Beautiful sunset over the water.
Beautiful sunset over the water.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a yearslong prosecution in the Russia investigation that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the Justice Department stepped in to dismiss his case.“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon," Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”The pardon, in the waning weeks of Trump's single term, is part of a broader effort by Trump to undo the results of a Russia investigation that shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates. It comes just months after the president commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.A Justice Department official said the department was not consulted on the pardon and learned Wednesday of the plan. But the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, noted that the president has the legal power to pardon Flynn.The move is likely to energize supporters who have taken up Flynn as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution, even though Flynn twice admitted guilt. Trump has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn and, in an indication of his personal interest in his fate, asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 to end a criminal investigation into the national security adviser.In a statement, Flynn’s family thanked Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation” by issuing the pardon.Democrats lambasted the pardon as undeserved and unprincipled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power," while Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said a “pardon by Trump does not erase” the truth of Flynn's guilty plea, “no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise.”“The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president," House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. ”The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns. The most dramatic came in May when the Justice Department abruptly moved to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should not have been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan resist the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government's position and to evaluate whether Flynn should be held in criminal contempt for perjury.That former judge, John Gleeson, called the Justice Department's dismissal request an abuse of power and said its grounds for dropping the case were ever-evolving and “patently pretextual.”As Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the prosecution, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell sought to bypass the judge by asking a federal appeals court to direct him to drop the matter. A three-judge panel did exactly that, but the full court overturned that decision and sent case back to Sullivan.At a hearing in September, Powell told Sullivan that she had discussed Flynn's case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of Trump's efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately rejected the Justice Department's dismissal request. That request was made after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.At issue in the prosecution was an FBI interview of Flynn, days after Trump's inauguration, about a conversation he had during the presidential transition period with the then-Russian ambassador.Flynn acknowledged lying during that interview by saying he had not discussed with the diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that the outgoing Obama administration had just been imposed on Russia for election interference. During that conversation, Flynn advised that Russia be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured him “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the countries after Trump became president.The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had co-ordinated to sway the election. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions, which the FBI knew was untrue.Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that Obama administration officials had warned the White House that Flynn had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak and was vulnerable to blackmail. He pleaded guilty months later to a false statement charge.But last May, after years of defending the prosecution, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position.It asserted the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak and that any statements he made during the interview were not material to the FBI's broader counterintelligence probe. The department also pointed to internal FBI notes showing agents had planned to close out the investigation weeks before interviewing Flynn about Kislyak.Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first people charged in Mueller's investigation and provided such extensive co-operation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time, leaving open the possibility of probation.But the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behaviour from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue co-operating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.After that, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller's investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government and tried to withdraw his guilty plea.Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter After several housekeeping items from Mayor Al Strathdee, he gave the floor to Town Treasurer Andre Morin, who began his presentation by introducing Denice Williamson, the new Deputy Treasurer for the Town of St. Marys. Williamson began her new role with the Town back on November 9th of this year and she was invited to sit in and watch the special meeting of the Council to get a feel for how the budget deliberations work and get introduced directly to members of Council themselves. Chief Administrative Officer Brent Kittmer then gave a formal introduction to the 2021 budget deliberations. He noted that this year's budget deliberation is the first as part of the new budget schedule. Council has had more opportunities to discuss high-level aspects of the budget earlier than in previous years, which Kittmer noted has helped Town staff be better positioned to present a better version of the draft budget to Council. At the direction of Council, Town staff are using the remaining funds received by the Safe Restart program to help offset some of the increased costs, so there is less burden on the Town and its residents and businesses. An interesting comment made by the CAO, concerning the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, was the acknowledgment that the Town must find things for residents to do as pandemic fatigue continues to settle in, but that can be done safely and with proper safety measures in place. Additionally, according to Kittmer, the draft budget presented was the "worst-case scenario," meaning the Town is working under the assumption that the community will remain in some level of the pandemic state for the duration of 2021. The reason for this consideration going into the budget deliberations is so that Council can ensure it has what it needs if that worst-case scenario of remaining in some form of lockdown for the entirety of 2021 is realized.Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
The Nov. 17 regular Crowsnest Pass council meeting saw council discuss and vote on a handful of agenda items. Senior housing The meeting began with a 2021 budget update from Crowsnest Senior Housing. The budget was very preliminary as uncertainties surrounding Alberta Health Services and Covid-19 funding have yet to be confirmed. Revenue estimates for 2021 were based on the centre having four vacancies, even though currently vacancies sit at 13. A similar situation with seven vacancies resolved itself last year, so staff are optimistic residents will fill the vacancies again this year. One additional vacancy reduces rent revenue by about $18,000 to $20,000. A finalized budget will be in place by January. The housing board requested that, going forward, annual budgets be presented in January as it is difficult for staff to compile a budget when data has yet to be collected for the remaining months of the year. Rather than compiling a complete budget before year’s end, Crowsnest Senior Housing will make a year-to-date presentation in October to keep council informed. So far, the Peaks to Pines senior centre is about halfway through construction, though it is not anticipated to be completed until the summer of 2021. Land redesignation After no issues were raised during the public hearing, council passed second and third reading of Bylaw 1057, 2020, a land-use bylaw redesignation. The bylaw will rezone a property in Coleman from a recreation and open space (RO-1) designation to residential (R-1). The rezoning comes about after administration received a development permit application for a residential addition to the property. It was discovered that part of the land was designated as residential while the other was set aside for recreation and open space. After going through municipal records and past council meeting minutes, it was determined the split zoning was a mistake. Health and wellness Council agreed to make a few minor changes to the municipality’s health and wellness spending account, Policy 1810-02. The biggest change involves allowing employees to submit reimbursement receipts throughout the year. Previously, claims could be made only once a year. Other changes included adding employee leave as a reason to prorate benefits and including a new category on health apps. Club rent rates The meeting concluded with a lengthy discussion on rates the municipality charges clubs to rent municipal facilities. For detailed coverage, please see Crowsnest Pass Council Debates Rent Rates, posted online at www.shootinthebreeze.ca. Next meeting The next regular council meeting will be held Tuesday, Dec. 1, at 7 p.m. at the MDM Community Centre. Agendas are available on the municipality’s website at https://bit.ly/CNPagenda.Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
Participants both in favour of and opposed to the proposed Grassy Mountain mine squared off Oct. 29 to Nov. 3 during the scheduled presentation and cross-examination period. The hearing topics focused on the project’s purpose, visual esthetics, alternative road access and the potential socioeconomic effects the mine could have on the region. In Benga’s beginning statement, vice-president of external relations Gary Houston said the mine would spike the local economy, encouraging local business, the service industry and tourism in the area. “Benga considers [that] economic development, recreation and tourism are compatible and mutually supportive in the community and the region,” he said. Providing Crowsnest Pass with an established industry, Mr. Houston continued, would help draw more hotels and restaurants, which in turn would attract more tourists to the region to the point the municipality could rival a destination like Fernie. Heather Davis, owner of Uplift Adventures, challenged such an assertion because the environmental and socioeconomic assessment sections of Benga’s application were missing consultation with the outdoor recreation industry. “It appears that the consultant who prepared the report left a gap regarding what is going on in the community,” she said. “A cost-benefit analysis should include the assessment of outdoor recreation, lifestyle and tourism prior to the mine approval.” Ms. Davis said the mine’s approval would limit access to recreational opportunities, which would not only deter people from coming to the area but would also drive away people who live there. Gavin Fitch, representing the Livingstone Landowners Group, said Benga’s claim that the mine would help tourism ignored the fact travel destinations always have a destination worth going to. Amenities like hotels and restaurants, he said, come second. “How, then, is removing the top of one of the local mountains going to contribute to attracting or drawing more tourists?” he asked. Money talks In terms of improving the local economy, Mr. Houston said Benga’s “hire local” policy would ensure the two-year construction phase would provide meaningful employment for nearby residents, as well as establish some 400 good-paying, permanent positions once the mine was operational. The total socioeconomic benefit of the mine, however, was called into question. Though Mr. Houston said in Benga’s opening statements that some 500 jobs would be created during construction, it was later corrected that at its peak the construction phase would require only 190 workers. Overall, an average of 120 workers would be employed while construction is occurring. The estimate of $1.7 billion in provincial and federal royalties and taxes over the mine’s 25-year lifespan — two for construction and 23 for operations — was also based on an assumed average price of US $140 per tonne of metallurgical coal. Coal prices, Benga acknowledged, can regularly fluctuate above $300 or below $100, though the process is a complicated one to predict since prices are established directly between individual steelmakers and coal mines. The risk to the multibillion-dollar agrifood industry downstream from the mine, which was recently reported at $2.2 billion in 2020 for Lethbridge County alone, has raised questions as to whether any purported benefit from the mine is worth the economic risk. With more and more countries investing in green energy to combat climate change, Mr. Fitch said, the economic viability outlook was overly optimistic since global coal use is estimated to decrease. Alternative methods of producing steel without metallurgical coal, like hydrogen-field forges or electric-arc furnaces, could also hamper the mine’s profitability on world markets. Opponents of the proposed mine also said the mine’s development contradicted Canada’s international commitments to limiting gas emissions. Gas emissions as part of the project’s mining operations, however, are regarded by proponents as negligible. “I believe the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the project are in the order of 0.05 per cent of Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions, so that seems like a small number to me,” said Mr. Houston. He also added that figure would be applicable only once the mine reached peak production during its 19th year. As well, decreasing coal demand worldwide only really applies to thermal coal, or coal used to produce electricity, said Benga’s Mike Yuill. “For Canadian export hard-coking coal, the outlook is still very robust,” he said. While using electricity in arc-flash furnaces is growing, Mr. Yuill added that the process requires recycling old steel. For many countries in southeastern Asia just starting to develop, little amounts of steel exist to be recycled, necessitating the need for metallurgical coal. Using hydrogen instead of coal is still in its preliminary stages and is not expected to be used widely during the Grassy Mountain mine’s lifespan. Property problems The mine’s land use, as well as its effect on nearby properties, was also discussed. Since the mine is located on an existing mine that closed in the 1960s, Benga argued that it’s reclamation efforts would improve the area since the previous mining company did not complete any land reclamation. The company also clarified concerns about private properties being located within the mine’s boundary; the boundary was purposefully drawn larger than what operational needs actually required to facilitate appropriate environmental study. No properties exist within the mine footprint, where mining would occur. For Fran Gilmar, who has owned property in the area for 60 years, the distance properties were from the mining footprint was irrelevant since mining activity would destroy the area’s source of fresh water, particularly Gold Creek. “I've drank it for 58 years, and it's, it's beautiful water. It's the last of the last,” she said. “You know, you do not find water like that anywhere.” In addition to water pollution, residents also said the resulting air and noise pollution would significantly devalue their properties. While acknowledging values would decrease if a catastrophic accident occurred, Brian Gettel, a professional appraiser who testified at the hearing, said property losses would only really be affected by the dust produced at the mine. He estimated the additional air pollution would result in 10 per cent or less loss in property value, though mining activity would more negatively affect the higher-end housing, which typically involves people from the city owning a second house in an alpine area. “Put simply, second homes in a mountain area are not necessarily the greatest thing if it's a mining community,” Mr. Gettel said. To mitigate property losses in the Grassy Mountain area, Benga had engaged nearby landowners throughout the proposal and application period, Mr. Houston said. A voluntary buy-back program had been established, with Benga offering to pay owners double what their property was worth, based on individual negotiations. The average starting point for such negotiations, Mr. Houston continued, was $800,000. Describing $800,000 as double the average property price, however, was a disputed figure. “From my perspective, $400,000 is a rare instance, and that is the absolute lowest value I've seen,” said Mr. Gettel. In their communications with Benga, Norm and Tyler Watmough, who own property immediately adjacent to the proposed mine, said negotiations were more like an ultimatum. The initial offer the family received was for $750,000, even though they knew two of their neighbours’ land had been bought by Benga for $1.1 million and $1.3 million. When the family declined the initial offer, Benga offered $800,000, claiming it was 60 per cent premium over the highest appraised property in the region. The Watmoughs again refused the offer. “We felt that they were bullying us and trying to force us out at a price that was below market value,” Tyler said. The difference in pricing, Mr. Houston said, was the result of Benga determining what land was necessary for it to own in order to operate the mine. Land within the mine footprint, then, would be a higher priority for purchase. Landowners in the area also are concerned they will be cut off from Grassy Mountain Road, the most direct access to their properties. Though Benga has suggested alternative roads exist, locals say the routes amount to little more than quad trails or are accessible only parts of the year with four-by-four trucks. The issue stems from an agreement property owners formerly had with the gas company Devon Canada Corp. The agreement granted residents permission to access Grassy Mountain Road, even though it went through private property. Richard Secord, legal counsel for the affected landowners, said Benga did not do its due diligence in ensuring residents could still use the road. “You didn't determine or bother in your public consultation to find out whether [the agreement] was real [and] that they had a similar access to the Grassy Mountain Road,” he said. In Benga’s defense, Mr. Houston responded that no landowners had approached the company about the issue until the hearing. “I don't know that the onus is on Benga to ask [if] there any secret agreements that we don't know about,” he said. “The lines of communication have been open for five years. The fact that we have intended to close the Grassy Mountain Road has been documented in writing at least [since] 2015 and through several other communications.” When Martin Ignasiak, Benga’s legal counsel, asked landowners Larry and Ed Donkersgoed why they did not discuss the issue with the mining company, they replied that they just assumed Benga would know. Benga’s understanding of the agreement was that residents could maintain the road at their own expense, though Mr. Houston said the company was under the impression it really only included clearing snow. He also said the agreement only formally acknowledged Devon was not liable for residents using the road and gave the gas company power to terminate the agreement with 120 days written notice. Evidence of the agreement brought before the hearing was also a little suspect, Mr. Houston said, since a letter indicating the agreement was written and signed by a former Devon employee. The letter didn’t have an official letterhead and only described a verbal agreement rather than laying out terms and conditions. Accessing the hearing The public hearing for the joint review panel continues throughout November. Live and recorded proceedings of the hearing are available on YouTube at https://bit.ly/GMtnHearing, with transcripts and submitted documents accessible at https://bit.ly/AllDocx.Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
The Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association is a not-for-profit registered charity that provides therapeutic riding lessons to children and adults with diverse abilities, while also working with at-risk youth. The association is one of five organizations being helped this year by the KTW Christmas Cheer Fund. The association works with riders from throughout the Thompson-Nicola region, with some riders coming as far as from Lillooet to participate. As a social enterprise, the association also provides a community riding program for Kamloopsians interested in getting on a horse. In a normal year, there would be between 80 and 100 participants per session, with a 12-week session in the spring and an eight-week session in the fall. But 2020 has not been a normal year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “We were unable to do our 12-week spring session, so we did a small summer session for independent riders only,” said Ashley Sudds, executive director of the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association. But that meant numbers dropped to about 30 participants. The organization tried to offer a longer session in the fall — once again for independent riders — with a bit more success, managing close to 50 riders for those sessions. With lower numbers, and some of the horses nearing retirement, the therapy horse herd was downsized a bit. Sudds is hopeful the KTW Christmas Cheer Fund money can help improve the situation for the association in 2021, saying funds can go toward sponsoring a horse or perhaps sponsoring a rider or two who might have aged out of financial support for the program. but would still like to continue with it. The riding programs are tailored for each individual according to their diagnosis and the association is able to work with a variety of different individuals, including those who are in wheelchairs. “We have an electric lift,” Sudds said. “It can lift them out of their wheelchair.” Information on volunteering with the association, as well as rider information and information on the Parent A Horse program can be found on their website at www.ktra.ca People can also take a virtual tour of the facility online and get a chance to see what the location is all about. It’s also where people can go to find out how to support the group directly or to find out more about volunteering. For more information on the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association, go online to ktra.ca.Todd Sullivan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week
MOSCOW — Thousands of people in Russia's Far East region of Primorye remained without heating or electricity on Wednesday, as local authorities and emergency services wrestled with the consequences of an unprecedented ice storm that hit the region last week.According to Russia's Energy Ministry, 5,800 Primorye residents as of Wednesday were still cut off from power, and 3,300 people in the city of Vladivostok, the region's capital, still had no heating, the ministry said.The region was hit by freezing rain on Nov. 18, and thousands of its residents woke up in dark, cold apartments the next day. Thick layers of ice covered trees, cars, roads and power lines, many of which broke under the weight.The region hasn't seen weather like this in 30 years, Primorye Gov. Oleg Kozhemyako said on his Instagram page. The ice storm continued for several days. On Saturday, nearly 180,000 people in the region had no electricity, heating or water, according to the regional government's website.The authorities have been working on restoring power supplies in the region for a week. Shelters and hot meals for those affected were organized. The government allocated 700 million rubles ($9 million) of assistance to the region, where a state of emergency was declared Friday.Commenting on the situation, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that the ice storm was rather severe and “inflicted colossal damage onto the urban infrastructure" and pointed out that, while the authorities were taking all necessary measures to deal with the situation, the consequences from the force of nature couldn't be eliminated quickly.The Associated Press
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Following Chief Administrative Officer Brent Kittmer's overall summary of the draft budget and some of its key elements, it was Town Treasurer Andre Morin's turn to speak more specifically on the high-level aspects of the 2021 draft capital budget. It is important to note that this is still a draft budget, meaning the budget is not finalized yet. With that in mind, this will give you a glimpse at how the 2021 budget is beginning to take shape. Morin began his presentation by noting that it's expected that revenues across the board will be down in 2021, due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic. These revenues that are expected to decrease include the largest, fees and charges, as well as ice rentals, rents and leases, and sales. Morin also pointed out that the carry-over from the 2020 Safe Restart funding the Town has yet to spend is about $250,000, which will help cover the extra costs and lost revenues. The draft capital budget also reflects several increases in expenses for the Town. The first that Morin touched on was an increased investment in the community safety and policing plan, as well as parks patrol. The expense increase for those areas is approximately $45,000. Most of the other increases proposed in the budget are spread over other departments within the municipality and are fairly standard and routine. The Town is seeing an increase in debenture payments in 2021, but not as large of an increase as they likely expected. The net increase of about $68,000 is largely due to an increase in debenture payments related to the fire hall, but there is also a debenture payment related to wastewater services that is coming off the books. The materials and services line of the budget did reflect a large increase of $140,000, however, that is largely due to its reflection of additional costs brought on by the pandemic. Lastly, an increase in salary and wages is also included in the budget, and the Council asked Town staff to report back later on the implications of a 1.5 percent increase in salary and wages. Morin then touched on the tax increase for St. Marys residents, which, thanks in no small part to the Town's handling of the pandemic, is not going to be as substantial as other municipalities. The net tax levy, according to Morin, will result in the average St. Marys resident paying approximately 0.82 percent more in taxes. Morin also said that the Town is projecting a 0.97 percent increase for the average municipal dwelling, as well as increases of between 2-2.5 percent for water and wastewater services. No increase is predicted for garbage and recycling wheelie bin services.Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
Les amateurs de sports nautiques ont peut-être remarqué la présence de nouvelles stations de prises de données en bordure des cours d’eau de plusieurs municipalités du Grand Montréal, dont près d’une dizaine sur la Rive-Sud, ces derniers mois. On peut en apercevoir une entre autres sur le fleuve, aux limites de Boucherville et des iles de Varennes ainsi qu’une autre face aux marinas de Longueuil. Installées par l’équipe de la Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal dans le cadre de ses travaux sur la gestion des inondations, ces stations sont composées de plusieurs éléments qui sont également bien visibles de la rive : un boitier avec caméra et panneau solaire, des règles limnimétriques et des sondes à pression (ces espèces de ballons jaunes flottant sur l’eau). Les composantes de chaque station de mesure sont fixées sur des supports en acier galvanisé à chaud fabriqués sur mesure grâce à un système d’ancrage métallique dense. Elles ont pour mission de mesurer les niveaux d’eau, qui sont ensuite transmis à des serveurs informatiques et diffusés sur le futur site Web de prévisions Crues Grand Montréal. En cours de développement, ce site sera accessible tant aux citoyens qu’aux experts. Il suffira d’entrer une adresse pour obtenir la hauteur d’eau en temps réel, l’historique des données et les prévisions pour les trois jours suivants. Ces statistiques serviront à mieux connaitre les variations du niveau des eaux, pour mieux établir aussi les niveaux de risque d’inondation, selon les données recueillies. MIEUX PROTÉGER LES PERSONNES ET LES BIENS Au total, 29 stations de mesure ont été installées dans les principaux cours d’eau métropolitains, soit le fleuve Saint-Laurent, le lac des Deux-Montagnes et les rivières des Outaouais, des Prairies, des Mille-Îles, Saint-Jacques, du côté de Brossard et Richelieu.François Laramée, Initiative de journalisme local, La Relève
MILAN — Though the first real snow has yet to fall across much of Europe, ski buffs are imagining with dread a once-unthinkable scene: Skiing in Zermatt in Switzerland while lifts idle across the border in Italy's Aosta valley.The leaders of Italy and France are resisting pressure to reopen ski resorts before Christmas, pushing for European co-ordination so their industries don’t suffer during the pandemic while others flourish. But the Alpine countries of Switzerland and Austria could well be spoilers.Ski resorts were one of the major sources of contagion in the deadly spring surge of COVID-19.So far, restrictions to slow the curve of infections have kept lifts closed in Italy, France, Germany and Austria, as well as countries further east. But skiers are already heading to mountains in Switzerland, drawing an envious gaze from ski industry and local officials in mountain regions elsewhere on the continent who lost most of last season due to the virus. They are warning of irreversible economic damage if they are not permitted to open this season.Both Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte and French President Emmanuel Macron said this week that pre-Christmas openings are unthinkable. While such skiing luminaries as world and Olympic champion Alberto Tomba argue that it is an individual sport conducted in the open air, the leaders point to the risks of contagion in crowded lift lines and lodges, as well as closed cable cars.Top health officials in Italy appeared aghast when they were asked at a briefing Tuesday about the prospects for opening ski season, minutes after they had just reported a resurgence-high 853 deaths in a 24-hour period.“I admit I have a difficult time inside commenting on arguments relating to ski areas and what will happen at Christmas, thinking about these numbers,’’ said Dr. Franco Locatelli, head of Italy’s national scientific council.French mountain industry representatives met with the French prime minister Monday to press to be able to reopen, but apparently their pleas weren’t heard.“It seems impossible to me to imagine a reopening for the holidays, and much more preferable to favour reopening in January, in good conditions,’’ Macron said as he laid out plans Tuesday night for a gradual easing of the current lockdown.Plans for reopening also remain on ice in the eastern countries of Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic — although Serbia is prepping for the winter season in full swing, as if COVID-19 did not exist, counting on both domestic and foreign visitors.Austria, whose current lockdown runs through Dec. 6, has been for months saying that it hoped to reopen the slopes this season and rejected Italy’s idea of keeping them closed until Jan. 10. On Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz pushed back against calls to write off this year’s ski season because of the pandemic.In Bavaria, Germany’s largest ski destination, Governor Markus Soeder supported the idea, saying that if Europe’s borders are to remain open through the Christmas season there will have to be some sort of a blanket rule on keeping resorts closed.In Switzerland, lifts are indeed in operation on Zermatt, next to the famed Matterhorn, and eastern Davos, near Austria. The famed resort of St. Moritz, a favourite destination for well-heeled Italians, is set to open about 60% of slopes this weekend.But much of the fun of skiing getaways is missing: Zermatt's slopes may be open, but its restaurants are not — meaning a warm cocoa, mulled wine or cold beer at pubs or eateries after mountain runs is out.So far, just 10% of the country’s 250 ski stations are open as only the highest altitudes have gotten enough snow, according to Switzerland Tourism spokeswoman Veronique Kanel. She said she didn't expect a flood of foreign skiers, noting strict travel rules still in place in many countries.An official in the Swiss health ministry said Switzerland plans to join a discussion among officials from Alpine countries in the coming days on co-ordinating a plan for relaunching the ski season.“Clearly the situation is complicated: It’s difficult to have only one country open its ski slopes when others close theirs. There needs to be co-ordination,” said the official on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.___Keaten contributed from Geneva. Angela Charlton in Paris and Dave Rising in Berlin also contributed.___Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreakColleen Barry And Jamey Keaten, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Jawan M. Jackson recently got to do something he's been yearning to do for months — sing and dance again with his Broadway cast.Jackson is one of the stars of “Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of The Temptations” and he reunited with castmates for the first time since theatres shuttered to prepare for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday.“I was most happy with just seeing all my old friends I haven’t seen in months, some who flew in specifically for the show to do this,” he said. “It was different, but it was still great to do.”The pandemic, which shut down theatres in March, may have upended most traditions this holiday season, but the annual New York City parade will march on with balloons, dancers, floats, Broadway shows and Santa — albeit heavily edited for safety.“Traditions like this are comforting and they’re uplifting,” said Susan Tercero, executive producer of the parade. “New York has always been a tough city. It bounces back. It takes its blows and then it continues on. And I think it’s extremely important for us to be that display this holiday season. Regardless of what’s happened, New York needs to be that beacon of light in the darkness and this parade, I think, is symbolic of that.”The Macy’s parade has been a traditional holiday season kickoff for more than 90 years, and spectators often line up a half-dozen deep along the route to cheer about 8,000 marchers, two dozen floats, entertainers and marching bands. At last year's parade, the big fear was high wind. This time, it's a pandemic that has made crowds untenable.The biggest change this year is that the usual 2 1/2-mile route through crowded Manhattan has been scrapped in favour of concentrating events to a one-block stretch of 34th Street in front of the retailer’s flagship Manhattan store. Many performances have been pre-taped and most of the parade’s performers will be locally based to cut down on travel.In addition to “Ain’t Too Proud," the parade will feature performances from the Broadway casts of “Hamilton,” “Mean Girls” and “Jagged Little Pill,” a musical built around the music of Alanis Morissette. The Broadway performances were taped days before the parade.Things felt a lot different for actor Derek Klena, who was in the 2017 parade as part of the cast of “Anastasia.” This year, he's Tony Award-nominated for his role in “Jagged Little Pill” and helped perform “You Learn” from the Tony-nominated show.The cast was quarantined for two weeks before taping and tested regularly for the virus. Cast members rehearsed in masks until the moment cameras started rolling and kept socially distant. They sang live this time instead of years past when casts lip-synched."Although the circumstances were much different, it was still so magical and fulfilling to get to share that experience with your fellow castmates after being distant for so long," said Klena.“I think it was important to everybody to find a way to still celebrate this event and celebrate the shows and the companies that all get to share in this amazing event.”Both Jackson and Klena said everyone adhered to the show's strict safety protocols — enforcing the 6-foot rule, frequent testing and requiring face masks plus face shields, as well as a fresh mask after their performance. “I’m appreciative of it because it is built to keep you safe,” said Jackson, though he noted “dancing in a mask is a tough feat.”This year's lineup of balloons includes Snoopy, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” “The Elf on the Shelf,” Chase from "Paw Patrol," Pikachu, the Pillsbury Doughboy, Ronald McDonald, SpongeBob SquarePants and “Trolls.” New this time are “The Boss Baby” and Red Titan from “Ryan’s World.”The giant cartoon-character balloons will be flown without the traditional 80 to 100 rope-pulling handlers assigned to each inflatable and will instead be tethered to specialized vehicles.Pentatonix, Ally Brooke, Keke Palmer, Sofia Carson, Leslie Odom Jr. and Jordin Sparks will perform, and there will be floats from “Blue’s Clues,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and Lego. There will be a New York City Ballet ballerina with a performance from “The Nutcracker,” an all-female samba drumline and acrobats from “The Big Apple Circus,” and the Rockettes will be out in force. The parade ends with an appearance from Santa Claus.Another change this year was the decision to spotlight many of the New York City parades that were cancelled in the spring and fall due to the pandemic — the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Mermaid Parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade and NYC Pride March.“We’re going to be highlighting them, and we’re going to be really giving them a chance to shine,” said Tercero. “You’re going to be able to see creativity in this entertainment come to life that has sort of been dormant for the past seven months.”For the Broadway performers, there's a silver lining to the changes this year. Usually on Thanksgiving Day, they'd be freezing in Midtown, having woken at dawn and been dancing and singing for hours. This year, they get to watch themselves from the warmth of their apartments, a job already well done.“It’s the first Thanksgiving in a few years where I either don’t have a show or I’m not taping something,” said Klena. “So in that way it’ll be kind of fun to just celebrate with some of my friends here in the city and my wife.”___Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwitsMark Kennedy, The Associated Press
A $2 million family healing and wellness centre is scheduled for construction on Muskowekwan First Nation. The First Nation, which is about 330 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon, expects the project to be completed in 2021. Funded by an Indigenous Services Canada initiative, the centre will be built in the spring and summer, a government statement announced on Monday. The prepared statement said the centre will have four family log homes, each holding two to four bedrooms. The First Nation will use a fifth home for healing program delivery. Operations support will come from community Elders, in addition to counsellors and staff. In a prepared statement, Chief Reginald Bellerose said the project is an "urgently needed" step on a "healing journey from the historical effects of attending residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, among other traumas." While he said communities like his are in crisis, he hopes the model of care will produce tangible results for his First Nation. The project is "driven by the community, for the community," he said. The goal is to "provide a welcoming, homelike environment where families in crisis referred to the Centre can get the support they need to help heal together," the federal government's statement added.Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix
If you happen to pop by Ranchland Mall in Pincher Creek this Wednesday you’ll see a booth manned by purple-clad staff from the Pincher Creek Women’s Emergency Shelter. On top of sporting purple fashion, the workers are handing out information and resources raising awareness for Family Violence Prevention Month, as well as recognizing Nov. 25 as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Throughout November, family shelters and resource groups across the province have been participating in a public and social media campaign through gopurpleAlberta to help individuals and families feel safe in their homes and in their communities. The campaign is especially important as Alberta has the third-highest rate of self-reported spousal violence in Canada. Lori Van Ee, executive director for the shelter, says community members are asked to don purple throughout the day to help highlight efforts to prevent family violence. The shelter’s plans extend beyond the day of Nov. 25 and into the night as well. “We are encouraging community members to take part in our first-ever Shine Your Light Event,” says Lori. “This event will ask community members to shine their outside light, put a glow stick in their window, or turn on their holiday lights for the remainder of the night to help raise awareness.” The goal of Family Violence Prevention Month is twofold: help provide resources that prevent family circumstances from deteriorating, and ensure people in an unsafe domestic situation find the information and the help they need. Helping families through stress, says Kayla Strandquist, is the main focus for the Crowsnest Pass Women’s Resource and Crisis Centre. The centre provides counselling and support services for anyone who may be feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Though acknowledging that reaching out for help can be tough, Kayla emphasises the centre is a safe place to talk. “There’s always someone that will be willing to listen. Lots of times people don’t think that they can reach out for help, but there are people out there willing to help,” she says. “Sometimes people feel isolated or scared to ask for help, but just know that you’re not being judged.” Though the centre has shifted the majority of its counselling services to telephone or virtual sessions, people without access to technology are still welcome to come for conversations in person as long as they wear a mask. The centre is also running a Coats for Kids program and can provide free household items for families in need. A Christmas toy hamper will also be starting in December. Should anyone find themself in a situation where their safety is in danger, the centre can also provide same-day transportation from Crowsnest Pass to the shelter in Pincher Creek. The shelter, explains Lori, is more than a bed for women fleeing abuse. “Our residential program is a 21-day stay and assists women to assess their danger levels, create a safety plan, provide the necessities, and work with women to attain short-term goals such as finding housing independent from their abuser,” she says. “Women’s shelters remain the safest place for women fleeing violence. Our staff are trained to help women assess their danger levels and create a safety plan,” Lori continues. “We encourage anyone facing immediate danger to call 911. You are not alone.” The shelter also runs a support program to help moms meet the needs of their children, as well as facilitating age-appropriate activities for children staying in the shelter. Helping get women out of immediate danger is only one aspect of the shelter’s mandate. An outreach program also helps clients identify their needs, helping put women on a path to living independently and productively from abuse. The program lasts up to six months but can be extended as needed. Additionally, Lori says, women do not have to be living in the shelter to access the outreach program. “We can take referrals from community agencies and or community members themselves who see a need to access the supports that our outreach program can offer,” she says. A host of resources are available for anyone experiencing family violence. Any individual can contact the Pincher Creek crisis line at 403-627-4868 or 403-627-2114. In Crowsnest Pass, anyone in need of assistance can contact the resource centre at 403-563-9077. Provincially, a toll free crisis line is available at 1-888-354-4868. The Family Violence Info Line is also available in more than 170 languages at 310-1818. In case of immediate danger, people are encouraged to call 911. Online provincial resources can be found at www.alberta.ca/family-violence-find-supports.aspx. Provincial shelters can also be looked up at www.alberta.ca/find-shelters.aspx. Further information on the Pincher Creek Women’s Emergency Shelter can be found online at www.pcshelter.ca. Likewise, additional information on the Crowsnest Pass Women’s Resource and Crisis Centre is available at www.cnpwomensresourcecentre.ca.Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
It's been a long time coming, but the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) is building a hut in the Robson Pass area at the end of the Berg Lake trail. The site has been cleared and, if all goes to plan, the dorm-style hut will be built by next summer and usable by the fall. It will be open seasonally and accommodate 16 overnight guests: four bunks of four. Matt Reynolds, a professional mountaineer and president of the Jasper/Hinton section of the ACC, said the location is sought by "hikers and mountaineers alike”. "It's a really popular hiking destination for people who don't want to camp in the elements,” he said “It really will be quite a good thing for the community as a whole." The ACC got word of their permission to build the hut on Oct. 6 and the next day, a crew of ACC volunteers and two McElhanney survey technicians flew up to the site armed with chainsaws, fuel and other equipment to prepare and clear the area, which had already been marked with tape. Claire Levesque, a mountaineer and a Jasper/Hinton section member said she dropped everything when she found out the hut was a go-ahead and was happy to help. She said the crew worked all day. "There was a lot of work,” she said. The hut at Robson Pass will be the first one to be maintained by the ACC in B.C. Provincial Parks, though the club has had a presence in that area for more than 100 years - The first ascent of Mt. Robson was on an ACC camp. Lawrence White, ACC executive director in Canmore, and an avid mountaineer and backcountry skier, said the bid to get permission to build the hut started in 2005. The process was a three-way consultation between B.C. Parks, First Nations groups and the ACC. It's a World Heritage site. "We have a great partnership with B.C. Parks,” White said. “This seemed like the next natural step.” Next, the ACC will be working with the province and avalanche specialists to categorize the access route. The Jacques Lake cabin The ACC is now about a year into its 16-month trial agreement to manage the Jacques Lake patrol cabin, formerly managed by Parks Canada. As a not-for-profit operator, the ACC operates a number of cabins throughout the mountain national parks including four in Jasper. Steve Young, communications officer for Jasper National Park, said, "The addition of the Jacques Lake cabin provides an introductory level winter backcountry experience to novice visitors who may not otherwise experience Jasper’s backcountry at this time of year. The cabin offers visitors rustic accommodation along a moderate non-technical trail." Young said Parks Canada’s backcountry operations in Jasper National Park have changed over the years, reducing the frequency of use of patrol cabins such as Jacques Lake. The cabin was identified as a viable option to be used for public enjoyment as it is no longer required for operations during the winter months. Parks Canada retains ownership of the cabin while the ACC is responsible for the booking, management and maintenance of the cabin during the winter months. Established in 1906, the ACC head office is in Canmore and there are 25 local sections across the country, including the Jasper/Hinton section. The ACC promotes alpine experiences, knowledge and culture, responsible access and excellence in mountain skills and leadership. Currently there are 35 backcountry huts maintained by the ACC across the country.Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
As controversial as he was talented, Maradona is a gigantic loss for the beautiful game. View on euronews
LOS ANGELES — The Weeknd angrily slammed the Grammy Awards, calling them “corrupt” after the pop star walked away with zero nominations despite having multiple hits this year.The three-time Grammy winner criticized the Recording Academy on Tuesday after he was severely snubbed despite having one of the year’s biggest albums with “After Hours” and being tapped as the Super Bowl halftime headline performer. He also topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “Blinding Lights” and “Heartless.”“The Grammys remain corrupt,” the singer said on Twitter. “You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency.”The harsh words come less than a year after the Recording Academy's ousted CEO accused the group that determines nominations in the top categories of having conflicts of interest and not engaging in a transparent selection process.Harvey Mason Jr., the Recording Academy’s interim president and CEO, spoke earlier about whether he was surprised the Weeknd didn’t earn a single nomination. He said it’s hard to predict the voters’ decisions.“You know, there’s so many nominations and there’s only so many slots, it’s really tough to predict what the voters are going to vote for in any given year,” he told The Associated Press. “I try not to be too surprised.”After the Weeknd called out the academy, Mason Jr. released a statement explaining that “unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists.”“We understand that The Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated. I was surprised and can empathize with what he’s feeling,” Mason Jr. said.The Weeknd was shut out from being a Grammy nominee along with Luke Combs, who set records on streaming services and dominated the country charts. Morgan Wallen also had a successful year in country music, but he came away empty.A group of young R&B female acts moving the needle also missed out on nominations, including Summer Walker, Teyana Taylor and Kehlani. Late rapper Juice WRLD, Brandy and Chris Brown were also snubbed.Justin Bieber earned four nominations, but the singer also criticized the Grammys decision-making as well. He said music from his fifth studio album “Changes” was wrongly viewed as a pop album, rather than an R&B project.Bieber gave thanks saying he was “flattered” for being acknowledged but thought being left out of the R&B category was a mistake.“I set out to make an R&B album,” he wrote on Instagram. “’Changes’ was and is an R&B album. It is not being acknowledged as an R&B album, which is very strange to me.”Bieber was nominated in the categories for best pop solo performance, best pop duo/group performance, best pop vocal album and best country duo/group performance.The singer said he loves pop music, but he wants to be respected for his work.“I grew up admiring R&B music and wished to make a project that would embody that sound,” he said. “For this not to be put into that category feels weird, considering from the chords to the melodies to the vocal style, all the way down to the hip-hop drums that were chosen, it is undeniably, unmistakably an R&B album!”Jonathan Landrum Jr., The Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO — Some California counties are pushing ahead with plans to wind down a program that's moved homeless people into hotel rooms amid the coronavirus pandemic despite an emergency cash infusion from the state aimed at preventing people from returning to the streets in colder weather as the virus surges.Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced $62 million for counties to move hotel guests into permanent housing or to extend hotel leases that were part of “Project Roomkey," which he rolled out this spring as a way to protect some people experiencing homelessness from the virus. The Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to pick up 75% of the cost.But counties say that with federal relief funding expiring soon, it's time to transition residents from expensive hotel rooms to cheaper, more stable housing. Officials hope to offer a place to every resident leaving a hotel, though they acknowledge not everyone will accept it and affordable housing is difficult to find.California is one of several states, including Washington, that turned to hotels to shelter homeless people as the virus took hold. Homelessness has soared nationwide during the pandemic, and it was already at a crisis level in California because of an expensive housing market and a shortage of affordable options. The nation's most populated state has by far the highest number of people on the streets, though other places have a higher per capita rate.In San Francisco, advocacy groups and some officials are outraged by the mayor's plan to start moving hundreds of people out of hotels around the holidays. They say it’s ridiculous when thousands of people are still sleeping on sidewalks and in cars, and they don't believe the city can find enough virus-safe housing for 2,300 people living in more than two dozen hotels.“It makes absolute zero sense. It is outrageous, it’s irresponsible, and it basically tells people experiencing homelessness that you’re not a priority for the city,” Supervisor Hillary Ronen said as she and other leaders announced proposed legislation to slow the move and ensure every resident is offered alternative housing.The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing said in a statement that money from the state will provide “more flexibility and time” but would not say if San Francisco had changed its timeline. The department has said it plans to move homeless people out of all 29 hotels by June.“We will continue to work with city staff and our service providers to deliver on our commitment to get people housed and ensure no one in our hotels gets moved back on the streets," the statement said.An estimated 150,000 people experiencing homelessness live in California, and there are signs that number will only increase with an economy ravaged by the pandemic. Newsom has awarded $800 million to cities and counties to buy hotels and other properties to convert into housing, saying he didn't want to squander an opportunity to get more people indoors.At times, connecting homeless people to shelter, work, medical care and social services boils down to finding them in time, and the hotels have been a huge help, advocates say. They say hotel residents have flourished with regular checkups and meals.“If this were to be taken away from us at this time, it really would be like having a carpet pulled out from under us in a really major way,” said hotel resident Nicholas Garrett, who appeared with the San Francisco supervisors.Dr. Danielle Alkov spoke of one of her patients, a transgender woman who has blossomed after being brought indoors. But her hotel is scheduled to be among the first to close.“She’s thriving, she’s engaged in medical care, she’s very future-thinking for probably the first time in a long time, thinking about her career goals, her educational goals,” Alkov said. “The idea of her not having a stable place to go, and losing all the progress that she’s made, would be devastating.”In Los Angeles, the Homeless Services Authority said nearly 600 people have moved out of hotel rooms and into interim housing, with 62 others in permanent housing. About 3,400 people remain in hotel rooms, and while the agency has received funding from the city to extend leases at several hotels, it will keep moving people into other housing, spokesman Christopher Yee said.Alameda County, which includes Oakland, hopes to use state money for rental subsidies and to extend leases on hotel rooms but will continue with plans to close five of nine hotels between December and February. Over 1,000 people are in hotels there.It's much more cost-effective to use the money “for permanent housing with leases than to continue the hotel program indefinitely," said Kerry Abbott, director of the county’s Office of Homeless Care and Coordination. And while some people have chosen to return to a shelter, “our goal is to make sure everyone has a housing offer. Most people will take a housing offer."The hotels won't go away entirely. Abbott said the county plans to operate a 98-room quarantine and isolation hotel for six months next year and keep an additional 240 hotel rooms open through 2021 for residents who require the extra care.By year's end, Sacramento County plans to close trailers housing 46 people either recovering from the virus or awaiting test results. But county spokeswoman Janna Haynes said shelter hotels will stay open through early next year and nobody will be forced to leave without a place to go.Even though the program is ending, Abbott, of Alameda County, says people have benefited deeply, with some able to start addressing issues that have kept them out of stable housing.“Many people have been inside for the first time in a decade or longer, and have stayed inside, and have benefited from a place to stay, the services and the food and even the community our providers have put in place," she said.Janie Har, The Associated Press
Giant dumps of snow are nothing new to people in the Big Land, but even by Labrador standards the snowfall over the last 24 hours was a doozy. Snow began to fall Monday evening and by 11 a.m. Tuesday 60 centimetres of snow had fallen, with 25-30 more expected before evening. SaltWire Network meteorologist Cindy Day said the storm, the first blizzard of the season for Labrador, tracked across Ontario and Quebec, bringing significant snow across those provinces, and was just off the Northern Peninsula Tuesday afternoon. “The system really is a two-season system. North of the storm it’s a blizzard, snow and wind and significant windchill. On the south side of that low-pressure system it's extremely mild, but also very windy. So, depending on where you are, there are either spring-like conditions or deep into winter.” Day said it’s interesting to note that as of 11 a.m. Tuesday Gander was the hot spot in the country, while there was 60 centimetres of snow in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, about 840 kilometres away. Schools and many businesses closed for the day in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, but some remained open or were slated to open after lunch. All town facilities, including the town hall and the E.J. Broomfield Arena, remained closed for the day, and the scheduled town council meeting was moved to Thursday. Canada Post announced it would not deliver mail in the region Tuesday due to the weather. The average snowfall for the month of November in Happy Valley-Goose Bay is 56 centimetres, Day said, so Tuesday alone will top that. There has already been a record amount of snowfall this month, she said, but depending on how the calculations are done it could also be a new one-day record. The previous record was set, she said, on Jan. 16, 1985, when 71 centimetres fell in one day. “It’s going to be tricky how they add these numbers, since it will have fallen on the 23rd and 24th, so we’ll see how that comes out, but it’s on track for a record,” she said. Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
TEMAGAMI – Victims and Survivors of Crime Awareness Week is taking place across the district this week. Victim Services Temiskaming and District have set this year’s theme as “Recognizing Courage, Renewing Commitment,” and the initiative will run from November 22 to November 28. The initiative is “a time to raise awareness about the services, programs and laws in place to help victims and their families,” said Monique Chartrand, executive director for Victim Services Temiskaming and District in a statement. Victim Services flags will be flown in honour of victims and survivors this week at the OPP detachments in Kirkland Lake, Englehart, Temiskaming and Temagami. The Temagami OPP Detachment hosted a flag presentation on Monday, November 23, with Victim Services board chair Dan Dawson, Chartrand, program coordinator Patty Burke and Superintendent Jon Dumond from the North Bay regional OPP headquarters. The Temagami Police Services was represented by board members Gerry Stroud and Debbie Morrow. Also in attendance was Inspector Joel Breault of the Temiskaming Detachment who stressed the importance of victims of crime “having the services available to get the help they need for themselves and their families.” He also noted that all members of the OPP are appreciative of the great support and assistance provided by Victim Services of Temiskaming and District. Chartrand added that if additional support is ever needed, people can call Victim Services Temiskaming and District at 705-647-0096 or 705-568-2154. “We always have a listening ear and we will ensure that the necessary services and supports are in place to assist victims of crime and tragic circumstances across our communities,” said Chartrand. “We are dedicated to see them move forward in their healing journey. When we support each other, incredible things happen.” Victim Services Temiskaming and District says it also has received a grant from the Department of Justice Canada for a park bench that will be dedicated to victims and survivors of crime in Temiskaming, which will be located in the park across from Kal Tire and will be installed in 2021. Another park bench will be dedicated to victims and survivors of crime in Kirkland Lake. That bench will be located at Kinross Park and also installed in 2021. Proclamations have been sent to municipal officials to formally proclaim the week for victims, survivors and their families. Victim Services also will have public awareness spotlights on its Facebook page for daily $25 President’s Choice gift cards, which will be drawn every day during the week. They are asking that you like, follow and share the Facebook page.Jamie Mountain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker
The Northern B.C. Crisis Centre could use some help when it comes to helping others. In the time since the novel coronavirus pandemic took hold, the centre has seen a 25-per-cent increase in calls to its phone lines from people feeling anxious, depressed and suicidal. The jump has translated into about 600 calls per month from people in the Northern Health region plus a further 400-500 calls per month the centre fields from the national suicide prevention line. "Things really ticked up in March and they haven't really stopped. We've been very busy," Sandra Boulianne, the centre's executive director, said. She said there have been similar upticks in the past, such as during the two major wildfire seasons, but nothing as sustained as this. Adding to the trouble, Boulianne said the centre is short-staffed. The centre works on a hybrid model with trained volunteers taking calls during the days and evenings and paid staff working the overnight shift. The roster of volunteers has waivered between 25 and 30. Ideally, Boulianne said the count should be over 40. As it stands, the centre's call answer rate averages about 70 per cent. "So we're missing 30 per cent of our calls," Boulianne said. "It's not good." Moreover, the volunteers are typically university students looking for some practical experience while pursuing their degrees. While she welcomes them, Boulianne said she would like to have a broader representation of the community not only because they may be able to better relate to some of the callers but they may last longer than the two to three years a student typically does. "Sometimes it feels like we're training people as fast as we're losing people," she said. Retired folks and stay-at-home mothers with some spare time are among the kinds of people Boulianne said she is seeking, adding the centre also has a youth-serving-youth line. Newcomers go through 70 hours of training, delivered online, and once completed, they're asked to put in one four-hour shift per week, either from home or at the centre. "It's difficult work but it's very rewarding," Boullianne said. She added that she joined the centre after earning a social work degree as a mature student at UNBC and had intended to stay for just two years. That was eight years ago. "I can honestly say I've fallen in love with the work," Boullianne said. "I love the authenticity of people when they're calling anonymously and confidentially and I love the skills that we use to help people open up." On the bright side, the centre was one of 10 across B.C. to receive a $10,000 from Pacific Blue Cross. Boulianne said it has made a difference to the non-profit which relies largely on funding from Northern Health and the United Way of Northern B.C. "We're very, very grateful," she said. Pacific Blue Cross provided the funding after a survey indicated two-thirds of British Columbians predict their mental health will deteriorate in the coming months. "We know that those who engage early support through crisis lines, are less likely to require acute care later," said Jim Iker, Chair of the Pacific Blue Cross Health Foundation. "With BC now facing its second wave of the pandemic, supporting our community and our health care system has never been more critical.” Boulianne attributed a significant amount of the jump in calls to people stuck in quarantine or other forms of isolation brought on by the virus. For some, it's also meant they have been unable to access face-to-face counselling in a timely manner and just need someone to talk to while they're waiting. "The beautiful thing about crisis lines is you can talk to somebody right away," Boulianne said. "We are not counsellors because our service is anonymous and we don't have a therapeutic relationship with our callers but we're able to diffuse a situation in the moment." Even if the centre needs more volunteers, Boulianne said those in need of help should still call. "You don't need to be suicidal to call a crisis line," she said. "We take any kind of distress call. If anything is worrying or distressing an individual, we want to be there to support them and so, no issue is too small," she said. "It's really anything, all the way from social isolation and loneliness to suicidal ideation and everything in between." Those interested in volunteering can get more information at crisis-centre.ca. If you need help, call 1-888-562-1214. There is also a suicide prevention line at 1-800-SUICIDE and youth crisis line at 1-888-564-8336. Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
The raft of musicians who were snubbed by the 2021 Grammy Award nominations on Tuesday highlight the Recording Academy's scattershot efforts at inclusion, say industry observers, pointing out that ironically, those snubs might have been inadvertently caused by the academy's attempts to do the opposite. "I was a little bit surprised by the dearth of albums by Black artists in the album of the year category," said Jeremy Helligar, a journalist with the trade magazine Variety. The category is the most-coveted award of the night, and among the eight nominees — Jacob Collier, HAIM, Dua Lipa, Post Malone, Taylor Swift, Black Pumas and Jhené Aiko — only the last two include Black or biracial members. Beyoncé's anthem about Black pride, Black Parade, scored nine nominations, including song and record of the year, making her the leading contender and the second-most nominated act in the history of the awards show. But other high-performing albums were ignored in favour of those that largely went under the radar — most notably, Coldplay's Everyday Life.Music fans critiqued the Recording Academy, which hands out the awards, on Twitter for ignoring Lil Baby's My Turn and Roddy Ricch's Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial, both double-platinum albums.Rapper Nicki Minaj also threw her support behind the two artists soon after the list was announced, reminding fans that she herself was ignored for best new artist in 2012 in place of "white man Bon Iver.""It's like they try to embrace as diverse a group as they can to try to show that they're thinking outside of the box," Helligar said. "But by thinking outside of the box, they miss some of the obvious choices that are really worthy."Dropping 'urban' category not enoughOne of the academy's recent attempts to think outside of the box was the decision to drop the word "urban" from the "best urban contemporary album" category — now called "best progressive R&B album." Helligar has written about the decision, which he says seemed like a good-faith attempt to move away from a term that lumped Black musicians together regardless of genre but ended up being little more than lip service. It was also undercut by the continued use of the "urban" designation in Latin music categories. Organizers also changed the best world music album to "best global music album" as "a departure from the connotations of colonialism." This came among similar changes at other awards shows — such as the Oscars renaming best foreign language film to "best international feature film" and the Junos renaming the Indigenous album of the year to "Indigenous artist or group of the year" in late 2019."This is the year when the academy could have really made a statement about its support of Black music," said Helligar.But despite those efforts, Helligar says, the "hand-wringing" and the focus on categories in general by the Recording Academy could result in Black artists being lumped together once again — something he feared he saw evidence of in the best album category this year.The Weeknd ignoredMusic and culture journalist Gary Suarez, who has written for Vulture and other publications, says the academy's focus on categories and genres, and its difficulty fully nailing them down, could have played a role in the passing over of other contenders.For example, despite Canadian musician The Weeknd having produced one of the biggest albums of the year with After Hours, winning big at the American Music Awards and being named as the Super Bowl halftime performer, he didn't receive a single Grammy nomination.The singer responded to the snub Tuesday, writing: "The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…"Suarez says the reason for the snub could be that The Weeknd's music fits into so many different genres, including electronic, pop and R&B. The academy's concern with categories and genres, he says, can cause artists to fall through the cracks. "The simple fact is that when you create these genre categories, you're ghettoizing artists whether you intend to or not," Suarez said. "It's entirely possible that The Weeknd could have had his votes split in too many ways so that he didn't make the long list."After the Weeknd called out the academy, Harvey Mason Jr., the academy's interim president and CEO, released a statement explaining that, "unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists.""We understand that The Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated. I was surprised and can empathize with what he's feeling," Mason Jr. said.A 'silent hierarchy' of decision makersThe concern over the academy's decision making was echoed by Justin Bieber later Tuesday. The Canadian singer thanked the Grammys for putting his album Changes up for best pop vocal album but questioned why it was selected for the category."Changes was and is an R&B album," Bieber wrote on Instagram."For this not to be put into that category feels weird considering from the chords to the melodies to the vocal style all the way down to the hip hop drums that were chosen it is undeniably, unmistakably an R&B album!"The apparent disconnect between the academy's categories and how people listen to music, Saurez says, is only serving to further alienate fans from the industry."When you have artists who do the extraordinary things that we as listeners, as journalists celebrate artists for, but the institutions in the industry can't find a home for them in their little boxes," Suarez said, "then we have to ask ourselves: What does this industry serve? Who does this industry serve?"Music journalist A. Harmony doesn't think the Grammys are doing a good job of fixing that. In her view, the awards have a "silent hierarchy," that determines what qualifies as "real music," and people of colour are more often shut out of broader categories with universal appeal. But, she said, the lack of recognition is hurting artists less now than in the past. As organizers continue to break away from what people are actually listening to, she says, people are paying less attention to who is nominated for the Grammys and who wins."It seems as though the consumer now is dictating what they like and what they want to listen to, and they seem to be a lot more inclusive and accepting of a wider range of artists than the Grammys," said Harmony, who contributes to CBC's q."So, I think if the Grammys don't learn the lessons that they're meant to learn soon, they will just fade into the abyss."