis in the country. The explosion has only worsened the situation on the ground for the most vulnerable, Chambers said.

“What is needed in the immediate emergency to keep these people alive is funds, dollars that can be, first of all, matched by the Canadian government and can be put to the most urgent needs in the moment, on the ground,” he said.

Gould says Canada has so far received 64 requests for assistance from Canadians in Lebanon, but due to privacy concerns she could not share details except that these requests have included inquiries about consular support.

“Canadian-based and locally engaged staff in Beirut are regrouping and the embassy will be open again on Monday, Aug. 10,” Gould said.

Lack of bees, pollination limiting crop

WINNIPEG — A lack of wild bees and managed honey bees is limiting pollination and yields for certain crops on farms in British Columbia and across the United States, a collective of researchers has found.

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WINNIPEG — A lack of wild bees and managed honey bees is limiting pollination and yields for certain crops on farms in British Columbia and across the United States, a collective of researchers has found.

Their study published Tuesday in the Royal Society’s journal Biological Sciences used data from more than 130 farms to assess the pollination of crop flowers and yield for apples, highbush blueberries, sweet and tart cherries, almonds, pumpkins and watermelon.

Of those crops, the study found five frequently showed evidence of pollinator limitation, suggesting that the protection of wild bees and greater investment in honey bee colonies is likely to boost yields.

It notes that crops dependent on pollinators generate more than US$50 billion each year in the United States and declining bee populations raise concerns about food security in years to come.

The researchers collaborated to gain a “comprehensive understanding of our reliance on a lot of these pollinators for these really vitamin rich, nutritionally rich foods,” said Kyle Bobiwash, a co-author and assistant professor in the department of entomology at the University of Manitoba.

Blueberry crops in B.C. were among those most affected by limited pollination, said Bobiwash.

On some farms, he said, “there was a tremendous amount of pollen limitation, meaning there were a lot of flowers not actually getting pollinated sufficiently to set fruit.”

But the results varied by farm, said Bobiwash, noting he was involved in earlier research that showed some farms where crops had better pollination boosted yields by as much as 30 per cent.

“It amounted to thousands and thousands of dollars per acre, just because they had slightly better bee populations than other farms.”

Better pollination can also produce heavier, more juicy and likely tastier berries, he said.

“If you have a lot of pollen and you’re setting a lot more seed, you really invigorate this berry and you get all those biochemical processes happening. So, it’s going to gain more water (and) sugar, it’s going to produce more secondary metabolites, which are the little flavour compounds.”

Global demand for crops that are dependent on pollinators has increased, said Bobiwash, while the development of those crops often cuts into bee habitat.

At the same time, he said, climate change could affect the close relationship between plants and pollinators.

“As temperatures warm, plants might respond by blooming earlier (and) bees might respond by emerging earlier. But that’s not guaranteed,” said Bobiwash.

“We might have a plant blooming before the pollinators it evolved with emerge.”

Increasing pollination and crop yield isn’t as simple as bringing more honey bees to every farm, said Bobiwash. While the study showed different bees provided comparable amounts of pollination for most crops, he said some responded best to honey bees, such as almonds in California, and others benefited most from wild bees.

The results of the study point to the importance of protecting and enhancing habitat for wild bees, which could include wildflowers and certain weeds that farmers would normally remove, he said.

B.C. to announce plans for September return to school amid COVID-19 pandemic

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government is set to announce its updated plan for a safe return for public schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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VICTORIA — The British Columbia government is set to announce its updated plan for a safe return for public schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Education Minister Rob Fleming says the plan was developed in consultation with a committee made up of teachers, parents, First Nations, principals, trustees, school boards, support workers and health and safety officials.

He says the plan builds on the lessons learned last May when Kindergarten-to-Grade 5 students had the option to attend school half time and those in grades 6 to 12 could attend one day a week while continuing with virtual classes.

Fleming told the legislature Tuesday the updated plan includes health and safety protocols to ensure a safe restart for in-class instruction that will be ready for the first day of school on Sept. 8.

He says the plan also includes measures nimble enough to react to the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19.

Fleming says provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and representatives for B.C. school trustees and parent advisory councils will attend today’s news conference at the B.C. legislature introducing the plans.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2020.