Tag someone who snores obnoxiously when they drink. This is hysterical!
Tag someone who snores obnoxiously when they drink. This is hysterical!
While Ontario and Quebec are the epicentres of COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada, people in First Nations are being hit the hardest in Western Canada, where they make up half the number of hospitalizations in some provinces. The rising curve is alarming federal officials, who urged the provinces during a press conference in Ottawa on Wednesday to continue prioritizing Indigenous populations as they roll out vaccines. "So what we're saying to Canadians, to Indigenous Peoples, is now is not the time to let down your guard," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said. "This is not the time to ease public health restrictions." As of Jan. 19, Indigenous Services Canada was reporting 5,571 active cases on reserves — most of them in Prairie provinces: British Columbia: 580 Alberta: 1,312 Saskatchewan: 1,196 Manitoba: 2,241 Ontario: 93 Quebec: 144 Atlantic: 5 Indigenous Services Canada has reported 13,873 confirmed COVID-19 cases on reserves since last March. More than 90 per cent are in Western Canada: British Columbia: 1,348 Alberta: 4,459 Saskatchewan: 3,525 Manitoba: 3,643 Ontario: 428 Quebec: 462 Atlantic: 8 First Nation leaders and health experts say there are several reasons why infections are increasing in First Nations in Western Canada, including overcrowding, gatherings, people letting their guard down, relaxed restrictions and people driving in and out of communities with road access for goods and work. Lack of housing With COVID-19 caseloads rising all across Canada, the pandemic is emerging in places where it wasn't before, said Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist at Temerty Faculty of Medicine and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "It's quite concerning that COVID is starting to break into these communities," Banerji said. "They've held the forts for so long." Banerji researched respiratory infections in Inuit communities for over two decades. She said the main risk factors facing First Nations are poor access to health care services, underlying ailments, food insecurity, poverty and overcrowding. Banerji said she fears that when people get sick in First Nations, they can't find places to self-isolate. Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair of Opaskwayak Cree Nation, 628 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, said his community needs 600 more houses. "When you have people living under one roof, anywhere from six to as high as 14 members living under one roof on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, you can see how quickly that spread can happen," Sinclair said. "We're second-class citizens living in Third World conditions in a first world country." Opaskwayak Cree Nation has had success in preventing and controlling outbreaks by enforcing curfews and monitoring who enters and leaves the community with border patrols paid for by Indigenous Services Canada. The highest funding requests the department has seen for the Indigenous Community Support Fund — which was created to help communities fight COVID-19 — have been for perimeter security, said Valerie Gideon, associate deputy minister of Indigenous Services. Close to 350 First Nations across the country have closed their borders to non-essential travel, she added. But even with the added layer of security in some places, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says 50 per cent of all active COVID cases in Manitoba are First Nations members. Call for stricter provincial measures Relaxed provincial measures are also being blamed for the rise in First Nations cases. The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan is calling on the province to close bars and liquor establishments. "We believe alcohol in the bars is a contributing factor," said FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt, who recently recovered from COVID-19. "When you're on alcohol, you're more likely to lose your inhibitions, share drinks and not keep those social distance practices in practices and in check." Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs' Organization in Manitoba is urging the provincial and federal governments to enforce tougher rules to limit travel. Daniels said he thinks caseloads are rising because of people going back and forth from First Nations to urban areas. "I think until COVID is completely wiped out, they should be taking the strongest approach possible," Daniels said. Daniels said nearly 80 per cent of the 34 Anishnaabe and Dakota communities he represents are trying to control the spread of COVID-19. Concern for loss of elders Dr. Shannon McDonald, acting chief medical officer at the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia, said there isn't enough rapid testing available to test everyone who needs to travel to B.C. First Nations, and some tests can't detect infections in their first few days. "It only takes one person to come in and spend time with people in the community," McDonald said. McDonald fears the pandemic could take a particularly heavy toll on First Nations communties. "I always worry about our elders," McDonald said. "Our elders are our knowledge-keepers, our language holders and they are the human libraries, culturally. So communities are very sensitive to that, but individuals who are choosing not to adhere to public health advice are putting those individuals at risk and I really worry about that." Lawrence Latender, a member of Dauphin River First Nation, has felt first-hand the impact of COVID-19 during an outbreak in his community 250 kilometres north of Winnipeg. He recently lost seven neighbours and friends to the virus, including two aunts and an uncle. "I don't know if I had time to really grieve because it's one thing after the other," Latender said. "It's like you're focused on one death and then you're, well ... 'OK now I got to focus on this one. Ok, this one is gone, now I got to focus on this one.'" Letander, his wife and two young sons also tested positive, but have since recovered. Indigenous Services Canada says that, so far, there have been 120 COVID-19 deaths in First Nations. But with 169 Indigenous communities now administering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and more doses on the way, there's hope the chain of transmission will break.
WASHINGTON — Three new senators were sworn into office after President Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines late Wednesday, overcoming Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member. It's traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president’s administration. On Thursday, the new Senate majority leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he hoped Biden's nominees for the departments of Defence, Homeland Security, State and Treasury could also be swiftly confirmed. “To leave these seats vacant does a disservice to America,” Schumer said at the Capitol. Schumer introduced all six new Democratic senators — the “majority makers” — who he said represent an “expanding Democratic majority." Four are from the West and two from the South. They are a diverse group bringing several firsts to the Senate, along with Schumer's rise as the first Jewish majority leader of the Senate. The three who joined on Wednesday — Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Alex Padilla of California — took the oath of office from Kamala Harris, a former California senator who is first woman to be vice-president, and the first Black woman and Asian-American to hold that office. Warnock, a pastor from the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, is the first Black senator from Georgia. Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, is Jewish and also the now youngest member of the Senate, at 33. They won run-off elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans, to lock the majority for Democrats. Padilla, a the son of immigrants from Mexico, becomes his state's first Latino senator, tapped by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term. They join a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote. “Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.” Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump. Congress is being called on to consider Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID recovery package, to distribute vaccines and shore up an economy as more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus. At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of Trump, charged by the House of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College tally and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will need to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees. Yet as Washington looks to turn the page from Trump to the Biden administration, Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is not relinquishing power without a fight. Haines' nomination was temporarily blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., as he sought information about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is holding back the Homeland Security nominee, Alejandro Mayorkas, over Biden's proposed immigration changes. McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands, chiefly to preserve the Senate filibuster — the procedural tool often used by the minority party to block bills under rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation. At her first White House briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s desire to have his Cabinet confirmed and in place is “front and centre for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place Thursday or Friday. Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the COVID relief package, but left the details of the upcoming impeachment trial to Congress. The Senate can “multitask,” she said. That’s a tall order for a Senate under normal circumstances, but even more so now in the post-Trump era, with Republicans badly split between their loyalties to the defeated president and wealthy donors who are distancing themselves from Republicans who back Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is expected to soon transmit to the Senate the House-passed article of impeachment against Trump, charged with incitement of insurrection, a step that will launch the Senate impeachment trial. Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate. It’s an arcane fight McConnell has inserted into what has traditionally been a more routine organizing resolution over committee assignments and staffing resources, but a power play by the outgoing Republican leader grabbing at tools that can be used to block Biden’s agenda. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s priorities, but not all rank-and-file Senate Democrats are on board. Schumer has not agreed to any changes but McConnell is taking no chances. For now, it will take unanimous consent among senators to toggle between conducting votes on legislative business and serving as jurors in the impeachment trial. The House last week impeached Trump for having sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight like hell” during the tally of Electoral College votes to overturn Biden’s election. __ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. ___ This story has been updated to correct that Sen. Tom Cotton represents Arkansas, not Oklahoma. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
Regina police are investigating the city's second homicide of 2021, after a man who was assaulted died. On Tuesday, police responded to the 1700 block of Quebec Street following a report of an attack. Police and emergency medical responders found the victim with injuries that were described as serious. The man was taken to hospital, where he died on Wednesday, Regina police said, and they are treating the death as a homicide. His next of kin have been notified. Police described him only as an adult male in a news release Wednesday. "Police will release the victim's name publicly, but wanted to give the family some time before doing so," the news release said. No other details have been provided at this time. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Regina Police Service at (306) 777-6500 or Crime Stoppers at 1 (800) 222-8477.
