Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon shares the full story with Shannon Bream on 'Fox News @Night'
Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon shares the full story with Shannon Bream on 'Fox News @Night'
A historic meeting between Israel's prime minister and Saudi Arabia's crown prince has sent a strong signal to allies and enemies alike that the two countries remain deeply committed to containing their common foe Iran. Last Sunday's covert meeting in the Saudi city of Neom, confirmed by Israeli officials but publicly denied by Riyadh, conveyed a coordinated message to U.S. President-elect Joe Biden that Washington's main allies in the region are closing ranks. It was the first publicly confirmed visit to Saudi Arabia by an Israeli leader and a meeting that was unthinkable until recently as the two countries do not have formal diplomatic relations.
VANCOUVER — An RCMP officer who oversaw a small team based at Vancouver's airport says he dismissed a suggestion the night before Meng Wanzhou's flight landed to arrest the Huawei executive by boarding her plane. Sgt. Ross Lundie said Thursday he was concerned when the officers tasked with executing the arrest raised it on Nov. 30, 2018. Lundie testified in B.C. Supreme Court that he told the Mounties that boarding a plane for an arrest was "not something we do" unless there is an immediate public safety concern, and that the Canada Border Services Agency needed to be included in the discussion.Having worked on a national security team alongside border officers, Lundie said he understood the agency had responsibilities to screen foreign nationals arriving in Canada and he was mindful of stepping on their toes. “I had concerns with that right off the bat and I told them that,” Lundie said. Lundie is testifying in an evidence-gathering hearing as part of Meng's ongoing extradition case. Her lawyers are collecting information to bolster their allegations that Canadian officials improperly collected evidence against Meng under the guise of a routine immigration exam before informing her of her arrest and right to counsel. Meng's lawyers allege the plan to board the plane changed to allow a "covert criminal investigation" to occur before her arrest at the behest of U.S. investigators.Ultimately, Meng would spend nearly three hours in a border agency screening area on Dec. 1, 2018, while the Mounties waited in an adjoining room. Lundie said the case came to his attention about a week before Meng’s arrest, when an Ottawa-based national security officer called to ask about the flow of passengers at Vancouver’s airport and whether a traveller could exit the airport before first seeing border officers.It's common to receive such calls and the Mountie did not indicate why he was calling or identify Meng, Lundie said. Although the two arresting officers worked in another unit, Lundie was looped into the case on Nov. 30 because of his experience at the airport. Lundie suggested organizing a meeting with the RCMP and the border agency on the morning before Meng's arrest to co-ordinate her detention. "I said we need to confirm if (the border agency has) an interest in this or not," he said. "And to see if ... it would make more sense for them to examine Ms. Meng and for us to conduct an arrest in the secondary area after it's complete."Lundie told the court that the relationship between the border agency and the RCMP has improved over his years working in national security, but there have been cases where one or the other overstepped its bounds."It's usually due to a lack of understanding and there are times when we have to stickhandle that," he said. During the morning meeting, the border agency agreed to examine Meng first, Lundie said. Over the course of the exam, Lundie said he received at least two requests for updates from a Federal Bureau of Investigation attache and one from the RCMP in Ottawa. He told them the exam was ongoing. The FBI agent sounded "concerned" he said, and agreed under questioning the concern was likely about timing. Lundie said he doesn't typically get requests for updates from the FBI."It's not something I'm used to but it seemed reasonable," he said. However, he denied any covert planning occurred. "Did you co-ordinate with the CBSA or United States law enforcement to execute the provisional arrest warrant after Ms. Meng's examination by the CBSA in an attempt to extract information from Ms. Meng for U.S. law enforcement?" Crown lawyer John Gibb-Carsley asked."No," Lundie said. Meng's lawyer Scott Fenton also completed cross-examination on Thursday of Sgt. Janice Vander Graaf, who led the unit to which the arresting officers belonged. Fenton suggested to Vander Graaf that she told the court more during her testimony than was included in her affidavit as part of a "coverup" to protect her fellow officers.Vander Graaf's 2019 affidavit said she had no independent memory of a conversation with her subordinate regarding whether the serial numbers for Meng's electronics had been shared with the FBI, although she made note of a conversation in a notebook. In court, she described both the conversation and emails she received related to the conversation, which said she understood to mean an officer would pursue legal channels to share information with the FBI. "When I prepared this affidavit, I went through my notes and my emails and I prepared it to the best of my recollection at that time. I recall, after preparing further, the events I testified to today," Vander Graaf said. "I'm suggesting you tailored your evidence to suit what you think protects the RCMP in relation to this issue," Fenton said. "That is absolutely not true," Vander Graaf said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020. Amy Smart, The Canadian Press
Places for People (P4P) will build Haliburton’s newest not-for-profit housing development on Wallings Road with the blessing of the municipality. Dysart et al council passed a resolution of support in principle to dispose of the property to begin the process of providing it for P4P. The not-for-profit is planning to develop 10-12 affordable housing units for $2-$2.5 million by fall 2022, raising money with community bonds. Since P4P first proposed this in August, deputy mayor Patrick Kennedy said the municipality has worked with them to find a municipal property that would work for the development. The road is off County Road 21 just past the high school, next to the First Student Canada site. “It’s a suitable piece of property, we believe. It’s close to the town for walking, very close on the sewage line,” Kennedy said. “I’m excited about moving this project forward.” Mayor Andrea Roberts said the municipality will work on a memorandum of understanding and a subcommittee with P4P to get all the needed elements in place to advance the project. P4P chair, Jody Curry, said the group has assembled a design team including an architect and a planning consultant ready to go to work. She said they know how to develop this land and plan to incorporate green space. “We’re excited to hear it may absolutely be possible you may grant us this property,” Curry said. “For us, this is just a perfect fit, so we can’t say enough about this piece of property. “Thanks, Dysart, for providing a great, big, exciting light in our future. And we’re hoping you’re going to make it a green light.” Coun. Larry Clarke said the project is vital to address the housing shortage in the area. “You talk to any business in town and there’s no place for them to house staff, even if they want to hire,” Clarke said. “This is a critical element for this community.” “We’ll keep the ball rolling on this one,” Roberts said. “You guys are shining lights of volunteerism in our community.”Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
Zeballos has suspended all public services until further notice as the province battles its second wave of COVID-19. The library and landfill are closed to the public, said mayor Julie Colborne. The village office will also be closed, however, village office services will be available via phone, said Colborne. Unlike back in March when the village had issued notices asking visitors to keep away, Colborne said that the provincial orders for everyone to be cautious and avoid travelling are sufficient. However, the Ehattesaht First Nation issued a notice prohibiting “outside visitors” and visitation between families within Ehatis, Oclujee and Zeballos after a confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported in the community last week. On Nov.21, after a visitor to the Zeballos school tested positive for COVID-19, the Center for Disease Control began the process of contact tracing. The community members of Ehattesaht, Oclucje, and Zeballos were asked to self isolate. READ MORE: Visitor to Zeballos tested positive for COVID-19 The First Nations Health Authority, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, School District 84, Island Health and the Provincial Medical Health Officer are working closely with the residents and continue to monitor the situation.Binny Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Campbell River Mirror
VANCOUVER — City councillors in Vancouver voted unanimously this week to ask the federal government to decriminalize small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use, a decision advocates hope will blaze a trail in other municipalities.It's within Health Minister Patty Hajdu's power to grant an exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to allow decriminalization across Canada, said Sandra Ka Hon Chu, the director of research and advocacy for the Toronto-based HIV Legal Network."She can issue a very sweeping exemption across the country, and that would be the ideal outcome," said Ka Hon Chu, who is a lawyer.But the process may be faster if requests for an exemption to the law are made locally, she said, noting the Toronto Board of Health voted last week to repeat an earlier call for decriminalization.The motion also mentioned that the opioid crisis is worsening during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted the flow of illicit drugs into Canada, resulting in a more toxic supply. It's also curtailed access to key harm reduction services, such as supervised consumption sites."We hear public health officials across the country saying drug decriminalization is really necessary, it's a necessary piece of the puzzle, but that's not happening," said Ka Hon Chu. The vote in Vancouver came after the BC Coroners Service reported 162 people died from using toxic illicit drugs in the province last month, a 116 per cent increase from October 2019.City staff will now write to federal officials seeking an exception to the act, which is the same process used to create the city's first sanctioned supervised drug injection site in 2003.Mayor Kennedy Stewart has said the city will work with police, the local health authority, community groups and people who have experience with drug use to hammer out the plan for decriminalization.Caitlin Shane, a staff lawyer focused on drug policy for Pivot Legal Society, said she's cautiously optimistic Ottawa will approve Vancouver’s application.B.C. Premier John Horgan, the Vancouver Police Department and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry support the elimination of criminal consequences for possessing small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use. Led by Vancouver Chief Adam Palmer, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police also endorsed decriminalization earlier this year.But Shane is concerned about how decriminalization would work in practice. She and other advocates want the plan to be broad and long lasting.If granted, the exemption should include everyone in Vancouver, she said, not only those who are deemed at risk. It should also cover all illicit drugs, not just certain ones."Street drugs are vastly contaminated at this point and it would be really impractical and difficult to parse out which substances are included and which aren't."Shane said she's also wary of the role of law enforcement after decriminalization, because police continue to confiscate drugs from her clients in the Downtown Eastside, even if they're not criminally charged."That comes with a whole host of other problems, you know, people get their drugs confiscated and then they have to hustle all day to get a new supply and it kind of perpetuates this whole cycle."If simple possession is decriminalized, police would have no legal grounds to confiscate the drugs, she said."In my eyes, it would amount to theft of personal property."In Portugal, which decriminalized simple possession 20 years ago, people found using drugs are required to undergo health assessments and may be fined by a so-called dissuasion commission, Shane added."We don't want to replace a criminal regime with an administrative regime," she said."We need to come up with a Vancouver model."Drug use is still heavily stigmatized in Portugal, said Ka Hon Chu."If police are still surveilling you, watching your every move and potentially branding you as someone who uses substances, you're less likely to access health services because of the stigma," she said. "We're hoping there's no mandatory referral to treatment in Canada."Simi Heer, the director of public affairs for the Vancouver Police Department, said it's not a general practice to seize drugs from people using them, but there are times when they must be seized."For example, if an officer finds drugs while searching someone for a criminal investigation, they are not allowed to give those drugs back," she said in an email.On fines and sanctions, she said police believe "a system needs to be in place to direct people down the health-care path" and there must be additional support services."It's too early to speculate on what systems need to be in place to make that happen, but that can be determined by health, government and public safety partners working together."There's no indication how long Ottawa might take to review Vancouver's request once it's submitted, but Stewart has said Hajdu has the authority to move quickly.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020.Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press
North Vancouver Island communities received almost a quarter to half a million dollar funding as part of the $425 million federal-provincial Safe Restart agreement. North Island communities like Tahsis, Zeballos and Sayward received $249, 000, $200,000 and $265,000 respectively, whereas Gold River received $557,000. The funding administered through the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) is meant to support facility reopening and operational cost along with local emergency response in these communities The federal funding is a response to the concerns and need for monetary support that municipalities across the country had voiced in April after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement, the UBCM said that they had advocated on behalf of local governments before the province during the summer with regard to revenue streams impacted by COVID-19 as well as new expenditures that municipalities face due to the pandemic. These challenges are unique to local governments and were also communicated to the federal government by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Brian Frenkel, president of the UBCM said that he was “very pleased to see the speed at which the federal and provincial governments have delivered this funding to local governments in B.C.” “Since the beginning of the pandemic, local governments have taken steps to manage costs and rethink budgets, but communities are contending with significant revenue shortfalls. These funds will be available for immediate use and provide greater clarity as budgets are developed for the coming year,” he said in a statement. Part of the Safe Restart funding was also provided to regional districts like the Strathcona Regional District which received $539,000. READ MORE: SRD receives provincial safe restart funding Binny Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Campbell River Mirror
Cottagers pushed to stay in bubbles, preferably at home, as COVID cases surge Leaders in rural Southwestern Ontario communities urge residents of COVID-19 red zones and lockdown regions to take precautions before heading to cottage country or better yet, just stay home. “There are currently no official restrictions on travel among regions. There are only the restrictions we place on ourselves as we consider the impact of our movement between and among regions of Ontario,” Joyce Lock, Southwestern Public Health’s medical officer of health, said in an email. “Please consider postponing any non-essential travel.” Although indoor gatherings are still capped at 10 people, Lock said “the safest choice is to avoid close contact with people who don’t live with you.” Earlier this week, Premier Doug Ford asked Ontarians to stay home for the holidays and celebrate only with those they live with. Lock isn’t saying cottage owners have to stay home, but they should keep within their household group. “If you have a vacation property, such as a home or cottage on Lake Erie, please go straight to your property, bringing your own groceries with you to limit time spent in local businesses,” she said. Southwestern Public Health, which covers Oxford and Elgin counties, is currently in the orange-restrict tier of the province’s COVID-19 restriction framework, one step down from red. As of Thursday, there were 55 active coronavirus cases in the area, 516 total cases and six deaths. Huron County Warden Jim Ginn said he’s less worried about seasonal property owners travelling from lockdown areas to their Lake Huron cottages, and more about groups from different regions mixing for holiday gatherings. “We don’t have concerns if they come and stay there, as long as they follow health protocols,” he said. “Kids coming home from university . . . (and) young adults coming back for Christmas at their homes, that is certainly a concern.” Huron-Perth Public Health is also in the orange-restrict level and as of Thursday, the region had 31 active COVID-19 cases, 293 total cases and 16 deaths. Ginn said any day-trippers coming to the area must follow public health protocols. “We had a lot of visitors from outside over the summertime and we remained fine. Our (COVID-19) numbers were quite acceptable,” he said. “Now that we are in orange, there may not be as much of a pull as there was through the summer.” Several regions in the province are in the red-control tier and two regions – Toronto and Peel – are in lockdown for at least three more weeks. Huron-Perth and Southwestern health regions have both seen increases in COVID cases, which is something Elgin County Warden Dave Mennill said potential visitors should consider. “I’m afraid that if we continue on this trend, we may be going from orange to red," he said. Ginn hopes people heed the message to hunker down at home for the holidays. “As much as you want to be with family, anytime there are outsiders coming into the area, it just puts everyone at risk,” he said. “Stay home at Christmas. Keep within your own bubble. You might have to sacrifice until the next holiday, but it may be well worthwhile.” firstname.lastname@example.orgMax Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
Sayward’s mayor-elect Mark Baker said that “working together” as a team and “getting along” will be the most important task before the council. Baker and newly elected councillors – Sue Poulsen and Tom Tinsley – were declared winners on Nov.23 and will be sworn in on Dec. 1. READ MORE: Sayward elects new mayor and two council members Speaking about his election victory, Baker said that there was a very good turnout of residents who voted for the local byelection held on Nov.21. Since March, Sayward’s local government was fragmented after the previous mayor and two councillors resigned. Following which there were disputes among remaining council members, including a verbal spat that took place between a councilor and residents during a council meeting in July. READ MORE: Belligerence but no answers as Sayward on fourth mayor in four months There are definitely going to be “challenges,” said Baker and added that the council will “sit down together” and discuss a way forward. “We have to get on as a team and the council needs to work together as adults,” said Baker. As per ministry directive, in the absence of a mayor and a full council, many projects were put on hold and all major decisions were reserved for until after the byelection. Baker said that projects that require urgent attention, like the completion of the Newcastle Creek Dam and weir – which were put on hold – will be “priority issues” that the council will address in Dec. Going forward they will also look at tourism and economic development for the village. Baker said that they will be holding discussions with the executive director of Campbell River & District Chamber of Commerce, Mary Ruth Snyder in the coming months. Binny Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Campbell River Mirror
Tara Beagan says receiving the Siminovitch Prize feels like a win for every Indigenous theatremaker who came before her.The Calgary-based playwright was awarded the $100,000 Canadian theatre honour on Thursday for what jurors hailed as a "sublime and unbearable" style that makes her a singular figure in the dramatic arts.But Beagan, who is Ntlaka'pamux and has Irish ancestry, said she shares the acclaim with the ancestors from whom she inherited the sacred tradition of Indigenous storytelling, allowing her to pass it on to the next generation."If we're in a position of where we have a platform to speak from, that's because there are people who have already cut that path for us," Beagan said in an interview earlier this week."It's acknowledging (who is) ahead of us and behind us, and realizing that it's really more of a circular existence."This intergenerational philosophy shapes Beagan's work as the co-founder and director of the Indigenous-led arts company Article 11 based in Calgary.The not-for-profit fosters collaborations between young artists and elders to produce contemporary theatre rooted in traditional ways of living.A playwright, actor, director, dramaturge and producer, Beagan is currently the playwright-in-residence at Winnipeg's Prairie Theatre Exchange.She served as the artistic director of Native Earth Performing Arts in Toronto from 2011 to 2013, and has held residencies at the National Arts Centre and the Writers' Trust of Canada's Berton House.Seven of her 32 plays are published, two of which earned nods at the Dora Mavor Moore Awards. Her 2020 play "Honour Beat" won the Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award for Drama.As this year's Siminovitch Prize laureate, Beagan wins $75,000, and Joelle Peters of Walpole Island First Nation, selected as her protege, will receive $25,000."(Beagan's) vision is uncompromising, her voice is necessary, her trajectory embodies the deepest values of the Siminovitch Prize," jury chair Vanessa Porteous gushed in a statement. "This is quite simply excellent, searing, unforgettable theatre of the highest calibre."Beagan said the prize money will offer a reprieve from the "culture of poverty" that plagues Canada's underfunded theatre scene.Before colonization, the arts were considered a resource, said Beagan, and while Canada might not recognize their full value, Indigenous creators have kept this rich culture alive for hundreds of years."There's not always been an understanding beyond the Indigenous community of how much we have to offer, but we've always been certain of that, so we've nurtured that within each other," said Beagan. "I think that that is a part of why the work coming from our own communities tends to be exciting and interdisciplinary and can't be kind of lumped in with one genre."The Siminovitch Prize rotates on a three-year cycle, recognizing professionals in the alternating fields of design, direction and playwriting.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020. Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press
Some Alberta faith communities are opting to suspend gatherings, despite rules allowing in-person worship to continue across the province. On Tuesday, the government announced new restrictions on places of worship, in areas like Calgary and Edmonton — anywhere with an enhanced status. The rules stipulate that faith leaders must calculate their pre-COVID attendance and cut it down to one-third of the regular total.The province encouraged online services, along with the distinction that in-person meetings and religious gatherings cannot be conducted in a private home while the measures are in effect. But some religious leaders say this doesn't go far enough and have ceased offering mass and in-person religious gatherings for the time being. Others have tightened their restrictions above and beyond the province's mandate.The Very Rev. Leighton Lee is the director of the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer, which is the Anglican cathedral in downtown Calgary. He's also the dean of the Anglican Diocese of Calgary. When cases began to climb, Lee was asked to reconvene a task force to come up with recommendations and measures to respond to the second wave of the pandemic. The decision was to suspend services beginning Nov. 15 until at least Dec. 6 — subject to change based on the pandemic situation. "We were making this decision to say, 'look, we can do our part and we can, in fact, be leaders in the community,'" Lee said. "We are faith leaders and we can demonstrate that by saying we believe the responsible thing to do as citizens of this province is to stay home as much as possible."The Rev. Anna Greenwood-Lee of St. Laurence Anglican Church said that while the diocese has decided to suspend mass for the time being, a message from the government would be more impactful and less confusing. "I commend churches that are sort of taking matters into their own hands," Greenwood-Lee said. "Frankly, it's confusing when we sort of put an extra layer of responsibility on churches to have to go above and beyond the guidance provided by the province."During the pandemic, Greenwood-Lee said there are other things more important than mass for her community, such as acts of service to the vulnerable populations who need a hand."We're called to donate to the food bank. Some of my parishioners are driving for the food bank right now to drop off food hampers at people's homes," Greenwood-Lee said."There's all sorts of good work that we can do as people of faith, even though we can't worship together on Sundays in person."Government 'sending the wrong message'Greenwood-Lee said the government's lack of limitations when it comes to in-person faith gatherings sends the wrong message, especially when faith-based gatherings have accounted for several of the province's outbreaks."[Premier] Jason Kenney seems hesitant to curtail people's rights or freedoms, but there's a basic ethical concept that none of us have any rights without responsibilities," Greenwood-Lee said."We have responsibilities to our neighbours. We have responsibilities to pay taxes. We have responsibilities not to drive while intoxicated. And right now we have a responsibility to limit public worship, to limit social gatherings, to wear a mask in order to protect the most vulnerable in our society."'If it's not safe we won't do it'First Alliance Church Calgary has two campuses in the city. In pre-pandemic times, one of the auditoriums was able to seat more than 2,000, lead pastor James Paton said.But after the pandemic's first wave, attendance was not encouraged, just available. To his knowledge, when people attended worship services after reopening, at most they were sitting 200 to 300 people, with distancing in place.With the rise in COVID-19 cases across Alberta, Paton said it was decided to stop weekend services until the weekend of Jan. 9."Whether that becomes the date with the open or not, I think would be very dependent on whether the multi-wave pandemic has got back under control," Paton said. "If that's not safe, we won't do it."Imam says mosque going above and beyond rulesShaikh Fayaz Tilly, a senior imam with the Muslim Council of Calgary and chaplain with the University of Calgary, said mosques in-person programming has moved online. The only in-person worship is permitted for Friday prayer."All of our programming, with the exception of Friday prayer, has switched to online programming," Tilly said. "The Qur'an speaks about, you know, Friday, the day of congregating, as long as it is safe for people to congregate. And we truly believe that, you know, families who pray together, stay together as a community to pray together, stay together as well."Tilly added the mosque is going above and beyond government recommendations in terms of attendance and health measures. For Friday prayer, he is encouraging only those who are healthy and without comorbidities to attend in person. Prayer lasts for approximately 12 minutes, Tilly said, and congregating isn't allowed. 'How can we preserve human life?'Rabbi Mark Glickman is the spiritual leader of Temple B'nai Tikvah. He said in-person gatherings have been suspended. He cannot speak for other temples but noted some of the more conservative groups have practices and rules that don't allow an easy shift to online worship."The Jewish perspective on the question of to shut down or not shut down comes down to how can we most effectively preserve human life? And that trumps everything in Judaism," Glickman said."That's really what we're looking for … however possible."Alberta Health did not have a percentage breakdown to reflect how many COVID-19 cases have been traced to faith communities. But the agency did note there have been "various large outbreaks" throughout the pandemic.
OTTAWA — Eric Duncan, the first openly gay Conservative MP, laced into the federal health minister Thursday over the Liberals failure to end a ban on gay men donating blood. In a heated and emotional exchange during a late-night committee hearing in the House of Commons, Duncan pressed Patty Hajdu repeatedly, including a direct question on whether she'd accept a blood donation from him.Hajdu didn't directly answer, pointing to ongoing work to end a ban on donations from men who have sex with men. Canada banned blood donations from gay men since 1992 before allowing it in 2013 if the donor abstained from sex with another man for at least five years.That was changed to one year in 2016, and then three months in 2019.But the Liberals promised to end the ban completely in both 2015 and 2019.Duncan said there is a desperate need for blood donations during the second wave of COVID-19."I want to donate and make a difference, but I can't because I'm gay," he said. "In the year 2020, why is that?Hajdu said both Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Quebec are independent from government and they have to do the right amount of research to end the ban entirely. She said the organizations have been funded by the government to do that, but Duncan accused Hajdu of hiding behind bureaucrats."She had no problem during an election campaign telling gay men this would end," he said.Three times, he asked Hajdu directly if she'd accept a blood donation from him, and three times she did not directly answer."Does she not feel comfortable, from me as a gay man, taking my blood," he asked.Hajdu said as soon as the blood agencies submit their recommendations on how to end the ban, they will be reviewed and changes will be made. "I think the gay blood ban needs to end," she said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020. Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press
Police in Chatham-Kent have charged the organizer of a rally against COVID-19 restrictions.The organizer, a 32 year-old Wallaceburg woman, was part of the "Chatham-Kent Freedom Group," according to a news release from Chatham-Kent police. The group held the rally at Tecumseh Park in Chatham on Nov. 21, which was followed by a march to the downtown core. Police say that they investigated the event along with bylaw officials. The investigation determined that the number of attendees was greater than what is allowed for outdoor gatherings — which is currently 25 — and issued a Provincial Offences Act Summons for failure to comply with the Reopening Ontario Act.A person convicted of the offence is liable to a fine of at least $10,000 and up to $100,000, and could include prison time of not more than one year."During these difficult and challenging times those jeopardizing public safety and contradicting the law, will be held accountable to the courts. The law is clear and requires responsible action," Chatham-Kent Police chief Gary Conn said in a news release.The charges come as police in London, Ont. charged three women for an anti-restriction rally that did not comply with public health regulations. Police in St. Thomas and Aylmer have also charged rally organizers.The accused in the Chatham-Kent case is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 6, 2021.
Premier John Horgan says his new cabinet appointed Thursday will focus on keeping people healthy and safe during the pandemic. The B.C. premier says he kept current Health Minister Adrian Dix in his same post and appointed former municipal affairs minister Selina Robinson as minister of finance to replace Carole James who did not run in last month’s election. Horgan says Ravi Khalon will be his point person to lead pandemic recovery efforts.
OTTAWA — Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough says health practitioners should not be allowed to discuss the issue of assisted dying until a patient asks about it — and she's open to amending the law to make that clear.Her comment is not likely to sit well with some health care practitioners who have argued that talking about all options available to patients is part of their duty to ensure informed consent.Indeed, the Canadian Nurses Association has urged the government to specifically clarify in the law that medical practitioners can initiate discussions on assisted dying.Qualtrough made the comment Thursday during testimony at the Senate's legal affairs committee, which is studying a bill that would expand access to medical assistance in dying (MAID) to people who are not already near-death.She also told the committee she's open to considering an amendment to the bill to impose a 12-month sunset clause on its proposed ban on individuals suffering solely from mental illnesses to seek an assisted death — an exclusion legal experts have said is unconstitutional.Disability rights groups are strenuously opposed to Bill C-7, which they contend tells people with disabilities that their lives are not worth living.Conservative Senate Leader Don Plett raised the case of Roger Foley, a 45-year-old with a neurodegenerative condition that has left him hospitalized, unable to move or care for himself.Foley told the House of Commons justice committee earlier this month that he was pressured by hospital staff to seek an assisted death when he asked for home care. He has taken his allegation to court, arguing that his right to an "assisted life" has been violated.Qualtrough told Plett she has "grave concerns" about what happened to Foley."And I can tell you he's not alone," she added.She said she "regularly" hears from people who are "appalled" to discover that a family member with a disability has been offered what she called "unprovoked MAID.""I think that has to stop ... It really speaks to the underlying systemic discrimination that we can't not talk about anymore in this country."Qualtrough initially suggested that it's up to colleges of physicians in each province to regulate the matter. She also argued that the government — which is rushing to pass the bill by a court-imposed deadline of Dec. 18 — didn't have time to address all outstanding issues in the legislation.But pushed by Plett to explain why the bill couldn't be amended to specify that discussions on assisted dying must be "patient-led," Qualtrough said she personally "would certainly be open to considering that."Earlier this week, the CEO of the nurses association, Michael Villeneuve, told the committee that the law should explicitly allow health practitioners to raise the issue with patients.Villeneuve, a critical care nurse, said he's never seen coercion. If anything, he said doctors and nurses are reluctant to talk about such things. "But sometimes it frees up the conversation if a nurse or a doctor says, 'What do you think about this? Have you thought about your life? Have you thought about your dying?'" he said."The intent is not to coerce but rather to open up a conversation of options for a legal service."Dr. Stefani Green, president of the Canadian Association of MAID Assessors and Providers, told the committee earlier this week that there are circumstances where a practitioner should raise the issue with a patient.For instance, she said there are situations in which a patient is not aware of his or her eligibility for assisted dying."One could argue that it is perhaps unprofessional not to lay all options on the table in such a situation," Green said. "It’s the same when you’re outlining chemotherapy options. You must put all three of them on the table if they’re available, not just one."Jocelyn Downie, a professor of law and medicine at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said informing patients about all legal options available to them is "a fundamental principle of Canadian consent law." "An amendment that would prohibit raising the issue would be a cruel amendment and it would fly in the face of well-established statutory and common law and professional standards," she said Thursday."It would likely also chill discussions of MAID as clinicians may fear liability."The NDP proposed an amendment at the House of Commons justice committee to specify that raising the issue with a patient would not be a criminal offence. That amendment was rejected.A number of senators on the legal affairs committee have raised objections to the bill's proposed blanket ban on assisted dying for people suffering solely from mental illnesses. They've argued that it violates the charter guarantee of equal treatment under the law, regardless of physical or mental disability, and predicted it will be struck down by the courts.Sen. Stan Kutcher, a psychiatrist who is a member of the Independent Senators Groups, asked Qualtrough if the government would consider an amendment that would remove the exclusion, with the proviso that assisted dying for those suffering solely from mental illnesses would not be allowed for one year while guidelines are developed to regulate how the procedure could be provided to such individuals."I think we would," Qualtrough told him. "Yeah, we want to make this law as good as it can be and we will consider whatever the Senate gives back to us very, very seriously."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020.Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
VICTORIA — B.C. Premier John Horgan's new cabinet relies on some familiar faces in key positions with Adrian Dix remaining in health and David Eby at attorney general, but he appointed new finance and education ministers Thursday in an expanded inner circle that will focus on keeping people safe through the pandemic.Selina Robinson, the former minister of municipal affairs and housing, was named finance minister, replacing Carole James, who did not seek re-election last month due to health reasons.Horgan said his government will rely on a variety of ministers in the fight against COVID-19 and to steer the province's economic recovery efforts. But Dix, Robinson and Ravi Kahlon, who was appointed jobs, economic recovery and innovation minister, will carry many of the pandemic duties.Khalon is taking on "an enormous responsibility" and will be responsible for the province's recovery plan announced in September, Horgan told a news conference."Ravi will be the point person and I'm confident that he is going to make sure everything we can do will be done," Horgan said.Khalon, a former Olympic field hockey player, served as Horgan's parliamentary secretary in the forests ministry in the last NDP government.Horgan had similar praise for Robinson, saying her work ethic is unprecedented and she's well known across B.C. from her work as the municipal affairs and housing minister. She is also a former city council member in Coquitlam."I have tremendous trust in her capacity," he said. "I gave her an awful lot to do on the housing file, on the municipal affairs file. Her understanding of the people of B.C. is unmatched."James will continue to work with Horgan as a special adviser, taking a post that pays $1 a year, Horgan said.Newcomer Jennifer Whiteside, a former official with the Hospital Employees' Union who ran for the New Democrats in New Westminster, was named education minister, replacing Rob Fleming, who was moved to the transportation portfolio.Horgan says his 57-member caucus will be engaged in the government's decision making either as parliamentary secretaries or through new government caucus committees that have been put in place. He described the cabinet as "a diverse and dynamic team."The NDP won a majority government in last month's election, capturing 57 of the 87 seats in the legislature.The new cabinet includes 20 ministers and four ministers of state. Horgan named 12 men and 12 women to cabinet posts, who are supported by 13 parliamentary secretaries.The premier kept some of his most senior ministers in their previous cabinet posts, including Mike Farnworth as solicitor general and Harry Bains as labour minister. Eby was given the added responsibility of housing.Three former MPs were handed cabinet posts, with Murray Rankin being named Indigenous relations and reconciliation minister; Nathan Cullen as minister of state for lands, natural resource operations; and Sheila Malcolmson, who served in the last legislature after leaving federal politics, becoming the minister of mental health and addictions.Fin Donnelly, also a former MP, was named parliamentary secretary for fisheries and aquaculture.Among the newcomers to cabinet are Mitzi Dean at children and family development; former Tofino mayor Josie Osbourne at municipal affairs; and Nicholas Simons at social development and poverty reduction.The swearing-in ceremony was different because of the pandemic. Horgan was with Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin at the University of Victoria for the ceremony, while all the cabinet ministers, except Eby who was at the university, were sworn in through video links.People across B.C. are struggling with the burdens of the pandemic, now in its ninth month, Horgan said."But we are buoyed by the good news of vaccines on the way, but until then, we have to continue to do our level best to keep the second wave of COVID-19 under control and prepare for the new year." Horgan has recalled the legislature for a brief session with a throne speech on Dec. 7.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020.Dirk Meissner, The Canadian PressNote to readers: This is a corrected story. Previous version spelled the last name as Khalon. It is Ravi Kahlon.
Collisions on Edmonton streets have dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the city says nearly the same number of people died in traffic-related incidents so far this year as in 2019. Jessica Lemarre, the City of Edmonton's director of traffic safety, said the volume of traffic decreased at different points in the past eight months and likewise, so did collisions. However, 12 people have died in traffic collisions so far this year, while 14 people died in 2019. "Which tells us things like speed and impairment continue to be extremely risky behaviour — not only risky, but also illegal — that leads to tragedy," Lemarre said. At a news conference Thursday, Lemarre presented an outline of Safe Mobility Strategy 2021-2025, a new approach by the city to achieve Vision Zero. The city adopted Vision Zero in 2015, a campaign that started in Sweden in 1997 with the long-term goal of zero traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries. In 2015, 32 people died from traffic collisions on Edmonton roads. By 2019, that death toll had been cut in half, Lemarre said, and there were 30 per cent fewer serious injuries than five years earlier. Lemarre noted that 69 per cent of serious collisions and deaths are on arterial roads. "We know when we look at the cause of those crashes that 80 per cent of those crashes are the results of driver error." Since Vision Zero began in Edmonton, 82 crosswalks have been upgraded, the report says. Pedestrian vs driver Safety measures, such as improving signals and signs at intersections, have proven effective for drivers but not so much for pedestrians and cyclists. The report shows from 2015 to 2019, motorcycle crashes were down about 60 per cent and vehicle crashes, 30 per cent. Crashes involving people walking were down 10 per cent, and those with cyclists didn't change. The city uses data from Edmonton police reports to dissect causes and elements related to collisions. In 2019, the top causes of serious and fatal collisions were tailgating, drivers losing control and running off the road, not yielding to a pedestrian, drivers running red lights, and turning left across the path of another vehicle or person. In the coming months, Lemarre said the city will continue exploring traffic-calming measures and safety improvements. She said there are many options, including community-focused projects like jersey barriers painted by local artists or vibrant crosswalks with creative paint. In recent years, the city has installed eight scramble crosswalks and synchronized signals, she noted. Council's urban planning committee will review the strategy at a meeting next Tuesday. Like previous traffic safety work, the new strategy will be funded by the automated enforcement reserve. Proposed budgets for new traffic safety work will be presented to city council early next year. Photo radar Part of the Safe Mobility Strategy includes photo radar, a controversial area of speed enforcement that Coun. Andrew Knack hopes can be partly resolved. "There's this never-ending debate on whether photo radar is a cash cow," Knack said. More than a year ago, Knack asked city administration for an update on an interactive map they were working on that would show people if photo radar improved safety at various locations it's used around Edmonton. "Instead of that immediate reaction of either it's good or it's bad, actually have some hard data to be able to show people and say: 'in each location, here's the specific impact we have seen when we use this tool'." Knack said in the west end, the stretch on 142nd Street between 107th Avenue and Stony Plain Road gets a lot of criticism. The speed limit goes down to 50 km/h from 60 km/h. "I'm not sure if that's making things better," Knack said. "Is there a better set of tools?" Lemarre said that data and the interactive map - to be posted on the City's Open Data site — is scheduled to be complete by the end of the year.
St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., is reconfiguring its X-ring ceremony this year, but not everyone agrees with the changes. School officials will broadcast the event online due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the province."It wasn't an easy decision," said St. FX vice-president Murray Kyte. "But we knew at the end of the day that we did not want to create an environment where we would increase the risk to our community and the Antigonish community."Students were informed of the change this week over social media, with a number of commenters expressing disappointment that students weren't given a say in the decision after spending years working toward this moment.Missing a 'rite of passage'Crystal Wentzell's daughter expected to receive her X-ring at a regular ceremony next month.Now, after a four-year nursing degree, the piece of jewelry will be sent to their Halifax home by mail. Adding to Wentzell's frustration is that the university won't pay for shipping."The ceremony is almost a rite of passage for these students," said Wentzell. "They look forward to it, I think, more than the actual graduation ceremony."Roughly 800 students are eligible for X-rings at the Dec. 3 ceremony, including more than 150 graduates who live outside Antigonish. Ceremony held every Dec. 3The rings were created during the Second World War. Before that, each graduating class appointed a committee to design a pin for their class with its own motto. In 1942, a ring bearing a simple X was created instead — and a tradition was born. The university bills it as the third-most recognized ring in the world, after Super Bowl and papal rings.The first ring ceremony took place in 1958. It was reinstated in 1982 and held every year on Dec. 3, or what's known as St. FX Day.Wentzell said she believes St. FX administration should have offered to reschedule the event."Later in the year would be a great option. And if COVID rears its ugly head again in the new year then it will have to go virtually," she said. "But there was never any mention or consideration to just postponing the ceremony."Hundreds sign petitionAlthough some commenters on Tuesday's social media post expressed disappointment, others supported the decision, saying it was the right thing to do. Still, many asked the university to consider postponing the event.As of Thursday night, close to 400 people had signed an online petition asking the university to give students the option of an in-person ceremony at a later date.Kyte said there are multiple reasons why a postponement was not considered.The rings are typically handed out on Dec. 3, as that day pays homage to the university's patron saint.He also said predicting COVID numbers by spring would be difficult. Finally, he said the university could not keep hold of student rings."We can't replicate it," he said of the traditional X-ring ceremony. "But we're going to do a really good job at it and we'll make the best of it."School officials say the X-ring is copyrighted and must be earned to be worn. Only a graduate of the university or a senior student is eligible to purchase a ring. MORE TOP STORIES
On Thursday evening the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) identified a positive COVID-19 case in an individuals at Ecole St. Mary High School in Prince Albert. In a news release by the Prince Albert Catholic School Division on Sunday evening the division explained that communication has been shared with the specific classroom/cohorts, as well as the school community. These cases were acquired outside of the school setting, the division said. The SHA is proceeding with their assessment of the situation, and all individuals deemed to be close contacts are being notified. “The class/cohorts, impacted by this case, barring any other cases, are required to Self-Isolate until midnight on Dec. 3. The class/cohorts will be moved to remote learning until the isolation period is complete,” the release said. These specific class/cohorts are advised to contact 811 Healthline for advice. “École St. Mary High School will resume classes Nov. 27 for all other students and staff that are not deemed to be close contacts. Public Health officials are advising all students and staff to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms daily and not to enter the school if ill.” No further information was made available citing privacy concerns. “Our thoughts and prayers are with this member of our school community, and we hope they are doing well.” They emphasized that everyone has a shared responsibility to decrease the risk of COVID-19 entering schools. “Thank you to everyone for continuing to be diligent in performing daily health screening, staying home if ill, calling HealthLine 811 if exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, practicing proper hand hygiene, maintaining physical distancing as much as possible, wearing a mask when appropriate and doing everything we can to keep each other safe,” the release stated.Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
OTTAWA — The first COVID-19 vaccine could be approved for use in Canada within two weeks, Health Canada's chief medical adviser said Thursday.The department's medicine review team is currently reviewing three COVID-19 vaccines — one from Pfizer and BioNtech, a second from Moderna and a third from AstraZeneca.Dr. Supriya Sharma said at a briefing to reporters in Ottawa that the Pfizer review is the most advanced of the three and that Health Canada is working alongside similar review teams in the United States and Europe."We're basically looking at the same data packages. We have very similar authorization pathways that are available for public health emergencies," she said."The way that the reviews are progressing is that we're expecting to make a final decision on the vaccines around the same time as the (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) and the European Medicines Agency."The FDA is to meet Dec. 10 to decide on approving the Pfizer vaccine. Pfizer is set to ship more than six million doses as soon as that happens.Sharma was less definitive about when Canadians will start getting vaccinated. She said it is possible the first doses could arrive before the end of December but seemed to think it more realistic for them to start shipping here in January.Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses from Pfizer and the option to buy another 56 million. The first four million are supposed to arrive between January and March.A Pfizer spokeswoman told The Canadian Press Thursday there is no exact date yet for shipments to Canada, adding the timing will depend on when it gets approved."We are working with urgency in collaboration with stakeholders, including Health Canada and public health decision makers, to bring our vaccine candidate to Canada in a timely manner," Christina Antoniou said.Pfizer reported preliminary results from its clinical trials earlier this month, claiming their genetics-based vaccine is 94.5 per cent effective.Sharma said Health Canada typically assigns seven to 12 people to review a new vaccine for approval, and that those people will go through hundreds of thousands of pages of data. It's normally a process that takes more than 2,000 hours.Sharma said they are dedicating even more people to the process for COVID-19, but said safety is a top priority when it comes to deciding if the vaccine can be used in Canada."We will only authorize a vaccine if its benefits outweigh its risks," said Sharma.Pfizer is just one of seven vaccines Canada has a purchase agreement to get. None of the vaccines have completed clinical trials yet and Health Canada would still need to approve all of them once they do.Opposition MPs are growing weary of the lack of specific information the federal Liberals are providing on the vaccine plan. They peppered Health Minister Patty Hajdu with questions about it at a committee hearing in the House of Commons Thursday night, including about Canada's own vaccine production capacity, details of the negotiations to get the Can-Sino vaccine from China which fell apart in the summer, and when Health Canada first learned the Pfizer vaccine needed specialty freezers to keep it at temperatures below -70C.Hajdu dodged every question with talking points that referenced her pleasure at how many doses of vaccine Canadians will get and how there was a "whole of government approach."Conservative leader Erin O'Toole said sarcastically that he was certain Canadians would be thrilled to find they'll get the most doses two years from now.NDP health critic Don Davies was equally exasperated when he got no answer to when provinces are being asked to have their vaccine administration plans ready, or why Australia has a fully laid out vaccine rollout plan and Canada does not."Perhaps if the minister isn't going to answer the questions she can do it succinctly," he suggested.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020. Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
Boundary-Similkameen MLA Roly Russell is taking on the role of Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Development following the announcement of the BC NDP’s new cabinet Thursday. The appointment to the position, working with Katrine Conroy Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, fits with one of Russell’s campaign promises to be a voice for rural B.C. “It feels pretty wonderful to be honest,” Russell told the Times-Chronicle after being sworn in as MLA for Boundary-Similkameen on Tuesday. “I feel especially humbled and honoured to have been officially granted the position (of MLA).” Russell said he is excited for what lies ahead, but is admittedly apprehensive about the task of governing through the many challenges that lie ahead. “COVID is certainly top of mind for everybody, of course, it’s hard to escape that. I think, for me, one of the things that became apparent during the campaign that was more dramatic than I expected was the need to have a strong rural voice. It’s not just articulating rural issues, it’s that rural lens on issues that are the same across the province. Even something like COVID. It has a different manifestation in rural B.C. in a lot of ways than it does in urban B.C,” Russell said. “Likewise climate action and how we are going to be able to move on some of that is top of mind. And then there is the whole slew of more traditional issues, revisiting and reforming our forest management practises and so on, overdose crisis management and how we actually try to make some positive headway there. It’s a long, long list.” Entering his first year as an MLA, Russell, like many people, has been missing out on events that would normally take place in person including Tuesday’s swearing in ceremony. While he said it was initially a bit disappointing for Russell, he certainly did the honours in a uniquely 2020 way. “After kind of accepting it, I realized 2020 has been a bit of a dumpster fire for most of us in some way or another — or in some cases in a lot of different ways. And you know what? It’s been a unique year, and one that I don’t expect we are going to duplicate anytime soon. So the fact that we did a virtual swearing in ceremony is kind of par for the course. Frankly, by the end of it I felt honoured to do my swearing-in wearing my suit and my slippers. I don’t expect that will ever happen again either,” Russell said. The newly-elected NDP majority is tasking new cabinet members with “continuing the government’s cross-ministry response to the pandemic, providing better health care for people and families, delivering affordability and security in B.C.’s communities, and investing in good jobs and livelihoods in a clean-energy future,” the NDP stated in a press release. “The pandemic has turned the lives of British Columbians upside down,” Premier Horgan said following cabinet appointments Thursday. “We have come a long way together, but we have much further to go. This skilled, diverse team is ready to continue our fight against COVID-19 and build an economic recovery that includes everyone.” List of new cabinet and parliamentary secretaries: Premier: John Horgan Attorney General (and Minister Responsible For Housing): David Eby * Parliamentary Secretary – Anti-Racism Initiatives: Rachna Singh Advanced Education and Skills Training: Anne Kang * Parliamentary Secretary – Skills Training: Andrew Mercier Agriculture, Food and Fisheries: Lana Popham * Parliamentary Secretary – Fisheries and Aquaculture: Fin Donnelly Citizens’ Services: Lisa Beare Children and Family Development: Mitzi Dean * Minister of State for Child Care: Katrina Chen Education: Jennifer Whiteside Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation (and Minister Responsible for the Consular Corps of British Columbia): Bruce Ralston Environment and Climate Change Strategy (and Minister Responsible for Translink): George Heyman * Parliamentary Secretary – Environment: Kelly Greene Finance: Selina Robinson * Parliamentary Secretary – Gender Equity: Grace Lore Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development: Katrine Conroy * Minister of State for Lands, Natural Resource Operations: Nathan Cullen * Parliamentary Secretary – Rural Development: Roly Russell Health (and Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs): Adrian Dix * Parliamentary Secretary – Seniors Services and Long Term Care: Mable Elmore Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation: Murray Rankin Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation: Ravi Kahlon * Minister of State for Trade: George Chow * Parliamentary Secretary – Technology and Innovation: Brenda Bailey Labour: Harry Bains * Parliamentary Secretary – New Economy: Adam Walker Mental Health and Addictions: Sheila Malcolmson Municipal Affairs: Josie Osborne Public Safety and Solicitor General: Mike Farnworth * Parliamentary Secretary – Emergency Preparedness: Jennifer Rice Social Development and Poverty Reduction: Nicholas Simons * Parliamentary Secretary – Community Development and Non-Profits: Niki Sharma * Parliamentary Secretary – Accessibility: Dan Coulter Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport: Melanie Mark * Parliamentary Secretary – Arts and Film: Bob D’Eith Transportation and Infrastructure: Rob Fleming * Minister of State for Infrastructure: Bowinn MaDale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle