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
Ontario’s Ministry of Education says the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) will not lose nearly $15.2 million due to a student enrolment decline as anticipated, reducing fears of a budget deficit that all but assured cuts to future student programming. Last week, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced a “stabilization fund” for schools facing budget shortfalls due to low student enrolment — something the HWDSB has advocated for in recent weeks. The funding is “to help alleviate some of the impacts of unexpected enrolment declines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic” and would “provide flexibility for school boards to address a range of unanticipated funding issues,” the province said. Though the province did not initially indicate how much of the funding shortfall it would cover, ministry spokesperson Caitlin Clark told The Spectator on Monday that the board would receive the funding it had lost due to enrolment decline. The HWDSB announced in late October that it would lose a whopping $15.2 million from the province’s Grants for Student Needs (GSN) program because it was short 1,756 students from what it had projected last spring. The shortfall was the primary contributor to a budget deficit that board staff have said could amount to $18 million by the end of the year. With the province agreeing to cover the lost $15.2 million, the board will now face a more manageable deficit of roughly $2.8 million. “This funding will positively contribute to the reduction of our budget deficit and mitigate the financial impact of the unexpected enrolment decrease we experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said HWDSB chair Alex Johnstone in a statement. “Staff will review these measures and share revised financial statements with trustees.” Early in November, in response to the initial funding shortfall, the HWDSB moved to surplus teachers and curb spending across the board in an effort to reduce its deficit by the end of the fiscal year. A report present at the board’s finance committee suggested the board could find savings by reducing teaching staff, self-contained classes, part-time educational assistants, school budgets, funding for governance and more. The board has not indicated if any of these cuts will be reinstated now that the province has agreed to foot the shortfall. Either way, the board will also be tasked with eliminating the remaining deficit in order to balance the budget by the end of the year — a task that is mandated by the province. Running a school board budget deficit is illegal, according to the Ontario Education Act, though Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government has relaxed the rules during the pandemic to allow school boards to run marginal deficits. The ministry said in October that it would accept budget deficits that comprise no more than two per cent of a board’s entire budget, which for the HWDSB is roughly $11.2 million. With an $18-million deficit, the board would exceed the two per cent threshold by approximately $6.8 million, but with a $2.8 million deficit the board would be well within the province’s limit. Jacob Lorinc, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
Two cases of COVID-19 have been found in Sipekne'katik First Nation in Nova Scotia's northern health zone. It's the first time the coronavirus has been detected on a First Nation in Atlantic Canada.Sipekne'katik Chief Mike Sack told CBC News he found out about the cases Wednesday afternoon. When asked if he was concerned, his answer was "yes and no.""We didn't want to get it — nobody does, of course — but it happened, so I think if we plan accordingly and take the proper steps, we'll push right through it," he said.There is little information about the two cases, or how they may have contracted the coronavirus, but Sack said they are self-isolating. He asked that people respect their privacy and not try to find out who they are."I don't want anybody to feel like they're alienated or whatnot. Nobody goes out looking for it," he said. "I just hope the people that did get it do their part, self-isolate and don't jeopardize anyone else's health."Sipekne'katik is the second-largest Mi'kmaw band in Nova Scotia and has approximately 1,244 members living in the community, according to its website. A further 1,344 members reside outside of the community.Sack said access to health care in Sipekne'katik is "very good," and the First Nation has its own health centre with doctors, nurses and dentists.He urged that members continue to follow public health protocols by masking, sanitizing, and avoiding large gatherings and non-essential travel.According to Indigenous Services Canada, as of Dec. 1, there have been 4,069 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in First Nations in Canada, the majority of which are in the Prairie provinces.As of Wednesday evening, those numbers have not been updated to reflect the cases in Sipekne'katik.MORE TOP STORIES
TORONTO — As a pediatrician with extensive experience working with marginalized groups, Anna Banerji believed herself more than equipped to advocate for her Inuk son when he began to display signs of deep depression.She recalls taking him to hospital and pleading with mental-health experts for help, but says her concerns were dismissed. Less than two weeks later in September 2018, Nathan killed himself.Banerji acknowledges many factors led to her son's death, but believes the health-care system failed to recognize specific racial, social and cultural aspects that contributed to his suicide.It's a blind spot she ascribes broadly to mainstream health-care, and had been one of the reasons she founded the biennial Indigenous Health Conference in 2014.The fourth edition launches Thursday as a three-day digital gathering focused on youth mental health, and will be dedicated to Nathan. Banerji says Indigenous-led solutions are key as the pandemic exacerbates mental health struggles, and especially as fresh accounts of racism in health-care this year repeat calls