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In today's Morning Brief, we have the stories of entrepreneurs who lost their businesses due to the pandemic. We also look at how only a fraction of Ontario's COVID-19 cases have used the national COVID Alert app to report their infection.

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What it's like to pull the plug on your business during the pandemic

The numbers are still coming in about how many businesses have been shuttered as a result of COVID-19. But evidence of the tens of thousands of businesses that have closed can be found in shopping malls and on main streets across Canada. 

Behind the figures and boarded-up businesses is the human toll the closures had on the entrepreneurs who saw their passions, dreams and financial lifeblood disappear. These are some of the stories of entrepreneurs from different industries who faced that arduous reality and agreed to share details about their businesses' downfall.

It only took a few days after the Alberta government forced Scott McDermott to close down his fitness gym that he realized the ultimate fate of his business. Leading up to the coronavirus lockdown in March, he had already cancelled group workouts and child-minding services as fears grew about the coronavirus pandemic. He and his staff were busy preparing online workouts, meal plans and programs for members.

Two days after Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake, a resort town in central Alberta, was told to close its doors, McDermott met with his bookkeeper. As they looked over the numbers, it hit him. No matter how successful the online offerings were, there was no financial path to overcoming how deep of a hit COVID-19 was going to have on his gym.

"I just had to stop and go, 'You know what, this isn't gonna work.'" That March night he wept at his desk until 2 a.m. After 18 years in business, it was over.

Watch | The many challenges facing this salon owner were hard to overcome:

The many challenges facing this salon owner were hard to overcome

Calgary

1 month agoVideo
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Brianna Hallet was able to re-open SwizzleSticks after the lockdown measures, but it proved to be difficult. 2:25


Unlike McDermott, Brianna Hallet was able to reopen her hair salon after the lockdown began in March. However, as the summer wore on, it became clear that SwizzleSticks Salon Spa in Calgary was no longer viable.

Adhering to health restrictions meant operating at less than half capacity with up to seven stylists working at one time, even though there are 16 chairs. The spa side of her business never did reopen to offer massages, facials and other services.

The end of SwizzleSticks is still a painful reality for Hallet, who worked there for 14 years and was the owner for the last six years. "It's been hard. It's been a really tough identity thing. I didn't realize how much of my identity I placed within SwizzleSticks. Even last night, I was journaling some thoughts, and it's still — it's the identity," she said, along with grief and mourning.  Read more on this story here.

Rising cases in Spain

(Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Team Newfoundland and Labrador left to right — skip Brad Gushue, third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker, alternate Jeff Thomas and coach Jules Owchar — hoist the Brier Tankard trophy after defeating Team Alberta in the Brier curling final in Kingston, Ont., on Sunday evening. Read more about the Gushue team's win here.

In brief

Only a fraction of Ontario's COVID-19 cases have used the national COVID Alert app to report their infections, hampering the app's effectiveness in slowing the second wave of the pandemic in the province. Figures provided by the provincial government show COVID Alert users have reported 1,354 cases through the app since its launch on July 31. Given that Ontario has had more than 25,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since then, this means roughly five per cent of those infected with the novel coronavirus have used the app to report their case, which would then warn other users of potential exposure if they had been within two metres of that person for at least 15 minutes in the preceding two weeks. However, those figures do not mean the app should be written off as a failure, according to public health experts. "There's an adage in public health that absolutely no manoeuvre is going to be 100 per cent effective, ever," said Susan Bondy, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Read more on the use of the app here.

A Liberal official complained to his superiors last year about the Prime Minister's Office playing an overbearing role in the judicial appointment process, warning that partisan considerations have created the "potential for a scandal," according to emails obtained by Radio-Canada. The internal warning came from François Landry, an aide who worked directly on the judicial appointment process in the office of Justice Minister David Lametti at the time. "Need to talk about what PMO requires us to do prior to a judicial appointment. It raises some concerns," Landry wrote to chief of staff Rachel Doran on Feb. 18, 2019. "I think we need to be more cautious considering what is happening. I want to protect the minister … and myself." Concerns within the federal government about the PMO's role in the vetting process for candidates for judicial office — and its insistence on consultations with cabinet ministers, Liberal MPs, plugged-in lawyers and Liberal officials before appointments are made — go beyond Landry's stated qualms, according to sources and other internal government emails. Read more on the concerns being raised about judicial appointments.

A proposed new class-action lawsuit has been filed against Veterans Affairs Canada accusing it of failing to inform former soldiers, sailors and aircrew about the federal benefits to which they are entitled. A statement of claim was filed in Federal Court last month by veterans advocate Sean Bruyea. The claim is being spearheaded by lawyer Peter Driscoll, who successfully sued the Department of National Defence over military pension clawbacks and secured an $887-million settlement. The new case focuses on the handling of the former Supplementary Retirement Benefit. Bruyea had been eligible for the benefit before it was terminated by the Liberal government as part of its reform of veterans benefits, which came into effect in April 2019. According to the court filing, Bruyea could have received a lump sum payout — equal to 69 months of the Supplementary Retirement Benefit — "had he been properly advised by the Department of the eligibility requirements" of the program. A spokesperson for Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay said he was aware of the case but was unable to comment on it directly. Read more on the suit here.

Students at the University of Ottawa are condemning a letter signed by 34 professors at the school defending a colleague who was suspended for using the N-word in class. Part-time University of Ottawa professor Verushka Lieutenant-Duval was suspended Sept. 23 after a student complained she had said the N-word during a class as an example of a word that a community has reclaimed. In response to the suspension, 34 professors signed a letter of support for her on Friday — the day Lieutenant-Duval returned to teaching — saying that the use of the term can offer educational value and that a classroom is a place for debate. In a statement posted to social media, the school's Students Union called the professors' letter "appalling." The University of Ottawa released a statement Monday saying Lieutenant-Duval subsequently apologized for using the term in class and invited students to discuss its use. The school also offered students an opportunity to continue the class with a different instructor. Read more on this story here.

Just five per cent of Canadian children met basic physical activity guidelines early on in the pandemic, which is why school phys-ed programs are now looking for alternatives to get students to work up a sweat in a safe fashion. As a result of physical distancing measures and increased remote learning, children have had more sedentary time during the pandemic, and that has had implications for schools planning physical education. The Toronto District School Board, for instance, has asked gym teachers to cancel fall fitness training after phys-ed instructors reported that students' physical activity levels have been alarming so far. "They've noticed that kids are out of breath immediately, so the lack of physical activity that's taken place over the last seven months is showing," said George Kourtis, who heads the TDSB's phys-ed program. Even so, educators say it's imperative that kids get a workout of some sort. But that comes with challenges in a remote learning environment. Read more about students and phys-ed here.

Watch | Kids lacking physical activity during pandemic:

Kids lacking physical activity during pandemic

News

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NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission will make history today as it attempts its first collection of material from an asteroid that will then be returned to Earth in 2023. The spacecraft — which arrived at the asteroid Bennu in 2018 — will conduct a touch-and-go manoeuvre. "Due to the low gravity, we can't actually land on the surface of Bennu. So we'll only be kissing the surface with a short touch and go, measured in just seconds," Beth Buck, OSIRIS-REx mission operations program manager for Lockheed Martin Space, said Monday. Compressed nitrogen gas will be pumped out onto the surface, which will stir up particles that will then be collected by a sampler. This crucial part of the mission was made possible, in part, by the Canadian Space Agency's OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter, which mapped the surface of Bennu in 3D. Read here for more on this story and how you can watch the collection.

Now for some good news to start your Tuesday: Hamilton, Ont., teen Raihan Audu spent two days cooking a Thanksgiving meal entirely by himself for his family. The 14-year-old never imagined that a photo of the feast would bring at least a little joy to hundreds of thousands of people. His older brother, Fadel, posted a photo of the meal on Twitter — showing bowls full of sweet and savoury foods, with Raihan at the helm of the table. "I checked his Twitter, and it was already at 10,000 likes. And then it kept on going up, and it was overwhelming," Raihan said, noting that the comments on the post were telling him what a good job he had done. "It was really nice." The picture has now been liked more than 790,000 times, with almost 70,000 retweets. Raihan started helping his mother make Thanksgiving dinner when he was 10 years old, but over the past few years, he's taken more of a lead. Read more about the young chef here.

Front Burner: The truth about who murdered Christine Jessop

After 36 years, an infamous cold case involving the rape and mutilation of a little girl has finally been solved. The horrific mystery surrounding the abduction and murder of Christine Jessop captured the attention of the nation in the '80s and led to the wrongful conviction of an innocent man.

Today, former CBC investigative journalist Linden MacIntyre has come out of retirement to explain why it took nearly four decades to uncover Jessop's killer and what haunting questions still remain.

Today in history: October 20

1873: Nellie McClung — suffragist, reformer and legislator — is born at Chatsworth, Ont.

1903: The Joint Commission set up by Great Britain and the United States to arbitrate the disputed Alaskan boundary rules in favour of the U.S. The deciding vote was Britain's, which embittered Canada. The U.S. gained ports on the panhandle coast of southeast Alaska.

1920: B.C. voters reject Prohibition in a plebiscite. They vote instead for government control of alcoholic beverages. 

1992: The first World Series game outside the United States is played in Toronto between the Blue Jays and the Atlanta Braves. The Jays win the game 3-2. 

With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters

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