WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
REGINA — The Saskatchewan government is apologizing for using a photo of two men to promote World AIDS Day. The government posted the picture showing the men standing side by side with their heads touching on social media on Tuesday. An accompanying message said HIV infections were on the rise in Saskatchewan and encouraged people to get tested. Social media users condemned the government's use of a same-sex couple to talk about HIV as perpetuating the myth of AIDS being a "gay disease." Saskatchewan struggles with high rates of HIV. Many infections come from injection drug use. The government removed the photo and apologized. "Yesterday, in marking World AIDS Day, government of Saskatchewan social media pages used a photo that stigmatized HIV/AIDS and those that live with the disease. The photo has been deleted, and we unreservedly apologize," it said in a tweet Wednesday. Health Minister Paul Merriman said he found the message disappointing. He said he plans to reach out to leaders in the LGBTQ community and those who work in harm reduction to personally apologize for the photo. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. The Canadian Press
Après la publication de plus d’une vingtaine de livres portant sur le vin, Jacques Orhon, maître sommelier, s’est lancé dans un projet audacieux il y a trois ans : l’écriture de son premier roman, Les fruits de l’exil. Publié en octobre, cette « autofiction à saveur œnologique » raconte l’histoire de Stéphane et sa quête pour retrouver son père qui l'a quitté durant sa jeunesse. À travers des références, des périples et des rencontres, la passion du sommelier reste encore aussi présente et nous fait voyager dans notre pays, mais aussi en Europe. « Ce qu’il y a de merveilleux dans le vin, c’est tout ce qu’on apprend à côté ou derrière. Par l’intermédiaire du vin, j’ai pu faire des rencontres extraordinaires. C’est pourquoi j’ai tenu à ce que le grand-père du personnage principal soit masson. Au cours de l’histoire, il deviendra quelqu’un de très cultivé grâce au vin, qui lui permettra d’apprendre plein de choses en architecture, en culture, en littérature. Le vin va aussi sceller ce lien entre le petit-fils et son grand-père. Ils seront réunis et passeront à travers plusieurs épreuves grâce au vin. » L'auteur propose même une liste de vin pour accompagner la lecture ! Cliquez ici pour la consulter. Jacques Orhon est sommelier et fondateur de l’Association canadienne des sommeliers professionnels. Expert en dégustation et véritable globe-trotter du vin, il parcourt depuis plus de 40 ans les vignobles du monde. Ses ouvrages ont maintes fois été récompensés, notamment, Le vin snob, du prix en littérature de l’Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin. Il est arrivé au Québec à l’âge de 23 ans et s’est installé dans les Laurentides. Il habite dans sa maison à Sainte-Adèle depuis 1976. Le titre du livre est révélateur pour l’auteur qui y voit un peu le résumé de sa vie. « Quand on quitte son pays d’origine pour aller ailleurs, qu’on s’exile, on cueille ensuite les fruits de notre exil. Tout simplement parce qu’on va chercher une meilleure qualité de vie. Les fruits de l’exil représente donc bien l’histoire, mais correspond aussi à ma propre vie ! » Jacques Orhon s’est ainsi inspiré de sa vie, de ses rencontres et s’est amusé à faire interagir des personnages réels et inventés, comme cet échange entre Winston Churchill et un des personnages du livre. Même s’il n’a pas eu une enfance aussi difficile que celle de Stéphane, l’auteur souligne que certaines épreuves vécues par le personnage principal, ont réellement eu lieu dans sa vie et c’est ce qui a rendu l’écriture si émotionnelle pour le sommelier. Cette expérience a été un défi pour Jacques Orhon qui affirme n’avoir jamais autant travaillé sur un livre. « Je connaissais bien le fond, parce que je me suis inspiré de mes expériences, mais le style d’écriture m’était peu familier. C’était tellement nouveau pour moi et j’avais un sentiment d’imposture au début. Même que pendant plus d’une dizaine de mois, je n’en ai parlé à personne ! Je me demandais si j’avais vraiment les capacités d’écrire un roman dans son entièreté. » L’auteur s’est découvert une facilité, mais surtout un plaisir à concevoir les histoires et construire les dialogues. Pourquoi donc s’être lancé dans le style romancier de l’écriture ? C’est à la suite de plusieurs discussions avec des gens, des auteurs parfois, qui lui demandaient pourquoi n’écrivait-il pas un roman, lui qui a vécu tant de choses et qui aime raconter des histoires. « Un des éléments déclencheurs a été lorsqu’une romancière m’a dit qu’elle écrivait sur ma région d’origine. Elle m’a demandé comment c’était là-bas. Je lui ai répondu : “ Tu n’es jamais allée ? “ Elle m’a dit non. Je ne comprenais pas comment on peut écrire sur un endroit sans y avoir mis les pieds, sans avoir senti les odeurs, parler avec les gens, goûter à la nourriture ! Pour moi c’était important que les gens lisent et se sentent dans le lieu que je décris. » Et ça fonctionne bien. Le livre nous transporte ailleurs le temps de sa lecture. Les Fruits de l’Exil vient de gagner une première place, et représentera le Canada dans la catégorie Novels (Romans), en lice avec quatre autres pays, pour se mériter le Prix international remis par le Gourmand World Awards. Les résultats seront annoncés en juin prochain à Paris entre Le Louvre et le Jardin des Tuileries.Marie-Catherine Goudreau, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal Accès
“It was a really bad year,” said Ann Marie Bagnall, chair of the Guysborough and Area Board of Trade, as the organization assesses 2020 and looks forward to the year ahead. In an interview Nov. 27, Bagnall told The Journal that the pandemic, and resulting restrictions, hit each of the 35 members of the organization differently, depending on which sector of the economy they belonged. But,overall, everyone struggled. “For every member it was difficult because it was so full of uncertainties. And there were so many changing protocols. Some of our members – like the restaurants, accommodations and retail that depend on a lot of tourist volume—they were very hard hit. And, it was difficult to plan; not knowing if you would be open the next day or week,” she said. The focus of the board this past year has been keeping the members abreast of the constantly changing programs and protocols. That was made a little easier when the board started to have weekly online meetings with Cape Breton-Canso MP Mike Kelloway, who represents the area covered by the board. That line of communication, said Bagnall, was critical. The board was able to give feedback about programs and make suggestions, which were used to adapt and modify some programs, such as the wage subsidy program and student job grants, to fit the needs of local businesses and non-profits. “That was what was so key about those meetings (with MP Kelloway); it really did result in changes. The programs themselves – the government was just trying to get them out so quickly – it was trying to address the majority. But, once you got into those details and you look at (board) members particular circumstances, they can’t qualify because of ‘X,’ but they should qualify. It was bringing those issues up and getting them addressed,” said Bagnall of the meeting outcomes. While it has been a very trying time, Bagnall said, unlike other boards she’s heard of, none of their members have had to close their doors permanently due to the impact of the pandemic. Nor have they, to the best of her knowledge, had any difficulty finding workers due to government programs such as CERB; a problem that was anticipated by some in the business community nationally. As we head into the second wave of the pandemic, Bagnall said she thinks board members are prepared to deal with the disruptions that may lie ahead. “I think we’re positioned to deal with it – it’s just a question of uncertainty. If you go into lockdown, how much inventory should I have beforehand? It’s the unknown; you gotta just roll with it, whatever happens. From the board’s perspective, we’re continuing to look at the support programs…. We’re going to keep following the same track we’ve been on.” That being said, the board has made a change regarding this year’s ‘Buy Local’ campaign. “The ‘Buy Local’ draw has been going on for quite a few years now and even last year we talk about the need to change it. This year we looked at it and said it was really impractical with COVID restrictions to have a draw done with ballots and people writing; there were a lot of issues if we were going to try to do that,” said Bagnall. So, instead of a draw, the board of trade has decided to donate half of the budget they have traditionally used for the ‘Buy Local’ campaign give-away, and “reinvest that in a charity in the community,” said Bagnall. “Major fundraisers for a lot of organizations have been so disrupted,” Bagnall said, which helped fuel the board’s decision to donate $250 to the Guysborough Memorial Hospital Auxiliary. “The work that they do, and the importance of the hospital,was highlighted this year,” said Bagnall, adding that,while the amount was not huge, “It could help in a small way. And show that we really do appreciate their effort.” While the pandemic has few silver linings, one of them might be the increased realization that we need local businesses to thrive, and – in order for them to do that – they need community support. “Buy local; that is key and that will continue to be key, even more if a lockdown occurs again…. I think it (lockdown) highlighted the services we have in Guysborough. Can you imagine if you had to go further afield to go grocery shopping, get drugs or gas,” said Bagnall, adding, “It was a year that really highlighted supporting those merchants and making sure that we kept them.”Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
There were fewer people present in person as the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division board of education met on Monday. The first meeting with the new format came after the division procured some new technology, including Chromebooks and a microphone and camera system to insure a secure remote meeting format. “It worked well. I was quite nervous about how the technology would work but it seemed to be really effective. We will work on it and we will make it smoother, it wasn’t perfect yet,” director of education Robert Bratvold said. The room was cut in half from the setup they had previously used beginning in June. The board moved from the board room to the Seminar Room which made social distancing possible in the larger space. “It’s bigger than the board room for sure,” Bratvold said. He explained that a survey was being sent out on Tuesday to trustees to see if any changes needed to be made. “Last week we had it set in a way and we made some slight adjustments and changes, refinements to it. So it was slightly different today in terms of cameras, but process was a little better,” Bratvold said. He gave credit to the school division’s IT department for the work that they had done to prepare since the board’s last meeting on Nov. 16 in their new form. Trustees Bill Gerow, Arne Lindberg, Alan Nunn, Michelle Vickers, Bill Yeaman and vice chair Darlene Rowden were present. Board chair Barry Hollick, Cher Bloom and Jaimie Smith-Windsor attended the meeting remotely. The idea to create a method for remote meetings was discussed by the board earlier this year. As well, Saskatchewan Rivers Students for Change trustees Kelly Lam and Emily Zbaraschuk, attended the meeting remotely. “We had all of the admin council just in their offices so we could have trustees closer. I mean they are still six feet apart but closer,” Bratvold said. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
RALEIGH, N.C. — A federal judge wrongly blocked North Carolina's latest photo voter identification law, an appeals court ruled Wednesday, deciding she erred when declaring the requirement was tainted by racial bias largely because a previous voter ID law had been struck down on similar grounds.The unanimous opinion by a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel reversing a December 2019 preliminary injunction by District Judge Loretta Biggs doesn't mean the 2018 voter ID requirement can now be carried out. But the decision improves the position of Republican lawmakers, who for years have sought IDs for voting, to require it for the 2022 elections. Biggs' ruling had essentially blocked the ID requirement for the 2020 elections.The mandate “must be implemented for the next election cycle in our state,” Republican House Speaker Tim Moore said in a release praising the ruling.The 4th Circuit ruling puts aside many arguments by civil rights groups that sued over the law. They contend, in part, that the current voter ID rules are but a “barely disguised duplicate” of a 2013 voter ID law that other 4th Circuit judges previously declared Republicans enacted with intentional racial discrimination in mind. Leaders of the Republican-controlled legislature have said there was no such intent while approving either law.“The outcome hinges on the answer to a simple question: How much does the past matter?” Circuit Judge Julius Richardson, a nominee of President Donald Trump to the court, wrote in the opinion. While citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision, he added: “A legislature’s past acts do not condemn the acts of a later legislature, which we must presume acts in good faith."Richardson wrote Biggs' injunction must be overturned “because of the fundamental legal errors that permeate the opinion” and “irrevocably affected its outcome.” Circuit Judges Pamela Harris, a nominee of former President Barack Obama, and Marvin Quattlebaum, a Trump nominee, joined in the opinion.Trials are still expected before Biggs and in state court in 2021 in separate lawsuits challenging the law implementing a 2018 amendment to the state constitution that required the use of photo ID to vote in North Carolina elections. And a state appeals court ruling that blocked the ID requirement from being imposed remains in place.Leaders for the state NAACP and several local NAACP chapters that sued in federal court said Wednesday they were reviewing appeals options but were confident they would win at trial. “Our fight continues no matter the makeup of any court or any one decision, good or bad, on the journey to free and fair political participation,” state NAACP president the Rev. Anthony Spearman said in a release.Biggs wrote last Dec. 31 that many of the same GOP leaders and legislators who passed the 2018 law were in the legislature five years earlier, when they had received data that broke down voter behaviour by race. She suggested that racial data was still in the minds of many legislators in 2018. Biggs, who is Black and an Obama appointee, also pointed to the state's “sordid history of racial discrimination and voter suppression” continuing to present times.But Richardson wrote there were differences compared with 2013. A majority of voters had approved a constitutional amendment requiring photo ID in November 2018. Legislators weeks later approved supplemental laws to carry it out.“The people of North Carolina had interjected their voice compared into the process,” Richardson wrote.The supplemental laws also expanded the types of qualifying IDs and how registered voters without IDs could have their votes counted. Richardson pointed out the legislation received votes from a handful of Democrats following several days of debate and approved changes sought by bill opponents.“The 2018 Voter ID Law is more protective of the right to vote than other states’ voter ID laws that courts have approved,” Richardson wrote.The three-judge panel does not doubt that “there is a long and shameful history of race-based voter suppression in North Carolina,” wrote Richardson, but Biggs “considered the North Carolina General Assembly’s past conduct to bear so heavily on its later acts that it was virtually impossible for it to pass a voter ID law that meets constitutional muster.”More than 30 states require some form of voter ID. Supporters of the photo ID mandate say it builds confidence in election results. But data shows voter impersonation is rare. Voter ID opponents, which include Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, have said the mandate puts needless obstacles in the way of people otherwise legally qualified to vote.Gary D. Robertson, The Associated Press
TORONTO — A psychiatrist testifying for the defence of the man who killed 10 people in Toronto's van attack stopped short Wednesday of saying Alek Minassian should be found not criminally responsible for his actions.Dr. Alexander Westphal said Minassian was incapable of "rational choice" at the moment of the attack on April 23, 2018, based on his irrational thoughts due to autism spectrum disorder. But when asked directly by the prosecution if Minassian is not criminally responsible for what occurred, Westphal said he does not have the insight to make that determination."I think he didn't understand the moral wrongfulness of his actions, but that's not my determination to make," Westphal said under cross examination. "I think it's a legal opinion, not a psychiatric one." Minassian's defence lawyer previously told the judge-alone trial that Westphal, a psychiatrist practicing in the U.S., would be the only expert to say the 28-year-old is not criminally responsible for his actions that day.Minassian has admitted to planning and carrying out the attack, leaving his state of mind the sole issue at play. He has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 of attempted murder, and has asked to be found not criminally responsible for his actions due to autism spectrum disorder.Westphal, who specializes in autism, said Wednesday that he is not very familiar with the Canadian laws surrounding criminal responsibility.Earlier, he explained that Minassian does not truly understand what he did was wrong, despite the young man telling the doctor repeatedly he did.Minassian views people as objects and does not comprehend the devastation of his actions, Westphal said. "It just doesn't matter to him because he doesn't understand that ... because he has a really substantial defect in social development and a defect in empathic understanding of other people, that there is real human consequences, relatable human consequences to his actions," he said.Crown attorney Joe Callaghan pointed out that Minassian told Westphal numerous times he understood killing people was morally wrong."I certainly have committed the act of murder and there isn't any moral justification for it so, for the public eye, it would be extremely upsetting and immoral," Minassian told Westphal, according to a transcript read in court.Minassian also told Westphal he'd consider carrying out the attack again if he were let out of jail to better his "kill count."Westphal said Minassian, due to his autism spectrum disorder, did not develop what's called "theory of mind" – the ability to understand that other people have their own way of thinking, their own beliefs, feelings and desires."To not recognize that, to see people as objects in the way that Mr. Minsassian clearly did, to me, reflects a very substantial breakdown of this entire process," Westphal said.Minassian was heavily influenced by horrific material he consumed online, including a focus on a website that ranked mass murderers by "kill counts," akin to a leaderboard in video games or sports, Westphal said. Minassian was also drawn to the notoriety other mass killers had, Westphal said.Westphal said there is no good explanation from Minassian about why he committed the attack.Court has previously heard that Westphal found Minassian was not psychotic but had an autistic way of thinking that was "severely distorted in a way similar to psychosis." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
Midland Coun. Bill Gordon has found his way onto the 'wall of shame' --- again. This time, the elected official is being brought to the stand for inappropriate decorum, messaging that amounts to abuse, bullying or intimidation, and interfering in the operations of the town, thereby, undermining staff's capability in the field, an integrity commissioner's report found "This is just proving my whole weaponization of the code of conduct argument," Gordon said, adding he wasn't shocked by the move. "They didn't speak to me about any of this. "I'm not arguing any of these things didn't happen. I take full responsibility for it. But taken without context, anything can be found to be insulting and inflammatory." The three complainants this time are Deputy Mayor Mike Ross and councillors Jim Downer and Jon Main. However, in the integrity commissioner's report, which will be discussed at next week's council meeting, only an exchange between Main and Gordon has been mentioned. The report says that in the email exchange with Main, Gordon said, "Please don’t mistake my assertiveness for aggression. I have little to no personal respect for many of you or a couple of our senior team. I come by that honestly and have the bills to prove it. "I have to work with you and have managed to keep most of my contempt for many of you at bay preferring to simply ignore the public attacks on my integrity and carry on with my work despite everything that’s gone on this term." In a second exchange between the two, Gordon calls Main a 'snowflake.' The report says, in a Facebook direct message, Gordon said, "That is far from bullying Jon. Don’t be such a snowflake. The truth may not be a defence in the CoC [Code of Conduct] – which is absurd – but I will do politics my way just as you do it your way. "We are polar opposites it seems. That is actually quite healthy for democracy. As for decorum I think I toe that line with grace and dignity considering the despicable way you treat me. I have no respect for most of you as a result. Should not be a shock to you." Moreover, Gordon has also been accused of interfering with the operational aspects of the town staff's responsibility by asserting 'influence' on a developer responsible for clean up on Taylor Drive. The report details that, on Aug. 28, 2020, the developer emailed Gordon that following their discussion and for the developer to avoid a notice of motion, the developer would undertake grass cutting on the town parkette as a courtesy to the town and Taylor Drive clients/homeowners. Further, the developer also promised, relocation of masonry materials and reduction in the slope of stockpiled sand. In the report, Gordon defends his intervention with the developer as simply availing himself of the process. He denies that he engaged in any threats or intimidation, but merely pointed out that the town might be compelled to draw on the letter of credit to rectify performance issues. In a conversation with MidlandToday, Gordon said he wasn't willing to divulge his entire defence. "I don't want to give a statement because it gives them 'yeah, but...' arguments," he said. "The reason I don't want to do that in this case is because they didn't recommend any monetary sanctions, which I'm kind of shocked about. What I suspect to happen is that the three complainants, especially Jon Main, will be argue for monetary sanctions. I want to let that happen organically." Addressing the snowflake comment, Gordon said, it was during a private Twitter back and forth that occurred in March. "(Main) sat on it all this time and decided to advance it now," he said. "Basically, they were just collecting evidence." Gordon adds that if he had been approached about the issue 'like adults' there would definitely not have been this conflict. "I can only speak for Jon, because I never said this to Mike Ross or Jim Downer," he said. "If he'd contacted me or even during that interaction we had, I would have apologized and told him what I'd actually been meaning to say instead of the word snowflake." Gordon said he uses the word snowflake because it's a quicker way of spelling out someone who is indecisive or can't handle pressure and make decisions. As for interfering with the operational side of the corporation of the Town of Midland, he said, at its core, that's what people expect from their councillors. "They can come to them with whatever their tale of woe is...if they're having an issue with a lack of performance by the town," said Gordon. "Your elected official doesn't have a lot of influence. The only influence, which I promised during my Zoom chat, is that I would bring it forward to council as a notice of motion." And this is where it gets sticky, he added. "I didn't reach out to the developer," said Gordon. "The developer watched my Zoom meeting and called me to say if we do these things, would you bring the notice of motion to council. And why would I, if they were doing what was being asked?" He said he welcomed the integrity commissioner's report and findings and looked forward to speaking to council. "For me, the real tell is which councillors will argue that simply scolding me publicly and putting me on the wall of shame is not enough and they want to see their pound of flesh," Gordon said.Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
Pat Daly was re-elected chairperson of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board at a meeting Tuesday evening, marking his 34th year as a Hamilton trustee. Daly has served on the HWCDSB since 1986 when he first filled the seat that his late father, Pat Daly Sr., left vacant after his sudden death the year prior. “I don’t know if I ever filled them — they were pretty big shoes. But I’ve always tried to do my best,” Daly previously said of his father. At a meeting Tuesday night, he addressed issues concerning leadership and equity in educational opportunity, indicating a focus on these issues as he enters his next term. “With the increased reality of virtual learning and the ever-increasing influence of technology, I believe we are living in an unprecedented time of challenge but equally, or more so, of opportunity to move forward with laser-like focus to create structures and allocate resources that most directly impact those areas that distinguish publicly funded Catholic schools,” he said. Daly has recommended a full review of the board’s leadership development program to ensure a continued recruitment and selection of “faith-filled visionary leaders,” as well as a re-imagining of administrative portfolios to “better align with current and future trends.” “As researchers have concluded, one of the goals of such restructuring would be to assist leaders to remain closer to the core of teaching and learning where they are most likely to make a difference to students,” he said. Daly was born and raised in Mount Hope. He attended Our Lady of the Assumption in Elfrida and later Bishop Ryan High School in Stoney Creek. “All of my years of school were in our system,” he told The Spectator in a 2014 profile. “I had outstanding principals, teachers and coaches right throughout.” Daly enrolled at McMaster University after graduation but only stayed a year, opting instead to return to his family’s construction company, where he stayed until the mid-1990s before taking over as the Catholic board’s chair. He has also served as president of the Ontario English Catholic Trustees’ Association. Jacob Lorinc, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
Regina– Ambulance fees are going down for Saskatchewan senior citizens, the fulfillment of a Saskatchewan Party campaign promise in this past fall’s election. Seniors and Rural and Remote Health Minister Everett Hindley said in a ministerial statement in the Legislature on Dec. 2, “Starting on December 14, our government will further support Saskatchewan seniors aged 65 and older by reducing their ambulance fees from $275 per trip to $135 per trip. “That is a reduction of more than 50 per cent. In addition, seniors will now receive full coverage for all inter-facility transfers between hospitals health centres, integrated health centres, mental health and addiction centres, and special care homes. As we know seniors tend to need ambulance services more frequently and that many seniors live on fixed incomes. Seniors will receive financial relief through this reduction in their personal health care costs for the service. Having the ability to discharge or transfer patients to a facility closer to their home community, without concern about their ability to pay, will improve patient flow between our health care centres. “This investment by our government is expected to cost $2.2 million for this fiscal year and $6.6 million annually. These costs were accounted for and the Minister of Finance’s recently released mid year update. Our government values seniors in this province. We're working to provide them with quality, affordable health care.” To be eligible for SCAAP coverage, patients must be age 65 or over, hold a valid Saskatchewan health card and not have insured coverage by any other government service such as Health Canada, Workers Compensation (WCB) or Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI), according to a government release. In response, New Democratic Party Seniors Critic Matt Love said, “Certainly, we welcome any effort to make life more affordable for seniors, particularly those who might be ill and in need of an ambulance. We recognize this as a small step in the right direction. But ultimately, this is a drop in the bucket towards reforming the most unsupported and expensive ambulance system in the country. “Eliminating fees for seniors being transferred between health facilities makes sense. But what this government should be doing is eliminating interhospital transfer fees entirely. No other province in the country charges patients to transfer them within the health system. This issue was identified by this government's first EMS (emergency medical services) review in 2008, and again, the review conducted in 2018. We know the community paramedicine program has been successful in keeping seniors in their homes and out of the hospital. And we wonder why these changes do not expand access to these services? We also know there's been a long-standing practice of excluding First Nations seniors from provincial senior subsidy programs, and anticipate hearing whether these benefits will be extended to First Nations as well. Today's announcement does nothing to address the long-standing issues of short staffing in long term care much more as needed, including minimum care standards,” Love concluded.Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
OTTAWA — The federal government says it will not meet a marquee pledge by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to lift all boil-water advisories in First Nations communities by March 2021.Indigenous Services Canada says at least 22 long-term water advisories in 10 First Nations communities will remain in place beyond that deadline, which was set following an ambitious 2015 Liberal election promise to lift them all within five years."What communities want is not an Ottawa-imposed deadline," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said Wednesday during a news conference in Ottawa."It’s a long-term commitment to access to clean water."The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into efforts to upgrade water systems and carry out on-site training, with supply chains snarled and construction put off as some reserves opted to restrict travel, the department said at an earlier briefing."COVID has really changed everything," Miller said. “Because of COVID, many projects lost a full construction season."The complexity of projects, which can include infrastructure overhauls and depend on increasingly unreliable winter roads, contributed to the delay even before the pandemic, he said. Hiring and retaining qualified operators for water and wastewater treatment plants on remote sites has posed another challenge.Miller, who has held the Indigenous services portfolio since November 2019, sought to shield Trudeau from blame for the failed goal."Ultimately, I bear the responsibility for this, and I have the responsibility and the duty to get this done," he said, calling the continued lack of access to reliable drinking water "totally unacceptable."The department says 97 boil-water advisories have been lifted since 2016, while 59 remain in place — about three-quarters of them in Ontario — in 41 communities.In late October, about 250 residents of Neskantaga First Nation in northern Ontario, which has had a boil-water advisory in place for 25 years, were evacuated from their homes following the discovery of an oily sheen in its reservoir.Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said Wednesday he was frustrated but not surprised by Ottawa's shortfall."First Nations have good reason to be disappointed by the federal government’s announcement that after more than five years in office, it will miss its own target to provide safe drinking water to all Indigenous communities across Canada," he said in a statement."While there has been significant progress in recent years, it clearly is not enough."Miller acknowledged that initially, communities were not “sounded” out on whether the March 2021 target was reasonable.He said he hopes up to 20 more advisories will be lifted by year's end, but expects at least a dozen communities will still not have access to potable water by the spring."You come down to about 12 or a few more communities, some of whom have seen serious delays due to COVID — and they’re working hard to clear them — and others that have priorities that they want addressed before they lift their water advisories," he said, noting that communities make the call on whether to lift advisories, not Ottawa."I think we didn’t appreciate the state of decay of water systems when we came into power in 2015," he added, pointing to "decades of neglect."Opposition parties slammed the federal government for falling short of its goal."We weren't totally surprised by this, but at the same time, there's a pretty significant disappointment in it being actually acknowledged and outright spoken ... by the minister today," Conservative MP Gary Vidal, his party's critic for Indigenous services, said in an interview.In a separate statement, Vidal called for a more commercially driven approach that draws on the "brightest business minds and entrepreneurs" to get taps flowing safely.NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called the problem "disgusting" and "inexcusable.""Imagine Minister Miller going to his riding in Montreal: 'I apologize, but we missed our deadline to get you clean drinking water.' Would he ever think it was appropriate?" Singh asked at a news conference.“This is not a broken promise. This is a betrayal of trust, and it sends a message that Indigenous people don't matter."In its fall economic statement Monday, the Liberal government pledged to invest $1.5 billion this year to work toward lifting all long-term drinking water advisories in Indigenous communities, on top of $2.1 billion already committed since 2016.More than $1.65 billion of that has already flowed to 626 water and wastewater projects, including 348 that are now completed, according to Indigenous Services.The beefed-up funding reflects a long-term commitment, particularly to operations and maintenance, so that communities can continue to tap into clean water indefinitely, Miller said.Under current funding policies for operations and maintenance on reserves, Ottawa typically provides about 80 per cent of the cash while First Nations have to float the remaining 20 per cent.Miller said Indigenous Services is still hammering out a policy adjustment, "but my full expectation is that will move to 100 per cent."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.— with files from Maan AlhmidiChristopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A noontime boom that was heard and felt from southern Ontario to Virginia was likely caused by a disintegrating meteor, according to an organization in western New York that keeps track of such phenomena. Witnesses across the area reported hearing the boom or seeing a fireball in the sky shortly after noon on Wednesday, said Robert Lunsford of the American Meteor Society in Geneseo. By 5 p.m., the organization had recorded 90 reports of the fireball seen in Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ontario, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Police agencies and fire departments around central New York received 911 calls reporting a boom that shook windows, but clouds prevented sightings in much of the area. Since most reports of the boom were around Syracuse, that's likely where the meteor blew to bits, Lunsford said. On the society's website, an observer in western New York reported the fireball was bright white with shades of yellow. An observer in Hagerstown, Maryland reported a fireball with red and orange sparks, smoke and a persistent train. A report from Welland, Ontario, described a long, bright green train. “Sunny day so it looked like a gold metallic flash against the blue sky,” said a report from Winchester, Virginia. “Astonishing, amazing, still get goosebumps talking about it,” wrote an observer in Port Dover, Ontario. “The train was flaming white, wide and long, no smoke.” “We tend to notice fireballs more at night because they stand out better, but it's not terribly unusual for very bright ones to be noticed during the day. It happens several times a year over populated areas,” said Margaret Campbell-Brown, a member of the Meteor Physics Group at Western University in London, Ontario. All fireballs, which are bright meteors, produce sound waves, sometimes detectable only by sensitive microphones, Campbell-Brown said by email. A large one may produce a thunderlike sonic boom with possible extra bangs from fragmentation, she said. The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday struggled with whether to require new trials for potentially thousands of prisoners who were convicted by non-unanimous juries before the court barred the practice earlier this year. The high court ruled 6-3 in April that juries in state criminal trials must be unanimous to convict a defendant. Previously, Louisiana and Oregon as well as the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico had allowed divided votes to result in convictions. In striking down the practice, the court said Louisiana and Oregon had originally adopted their rules for racially discriminatory reasons. Now, juries everywhere must vote unanimously to convict. But the Supreme Court's decision affected only future cases and cases in which the defendants were still appealing their convictions when the high court ruled. The question for the court now is whether the decision should be made retroactive. That would benefit prisoners convicted by non-unanimous juries whose cases were final before the court's ruling, but the states and federal government said it would also be incredibly burdensome. Several justices noted the very high bar past cases have set to making similar new rules retroactive while also suggesting this case might clear it. And the case did not seem to be one that would split the court along traditional liberal-conservative lines. “Why isn't unanimity basic?” Justice Stephen Breyer asked during arguments, which the court heard by phone because of the coronavirus pandemic. But Justice Samuel Alito expressed skepticism that the court should make this decision retroactive. He suggested the court has been hard pressed to find a similar case