Blowing snow at night in Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba.
Blowing snow at night in Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba.
While Ontario and Quebec are the epicentres of COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada, people in First Nations are being hit the hardest in Western Canada, where they make up half the number of hospitalizations in some provinces. The rising curve is alarming federal officials, who urged the provinces during a press conference in Ottawa on Wednesday to continue prioritizing Indigenous populations as they roll out vaccines. "So what we're saying to Canadians, to Indigenous Peoples, is now is not the time to let down your guard," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said. "This is not the time to ease public health restrictions." As of Jan. 19, Indigenous Services Canada was reporting 5,571 active cases on reserves — most of them in Prairie provinces: British Columbia: 580 Alberta: 1,312 Saskatchewan: 1,196 Manitoba: 2,241 Ontario: 93 Quebec: 144 Atlantic: 5 Indigenous Services Canada has reported 13,873 confirmed COVID-19 cases on reserves since last March. More than 90 per cent are in Western Canada: British Columbia: 1,348 Alberta: 4,459 Saskatchewan: 3,525 Manitoba: 3,643 Ontario: 428 Quebec: 462 Atlantic: 8 First Nation leaders and health experts say there are several reasons why infections are increasing in First Nations in Western Canada, including overcrowding, gatherings, people letting their guard down, relaxed restrictions and people driving in and out of communities with road access for goods and work. Lack of housing With COVID-19 caseloads rising all across Canada, the pandemic is emerging in places where it wasn't before, said Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist at Temerty Faculty of Medicine and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "It's quite concerning that COVID is starting to break into these communities," Banerji said. "They've held the forts for so long." Banerji researched respiratory infections in Inuit communities for over two decades. She said the main risk factors facing First Nations are poor access to health care services, underlying ailments, food insecurity, poverty and overcrowding. Banerji said she fears that when people get sick in First Nations, they can't find places to self-isolate. Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair of Opaskwayak Cree Nation, 628 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, said his community needs 600 more houses. "When you have people living under one roof, anywhere from six to as high as 14 members living under one roof on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, you can see how quickly that spread can happen," Sinclair said. "We're second-class citizens living in Third World conditions in a first world country." Opaskwayak Cree Nation has had success in preventing and controlling outbreaks by enforcing curfews and monitoring who enters and leaves the community with border patrols paid for by Indigenous Services Canada. The highest funding requests the department has seen for the Indigenous Community Support Fund — which was created to help communities fight COVID-19 — have been for perimeter security, said Valerie Gideon, associate deputy minister of Indigenous Services. Close to 350 First Nations across the country have closed their borders to non-essential travel, she added. But even with the added layer of security in some places, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says 50 per cent of all active COVID cases in Manitoba are First Nations members. Call for stricter provincial measures Relaxed provincial measures are also being blamed for the rise in First Nations cases. The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan is calling on the province to close bars and liquor establishments. "We believe alcohol in the bars is a contributing factor," said FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt, who recently recovered from COVID-19. "When you're on alcohol, you're more likely to lose your inhibitions, share drinks and not keep those social distance practices in practices and in check." Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs' Organization in Manitoba is urging the provincial and federal governments to enforce tougher rules to limit travel. Daniels said he thinks caseloads are rising because of people going back and forth from First Nations to urban areas. "I think until COVID is completely wiped out, they should be taking the strongest approach possible," Daniels said. Daniels said nearly 80 per cent of the 34 Anishnaabe and Dakota communities he represents are trying to control the spread of COVID-19. Concern for loss of elders Dr. Shannon McDonald, acting chief medical officer at the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia, said there isn't enough rapid testing available to test everyone who needs to travel to B.C. First Nations, and some tests can't detect infections in their first few days. "It only takes one person to come in and spend time with people in the community," McDonald said. McDonald fears the pandemic could take a particularly heavy toll on First Nations communties. "I always worry about our elders," McDonald said. "Our elders are our knowledge-keepers, our language holders and they are the human libraries, culturally. So communities are very sensitive to that, but individuals who are choosing not to adhere to public health advice are putting those individuals at risk and I really worry about that." Lawrence Latender, a member of Dauphin River First Nation, has felt first-hand the impact of COVID-19 during an outbreak in his community 250 kilometres north of Winnipeg. He recently lost seven neighbours and friends to the virus, including two aunts and an uncle. "I don't know if I had time to really grieve because it's one thing after the other," Latender said. "It's like you're focused on one death and then you're, well ... 'OK now I got to focus on this one. Ok, this one is gone, now I got to focus on this one.'" Letander, his wife and two young sons also tested positive, but have since recovered. Indigenous Services Canada says that, so far, there have been 120 COVID-19 deaths in First Nations. But with 169 Indigenous communities now administering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and more doses on the way, there's hope the chain of transmission will break.
WASHINGTON — Three new senators were sworn into office after President Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines late Wednesday, overcoming Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member. It's traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president’s administration. On Thursday, the new Senate majority leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he hoped Biden's nominees for the departments of Defence, Homeland Security, State and Treasury could also be swiftly confirmed. “To leave these seats vacant does a disservice to America,” Schumer said at the Capitol. Schumer introduced all six new Democratic senators — the “majority makers” — who he said represent an “expanding Democratic majority." Four are from the West and two from the South. They are a diverse group bringing several firsts to the Senate, along with Schumer's rise as the first Jewish majority leader of the Senate. The three who joined on Wednesday — Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Alex Padilla of California — took the oath of office from Kamala Harris, a former California senator who is first woman to be vice-president, and the first Black woman and Asian-American to hold that office. Warnock, a pastor from the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, is the first Black senator from Georgia. Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, is Jewish and also the now youngest member of the Senate, at 33. They won run-off elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans, to lock the majority for Democrats. Padilla, a the son of immigrants from Mexico, becomes his state's first Latino senator, tapped by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term. They join a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote. “Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.” Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump. Congress is being called on to consider Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID recovery package, to distribute vaccines and shore up an economy as more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus. At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of Trump, charged by the House of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College tally and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will need to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees. Yet as Washington looks to turn the page from Trump to the Biden administration, Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is not relinquishing power without a fight. Haines' nomination was temporarily blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., as he sought information about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is holding back the Homeland Security nominee, Alejandro Mayorkas, over Biden's proposed immigration changes. McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands, chiefly to preserve the Senate filibuster — the procedural tool often used by the minority party to block bills under rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation. At her first White House briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s desire to have his Cabinet confirmed and in place is “front and centre for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place Thursday or Friday. Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the COVID relief package, but left the details of the upcoming impeachment trial to Congress. The Senate can “multitask,” she said. That’s a tall order for a Senate under normal circumstances, but even more so now in the post-Trump era, with Republicans badly split between their loyalties to the defeated president and wealthy donors who are distancing themselves from Republicans who back Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is expected to soon transmit to the Senate the House-passed article of impeachment against Trump, charged with incitement of insurrection, a step that will launch the Senate impeachment trial. Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate. It’s an arcane fight McConnell has inserted into what has traditionally been a more routine organizing resolution over committee assignments and staffing resources, but a power play by the outgoing Republican leader grabbing at tools that can be used to block Biden’s agenda. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s priorities, but not all rank-and-file Senate Democrats are on board. Schumer has not agreed to any changes but McConnell is taking no chances. For now, it will take unanimous consent among senators to toggle between conducting votes on legislative business and serving as jurors in the impeachment trial. The House last week impeached Trump for having sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight like hell” during the tally of Electoral College votes to overturn Biden’s election. __ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. ___ This story has been updated to correct that Sen. Tom Cotton represents Arkansas, not Oklahoma. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
Cenovus Energy has partnered with Lac La Biche’s Portage College for a basic home construction and maintenance program to residents of Conklin, Janvier, the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation and three other communities in the Cenovus Indigenous housing initiative. The six-month course teaches people how to build and maintain homes locally. Students develop entry-level construction skills that can be used towards a trade certification. The program begins recruiting students in upcoming weeks. “This program will benefit our community lots,” said Shirley Tremblay, president of Conklin Métis Local 193. “It builds capacity and will give them the knowledge of carpentry or plumbing that they would need to pursue their education.” Tremblay said the program will be taught in the community and students can work directly with instructors as houses are built. Portage College spokesperson Jaime Davies said students will build a “legacy building” for their communities during the program. This could include a gazebo, greenhouse or workshop. “The communities have been involved in the design of the training program from the beginning,” said Davies in an email. “They provide input into what training would most benefit the, how training could best be delivered and what would help make the program successful.” The program is part of a broader $50 million, five-year project to build about 200 new homes in Indigenous communities facing a housing crisis. There is the potential to stretch the project to 10 years and a $100 million commitment. The other communities in the program are Heart Lake First Nation and Beaver Lake Cree Nation, both near Lac La Biche; and Cold Lake First Nations. Cenovus said the company reviewed multiple program proposals from local colleges, but did not confirm which colleges reached out. Keyano College would not confirm if they made a proposal to Cenovus. “Portage College was chosen because their proposal met the needs of our communities and the expectations we have for the training program,” said Cenovus spokesperson Sonja Franklin. “They have a long history of working with Indigenous communities to deliver quality training programs.” email@example.com Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today
TORONTO — Declining new COVID-19 case counts in the two provinces hardest hit by the pandemic offer some hope that newly imposed restrictions are working, some experts said Wednesday, while stressing the need to maintain strict public health rules. Quebec and Ontario, which account for the bulk of the country's COVID-19 cases, have both seen new infections trend downwards compared to last week's totals, weeks after each province enacted a series of more stringent pandemic measures. The shift in numbers is "promising," and suggests not only that the measures are having some effect but also that people are being more compliant, said Dr. Jeff Kwong, an epidemiologist with the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "There's a glimmer of hope, but we need to keep up the current restrictions so that we can see things go down further," he said. "Because we really need to bring it down further before we can safely reopen anything." Dr. Camille Lemieux, who is the medical lead for an Ontario COVID-19 assessment centre, said the lower numbers are also partly due to the fact that people have fewer excuses to get together now that the holidays are over. But she said some of the lockdown measures are making a difference, while others — such as closing schools — may not have that much of an impact on daily infection numbers. "So this is a combination of timing... and the measures, in my opinion," she said. The key is to avoid lifting restrictions in a way that allows transmission to resume while so few people have been vaccinated, she said. "People may have to live with some more restrictions — more than they want, for longer than they want — until we get enough people vaccinated," she said. Quebec marked a fourth consecutive day with fewer than 2,000 new cases, reporting 1,502 on Wednesday. Premier Francois Legault suggested the shift may stem from the provincial curfew imposed nearly two weeks ago, which requires residents to be home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. The measure, which will remain in place until at least Feb. 8, was put in place in an effort to reduce transmission of the virus as hospitals face increased strain due to the pandemic. However, health experts warned it's too early to know whether the change can be attributed to the curfew, with some noting it is only one of a series of restrictions implemented to bring down case counts. Ontario, meanwhile, recorded 2,655 new cases on Wednesday, higher than Tuesday's count but a decline from last week, when it saw around 3,000 new cases each day. The province announced Wednesday that schools in only seven public health units in southern Ontario will reopen to in-person learning on Monday, with the rest continuing with online-only lessons. In-person learning was put on hold across the province for the first week of the winter term, a measure that was later extended to Jan. 25 for all schools in southern Ontario. When Ontario declared a state of emergency last week, it also extended online learning for schools in five hot spots until Feb. 10. Health officials across the country are also having to deal with an impending pause in deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. In Manitoba, health officials said Wednesday that no vaccine appointments are being cancelled, though the province will receive roughly half the doses it expected over the next four weeks. The province has also seen daily numbers drop recently in most areas except the north, reporting 153 new cases on Wednesday. Officials are considering loosening some of the measures related to stores and public gatherings in southern and central regions sometime this week. The federal government has said Canada won't receive any doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week after the company advised it is slowing production at its Belgium facility to make upgrades that will eventually boost its output. Ottawa further noted it can't tell provinces how many doses they'll get over the next month as a result of the changes at Pfizer. Canada was scheduled to get 417,000 doses over the next two weeks, and now expects to receive about 171,000. The federal government also moved Wednesday to extend restrictions on international travel into Canada from countries aside from the U.S. until at least Feb. 21. Proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test is required for any air travellers five years or older boarding an international flight to Canada, and anyone coming into the country must follow isolation or quarantine rules. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version gave an incorrect number for new daily cases in Quebec.
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As they often did during nicer weather, Wayne and Michael Cherrington were preparing to sit and sip wine from the enclosed balcony of their fourth-storey suite, one night in October 2018. But their peaceful evening tradition was interrupted by tragedy. "My God Wayne, she doesn't see them, she's going to hit them," Michael, 78, remembers calling out in the moments before a vehicle hit 85-year-old Doreen French and her daughter in the parking lot of the Heritage Park Towers housing complex in south Edmonton. French died 12 days later in hospital. Marion Rickett-Beebee, a nurse who assisted clients in the apartment complex, is accused of careless driving under the provincial Traffic Safety Act. She is not facing criminal charges. The Cherringtons appeared remotely during the second day of the trial on Wednesday, testifying back-to-back about the events of Oct. 18, 2018. They say they saw French and her daughter, Patricia Wilton, walk toward the south tower on the roadway of the parking lot. A barricade and pipes were blocking part of the sidewalk at the time. Wilton said during her testimony Tuesday they were walking to visit a friend in the south tower. They stepped onto the parking lot road to avoid the obstacle — that's when they were hit by an SUV. Wilton said she suffered a number of injuries, including a broken right femur and a fractured vertebrae. The Cherringtons said the black SUV did not slow down prior to impact. "I remember that very distinctly" Wayne, 79, said. "That was my first reaction, to look at the back of that vehicle and see if the brake lights were going to come on. "They didn't." 'I turned away' Defence lawyer Darin Slaferek questioned the couple's recollection during cross-examination, referring to the shock of the event, the amount of time that had passed, and conversations since between them. He pointed out the black SUV must have hit the brakes at some point. Wayne said he did not see the actual moment of impact. "I turned away," he said. Slaferek also challenged Michael on her assertion that she could see the driver looking at the passenger's seat and not the road prior to impact, referring to photos taken from her fourth storey suite and the partially-tinted windows on the vehicle. At one point he asked whether Michael was trying to help her deceased friend and her daughter. "I'm trying to tell you what I saw the best I can," said Michael, who said there are many details of the day she cannot recount. "The only thing I can totally and completely remember … is when the car hit those two girls." The trial is set to continue for the rest of the week.
The City of Vaughan’s lone decision to close its outdoor amenities amid Ontario’s stay-at-home order has sparked a debate on whether some restrictions to curb the spread can do more harm than good. Vaughan announced last Friday it would close its outdoor skating rinks, a toboggan hill and a dog park effective immediately. The decision, the city said, is in response to rising cases of COVID-19 and follows the province’s stay-at-home order, which came into effect late last week. The closure has left experts perplexed and residents upset — one of whom taped a video that has since circulated across social media of a city employee salting a skating rink to prevent people from using it. Many have argued the move is a misguided public health measure that could have adverse effects on the mental and physical health of residents. Vaughan remains the only city in the Greater Toronto Area to have taken this measure. Toronto’s public skating rinks remain open to allow residents to exercise. Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown tweeted on Monday his city will not be closing its outdoor amenities, “regardless of what some municipalities have been doing on their own accord.” “Outdoor activities are low risk, good for physical fitness and much needed for mental health during the current lockdown,” Brown said in a series of tweets, adding Brampton will move to add four new artificial rinks in addition to existing ones. In its release, the City of Vaughan said decisions to close or open amenities are “informed by Vaughan-specific data and reflect guidance issued by York Region Public Health.” York Region has 1,833 active cases as of Wednesday, accounting for 5.7 per cent of current cases in the province. Meanwhile, Toronto, where rinks remain open, is home to 26 per cent of Ontario’s cases. The differing policies on outdoor amenities by GTA cities may also be tied to messaging by the Government of Ontario, which has been criticized by some as confusing. In response to a request for clarification, a spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott said “outdoor ice rinks, tobogganing hills and parks and recreational areas are permitted to open” during Ontario’s stay-at-home order, but municipalities can have additional targeted restrictions in their region if they choose to. A spokesperson for the City of Vaughan said in a statement that the city was “the first municipality in York Region to declare a state of emergency” in response to COVID-19, and closing its rinks is yet another example of the city’s “disciplined, responsible and measured approach.” The decision to close outdoor recreational amenities has already been challenged by Vaughan councillor Alan Shefman, who put forward a motion asking the city to reopen outdoor rinks with additional safety measures. Council will vote on the motion on Jan. 26. But for now, rinks in Vaughan will remain closed — a decision that Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto, believes is misguided. “Any steps and policies that promote safe outdoor activity is clearly the right path forward,” said Bogoch, who also serves as a member of Ontario’s vaccine task force. Bogoch said he agrees more with Brampton’s decision to keep rinks open and build on existing outdoor amenities as they pose a minimal risk for COVID-19 spread. “We know that outdoor venues are much, much safer compared to indoor venues,” Bogoch added. “Of course, nothing in the COVID era is going to be a hundred per cent safe, but we know outdoor venues are way lower risk.” Bogoch said it’s important to keep outdoor amenities open, including outdoor skating rinks and hiking trails, so that residents have a chance to catch fresh air and get exercise in the midst of a dreary, dark second wave of infections. He added those activities can be done safely if people wore a mask and if population control was regulated on amenities to avoid overcrowding. “With us being neck deep in the second wave, we should be promoting healthy and safe activities and behaviours that promote both physical and mental health,” Bogoch said. Mental health is a big factor to why outdoor amenities should stay open, said Steve Joordens, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto. “They provide a real good mental health gain at a small physical health cost,” Joordens said. People, he added, have an innate nature of being social, and promoting activities that can allow this with minimal risk will prevent them from breaking the rules and engaging in riskier behaviour and gathering indoors. “The limbic system will always take over the frontal lobe, it’s much older and more powerful,” Joordens said, explaining how emotional needs can often trump practical needs in the human brain. “If we close down all the public areas for people to be interacting, then we’re going to drive them into the private areas where they’re probably still going to do it … and that’s more dangerous,” Joordens said. Nadine Yousif, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
Music sometimes tells a story more succinctly than a speech and, on Wednesday, Lady Gaga managed to capture the story of Joe Biden's inauguration, and the sweep of American history, in just one note. It lasted four soul-stirring seconds, deep into a performance of the U.S. national anthem for which the pop megastar strode to the stage gripping a golden microphone and sporting an oversized peace-symbolizing dove lapel pin. Gaga gestured across a balcony that two weeks ago was filled by an angry mob attacking the Capitol. In that moment, she improvised on the anthem's melody, slid up a half-tone to a C sharp and held it there in a lung-depleting extended finale to the line celebrating the endurance of the American republic: "That our flag was still theeeeee-eeeeeere." It so happens that the author of that anthem, Francis Scott Key, was also a notoriously committed slaveholder who not only aggressively prosecuted but even sought to execute abolitionists, the unheralded heroes of his time. This slaver's poem rang out Wednesday over the National Mall in a ceremony where a Black and South Asian woman, Kamala Harris, became the vice-president of the United States. And there's the story of America in four seconds. WATCH | Lady Gaga belts out the U.S. national anthem: It's a place that has repeatedly suffered political violence, has often had its politics embittered by racial hatred and inequality, and yet manages to break some barriers, on occasion faster than many nations around the world whose residents revel in judging it. A call to unity Biden took the podium later. The new president used his inaugural address to tell that same story. Biden's version, unlike Lady Gaga's, lasted 2,500 words, but like Gaga's, it gained unusual poignancy after the democracy-testing events of the last few weeks. It was a call to unity that didn't gloss over the nation's imperfections. In fact, Biden embedded America's failures squarely in his message. "I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days. I know the forces that divide us are deep, and they are real, but I also know they are not new," Biden said. "Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, demonization have long torn us apart. The battle is perennial, and victory is never assured." WATCH | Biden's full inaugural address at Wednesday's inauguration: Democracy prevailed after Jan. 6, says Biden He referred to the Jan. 6 attack and described this year's troubled transition of power as a moment of triumph for the battle-tested 232-year-old republic. "Democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed," Biden said. Of course, calls to unity are usually more easily pronounced than achieved. And the country is dredged in reminders that Biden's desire to unify the country faces towering and perhaps insurmountable obstacles. Biden said politics need not be a raging, goodwill-consuming fire and that adversaries should be capable of disagreeing without detesting each other. "We can treat each other with dignity and respect," he said. "We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury; no progress, only exhausting outrage; no nation, only a state of chaos." Yet the desire for political combat runs deep. Even this saccharine speech from Biden drew a reprimand from one of the country's upstart right-wing media organizations, Newsmax, where an anchor called it dark and divisive. A top congressional Republican tweeted congratulations to Biden and was flooded with angry replies from across the political spectrum. Republicans who voted to certify Biden's election win are being threatened with primaries by pro-Trump rivals who intend to unseat them in 2022. More than half of the party's lawmakers in the House of Representatives have joined a challenge to strip Liz Cheney from her leadership role as chair of the House Republican conference after she voted to impeach Donald Trump. The coming weeks will be a big test. And not just because Trump's impeachment trial will loom over the Senate's activities. WATCH | The day's most memorable moments: The coming test to the unity message Biden burst out of the gate with a barrage of executive orders that include rejoining the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accord, cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline, imposing new mask-wearing rules on federal property and restoring the so-called DACA program protecting immigrants who were brought illegally into the U.S. as children. Signing orders is easy. The harder-to-achieve, more durable, change in American politics comes in law, through bills passed through two chambers of Congress. The first bill Biden intends to suggest involves immigration, and it would provide a path to legal residency and then citizenship for millions of people. That proposal will land like a political grenade on the other side of the aisle. Immigration, perhaps more than any other issue in recent years, has been the one that most enrages the Republican base. Trump recognized that anger and milked it. That's why Trump went from agreeing with a softer approach on immigration reform, in the early 2010s, to campaigning to restrict immigration in 2015-16. So it's far from assured this debate will go smoothly, and far from certain an immigration bill will gain enough Republican votes in the Senate to overcome a 60-vote filibuster override. The fact that Democrats now control both chambers of Congress and the White House now gives them at least a chance to introduce bills and try getting them passed. Inaugural addresses: Hits and misses Some inaugural addresses have proven successful predictors of the era ahead. For instance, Ronald Reagan called for less government and lower taxes in 1981, and it generally happened; he called for peace with the Soviets in 1985, and the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. In 1933, Franklin Roosevelt promised a program of job-creating actions during the Great Depression, and he delivered, in a radical few months of transformation. Other speeches are half-prophetic. Donald Trump's in 2017 is one notable example. Trump's so-called American carnage speech promised a more nationalist, America First approach to government — and it happened. On the other hand, Trump also promised to fight against well-connected insiders, yet Trump spent his last day in office relaxing rules for lobbyists and pardoning a number of well-connected and wealthy criminals convicted of corruption. Other speeches tragically fail to capture the reality ahead. Abraham Lincoln also called for unity in 1861: "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies," he said, urging Americans to heed the better angels of their nature. What followed was a devastating four-year civil war. Lincoln urged unity again in 1865, asking Americans to put aside the bitterness of that war and find charity, not malice, in their hearts for former enemies. He was killed a month later; the country wrestled for decades with the war's consequences. Whatever happens, Biden has already begun adding to an old story. From the country's founding, partisan tension has threatened to split it apart. Thomas Jefferson also urged unity in his 1801 inauguration speech at a time when it appeared the then-new nation might not make it. Jefferson referred to the two political factions of the day and urged Americans not to allow differences of opinion tear them apart. "We are all Republicans," said the writer of the Declaration of Independence. "We are all Federalists." On Wednesday, Biden mentioned Jefferson's most memorable words in the American Declaration of Independence — the idea that all men were created equal, endowed with equal rights. Jefferson, of course, was also a slave holder, so much of a slave holder that, unlike some others in his era, he refused to allow his slaves to be freed upon his death. It's a complicated place. And, as Biden acknowledged in his first moments as the 46th president, it's a complicated story. One not always as sweet as Lady Gaga's floating C sharp.
Two salmon farming operations have applied to the Federal Court of Canada in Vancouver for a judicial review of a decision made by Fisheries Minster Bernadette Jordan to phase out fish farms on B.C.'s Discovery Islands. The decision, released on Dec. 17, 2020, states all 19 farms have to be free of fish by June 30, 2022, when their renewed 18-month licences expire and that no new fish can be brought in. At the time, Jordan said her decision was a result of consultations she had with seven First Nations: the Homalco, Klahoose, K'ómoks, Kwaikah, Tla'amin, We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum. "We heard overwhelmingly from First Nations in the area that they do not want these fish farms there," she said. "They feel that they should have a say in their territorial waters, and I absolutely agree with them." Mowi Canada West, and Cermaq Canada, both salmon farming operators in the area located near Campbell River, have applied for the judicial review. In its statement, Mowi Canada West said the decision was "made without consultation of the industry, one week before Christmas." It also outlined the consequences of the decision, including the loss of almost a third of its business, the culling of several million young fish currently in hatcheries and significant job losses in coastal communities. In a statement, Cermaq Canada said it too would have to make labour cuts and put a significant number of fish at risk. It added, however, that its request focuses only on the conduct of DFO and the minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, and that it "respects the opinions and the rights of the First Nations in the Discovery Islands region."
The federal government is adding its voice to those calling on Premier François Legault to relax how curfew rules are applied to homeless people in Montreal, after a man died over the weekend, just steps away from a shelter that was closed for the night. On Wednesday, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said the death could have been avoided and joined Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante in asking Quebec to be more lenient with the city's homeless population. Like most other Quebecers, they can't be outside between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., a public health measure aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. "I would have wanted more flexibility on the part of the Quebec premier," Miller said at a news conference in Ottawa. Pressure has been building on the Legault government to exempt homeless people from the curfew rules since Sunday, when the body of Raphaël André, a homeless man originally from the Innu community of Matimekush-Lac John, was found in a portable toilet. André was forced to leave a nearby shelter, the Open Door, which has been barred from staying open overnight ever since a COVID-19 outbreak there last month. He was facing a $1,550 ticket if caught by police outside. More than 15,000 people have signed a petition, sponsored by the Parti Québécois, backing an exemption for the homeless. So far, Legault has rebuffed such demands. He justified his position on Tuesday by saying that exempting homeless people from the curfew rules would encourage others to "pretend" to be homeless. Miller, who represents a downtown Montreal riding, said André's death raises questions about whether homeless people are able to obey the law. "We have to show more humanity," he said. Quebec's Indigenous Affairs Minister seeks to reassure Miller's Quebec counterpart, Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière, said police in Montreal were, by and large, directing homeless people to shelters, and had issued only a handful of tickets since the curfew began. "This is not hunting homeless people in downtown Montreal," Lafrenière said in an interview with CBC News on Wednesday evening. "If you're in a position where you're homeless in Montreal, you already are vulnerable. You don't need to be scared. You don't to feel that you'll get a ticket." Lafrenière supported Legault's claim that exempting homeless people from the curfew would be impractical and would encourage others to test the limits of the rules. Lafrenière promised the Quebec government would set up a warm shelter by Friday evening at Cabot Square, which is a popular downtown meeting spot for Indigenous members of the homeless population. Quebec also announced it would help the city of Montreal convert the Centre Pierre-Charbonneau arena, near the Olympic Stadium, into a temporary homeless shelter with 112 beds. Advocates for homeless people had warned Legault, when he first announced the curfew, that it would place many Montrealers in a precarious situation. Legault downplayed their concerns by saying there was enough space in Montreal's shelters to accommodate them. That claim was contested by the administrators of several shelters in the city. On Wednesday, Mayor Plante vowed to continue pushing Legault to allow exemptions for homeless people. "I'm disappointed," she said of Legault's refusal. "The curfew adds significant pressure on those without a home. The shelters are overflowing. It adds to the stress of front-line workers."
Faster broadband access is coming to 200 homes and businesses in Chisholm. Ontario is providing $267,473 to upgrade the infrastructure while Spectrum Group is providing $127,368 and the township is kicking in $29,719 to support the project. “Reliable broadband service is certainly needed for life in the 21st century and today's announcement is a step toward making broadband improvements for our rural businesses, families, and individuals,” said Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli when making the announcement Wednesday. “Now, more than ever, the residents of Chisholm are relying on the internet to access services, working from home and connecting with their loved ones.” Chisholm Mayor Gail Degagne said the improvements are needed and timely due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing more people to work from home. “Broadband is a priority with council and staff, especially now with the pandemic,” Degagne said in the media release. “There is an increase of people working from home and students doing online learning which has made high-speed internet an essential service now more than ever.” The project is led by the Blue Sky Economic Growth Corporation, which helps communities and service providers improve broadband access. This investment is part of Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan. On November 4, 2020, the Ontario government announced its investment of $680 million on top of its existing commitment to improve connectivity in the province, leading to a historic investment of nearly $1 billion over six years Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada. Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca
Moins de deux mois après s’être volontairement retiré du comité exécutif de la ville et du caucus du Mouvement lavallois – Équipe Marc Demers, le temps de «rétablir sa réputation», disait-elle, Virginie Dufour reprend du service, tournant la page sur des allégations sérieuses de financement politique illégal. «Aujourd’hui, je reviens la tête haute puisque je peux maintenant confirmer mon innocence», dit celle qui a toujours clamé «une éthique professionnelle irréprochable». Rappelons que le 30 novembre dernier, un enregistrement rendu public l’avait plongée dans l’embarras. On y entend un proche de Mme Dufour, Normand Cusson, expliquer à sa «blonde» que les contributions qu’il verse par chèque au parti lui sont remboursées en argent comptant par l’élue de Sainte-Rose. «J’ai une déclaration assermentée de M. Cusson», mentionne-t-elle, s’estimant «la victime collatérale d’une chicane de couple. Un homme a menti à sa conjointe parce qu’il ne voulait pas lui avouer qu’il avait fait un don à ma campagne électorale.» Devant la commissaire à l’assermentation Manon Derome, Normand Cusson a déclaré solennellement le 5 janvier «ne jamais avoir agi à titre de prête-nom ou avoir eu recours à un prête-nom dans le cadre de contributions au parti Mouvement lavallois ou pour la ou les campagnes de financement politique de madame Virginie Dufour». À la fin novembre, désireuse que la lumière soit rapidement faite sur cette histoire, Mme Dufour s’est adressée par courriel au Directeur général des élections du Québec (DGÉQ) et au Bureau d’intégrité et d’éthique Laval-Terrebonne (BIELT), leur demandant d’enquêter sur les allégations qui la visaient. Exception faite d’une réponse automatique en guise d’accusé de réception, le DGÉQ ne l’aurait jamais relancée, affirme la principale intéressée. Quant au BIELT, dont elle dit avoir rencontré les enquêteurs à deux reprises en présence de son équipe juridique, il l’informait le 12 janvier qu’il «fermait le dossier», le financement politique ne relevant pas de sa compétence. «On aurait bien aimé que le DGÉQ nous revienne rapidement, mais bon ça ne s’est pas fait», ajoute Virginie Dufour, faisant valoir que «tout ce qui pouvait être fait a été fait». Tenue au respect de la confidentialité entourant le processus des plaintes, la porte-parole du DGÉQ, Julie St-Arnaud, indique d’entrée de jeu ne jamais commenter les dossiers en cours. Elle précise toutefois qu’une réponse écrite signée d’un procureur d’Élections Québec est systématiquement envoyée au plaignant ou à un demandeur une fois l’analyse préliminaire complétée, l’informant si le DGÉQ fera ou non enquête. «Tant et aussi longtemps qu’une personne n’a pas eu une réponse formelle de l’avocat, on ne peut pas conclure qu’un dossier est fermé», affirme-t-elle. Virginie Dufour, qui soutient que cette histoire lui a «causé beaucoup de torts», croit-elle que l’ex-amie de cœur de Normand Cusson, un fidèle allié, ait agi par pure jalousie ou qu’elle aurait pu avoir été en mission commandée, une possibilité que n’écartait pas M. Cusson en entrevue au Courrier Laval, le 30 novembre. «Ça, je ne pourrai jamais le savoir. J’ignore tout, si c’est le cas.» Cela dit, elle concède qu’une instrumentalisation politique à des fins partisanes lui a traversé l’esprit. «L’enregistrement remonte autour du 25 juillet», souligne la conseillère municipale, une période qui coïncidait avec le débat très polarisé entourant le controversé projet de développement de l’île Gagnon. En veut-elle à Normand Cusson d’avoir tenu ces propos? «C’est sûr que j’étais déçue, mais de lui en vouloir? Je ne crois pas», d’autant qu’il a fait amende honorable, enchaîne-t-elle. Dans une déclaration officielle faite sur les réseaux sociaux, Mme Dufour ajoute qu’«il n’avait évidemment pas conscience qu’il était enregistré à son insu et qu’une copie de l’enregistrement serait remise aux médias. Il regrette amèrement son mensonge qu’il croyait, a priori, sans conséquence». L’élue chargée des dossiers liés à l’environnement, au patrimoine et à l’urbanisme déclare revenir «au comité exécutif pour porter ces valeurs d’intégrité, d’éthique et de transparence [qui] sont et demeureront le moteur de mon action politique». À moins de 10 mois des élections, entend-elle solliciter un 3e mandat auprès des citoyens de Sainte-Rose qu’elle représente à l’hôtel de ville depuis 2013? «Je vais laisser la poussière retomber, répond-elle, affirmant que la décision n’est pas prise. Cela n’a pas été facile pour moi; bref, j’ai besoin de prendre un petit peu de recul».Stéphane St-Amour, Initiative de journalisme local, Courrier Laval
SALT LAKE CITY — President Joe Biden said Wednesday he plans to review the Trump administration's downsizing of two sprawling national monuments in the American Southwest, including one on lands considered sacred to Native Americans who joined environmental groups in suing when the boundaries were redrawn in 2017. The new Democratic president also plans to ask the Department of the Interior to reassess a rule change that allowed commercial fishing at a marine conservation area off the New England coast. The move was heralded by fishing groups and decried by environmentalists. The moves are part of Biden's expansive plan to tackle climate change and reverse the Trump administration's “harmful policies,” according to fact sheet issued by the administration on Biden's inauguration day. Biden vowed to also use executive orders to put a temporary moratorium on new oil and gas leasing in what had been virgin Arctic wilderness, direct federal agencies to start looking at tougher mileage standards and other emission limits again, and revoke Trump’s approval for the Keystone XL oil and gas pipeline. The plans drew praise from conservation groups. The land monuments Biden will reassess are the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments in southern Utah. President Bill Clinton created Grand Staircase in 1996, and President Barack Obama created Bears Ears in 2016. The cuts made by Trump paved the way for potential coal mining and oil and gas drilling on lands that used to be off limits, though activity was limited because of market dynamics. The marine monument is called the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, the first national marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean and one of just five marine monuments nationwide. President Obama issued the order establishing the conservation area in 2016. Trump acted in December 2017 to shrink the Utah monuments on the recommendations of then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who was tasked with reviewing 27 national monuments around the country. The monument review was based on arguments from Trump and others that a law signed by President Theodore Roosevelt allowing presidents to declare monuments had been improperly used to protect wide expanses of lands instead of places with particular historical or archaeological value. Trump’s decision to downsize Bears Ears by 85% and shrink Grand Staircase-Escalante by nearly half earned him applause from Utah’s Republican leaders, who considered the monuments an example of federal government overreach. The state's current Republican leaders, including U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney and new Gov. Spencer Cox, expressed concern with Biden's plan in a joint statement Wednesday evening in which they demanded Utah leaders be involved in the review. “A review in name only with predetermined results, which ultimately leads to a unilateral executive order enlarging the monuments’ boundaries, will not solve the root of the problem and will only deepen divisions in this country,” they said. Environmental, tribal, paleontological and outdoor recreation organizations have pending lawsuits to restore the full sizes of the monuments, arguing presidents don’t have the legal authority to undo or change monuments created by predecessors. Pat Gonzales-Rogers, executive director of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, said the group has told the Biden transition team the monument should first be restored to the size Obama created and later to a larger size tribes originally requested. The lands are sacred to tribes in the coalition: Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribe, he said. The area includes thousands of archaeological sites on red rock lands including cliff dwellings. The Bears Ears buttes that overlook a grassy valley are particularly sacred. “The Bears Ears is a church and the place of worship for many of our tribes," Gonzales-Rogers said. "It should be viewed with the same type of gravitas and platform that you would view the Cathedral of Notre Dame.” Bruce Adams, who stood next to Trump cheering at the Utah Capitol in 2017 when he signed the declaration shrinking the monument, said Wednesday he thinks it’s a foregone conclusion Biden will restore Bears Ears to the size Obama created, if not make it larger. Adams is county commissioner in the area where the monument is located and said the impact on the county of having to clean up trash and rescue unprepared visitors outweighs any benefit from people spending money at local hotels and restaurants. “I don't think it's fair for the federal government to come in and do a huge land grab,” Adams said. “I just wish they would attach some dollars so the county can deal with the impact.” An estimated 425,000 people visited Bears Ears in 2020, down slightly from the year before because of pandemic closures in the spring, according to the Friends of Cedar Mesa organization that runs a Bears Ears Education Center near the monument. The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts conservation area comprises about 5,000 square miles east of New England. It contains vulnerable species of marine life such as right whales and fragile deep sea corals. The monument was the first national marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean. Trump issued an executive order in June 2020 that reopened the monument to commercial fishing. He said at the time that Obama’s move to ban fishing in the area was “deeply unfair to Maine lobstermen,” although lobster fishermen from the state don’t fish in the area. Kristan Porter, president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, said Wednesday that fishermen opposed Obama’s creation of the monument because of the lack of feedback from the industry. “It was closed without fishery input, and then it was open, and I suppose it’s going to be closed again without fishery input,” Porter said. ____ Whittle reported from Portland, Maine. Brady McCombs And Patrick Whittle, The Associated Press
Regina police are investigating the city's second homicide of 2021, after a man who was assaulted died. On Tuesday, police responded to the 1700 block of Quebec Street following a report of an attack. Police and emergency medical responders found the victim with injuries that were described as serious. The man was taken to hospital, where he died on Wednesday, Regina police said, and they are treating the death as a homicide. His next of kin have been notified. Police described him only as an adult male in a news release Wednesday. "Police will release the victim's name publicly, but wanted to give the family some time before doing so," the news release said. No other details have been provided at this time. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Regina Police Service at (306) 777-6500 or Crime Stoppers at 1 (800) 222-8477.
Hamilton’s public school board is asking the province for pandemic pay for educators supporting students learning in the city’s schools. “Educational assistants and teachers are providing direct care and in-person instruction for students who are not able to follow COVID-19 health and safety protocols, such as wearing masks or physically distancing,” Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) chair Dawn Danko wrote in a Jan. 19 letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Doug Ford and Mayor Fred Eisenberger. The letter calls on the Ontario government to administer an additional payment for education workers who have been “attending in-person at a physical school” in Hamilton — many since Jan. 4 — “in recognition of the elevated risk to staff performing the essential work of supporting students with significant special needs during the lockdown and remote period.” Temporary pandemic pay was initiated by the Ontario government last spring to provide financial support offered to “eligible front line and support workers,” including health-care and long-term-care staff. The program ended in mid-August. As of Jan. 14, there were approximately 330 staff supporting students learning in-person at public schools in Hamilton. On Jan. 15, the Catholic board told The Spectator that approximately 360 educators were working in schools. Chair Pat Daly said the Catholic board, through the Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA), has advocated for “additional funding and support” since March, but pandemic pay isn’t something that has been requested. Susan Lucek, president of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE) Local 527, which mainly represents educational assistants, said the HWDSB’s request is “a step in the right direction.” “We are happy that somebody is finally listening,” she said. But, Lucek said, pandemic pay isn’t enough to address members’ health and safety concerns. “Schools should be closed for everybody at this time,” Lucek said. “Everybody should be remote, even though it’s not ideal for parents, students or educators.” In an email to The Spectator, Daryl Jerome, president of the local bargaining unit for the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), said the letter penned by Danko “was certainly welcomed.” “However, I would have hoped for more of an emphasis on just how unsafe our membership is when delivering curriculum to students who cannot social distance or wear masks and some who require hands-on supports,” he said, adding that approximately 80 members are currently working in schools. Not included in the request are principals, vice-principals, administrators and custodial staff. “They typically are a step removed, they’re not working directly with the students,” Danko told The Spectator. Danko said “it seemed that a focused request would likely be more successful.” Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
EDMONTON — Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says the province has begun giving second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine with priority for residents in long-term care homes. Dr. Deena Hinshaw says adjustments are being made on the fly to make sure everyone who has received a first shot gets the booster in the recommended time frame. Timelines have been put in flux because of delays in shipments from Pfizer-BioNTech, which produces one of two vaccines approved by Health Canada. Hinshaw says health officials are working to get residents of long-term care and supportive living facilities their second doses within a month of the first shot because they are at high risk. She says “everything possible” will be done to find second doses for others no later than six weeks after their first shot. Alberta has given more than 95,000 doses to those considered a high priority, including care-home residents and front-line health workers. “We are also looking within our available supplies to be able to provide the second dose to all others who have received their first dose within the maximum allowable window of that 42 days,” Hinshaw said Wednesday. “We are needing to adjust plans.” Alberta Health says missing the window does not mean the first dose will be ineffective. “Evidence is still emerging on all the vaccines,” said department spokesman Tom McMillan in a statement. “There is evidence that the immune response begins to develop within two weeks of the first dose and continues to develop after that. But it is not known how long any protection from a single dose lasts.” McMillan said the expectation remains that Alberta will be able to deliver the second dose within the window. But if not, current recipients “would not need to begin the series over. They would simply receive the second dose as soon as available,” he said. Premier Jason Kenney said earlier this week that no new first doses would be offered for the time being. Hinshaw reported 669 new COVID cases on Wednesday, with 10,565 active cases. Some 744 people were in hospital, 124 of them in intensive care. There were 21 more deaths for a total of 1,484. Alberta first began delivering doses in mid-December from two suppliers, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. Canada was to get more than 417,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week and next, but is now to receive just over 171,000 this week and nothing next week. Both vaccines require two doses several weeks apart for full effectiveness. The delay has also forced the province to put off implementing its next phase of priority vaccinations: Indigenous seniors over 65 and other seniors 75 and older. Alberta remains under lockdown measures, which include a ban on indoor gatherings. Bars, restaurants and lounges can offer takeout or pickup service only. Retailers are limited to 15 per cent customer capacity, while entertainment venues, including casinos and movie theatres, remain shuttered. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
A third pandemic lockdown appears to be having little impact on rates of COVID-19 in England, researchers warned on Thursday, with prevalence of the disease "very high" and "no evidence of decline" in the first 10 days of renewed restrictions. Until rates of COVID-19 are reduced substantially, health services "will remain under extreme pressure" and the number of deaths will continue to rise rapidly, researchers leading Imperial College London's REACT-1 prevalence study said. "The number of COVID-19 in-patients (in hospital) is extremely high at the moment, and we can't expect that to drop unless we can achieve lower levels of prevalence," said Steven Riley, a professor of infectious disease dynamics who co-led the work.
MEXICO CITY — World leaders welcomed into their ranks the new U.S. President Joe Biden, noting their most pressing problems, including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, require multilateral co-operation, an approach his predecessor Donald Trump ridiculed. Many expressed hope Biden would right U.S. democracy two weeks after rioters stormed the Capitol, shaking the faith of those fighting for democracy in their own countries. Governments targeted and sanctioned under Trump embraced the chance for a fresh start with Biden, while some heads of state who lauded Trump’s blend of nationalism and populism were more restrained in their expectations. But the chance to repair frayed alliances and work together on global problems carried the day. Biden “understands the importance of co-operation among nations,” said former Colombian president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Juan Manuel Santos, who left office in 2018. “As a matter of fact, if we don’t co-operate – all nations – to fight climate change, then we will all perish. It’s as simple as that." French President Emmanuel Macron also noted the urgency of addressing the perils of climate change after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, a move Biden reversed in the first hours of his presidency Wednesday. With Biden, “we will be stronger to face the challenges of our time. Stronger to build our future. Stronger to protect our planet," he wrote on Twitter. “Welcome back to the Paris Agreement!” Other European allies saw a chance to come in out of the cold after strained relationships with the Trump administration. European Council President Charles Michel said trans-Atlantic relations have “greatly suffered in the last four years" while the world has become less stable and less predictable. “We have our differences and they will not magically disappear. America seems to have changed, and how it’s perceived in Europe and the rest of the world has also changed,” added Michel, whose open criticism of the Trump era contrasted with the silence that mostly reigned in Europe while the Republican leader was in the White House. In Ballina, Ireland, where Biden’s great-great-grandfather was born in 1832, a mural of a smiling Biden adorned a wall in the town, where some of the president’s relatives still live. “As he takes the oath of office, I know that President Biden will feel the weight of history — the presence of his Irish ancestors who left Mayo and Louth in famine times in search of life and hope,” Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who formed close ties with Trump, noted a personal friendship with Biden and said he looked forward to working together to further strengthen the U.S.-Israel alliance. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has accused Trump of unfair bias toward Israel with policies like moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, expressed hope for a more even-handed approach from Biden. He urged “a comprehensive and just peace process that fulfills the aspirations of the Palestinian people for freedom and independence.” In Latin America, Biden faces immediate challenges on immigration, and the leaders of the two most populous countries — Brazil and Mexico — were chummy with Trump. The Trump administration also expanded painful sanctions against governments in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro's government urged dialogue with the Biden administration, while hoping the new president abandons the avalanche of damaging sanctions Trump imposed to attempt a regime change. Some Venezuelans, however, like retired accountant Jesús Sánchez, 79, said he was disappointed to see Trump leave power. Trump backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó, giving Venezuelans like him hope that Maduro’s days in power were numbered. Carlos Vecchio, Guaido’s envoy in Washington who the U.S. recognizes as Venezuela’s ambassador, tweeted photos of himself at Biden's inauguration. The invitation to attend was touted by Venezuela’s opposition as evidence the Biden administration will continue its strong support and resist entreaties by Maduro for dialogue that the U.S. has strenuously rejected until now. Cuba’s leaders perhaps have a more realistic hope for improved relations: Biden was in the White House for the historic thaw in relations in 2014, and various officials expressed willingness to reopen a dialogue with Washington if there was respect for Cuba’s sovereignty. President Miguel Díaz-Canel railed against Trump via Twitter, citing “more than 200 measures that tightened the financial, commercial and economic blockade, the expression of a despicable and inhuman policy.” In Mexico, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who cultivated an unexpectedly friendly relationship with Trump and was one of the last world leaders to recognize Biden’s victory, read from a letter he sent to Biden in 2012, calling for reorienting the bilateral relationship away from security and military aid and toward development. He urged Biden to implement immigration reform, and added: “We need to maintain a very good relationship with the United States government and I don’t have any doubt that it’s going to be that way.” U.S. allies in the Asia-Pacific region expressed anticipation of strengthening those alliances under a Biden administration. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and others highlighted their shared values as leaders of democracies. South Korean President Moon Jae-in said: “America’s new beginning will make democracy even greater.” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Biden was a good friend to New Zealand and highlighted in particular the words given in his inaugural address. “President Biden’s message of unity as he takes office is one that resonates with New Zealanders,” Ardern said. World leaders also acknowledged the history of Vice-President Kamala Harris taking office. She is the first woman, the first Black woman and the first South Asian to hold that office in the U.S. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter congratulated both Biden and Harris, whose maternal grandfather was Indian. “That is an historic moment and one that, I think as a father of daughters, you can only celebrate," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. __ Cook reported from Brussels. AP journalists around the world contributed to this report. ___ This version has been corrected by removing the reference to the U.S. as the world's largest democracy. Lorne Cook And Christopher Sherman, The Associated Press
The province’s police watchdog has cleared a Peel police officer of criminal wrongdoing in the shooting death of Jamal Derek Francique Jr. a year ago as his family says they plan to launch an independent investigation. In a Wednesday news release, Special Investigations Unit (SIU) director Joseph Martino said there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the Peel Regional Police officer committed a criminal offence when he shot and killed Francique as he tried to evade police during an attempt to arrest him. The officer fired several shots at the car Francique was driving “to ward off what he believed was an imminent risk to his life,” Martino wrote in his report on the case. “The subject officer had cause to believe that Francique was determined to escape police apprehension regardless of the risk to the health and safety of officers on foot” as he drove his Acura within metres of them, the report said. According to the report, one of several witness officers jumped out of the way of the car, saying she feared for her life. In a news conference responding to the decision, Knia Singh, the family’s lawyer, said he will be launching an independent investigation and analysis of the findings, calling the SIU biased toward police. “The family has been greatly affected by this report confirming the inability to rely on the SIU to hold police accountable,” Singh said, adding that report had inconsistencies that show the “SIU is not conducting thorough, accurate investigations.” Francique’s father Derek Francique, who had been waiting more than a year for answers on his son’s death, said the decision is another example of police and the SIU failing the families of victims. “This report has left my family in further disbelief in the SIU and the police force,” Francique said in a statement. “We will show that the police and the SIU unit have consistently let down communities and families. Our family will get justice for Jamal.” Francique Jr. was shot at around 7:44 p.m. on Jan. 7, 2020, after members of the Peel police street crime unit went to the area near Southampton Drive and Aquinas Avenue in Mississauga to arrest him for breach of conditions related to a drug investigation. The SIU said Francique had visited his girlfriend in the days before the shooting, breaching a court order. The officers found him in a blue Acura TSX and, when officers approached the vehicle, he drove at them, the report said. The subject officer fired several shots at the windshield of the vehicle, hitting Francique in the head. He died in hospital three days later. According to the report, the location of the bullet holes in the Acura — three in the driver’s side of the front windshield and one just in front of the sunroof — suggest it was moving in the officers’ direction throughout the gunfire, the report says. In his conclusion, Martino wrote that while he accepted the subject officer had the option to withdraw from the situation, he had only moments to make a decision in a highly fraught situation. “The officer’s decision may not have been the only one available in the moment, but neither was it unreasonable,” Martino wrote. To that, Singh said all other options but lethal force should have been used. In a statement, Peel police Chief Nishan Duraiappah called Francique’s death a tragedy that all involved wish could have been averted. “Family and loved ones are left behind with questions and the officers involved are forced to deal with the realities of the stress these outcomes cause,” he said. Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
A majority of Regina councillors want to ban fossil fuel companies from advertising with the city, a move that has drawn the ire of Premier Scott Moe. Under the proposal, oil and gas companies such as Federated Co-operatives Limited or Shell wouldn't be able to place their logo on public parks and buildings within the city. Ward 6 Coun. Daniel LeBlanc proposed the ban Wednesday during an executive committee meeting, with the motion passing 7-4. The proposal still needs to be approved by city council on Jan. 27 to take effect. LeBlanc said the move is an effort to promote sustainability, as the city has an initiative to make its operations 100 per cent renewable by 2050. "Sponsorships are associative in nature and therefore alignment with predetermined city values is necessary," LeBlanc said. "I think that's the very reason why we don't want sex, drugs, and rock and roll advertised on our buildings." LeBlanc further compared taking sponsorship money from oil and gas companies to the likes of naming a building after "a pack of smokes" or cannabis companies. "We can not allow that to happen with fossil fuel companies, whose financial interest is to push the continued use of carbon-heavy technologies, carbon-heavy fuel sources. We need to distance ourselves from that and not allow them to gain legitimacy through their association with us," LeBlanc said. Concerns of penalizing oil and gas workers Mayor Sandra Masters, who voted against LeBlanc's motion, said she was having a hard time "comparing Shell with sex work." Ward 7 Coun. Terina Shaw also opposed the idea. "Until we're ready to live in a house with no lights, and we're all riding buses, I don't believe that these people that want to give to us and contribute to our community in so many other ways should be penalized because of what they do," she said. Ward 4 Coun. Lori Bresciani made a similar argument. "These are employers. People who live in our city. They're taxpayers and we're gonna say to them, 'You can not sponsor or give money to a community building,'" Bresciani said. "We want to build the bridges, and this would really tear those down." But LeBlanc, who gained support from the majority of the committee, said oil and gas workers can still be protected by governments. "It's entirely possible for us to distance ourselves from the companies producing those things while still standing with employees and the families who rely on that," LeBlanc said. "We don't need to pick one or the other. But we do need to pick sustainability over carbon-heavy environmental choices. And I think we decided that already. We just need to follow up with it." Moe threatens to pull Crown sponsorships After LeBlanc's motion was passed, Moe issued a statement calling it "absurd." "This motion is a hypocritical attack on the hardworking workers and employers that fuel Saskatchewan's economy and fund important community initiatives through voluntary sponsorships," Moe said. He also commended Masters and the three other councillors — Bresciani, Shaw and John Findura — who voted against it. The proposed ban will only come into effect if city councillors vote in favour of the motion during the city's next council meeting. Moe says if it passes, his government will "seriously consider the future of sponsorships to the City of Regina from provincial energy companies like SaskEnergy and SaskPower." Moe added if the motion passes, he will assume the city no longer wants to receive its share of municipal surcharges from SaskPower and SaskEnergy, "which could instead be distributed to other Saskatchewan municipalities."