for change. "We see this all across Canada — Joyce Echaquan recorded it so we have documentation of her dying while they're calling her names," said Banerji, referencing the hospital death in September of an Atikamekw woman from Manawan in central Quebec."Joyce is one example, but there are so many examples that don't get documented and that's why it's really important that we document that because Joyce's story or my son's story are not unique."Speakers include Nunavut singer Susan Aglukark who will discuss child sexual abuse and its links to colonization, and Michèle Audette, commissioner of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, who will talk about systemic discrimination.Of course, youth will take centre stage. Youth panel moderator Joshua Stribbell, program coordinator of the Ottawa-based service provider Tungasuvvingat Inuit, says he's impressed with the topics younger participants plan to raise: a comparison of Indigenous and colonial approaches to mental health and a look at inter-generational determinants of health and resilience."What I love about them coming up with those two learning objectives is it's youth refusing ... to just talk about (being) youth," says the 30-year-old Stribbell, based in Toronto and a friend of Nathan's."Because no Indigenous youth is just Indigenous youth — they're part of a community and that community has intergenerational things that are continuing to happen and are always happening (and) they understand that they (are not) alone, that they heal together as a community."There is no shortage of troubling incidents to fuel discussion.While the spread of COVID-19 has highlighted and deepened racial disparities in health-care and social supports, it's also revealed the benefits of Indigenous-led public health measures that resulted in far fewer infections in many communities, Toronto doctors Allison Crawford and Lisa Richardson argued in an article for the CMAJ in September."At its foundation, Indigenous public health must be self-determined: adapted for the needs of specific nations and grounded in local Indigenous language, culture and ways of knowing; developed, implemented and led by Indigenous Peoples," they write.Such instances are rare. Earlier this week, former Saskatchewan judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond released a damning report detailing widespread systemic racism in British Columbia's health-care system, including extensive profiling of patients based on stereotypes about addictions.Banerji believes much the same can be said of health-care systems across the country, and "that's exactly why we do this conference.""We need to address some of those issues and try to educate people on the fact that this is real and it impacts people's lives, and can result in high rates of morbidity and mortality," says Banerji, an associate professor at the University of Toronto's Temerty Faculty of Medicine.In the case of her son, Banerji laments that experts appeared to discount the possible impact of tumultuous events in his young life. Nathan left Baffin Island as a baby when Banerji was asked by an adoptions official she knew through her work in the Arctic to adopt him and raise him in Toronto.Keen to keep Nathan connected to his culture and relatives in Clyde River, Banerji (who is of South Asian descent) brought him back several times to visit his parents, siblings, and grandparents. He was very proud of his culture, but Banerji says he grew disillusioned as he became aware of fractures in his birth family and social and economic problems in the community. As he approached his teen years, she says Nathan was shattered by news of his 14-year-old brother's death by suicide.She says these experiences all likely played a role in Nathan’s mental health and should have been given more weight."It's not overt discrimination, it's a lack of information. It's the omission where they just didn't understand inter-generational trauma that contributed to his death," says Banerji.Malcolm Ranta, executive director of the Ilisaqsivik Society, says an Inuit-focused approach makes an incredible difference in the health outcomes of the Baffin communities he serves.The Clyde River non-profit created a counsellor training program about 13 years ago to offer support in Inuktitut from locals who could better understand local issues. He says the program was accredited three years ago and he now hears regularly from residents thankful they can get help in Inuktitut from someone who better understands their pain."Three years ago if there was a suicide in a community the government would send in one white southern social worker or nurse to go be there to support that community for a period of time. Now, we can send in a team of four Inuit counsellors," says Ranta, participating as a delegate at this year's conference."We want Inuit to be part of the systems that impact their lives. Because we know there's going to be better health outcomes."Demand is "huge" he says, pointing to 26 crisis response calls in 2019. In February, he says Ilisaqsivik is launching a 28-day addiction treatment camp that will allow residents to avoid having to go south, such as to Toronto or Calgary, for care. Banerji says these are the solutions that can help address gaps in care across the country. Even as a physician and university professor, she says she still could not find adequate help for her son."The system failed even me with an Indigenous child," says Banerji."I can imagine how the system continues to fail Indigenous people that may not be in that position or may not be as well-resourced or may not be in a position of power as someone like me."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
Former President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who championed European integration and helped modernise French society in the 1970s, has died at the age of 94 after contracting COVID-19. Giscard's foundation said he passed away in his family home in the Loir-et-Cher region of central France. Giscard was elected president in 1974 at the age of 48 to become France's youngest postwar leader.
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
Families across the County of Grande Prairie can benefit from a diaper drive running now until Dec. 10, courtesy of county Regional Enforcement Services. During the campaign the county will collect disposable diapers and cash donations to assist residents in need during the Christmas season. The campaign marks the first diaper drive held by Regional Enforcement Services, but it will hopefully become an annual effort, said peace officer Lindsey Hennigar. “Being a mom of three, I know first-hand diapers are not cheap,” Hennigar said. “It touches every parent’s heart to think how worrisome it would for another parent to wonder, ‘Do I have enough diapers to change my child this day?’” Hennigar said she came up with the idea after considering how food banks have food drives and other organizations collect hygiene necessities and toys. She thought Regional Enforcement Services could fill a gap with a diaper drive, she said. “We’re a family-oriented department and we thought this would be a great way to help residents in need of diapers,” she said. “It’s our way of giving back to the community.” Disposable diapers, related products like wipes and diaper cream and cash donations can be made at numerous locations. These are the Beaverlodge, Wembley, Valhalla, Sexsmith, La Glace and Elmworth libraries, Clairmont’s Wellington Resource Centre, Hythe’s village office and Bezanson’s Knelsen Centre. Monetary donations can also be made online at www.countygp.ab.ca/diaperdrive. The diapers will then be distributed by the Sexsmith and Area Food Bank. While the Sexsmith Food Bank is distributing the donations, Hennigar said families in the west county can also benefit from the program. The drive began last Thursday and she said so far there’s been a lot of interest. During COVID people may not be able to easily access stores to purchase diapers to donate, but Hennigar said Regional Enforcement Services staff will buy some with the cash donations.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
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
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
As an extreme year for hurricanes, wildfires and heat waves comes to an end, the head of the United Nations challenged world leaders to make 2021 the year that humanity ends its “war on nature” and commits to a future free of planet-warming carbon pollution. With new reports highlighting 2020’s record-breaking weather and growing fossil fuels extraction that triggers global warming, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivered yet another urgent appeal to curb climate change. It was tinged with optimism but delivered dire warnings, as the UN gears up for a Dec. 12 virtual climate summit in France on the 5th anniversary of the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement. “The state of the planet is broken,” Guterres said in a speech at Columbia University. “Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal.” “Apocalyptic fires and floods, cyclones and hurricanes are increasingly the new normal,” he said. In a report, the World Meteorological Organization said this year is set to end about 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the last half of the 1800s, which scientists use as a baseline for warming caused by heat-trapping gases from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas. Most trapped heat goes into the world’s seas, and ocean temperatures now are at record levels. It also means 2020 will go down as one of the three hottest years on record. “There is at least a one-in-five chance of it temporarily exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2024,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said. The Paris climate accord set a goal of not exceeding 1.5-degree (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warming since pre-industrial times. A new analysis by Climate Action Tracker scientists who monitor carbon pollution and pledges to cut them said public commitments to emission cuts, if kept, would limit warming to about 2.6 degrees Celsius (4.7 degrees Fahrenheit) and possibly as low as 2.1 degrees Celsius. Guterres saw hope in promises by more than 100 countries that by mid-century they will not be adding more heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere than trees and technology can remove, along with shorter term pollution cuts. China and U.S. President-elect Joe Biden have pledged net zero carbon emissions. “I firmly believe that 2021 can be a new kind of leap year — the year of a quantum leap towards carbon neutrality,” Guterres said. But he said the two U.N. reports Wednesday “spell out how close we are to climate catastrophe.” When countries spend trillions of dollars to recover from the pandemic-triggered economic slowdown, Guterres said they must to do so in a way that emphasizes clean energy. Nations should stop funding and subsidizing fossil fuels, he said. And countries need to fulfil their Paris promise to spend $100 billion annually to help poorer countries develop cleaner energy. Guterres said there’s no way the world can curb the climate change “without U.S. leadership” and urged students and other Americans to do “everything you can” to get their governments to curb emissions more quickly. One of the new reports found countries would need to cut production of oil, coal and natural gas by 6% each year by 2030 to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Instead, a review of eight major fossil-fuel producing nations showed they plan to increase production by 2% annually. That means twice the amount of carbon-based fuel would come onto the market than feasible to keep the Paris goal within reach. Governments in the Group of 20 major and emerging economies have so far committed more money to prop up fossil fuel sectors than to boost the rollout of renewable energy, the report found. Co-author Ivetta Gerasimchuk of the International Institute for Sustainable Development said investing in oil, coal and gas no longer makes economic sense because renewable energy is becoming cheaper than fossil fuels. But, she said, “We see that instead of governments letting these fossil fuel projects die they resurrect them from the dead.” The WMO’s report found global warming is worsening in all seven key climate indicators, but the problem is increasing human suffering in an already bad year. “In 2020, over 50 million people have been doubly hit: by climate-related disasters (floods, droughts and storms) and the COVID-19 pandemic,’’ the report said. ”Countries in Central America are suffering from the triple-impact of hurricanes Eta and Iota, COVID-19 and pre-existing humanitarian crises.” Among the dozens of extremes the report highlighted: -- A record 30 Atlantic named tropical storms and hurricanes. --Death Valley, California, hit 129.9 degrees (54.4 degrees Celsius), the hottest the world has seen in 80 years. --Record wildfires struck California and Colorado in the western United States, following a major fire season and record heat in Australia. --The Arctic had record wildfires and a prolonged heat wave culminating in a 100-degree mark (38 degrees Celsius) in Siberia in June. --Record low Arctic sea ice was reported for April and August and the yearly minimum, in September, was the second lowest on record. --More than 2,000 people died in record summer rains and flooding in Pakistan and surrounding nations. While these events can’t solely be blamed on climate change, “these are the types of events scientists fear will increase due to climate change,” said Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald, who wasn’t part of the report. “Human activities are at the root of our descent towards chaos,” Guterres said. “But that means human action can solve it.” ___ Follow AP’s climate coverage at https://www.apnews.com/Climate ___ Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears . Follow Frank Jordans on Twitter at @wirereporter . ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Seth Borenstein And Frank Jordans, The Associated Press
As Alberta rolls out COVID-19 vaccines in three phases next year, most members of the public will likely have to wait until summer for their shots, Premier Jason Kenney says.Paul Wynnyk, a deputy minister in the municipal affairs department, has been appointed to lead Alberta's vaccine task force, which will be a multi-disciplinary team drawn from across the public service, Kenney said at a news conference Wednesday.Phase 1 of the vaccine roll out will happen in the first three months of 2021, he said, when it's anticipated that vaccines will been given to about 435,000 people, a little more than 10 per cent of the population.Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses to be fully effective, with three to six weeks between doses, which means vaccinating 435,000 people would require 870,000 doses."Not all of this will arrive at once," Kenney said. "We've been assured by the federal government that shipments will begin to arrive by Jan. 4 and continue to arrive in waves throughout the early part of next year."Phase 1 will focus entirely on the province most at-risk populations, he said, which includes residents of long-term care homes and designated supported-living facilities, staff who work in those facilities, on-reserve First Nations people, and other health-care workers.Each dose 'represents an Albertan'Wynnyk served as an officer in the Canadian Forces for more than 38 years, rising to command of the Canadian Army, before joining Alberta's public service."I look forward to the challenge ahead, and I want to be very clear that I do not look at these vaccines simply as objects to deliver or a work task to complete," he said at the news conference."Each and every dose of vaccine represents an Albertan who needs to be protected, and is vital to protecting not just their health but their livelihoods as well. My commitment to Albertans is that we will do everything within our control to ensure no Albertan has to wait any longer than absolutely necessary."WATCH | Kenney and Hinshaw discuss vaccinesPhase 2 of the roll out will run from April to June, with the goal by the end of the period to have 30 per cent of the population immunized, Kenney said."By the summer, we plan to begin Phase 3, where vaccine will be offered to all Albertans. And that means it will be months before vaccine is available to the general population. This is the unfortunate reality that Canadians across the country face, and people around the world."The risk of hospitalizations and COVID-19 deaths will decline significantly once the most vulnerable people are vaccinated, he said."I know people are getting tired and frustrated, but this is evidence that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we can see this critical juncture, when we will get past the terrible damage that COVID-19 has caused for our society."So my message to Albertans today is this: We are ready for the vaccine, and we have a plan to get it out to you as quickly and safely as possible."Latest case numbersThe province reported 1,685 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 10 more deaths.The total number of active cases in the province reached 17,144, an increase of 516 from the day before.A total of 561 people have now died from the disease since the start of the pandemic.On Wednesday, Alberta hospitals were treating 504 patients with the illness, including 97 in ICU beds.The province has now surpassed 61,000 total cases, meaning about one in every 73 Albertans has so far contracted the disease."Around the world, there has been great progress on the development of COVID-19 vaccines," Premier Jason Kenney said at a news conference on Wednesday. "We know that effective vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna will be ready for distribution here in Canada within weeks."While the province cannot control when those vaccines arrive in Alberta, it will be ready to roll them out as quickly as possible, Kenney said.Vaccine will not be mandatoryQuick and effective distribution of the vaccine will be essential to the province's economic recovery, Kenney said, and will be a matter of life and death for many Albertans and their families."Before I continue, I want to be clear, Alberta's government will not make any mandatory vaccination," the premier said. "Some think that this is controversial but we don't live in a country where government can inject you with something against your will.The government will soon amend the Public Health Act to remove the power of mandatory inoculation that has been on the books since 1910, Kenney said."But we need as many Albertans as possible to get vaccinated. And let me be clear about that I will certainly choose to receive this vaccine when it's my turn, and I strongly urge others to do so."Alberta prepared for vaccine distributionAlberta is well-prepared to receive, distribute and administer vaccines as soon as they arrive, Kenney said.Alberta Health Services has 13 vaccine depots throughout the province, all of which can receive and distribute the Moderna vaccine, which needs to be stored and transported at -20 C.Another 17 facilities in the province are also able to handle vaccine storage, meaning there are a total of 30 depots across Alberta."The Pfizer vaccine, on the other hand, requires ultra-cold transportation and freezing, at 80 degrees below zero Celsius," Kenney said."Currently, three of our 13 vaccine depots can receive and store the Pfizer vaccine, and AHS is working to expand that capacity as we speak, ordering additional freezers and related equipment."Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, attended the news conference with Kenney and Wynnyk."We must continue to work together over the coming months to keep our numbers down, until enough Albertans have received their full series of vaccine to keep COVID under control," Hinshaw said."The actions each of us take right now are vital in slowing spread and bending the curve, as we are each others' vaccine until the vaccine arrives."The regional breakdown of active cases on Wednesday was: * Edmonton zone: 7,857 * Calgary zone: 6,331 * Central zone: 1,226 * North zone: 967 * South zone: 663 * Unknown: 100 Albertans need to prepare themselves for smaller Christmas celebrations, top doctor says
April McCormack was always passionate about health, urging people to get vaccines and never missing a chance to belly dance, disco or waltz at the care centre where she spent her final year.When the vegan senior was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, she fought it hard. So, her family held out hope she'd beat COVID-19.But the 74-year-old died on Nov. 26, just eight days after first feeling fatigued, two weeks into an outbreak at the Belvedere Care Centre where she lived."We had some glimmer of hope because my mother was a fighter," said McCormack's eldest daughter, September Stokes.She's sharing her mother's story so people realize that COVID-19 is real and refusing to wear a mask or take precautions can have a devastating effect on others."She loved to zoom around with her walker to Bruno Mar's 'Uptown Funk.' It was her favourite," said Stokes.When she first heard that her mother had tested positive for COVID-19 she said she was "terrified."She says her mother never left the centre where she lived in Coquitlam for the past year-and-a-half."COVID was in there. She knew it. It spread through there really fast," said Stokes.McCormack was diabetic and had an autoimmune disease but you'd never know it, her family said. She ate a plant-based diet for 15 years and loved exercise.After testing postive for COVID Nov. 20, Stokes said her mother went from "happy and smiling" to unable to breathe in days."It hit really fast," said Stokes."[COVID-19] is real and it's not something you can just say I'm young I'll get over it. You don't know what impact you are going to have."Stokes said her step father Rob McCormack had cared for her mother at their 20-year home in Port Moody after the diagnosis of Parkinson's 11 years ago.But the Parkinson's symptoms became unmanageable, so she moved to a care home."When COVID first started we were like, we need to get her out of there. Care homes are being hit the worst."More than half of the COVID-19 deaths in B.C. have been linked to long-term care homes. As of Sept. 10, 2020, there have been 156 deaths related to B.C. care facilities, according to public health data collected by the Canadian Medical Association Journal.Stokes praises the centre where her mother lived for its efforts to prevent the virus spreading. She said her family trusted that her mother was safe and could not provide the intense 24-hour care she needed, as her Parkinson's progressed.Her family says she seemed to thrive there, sending them videos of herself dancing or in her favourite hat.Family only saw McCormack through a window or via video chat. Caregivers wore full protective gear. But she became ill, first feeling fatigue on Nov. 18. By Nov. 22, family were trying to help get her to eat, and she was admitted to hospital on the 23rd. Three days later, she was gone."After everything she fought through — it's shocking how fast it happened," said Stokes.She said her mother had four children and three grandchildren who dubbed her "Gaga.""She was fiercely independent, tough as nails, sweet as honey, and she loved our family more than anything," reads her obituary, where her husband described their 34 years of marriage as an "adventure."
CALGARY — Police in Calgary have ticketed three organizers of an anti-mask rally held over the weekend. The province has banned outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people in order to slow the spread of the COVID-19. Media have reported that hundreds attended the rally in the city's downtown. Artur Pawlowski has been charged under the Public Health Act with contravening a public health order, failing to wear a face covering where required and failing to have a permit for an event. David Pawlowski and Ryan Audette are also charged with contravening a public health order and failing to wear a face covering. A Calgary police spokeswoman says the public health order charges each come with a $1,200 fine and there is a $50 fine under Calgary's mask bylaw. The charge for failing to have a permit does not have a set fine but is to go to court on March 16.Investigators are seeking three additional people who face charges. The Calgary Police Service says in a statement that it's not always safe for officers to issue a ticket at the time of an alleged offence, like during a protest where "emotions are high.""In many instances, tickets are issued in the hours or days after an infraction based on evidence obtained at the time of the event," police said. "We know everyone is struggling right now and our intent is not to punish, but to protect the safety of Calgarians as we work together through this pandemic."This report by The Canadian Press was first published December 2, 2020. The Canadian PressNote to readers: This is a corrected story; a previous version had incorrect charges and fines.
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
As the death toll from illicit drug overdoses continues to mount unabated in B.C., advocates want more specialized services and harm reduction measures to help protect young people. Another 162 fatalities occurred in October due to toxic drug supply, for a total of 1,386 deaths in 2020, according to the BC Coroners Service's most recent figures. Of those killed this year by the overdose crisis, 19 per cent, or 269 deaths, were young people aged 29 years old or younger, with 14 of the dead under the age of 19, the coroners service figures show. Kali Sedgemore, a youth outreach worker and peer harm reduction advocate in Vancouver, said the ongoing public health emergency is in its fifth year, and COVID-19 is only exacerbating the harms. “We don’t even have time to grieve because we know we will hear about another (death) the next day,” Sedgemore said. The dangers of the toxic illicit drug supply are being compounded as people following pandemic protocols use illicit drugs alone and as harm reduction services have been reduced, or wait times have increased at overdose prevention sites (OPS) during the pandemic, Sedgemore added. Youth do not make up the largest number of fatalities, but all overdose deaths are largely unnecessary and preventable, Sedgemore said. In 2020, 70 per cent of those who have died from the toxic drug supply fall between the ages of 30 and 59, and males account for 80 per cent of the deaths to date. Most overdose fatalities involved people dying alone indoors. One immediate way to reduce the harms from toxic illicit drugs to youth is to provide harm reduction and OPS services dedicated strictly to their demographic, Sedgemore said. “Youth are vulnerable to manipulation by adults,” Sedgemore said, adding young people are at risk of being exploited sexually or for money or other reasons. Specialized harm reduction services are already hard to come by in urban areas such as Vancouver but are even more scarce in smaller communities and rural areas, Sedgemore said, noting they originally came from a small community from the northern part of Vancouver Island. Plus, young people — especially those under the age of 18 — are often deterred from using harm reduction services or supplies by providers due to their age, or can come under increased scrutiny from staff at these locations, they said. Both of these situations make youth uncomfortable, Sedgemore said. It’s also critical that medical professionals, social workers or other service providers don’t push youth into treatment before they are ready, Sedgemore stressed. Doing so only puts youth at increased risk, forcing them to be more secretive about any illicit drug use and increasing the unwillingness to use harm reduction services or call emergency services in case of an overdose. Research shows abstinence education, or the "just say no to drugs" approach, is not as effective as talking openly about illicit drugs, the associated risks and, if youth should choose to use them, how to do it safely, Sedgemore said. However, there is also the need for more youth treatment beds and shorter wait-lists for youth seeking help, Sedgemore said, especially closer to their own communities. “I don’t think it’s great sending a youth away from their own hometown and the people youth are used to seeing every day.” The B.C. government plans to double the number of treatment beds for youth aged 12 to 24 who are struggling with substance use. A total of 60 young people under the age of 24 lost their lives to fentanyl poisoning from toxic street drugs from January to June 2020, according to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. The province committed $36 million to create another 123 treatment beds for young people, in addition to 20 beds recently established at a new youth facility in the Fraser Valley. Prior to the recent announcements, B.C. had 103 treatment beds for youth. The new beds are part of a broader continuum of care the B.C. government is planning for young people that will include culturally safe, youth-specific services in both rural and smaller city centres, the ministry stated. Building on its network of youth-specific mental health and substance use services, the province will develop eight new Foundry centres, for a total of 19 youth hubs. Foundry centres provide primary care, youth and family peer supports, walk-in counselling, mental health and substance use services and social services all under one roof. Steve Ayers, program manager for the Foundry located in Campbell River on Vancouver Island, agreed that youth benefit from specialized services and being in charge of any decisions about their drug or alcohol use. “If a counsellor is going to really be impactful, they have to let the client drive the process of making changes around substance use,” Ayers said. “The objective of substance use counselling is to help youth have a better life, and what are some concrete ways that might happen, depending on their choices of course,” he said. Many youth use substances to deal with trauma or anxiety, so alternate tools or strategies need to be developed to help young people deal with that suffering, he added. It’s dangerous to assume youth overdoses due to illicit drugs are only a big-city problem, Ayers said. “It’s absolutely a misconception,” he said, adding the issues that fuel youth substance use exist in every community across Canada. However, youth generally don’t tend to be as entrenched with illicit hard drugs as some other age demographics, especially in rural areas where supply might be limited, Ayers said. “If there’s no supply (of illicit drugs) kids will find other things to do to cope with what they are struggling with,” he said. However, kids and families in rural or remote communities such as the Discovery Islands or small communities across North Vancouver Island can face additional challenges or gaps in accessing supports, Ayers said. Many Foundry services are now available online to try to mitigate the challenges for youth living in more isolated communities who need support, especially with travel limitations due to the pandemic, he said. The youth hub also works with schools to meet with students during class time for those who have to bus in and out of Campbell River. Young people and their families just need to reach out and the Foundry will try to find a fix for any stumbling blocks to service, Ayers said. “We always seem to be able to find them and reach them with help,” he said. “Unless they're just not reaching out at all. And honestly, those are the people that we’re scared for most.” Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverRochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
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.
CANSO --There’s some good news coming out of the latest meeting of the Canso & Area Stakeholders Group held on Nov. 30, 2020; in this second wave of COVID-19, there have been no positive tests in the Eastern Zone. This news comes from notes provided to The Journal by group co-chair Susan O’Handley from the meeting Monday night. She also wrote that physician coverage will be supplied steadily up to the end of December at Eastern Memorial Hospital in Canso and the hospital is now fully staffed with nurses. In the continued effort to recruit permanent physicians to the area, a webpage is under development and housing has been located in Philips Harbour, if needed. The process for booking lab appointments has changed from calling the Eastern Memorial Hospital to calling a central intake number (1-855-867-8821) or booking online at booking.nshealth.ca. This system was adopted, wrote O’Handley, to reduce the amount of time lab staff were spending on the phone making appointments instead of being in the lab. The next meeting of the group will take place in mid-January. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
OTTAWA — The scars from the 2014 attack on Parliament Hill are part of the "heritage fabric" of the iconic Centre Block and will not be fixed during extensive renovations on the building, according to a senior government official who provided a behind-the-scenes tour of the project.That includes a series of bullet holes in the Hall of Honour from a gunfight involving Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a sympathizer of the Islamic State militant group, on Oct. 22, 2014.Zehaf-Bibeau, who stormed Parliament Hill minutes after fatally shooting Cpl. Nathan Cirillo in front of the National War Memorial, was killed in the shootout involving security and the RCMP in the stonewalled hallway connecting the building's front door and the Library of Parliament.While parliamentarians were divided in the aftermath over whether to keep the bullet holes, Rob Wright, assistant deputy minister for Public Services and Procurement Canada and the official responsible for managing the renovations, says a decision was ultimately made to retain them."It's been decided that's part of the heritage fabric of this building now. So we plan on no changes to that," Wright said. "And those decisions would really be taken by Parliament."The bullet holes aren't the only elements of Centre Block that workers are planning to keep intact as they work to retain the heritage and style of the building housing the House of Commons and Senate, while also updating it for the 21st century.The upgrades will include adding modern heating, electrical and IT systems into the 100-year-old building. There will also be measures to make it carbon neutral, including plans to cover its three courtyards. Wright said Centre Block is the worst building for emissions in the parliamentary precinct. There is no plan to change the physical size of the House of Commons, even though the chamber that sat 338 MPs before closings its doors for the time being will eventually need to accommodate 450 as Canada's population growth adds to the ranks.Many other final design elements have yet to be nailed down. Until then, Wright is unable to say when the renovations will be finished — or how much they will cost.Previous reports have suggested the renovations would take at least 10 years. Wright said the government has never committed to that time frame. "We're getting more and more comfortable and confident that all of the decisions are coming together," he said. "And I think we should be in a good position in the first quarter of 2021 to really establish a baseline budget and schedule."While the government is consulting with parliamentarians throughout the renovations as well as a panel of experts, Wright said public consultations on what the building should look like will be launched early next year.The current Centre Block building is actually the second to be built on the spot, after the 1916 fire burned down the original, save the Library of Parliament. The House of Commons has been temporarily moved to the recently refitted West Block, while the Senate is located in what used to be Ottawa's central train station. On a behind-the-scenes visit to Centre Block Wednesday, excavators and a dump truck were seen working in a great 10-metre-deep pit that has been blasted in the ground in front of the Peace Tower. Workers in hard hats and safety all wore masks due to COVID-19 restrictions.Inside the building, the granite walls have been covered by plywood or stripped off the reveal old red and black bricks held together by cracked mortar. Exposed pipes and wires run along the ceiling while the floor contains work tables and tools along with crates, some of which bear warnings about asbestos.Workers have removed about 2,500 tonnes of asbestos from the building since demolition work started, Wright said. They have also carefully removed, recorded and packed numerous pieces of marble and granite from the walls.In the House of Commons, the hand-painted linen ceiling has been taken down and put in storage, while the Senate's collection of First World War paintings are at the Canadian War Museum. The two chambers are filled with scaffolding leading up to their respective ceilings.The final budget for the project has not been set, but Wright says about $120 million has been spent so far in stripping the building down. Wright says workers have found old newspaper articles as well as packs for gum and cigarettes in the walls.There were more interesting discoveries outside. The eastern wing of Centre Block is built on an old military outpost known as Barrack Hill, and Wright says workers found military buttons and insignia. They also found the original walls of several outpost buildings and an old arrowhead."Those are all being carefully stored and identified and catalogued," he said, adding they are working with the Algonquin Nation on transferring the arrowhead to them. Much of the work to date has taken place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wright said it hasn't really had an impact even though site hosts about 400 workers each day, with companies from Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia involved."I've been very impressed with how the construction industry has been able to adapt to this new challenge," he said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
In an unusual year, it's more important than ever to celebrate the people who go above and beyond to help others. That was the message at the small ceremony that officially bestowed Fort Frances' citizen of the year Gabby Hanzuk with her recognition and plaque. The ceremony was held outside at the Rainy Lake Square in downtown Fort Frances due to restrictions on gathering indoors, allowing Hanzuk and some of her friends and supporters the ability and space to safely gather to celebrate the honour. Mayor June Caul was on hand to say a few words and to present Hanzuk with her plaque. Like she did when Hanzuk was announced as the recipient for this year's award, Caul began proceedings by reading from the nomination letter written by Dale Gill that was submitted to the Citizen of the Year committee for consideration. In the letter, Gill pointed to Hanzuk's decades of support of local initiatives like the Special Olympics, Meals on Wheels and Voyageur's Lions Club, among others, as deserving of recognition by the town. “Gabby is also on the board at volunteer bureau, and has volunteered in past to do the taxes for the low income,” Gill's letter read. “She also is a valuable volunteer at the Family Centre. Though Gabby's position for Meals on Wheels is a paid position, I feel that what she does there goes way above and beyond pay. She makes sure that our seniors who can't cook for themselves get a healthy meal every night, even if she has to deliver them by herself, not to mention every one of them get a Christmas goodie bag from her every Christmas. Along the Christmas line, Gabby has volunteered for the Community Christmas dinner for many years.” Speaking to the small gathering at the ceremony, Caul agreed with Gill's letter and acknowledged the work that Hanzuk does for the vulnerable populations in town. “If we didn't have volunteers like you to look after the less fortunate especially, there would be a lot less of a place for them to live here,” she said. “Not very many people have a heart as big as yours, that's for sure. So on behalf of the Town of Fort Frances, it's my pleasure to present this plaque to Gabby Hanzuk, Citizen of the Year 2020 in recognition of tremendous volunteer services to our community.” For all that she does in the community, Gabby stressed that she's still only one person and receives plenty of help from other volunteers and organizations in the region. “June mentioned it, she's been around with me a lot and so has my girlfriend Roz,” Hanzuk said. “Everybody, all the groups and all the places I've gone to and helped out, there's a lot of people that do it. I just happen to be the mouthy one, the one aggressive enough to just say, 'this is what's going to happen, we're going to do this.' You've got to love what you do because it's hard work. Sometimes it's hard work and dedication is key and there's a lot of that in this community. There are so many people that are amazing.” In addition to the people Hanzuk volunteers with, she also acknowledged the many individuals she's met while volunteering. She noted that they also make the work worth doing, though it can occasionally be difficult for reasons one might not expect. “You cannot put a price on all the wonderful people you get to meet and love and care about,” Hanzuk said, speaking particularly about her work with the Special Olympics. “There's also sad times too, when we lose one or two. I know a lot of our athletes are gone now that started in the beginning with us. I've danced at their weddings, some of them, and unfortunately have gone to funerals, but in the end you're a better person for knowing them all.” Caul shared some of her own experiences working with Hanzuk in different capacities, and said the dedication she displays in all the different ways she volunteers makes her more than deserving of the annual award. “For having done what she's done for over 30 years, the stamina it takes and doing stuff when she's not feeling well, she's still out there working as hard as she can,” Caul said. “I've been involved with the Christmas dinner for I believe 25 years now. She was there when I started working there, so she's been involved with that for a very long time. The volunteer bureau mentioned in the nomination, she's been a godsend to that board as well, because she's so giving, her heart is just so big and wonderful and she certainly deserves every accolade she ever gets.” Of the award itself, Hanzuk said she felt overwhelmed when she was told about the decision, as well as honoured by being recognized. “Disbelieving a little bit, but happy nonetheless,” Hanzuk said about being told she had been named Citizen of the Year. “The funny thing is when they called me I didn't say anything because I couldn't believe it. That's probably one of the first times that I was speechless. Anybody who knows me, they know. 'Oh my god, she didn't say something?'” A separate ceremony is being planned for Ray Calder, the other individual who was given special recognition at last week's council meeting for the volunteer work he did during the early COVID-19 pandemicKen Kellar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times
OTTAWA, Kan. — The federal government is expected to introduce a bill Thursday aimed at ensuring the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.The bill is expected to echo a private member's bill passed by the House of Commons two years ago, during the last Parliament.That bill, introduced by former NDP MP Romeo Saganash, stalled in the Senate, where Conservative senators argued it could have unintended legal and economic consequences.It died when Parliament was dissolved for last fall's election.In the Liberal platform, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to reintroduce it as a government bill.Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says the bill is of "immense real and symbolic value" to Indigenous people in Canada.It will set out a number of principles "as to what inherent rights Indigenous Peoples have and the federal government's corresponding responsibility, which will be difficult … to implement changes into their laws," Miller told a news conference Wednesday."Those principles are a guiding light into what is expected of us as human beings," he said.Once passed, Miller predicted there will be "an immense amount of work" to be done to harmonize federal laws with those principles.In particular, it will necessitate a lot of work to "get out from under the Indian Act and move towards self-determination."The UN's General Assembly passed the declaration in 2007. Canada initially voted against it but eventually endorsed it in 2010.The declaration affirms the rights of Indigenous Peoples to self-determination and to their language, culture and traditional lands. It also sets "minimum standards for the survival and well-being" of Indigenous Peoples.It also spells out the need for free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous Peoples on anything that infringes on their lands or rights.That provision proved particularly controversial among Conservative senators during debate on Saganash's bill. They expressed concern that it would mean giving Indigenous people a veto over natural resource developments.At the time, Justice Department officials assured senators that Saganash's bill would do nothing to alter Canada's legal framework. They said it would simply reinforce a long-standing principle that international standards can be used to interpret domestic laws.Saganash's bill consisted of just six clauses, one of which asserted that it would not diminish or extinguish existing constitutional or treaty rights of Indigenous Peoples.Among other things, Conservative senators wanted to amend that to specify that nothing in the bill would have the effect of increasing or expanding such rights.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. The Canadian Press