THE WEEK IN REVIEW
New Giant Steps Autism Centre could be Canadian leader in autism educationA new Giant Steps Autism Centre now under construction in Montreal could make Quebec a Canadian leader in autism education, research and services reports Martin C. Barry of The Laval News. Scheduled to open in summer 2023, the 66,500 square foot building in the Rosemont district will meet the sensory and perceptual needs of autistic people, particularly in terms of the organization of spaces, choice of materials and types of lighting used. With a $15 million investment by the Quebec government as well as contributions from donors from the private sector and the autism community, 84 per cent of the total fundraising goal has been reached. The more than $7 million that still needs to be raised will ideally come from the private sector and federal government. An estimated 86 per cent of adults with autism are unemployed or underemployed, despite the fact many employers who have hired autistic individuals report above average overall job performance, less absenteeism, higher levels of accuracy in their tasks and other positive qualities. “There is a clear business case for hiring autistic individuals,” says André Pereira, project manager – employment initiatives at Giant Steps School. “This is not about charity or social responsibility, but rather about creating a more diversified workforce with employees who think outside the box, are loyal, productive and detail-oriented.”
Maple syrup producers to tap about 5 million more treesWithin two years, Quebec will be producing about 2 million gallons more maple syrup than it is now or the equivalent of 17 million more 540-ml cans on store shelves, writes Scott Stevenson of The Record. As a result, many maple producers are now hurriedly installing new pipelines in their sugar bushes, with this year’s sap run only two months away. Under Quebec’s maple syrup supply management system, the maple federation, the Producteurs et Productrices Agricoles du Québec, planned an increased supply for the province last year, handing out extra quota to qualified producers by an application and lottery system. The federation anticipated the increased demand and the quota to add supply, due to a “strong increase in sales and exports of maple syrup, and following mediocre production from the 2021 season,” according to a release. The federation has offered a new quota on 7 million taps. Given that some trees get more than one tap, as many as 5 million more maple trees in Quebec’s sugar bushes could be tapped in the coming months.
Agricultural groups say proposed law risks opening door to urban sprawlA coalition of agricultural groups is calling on the Quebec government to scrap certain provisions of Bill 10, which would divide agricultural land across the province to make buying lots more affordable for the next generation of farmers, writes The Advocate. The groups include the Union des producteurs agricoles, the Centre for Environmental Law and the community-supported non-profit Équiterre. “Everyone agrees that the division of land can, in certain circumstances, encourage the development of new agricultural projects,” the coalition wrote in a statement. “But given the many concerns expressed so far by a multitude of groups, the bill should be withdrawn in lieu of a future legislation that addresses these apprehensions.” By dividing existing farmland into smaller, less costly plots, Bill 103 aims to make the industry more accessible for all producers – not just those who are looking to set up large-scale operations. However, the coalition argues that Bill 103 leaves the door open for urban sprawl, as more affluent property owners or industries could start buying up smaller plots with no intention of farming them. If that happens, it fears the price of agricultural land will skyrocket, and there will be less land available for producers.
Largest indoor vertical strawberry farm in Canada opens in Vaudreuil-DorionThe largest indoor vertical strawberry farm in Canada has opened in Vaudreuil-Dorion, west of Montreal. It aims to revolutionize how strawberries and several vegetables are grown year-round in Canada, The Advocate reports. Covering 1,150 square metres of growing space, the industrial facility was launched by Winter Farm in partnership with Les Serres Vaudreuil. The facility is expected to produce more than 180,000 kilograms of winter strawberries between October and June. The winter berries are already available for sale in two locations and will soon be available at six area locations in the Montreal and Vaudreuil areas. One of the goals of the Winter Farm is to reduce the amount of strawberries imported into Canada by 10 per cent by 2025, replacing them with locally produced berries that will grow throughout the winter. The strawberry-growing facility is built inside a $4-million 20,000-square-foot greenhouse equipped with lights and climate-control technology, that regulates humidity and temperature and simulates sunshine and rain, creating the perfect growing climate for the berries. The light energy generated in the strawberry-growing space will be transformed into heat and used to warm the surrounding greenhouse. Converting the energy for a secondary purpose is expected to revolutionize how farmers in Canada can grow vegetables all year round.