Christina Aguilera says her surprise guest apperance in the new all-female Amazon Prime Video comedic roast special “Yearly Departed” was a “great opportunity.” The Grammy winner also says a new Spanish-language album is on the way. (Dec. 31)
Christina Aguilera says her surprise guest apperance in the new all-female Amazon Prime Video comedic roast special “Yearly Departed” was a “great opportunity.” The Grammy winner also says a new Spanish-language album is on the way. (Dec. 31)
WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers and conservative groups opposed President-elect Joe Biden's forthcoming immigration plan Tuesday as massive amnesty for people in the U.S. illegally, underscoring that the measure faces an uphill fight in a Congress that Democrats control just narrowly. In a further complication, several pro-immigration groups said they would press Biden to go even further and take steps such as immediate moratoriums on deportations, detentions and new arrests. Coupled with the discomfort an immigration push could cause for moderate Democrats, liberals' demands illustrated the pressures facing Biden as four years of President Donald Trump's restrictive and often harsh immigration policies come to an end. “It simply wouldn't have happened without us," Lorella Praeli, co-president of the liberal group Community Change, said of Biden's victory. “So we are now in a powerful position." Biden plans to introduce the legislation shortly after being inaugurated Wednesday, a move he hopes will spotlight his emphasis on an issue that's defied major congressional action since 1986. Its fate, as written, seemed in doubt. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who will become Senate majority leader this week, said Trump's impeachment trial, confirmation of Biden's Cabinet nominees and more COVID-19 relief will be the chamber's top initial priorities. “I look forward to working together with him" on the measure, Schumer said — a choice of words that might suggest changes could be needed for it to pass Congress. Biden's proposal would create an eight-year pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants, set up a processing program abroad for refugees seeking admission to the U.S. and push toward using technology to monitor the border. The measure was described by an official from Biden's transition team who described the plan on condition of anonymity. With an eye toward discouraging a surge of immigrants toward the U.S.-Mexico boundary, the package's route to citizenship would only apply to people already in the U.S. by this past Jan. 1. But it omits the traditional trade-off of dramatically enhanced border security that's helped attract some GOP support in the past, which drew criticism on Tuesday. “A mass amnesty with no safeguards and no strings attached is a nonstarter,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "There are many issues I think we can work co-operatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., often a central player in Senate immigration battles. “Total amnesty, no regard for the health or security of Americans, and zero enforcement," Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who like Rubio is a potential 2024 GOP presidential contender, said in a Monday tweet. That view was shared by Mark Krikorian, executive director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, which favours curbing immigration. “Past proposals at least accepted the concept of turning off the faucet and mopping up the overflow. This is nothing but mopping up and letting the faucet continue to run," Krikorian said. Rosemary Jenks, top lobbyist for NumbersUSA, which also wants to limit immigration, said the measure seems likely to fail in the Senate. It would need at least 10 Republicans to join all 50 Democrats to overcome a filibuster that would kill the measure. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said, “Moving an immigration reform bill won’t be easy, but I think it’s possible." He cited a 2013 massive overhaul that narrowly passed the Senate, only to die in the GOP-run House. Menendez and Rubio were part of a bipartisan “Gang of 8" senators that helped win Senate approval. Under Biden's legislation, those living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfil other requirements. From there, it’s a three-year path to naturalization if they pursue citizenship. For some immigrants, the process would be quicker. So-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status could qualify more immediately for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements. Biden is also expected to take swift executive actions, which require no congressional action, to reverse other Trump immigration actions. These include ending to the prohibition on arrivals from predominantly Muslim countries. The legislation represents Biden's bid to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of Trump's restrictive policies and mass deportations. It provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years. Biden allies and even some Republicans have identified immigration as a major issue where the new administration could find common ground with the GOP to avoid the stalemate that has vexed administrations of both parties for decades. That kind of major win, even if it involves compromise, could be critical for Biden. He'll be seeking legislative victories in a Congress where Republicans are certain to oppose other Biden priorities, like rolling back some of the GOP’s 2017 tax cuts and increasing federal spending. Democrats will control the 50-50 Senate with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote. Democrats currently control the House 222-211, with two vacancies. ___ Barrow reported from Wilmington, Delaware. AP writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego also contributed to this report. Alan Fram, Lisa Mascaro And Bill Barrow, The Associated Press
The province urged the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench on Tuesday to dismiss an application for a judicial review of the UCP government's decision to allow open-pit coal mining on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. "There's no getting around the fact that the decision to rescind the coal policy may be seen as an unpopular one to some Albertans," said Melissa Burkett, a lawyer for the government. "However, an unpopular decision is not an unlawful decision," she told the virtual court hearing via video conferencing. Burkett says the courts are not the venue to resolve the issue, arguing such a policy change is within the mandate of elected officials. "This case is a classic example of what happens when courts are turned into political arenas," she said. "The rescission of the coal policy was driven by economic, social, political factors. It was a core, high level policy decision, and it's immune from this court review," she said. Landowners, environmental groups, municipalities and First Nations are hoping the court will force the government to revisit its decision to rescind the province's long-standing coal policy that was brought in under former premier Peter Lougheed in 1976. They're trying to persuade Justice Richard Neufeld to order a judicial review of the decision to rescind the policy that had protected the eastern slopes of the Rockies — and the headwaters that flow from them — for almost 45 years. However, during the two-day hearing that started Tuesday morning, Burkett says the policy is redundant and outdated since the province has since implemented a robust, regulatory framework that would review exploration and mining applications through Alberta's energy regulator. "The coal policy really is obsolete because there's a framework in place now that was not there in 1976." Not obsolete, says ranchers' lawyer Richard Harrison, the lawyer for two ranchers who are seeking the judicial review, argued the nearly half-century old policy is not obsolete. He told the hearing that it's been used as a means to protect the area from coal development for decades. "The coal policy was a document that was consistently enforced by the respondents [the Alberta government] over the course of 44 years," Harrison said. He said it was used as a mechanism to prevent the exploration and development of coal extraction in certain land classifications in southwestern Alberta. "It was used right up until the time that the coal policy was rescinded by the respondents in March of 2020." Harrison says a proposed open-pit coal mine near his clients' property will have a profound effect. Mac Blades is one of the ranchers seeking the judicial review. Harrison says Blades owns land and holds grazing rights for his cattle near an area being explored by Australian-based Atrum Coal. Harrison said a conveyor belt that would be a part of the proposed open pit coal mine would be located near the confluence of the Oldman and Livingstone rivers, a source of water that Blades is licensed to use for his cattle. "The impact of a proposed coal project on my client's ability to earn an income is profound," he said. "It will affect every single aspect of his pecuniary interest on his grazing lease." "And it will affect every single aspect of both my clients' ability to earn an income on those grazing leases," he said. Harrison is expected to conclude his submission to the court Wednesday morning, followed by a response from the Alberta government. Earlier, several groups who plan to seek intervenor status in the request for a judicial review agreed to consolidate, to reduce duplication of their arguments and potentially speed up the hearing process. Justice Neufeld still has to hear arguments from those hoping to join the application. A number of groups were represented during the hearing, including the M.D. of Ranchland, the Alberta Wilderness Association, the Alberta Hiking Association, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the Livingstone Landowners Group and the Alberta chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. A lawyer representing Cabin Ridge Project Ltd., an Alberta-based coal company, also attended via video link. A request to adjourn the hearing by a lawyer representing the Ermineskin, Kainai, Siksika and Whitefish First Nations was dismissed. Landowners and First Nations behind the legal challenge are expected to argue the government was in breach of their constitutional rights because it had a "duty to consult" them before the policy change was made. If the province's application for a dismissal fails, the actual judicial review would go ahead at some point in the future.
The TPD Boutique has reopened on Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB) land making it the third cannabis shop within one square kilometre near the Canco Gas Station on Highway 97 just outside of Oliver. Owner of TPD, Christopher Dawe, said his shop was closed last year to get in line with requirements from the OIB. “(The OIB) had some prerequisites and safety concerns that they wanted me to satiate before I opened. So, what essentially happened was, I built the place last year, and then I was under the impression that we were allowed to open and then I realized that we had just a couple of hoops to jump through. And then with the COVID and everything, it was just a more lengthy process,” Dawe said. Those hoops included getting in line with federal legislation on lab testing and packaging, Dawe said. Dawe reopened his shop recently with OIB elders in attendance for the ribbon cutting. The OIB adopted the Osoyoos Indian Band Cannabis Bylaw, with two Indigenous Bloom stores opening on OIB land last year. TPD Boutique is the first shop to open under the OIB’s regulatory framework since. The OIB was very particular about safety of the product as well as the packaging and being in line with federal legislation, Dawe said. “Through the OIB program, we just have a little more leniency as to where we can acquire our products from. So, through the government program, you can only acquire your products from a government LP, which is a legal provider. Through the Indigenous cannabis bylaw act, I'm able to acquire my products through any of the previously legislated cannabis enrolment programs.” This means Dawe is able to work with local growers who he says have been producing cannabis in the Okanagan and Similkameen for some time for medicinal use before recreational cannabis was legalized in 2018. One of three cannabis shops in the small area, with an Indigenous Bloom location close by, and Nimbus Cannabis across the highway, Dawe does not feel there are too many cannabis shops concentrated in one area. “I feel as though we should have as many shops as the market allows for and ultimately the market will determine the right amount of shops. I think that's how the free market works for the most part,” Dawe said. Mike Lane, senior vice president of regulatory compliance for Indigenous Bloom, previously told the Times-Chronicle the Indigenous Bloom stores are not federally regulated, but their product mimics and/or exceeds federal and provincial standards. “Every single product, whether it’s a strain of dried flower, an edible, a concentrate, a rub, etc., is tested by an independent third-party laboratory licensed by Health Canada for analytical testing under the Federal Cannabis Regulations,” Lane said in early 2020. As of yet, there has not been a negotiation between the Government of Canada and First Nations for tax collection or sharing. “Until that’s done, we can’t charge taxes,” Lane previously told the Times-Chronicle. Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle
MONTREAL — Quebec Premier Francois Legault says he won't grant a curfew exemption for Montreal's homeless population, telling reporters Tuesday he has confidence that police will use their good judgment in dealing with cases. Legault told reporters during a COVID-19 briefing in Montreal that altering the government's decree to exclude the homeless from the provincial curfew would be used as a loophole by others to flout the measure. Montreal's mayor had made the formal request just an hour earlier, calling on Quebec to relax the COVID-19 measure on the city's most vulnerable population. "What I'm say is right now, the police are doing a very good job. They use their judgment," Legault said. "If we change the rules and say that you can't give a ticket to someone who is saying they're homeless, you may have some people that will pretend to be homeless." Mayor Valerie Plante's appeal followed the weekend death of Raphael "Napa" Andre, a 51-year-old Innu man found dead in a portable toilet not far from a shelter he frequented. Andre often spent time at a day centre for the homeless called The Open Door, which was forced to close its overnight service last month following a COVID-19 outbreak. He visited the centre Saturday evening and was found dead Sunday morning, not far from the shelter, which had to send him out at 9:30 p.m. The coroner is investigating Andre's death. Plante said there's evidence the curfew is causing problems for the homeless and those who work with them. "What we've been seeing in the past week is that it created a lot of stress — not only for the homeless population itself but also the workers," Plante told reporters outside Montreal City Hall. "The curfew just adds to that and creates a sense of insecurity for a lot of users and we don't want that.... I want people to feel safe in the streets." Plante says the 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew — which began Jan. 9 and is scheduled to last at least until Feb. 8 — is creating an untenable situation for the city's most vulnerable. Legault said police aren't there to ticket homeless people, but direct them to homeless shelters. Plante agreed Montreal police have shown compassion, noting they had helped at least 400 homeless people find shelter. The mayor says on most nights the city's overnight shelters are at least 95 per cent full. While she wants the rules relaxed to relieve the pressure, she doesn't want people sleeping on the street. "I want people to have access to a bed, a place where it's warm, where there's food, where there's services for them," she said. Plante said a 100-bed facility is set to open in the coming days. Legault said the province has added 800 beds and it stands ready to add more as needed. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Troops in riot gear lined the sidewalks, but there were no crowds. Armored vehicles and concrete barriers blocked empty streets. Miles of fencing cordoned off many of the nation's most familiar landmarks. Joe Biden was safely sworn in as president in a Washington on edge, two weeks after rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump besieged the Capitol. Law enforcement officials contended not only with the potential for outside threats but also with rising concerns about an insider attack. Officials monitored members of far-right extremist and militia groups, increasingly concerned about the risk they could stream into Washington and spark violent confrontations, a law enforcement official said. There were a few scattered arrests but no major protests or serious disruptions in the city during Biden's inauguration ceremony. As Biden put it in his address: “Here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.” After the deadly attack that killed five on Jan. 6, the Secret Service stepped up security for the inauguration early, essentially locking down the nation's capital. More than 25,000 troops and police were called to duty. The National Mall was closed. Checkpoints were set up at intersections. In the hours before the event, federal agents monitored “concerning online chatter,” which included an array of threats against elected officials and discussions about ways to infiltrate the inauguration, the official said. In right-wing online chat groups, believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory expressed disappointment that top Democrats were not arrested for sex trafficking and that Trump did not seize a second term. Twelve National Guard members were removed from the security operation a day earlier after vetting by the FBI, including two who had made extremist statements in posts or texts about Wednesday's event. Pentagon officials would not give details on the statements. The FBI vetted all 25,000 members in an extraordinary security effort in part over the presence of some ex-military in the riot. Two other U.S. officials told The Associated Press that all 12 were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or to have posted extremist views online. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe groups the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in. The officials told the AP they had all been removed because of “security liabilities.” The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, confirmed that Guard members had been removed and sent home, but said only two cases were related to inappropriate comments or texts related to the inauguration. He said the other 10 cases were for issues that may involve previous criminal behaviour or activities but were not directly related to the inaugural event. The FBI also warned law enforcement officials about the possibility that members of right-wing fringe groups could pose as National Guard troops, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the matter. Investigators in Washington were particularly worried that members of right-wing extremist groups and militias, like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, would descend on Washington to spark violence, the law enforcement officials said. Some of the groups are known to recruit former military personnel, to train extensively and to have frequented anti-government and political protests. In addition to the thousands of National Guard troops, hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies around the country were also brought into Washington. The increased security is likely to remain in the nation's capital for at least a few more days. ___ Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor in Washington and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, contributed to this report. Ben Fox, Colleen Long And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
A fourth COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at Windsor Regional Hospital Tuesday evening. The hospital's 6N unit is the latest area of the organization experiencing an outbreak, with four positive patients and no positive staff. This news comes after the hospital announced three outbreaks in the last two weeks. "We expect to experience these situations as COVID-19 continues to spread in our community," said Karen Riddell, WRH Chief Nursing Executive and Chief Operating Officer, in a news release. "We continue to remain vigilant in ensuring that we have the correct infection prevention and control guidelines and precautions in place to reduce spread of the COVID-19 virus." In a news release Tuesday, the hospital provided an update on each of the other three outbreaks: 4M at the Ouellette Campus has 10 positive patients and five positive staff. Declared in outbreak Jan. 6. 6E at the Ouellette Campus has 10 positive patients and six positive staff. Declared in outbreak Jan. 8. 4N at the Met Campus has one positive patient and 11 positive staff. Declared in outbreak Jan. 14. The hospital said that admissions to the units continue, but it keeps COVID-19 patients cohorted. Transfers into units experiencing an outbreak are required to be approved by the hospital's Infection Prevention and Control department, the hospital said, adding that testing will continue. Hotel Dieu Grace Healthcare is also experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, which was declared on Tuesday. The hospital said in a news release Sunday that two staff and three patients tested positive on the 3N unit of the Dr. Y. Emara Centre for Healthy Aging and Mobility.
Lucette Hachey Laskey and Caroline Benoit set themselves an unusual 2021 resolution: by the end of the year, they aim to walk three kilometres in every city, town and village in the province. The Francophone Sud elementary school teachers, who call themselves Les TRIPeuses Trotteuses, began their quest as a way to stay motivated and improve their mental health, said Hachey Laskey. In 2020, they walked every street in the city of Dieppe, colouring in the streets on a map until they were done, she said. They completed over 1,000 km of walking by May after signing up for My Time: A Great Canadian Running Challenge, and continued walking hundreds of kilometres more in the second half of the year. As 2020 drew to a close, the pair began soliciting ideas from their social circles to set themselves a fun challenge for 2021 before settling on this goal, Hachey Laskey said. While the province was in the orange phase of pandemic recovery, all their exploring was done in their home turf of southeastern New Brunswick. The pair document their adventures in both English and French on their Youtube channel, often arranging to meet up with someone who knows the area well who will walk with them and tell them things about a place they wouldn’t have discovered on their own. At the age of 40, it's great to be still learning about the many places they visit, some very close to home, Benoit said in French. There have already been chances to put pieces together of things she read in books about Acadian history with specific landmarks, for instance, she said. Benoit said she also likes the fact that they feel immediately fulfilled as they engage in these adventures, and that the stress-free activities don’t feel like a chore. In the last couple of weeks they have checked out Port Elgin, Riverview, Sackville and Shediac, said Hachey Laskey. Salisbury and Petitcodiac will be their next videos. Benoit, a grade five teacher at École le Marais, said she has been sharing their adventures with her students, as they talk about accomplishing goals. “I feel like a role model,” she said. Hachey Laskey said motivating others to accomplish their goals and get active is a big part of what they hope to accomplish, adding that people have already been sending them messages indicating their videos are doing just that. “We love travelling. We love laughing,” said Hachey Laskey, and this quest allows them to do a whole lot of both, even if they are doing it a little closer to home than usual. There are so many places generally known for one thing, but the communities offer much more, said Hachey Laskey. Dorchester, she said, has so much more than a jail, and Salisbury has so much more than the Big Stop. Their adventures are allowing them to see all these communities have to offer and share it with others, she said. “People have been very generous with their time,” said Hachey Laskey, adding that sometimes it is local councillors who show off the community, while at other times it is residents who simply love their home town. Hachey Laskey said they will pause their adventures while the region is in the red phase of COVID recovery. Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal
VANCOUVER — British Columbia's health minister says the province is still on track to begin administering second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine despite the news that no vials will be delivered to Canada next week. Adrian Dix said Tuesday that B.C. had expected to receive about 5,800 Pfizer-BioNTech doses next week, which is "very significant" but a relatively small amount compared with the roughly 25,000 expected in the coming days. "Every time we get news that we're getting less vaccine, that news is obviously disappointing," he said. "Hopefully this is a one-time interruption. But what we can do in British Columbia is use the vaccine that we receive and use it effectively and on vulnerable populations, and that's what we're going to do." The volume of doses is expected to increase to about 25,000 weekly following the shortage, he said. The province will devote more of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine it's set to receive this week, along with the "small amount" it has on hand, to completing first doses in long-term care homes across the province and beginning to administer second doses, Dix said. Second doses are crucial to the strength of the program and B.C. remains committed to a 35-day interval between doses, he said. The minister said second doses will begin Wednesday, which marks 36 days from the first 3,900 doses being administered in hospitals in Vancouver and Abbotsford, B.C. The following week, 8,000 doses were given out, and 12,000 the week after that, so the demand for second doses will increase over time, he said. Still, he said the loss of 5,800 vaccines next week does not pose a risk to second vaccinations. "The risk is not to second doses. The risk is 6,000 fewer first doses," he said. "Every single one of those doses is directed to a vulnerable person or someone working with vulnerable people ... and every one of them is important." A higher percentage of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines given out in the coming weeks will be second doses, he said, while the Moderna vaccine will become the province's "workhorse" for first doses. The province began receiving the Moderna vaccine later, so the 35-day interval for second doses will also end later, Dix said. The federal government announced Tuesday that Canada's shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be cut by nearly one-fifth this week and then go down to zero next week. Pfizer told Canada last week its shipments would be affected because the production facility in Belgium is being upgraded to produce more doses overall. Asked whether B.C. is looking at trying to obtain vaccines outside of the supply chains set up by Ottawa, as it did with personal protective equipment, Dix said that was unlikely. There's no "back door" source for vaccines, he said. He said he expects the federal government to lead efforts to obtain more vaccine for the provinces and he's confident in Ottawa's work. Dix was in Vancouver Tuesday to announce a new urgent and primary care centre in the city’s northeast opening on Feb. 16. The centre will be the 22nd of its kind opened by the New Democratic government since it took power in 2017. The facilities are open for long hours and are aimed at providing urgent care for people suffering from injuries or illness that don’t require an emergency room visit. Urgent and primary care centres have played a "central and important role" during the pandemic, Dix said. "They have made an extraordinary difference." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Laura Dhillon Kane, The Canadian Press
Renfrew -- While there are currently no cannabis retail stores in Renfrew, council is hoping its comments on where cannabis retail stores could be located in town will bear some weight with the final decision made by the province. This discussion occurred at Renfrew council January 12 following receipt of a letter and motion from the City of Kitchener requesting the province modify the regulations governing the establishment of cannabis retail stores to consider overconcentration as an evaluation criteria, require a 500 metre distance separation between locations, and provide added weight to the comments of a municipality concerning matters in the public interest when considering the application of new stores. Councillor Sandi Heins said council should support the motion since municipalities should have a say in the final decision, which was something council agreed to in early 2019. “We were under the understanding at that time that we would have some say, or at least some comments, in regards to the establishment of these businesses in our town,” she recalled. “We’ve seen this before, where we don’t, where we haven’t been asked. They couldn’t care less about our opinion. This is very important to certainly let the provincial government know that municipalities should have some type of comment that they entertain when allowing these stores to establish.” Reeve Peter Emon agreed, saying it mirrors the concern most rural and small-town Ontario have with regards to infrastructure. “The province, over the last few years, has deliberately excluded local comment,” he said. “(Local comments) are the cornerstone of land use planning, whether you agree with the comments you get or not.” Councils have legitimate concerns, he said. “I don’t think small town Ontario wants every third shop on their main street to be a pot shop, just like they don’t want, with every respect, every third store front to be a tattoo parlour, or something like that,” Reeve Emon said. Several stores spread across the municipality, not clustered together, is ideal, and the 500 metres that Kitchener is suggesting is ideal, he said. Connie Tabbert, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader
Pfizer told Canadian officials there would be delays in deliveries of its vaccine, but the delays now mean Canada will receive zero Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines next week. It’s left provinces scrambling to manage the doses they have left.
The U.S. Secret Service opened an investigation into comedian John Mulaney over jokes believed to be made about President Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live” last year, according to records obtained by The Associated Press. Mulaney, 38, revealed last month that the Secret Service had investigated the comedian and “SNL” alum for “inappropriate jokes about President Trump” after he made a joke about Roman dictator Julius Caesar, who was stabbed to death by a group of senators on the Ides of March. The file obtained by the AP through Freedom of Information Act request showed the bureau contacted NBC but did not interview the comedian for its inquiry, which found no wrongdoing. “Another thing that happened under Julius Caesar, he was such a powerful maniac that all the senators grabbed knives, and they stabbed him to death. That would be an interesting thing if we brought that back now,” Mulaney said to laughter from the audience. The joke was said during Mulaney’s opening monologue during the “Saturday Night Live” broadcast on Feb. 29, 2020. The Secret Service noted other remarks during the monologue, including: “I asked my lawyer if I could make that joke, he said, let me call another lawyer, and that lawyer said yes. I don’t dwell on politics, but I dislike the Founding Fathers immensely. ... I hate when people are like, God has never created such a great group of men than the Founding Fathers. Yeah, the ’92 Bulls. ... That’s a perfect metaphor for the United States. When I was a boy, the United States was like Michael Jordan in 1992. Now the United States it like Michael Jordan now.” Two days after Mulaney’s “SNL” monologue, law enforcement officials contacted Thomas McCarthy, the global chief security officer and senior vice-president at NBC Universal, to express the agency’s desire to discuss the joke with the comedian's attorneys. The Secret Service file included a report from Breitbart entitled, “SNL: John Mulaney Jokes that Senators Should Stab Trump Like Julius Caesar.” The investigation into Mulaney was opened in March and closed in December, five days after the comedian revealed the investigation during an interview with Jimmy Kimmel. The Secret Service file notes that Mulaney made no direct threats towards Trump. “The person vetting me was very understanding that the joke had nothing to do with Donald Trump because it was an elliptical reference to him,” Mulaney said to Kimmel. “I didn’t say anything about him. In terms of risk assessment, no one who’s ever looked at me thought I registered above a one.” He added: “I said I have been making jokes about him since 2007, so I have been making fun of him for 13 years,” Mulaney said. “They said if it’s a joke, then I am cleared by the Secret Service.” —— LaPorta reported from Delray Beach, Florida. James Laporta, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Conservatives were torn Tuesday over a decision by party leader Erin O'Toole to try to expel an MP from their ranks over a donation from a known white nationalist. The party's 121 MPs are set to vote via secret ballot Wednesday morning on whether Derek Sloan ought to be removed, with a simple majority required to oust him. While Sloan has courted his fair share of controversy for months, the idea he should be booted from caucus specifically because of a donation he said he had not realized he'd received wasn't sitting well with some MPs and party supporters. And the move prompted immediate backlash from some anti-abortion groups, who had been firmly in Sloan's corner during the leadership race he lost to O'Toole almost six months ago. The group Right Now urged backers to contact MPs to voice their displeasure. "We feel that this an attempt to discourage pro-lifers from engaging within the Conservative Party of Canada, specifically at the upcoming policy convention," Right Now's email said. "If those officials in the Conservative Party of Canada who do not share our values were not threatened by us taking our rightful and democratic place within the party, then they would not attempt such a brazen and obviously desperate effort such as this." The controversy over the $131 donated by Paul Fromm, a longtime political activist with links to neo-Nazi causes, erupted late Monday. O'Toole declared the donation — made under the name "Frederick P. Fromm" — meant Sloan could no longer be a Conservative MP, citing an intolerance for racism within the party. O'Toole promptly kick-started the process of getting him removed from the Conservative caucus. Some MPs publicly voiced their approval on social media, but privately concerns were immediately raised about the bar O'Toole was setting. The party prides itself on collecting donations from hundreds of thousands of grassroots supporters. Vetting them all against an unclear standard would be challenging, if not outright impossible. Sloan was first elected as the MP for the Ontario riding of Hastings-Lennox and Addington in 2019 and stunned many of his fellow MPs by running to lead the party not long after. He has sparked several controversies during his relatively short political life. He's been accused of racism for questioning the loyalty of the country's chief public health officer, a charge he denied. He's also suggested being LGBTQ is not a matter of science and compared a ban on therapy designed to force a person to change their gender or sexual identity to child abuse. During the leadership race, O'Toole told MPs Sloan ought not be kicked out of caucus over the remarks he made about Dr. Theresa Tam, even buying ads on social media trumpeting that position. The fact a donation would be the thing that finally turned O'Toole against Sloan raised some eyebrows. "That he plays silly-bugger word games that homosexuality is a choice should have disqualified him. But kicking him out over a donation from a racist who disguised his identity? So many good reasons to kick him out. Not sure this is one," wrote longtime Conservative operative and strategist Chisholm Pothier on Twitter. "Glad he’s gone. But ends justifying the means is easy, principled politics is hard." The Liberals had been calling for months for O'Toole to eject Sloan, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that he was pleased O'Toole was showing leadership. "Political parties need to remain vigilant, particularly in the wake of what we see in the United States, from the infiltration or the active presence of fringe or extremist or violent or unacceptable or intolerant elements," Trudeau said at a news conference. "And that's something that we constantly need to work towards as all politicians in Canada." Trudeau, however, did not address whether Fromm's organizations would also see money they received in COVID-19 supports clawed back as well. Fromm has been connected to Holocaust-deniers and other white nationalist groups for years. Sloan cited Fromm's use of his first name in making the donation in saying he was unaware of the source of the funds. Fromm also holds a membership in the Conservative party, voted in the leadership race, and had registered for a virtual convention the party is holding in March, none of which had raised red flags before Monday's revelation. Late Tuesday, the party said Fromm's membership would be revoked and he would not be allowed to participate in the convention. In an interview, Fromm said he's never met Sloan, and while Sloan's policies did appeal to him, he argued that to suggest his money, membership or desire to participate in the convention taints Sloan or the party is ridiculous. "I think basically, somebody is out to get Sloan and are prepared to use just about anything," he said. O'Toole won the leadership last year thanks in part to Sloan's supporters, whom he'd courted. Ever since, he has faced questions about how he'll broaden the appeal of the party, given the strength of its social-conservative wing. That faction was already gearing up to try to play an outsized role at the party's policy convention in March, organizing to advance several socially conservative positions through policy motions and ensuring they had enough delegates to make them pass. Their efforts were spurred on by Sloan, who had been pushing people to sign up as delegates, a move viewed within caucus as challenging O'Toole. Sloan has said he'll fight efforts to expel him. He noted he told the party to return Fromm's donation as soon as he was made aware of it, and wasn't sure what more he could have done. He declined to say what he was hoping to achieve at the convention, saying he is now focused on what he called the fight of his life. "O'Toole ran a leadership campaign on fighting cancel culture and promoting a big-tent version of the Conservative party," Sloan said. "And I hope that he has not jettisoned that in favour of perceived short-term political gain." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press
Trapped for months in Southwestern Ontario by COVID-19 travel restrictions in their Caribbean homeland, some migrant farmworkers from Trinidad and Tobago will finally fly home Friday. But many are opting to stay put, hoping to avoid a catch-22: not being able to return to Canada to work in the spring when the next growing season begins. “It’s been a really long ordeal . . . some people have been waiting for months,” said Ken Forth, president of Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services, a non-profit that helps co-ordinate processing requests for foreign seasonal workers. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to be stranded here.” Ongoing COVID-19 travel woes with the border-locked Caribbean nation stranded nearly 400 Trinidadian migrant workers in Ontario late last year. A flight home is set for Friday, with more workers having received travel exemptions required by Trinidad and Tobago that before were few and far between. Schuyler Farms near Simcoe employs about 100 Trinidadian workers, and until this week, few had made it home. Owner Brett Schuyler said 18 of his workers — all those who want to — will be on this week’s flight back. “It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “Everyone just has to get their (COVID-19) tests done, have a negative result, and it should all come together, which I’m very glad for.” Trinidad requires workers to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of their flight. Schuyler said the workers were left in limbo for months, awaiting word from Trinidad on flights home and whether they'd get travel exemptions. But despite the option to head home, about 70 Trinidadian workers at Schuyler Farmers are staying put. “Some of the reasoning behind the group that stayed is out of fear of not getting back to Canada,” Schuyler said. “Last spring, people that were set to come up in March didn’t end up coming until July. This fall, people trying to get home, there are huge delays again.” Canada’s new requirement that incoming travellers show a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of their flight also could be a “potential hurdle” for returning workers, Schuyler said. Last month, Ontario extended health-care coverage and provided financial aid to the stranded migrant workers. Immigrant, Refugees and Citizenship Canada enacted a temporary public policy, in effect until Feb. 21, to let stranded workers apply for temporary status, get a six-month open work permit and be eligible for employment insurance. Forth couldn't estimate how many Trinidadian migrant workers were still stranded in Ontario as of late January, as small numbers have flown out since December. After Friday's flight to Trinidad and Tobago, only one more will be needed to get the rest of those who want to go, back home, he said. No date has been confirmed for that flight. “At the first of December, there was no light at the end of the tunnel, now they will get home,” Forth said. “I feel for the people too because the unknown was the big problem.” email@example.com Twitter.com/MaxatLFPress Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
Northwest Territories officials are still investigating a Yellowknife COVID-19 case announced last week. The source of the infection remains unidentified. The case, confirmed on January 15, is something of a mystery. Officials say it is not related to travel but no contacts have been uncovered that would explain how the person contracted the virus. “To date, after identifying and testing multiple potential sources, we have not identified a source of infection,” chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola told reporters on Tuesday. Despite the enduring puzzle, Dr. Kandola said there was no clear evidence of community transmission in Yellowknife and no COVID-19 tests completed in the city since January 15 had come back positive. On Monday night, territorial officials said it was “highly likely that the source has passed their communicable period.” Yellowknife’s wastewater signal remains stable “at trace levels, which is anticipated,” Kandola said. In other words, there has been no spike of the virus in sewage samples. Earlier this week, public health officials following a lead tested staff and residents at the city's Aven Manor care home. No new cases were identified at the facility. Fort Liard remains at three confirmed and two probable cases of COVID-19. Confirmation of the two probable cases could come later on Tuesday, Kandola said. The hamlet is on day three of its containment order, which lasts until January 30 at 10 p.m. but may be extended if deemed necessary. Some residents had expressed concern that information was not accessible to everyone in the hamlet. On Tuesday, Premier Caroline Cochrane said an individual from Fort Liard has been hired who speaks the traditional language. Their job will be to go door-to-door to ensure information is conveyed to everyone. A new information sheet has been created about isolation expectations. A vaccination team is still scheduled to reach Fort Liard on Thursday and Friday. Territorial medical director Dr. AnneMarie Pegg said the team has added an extra day in Fort Liard to its schedule, though which day was not clear. Residents in isolation will be contacted individually by public health staff to arrange access to the vaccine. Meanwhile, it's increasingly likely that COVID-19 traces in Hay River's sewage were connected to the Fort Liard cluster. The first Fort Liard patient had been isolating in Hay River before returning to the hamlet. Since January 14, 189 COVID-19 tests in Hay River have all come back negative. The most recent sewage samples in Hay River, from January 14, were characterized by Kandola as a fainter, "bare detect" of the virus. Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio
REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says he won't shut down all restaurants and bars because a few are flouting COVID-19 rules. Instead, he says he's asking public-health officials to look at more enforcement measures, such as forcing rule breakers to close. Moe says "enough is enough" and is expressing frustration at a recent video that shows young people dancing without masks and mingling at a bar in Regina. Health officials are reporting another 309 COVID-19 infections and say six more residents have died. Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer says the province remains stuck at a daily average of around 300 new cases and hospitalizations are on the rise. Moe says he doesn't believe the province needs to introduce stricter public-health measures to stem the virus's spread, but people need to follow the rules already in place. There are 207 people in hospital, with 31 of them in intensive care. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2020 The Canadian Press
The United States swore in its 46th President on Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended their inauguration in Washington, D.C. with a slew of distinguished guests, but few onlookers as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a need for social distancing.Several past presidents were in attendance, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr., however the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, did not attend. Trump flew to his golf club in Florida earlier in the day. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence did attend the ceremony with his wife.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
TORONTO — A Toronto-area constable under investigation for corruption told an undercover officer he wanted to file an intelligence report about his mistress's alleged involvement in the drug trade after their affair was revealed, his trial heard Tuesday. The undercover officer, who cannot be identified under a publication ban, is testifying for a second day at the trial of Richard Senior, a longtime constable with York Regional Police. He told a virtual court Tuesday that roughly two months after he began secretly investigating Senior, the constable mentioned having an extramarital affair with a woman who at one point allegedly sold cocaine, hash and heroin and whose family was allegedly connected to organized crime. "He told me that he wanted to do an intel report on this girl" to disclose her involvement in the drug business, and talked about how "he was exposed in regards to the cheating," the undercover officer testified. In an exchange of texts read to the court, the undercover officer told Senior he had some ideas on how he could file such a report and still "insulate" himself from the information. But the undercover officer testified he never ended up sharing those ideas with the constable. At another point, Senior expressed concern that the woman would know he was behind the report, the undercover officer testified. The undercover officer asked Senior how many people had the same information, noting that the more there were, the less likely it was to be traced back to him, he said. Senior has pleaded not guilty to 14 charges, including breach of trust and trafficking cocaine and steroids, in connection with a corruption investigation. He was arrested in October 2018 and initially charged with 30 offences, but the remaining 16 charges were withdrawn as the trial began. Prosecutors allege, among other things, that Senior filed an intelligence report about his former flame and falsely attributed it to an informant, who was in fact one of his friends using an alias. They further allege the officer planned to rob a fictitious drug warehouse after hearing about it from a second undercover officer posing as an informant, and offered to sell the drugs to two men he knew. In an opening statement earlier this week, the Crown also alleged Senior sold steroids to the undercover officer who is currently testifying and another officer; stole money he was given to pay informants; and inappropriately accessed a police database and disclosed confidential information. The undercover officer has said he was assigned to investigate Senior for corruption and breach of trust in June 2018, but wasn't told at the time what kind of offences the officer was suspected of. He testified Tuesday that a supervisor mentioned the possible involvement of steroids in late July. Part of the undercover officer's objectives was to set up regular workouts with Senior to "continue to build rapport," and he eventually started making inquiries about steroids. In late July, Senior acknowledged he "used to know some meatheads" who had access to steroids but suggested the undercover officer get on a good diet plan first and take some supplements, court heard. At one point, the undercover officer asked Senior how much it would cost for a cycle of steroids, and the constable replied, "How should I know?" the undercover officer testified. In the following days, they exchanged texts about diet plans and supplements, court heard. At the same time, the undercover officer said he began to engage in "suspicious behaviour" to suggest he also may be involved in criminal activity. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — After leaving the White House, President Donald Trump may lose his SAG card, too. The Screen Actors Guild said Tuesday that the SAG-AFTRA board voted “overwhelmingly” that there is probable cause that Trump violated its guidelines for membership. The charges, the guild said, are for Trump's role in the Capitol riot on January 6, “and in sustaining a reckless campaign of misinformation aimed at discrediting and ultimately threatening the safety of journalists, many of whom are SAG-AFTRA members.” If found guilty by a disciplinary committee, Trump faces expulsion. Trump has been a SAG member since 1989. His credits include “The Apprentice,” “Saturday Night Live” and many cameos in films and TV series including “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York," “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Sex in and City.” The SAG board acted in response to a request from Gabrielle Carteris, the guild's president. “Donald Trump attacked the values that this union holds most sacred — democracy, truth, respect for our fellow Americans of all races and faiths, and the sanctity of the free press,” said Carteris in a statement. “There’s a straight line from his wanton disregard for the truth to the attacks on journalists perpetrated by his followers.” A White House spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. Losing SAG membership doesn't disqualify anyone from performing. But most major productions abide by union contracts and hire only union actors. Online petitions have recently circulated to have Trump removed from some films. One is trying to rally support to have President-elect Joe Biden digitally substituted for Trump in “Home Alone 2.” Jake Coyle, The Associated Press
A hallway fire that ousted dozens of people from their homes late Sunday is considered suspicious, say RCMP, and an investigation is ongoing. The fire started in the second floor hallway of Town Park Apartments C-block at around 11:30 p.m on Jan. 17. It quickly engulfed the hallway, pumping heat and smoke through the building. A mattress was found on fire in the hallway, but officials would not confirm whether it was intentionally set alight. Andrew Dawson lives on the second floor with his wife and uncle. Earlier that night he says someone pulled the fire alarm, and shortly after the building manager sorted that out, the smoke detector went off. “I usually don’t react because they’re so sensitive, they go off all the time. You open your shower and steam will set it off,” he said. But that night for some reason he went to check, and found an actual fire. Dawson ran down the hallway banging on doors, yelling for people to get out. Outside, he found his wife, uncle and uncle’s girlfriend at the window trying to climb down with blankets. Dawson could see it billowing out the neighbour’s window, who had left their hallway door open. “I started screaming, jump, I’ll catch you just jump, I was pleading,” he said. They dropped while he tried to break their fall. A handful of other residents jumped out of second floor windows when they found the hallway exit blocked by smoke, including Dawson’s sister, who broke her leg. A dog, Dex, also broke its forepaw when he was thrown out of the building. READ MORE: Apartment fire in Port Hardy forces residents to jump from building to save their lives It could be months before residents are allowed back inside. Parallel 50 Realty and Property Management is working with insurance adjusters to assess the damage to the 15 suites, but it won’t be quick. “You’ve got a building that just had extensive smoke damage. You have to make sure it’s safe before we can even determine how much work needs to be done,” said Parallel 50 CEO Dale Mailman. Emergency Support Services (ESS) was called in the early hours of Jan. 18, to coordinate housing the tenants in the interim. They have 25 people in hotels, three are in hospital, and a few others had family or friends to stay with. The automatic 72-hour ESS support period has already been extended for another three days. After that, no one can say yet what will happen, but Port Hardy ESS volunteer Susan Bjarnason said no one will be left stranded. Port Hardy Fire Rescue crews doused the fire quickly. It was short-lived due to lack of fuel and oxygen in the hall, but was hot and intense with smoke. Crews were on scene for over three hours ventilating and securing the building. All six Port Hardy fire trucks were on site with over 30 firefighters. A truck with five crew from Port McNeill also came as back up. BC Ambulance Services, Port Hardy RCMP and BC Hydro crews were all on scene as well. If anyone has knowledge of this incident or any other or who is responsible, please contact the Port Hardy RCMP at 250-949-6335. If you wish to remain anonymous, please call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or visit their web site at www.crimestoppers.ca. Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Zoë Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Island Gazette
Specific details about workplace outbreaks of COVID-19 are not made public in most of Canada. Toronto is starting to make the information available, arguing that transparency increases accountability, but others wonder whether ‘naming and shaming’ does more harm than good.