RuPaul's Drag Race queens Baga Chipz, Blu Hydrangea, and Vinegar Strokes look back at leaving school and how long it took for life to get better for them.
RuPaul's Drag Race queens Baga Chipz, Blu Hydrangea, and Vinegar Strokes look back at leaving school and how long it took for life to get better for them.
WASHINGTON — The Latest on President Donald Trump's impeachment, President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration and the fallout from the Jan. 6 attack of the Capitol by pro-Trump loyalists (all times local): 9:05 a.m. Actor-playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda and rockers Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen are among the stars who will highlight a prime-time virtual celebration televised Wednesday night after Joe Biden is inaugurated as the 46th president. Biden’s inaugural committee announced the lineup Sunday for “Celebrating America,” a multinetwork broadcast that the committee bills as a mix of stars and everyday citizens. Miranda, who wrote and starred in Broadway’s “Hamilton,” will appear for a classical recitation. Musicians John Legend, Demi Lovato and Justin Timberlake, among others, will join Springsteen and Bon Jovi. Actresses Kerry Washington and Eva Longoria will act as hostesses, with former NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also scheduled to appear. The segments will include tributes to a UPS driver, a kindergarten teacher and Sandra Lindsey, the first American to receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside a clinical trial. The broadcast is in lieu of traditional inaugural balls. Biden plans still to be sworn in on the Capitol's West Front, but with a scaled-down ceremony because of the coronavirus and tight security after the Jan. 6 violent insurrection on the Capitol as Congress convened to certify his victory. ___ HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT IMPEACHMENT, THE INAUGURATION AND THE FALLOUT FROM THE JAN. 6 RIOTING AT THE CAPITOL: Across the country, some statehouses are closed, fences are up and extra police are in place as authorities brace for potentially violent demonstrations over the coming days. The safeguards will remain in place leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday. Biden plans to roll back some of President Donald Trump’s most controversial policies and take steps to address the coronavirus pandemic hours after taking office. Read more: — Deceptions in the time of the ‘alternative facts’ president — Biden outlines ‘Day One’ agenda of executive actions — Gen. Milley key to military continuity as Biden takes office — Guard troops pour into Washington as states answer the call — Harris to be sworn in by Justice Sotomayor at inauguration — Biden to prioritize legal status for millions of immigrants — Will Trump’s mishandling of records leave a hole in history? — Biden says his advisers will lead with ‘science and truth’ — More backlash for GOP’s Hawley as Loews Hotel cancels event ___ HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON: 8 a.m. Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris will resign her Senate seat on Monday, two days before she and President-elect Joe Biden are inaugurated. Aides to the California Democrat confirm the timing and say Gov. Gavin Newsom is aware of her decision. That clears the way for Newsom to appoint fellow Democrat Alex Padilla, now California’s secretary of state, to serve the final two years of Harris’ term. Padilla will be the first Latino senator from California, where about 40% of residents are Hispanic. Harris will give no farewell Senate floor speech. The Senate isn’t scheduled to reconvene until Tuesday, the eve of Inauguration Day. ___ 3 a.m. The threat of extremist groups descending on state capitals in a series of demonstrations Sunday prompted governors to roll out a massive show of force and implement tight security measures at statehouses across the country. Fencing, boarded-up windows and lines of police and National Guard troops have transformed statehouse grounds ahead of expected demonstrations leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday. The stepped-up security measures were intended to safeguard seats of government from the type of violence that occurred at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, when a mob supporting President Donald Trump overran the building while Congress was certifying the Electoral College vote. The FBI has warned of the potential for armed protests in the nation’s capital and all 50 state capitals. Some social media messages had targeted Sunday for demonstrations, though it remained unclear how many people might show up. The Associated Press
Canada's Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne spoke to Alimentation Couche-Tard founder Alain Bouchard and assured him of support for Canadian businesses, after the company dropped plans to buy European retailer Carrefour SA, the minister said in a tweet on Sunday. Quebec-based convenience store operator Couche-Tard abandoned talks to buy Carrefour for $20 billion after French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire raised concerns about food and job security. Champagne said in his tweet that the government will support Canadian businesses "here and abroad," adding the two-way trade benefits businesses both sides of the Atlantic.
Ahuntsic-Cartierville - Aux prises avec trois éclosions à l’hôpital Fleury, le Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux (CIUSSS) du Nord-de-l’Île-de-Montréal demande à la population d’éviter cet établissement « pour quelques jours ». Emboitant le pas à certains hôpitaux de l’Est de l’île, le CIUSSS restreint par ailleurs les visites. Les seuls motifs qui permettent à une personne non hospitalisée d’accéder à l’établissement sont pour accompagner une personne en fin de vie, à raison d’une personne à la fois, des visites pour motifs humanitaires ou l’accompagnement du père, de la mère ou du tuteur légal d’une personne mineure. Le CIUSSS du Nord invite les personnes qui ont des problèmes de santé mineurs « à choisir une alternative pour obtenir une consultation médicale » et à privilégier une visite dans une clinique médicale ou à consulter son médecin de famille. Plus tôt cette semaine, le CIUSSS avait confirmé au Journaldesvoisins.com qu’une éclosion était en cours à l’unité de chirurgie de l’hôpital Fleury, mais avait assuré qu’aucune éclosion ne touchait l’urgence de cet hôpital. Le JDV suivra de près la situation.Simon Van Vliet, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal des voisins
A long-awaited homeless shelter finally opened in Wetaskiwin last November, but the facility is still looking for a permanent location to call home. The Integrated Response Hub opened eight weeks ago to respond to a long-standing need in the city for an overnight shelter. The hub offers around-the-clock intake and a variety of support programs. Since opening, 195 different people have used the shelter. But its downtown location inside the Wetaskiwin Civic Building is still a problem for business owners in the area, city government and even for the agency operating the shelter. "Everyone's hands are tied, and we're all saying the same thing," said Jessica Hutton, executive director of the Open Door Association, which operates the shelter. "This is not a good location, we don't want to be here, we want to find somewhere to go as quickly as possible. "But for right now, it's the best we can do." After securing funding for the shelter last fall, Open Door found property on the city's south side it wanted to purchase for the hub. But just weeks before they were set to open, residents, businesses and a nearby church successfully challenged whether the spot was zoned to hold a homeless shelter. Open Door and the city government soon discovered there is no property in Wetaskiwin zoned to allow a homeless shelter. The city had to declare a state of local emergency to allow the shelter to open on schedule in the Civic Building. The Civic Building is suitable for now, Sutton said. But even moving just outside downtown would help, she added, to allow them more space for the number of clients they're taking in. '50 years to get to this point' Eight weeks in, mayor Tyler Gandam said he's happy with the hub's work. Wetaskiwin, about 70 kilometres south of Edmonton, has never before had a 24-hour shelter with integrated mental health and addictions supports, Gandam said. But the current city government wanted to make it a priority. "Having the ability to have something in place now where the supports are available is a huge first step," Gandam said. "While it's taken us 50 years to get to this point, we're a long way away from seeing the fruits of the labour that's being done." The Civic Building was used for emergency shelters the last two years. But after complaints of harassment and fighting closed the shelter early last year, Gandam said at the time he didn't want to use the building again as a shelter, preferring a location away from the city's downtown. Gandam said some residents and businesses in the area are now upset the Civic Building is being used as a shelter for the third winter in a row. Public response Dalbert Okeymow has been using the shelter for roughly three weeks now. He said he thinks the building is also a little old and small. He said he hopes a new location will have more showers and bathrooms, and more personal space for clients. But Okeymow also said the shelter has been awesome so far with staff that look after the clients and make sure they're safe, as the homeless population has often been overlooked in Wetaskiwin in the past. "This is exactly what the city needs, a place like this for people to come and figure out their situation," Okeymow said. The hub's clients have been happy to have this site for security and community, Hutton said, but there has been strong opposition from some Wetaskiwin residents and not always about the location. Some don't believe the hub should exist at all. Hutton said her staff receives calls to their help line using racist language about the hub's clients, and she hears from clients every day about run ins with the community. But Hutton said the hub has also received positive community support. One recent example came on Saturday, when positive signs of love and support for the hub's clients were made by community members and placed in front of the hub. "There was just this level of humanity," Hutton said. "That is such a change and such a shift from what they have had to experience." As long as the state of local emergency is in place, Hutton said they won't have to leave their temporary home. Open Door and the city are working together to plan to repurpose or build a new facility. Gandam said he's sure some would have opposed the hub no matter where it opened. He's already heard complaints about public intoxication and people feeling harassed or threatened near the site. While he understands some of the complaints, Gandam said he hopes the community will support the shelter's work. "It's going to take a long time before we start seeing the benefits of the services and the hub's supports," he said. "I just ask, while we go through some of the growing pains that we're going to experience, that the community works with both us and the Open Door, and helps to be a part of the solution." With files from Travis McEwan
The past week has been challenging for the Cowichan Tribes on Vancouver Island. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases within the community started off at 73 on Monday and continued to climb all week. Then, after a barrage of racist comments were posted online in reaction to the reported cases, the First Nation decided to stop publicly sharing its COVID-19 data. "It was a lot all at once," said Councillor Stephanie Atleo. "It left us tired and a bit overwhelmed." Cowichan leaders say new cases continue to emerge. But there was a glimmer of hope, in the form of 600 vaccine doses that were delivered to the community. Atleo was one of the people tasked with coordinating the response and said while getting vaccines was clearly positive, it led to its own challenges. "We were informed Monday and we had the clinic up Wednesday," said Atleo. Using the model the community developed for administering the flu shot last fall, the nation set up tents and checkpoints in parking lots. Atleo said they had originally planned to offer vaccinations over three days with the addition of a possible fourth day. But demand from community members forced them to change their plans yet again. "I was shocked that we ended up doing it in just two days. But I was so happy for all the people who got vaccinated," said Atleo. Being able to administer the vaccines so quickly was a result of hard work and dedication on the part of health-care staff and band workers, many of whom had to work overtime or in staggered shifts, Atleo said. It's not clear when the next round of vaccines will arrive, but Atleo is happy that a tough week had at least a little silver lining. "I feel pretty confident that everybody we wanted to vaccinate first came out," she said.
The debate about the U.S. Electoral College pits those who think the president should be chosen via popular vote versus those who believe the interests of small and large states must be balanced.
Rock producer Phil Spector, who changed the sound of pop music in the 1960s with his "Wall of Sound" recordings and was convicted of murder for the 2003 murder of a Hollywood actress, has died at age 81 of COVID-19, according to authorities and media reports. Spector produced 20 top 40 hits between 1961 and 1965 and went on to work with the Beatles on "Let It Be," as well as Leonard Cohen, the Righteous Brothers and Ike and Tina Turner. He was diagnosed with COVID-19 four weeks ago and transferred to a hospital from his prison cell, where he had been serving a 19 years-to-life sentence for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson, the Daily Mail newspaper said.
Dutch riot police used water cannon to disperse around two thousand people at an unauthorised protest in Amsterdam on Sunday against a national lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus. None wore masks, which are not mandatory outdoors, and few respected social distancing rules, prompting the authorities to disperse the crowd due to health concerns, the Amsterdam authorities said in a statement. The city had declined an application for the protest to be held on Museum Square.
An Abbotsford company has been given the go-ahead from the province to remove a peregrine falcon nesting site from a quarry it plans to reopen. The decision is a blow to a group of 17 local homeowners and conservationists who have been campaigning to preserve a rocky ledge at the site, which has been a productive nesting area for the dynamic bird of prey that has been on and off the federal government's endangered list as vulnerable to decline. Peregrine falcons in B.C. still remain on government lists that include animals or ecosystems of concern or that are threatened. The birds usually nest on rock ledges high on steep cliffs, mostly in undisturbed areas. Being near the top of the food chain, their well-being is an indicator of how B.C.'s biodiversity is doing. Data compiled by the federal government shows that, since 1995, there have been on average around eight occupied nesting sites in the Lower Mainland for the subspecies of peregrine falcon found at the quarry site. Howard Bailey, a scientist advocating for the resident group and an avid birder, has regularly visited the site for the past six years to observe the peregrines who nest and raise their young there. "It's literally ... a source of young for the region," he said 'Be absolutely careful' Bailey, along with local resident Chriss Kitt, who for the past 14 years has lived less than 200 metres from the quarry site on Quaddling Road, say that the provincial-approved mitigation strategies won't guarantee that the falcons will continue to nest and reproduce at the site. "You want to be absolutely careful with the remaining viable nesting sites, especially if you're looking at how to recover this population over the long term," Bailey said. For the past three years, Mountainside Quarries Group Inc., has been working toward reopening a quarry on Quadling Road that was shuttered in 2012 after its previous owner went bankrupt. Mountainside says it has obtained a mining permit from the province to reopen the quarry to mine for aggregate. For safety reasons, the company says it needs to remove the ledge where peregrine falcons have been nesting. To do so, the company needed to obtain a special permit from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) as the B.C. Wildlife Act protects peregrine falcon nests from being disturbed or destroyed. On Friday, the Ministry issued the permit to Mountainside. It said the decision was made based on available falcon population estimates, trends in productivity and consultation with local groups and the company. The province says the company has agreed to create new nest ledges on-site, new nest boxes and monitor them for the next five years. Mountainside will also arrange for satellite transmitters to be placed on the pair of falcons which have previously bred at the site to facilitate a study of them for the next four years. Mountainside to spend $75,000 on mitigation "Given the mining operation, FLNRORD believes that the mitigation to be completed is reasonable to address the relative risks to these falcons and the local species population," a ministry spokesperson said in an email. Mountainside said it will spend $75,000 on the mitigation. "It's a comprehensive mitigation plan," said John Moonen, a spokesperson for the company. "We've agreed to spend the money and do this plan. It makes up for the loss of that nesting ledge." Moonen says the company is still working on operational plans with the City of Abbotsford before beginning work. He did not say when work at the site would begin. Kitt said the residents group will try to appeal the decision to issue the company the permit to destroy the nesting ledge.
In one of his final interviews as Chief of the Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance tells Mercedes Stephenson on ‘The West Block’ the mission to root out sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces is a forever mission that will evolve over time. When asked if there are things he would have done differently in his career, Gen. Vance says, “I would have certainly paid more attention. I didn’t really see this. And the Deschamps report was a shock to me.”
First Nations, ranchers, municipal officials and environmentalists hope to persuade a judge this week to force Alberta to revisit its decision to open one of the province's most important and best-loved landscapes to open-pit coal mining. At least nine interveners will seek to join a southern Alberta rancher's request for a judicial review of the province's decision to rescind a coal-mining policy that had protected the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains — and the headwaters that flow from them — for almost 45 years. "You talk about the Alberta identity," said Ian Urquhart of the Alberta Wilderness Association, one of the parties looking for standing. "The eastern slopes, the Rocky Mountains and the foothills, are at the heart of what the Alberta identity is. This policy change threatens that." The eastern slopes are the source of three major rivers — the Red Deer, the Oldman and the South Saskatchewan. Everyone in southern Alberta and many in Saskatchewan depend on those rivers for drinking water, irrigation and industry. The water is heavily allocated. Endangered species, including cutthroat trout and grizzly bears, live there. The region's beauty is universally acknowledged. A 1976 policy brought in by Peter Lougheed's government laid out how and where coal development could go ahead, forbade open-pit mines over a large area and banned any mining at all in the most sensitive spots. It came after years of work and dozens of public consultations, said David Luff, a retired civil servant and consultant who worked on the policy. "Albertans overwhelmingly said the eastern slopes should be devoted to watershed protection, recreation and tourism. Lougheed had a very compelling vision based on input he received from extensive public consultation." Over the years, the policy informed the Alberta Land Stewardship Act and was written into legally binding land-use plans. Last spring, the policy was quietly revoked by Energy Minister Sonya Savage with no consultation. It was done on the Friday of the May long weekend, during the height of COVID-19's first wave, through an information letter on the department's website. "It's morally and ethically wrong," said Luff. But legally wrong? The province doesn't think so. The hearing in Calgary Court of Queen's Bench is to begin Tuesday with Alberta arguing that there was no duty to consult because the coal policy was just that — a policy. "The 1976 coal policy was not enacted using a legislative tool, so it can be rescinded unilaterally by Alberta Energy at any time," says a provincial briefing note entered in the court record. The province plans to ask the court to rule that the change is a political decision, not a legal matter, and the review request should be dismissed. Nigel Bankes, chair of natural resources law at the University of Calgary, notes land-use plans and the land stewardship act both promise consultation before major change. "This is effectively an amendment to the plan and therefore triggers the consultation obligations," he said. "There's certainly case law to suggest that high-level policy changes may trigger the duty to consult." As well, Bankes said, First Nations are owed a duty to consult. Three of them — the Bearspaw, Ermineskin and Whitefish — are asking to intervene. He suggests there's a good chance the court will turn down the provincial request for dismissal. Other hopeful interveners include the Municipal District of Ranchland, which is concerned about the impact that coal development could have on municipal services and infrastructure. Environmental groups seeking to intervene want to ensure water quality and ecological degradation are taken into account. One coal company — Cabin Ridge Coal — has asked for standing as well. It says it's already invested substantial money in exploration leases. "Restoration of the coal policy will create uncertainty in circumstances where the (Alberta Energy Regulator) presently has clear standards and processes for considering proposed exploration and development activities in Alberta," it says in a court filing. Alberta officials have said mining will create hundreds of jobs and generate millions of tax dollars at a time when the province really needs them. They say any proposed mines would still be reviewed by the provincial regulator. Prominent and popular Alberta country musicians Corb Lund and Paul Brandt have publicly opposed the mines. A petition to the federal government opposing one development already in the review stage had more than 25,000 signatures as of Friday morning. The government has sold leases on about 1.4 million hectares of land for coal exploration since the policy was revoked. At least one provincial recreation area is partly covered by a coal lease and four others are surrounded by them. The province has also reopened water allocation agreements. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2021. — Follow @row1960 on Twitter Bob Weber, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The lead prosecutor for President Donald Trump's historic second impeachment began building his case for conviction at trial, asserting on Sunday that Trump's incitement of the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol was “the most dangerous crime" ever committed by a president against the United States. A Senate trial could begin as soon as this week, just as Democrat Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., did not say when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will send the single article of impeachment against Trump — for “incitement of insurrection” — to the Senate, which will trigger the beginning of the trial. But Raskin said “it should be coming up soon” as Pelosi organizes the formal transfer. The House voted to impeach Trump last Wednesday, one week after the violent insurrection that interrupted the official count of electoral votes, ransacked the Capitol and left Congress deeply shaken. Before the mob overpowered police and entered the building, Trump told them to “fight like hell” against the certification of Biden's election win. “We're going to be able to tell the story of this attack on America and all of the events that led up to it,” Raskin said. “This president set out to dismantle and overturn the election results from the 2020 presidential election. He was perfectly clear about that.” Democrats and the incoming administration are facing the challenge of reckoning with the Capitol attack at the same time that Biden takes office and tries to move the country forward. They say the Congress can do both, balancing a trial with confirmations of the new president's Cabinet and consideration of his legislative priorities. Raskin said Congress cannot establish a precedent where “we just want to let bygones be bygones” just because Trump has left office. Yet it's clear that Democrats do not want the Senate trial to dominate Biden's opening days. Pelosi on Friday said that Democrats intend to move quickly on Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID aid and economic recovery package to speed up vaccinations and send Americans relief, calling it “matter of complete urgency.” Ron Klain, Biden's incoming White House chief of staff, said he hopes Senate leaders, on a bipartisan basis, “find a way to move forward on all of their responsibilities. This impeachment trial is one of them, but getting people into the government and getting action on coronavirus is another one of those responsibilities.” It is unclear how many Senate Republicans — if any — would vote to convict Trump. Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is telling his caucus that their decision on whether to convict the outgoing president will be a “vote of conscience.” His stance, first reported by Business Insider, means the GOP leadership team will not work to hold senators in line one way or the other. McConnell is open to considering impeachment, but said he is undecided on how he would vote. He continues to hold great sway in his party, even though convening the trial this week could be among his last acts as majority leader as Democrats prepare to take control of the Senate with the seating of two new Democratic senators from Georgia. For Republican senators, the trial will be perhaps a final test of their loyalty to the defeated president and his legions of supporters in their states back home. It will force a further reevaluation of their relationship with Trump, who lost not only the White House but majority control of the Senate, and a broader discussion about the future of the Republican Party as he leaves office. Some GOP senators are already standing by Trump, despite their criticism of his behaviour. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the president's most loyal allies, said impeachment was a "bad, rushed, emotional move” that puts the presidency at risk and will cause further division. He said he hopes every Senate Republican rejects impeachment. “Please do not justify and legitimize what the House did,” Graham said. A handful of Republican senators have suggested they will consider conviction. Two of them, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, have said he should resign. Murkowski said the House responded “appropriately” with impeachment and she will consider the trial arguments. No president has ever been convicted in the Senate, and it would take a two-thirds vote against Trump, a high hurdle. But conviction is not out of the realm of possibility, especially as corporations and wealthy political donors distance themselves from Trump's brand of politics and the Republicans who stood by his attempts to overturn the election. Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, was spotted at the White House Saturday and told ABC he was likely going to join Trump’s impeachment defence team. He suggested he would continue to spread baseless claims of election fraud on the Senate floor. Trump campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley moved to distance Trump from Giuliani’s comments, tweeting: “President Trump has not yet made a determination as to which lawyer or law firm will represent him for the disgraceful attack on our Constitution and democracy, known as the 'impeachment hoax.' We will keep you informed.” There was not widespread fraud in the election, as has been confirmed by a range of election officials and by William Barr, who stepped down as attorney general last month. Nearly all of the legal challenges put forth by Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges. Trump is the only president to be twice impeached, and the first to be prosecuted as he leaves the White House, an ever-more-extraordinary end to his tenure. A precedent set by the Senate in the 1800s established that a trial can proceed even after a federal official leaves office. Trump was first impeached by the House in 2019 over his dealings with Ukraine, but the Senate voted last year to acquit. Ten Republicans joined all Democrats in the 232-197 impeachment vote on Wednesday, the most bipartisan modern presidential impeachment. When his second trial does begin, House impeachment managers say they will be making the case that Trump’s incendiary rhetoric hours before the attack on the Capitol was not isolated, but directly intended to interrupt the electoral count as part of his escalating campaign to overturn the November election. A Capitol Police officer died from injuries suffered in the attack, and police shot and killed a woman. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies. Raskin and Klain were on CNN's “State of the Union,” and Graham appeared on Fox News Channel's “Sunday Morning Futures.” ___ Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report. Lisa Mascaro And Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
The discovery of a prohibited firearm on his property has led to a 26-month jail sentence for a McBride-area man. Steven Richard Stewart was issued the term at the Prince George courthouse. On June 8, 2018, a man and a woman walked into the McBride RCMP detachment to report that Stewart had threatened to beat the man up and burn down his house. They also told RCMP that Stewart had a shotgun, prompting North District RCMP's emergency response team to be called to the property. Stewart was arrested and a sawed-off shotgun with a pistol grip and a flashlight taped to it was found, as was a sling holding 20 rounds of ammunition in the back of an SUV parked on the property. RCMP also found a number of bladed weapons and several marijuana plants. Stewart pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited weapon and uttering threats. He maintained he kept the shotgun for protection and claimed $3,000 worth of pit bull puppies he had been raising had been stolen from him. Defence counsel had argued for a two-year conditional sentence order, in which the sentence is served at home with conditions such as a curfew, followed by three years probation, noting in part that he is employed, has lived up to his bail conditions since he was released from custody and has been working to deal with his substance abuse issues. However, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ron Tindale agreed with Crown prosecution's position that the offence warranted 30 months in jail. Less credit of four months for time served in custody, that left Stewart with 26 months left to serve. While sentences for the offence can range from 18 months for regulatory infractions to 10 years for serious criminal offences, Tindale found that Stewart's actions amounted to an offence at the "low end of the true crime spectrum." Tindale also dismissed defence counsel's argument that Stewart's behaviour since his release was enough to warrant the "exceptional circumstances" needed to reduce the sentence to two years and thus allow a conditional sentence order. A record of previous criminal offences and limited expressions of remorse, insight and responsibility for the crime worked against Stewart. "Mr. Stewart has worked hard but at this point, I cannot conclude that he has truly turned his life around," Tindale said. Stewart was also issued a 10-year firearms prohibition and ordered to provide a DNA sample. Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
Two doctors who study COVID-19 say that when it comes to reducing the spread of the virus, Canadian health officials should focus more on tactics to help high-risk populations instead of imposing blanket restrictions on everyone. Dr. Sharmistha Mishra, the Canada Research Chair in mathematical modelling and program science, will be sharing her findings at an upcoming talk on equity and epidemics at B.C.'s Centre for Gender and Sexual Health Equity. "We talk about equity in a social science sort of framework, but it's actually fundamental to epidemic theory," Dr. Mishra said. Mishra says all diseases spread more among some groups than others, so the job of epidemiologists like her is to find out which groups are the most affected and work from there. The data that Mishra has been working with shows that people at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19 include essential and low-wage workers, people living in multi-generational or crowded homes, and those experiencing homelessness. The virus can spill over to other demographics, Mishra adds, so reducing the numbers for those most at-risk will reduce transmission overall. Mishra's talk will be a continuation of the talk her colleague Dr. Stefan Baral gave as part of the same series in December. Both doctors are based in Toronto. Baral, an associate professor at the John Hopkins School of Public Health's Department of Epidemiology, says there are strategies that will specifically help at-risk populations. These include providing more testing sites in neighbourhoods where those who are the most at risk are likely to live, as well as keeping those sites open longer so they can accommodate shift workers. Baral also recommends offering more financial support for low-income workers so they will be more likely to take time off work if they have any COVID-19 symptoms or are awaiting test results. "We need to alleviate the pressures that people face when making the decision about whether they're going to stay home from work," Baral said. Another strategy he suggests is to provide self-isolation sites for those who live in crowded homes. Systemic inequities vs. individual choices Baral says it can be easy, and satisfying, to blame the spread of COVID-19 on people's individual choices rather than systemic inequities that put certain people at risk more than others. Some physicians in Canada have advocated for COVID Zero, or COVID Near Zero — to lock down and restrict movement as much as possible in order to reduce transmission to more manageable levels. But Baral and Mishra say they believe it would instead be more effective to address the needs of those at most risk of getting infected and passing it on to others. Any type of lockdown will involve some form of essential workers, they argue. "Restrictions have a tendency to increase disparities because they don't address people's underlying needs," Baral said. "We still have Amazon, we still have Uber. We still have all of these folks that are serving the needs of society." Community-based approach Mishra and Baral say an important element in developing these strategies is to work with at-risk communities to figure out what works best for them. Dr. Birinder Narang, a physician and member of the newly-formed South Asian COVID Task Force in Metro Vancouver, says a community-based and culturally-appropriate approach is what has helped to greatly reduce COVID-19 transmission in the Fraser Health region. "There's been a lot of work happening behind the scenes with the community and with health care leaders," Narang said. In November, the region was the epicentre of COVID-19 in British Columbia — in particular, the City of Surrey, which is home to many essential workers who live in multi-generational households. But in the past few weeks the level of transmission there has dropped sharply. Dr. Narang says the task force came together to address the increase in cases in their community. Members have created culturally relevant information in multiple languages and gathered information about what barriers people in the region are facing. "We knew that the majority of people were trying the hardest, but that there were systemic and societal factors that were making it more difficult," he said. "One of the challenges of the public health orders is as they change, we don't know how accessible they are to every community."
Prince George RCMP saw a small dip in crime in 2020, as measured by files opened, thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, Insp. Shawn Wright told city council. Files opened in 2020 added up to 46,668, down by 1,036 from 2019. With many businesses shut down and more people working from home, Wright said shoplifting dropped to "virtually nil" for a time while break and enters also declined noticeably. If the pandemic sparked an spike in domestic violence, Wright said it was not reflected in the count as the number of such files grew by only nine from 2019, to 487. Looking at the downtown, calls for service stood at 6,816, up by 118 from 2019. Wright said the "vast, vast majority" were non-criminal in nature. At nearly 1,200, calls related to mischief led the way and Wright said they typically related to someone sleeping in a doorway and causing a disturbance. Next highest were calls for causing a disturbance, which Wright said usually involves someone with a mental health issue. "I know there is a lot of apprehensions from a lot of the citizens that they don't feel safe downtown, that they think they're going to get robbed, that they're going to get assaulted but statistically speaking, we don't see those numbers being a large part of what we deal with down there," he said. Wright noted businesses in the vicinity of Canada Games Plaza, where public washrooms have been in place, reported a lot of nuisance activity during the summer. But he later also agreed with Coun. Murry Krause that the washrooms meet a need. "I don't dispute that at all," Wright said. Wright also suggested the storage facilities for street people in the downtown has enabled a "downtown camping lifestyle" but later added they also serve a need. "Sometimes there are unintended consequences and sometimes the intended consequences outweigh those, for sure," Wright said. He commended Carrier Sekani Family Services for opening the Sk'ai Zeh Yah Youth Centre at 1575 Second Ave. in late 2020. He said it has given people as old as 29 years a place to "hang out" and access services while also lessening the distress on area businesses. "I have been very pleasantly surprised," Wright said. Open use of illicit drugs downtown emerged as a theme when Wright fielded questions from city council members. He called the activity a "thorn in our side" but added pursuing prosecutions against individuals who insist on shooting up "not realistic" in today's legal climate. He said police have relied on patrols to move users along to areas where they can use while out of sight, such as a rooming house or, preferably, the safe injection site at the needle exchange. He said the 100 units of social housing planned for the corner of First Avenue and Ontario Street and the recently-announced conversion of the National Hotel at First and Dominion to social housing makes him optimistic. "Nothing is a magic bullet, nothing is going to change overnight, but I think they are very large steps in the right direction," Wright said. He said people who get their own place also get a sense of responsibility, accomplishment and dignity. "A lot of these people don't have a place to go, so it'll provide them that opportunity and I think the biggest key to those proposed developments is the fact that it's not just housing, it's supportive housing," Wright said. Looking ahead, Wright said RCMP are working to get a sobering centre established in Prince George. Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
Alberta security companies say they're busier than ever, largely due to COVID-19 protocols and a rise in crime. "When COVID hit, there's been an increase in crime, an increase in vandalism, property damage," said Moe Hadayat, operations manager at Optimum Security. "Property owners reached out to us and they said, 'Look, we have never seen this kind of increase ... so we need to have security monitor these properties to make sure that nothing is escalated.'" Hadayat said crime is largely rooted in unemployment and a lack of things to do, thanks to business and social restrictions that are in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Paladin Security has seen an increase in patrols going out as a result of so many Albertans working from home, said operations manager Damian Radcliffe. "That opens up more opportunities for criminal activity," Radcliffe said. Radcliffe emphasized that an empathetic approach is proving valuable in dealing with people who are under pressure as a result of the pandemic. "If we lead with that sort of compassion-first type mentality, I think that we can have most of those interactions go well and still do the job that we need to do," Radcliffe said. Paladin has also worked with clients who have seen their revenues drop — hotel operators, for example — to come up with cost-effective security plans. Backwoods Security Services traditionally serves the oil and gas industry but since the pandemic has expanded its work to include homeless shelters and health-care facilities. "In some of our northern facilities and camps that we're in, the guards are mainly there just to ensure that COVID protocols are being followed, people aren't congregating together — just those gentle reminders to keep their distancing and sanitize and wear their masks," said Kyle Applejohn, the director of security at Backwoods. Backwoods, which is owned by Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation and Enoch Cree Nation, also does mass temperature screenings in high-density workplaces using thermal imaging technology launched in May. The company provided security for the NHL playoff bubble and the 2021 world junior men's hockey championship.
Small groups of right-wing protesters — some of them carrying rifles — gathered outside heavily fortified statehouses around the country Sunday, outnumbered by National Guard troops and police brought in to prevent a repeat of the violence that erupted at the U.S. Capitol. As darkness fell, there were no reports of any clashes. Security was stepped up in recent days after the FBI warned of the potential for armed protests in Washington and at all 50 state capitol buildings ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday. Crowds of only a dozen or two demonstrated at some boarded-up, cordoned-off statehouses, while the streets in many other capital cities remained empty. Some protesters said they were there to back President Donald Trump. Others said they had instead come to voice their support for gun rights or decry government overreach. “I don’t trust the results of the election,” said Michigan protester Martin Szelag, a 67-year-old semi-retired window salesman from Dearborn Heights. He wore a sign around his neck that read, in part, “We will support Joe Biden as our President if you can convince us he won legally. Show us the proof! Then the healing can begin.” As the day wore on with no bloodshed around the U.S., a sense of relief spread among officials, though they were not ready to let their guard down. The heavy law enforcement presence may have kept turnout down. In the past few days, some extremists had warned others against falling into what they called a law enforcement trap. Washington State Patrol spokesman Chris Loftis said he hoped the apparently peaceful day reflected some soul-searching among Americans. “I would love to say that it’s because we’ve all taken a sober look in the mirror and have decided that we are a more unified people than certain moments in time would indicate,” he said. The security measures were intended to safeguard seats of government from the type of violence that broke out at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, when far-right Trump supporters galvanized by his false claims that the election had been stolen from him overran the police and bashed their way into the building while Congress was certifying the Electoral College vote. The attack left a Capitol police officer and four others dead. More than 125 people have been arrested over the insurrection. Dozens of courts, election officials and Trump’s own attorney general have all said there was no evidence of widespread fraud in the presidential race. On Sunday, some statehouses were surrounded by new security fences, their windows were boarded up, and extra officers were on patrol. Legislatures generally were not in session over the weekend. Tall fences also surrounded the U.S. Capitol. The National Mall was closed to the public, and the mayor of Washington asked people not to visit. Some 25,000 National Guard troops from around the country are expected to arrive in the city in the coming days. U.S. defence officials told The Associated Press those troops would be vetted by the FBI to ward off any threat of an insider attack on the inauguration. The roughly 20 protesters who showed up at Michigan’s Capitol, including some who were armed, were significantly outnumbered by law enforcement officers and members of the media. Tensions have been running high in the state since authorities foiled a plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last year. At the Ohio Statehouse, about two dozen people, including several carrying long guns, protested outside under the watchful eyes of state troopers before dispersing as it began to snow. Kathy Sherman, who was wearing a visor with “Trump” printed on it, said she supports the president but distanced herself from the mob that breached the U.S. Capitol. "I’m here to support the right to voice a political view or opinion without fear of censorship, harassment or the threat of losing my job or being physically assaulted,” she said. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, said he was pleased with the outcome but stressed that authorities "continue to have concerns for potential violence in the coming days, which is why I intend to maintain security levels at the Statehouse as we approach the presidential inauguration.” Utah's new governor, Republican Spencer Cox, shared photos on his Twitter account showing him with what appeared to be hundreds of National Guard troops and law enforcement officers standing behind him, all wearing masks. Cox called the quiet protests a best-case scenario and said many ”agitating groups" had cancelled their plans for the day. At Oregon's Capitol, fewer than a dozen men wearing military-style outfits, black ski masks and helmets stood nearby with semiautomatic weapons slung across their bodies. Some had upside-down American flags and signs reading such things as “Disarm the government.” At the Texas Capitol, Ben Hawk walked with about a dozen demonstrators up to the locked gates carrying a bullhorn and an AR-15 rifle hanging at the side of his camouflage pants. He condemned the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and said he did not support Trump. “All we came down here to do today was to discuss, gather, network and hang out. And it got blown and twisted completely out of proportion,” Hawk said. At Nevada's Capitol, where demonstrators supporting Trump have flocked most weekends in recent months, all was quiet except for a lone protester with a sign. “Trump Lost. Be Adults. Go Home,” it read. More than a third of governors had called out the National Guard to help protect their capitols and assist local law enforcement. Several governors declared states of emergency, and others closed their capitols to the public until after Biden's inauguration. Some legislatures also cancelled sessions or pared back their work for the coming week. Even before the violence at the Capitol, some statehouses had been the target of vandals and angry protesters during the past year. Last spring, armed protesters entered the Michigan Capitol to object to coronavirus lockdowns. People angry over the death of George Floyd under a Minneapolis police officer's knee vandalized capitols in several states, including Colorado, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin. Last last month, crowds in Oregon forced their way into the Capitol in Salem to protest its closure to the public during a special legislative session on coronavirus measures. Amid the potential for violence in the coming days, the building's first-floor windows were boarded up and the National Guard was brought in. "The state capitol has become a fortress,” said Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, a Democrat. “I never thought I’d see that. It breaks my heart.” ___ Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri in Columbus, Ohio; Gillian Flaccus in Salem, Oregon; Mike Householder and David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan; Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina; Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Washington; Sam Metz in Carson City, Nevada; Marc Scolforo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and Paul Weber in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report. David A. Lieb And Adam Geller, The Associated Press
MAMUJU, Indonesia — Indonesian rescuers on Sunday retrieved more bodies from the rubble of homes and buildings toppled by a strong earthquake, raising the death toll to 78, while military engineers managed to reopen ruptured roads to clear access for relief goods. More heavy equipment reached the hardest-hit city of Mamuju and the neighbouring district of Majene on Sulawesi island, where the magnitude 6.2 quake struck early Friday, said Raditya Jati, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency’s spokesperson. A total of 67 people died in Mamuju and 11 in Majene, said the director of preparedness for the National Search and Rescue Agency, Didi Hamzar. Power supplies and phone communications have begun to improve in the quake areas. Thousands of people were left homeless and more than 800 were injured, with more than half of them still receiving treatment for serious injuries, Jati said. The disaster agency’s data showed that nearly 27,850 survivors were moved to shelters. Most of them went to makeshift shelters that have been lashed by heavy monsoon downpours. Only a few were lucky to be protected by tarpaulin-covered tents. They said they were running low on food, blankets and other aid, as emergency supplies were rushed to the hard-hit region. “We are unable to return to our destroyed homes,” said a father of three who identified himself only as Robert. He said he fled from his bed while being treated at Mamuju’s Mitra Manakarra hospital, which was flattened by the quake. He and his family are among thousands of displaced people who took shelter in a hilly area. He said his bed was shaking when he awoke and realized that it was an earthquake. He then removed a drip from his hand and ran out. He had seen several nurses helping patients who were unable to move before the building collapsed. “I cried when I saw the hospital where I was being treated collapse with people still inside. I could have died if I got out late,” he said. Rescuers managed to retrieve four survivors and four bodies from the rubble of the flattened hospital, according to the Search and Rescue Agency. Jati said that at least 1,150 houses in Majene were damaged and that the agency was still collecting data on damaged houses and buildings in Mamuju. Mamuju, the provincial capital of nearly 300,000 people, was strewn with debris from collapsed buildings. The governor's office building was almost flattened by the quake and a shopping mall was reduced to a crumpled hulk. The disaster agency said the army corps of engineers cleared the road connecting Mamuju and Majene that had been blocked by landslides. They also rebuilt a damaged bridge. The disaster agency’s chief, Doni Monardo, said authorities were trying to separate high- and lower-risk groups and provided tens of thousands of masks for refugees to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the crowded camps. He said authorities would also set up health posts at the camps to test people for the virus. People being housed in temporary shelters were seen standing close together, many of them without masks. “In this emergency situation ... it is difficult for us to observe health protocols," said Fatimah Zahra, a Mamuju resident who moved to a makeshift shelter. West Sulawesi province has recorded more than 2,500 cases of the coronavirus, including 58 deaths. Indonesia has confirmed nearly 908,000 cases and almost 26,000 fatalities. Many on Sulawesi island are still haunted by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake that devastated Palu city in 2018 and set off a tsunami that caused soil to collapse in a phenomenon called liquefaction. More than 4,000 people were killed, including many who were buried when whole neighbourhoods were swallowed in the falling ground. Indonesia, home to more than 260 million people, is frequently hit by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. A massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra island in western Indonesia in December 2004 triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries. ___ This story has been corrected to show that the earthquake struck early Friday morning, not Friday night. ___ Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report. Muhammad Rifki And Yusuf Wahil, The Associated Press
CALGARY — Vacancies in Calgary's downtown office towers have risen to record levels and there's no landlord relief in sight with almost one in three offices sitting empty and sublets accounting for a quarter of available spaces on the market. The city's glut of empty office space has previously been linked to overbuilding but two commercial real estate reports released this past week show that downtown vacancy rates in Canada's oil and gas capital are the highest in the country and growing — despite no major new towers opening in the past two years. Vacancies are likely to go even higher, both reports note, driven by short-term factors including layoffs resulting from the takeover of Husky Energy Inc. by Cenovus Energy Inc. and longer-term job losses from cost-cutting and mergers in the oil and gas sector. In its report released Thursday, real estate firm CBRE says the equivalent of four CFL football fields in downtown office space was emptied in the last quarter of 2020. The net reduction of 355,000 square feet (32,000 square metres) took the vacancy rate to a record high of 29.5 per cent compared with 27.2 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2019. "The negative absorption is due to the oilpatch, not COVID-19," said Greg Kwong, Calgary-based regional managing director for CBRE. "People may not be going back to work because of the lockdowns but these companies still have leases in place and have to pay the rent. It's not considered vacated space." CBRE found that 23.7 per cent of the available downtown office space in Calgary is being sublet by the lease holder. In a separate report using different calculation methods, Avison Young pegged the downtown office vacancy rate at a record 26.9 per cent in the fourth quarter, up from 24.2 per cent in the year-earlier period. Under an optimistic scenario, Avison Young predicts the vacancy rate will rise to 28.6 per cent by the end of 2023; in its pessimistic forecast, it foresees a rate of 32.9 per cent. The merger of Cenovus and Husky offices in 2021 is projected to result in between 36,000 and 54,000 square metres of downtown space being vacated later this year, said Todd Throndson, managing director for Avison Young's Calgary office. That's around one per cent of the total inventory of 4.16 million square metres. "We have a very difficult marketplace and there's no quick solutions to solving that problem," he said. "The next 12 to 24 months are going to be a challenging time for there to be any growth in our marketplace." Cenovus and Husky have said their merger will result in a reduction of between 20 and 25 per cent of the 8,600 combined employees and contractors — potentially more than 2,000 workers. The two companies have about 300,000 square metres of lease commitments in Calgary, with some of it already being sublet to other tenants, said Cenovus spokesman Reg Curren. More space is expected to be sublet going forward, he said, declining to give specifics. "Once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and we determine our plan to return to the workplace, Brookfield Place will be the head office of the combined company," he said, referring to the 56-storey glass and steel tower opened in 2017 that Cenovus calls home. Husky's head office is a few blocks west in the much older Western Canadian Place. It's not hard to find other Calgary companies reducing staff and their need for office space. Suncor Energy Inc. announced in October it would reduce total staff by 10 to 15 per cent over 18 months, cutting as many as 1,930 jobs. Those cuts will be offset by the relocation of its Petro-Canada head office and most of its 700 jobs from Ontario to Calgary. Imperial Oil Ltd. announced in November it would lay off 200 staff. Meanwhile, office space held by Equinor Canada at Jamieson Place in downtown Calgary is on the sublet market after the Norwegian oil company decided to consolidate its Canadian operations in St. John's, N.L. Lower staff counts are also expected with the close of a handful of smaller oil and gas producer corporate mergers announced late last year. Calgary's office buildings have lost an overall 13 per cent of value, about $2.3 billion, over the past year due to higher vacancy rates and lower rents, the city said Thursday as it issued its 2021 property assessment notices. Declines in recent years have pushed more of the municipal tax burden to residential and other business ratepayers. Economic Development Calgary is using the city's abundance of discounted office space as a "huge selling feature" in attracting Calgary employers in new sectors like technology and renewable energy, said CEO Mary Moran, but she concedes those new tenants haven't replaced the oil and gas losses. "I think, long-term, we know that the energy industry is not going to be the job creator," she said. "It's a jobless recovery in oil and gas." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:CVE, TSX:SU) Dan Healing, The Canadian Press
Police in Regina say Saturday morning's gunshot victim died in hospital and now they're investigating the city's first murder of 2021. A police news release said officers were called to the 700 block of Athol Street around 8:10 a.m. CST on Saturday for reports of a woman suffering gunshot wounds. She was taken to hospital with serious injuries, where she later died. The police news release said the woman was identified and her next-of-kin were notified of her death, but did not include any details about who she was. Police said the scene was still being held for investigation and traffic was restricted on the 700 block of Athol Street. Police said no further information was available as the investigation was still ongoing. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the Regina Police Service or Crime Stoppers.