Quebecers outside of the Greater Montreal Region will see some COVID-19 restrictions loosen when they pass into an Orange Zone after March Break (so Monday, March 8th). Montrealers and people living in Laval, Montérégie, the Laurentians and the Lanaudière region still have to wait at least a month before they leave the Red Zone.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement about the new Orange Zones in a press conference late this afternoon joined by Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services and National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda. He didn’t initially give a timeline for when Montreal would leave the Red Zone.

When asked by reporters, though, Legault said that while COVID numbers haven’t been increasing, new strains of the virus are now present in Montreal, which might make cases and hospitalizations rise again in the region. He feels that successfully vaccinating the most vulnerable, which is supposed to take a few weeks, will create a climate where restrictions can be loosened in the Greater Montreal Region as well.

In Orange Zones, gyms and show venues can re-open, restaurants can once again welcome dine-in customers and houses of worship can have a maximum of 25 people for services. Home visits, except for when someone lives alone, are still banned.

Legault says the government will be adding sports options in Red Zones and that he is looking into possibly re-opening show venues and increasing capacity at places of worship there as well.

The curfew will remain in effect across Quebec, but only begin at 9:30pm in Orange Zones while still running from 8pm to 5am in Red Zones.

Host Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Niall Clapham Ricardo discuss Canada’s Parliament voting for the Conservative Party motion to declare China’s treatment of the Uighur minority a genocide. Is this genuine concern for what is a real and tragic situation or is it political brinksmanship setting up the next Cold War? Are we ignoring other atrocities in China and around the world? Are we conveniently forgetting our own capitalist interests in the situation?

Follow Niall Clapham Ricardo on Twitter @NiallCRicardo

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter @jasoncmclean

With a pandemic still raging and plenty else to bring down the spirits happening on this planet, we finally get some news from outer space. Mars, in particular.

Last Thursday, NASA landed a rover called Perseverance on the surface of the Red Planet. While this is not a first, success isn’t always the case in missions like this, so it is kind of a big deal.

On Monday, NASA released a video of the successful landing (releasing such a video is a first):

Perseverance launched from Earth seven months ago, has six wheels and is roughly the size of a small car. It also carries a Mars helicopter called Ingenuity which will make the first-ever powered flight on another planet as it plans the best routes for future Mars rovers.

The rover also carries quite a bit of high tech equipment to take and analyze samples as well as to photograph the Martian environment. Most notable of the photo equipment is the Mastcam-Z, which has already produced two 360 Panorama shots on the surface, like this one taken in the Jezero Crater:

You can see all the images and panoramas and download them as extremely high res images through the NASA website.

NASA has also released audio from Mars through its SoundCloud channel (yes, NASA has a SoundCloud channel). One includes the noise the rover makes itself and this one excludes it, to give you an idea of what Mars sounds like:

Perseverance’s primary mission is to “seek signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth. ” It has one Martian year, or 687 Earth days to complete it.

Hopefully this means we’ll be getting more images. It’s nice not to write an op-ed about something that pisses me off, but rather about something interesting and inspirational. Even if the story comes from another planet.

As of this Thursday, Montrealers born in 1936 or earlier can register online or by phone to be vaccinated as of next week against COVID-19. Quebecers in the same age group living outside of Montreal can sign up for their vaccines the following week.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement during a press conference at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, one of the large venues turned into makeshift public vaccination centres.

Quebec is currently using the Pfizer vaccine, which requires two doses. When people get their first dose, they will be given an appointment for their second, which the government hopes will be within 90 days.

The plan is to give as many people as possible in the first group their first dose in the next two weeks and then move on to the next group. The government hasn’t decided if it will favour Montreal for the next stages as well as it is in the first.

The government has a list of ten ranks for its COVID vaccination priorities. This includes groups like people in seniors’ residences who have already, for the most part, been vaccinated. It does not include the 85+ group announced today.

While nothing is 100% certain, when it comes to the general population, the rollout list now looks something like this (source: Montreal Gazette)

  1. People 85 years old and older
  2. People 80 to 85 years old
  3. People 70 to 79 years old
  4. People 60 to 69 years old
  5. Adults under 60 with a risk of complications from COVID-19
  6. Essential workers and other health-care workers
  7. Other adults

Ultimately, every adult in the province is supposed to be vaccinated by the fall, but this is contingent on Quebec receiving all the vaccine doses, including the Moderna vaccine doses, they are expecting.

