Serving up still eggs and pasta in the cold, cold weather.
Serving up still eggs and pasta in the cold, cold weather.
Ottawa will not license any Indigenous "moderate livelihood" fishery in Atlantic Canada unless it operates within the commercial season, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said Wednesday, siding with a key demand from the region's commercial fishing industry, while angering Indigenous leaders. The statement is a major development in the dispute over treaty rights-based fishing that sparked violence last fall when the Sipekne'katik band launched its own self-regulated 'moderate livelihood' lobster fishery. The fishery in St. Marys Bay in southwest Nova Scotia took place outside the commercial season, angering other fishermen who said it was both unfair and bad for conservation. "Seasons ensure that stocks are harvested sustainably and they are necessary for an orderly, predictable, and well-managed fishery," Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said in a statement, confirming a CBC News report earlier in the day. "In effort-based fisheries such as lobster, seasons are part of the overall management structure that conserves the resource, ensures there isn't overfishing, and distributes economic benefits across Atlantic Canada." WATCH | The history of the Mi'kmaw fishery: DFO indicated a willingness to discuss other details with affected First Nation communities. But Sipekne'katik Chief Mike Sack urged Mi'kmaw bands in Atlantic Canada to reject the federal government's position and told reporters his First Nation will continue to operate its fishery outside DFO seasons in 2021. "They're trying to divide and conquer and throw a carrot to a band or two and have them sign and just hurt everybody's case. So I hope that no other communities do sign. They don't take that low hanging fruit," he said. Sack restated his position that the treaty right was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada's Marshall decision, and accused DFO of trying to divide and conquer the Mi'kmaq. In 1999, the court affirmed the Mi'kmaw treaty right to fish in pursuit of a "moderate livelihood," but under federal government regulations for conservation. Ottawa spent half a billion dollars integrating Indigenous bands into the commercial fishery through licence buy-backs and training, but it never defined "moderate livelihood." Jordan cited part of the Marshall ruling to justify her authority. She noted the Supreme Court said "treaty rights are subject to regulation provided such regulation is shown by the Crown to be justified on conservation or other grounds of public importance." "That is what we are implementing," Jordan said in her statement. The department is offering Indigenous fishermen in Nova Scotia a pathway to sell lobster harvested in a moderate livelihood fishery. Right now, that catch does not have DFO's stamp of approval. Without authorization, they can't legally sell their catch to licenced buyers, such as lobster pounds and processors. Bands that accept DFO's position will receive a moderate livelihood licence that will allow them to sell the catch in 2021. Under provincial rules, only fish products harvested under federal commercial licences can be purchased by shore processors. The federal government "will balance additional First Nations access through already available licences and a willing buyer-willing seller approach, protecting our stocks and preserving the industry for generations to come," Jordan's statement said. Sipekne'katik First Nation Chief Michael Sack, right, halted talks with the federal Fisheries Department in December after reaching an impasse.(Paul Withers/CBC) The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw Chiefs called the government's conditions "unacceptable" and condemned them as part of a "colonial approach" to the rights-based fishery recognized by the Supreme Court. "DFO continues to dictate and impose their rules on a fishery that is outside of their scope and mandate," said Chief Gerald Toney, the assembly's fisheries lead, in a statement. The right to a livelihood fishery isn't, and shouldn't be, driven by industry or the federal government, he said. "It is something that needs to come from the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia. Imposing restrictions independently, without input of the Mi'kmaq, on our implementation of Rights is an approach that must stop." Mi'kmaw leaders and some academics have insisted the fishery in St. Marys Bay poses no risk to stocks because it is too small. It's a claim the commercial industry rejects. One organization representing commercial fishermen said the DFO has made public what it had been telling the industry in private. "This position needs to come from them and they need to come out publicly, more often," said Martin Mallet, executive director of the Maritime Fishermen's Union. Mallet said commercial fishermen expect the DFO to enforce its rules if bands operate out of season, including pulling traps and "potentially arresting individuals that are not keeping up with the law." A group representing harvesters in southwestern Nova Scotia said the government's position "can provide certainty" for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishermen. "However, lasting and consistent enforcement that is fair to all harvesters will be critical," the Unified Fisheries Conservation Alliance said in a statement. The ambiguity over moderate livelihood led to violence last year when several bands launched self-regulated lobster fisheries — all taking place outside of commercial lobster seasons. In October, two facilities storing Mi'kmaw catches were vandalized, including one that was later burned to the ground. Indigenous harvesters also said hundreds of their traps were pulled by non-Indigenous commercial fishermen. After tensions abated, the DFO pulled hundreds of Mi'kmaw traps out of the water, many bearing band moderate livelihood tags. On Wednesday, the DFO returned to Sipekne'katik more than 200 traps it had seized last fall. Sipekne'katik First Nation Chief Mike Sack, shown in October, said Wednesday his band will continue to operate its moderate livelihood fishery outside DFO seasons in 2021.(Pat Callaghan/CBC) When defending the self-regulated fisheries, the Mi'kmaq point to the huge number of commercial traps in the water compared to those from bands. The Nova Scotia Seafood Alliance, which represents shore buyers, said that is misleading. Stewart Lamont of Tangier Lobster said he accepts the treaty right but maintains the fisheries must take place within commercial seasons. "The lobster biomass is extremely vulnerable during certain months of the year, most particularly late July, August, September, October, when lobsters are going through their annual molt," said Lamont. "They're literally hungrier than normal. They've taken on a new shell. They are far more readily embraced into a trap." He said hauling lobster at that time is short-sighted. "By the same token, they are of far lesser quality. They tend to be soft and medium shell. It's not a premium product." Commercial lobster fishing season varies across Nova Scotia, in part to maintain a steady supply to the market, and to protect stocks when they are vulnerable. MORE TOP STORIES
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials in Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that vaccination rollout plans for the month included the province's first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some. Chief medical officer Heather Morrison has said people over the age of 80 will get a second dose based on their existing appointments. Going forward, she said, other residents will get a longer interval between their first and second doses, but she didn’t specific how long that will be. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. Quebec announced Tuesday it had reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. Health Minister Christian Dube said about 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the one first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube has said. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. She also says the province will soon share an updated vaccine plan that factors in expected shipments of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The province will do that after getting guidance from the federal government on potentially extending the time between first and second doses, like B.C. is doing, of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to four months, Elliott says She also says Ontario seniors won't receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine since there's limited data on its effectiveness in older populations. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. The province said this week that it may follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. The government says it hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. If that happens, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry says the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means some people will get their first shot sooner than planned. She says B.C. will focus its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among essential workers, first responders and younger people with more social interactions who would have to wait longer to receive their first doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. It's now possible that all adults could get their first shot by July, Henry says. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The Defence Department took more than three hours to dispatch the National Guard to the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol despite a frantic request for reinforcement from police, according to testimony Wednesday that added to the finger-pointing about the government response. Maj. Gen. William Walker, commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, told senators that the then-chief of the Capitol Police requested military support in a 1:49 p.m. call, but the Defence Department's approval for that support was not relayed to him until after 5 p.m., according to prepared testimony. Guard troops who had been waiting on buses were then rushed to the Capitol. That delay stood in contrast to the immediate approval for National Guard support granted in response to the civil unrest that roiled American cities last spring as an outgrowth of racial justice protests, Walker said. As local officials pleaded for help, Army officials raised concerns about the optics of a substantial National Guard presence at the Capitol, he said. “The Army senior leadership” expressed to officials on the call “that it would not be their best military advice to have uniformed Guardsmen on the Capitol,” Walker said. The Senate hearing is the second about what went wrong on Jan. 6, with national security officials face questions about missed intelligence and botched efforts to quickly gather National Guard troops that day as a violent mob laid siege to the U.S. Capitol. Even as Walker detailed the National Guard delay, another military official noted that local officials in Washington had said days earlier that no such support was needed. Senators were eager to grill officials from the Pentagon, the National Guard and the Justice and Homeland Security departments about their preparations for that day. Supporters of then-President Donald Trump had talked online, in some cases openly, about gathering in Washington that day and interrupting the electoral count. At a hearing last week, officials who were in charge of security at the Capitol blamed one another as well as federal law enforcement for their own lack of preparation as hundreds of rioters descended on the building, easily breached the security perimeter and eventually broke into the Capitol. Five people died as a result of the rioting. So far, lawmakers conducting investigations have focused on failed efforts to gather and share intelligence about the insurrectionists’ planning before Jan. 6 and on the deliberations among officials about whether and when to call National Guard troops to protect Congress. The officials at the hearing last week, including ousted Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, gave conflicting accounts of those negotiations. Robert Contee, the acting chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department, told senators he was “stunned” over the delayed response and said Sund was pleading with Army officials to deploy National Guard troops as the rioting rapidly escalated. Senate Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar, one of two Democratic senators who will preside over Wednesday's hearing, said in an interview Tuesday that she believes every moment counted as the National Guard decision was delayed and police officers outside the Capitol were beaten and injured by the rioters. “Any minute that we lost, I need to know why,” Klobuchar said. The hearing comes as thousands of National Guard troops are still patrolling the fenced-in Capitol and as multiple committees across Congress are launching investigations into mistakes made on Jan. 6. The probes are largely focused on security missteps and the origins of the extremism that led hundreds of Trump supporters to break through the doors and windows of the Capitol, hunt for lawmakers and temporarily stop the counting of electoral votes. Congress has, for now, abandoned any examination of Trump’s role in the attack after the Senate acquitted him last month of inciting the riot by telling the supporters that morning to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat. As the Senate hears from the federal officials, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman will testify before a House panel that is also looking into how security failed. In a hearing last week before the same subcommittee, she conceded there were multiple levels of failures but denied that law enforcement failed to take seriously warnings of violence before the insurrection. In the Senate, Klobuchar said there is particular interest in hearing from Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, who was on the phone with Sund and the Department of the Army as the rioters first broke into the building. Contee, the D.C. police chief, was also on the call and told senators that the Army was initially reluctant to send troops. “While I certainly understand the importance of both planning and public perception — the factors cited by the staff on the call — these issues become secondary when you are watching your employees, vastly outnumbered by a mob, being physically assaulted,” Contee said. He said he had quickly deployed his own officers and he was “shocked” that the National Guard “could not — or would not — do the same." Contee said that Army staff said they were not refusing to send troops, but “did not like the optics of boots on the ground” at the Capitol. Also testifying at the joint hearing of the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees are Robert Salesses of the Defence Department, Melissa Smislova of the Department of Homeland Security and Jill Sanborn of the FBI, all officials who oversee aspects of intelligence and security operations. Lawmakers have grilled law enforcement officials about missed intelligence ahead of the attack, including a report from an FBI field office in Virginia that warned of online posts foreshadowing a “war” in Washington. Capitol Police leaders have said they were unaware of the report at the time, even though the FBI had forwarded it to the department. Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the report was disseminated though the FBI’s joint terrorism task force, discussed at a command post in Washington and posted on an internet portal available to other law enforcement agencies. Though the information was raw and unverified and appeared aspirational in nature, Wray said, it was specific and concerning enough that “the smartest thing to do, the most prudent thing to do, was just push it to the people who needed to get it.” Mary Clare Jalonick And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
TOPEKA, Kan. — Former Congressman Steve Watkins of Kansas has entered a diversion program to avoid trial over allegations that he voted illegally in a 2019 municipal election. Watkins, a Republican from Topeka who served only one term in the U.S. House, was facing three felony charges. He was accused of listing a postal box at a UPS store as his home on a state registration form when he was living temporarily at his parents' home. He was also charged with lying to a detective who investigated the case. The Shawnee County district attorney filed the charges just weeks before the August 2020 primary, and Watkins lost to now-Rep. Jake LaTurner. “I regret the error in my voter registration paperwork that led to these charges. I fully co-operated from the beginning and had no intent to deceive any one, at any time. I am glad to resolve the ordeal,” Watkins said in a statement Tuesday. Watkins acknowledged he lied to the detective when he said he did not vote in the Topeka City Council election, The Kansas City Star reported. Under the diversion agreement entered into Monday, Watkins' prosecution will be deferred for six months. If he meets the terms of the agreement, the case will be dropped by September. The Associated Press
The board of the Prince Albert Catholic School Division reaffirmed their support for the Toonies for Tuition campaign during their regular meeting on Monday. The board unanimously chose to support the fundraiser by donating to it. The board approves one fundraiser annually for an organization outside of the division and they chose to support it again in August 2020. “The goal is to raise the approximate value of $2 per student in our school division. For example, if we have 3,000 students our soft goal would be to acquire, to do fundraising for $6,000 and that gets forwarded to the trust to the Canadian Catholic School Trustees Association and they have a committee that reviews all of the applications. So that is something that we are going to endeavour to do over the next few weeks,” director of education Lorel Trumier said. The campaign supports students in provinces where there is no public funding for Catholic schools. The initiative was spearheaded in Canada by vice chair Albert Provost and began in 2011. The board has many new members and during the discussion Provost provided some background to get the board motivated. Trustees may have been aware of the campaign but from the perspective as a parent or stakeholder in the division. “They have been very proud to support Catholic education over many years and we are fortunate in this province to have publicly funded Catholic education and we don' t take that for granted for a minute so that's important,” Trumier said. The campaign has seen a drop in donations during the past year, as expected with schools closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the initial campaign in the fall $21, 219 was raised and any additional funds added between now and May will be added to the total. During the discussion Trumier explained that the division usually reaches out to parishes but have not been able to this year. In 2020, the President of the Saskatchewan Catholic School Board Association, Delmar Wagner contacted the division after the Annual General Meeting of the organization to advise that Prince Albert Catholic had fundraised the highest dollar amount per student in Saskatchewan. Each year a trophy is presented for the highest provincial and highest school board/division winner. Last year in Prince Albert the total funds raised were $2,250 with Ecole St. Anne raising the highest dollar amount with $1,200. Last year's provincial winner was Saskatchewan and the winner of the school board/division trophy was Kenora Catholic Division in Ontario. Prince Albert Catholic previously won the trophy from 2011 to 2017. The province of Saskatchewan also won the provincial trophy from 2011 to 2017. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
The Edmonton Police Service is considering releasing the recording of a call under dispute made by the latest Black Muslim woman to be targeted in a racist attack, Chief Dale McFee says. The woman has said she was discouraged from filing an official report after the Feb. 17 incident and felt the police response was motivated by her race and religion. But after an audit of the call, police said the evaluator's conduct was "professional and empathetic." "We certainly don't want to further victimize this individual," McFee told reporters at a news conference Tuesday, when asked by CBC if police would release the tape. "We need to make sure that we're doing that from a position that we're not going to create further stress or further harm to the individual." Police are working with the National Council of Canadian Muslims and speaking with the woman's legal counsel "to see just how we can address that and how we can better inform the public," McFee said. Messaging issues It's one of the issues around race and messaging for which Edmonton police are coming under fire after a series of racist attacks on Black Muslim women, and seemingly contradictory comments about a rally where protesters carried symbolically-racist tiki torches. While police initially characterized the protest, attended by known hate groups like the Soldiers of Odin and Urban Infidels, as mostly peaceful, McFee later tweeted that four officers were injured. "Overall it was peaceful," McFee said Tuesday of the rally that was monitored by the department's hate crimes unit. "But we did have one particular incident with an individual that thought he would take a few punches to the heads of our officers, and that obviously had some minor injuries associated," he said. "If we can identify that individual that did that, that individual will be held accountable." McFee condemned the use of torches and pledged to continue investigating but said actions by protesters had not met the legal threshold to lay charges. "There's no place for that," said McFee about the torches. "But that said, there's a difference between the legal threshold in relation to what is a hate crime. "From what I could see on there, they had no idea why they were even carrying those torches. That doesn't mean the organizers didn't think differently." 'Whatever we have to do to make it safer' Regarding the attacks on Black Muslim women that have left many Edmontonians feeling unsafe, McFee said police are regularly in touch with the victims. "Our primary interest is the safety of those individuals," McFee said. "We need to make sure that we do everything within our power to investigate those appropriately and lay the necessary charges … whether some of these end up being a hate crime, as per say, or if it just ends up being a crime, that we hold people accountable, whatever we have to do to make it safer for the individuals." McFee wrapped up the news conference by sharing an anecdote about a 12-year-old boy who was recently called a 'little racist bitch' because his father was a police officer. He said he was proud of his officers who were "taking it on the chin." "All this stuff is unacceptable and it's happening at various different levels in our community. The only way that we're going to solve this is as a community, we come together," he said. "We admit to some of the mistakes that we've all made and we have to start to figure a path forward. But that path isn't going to get easier when 90 per cent of our focus is on just blaming each other."
VICTORIA — British Columbia's chief coroner says deadlier street drugs are behind another grim milestone in the province's overdose crisis as a record was set for the number of deaths in January. The BC Coroners Service says 165 people died from suspected overdoses in January, the largest number of lives lost due to illicit drugs in the first month of a calendar year. It says the deaths come amid a rise in drug toxicity, with almost one in five of the deaths involving extreme levels of fentanyl concentration — the largest number recorded to date. There were 14 deaths in which carfentanil was detected, the largest monthly figure involving the more lethal analogue of fentanyl since May 2019. More people died from illicit drug overdoses in British Columbia last year than in any year before. Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe says more than twice the number of people died in January 2021 compared with January 2020 and the drug toxicity shows a need for swift action. "The findings suggest that the already unstable drug supply in B.C. is becoming even deadlier, underscoring the urgent need for supervised consumption options, prescribing for safe supply, and accessible treatment and recovery services," she says in the statement. The report also notes recent increases in the presence of unprescribed benzodiazepines and its analogues, including etizolam. Since July 2020, etizolam has been identified in nearly one-third of illicit drug toxicity deaths where expedited testing was performed. In January, benzodiazepines and its analogues were detected in nearly half of all samples tested. The addition of etizolam to fentanyl increases the likelihood of overdose due to the combined respiratory depressant effects, the coroners service says. It says increased drug toxicity was responsible for an average of 5.3 lives lost each day in January.Premier John Horgan and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart have written letters to the federal government asking for an exemption that would allow for the decriminalization of drug possession for personal use.The City of Vancouver says it submitted a preliminary application to Health Canada on Monday outlining a health-focused "Vancouver model" for managing substance use and saving lives.It says in a statement its first application is based on consultation with Vancouver Coastal Health and police, and it details how the city plans to work with community organizations and people with lived experience to build on the submission.Alvin Singh, spokesman for the mayor's office, said they wouldn't share the document because they didn't want to "jeopardize the integrity of the application."However, he said the proposal would require police to determine if a person is in possession of drugs for personal use at the scene and no penalties or sanctions are envisioned at this stage. Instead, voluntary referrals would be made to Vancouver Coastal Health's overdose outreach team."However, this is preliminary thinking and much more work needs to be undertaken before a model is finalized," Singh said. Sheila Malcolmson, the minister of mental health and addictions, says in a statement that the pandemic has pushed people further into isolation, compounding the effects of stigma that drives people to use drugs alone.She says B.C. is working to add more treatment and recovery options, more services and supports, and to work with the federal government on decriminalization. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
Alberta's Opposition wants the UCP government to change some of what it has planned for post-secondary institutions outlined in last week's 2021 budget. The 2021 budget included a 5.4 per cent cut for post-secondary operations and 750 job losses. Standing outside the University of Calgary on Tuesday, NDP Leader Rachel Notley and advanced education critic David Eggen highlighted four changes they'll be putting to the government in the coming days and weeks. "These schools are absolutely critical to the future of our province," said Notley. "They need to be supported." Notley said post-secondary education is the real economic engine of the province, but she is worried about the future when it comes to students looking to other provinces to study in. "Alberta's advantage has always been its relatively young and well-educated population," she said. "Gutting our education is going to send these young people to other provinces." Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides has previously said universities have been going over budget. He urged them last year to immediately freeze hiring and stop spending on travel and hosting. The province is facing an $18.2-billion deficit in the coming year. Notley says cuts are the opposite of how to rebuild a faltering economy. "Premier Jason Kenney cannot claim he supports diversifying our economy and creating new jobs and then at the same time cut funding to the very schools that would give our future leaders the skills and training they need and to advance growth in those sectors," she said. Notley says the cuts will force program cancellations and cut off access to advanced education to some students. Notley wants the immediate reversal of all UCP cuts to post-secondary education, a figure she puts at $690 million. She is also calling for freezing tuition, stopping hikes to student loan rates and immediately halting performance-based funding for some Alberta institutions. "To be world class, to be nation leading, to be the educational destination for the best minds in the country, those have always been the goals of Alberta's post-secondary system." Eggen called the cuts announced last week "devastating" and said staff and students are still stunned as they continue to digest the news. The plea comes as debate on the budget begins this week. Notley says she plans to release the first of several proposal papers on education in the coming weeks as part of the NDP's economic strategy. Notley is asking for Albertans to submit their ideas for post-secondary and other areas via the Alberta's Future website. Institutions say they're still working out what the impacts will be. The University of Calgary is facing a $25-million reduction to its operating budget, a cut of six per cent. Its budget has been reduced by 18 per cent since 2019. "Fiscal pressures faced by the government are real. Long-term solutions to those challenges require economic diversification, new solutions and a trained workforce — the very work at which universities excel," president and vice-chancellor Ed McCauley said in a news release when the budget was announced. Mount Royal University fared better, receiving a smaller cut to its budget, 2.5 per cent. As well, it will receive $50 million over three years for capital projects.
Toshiba Corp shareholders should vote in favour of a proposed independent investigation into allegations that investors were pressured ahead of last year's annual general meeting, an influential proxy adviser has recommended. The recommendation has the potential to tip the balance of power towards Effissimo Capital Management and other activist shareholders in their long-standing row with Chief Executive Nobuaki Kurumatani and management of the scandal-hit industrial conglomerate. The vote will take place at a shareholders' meeting on March 18 and activist investors are estimated to hold about 25% of Toshiba's shares.
The Toronto Raptors had largely dodged COVID-19 for the first half of an NBA season reeling from the global pandemic. But the Raptors are feeling the full force of it now, preparing to host the Detroit Pistons with a skeleton roster and coaching staff. Starters Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, plus Malachi Flynn and Patrick McCaw have all been ruled out of Toronto's rescheduled game Wednesday against visiting Detroit, along with head coach Nick Nurse and most of his coaching staff. Asked what he's learned from the team's first major brush with the virus, GM Bobby Webster said: "That you don't ever want to go through it again. "It’s what you can imagine," Webster said in a Zoom call with media on Tuesday night. "It's the emotional stress of having colleagues that potentially, obviously, can be sick. The enormous amount of stress everyone feels, everyone's walking a bit on eggshells here in the locker room and you can't necessarily be as friendly . . . "The basketball will go on, we'll play the games, but just to maintain everybody’s belonging and familiarity is really important." Assistant coach Sergio Scariolo, who guided Toronto to a 122-111 win over Houston on Friday, will act as head coach again Wednesday. Webster said players were cleared to do some individual work on the court Tuesday. The big takeaway, he said, was that the team's had "multiple days of no new cases." "It's been a tough couple of days, to get to here and be able to practise, we had to clear a number of hurdles," Webster said. Webster believes the five players out Wednesday will still be unavailable for Thursday's game in Boston. Jalen Harris and recently-signed big man Donta Hall joined the team from its G League affiliate, Raptors 905. Scariolo said he'll likely play De'Andre Bembry and Harris at point guard along with Kyle Lowry. The Italian, who coached Spain to the 2019 World Cup title, said there was a definite mood of concern around the players who are cleared to play. “Before practice we were always wondering how our buddies were doing — at home, and everybody is in touch with almost everybody," he said. "(But) at this point the ones that are left have to focus on the basketball task and leave everything that happened out of our gym, at least for that hour, hour and a half, and (Wednesday) in those three hours. "Even work harder to try to do our best for the guys who will not be able to be with us.” The game was originally slated for Tuesday at Tampa's Amalie Arena -- the Raptors' home this season due to Canada's border restrictions and COVID-19 health protocols in Ontario -- but was postponed due to what the league said was "positive test results and ongoing contact tracing within the Raptors organization." Sunday's game against the Chicago Bulls was also postponed. The Pistons plane was delayed more than two hours leaving Detroit as the Raptors awaited the green light from the NBA. Toronto had been one of just four remaining teams in the league that hadn't had a game postponed until Sunday's game against visiting Chicago. The league has now had 31 games scrapped due to too few healthy players. There was a sense of not if but when it would hit the Raptors, particularly making their homes in Florida, a COVID-19 hotspot. Assistants Adrian Griffin, Jama Mahlalela and Jon Goodwillie are all still sidelined under health and safety protocols, while Webster said one other assistant who coached Friday is now unavailable. He didn't reveal who, but it would be either Jim Sann, Mark Tyndale, or Jamaal Magloire. Webster said keeping the team's spirits up has been a priority. "It's difficult, you can't really see people, right? So a lot of it is done via Zoom, we held an all-staff Zoom (Tuesday) just to check in on people," he said. "Some of it's really as basic as just seeing everyone's face and having some laughs and doing that. "Nothing super complicated, nothing super psychological, just actually being there for people and having them know whether they're in quarantine or they're not in quarantine that they're still part of the team." The Raptors at least have some time off coming up. Boston is their last game before the NBA all-star break. Toronto tips off the second half of the season March 11 against the visiting Atlanta Hawks. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina senators Tuesday added a firing squad to the electric chair as alternatives if the state can't execute condemned inmates by way of lethal injection. The Senate then approved the bill on a key 32-11 vote with several Democrats joining Republicans in the proposal which would allow South Carolina to restart executions after nearly 10 years. The state can't put anyone to death now because its supply of lethal injection drugs expired and it has not been able to buy any more. Currently, inmates can choose between the electric chair and lethal injection and since the drugs are not available, they pick the method that can't be done. The Senate bill keeps lethal injection if the state has the drugs, but requires prison officials to use the electric chair if it does not. An inmate could choose a firing squad if they prefer. The House is considering a similar bill without the firing squad option, but it could also consider the Senate version after a procedural vote by senators finalizes the bill later this week. South Carolina still uses the electric chair first powered up in 1912 after taking over the death penalty from counties, which usually used hanging. It is just one of nine states that maintains an electric chair. It would become just the fourth state to allow a firing squad with Utah, Oklahoma and Mississippi, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster asked for lawmakers to give him any way to restart executions since a few inmates have exhausted their appeals but their death sentences can’t be carried out. A Republican and a Democrat, both former prosecutors, proposed adding the firing squad. The Democratic former prosecutor said it is evident in a Republican dominated state like South Carolina where the GOP gained extra seats in November that the death penalty can't be abolished like Virginia did last month. “The death penalty is going to stay the law here for a while. If it is going to remain, it ought to be humane," said state Sen. Dick Harpootlian, who said hanging is brutal and often leads to decapitation and in electrocution, the condemned “are burned to death.” Since the last execution was carried out in May 2011, South Carolina’s death row has dropped from about 60 inmates to 37 as of now because of natural deaths and prisoners winning appeals and being resentenced to life without parole. Prosecutors have sent just three new inmates to death row in the past decade. The Republican former prosecutor, Sen. Greg Hembree, said Tuesday was not the time to debate whether the death penalty was right or wrong. But several Democrats said the moral aspect of putting someone to death could not be removed from discussions over the method. They also asked senators how they could justify having a debate over putting people to death this week when last month they passed a bill outlawing most abortions in South Carolina, which is now tied up in court. Democratic Sen. Kevin Johnson brought up George Stinney, the youngest person executed in the U.S. in the 20th century. He was 14 when he was sent to South Carolina's electric chair after a one-day trial in 1944 for killing two white girls. A judge threw out the Black teen’s conviction in 2014 . Newspaper stories reported that witnesses said the straps to keep him in the electric chair didn’t fit around his small frame. Johnson drives by a memorial to Stinney each time he comes to Columbia from Manning. “You think it was bad to abort a baby? Think how much worse it is to kill a person who when all is said and done is innocent," Johnson said. Only one senator in the chamber has seen an execution. Hembree, the co-sponsor of the firing squad proposal, tried nearly a dozen death penalty cases as a prosecutor and watched one of the men he condemned to death die by lethal injection. “There’s nothing pleasant about any of those forms. They are gruesome, they are sad and tragic in a way," Hembree said. “Justice is not always a happy place. But it is justice.” ___ Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP. Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — The British Columbia government says the provincial health officer has to strike a balance between curbing the spread of COVID-19 and religious practice, which may at times affect certain rights under the Canadian charter. Lawyer Gareth Morley told the B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday that Dr. Bonnie Henry is using "non-pharmaceutical interventions" to ensure the population remains healthy until vaccines are prevalent. Morley, who works for the legal services branch of the Attorney General Ministry, said it is agreed that the province is in the middle of a pandemic. "And measures taken to protect public health, to protect lives, to protect people from serious illness, and to protect the ability of the health-care system itself to respond, that those are the sorts of measures that can limit charter rights, including freedom of religion." Henry has a duty under the Constitution to "proportionally and reasonably" limit freedoms by preventing the gathering of people to ensure their health and safety, Morley said. Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson asked who decides whether the limits are proportional or reasonable, adding that he wants to understand how the provincial health officer is making her decisions. "Aren't the churches entitled to know why if you go to the bar and watch a hockey game for an hour or two, you can't sit in a church for an hour or two? It is a point I struggle with." Hinkson said he understands Henry has a difficult job, but she hasn't explained why or how she is making the decisions. "If she chooses not to share her thought process with the court, there's no oversight," he said. Morley said the decisions are made after careful review by health officials and experts. So balancing religious rights and protecting people from an "out-of-control epidemic" is a matter of judgment, he said, adding that Henry met with religious leaders and health officials while making her decisions. Earlier Tuesday, a lawyer for several British Columbia churches told the court the province's COVID-19 restrictions substantially interfere with their right to freedom of religion. Paul Jaffe argued religion is far more than belief, thoughts and opinions — rather, it's the "actual practice" of those things in ways that are an important part of the faith. "There couldn't be, I say, a more substantial interference with religious freedom than to prohibit them from gathering to worship — absolutely integral to their faith," he said. Hinkson said there are no COVID-19 restrictions on people's religious freedoms and it's the safety of those who are gathering that is at issue. Jaffe said church is as much a part of people's lives as school, gyms and shopping. He repeated an earlier argument to the court, saying the orders do not prohibit outdoor assemblies over matters of public interest or controversy. Religion is a matter of public interest, but there is a restriction on gatherings, he said. "In my submission, it's entirely arbitrary," he said. "And for some reason stereotyping of churches in a way which presents them with some kind of risk." Jaffe works with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a Calgary-based legal advocacy group that's also asking the court to dismiss tickets of up to $2,300 each for alleged violations of the orders. His clients — which include the Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley, Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford and the Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack — have been careful to adopt safety protocols similar to those approved by Henry in places that remain open. A separate petition was filed Tuesday by representatives of 10 other churches that are part of the Canadian Reformed Churches, which has about 3,000 members. The group wants the court to quash the provincial health officer's restrictions that forbid in-person services. The Roman Catholic archbishop of Vancouver is challenging the restrictions in court as well, filing a petition on Friday arguing the orders are unconstitutional. The petition seeks an exemption to allow religious gatherings including mass, weddings and baptisms. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Hina Alam, The Canadian Press
CALGARY — A Calgary man has admitted to slitting his girlfriend's throat and, days later, stabbing to death his mother and stepfather. Crown prosecutor Shane Parker said Tuesday that Dustin Duthie, 27, pleaded guilty to the second-degree murders of Taylor Toller and Shawn Boshuk and the first-degree murder of Alan Pennylegion. An agreed statement of facts said Toller, Duthie's girlfriend of five years, was last seen on video footage from outside her condo unit about 4 a.m. on July 26, 2018. Duthie was captured on video leaving the condo alone about an hour later. Police found Toller, 24, five days later with her throat slit and "tucked into her bed as if she was asleep." The agreed statement of facts mentions a torn-up note in which Duthie explains why he killed Toller, but the document does not detail the note's contents. On the same day Toller was found, Duthie stabbed Boshuk, his mother, six times in their home and covered her with a plastic sheet, the statement said. Boshuk had messaged Toller's grandmother a day earlier, concerned about how her son would react to police contacting him about Toller's disappearance. The statement said Pennylegion witnessed Duthie cleaning his mother's blood in the kitchen and Duthie attacked his stepfather, stabbing him eight times. Duthie and his stepfather had a tense relationship at the time and Duthie had threatened violence against Pennylegion over the years, the statement said. One of Duthie's pit bulls was stabbed but survived with surgery. Pennylegion's pet dog, Odie, found with his owner in the main floor bathroom, was also stabbed and died. The statement said Duthie shaved his head, showered, and changed his clothes after killing his mother and stepfather. About 10:50 a.m. on July 31, he called 911 and confessed to the killings. The document said he was "contemplating 'suicide-by-cop.'" A sentencing date has not yet been set. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021 The Canadian Press
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the decision to delay second doses of COVID-19 vaccine by four months is based on scientific evidence combined with real-world data from the province’s immunization campaign that began in late December.
MINAMISOMA, Japan — Because of radiation released by the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster a decade ago, farmers in nearby Minamisoma weren't allowed to grow crops for two years. After the restriction was lifted, two farmers, Kiyoko Mori and Yoshiko Ogura, found an unusual way to rebuild their lives and help their destroyed community. They planted indigo and soon began dying fabric with dye produced from the plants. “Dyeing lets us forget the bad things” for a while, Mori said. “It’s a process of healing for us.” The massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, caused three of the reactors at the nuclear plant to melt and wrecked more than just the farmers’ livelihoods. The homes of many people in Minamisoma, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the plant, were destroyed by the tsunami. The disaster killed 636 town residents, and tens of thousands of others left to start new lives. Mori and Ogura believed that indigo dyeing could help people in the area recover. Mori said they were concerned at first about consuming locally grown food, but felt safe raising indigo because it wouldn’t be eaten. They checked the radiation level of the indigo leaves and found no dangerous amount. Ten years after the disaster, Mori and Ogura are still engaged in indigo dyeing but have different missions. To Mori, it has become a tool for building a strong community in a devastated town and for fighting unfounded rumours that products from Fukushima are still contaminated. She favours the typical indigo dyeing process that requires some chemical additives. But Ogura has chosen to follow a traditional technique that uses fermentation instead as a way to send a message against dangers of modern technology highlighted by nuclear power. Mori formed a group called Japan Blue which holds workshops that have taught indigo dyeing to more than 100 people each year. She hopes the project will help rebuild the dwindling town’s sense of community. Despite a new magnitude 7.3 earthquake that recently hit the area, the group did not cancel its annual exhibition at a community centre that served as an evacuation centre 10 years ago. “Every member came to the exhibition, saying they can clean up the debris in their houses later,” Mori said. Ogura, who is not a member of the group, feels that a natural process is important because the nuclear accident showed that relying on advanced technology for efficiency while ignoring its negative aspects can lead to bad consequences. “I really suffered during the nuclear accident,” Ogura said. “We escaped frantically in the confusion. I felt I was doing something similar again" by using chemicals. “We seek too much in the way of many varieties of beautiful colours created with the use of chemicals. We once thought our lives were enriched by it, but I started feeling that wasn’t the case,” she said. “I want people to know what the real natural colour looks like.” Organic indigo dyes take more time and closer attention. Ogura first ferments chopped indigo leaves with water for a month and then mixes the result with lye which is formed on the surface of a mixture of hot water and ashes. It has to be kept at about 20 degrees C (68 degrees F) and stirred three times a day. Part of the beauty of the process, Ogura says, is that it’s hard to predict what colour will be produced. With the support of city officials, Ogura started making silk face masks dyed with organic indigo. She used to run an organic restaurant where she served her own vegetables before the disaster, but now runs a guesthouse with her husband in which visitors can try organic indigo dyeing. Just 700 metres (2,300 feet) from Ogura’s house, countless black bags filled with weakly contaminated debris and soil are piled along the roadside. They have been there since after the disaster, according to Ogura’s husband, Ryuichi. Other piles are scattered around the town. “The government says it’s not harmful to leave them there. But if they really think it's not harmful, they should take them to Tokyo and keep them near them,” he said. The radiation waste stored in the town is scheduled to be moved to a medium-term storage facility by March next year, a town official said. Chisato Tanaka, The Associated Press
WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Jets roared back with vengeance Tuesday, downing the Vancouver Canucks 5-2. The result came after the home side was blanked 4-0 by the Canucks the night before. Mason Appleton sparked the scoring for Winnipeg (14-7-1) early in the first period on Tuesday. Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler each added a goal and two assists, and Mathieu Perreault and Paul Stastny also found the back of the net. Mark Scheifele tacked on three assists. Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller responded for Vancouver (9-15-2), and Brock Boeser registered a pair of helpers. It was a busy night for Vancouver goalie Braden Holtby, who stopped 34-of-38 shots. Winnipeg’s Laurent Brossoit had 30 saves. The Canucks pulled Holtby with just over three minutes to go. Wheeler buried an empty-net goal with 2:10 on the clock. Stastny gave Winnipeg some breathing room 9:13 into the third period, blasting a wrist shot past Holtby from the bottom of the slot to make it 4-2. Wheeler nearly restored the Jets' two-goal lead seconds earlier, ringing a shot off the post. The Canucks were down 3-1 late in the second when they whittled the lead to a single goal on a power play. Winnipeg defenceman Tucker Poolman was called for interference after bringing down Nils Hoglander near the Jets blue line. Vancouver capitalized with the extra player when Miller ripped a one timer past Brossoit with 4.7 seconds left on the clock. The Canucks were 1 for 2 on the power play Tuesday. Winnipeg was 1 for 3 with the man advantage. The Jets power-play tally put the home side up 3-1 early in the second frame. Wheeler wove a pass through several defenders in front of the Canucks net, landing the puck on Connor's tape. The winger released a low show, sliding the puck through Holtby's pads. Winnipeg's first of the night came 5:19 into the first period. Holtby made a stop on Adam Lowry but couldn't corral the rebound. The puck popped out to Lowry, who shovelled it into the net to put the Jets up 1-0. It was Appleton's third goal against the Canucks this season. The Canucks were quick to respond. Boeser, deep in the Jets end, swept a pass to Pettersson at the top of the slot. The Swedish centre took a few strides and fired a wrist shot past Brossoit to even the score. Some sloppy defensive play by Vancouver helped Winnipeg take a one-goal lead into the first intermission. Brandon Sutter dove, trying to sweep the puck from the Canucks zone. Instead, it was picked up by Perreault, who waltzed in and fired a shot past Holtby with 2.6 seconds left in the period. Both teams will be back in action Thursday, with the Canucks hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs in Vancouver and the Jets visiting the Canadiens in Montreal. NOTES: Poolman returned to the Jets lineup after missing three games with an undisclosed injury. … Canucks winger Jake Virtanen played his 300th NHL game. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — A House of Commons committee is unanimously urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to promise he won't call a federal election while the COVID-19 pandemic rages across Canada.In a report by the procedure and House affairs committee, even Liberal members supported a recommendation calling for a commitment that there will be no election during the pandemic, unless Trudeau's minority Liberal government is defeated on a confidence vote.The committee makes no similar call for opposition parties to promise not to trigger an election during the pandemic by voting non-confidence in the government.However, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has vowed his party won't vote to bring the government down as long as the country is in the grip of COVID-19.That should be enough to ensure the survival of the minority Liberal government for the foreseeable future, unless Trudeau decides to trigger an election himself.Trudeau has repeatedly insisted he has no interest in forcing an election but opposition parties remain suspicious."Unfortunately, the Liberal government has already indicated their desire to recklessly send Canadians to the polls at whatever time they deem to be the most advantageous for the prime minister," the Conservatives say in a supplementary report to the committee's report.Indeed, the Conservatives assert, without explanation, that Trudeau has already tried to orchestrate his government's defeat.They thank Liberal committee members for taking "a stand against the whims of the prime minister, who has been eagerly pressing towards an election for the last few months."At the same time, Conservatives appear to be pursuing a strategy that could give Trudeau justification for calling an election: Liberals accuse the Tories of systematically blocking the government's legislative agenda, including repeatedly delaying a bill authorizing billions in pandemic-related aid.They've also blocked debate on a bill that would give Elections Canada special powers to conduct an election safely, if need be, during the pandemic.Bill C-19 is the government's response to chief electoral officer Stephane Perrault, who has said special measures are urgent given that a minority government is inherently unstable and could theoretically fall at any time. However, some opposition MPs view the legislation as proof that the Liberals are planning to trigger an election.In their own supplementary report, New Democrats argue that an election in the midst of the pandemic "has the potential to undermine the health of our democracy." They point to the current delay in Newfoundland and Labrador's election due to a COVID outbreak as an example of the "delays, confusion and unforeseen barriers in voting" that could undermine Canadians' confidence in the outcome of a federal election."This raises the spectre of a government whose political legitimacy is openly challenged," the NDP committee members say, adding that could lead to the kind of crisis that provoked a riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by supporters of former president Donald Trump.The Capitol riot, sparked by Trump's unfounded claims that mail-in ballots were fraudulent, appears to have been on the minds of opposition committee members when it comes to other recommendations for how to safely conduct an election, if necessary, during the pandemic.Anticipating a massive increase in mail-in ballots, the chief electoral officer has, among other things, suggested that mail-in ballots received one day after the close of in-person polls should still be counted.The Conservatives say the procedure and House affairs committee should have rejected that proposal, arguing that "the election should end on Election Day and Canadians deserve to know the results without delay."Bloc Quebecois committee members, in their supplementary report, similarly argue that extending the deadline for receipt of mail-in ballots "would delay the election results, which would fuel voter suspicion and undermine confidence in the electoral system, which is obviously undesirable."This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
VICTORIA — Auditor general Michael Pickup says he has long-running concerns with the way the British Columbia government counts the money it receives from other levels of government. Pickup outlined Tuesday what he describes as a nine-year accounting difference of opinion his office has with B.C. over the way federal funds for capital projects are added to the province's annual budget totals. He says the federal money B.C. gets for projects like bridges and highways should be recorded as revenue under generally accepted accounting principles, but B.C. reports the funds in smaller amounts that are calculated over the life of a project. Pickup says the accounting difference means that B.C.'s 2019-20 budget deficit of $321 million should actually have included accumulated revenue of $5.7 billion, producing a surplus of $5.4 billion. He says the budget amount has been growing since 2011-12 when the office of the auditor general first raised the issue. Pickup's audit includes a statement from B.C.'s office of the comptroller general that says the province prepares its financial statements in accordance with the Budget Transparency and Accountability Act, which establishes the government's framework for financial reporting. The Ministry of Finance was not available for further comment Tuesday. "Not following these accounting standards results in under-reporting revenue, which I believe clouds the province's true financial position," Pickup told a news conference. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
Small parks could sprout up in Edmonton's empty green spaces on up to 350 sites the city has identified in a new report. The sites are undeveloped — no landscaping, trails, gardens, signs, or playground equipment. At a meeting Tuesday, city council's urban planning committee reviewed the report, which includes maps of the sites, most are in newer communities outside the Anthony Henday ring road. Some are in mature neighbourhoods where residents have been waiting up to 25 years for the city to turn the green fields into a useable active space. Coun. Bev Esslinger said residents from the northwest neighbourhood of Albany — just inside the Henday — asked her last summer when they were getting their park. "[It] was quite eye-opening to me, to see that some had been waiting 10, 15, 20 years," Esslinger said in an interview Tuesday. "So to me that was, you know, do we have a strategy around that, what do we do?" Part of the hang- up is acquiring the land deemed necessary to complete development. "When I dug into it, it was because the land hadn't been assembled. We don't own all the land, so we can't do that park," Esslinger said. The city usually acquires land through a municipal reserve process when a new development is subdivided. Land that can't be assembled through subdivision, such as district parks, school community parks or natural areas, is purchased. Several factors, such as changing market conditions, increasing property values and the motion of individual landowners "present challenges that often limit administration's ability to undertake land assembly in a timely manner," the report says. Tuesday, the committee directed administration to look at options for developing some of the green space without owning all the land deemed part of the plot. Administration began compiling the report at the request of city council last Sept. when they asked for a breakdown of limbo areas and the length of time the sites have been dormant. Canossa, Carlton, Eaux Claires, Fraser, Klarvatten and Terwillegar Towne have been waiting 20 to 25 years for developed parks, the city says. The city has flagged sites in Cameron Heights, Griesbach, Hudson and Summerside as waiting for 15 to 20 years. Canossa, Carlton, Eaux Claires, Fraser, Klarvatten and Terwillegar Towne have been waiting 20-25 years for developed parks.(City of Edmonton) The city has acquired the majority of land for 214 of the 350 sites that span some 2,750 acres of parkland. It's estimated to cost $380 million to support concept planning, design and construction of the 214 sites with basic turf, landscaping and signage. The areas include district parks, natural areas, pocket parks, school park sites, urban village parks and 16 park upgrades in line with approved area redevelopment plans. The city is actively assembling — acquiring land — for the remaining 139 sites. Community collaboration The city's northeast has swaths of green space, some of which is destined to be turned into user-friendly spaces, through collaboration. Kaelyn Kowalchuk, president of the Horse Hill and Pilot Sound community leagues, which includes the McConachie, Cy Becker and Britnell neighbourhoods, said a lot of land has been untouched for many years. The leagues are taking matters into their own hands with plans for a community garden for Cy Becker and an orchard in Horse Hill, Kowalchuk said. Local greeneries are set to contribute to the orchard, she said, and they're hoping to include the Horse Hill school in the project. "Sometimes you feel in the community league, alone, on a lot of items. We have to build a lot of our parks, our skateparks, our spray parks, orchards or community gardens." The community is asking for permits from the city, Kowalchuk said but wasn't aware of any direct funding yet. City administration is expected to report back to councillors in the third quarter of 2021 with options to develop partial park areas.
CANBERRA, Australia — Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson said Wednesday he was accountable for the mining giant destroying sacred Indigenous sites in Australia to access iron ore and he will not seek reelection as a board director next year. Thompson’s announcement came after former chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques announced his resignation last September over the destruction in May of two rock shelters in Juukan George in Western Australia state that had been inhabited for 46,000 years. The company’s successes in 2020 were “overshadowed by the destruction of the Juukan Gorge shelters ... and, as chairman, I am ultimately accountable for the failings that led to this tragic event,” Thompson said in a statement. “The tragic events at Juukan Gorge are a source of personal sadness and deep regret, as well as being a clear breach of our values as a company,” he added. Jamie Lowe, chief executive of the National Native Title Council, which represents Australia’s traditional owners of the land, described Thompson's departure as a necessary step that Indigenous people had been demanding since the rock shelters were blasted. “We think the cultural shift within Rio Tinto needed to happen immediately and it’s too bad its taken some eight months to be actually able to see that come to fruition,” Lowe said. Jacques was replaced as chief executive in January by Jakob Stausholm. Executives Chris Salisbury and Simone Niven also left the company last year due to shareholder anger at the destruction that outraged traditional owners of the gorge, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people. Rio Tinto announced on Wednesday that director Michael L’Estrange would retire from the board at the conclusion of the April annual general meetings in Britain and Australia. L’Estrange led a widely criticized internal review of how the rock shelters came to be blasted against traditional owners’ wishes. The review concluded in August that there was “no single root cause or error that directly resulted in the destruction of the rock shelters.” But internal documents revealed in September that Rio Tinto had engaged a law firm in case the traditional owners applied for a court injunction to save the rock shelters. The Western Australian government has promised to update Indigenous heritage laws that allowed Rio Tinto to legally destroy the sacred sites. Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press