It all the time appeared odd that Joni Mitchell’s “River” turned a Christmas normal. The music actually incorporates bits of “Jingle Bells,” and the opening verses describe vacation actions. However it’s basically a few unhappy longing to flee the ache of heartbreak whereas evoking a metaphor from her residence province, Saskatchewan: “I want I had a river/I may skate away on.”

However this yr for many people who have a good time Christmas, the tune’s need to get away from present circumstances resonates. As has been the case this yr with so many different issues we take without any consideration, the pandemic has stripped down the gatherings with households and buddies which might be the essence of the vacation. And 1000’s of Canadian households went into the vacation season having misplaced family members taken away by the virus.

Many provincial governments, significantly these in Ontario and Quebec, have imposed new restrictions for the vacation interval as they grapple with rising an infection charges and strained hospitals.

For all of us at The Instances, the pandemic has introduced a heightened curiosity in our work in addition to new approaches, and limitations, to how we do it.

The torrent of coronavirus information and the curiosity in it amongst you led to the creation of a live briefing devoted to it. For a part of this yr, I spent most of my work time on the group that produces it. The briefing started as an experiment. However its format proved so widespread that it was tailored for different main occasions of the yr, together with the racial strife that swept the US and the presidential elections there, with related success.

For me, working from a house workplace was nothing new. I’ve been doing it since 1996. However, on one other degree, all of Canada is generally my office. Not this yr. My final journey exterior of Ontario or Quebec was in January. I went to Edmonton to report on the mourning amongst members of the city’s large Iranian community after a flight from Tehran to Ukraine was shot down by a missile. Among the many 176 individuals who died, 85 had been Canadian residents or everlasting residents, a lot of them from the town. A lot of college and employees from the College of Alberta had been among the many victims.

Since then, quarantine restrictions have made it impractical to report from Atlantic Canada and Manitoba. My editors, rightly, have been involved that areas with low charges of an infection or massive numbers of susceptible folks won’t be all that happy to see reporters. And I made a private resolution to not fly, limiting my in-person reporting radius to driving distances.

Whereas I’ve actually reported on occasions exterior of Ontario and Quebec, the few in-person reporting journeys I’ve made this yr underscored the restrictions of doing the work by telephone, video name or electronic mail. For instance, had I not ridden my bike all the way down to Parliament for an article in regards to the Dominion Carillonneur’s effort to maintain the Peace Tower bells ringing out music, I by no means would have found Paul de Broeck, the No. 1 fan of the chiming performances.

The performing arts, after all, have been partly curtailed by the pandemic. However performers are by definition artistic folks. And my Montreal-based colleague Dan Bilefsky wrote this week a few real brilliant spot throughout this-less-than-optimal vacation season.

I hope you’ll learn Dan’s full story. The short take is {that a} Toronto opera firm assembled performers from throughout Canada to create an 80-minute video model of Handel’s “Messiah” that, Dan wrote, “mixes the sacred and profane because it journeys from Canada’s Far North to an city hockey rink, partaking in a little bit of excessive camp and translating passages into six languages, together with Arabic, French, Dene and Inuttitut.”

[Read: A ‘Messiah’ for the Multitudes, Freed From History’s Bonds]

Above all, it’s an excellent instance of how Canadians are nonetheless coming collectively whereas we have to stay bodily aside.

  • The Emmy success of “Schitt’s Creek” has introduced a surge of “Schittheads” to the areas the place the comedy sequence was filmed. Catherine Porter writes: “Some arrive in character, dressed as Moira, the dramatic matriarch who has named her treasured wigs like kids, or Alexis, the socialite daughter. They spend cash on the native bakery and basic retailer, but additionally peer into home windows, clog parking spots, and in a number of instances, stroll into properties.”

  • The Trump administration is contemplating a request to grant Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia immunity from a lawsuit that accuses him of attempting to kill a former Saudi intelligence official now dwelling in Toronto.

  • The surprisingly well-preserved stays of a wolf pup that died about 50,000 years in the past in what’s now the Yukon are on show in Whitehorse, “body and fur intact, lips shrunken again so her tooth are seen in what appears to be like a bit like a snarl.”

  • Stephanie Rosenbloom, with some assist from Dan Bilefsky, has created a information to pretending that you’re visiting Quebec City.


A local of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Instances for the previous 16 years. Comply with him on Twitter at @ianrausten.


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