WASHINGTON — The coronavirus vaccine inching toward approval in the U.S. is desperately anticipated by weary Americans longing for a path back to normal life. But criminals are waiting, too, ready to use that desperation to their advantage, federal investigators say.Homeland Security investigators are working with Pfizer, Moderna and dozens of other drug companies racing to complete and distribute the vaccine and treatments for the virus. The goal: to prepare for the scams that are coming, especially after the mess of criminal activity this year with phoney personal protective equipment, false cures and extortion schemes.“We're all very excited about the potential vaccine and treatments,” said Steve Francis, assistant director for global trade investigations with Homeland Security Investigations. “But I also caution against these criminal organizations and individuals that will try to exploit the American public."No vaccine has yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has approved the first treatment for COVID-19, the antiviral drug remdesivir. With vaccines and treatments both, it has warned about the potential for fraud.“The FDA is particularly concerned that these deceptive and misleading products might cause Americans to delay or stop appropriate medical treatment, leading to serious and life-threatening harm,” the agency said in a recent statement.The drug companies are to have safeguards and brand-protection features in place to help avoid fraud, but that may not be available until the second generation of vaccine because everything is operated on such an emergency basis, said Karen Gardner, chief marketing officer at SIPCA North America, a company that works as a bridge between the government, businesses and consumers. She said that makes it more important to educate health care providers on what the real thing looks like.“When you have anything in high demand and limited supply, there is going to be fraud,” she said. Desperation will drive people around normal channels.Meanwhile, investigators are learning about how the vaccine will be packaged and getting the message out to field agents, creating a mass database of information from more than 200 companies, so they can be prepared to spot fakes and crack down on dangerous fraud. They are monitoring tens of thousands of false websites and looking for evidence of fake cures sold online.Earlier this year as cases exploded, hospitals and governments grew short on masks, gloves and other protective gear. Scams grew, too. Tricksters preyed on unwitting citizens to hand over money for goods they'd never receive.Homeland Security Investigations started using its 7,000 agents in tandem with border, FDA and FBI officials to investigate scams, seize phoney products and arrest hundreds of people. The effort is headquartered at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, a government watchdog aimed at enforcement of its international trade laws and combating intellectual property theft.The agency has already analyzed more than 70,900 websites suspected as being involved in some type of COVID-19 fraud. Millions of fake or unapproved personal protective equipment products and antiviral pharmaceuticals were seized. Homeland Security Investigations made more than 1,600 seizures of products worth more than $27 million and made more than 185 arrests.Home test kits, for example, were only recently made available to the public in the past few weeks. But investigators seized tens of thousands of fake kits in the months before. On the dark web, scammers were selling domain names like “coronaprevention.org," attractive to counterfeiters. In the U.S. alone, more than 1,000 fake websites a day have been removed during the pandemic.A vaccine can’t come fast enough, as virus cases have topped 13 million in the U.S. and many cities have started restricting movement again as the country heads into winter. The pandemic has killed more than 1.4 million people worldwide, more than 266,000 of them in the U.S., according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. But Francis and other investigators are worried that desperation will make Americans more susceptible.If the FDA allows emergency use of a vaccine, there will be limited, rationed supplies before the end of the year.Gen. Gus Perna, in charge of the government’s efforts to distribute the vaccine, said on CBS’ “60 Minutes” the government was prepared to distribute the vaccine within 24 hours of approval. There’s a stockpile of the prospective vaccine itself plus kits of needles, syringes and alcohol swabs needed to give the dose. The secret stash is watched by armed guards.“We have taken extraordinary precaution in this area,” he said. "It’s such a commodity to us, we’re taking the full steps to make sure that the vaccine’s secure.”Who is first in line has yet to be decided. But Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the hope is that enough doses are available by the end of January to vaccinate adults over age 65, who are at the highest risk from the coronavirus, and health care workers. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-diseases expert, said it may take until spring or summer before anyone who is not high risk and wants a shot can get one.States already are gearing up for what is expected to be the biggest vaccination campaign in U.S. history. First the shots have to arrive where they’re needed, and Pfizer’s must be kept at ultra-cold temperatures — around minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 70 degrees Celsius. Moderna’s vaccine also starts off frozen, but the company said it can be thawed and kept in a regular refrigerator for 30 days, easing that concern.Governments in other countries and the World Health Organization, which aims to buy doses for poor nations, will have to decide separately if and when vaccines should be rolled out broadly.Meanwhile, Homeland Security investigators and others are trying to send the message now to the public before the vaccines are approved and begin distribution. They say people should only get a vaccine from an approved medical provider. They shouldn't respond to calls seeking personal information. And they shouldn't click on social media posts purporting to sell cures.“If it sounds too good to be true, it is," Francis said.Colleen Long, The Associated Press
MLAs both new and re-elected will begin a two-week fall sitting Monday, which will likely be focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and the Saskatchewan Party government's election promises.Monday's sitting begins with the Speaker election at 10 a.m. CST and a speech from the throne delivered by Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty at 2 p.m.The speech will be debated and voted on in the days that follow.Following the Oct. 26 election, the governing Sask. Party enters the sitting with 48 members, while the NDP has 13.Pandemic responseWith the province experiencing a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over the past month, policy announcements by the government will likely be overshadowed by its response to the pandemic.The NDP opposition has asked for a three-week "circuit breaker" shutdown and a plan to compensate those affected.Moe said again last week he preferred targeted measures as opposed to anything that shut down portions of the economy.On Friday, the province's most recent set of restrictions went into effect, which includes suspension of sports, gathering limit restrictions and an expansion of the mask mandate.Election promisesAfter announcing his cabinet shuffle on Nov. 9, Premier Scott Moe said his government would use the sitting to introduce legislation, including bills, to keep its campaign promises.The Sask. Party made $849 million in promises during the October campaign, including: * A two-year home renovation tax credit. * A one-year 10 per cent SaskPower rebate. * A three-year tax reduction for small businesses. * Create 750 licensed home-based child care spaces. * Provide funding to kids living with autism up to the age of 12. * Cover the cost of glucose monitoring up to 18 years old. * Reduce seniors' ambulance costs by 50 per cent. * Increase the post-secondary Sask. Advantage scholarship to $750/ year.It also promised to bring back two programs cancelled in 2016, the active families benefit and the community rink grant. Speaker election The sitting will begin with the election of the Speaker. Saskatchewan Party MLA Mark Docherty has held the position since March 2018. He has put his name forward again and faces five of his caucus colleagues who are also vying for the position: Lisa Lambert, Hugh Nerlien, Greg Ottenbreit, Randy Weekes, and Nadine Wilson.The election will be conducted by secret ballot.The Sask. Party has 11 new MLAs, while the NDP has six.On Nov. 9, Moe shuffled his cabinet, with notable changes including Paul Merriman as Health Minister, Dustin Duncan as Education Minister, Lori Carr as Minister of Social Services and Gord Wyant as Minister of Justice.Finance Minister Donna Harpauer is the deputy premier and Nicole Sarauer is the NDP's deputy leader.All MLAs will have to wear a mask while inside the legislature. Plastic barriers have been erected between desks inside the chamber.
NEW YORK — On Dec. 31, China reported a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown origin to the World Health Organization. By Jan. 31, WHO declared an outbreak of a novel coronavirus a global health emergency. Come March 11, the world was facing down the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents sat children down to explain what a pandemic is. Related terms usually restricted to medicine and science stormed into everyday conversation. Over time, we were pandemic baking and pandemic dating and rescuing pandemic puppies from shelters. All of which led Dictionary.com on Monday to declare “pandemic” its 2020 word of the year. Searches on the site for the word spiked more than 13,500% on March 11, senior research editor John Kelly told The Associated Press in an interview ahead of the announcement. “That's massive, but even more telling is how high it has sustained significant search volumes throughout the entire year. Month over month, it was over 1,000% higher than usual. For about half the year, it was in the top 10% of all our lookups.” Another dictionary, Merriam-Webster, also selected pandemic as its word of the year earlier Monday. Kelly said pandemic beat out routine lookups usually intended to sort more mundane matters, such as the differences between “to, two and too.” “That's significant,” Kelly emphasized. “It seems maybe a little bit obvious, and that's fair to say, but think about life before the pandemic. Things like pandemic fashion would have made no sense. The pandemic as an event created a new language for a new normal.” Lexicographers often factor out routine lookups when evaluating word trends. The pandemic, Kelly said, made us all worthy of watercooler chatter with Dr. Anthony Fauci as our knowledge grew about aerosols, contact tracing, social distancing and herd immunity, along with the intricacies of therapeutic drugs, tests and vaccines that can help save lives. “These were all part of a new shared vocabulary we needed to stay safe and informed. It's incredible,” said Kelly, who works with a team of lexicographers to come up with words of the year based primarily on site traffic. Asymptomatic, furlough, non-essential, hydroxychloroquine and a host of other pandemic-related words saw massive increases in lookups as well. Jennifer Steeves-Kiss, chief executive officer of Dictionary.com, said one key ingredient in the hunt for the site's word of the year is sustained interest over time. Pandemic met that standard. “This has affected families, our work, the economy,” she said. “It really became the logical choice. It's become the context through which we've had dialogue all through 2020. It's the through line for discourse.” The word pandemic has roots in Latin and the Greek pandemos, meaning “common, public.” Breaking it down further, “pan” means “all” and “demos” means “people.” As evidenced in a medical text by a Dutch-born physician, Gideon Harvey, pandemic entered English in the 1660s in the medical sense, Kelly said. He noted that “demos” is also the basis for the word democracy. A pandemic is defined by Dictionary.com as a disease “prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world; epidemic over a large area.” Its broader sense, as evidenced in its roots, can be used thusly: “A pandemic fear of atomic war.” Dictionary.com also noted other worthy search trends beyond the pandemic. After the May 25 death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, words around racial justice experienced spikes, including fascism, anti-fascism, defund and white fragility. “There was no way for us to leave that out of the conversation this year,” Kelly said. Leanne Italie, The Associated Press
Premier Stephen McNeil has repeatedly said it's not his job to detail what his government has spent this year on COVID-19 stimulus projects, but the three men who want his job are promising to do just that if they are chosen to succeed him.The $228 million in funding is being used for a variety of infrastructure projects across the province, in part to drive employment during the pandemic."Yes, I think public dollars should be transparent because they are public," Iain Rankin said when asked if a list of those projects and their associated cost should be released by the provincial government."I would certainly work to make the list of projects and cost estimates available," said Randy Delorey.Labi Kousoulis said if he were premier, he'd have already posted it, likely on a Nova Scotia government web page."Could even put it on our [access to information] portal or our open-data portal, and it's available to all," he said.Candidates say other changes in orderIt's not the only issue where the leadership contenders differ with McNeil on government transparency.Although he promised to change the law that governs Nova Scotia's access to information ahead of the 2013 election that made him premier, McNeil has since repeatedly said the law is fine as is.Just four days before election day, McNeil promised, in writing, that if he became premier he would "expand the powers and mandate of the [Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for Nova Scotia], particularly through granting her order-making power."Though the leadership candidates aren't prepared to commit to those specific promises, Delorey and Rankin both think changes are in order."I do think it's time to look at revamping and modernizing those pieces of legislation," said Delorey."I think we can do more to be proactive with bringing documents forward and not having to go through that whole process," said Rankin, adding he would look at a review of the freedom of information rules."I believe in transparency and I think there's room we can improve."Kousoulis was noncommittal, especially about whether the commissioner should have the power to order that documents are produced, rather than simply recommended, and whether the office should be answerable to that the Nova Scotia Legislature rather than the Justice Department. "I have to think about it," he said. "I never actually gave it thought in terms of what powers the individual should have or not."Mixed response on lobbyist registryKousoulis also offered a similar response about the province's registry of lobbyists, which critics claim is ineffectual and outdated.The federal government system allows the public to know who is lobbying ministers and top officials, and when and how.But Nova Scotia's registry is just a list of lobbyists, the departments they plan to lobby and their general areas of interest."I'd be open to looking at it like I'd look at everything else," said Kousoulis. "But I've never really … given thought to the registry."His rivals were willing to go further."I do think our registry in Nova Scotia is dated," said Delorey. "I think it certainly needs more teeth.""I have been looking at other models like the federal one, actually, to see how we can modernize and bring some more teeth to that registry," he said.Virtual convention in February"Transparency has to be a guiding principle for our democracy," said Rankin. "And so I want Nova Scotia to have the most transparent process that we can practically implement."If Ottawa has a better system then we need to catch up and do that."Party members will elect their new leader, who becomes premier, on Feb. 6. There will be a virtual convention based at the convention centre in Halifax.MORE TOP STORIES
Shelburne Deputy Mayor, Steve Anderson is a crusader for inclusivity of all people in his com-munity and fervently believes that one should be judged on their aims and accomplishments.He also serves as the County Councillor of Dufferin and is the first born Canadian in a fam-ily of six siblings, with Jamaican parents.Steve grew up in Jane Finch, in Toronto, attended the University of Windsor for his Hon-ours Baccalaureate in criminology, started Law School at the University of Detroit Mercy and finished his degree at the University of Ottawa. He was subsequently hired by the Toronto Transit Commission to work in their legal department as a litigator. Considering his present position as a vocal advocate for civil rights and the inclusion of all people and races in todays society, it begs the question why choose litigation law rather than civil rights of some similar field?Steve’s answer was simple. He did not start out imagining himself leading some great advocacy charge. Rather, he knew he wanted to make a dif-ference in the world and saw the law as a poten-tial pathway to achieving it. Steve said the TTC gave him the chance to build his own platform. Once he found himself working for such an iconic institution, people saw him as a possible resource.He was a lawyer when working for the TTC and someone who could go into schools to speak with youth. This resulted in many opened many doors for Steve. He was asked to speak to schools and many organizations about his experiences. This, in turn, reverberated with his bosses and their bosses and they supported it wholeheartedly. In part, because of its benefit to the youth of the community and in part, because it reflected positively on them. Steve and a friend of his, Ian, worked together in Steve’s old neighbourhood of