Canada's vaccine advisory committee says the second dose of approved COVID-19 vaccines can be given up to 42 days later, a recommendation that is at odds with the advice of drug manufacturers.
Canada's vaccine advisory committee says the second dose of approved COVID-19 vaccines can be given up to 42 days later, a recommendation that is at odds with the advice of drug manufacturers.
WASHINGTON — Members of President Donald Trump’s failed presidential campaign played key roles in orchestrating the Washington rally that spawned a deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol, according to an Associated Press review of records, undercutting claims the event was the brainchild of the president's grassroots supporters. A pro-Trump non-profit group called Women for America First hosted the “Save America Rally” on Jan. 6 at the Ellipse, an oval-shaped, federally owned patch of land near the White House. But an attachment to the National Park Service public gathering permit granted to the group lists more than half a dozen people in staff positions for the event who just weeks earlier had been paid thousands of dollars by Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. Other staff scheduled to be “on site” during the demonstration have close ties to the White House. Since the siege, several of them have scrambled to distance themselves from the rally. The riot at the Capitol, incited by Trump’s comments before and during his speech at the Ellipse, has led to a reckoning unprecedented in American history. The president told the crowd to march to the Capitol and that “you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.” A week after the rally, Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives, becoming the first U.S. president ever to be impeached twice. But the political and legal fallout may stretch well beyond Trump, who will exit the White House on Wednesday before Democrat Joe Biden takes the oath of office. Trump had refused for nearly two months to accept his loss in the 2020 election to the former vice-president. Women for America First, which applied for and received the Park Service permit, did not respond to messages seeking comment about how the event was financed and about the Trump campaign’s involvement. The rally drew tens of thousands of people. In a statement, the president’s reelection campaign said it “did not organize, operate or finance the event.” No campaign staff members were involved in the organization or operation of the rally, according to the statement. It said that if any former employees or independent contractors for the campaign took part, “they did not do so at the direction of the Trump campaign.” At least one was working for the Trump campaign this month. Megan Powers was listed as one of two operations managers for the Jan. 6 event, and her LinkedIn profile says she was the Trump campaign's director of operations into January 2021. She did not respond to a message seeking comment. The AP’s review found at least three of the Trump campaign aides named on the permit rushed to obscure their connections to the demonstration. They deactivated or locked down their social media profiles, removed tweets that referenced the rally and blocked a reporter who asked questions. Caroline Wren, a veteran GOP fundraiser, is named as a “VIP Advisor” on an attachment to the permit that Women for America First provided to the agency. Between mid-March and mid-November, Donald J. Trump for President Inc. paid Wren $20,000 a month, according to Federal Election Commission records. During the campaign, she was a national finance consultant for Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee between the president’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee. Wren was involved in at least one call before the pro-Trump rally with members of several groups listed as rally participants to organize credentials for VIP attendees, according to Kimberly Fletcher, the president of one of those groups, Moms for America. Wren retweeted messages about the event ahead of time, but a cache of her account on Google shows at least eight of those tweets disappeared from her timeline. She apparently removed some herself, and others were sent from accounts that Twitter suspended. One of the messages Wren retweeted was from “Stop the Steal,” another group identified as a rally participant on a website promoting the event. The Jan. 2 message thanked Republican senators who said they would vote to overturn Biden’s election victory, including Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas. She also retweeted a Jan. 1 message from the president promoting the event, as well as promotional messages from one of the president’s son, Eric Trump, and Katrina Pierson, a Tea Party activist and a spokesperson for Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Wren did not return messages seeking comment, and locked her Twitter account after the AP reached out to her last Monday to ask her about her involvement in the Trump rally and the tweets she had removed. Several days later, she blocked the AP reporter. Maggie Mulvaney, a niece of former top Trump aide Mick Mulvaney, is listed on the permit attachment as the “VIP Lead.” She worked as director of finance operations for the Trump campaign, according to her LinkedIn profile. FEC records show Maggie Mulvaney was earning $5,000 every two weeks from Trump’s reelection campaign, with the most recent payment reported on Nov. 13. Maggie Mulvaney had taken down her Twitter account as of last Monday, although it reappeared after an AP reporter asked her about the account’s removal. On Sunday, the same day the AP published this report, she blocked that AP reporter on Twitter. Maggie Mulvaney retweeted several messages on Jan. 6, including one from the president that urged support for the Capitol Police. Trump's Twitter account has been suspended, but the message could be seen in a cache of her Twitter account captured by Google. She also retweeted a message from her uncle, urging Trump to address the nation. Maggie Mulvaney did not respond to messages seeking comment. The insurrection at the Capitol prompted Mick Mulvaney to quit his position as Trump’s special envoy to Northern Ireland. He told CNBC a day after the assault that remaining in the post would prompt people to say “‘Oh yeah, you work for the guy who tried to overtake the government.’” The leaders of Women for America First aren’t new to politics. Amy Kremer, listed as the group’s president on records filed with Virginia’s state corporation commission, is “one of the founding mothers of the modern day tea party movement,” according to her website. Her daughter, Kylie Jane Kremer, is the organization’s treasurer, according to the records. The IRS granted Women for America First tax-exempt status as a social welfare organization a year ago, with the exemption retroactive to February 2019. The AP requested that the group provide any tax records it may have filed since then, but received no response. In a statement issued the same day rioters attacked the Capitol, Amy Kremer denounced the assault and said it was instigated after the rally by a “handful of bad actors,” while seeming to blame Democrats and news organizations for the riot. “Unfortunately, for months the left and the mainstream media told the American people that violence was an acceptable political tool,” she said. “They were wrong. It is not.” The AP reviewed social media posts, voter registrations, court files and other public records for more than 120 people either facing criminal charges related to the Jan. 6 unrest or who, going maskless during the pandemic, were later identified through photographs and videos taken during the melee. The review found the crowd was overwhelmingly made up of longtime Trump supporters, including Republican Party officials, GOP political donors, far-right militants, white supremacists, off-duty police, members of the military and adherents of the QAnon myth that the government is secretly controlled by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophile cannibals. Videos posted on social media in the days following the Capitol attack shows that thousands of people stormed the Capitol. A Capitol Police officer died after he was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher as rioters descended on the building and many other officers were injured. A woman from California was shot to death by Capitol Police and three other people died after medical emergencies during the chaos. Trump’s incendiary remarks at the Jan. 6 rally culminated a two-day series of events in Washington, organized by a coalition of the president’s supporters who echoed his baseless accusations that the election had been stolen from him. A website, MarchtoSaveAmerica.com, sprung up to promote the pro-Trump events and alerted followers, “At 1 PM, we protest at US Capitol.” The website has been deactivated. Another website, TrumpMarch.com shows a fist-raised Trump pictured on the front of a red, white and blue tour bus emblazoned with the words, “Powered by Women for America First.” The logo for the bedding company “My Pillow” is also prominent. Mike Lindell, the CEO of My Pillow, is an ardent Trump supporter who’s falsely claimed Trump didn’t lose the election to Biden and will serve another four-year term as president. “To demand transparency & protect election integrity,” the web page reads. Details of the “DC PROTEST” will be coming soon, it adds, and also lists a series of bus stops between Dec. 27 and Jan. 6 where Trump backers can “Join the caravan or show your support.” Kimberly Fletcher, the Moms for America president, said she wasn’t aware the Trump campaign had a role in the rally at the Ellipse until around New Year's Day. While she didn’t work directly with the campaign, Fletcher did notice a shift in who was involved in the rally and who would be speaking. “When I got there and I saw the size of the stage and everything, I’m like, ‘Wow, we couldn’t possibly have afforded that,’” she said. “It was a big stage. It was a very professional stage. I don’t know who was in the background or who put it together or anything.” In addition to the large stage, the rally on the Ellipse featured a sophisticated sound system and at least three Jumbotron-style screens projecting the president's image to the crowd. Videos posted online show Trump and his family in a nearby private tent watching the rally on several monitors as music blared in the background. Moms for America held a more modest “Save the Republic” rally on Jan. 5 near the U.S. Capitol, an event that drew about 500 people and cost between $13,000 to $14,000, according to Fletcher. Justin Caporale is listed on the Women for America First paperwork as the event’s project manager. He’s identified as a partner with Event Strategies Inc., a management and production company. Caporale, formerly a top aide to first lady Melania Trump, was on the Trump campaign payroll for most of 2020, according to the FEC records, and he most recently was being paid $7,500 every two weeks. Caporale didn’t respond to requests for comment. Tim Unes, the founder and president of Event Strategies, was the “stage manager” for the Jan. 6 rally, according to the permit paperwork. Unes has longstanding ties to Trump, a connection he highlights on his company’s website. Trump’s presidential campaign paid Event Strategies $1.3 million in 2020 for “audio visual services,” according to the campaign finance records. The company declined to comment for this story. Another person with close ties to the Trump administration, Hannah Salem, was the rally’s “operations manager for logistics and communications,” according to the permit paperwork. In 2017, she took a hiatus from the consulting firm she founded and spent three years as senior White House press aide, “executing the media strategy for President Trump’s most high-profile events,” according to her company bio and LinkedIn profile. Last week, within minutes of an AP reporter sending her a LinkedIn message asking about her involvement in and understanding of what happened on Jan. 6, Salem blocked the reporter and did not respond to questions. ___ Smith reported from Providence, Rhode Island. ___ Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York and Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report. Richard Lardner And Michelle R. Smith, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — As new cases of COVID-19 surge across Canada, the federal government and the provinces have been imposing stricter measures to try to limit the illness's spread. The Canadian Press interviewed three leading Canadian experts in disease control and epidemiology, asking their thoughts on Canada's handling of the pandemic, the new restrictions on activities — and what else can be done. Here's what they had to say. John Brownstein, Montreal-born Harvard University epidemiologist and chief innovation officer at Boston Children's Hospital Having a national testing strategy in Canada that uses rapid tests people could do at home would limit the spread of the virus, Brownstein says. "That would enable us to get insight on infection and actually have people isolate," he says. No such tests have been approved in Canada yet. "We've been saying this all along, so it's not just a purely Canadian issue, but having a strategy that implements that kind of information would go a long way to drive infections down in communities while we wait for the vaccine." Brownstein says curfews have unintended consequences because they force people to get together over a shorter period of time during the day. "We haven't seen a lot of evidence that curfews have driven down infection." He says a mix of testing and quarantine is the best way to make sure international travellers don't cause outbreaks when they return from the pandemic hot spots. Testing alone is not enough, he says, because tests can come back negative during the novel coronavirus's incubation period; people should be careful about relying on test results that could give a false sense of security. Brownstein says pandemic fatigue is real and the governments' support for people suffering in the crisis should continue. He says promoting low-risk activities, including walking and exercising outdoors, is also important. "Whatever we can do to allow for people to spend more time outside, probably the better." David Juncker, professor of medicine and chair of the department of biomedical engineering at McGill University Canada needs a national strategy for how to use rapid tests for the virus that causes COVID-19, says Juncker. Juncker is an adviser for Rapid Test and Trace, an organization advocating for a mass rapid-testing system across Canada. "Initially the Canadian government (spoke) against (rapid tests) and then they pivoted sometime in October or September," he says. The federal government then bought thousands of rapid tests and sent them to the provinces, where they've mostly sat unused. "Every province is trying to come up with their own way of trying them — running their own individual pilots. There's a lack of exchange of information and lack of guidelines in terms of how to best deploy them," he says. Juncker says the testing regime based on swabs collected in central testing sites was working in the summer but it collapsed in the fall. He says medical professionals prefer those tests because they are more accurate and can detect low levels of the virus, which is important for diagnoses, but rapid tests can be useful for public health through sheer volume, if they're used properly. A federal advisory panel's report released Friday, laying out the best uses for different kinds of tests, is a step in the right direction, he says. "I'm happy to see we're slowly shifting from the point of view of 'Should we use rapid tests?' to a point of view (of) 'How can we best use them?'" More recent research suggests that rapid tests are more accurate than was previously thought, he says. "We still don't have enough capacity to test everyone so we'd have to use them in a strategic way." Juncker says the lockdowns in Ontario and Quebec should have happened earlier in the fall, when cases started to rise. He says the late lockdowns in Canada won't be as effective as those in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and South Korea, where early lockdowns effectively stopped the disease from spreading. "Countries that were most aggressive early on, are the ones that have, I think, the best outcome." He says countries where health decisions are fragmented across the country, including Canada, have added challenges. "If you live in Ottawa-Gatineau, you have one province (that) allows one thing, the other province allows another thing, so this creates confusion among the citizens," he said. Donald Sheppard, chair of the department of microbiology and immunology in the faculty of medicine at McGill University and member of Canada's COVID-19 therapeutics task force: Canada's federal-provincial sharing of power over health care is highly inefficient and has led to major problems, says Sheppard. "There's a lot breakdown in communication, a lot of territorialism. It's greatly impacted the efficiency of the response," he says. The problems in long-term care homes are examples. "Quebec is screaming they want money but they're refusing to sign on to the minimum standards of long term care," he says. "I think it's heinous." He says highly centralized authority and decision-making has had a stifling effect on innovation. "It puts up roadblocks, and has led to the Canadian health-care system having lost any attempt to be innovative and nimble," he says. Sheppard says he doesn't think there will be mass vaccinations for Canadians this summer and the September timetable that the federal government is talking about for vaccinating everybody is optimistic. "Remember that we don't have vaccines that are approved in under-11-year-olds," he says. "There will still be opportunities for the virus to circulate in children, particularly children are in school settings." He suggested that the current immunization campaign's goal is not herd immunity, eliminating transmission of the virus and rendering is extinct. "The goal here is to create an iron wall of immunity around the 'susceptibles' in our population, such that this becomes a virus of the same public health importance as influenza." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2020 ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press
BRUSSELS — Women in Europe doing jobs requiring the same skills as jobs done by men are still being paid significantly less, according to a study by the the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). The major trade union organization, which represents 45 million members in 38 European countries, compared wages in two countries from Western and Eastern Europe — Germany and Romania — looking at women working in the sector of household appliances and men working in car manufacturing. The organization looked at several criteria including skills, physical effort and responsibility. It compared full-time workers of the same age and with a permanent contract working for medium-sized companies. In Germany, ETUC said, women in the white goods sector earn €865 less per month in gross income than men making cars, for jobs requiring similar skills. In Romania, where wages are significantly lower, the average difference in net income is €244, ETUC said. “Comparing the pay of women and men in the manufacturing sector shows clearly how women are paid less even when their jobs require the same levels of skill and physical effort as those of men,” ETUC deputy general secretary Esther Lynch said. “The COVID crisis has also exposed the deep-rooted bias behind wages for professions dominated by women, with carers and cleaners recognized as ‘essential’ despite being amongst the lowest paid.” Last year, using data from the EU's statistical office, the trade union organization said women would have to wait for another 84 years and the next century to achieve equal pay at the current pace of change. ETUC called on the European executive commission to quickly come forward with its pay transparency directive. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen had planned to present measures to introduce binding pay transparency measures in the first 100 days of her mandate, but the proposals have yet to be unveiled. “Quality is more important than speed in this case,” EU commission spokesman Christian Wigand said. “We'll come forward with proposals in the coming months." The Associated Press
EDMONTON — Albertans will be able to visit hair salons and tattoo parlours today as the province relaxes a few of its COVID-19 restrictions. Starting today, personal and wellness services, including hair salons and tattoo parlours, can open by appointment only. Outdoor social gatherings, which were previously banned, will be allowed in groups of up to 10 people. And the limit on the number of people who can attend funerals is increasing to 20, although receptions are still prohibited. Health Minister Tyler Shandro said last week that Alberta can't entirely ease up, but that it can make small adjustments to provide Albertans with some limited activities. Alberta's chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said that easing rules now will act as a test case, and that COVID-19 case numbers will have to be lower before any other restrictions are loosened. Since early December when COVID-19 infections spiked to well over 1,000 a day, outdoor gatherings were banned and restaurants and bars were limited to delivery and takeout. Casinos, gyms, recreation centres, libraries and theatres were closed. Retail stores and churches were allowed to open but at 15 per cent capacity. Alberta reported 750 new COVID-19 cases Sunday and 19 more deaths. Hinshaw said officials looked at the province's COVID-19 data along with research from other parts of the world, and she said funerals, outdoor gatherings and personal service businesses show a lower level of risk for transmission. Shandro said last week that hospitalizations and case numbers remain high and pose a threat to the province's health system capacity. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. The Canadian Press
A 29-year-od Wha Ti man accused of murdering another man in Yellowknife this month has a long and increasingly violent criminal history. Morin Lee Nitsiza, also known a Morin Mike Nitsiza and Moran Nitsiza, was arrested Jan. 10, two days after another man was found dead near the downtown homeless shelter and sobering centre. According to court records, Nitsiza has been in almost constant trouble with the law since he was a teenager. He has been convicted of assault, assault with a weapon, aggravated assault, sexual assault, sexual interference, break and enter, and theft and robbery. In 2011 he was expelled from school for threatening to kill the principal of the Wha Ti school he was attending. In a background report prepared for his sentencing for making that threat, a probation officer noted, "Morin indicated he had no plan to follow through on his words and further states, 'That's just not in me. I may have the courage to fight someone but not to stab or kill someone.'" In early 2018 Nitisza was convicted of slashing another man with a knife in Sombe K'e Park in Yellowknife.The same year he was convicted of breaking and entering a downtown convenience store. According to a background report prepared for his sentencing on the break and enter charge, Nitsiza said he was black out drunk and had no memory of the robbery. "Morin is hopeful that he can establish a healthier lifestyle following his sentence," noted another probation officer in a report prepared for that sentencing. Two attempts at residential treatment According to the background reports, Nitsiza's parents split up when he was five years old. His mother took him and his siblings to Yellowknife. He was placed into care a few years later, after his mother lost her job and started drinking excessively. He remained in foster care the rest of his adult life. A doctor who examined Nitsiza when he was an infant, noticed he was very slow to develop motor skills and suspected he was suffering from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, according to one of the background reports. He was formally diagnosed with FASD when he was four years old and, again, at the age of 16, according to the reports. Nitsiza has never been employed. He began smoking cannabis and drinking when he was 14 and dropped out of school after he was expelled. "I got tired of going to school and seeing the same faces," he told a probation officer. Nitsiza attended two residential counselling programs, according to the probation officers' reports. He was at Ranch Ehrlo in Regina in 2007. "He went AWOL numerous times (13 in total) and did not complete the program," noted one of the probation officers. He committed a robbery while he was in Regina taking the program. From February 2009 to August 2010 Nitsiza attended the PLEA program for troubled youth in Vancouver. He was kicked out of the program when he was charged with assault with a weapon. Nitsiza is currently being held a the North Slave Correctional Centre on the murder charge. His next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 17.
The Trump administration notified Huawei suppliers, including chipmaker Intel, that it is revoking certain licenses to sell to the Chinese company and intends to reject dozens of other applications to supply the telecommunications firm, people familiar with the matter told Reuters. The action - likely the last against Huawei Technologies under Republican President Donald Trump - is the latest in a long-running effort to weaken the world's largest telecommunications equipment maker, which Washington sees as a national security threat. The notices came amid a flurry of U.S. efforts against China in the final days of Trump's administration.
As the first terminally ill cancer patient in Canada to legally use so-called magic mushrooms to treat anxiety, Thomas Hartle is hopeful that more temporary approvals from the federal government signal a permanent regulatory regime may be in the works. Hartle, 53, received a one-year exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act last August to use psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, during psychotherapy. Since then, Health Canada has approved 24 more applications from cancer patients for treatment of end-of-life distress. It has also granted exemptions to 19 health-care providers, giving them the right to possess and use mushrooms containing psilocybin for professional training purposes, a spokeswoman said in a statement. The department has yet to decide whether it will allow the public to use any psychedelics for therapeutic purposes beyond the exemptions it has granted so far. Hartle has had two psychedelic psychotherapy sessions at his home in Saskatoon, the last one in November, with psilocybin from mushrooms he grew and dried himself using a coffee grinder to turn them into powder and placed into capsules for precise dosages. The IT administrator, who is on leave from his job, said anxiety over dying from colon cancer and leaving his wife and two children, both on the autism spectrum, became unbearable after his inoperable condition was diagnosed in 2016. However, taking psilocybin during his two sessions with the help of his regular clinical psychologist helped him manage his anxiety to the point that he hasn't felt the need to have any more psychedelic-assisted therapy while he continues traditional therapy, Hartle said. "I think that's probably obvious to most people who have interacted with me before and after my sessions," he said of the marked improvement in his anxiety through a deeper understanding of the word "serenity." "I've been talking about subjects that I would previously have considered almost impossible to talk about and keep a clear voice and not break down into a very emotional state. Instead of focusing on the pain or discomfort, I'm focusing on making lunch for my family or something like that." Before each of the two sessions, Hartle said he met with his therapist and completed paperwork to gauge his anxiety level in order to establish a baseline that could be compared with how he would feel afterwards. The first session lasted about six hours, during which he took three capsules about an hour apart, containing a total seven grams of psilocybin, he said. His therapist and a friend remained by his side as he lay blindfolded and wearing a headset while listening to music from a playlist compiled by Johns Hopkins University as part of its research into psychedelics. Hartle said the range of music, from classical to chanting as well as South American and African beats, elicited different emotions and he saw multiple colours and geometric shapes as he entered "a state of other," which made it impossible for him to recall the names of his family members. "It was very serene and comforting to me to realize that I could have consciousness and awareness that had nothing whatsoever to do with this existence." Hartle said that prior to his cancer diagnosis, he had never used illegal substances and only started taking cannabis oil to deal with the nausea brought on by chemotherapy as part of his cancer treatments. Focused psychotherapy sessions before, during and after his two sessions were crucial to his use of psilocybin, Hartle said. "It's not like you take a pill and suddenly everything is fantastic. It doesn't work like that any more than regular therapy does. There is work to be done. There are challenges to face. There are issues that need to be worked through the same as any other session. The main difference is that with the psychedelic-assisted therapy, it can get your ego out of the way so you can get at some things." Spencer Hawkswell, CEO of TheraPsil, a Victoria-based advocacy group for patients, said it helped Hartle apply for exemptions to use psilocybin on compassionate grounds based on Canadians' right to medical assistance in dying. He said access to assistance in dying should also give terminally ill patients the right to try mushrooms to reduce their emotional suffering. "When we can't manage someone's symptoms, that's often when they choose MAiD. (Psilocybin) deserves to be put in between the treatment options that are failing those patients and MAiD." TheraPsil has helped people from six provinces apply for exemptions. Health-care providers who have received exemptions to use psilocybin themselves before leading psychedelic-assisted sessions include family doctors, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical counsellors and social workers, Hawkswell said, adding the group is putting together a training program that will need partnerships with provincial governments. Psilocybin is just one of several psychedelics being considered to treat mental health conditions while a growing number of private companies promote their potential use for multiple issues including obesity, smoking, alcohol dependence and addiction to illicit substances. Mark Haden, chair of the board for the Canadian chapter of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS Canada, said psychedelics appear to be seen as the new cannabis before it was legalized. "A lot of venture capitalists went into the cannabis world. Many of them made money. Some of them lost a huge amount of money, so the cannabis bubble exploded and then burst. So, all of that money is saying, 'Where do we go next? What's the next big thing?' And they've latched their view on psychedelics." MAPS Canada is currently conducting a Phase 3 clinical trial in Vancouver on the use of MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Haden said the small trial involving about 12 people is expected to be completed next year as part of the research by over a dozen sites in the United States and Israel. Traditional PTSD therapy has a high dropout rate, may involve patients taking medication for years and has an effectiveness rate of 10 to 25 per cent, said Haden, who is also an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia's School of Population and Public Health. "With MDMA, it takes a few months and the effectiveness is 60 to 80 per cent," he said of research findings elsewhere. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. Camille Bains, The Canadian Press
The Quebec government is investing $19 million into educating, recruiting and training workers for the information technology sector — a sector that has been stretched even thinner by the pandemic. With an unprecedented number of people working from home, IT specialists have been in higher demand than ever before. The sector was already suffering from a workforce shortage before COVID-19 made landfall, with 6,500 positions left unfilled. The government's most recent investment aims to fill roughly 4,500 of those posts, ensuring some 900 companies are able to staff crucial IT roles. Labour Minister Jean Boulet said the funding will also help retrain those who've lost their jobs since March. "During the pandemic, many young people, women, immigrants lost their jobs," he said. "They've become extremely affected by the pandemic, and we have to help them get re-qualified or upscale their capacity." The recruitment campaign began in December under the motto "On cherche du mode," or in English, "We are looking for people." Of the investment, $15 million will go toward offering financial support to businesses in the IT sector, assisting with recruitment outside of Quebec, according to a government announcement. Another $4 million will help unemployed people get into short-term training programs at the college or university level. That investment is expected to give 500 people a career boost. The initiative is in addition to other actions aimed at attracting workers into fields such as visual effects, computer animation and video games, the province said. 'Upsurge in career changes' This funding comes at a time when an increasing number of people, many well into their career, are changing fields, according to Pier-Samuel Goulet-Côté, admissions counsellor at Collège O'Sullivan de Québec. "What we have noticed since the start of the pandemic is really an upsurge in career changes," he said. His school has hybrid classrooms set up that allow students to come in person or attend classes from home. "I would say that we are riding the wave since we offer a lot of online training," Goulet-Côté told Radio-Canada. He said a large proportion of students who enrol in IT programs are mid-career workers who want to upgrade or simply change jobs. For a 45-year-old who has a career, a house, a car, and children, it's not easy to dedicate so much time to schooling, Goulet-Côté said, but this government program could help. If companies want to recruit and retain IT professionals in the current job market, he said, they will have to do their part by offering training and skill development.
Windsor's city council will table a report on naloxone use by first responders on Monday, but one councillor says he's disappointed to find police were not included as officers are often the first on the scene of a drug overdose. Coun. Kieran McKenzie first asked the city to look into the implications of first responders, including police, carrying naloxone, in December 2018. Naloxone can save lives when administered to someone who has overdosed on opiods, he said. He said the report contains a lot of a "good information," but he's a bit disappointed overall. "I think it's fair to say that we didn't take a look at whether or not it's appropriate to equip our police service with naloxone," he said. In an email statement to CBC, the city says, "police answer to the police services board so that's why they likely weren't involved in a council report." McKenzie said he understands that "the police service or oversight of the police services falls within the jurisdiction of the police services board, made up of community members as well as members of council, but it's still the same municipally delivered service. It's a service that I think most residents would associate falls under the jurisdiction of city council." He also said the report lays out the case that "it is appropriate for first responders, fire, I would argue, police as well as EMS, to carry and administer naloxone in the field when it is appropriate to do so." The report states that drug-related overdoses and deaths "continue to be growing problem in North America. Of particular concern is the use of opioid drugs due to their potency and their highly addictive," adding that the "annual rate of opioid-related deaths in Ontario increased 285 per cent from 1991 to 2015." "In 2018, there were 220 (preliminary statistic) opioid-related Emergency Department visits in Windsor & Essex County (WEC). In 2019, there were 249 opioid-related ED visits in Windsor & Essex County (WEC), which is 3.2 times greater than the 78 opioid overdose ED visits in WEC in 2007," the report continues. It argues that "naloxone is an effective tool in reversing the effects of opioids and preventing an overdose death, provided it is given shortly after an overdose of an opioid occurs," but the administering of the drug by firefighters does not occur with often. Not frequently used by firefighters, says report "A poll of major fire departments in Ontario show that 2018 usage across all major departments averages less than 10 doses annually per department," the report states. "Follow up polling for the year 2019 indicated an increase among the largest departments and those responding to combined rural and urban areas. Other departments reported low levels of usage." It said actual usage of naloxone by fire services is dependent on a number of factors, including arrival time, type of drug used, the condition of the patient. The report explains that it takes up to eight weeks to train the entire department on how to administer naloxone and it requires medical oversight by a doctor. Data in the report did not include police services. It says the local health unit and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) support the use of naloxone by first responders as a harm reduction measure. McKenzie said he will ask why the report did not focus more on police, though he acknowledges progress is being made with that service. "It's my understanding that that is happening already to some extent," he said. Some WPS units carrying naloxone Windsor Police Chief Pam Mizuno said in October that three Windsor police units were to be equipped with naloxone within a year. A spokesperson for Windsor police confirmed that officers with three units — detention, city centre patrol and problem-oriented policing — now have access to the drug. Mizuno's announcement came days after CBC News learned that Windsor police officers were the first to arrive on scene of a drug overdose without naloxone in-hand on at least 14 occasions last year. "I just I think that there needs to be a clear articulation from council that we support adding that service level. And we support adding that service level robustly in a way that is both safe for all of the first responders, the police themselves, but also can add an additional layer of protection for folks in the community," McKenzie said. He said he doesn't know what is going to happen at Monday's meeting with respect to the report, but believes it could spark an interesting debate and hopes there will be enough support to pass the motion.
BEIJING — Chinese state media say 12 out of 22 workers trapped for a week by an explosion in a gold mine are alive, as hundreds of rescuers seek to bring them to safety. The Xinhua News Agency said Monday a note passed through a rescue shaft Sunday night reported the fate of the other 10 remains unknown. The handwritten note said four of the workers were injured and that the condition of others was deteriorating because of a lack of fresh air and an influx of water. Managers of the operation were detained after they failed to report the accident for more than a day. The mine in Qixia, a jurisdiction under the city of Yantai in Shandong province, had been under construction at the time of the blast, which occurred Jan. 10. More than 300 workers are seeking to clear obstructions while drilling a new shaft to reach the chambers where the workers were trapped and expel dangerous fumes. “Keep on with the rescue efforts. We have hope, thank you," read the note, written in pencil on notebook paper and posted on Xinhua's official website. China's mining industry has a reputation for skirting safety requirements amid massive demand for coal and precious minerals, although increased supervision has reduced the frequency of accidents that used to claim an average of 5,000 miners per year. Two accidents in the southwestern megacity of Chongqing last year killed 39 miners, prompting the central government to order another safety overhaul. The Associated Press
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Monday urged Russians to take to the streets in protest after a judge remanded him in pre-trial detention for 30 days despite calls from Western countries to free the opposition politician. The United Nations and Western countries had told Moscow before the ruling to let Navalny go, and some countries have called for new sanctions on Moscow, which on Monday told them to mind their own business. The ruling to remand him in custody for violating the terms of a suspended jail sentence, a day after he flew back to Russia for the first time since he was poisoned with a nerve agent last summer, could be the prelude to him being jailed for years.
When Shaleen Erwin became sick with COVID-19 in November, the pregnant mother from Springside, Sask., wasn't surprised that she had a hacking cough and slept 16 hours a day. What astonished her was that she received a phone call every day from a public health worker at the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) to check on her, her husband and their three-year-old son — all of whom had contracted the virus. "I was blown away.... It's hours and hours of time, and time is such a valuable resource," Erwin, 33, said. "I think there's this misconception that if you're not using an ICU bed or you're not using oxygen, that you're not using resources." Provincial public health authorities are advised by the Public Health Agency of Canada to contact people with COVID-19 at home every day to monitor both their symptoms and compliance with isolation rules, depending on available resources to make those phone calls. Some provinces, including Saskatchewan and Manitoba, are attempting daily phone calls while others, such as Alberta, are not. Ontario's Ministry of Health advises public health units to notify people of their COVID-19 positive status with a phone call, then make followup phone calls on Day 5 and Day 10, at a minimum. On other days, the person is supposed to receive at least a text message or email. Thousands of 10-minute phone calls a day If contact tracers, who investigate the spread of the virus, are considered the public health detectives, then case monitors are the parents — checking on how you are and making sure you follow the rules. Pamela de Bruin, clinical standards and professional practice lead with the SHA who does planning in public health surveillance, said the health authority uses a database to investigate, track and actively monitor positive cases and close contacts. She said the "standard of care" is a daily phone call to every person in the province with COVID-19 — currently 4,121 people — except to those already receiving care inside long-term care homes, hospitals or jails. They monitor symptoms, check on compliance and offer access to resources, such as mental health services. "There are many social barriers that can come up when people have to be isolated for a long period of time, and they may be faced with making a choice between getting groceries or staying isolated," de Bruin said, adding that public health workers are able to connect people with resources and services to help them comply with mandatory isolation. The 10-minute phone calls to active cases require more than 600 staff hours a day. The SHA uses 66 people from Statistics Canada for case-monitoring calls, as well as some nurses and licensed health workers. "We're constantly evaluating the capacity against the number of cases," de Bruin said, adding that the SHA has so far been able to meet the demand, and she believes it's a worthwhile use of resources. "We're speaking to an individual, but when we implement measures, like all public health measures, we're looking for an impact at a population level." In addition to active cases, the SHA makes a daily call to monitor their close contacts who have symptoms or comorbidities, as well as close contacts who are red-flagged in the database as being potentially non-compliant with public health restrictions. "Sometimes right at the first [notification] call, we have indication to believe someone might not be compliant. Sometimes they tell us. And so those would be called daily," de Bruin said. Alberta doesn't have active monitoring In Alberta, where there are roughly 12,230 active cases at the moment, Alberta Health Services (AHS) does not actively monitor people who are sick with COVID-19 at home. Instead, from the start of the pandemic, it has advised people to seek medical attention from a doctor or call 811 or 911, depending on their condition. That was sufficient for Talana Hargreaves, a 38-year-old mother of three from Edmonton whose entire family tested positive for COVID-19 in November. She was initially concerned by the lack of personal followup from AHS but was eventually satisfied with a one-hour phone call from a contact tracer. Hargreaves, who had spent a lot of time researching COVID-19 online and following news reports, discussed her family's mild symptoms with their doctor and didn't have any questions about the isolation rules. "My partner and I are both conscientious rule-followers," she said. "I think that COVID check-in could actually be very valuable for some people who honestly don't know what they should be doing." She said she is more concerned about the backlog of contact tracing in the province and allocating resources to investigating cases. "They still don't know where roughly 50 per cent of our positive cases have come from ... so even though it would be nice to have that followup, I don't know that it's realistic at this point," Hargreaves said. Health worker sent thermometer to home Jony Rahaman, a Regina restaurant owner who tested positive for COVID-19 in early October, did not have mild symptoms. He felt like he was choking to death. Rahaman, 36, said the public health workers who called his family were like "guardian angels." "They call us every day," he said. "Me and my wife, especially my wife, would wait for their call because we had so many questions. They're so patient." The family didn't have a thermometer to check their temperatures, so a public health worker sent one to their home. Rahaman — who contracted COVID-19 before the rest of his family — initially self-isolated in his bedroom away from his wife, Sabina, and two children and could barely speak to them through the door. "It was terrifying," he said. "My wife was crying on the other side of the door, kids were crying on the other side of the door and I couldn't breathe." During one phone call, a public health worker called an ambulance for him. "They're, like, my lifesaver," Rahaman said. Removing barriers to compliance The SHA's de Bruin said providing equipment, such as a thermometer, isn't the norm, but she noted that each case is unique, and the goal is to remove barriers to compliance. "I have heard the types of ends of the Earth that some of this staff have gone to, and it doesn't surprise me one bit," she said. At five months' pregnant in November, Shaleen Erwin was nervous about having the disease and scared by what she found online when she did a Google search for "pregnant covid." The constant access to public health workers was comforting, she said. Erwin said some of the questions from public health workers who called were likely "subtle" checks on whether her family was following the rules, which they were, but she "never felt like it was accusatory." Now fully recovered, she has watched the case count climb in Saskatchewan and thinks about all of the phone calls happening every day. "People see [case] numbers and they think, 'Oh, 99 per cent of people will be OK,' but don't assume that that means that you're not a burden on the health system," she said. WATCH | Premier explains Saskatchewan's slow rollout of vaccines:
All passengers will still be required to quarantine for up to 10 days on arrival but the isolation period can be cut short with a negative test after five days.
CAIRO — The death toll from tribal violence between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s West Darfur province climbed to at least 83, including women and children, a doctor’s union and aid worker said, as sporadic violence continued Sunday. The ruling sovereign council met Sunday and said security forces would be deployed to the area. The deadly clashes grew out of a fistfight Friday between two people in a camp for displaced people in Genena, the provincial capital. An Arab man was stabbed to death and his family, from the Arab Rizeigat tribe, attacked the people in the Krinding camp and other areas Saturday. Among the dead was a U.S. citizen. Saeed Baraka, 36, from Atlanta, had arrived in Sudan less than two months ago to visit his family in Darfur, his wife, Safiya Mohammed, told The Associated Press over the phone. The father of three children rushed to relieve a neighbour amid the clashes in the Jabal village in West Darfur, when he was shot in his head Saturday, his brother-in-law Juma Salih said. Baraka's wife said the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum phoned her to offer condolences. The embassy did not return phone calls and emails from AP seeking comment. The violence led to local authorities imposing a round-the-clock curfew on the entire province. Besides the 83 killed, at least 160 others were wounded, according to Sudan’s doctors’ committee in West Darfur. It said there were troops among the wounded. It said clashes subsided by midday on Sunday and the security situation started to improve. The committee is part of the Sudanese Professionals Association, which spearheaded a popular uprising that eventually led to the military's ouster of longtime autocratic president Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. The clashes pose a challenge to efforts by Sudan’s transitional government to end decades-long rebellions in areas like Darfur, where most people live in camps for the displaced and refugees. Sudan is on a fragile path to democracy and is being ruled by a joint military-civilian government. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “is deeply concerned” about the violence and “calls on the Sudanese authorities to expend all efforts to de-escalate the situation and bring an end to the fighting,” his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said. The bout of violence came two weeks after the U.N. Security Council ended the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force’s mandate in the region. The UNAMID force, established in 2007, is expected to complete its withdrawal by June 30. It also puts into question the transitional government’s ability to stabilize the conflict-ravaged Darfur region. Salah Saleh, a physician and former medical director at the main hospital in Genena, said clashes renewed Sunday morning at the Abu Zar camp for internally displaced people, south of the provincial capital. He said most of the victims were shot dead, or suffered gunshot wounds. Adam Regal, a spokesman for a local organization that helps run refugee camps in Darfur, said there were overnight attacks on Krinding. He shared footage showing properties burned to the ground, and wounded people on stretchers and in hospital beds. Authorities in West Darfur imposed a curfew beginning Saturday that includes the closing of all markets and a ban on public gatherings. The central government in Khartoum also said Saturday a high-ranking delegation, chaired by the country’s top prosecutor, was heading to the province to help re-establish order. A database by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, showed that inter-communal violence across Darfur region doubled in the second half of 2020, with at least 28 incidents compared to 15 between July and December 2019. West Darfur province experienced a “significant increase” of violence last year, with half of the 40 incidents reported in the entire Darfur region, OCHA said Sunday. Samy Magdy, The Associated Press
In 2006 Brian and Anne Marie Sewell got married on the top of a mountain in March. They made the 12-kilometre trek up Turtle Mountain, near Grand Bay–Westfield, along with their closest friends and family who were willing to go the distance on their snowmobiles and ATVs. Anne Marie had her wedding veil on her snowmobile helmet for the ceremony at the summit. Brian wore his best blue snowmobile suit. With a million-dollar-view stretching all the way to the Bay of Fundy, they each said, "I do." Today, they live at the foot of that mountain in an off-grid log cabin. The peak where they were married is visible from their living room window. At the time of the ceremony the furthest thing from their minds at the time was the possibility of wedding crashers. But both say if they did it all again that wouldn't be the case. There's just too many people. Where they would see a lone hiker pass by their home on the mountain trail, they now see dozens every weekend. "Ten or fifteen years ago you would see the odd person on the road," said Anne Marie Sewell. "But since this year, the pandemic in March, it started in the spring, I would say hundreds." The couple noticed an uptick of hikers two years ago. But they can only describe what they see now as an "explosion of people." Both point to the pandemic as being directly responsible for the hundreds headed past their home and into the woods. "Oh, definitely," said Anne Marie Sewell. "And I think it's great young people are getting out into nature." The trail to a once remote destination has been turned into a highway for those hungry to go somewhere within the limitations placed on them by the pandemic. Herd of hikers The Sewell's aren't alone. Long-time hikers and outdoorsmen have found themselves suddenly not-so-alone in the woods. Jennifer Spinney said she's likely hiked most of New Brunswick's trails. She tries to get out in the forest every day, traversing about 50 kilometres a week through the woods. Being isolated, with only her dogs for company, is the big draw for her. But now that's no longer possible. "There are some trails that I've always banked on being the remote ones, where you're not going to see anyone," said Spinney. "That's changed this year." She names Coac Falls in Upper Queensbury as a spot that used to be favourite for being alone. "The last time I was there I think there were five cars there," said Spinney. "And often that was one that I banked on being solo." Online traffic Most of the trails in New Brunswick are free to use and open to the public, so getting an accurate idea of just how many people are taking to the woods is difficult. But the popular Hiking NB website suggests how many people are looking for directions, and where. "Since the pandemic started the web traffic has pretty much doubled," said James Donald, the owner and creator of the website. His site has more than 800,000 page views in the last 12 months. Last year it was around 450,000. He said trails like Turtle Mountain, which used to be considered too remote for most, are suddenly hotspots as New Brunswickers have spent most of the last year unable or unwilling to leave the province. "People are looking for ways to get out," said Donald. When he's out for a hike, Donald said it's not uncommon to come across a trail head now with 30 cars parked. And with winter weather he said the traffic hasn't slowed down. It just shifted to different destinations. Donald said the cold temperatures are now drawing people to "ice features" including frozen waterfalls, the ice-caked gorge of the Parlee Brook amphitheatre, and the Midland ice caves. And that's been good for the businesses catering to those new at going deep into the woods. Booming business Like most businesses at the start of the pandemic, the Radical Edge in downtown Fredericton had an uncertain future. "It looked pretty bleak," said Kaylee Hopkins, a manager at the Radical Edge. "We didn't have a lot of people coming in." Fast-forward almost a year later and the outdoor adventure store often has a lineup outside on weekends, as the 25-person limit inside has been reached. "It's pretty wild," said Hopkins. "People just want to get out and move." Tents, sleeping bags, and outerwear have all been hot items this past year. She said she has witnessed large amounts of people on the trails this year. But, they don't appear to be springing for new shoes. "We didn't see a lot of traffic in out footwear," said Hopkins "So, it's interesting to see what people are wearing when they're hiking and doing all their outdoor adventures." Leave no mark While some lament the dwindling isolation, the consensus is that it's worth the sacrifice to have more people experience the outdoors. "It's good to know that other people have caught on to the 'love of the woods' or the 'love of hiking,'" said Spinney. "Personally, I like being alone in the woods, so sometimes I'll drive further to get to a place where I know I'll be alone, but that's not a bad thing." And for the Sewell's, who have had to occasionally rescue a hiker who has gotten lost along the way, or had a vehicle stuck in their driveway, they're more than happy to share the natural beauty of where they live. "We enjoy that other people enjoy what we like," said Brian Sewell. "We just hope that they pick up their garbage."
ZURICH — Kieran Trippier’s ban from playing for Atletico Madrid will resume after FIFA on Monday rejected the Spanish club’s appeal against the defender’s punishment for breaching betting rules being applied worldwide by the English Football Association. Spanish league leader Atletico succeeded two weeks ago in getting FIFA to pause Trippier's 10-week ban that was imposed in December and runs through Feb. 28. But FIFA announced Monday that its appeal committee had dismissed Atletico's case. “As a consequence, the decision of the FIFA disciplinary committee passed on 23 December 2020 is confirmed, extending sanctions imposed on the player by the English FA to have worldwide effect,” FIFA said in a statement. The England international was punished by the FA for passing information on his 2019 transfer from Tottenham to Atletico to be used by friends to bet on. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
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 Jan. 18 ... What we are watching in Canada ... OTTAWA - The premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan are condemning Joe Biden's plan to scrap the Keystone XL pipeline expansion on his first day as U.S. president. Biden's plan is outlined in transition documents seen by The Canadian Press. Jason Kenney and Scott Moe say halting construction on the controversial project will be disastrous for both the Canadian and U.S. economies. Kenney says his government -- which announced a $1.5 billion investment into the expansion last year -- is prepared to "use all legal avenues available to protect its interest in the project." Moe, meanwhile, is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to meet with Biden and says his government will be in touch with its contacts in Washington. Trudeau has so far been silent on the issue, but his ambassador to the U.S., Kirsten Hillman, is defending the pipeline, saying it fits into Canada's climate plan and promises good jobs. TC Energy Corp. doubled down on that last night, confirming an ambitious plan to spend $1.7 billion US on a solar, wind and battery-powered operating system for the pipeline to ensure it is zero-emission by 2030, and to rely exclusively on union labour. --- Also this ... HALIFAX - Nova Scotia is the first jurisdiction in North America to implement presumed consent around organ donation as of today. Legislation passed in April 2019 finally takes effect this morning following more than 18 months of work to make sure the province's health-care system can cope with the change. Under the Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act, all people in Nova Scotia will be considered potential organ donors unless they opt out. Dr. Stephen Beed, medical director of Nova Scotia's organ and tissue donation program, says the new opt-out system presents a rare opportunity to transform a part of the health care system. He believes organ donations could rise by as much as 30 to 50 per cent within five years. Beed says an opt-out registry has been developed and safeguards are in place such as double checking with families to ensure the last known wishes of a potential donor are respected. He says those who tell their families that they don't want to be donors will not be donors, even if they haven't opted out. --- And this ... TORONTO - Studies have suggested previous COVID-19 infections may result in promising levels of immunity to the virus, leading to questions of whether those who've already recovered from the disease still need a vaccine. And is there urgency to inoculate them, or can they move to the back of the vaccination line? Experts say a vaccine will likely offer the safest bet for longer-term protection, meaning those with previous infections should still get them. And prior COVID illness shouldn't determine someone's place in the queue. The exact level of immunity acquired from a natural infection is yet to be fully determined, says Dr. Andre Veillette, a professor of medicine at McGill who's also on Canada's COVID-19 vaccine task force. It may be that protection begins to wane quicker in some people, or that those with previous mild infections aren't as protected as someone who had more severe symptoms, he says. Still others may think they've had a COVID-19 infection but can't be sure if they didn't get tested at the time. --- What we are watching in the U.S. ... WASINGTON, D.C. - U.S. defence officials say they are worried about an insider attack or other threat from service members involved in securing president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. That concern is prompting the FBI to vet all 25,000 National Guard troops coming into Washington for the event. The massive undertaking reflects the extraordinary security concerns that have gripped Washington following the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump rioters. And it underscores fears that some of the very people assigned to protect the city over the next several days could present a threat to the incoming president and other VIPs in attendance. --- What we are watching in the rest of the world ... MOSCOW- Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's arrest as he arrived in Moscow after recovering from his poisoning with a nerve agent drew criticism from Western nations and calls for his release, with Germany's foreign minister on Monday calling it “incomprehensible.” Navalny was detained at passport control at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport after flying in Sunday evening from Berlin, where he was treated following the poisoning in August that he blames on the Kremlin. His arrest adds another layer of tension to relations between Moscow and the West that have long been strained and were worsened by his poisoning. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas noted that Navalny had returned of his own volition and said "it is completely incomprehensible that he was detained by Russian authorities immediately after his arrival.” European Council President Charles Michel tweeted that Navalny's detention is “unacceptable” and also called for his immediate release, a call echoed by France's foreign ministry and by Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau. U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for national security adviser called on Russian authorities to free Navalny. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday the stream of reactions to Navalny’s arrest by Western officials reflects an attempt “to divert attention from the crisis of the Western model of development.” --- ICYMI ... OTTAWA - Petty officer Richard Austin was sitting at his position on board HMCS Athabaskan when he heard a clang. It was 1991, and the Canadian destroyer was traversing an Iraqi minefield in the Persian Gulf, on its way to rescue a crippled American warship. “I remember waiting for the bang,” Austin recalls of those tense few moments nearly 30 years later. “Looking at the two pictures of my sons on the top of the weapons panel. The bang never came.” Austin’s story is one of several Canadian experiences from the first Gulf War that were collected by Historica Canada and released on Sunday as part of a new video on what is a largely forgotten chapter of Canada’s military history. Sunday marked the 30th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm, the massive attack that eventually resulted in U.S.-led forces pushing the Iraqi military from Kuwait, which Iraq had invaded in August 1990 under then-president Saddam Hussein. The anniversary passed largely unnoticed by the government on Sunday, with no official statements by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan or Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay. That was despite Canada being one of dozens of countries to condemn Iraq’s invasion, with three Canadian warships as well as fighter aircraft, security personnel and medical troops deployed in support of the American coalition that liberated Kuwait. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021 The Canadian Press
Mobile games developer Huuuge Inc. expects to raise up to $150 million from a new share issue as part of its planned initial public offering (IPO) in Warsaw, the U.S.-registered company said on Monday. Huuuge, with a significant base in Poland, adds to a list of companies that have targeted IPOs as restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus crisis prompt more people to go online for entertainment, shopping and other needs. Polish parcels locker firm InPost announced its IPO plans in Amsterdam as more shoppers order online.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia, for years one of the world's most prolific executioners, dramatically reduced the number of people put to death last year, following changes halting executions for non-violent drug-related crimes, according to the government’s tally and independent observers. The Saudi government’s Human Rights Commission said Monday it documented 27 executions in 2020. That's compared to an all-time high of 184 executions the year before as documented by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The change represents an 85% reduction in the number of people put to death last year, compared to 2019. "The sharp decrease was brought about in part by a moratorium on death penalties for drug-related offences,” the Saudi rights commission said. When asked by The Associated Press, the commission said the new law ordering a stop to such executions came into effect sometime last year. The new directive for judges does not appear to have been published publicly and it was not immediately clear whether the law was changed by royal decree, as is typically the case. The AP previously reported that Saudi Arabia last year also ordered an end to the death penalty for crimes committed by minors and ordered judges to end the controversial practice of public flogging, replacing it with jail time, fines or community service. The force behind these changes is 34-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has the backing of his father, King Salman. In an effort to modernize the country, attract foreign investment and revamp the economy, the prince has spearheaded a range of reforms curtailing the power of ultraconservative Wahhabis, who adhere to a strict interpretation of Islam that many Saudis still practice. For years, the kingdom's high rate of executions was in large part due to the number of people executed for non-lethal offences, which judges had wide discretion to rule on, particularly for drug-related crimes. Amnesty International ranked Saudi Arabia third in the world for the highest number of executions in 2019, after China where the number of executions is believed to be in the thousands, and Iran. Among those put to death that year by Saudi Arabia were 32 minority Shiites convicted on terrorism charges related to their participation in anti-government protests and clashes with police. While some crimes, such as premeditated murder, can carry fixed punishments under the Saudi interpretation of Islamic law, or Shariah, drug-related offences are considered “ta’zir,” meaning neither the crime nor the punishment is defined in Islam. Discretionary judgments for “ta’zir” crimes led to arbitrary rulings with contentious outcomes. The kingdom has long been criticized by independent rights groups for applying the death sentence for non-violent crimes related to drug trafficking. Many of those executed for such crimes were often poor Yemenis or low-level drug smugglers of South Asia descent, with the latter having little to no knowledge of Arabic and unable to understand or read the charges against them in court. Saudi Arabia carries out executions mainly by beheading and sometimes in public. The kingdom had argued that public executions and those of drug traffickers serve as a deterrent to combat crime. “The moratorium on drug-related offences means the kingdom is giving more non-violent criminals a second chance," the president of the government's Human Rights Commission, Awwad Alawwad, said. In a statement obtained by the AP, he said the change represents a sign the Saudi justice system is focusing more on rehabilitation and prevention rather than solely on punishment. According to Human Rights Watch, there were just five executions for drug-related crimes last year in Saudi Arabia, all in January 2020. Human Rights Watch Deputy Middle East Director Adam Coogle said the decrease in executions is a positive sign, but that the Saudi authorities must also address “the country’s horribly unfair and biased criminal justice system that hands down these sentences.” “As authorities announce reforms, Saudi prosecutors are still seeking the death penalty for high-profile detainees for nothing more than their peaceful ideas and political affiliations,” he said. “Saudi Arabia must immediately end all executions and death sentences for non-violent crimes.” ___ Follow Aya Batrawy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ayaelb Aya Batrawy, The Associated Press
A group suing the New Brunswick government in an effort to get it to fund abortions in private clinics is pointing to a similar restriction in Prince Edward Island, calling P.E.I.'s law "discriminatory" and one that has "no place on the books." The Canadian Civil Liberties Association filed its constitutional challenge earlier this month in Court of Queen's Bench in Fredericton. The lawsuit asks the court to strike down part of New Brunswick's Regulation 84-20, which includes non-hospital abortions on a list of services not funded by medicare. In P.E.I., similar regulations under the Health Services Payment Act restrict payments for abortion services to those performed in hospital, excluding services provided through private clinics. Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, the CCLA's director of equality programs, said there's no medical reason for P.E.I. to fund only hospital abortions. "It certainly seems to be discriminatory in the same way and limiting in the same way" as the New Brunswick regulation, said Mendelsohn Aviv. "It singles out abortion as some kind of unusual form of health care," she said. "Orthopedics are not restricted in that way and urology is not restricted in that way … it's only abortion." The legal challenge in New Brunswick comes as the owner of the province's only private abortion clinic, Clinic 554 in Fredericton, warns the clinic could close because the New Brunswick government won't pay for abortions there. Over the years, P.E.I. women have also used the clinic for abortions — at their own expense. As well, transgender Islanders have accessed the clinic for health services not available in P.E.I. The clinic began turning transgender patients away in early 2020, over concerns it might not be around long enough to see patients through to the end of their transition process. Decades of no legal abortions on Island P.E.I. had no legal, on-Island surgical abortions for almost 35 years. In the 1990s, Dr. Henry Morgentaler took the province to court to challenge the same regulation over funding for clinic abortions. Morgentaler's initial victory was overturned in the P.E.I. Court of Appeal. In 2016, another legal challenge forced the P.E.I. government to announce it would open a new women's reproductive health centre where surgical abortions are now provided. At the time, the premier of the day, former law professor Wade MacLauchlan, said he didn't think the province could win in the face of a legal challenge brought forward by the group Abortion Access Now P.E.I. Transfer payments withheld in N.B. In 2020, the federal government cited a provision of the Canada Health Act in withholding $140,126 in health transfer payments from New Brunswick over its refusal to pay for clinic abortions, the amount corresponding with how much New Brunswickers paid out-of-pocket for the procedure in 2017. But the feds quickly reinstated the funding as New Brunswick's health-care system buckled under the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jillian Kilfoil, executive director with Women's Network P.E.I., said the same threat of federal transfer payments being withheld will hang over Prince Edward Island as long as the province continues to restrict funding for abortion. It seems like a really unnecessary restriction that contravenes our own federal legislation. — Jillian Kilfoil "It seems quite archaic," she said of P.E.I.'s law. "It seems like a really unnecessary restriction that contravenes our own federal legislation and is something that would be really worthwhile modernizing — not just from a legal standpoint, but in terms of access and delivery of service as well." Groups call for 'community effort' Kilfoil and Mendelsohn Aviv both suggested eliminating the restriction could open up opportunities for doctors to open their own clinics, making abortions more accessible. Currently the only site on P.E.I. to offer the procedure is at the Prince County Hospital in Summerside. But Kilfoil also understands expanding access to abortion is something most Island governments have been reluctant to do. "Unless governments are forced to make a change when it comes to improving access, they're not going to do it on their own, and so it does take a lot of community effort." Mendelsohn said her group has no plans to sue the P.E.I. government, but said government should change its law all the same. "With or without litigation, it's clear to us that these are unconstitutional regulations and should be repealed," she said. CBC reached out to the P.E.I. Department of Health and Wellness, Health PEI, the office of Premier Dennis King, and the P.E.I. Right to Life Association, but did not receive a response. More from CBC P.E.I.