People must travel to a vaccination centre to take the Pfizer vaccine.

People can sign up for vaccines at quebec.ca/vaccincovid or by calling 1-877-644-4545. The government asks that people only call when it’s their group’s turn

Canada’s COVID-19 numbers may be improving and the vaccine rollout continues, but the pandemic is still very much here with new variants of the virus showing up. That reasoning has prompted the Federal Government to extend recovery benefits.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced several extensions in a press conference early this afternoon. The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) and Employment Insurance (EI) are all affected:

  • CRB (as well as the Canada Recovery Caregiver Benefit) will be extended to cover 38 weeks. It was previously covering 26 weeks.
  • The CRSB will now cover four weeks of missed work at $500. It previously covered two weeks at that rate.
  • EI availability will now be extended to 50 weeks. It was previously 26 weeks.

Trudeau applauded the province’s efforts to fight the pandemic but cautioned them against re-opening too quickly. He also repeated his promise that every Canadian who wants to be vaccinated against COVID will be by the fall.

Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Dawn McSweeney go through the week’s big news stories:

Quebec Premier François Legault injects himself into the campus “free speech” debate and considers restricting English school enrollment.

What Montreal events and festivals will go online in 2021 and which will happen in person?

Ted Cruz leaves Texas freezing.

Justin Trudeau’s new gun control measures.

Dawn Mc Sweeney is an author and FTB contributor, follow her on Twitter @mcmoxy

Jason C. McLean is the Editor-in-Chief of ForgetTheBox.net, follow him on Twitter @jasoncmclean

Quebec’s COVID-19 infection numbers are dropping, but according to Premier François Legault, new variants of the virus and Spring Break coming up mean the province will only be rolling back restrictions slightly.

In a late afternoon press conference, the Premier, joined by Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services and National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda, announced that movie theatres, arenas and indoor pools, even those in Red Zones like Montreal, can re-open on Friday, February 26th. Other types of performance venues will remain closed.

Also, up to eight people will be allowed to do outdoor activities together. Only the Outaouais Region will move from a Red Zone to an Orange Zone.

Renting a chalet or hotel in another region will be permitted. Police, though, will be on the lookout for signs that people are staying there with people outside their bubble.

The 8pm to 5am curfew, though, will remain in effect at least until March 8, as will the ban on private home visits. Legault says they will see how Spring Break goes and then make a determination on lifting it.

The Government of Canada wants to render the roughly 1500 assault-style guns they had previously banned last May effectively useless as a firearms. This is coupled with a buyback program for the banned weapons that were purchased legally before their sale was outlawed and red flag laws.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just announced Bill C-21 in a press conference, joined by Bill Blair, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, who had tabled the bill in the House of Commons this morning, as well as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland and others.

The Executive Order that followed the shooting spree in Nova Scotia banned the sale, use and transport of these military-style weapons, but it only affected those not yet in circulation. People who had legally bought these firearms prior to the ban were given an amnesty while the government figured out what to do next.

With Bill C-21, all weapons included in the May ban but purchased before it came into effect can no longer be legally fired (at a gun range or anywhere), transported, transported, sold or bequeathed to another person. Those, such as gun collectors, who want to keep their weapons, must store them in a safe way and will be held responsible if criminals end up with them.

This is meant to be incentive for people to take part in a buyback program and sell their now legally useless guns to the government. Details and cost of this program will be worked out in the coming months as the bill makes its way through Parliament.

The Government also wants to enact red flag laws that will allow friends, family and neighbours to report potentially dangerous situations (domestic abuse, self-harm) where a gun is present and have that gun taken away before it can be used.

C-21 would also allow municipalities to ban guns, handguns in particular, on their territory.

Jason C. McLean and Samantha Gold discuss Lucasfilm firing, or rather, not re-hiring The Mandalorian star Gina Carano after months of transphobic, anti-mask and finally anti-Semetic tweets. Will the role be re-cast? What about the fans still backing her?