A third pandemic lockdown appears to be having little impact on rates of COVID-19 in England, researchers warned on Thursday, with prevalence of the disease "very high" and "no evidence of decline" in the first 10 days of renewed restrictions. Until rates of COVID-19 are reduced substantially, health services "will remain under extreme pressure" and the number of deaths will continue to rise rapidly, researchers leading Imperial College London's REACT-1 prevalence study said. "The number of COVID-19 in-patients (in hospital) is extremely high at the moment, and we can't expect that to drop unless we can achieve lower levels of prevalence," said Steven Riley, a professor of infectious disease dynamics who co-led the work.
A group of high schoolers from Prince George, B.C., are showing support for a teen from Mission who was attacked by two girls last week. On Wednesday, students of Duchess Park Secondary School in the northern city sent cards and letters addressed to the 14-year-old transgender student from the Fraser Valley, east of Vancouver. The student was beaten by two female Grade 8 students at École Heritage Park Middle School on Jan. 11 in an incident captured on video. "I just want to commend you on your strength and resilience for going through such a terrible thing," wrote Daisy Scheifley, Grade 11 student at Duchess Park. "Don't let others' judgment change you or scare you. Never apologize for being yourself." Scheifley was one of the students who watched the video in teacher Tanja Gattrell's class on Tuesday. "Every student felt moved by what happened," Gattrell told Sarah Penton, host of CBC's Radio West. "Lots of disbelief, anger and sadness and confusion on how people could just stand by and not do anything … in this day and age." On Sunday, hundreds of vehicles festooned with pink balloons, rainbow signs and anti-bullying messages drove slowly through a riverfront area of Mission to offer support to the bullied teen. In the past, Gattrell and her students wrote letters to seniors in care homes and decorated school windows with paper hearts to show solidarity with front-line workers. Having communicated with the principal of École Heritage Park last Friday, Gattrell suggested the whole class write to the Mission student after watching the video. "It was very emotional just watching them engage in this [letter and card writing] and doing it so wholeheartedly and lovingly," said Gattrell. Scheifley was encouraged by fellow classmates who shared her desire to show support. "I honestly find it very uplifting that so many kids in our class were so open and supportive and wanted to make a change," she said. "We need to start standing up for others, and it's OK to be different." Two girls have been arrested in connection with a violent incident in École Heritage Park Middle School, which is still under RCMP's investigation. After a separate assault on Jan. 13 at Mission Secondary School, a 14-year-old girl was arrested last Friday. Tap the link below to hear Tanja Gattrell and Daisy Scheifley's interview on Radio West:
Traditional helper Elaine Kicknosway wants to make sure no more First Nations children belong to “this era of child welfare.” “We have these different labels which are placed upon us as children: neglected, abandoned; in that light of knowing our mothers or community would not raise us,” she said. “I was born in that era.” Kicknosway, of Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, was one of four people – two Elders and two youth – who spoke Jan. 19 at the Assembly of First Nations’ first of five virtual conferences on First Nations Child and Family Services and Self-Determination. Kicknosway was joined by Knowledge Keeper Edmond Sackaney and youths Erickson Owen and Cheyenne Mandamin to talk about what they lost growing up away from their families and communities. They spoke of the changes they would like to see in the family and child welfare system as First Nations move forward in implementing C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families. Kicknosway said First Nations children were removed from their homes through policies for Indian residential schools, day schools, the Sixties Scoop and child welfare. She referred to this as an “era of when it was blacked-out time”. Taken children were not always told that they were First Nations or what communities they came from. Kicknosway is a Sixties Scoop survivor, having grown up in several foster homes, all of them non-Indigenous. She managed to find her way home with help from an understanding foster family, but no help from the system. “There’s always that ongoing, ‘Oh, you were in child welfare’ or ‘You’re a foster kid’ … all these different labels…. It’s not our shame; we were just kids. It’s not our families’ shame; they were struggling. It’s not our grandparents’ shame,” she said. Bill C-92 recognizes Indigenous peoples' jurisdiction over child and family services as part of their right to self-governance. The federal law came into force Jan. 1, 2020. “We want no Indigenous children in care. We want no Indigenous children in stranger foster care. That should be achievable in five years,” said Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, law professor at the University of British Columbia, who also spoke at the virtual forum. However, one year after the act has became law, only one First Nation has had their childcare law come into effect. As of Jan. 8, Wabaseemoong Independent Nations controls its own child welfare under Anishinaabe law. Indigenous Services Canada Minister Marc Miller told viewers that as of Dec. 23, 2020, there were 26 confirmed Indigenous governing bodies representing 64 Indigenous groups and communities who had submitted notice of requests to exercise jurisdiction under the act. Those 26 Indigenous governing bodies have received nearly $12 million in capacity-building funding, he said. Miller pointed out that $542 million over five years had been announced by his government to support communities at various stages of capacity building. That funding does not include infrastructure development, such as new offices to house child and welfare services. The funding committed by the government, said AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart, who is the social development portfolio holder, has clearly “missed the mark.” The AFN has called for $3.5 billion over five years to do the necessary work. “In many cases First Nations are building from the ground up. We need to establish new laws and reinvigorate traditional laws after years of colonialism, after years of our laws being outlawed and banished altogether through federal and provincial law,” said Hart. “It’s time that Canada steps up and funds First Nations based on actual needs in a way that allows for planning and stability so that First Nations can make this transition in a good way.” Turpel-Lafond agreed. “At some point we’re going to have to get Canada to step up, support us … making sure we have funding to bring these principles to life and to make sure that anytime a First Nations child’s life is being considered somewhere that these principals are there,” she said. The legislation is strong, though, she said, putting the best interest of the child at the centre. Turpel-Lafond said that everything First Nations need to move forward on implementing their own laws and in decision-making and enforcing their jurisdiction over their children and families can be found within this legislation. The legislation gives First Nations and provinces one year to put into place a coordinating agreement, although that timeframe may be extended, she said, due to complications presented through measures to control the coronavirus pandemic. Whatever the timeframe, though, if that undertaking is unsuccessful, First Nation law takes precedent. However, Turpel-Lafond admitted, some provinces are having difficulty letting go of their authority. “I do monitor court decisions in the first year and I look at how there are still big decisions being made about the placement of First Nations kids and they’re not taking into account the federal law adequately. That’s not what we would like to see,” she said. Miler agreed that some provinces were more willing than others to “undertake that discussion.” He said the federal government would do the necessary work with the provinces for the shift in authority. “We’re trying to achieve major change. It’s not on our shoulders completely. Systems need to change and they were very slow to change.… We are shifting, but we need to make sure these shifts are meaningful and they continue at a good pace,” said Turpel-Lafond. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden returned the United States to the worldwide fight to slow global warming in one of his first official acts Wednesday and immediately launched a series of climate-friendly efforts that would transform how Americans drive and get their power. “A cry for survival comes from the planet itself,” Biden said in his inaugural address. “A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear now.” Biden signed an executive order rejoining the Paris climate accord within hours of taking the oath of office, fulfilling a campaign pledge. The move undoes the U.S. withdrawal ordered by predecessor Donald Trump, who belittled the science behind climate efforts, loosened regulations on heat-trapping oil, gas and coal emissions, and spurred oil and gas leasing in pristine Arctic tundra and other wilderness. The Paris accord commits 195 countries and other signatories to come up with a goal to reduce carbon pollution and monitor and report their fossil fuel emissions. The United States is the world’s No. 2 carbon emitter after China. Biden's move will solidify political will globally, former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday. “Not a single country in this world, however powerful, however resourceful one may be, can do it alone,” said Ban, speaking virtually at a briefing in the Netherlands for an upcoming Climate Adaptation Summit. “We have to put all our hands on the deck. That is the lesson, very difficult lesson, which we have learned during last year," as Trump made good on his pledge to pull out of the global accord. The current U.N. secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, welcomed Biden’s steps, saying the U.S. reentry to the climate agreement means countries producing two-thirds of carbon pollution have committed to carbon neutrality. Biden signed other directives to start undoing other Trump climate rollbacks. He ordered a temporary moratorium on new oil and gas leasing in what had been virgin Arctic wilderness, directed federal agencies to start looking at tougher mileage standards and other emission limits again, and began revoking Trump's approval for the Keystone XL oil and gas pipeline. Another first-day order directed agencies to consider the impact on climate, disadvantaged communities, and on future generations from any regulatory action that affects fossil fuel emissions, a new requirement. Human-caused climate change has been linked to worsening natural disasters, including wildfires, droughts, flooding and hurricanes. However, there was no immediate word on when Biden would make good on another climate campaign pledge, one banning new oil and gas leasing on federal land. After Biden notifies the U.N. by letter of his intention to rejoin the Paris accord, it would become effective in 30 days, U.N. spokesman Alex Saier said. Rejoining the Paris accords could put the U.S. on track to cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 40% to 50% by 2030, experts said. “There’s a lot we can do because we’ve left so much on the table over the last four years," said Kate Larsen, former deputy director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality during the Obama administration. Biden has promised that the needed transformations of the U.S. transportation and power sectors, and other changes, will mean millions of jobs. Opponents of the climate accord, including Republican lawmakers who supported Trump's withdrawal from it, have said it would mean higher gas prices and higher electricity prices — even though wind and solar have become more affordable than coal, and competitive with natural gas, in generating electricity. “The Paris climate agreement is based on the backward idea that the United States is a culprit here, when in reality the United States is the leading driver of climate solutions,” said Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican. Republican senators are expected to introduce legislation that would require Biden to submit the Paris plan to the Senate for ratification. It’s not clear whether the narrowly divided Senate would have the two-thirds votes needed to ratify the agreement, which was never approved by Congress. Supporters say congressional approval is not needed. Most of the pollution-reduction goals set by the agreement are voluntary. The climate deal is based on each nation setting a goal for cutting carbon pollution by 2030. Other countries submitted theirs by last month. The U.S did not. Saier said America just needs to submit its goal some time before November climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland. A longtime international goal, included in the Paris accord with an even more stringent target, is to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. The world has already warmed 1.2 degrees (2.2 degrees Celsius) since that time. As of 2020, U.S. emissions were 24% below 2005 levels, but that reflected the extraordinary economic slowdown stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, said climate scientist Zeke Hausfather, energy and climate director for the Breakthrough Institute. There are two big areas where climate policy deals with day-to-day American life. One is electricity generation, and the other is transportation. Market forces have made wind and solar cheaper than dirtier coal, fueling a quiet transformation toward cleaner fuels, and that’s expected to continue so that eventually nearly all of the nation’s power will be low or zero carbon, Larsen and other experts say. What happens to cars, trucks and buses will be far more noticeable. Several experts foresee the majority of new cars purchased in 2030 being electric. ___ Knickmeyer reported from Oklahoma City. Borenstein reported from Kensington, Maryland. Associated Press writers Matthew Daly in Washington, Michael Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, and Frank Jordans in Berlin also contributed to this report. ___ Follow AP’s climate coverage at https://www.apnews.com/Climate ___ Follow Ellen Knickmeyer on Twitter at www.twitter/ellenknickmeyer and Seth Borenstein at www.twitter.com/borenbears. Ellen Knickmeyer And Seth Borenstein, The Associated Press
The City of Ottawa says it has to delay second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for some people who have already received their first shot due to a temporary shortage of vaccines. Anthony Di Monte, general manager of emergency and protective services, said Wednesday some long-term care home and retirement home staff, residents and essential caregivers will have to wait up to 27 days, or nearly a week longer than the 21-day period that's recommended. For others who received their first vaccine, they may have to wait up to 42 days, he said. The federal government announced on Friday Canada would be getting fewer COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech over the next few weeks because the company has to make changes to a production line in Belgium to grow its manufacturing capacity. In Ottawa, that means the city will be getting no new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines next week, said Di Monte. The supply the city does have will be focused on ensuring that those who are due for a booster will get their second shot as soon as possible. The first dose of vaccines have already been administered to more than 92 per cent of long-term care home residents in Ottawa at all 28 facilities. Residents at one at-risk retirement home and one congregant living setting have also been vaccinated, said Di Monte. "Our next step is to administer the second dose to those individuals who have already received their first dose of the vaccine. Depending on the vaccine supply we receive from the province, which we know will be minimal in the next few weeks, we will then shift our focus to the high-risk retirement homes," said Di Monte. Ottawa has 36 high-risk retirement homes and so far, only the one has received doses of the vaccine. Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, said delays beyond 21-day gap are permitted under guidelines established by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. "The recommendation is of course to follow the dosing schedule as much as we can," she said. "But in the context of limited supply ... jurisdictions can maximize the number of individuals that are getting the benefit from the vaccine by going ahead with the first dose and delaying the second dose." While there isn't data to show what effects waiting up to 42 days may have on the COVID-19 vaccine efficacy, typically delays in booster shots do not affect the durability of vaccines, she said.
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A phenomenon first noticed in the spring of 2020 seems to have held, and health officials are crediting the public’s observance of pandemic measures and advice. Influenza has not shown up in Newfoundland and Labrador since it first dropped off the charts in March of last year. “On the whole, in the country, we’ve only had a little over 50 cases reported, and I think on average over the past six years, at this point in time in the flu season, I think it’s somewhere around 14,000 cases that we usually see, or are usually reported,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said Wednesday. Fitzgerald was flying solo on the COVID-19 live update for the first time since the early days of the pandemic. Health Minister Dr. John Haggie and Premier Andrew Furey are on the campaign trail. The lack of flu cases means the Department of Health hasn’t had to update its surveillance data online since last March. A graph from that period showed an unprecedented decline in flu cases around the time that pandemic measures came in. “I think a lot of that has to do with the measures that are in place for COVID,” Fitzgerald said. “Of course, all those things that cause the transmission of COVID also cause the transmission of flu. “It’s not just the flu not spreading across Canada. It’s the flu not spreading across the world,” she added. Fitzgerald also credited the uptick in flu vaccinations this year, the result of a more focused campaign launched last fall. As of Jan. 19, 232,292 people in the province have received the flu shot. Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
A recent spike in COVID cases at Horse Lake First Nations is cause for concern, says its chief executive officer Azar Kamran. The Horse Lake Wellness Centre reported 21 active COVID-19 cases there Monday; 13 homes have been placed under isolation. That represents an increase of nine cases in just a week. On Wednesday Horse Lake reported five recoveries and 16 active cases, accounting for 59 per cent of the total number of cases in west county as of Wednesday. West county active cases are currently sitting at 27; the west county local geographic area (LGA) includes First Nations communities, said Tom McMillan, Alberta Health communications assistant director. “We find this concerning, as does the whole province,” Kamran told the News. Still, he said the Horse Lake numbers are “stable” and attributed the rising numbers to increased testing. As of Monday nurses had completed 304 tests in Horse Lake, compared to 243 last Monday. The reserve has a population of 437, according to Indigenous Affairs Canada. Kamran said he believes COVID made its first appearance in the community approximately two months ago. By early January there had been seven recovered cases, according to the wellness centre. On Jan. 4, there was only one active case. “Our advice would be to maintain hygiene and all safety precautions, including maintaining (two-metre) distance,” Kamran said. He said band administration is promoting the precautions through the community newsletter and social media. Travel is also being discouraged though administration recognizes residents can leave and enter the community, Kamran said. Horse Lake has a small school for Grade 1 to 3 students, with approximately 24 students. Kamran said it’s been closed since November at band council’s direction; buses to schools outside the community haven’t been operational since November. The 13 homes were placed under isolation in accordance with Alberta Health guidelines, Kamran said. The Horse Lake Wellness Centre is also discouraging visits between members of different households. Some residents are observing this directive and others aren’t, Kamran said. Outdoor and indoor gatherings were banned across the province in December, with the province lifting the ban on outdoor gatherings Monday, with a limit of 10. The Horse Lake Wellness Centre has discouraged indoor gatherings and advised residents who witness them to call 1-833-415-9179, the number to report health violations, or the RCMP. Rick Wilson, Alberta’s indigenous relations minister, acknowledged Monday in a statement a delay in getting vaccines to indigenous seniors 65 and up due to a shortage in doses. Kamran said Horse Lake is hoping to receive vaccines as soon as possible and has remained in contact with AHS about the matter. No vaccinations have been made yet, he said. At press time there are 46 active cases across the County of Grande Prairie, including 19 in the east and central portions, and there have been four fatalities in the east and central county. The City of Grande Prairie has 180 active cases and has had 14 fatalities. Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
A federally-funded environmental monitoring institute could be in Fort Chipewyan’s future as the Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN) pushes for a local research hub. In late December, Parks Canada announced $59.9 million during the next three years to fund conservation efforts in Wood Buffalo National Park. MCFN expects some funding to support the creation of the Delta Institute, an environmental research and monitoring group that leadership has been planning for more than three years. “This place could really be an example of how Indigenous knowledge and Western science could work together,” said Melody Lepine, director of government and industry relations for MCFN. “It’s about collaboration and showing that we want to protect our delta.” Fort Chipewyan is home to the Peace-Athabasca Delta, the largest freshwater inland river delta in North America. Lepine said the delta attracts scientists and researchers from all over the world. The Delta Institute would be based in Fort Chipewyan and have smaller field stations across the delta. This would give scientists visiting the community a home base for research trips. Youth and elders could also be brought to field stations for educational trips. Lepine hopes this will make it easier for Fort Chipewyan residents to learn about monitoring and research projects in the Peace-Athabasca Delta. Scientists and researchers will often come to Fort Chipewyan to study the delta, but won’t always share their findings locally, said Lepine. The Delta Institute requires scientists and researchers to collaborate with community knowledge holders in their studies. This would help preserve research for future generations. “They collect their data and they often go back to their academic world,” said Lepine. “What was that study about? How can we use those results in protecting and managing the delta?” Much of the research Fort Chipewyan’s leaders want to preserve include interviews with elders and knowledge holders. For MCFN, preserving Indigenous cultural knowledge is as important as studying Western science. “We are going to make sure those worldviews are balanced,” said Lepine. “Strong preservations of knowledge can be shared to manage very complex issues such as managing ecosystem health, conservation and wildlife management.” Since 2014, MCFN and the UNESCO World Heritage Committee have asked the federal government to help reverse the deterioration of the Peace-Athabasca Delta, which has seen water levels drop for years. The Delta Institute has not yet been approved, but Lepine said Parks Canada is enthusiastic about the project and potential roles in conservation efforts. “The Cree, Dene and Métis people were in that delta long before it became a World Heritage Site and long before it became a national park,” she said. “The institute would be an important instrument to reflect the sacredness of this place.” email@example.com Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today
BEIJING — The U.S.'s accusation of genocide against China touches on a hot-button human rights issue between China and the West. In one of his final acts as secretary of state, Mike Pompeo declared Tuesday that China’s policies against Muslims in its Xinjiang region constitute “crimes against humanity” and “genocide.” The same day, British lawmakers narrowly rejected a proposal aimed at China that would have barred trade deals with any country deemed to be committing genocide. The far western region of Xinjiang is home to the predominantly Muslim Uighur ethnic group. China denies human rights violations and says its actions in Xinjiang are necessary to counter a separatist and terrorist threat. ___ WHY IS CHINA ACCUSED OF GENOCIDE? Pompeo cited forced birth control among Uighurs, which an Associated Press investigation documented last year, and forced labour, which has been linked by AP reporting to products imported to the U.S., including clothing, cameras and computer monitors. “I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state,” Pompeo said in a written statement, using an alternative spelling for Uighurs. ___ WHAT IS CHINA'S RESPONSE? China strongly defends its human rights record and policies in Xinjiang, saying its constitution and laws treat all citizens equally. It denies imposing coercive birth control measures or forced labour, saying those behind the allegations are lying in an effort to smear China’s reputation and impede its development. Xu Guixiang, a deputy spokesperson for the Xinjiang branch of the ruling Communist Party, told reporters last week that birth control decisions were made of the person’s own free will and that “no organization or individual can interfere.” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Wednesday called Pompeo a “doomsday clown” and said his designation of China as a perpetrator of genocide and crimes against humanity was merely “a piece of wastepaper.” ___ WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? The genocide designation does not trigger any immediate repercussions, but requires the U.S. to take it into account in formulating policy toward China. It puts pressure on President Joe Biden to maintain a tough line against China. He and members of his national security team have expressed support for such a designation in the past. Antony Blinken, Biden’s choice to be secretary of state, said Tuesday that the Trump administration was right to take a tougher stance on China, but that it had approached the matter poorly by alienating U.S. allies and not fully standing up for human rights elsewhere. ___ HOW WILL CHINA RESPOND? China may wish to avoid an early skirmish with the Biden administration, saving its invective for Pompeo and calibrating its response based on the possibility of tensions easing now after they flared under Donald Trump. As with most sensitive issues, China has heavily restricted foreign media access to Xinjiang and sought to limit any domestic discussion to official pronouncements. Still, the “parting shot" from the Trump administration will likely further stress the relationship in the near term, said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China. He said the already slim chances of reducing China-U.S. tensions have been further limited in the coming weeks and months. ___ WHAT HAPPENED IN LONDON? Lawmakers rejected by a 319-308 vote an amendment to a post-Brexit trade bill that would have forced the British government to revoke bilateral trade agreements with a country if the High Court of England found that it had perpetrated genocide. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab last week called the amendment “well-meaning” but ineffective and counter productive. A significant number of rebel Conservatives backed the proposal, as did Jewish, Muslim and Christian community leaders. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to continue facing vocal calls within his Conservative party for a stronger and more coherent policy on China over its alleged rights abuses and violations of international norms. The Associated Press
Canada Basketball president and CEO Glen Grunwald says he was blindsided by sanctions levied against the program on Wednesday. The International Basketball Federation, or FIBA, fined the Canadian governing body for the sport up to $227,138 and threatened to dock Canada's national team a point in the standings after it chose not to attend a FIBA AmeriCup qualifier in November on the advice of medical experts amid the COVID-19 pandemic. "We're going to try and be positive," Grunwald told CBC Sports. "We're going to appeal this because we do think it's unfair and wrong. But we'll play by the rules as they're dictated. And I hope FIBA can be bigger than what they've been here instead of, you know, trying to be strong arming teams to violate public health protocols." The third and final stage of AmeriCup qualifying is scheduled to be held Feb. 18-22, with Canada's group — including Cuba, the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands — playing in San Juan, Puerto Rico. WATCH | CBC Sports' Vivek Jacob, Jevon Shepherd break down FIBA decision: The games have no bearing on qualification for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. However, failing to qualify for the AmeriCup would end Canada's Paris 2024 Olympic bid. Even after missing two games, Canada could still clinch its AmeriCup spot with two wins in February. One victory would still open the door, while two straight losses spells the worst-case scenario. 'I didn't expect this' In November, Canada Basketball said it was working with FIBA to reschedule the games it would miss. Grunwald said progress was made on that front in the interim. Just two months later, the 62-year-old former Toronto Raptors executive says the program was surprised by its punishment. "I didn't expect this, actually," Grunwald said. "So then for this to come out of the blue, when I had been advised earlier that if we were not participating because of medical reasons, it would not be any penalties. So, again, very disappointed and a bit disillusioned with the approach." CBC Sports contacted FIBA, asking a number of questions including how it came to the ruling, what the criteria for the ruling was, as well as if Canada Basketball was made aware of the decision prior to making it public. "As proceedings are in progress, FIBA, unfortunately, cannot make any comment on the matter," it said. In its statement on Wednesday, FIBA said that Canada would only be fined half the amount and would not lose a point if it attends the February tournament. If not, those sanctions would remain in place. "It is kind of a threat. We're working really hard and our medical staff has been awesome," Grunwald said. "One of the great things about the Canadian sport community is we're all working together in this very difficult time." Exploring more testing, longer quarantine Head coach Nick Nurse agreed with Grunwald's sentiments about FIBA's sanctions. "I back the decision [not to play] by Canada Basketball," he said. "It was all about player safety for us. And we just didn't feel like we could execute it and keep our players as safe as we wanted to at that point, which I think is understandable. "We look forward to getting playing hopefully in February and getting on to the Olympic qualifier and going from there." Grunwald said Canada Basketball is hopeful to participate in that February window and is working with health experts to stiffen protocols from what they were in November. Those measures could include more frequent testing, verification of those tests and longer quarantine periods. The program is working with lawyers to sort out the next step in the appeals process. An official appeal must be filed within the next 14 days. "Ideally, we will win the appeal, and we won't have to pay it, but if we do have to pay it, I would hope that FIBA contributes that money to COVID-19 front-line workers and other people that are working in this area where they really do need support instead of pocketing the cash," Grunwald said. Canada currently sits 1-1 after splitting a pair with the Dominican in February 2020. Games against Cuba and the Virgin Islands had been scheduled for November, with the same opponents set for February 2021. The top three teams in each group qualify for the 2022 FIBA AmeriCup. WATCH | Vivek Jacob of CBC Sports breaks down Raptors' outlook: 'Dangerous precedent' set by ruling, says COC Canada Basketball said in a release Wednesday that not only would its participation have directly contradicted the mandates of the federal government "but also the directive of our chief medical officer and other medical professionals throughout Canada's sport system, including those with Canada Basketball, Sport Canada, Own The Podium, the Return to Sport Task Force, and the Canadian Olympic Committee." As for the COC, CEO and secretary general David Shoemaker said the organization is "extremely disappointed with this ruling." "Canada Basketball should not face punitive sanctions for prioritizing the health and safety of its athletes, coaches and staff during a pandemic of this magnitude." Shoemaker went on to say the COC is very concerned with the decision. "It sets a dangerous precedent and sends the wrong message to sport organizations while the world remains locked in a battle with COVID-19," Shoemaker said to CBC Sports. "In essence, FIBA is saying that Canada Basketball should have sent its team into harm's way, notwithstanding clear medical and public health advice." Shoemaker said the ruling could also negatively impact Canada Basketball's finances, which, he said, were "already decimated by COVID-19." That could have lasting consequences for its operational capacity and "funding for programs that grow the game of basketball across Canada." Shoemaker said the COC continues to stand by Canada Basketball's decision not to travel to the November qualifier in the midst of a pandemic.
Six months after Edmonton banned shisha smoking inside lounges, city administration will look at creating a separate business licence class to allow establishments to resume the activity. Council's community and public services agreed Wednesday to direct city staff to consider a new category for shisha lounges. Coun. Aaron Paquette said after the city banned shisha smoking in lounges in July, he heard a lot of feedback. He suggested in December the city develop a new kind of licence. "This is something that's important to them and that they miss," Paquette said. "I would feel like I wasn't being responsive to the community if I didn't ask the question." The four-councillor committee, chaired by Paquette and includes Jon Dziadyk, Andrew Knack and Mike Nickel passed the motion unanimously. The proposed licence category would include the following conditions: no minors would be allowed in designated smoking areas a physically separated smoking area from the rest of the premises no food or drink service within the smoking area mandatory signage identifying smoking areas work to eliminate any second hand impact on employees Before the committee voted, three advocates spoke in favour of allowing the activity inside lounges. Mahlet Belete, a manager at One XVII Lounge, argued that shisha smoking is a cultural activity that's been done for centuries in Africa, the Middle East and East Asia. "I don't believe people will stop consuming shisha just because shisha lounges are not operational," she said. "It will only drive people to consume within their homes." Mohamad El-turk, with the Edmonton Hookah Cultural Committee, asked the city "to create some establishments and facilities where people can come and just smoke and practise their shisha enjoyment away from kids and away from their families." El-turk's colleague Jarrett Campbell acknowledged the issue is complex. "Finding an exact solution or a nice, easy, bright line is probably not available," Campbell said. "But I think that on the merits, this would stand up because of those two reasons: It's herbal — it's not tobacco — and it's cultural." 'I used to be a smoker' Two councillors who don't sit on the committee expressed concern. Coun. Scott McKeen pushed for the ban in past years but acknowledged that the topic is complicated. "I used to be a smoker; I get it," he said. "We have gone at this several times, in this committee, in previous years." McKeen noted that shisha lounges were given allowances in the past to give them time to prepare for the ban. "My major concern will remain that we do not open up a bag of snakes," McKeen said. "Because restaurants and coffee shops in this city went through a tough, tough, period of transition in no smoking and many of them were deeply concerned." Later, new customers started going out to restaurants because there was no smoking, he said. Coun. Ben Henderson said some people might argue smoking cannabis and tobacco are cultural activities. "We've had this debate," Henderson said. "I think we're being naive if we think this doesn't open up this question again. "These changes were difficult all the way along — going back 20 years — but we've adapted." Administration will return to the committee to present bylaw changes likely within two months. A new business license category would have to go to a public hearing before being approved. @natashariebe
Central Mountain Air announced Tuesday it is suspending flights between Fort Nelson, B.C., and the northern hub of Prince George, leaving the small northeastern community with no flight services for at least three months. The Smithers-based airline said flights between Fort Nelson — a municipality of over 3,000 people — and Prince George will not run from Feb. 3 to May 3, at the earliest. Travellers from the Northern Rockies town will need to drive four hours to the nearest airport in Fort St. John, B.C., or continue for a nine-hour drive to Prince George. Central Mountain Air also suspended flights between Prince George and Kamloops in the souther Interior from Feb. 3 to Apr. 5. "Devastating declines in travel and extended provincial health advisories against non-essential travel have necessitated a significant scaling back of our scheduled operations for the foreseeable future," wrote Central Mountain Air CEO Bob Cummings in a statement. Cummings said it's a hard decision to cut back services for remote communities. "I feel horrible," he said to CBC News. "The air transportation link for medical treatment, keeping a base level of the economy going for the resource industry, as well as cargo, medical supplies, mail … these are crucial links for these communities." Fort Nelson Mayor Gary Foster says the flight suspension is particularly challenging for people seeking medical services out of town, as well as medical professionals coming to provide services to the small community. "They would have to spend a day driving [from the airport in Fort St. John or Prince George] to the Northern Rockies and driving a day out," he said. "Plus they would have a rental car. They would have to pay for the length of time they're here in Fort Nelson." Last Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ordered the new federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra to make regional airlines a priority along with supporting regional economic development. Foster says federal and provincial governments should step in to support regional airlines like Central Mountain Air amid the economic woes during the pandemic, but he's not optimistic other Canadian airlines are able to fill in the gap to provide services to Fort Nelson. "I think they're all running for cover and they are worried about just staying afloat until the end of this pandemic," he said. Both Air Canada and WestJet have also slashed services because of plummeting demand due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Starting Saturday, Air Canada will cut all its flights from two other B.C. destinations: Prince Rupert on the North Coast and Kamloops.
One of the wonders of the world was illuminated Wednesday night in tribute to a larger-than-life businessman from Six Nations of the Grand River. Niagara Falls glowed blue and green between 6 and 11 p.m. in honour of Ken Hill, a multimillionaire cigarette magnate who died Monday of undisclosed causes at his Miami home. He was 62. The falls are usually illuminated to celebrate days of significance and draw attention to worthy causes. Hill joins Canadian prime ministers, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Nelson Mandela and basketball superstar Kobe Bryant on the short list of individuals to be memorialized with a light show. In their application to the Niagara Falls Illumination Board for this rare tribute, Hill’s family described him as “legendary, both on and off Six Nations” as the co-founder of cigarette manufacturer Grand River Enterprises, among dozens of business interests that employed thousands of people. Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati remembered Hill as “a strong advocate for Indigenous rights (and) a generous philanthropist.” Hill’s Jukasa Studios sponsored the 2020 Niagara Music Awards last October. “Kenny’s appreciation and love for music inspired him to build a world-class studio and sanctuary for artists and musicians to call home and produce lasting pieces of musical history,” the Ohsweken studio said in a statement. “Kenny was always excited to meet new artists and was delighted to come into the studio and listen to what was being created. He had an undeniable presence that was felt from the moment he walked into a room. That presence will be sadly missed.” Global superstars Willie Nelson, Steven Tyler and Snoop Dogg recorded at Jukasa, and Canadian indie rockers July Talk recorded their Juno Award-winning sophomore album, Touch, on the reserve in 2016. Webster actor Emmanuel Lewis was a fixture at the studio. “You were and still are a legend with the heart the size of a grizzly bear,” Stevie Salas, guitarist and executive producer of music documentary “RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked the World,” said of Hill on social media. In a video tribute posted on Monday, rapper Fat Joe said he and Hill had met for lunch in Florida the week before his death. “Kenny Hill is one of the sweetest, most humble people I ever met in my life. He is a gentle giant,” the five-time Grammy nominee said. “Six Nations, Ontario, Canada, my heart goes out to you.” Six Nations councillors extended their condolences to the Hill family, including Elected Chief Mark Hill, who is Ken Hill’s nephew. Ken Hill served three terms on Six Nations Elected Council from January 1986 to December 1991. “Always maintaining Six Nations as his home, Mr. Hill built portions of his industry at the very same corner where he grew up and lived,” read the statement from council. “His ventures also gave back in the form of education and employment opportunities through the local Dreamcatcher Charitable Foundation. Our thoughts and prayers are with Chief Hill and his family while they try to deal with their devastating loss.” According to its website, the Dreamcatcher Foundation provides funding to Indigenous recipients involved in education, sports, health care and the arts, with a particular focus on developing future Indigenous leaders by supporting youth and families in need. Haldimand Mayor Ken Hewitt told the Sachem that Hill’s loss would be felt far and wide. “It’s hard to fathom and perhaps appreciate the depth and reach he’s had in different communities, and employing so many different people and then helping so many families,” Hewitt said. While Hill enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, he demonstrated his generosity by quietly paying off medical bills for those in need and sending three jet airplanes packed with relief aid to the hurricane-stricken Bahamas in 2019. “Ken Hill was well known across both sides of the border and around the world. He was an advocate for Indigenous rights as well very helpful on and off the reservation,” his family’s statement to the Niagara Parks Commission read. “He along with his best friend Jerry (Montour, co-founder of GRE) worked to help so many people around the world. He will always be loved and surely missed by all.” Sports were a passion for Hill, who sponsored lacrosse, hockey and fast-pitch teams, and co-owned Jukasa Motor Speedway near Nelles Corners. Lacrosse organizations across Canada expressed their condolences, with the Six Nations Snipers saying that Hill’s “impact on lacrosse has been felt locally and across the globe.” Hill assumed control of the Six Nations Chiefs in 1993, after the death of his brother Erlind. The Chiefs promptly won three straight Mann Cups, adding three more national titles in the 2010s. “Words cannot describe the sadness and disbelief that the team is in over the passing of our owner and leader Ken (KR) Hill,” said Chiefs presidents and general manager Duane Jacobs. “Ken was like an older brother to me. He did so much for me and my family. He allowed me to run this team and is directly responsible for all the championships we’ve won. The players were treated well and all he ever wanted in return was championships.” Hill ran the Brantford Golden Eagles junior B hockey team in early 1990s, and at the time of his death owned the junior B Caledonia ProFit Corvairs, sponsored by his Caledonia health club. “Kenny wasn’t just an owner. He was a friend to all players, staff, volunteers and fans,” the Corvairs said in a statement. “Kenny gave his all to make sure everyone was treated respectfully and set up to succeed both on and off the ice. He wanted to create something the community could always be proud of.” Hill also sponsored the world-renowned Hill United Chiefs fast-pitch team and, with Montour, co-owned MontHill Golf and Country Club, south of Caledonia. The business mogul earned millions of dollars tax-free annually, according to court filings, and his life was not without controversy. As an exporter of cigarettes to clients worldwide — including as the exclusive supplier of the German army — Hill and Montour fought legal battles over taxation and licensing, and defended charges of trafficking contraband tobacco in the United States. As a result, Hill’s relationship with Ottawa over the years was not always harmonious. But after his death, federal international trade minister Mary Ng offered her condolences to the family. “I am saddened by the new of Ken Hill’s passing — a community leader, prominent entrepreneur and philanthropist from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory” Ng tweeted. In recent years Hill was involved in a contentious child and spousal support dispute with one of his former partners. Earlier in the pandemic, he made the news after allegedly hosting a large party at his Six Nations mansion in defiance of COVID-19 restrictions. J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
SAN DIEGO — For the opening salvo of his presidency, few expected Joe Biden to be so far-reaching on immigration. A raft of executive orders signed Wednesday undoes many of his predecessor’s hallmark initiatives, such as halting work on a border wall with Mexico, lifting a travel ban on people from several predominantly Muslim countries and reversing plans to exclude people in the country illegally from the 2020 census. Six of Biden's 17 orders, memorandums and proclamations deal with immigration. He ordered efforts to preserve Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program known as DACA that has shielded hundreds of thousands of people who came to the U.S. as children from deportation since it was introduced in 2012. He also extended temporary legal status to Liberians who fled civil war and the Ebola outbreak to June 2022. But that's just the beginning. Biden’s most ambitious proposal, unveiled Wednesday, is an immigration bill that would give legal status and a path to citizenship to anyone in the United States before Jan. 1 — an estimated 11 million people — and reduce the time that family members must wait outside the United States for green cards. Taken together, Biden's plans represent a sharp U-turn after four years of relentless strikes against immigration, captured most vividly by the separation of thousands of children from their parents under a “zero tolerance” policy on illegal border crossings. Former President Donald Trump's administration also took hundreds of other steps to enhance enforcement, limit eligibility for asylum and cut legal immigration. Biden's package dispels any belief that his policies would resemble those of former President Barack Obama, who promised a sweeping bill his first year in office but waited five years while logging more than 2 million deportations. Eager to avoid a rush on the border, Biden aides signalled that it will take time to unwind some of Trump's border policies, which include making asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for hearings in U.S. immigration court. The Homeland Security Department said that on Thursday it would stop sending asylum-seekers back to Mexico to wait for hearings but that people already returned should stay put for now. It "will take months to be fully up and running in terms of being able to do the kind of asylum processing that we want to be able to do,” Jake Sullivan, Biden's national security advisor, told reporters. The administration has been mum on a 100-day moratorium on deportations that Biden promised, though he is revoking one of Trump's earliest executive orders making anyone in the country illegally a priority for deportations. Susan Rice, head of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said any moratorium would come from the Homeland Security, not the president. Despite the deliberative pace in some areas, Biden's moves left pro-immigration advocates overjoyed. Greisa Martinez Rosas, executive director of United We Dream, called the legislation “the most progressive legalization bill in history.” “We made it,” she said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters. "We made this day happen." It is even more striking because immigration got scarce mention during the campaign, and the issue has divided Republicans and Democrats, even within their own parties. Legislative efforts failed in 2007 and 2013. More favourable attitudes toward immigration — especially among Democrats — may weigh in Biden’s favour. A Gallup survey last year found that 34% of those polled supported more immigration, up from 21% in 2016 and higher than any time since Gallup began asking the question in 1965. Seven in 10 voters said they preferred offering immigrants in the U.S. illegally a chance to apply for legal status, compared with about 3 in 10 who thought they should be deported to the country they came from, according to AP VoteCast. The survey of more than 110,000 voters in November showed 9 in 10 Biden voters but just about half of Trump voters were in favour of a path to legal status. Under the bill, most people would wait eight years for citizenship but those enrolled in DACA, those with temporary protective status for fleeing strife-torn countries and farmworkers would wait three years. The bill also offers development aid to Central America, reduces the 1.2 million-case backlog in immigration courts and provides more visas for underrepresented countries and crime victims. The proposal would let eligible family members wait in the United States for green cards by granting temporary status until their petitions are processed — a population that Kerri Talbot of advocacy group Immigration Hub estimates at 4 million. Unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens who have been waiting outside the country for more than six years are just getting their numbers called this month. Waits are even longer for some nationalities. Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from Mexico have been waiting outside the United States since August 1996. The bill faces an enormous test in Congress. Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said Wednesday that he would lead the Senate effort. Skeptics will note that Ronald Regan's 1986 amnesty for nearly 3 million immigrants preceded large numbers of new arrivals and say to expect more of the same. In a taste of what's to come, Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, described the bill as having “open borders: Total amnesty, no regard for the health and security of Americans, and zero enforcement.” To be clear, enforcement has expanded exponentially since the mid-1990s and will remain. Biden's bill calls for more technology at land crossings, airports and seaports and authorizes the Homeland Security secretary to consider other steps. Biden warned advocates last week that they should not hold him to passage within 100 days, said Domingo Garcia of the League of United Latin American Citizens, who was on a call with the president. “Today we celebrate," Carlos Guevara of pro-immigration group UnidosUS said Wednesday. "Tomorrow we roll up our sleeves and get to work.” ___ Associated Press writers Mike Schneider in Orlando, Florida, and Hannah Fingerhut in Washington contributed to this report. Elliot Spagat, The Associated Press
A union representing workers at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver has filed a class action lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court alleging the hotel wrongfully terminated 100 employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unite Here Local 40 says the workers — many of them women and immigrants with years of service — are owed as much as $3 million in severance pay. In a statement, the union said the Pan Pacific "concocted a plan to drastically reduce its staff from 450 workers to 80." "Instead of informing workers of their plans, the company sent workers repeated messages delivering false hope suggesting they intended to bring workers back." Local 40 president Zailda Chan said the hotel circumvented group termination payout regulations in the Employment Standards Act by firing workers in three batches of fewer than 50 workers. Chan also said the hotel offered some workers $250 to sign a contract taking away their regular full-time status to become casual, on-call workers with no severance rights. Those who refused to sign were among those fired. "Had the hotel properly notified workers of its plans to drastically reduce its workforce, this class of workers could have been entitled to receive significant payouts," said Chan. CBC reached out to the Pan Pacific Hotel for comment but has not heard back. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented upheaval in the tourism and hospitality sector. Statistics Canada has estimated travel restrictions could lead to a loss of 74 per cent of tourism industry jobs and a reduction in tourism industry gross domestic product of between 50 per cent to 70 percent from 2019 to 2020. The lawsuit said lead plaintiff, Romuel Escobar, started working at the Pan Pacific in 1996 as a houseman and worked his way up to become a senior concierge in 2008. It said Escobar held that position until he was fired "without cause and without notice" in August 2020, after working his last shift in March 2020. The hotel has not filed a response and none of the allegations have been tested in court.
The province’s police watchdog has cleared a Peel police officer of criminal wrongdoing in the shooting death of Jamal Derek Francique Jr. a year ago as his family says they plan to launch an independent investigation. In a Wednesday news release, Special Investigations Unit (SIU) director Joseph Martino said there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the Peel Regional Police officer committed a criminal offence when he shot and killed Francique as he tried to evade police during an attempt to arrest him. The officer fired several shots at the car Francique was driving “to ward off what he believed was an imminent risk to his life,” Martino wrote in his report on the case. “The subject officer had cause to believe that Francique was determined to escape police apprehension regardless of the risk to the health and safety of officers on foot” as he drove his Acura within metres of them, the report said. According to the report, one of several witness officers jumped out of the way of the car, saying she feared for her life. In a news conference responding to the decision, Knia Singh, the family’s lawyer, said he will be launching an independent investigation and analysis of the findings, calling the SIU biased toward police. “The family has been greatly affected by this report confirming the inability to rely on the SIU to hold police accountable,” Singh said, adding that report had inconsistencies that show the “SIU is not conducting thorough, accurate investigations.” Francique’s father Derek Francique, who had been waiting more than a year for answers on his son’s death, said the decision is another example of police and the SIU failing the families of victims. “This report has left my family in further disbelief in the SIU and the police force,” Francique said in a statement. “We will show that the police and the SIU unit have consistently let down communities and families. Our family will get justice for Jamal.” Francique Jr. was shot at around 7:44 p.m. on Jan. 7, 2020, after members of the Peel police street crime unit went to the area near Southampton Drive and Aquinas Avenue in Mississauga to arrest him for breach of conditions related to a drug investigation. The SIU said Francique had visited his girlfriend in the days before the shooting, breaching a court order. The officers found him in a blue Acura TSX and, when officers approached the vehicle, he drove at them, the report said. The subject officer fired several shots at the windshield of the vehicle, hitting Francique in the head. He died in hospital three days later. According to the report, the location of the bullet holes in the Acura — three in the driver’s side of the front windshield and one just in front of the sunroof — suggest it was moving in the officers’ direction throughout the gunfire, the report says. In his conclusion, Martino wrote that while he accepted the subject officer had the option to withdraw from the situation, he had only moments to make a decision in a highly fraught situation. “The officer’s decision may not have been the only one available in the moment, but neither was it unreasonable,” Martino wrote. To that, Singh said all other options but lethal force should have been used. In a statement, Peel police Chief Nishan Duraiappah called Francique’s death a tragedy that all involved wish could have been averted. “Family and loved ones are left behind with questions and the officers involved are forced to deal with the realities of the stress these outcomes cause,” he said. Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star