Canada may face pressure on Iraq, killer storm in U.S.: In The News for Feb. 17

·7 min read

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Feb. 17 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Canada is expected to face pressure this week to reverse a recent drawdown of troops from Iraq as the NATO military alliance prepares to expand its presence in the country.

The alliance has persistent concerns about Islamic State extremists and Iranian-backed militias.

NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg predicted this week that defence ministers from across the alliance would approve the deployment of more trainers and advisers to help Iraqi security forces fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan will be among those participating in the discussion during a two-day, closed-door meeting where he and counterparts from across the alliance will also discuss Afghanistan and the threats posed by China and Russia.

“I expect ministers will agree to launch an expanded mission with more allied personnel training and advising in more security institutions across the country,” Stoltenberg said during a news conference on Monday.

“The mission will expand gradually in response to that situation. This follows requests from the Iraqi government, in close co-ordination with the global coalition. So that together, we can ensure that (ISIL) does not return.”


Also this ...

A sentencing hearing is to be held today for a man found guilty of manslaughter who threw a trailer hitch at an Indigenous woman, leading to her death.

Brayden Bushby is to appear in Thunder Bay, Ont., court.

Justice Helen Pierce found Bushby guilty last year at a judge-alone trial, saying the fatal outcome of his violent act was foreseeable.

The trial heard witness accounts of the January 2017 assault when Bushby threw the heavy metal trailer hitch from a moving vehicle, striking and injuring Barbara Kentner, who died in July 2017 at age 34.

The case drew criticism about how the justice system deals with Indigenous victims after Bushby's second-degree murder charge was downgraded to manslaughter and aggravated assault.

The trial heard the change was made because space limitations made a jury trial impossible in Thunder Bay during the COVID-19 pandemic.


What we are watching in the U.S. ...

A winter storm that left millions without power in record-breaking cold weather claimed more lives Tuesday, including three people found dead after a tornado hit a seaside town in North Carolina and four family members who perished in a Houston-area house fire while using a fireplace to stay warm.

The storm that overwhelmed power grids and immobilized the Southern Plains carried heavy snow and freezing rain into New England and the Deep South and left behind painfully low temperatures. Wind-chill warnings extended from Canada into Mexico.

In all, at least 20 deaths were reported. Other causes included car crashes and carbon monoxide poisoning. The weather also threatened to affect the nation's COVID-19 vaccination effort. President Joe Biden’s administration said delays in vaccine shipments and deliveries were likely.

North Carolina's Brunswick County had little notice of the dangerous weather, and a tornado warning was not issued until the storm was already on the ground.

The National Weather Service was “very surprised how rapidly this storm intensified ... and at the time of night when most people are at home and in bed, it creates a very dangerous situation,” Emergency Services Director Ed Conrow said.

In Chicago, a foot and a half (46 centimetres) of new snow forced public schools to cancel in-person classes for Tuesday. Hours earlier, along the normally balmy Gulf of Mexico, cross-country skiier Sam Fagg hit fresh powder on the beach in Galveston, Texas.

The worst U.S. power outages were in Texas, affecting more than 2 million homes and businesses. More than 250,000 people also lost power across parts of Appalachia, and another 200,000 were without electricity following an ice storm in northwest Oregon, according to, which tracks utility outage reports. Four million people lost power in Mexico.


What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

Lawmakers in the French parliament's lower house on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would strengthen oversight of mosques, schools and sports clubs to safeguard France from radical Islamists and to promote respect for French values - one of President Emmanuel Macron's landmark projects.

After two weeks of intense debate, the vote in the National Assembly house was the first critical hurdle for the legislation that has been long in the making. The bill passed 347-151, with 65 abstentions.

With France bloodied by terror attacks, having hundreds of citizens who went to Syria in years past and thousands of French troops now fighting extremists in Mali, few disagree that radicalization is a danger. But critics also see the proposed law as a political ploy to lure the right wing to Macron's centrist party ahead of next year's presidential election.

The wide-ranging bill, titled “Supporting respect for the principles of the Republic,” covers most aspects of French life. It has been hotly contested by some Muslims, lawmakers and others who fear the state is intruding on essential freedoms and pointing a finger at Islam, the nation's No. 2 religion.

But the legislation breezed through a chamber in which Macron's party has a majority. It is not set to go to the conservative-controlled Senate until March 30, but final passage is seen as all but assured.

The bill gained added urgency after a teacher was beheaded outside Paris in October and three people were killed during a knife attack at a Nice basilica the same month.


On this day in 1982 ...

The British Parliament approved in principle the proposed Canadian Constitution.


In entertainment ...

Media union CWA Canada says comedy educators at The Second City in Canada and the United States have filed for union certification.

It says it expects the Ontario Labour Relations Board to hold a formal electronic union certification vote in Canada next week after an "overwhelming majority" of the nearly 100 educators at the training centre in Toronto signed union cards.

The union says over 200 workers in Chicago and Los Angeles have also filed for certification with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board but that process will take weeks or months because the NLRB requires mail-in ballots.

Last spring, Second City co-owner and CEO Andrew Alexander said he would step down after a former performer levelled accusations of racism against the comedy institution.

CWA Canada says workers in the three cities are unionizing to guarantee equitable working conditions and to establish health and accessibility, diversity and inclusivity, fair compensation, and reasonable employment terms.

Besides its mainstage theatres in Chicago and Toronto, Second City's assets include a long-standing comedy training school, a film school and a corporate division that earns revenue by offering online training and education to clients.



Sorry kids, but an education expert says a snow day might not be enough to get you out of that test in the era of online learning.

Heavy snowfall disrupted the reopening of schools in three COVID-19 hot spots in the Toronto area Tuesday.

Public and Catholic school boards in Peel and York Regions cancelled in-person classes because of the inclement weather, but they said virtual learning would continue, snow or shine.

Meanwhile, the Toronto District and Toronto Catholic District school boards decided to move ahead with reopening, but forced students to make their own way to class after cancelling transportation services.

Paul Bennett, director of Schoolhouse Consulting, says the COVID-19 pandemic has served as a lesson about the need for learning to continue even when students can't make it to class.

"It's time to say goodbye to snow days, once and for all," Bennett said by phone from Halifax. "We need to be using all the knowledge we've gained through adjusting to COVID-19 and put it to good use.'


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 17, 2021

The Canadian Press