Samantha Gold is an artist, disability activist and FTB contributor. Follow her artist page on Facebook @samiamart

Jason C. McLean is the Editor-in-Chief of ForgetTheBox.net Follow him on Twitter @jasoncmclean

It’s official: As of last week, the Proud Boys are a terrorist organization according to the Canadian Government. Last Wednesday, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair added the group, along with 12 others including two neo-Nazi groups, to the Federal Government’s list of terrorist organizations on Wednesday.

This was due, in part, to pressure from Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. Also, the fact that the group took part in the violent attempted coup at the US Capitol last month probably motivated this decision more than a bit, despite Blair’s claims that it wasn’t a factor.

While this move, inevitably, has garnered Canada international coverage as well as praise, we can’t ignore the fact that the Proud Boys are, sadly, a Canadian export. Or at least they aren’t an import.

Founder Gavin McInnes is from Montreal, despite founding the group in the US. And while he isn’t the current leader, his ideas still dominate the Proud Boys.

It Took A While

Regardless, they are active here and have been since their founding in 2016 with hardly any pushback from the Federal Government. We can’t forget that.

We also can’t forget that this is the same group that harassed peaceful native protestors while carrying the Red Ensign Flag. Was that supposed to be a Canadian far-right attempt at a Confederate Flag?

We also can’t ignore the fact that, from the start, they have been and continue to be a white supremacist and misogynist (or as they call it: “western chauvinist”) organization. Their final initiation requirement is to get into a physical confrontation with a “member of Antifa.”

Since “Antifa” isn’t an actual organization and just means anti-Fascist, it’s been clear from the start that the Proud Boys are violent defenders of fascism. Still, that wasn’t enough for the Government of Canada to do something about them.

Neither was their participation in Charlottesville, where they marched alongside neo-Nazis and where one counter-protester was murdered. This is around when the US-based Southern Poverty Law Center classified them as a Hate Group.

But not Canada. No, it took their participation in an actual failed coup attempt in another country that resulted in multiple deaths for our government to act.

Canada Has No Excuse

The United States actually has an excuse for not trying to do anything about the Proud Boys on the federal level. The sitting President, up until a few weeks ago, was a wannabe fascist himself (albeit an inept and ineffectual one).

They were in his base. He called them “good people” and told them to “stand back and stand by” during a debate.

He was happy to give the terrorist label to Antifa, despite them being more of a concept than a group. This left the Proud Boys to be covered by the country’s anything goes free speech laws.

Canada, on the other hand, has hate speech laws. We also have (currently and during every year of the Proud Boys’ existence) a Prime Minister who espouses inclusivity and other progressive values every chance he gets.

We have no excuse for waiting this long. Of course, I’m not the least bit surprised:

  • White fishermen in Nova Scotia terrorized Mi’kmaq Community (vandalism, arson) this past summer and fall while the RCMP just looked on.
  • Closer to (my) home, synagogues and mosques are routinely vandalized in Montreal. Police do investigate, but never seem to go beyond the specific incident to a larger pattern.
  • Quebec’s Premier still refuses to admit that systemic racism even exists here.

And those are just a few recent examples.

Hate groups exist in Canada. Just because the PM isn’t inviting them over for Tim Hortons doesn’t mean the government is doing enough, or anything, to combat right-wing extremism here at home.

Yes, we did something about the Proud Boys at the federal level, finally. That is a good thing, don’t get me wrong, but it’s really just a necessary first step that we waited far too long to take.

Featured Image: Troll, a painting by Samantha Gold

Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the federal, provincial and municipal governments’ responses to the COVID pandemic. They cover the curfew, museums re-opening, summer street terrasses, outsourcing benefit service and more.

Dawn McSweeney is an author and occasional FTB contributor. Follow her on Twitter @mcmoxy

Jason C. McLean is the Editor-in-Chief of forgetthebox.net Follow him on Twitter @jasoncmclean

Non-essential businesses with storefronts will be allowed to re-open across Quebec on February 8th. Meanwhile, the province-wide curfew will remain in effect until at least February 22nd.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement in a press conference late this afternoon. He was joined by National Public Health Director Doctor Horacio Arruda and Health Minister Christian Dubé.

This re-opening includes places like hairdressers and museums (even those in shopping malls) everywhere, but gyms and restaurant dining rooms will only be able to re-open on the 8th in Orange Zones (Montreal, along with 90% Quebec is in a Red Zone).

Orange Zone movie theatres will re-open, with increased social distancing requirements at the end of the month. Bars remain closed province-wide.

Legault also announced that the curfew in Orange Zones will begin at 9:30pm as of the 8th. It will still run from 8pm to 5am in Red Zones.

Home gatherings remain banned across Quebec.

Off the bat, it’s important to state that I am in no way a financial advisor, a financial journalist or someone who has ever come close to thinking about buying stock. For me, Wall Street is that place that some people occupied for a few months early last decade.

I am, though, someone who knows hypocrisy when I see it. And judging by the GameStop Reddit Saga that went public yesterday and continues to unfold, hedge funds and many higher ups on Wall Street and in the US financial media are full of it.

Here is what happened, in as much of a nutshell as I can put it in (again, this isn’t my beat):

  • Hedge funds routinely short sell stocks of companies they think will fail as a way of both helping that failure along and profiting off the company’s misfortunes.
  • Independent traders (or “retail investors”) on the subreddit wallstreetbets decided that some shorted stocks needed their support and bought shares in GameStop, AMC and Nokia en masse.
  • GameStop’s stock price shot through the roof yesterday and hedge funds lost big. Melvin Capital even got a close to $3 billion bailout from other Wall Street firms to stay afloat.
  • People on Wall Street started freaking out. Many called for what happened to be investigated and for something to be done to stop it from happening again.
  • Today, the now ironically-named Robinhood trading app followed brokerage firms like TD and moved to restrict trading of GameStop shares. This move has prompted calls from politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to investigate Robinhood’s actions.

Now among the voices calling for something to be done about retail traders on Reddit affecting stock prices was that of investor and hedge fund manager Michael Burry. He’s the guy who famously bet against the housing bubble before it crashed in 2008, plunging the US economy, and by extension, the global economy, into a tailspin (while, at the same time, drastically improving his personal finances).

Yesterday Burry took to Twitter to call what happened with the GameStop share price “unnatural, insane, and dangerous” and claim that there should be “legal and regulatory repercussions” for those involved. He later deleted the tweet.

Just speculating here (there’s probably a pun in that)…maybe he deleted it because he realized that his indignation now might be compared to how he felt about profiting off millions of people losing their home. Or maybe he remembered that regulation is the last thing Wall Street wants.

For decades, hedge funds have treated the stock market as a casino, a game they are entitled to play. They have never seen a problem with manipulating the price of stocks through their bets.

Any attempt to regulate what they do is treated as an attack on free market capitalism itself. Now, though, many of these same people want protection from the free market because a group of people who aren’t in the same club have learned to use it as well as they can, if not better.

To be clear, I am in no way a free market capitalist, or even a capitalist, really. Those who do believe in the free market, though, should be appalled at how the hedge funds are now attacking it.

I had always hoped the hedge funds would be taken down from the outside and firmly believe that people who profit off the misery of others are just plain jerks. Traders on wallstreetbets, or at least a good chunk of them, as seen in statements on the subreddit, probably agree with the second part of my statement.

The only difference is they want to take down the hedge funds by using the free market. By playing the game.

If you don’t think the Reddit traders have a right to do what they are doing, or feel there should be rules in place against them, then you can never call yourself a free market capitalist again.

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Homeless people are now exempt from Quebec’s 8pm to 5am curfew thanks to a ruling early this evening from the Quebec Superior Court. Judge Chantal Masse ruled that “the measure as worded would not apply to people experiencing homelessness” given that homeless people don’t have a home to go to at night.

Quebec Premier François Legault has repeatedly rejected calls from opposition leaders, the Mayor of Montreal, and others to give homeless people a curfew exemption. Now, with the ruling, his refusal is moot, at least until February 5th (the ruling exempts the homeless until then).

A group of legal-aid lawyers called the Clinique Juridique Itinérante brought the case on behalf of the homeless. Masse agreed with the plaintiffs, saying that “the measure infringes the right to life, liberty and security of the person protected by the Canadian and Quebec charters for people experiencing homelessness.”

There is no word on whether or not the Legault Government plans to appeal the decision.

Featured image of the Palais de Justice in Montreal by Jeangagnon via Wikimedia Commons