that should be made retroactive, comparing it to a “quest for an animal that was thought to have become extinct, like the Tasmanian tiger.” And Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted that the court has “a long line of cases ... where we have declined to apply a new rule retroactively” once cases have become final. Louisiana, Oregon and Puerto Rico could be forced to retry hundreds or thousands of people if the court’s decision were to be made retroactive, Louisiana has said. And several justices pressed the lawyers before them on how many people might need to be retried, with one lawyer saying it could be 1,000 to 1,600 in Louisiana alone. The Trump administration, for its part, has sided with the states and told the court that applying the decision retroactively would be “massively disruptive” in both Louisiana and Oregon and may mean “the release of violent offenders who cannot practically be retried.” The court's ruling in April produced an unusual lineup of justices, with liberals and conservatives on both sides of the decision. That’s because a key part of the case was whether to overrule a 1972 decision, and overturning precedent is a particularly charged issue on the court. This time around, it seemed votes could shift. Justice Elena Kagan, who was in dissent last time, siding against the inmate challenging a non-unanimous jury, seemed nonetheless sympathetic to the idea that the decision should be made retroactive, saying at one point: “How could it be that a rule like that does not have retroactive effect?” The case before the justices involves Louisiana prisoner Thedrick Edwards. A jury convicted Edwards of rape and multiple counts of armed robbery and kidnapping. The jury divided 10-2 on most of the robbery charges and 11-1 on the remaining charges. Edwards, who had confessed to police, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Edwards, who is Black, has argued among other things that prosecutors intentionally kept Black jurors off the case; the lone Black juror on the case voted to acquit him. Jessica Gresko, The Associated Press
Growing up in Canada as a young woman from India, Sheetal Vemannagari struggled with embracing her name. The now 20-year-old Ivey Business School student went through what thousands of Canadians experience when their name is deemed "tough" to pronounce for the average anglophone — from accepting a shortened version to trying to anglicize it in an attempt to avoid embarrassment."I hated the way that my culture hindered me from sort of connecting with my peers, especially my name, because I feel like everyone would just call me just 'shit-all' ... [When mispronounced], my name sounds harsh, kind of unfeminine and so that further dissociated me from my identity."In Hindi, Vemannagari's name, pronounced as 'SHEE-thul,' means 'cool breeze' and was chosen by her grandmother.It wasn't until a trip to India two years ago when Vemannagari started to reclaim her name after receiving many compliments for it. The remaining challenge is getting people to pronounce it correctly, but Vemannagari is hopeful that a new online tool will help with that problem, at least in the classroom setting.Western University's Ivey Business School in London, Ont. is one of four Canadian post-secondary institutions, along with Ryerson University, the University of Guelph and Simon Fraser University, to adopt NameCoach, according to the company's CEO Praveen Shanbhag .The auto-name pronunciation tool allows people to make an audio recording of their name which is then made available on their academic profile, allowing classmates and professors to play the recording and learn how to pronounce the person's name correctly.Why it's important to get names right"The name is really a symbol of your identity. It's a kind of stand-in for the person, so if I'm calling your name, I'm really calling you ... so getting it right has to do with that level of respect for the person," said Karen Pennesi, a linguistic anthropologist and associate professor at Western University. Pennesi said people with uncommon names tend to have different relationships with their names throughout their life, including changing it and then coming back to it at a later point in life, but regardless of where people are at it's important to get their preferred name right."It's a kind of a challenge to their sense of self [when you start anglicizing or shortening their name]. That makes them not be in control of their own identity, their own self." For marginalized people the mistreatment of their name can have long-term implications, Pennesi added. "They're constantly being made to feel that they don't belong or that they shouldn't be here and that their contributions aren't worthwhile."After reclaiming her name, trying to ensure it was pronounced right caused Vemannagari frustration, embarrassment and even made her feel like she was asking for too much."I didn't want to make a big deal of it, especially in a class, but one day I corrected my professor. Ever since I did that, every time they called on me, I don't think they meant to do this, but they just made it a really big deal and would be like, 'oh, wait, what's your name?,' 'It'll be the end of the year and I still have to pause to say your name' ... It made me feel like I was being demanding." Vemannagari said her professor eventually stopped asking for her input and it led to her not wanting to try to participate either, which impacted her mark at the end of the term.It was feedback similar to Vemannagari's experience that prompted Ivey to make a $10,000 annual investment in NameCoach this October, said Stephanie Brooks, the school's chief administrative officer."It matters that we get the most personal aspect of a student right, which is how to pronounce their name. When you take the time to get it right it confirms to a student that they matter and that they belong here. When you don't, it's easy to see how it can unintentionally signal the opposite," she said. Respect for a person's name an important step toward inclusivity, students sayWestern University's Ethnocultural Support Services (ESS), a group that advocates for the appreciation of different cultures on campus, highlighted the issue of the mispronunciation of names at the beginning of the school year through its own social media campaign."We've heard from an overwhelming influx of students speaking about the importance and significance of their name and how it connects them to their culture, their heritage and their ancestors," said Matthew Dawkins, a second-year student and the ESS coordinator. "I think if we started to view names as this badge of honour, then I think we can go along with respecting that a lot more and to make the conscious effort to pronounce it right and to learn it right." > It's these little things about cultural and racial sensitivity that teaches other students and staff how to be cognizant of people who are from different backgrounds. \- Mubasshira Khalid, Ivey Business School Master's student.Allan Muriuki, the third-year student who led the campaign, said getting a person's name right is one of the first steps to creating an inclusive campus."When we talk about inclusively we talk about using the correct pronunciation of people's name because we know those names mean something to people," he said. "Not using their name correctly leads them to feel belittled or not included when going about their lives." Mubasshira Khalid, a Master's student at Ivey who is often asked by people if they can shorten her name, said that while institutions often look for radical ways to address racism and discrimination, it's meaningful and necessary to address smaller items like names."Often it's these little things about cultural and racial sensitivity that teaches other students and staff how to be cognizant of people who are from different backgrounds, so I think addressing the need to get names right is an excellent step forward."
Windsor-Essex Student Transportation Services (WESTS) says that all students, regardless of grade, will now have to wear a face mask on school buses.Previously, students from junior kindergarten to Grade 3 were exempt from the requirement.WESTS board of directors approved a motion with the requirement after the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board and the Greater Essex County School Board approved their own motions asking it to mandate masks for all students on any board provided transportation.In news release, WESTS says the requirement will go into effect right away, but that there will be a transition period until full enforcement starts on the first day of 2021."We understand that it may take some time for students and their families to implement the new requirement," said Gabrielle McMillan, WESTS general manager, in the news release."Communication through our website and the boards' social media platforms will inform students and their families of the new protocol."Beginning in the new year, children will not be able to board the bus unless they are wearing a face mask. However, we know that many of these students are already wearing masks and expect that they will begin complying with the new protocol sooner rather than later."The release says that all four constituent school boards of WESTS will begin informing the school communities about details of the change immediately.
OTTAWA — The Liberals have officially started the clock toward a key vote that will determine the fate of billions of dollars in new pandemic-related aid — and the minority government.The federal government introduced a bill in the House of Commons Wednesday that would enact spending measures proposed in this week's fall economic statement.The Liberals will make passage of the legislation a confidence vote, meaning the minority government could fall and trigger an election if it doesn't garner the necessary support.Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said his party would carefully read the bill to make sure it does what the government claims.Monday's update outlined just over $25 billion in new spending to top up and expand existing programs and create new, targeted support for hard-hit industries.The Liberals are also promising $1,200 per child under six for families earning up to $120,000, and $600 for families earning over that amount. The first payment is supposed to happen right after the bill passes, but the government is only suggesting it needs to introduce the legislation, not pass it, before MPs go on a winter break, Poilievre said."The government needs to tell us how it plans to make that payment if it doesn't have the legislation passed," he said after a morning caucus meeting.The economic statement also noted the deficit was on track to hit $381.6 billion this fiscal year, but warned the figure could close in on $400 billion if public health restrictions are extended or expanded in the coming weeks.The federal debt is set to push past $1.2 trillion, with more on the way in the coming years before accounting for the government's proposed three-year stimulus fund the Liberals say will be between $70 billion and $100 billion.Credit rating agency DBRS Morningstar, in an analysis Wednesday, said the cost of extra spending and debt could be worth it to avoid long-term scarring to the economy, which could take the form of people permanently out of jobs and more businesses closing for good.The agency added that the government will have to "recalibrate public finances" to keep deficits from becoming permanent. That won't be easy with a long list of policy promises, the agency said, pointing to a national child-care system, reform of the employment insurance system, green infrastructure spending and demands from provinces for increased health-care transfers."Given the medium-term fiscal outlook, there is limited space to fund sizable increases in permanent spending in a sustainable way without also raising revenues," the report said. "The government will face difficult fiscal (and political) choices as it prepares the 2021 Budget."A majority of MPs in the House of Commons on Wednesday backed a Bloc Quebecois motion that called on the federal government to increase its share of health-care spending before the end of the year.The vote isn’t binding on the government.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.The Canadian Press
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls on the federal government to ensure vaccines and critical medicines for Canadians can be manufactured within the country. He says the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that Canadians shouldn’t be forced to rely on importing vaccines from other countries.
MALARTIC-La Conférence des préfets de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue met de la pression supplémentaire sur le gouvernement Legault pour rendre plus sécuritaire la route 117, particulièrement le segment entre Rouyn-Noranda et Val-d’Or. Un autre accident survenu lundi dernier entre trois véhicules a fait deux victimes, «deux autres», se désole le président de la CPAT, le maire de Malartic, Martin Ferron. La Conférence des préfets demande au ministre régional, Pierre Dufour, que soit créé un bureau de projets, pour que des experts puissent se pencher plus sérieusement sur la 117. «Quand cette route a été créée, dans les années 50 et 60, elle répondait aux besoins de la circulation de l’époque, rappelle M. Ferron. Mais 60 ans plus tard, la région s’est développée, et la route 117 est à toutes fins pratiques désuète. Je tiens à rappeler qu’il s’agit de notre seul lien avec le reste de la province. Sans oublier que le Nord-du-Québec se développe lui aussi à vive allure, et que nous sommes aussi le seul lien avec cette région.» Un cheval de bataille Plusieurs ministres sont venus faire des annonces en Abitibi au cours des dernières années, concernant la route 117. Mais rien de concret n’a encore débloqué. «Le ministre Dufour en avait même fait l’un de ses principaux chevaux de bataille lors de l’élection de 2018, rappelle le président de la CPAT. Depuis ce temps, pas de son, pas d’image.» M. Ferron est conscient qu’il s’agit d’un plan à long terme. «D’habitude, quand on établit un bureau de projet, on parle d’environ cinq ans entre le début et la fin, souligne-t-il. La 117 est un secteur accidentogène, comme ils disent dans leur jargon, mais tant que le bureau de projets n’est pas annoncé, c’est encore du temps où on attend, et d’autres accidents, d’autres décès. On côtoie littéralement la mort ici.» Martin Ferron se base sur l’organisme SOS 117, dans le secteur des Hautes-Laurentides, pour faire un parallèle avec ce qui se passe en Abitibi. «Au sud de la Réserve faunique (La Vérendrye), il a fallu vingt ans de représentations par des maires qui se sont succédé pour que le ministère bouge et rende ce secteur-là plus sécuritaire. Et ce n’est pas terminé. Ici aussi, il est temps que les choses bougent. La route 117 dans notre secteur ne répond plus aux besoins de la population et des entreprises d’ici.» Le travail se poursuit, dit Pierre Dufour Le ministre de la Forêt, de la Faune et des Parcs, Pierre Dufour, assure de son côté que le travail se fait au MTQ. Il fait cependant valoir que la section entre Val-d’Or et Malartic comporte son lot de défis. «Il y a 264 entrées de maisons, de commerces et des rues transversales au total, a-t-il déclaré. C,est un tronçon de route problématique, avec de grands défis de sécurité.» Pierre Dufour dit préparer un dossier étoffé qu’il compte présenter à son collègue aux Transports, François Bonnardel. «François est bien au fait du dossier, dit M. Dufour. J’aimerais bien moi aussi qu’on ait un bureau de projet pour la route 117. Mais je ne veux pas d’une coquille vide. Je veux un bureau de projet avec des experts, et surtout, des budgets. Mon objectif est toujours le même, soit d’avoir ce bureau d’ici 2022.» L’accident survenu lundi, entre Val-d’Or et Malartic, était le deuxième à survenir dans ce secteur en un mois. Le 24 octobre dernier, deux hommes sont décédés lors d’une collision frontale sur le pont de la rivière Thompson, à Val-d’Or. Entre 2015 et 2018, une quarantaine d’accidents avec morts ou blessés graves sont survenus sur ce tronçon de route.Michel Ducas, Initiative de journalisme local, La Presse Canadienne
BRUSSELS — The European Union is grasping the imminent arrival of the Biden administration as a key moment to reset relations with the United States after four years of trans-Atlantic acrimony. With a series of initiatives, the 27 nation bloc is seeking to rekindle the spirit of co-operation that has long defined global diplomacy. But the EU but also acknowledges that future relations will have to adapt to a multi-polar world where China is an ever bigger player. EU partners are seeking a change from Trump’s go-it-alone credo and back a multilateral approach to better deal with global crises. The EU has already invited President-elect Joe Biden to visit Brussels at the earliest opportunity next year.Raf Casert, The Associated Press
Known Terror Squad gang member Kevin George Ackegan pleaded guilty in Prince Albert Provincial Court to weapons and drug-related charges avoiding a trial. Forty-year-old Ackegan was arrested by Prince Albert RCMP Integrated Crime Reduction Team during a traffic stop on Feb. 26, 2020. When police searched the vehicle they found two firearms, ammunition, a machete, a knife, bear spray, hydromorphone, methamphetamine, and Gabapentin pills. They also found U.S., Jamaican and Canadian currency. On Nov. 30 Ackegan changed his plea from not guilty to guilty. Before Ackegan’s trial, his lawyer Dale Blenner-Hassett, filed a Charter application asking the court to exclude the evidence seized during the traffic stop. Blenner-Hasset challenged whether the arresting officer had a reasonable belief that an offence was being committed. The court heard that the arresting police officer was working for the RCMP Integrated Crime Reduction Team that investigates gangs, guns and drugs. At about 8 a.m. on Feb. 26, 2020, the officer got a call from a source that told him Ackegan was in possession of guns and told him where he was in Prince Albert. The officer had used the source on eight previous occasions. The officer testified that the source has a criminal record. The court heard that the arresting officer also knew Ackegan. He had charged Ackegan previously in 2017 with breaching his parole by associating with known gang members and at the time of that arrest, Ackegan was a member of the street gang Terror Squad. On Feb. 26, 2020, when the officer received the information about Ackegan, he conducted surveillance at a residence on the 800 block of 14 Street West in Prince Albert. Another officer testified that he watched the residence for about three hours and at about 11:20 a.m. Ackegan came out of the residence and started loading several bags into the back seat and trunk of a vehicle. A woman was driving the vehicle and Ackegan was the passenger. Both officers testified that in their experience, guns could be concealed in bags. The officer who took the call from the informant testified that he conducted a CPIC inquiry on Ackegan, which confirmed he was prohibited from possessing firearms. The woman and Ackegan drove a few blocks before stopping at another residence. At this point the officers made a traffic stop and arrested Ackegan. One of the officers drove the vehicle to the police station where it was searched and police found guns in the bags, ammunition, drugs, and a cell phone. Crown Prosecutor Andreanne Dube argued that the search of the vehicle was justified as a search incidental to the lawful arrest of Ackegan. During cross-examination, Blenner-Hassett asked one of the officers the identity of the confidential informant. Judge H. M. Harradence, however, said the informant’s identity shouldn’t be disclosed and the court must ensure confidentiality is maintained. Judge Harradence dismissed the defence’s Charter application to have the evidence thrown out. He said he accepted that the arresting officer had information from a source that the accused was in possession of guns and that the information was current and firsthand because the source actually saw what was reported. Judge Harradence said there was some indication of past credibility of information from the source, three hours of surveillance that corroborated Ackegan was at the residence and was loading bags into the trunk and back seat of the vehicle. Judge Harradence also said that police testified they have investigative experience that guns have been concealed in bags and the arresting officer had personal knowledge of Ackegan’s history with illegal firearms and association with known gang members. “I find a number of factors persuasive of a strong connection between Ackegan and the illegal possession of firearms,” said Judge Harradence. Judge Harradence ruled that Ackegan’s rights weren’t violated. “In these circumstances, I find that the arrest and search of this accused and the vehicle was reasonable and lawful.” Ackegan will be sentenced in Prince Albert Provincial Court on Feb. 2. Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist