Blizzard conditions are seen sweeping through Swift Current, Sask.
Blizzard conditions are seen sweeping through Swift Current, Sask.
While Ontario and Quebec are the epicentres of COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada, people in First Nations are being hit the hardest in Western Canada, where they make up half the number of hospitalizations in some provinces. The rising curve is alarming federal officials, who urged the provinces during a press conference in Ottawa on Wednesday to continue prioritizing Indigenous populations as they roll out vaccines. "So what we're saying to Canadians, to Indigenous Peoples, is now is not the time to let down your guard," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said. "This is not the time to ease public health restrictions." As of Jan. 19, Indigenous Services Canada was reporting 5,571 active cases on reserves — most of them in Prairie provinces: British Columbia: 580 Alberta: 1,312 Saskatchewan: 1,196 Manitoba: 2,241 Ontario: 93 Quebec: 144 Atlantic: 5 Indigenous Services Canada has reported 13,873 confirmed COVID-19 cases on reserves since last March. More than 90 per cent are in Western Canada: British Columbia: 1,348 Alberta: 4,459 Saskatchewan: 3,525 Manitoba: 3,643 Ontario: 428 Quebec: 462 Atlantic: 8 First Nation leaders and health experts say there are several reasons why infections are increasing in First Nations in Western Canada, including overcrowding, gatherings, people letting their guard down, relaxed restrictions and people driving in and out of communities with road access for goods and work. Lack of housing With COVID-19 caseloads rising all across Canada, the pandemic is emerging in places where it wasn't before, said Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist at Temerty Faculty of Medicine and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "It's quite concerning that COVID is starting to break into these communities," Banerji said. "They've held the forts for so long." Banerji researched respiratory infections in Inuit communities for over two decades. She said the main risk factors facing First Nations are poor access to health care services, underlying ailments, food insecurity, poverty and overcrowding. Banerji said she fears that when people get sick in First Nations, they can't find places to self-isolate. Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair of Opaskwayak Cree Nation, 628 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, said his community needs 600 more houses. "When you have people living under one roof, anywhere from six to as high as 14 members living under one roof on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, you can see how quickly that spread can happen," Sinclair said. "We're second-class citizens living in Third World conditions in a first world country." Opaskwayak Cree Nation has had success in preventing and controlling outbreaks by enforcing curfews and monitoring who enters and leaves the community with border patrols paid for by Indigenous Services Canada. The highest funding requests the department has seen for the Indigenous Community Support Fund — which was created to help communities fight COVID-19 — have been for perimeter security, said Valerie Gideon, associate deputy minister of Indigenous Services. Close to 350 First Nations across the country have closed their borders to non-essential travel, she added. But even with the added layer of security in some places, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says 50 per cent of all active COVID cases in Manitoba are First Nations members. Call for stricter provincial measures Relaxed provincial measures are also being blamed for the rise in First Nations cases. The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan is calling on the province to close bars and liquor establishments. "We believe alcohol in the bars is a contributing factor," said FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt, who recently recovered from COVID-19. "When you're on alcohol, you're more likely to lose your inhibitions, share drinks and not keep those social distance practices in practices and in check." Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs' Organization in Manitoba is urging the provincial and federal governments to enforce tougher rules to limit travel. Daniels said he thinks caseloads are rising because of people going back and forth from First Nations to urban areas. "I think until COVID is completely wiped out, they should be taking the strongest approach possible," Daniels said. Daniels said nearly 80 per cent of the 34 Anishnaabe and Dakota communities he represents are trying to control the spread of COVID-19. Concern for loss of elders Dr. Shannon McDonald, acting chief medical officer at the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia, said there isn't enough rapid testing available to test everyone who needs to travel to B.C. First Nations, and some tests can't detect infections in their first few days. "It only takes one person to come in and spend time with people in the community," McDonald said. McDonald fears the pandemic could take a particularly heavy toll on First Nations communties. "I always worry about our elders," McDonald said. "Our elders are our knowledge-keepers, our language holders and they are the human libraries, culturally. So communities are very sensitive to that, but individuals who are choosing not to adhere to public health advice are putting those individuals at risk and I really worry about that." Lawrence Latender, a member of Dauphin River First Nation, has felt first-hand the impact of COVID-19 during an outbreak in his community 250 kilometres north of Winnipeg. He recently lost seven neighbours and friends to the virus, including two aunts and an uncle. "I don't know if I had time to really grieve because it's one thing after the other," Latender said. "It's like you're focused on one death and then you're, well ... 'OK now I got to focus on this one. Ok, this one is gone, now I got to focus on this one.'" Letander, his wife and two young sons also tested positive, but have since recovered. Indigenous Services Canada says that, so far, there have been 120 COVID-19 deaths in First Nations. But with 169 Indigenous communities now administering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and more doses on the way, there's hope the chain of transmission will break.
WASHINGTON — Three new senators were sworn into office after President Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines late Wednesday, overcoming Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member. It's traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president’s administration. On Thursday, the new Senate majority leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he hoped Biden's nominees for the departments of Defence, Homeland Security, State and Treasury could also be swiftly confirmed. “To leave these seats vacant does a disservice to America,” Schumer said at the Capitol. Schumer introduced all six new Democratic senators — the “majority makers” — who he said represent an “expanding Democratic majority." Four are from the West and two from the South. They are a diverse group bringing several firsts to the Senate, along with Schumer's rise as the first Jewish majority leader of the Senate. The three who joined on Wednesday — Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Alex Padilla of California — took the oath of office from Kamala Harris, a former California senator who is first woman to be vice-president, and the first Black woman and Asian-American to hold that office. Warnock, a pastor from the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, is the first Black senator from Georgia. Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, is Jewish and also the now youngest member of the Senate, at 33. They won run-off elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans, to lock the majority for Democrats. Padilla, a the son of immigrants from Mexico, becomes his state's first Latino senator, tapped by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term. They join a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote. “Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.” Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump. Congress is being called on to consider Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID recovery package, to distribute vaccines and shore up an economy as more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus. At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of Trump, charged by the House of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College tally and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will need to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees. Yet as Washington looks to turn the page from Trump to the Biden administration, Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is not relinquishing power without a fight. Haines' nomination was temporarily blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., as he sought information about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is holding back the Homeland Security nominee, Alejandro Mayorkas, over Biden's proposed immigration changes. McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands, chiefly to preserve the Senate filibuster — the procedural tool often used by the minority party to block bills under rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation. At her first White House briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s desire to have his Cabinet confirmed and in place is “front and centre for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place Thursday or Friday. Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the COVID relief package, but left the details of the upcoming impeachment trial to Congress. The Senate can “multitask,” she said. That’s a tall order for a Senate under normal circumstances, but even more so now in the post-Trump era, with Republicans badly split between their loyalties to the defeated president and wealthy donors who are distancing themselves from Republicans who back Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is expected to soon transmit to the Senate the House-passed article of impeachment against Trump, charged with incitement of insurrection, a step that will launch the Senate impeachment trial. Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate. It’s an arcane fight McConnell has inserted into what has traditionally been a more routine organizing resolution over committee assignments and staffing resources, but a power play by the outgoing Republican leader grabbing at tools that can be used to block Biden’s agenda. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s priorities, but not all rank-and-file Senate Democrats are on board. Schumer has not agreed to any changes but McConnell is taking no chances. For now, it will take unanimous consent among senators to toggle between conducting votes on legislative business and serving as jurors in the impeachment trial. The House last week impeached Trump for having sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight like hell” during the tally of Electoral College votes to overturn Biden’s election. __ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. ___ This story has been updated to correct that Sen. Tom Cotton represents Arkansas, not Oklahoma. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
One of the wonders of the world was illuminated Wednesday night in tribute to a larger-than-life businessman from Six Nations of the Grand River. Niagara Falls glowed blue and green between 6 and 11 p.m. in honour of Ken Hill, a multimillionaire cigarette magnate who died Monday of undisclosed causes at his Miami home. He was 62. The falls are usually illuminated to celebrate days of significance and draw attention to worthy causes. Hill joins Canadian prime ministers, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Nelson Mandela and basketball superstar Kobe Bryant on the short list of individuals to be memorialized with a light show. In their application to the Niagara Falls Illumination Board for this rare tribute, Hill’s family described him as “legendary, both on and off Six Nations” as the co-founder of cigarette manufacturer Grand River Enterprises, among dozens of business interests that employed thousands of people. Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati remembered Hill as “a strong advocate for Indigenous rights (and) a generous philanthropist.” Hill’s Jukasa Studios sponsored the 2020 Niagara Music Awards last October. “Kenny’s appreciation and love for music inspired him to build a world-class studio and sanctuary for artists and musicians to call home and produce lasting pieces of musical history,” the Ohsweken studio said in a statement. “Kenny was always excited to meet new artists and was delighted to come into the studio and listen to what was being created. He had an undeniable presence that was felt from the moment he walked into a room. That presence will be sadly missed.” Global superstars Willie Nelson, Steven Tyler and Snoop Dogg recorded at Jukasa, and Canadian indie rockers July Talk recorded their Juno Award-winning sophomore album, Touch, on the reserve in 2016. Webster actor Emmanuel Lewis was a fixture at the studio. “You were and still are a legend with the heart the size of a grizzly bear,” Stevie Salas, guitarist and executive producer of music documentary “RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked the World,” said of Hill on social media. In a video tribute posted on Monday, rapper Fat Joe said he and Hill had met for lunch in Florida the week before his death. “Kenny Hill is one of the sweetest, most humble people I ever met in my life. He is a gentle giant,” the five-time Grammy nominee said. “Six Nations, Ontario, Canada, my heart goes out to you.” Six Nations councillors extended their condolences to the Hill family, including Elected Chief Mark Hill, who is Ken Hill’s nephew. Ken Hill served three terms on Six Nations Elected Council from January 1986 to December 1991. “Always maintaining Six Nations as his home, Mr. Hill built portions of his industry at the very same corner where he grew up and lived,” read the statement from council. “His ventures also gave back in the form of education and employment opportunities through the local Dreamcatcher Charitable Foundation. Our thoughts and prayers are with Chief Hill and his family while they try to deal with their devastating loss.” According to its website, the Dreamcatcher Foundation provides funding to Indigenous recipients involved in education, sports, health care and the arts, with a particular focus on developing future Indigenous leaders by supporting youth and families in need. Haldimand Mayor Ken Hewitt told the Sachem that Hill’s loss would be felt far and wide. “It’s hard to fathom and perhaps appreciate the depth and reach he’s had in different communities, and employing so many different people and then helping so many families,” Hewitt said. While Hill enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, he demonstrated his generosity by quietly paying off medical bills for those in need and sending three jet airplanes packed with relief aid to the hurricane-stricken Bahamas in 2019. “Ken Hill was well known across both sides of the border and around the world. He was an advocate for Indigenous rights as well very helpful on and off the reservation,” his family’s statement to the Niagara Parks Commission read. “He along with his best friend Jerry (Montour, co-founder of GRE) worked to help so many people around the world. He will always be loved and surely missed by all.” Sports were a passion for Hill, who sponsored lacrosse, hockey and fast-pitch teams, and co-owned Jukasa Motor Speedway near Nelles Corners. Lacrosse organizations across Canada expressed their condolences, with the Six Nations Snipers saying that Hill’s “impact on lacrosse has been felt locally and across the globe.” Hill assumed control of the Six Nations Chiefs in 1993, after the death of his brother Erlind. The Chiefs promptly won three straight Mann Cups, adding three more national titles in the 2010s. “Words cannot describe the sadness and disbelief that the team is in over the passing of our owner and leader Ken (KR) Hill,” said Chiefs presidents and general manager Duane Jacobs. “Ken was like an older brother to me. He did so much for me and my family. He allowed me to run this team and is directly responsible for all the championships we’ve won. The players were treated well and all he ever wanted in return was championships.” Hill ran the Brantford Golden Eagles junior B hockey team in early 1990s, and at the time of his death owned the junior B Caledonia ProFit Corvairs, sponsored by his Caledonia health club. “Kenny wasn’t just an owner. He was a friend to all players, staff, volunteers and fans,” the Corvairs said in a statement. “Kenny gave his all to make sure everyone was treated respectfully and set up to succeed both on and off the ice. He wanted to create something the community could always be proud of.” Hill also sponsored the world-renowned Hill United Chiefs fast-pitch team and, with Montour, co-owned MontHill Golf and Country Club, south of Caledonia. The business mogul earned millions of dollars tax-free annually, according to court filings, and his life was not without controversy. As an exporter of cigarettes to clients worldwide — including as the exclusive supplier of the German army — Hill and Montour fought legal battles over taxation and licensing, and defended charges of trafficking contraband tobacco in the United States. As a result, Hill’s relationship with Ottawa over the years was not always harmonious. But after his death, federal international trade minister Mary Ng offered her condolences to the family. “I am saddened by the new of Ken Hill’s passing — a community leader, prominent entrepreneur and philanthropist from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory” Ng tweeted. In recent years Hill was involved in a contentious child and spousal support dispute with one of his former partners. Earlier in the pandemic, he made the news after allegedly hosting a large party at his Six Nations mansion in defiance of COVID-19 restrictions. J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
Everyone wants a PET scanner, but not everyone knows what they do. In a nutshell, they pinpoint problem spots in a patient's body so a specialist can consider treatment options. While they are used for heart or neurological anomalies, they are most commonly used in seeking out cancerous tumours. Unlike a CT (computerized tomography) scanner, which uses X-rays to produce a 3-D image of the body, a PET (positron emission tomography) scanner detects tiny “particles” of light, or protons, that are emitted by a radioactive substance injected into the body. The substance used for PET scans emits positrons, which are no bigger than electrons. The amount of radiation is very low and safe. In fact, when they combine with electrons in the body, they are destroyed and give off the tiny specks of light that the machine picks up. The positrons injected are often attached to molecules of sugar called fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG). Why sugar? Because cancer cells are more aggressive and grow at a faster rate, consuming sugar in the process. The radioactive sugar tends to accumulate around these cells. The result is an eerie glow that shows up on the screen, and the intensity of that glow can even indicate how aggressive the cancer is. Often, a PET scan is done in conjunction with a CT scan and the two merged through computer software. This gives a better framework to pinpoint the glowing tumour. Similar to a PET scanner is a SPECT scanner (ingle-photon emission computerized tomography), except the isotopes used in this case emit gamma rays. Their purpose is to show how a patient's organs are working. They can show how blood flows to the heart and which areas of the brain are more active or less active. Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
Six months after Edmonton banned shisha smoking inside lounges, city administration will look at creating a separate business licence class to allow establishments to resume the activity. Council's community and public services agreed Wednesday to direct city staff to consider a new category for shisha lounges. Coun. Aaron Paquette said after the city banned shisha smoking in lounges in July, he heard a lot of feedback. He suggested in December the city develop a new kind of licence. "This is something that's important to them and that they miss," Paquette said. "I would feel like I wasn't being responsive to the community if I didn't ask the question." The four-councillor committee, chaired by Paquette and includes Jon Dziadyk, Andrew Knack and Mike Nickel passed the motion unanimously. The proposed licence category would include the following conditions: no minors would be allowed in designated smoking areas a physically separated smoking area from the rest of the premises no food or drink service within the smoking area mandatory signage identifying smoking areas work to eliminate any second hand impact on employees Before the committee voted, three advocates spoke in favour of allowing the activity inside lounges. Mahlet Belete, a manager at One XVII Lounge, argued that shisha smoking is a cultural activity that's been done for centuries in Africa, the Middle East and East Asia. "I don't believe people will stop consuming shisha just because shisha lounges are not operational," she said. "It will only drive people to consume within their homes." Mohamad El-turk, with the Edmonton Hookah Cultural Committee, asked the city "to create some establishments and facilities where people can come and just smoke and practise their shisha enjoyment away from kids and away from their families." El-turk's colleague Jarrett Campbell acknowledged the issue is complex. "Finding an exact solution or a nice, easy, bright line is probably not available," Campbell said. "But I think that on the merits, this would stand up because of those two reasons: It's herbal — it's not tobacco — and it's cultural." 'I used to be a smoker' Two councillors who don't sit on the committee expressed concern. Coun. Scott McKeen pushed for the ban in past years but acknowledged that the topic is complicated. "I used to be a smoker; I get it," he said. "We have gone at this several times, in this committee, in previous years." McKeen noted that shisha lounges were given allowances in the past to give them time to prepare for the ban. "My major concern will remain that we do not open up a bag of snakes," McKeen said. "Because restaurants and coffee shops in this city went through a tough, tough, period of transition in no smoking and many of them were deeply concerned." Later, new customers started going out to restaurants because there was no smoking, he said. Coun. Ben Henderson said some people might argue smoking cannabis and tobacco are cultural activities. "We've had this debate," Henderson said. "I think we're being naive if we think this doesn't open up this question again. "These changes were difficult all the way along — going back 20 years — but we've adapted." Administration will return to the committee to present bylaw changes likely within two months. A new business license category would have to go to a public hearing before being approved. @natashariebe
Hamilton’s public school board is asking the province for pandemic pay for educators supporting students learning in the city’s schools. “Educational assistants and teachers are providing direct care and in-person instruction for students who are not able to follow COVID-19 health and safety protocols, such as wearing masks or physically distancing,” Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) chair Dawn Danko wrote in a Jan. 19 letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Doug Ford and Mayor Fred Eisenberger. The letter calls on the Ontario government to administer an additional payment for education workers who have been “attending in-person at a physical school” in Hamilton — many since Jan. 4 — “in recognition of the elevated risk to staff performing the essential work of supporting students with significant special needs during the lockdown and remote period.” Temporary pandemic pay was initiated by the Ontario government last spring to provide financial support offered to “eligible front line and support workers,” including health-care and long-term-care staff. The program ended in mid-August. As of Jan. 14, there were approximately 330 staff supporting students learning in-person at public schools in Hamilton. On Jan. 15, the Catholic board told The Spectator that approximately 360 educators were working in schools. Chair Pat Daly said the Catholic board, through the Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA), has advocated for “additional funding and support” since March, but pandemic pay isn’t something that has been requested. Susan Lucek, president of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE) Local 527, which mainly represents educational assistants, said the HWDSB’s request is “a step in the right direction.” “We are happy that somebody is finally listening,” she said. But, Lucek said, pandemic pay isn’t enough to address members’ health and safety concerns. “Schools should be closed for everybody at this time,” Lucek said. “Everybody should be remote, even though it’s not ideal for parents, students or educators.” In an email to The Spectator, Daryl Jerome, president of the local bargaining unit for the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), said the letter penned by Danko “was certainly welcomed.” “However, I would have hoped for more of an emphasis on just how unsafe our membership is when delivering curriculum to students who cannot social distance or wear masks and some who require hands-on supports,” he said, adding that approximately 80 members are currently working in schools. Not included in the request are principals, vice-principals, administrators and custodial staff. “They typically are a step removed, they’re not working directly with the students,” Danko told The Spectator. Danko said “it seemed that a focused request would likely be more successful.” Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
BEIJING — The U.S.'s accusation of genocide against China touches on a hot-button human rights issue between China and the West. In one of his final acts as secretary of state, Mike Pompeo declared Tuesday that China’s policies against Muslims in its Xinjiang region constitute “crimes against humanity” and “genocide.” The same day, British lawmakers narrowly rejected a proposal aimed at China that would have barred trade deals with any country deemed to be committing genocide. The far western region of Xinjiang is home to the predominantly Muslim Uighur ethnic group. China denies human rights violations and says its actions in Xinjiang are necessary to counter a separatist and terrorist threat. ___ WHY IS CHINA ACCUSED OF GENOCIDE? Pompeo cited forced birth control among Uighurs, which an Associated Press investigation documented last year, and forced labour, which has been linked by AP reporting to products imported to the U.S., including clothing, cameras and computer monitors. “I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state,” Pompeo said in a written statement, using an alternative spelling for Uighurs. ___ WHAT IS CHINA'S RESPONSE? China strongly defends its human rights record and policies in Xinjiang, saying its constitution and laws treat all citizens equally. It denies imposing coercive birth control measures or forced labour, saying those behind the allegations are lying in an effort to smear China’s reputation and impede its development. Xu Guixiang, a deputy spokesperson for the Xinjiang branch of the ruling Communist Party, told reporters last week that birth control decisions were made of the person’s own free will and that “no organization or individual can interfere.” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Wednesday called Pompeo a “doomsday clown” and said his designation of China as a perpetrator of genocide and crimes against humanity was merely “a piece of wastepaper.” ___ WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? The genocide designation does not trigger any immediate repercussions, but requires the U.S. to take it into account in formulating policy toward China. It puts pressure on President Joe Biden to maintain a tough line against China. He and members of his national security team have expressed support for such a designation in the past. Antony Blinken, Biden’s choice to be secretary of state, said Tuesday that the Trump administration was right to take a tougher stance on China, but that it had approached the matter poorly by alienating U.S. allies and not fully standing up for human rights elsewhere. ___ HOW WILL CHINA RESPOND? China may wish to avoid an early skirmish with the Biden administration, saving its invective for Pompeo and calibrating its response based on the possibility of tensions easing now after they flared under Donald Trump. As with most sensitive issues, China has heavily restricted foreign media access to Xinjiang and sought to limit any domestic discussion to official pronouncements. Still, the “parting shot" from the Trump administration will likely further stress the relationship in the near term, said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China. He said the already slim chances of reducing China-U.S. tensions have been further limited in the coming weeks and months. ___ WHAT HAPPENED IN LONDON? Lawmakers rejected by a 319-308 vote an amendment to a post-Brexit trade bill that would have forced the British government to revoke bilateral trade agreements with a country if the High Court of England found that it had perpetrated genocide. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab last week called the amendment “well-meaning” but ineffective and counter productive. A significant number of rebel Conservatives backed the proposal, as did Jewish, Muslim and Christian community leaders. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to continue facing vocal calls within his Conservative party for a stronger and more coherent policy on China over its alleged rights abuses and violations of international norms. The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — Residents of a tiny community in northeastern British Columbia are suing the local and provincial governments over two slow-moving landslides they claim caused their property values to plummet. In a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court this week, 35 residents in Old Fort, B.C., allege negligence and breach of their charter right to security of the person. Evacuation orders and alerts were issued in October 2018 and June 2020 after a slope above the community of about 50 homes slumped, damaging the only road in and out. "The Homeowners have suffered and will continue to suffer loss, damage, cost and expense and threats to their health and security until access to Old Fort is stable and assured," the lawsuit says. The statement of claim alleges that activity at the Blair Pit gravel mine, located atop the slope, caused or contributed to the first slide. The ground moved over the course of at least one week, while movements below the surface were detected for another 25 days. The homeowners also allege it was foreseeable that construction at the Site C dam project a kilometre away, as well as sewage lagoons connected to Fort St. John's sewer system east of the mine, would cause or contribute to a slide. The allegations haven't been proven in court. The Peace River Regional District and gravel pit owner Deasan Holdings declined to comment as the matter is before the courts. The B.C. government and City of Fort St. John said they had yet to be served, while BC Hydro, the utility building Site C, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. The June 2020 landslide was a "reactivation" of the 2018 slide, the lawsuit says. During that event, about 100 metres of Old Fort Road was destroyed and shifted about 235 metres south toward the Peace River. Some evacuation alerts remain in place for certain areas of Old Fort, the claim says. The legal action alleges property values have sunk because of the vulnerability of the road, which has affected their ability to market the properties and obtain mortgage financing. The evacuation alerts also make the properties uninsurable or only insurable at rates well above the standard premium, it alleges. "Where a property becomes inaccessible, or, where there is uncertainty as to assured, reliable access to a property, the value of that property is significantly decreased or diminished," the court document says. Nobody has been able to sell their property since the 2018 landslide, it says. The residents also endured financial and economic hardship because of the evacuations, including paying for expenses out of pocket, it claims. The homeowners are seeking damages and costs. They allege that each of the defendants should have foreseen the possibility of a landslide, taken action to avoid it and warned residents of the hazard. In addition to breaching their duty of care to the residents, Site C and Deason are also accused of nuisance and breaching the homeowners' right to have their soil supported in its natural state. "BC Hydro, in causing or permitting excavation of earth and diverting water at Site C, disturbed the subsurface in the vicinity of Site C and, in doing so, caused a substantial, non-trivial and unreasonable damage" to the properties, it alleges. The homeowners accuse the province, regional district and city of the alleged charter right infringements. "These actions or omissions have caused the homeowners to fear living at the homeowner properties, resulting in serious interference with each individual homeowners' psychological integrity, which is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. Amy Smart, The Canadian Press
Cenovus Energy has partnered with Lac La Biche’s Portage College for a basic home construction and maintenance program to residents of Conklin, Janvier, the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation and three other communities in the Cenovus Indigenous housing initiative. The six-month course teaches people how to build and maintain homes locally. Students develop entry-level construction skills that can be used towards a trade certification. The program begins recruiting students in upcoming weeks. “This program will benefit our community lots,” said Shirley Tremblay, president of Conklin Métis Local 193. “It builds capacity and will give them the knowledge of carpentry or plumbing that they would need to pursue their education.” Tremblay said the program will be taught in the community and students can work directly with instructors as houses are built. Portage College spokesperson Jaime Davies said students will build a “legacy building” for their communities during the program. This could include a gazebo, greenhouse or workshop. “The communities have been involved in the design of the training program from the beginning,” said Davies in an email. “They provide input into what training would most benefit the, how training could best be delivered and what would help make the program successful.” The program is part of a broader $50 million, five-year project to build about 200 new homes in Indigenous communities facing a housing crisis. There is the potential to stretch the project to 10 years and a $100 million commitment. The other communities in the program are Heart Lake First Nation and Beaver Lake Cree Nation, both near Lac La Biche; and Cold Lake First Nations. Cenovus said the company reviewed multiple program proposals from local colleges, but did not confirm which colleges reached out. Keyano College would not confirm if they made a proposal to Cenovus. “Portage College was chosen because their proposal met the needs of our communities and the expectations we have for the training program,” said Cenovus spokesperson Sonja Franklin. “They have a long history of working with Indigenous communities to deliver quality training programs.” firstname.lastname@example.org Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today
As they often did during nicer weather, Wayne and Michael Cherrington were preparing to sit and sip wine from the enclosed balcony of their fourth-storey suite, one night in October 2018. But their peaceful evening tradition was interrupted by tragedy. "My God Wayne, she doesn't see them, she's going to hit them," Michael, 78, remembers calling out in the moments before a vehicle hit 85-year-old Doreen French and her daughter in the parking lot of the Heritage Park Towers housing complex in south Edmonton. French died 12 days later in hospital. Marion Rickett-Beebee, a nurse who assisted clients in the apartment complex, is accused of careless driving under the provincial Traffic Safety Act. She is not facing criminal charges. The Cherringtons appeared remotely during the second day of the trial on Wednesday, testifying back-to-back about the events of Oct. 18, 2018. They say they saw French and her daughter, Patricia Wilton, walk toward the south tower on the roadway of the parking lot. A barricade and pipes were blocking part of the sidewalk at the time. Wilton said during her testimony Tuesday they were walking to visit a friend in the south tower. They stepped onto the parking lot road to avoid the obstacle — that's when they were hit by an SUV. Wilton said she suffered a number of injuries, including a broken right femur and a fractured vertebrae. The Cherringtons said the black SUV did not slow down prior to impact. "I remember that very distinctly" Wayne, 79, said. "That was my first reaction, to look at the back of that vehicle and see if the brake lights were going to come on. "They didn't." 'I turned away' Defence lawyer Darin Slaferek questioned the couple's recollection during cross-examination, referring to the shock of the event, the amount of time that had passed, and conversations since between them. He pointed out the black SUV must have hit the brakes at some point. Wayne said he did not see the actual moment of impact. "I turned away," he said. Slaferek also challenged Michael on her assertion that she could see the driver looking at the passenger's seat and not the road prior to impact, referring to photos taken from her fourth storey suite and the partially-tinted windows on the vehicle. At one point he asked whether Michael was trying to help her deceased friend and her daughter. "I'm trying to tell you what I saw the best I can," said Michael, who said there are many details of the day she cannot recount. "The only thing I can totally and completely remember … is when the car hit those two girls." The trial is set to continue for the rest of the week.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s Department of Health is asking anyone who travelled on the Blue Puttees ferry to or from Nova Scotia and Port aux Basques between Dec. 29 and Jan. 16 to call 811 to arrange for COVID-19 testing. The request comes on the heels of a crewmember testing positive for the disease. Marine Atlantic said Wednesday it’s the first such case it has had to deal with since the pandemic began. “We have been in contact with public health officials in Nova Scotia and with Marine Atlantic occupational health and safety, and are co-ordinating a response,” Newfoundland's chief medical officer of health told reporters. “We’d like to indicate that the risk is low for these people, but we are doing this out of an abundance of caution,” Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said. Testing can also be arranged by completing the online assessment tool at covidassessment.nichi.nl.ca. Fitzgerald would give no further details about the case because of privacy concerns. However, a Marine Atlantic spokesperson said it’s clear the crewmember contracted the disease on board because he only developed symptoms after leaving his two-week shift. The incubation window for COVID-19 is 14 days. Fitzpatrick said the risk is low for passengers because there are less spaces for people to intermingle on board. “Marine Atlantic certainly has put a lot of protocols in place since the beginning of the pandemic to reduce the amount of interaction that their staff and the passengers will have,” she said. “They’ve certainly got masking protocols and all of that as well, and they’ve reduced common spaces.” When contacted, the Marine Atlantic spokesperson didn’t have specific details on the number of passengers who have travelled on the ferry during the timeframe in question, but said it would be in the hundreds. He said on one recent crossing, there were about 10 regular passengers and 50 commercial passengers, but those numbers vary day by day. The Public Health Authority in Nova Scotia has already started contact tracing of crewmembers, although Fitzgerald said any contact tracing that involves this province will be conducted by local public health officials. Crewmembers must self-isolate on the ferry after the testing. With the Blue Puttees moored indefinitely, Marine Atlantic cancelled its morning crossing from North Sydney, N.S., to Port aux Basques and Wednesday evening’s crossing from Newfoundland to Cape Breton. The company says the MV Highlanders will remain in service, and the MV Atlantic Vision is currently being prepared to enter service should it be required in the days ahead. The Atlantic Vision has been moored in North Sidney on standby, but it may take up to 48 hours to establish a crew and get it into service. Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
Rare for an inaugural address, President Joe Biden issued a strong repudiation of white supremacy and domestic terrorism seen on the rise under Donald Trump. In his speech Wednesday, Biden denounced the “racism, nativism, fear, demonization,” that propelled the assault on Capitol Hill by an overwhelmingly white mob of Trump supporters who carried symbols of hate, including the Confederate battle flag. “A cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making moves us,” Biden said in the nearly 23-minute-long speech promising to heal a divided nation. “A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear. And now a rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.” Compared to his immediate predecessors, three of whom attended Wednesday's inauguration, Biden is the first president to directly address the ills of white supremacy in an inaugural speech. In his second inaugural address in 1997, former President Bill Clinton called out racial divisions as “America’s constant curse,” but stopped short of naming culprits. Biden’s words follow months of protests and civil unrest over police brutality against Black Americans, as well as a broader reckoning on the systemic and institutional racism that has plagued nonwhite Americans for generations. “To be perfectly clear, it was incredibly powerful,” Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, a national racial justice organization, told The Associated Press. “We shouldn’t underestimate the cultural change that had to take place, in order for that to happen on one of the biggest political stages in the world.” “I think it’s just really important that, as a result of our movement, racial justice became a majoritarian issue this summer,” Robinson added. “Now the work begins in translating that rhetorical issue into a governing issue.” Biden delivered his inaugural address on the very platform that the insurrectionist mob scaled two weeks ago to breach the Capitol building, vandalizing federal property and taking selfies on the Senate floor. The riot left at least five people dead, including a Capitol police officer. The rioters, some espousing racist and anti-Semitic views and conspiracy theories, were incited by baseless claims of widespread voter fraud in the November presidential election. Some attempted to stop Congress from certifying the Electoral College results, in which Black and Latino voters played a significant role in handing victory to Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris. Voter suppression, along with other forms of systemic racism, are top of mind for civil rights groups and supporters of Black Lives Matter, which last year became the largest protest movement in U.S. history. “To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words,” Biden said in his speech. “It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy. Unity.” Biden also highlighted the historic nature of the swearing in of Harris, the first woman and first Black and South Asian person to hold that office. “It is exciting to see a Black woman become vice-president, and yet we must hold her and President Biden accountable to ensure Black liberation and the eradication of white supremacy,” said Patrisse Cullors, co-founder and executive director of Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation. “We must heal from anti-Black racism and the heavy health and economic impacts from COVID-19,” Cullors said in a statement. “Then, we can focus on thriving Black lives through investments in health, education, housing, and environmental justice.” Biden began addressing some of these issues in a series of executive orders signed after the inauguration. They order federal agencies to prioritize racial equity and review policies that reinforce systemic racism, which the BLM foundation said mirrors a proposal contained in the BREATHE Act, proposed legislation championed by the foundation and the Movement for Black Lives. It calls for sweeping federal reforms, including overhauling police, the criminal justice system and immigration enforcement. Susan Rice, Biden’s incoming domestic policy adviser, said the new president would also revoke the just-issued report of Trump’s “1776 Commission” that downplayed the historic legacy of slavery. The commission was created in response to The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which highlights the long-term consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans. Biden's remarks also came a day after the nation marked yet another grim milestone surpassing 400,000 U.S. deaths as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has disproportionately killed Black Americans and other people of colour and laid bare longstanding racial disparities in the country’s health system. “We are entering what may be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus,” Biden said. “We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation.” In his speech, Biden invoked Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation committing to freeing enslaved Africans during the Civil War. “When he put pen to paper, the president said, and quote, ‘If my name ever goes down into history, it will be for this act and my whole soul is in it. My whole soul is in it,’” Biden said. “Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this,” he declared. ____ Stafford reported from Detroit and Morrison reported from New York City. ____ Stafford and Morrison are members of the AP's Race & Ethnicity team. Follow Morrison on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/aaronlmorrison. Follow Stafford on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/kat__stafford. Kat Stafford And Aaron Morrison, The Associated Press
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Parks Canada issued a statement Wednesday that it is willing to meet with members of the Kawartha Nishnawbe First Nation community who have put up a blockade to stop construction to replace the Burleigh Falls Dam. On Jan. 13, members of the first nation community established a blockade, putting a halt to the repair work being done to the dam — which is owned by Parks Canada — because no consultation was made with the nearby community prior to the start of construction. According to Parks Canada’s statement written by David Britton, director of Ontario Waterways, the dam at Lock 28 of the Trent-Severn Waterway is one dam in a chain of dams and an integral part of the water management structure of central Ontario. “Engineering inspections in recent years have identified the declining condition of the Burleigh Falls Dam. A significant void at the base of the dam undermines the dam’s structural integrity, and is cause for concern regarding both public safety, and the protection of properties and species, including an important Walleye fishery,” Britton wrote. “Concrete strength inspections have showed deterioration beyond what is deemed acceptable. These factors indicate that the dam is at or nearing the end of its useful life, and requires a major intervention. Parks Canada is proceeding with a full replacement of the dam, following the current phase of construction that will first stabilize the existing dam.” The protesters have said they do not dispute that the dam needs to be replaced but they wanted to be consulted before the construction began. Britton said the federal government is committed to working to advance reconciliation and renew the relationships with Indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, collaboration and partnership. “Parks Canada has offered to meet with the Kawartha Nishnawbe on the Burleigh Falls Dam replacement project both in 2016 and more recently to understand their concerns regarding the potential impacts of the project. Parks Canada remains available to do so and hopes to connect in a meaningful way through this process,” Britton wrote. Parks Canada has met with Curve Lake First Nation and the other Williams Treaties First Nations on the first phase of the project and has arranged mitigation measures, including on-site monitors, to address their concerns, Britton added. “Parks Canada continues to meet with Curve Lake First Nation and the other Williams Treaties First Nations on the upcoming phases of work for the Burleigh Falls dam replacement project and are working together to develop fisheries monitoring and mitigation plans,” he wrote. Originally the Trent-Severn Waterway had planned to rehabilitate the dam, but could not find a contractor that could do the work, so a decision was made to replace the dam. Parks Canada plans to complete the work by 2024. Kawartha Nishnawbe members could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Marissa Lentz is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: email@example.com Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner
Two salmon farming operations have applied to the Federal Court of Canada in Vancouver for a judicial review of a decision made by Fisheries Minster Bernadette Jordan to phase out fish farms on B.C.'s Discovery Islands. The decision, released on Dec. 17, 2020, states all 19 farms have to be free of fish by June 30, 2022, when their renewed 18-month licences expire and that no new fish can be brought in. At the time, Jordan said her decision was a result of consultations she had with seven First Nations: the Homalco, Klahoose, K'ómoks, Kwaikah, Tla'amin, We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum. "We heard overwhelmingly from First Nations in the area that they do not want these fish farms there," she said. "They feel that they should have a say in their territorial waters, and I absolutely agree with them." Mowi Canada West, and Cermaq Canada, both salmon farming operators in the area located near Campbell River, have applied for the judicial review. In its statement, Mowi Canada West said the decision was "made without consultation of the industry, one week before Christmas." It also outlined the consequences of the decision, including the loss of almost a third of its business, the culling of several million young fish currently in hatcheries and significant job losses in coastal communities. In a statement, Cermaq Canada said it too would have to make labour cuts and put a significant number of fish at risk. It added, however, that its request focuses only on the conduct of DFO and the minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, and that it "respects the opinions and the rights of the First Nations in the Discovery Islands region."
A recent spike in COVID cases at Horse Lake First Nations is cause for concern, says its chief executive officer Azar Kamran. The Horse Lake Wellness Centre reported 21 active COVID-19 cases there Monday; 13 homes have been placed under isolation. That represents an increase of nine cases in just a week. On Wednesday Horse Lake reported five recoveries and 16 active cases, accounting for 59 per cent of the total number of cases in west county as of Wednesday. West county active cases are currently sitting at 27; the west county local geographic area (LGA) includes First Nations communities, said Tom McMillan, Alberta Health communications assistant director. “We find this concerning, as does the whole province,” Kamran told the News. Still, he said the Horse Lake numbers are “stable” and attributed the rising numbers to increased testing. As of Monday nurses had completed 304 tests in Horse Lake, compared to 243 last Monday. The reserve has a population of 437, according to Indigenous Affairs Canada. Kamran said he believes COVID made its first appearance in the community approximately two months ago. By early January there had been seven recovered cases, according to the wellness centre. On Jan. 4, there was only one active case. “Our advice would be to maintain hygiene and all safety precautions, including maintaining (two-metre) distance,” Kamran said. He said band administration is promoting the precautions through the community newsletter and social media. Travel is also being discouraged though administration recognizes residents can leave and enter the community, Kamran said. Horse Lake has a small school for Grade 1 to 3 students, with approximately 24 students. Kamran said it’s been closed since November at band council’s direction; buses to schools outside the community haven’t been operational since November. The 13 homes were placed under isolation in accordance with Alberta Health guidelines, Kamran said. The Horse Lake Wellness Centre is also discouraging visits between members of different households. Some residents are observing this directive and others aren’t, Kamran said. Outdoor and indoor gatherings were banned across the province in December, with the province lifting the ban on outdoor gatherings Monday, with a limit of 10. The Horse Lake Wellness Centre has discouraged indoor gatherings and advised residents who witness them to call 1-833-415-9179, the number to report health violations, or the RCMP. Rick Wilson, Alberta’s indigenous relations minister, acknowledged Monday in a statement a delay in getting vaccines to indigenous seniors 65 and up due to a shortage in doses. Kamran said Horse Lake is hoping to receive vaccines as soon as possible and has remained in contact with AHS about the matter. No vaccinations have been made yet, he said. At press time there are 46 active cases across the County of Grande Prairie, including 19 in the east and central portions, and there have been four fatalities in the east and central county. The City of Grande Prairie has 180 active cases and has had 14 fatalities. Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
ORLANDO, Fla. — Two Florida men, including a self-described organizer for the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, were arrested Wednesday on charges of taking part in the siege of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month, authorities said. Joseph Biggs, 37, was arrested in central Florida and faces charges of obstructing an official proceeding before Congress, entering a restricted on the groups of the U.S. Capitol and disorderly conduct. According to an arrest affidavit, Biggs was part of a crowd on Jan. 6 that overwhelmed Capitol Police officers who were manning a metal barrier on the steps of the Capitol. The mob entered the building as lawmakers were certifying President Joe Biden’s election win. Biggs appeared to be wearing a walkie-talkie during the storming of the Capitol, but he told FBI agents that he had no knowledge about the planning of the destructive riot and didn’t know who organized it, the affidavit said. Ahead of the riot, Biggs told followers of his on the social media app Parler to dress in black to resemble the far-left antifa movement, according to the affidavit. Biggs had organized a 2019 rally in Portland, Oregon, in which more than 1,000 far-right protesters and anti-fascist counter-demonstrators faced off. The Proud Boys are a neofascist group known for engaging in violent clashes at political rallies. During a September presidential debate, Trump had urged them to “stand back and stand by” when asked to condemn them by a moderator. An online court docket did not indicate whether Biggs has an attorney who could comment. Jesus Rivera, 37, also was arrested Wednesday in Pensacola. He faces charges of knowingly entering a restricted building, intent to impede government business, disorderly conduct and demonstrating in the Capitol buildings. Rivera uploaded a video to Facebook showing himself in the U.S. Capitol crypt, authorities said. The five-minute video ends with Rivera starting to climb out a window at the Capitol, according to an arrest affidavit. An online court docket also did not list an attorney for Rivera. The cases are being handled by federal prosecutors in the District of Columbia. More than a half-dozen other Floridians have been charged in relation to the Capitol assault. Associated Press, The Associated Press
MEXICO CITY — World leaders welcomed into their ranks the new U.S. President Joe Biden, noting their most pressing problems, including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, require multilateral co-operation, an approach his predecessor Donald Trump ridiculed. Many expressed hope Biden would right U.S. democracy two weeks after rioters stormed the Capitol, shaking the faith of those fighting for democracy in their own countries. Governments targeted and sanctioned under Trump embraced the chance for a fresh start with Biden, while some heads of state who lauded Trump’s blend of nationalism and populism were more restrained in their expectations. But the chance to repair frayed alliances and work together on global problems carried the day. Biden “understands the importance of co-operation among nations,” said former Colombian president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Juan Manuel Santos, who left office in 2018. “As a matter of fact, if we don’t co-operate – all nations – to fight climate change, then we will all perish. It’s as simple as that." French President Emmanuel Macron also noted the urgency of addressing the perils of climate change after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, a move Biden reversed in the first hours of his presidency Wednesday. With Biden, “we will be stronger to face the challenges of our time. Stronger to build our future. Stronger to protect our planet," he wrote on Twitter. “Welcome back to the Paris Agreement!” Other European allies saw a chance to come in out of the cold after strained relationships with the Trump administration. European Council President Charles Michel said trans-Atlantic relations have “greatly suffered in the last four years" while the world has become less stable and less predictable. “We have our differences and they will not magically disappear. America seems to have changed, and how it’s perceived in Europe and the rest of the world has also changed,” added Michel, whose open criticism of the Trump era contrasted with the silence that mostly reigned in Europe while the Republican leader was in the White House. In Ballina, Ireland, where Biden’s great-great-grandfather was born in 1832, a mural of a smiling Biden adorned a wall in the town, where some of the president’s relatives still live. “As he takes the oath of office, I know that President Biden will feel the weight of history — the presence of his Irish ancestors who left Mayo and Louth in famine times in search of life and hope,” Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who formed close ties with Trump, noted a personal friendship with Biden and said he looked forward to working together to further strengthen the U.S.-Israel alliance. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has accused Trump of unfair bias toward Israel with policies like moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, expressed hope for a more even-handed approach from Biden. He urged “a comprehensive and just peace process that fulfills the aspirations of the Palestinian people for freedom and independence.” In Latin America, Biden faces immediate challenges on immigration, and the leaders of the two most populous countries — Brazil and Mexico — were chummy with Trump. The Trump administration also expanded painful sanctions against governments in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro's government urged dialogue with the Biden administration, while hoping the new president abandons the avalanche of damaging sanctions Trump imposed to attempt a regime change. Some Venezuelans, however, like retired accountant Jesús Sánchez, 79, said he was disappointed to see Trump leave power. Trump backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó, giving Venezuelans like him hope that Maduro’s days in power were numbered. Carlos Vecchio, Guaido’s envoy in Washington who the U.S. recognizes as Venezuela’s ambassador, tweeted photos of himself at Biden's inauguration. The invitation to attend was touted by Venezuela’s opposition as evidence the Biden administration will continue its strong support and resist entreaties by Maduro for dialogue that the U.S. has strenuously rejected until now. Cuba’s leaders perhaps have a more realistic hope for improved relations: Biden was in the White House for the historic thaw in relations in 2014, and various officials expressed willingness to reopen a dialogue with Washington if there was respect for Cuba’s sovereignty. President Miguel Díaz-Canel railed against Trump via Twitter, citing “more than 200 measures that tightened the financial, commercial and economic blockade, the expression of a despicable and inhuman policy.” In Mexico, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who cultivated an unexpectedly friendly relationship with Trump and was one of the last world leaders to recognize Biden’s victory, read from a letter he sent to Biden in 2012, calling for reorienting the bilateral relationship away from security and military aid and toward development. He urged Biden to implement immigration reform, and added: “We need to maintain a very good relationship with the United States government and I don’t have any doubt that it’s going to be that way.” U.S. allies in the Asia-Pacific region expressed anticipation of strengthening those alliances under a Biden administration. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and others highlighted their shared values as leaders of democracies. South Korean President Moon Jae-in said: “America’s new beginning will make democracy even greater.” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Biden was a good friend to New Zealand and highlighted in particular the words given in his inaugural address. “President Biden’s message of unity as he takes office is one that resonates with New Zealanders,” Ardern said. World leaders also acknowledged the history of Vice-President Kamala Harris taking office. She is the first woman, the first Black woman and the first South Asian to hold that office in the U.S. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter congratulated both Biden and Harris, whose maternal grandfather was Indian. “That is an historic moment and one that, I think as a father of daughters, you can only celebrate," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. __ Cook reported from Brussels. AP journalists around the world contributed to this report. ___ This version has been corrected by removing the reference to the U.S. as the world's largest democracy. Lorne Cook And Christopher Sherman, The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — An unprecedented impeachment hearing failed to keep TV viewers from settling back into familiar, escapist habits last week. NFL and college football and sturdy drama franchises including the “Chicago” shows on NBC and the “NCIS” group on CBS were among the week's ratings winners, according to Nielsen figures out Wednesday. The second impeachment of now-former President Donald Trump drew viewers to news shows, but not in the numbers that tuned in the prior week to bear witness to rioting inside the U.S. Capitol and gave CNN get its biggest single-day audience ever. CNN had last Wednesday's most-watched impeachment hearing coverage and again claimed the weekly lead among cable news channels. CBS' news magazine “60 Minutes,” which included reports on the Capitol attack and security measures for President Joe Biden's inauguration, was the week's top non-sports broadcast despite competition from a NFL divisional playoff game. That contest, between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints was the week's No. 1 program. It helped make Fox the most-watched network with an average 9.1 million viewers, followed by NBC with 6.4 million. CBS had 4.1 million, ABC had 3.5 million, Univision had 1.3 million, Telemundo had 1 million and Ion Television had 940,000. ESPN was the most-watched cable network in prime-time, averaging 3.2 million for the week. CNN had 3.1 million, MSNBC had 2.7 million and HGTV had 1.1 million. ABC’s “World News Tonight” topped the evening news ratings contest, averaging 10.3 million viewers. NBC’s “Nightly News” had 8.5 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 6.3 million. For the week of Jan. 11-17, the 20 most-watched programs in prime time, their networks and viewership: 1. NFC Playoff: Tampa Bay at New Orleans, Fox, 35.5 million. 2. NFL Playoff: Baltimore at Buffalo, NBC, 26.2 million. 3. College football championship: Ohio State at Alabama, ESPN, 18.5 million. 4. NFL Pregame, NBC, 18.3 million. 5. NFC Postgame, Fox, 18 million. 6. College football pregame, ESPN, 12.8 million. 7. “60 Minutes,” CBS, 10.57 million. 8. “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune,” ABC. 7.8 million. 9. “Chicago Med,” NBC, 7.6 million. 10. “Chicago Fire,” NBC, 7.3 million. 11. “Chicago PD,” NBC, 6.6 million. 12. “Great North,” Fox, 6.1 million. 13. “NCIS: Los Angeles,” CBS, 5.6 million. 14. “Magnum P.I.,” CBS, 5.5 million. 15. “This Is Us,” NBC, 5.46 million. 16. “The Chase,” ABC, 5.45 million. 17. “NCIS,” CBS, 5.2 million. 18. “NCIS: New Orleans,” CBS, 5.1 million. 19. “MacGyver,” CBS, 5 million. 20. “The Price is Right,” CBS, 4.9 million. Lynn Elber, The Associated Press
A phenomenon first noticed in the spring of 2020 seems to have held, and health officials are crediting the public’s observance of pandemic measures and advice. Influenza has not shown up in Newfoundland and Labrador since it first dropped off the charts in March of last year. “On the whole, in the country, we’ve only had a little over 50 cases reported, and I think on average over the past six years, at this point in time in the flu season, I think it’s somewhere around 14,000 cases that we usually see, or are usually reported,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said Wednesday. Fitzgerald was flying solo on the COVID-19 live update for the first time since the early days of the pandemic. Health Minister Dr. John Haggie and Premier Andrew Furey are on the campaign trail. The lack of flu cases means the Department of Health hasn’t had to update its surveillance data online since last March. A graph from that period showed an unprecedented decline in flu cases around the time that pandemic measures came in. “I think a lot of that has to do with the measures that are in place for COVID,” Fitzgerald said. “Of course, all those things that cause the transmission of COVID also cause the transmission of flu. “It’s not just the flu not spreading across Canada. It’s the flu not spreading across the world,” she added. Fitzgerald also credited the uptick in flu vaccinations this year, the result of a more focused campaign launched last fall. As of Jan. 19, 232,292 people in the province have received the flu shot. Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram