HARRISBURG, Pa. — Fresh off another rejection in Pennsylvania's courts, Republicans on Thursday again asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the battleground state, while the state's lawyers say fatal flaws in the original case mean justices are highly unlikely to grant it. Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of northwestern Pennsylvania and the other plaintiffs are asking the high court to prevent the state from certifying any contests from the Nov. 3 election, and undo any certifications already made, such as Biden’s victory, while its lawsuit is considered. They maintain that Pennsylvania’s expansive vote-by-mail law is unconstitutional because it required a constitutional amendment to authorize its provisions. However, in a sign that the case is likely too late to affect the election, Justice Samuel Alito ordered the state's lawyers to respond by Dec. 9, a day after what is known as the safe harbour deadline. That means that Congress cannot challenge any electors named by this date in accordance with state law. Biden beat President Donald Trump by more than 80,000 votes in Pennsylvania, a state Trump had won in 2016. Most mail-in ballots were submitted by Democrats. Pennsylvania's Supreme Court threw out the case Saturday. Kelly's lawyers sought an injunction Tuesday in the U.S. Supreme Court, then withdrew it while they asked the state's high court to halt any certifications until the U.S. Supreme Court acts. The state's justices refused Thursday, and Kelly's lawyers promptly refiled the case in the U.S. Supreme Court. In the state’s courts, justices cited the law’s 180-day time limit on filing legal challenges to its provisions, as well as the staggering demand that an entire election be overturned retroactively. In addition to challenging the state's mail-in voting law, Kelly’s lawyers question whether the state's justices violated their clients' constitutional rights by throwing out the case on the basis of time limits and barring them from refiling it on the same grounds. Lawyers for Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said in court filings that Kelly's lawyers never before argued that the U.S. Constitution provides a basis for their claims, making it “highly unlikely” the U.S. Supreme Court will grant what they are seeking. In the underlying lawsuit, Kelly and the other Republican plaintiffs had sought to either throw out the 2.5 million mail-in ballots submitted under the law or to wipe out the election results and direct the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to pick Pennsylvania’s presidential electors. ___ Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/timelywriter Marc Levy, The Associated Press
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on Friday a resolution to a bitter dispute with Qatar seemed "within reach" after Kuwait announced progress towards ending a row that Washington says hampers a united Gulf front against Iran. The United States and Kuwait have worked to end the dispute, during which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have imposed a diplomatic, trade and travel embargo on Qatar since mid-2017.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority is considering lengthening hours and opening more locations for drive-thru COVID-19 testing, with current sites under pressure due to surging case numbers.New projections released Thursday suggest the number of new COVID-19 cases could reach 560 per day by mid-December. Testing centres, which are located in Prince Albert, Regina, Saskatoon and Yorkton, are already under strain due to the recent increase in community transmission of the virus. On its first day of operation, the Prince Albert centre had to turn people away more than two hours before its scheduled closing time of 4 p.m. CST. Jennifer Nygaard drove for about an hour from her home in Struthers Lake to line up for drive-thru testing. She said she joined the line at about noon and was turned away before 2 p.m."If people are having to be sent home at 1:00 in the afternoon, that says to me that they're well below the capacity to test the people that want to be tested right now," said Nygaard. She said nobody should be turned away because the province is in an emergency situation, and because they might not have the means to try again.Longer hours, 2nd centres among optionsSHA chief executive Scott Livingstone said at a news conference Thursday work is underway to expand testing capacity. "Particularly in Saskatoon and Regina we are looking at how we extend hours as well as put more staff in place, or even look at second locations for drive-thru testing in both the centres because of the popularity," said Livingstone. Livingstone said a pilot program is also being used to proactively test long-term care workers and residents at eight facilities. The program will be expanded provincewide after the initial pilot period to help identify cases earlier, he said.He added that about 15 new laboratory staff have been hired and about 20 more are in training to improve testing capacity and timeliness.GeneXpert machines are in 19 communities across the province to reduce the need for people to travel for testing, Livingstone said."We are working with GeneXpert to continue to expand the access to cartridges so we can use that platform better."Questions about accessBut Nygaard said the system for COVID-19 testing relies too heavily on having access to a vehicle. "What are they doing for people who are in rural communities? What are they doing for seniors who may not have vehicles to get there?" she said. "What are they doing for people with disabilities that are not in the city?… You cannot access this testing through public transit. So maybe they need to look at an in-home testing model."On Wednesday, 3,247 tests were completed in Saskatchewan, the province said in its Thursday COVID-19 update.Of the total 353,638 tests completed since the beginning of the pandemic, 100,945 were in Saskatoon and 54,561 have been completed in Regina.In the north central region, where Prince Albert is located, 26,429 test have been done.
EDMONTON — As Alberta recorded another daily record of COVID-19 cases Thursday, its chief medical officer of health warned that rural areas are feeling the effects.“While infection rates in Edmonton and Calgary make up the majority of cases in the province, we’re seeing increased spread in many rural communities,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw Hinshaw said.“COVID-19 is not a Calgary problem or Edmonton problem. This is a provincial problem within the context of a global problem.“Our overall active case rates prove that COVID-19 doesn’t care where you live or what your postal code is.“It only takes one case entering a community to cause significant spread.”Alberta has been straining under soaring numbers of COVID-19 and currently leads the country in per-capita case rates.It set a single-day record Thursday with 1,854 new cases, even more than in Ontario.There were 511 Albertans in hospital, 97 of them in intensive care. A total of 575 Albertans have died.The case surge has overwhelmed the contact tracing system and strained the health system. The province is now reassigning staff, space and patients to cope and has begun making contingency plans to bring in field hospitals if necessary.Last week, Premier Jason Kenney introduced new health restrictions.However, some of the key restrictions on businesses and attendance at worship services don’t apply to some rural and remote areas with low infection rates.Also, while Calgary, Edmonton and other municipalities have mandated masks in indoor public spaces, Kenney has refused to follow the lead of all other Canadian provinces to make it provincewide.About 16 per cent of the 17,743 active cases are outside the Calgary and Edmonton health zones.Opposition NDP health critic David Shepherd said if COVID does not respect postal codes, why has the United Conservative government issued half-hearted and varying levels of health restrictions based on geography while refusing to impose a provincewide mask mandate?Shepherd said Kenney is playing politics with the health rules and Albertans are suffering as a result.“Jason Kenney is more concerned about his own political fortunes and concerned about the anti-mask fringe extremists that we know exist in his own caucus and in his own political party and political base,” Shepherd said in an interview.“He is more concerned about satisfying them and losing political capital than he is about showing leadership to protect Albertans.”Kenney has said a provincewide mask bylaw is unnecessary and the health rules are a measured and targeted way to keep Albertans safe while keeping jobs and the economy going.He has also said 90 per cent of Albertans are already under some kind of municipal mask bylaw. During a Nov. 26 Facebook town hall discussion he questioned whether rural residents working and living remotely would even follow it.“Imagine you got a couple of guys working in a big barn way up in the M.D. of Opportunity, hundreds of kilometres away from the closest COVID hot zone,” said Kenney. “Do you really think those guys are going to put on a mask because I ask them to or tell them to?”Kenney said one of his rural caucus members told him some of his constituents would be reflexively rebellious if told to mask up: “He said, ‘You know a lot of these folks who are (masking up) now, they would take it off the moment the government tells them to wear it.’”Provincewide there is a ban on gatherings in homes beyond those who live under the same roof. Outdoor gatherings are capped at 10 people. And students in grades 7 through 12 are learning virtually at home through the Christmas holidays.In areas with high caseloads, there are new restrictions on retailers, businesses, restaurants and entertainment options like casinos.Those restrictions don’t apply to low-case areas, which include some rural regions in north and central Alberta.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
A local trustee has been chosen as the vice-president of the provincial school board association. At last week’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Saskatchewan School Board Association (SSBA), Saskatchewan Rivers School Division board trustee Jaimie Smith-Windsor was elected vice president. Smith-Windsor was recently re-elected to her fourth term as a rural trustee and was gratified to be elected by the association. “It’s very humbling and a very exciting opportunity to be entrusted to represent 27 school boards in Saskatchewan. I think we have got a long tradition in this province of providing a local voice in education and being able to represent the trustees and boards that are democratically elected is a real honour,” Smith-Windsor said. She she served two terms as the Central Constituency representative on the executive where she represents Saskatchewan Rivers, the North East School Division (NESD), Horizon School Division, North West School Division, Prairie Spirit School Division and Living Sky School Division. She explained that the COVID-19 pandemic offers challenges and opportunities for boards of education. “There is going to be the opportunity to innovate and do some really creative things. And I think boards are doing this at a local level. I think there is also going to be challenges in the areas of staff and student’s mental health and addressing some of the inequities that existed before the pandemic. Almost certainly there is going to be fiscal challenges. But I know that boards are going to continue to put the needs of their communities first and that is the power of a local voice,” Smith Windsor explained. She sees the role of the association as another voice for education in the province. “I think the SSBA is another strong platform to help the public connect to that idea that education does belong to communities. It is a real opportunity to have someone who is local to sit on the provincial executive in that role,” she said Shawn Davidson was returned as president for another term. “I have worked with Shawn for two terms now, we have been through a number of significant changes in education over the last four years and I am confident in his leadership and our ability to work together on behalf of boards,” she said. Smith-Windsor explained that she was the only nominee to come forward and was acclaimed to the position. With Sask. Rivers she has served on the Saskatchewan Rivers Students for Change, Board Development committee Employee Bargaining Committees, as well as a number of ad hoc Board committees such as the recent election committee. “The local Board of Education appreciates Trustee Smith-Windsor’s strong voice, is proud of her election to the position of Vice President and looks forward to her continued advocacy for education and for students,” the division said in a release. Other SSBA officials elected were Davidson and Smith-Windsor, Catholic Constituency representative Jerome Niezgoda, Central Constituency representative Christine Grandin, CSF constituency representative Elizabeth Perrault, Indigenous Constituency representative Kimberly Greyeyes, Northern Constituency representative Nathan Favel, Southern Constituency representative Janet Kotylak and Urban Constituency representative Donna Banks. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic the AGM was held virtually this year. Smith-Windsor explained it was a total shift from having 227 trustees, directors, SSBA staff and others all in one room having a lively engaged meeting. “We do all of our voting on paper ballots collected in ice cream pails. And this time it was a complete shift to an online platform and electronic voting connecting to all of those people across the entire province through electronic means,” Smith-Windsor said. “It was quite an event to train for and to pull off and I think it went relatively well,” she explained. Each year the school divisions in the province have an opportunity to bring forward motions that are of interest to the AGM. The Saskatchewan Rivers board discussed these in meetings that took place before the AGM. “If there is agreement to take that to the provincial assembly then that goes forward to the provincial assembly and all of the boards have an opportunity to vote on that. If those resolutions pass than they become the work of the SSBA executive that essentially feeds forward into our work for the future years,” she said.Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
On Wednesday the Government of Saskatchewan announced a $400,000 commitment to provide mental health first aid training to at least one staff member in each Saskatchewan school. This would make mental health first aid available to students, when needed, similar to physical first aid. The intention to launch such a program was announced earlier this year, but Wednesday’s amount is the first time the project has had a dollar figure attached to it. “Our goal is to have at least one staff member in each school receive mental health first aid training by the end of 2021,” Education Minister Dustin Duncan said in a release from the province. “We are excited to support schools in ensuring students have access to mental health resources, and I encourage all provincial school divisions to take part to help remove the stigma around mental health.” Since 2017-18, the government has offered up to $9,000 in grants to school divisions for training to build capacity in their schools related to mental health and student safety and they say this new funding builds on that commitment. Mental health first aid is a training program developed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC). The in-person training is currently being transitioned to be available online in 2021. The Ministry of Education will work with Saskatchewan school divisions to coordinate the training sessions, with little disruptions to the school day. Online delivery will help keep the sessions safe for staff in these uncertain times. “We commend the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education for its timely investment and commitment to providing Mental Health First Aid training for each of the province’s Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools,” MHCC President and CEO Louise Bradley said. “We are delighted to hear that the ministry intends to create an online option for school division staff to take mental health first aid training.” The mental health first aid training was a recommendation from the Minister’s 2019-20 Youth Council. “The mental well-being of students is a crucial part of positive and effective learning environments,” 2019-20 Youth Council member Sandra LeBlanc said. “The new mental health first aid initiative will be a good first step in ensuring that all Saskatchewan students have access to the support they need, one of the priorities of the 2019-20 Youth Council.” Mental health first aid can be provided to a person who is developing a mental health concern or who is in a mental health crisis. The training teaches individuals to recognize the symptoms of mental health problems, how to provide initial help and guide a person toward appropriate professional help. Studies show that mental health first aid training results in improved mental health literacy and decreased stigmatization toward mental health concerns.Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
British Columbia's top doctor says seniors in long-term care homes and hospitals will be the first to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as the first week of January. Dr. Bonnie Henry says they hope to have everyone who wants to be immunized vaccinated by September.
MADISON, Wis. — A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear President Donald Trump’s lawsuit attempting to overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in the battleground state, sidestepping a decision on the merits of the claims and instead ruling that the case must first wind its way through lower courts.In another blow to Trump, two dissenting conservative justices questioned whether disqualifying more than 221,000 ballots as Trump wanted would be the proper remedy to the errors he alleged.The defeat on a 4-3 ruling was the latest in a string of losses for Trump’s post-election lawsuits. Judges in multiple battleground states have rejected his claims of fraud or irregularities.Trump asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in the state’s two biggest Democratic counties, alleging irregularities in the way absentee ballots were administered. His lawsuit echoed claims that were earlier rejected by election officials in those counties during a recount that barely affected Biden’s winning margin of about 20,700 votes.Trump’s attorney Jim Troupis said he would immediately file the case in circuit court and expected to be back before the Supreme Court “very soon.”“It was clear from their writings that the court recognizes the seriousness of these issues, and we look forward to taking the next step,” he said in a statement. Trump's team made the filing late Thursday evening.In asking the conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case directly, Trump had argued that there wasn’t enough time to wage the legal battle by starting with a lower court, given the looming Dec. 14 date when presidential electors cast their votes.Swing Justice Brian Hagedorn joined three liberal justices in denying the petition without weighing in on Trump's allegations. Hagedorn said the law was clear that Trump must start his lawsuit in lower courts where factual disputes can be worked out.“We do well as a judicial body to abide by time-tested judicial norms, even — and maybe especially — in high profile cases,” Hagedorn wrote. “Following this law is not disregarding our duty, as some of my colleagues suggest. It is following the law.”Trump filed a similar lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday.Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, in a dissent where she was joined by Justice Annette Ziegler, said she would have taken the case and referred it to lower courts for factual findings, which could then be reported back to the Supreme Court for a ruling.But she also questioned whether disqualifying ballots was appropriate, saying that "may be out of reach for a number of reasons.”Conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley wrote that the court “forsakes its duty” by not determining whether elections officials complied with the law and the inaction will undermine the public's confidence in elections. Allowing the elections commission to make the law governing elections would be a “death blow to democracy,” she wrote.“While some will either celebrate or decry the court's inaction based upon the impact on their preferred candidate, the importance of this case transcends the results of this particular election,” she wrote in a dissent joined by Roggensack and Ziegler. “The majority's failure to act leaves an indelible stain on our most recent election.”Democratic Gov. Tony Evers praised the decision.“I was frankly amazed that it was not unanimous," Evers said.Trump's lawsuit challenged procedures that have been in place for years and never been found to be illegal.He claimed there were thousands of absentee ballots without a written application on file. He argued that the electronic log created when a voter requests a ballot online — the way the vast majority are requested — doesn’t meet the letter of the law.He also challenged ballots where election clerks filled in missing address information on the certification envelope where the ballot is inserted — a practice that has long been accepted and that the state elections commission told clerks was OK.Trump also challenged absentee ballots where voters declared themselves to be “indefinitely confined,” a status that exempts them from having to show photo identification to cast a ballot, and one that was used much more heavily this year due to the pandemic. The Wisconsin Supreme Court in March ruled that it was up to individual voters to determine their status.Roggensack, the chief justice, appointed Reserve Judge Stephen Simanek of Racine County to hear the case at the circuit court level. Simanek retired in 2010.The court late Thursday also declined to hear a lawsuit brought by a Wisconsin resident, Dean Mueller, that argued that ballots placed in drop boxes are illegal and must not be counted. The court's brief order included a single line noting Roggensack, Ziegler and Bradley all dissented with the denial.One other lawsuit filed by conservatives is still pending with the court seeking to invalidate ballots. In federal court, there is Trump’s lawsuit and another one with similar claims from Sidney Powell, a conservative attorney who was removed from Trump’s legal team.Wisconsin this week certified Biden’s victory, setting the stage for a Democratic slate of electors chosen earlier to cast the state’s 10 electoral votes for him.Scott Bauer, The Associated Press
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — Police in Abbotsford, B.C., say a federal inmate is back in custody following a brief escape. They say in a statement that they responded to a report of shots fired Thursday just before 3 p.m. Police say Correctional Service Canada officers were escorting a federal offender to a medical appointment when he escaped. Police say that while officers tried to apprehend the offender, a correctional officer shot a gun but no one was injured. They say the inmate, who was not identified, was found with the help of police, police dogs and an RCMP helicopter. Police say the public is not at risk and major crime detectives are investigating. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020. The Canadian Press
When a COVID-19 vaccine is approved by Health Canada and becomes available, Dr. Lorne Tyrrell plans to be first in line when it's his turn to get it.But the virologist says data about the vaccine must be transparent to the public, so that enough people can also feel they can safely trust it.Tyrrell, founding director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology at the University of Alberta, is a core member of Canada's COVID-19 task force."We need to be very transparent, very clear with the science and clear with the data so people can have trust in science in this area, and that these vaccines, when they go into people, will be very safe and very effective," he said in an interview Thursday with CBC's Edmonton AM.Premier Jason Kenney unveiled part of Alberta's vaccine distribution plan Wednesday. Paul Wynnyk, deputy minister of municipal affairs, is leading the provincial task force.Phase 1 of Alberta's vaccine rollout is projected to happen in the first three months of 2021. Phase 1 will focus on the province's most at-risk populations including long-term care home residents, staff in these facilities, on-reserve First Nations people and other health-care workers.Phase 1 will focus on the province's most at-risk populations including long-term care home residents and staff, on-reserve First Nations people over age 65, seniors age 75 and older, and health-care workers most needed to ensure workforce capacity and who are most likely to transmit the disease to those at greatest risk.Phase 2 will run from April to June, the province projects, with the goal of getting 30 per cent of the population immunized by the end of that period. The province said on Thursday the specific groups immunized during this phase will be determined after Phase 1 has begun."Clinics will be set up by AHS across the province where people who are in one of the identified priority groups can go to get their immunization," Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan said in emailed statement."Long-term care and designated supportive living residents will be immunized in their facilities and will not need to travel. More information will be shared once vaccines are ready to be distributed."Phase 3 will involve rolling out vaccinations to the general Alberta population. It's expected to start by fall 2021.Jason Tetro, a microbiologist and author of The Germ Files, said the province's Phase 1 timeline is realistic.Once the vaccine is approved by Health Canada, Tetro expects a rapid rollout where the most vulnerable people will be immunized within a couple of months.Vaccine development often takes years to complete. So the availability next year of COVID-19 vaccine is quicker than some expected, which Tetro attributes to improving technology.He and Tyrrell both said they trust any vaccine approved by Health Canada will have undergone enough scrutiny to be effective and safeBut Tetro said he'd still like to see more public information about the vaccine."At the moment, we are running off of very limited data in the public," he said. "We hear about the regulators going line by line or case by case to better understand how these vaccines work. I, personally, would like to see those."Tetro said the distribution timeline is dependent on pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Moderna not experiencing any setbacks.On Thursday, Pfizer lowered the number of doses it expects to produce this year, days after it was approved for use in the United Kingdom.Kenney said Wednesday any COVID-19 vaccine will not be mandatory. Because of the pushback against mandatory measures like masking, Tetro said governments would be best served to not worry about that, and focus effort instead on getting the vaccine to the people who want it."As soon as you bring up mandatory, you're going to immediately annoy probably 20 to 30 per cent of the population who believe it's their right to do what they want," Tetro said."We can start talking about mandatory vaccinations and other things like that when we're at a point that we're not worried about our ICUs being double-bunked, and the elderly all of a sudden dying simply because of inadvertent infections because somebody went to a house party. It's prioritizing."Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an assistant professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of Alberta, agreed the vaccine and the provincial government's plans for distribution look promising. On the point of mandatory vaccination, he emphasized it doesn't need to be discussed because nobody is calling for the measure."This isn't on the table, nobody has suggested it, nobody supports it," Schwartz said."The most important thing to emphasize is this is a safe and remarkably effective vaccine, and it's potentially getting us back to a point where life can return to normal."
If you live in Vancouver's Strathcona neighbourhood, you've probably crossed paths with Annie. She's the elderly Chinese woman who has a big smile glued to her face and is quick to pick up your empties. "She was always walking around with a smile on her face ... I enjoyed her being in the neighborhood," said studio owner and resident Valerie Arntzen about the area just east of Chinatown. Annie, whose real name is Anhi Sy, doesn't speak much English. The 82-year-old moved to Canada in the 1970s and lives in social housing on Hastings Street. She was known for working hard to pick up cans and even leaving candies behind for people.But just a short while ago, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and is undergoing radiation treatment. When the community found out the news, it began rallying around her to raise money to support her during this difficult time. Andrew Dadson, a Vancouver-artist who has lived in Strathcona for nearly two decades, started an online fundraiser. He was hoping to raise $1,000, but so far more than $12,000 has come in. But in true Annie-fashion, she's doesn't want any of the fuss or the attention. But her impact on the community has everyone wanting to show their appreciation for her. "She is just really sweet about it. We knew she didn't have a ton of family so Strathcona became her family and social life and everything," said Dadson. He first met Sy 18 years ago, when he and friends would play soccer at MacLean Park every Sunday. "She has watched us have families and grow up and have children ... she has been a part of our lives for a while," said Dadson. After a while she would learn when the games were and would show up to collect the cans, then she would even come to people's homes after parties to collect the empties. Sometimes helping clean up while the party was going on. "She was just really sweet, bringing you candies, she never wanted anything but was always working hard collecting cans, she was just a real sweet lady around the neighbourhood," he said. He said she would refer to everyone as "handsome boy" and "beautiful lady" — even leaving notes at their doorsteps after collecting cans.Dadson would often help fix her cart. "She put so many miles on it, the wagon would break down. After a while, I bought her a new cart ... but she didn't want it. She said my cart is fine. So a new cart sat in my studio for a month, before her other cart was stolen and finally she came and said okay, I'll take your cart," he said. He says that cart, too, was worn down from Sy working so hard.
When Alaina Tom became pregnant with her first child at 19 years old, it lit a passion within her for birthing. Initially, she thought she would go to the hospital to give birth. But after a negative experience with a doctor, she began talking with Elders who told her that they gave birth at home. “I began talking to Elders in the area and heard that we’re the first generation to go to the hospital,” she says. She was also told that her grandmother gave birth at home, she says that is when, “Something clicked.” She decided to birth at home in her community of Tsalalh, just outside of Lillooet, B.C. She’s been an advocate for traditional birthing ever since. “Ever since then, it just lit that light inside of me to learn more. And so I did everything I could to do it traditionally,” Tom says. After her first birth, she began researching everything she could by talking with Elders, women and midwifery training for home birth and unassisted birth. She went on to have three more children at home without the presence of midwives or doctors and says all of her children were “born free.” “I just started this love for birth,” says Tom. While unassisted or ‘free births,’ where children are born at home without the presence of a medical professional, can be controversial, Tom wants birthing parents to know that they have options. After having her first unassisted birth of her first child, in 2001, Tom says that other women started reaching out to her. “Women just started coming to me after they heard that,” says Tom, women told her “I heard you gave birth at home, I need your help.” Now with 20 years of supporting women giving birth, she says there have been challenges and hurdles. Many women have expressed to her that they felt the Western hospital approach to birthing was scary or intimidating. “You know so many women have come to me saying it was scary. It was painful, I felt rushed. I didn’t feel special and it just breaks my heart,” she says. She says that in the beginning, she would just talk to women, creating relationships, and then she did an online training, three professional trainings, and in-person training to build her “confidence in the medical environment.” While she says that the medical community is more open now, 20 years ago she received more backlash. Before she says she was told that birthing at home was, “very unsafe” and that she was putting her baby in danger. “I felt really unsafe and unsupported,” Tom says. Despite the obstacles, she continued to study and believes that home birth can be safe, powerful, peaceful and loving. She has spent these years working with women to instill confidence in them. Her focus is on letting women know that traditional birthing is another option. Rather than calling herself a doula, she prefers to call herself a traditional birth keeper. “I just say traditional birth keeper,” says Tom. “It’s more like a support person, a knowledge keeper, I don’t do anything medical. I’ve attended several unassisted home births where I just educate the mom on how to take care of her placenta and how to tie her own cord.” Through Tom’s lifelong work she shares the juxtaposition between traditional birth and a Western approach in hospital. She is referring to the organized chaos in many hospitals, where many doctors and nurses, bring intensity and speed into the birth experience. “I find that so many times when I go to a hospital birth, there’s a whole lot of bright lights and panic and nurses walking around quickly and even yelling….’Breathe, get up, put your chin to your chest, and push, push!’” she explains. According to a recent study published in the journal Reproductive Health, in the U.S. one in six women experienced, “being shouted at, scolded, or threatened; and being ignored, refused, or receiving no response to requests for help.” The rates were higher for women of colour. In a Feb. 2019 study, Changing Childbirth in B.C., by The Birthplace Lab at the University of British Columbia found that “18 per cent of women reported that their care provider did not tell them about different options for care (46 per cent of OB patients and 5 per cent of midwifery clients).” It also found that “one in seven women were not given enough time to thoroughly consider their options (37 per cent of OB patients and 4 per cent of midwifery clients).” Tom explains that many people first experience trauma when they are born. “Birthing doesn’t have to be heavy breathing and screaming at mothers in the hospitals,” she says. “Birth can be beautiful, and birth can be gentle, and birth can be very loving and calm and peaceful.” One of the cultural components that Tom shares is the interweaving ceremony throughout the birthing process. “That’s the main thing is that it can be a beautiful, peaceful ceremony,” she says. “I really want to empower women about home birth as well, that it’s safe and it’s beautiful and it’s not as scary as people make it seem.” Even just to bring a braid of sweetgrass or just to have some drumming playing.” As Tom, a mother of four raises her children traditionally in St’át’imc Territory she hopes to see more people coming together, and uplifting each other. “I would like all of the birthing people and all the families to unite and to come together and to support one another in a positive, uplifting way and to go back to treating birth as a ceremony,” she says. For expecting mothers Tom encourages women to talk to their Elders just like she did when she first started on her birthing journey. “Encourage them to talk to their Elders and to sing their songs and to use their medicines and to know that they aren’t alone and that our ancestors survived for…hundreds of thousands of years without the aid of a doctor,” she says, “You can have the birth you dream of,” says Tom. “When we just surround each other with love then birth doesn’t have to be a scary thing because it works. We know that because we’re here and our ancestors knew what they were doing.”Chehala Leonard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
WASHINGTON — Three former presidents say they'd be willing to take a coronavirus vaccine publicly, once one becomes available, to encourage all Americans to get inoculated against a disease that has already killed more than 275,000 people nationwide.Former President Barack Obama said during an episode of SiriusXM’s “The Joe Madison Show" airing Thursday, “I promise you that when it’s been made for people who are less at risk, I will be taking it.”“I may end up taking it on TV or having it filmed," Obama added, “just so that people know that I trust this science.”That may not be possible for a while. The Food and Drug Administration will consider authorizing emergency use of two vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna later this month, but current estimates project that no more than 20 million doses of each vaccine will be available by the end of this year. Each product also requires two doses, meaning shots will be rationed in the early stages.Health care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line, according to the influential Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. That encompasses about 24 million people out of a U.S. population of around 330 million.Still, former President Bill Clinton would “definitely” be willing to get a vaccine, as soon as one is "available to him, based on the priorities determined by public health officials,” spokesman Angel Ureña said."And he will do it in a public setting if it will help urge all Americans to do the same,” Ureña said in a statement Thursday.Ureña declined to say whether Clinton's team has been in touch with other former presidents about perhaps setting up a joint public immunization session, whenever that might be possible.Former President George W. Bush's chief of staff, Freddy Ford, told CNN that Bush recently asked him to meet with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response co-ordinator, to let them "know that, when the time is right, he wants to do what he can to help encourage his fellow citizens to get vaccinated.”“First, the vaccines need to be deemed safe and administered to the priority populations," Ford told the network. "Then, President Bush will get in line for his, and will gladly do so on camera."The only other living former president, Jimmy Carter, who at 96 is the oldest ex-president in U.S. history, also encouraged people to get vaccinated, but stopped short of pledging to do so himself in public.“Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, said today that they are in full support of COVID-19 vaccine efforts and encourage everyone who is eligible to get immunized as soon as it becomes available in their communities,” the Carter Center said in a statement.The voice of support comes as the U.S. recorded more than 3,100 COVID-19 deaths in a single day, far outpacing the record set last spring. The number of Americans hospitalized with the virus also has eclipsed 100,000 for the first time.President Donald Trump was asked this summer if he would consider being the first to take the vaccine to send a message that it was safe. The president said that going first could also lead to accusations that he was being selfish, but that he would take it if recommended to do so.“I would absolutely, if they wanted me to, if they thought it was right. I would take it first or I would take it last,” Trump said during a July interview with Fox News. “You know that if I take it first, I will be, either way, I lose on that one, right?”Making Trump among the first to get the vaccine could indeed be controversial, given that he tested positive for the virus so recently. Vaccine trials excluded volunteers who had diagnosed infections — including those who had gotten treatment for the virus, which Trump had in October.Still, Trump is promoting the vaccine. At the ceremony for the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, which was taped Monday and streamed Thursday evening, Trump said, "It is truly a Christmas miracle, one of the great achievements medically, they say, ever in history.”During a Thursday roundtable in Memphis, Tennessee, with Vice-President Mike Pence, Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the U.S. must restore national trust in immunizations.“There’s been a great deal of challenge over the years of this growing concern of what I call ‘vaccine hesitancy,'" Redfield said. "It’s really sad as an infectious disease physician to see many people choose to leave vaccination on the shelf for themselves, their family and the community.”Asked if he’d personally be taking a vaccine, Pence gave a thumbs up and replied, “Absolutely.”President-elect Joe Biden said months ago that he'd take “a vaccine tomorrow” as soon as doing so was possible.Biden told CNN during an interview Thursday that he too would be happy to get his vaccine publicly to encourage people to follow suit.“People have lost faith in the ability of the vaccine to work," Biden said. "Already the numbers are really staggeringly low, and it matters what the president and vice-president do.”That follows Biden's warning on Wednesday that the spread of the coronavirus pandemic over the next two months could kill as many as 250,000 more people, though he didn't offer details to back up such a bleak assessment.“You cannot be travelling during these holidays,” Biden told the public "as much as you want to.”___Associated Press Writers Kevin Freking and Darlene Superville in Washington and Adrian Sainz in Memphis contributed to this report.__This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of Birx.Will Weissert, The Associated Press
Growing up in Aurora, Keenan Hull says he experienced little racism in his youth – but there came a point where the tide began to turn. “I didn’t see any aggressive racism until I got older, turning into a Black man instead of a Black boy,” he said. “It was more microaggressions and [people] would just have those assumptions about me.” He saw those assumptions manifest themselves in many ways, including systemic, and it is that lived experience he has brought to the table as a member of Aurora’s recently established Anti-Racism and Anti-Black Racism Task Force, which convened for the first time last Wednesday night. “My goal [on the Task Force] is to make sure that people like me will be able to just live in Aurora and surrounding areas without having any fear of persecution from other people in the community that should be protecting us,” he told the group. Mr. Hull, who was one of the co-organizers of this spring’s Solidarity Walk following the death of George Floyd, outlined his goals near the start of the November 25 meeting where he and his fellow Task Force members began the process of hammering their goals and priorities. Although a list is still a work in progress, their initial message was clear: action rather than education is key to making a difference. Aurora’s Anti-Racism and Anti-Black Racism Task Force represents a cross-section of the community. Chaired by Noor El-Dassouki, joining her and Mr. Hull at the table are Tricia Wright, Phiona Durrant, Mark Lewis, Mae Khamissa and, representing Council, Councillor Harold Kim, who brought the idea to Council alongside Mayor Tom Mrakas. Like Mr. Hull, Ms. El-Dassouki grew up in Aurora. As a Muslim Arab woman, she told the Task Force she has experienced her “fair share of racism and discrimination” over the years, but she also recognizes “a lot of the privileges” in her life. “I acknowledge the fact I am not the target of anti-Black racism or anti-Indigenous racism and I think it is really important to centre those experiences, especially Black and Indigenous people, in experiencing racism because their lives are the ones who have been most affected and most at risk because of systemic racism,” she said. “I would like to see some real action and some actionable change, especially in the institutional racism of Aurora [in that] I hope we can work to kind of look at policies and practices that are embedded in institutions and understand how they are designed in a way that is inherently biased and racist. [It] might not be intentional, necessarily, but that is the way systems are designed in this country and a lot of areas around the world.” “The more effective way of bringing about change is to increase the implementation of anti-racist actions as opposed to just raising awareness of diversity and anti-racism and all of those items.” Added Ms. Durant: “From a leadership perspective, our community knows how our leaders feel about racism, about any form of discrimination, anything that makes anyone feel less than. As long as we know where they stand, it is easier for us to know how to move forward.” A native of Markham, Mr. Lewis says he experienced systemic racism every day as he watched his parents, teachers with the Toronto District School Board, “navigate racist constructs within our community and the education system while trying to provide a high quality of life for me and my siblings.” He moved to Aurora 17 years ago, choosing this community to raise his family as it reminded him of “Markham of the 1980s.” “I was not disappointed,” he said. “Like any fast-growing municipality, I watched Aurora’s growth drive more diversity among residents in our Town, which challenges the community to respond to growing racism, which has to be dealt with by both residents and business owners. For me, the biggest challenge as a father and a resident in Aurora is a little heartbreaking that my daughter is still experiencing the same [type and level] of racism that I experienced when I was her age so many years ago. It is time for us to make a positive impact and make Aurora a great place for all of us to raise our families.” Ms. Wright has lived in Aurora for 17 years as well, having come to Canada in her teens from a country where Black people are the majority. “If I did experience racism [in Canada], I didn’t take it that way, it was more that they didn’t like me because of something else because that isn’t necessarily what I grew up with,” she shared. “I think my goal on this would be to really continue to sort of raise the awareness. I think the more people know, the less they become afraid of something, with lack of knowledge and lack of information there is huge fear. Bringing topics and displaying different cultures, I think that will be a huge part of breaking down any barriers.” While the Task Force is just getting off the ground, several directions are being explored. In addition to Council’s recent efforts on workplace diversity within the municipal structure, Mr. Lewis suggested more can be done to examine diversity “within the construct of Aurora itself…ensuring the diversity of its suppliers in all aspects of the Town’s business.” Members also pointed out there should be a concerted effort to ensure Indigenous voices are also represented at the table after this integral group was not represented amongst the applicants who came forward, as well as to clarify their mandate. “I see a distinction between anti-racism and diversity and inclusion-related work,” said El-Dassouki. “I think there is a little bit of a distinction to me and I think it would be important for us as a group to have a common understanding and identify kind of common goals around those terminologies to guide our work going forward.”Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
VANCOUVER — Metro Vancouver's transit authority is confirming that it was the target of a ransomware attack on part of its information technology systems.Ransomware is a type of malicious software that disables part of a computer system or access to data until a ransom is paid. TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond says in a statement that the transit authority is conducting a comprehensive forensic investigation to determine how the incident occurred and what information may have been affected.Desmond offers assurance to customers that TransLink does not store fare payment data and uses a secure third-party payment processor for all fare transactions, so TransLink doesn't have access to that information. He says the transit authority took immediate steps to isolate and shut down key software and systems to contain the threat upon detection and is now working to resume normal operations. Customers can once again use credit and debit cards at Compass vending machines and tap-to-pay fare gates, features that were put on hold for several days. Customers who recently purchased monthly passes or stored value will soon see the credit loaded on their Compass Card, the statement says.It says all transit services continue to operate regularly and no transit safety systems are affected."We are sharing as much as we can at this point considering this is an active investigation," Desmond says in the statement. "We will provide further updates as more information becomes available."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020. The Canadian Press
The Liberal government tabled a bill on Thursday that it says will help bring federal law into alignment with the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. “I’m really pleased that we’ve gotten to this point,” said Natan Obed, the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, about the first reading of Bill C-15, an Act Respecting the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A previous version of legislation to recognize the declaration, introduced as a private member’s bill by NDP MP Romeo Saganash in 2016, died on the Senate order paper in 2019 because it was not passed through Parliament before the election that year. The Government of Canada used this previous bill as a base to build the new legislation, in consultation with “Indigenous rights holders and organizations,” according to an overview of the bill provided by the federal government. The overview states that the purpose of the act is to affirm the declaration as a “universal international human rights instrument with application in Canadian law.” The bill would require legislators to create an action plan, in consultation with Indigenous groups, to ensure federal laws align with the declaration. The United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the UN in 2007 as a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world, the UN’s website states. The action plan would have to be developed within three years of the bill coming into effect. The action plan would also have to be tabled in Parliament and made public. Nunavut’s senator, Dennis Patterson, said he’s cautiously optimistic about Bill C-15. “It’s certainly a very important bill for Nunavut,” he said. Having had a chance to glance at the bill after it was tabled, Patterson said he already sees improvements to the last bill, C-262. The three-year timeline is one thing he noted. He wants clarification on what will prevail — decisions reached in the Supreme Court of Canada, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, or Bill C-15. “I hope Senator Patterson will support this bill,” Obed said. He said that the senator’s concerns with the previous proposed legislation led to delays that caused it to die on the order paper. “There are many things that the land claims are silent on,” Obed said. Obed said that Bill C-15 will allow “existing human rights to be implemented in this country in a more exhaustive way.” For example, one part would allow a group or individual to bring human rights violations forward to an entity that would have the power to resolve these disputes. This would be like a general human rights tribunal, specifically for Indigenous people. Obed wants the bill to move through the House of Commons and Senate quickly, before a federal election is called. He said his work now is to lobby parliamentarians and senators to support it.Meagan Deuling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News
Senior Health Canada officials said Thursday they could be just days away from approving a COVID-19 vaccine as many provinces reported increasing hospitalizations and Quebec cancelled plans to allow gatherings over the Christmas holidays.Chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma said final documents from the American drugmaker Pfizer are expected Friday. They are to include which production lots of the vaccine will be shipped to Canada and when. Sharma wouldn't put an exact date on approval or delivery, but said once the "key information" is delivered from Pfizer, she will be able to tell Canadians the news they have been longing to hear.Moderna's vaccine is expected to receive approval soon after. The supply will initially be limited to about three million people. Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said Thursday they are targeting priority groups that will most benefit from an earlier vaccine while reducing the spread of the virus.“In a country as geographically large and diverse as ours, we are facing some logistical complexities,” he said, including reaching remote communities and co-ordinating between various levels of government.The Canadian Armed Forces received formal orders last week to start planning for the distribution of COVID-19 in the most ambitious and complex vaccine rollout in the country’s history. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading the country's distribution effort, said the speed, scope and scale of this plan makes it unique. A planning directive for Operation Vector includes preparations on vaccine-storage facilities and notes the possibility of flying doses on short notice from Spain, Germany and the U.S.Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals and front-line workers during the second wave of the pandemic as they prepare for upcoming distribution of the vaccine. Premier Francois Legault announced Quebec will no longer go forward with a plan to permit multi-household gatherings of up to 10 people over four days during the holidays. Hospitalizations declined slightly in that province to 737, but the number of people in the intensive care unit remained unchanged at 99 on Thursday.Legault said it was not realistic to think the numbers will go down sufficiently by Christmas.Ontario reported 666 people were in hospital Thursday with COVID-19, with 195 in intensive care — a 34 per cent increase from the week before. There were 1,824 new cases and 14 more deaths due to the virus.Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said there is a team working with the federal government on vaccine distribution. “It’s still early day. We are going to start this process as soon as we can to make strides," he said. "Everything we do is a step in the right direction.”The seven-day rolling average of new cases nationally is 6,044.The Prairie provinces have been a hot spot for COVID-19 in recent weeks. Saskatchewan and Alberta recently brought in more restrictions, with the latter making a request to Ottawa and the Canadian Red Cross for field hospitals to help with the surge.Alberta recorded 1,854 new infections Thursday — a new daily record. There were 511 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 97 in intensive care.Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said the contact tracing system is struggling under the volume of new cases.Manitoba reported 367 new infections and 12 additional deaths. Premier Brian Pallister called for more clarity in Ottawa's vaccination rollout, specifically when it comes to how doses will distributed on First Nations.The premier also expressed frustration with people who still don't believe the novel coronavirus is a threat, even though more than 250 Manitobans died from the virus in November alone."If you don't think that COVID's real right now, you're an idiot," Pallister said.Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia's provincial health officer, announced 694 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 12 additional deaths as she outlined the early details of the province's plan for immunization.Seniors in long-term care homes and hospitals will be the first to get immunized, she said, but more details on the plan won't come out until next week.Henry said health-care workers are tired from the pandemic and it's important to get through the next few months before vaccines are available."We know that our long-term care homes, in particular, are most vulnerable, and we know right now it's the biggest challenge that we are facing," she said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.— With files from Mia RabsonKelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
RED DEER, Alta. — Alexis Lafreniere will not play for Canada in the world junior hockey championship.Hockey Canada said in a statement Thursday that the NHL’s New York Rangers will not loan Lafreniere to Canada’s team for the tournament in Edmonton.The Rangers selected Lafreniere with the No. 1 pick this year in the NHL draft.Lafreniere led Canada to a gold medal at the 2020 junior championship in the Czech Republic. He had four goals and six assists in five games and was named tournament MVP.All activity at Canada’s camp has been suspended from Nov. 25 until at least Sunday after two players and a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.The Associated Press
Researchers in a study on maternal overdose have found that having a child apprehended made a mother 55 per cent more likely to have an unintended non-fatal drug overdose. For Indigenous women, the odds of reporting an unintended overdose are double — when compared to non-Indigenous women who had not lost custody of their children. “I would say that I was saddened by these findings but not surprised,” says Brittany Bingham, a co-author of the report and member of the shíshálh Nation. The findings, published this fall in the International Journal of Drug Policy, are the result of two studies conducted between 2010-2018, in which more than 1,000 women from across Canada participated. Bingham is the Director of Indigenous Research at the Centre for Gender and Sexual Health Equity at the University of British Columbia (UBC). She says that the impacts of ongoing colonization on Indigenous women mean they experience more barriers to keeping their kids than their non-Indigenous peers. “We seem to find in this research that unfortunately many of the Indigenous women are facing additional barriers and harder circumstances,” Bingham says. According to data published by the Ministry of Children and Family Development, 67 per cent of children in government care are Indigenous, even though Indigenous youth under 15 make up just 10 per cent of the province’s total population under 15. It’s been reported that there are more Indigenous children in care today than there were at the height of the residential school system, which operated between the 1830s and 1996. Meaghan Thumath, first author of the report and assistant professor at the UBC School of Nursing, says the impact of having a child removed can cause women with underlying substance use disorders to relapse. It’s also important for those who create policy for the child welfare system to consider the impact of child apprehension on mothers, she says. “Child reunification is an essential service,” she said in a press release on Nov. 19. “Denying a mother access to their children can result in profound grief and loss, exacerbating substance use and increasing risk of overdose.” Thumath was motivated to study the effects of child apprehension after working with pregnant women and new mothers as a street nurse and at the Sheway Pregnancy Outreach Program, in downtown Vancouver, she says. “Many of the women I worked with would work extremely hard, do everything they could to convince the system that they were ready to parent,” says Thumath. “We [as support staff] would all think that things were going very well,” she says, and that they would get to keep their kids. “[But] they would come back empty handed.” Bingham says that the child welfare system and other colonial institutions have disrupted the matriarchal structure of many Indigenous communities. Child separation, she says, is creating a “huge void” in communities’ knowledge sharing systems, which they are trying to reclaim. “Indigenous women continue to move through these situations where it’s been one thing after another put in their way from this colonial agenda,” says Bingham. “Somehow Indigenous women continue to be strong and survive.” These instances of separation and their resulting health issues create a “ripple effect” in families and communities, says Bingham. A policy brief from the Centre states that “Indigenous People’s child custody removal is deeply embedded in ongoing racist policies and colonial history of forced family separation and genocide.” This legacy includes the lasting impacts of residential schools and the 60’s Scoop. Given Canada’s historical record of systematically removing Indigenous children from their families the threat of child apprehension still affects Indigenous mothers to this day. “The threat of child apprehension is causing Indigenous women to feel a constant sense of surveillance,” says Bingham. “That creates trauma in and of itself.” The report recommends that social workers and health care staff receive training in overdose prevention, cultural safety and trauma-informed practice to support family reunification. “Urgent action is needed that decolonizes and overhauls child welfare systems to make space for Indigenous self-determination and community responses,” said Bingham in a press release from UBC. Thumath says that the research shows two things. The first is that the Canadian child welfare system needs to change dramatically. The second is that Indigenous mothers need to be provided with much more support in the event that their children are taken from them. “In the short term while we work on transforming the child welfare system, we also have to immediately support women who have had their children removed,” says Thumath. “It should be absolutely a last resort, but if they have to be removed we need to wrap supports around that woman right away.” The report itself calls for immediate large scale systemic change of the child welfare system. Among the urgent recommendations it makes, it states that “large scale systemic transformation, Indigenous self-determination and decolonizing approaches are essential to support Indigenous women’s rights as mothers.” It also states that the number one reason for child apprehension in British Columbia is poverty. Sophie Pierre, one of the co-authors of the report is the former chief of ʔAq̓ am, a member band of the Ktunaxa Nation. She says that in her experience, it isn’t enough to simply shift child welfare jurisdiction to Indigenous communities because the system itself doesn’t change in that process. “We need to turn our thinking away from funding solutions that have proven to not work,” says Pierre. “We need to invest in families…[ so we] don’t have one generation always creating fodder for the next generation.” Pierre says that today’s funding models focus on putting “band-aids” over problems rather than investing in supporting families so they can keep their kids. She says that she is both hopeful about the change that is to come, and frustrated with how these issues are being handled. “You’re talking about lives,” says Pierre. “I don’t want to be talking about programs and formulas when you’re talking about babies and mothers.”Bayleigh Marelj, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
RED DEER, Alta. — Closing arguments have wrapped up in the trial of a former Mountie accused of sexually assaulting an RCMP colleague.Jason Tress is charged with one count of sexual assault over a March 1, 2012, allegation in Faust, Alta., where he was stationed at the time. The complainant has testified that she was assaulted by Tress at her residence during a party for a fellow RCMP officer.Defence lawyer Maurice Collard focused on the credibility of the woman, who still works as an RCMP constable.Collard told the court in Red Deer, Alta., that she gave numerous versions of what happened and didn't remember very specific details.Crown prosecutor Photini Papadatou dismissed Collard's suggestion that the complainant is not credible."This woman is a young woman, became intoxicated in her own house amongst friends and was put to bed by people who she believed were her friends," Papadatou told the court Thursday. "And a colleague took advantage of her."Earlier this week, the woman testified that she initially didn't want to make waves so she didn't press for an investigation at the time. She told court she decided to report what happened years later after hearing that Tress, 34, had been charged with sexual assault and other offences involving women in Red Deer.Court of Queen's Bench Justice Nathan Whitling is expected to hand down his ruling on Friday. (rdnewsNOW) This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020 The Canadian Press