Arizona officials have certified Joe Biden’s narrow victory over President Donald Trump in the state. Biden won Arizona by 0.3% of the nearly 3.4 million ballots cast, a margin of just under 10,500 votes. (Nov. 30)
Arizona officials have certified Joe Biden’s narrow victory over President Donald Trump in the state. Biden won Arizona by 0.3% of the nearly 3.4 million ballots cast, a margin of just under 10,500 votes. (Nov. 30)
WASHINGTON — The patter of paws is being heard in the White House again following the arrival of President Joe Biden's dogs Champ and Major. The two German shepherds are the first pets to live at the executive mansion since the Obama administration. Major burst onto the national scene late last year after Biden, then president-elect, broke his right foot while playing with the dog at their home in Wilmington, Delaware. The Bidens adopted Major in 2018 from the Delaware Humane Association. Champ joined the family after the 2008 presidential election that made Joe Biden vice-president. The dogs moved into the White House on Sunday, following Biden's inauguration last week. “The first family wanted to get settled before bringing the dogs down to Washington from Delaware,” said Michael LaRosa, spokesperson for first lady Jill Biden. “Champ is enjoying his new dog bed by the fireplace and Major loved running around on the South Lawn.” The dogs were heard barking outside near the Oval Office on Monday as Biden signed an executive order lifting the previous administration's ban on transgender people serving in the military. Last week, the Delaware Humane Association cosponsored an “indoguration” virtual fundraiser to celebrate Major's journey from shelter pup to first dog. More than $200,000 was raised. Major is the first shelter dog to ever live in the White House and “barking proof that every dog can live the American dream," the association said. The Bidens had promised to bring the dogs with them to the White House. They plan to add a cat, though no update on the feline's arrival was shared on Monday. White House press secretary Jen Psaki predicted, while on video answering questions from members of the public, that the cat will “dominate the internet” when it arrives. Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, a self-described germaphobe, does not own any pets and had none with him at the White House. Just like they do for ordinary people, pets owned by the most powerful people in the world provide their owners with comfort, entertainment, occasional drama and generally good PR. “Pets have played an important role in the White House throughout the decades, not only by providing companionship to the presidents and their families, but also by humanizing and softening their political images,” said Jennifer Pickens, author of a book about pets at the White House. Pets also serve as ambassadors to the White House, she said. Pickens added that she hoped the Bidens' decision to bring a rescue dog to the White House might inspire others to adopt. President Theodore Roosevelt had Skip, who is described by the White House Historical Association as a “short-legged Black and Tan mongrel terrier brought home from a Colorado bear hunt.” Warren G. Harding had Laddie Boy, who sat in on meetings and had his own Cabinet chair. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had his beloved terrier Fala. At night, Fala slept in a special chair at the foot of the president’s bed. More recently, George H.W. Bush’s English springer spaniel Millie was featured on “The Simpsons” and starred in a bestseller, “Millie’s Book: As dictated to Barbara Bush.” Hillary Clinton followed Bush’s lead with a children’s book about family dog Buddy and cat Socks: “Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets.” When he declared victory in the 2008 presidential race, Barack Obama told his daughters: “You have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House.” Several months later, Bo joined the family, a gift from Sen. Ted Kennedy. A few years later, fellow Portuguese water dog Sunny arrived. Among the stranger White House pets was Calvin Coolidge and first lady Grace Coolidge’s raccoon Rebecca. She was given to the Coolidge family by a supporter who suggested the raccoon be served for Thanksgiving dinner, according to the White House Historical Association. But instead she got an embroidered collar with the title “White House Raccoon” and entertained children at the White House Easter Egg Roll. Some notable pets belonged to first kids, including Amy Carter’s Siamese cat, Misty Malarky Ying Yang, and Caroline Kennedy’s pony Macaroni. The Kennedy family had a veritable menagerie, complete with dogs, cats, birds, hamsters and a rabbit named Zsa Zsa. President Harry Truman famously said that “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog” — and many successors have followed Truman's advice. The first President Bush once said, “There is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog to help you get through the rough spots.” ___ Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report. Darlene Superville, The Associated Press
Armed and ready to go, Taiwan air force jets screamed into the sky on Tuesday in a drill to simulate a war scenario, showing its fleet's battle readiness after dozens of Chinese warplanes flew into the island's air defence zone over the weekend. Taiwan, claimed by China as its territory, has been on edge since the large-scale incursion by Chinese fighters and nuclear-capable bombers into the southwestern part of its air defence identification zone on Saturday and Sunday, which coincided with a U.S. carrier group entering the South China Sea. The base in the southern city of Tainan, home to F-CK-1 Ching-kuo Indigenous Defence Fighters (IDF), frequently scrambles jets to intercept China's air force.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Sarah Sanders, Donald Trump's former chief spokeswoman, announced she's running for Arkansas governor at a time other Republicans are distancing themselves from the former president facing an impeachment charge that he incited the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol. But the former White House press secretary, who left the job in 2019 to return to her home state, ran the other direction with an announcement Monday that embraced Trump as much as his rhetoric. “With the radical left now in control of Washington, your governor is your last line of defence,” Sanders said in a nearly eight-minute video announcing her 2022 bid that prominently featured pictures of the president as well as some of his favourite targets. Trump, who publicly encouraged Sanders to run, wasted no time putting his seal of approval on her bid. The former president on Monday night backed Sanders' candidacy — his first official, public endorsement since leaving office — and called her a “warrior who will always fight for the people of Arkansas and do what is right, not what is politically correct." The daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sanders is the most high-profile Trump official to seek major office and is doing so less than a week after the tumultuous end of his presidency. Her candidacy could showcase just how much of a hold Trump still has on the GOP. “Trump is simply not a liability here,” said Janine Parry, a political scientist at the University of Arkansas. “At least for the time being, we’re in a state where he remains an asset.” That’s even as the Senate is preparing for an impeachment trial over the Jan. 6 insurrection by Trump supporters that was aimed at halting the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell rebuked the president last week, saying he “provoked” the siege. Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters days before Biden’s inauguration he wanted Trump’s administration to end, though he also opposed the president’s impeachment. Sanders’ announcement makes a brief reference to the Capitol siege that left five dead, equating it with violence that occurred at some protests last year over racial injustice and the 2017 shooting at a congressional baseball practice that injured U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise and four others. “This is not who we are as Americans,” Sanders said in the video, but not mentioning Trump’s role in encouraging his supporters who stormed the Capitol. She joins a Republican primary that already includes two statewide elected leaders, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. The three are running to succeed Hutchinson, who is unable to run next year due to term limits. No Democrats have announced a bid to run for the seat. Griffin and Rutledge had already spent months positioning themselves ahead of Sanders’ entry by lining up endorsements, raising money and trying to stake their claims as the most conservative candidate. Griffin has called for the outright elimination of the state’s income tax, while Rutledge signed on to Texas’ ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the result of the presidential election. Following the riot, Griffin and Rutledge issued statements condemning the storming of the Capitol but not addressing Trump’s role in stirring up his backers. Combined, the two have raised more than $2.8 million for the race. Griffin on Monday criticized Sanders for promising in her video to cut off funding to so-called sanctuary cities that violate immigration laws. He noted a 2019 measure Hutchinson signed into law already does just that by cutting off funding to cities that don’t co-operate with immigration authorities. “It sounds like she needs to catch up on what’s been going on in Arkansas,” Griffin said in a statement. Rutledge, meanwhile, said in a statement the race was about “who has a proven record and not merely rhetoric.” The race could also get even more crowded. Republican State Sen. Jim Hendren, a nephew of Hutchinson’s, is considering a run for the seat and said he hoped to make a decision within the next three weeks. “Right now we have three announced candidates but they all do represent the far right part of the Republican Party,” said Hendren, who has been much more willing to criticize Trump and hasn’t ruled out an independent bid. “The question I have to decide is, is there room for a more pragmatic, centrist type of approach?” Sanders was already well known in Arkansas politics, going back to when she appeared in ads for her father’s campaign. She managed Sen. John Boozman’s 2010 election and worked as an adviser to Sen. Tom Cotton’s in 2014. During Sanders’ nearly two-year tenure at the White House, daily televised briefings led by the press secretary ended after Sanders repeatedly sparred with reporters who aggressively questioned her. She faced questions about her credibility, but she also earned reporters’ respect working behind the scenes to develop relationships with the media. She remains an unknown on many issues and wasn’t made available for interviews Monday, though she staked out some positions in her introductory video that include reducing the state’s income tax. Her introductory video indicates she’s leaning more on her time with Trump, with it featuring images of or calling out those who frequently drew his ire including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and CNN. Republicans hold a firm grip on Arkansas, with the GOP holding all statewide and federal seats. They also hold a majority in both chambers of the Legislature. Trump in November won the state by nearly 28 percentage points, one of the biggest margins in his ultimate loss to Biden. State Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray on Monday called the GOP primary a “race to the bottom.” But national party leaders indicated Sanders’ candidacy may draw more resources and attention to a long-shot race that will coincide with 2022 congressional midterm elections. “As we close the book on a dark chapter in our history, we must make sure Trump’s brand of politics stays in the past," Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison tweeted. “Now, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is running on his record." Hutchinson, who has remained generally popular since taking office in 2015, said he didn't plan on endorsing anyone at this time in the race. “I am a voter, so I will follow the campaign with interest, but I have a job to do for the next two years, and I will devote my energies to bring Arkansas out of the pandemic and to revitalize our economy," he said in a statement. ___ Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo Andrew Demillo, The Associated Press
Canada's natural resources minister accused the Opposition of beating their chests in a show of support for the oil and gas industry, during an emergency debate in the House of Commons regarding the Keystone XL pipeline expansion project Monday evening. "Do we, as some are suggesting, start a trade war with our closest ally and largest trading partner, with the single largest customer for Canadian crude? ... I have not yet heard a single argument that would convince me a trade war is in the best interests of our oil and gas workers," Seamus O'Regan said. O'Regan said the new U.S. administration represents an opportunity to work together with a government aligned with Canada's priorities on clean energy, pointing to TC Energy — the Calgary-based company behind the Keystone project — committing to buying renewable energy to achieve net zero emissions. Last week, on his first day in office, U.S. President Joe Biden scrapped the pipeline's permit as one of multiple actions intended to fight climate change, effectively killing the $8-billion US project. If completed, the 1,897-kilometre pipeline expansion project, first announced in 2005, would have carried 830,000 barrels of oilsands crude from Hardisty, Alta., to Nebraska, where it would then connect with the original Keystone pipeline that runs to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. Opposition Leader Erin O'Toole called for the debate earlier on Monday, accusing the government of not doing enough to advocate for the expansion. During the evening's debate, which stretched until just past midnight in Ottawa, O'Toole described empty office towers and job losses in Calgary. "Canada has been dealt a serious blow … these are Canadians, thousands of them, being totally forgotten and left behind by this government," he said. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government has repeatedly said it supports the project, and Trudeau expressed his disappointment with Biden during a call between the two nations' leaders on Friday. "We will stand up and have our workers' backs.… Let's talk TMX. We approved it, we bought it, we're building it," O'Regan said, referring to the federal purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which is under construction. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has called for sanctions against the U.S. in response to the permit's cancellation. Kenney's government invested $1.5 billion Cdn in equity in the project alongside billions in loan guarantees.The provincial opposition NDP is calling on the Alberta government to release documents containing details of that deal, calling it a risky one. The project had been rejected under former president Barack Obama's government. It was later approved under former president Donald Trump, but Biden had repeatedly stated he intended to rescind that permit once elected. Canada's ambassador to the U.S. has said it's time to respect that decision, however disappointing it may be to proponents, and move forward. WATCH | Keystone XL pipeline project 'appears to be dead,' says Rachel Notley Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MP Heather McPherson said Biden's decision should have come as no surprise given Biden's opposition and legal challenges of the project. "Remember when Jason Kenney gambled on Donald Trump. He didn't gamble his money — he gambled ours … that was his plan to get jobs for workers in my province," she said. "Now, he wants to start a trade war with the U.S., the customer for 95 per cent of our energy exports." Lakeland Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs said while the decision did not come as a shock, it underlines that Canada is in a vulnerable position when it comes to its energy industry as the U.S. has increased domestic production. "With the stroke of a pen thousands of people are out of work in the middle of a global crisis ... Canadians whose livelihoods depend on the oil and gas sector are rightfully anxious about their future," she said. O'Regan referred to climate change as an "existential crisis." "The market has an important role here. It is the leading role in determining how investment decisions should be made, but it is our government's duty to set the parameters on that and to incent what we believe to be extraordinarily important goals, namely net-zero emissions by 2050. That is the goal we have set for ourselves, and many of our friends, colleagues and competitors around the world have also set that goal for themselves. This is an existential crisis, there is no question." It's also an economic crisis for the many people across the country who worry they may be left behind, he said. "We cannot allow that to happen." Former Green Party Leader and Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May said it would be extremely unfair to say those who think the Keystone expansion cancellation was a good decision don't care about workers losing their jobs. "I would no more say that people who are supporting the oilsands are deliberately and consciously threatening my grandchildrens' future than I would say it's right to be celebrating when people suffer an immediate downturn in their economic prospects."
EDMONTON — Alberta is reporting its first case of a COVID-19 variant, first seen in the United Kingdom, that cannot be directly traced to international travel. Health Minister Tyler Shandro says while it is one case, the variant has the potential to spread faster than the original novel coronavirus and could quickly overwhelm hospitals if not checked. “There’s no question that this kind of exponential growth would push our health-care system to the brink,” Shandro told a virtual news conference Monday. “It would significantly impact the health care and the services available to all Albertans.” Alberta has 20 known cases of the U.K. variant and five of another strain first reported in South Africa. Alberta is not alone facing the variant. In Ontario Monday, public health units announced plans to enhance infection control measures given evidence the U.K. variant had emerged across the province. Shandro noted the case of U.K. variant outbreak at a Barrie, Ont., long-term care home is a sobering example of its deadly swiftness. “This outbreak has seen more than 200 residents and staff infected within a few weeks and more than 30 people have lost their lives,” he said. Shandro announced changes to travel rules as a result of the variant. International passengers returning to Alberta via Calgary's airport or at the border crossing at Coutts will have to remain in isolation between their first and second COVID-19 tests. Up until now, they could go about their business after receiving a negative test result and before getting a second test six or seven days later. Shandro said travellers will now have to self-isolate for a full two weeks if either test is positive. Alberta continues to reduce the cases of COVID-19 but Shandro said the numbers, and the threat of the variant, prevent current lockdown measures from being lifted. Those measures include a sharp reduction in the number of customers in stores at any one time, and closure of all amusement and entertainment venues like casinos and movie theatres. There is a ban on indoor gatherings and outdoor gatherings of no more than 10 are allowed. Alberta introduced the stricter measures in mid-December after soaring case rates threatened to swamp the health system. Some non-urgent surgeries in Edmonton have had to be put on hold. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, announced 362 new cases of COVID-19, compared with daily numbers peaking as high as 1,800 in mid-December. There 637 people in hospital with COVID, 113 of whom are in intensive care. Hinshaw announced 25 more deaths, bringing that total to 1,574. Shandro also announced more than 99,000 Albertans have received either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. Both require two doses spread weeks apart to be fully effective. Alberta has prioritized those most at-risk, as well as residents in long-term care and designated supportive living facilities. The vaccinations began in mid-December and Shandro said about 10,000 Albertans have now received the double dose. The main supplier, Pfizer, has announced Canada will not get any vaccines this week and sharply reduced numbers in the weeks to follow as it retrofits its Belgium facility in order to produce more vaccine. Opposition NDP health critic David Shepherd urged Shandro to continue to share critical information and the data supporting it. “I’m glad the government has finally released modelling that demonstrates just how dangerous these variants can be,” said Shepherd. “A clear and transparent plan with daily -- not weekly -- reporting is crucial to public confidence. “(Premier) Jason Kenney failed to act as second-wave cases grew exponentially in November and December. He must not repeat that mistake with these dangerous new variants.” This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
A variety of community groups and individuals will seek support from Tay council at Wednesday's meeting. The packed agenda begins with a service pin presentation to volunteer firefighters, followed by a number of delegations. The first one is by Patricia Michener, who wants to the township to consider a different approach to roadside mowing to help encourage pollinators to come to the area. "In the past years, however, mowing has been taking place, so far as I’ve observed, three times a year," she writes. "The question is whether it might be reduced to perhaps once a year, in the fall. Sight-lines are important, and have to be maintained, but this should be compatible with less mowing. The result would be a win-win, increasing pollinator habitat while reducing carbon emissions and expense." Then the baton will be handed to the Waubaushene Action Group (WAG) that hopes to convince council to purchase the Waubaushene Pines School and use it as a community space. "We believe two promising options exist for the realization of a multi-purpose public centre in Waubaushene: the renovation of the existing Catholic School Building or an addition to the fire hall in Bridgeview Park," says the group's presentation. The former Pine Street School is an existing structure that will likely require retrofitting to make an ideal home for the multi-purpose community space, says WAG, adding the building’s location along Waubaushene’s main street and proximity to the Veteran’s Memorial park playground, makes it easily accessible by township residents of all ages. A third delegation is by Dan Travers, who wants to Keep Keewatin Home. He and Fred Addis, curator for Friends of Keewatin, are requesting the township endorse this new initiative by designating the S.S. Keewatin as a historically significant structure in Tay. Travers lists two reasons for this move. "It would provide a public declaration by council, on behalf of the citizens of the township, many of whom have signed both petitions, that the S.S. Keewatin is historically significant and therefore worthy of local designation," he writes in his presentation. "Under the protections offered by local designation through the Ontario Heritage Act, it would require the owners of the ship to provide notification to council in the event that the ship is significantly altered or moved within or from Tay Township." Council will also receive a presentation on an age-friendly community plan on how to make the township more accessible for seniors allowing them to age in place while living in affordable housing and being socially included through increased transportation and support services. Council will also discuss the issue of council composition and the future of the ward system, as well as look at an updated open air burn permit and revisit council's previous decision around winter trail maintenance. The meeting that begins at 7 p.m. can be viewed online or residents can call in at (705)999-0385 and enter meeting ID 836 2919 7656 for an audio-only version of the events. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — R&B artist Trey Songz was jailed overnight after he scuffled with police officers during his arrest for not following coronavirus protocols and other rules at the AFC championship game in Kansas City, police said Monday. Songz, 36, whose name is Tremaine Aldon Neverson, was released Monday while an investigation continues, Jackson County Sheriff's spokesman LeVanden Darks said. No charges have been filed. Songz's representative, Sydney Margetson, declined to comment Monday. Songz is a three-time Grammy-nominated singer. He earned his third No. 1 on Billboard’s Top R&B Albums chart with “Back Home” last year. His other two chart-topping albums are “Trigga” and “Tremaine The Album.” He has also appeared in films including “Texas Chainshaw 3D,” “Baggage Claim” and he starred in “Blood Brother” in 2018. In October, Songz posted on Instagram that he had tested positive for COVID-19. He said he was taking the disease very seriously and urged his fans to do the same. Kansas City police said in a statement that fans at the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills complained about a man who was not following COVID-19-related protocols and other code of conduct rules for fans, which include not being disruptive, intoxicated, or using obscene language. The statement did not identify the man as Songz and did not say exactly which rules he was breaking. Police said the man refused to follow orders from private security guards at Arrowhead Stadium and was asked to leave. When he refused, officers from the Kansas City police and Jackson County sheriff's office were called and he was told he would be arrested if he didn't comply, police said. He punched one officer and put him in a headlock, police said. TMZ released a video Monday that showed Songz was not wearing a mask and struggled with several officers before he was led away in handcuffs. The video does not show how the confrontation began. Some fans can be heard yelling at officers to leave him alone. The video shows at least one officer without a mask and others with masks not completely covering their mouth and nose. Kansas City police told The Associated Press that officers working Chiefs games “comply with all mask mandates.” “He clearly had his mask on prior to being assaulted and placed in a headlock,” KCPD spokeswoman Donna Drake said in an email. Law enforcement officials said several agencies work NFL games, making it difficult to know how many other fans might have been ejected or arrested Sunday. Earlier this month, Songz was set to perform at a concert in Houston but police shut it down after seeing hundreds of people lining up to enter the venue, which was supposed to be operating at 50% capacity. In 2017, Songz was charged with felony assault and assaulting a police officer after he became upset when he was told to end a performance in Detroit. Authorities said microphones and speakers were thrown from the stage during the concert. Songz pleaded guilty in August 2017 to two counts of disturbing the peace and was sentenced to 18 months of probation. Margaret Stafford, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — These suspects weren't exactly in hiding. “THIS IS ME,” one man posted on Instagram with a hand emoji pointing to himself in a picture of the violent mob descending on the U.S. Capitol. “Sooo we’ve stormed Capitol Hill lol,” one woman texted someone while inside the building. “I just wanted to incriminate myself a little lol,” another wrote on Facebook about a selfie he took inside during the Jan. 6 riot. In dozens of cases, supporters of President Donald Trump downright flaunted their activity on social media on the day of the deadly insurrection. Some, apparently realizing they were in trouble with the law, deleted their accounts only to discover their friends and family members had already taken screenshots of their selfies, videos and comments and sent them to the FBI. Their total lack of concern over getting caught and their friends' willingness to turn them in has helped authorities charge about 150 people as of Monday with federal crimes. But even with the help from the rioters themselves, investigators must still work rigorously to link the images to the vandalism and suspects to the acts on Jan. 6 in order to prove their case in court. And because so few were arrested at the scene, the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service have been forced to send agents to track suspects down. “Just because you’ve left the D.C. region, you can still expect a knock on the door if we find out that you were part of criminal activity inside the Capitol,” Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington office, said earlier this month. “Bottom line — the FBI is not sparing any resources in this investigation.” In the last few weeks, the FBI has received over 200,000 photos and video tips related to the riot. Investigators have put up billboards in several states with photos of wanted rioters. Working on tips from co-workers, acquaintances and friends, agents have tracked down driver’s license photos to match their faces with those captured on camera in the building. In some cases, authorities got records from Facebook or Twitter to connect their social media accounts to their email addresses or phone numbers. In others, agents used records from license plate readers to confirm their travels. More than 800 are believed to have made their way into the Capitol, although it's likely not everyone will be tracked down and charged with a crime. Federal prosecutors are focusing on the most critical cases and the most egregious examples of wrongdoing. And they must weigh manpower, cost and evidence when charging rioters. A special group of prosecutors is examining whether to bring sedition charges against the rioters, which carry up to 20 years in prison. One trio was charged with conspiracy; most have been charged with crimes like unlawful entry and disorderly conduct. Many rioters posted selfies inside the Capitol to their social media accounts, gave interviews to news outlets describing their experience and readily admitted when questioned by federal investigators that they were there. One man created a Facebook album titled “Who’s House? OUR HOUSE” filled with photos of himself and others on Capitol grounds, officials said. “They might have thought, like so many people that work with Trump, that if the president tells me to do it, it’s not breaking the law,” said Michael Gerhardt, an expert on impeachment and professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law. Others made blunders, like a Houston police officer, who denied he went into the Capitol, then agreed to let agents look at the pictures on his phone. Inside his deleted photos folder were pictures and videos, including selfies he took inside the building, authorities said. Another man was wearing a court-ordered GPS monitor after a burglary conviction that tracked his every movement inside the building. A retired firefighter from Long Island, New York, texted a video of himself in the Capitol rotunda to his girlfriend’s brother, saying he was “at the tip of the spear,” officials said. The brother happened to be a federal agent with the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, who turned the video over to the FBI. A lawyer for the man, Thomas Fee, said he “was not part of any attempt to take over the U.S. Capitol” and that “the allegation is that he merely walked through an open door into the Capitol — nothing more." Another man who was inside the Capitol was willing to rat out another rioter who stole House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern and emailed the video to an FBI agent, even signing his own name to it. “Hello Nice FBI Lady,” he wrote, “Here are the links to the videos. Looks like Podium Guy is in one of them, less the podium. Let me know if you need anything else.” In another case, a man was on a flight leaving D.C. two days after the riot when he kept shouting “Trump 2020!” and was kicked off. An airport police officer saw the man get off the plane and the man was booked on another flight. Forty-five minutes later, the officer was watching a video on Instagram and recognized the man in a group of rioters. The man, who was wearing the same shirt as the day he stormed the Capitol, was arrested at the airport, authorities said. Even defence attorneys have acknowledged that the evidence poses a problem for them. “I’m not a magician,” said an attorney for the man seen in a photo carrying Pelosi's lectern. “We’ve got a photograph of our client in what appears to be inside a federal building or inside the Capitol with government property,” he told reporters. Police at the Capitol planned only for a free-speech demonstration and were overwhelmed by the mob that broke through and roamed the halls of the Capitol for hours as lawmakers were sent into hiding. Five people died in the melee, including a Capitol police officer who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher. Trump was impeached after the riot on a charge of “inciting violence against the government of the United States.” Opening arguments will begin the week of Feb. 8. He is the first president to be twice impeached and the first to face a trial after leaving office. Unlike criminal cases, impeachment trials do not have specific evidence rules so anything said and done that day can be used. And several of the people charged have said in interviews with reporters or federal agents that they were simply listening to the president when they marched to the Capitol. ___ Richer reported from Boston. Michael Balsamo, Alanna Durkin Richer And Colleen Long, The Associated Press
North Grenville officials have presented council with a preliminary budget that holds the line on municipal taxes. The current recommendation is for no increase in the municipal portion of property taxes. The education portion of the tax levy is not going up this year and although the county is proposing a 1.4-per-cent increase, the hike is not currently supported by the majority of county council. That means if North Grenville council accepts staff recommendations residents at worst could be looking at a less-than-one per-cent increase in their property taxes, even if the county does in fact raise its levy. "We're pleased to see the proposed zero-per-cent tax increase – something that council wanted – and look forward to the community feedback on the proposed 2021 budget," said Mayor Nancy Peckford. The preliminary 2021 operating budget includes an estimated total gross expenditure of $22.5 million. Of that total, $16 million is from property taxes, which account for 71 per cent of the operating budget revenues. Other sources of revenue include the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) at $1.09 million plus $950,000 in gas tax funding, along with waste diversion and Rural Economic Development programs. The rest of the money is collected through user fees, and transfers from reserves. "The proposed zero-per-cent tax increase was in part taking into account the COVID pandemic and its effect on the broader community," said treasurer Brad Brookman, adding: "We want to assure residents that a zero-per-cent increase now is not going to require inflated increases to taxes in future years." The good news is that the OPP is holding the line on its budget and will cost the municipality $2.4 million in 2021, the same as 2020. "This is consistent with all levels of government trying to help our residents get through this challenging year," said Brookman. In spite of not raising taxes this year the municipality is still going to be able to go ahead with a number of capital projects to the tune of $9.9 million, an increase of $1.8 million from 2020. "Our reserves are healthy, we have enough funds to start executing larger projects," said Brookman. Some the funds slated for capital projects in 2021 are funds that were not spent in 2020, when some projects were halted due to COVID or because the bids came in higher than the municipality would accept, Brookman explained. "A large portion of the roads expenditure ($2.6M) is resulting from the municipality's 2021 share of the three-year County Road 43 expansion," added Brookman. This year the municipality is spending $4.6 million on road works, including County Road 43 as well as Wellington Road. A number of paving projects are planned along with some parkland rehabilitation and the CP pedestrian trail. The municipality will be holding online public consultations on the proposed budget on Jan. 27 and 28. The final 2021 budget is expected to be ratified by council on Feb. 2. Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
A group of US outdoor organizations and companies has released a free “toolkit” that might be perfect for your social media channels. The group put out the resources in response to an unprecedented uptick in backcountry use that’s being seen in the U.S., but the tools are relevant to our neck of the woods as well. David Page, an advocacy director with the Winter Wildlands Alliance, said the resource is intended to encourage best practices in the backcountry and foster a safer, more welcoming backcountry community. A highly experienced outdoor industry expert, he wrote the captions that grace the appealing content. “We wanted to kind of target the experienced backcountry ski community,” he said, explaining the genesis of the project. “We figured that with the new influx of people, that we wanted to remind people to be kind and to be a mentor out there.” Designed by Keri Davis of Sharp End Design, the content can easily be shared on Instagram or Facebook and can be downloaded directly from the Ski Kind website. Page said some images come in the form of high-resolution images and can be used to create posters. Others have more to do with promoting good behaviour in the backcountry, such as this one. Page said there can be a tendency in some backcountry circles to look down on newcomers, with people not wanting to have their favourite trail or powder stash to be discovered by the masses. Page said ultimately that’s shortsighted. “The more people who get out, the more people that there are to defend public lands when they’re on the chopping block,” he said. “We may need to teach people a little bit about how to use [the backcountry] safely and responsibly, but the idea is to really be welcoming to whoever’s out there.” You can view the Ski Kind tool kit in its entirety at this link. Joel Barde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sun Peaks Independent News Inc.
More vaccine delays and a failure to bring down the number of new COVID-19 cases have British Columbia health officials urging the public to double down on staying home and apart these next two weeks. “We have plateaued at about 500 new cases of COVID-19 per day. This is too high,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said today. And while 11 community and health-care outbreaks were declared over since Friday, high community transmission rates heighten the risk for more outbreaks, Henry said. The province is “at the precipice of rapid takeoff, particularly if any of these new variants start to transmit in our community,” Henry said. New variants of the virus are more easily transmitted, but not more likely to cause serious illness. B.C. has identified five cases of the U.K. and three of the South Africa variant, all related to travel or close contact with someone who had travelled. Henry said their presence in the province is believed to be under control. But people should still respond with stricter adherence to mask-wearing, physical distancing and staying home. The risk is serious, she said. Case numbers are “at a point where it takes very little for it to skyrocket.” Henry announced 26 people died of the virus and 1,344 new cases were identified over the weekend. Hospitalizations remain high at 328, with 68 people in intensive or critical care. Henry hinted further restrictions could come into effect if cases don’t start to decline in the next two weeks. “We are at the threshold of where we were in late October or November, and we need and know how to stop this,” Henry said. Delays in vaccine delivery increase the concern for what could happen in B.C., particularly in long-term care. No new Pfizer vaccine will arrive this week, as expected. But Henry said that will likely continue into the first two weeks of February. There is also no confirmation that the vaccine expected to arrive in the second half of February will be delivered. The vaccines require two doses for full effectiveness. Henry announced the province will delay administering the second dose of the vaccine until 42 days after the first dose, the last day clinically supported by vaccine manufacturers for best immunity results, in order to ensure all long-term care residents, staff and essential visitors receive the first dose as planned. “This is about putting out fires before they get out of control,” Henry said. To date, B.C. has administered approximately 119,800 doses of vaccine. The news comes just three days after the province laid out its four-phase vaccination strategy, basing eligibility largely on age. The delays will likely push back second doses for many health-care workers and the beginning of vaccination for seniors over 80 living in the community and Indigenous seniors over 65. Both were slated to begin in late February. Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix urged British Columbians not to take the vaccine as a hall pass on public health orders. “For the next two weeks, I am asking you to do more,” said Henry. “Take a step back, stay home, stay away from others, join in our effort to bend down our curve.” “We can’t rely on the vaccine to protect us all yet.” Moira Wyton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
Even before the pandemic hit, Sarah Klodnicki had considered homeschooling her four children, the oldest of which has autism spectrum disorder. When schools closed for in-person learning last spring, she took the leap. “They had to put a stationary bike in my kid’s classroom for crying out loud,” she said. “There was no way my child was going to sit there and try to do online learning, so I took them out.” Klodnicki, who also runs a non-profit aimed at supporting caregivers of individuals with special needs called Balance Support and Self Care Studios, teaches her kids — who were previously enrolled in the Catholic board — using their “own version of home school,” she said. That involves midday hikes and chores on their hobby farm on Twenty Road East in Hamilton, as well as traditional subjects like math and science. “I am very creative and, thank goodness for my own ADHD, I’ve got a lot of energy, but I mean, I’ve got four kids and I’m trying to teach them all different things at the same time,” she said. Klodnicki said her situation is unique and she recognizes that not all families have the option — or the ability — to homeschool their kids. Approximately 570 students with special needs are learning in-person — and many more learning remotely — at Hamilton’s public and Catholic schools during the stay-at-home order. “They need the socialization with other people for generalization of skills,” said Heather Atkinson-Rossi, whose nine-year-old son is currently learning in a self-contained classroom at a public school. “If we teach my guy something at home, I want him to be able to do that same thing with other adults, with other kids.” Atkinson-Rossi said her son, who is nonverbal autistic, spends about 45 minutes on the bus to get from their central Hamilton home to the school on Stoney Creek Mountain. He wears a mask, but she knows many of his classmates aren’t able to wear a face covering or physically distance. As an educational assistant with the public board, she said she is “on both sides.” “Am I scared? Of course I am. Because I have two little kids to look after at home and ... we don’t know who our students are exposed to,” she said. “But I do recognize what it does for my son being in school.” The classroom is just one of many places that has been disrupted by the pandemic, causing additional challenges for students with autism. “One of the diagnostic characteristics is that there is a preference, or almost a need, for sameness and routine and consistency,” said Andrew Davis, director of Sonderly, the learning division at Geneva Centre for Autism. Earlier this month, the province announced $7.5 million in funding for online training courses to help Ontario educators in all 72 school boards better support students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which will be administered by Sonderly. Davis said some students with autism may prefer online learning because of the absence of classroom distractions. But, he said, many students will struggle, especially those who need more support — like gesturing or pointing to something on a page — than just the sound of a teacher’s voice. “It becomes a lot more difficult to provide those extra cues in a virtual setting,” he said. Walker Hill, a Grade 9 student with the Catholic board who has autism, has struggled since remote learning began. “He was loving high school, like, he loved going and the teachers were fantastic and the kids were great,” said his mother, Rebekah Clarke Hill, adding that he’s a more reluctant learner now that a day in the classroom has turned into hours glued to a screen. “We’re noticing a big difference in Walker.” She said her son’s friendships aren’t easily fostered over the phone or FaceTime. Since school went virtual, Clarke Hill has noticed her son talking to himself, answering his own questions. “He’s craving social interaction, which I can’t provide for him right now because there’s nowhere for him to go,” she said. “School was a huge outlet for him just to talk to other people.” Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
California eased strict COVID-19 stay-at-home orders on Monday, allowing restaurants to reopen for outdoor dining and greater social mixing, as public health authorities reported slower infection rates and hospitalizations. The announcement marked the most tangible sign yet that California, which emerged in recent months as a leading U.S. coronavirus hotspot, has moved beyond the worst days of a crisis that pushed much of its healthcare system to breaking point. Across the country, New York Governor Mario Cuomo said he planned to relax a number of unspecified restrictions in the days ahead, as long as transmission rates there remained low.
WASHINGTON — Democrats marched the impeachment case against Donald Trump to the Senate Monday night for the start of his historic trial, but Republican senators were easing off their criticism of the former president and shunning calls to convict him over the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol. It's an early sign of Trump's enduring sway over the party. The House prosecutors delivered the sole impeachment charge of “incitement of insurrection," making the ceremonial walk across the Capitol to the Senate. But Republican denunciations of Trump have cooled since the Jan. 6 riot. Instead Republicans are presenting a tangle of legal arguments against the legitimacy of the trial and questions whether Trump's repeated demands to overturn Joe Biden's election really amounted to incitement. What seemed for some Democrats like an open-shut case that played out for the world on live television, as Trump encouraged a rally mob to “fight like hell" for his presidency, is running into a Republican Party that feels very differently. Not only are there legal concerns, but senators are wary of crossing the former president and his legions of followers who are their voters. Security remains tight at the Capitol. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said if Congress starts holding impeachment trials of former officials, what's next: “Could we go back and try President Obama?” Besides, he suggested, Trump has already been held to account. “One way in our system you get punished is losing an election.” Arguments in the Senate trial will begin the week of Feb. 8, and the case against Trump, the first former president to face impeachment trial, will test a political party still sorting itself out for the post-Trump era. Republican senators are balancing the demands of deep-pocketed donors who are distancing themselves from Trump and voters who demand loyalty to him. One Republican, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, announced Monday he would not seek reelection in 2022 citing the polarized political atmosphere. For Democrats the tone, tenor and length of the upcoming trial, so early in Biden's presidency, poses its own challenge, forcing them to strike a balance between their vow to hold Trump accountable and their eagerness to deliver on the new administration's priorities following their sweep of control of the House, Senate and White House. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Republicans appear more eager to argue over trial process than the substance of the impeachment case against Trump, perhaps to avoid casting judgment on the former president's “role in fomenting the despicable attack” on the Capitol. He said there's only one question "senators of both parties will have to answer before God and their own conscience: Is former President Trump guilty of inciting an insurrection against the United States?” Failing to conduct the trial would amount to a “get-out-jail-free card” for other officials accused of wrongdoing on their way out the door, Schumer said. On Monday, it was learned that Chief Justice John Roberts is not expected to preside at the trial, as he did during Trump’s first impeachment, potentially affecting the gravitas of the proceedings. The shift is said to be in keeping with protocol because Trump is no longer in office. Instead, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D- Vt., who serves in the largely ceremonial role of Senate president pro-tempore, is set to preside. Leaders in both parties agreed to a short delay in the proceedings that serves their political and practical interests, even as National Guard troops remain at the Capitol amid security threats on lawmakers ahead of the trial. The start date gives Trump’s new legal team time to prepare its case, while also providing more than a month's distance from the passions of the bloody riot. For the Democratic-led Senate, the intervening weeks provide prime time to confirm some of Biden’s key Cabinet nominees. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., questioned how his colleagues who were in the Capitol that day could see the insurrection as anything other than a “stunning violation” of the nation's history of peaceful transfers of power. “It is a critical moment in American history,” Coons said Sunday in an interview. An early vote to dismiss the trial probably would not succeed, given that Democrats now control the Senate. Still, the mounting Republican opposition to the proceedings indicates that many GOP senators would eventually vote to acquit Trump. Democrats would need the support of 17 Republicans — a high bar — to convict him. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said he doesn't believe the Senate has the constitutional authority to convict Trump after he has left office. “I think a lot of Americans are going to think it’s strange that the Senate is spending its time trying to convict and remove from office a man who left office a week ago,” Cotton said. Democrats reject that argument, pointing to an 1876 impeachment of a secretary of war who had already resigned and to opinions by many legal scholars. Democrats also say that a reckoning of the first invasion of the Capitol since the War of 1812, perpetrated by rioters egged on by a president as Electoral College votes were being tallied, is necessary to ensure such a siege never happens again. A few GOP senators have agreed with Democrats, though not close to the number that will be needed to convict Trump. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said he believes "what is being alleged and what we saw, which is incitement to insurrection, is an impeachable offence.” Romney said, “If not, what is?” But Romney, the lone Republican to vote to convict Trump when the Senate acquitted the then-president in last year’s trial, appears to be an outlier. ___ Associated Press writer Hope Yen contributed to this report. Lisa Mascaro And Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
Residents lying on bare mattresses soaked with urine. Others waiting 30 minutes for help when choking. Deaths that could have been prevented with better hydration. These are some of the horrifying “war zone” conditions workers at Grace Villa have detailed in the wake of its outbreak, prompting calls to revoke the home’s licence. Workers sent a series of scathing letters and emails to their local MPP detailing conditions inside the site of Hamilton’s worst and deadliest outbreak, which killed 44 of the home’s 156 residents in less than two months. The outbreak was declared over by public health last week. “Residents would be falling on (the) floor or choking, and we would have to wait 30 minutes to enter the room while we waited for gowns to be delivered,” read one letter. On Monday, NDP MPP Monique Taylor released the letters in a press release calling for the home’s licence to be revoked. The Spectator sent the letters and Taylor’s press release to APANS Health Services and Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) on Monday morning for comment. They have yet to respond. HHS took over Grace Villa’s management during the outbreak, and continues to do so until the home regains stability. In total, Grace Villa had 234 cases — including 144 resident, 88 staff and two visitor cases — from Nov. 25 to Jan. 20. Taylor, the Hamilton Mountain MPP, received letters from multiple workers describing poor staffing, neglect and horrific sanitary conditions. Taylor said the letters arrived in recent days from workers worried what would happen when HHS leaves the facility. Another letter described workers seeing nine scarcely clad residents lying in dirty or soaked briefs on bare mattresses “saturated” with urine and vomit. “It was obvious that many of them were suffering with fevers,” the letter said. “Basic hydration could have prevented some of those deaths. But nobody would listen,” it added. “We were forced to neglect our residents.” “We had residents sorting through the boxes of garbage,” the letter continued. “I saw more than one person wearing dirty gowns, carrying dirty gloves and eating food that we had not given them.” A third letter described the effect on staff. “The images of residents, some hanging out of beds moaning, vomiting, crying, it is all too much to bear,” it read. “I still can’t sleep at night.” According to Taylor’s release, the letters were anonymized “to protect the identity of workers, who are not authorized to speak with media and fear reprisal from management.” However, the president of SEIU Healthcare, the union representing most of Grace Villa’s workers, confirmed she recognized names on the original letters as Grace Villa workers. Taylor and SEIU Healthcare are calling on Premier Doug Ford to strip APANS Health Services of its licence to prevent the operator from regaining control of the facility. The Spectator previously spoke to Grace Villa nurse Lisa Scott, who described staffing and supply shortages along with deplorable sanitary conditions during the outbreak. HHS said staff were afraid to volunteer to work in the home, so the hospital forced them in. Some got infected while working in the facility, said the nurses’ union at the time. Days after the outbreak was declared, the CEO of APANS Health Services told The Spectator that Grace Villa had a staffing issue. At the time, Mary Raithby said that the home had enough PPE and was “working closely with public health and our hospital infection control team to manage each aspect of this outbreak as well as to implement all components of our pandemic plan.” In early December, Raithby again said staffing was a problem, in part because workers had to take extra precautions during an outbreak, which meant more work. Raithby also couldn’t say at the time exactly how many residents had died from COVID-19 since some died between their weekly tests. The true number of deaths from the outbreak remains unknown. On Dec. 12, a spokesperson for HHS said that about 20 HHS staff and leaders were on-site daily at the home. About a week later, a spokesperson said 60 HHS staff were sent to the home. On Dec. 30, HHS said on behalf of Grace Villa that the home’s “clinical staffing levels are stable and additional support from other sources, such as Red Cross, are not required at this time.” Public health reported seven more deaths at the facility since then. In her press release Monday, Taylor said there were “dozens of preventable deaths” at the home. “Management clearly failed to take COVID-19 seriously in the home,” she said. “I was crying reading (the letters),” Taylor said in an interview. “It’s absolutely horrifying to think that’s how we’re allowing our seniors to live. Taylor said that for-profit seniors’ homes should not be allowed. She said Grace Villa’s management kept saying everything was under control. “The staff and the deaths and the outbreaks tell a very different story.” In Taylor’s press release, the president of SEIU Healthcare said the home’s management should be replaced and stronger health and safety measures imposed. “There must be consequences for nursing-home owners who fail to keep residents and staff safe,” said Sharleen Stewart. “Immediate changes must be made ... to ensure a tragedy like this never occurs at this home again.” In an interview, Stewart said management must be held accountable. “The government definitely has to have more oversight into the operations of these homes,” she said, adding workers “have totally lost confidence” in both the government and APANS Health Services. “This operator should not be allowed to stay in the business,” Stewart said, adding that workers are “extremely concerned about having the responsibility be given back to these operators.” Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
McGill University has forced at least 15 students to leave their dorms for a week after a COVID-19 outbreak was traced back to close-contact gatherings that violated public health restrictions. "As of Sunday evening, 44 students living in residence reported testing positive for COVID-19, 33 of whom are from Royal Victoria College (RVC)," wrote Fabrice Labeau, Deputy Provost, Student Life and Learning, in an email to students. A floor representative for McGill's New Residence Hall says about 15 students were kicked out for seven days. Multiple students have told CBC that residents have also been suspended from the Royal Victoria College (RVC) residence as well, though it's not clear how many. The university declined to comment on the suspension, but CBC has obtained an email that was sent to at least one student of New Residence Hall. The exclusion order accuses the student of violating COVID-19 rules. The student is ordered to vacate the residence by 10 a.m. on Monday, and won't be allowed back until Feb. 1. The email advises the student that the school has affiliations with local hotels should the student need a place to stay. "We have students in distress right now," said Elisha Mayer, a first-year McGill student and the 15th-floor representative on the New Residence Hall council. Mayer, who was not suspended, said the disciplinary measures are extreme and weren't preceded by a formal warning. "So they had less than 24-hour notice to leave the premises of McGill," said Mayer. "This comes without a warning for them, without a disciplinary meeting or without any other information." Mayer said some of the students who were kicked out are minors, which makes it harder for them to rent a temporary room. He said people are scrambling to find friends to stay with, and some international students say they have no choice but to return home. Mayer says the affected students are also missing out on their meal plans and the sudden expulsion risks depriving them of resources to continue their class work at a crucial time. "We already have quizzes, exams and not having a place to study or proper Wi-Fi can really make their studies difficult," he said. "Especially in the situation we have right now where all of the classes are online." McGill tracking outbreak As soon as the positive cases were reported in residences, McGill began tracing contacts and, in accordance with public health restrictions, ensuring those at medium to high risk are self-isolating. "As an added precautionary measure, we have also asked all RVC students to get tested, and over the weekend ... mobile testing was held in RVC for both students and residences staff," Labeau said. The recent cases have been linked back to sustained close contact between students that occurred at — or following — gatherings held in contravention of COVID-19 and residence regulations, according to the letter sent out by Labeau.
Since first picking up a paintbrush on a whim in March, Maggie Smith has produced 105 paintings and sold more than three dozen to impressed patrons of the Simcoe bakery that displays her work. Not bad for someone who still can’t draw a straight line. “If somebody asked me a year ago ‘Would you be able to paint some pictures and have people buy them?’, I would have laughed so hard,” Smith said. “Because I can’t draw. So why would I ever think I could paint?” Smith does it by layering acrylic paint on the canvas, using contrasting colours and textures to create the fine details she would never be able to sketch by hand. It’s a technique she found on YouTube when casting about for a new hobby after COVID-19 closed the Simcoe cooking school she managed and taught at for the past 10 years. “My whole life has been business. I never took anything art in school,” said Smith, who previously worked in government for 16 years and owned a Sears store at the Simcoe mall. The pandemic left her with time on her hands and nowhere to go. “Here I am at home, and I’m trying to figure out something to do,” she said. “I’ve never been a TV watcher.” Painting, she said, “grabbed my interest like crazy.” She devoured how-to videos and signed up for online classes in brushwork and colour mixing. “Before I knew it, I had 43 paintings done over a two-month period,” she said. Smith’s self-taught artistic style is as bubbly as her personality. Whether she’s depicting animals and landscapes or dabbling in abstract impressionism, her work is full of cheer. “I have a really positive outlook on life, and I love the colours,” she said. Canvases started piling up in the basement of Smith’s Waterford home, so she and her husband Bill turned an upstairs bedroom into a studio. With soft instrumental music playing, Smith will spend painstaking hours manipulating paint to create a horse’s mane, a bird’s ruffled feathers, or waves crashing on the shore. “You have to be patient,” she said. “To sit and relax and paint is beautiful.” As she paints, she thinks about her late mother, Irene Mawle, a prolific knitter, gardener and decorator. “She did everything with colour and made things beautiful,” Smith said. “I have a picture of my mom facing me. After I finish every picture, I turn to her and I say, ‘Mom, we did it. Thank you.’” Smith became the de facto artist in residence at Viking Bakery in Simcoe after she casually remarked to owner Birgir Robertsson that the walls of his Norfolk Street shop were looking a little bare. He promptly invited her to display her artwork. “I was scared at first. I mean, there’s so many professional artists around this area. What would people think of my work?” Smith said. “But as people came in and saw the pictures, I had so much positive reaction. Here I was creating something from my heart and it was reaching their heart, which was totally amazing to me.” The bakery is now chock full of Smith originals, and she gave her fledging studio a name — Canvas Creations. Robertsson said the paintings are a hit with his regulars, who before the lockdown would enjoy them while sipping coffee and nibbling on Icelandic baked goods. “The people really like the pictures. It’s very good decorating for the bakery,” Robertsson said. “They are great. The more she paints, she’s getting better and better.” Robertsson lets Smith know each time a painting is sold so she can be there to take a photograph of buyers taking home one of her “babies.” “COVID has been such a hard, cold thing on our society. People can’t even hug anymore,” Smith said. “My goal right from the very beginning was to create something that made others happy and brought smiles to their houses.” J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
With much of Italy in various stages of lockdown, restaurants in Florence are reopening a centuries-old way of gathering for a glass of wine safely — windows.
Dr. Jeannette Armstrong is the associate professor in Indigenous Studies at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan (UBCO) campus. Armstrong was one of three speakers discussing systemic racism in science in a conversations on Indigenous knowledge in academia. Indigenous people still face systemic racism, and their voices are often left unheard, said Ananya Mukherjee Reed, provost and vice-president of UBCO during her opening remarks of the Jan. 20 webinar. During the two-hour discussion, three Indigenous leaders and researchers discussed some of the differences and misunderstandings of Indigenous knowledge and western science, as well as the impacts of what they framed “environmental racism.” Armstrong, who shared a Syilx Okanagan perspective, spoke alongside Aaron Prosper from Eskasoni First Nation, and Elder Albert Marshall from the Mi’kmaw Nation. “In these times of climate change, societal disease and diseases, we need Indigenous knowledge,” said Armstrong. As Canada Research Chair in Okanagan Indigenous Knowledge and Philosophy, Armstrong has been recognized for her award-winning literary work on education, ecology and Indigenous rights. Indigenous knowledge remains overlooked in academia, particularly in science, because unlike a western scientific method, Indigenous knowledge is not evidence-based, according to Armstrong. Indigenous knowledge is focused on a holistic perspective incorporating traditional knowledge and lived experiences, she says. “A general definition of Indigenous knowledge consists of those beliefs, assumptions, and understandings of non-western people developed through long-term associations with a specific place,” Armstrong told participants during the event. “Therefore, Indigenous knowledge is considered the second tier of knowledge, that is, below science. This is racist.” According to Prosper, Indigenous knowledge has been misused or co-opted within the scientific field. “Indigenous people had knowledge prior to Western scientific knowledge, in terms of traditional medicine,” said Prosper, who studies Indigenous Health and Indigenous Ethics & Research Methodologies. “In my personal opinion, there is a significant issue within the scientific field when it comes to racism, systemic racism.” Prosper feels Indigenous knowledge, and Indigenous information or data should be valued the same as Western scientific knowledge. “Usually what you see done is an Elder getting interviewed, getting traditional knowledge taken out, and then the researcher collects the data as a western methodology, to interpret that data, which makes it incorrect,” Prosper explained. Marshall believes two-eyed seeing is the transformative change society needs to understand and incorporate Indigenous knowledge. “Being Indigenous, I see everything through my Indigenous lens,” said Marshall, who says ‘two-eyed seeing’ means a worldview which reconciles and incorporates Indigenous ways of knowing and western scientific ways of knowing. “To see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledge, and to see from the other eye with the strengths of Western science knowledge and to use both of these eyes together, is two-eyed seeing.” Indigenous knowledge systems can offer society solutions for living in balance with the environment, the speakers stressed. According to Armstrong, the Syilx Okanagan people view the land as a dynamic system, and their sole purpose is to protect the tmxwulaxw (land) and tmixw (all living lifeforms). “In the Syilx view, the human duty is to perceive how the tmixw are regenerating themselves and how therefore the human must move forward in unity with them,” she said. “Immersion in the knowledge of tmixw allows us to view its reality and makes it possible for the aliveness of each separate life form.” During the webinar, environmental racism was discussed. “In the context of environmental racism, the government had been failing to shut down treatment plants in Indigenous communities,” Prosper told participants. The Pictou Landing First Nation community in Nova Scotia is east of Boat Harbour and is utilized for traditional fishing and hunting. “This place is a significant importance to the Pictou Landing First Nation community,” he said. According to Prosper, Boat Harbour has been receiving wastewater effluent from the industry, and the government has neglected health concerns from the Indigenous people living there. The government told the community that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to make a change, he says. “The government told the people, there’s no evidence of this effluent that we’re putting into boat harbour is affecting the health of the people,” says Prosper. “If our environment is not healthy, how can we be healthy?” said Marshall. Marshall said Indigenous Peoples need to amplify our voices, to protect the environment for future generations. People cannot live in silence, he says, allowing the government to continuously destroy the land. “The government needs to be held accountable because all they do is compromise the ecological entirety of the area, and they compromise the system,” Marshall says. “I was taught, while you stay here on earth, you have to be mindful for the next generations. Most importantly, the future generations will have the same opportunity as we had, of being able to sustain themselves in a healthy environment.” Armstrong is committed to pursuing an alternative academic approach to Indigenous environmental knowledge in her research and study. She has created a methodology that she says may assist as a model in Indigenous Peoples’ struggle to include Indigenous knowledge in the academy. “I am developing better access to Indigenous knowledge through Indigenous oral literature situated as the knowledge documentation system of the Syilx peoples,” Armstrong explains. Marshall is working on cultural understandings and healing of our human responsibilities to care for all creatures and our Earth Mother through two-eyed seeing. “These essentials of the web of life should be protected under the charter of human rights because they constitute to me, a climate emergency,” says Marshall. In response, Prosper is committed to approaching his research mindfully. “How do Indigenous communities consent to research when they were exposed to these unethical experiments, whether be in the residential school or within their own communities?” Prosper asked the group. “We have to be mindful when engaging with Indigenous communities.” “Even the most adverse individuals are still dealing with various issues as a result of their experience with colonialism, and they are still trying to reconcile that.” Prosper acknowledges that little progress in the scientific field has been made, but a lot of work needs to be done. “Yes, we’ve been a lot done within 100 years. Have we done a great job? I don’t think so,” explained Prosper. “I think it’s going to take another hundred years to see a difference.” This event is the second of three examining racism in science, specifically from Indigenous perspectives, with the final one, planned for the spring, will explore Black scientists’ views. Editor’s note: Jeannette Armstrong is reporter Athena Bonneau’s grandmother. At IndigiNews, we take journalistic independence seriously, adhering to the Canadian Association of Journalists Ethics Guidelines. Due to Armstrong’s role at UBCO and participant in the webinar as an elder and knowledge keeper, we felt it was important to include her perspective in this piece. Athena Bonneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
OTTAWA — The seats were nearly empty Monday as the House of Commons returned in hybrid form, but the opposition was full of fighting spirit over the Liberal government's handling of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. A new sitting convened after an extended winter break for MPs, though many remained in their ridings Monday after reaching an agreement to resume sitting in a format that allows them to either log in virtually or attend in person. While a smattering of Conservatives, New Democrats and Bloc Québécois MPs took up their seats, Liberal cabinet ministers — including the prime minister — appeared from their homes or offices to fend off criticisms from their rivals about their COVID-19 response. The fury emanating from the Opposition was such that Speaker Anthony Rota was forced to remind them several times to watch their language, even as he also had to remind MPs to unmute their devices. The sitting began as the country continues to reel from the COVID-19 pandemic: over 19,000 people are dead, there are new outbreaks of a highly contagious variant ripping through long-term care homes, curfews, stay-at-home orders and a vaccine rollout that started with promise now being compromised by manufacturing delays. The Liberals insist their goal of getting a shot in the arm of every Canadian who wants one by September remains feasible even as Canada was set to receive no doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week, and sharply curtailed deliveries next week. Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner challenged the math, noting the time in between the required two doses of vaccine means September seems impossible. "This means that Canada, on average, needs to be administering roughly two million doses per week to meet this goal. This week's total is zero," she said. "How the hell did this happen, and what are the Liberals doing to fix it?" Though she was rapped on the knuckles by Rota for her language, Rempel Garner continued her pressure unabated, a theme picked up by MPs from all opposition parties as they castigated the government for appearing to fail Canadians. Procurement Minister Anita Anand insisted again and again that was not the case. The delays — due to Pfizer needing to retool a factory in Belgium — won't compromise the ultimate goal, she said. Claims from Ontario that it has run out of vaccines are untrue, she said, as there are thousands of doses yet to be used. Anand invoked the fact her own 90-year-old father is waiting for his vaccine as proof she understands the pressure to get the rollout right. "We are on track to have vaccines for all Canadians before the end of September because we will stop at nothing to ensure that all Canadians have access to a vaccine this year," she said. The political scandal that broke last week — the resignation of Julie Payette as governor general ahead of a damning report into working conditions at Rideau Hall — barely made the cut in question period. Ahead of time, opposition leaders had demanded the prime minister provide more transparency around the terms of her departure. Both Conservative and NDP leaders said given the circumstances around her departure, Payette should not receive the customary lifetime salary afforded to outgoing governor generals, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ought to disclose whether he offered one. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the scandal created by Payette's departure was one of the Liberals' own making and also serves as a distraction from the goal at hand: managing through the pandemic. But even as he pushed on the vaccine rollout, Singh also sought — and won — a symbolic victory on another subject: all-party consent on a motion condemning white supremacy and asking for the group Proud Boys to be listed as a terrorist entity. The group has ties to Canada and was involved in the deadly riots in the U.S. earlier this month. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole was also successful in his efforts to get emergency debates on vaccines, and also on the implications of a decision by the new U.S. president to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, which will kill thousands of jobs in Tory-held ridings in the prairies. Such a show of unity was not in place for efforts by the Liberals to fast-track their first piece of legislation for the sitting, a bill that would close a loophole allowing anyone forced into quarantine for COVID-19 to access government benefits. The bill, which was in response to people returning from vacations abroad accessing the benefit, will now move through the legislative process. The key piece of legislation up ahead for the government, however, is the next federal budget, which Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Monday is one of the most significant of a generation. It could also send Canadians to the polls, as any vote on its contents will be a confidence motion. The NDP and Conservatives suggested the Liberals are too focused on pre-positioning for an election than on pandemic response, a charge Trudeau denied Monday. "Our focus is on delivering for Canadians and supporting Canadians through the tragedies and the incredible heroics we're seeing on display right across the country from our front-line workers," he said. "There are far too many tragedies but we know that Canadians are continuing to be there for each other and this government will continue to be there for them." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press