Fortin reinstatement ruling, COVID concern in schools : In The News for Oct. 12, 2021

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In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Oct. 12 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

A Federal Court judge is set to rule today on Major-General Dany Fortin’s request for reinstatement as the head of Canada’s vaccine distribution campaign.

The ruling by Justice Ann Marie McDonald follows a two-day hearing last month in which Fortin’s legal team and the government argued over who removed him from the high-profile post in May — and why.

Fortin’s lawyers say Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government overstepped their bounds by making the decision for purely political reasons.

They say that violated Fortin’s rights to due process and the presumption of innocence, and represented inappropriate political interference in the military’s internal affairs.

But government lawyers say the decision ultimately rested with acting defence chief General Wayne Eyre, who acted correctly and was worried about the vaccine campaign and a military police investigation into Fortin’s conduct.

Fortin was charged in August with one count of sexual assault in relation to an alleged incident dating back to 1998.

That case, which is separate from his Federal Court battle for reinstatement, is due back in a Quebec court on Nov. 5.


Also this ...

The majority of respondents in a new Canada-wide survey say they are concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in schools, and they want children and staff to wear masks.

The survey was conducted by the Canadian Hub for Applied and Social Research at the University of Saskatchewan.

It says people in Quebec and the Prairie Provinces were less likely than other regions to support masks in classrooms.

But, the poll says respondents were largely confident in the safeguards put in place at their children’s schools.

The survey also found that support for more restrictions was linked to where people lived, and respondents in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes were more accepting of the rules in place.

Women were generally more supportive of public health orders than men.


What we are watching in the U.S. ...

SAN FRANCISCO _ Pacific Gas & Electric began shutting off power to about 25,000 customers in central and northern California Monday and Southern California Edison warned it may do the same for up to 9,000 of its customers as high winds toppled trees, downed power lines and ignited fires that forced people to flee from their homes.

At least a half dozen small fires broke out across the state, challenging firefighters as they tried to contain the blazes amid the blustering wind.

West of Santa Barbara, authorities ordered the mandatory evacuation of campsites, cattle and horse ranches near Refugio State Beach and shut U.S. 101 _ the only highway along the coast _ as winds pushed a fire that started in the Los Padres National Forest toward the beach, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Andrew Madsen said.

The fire was driven through dense chaparral by winds gusting to 112 km/h. It had grown to at least 12 square kilometres by nightfall and threatened perhaps 100 homes, ranches and other buildings, authorities said.

About 200 firefighters were battling the flames and trying to protect homes and buildings but aircraft couldn't help because they were grounded by the high winds, fire officials said.

Forecasters issued a red flag warning for extreme fire danger from gusty winds. The warning extends until late Tuesday. The strongest winds are expected most of Monday, said Hannah Chandler-Cooley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

The planned outages are necessary because high winds, combined with low humidity and drought-ravaged vegetation, could raise the risk of trees falling on power lines and spark a fast-spreading wildfire, PG&E said in a statement. Heat waves and historic drought tied to climate change have made wildfires harder to fight in California and the rest of the U.S. West.


What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

SEOUL, South Korea _ North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reviewed a rare exhibition of weapons systems and vowed to build an ``invincible'' military, as he accused the United States of creating tensions and not taking action to prove it has no hostile intent toward the North, state media reported Tuesday.

In an apparent continued effort to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul, Kim also said his drive to build up his military isn't targeted at South Korea and that there shouldn't be another war pitting Korean people against each other.

Kim gave the speech Monday at the ``Defense Development Exhibition `Self-Defense-2021','' an event meant to mark the previous day's 76th birthday of the ruling Workers' Party. The event featured an array of new weapons, including intercontinental ballistic missiles that North Korea has already test-launched or displayed during a military parade.

``The U.S. has frequently signaled it's not hostile to our state, but there is no action-based evidence to make us believe that they are not hostile,'' Kim said, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. ``The U.S. is continuing to create tensions in the region with its wrong judgments and actions.''

Calling the United States a ``source'' of instability on the Korean Peninsula, Kim said his country's most important objective is possessing an ``invincible military capability'' that no one can dare challenge.

Kim accused South Korea of hypocrisy because it criticizes North Korea's weapons development as provocations while spending heavily to increase its own military capabilities, including purchasing advanced U.S. stealth fighters. But he still said his military doesn't target South Korea.

Seoul's Defense Ministry said South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities were analyzing the North Korean weapons displayed but didn't elaborate. Seoul's Unification Ministry said Monday's exhibition was the first of its kind since Kim took power in 2011.


On this day in 2000 ...

The Supreme Court of Canada unanimously upheld the country's rape-shield law, further solidifying a woman's right to keep her sexual history out of sexual assault cases.


In entertainment ...

LOS ANGELES _ A top Netflix executive said Dave Chappelle's special ``The Closer'' doesn't cross ``the line on hate'' and will remain on the streaming service despite fallout over the comedian's remarks about the transgender community.

In an internal memo, co-CEO Ted Sarandos told managers that ``some talent'' may join third parties in calling for the show's removal, adding, ``which we are not going to do.''

But the company responded to news reports it had suspended three employees, including one, Terra Field, who'd criticized Chappelle's special in tweets. Field identifies herself on Twitter as a senior software engineer at Netflix and as trans.

``It is absolutely untrue to say that we have suspended any employees for tweeting about this show. Our employees are encouraged to disagree openly and we support their right to do so,'' Netflix said in a statement.

According to a person familiar with the matter, the three employees joined a quarterly meeting for company directors and vice presidents without gaining authorization. The person, who wasn't authorized to discuss the situation publicly, said one worker was suspended as a result of an investigation.

What if any action was or might be taken against the other two workers was unknown.

In a statement Monday, the media watchdog group GLAAD said that ``anti-LGBTQ content'' violates Netflix's policy to reject programs that incite hate or violence. GLAAD called on Netflix executives to ``listen to LGBTQ employees, industry leaders, and audiences and commit to living up to their own standards.''

When Chappelle's special was released last week, the group said that the comedian's ``brand has become synonymous with ridiculing trans people and other marginalized communities.''



Ruth Hamilton was sound asleep last week when she was awoken by her dog barking, the sound of a crash through her ceiling and the feeling of debris on her face.

The Golden, B.C. resident said she jumped out of bed and turned on the light to figure out what had happened, and discovered a hole in her ceiling.

"I've never been so scared in my life," she said of the Oct. 3 incident. "I wasn't sure what to do so I called 911 and, when I was speaking with the operator, I flipped over my pillow and saw that a rock had slipped between two pillows."

A police officer was immediately sent to investigate, she said. Initially, the officer suspected it was debris from a construction site on a nearby highway.

"He called the (construction site) and they said they hadn't done a blast but that they had seen an explosion in the sky and, right then and there, we realized it was a meteorite."

They concluded it must have been a fragment from a meteor shower that took place earlier that night.

"I was in shock and I just sat here for a few hours shaking," she said. "The odds of that happening are so small so I'm pretty grateful to be alive."

Apart from being a shaken up, Hamilton said she avoided any injuries, but plans to keep the rock. She said the insurance company has inspected the damage and now she's just focused on getting it fixed.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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