Jane Finch, to help youth there. They assisted in achievement awards for academics, community service and other accomplishments. They have done this for over ten years and still continue today, but with COVID-19 precautions.From Steve’s work in Toronto he learned a lot about the potential to impact change through politics and a seed was planted. The seed sprouted when he had just moved to Shelburne with his family and the munici-pal elections were underway. He thought about entering the race, but realized that he knew noth-ing about the issues of his new community, so he waited. But while he waited, he began to follow the local political scene and learned about issues affecting ShelburneHe did not yet know the community, but he knew the issues. It was then that the Town asked for members to become a part of the Transit Task Force. It was a perfect fit for a TTC veteran. The task force was composed of CAO John Telfer, Ron Monroe and Steve. The plan was to run a transit system in town for two years and then have Go Transit take it over. Unfortunately, the plan never came to fruition, but it made Go Transit aware of the town and its desire for tran-sit.Several years later, Steve was part of bringing Grey County transit buses to Shelburne.It was shortly after the task force dissolved, that Councillor Tom Egan suddenly passed, creating a vacancy on Town Council. Steve decided that he should throw his hat in the ring and try to become a part of the commu-nity’s political machine. He faced an uphill battle. Tom Egan had been a much loved member of the community for many years and he left very big shoes to fill, no matter who took over, let alone a new resident, not well known in the community. After going through the selection process, Steve won the appointment and the rest is his-tory, but, not history without effort. Realizing how big of an achievement he had just accomplished, Steve decided that he had to hit the ground running if he was to have any chance of wining the hearts and minds of Shel-burne’s residents and continue in his political endeavours.His first goal was to honour Tom Egan and he did so by getting Council to create the Tom Egan Community Service Award.When Steve was going through the selection process and even before that, on the Transit Task Force, the question came up as to what he thought could be done to make the old and new resident communities more inclusive of each other.The slogan, “Shelburne Stronger Together” originated from this thought. This is what char-acterizes Steve’s community involvement, bring-ing the community together. He was the first councillor in Shelburne, to hold a “meet and greet “ at the Town Library, where constituents could come and meet him, hear his views and present their questions and opinions.Following his first 10 months, Steve let the community know who he was and what to expect. Then came the 2018 municipal elections. As he tells it, Steve never wanted to be Deputy Mayor. He had formed a close friendship with Geoff Dunlop, the Deputy Mayor preceding him and he wanted to see Geoff remain in that posi-tion. I would have been happy just to win a full term on council, he said. But life had other plans and Geoff decided to bow out of politics, leaving Steve feeling like he should run for the position after all. He revealed that his reason for doing so, almost reluctantly, is because if he did not, he felt the community “was going to go off in a direction that he did not think it should be going.”Steve knew he would have to be exceptional to win the seat, but he believed in his vision for the direction of the community and so he took up the challenge.Following his election to the position of Dep-uty Mayor, his political life has become almost as demanding as his career as an attorney.Partially, the reason for this is because of his dedication to welcoming and supporting all the different cultures and populace diversities of Shelburne, while working to help solve the many municipal government problems in the Town. When looking back on his campaign to become Deputy Mayor, one of the things Steve feels most strongly helped him was going door to door with Councillor Walter Benotto. Walter is the longest serving member of council and is very well known in the town, yet together they complimented each other in going door to door. In the newer subdivisions, frequently Steve was recognized and introduced Walter, while in the established parts of town, it was the other way around, but together, they made a solid impres-sion of cooperation and a shared commitment to a Shelburne both embracing the new and holding onto the establishment.When asked if he would consider running for Mayor, Steve was adamant, he will not. He thinks Wade Mills is a good Mayor and a good working partner. They share a similar vision of the Town and Steve is happy being the Deputy Mayor. Serving as Mayor is demanding rand requires a considerable amount of time, which Steve feels, for him, would be better spent continuing his current efforts. One of those efforts was epitomized for Steve in the Black Lives Matter March that was held in Shelburne. He was overwhelmed by the turnout and by the diversity of people who participated. “Black, white, you name it,” said Steve. It was then that the realization came that if he and the Mayor and the Town ever needed a man-date, it was there. The people overwhelmingly were in support of the fundamental right for all people to be included in society as equals. It was a clear indi-cation that it was time to take action and that action became the Anti Racism and Discrimina-tion Taskforce, established by Shelburne Town Council.The task force was established to confront social issues and seek to correct them. One point that was brought up by Steve in the context of having difficult conversations about racism, was that having these conversations does not mean pointing fingers at people. Pointing fin-gers defeats the purpose of discussion. What is needed is collaboration and a willing-ness to listen and work towards rectifying issues, said Steve.Council has set aside $20,000 in its 2021 Bud-get to follow the task force recommendations and advocated for money in future budgets to con-tinue the work and to support new initiatives that may come from this.With the next election only two years away, Steve has put thought into what he wants to do and what he has been able to accomplish. He told the Citizen he isn’t interested in pro-vincial or federal politics, nor the Mayor position but is content being Deputy Mayor and staying in municipal politics, where he can get things accomplished. Steve likes to be able to point to the promises he made and kept, he is proud of his personal brand and what he stands for. He has not done all that he wants to do in Shelburne, he may never, but he wants to try. Steve believes that a man is judged by his accomplishments, not just by his promises and in municipal politics he can live by his own stan-dard and not the will of the party. He can listen to the people and he can try to get them what they want and so for the foreseeable future he is happy being on Town Council.Peter Richardson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Citizen
Moderna Inc. said it would ask U.S. and European regulators Monday to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine as new study results confirm the shots offer strong protection — ramping up the race to begin limited vaccinations as the coronavirus rampage worsens.Multiple vaccine candidates must succeed for the world to stamp out the pandemic, which has been on the upswing in the U.S. and Europe. U.S. hospitals have been stretched to the limit as the nation has seen more than 160,000 new cases per day and more than 1,400 daily deaths. Since first emerging nearly a year ago in China, the virus has killed more than 1.4 million people worldwide.Moderna is one of several companies to have already submitted partial data to a "rolling review" process offered by Health Canada. Rather than presenting regulators with a complete package of trial results, the would-be vaccine-makers file data and findings as they become available. Canada has been looking at Moderna's first results since mid-October.Canada has a different approval process than the United States and European countries, meaning that Moderna and Pfizer do not have to apply or reapply at each step. Instead, they have to submit their newest data and findings.Moderna created its shots with the U.S. National Institutes of Health and already had a hint they were working, but said it got the final needed results over the weekend that suggest the vaccine is more than 94% effective.Of 196 COVID-19 cases so far in its huge U.S. study, 185 were trial participants who received the placebo and 11 who got the real vaccine. The only people who got severely ill — 30 participants, including one who died — had received dummy shots, said Dr. Tal Zaks, the Cambridge, Massachusetts, company's chief medical officer.When he learned the results, “I allowed myself to cry for the first time,” Zaks told The Associated Press. “We have already, just in the trial, have already saved lives. Just imagine the impact then multiplied to the people who can get this vaccine.”Moderna said the shots’ effectiveness and a good safety record so far — with only temporary, flu-like side effects — mean they meet requirements set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use before the final-stage testing is complete. The European Medicines Agency, Europe’s version of FDA, has signalled it also is open to faster, emergency clearance.WHAT COMES NEXTThe FDA has pledged that before it decides to roll out any COVID-19 vaccines, its scientific advisers will publicly debate whether there’s enough evidence behind each candidate.First up on Dec. 10, Pfizer and BioNTech will present data suggesting their vaccine candidate is 95% effective. Moderna said its turn at this “science court” is expected exactly a week later, on Dec. 17.RATIONING INITIAL DOSESIf the FDA allows emergency use, Moderna expects to have 20 million doses ready for the U.S. by year’s end. Recipients will need two doses, so that’s enough for 10 million people.Pfizer expects to have 50 million doses globally in December. Half of them — or enough for 12.5 million people — are earmarked for the U.S.This week, a different panel of U.S. experts, established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will meet to decide how initial supplies will be given out. They're expected to reserve scarce first doses for health care workers and, if the shots work well enough in the frail elderly, for residents of long-term care facilities. As more vaccine gradually becomes available in coming months, other essential workers and people at highest risk from the coronavirus would get in line. But enough for the general population isn't expected until at least spring.Outside the U.S., Zaks said significant supplies from Moderna would be available later, “in the first quarter” of next year.“Obviously we are doing everything in our power to increase the capacity and accelerate the timelines,” he said.Both Moderna's and Pfizer's vaccines are made with the same technology, using a piece of genetic code for the “spike” protein that studs the virus. That messenger RNA, or mRNA, instructs the body to make some harmless spike protein, training immune cells to recognize it if the real virus eventually comes along.ASTRAZENECA CONFUSIONAstraZeneca last week announced confusing early results of its vaccine candidate from research in Britain and BrazilThat vaccine appears 62% effective when tested as originally intended, with recipients given two full doses. But because of a manufacturing error, a small number of volunteers got a lower first dose — and AstraZeneca said in that group, the vaccine appeared to be 90% effective.Experts say it’s unclear why the lower-dose approach would work better and that it may just be a statistical quirk.A larger U.S. study of the AstraZeneca candidate still is underway that should eventually give the FDA a better picture of how well it works. The FDA has said any COVID-19 vaccine would have to be at least 50% effective.Meanwhile Britain’s government will have to decide whether its U.K. data is sufficient for an early rollout there.STILL IN THE PIPELINEJohnson & Johnson also is in final-stage testing in the U.S. and several other countries to see if its vaccine candidate could work with just one dose.Both the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines work by using harmless cold viruses to carry the spike protein gene into the body and prime the immune system.The different technologies have ramifications for how easily different vaccines could be distributed globally. The AstraZeneca shots won't require freezer storage like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.Candidates made with still other technologies are in late-stage testing, too. Another U.S. company, Novavax Inc., announced Monday that it has finished enrolling 15,000 people in a late-stage study in Britain and plans to begin recruiting even more volunteers for final testing in the U.S. and Mexico “in the coming weeks.”Vaccines made by three Chinese companies and a Russian candidate also are being tested in thousands of people in countries around the world.____The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.Lauran Neergaard, The Associated Press
Ethiopian farmer Berhan Halie came to Sudan 35 years ago to escape hunger. Now 65 and walking with a stick, he is back again, this time to escape the bullets and bombs of the conflict in Tigray, fleeing from his village as neighbours lay dead on the ground. Berhan and his family spent days walking to the border crossing with Sudan, among more than 45,000 who have fled from fighting between the Ethiopian government and rebellious Tigray forces.
Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent are expected to see a "multi-day snowfall event" that could last from Monday until Wednesday and bring up to 20 centimetres of snow, according to Environment Canada. Rain mixed with snow are expected for the regions Monday, Environment Canada said in a statement issued around 5 a.m. By Monday afternoon, the rain is expected to change to snow, with five to 10 centimetres of snow possible by Tuesday morning. An additional five to 10 centimetres are also possible for Tuesday into Wednesday morning. "Motorists should be prepared for winter driving conditions," Environment Canada said. In the statement, Environment Canada said that strong northwesterly winds, gusting around 70 kilometres per hour, are possible Monday night and Tuesday, specifically near Lake Huron.Flood watch in effectDue to the strong winds, the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) issued a flood watch Monday for the Lake St. Clair shoreline from Belle River to Tilbury North in the Town of Lakeshore and for the western shoreline of Pelee Island in Lake Erie. By Monday afternoon winds are expected to reach speeds higher than 40 kilometres per hour, with some gusts more than 60 km/hr, the statement reads. These conditions could last until Tuesday. Based on these wind speeds, ERCA said in its watch statement that there is the potential for near-shore erosion with wave overtopping and spray along the Lake St. Clair shoreline, specifically between Belle River and Lighthouse Cove in the Town of Lakeshore. Some areas might experience breakwall damage and could erode the western shoreline of Pelee Island. More from CBC Windsor
Police have shut down a north-end Halifax intersection to investigate the discovery of a dead body in the bushes outside a wine and beer store.In a news release sent around 7:30 a.m. Monday, Halifax Regional Police advised of a "traffic disruption" at the intersection of Lady Hammond Drive and Robie Street, "due to an ongoing police matter."About 30 minutes later, the police force issued an update, saying they were still on the scene "for what was reported as a deceased person outside and near the intersection."Police said the investigation is in the early stages and offered no other details.As of the time of the last police update, traffic was being detoured around the scene.MORE TOP STORIES
The Crown was to close its murder case against a Fort Liard, N.W.T., woman on Monday, but a mysterious issue that arose last week may prevent that.Selena Lomen is on trial for second-degree murder in the stabbing death of her partner, Danny Klondike, two years ago in Fort Liard.At the end of Friday's proceedings in Northwest Territories Supreme Court in Yellowknife, the judge asked the prosecutors if they intended to finish their case on Monday. Lead prosecutor Duane Praught said that had been the plan, but that the Crown had "received some information" about one of the witnesses in Fort Liard on Thursday."We're still trying to figure out what to do with this information," said Praught. He did not elaborate on what information had been received, but said he had passed it on to Lomen's lawyer, Peter Harte.RCMP forensic expert testifiesMost of Friday was spent questioning one witness, Cpl. Amy Doan, an RCMP forensic expert who photographed and examined Klondike's and Lomen's duplex, where Klondike was found dead on Oct. 28, 2018.Doan said bloody shoe prints on the floor of the duplex matched the shoes Lomen was wearing when she walked into the RCMP station later that morning and confessed to stabbing her partner to death.Lomen tried to plead guilty to manslaughter at the beginning of the trial, but the prosecutor did not accept the plea.Though Lomen has confessed, much of the Crown's case has focused on proving she is the one who killed Klondike.Doan testified for hours about photos she took of the crime scene, the technique she uses to compare footprints to the treads on shoes, and how those techniques applied in this case.Doan testified she found some injuries on Lomen. She had a bruised knee, a cut on the palm of her right hand and bruising on both forearms.She said Lomen had no recollection of how she got the injuries.The trial enters its third week on Monday in Yellowknife. One of the last pieces of evidence the prosecutors plan to present is a video Doan took of the bloody crime scene.The Crown had planned to play the video in court on Friday, but did not because it failed to get an order banning its publication.
Mark Hamill pays tribute to Darth Vader star Dave Prowse; U.K. Culture Secretary says "The Crown" should come with fiction disclaimer; World's "loneliest elephant" heads to sanctuary in Cambodia. (Nov. 30)
The provincial government has barely made a dent in adopting a sweeping series of recommendations coming out of the Muskrat Falls inquiry, and one of the consequences could be another blunder with the new adult mental health and addictions facility in St. John's, says an outspoken critic.Meanwhile, the minister leading the effort to implement the instructions of Justice Richard LeBlanc says his recommendations will be adopted "across the board."But with the province still in the grips of a global pandemic, converting those recommendations into government policy will take longer than expected, said Andrew Parsons, Minister of Industry, Energy and Technology."I would be more worried about whether we do it, or not, rather than how fast we can do it, because the goal is to do these recommendations," Parsons said.Of the 17 recommendations, only three have been implemented, though none of the seven "key" recommendations have been adopted.Being built in a flood plainA critic of the over-budget, long-delayed project, and whose many warnings have become reality, is not happy about the progress, and the government's use of the pandemic as an excuse."Not every public official or minister is engaged in the pandemic. It doesn't appear to have effected their announcement of all kinds of new programs spending money we don't have. Must be an election coming," said Ron Penney, one of the earliest and most outspoken opponents of the Nalcor-led Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.In fact, Penney, who chairs the Muskrat Falls Concerned Citizens Committee, said the province could be stumbling into another problem with the new mental health and addictions facility in St. John's, which will replace the Waterford Hospital.The $330 million hospital is being constructed through a public-private partnership and will be located adjacent to the Health Sciences Centre, on a flood plain.The No. 1 recommendation from Justice LeBlanc is that the province hire an independent external expert to review any public project with a budget of $50 million or more.If that were the case with the new mental health facility, it would never had been approved for the current location, said Penney, a former St. John's city manager."If anybody independent had looked at that decision, no doubt they would have changed because it's in a flood plain, and the province does that mapping for the flood plain, and it's just totally an unsuitable location for the Waterford Hospital," he said.In the past, government officials have said two new berms will protect the site from flooding.And in a statement, an official with the Department of Transportation and Works said "contracts were awarded to independent financial and procurement, fairness, and technical advisors prior to the start of the project."Meanwhile, the final report from the public inquiry investigating the Muskrat Falls project was released in early March, more than two years after the commission of inquiry was established by former premier Dwight Ball.The report included some scorching criticism of former Nalcor leaders like Ed Martin, whom LeBlanc said took "unprincipled steps" to get the project approved. And LeBlanc also criticized senior politicians and bureaucrats for failing to keep a close watch on what one insider called a runaway train.The report, entitled "Muskrat Falls: A Misguided Project," also included 17 recommendations by Justice LeBlanc to ensure the series of missteps that allowed what Dwight Ball once described as the "biggest economic mistake in Newfoundland and Labrador's history" would not be repeated.LeBlanc's recommendations are aimed at, among other things, ensuring major public projects undergo unfettered scrutiny by independent external experts, that the Department of Finance oversee the financing negotiations and cost control of any large project, and that the public utilities board carry out a review whenever there's a possibility electricity ratepayers may be affected.LeBlanc also called for changes to ensure public servants can "speak truth to politicians" in order to provide "complete and objective advice," and advised that legislative changes be made to ensure public bodies like Nalcor cannot withhold information from senior politicians and bureaucrats on the grounds of legal privilege or commercial sensitivity.LeBlanc advised that some of his recommendations should be adopted in as little as six months.But just days after the report was released, it was quickly overshadowed by the growing presence of a worldwide pandemic, and unprecedented societal upheaval in Newfoundland and Labrador as much of the province was shut down in order to fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus.During a recent fall session, the legislature was consumed by the financial and public health crises griping the province, with the priority on adopting a budget. And for months, a majority of public servants were working from home."So no, I don't think we're as far ahead as we'd like to be. But at the same time it's not sitting on a shelf," said Parsons, adding that an implementation committee that he chairs has been meeting regularly.Parsons expects many of the recommendations that involve legislative changes will be adopted during next spring's sitting of the House of Assembly.And he said some recommendations involving access to information laws will be examined by retired chief justice David Orsborn, who is leading a statutory review of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which is expected to be completed next year."There's urgency here, but at the same time, I'm a true believer in doing the proper analysis to make sure it's right, because sometimes these quick decisions are what got us into trouble in the first place." The three recommendations that have been adopted include: * a joint Nalcor-Newfoundland Power Inc. effort to review the reliability of the power grid in the Muskrat Falls era; * A review of whether recommendations made by the Joint Review Panel were being followed. This relates largely to methylmercury concerns in Labrador; * And minutes of cabinet meetings are now much more detailed than they were years ago whenever politicians discussed Muskrat Falls.Penney said that's not good enough."I'm disappointed, but I guess not surprised," said Penney.So what does LeBlanc think about what's happened since the release of his report?He's not saying, and directed questions to lawyer Barry Learmonth, who served as commission co-counsel during the inquiry.Learmonth said it was part of Justice LeBlanc's mandate to deliver recommendations, and whether and when they are adopted is up to the government."They're not binding," said Learmonth.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
For Diane Melanson, the wait for medicare coverage in New Brunswick has been long and complicated.Melanson, 75, said confusion over her citizenship status is holding up approval of her coverage. And as a result, she and her family have had to pay thousands of dollars in medical bills for surgery she had after breaking her hip last winter."The next morning after the operation, the doctor was at the foot of my bed with my fiancé here and asking him for his money, so medicare didn't cover it," Melanson said. That's when Melanson's niece Susan Belliveau stepped in and paid the bills, which added up to nearly $7,000."I would have paid anything in order for my aunt to be OK," Belliveau said.Melanson was born in Minto in 1945 and lived there until her family moved to the U.S. when she was 15. In 1969 she became a naturalized U.S. citizen, and because of the laws at the time, she unknowingly lost her Canadian citizenship. "I thought once you were born in a country, you're in, you're in," Melanson said. "If I'm Canadian, I'm a Canadian. I became a naturalized American but I didn't denounce my Canadian citizenship."But in 2009, that legislation was changed under Bill C-37, and Melanson's Canadian citizenship was restored and corrected so that technically, she had never lost it at all. But Melanson, who moved back to Minto almost three years ago, said medicare is requiring proof of citizenship before it will cover her. Belliveau has been helping her through the process. "In February, when she applied for her medicare," said Belliveau, "they asked for all of her documentation … and when they found the naturalization papers, they sent a letter saying, 'We can't give you (coverage) until you prove that you are a Canadian citizen.'"Belliveau said they then sent in Melanson's birth certificate, but it wasn't accepted as proof. Medicare said it still required further proof of citizenship. But with the help of a patient advocate, Melanson did receive a temporary medicare card in March, which helped cover about a third of her medical bills.Don Chapman also lost his citizenship as a child when his family moved from Vancouver to the U.S. He's been advocating for citizenship rights for decades."This woman falls in the cracks, not so much as 'Is she a citizen?' as to interpretation, and somebody in the province is not understanding the federal legislation," he said. Belliveau said she has been in touch with medicare several times since February but still hasn't been able to secure full coverage. In early November, Immigration and Citizenship Canada wrote a letter confirming Melanson's citizenship. That letter was sent to medicare but still Melanson and Belliveau have not heard about Melanson's status. "It's kind of hard on the nerves," said Melanson. "It tears at you after a while."Melanson's temporary coverage is set to expire Dec. 7.
Saint John is close to finalizing rates that three large industrial customers will pay for water in 2021 and although the city is satisfied the amounts are fair, six decades of controversy around the issue has it bracing for critics to attack anyway."This is a communications challenge," said Saint John Mayor Don Darling last week about what Irving Oil Ltd., JD Irving Ltd, and NB Power will pay for city water service next year at four large industrial plants. "People either don't understand or they do understand and are trying to kick the hornet's nest," Darling said of previous controversies that have erupted around the same issue.At a Saint John finance committee meeting last week, deputy commissioner of Saint John water Kendall Mason explained the city needs to recover nearly $6 million next year from Irving Oil's refinery, NB Power's Coleson Cove generating station and two J.D. Irving Ltd. paper mills to maintain, operate and finance the city infrastructure that supplies the group with raw, untreated water.The plan is to charge $2.8 million to the west side Irving pulp and paper mill at the edge of the Reversing Falls and $2.7 million to the Irving Oil refinery. Lesser amounts are to be billed to Irving Paper ($246,000) and NB Power ($195,000). Overall it's about a $400,000 increase over what the group was budgeted to be charged this year. The communications challenge arises because the group is expected to consume 52 billion litres of city water, and the $6 million in charges works out to an average of 11.6 cents per 1,000 litres. That is a small fraction of what other city water users pay."We've seen articles written whereby if by just the swipe of a pen we just charged some of the industrial folks 40, 50, 60 cents (per 1,000 litres) all of our problems would go away, and that's misleading to the public," Darling said about criticisms made following last year's rate setting despite rules limiting what can be charged "We can't do it."Industrial water rates have been the source of political controversy in Saint John since at least 1958 when it signed a 25-year agreement with industrialist K.C. Irving to supply Irving Pulp and Paper up to 159 million litres per day for less than $120,000 per year. The city regretted the arrangement almost immediately and in 1959 attempted to impose rates five times higher, but Irving refused to pay A lawsuit launched by Saint John to enforce the higher rates failed at trial, failed on appeal and finally in 1963 failed at the Supreme Court of Canada. The city was forced to live with the 1958 contract until the early 1980s, but even after its replacement other water controversies followed. In the early 2000s both Irving Oil and J.D. Irving paid amounts for water of their own choosing for several years after contracts with the city expired, and the sides could not agree on new rates.Those issues were largely resolved beginning in 2014, but the controversial history of industrial water rates in Saint John still poses political dangers, despite reforms. Saint John's industrial water system is now completely separate from the public drinking water system, and by legislation the city charges industrial users for the full cost of operating it. Although industry uses substantially more water than the public, the infrastructure required to deliver it to just four customers is much less, and there is no requirement for expensive water treatment. That makes the cost of the industrial system less than one-quarter of the cost of the public drinking water system, and according to the city, the rates reflect that."Raw water and potable [drinkable] water are quite different in quality and in complexity of infrastructure and servicing requirements needed to provide the different services," Mason said in his written report to council."This results in vast differences in costs." Coun. David Merrithew, who chairs the finance committee, has been openly critical that some of the same industries pay property taxes that are too low, but he told the meeting there is nothing to complain about in the water rates."We are passing on the true cost to the appropriate water users," Merrithew said. "This is a user pay system. This is exactly what the report is telling us we're doing."Still Darling asked that a document be prepared to clearly explain industrial water rates for 2021 to blunt criticism the city is charging too little or that it has any option under legislation to bill more for water than it does."I think anything we can do to explain," said Darling. "Not messing with people, not lying to them, not suggesting we can just swipe a pen and charge one ratepayer over another some exorbitant new amount of money when we can't."The proposed rates were approved by the finance committee and have been forwarded to city council for final consideration.
An 80-year-old man who is visually impaired and received a $13,000 bill from Virgin Mobile is no longer on the hook for the large sum."I think right now they could be doing a little better, but I'm satisfied with that," said Willie Guerard, who lives in Amherstburg, Ont. "They're not going to get my best wishes, you know what I mean?"Guerard and his wife, Yvonne, who by their own admission are not tech-savvy, told the CBC earlier this month that they don't really even use the internet on their phone.They said it was their understanding that their service would be cut off if their account balance reached $200 in any given month, so they were surprised when they received two bills, for approximately $5,000 and $7,000, respectively.Virgin Mobile said it had removed spending caps such as those after the pandemic began up until the beginning of July but it continued to charge for any costs for overages people incurred.Guerard and his wife said they contacted Virgin Mobile after receiving the large bill and were told they had to pay it. It was only after CBC made inquiries published in a web story earlier this month that the company took a second look at the massive bill."At least they're paying attention now. Before that I couldn't get nobody [to look into it], I just got the runaround," Guerard said.Significant reductionInitially, Virgin Mobile said that Guerard, who was an active data user, had twice requested to increase the amount of data on his account and consented to it. The company was unaware of Guerard's visual impairment and that it would be significantly reducing the outstanding balance in his account.Last week, they said they'd reduced the amount he owed to what his usual monthly bill would have been."We took another look at Willie's account and couldn't verify that he received the notice about removing spending caps during COVID," a written response from the company read.Guerard said after he called them, he found out the amount he now owes is $281, which he plans to pay. But he said he'll only be doing so once he gets it in writing.
Shelburne Council’s recent 1.6 per cent residential tax increase projection may be un-appealing to residents in the short term, but Councillor Steve Anderson says its much need-ed for responsible future planning. Anderson noted that Shelburne has several major infrastructure projects that must be dealt with and these projects are very costly.Steve said not having a tax increase just to appease voters is, in his mind, not responsible.Somewhere down the line, someone is going to have to pay for that lack of an increase. What’s important is that you’re able to show the public that they are getting value out of that tax increase, according to Steve. Having the best underground water and sewage pipes in the world does not appease the public, they cannot see underground in-frastructure. It is something they expect to be there, it is a given. A dog park or a tennis court is something tangible that they can appreciate and use. This budget is doing that with money being put to-ward the cricket pitch, community garden, res-toration of Jack Downey Park and even a tennis court. These are tangible projects that residents have asked for and make the tax increases more palatable, while allowing Council to deal with the big infrastructure issues. In addition, the new bus service in town will be expanding and there are plans for a major marketing push to make everyone aware of the service. Apparently, the Shelburne stop, is the most popular in the entire system. With this push, comes plans for more fre-quent service and even weekend runs. In addi-tion, Go Transit discussions are still on the ta-ble with the support of Solicitor General, MPP Sylvia Jones. The reception from Go was very positive.At the moment, the two proposed routes, by the advocates, are both not viable.None of the proposed roads are built to handle the traffic and they are not owned by the Town. Amaranth is dead set against any route running through their roads and ultimately, it is a Pro-vincial decision, not a Town one.Recent talks with MPP Sylvia Jones left things somewhat murkier still, as she said that first Shelburne needed to get the County on board before involving her office. The Coun-ty most recently were less than enthusiastic to proceed saying they would prefer to wait until a County Municipal Comprehensive Review, (MCR), was completed, before moving forward. That study and any subsequent decision would easily put construction 10 years away or more.A10 ORANGEVILLE CITIZEN | NOVEMBER 26, 2020 Shelburne Councillor comments on need for tax increasePeter Richardson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Citizen
THE LATEST: * On Monday, health officials announced the deaths of 46 people from over the weekend and 2,364 new cases of COVID-19. * There are 8,855 people with active cases of the disease across B.C. * 316 patients are in hospital with COVID-19, including 75 in intensive care. * 441 people have died of the disease since the pandemic began. * A total of 10,139 people are under active public health monitoring and in self-isolation because of exposure to known COVID-19 cases. * There have been 33,238 confirmed cases in the province to date.B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Monday an unprecedented 46 deaths from COVID-19 over the weekend.A total of 2,364 new cases were added to B.C.'s total, however 277 of them were historical cases previously missed due to an error in data reporting by the Fraser Health region.There are now 8,855 people with active COVID-19 cases in B.C., 316 of whom are in hospital, including 75 in intensive care.The Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions continue to see the greatest spread of the disease, accounting for 73 per cent of the new cases announced Monday. However, 212 of the new cases over the weekend were located in the Interior Health region.Monday's update includes five new outbreaks in the health-care system. Currently, there are 57 active outbreaks in long-term care and assisted living and five in hospitals.Health officials have told British Columbians to pause all social interactions and be vigilant applying different layers of protection, including physical distancing, washing hands and using masks.Review of PHSA spendingA review into spending by the Provincial Health Services Authority has been ordered by B.C.'s Minister of Health Adrian Dix, following allegations of misspending.On Monday, CBC News reported how whistleblowers with intimate knowledge into PHSA operations have come forward with numerous concerns.They accuse B.C.'s central health authority of squandering $7 million on the purchase of unusable face masks from China; hundreds of thousands of dollars on unnecessary renovations to executive offices; and tens of thousands of dollars on high-end catered meals for executives and their staff."I appreciate these allegations being raised to me," Dix said in a statement to CBC News. "I have directed the deputy minister of health to assess PHSA's decisions and conduct ... and provide advice and recommendations to me." COVID-19 finesSeveral fines were issued in Vancouver over the weekend as people continued to violate provincial COVID-19 health orders.The Vancouver Police Department says it issued fines following health order violations at a pair of house parties, a birthday party and inside a limousine.In all instances, there were too many people from different households gathering together.Violation tickets ranged from $230 - $2,300.READ MORE:What's happening elsewhere in CanadaThere have now been more than 370,278 cases of COVID-19 in Canada.On Monday, the federal Liberal government announced it's preparing to spend up to $100 billion to kick start the post-pandemic economy as it stares down a record-high deficit projection of more than $381 billion for this fiscal year.In a long-awaited economic statement, tabled today, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said the government's immediate priority is to do "whatever it takes" to help Canadians and businesses stay safe and solvent.What are the symptoms of COVID-19?Common symptoms include: * Fever. * Cough. * Tiredness. * Shortness of breath. * Loss of taste or smell. * Headache.But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.What should I do if I feel sick?Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they're mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or other extreme symptoms should call 911.What can I do to protect myself? * Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean. * Keep your distance from people who are sick. * Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. * Wear a mask in indoor public spaces.More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
At least two people were injured Sunday night during three separate shootings in Montreal's Rivière-des-Prairies neighbourhood.Montreal police say it's still unclear whether the three incidents, which happened in the course of an hour, are related.Around 9:30 p.m., a 58-year-old man was shot at a home near the corner of 63e Avenue and Perras Boulevard. Police say the man had just gotten out of his car, which was parked in his driveway, when another car pulled up and someone started shooting.The victim was conscious on his way to the hospital. The suspects fled the scene.About 10 minutes later, someone walking through a residential parking lot opened fire on a man sitting in a parked car on Jean-Rainaud Avenue.The victim fled the scene in the car. Police have no information about the victim's status.And then at 10:20 p.m., another man was shot while standing on a second-floor balcony at a home on Armand-Bombardier Boulevard, near Jean-Vincent Avenue. Police say they believe the shooter was standing in the building's courtyard at the time.The victim was taken to hospital and is expected to survive. Police spokesperson Const. Raphaël Bergeron said in all three cases, there is no information about the suspects. A fourth shooting occurred earlier in the evening in Montréal-Nord. Around 5:30 p.m., police received a call about shots fired near the corner of Lapierre Avenue and Pascal Street.When they arrived, they found bullet casings but no suspects or victims.An hour later, a man showed up at an unspecified hospital with what appeared to be gunshot wounds, but it is unclear whether he was involved in the incident in Montréal-Nord.Police issued a statement Monday evening, saying they would increase their presence and visibility in the area over the next 24 hours.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Russia came under renewed pressure Monday to explain the nerve agent attack on opposition figure Alexei Navalny as the annual meeting of the global chemical weapons watchdog got underway amid measures aimed at reining in the spread of coronavirus.Navalny fell ill on Aug. 20 during a domestic flight in Russia, and was flown to Germany for treatment two days later. His allies accused the Kremlin of poisoning its fiercest opponent. Tests carried out by labs in Germany, France and Sweden and by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons established that Navalny was exposed to a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent.The organization's director-general, Fernando Arias, told Monday's meeting that according to the Chemical Weapons Convention, “the poisoning of an individual through the use of a nerve agent is a use of a chemical weapon.”A group of 56 nations issued a statement as the start of the annual meeting of the OPCW's member states urging Moscow to disclose “in a swift and transparent manner the circumstances of this chemical weapons attack.”Russia, which denies involvement in Navalny's poisoning, reacted bullishly in its written statement to the conference.“Instead of trying to look into what had happened, Germany and its allies resorted to megaphone diplomacy, unleashed a mass disinformation campaign against Russia and started to demand some ‘independent international investigation’ under the auspices of the OPCW,” Moscow's statement said.In October, Moscow asked for OPCW experts to visit Russia to provide “technical assistance” in its investigations. Arias said talks are underway to define “all the legal, technical, operational and logistical parameters in order for this visit to take place.”The European Union has imposed sanctions on six Russian officials and a state research institute over the poisoning. Moscow responded earlier this month by announcing that it had adopted sanctions against a number of German and French officials.The OPCW's annual meeting has been broken into two parts amid the coronavirus pandemic. Two days of talks this week will focus on approving the proposed 71.74 million euro ($86 million) annual budget for 2021. The second half of the meeting will take place next year.Mike Corder, The Associated Press
Peel Regional Police are forecasting a $16.7 million increase in spending for 2021, the bulk of which will service a spike in salaries and benefits, and the addition of 27 officers. The budget, presented at a police board meeting Friday, calls for $462.5 million in total spending in 2021, a 3.8 per cent increase or a $316 per capita bump in the annual tax levy. The spending increase comes at a time when police services across Canada and south of the border have seen outcry over police violence and systemic anti-Black racism lead to calls to defund police in favour of non-police alternatives and community programs. Peel police will spend $5.2 million on hiring the 27 new officers, while other salary and benefits costs will eat up another $11.4 million of the increase. After it was endorsed by the board Friday, the budget will now go to Peel Regional Council for final review and approval in early 2021. Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, who is on the seven-member Peel Police Services Board, lauded police Chief Nishan Duraiappah for seeking to reallocate millions of dollars toward areas of public concern. “Thank you for putting emphasis on areas that are a concern to the community, whether it’s street racing, mental health, whether it’s human trafficking,” Brown said. The service says it saw more than $2 million in unforeseen costs this year as a result of the pandemic. It will draw on reserve funds to cover any COVID-related shortfalls. Looking ahead, Peel police is also calling for $597 million in capital upgrades –– to be funded from capital reserve funds –– it says will be needed over the next decade. It includes an anticipated $307 million for land and new facilities, $153 million for information and technology advancements, and $76 million for vehicles. At the board meeting Friday, Duraiappah also discussed a summary of the year’s crime trends: Gun crime and homicides trending down Peel is seeing a decline in gang and gun activity so far this year, and is also tracking a decrease in homicides, Duraiappah told the police board Friday. Nevertheless, he dubbed the service’s Project Siphon, which ended with more than 800 charges against 88 people earlier this month, the “largest in the service’s history.” The arrests led to what police say is the dismantling of a prominent Peel-area gang, the seizure of dozens of guns and arrests over three homicides and one attempted murder. So far this year, Peel police have seized 363 firearms, Duraiappah said, noting that “91 per cent of the handguns seized that are traceable came from the United States,” up from the 74 per cent in 2019. “We do have a plan to bolster our gang response,” Duraiappah said. “We know a dedicated gang team is one we need for the new year.” But intimate partner violence is still common So far this year, police have responded to 90 shootings and 14 homicides, five of which were linked to intimate partner violence. That continues a trend that also saw more than a third of the region’s 34 homicides last year linked to intimate partner-related disputes. “It’s still the top three calls that we have each day,” the chief said. “We need to turn the dial on this,” he said, adding that it’s a priority to lower the number of repeat offenders. This year, the service is averaging about 50 calls a day for intimate partner disputes and in response, Duraiappah said the service has created a dedicated intimate partner and family unit with 48 officers who will soon start working out of a hub dedicated to those calls. Rethinking mental health crisis calls Peel’s three dedicated Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Teams responded to 1,700 calls between their introduction in January and October, with only 22 per cent of those calls ending in someone being apprehended, a report to the board said. But police field about 16 daily calls for mental health distress, and the bulk of those calls still land in police hands, Duraiappah said. “We know it’s understaffed,” he said, adding that the rapid response teams can’t respond to that volume of demand — “they do about a third of them, so two-thirds are still being done by uniformed officers.” “Our goal is to have eight on the rapid response team,” he added. Under existing provincial law, only police have the power to apprehend a person experiencing a mental health crisis and take them for treatment. A near-record year for traffic deaths So far this year, Peel has seen a significant increase in vehicle-related deaths, at 38, up from 23 all of last year. Since 2010, only two full years have recorded more motor vehicle-related fatalities: 41 in 2018 and 40 in 2016. “We’re sadly at one of the highest levels of fatal motor vehicle collisions this region has ever seen,” the chief said. The chief also mentioned a troubling bump in stunt driving charges. Police laid 719 charges for stunt driving, to date, up from 332 over the same time frame in 2019.Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star