Hundreds of geese decend on icy pond.
Hundreds of geese decend on icy pond.
WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Canada's chief public health officer says the priority list of people who will get vaccinated first against COVID-19 has to be refined because the initial six million doses set to arrive in the first batch will not be enough to cover them all. Health Canada is in the final stages of reviewing the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. The regulator anticipates decisions on approving both before the end of December. Vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are also being studied, with no suggestion yet of when those reviews might be done. Canada has contracts for three more vaccines in late-stage clinical trials but has not starting rolling reviews on any of them yet. Dr. Theresa Tam said the variety of vaccines on Canada's docket and the expectation that several will eventually be approved "means we will have more flexibility as time goes on, and more and more vaccines come on board." "We're expecting that in the second quarter, depending on the approvals of the vaccines, we will have different amounts, but that is when the supply will become more and more plentiful," she said Wednesday in a virtual speech at the 2020 Canadian Immunization Conference. Most vaccine makers are just starting to ramp up production now. Initial production lots are much smaller, and are in high demand everywhere in the world. At the moment, Canada is on track to get four million doses from Pfizer and two million from Moderna between January and March. With both vaccines needing two doses to be effective, that's only enough to vaccinate three million people. "So we have to do further refinements to these priority groups in order to know exactly how we're going to sequence the delivery of the vaccines," Tam said. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said having to pare down the list is a massive Liberal government failure. "There is no clear plan who is going to receive the vaccine," he said Wednesday. "The government has not provided these details." The National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued a preliminary priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine last month, with four subsets of people based on risk of serious illness or death, and risk of exposure or outbreaks. The list included older Canadians, those with pre-existing conditions like liver and heart disease or diabetes, and people who live in the same household as those people. Long-term care workers, people who live in Indigenous communities, and front-line essential workers such as first responders or grocery store employees are also included. But that list of people is far longer than three million. There are nearly seven million Canadians over the age of 65 alone. Provincial governments will ultimately decide their own priorities but the national list is intended to guide those decisions. Long-term care homes are widely expected to be the highest priority for both workers and residents. In the first wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic in Canada, more than eight in 10 people who died from COVID-19 were associated with long-term care. The tragedy has continued in the second wave, with outbreaks in hundreds of facilities countrywide, and more residents dying every day. Ontario reported 35 deaths from COVID-19 Wednesday and 22 of them were residents in long-term care. More than 400,000 Canadians live in a long-term care setting or a retirement residence, according to the 2016 Census by Statistics Canada. Approving the vaccines is only the first step in what Tam called one of "the most complex operations ever taken in public health." Getting it to provinces to administer and convincing Canadians to take it could prove to be even more difficult. Tam appealed to the medical experts in the audience to help combat growing rhetoric that COVID-19 vaccines aren't safe. From a petition sponsored by Conservative MP Derek Sloan that warns these vaccines are "effectively human experimentation," to a van driving around Ottawa with a digital display claiming the vaccine "will destroy your DNA" there is evidence of some campaigns to convince Canadians not to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it comes. Tam said disinformation campaigns are not new but "because of the social media and its internet age, we've got even more of a challenge on our hands than anyone else in tackling pandemics of the past." "So it is a significant aspect of the response that we have to deal with," she said. She said the Public Health Agency of Canada is developing a series of webinars about the vaccines, how the regulatory and approval process works, and how the different types of vaccines work, so medical professionals can become influencers in their communities. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
MALARTIC-La Conférence des préfets de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue met de la pression supplémentaire sur le gouvernement Legault pour rendre plus sécuritaire la route 117, particulièrement le segment entre Rouyn-Noranda et Val-d’Or. Un autre accident survenu lundi dernier entre trois véhicules a fait deux victimes, «deux autres», se désole le président de la CPAT, le maire de Malartic, Martin Ferron. La Conférence des préfets demande au ministre régional, Pierre Dufour, que soit créé un bureau de projets, pour que des experts puissent se pencher plus sérieusement sur la 117. «Quand cette route a été créée, dans les années 50 et 60, elle répondait aux besoins de la circulation de l’époque, rappelle M. Ferron. Mais 60 ans plus tard, la région s’est développée, et la route 117 est à toutes fins pratiques désuète. Je tiens à rappeler qu’il s’agit de notre seul lien avec le reste de la province. Sans oublier que le Nord-du-Québec se développe lui aussi à vive allure, et que nous sommes aussi le seul lien avec cette région.» Un cheval de bataille Plusieurs ministres sont venus faire des annonces en Abitibi au cours des dernières années, concernant la route 117. Mais rien de concret n’a encore débloqué. «Le ministre Dufour en avait même fait l’un de ses principaux chevaux de bataille lors de l’élection de 2018, rappelle le président de la CPAT. Depuis ce temps, pas de son, pas d’image.» M. Ferron est conscient qu’il s’agit d’un plan à long terme. «D’habitude, quand on établit un bureau de projet, on parle d’environ cinq ans entre le début et la fin, souligne-t-il. La 117 est un secteur accidentogène, comme ils disent dans leur jargon, mais tant que le bureau de projets n’est pas annoncé, c’est encore du temps où on attend, et d’autres accidents, d’autres décès. On côtoie littéralement la mort ici.» Martin Ferron se base sur l’organisme SOS 117, dans le secteur des Hautes-Laurentides, pour faire un parallèle avec ce qui se passe en Abitibi. «Au sud de la Réserve faunique (La Vérendrye), il a fallu vingt ans de représentations par des maires qui se sont succédé pour que le ministère bouge et rende ce secteur-là plus sécuritaire. Et ce n’est pas terminé. Ici aussi, il est temps que les choses bougent. La route 117 dans notre secteur ne répond plus aux besoins de la population et des entreprises d’ici.» Le travail se poursuit, dit Pierre Dufour Le ministre de la Forêt, de la Faune et des Parcs, Pierre Dufour, assure de son côté que le travail se fait au MTQ. Il fait cependant valoir que la section entre Val-d’Or et Malartic comporte son lot de défis. «Il y a 264 entrées de maisons, de commerces et des rues transversales au total, a-t-il déclaré. C,est un tronçon de route problématique, avec de grands défis de sécurité.» Pierre Dufour dit préparer un dossier étoffé qu’il compte présenter à son collègue aux Transports, François Bonnardel. «François est bien au fait du dossier, dit M. Dufour. J’aimerais bien moi aussi qu’on ait un bureau de projet pour la route 117. Mais je ne veux pas d’une coquille vide. Je veux un bureau de projet avec des experts, et surtout, des budgets. Mon objectif est toujours le même, soit d’avoir ce bureau d’ici 2022.» L’accident survenu lundi, entre Val-d’Or et Malartic, était le deuxième à survenir dans ce secteur en un mois. Le 24 octobre dernier, deux hommes sont décédés lors d’une collision frontale sur le pont de la rivière Thompson, à Val-d’Or. Entre 2015 et 2018, une quarantaine d’accidents avec morts ou blessés graves sont survenus sur ce tronçon de route.Michel Ducas, Initiative de journalisme local, La Presse Canadienne
Une entreprise dont le siège social est situé à Boucherville, Sysco Grand Montréal, se spécialise dans la vente et la distribution de produits alimentaires dans les restaurants et les hôtels. Son président a décidé d’aider des établissements, notamment en leur remettant près de 20 000 contenants destinés aux plats à emporter et en concluant avec eux de nouvelles ententes de paiement. « Il fallait vraiment envoyer un message pour notre industrie dit Guillaume Dubois, président régional de Sysco Grand Montréal. Sysco, compte des milliers d’établissements comme clients. Bien que sa propre entreprise ait aussi enregistré une baisse du volume de ventes, M. Dubois avoue avoir aidé financièrement plusieurs propriétaires d’établissement. « Il y a des clients avec qui ça fait longtemps qu’on fait affaire qui entrent dans une période financière difficile. On est capables de moduler nos ententes de paiement ou d’apporter un soutien financier qui peut aller jusqu’à offrir des promesses de relations d’affaires dans le futur. » a précisé monsieur Dubois lors d’une entrevue au quotidien La Presse. M. Dubois fait aussi référence aux salles de réception, dont le calendrier d’évènements est vide en ce moment. Celles-ci devront toutefois être prêtes à accueillir de nouveau des mariages et des bals lorsque la crise sera terminée. Et la crise touche évidemment d’autres commerces et producteurs qui ont un lien avec les restaurants. La crise frappe fort et surtout beaucoup de petits commerçants. Sysco a aussi revu certaines ententes et n’exige plus de montant minimum pour livrer de la marchandise à ses clients. Un autre petit coup de pouce qui peut faire une différence. François Laramée, Initiative de journalisme local, La Relève
Food blogger Rebecca Coleman has seen a sharp uptick in the number of restaurant businesses approaching her over the last month, and she says it’s all because of TikTok. “These restaurants that are reaching out to me, they have websites, they have Instagram, but very few of them have TikTok,” Coleman says. TikTok is still a new enough social media platform that businesses haven’t yet fully embraced it, she says, but influencers have. “And they’re taking full advantage of that,” says Coleman, who is an Instagram and TikTok food blogger and a full-time instructor at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, where she teaches social media marketing for business. The pandemic led to the shutdown of businesses as well as widespread layoffs affecting the food and beverage industry as a whole. According to a Restaurants Canada survey, Canada’s April food service sales were the lowest in more than two decades. However, when restaurants reopened for business, owners began to turn to influencers to help attract new customers both for in-house and takeout dining. “I think that the potential is limitless,” says Sophia Hu, a Vancouver digital creator who goes by the username sopheats on TikTok and Instagram and has more than 21,000 followers combined. “As more restaurants see the power, the impact and the reach of social media as a new way, new-age marketing, they're going to be using food bloggers and content creators all the time.” Hu says restaurants will favour influencer marketing over conventional methods because it’s more personable, engaging and authentic. “We are real people and we actually love food. We go to the restaurants and we try it. I engage (with) my audience like they're my friends. And I'm just sharing genuinely what I love,” she says. Content creator Ceci, who has around 10,000 followers on TikTok and Instagram and goes by the username purplearchives, says restaurants in Vancouver have adapted well to this style of marketing. After the initial lockdown was lifted and restaurants shifted to a takeout program, she saw they needed help with promotion. Restaurants tried to lure influencers by sending them food packages to taste and review, she explains. “I think the ones that were able to cultivate a good relationship with influencers have been able to do quite well,” she says. In provinces like B.C., where restaurants remain open to in-house dining, restaurateurs have invited influencers and food bloggers to visit, which sends a message they are open for business and operating safely. Influencer marketing is also a relatively low-cost option for business owners with funding constraints. While many food bloggers don’t get paid for their promotions and reviews, they do get to taste the food for free and make content for their audience. For Coleman, who goes by the username findbex on TikTok, it is also an opportunity to build her brand. Promotional videos are an opportunity for content creators to raise awareness around issues and businesses they want to support, she says. To keep her reviews fair, Ceci is upfront with restaurants when they invite her in to talk about their food. “I'm going to write what I think about your food. If I don't like it, I just post about it,” she says. “But I do usually give them feedback, first, if it's really bad.” Although all three content creators began their journey on Instagram, their audiences are now shifting to TikTok. “There’s a place for everything on TikTok,” says Coleman, who has almost 40,000 followers on TikTok and around 4,300 on Instagram. What has made the platform so popular in the past few months? Both Coleman and Ceci attribute TikTok’s wider reach to its share feature. “If I'm on TikTok, and I see a video, and I like that, I can share that video to my Instagram Stories effortlessly,” Coleman says. The application allows users, including restaurants, to send videos across platforms such as Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, email, Snapchat and Messenger. It also allows them to save the video and react to it by making duets. Hu transitioned to TikTok when she realized she could repurpose content she had already secured for her Instagram and use it to engage in a different way. “It's fast and it's also casual,” she says, adding that unlike Instagram, TikTok does not require high-definition photos or footage. Priya Bhat / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverPriya Bhat, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Purolator has teamed up with emerging Canadian artists to help spread a little holiday cheer this year. The shipping company has selected 13 artists from across the country – one from each province and territory – to design a unique and festive shipping box that will be made available at Purolator shipping centres and Michaels craft stores for anyone looking to send a little extra cheer along with their gifts to their friends and families this holiday season. With the country boasting a population of more than 37 million people, choosing one artist from each province and territory in Canada could have proved to be quite daunting, but Patrick Hunter, a Two Spirit Ojibwe artist, said he thinks the online community he has already amassed helped to secure him the spot as Ontario's representative. “I have a pretty nice following of people on Instagram, and I think that's how they reached out when they were trying to find diverse artists to be a part of this project,” Hunter explained. “It was a quick turnaround to get the project off the ground, I think we started in November or the end of October, but with really cool emails like that, 'Purolator wants to work with you on such-and-such,' it's a pretty quick response. I think it took me all of ten seconds to say 'yes, I'm in.'” While he is currently working out of Toronto, Hunter is originally from Red Lake. His art in the Woodland style takes inspiration from his hometown and the work of famed Woodland artist Norval Morrisseau, and he brought the same sensibilities he brings to his painting to the art he was inspired to create for Purolator's box, along with his own wishes for the holiday season. “It's all digital artwork, so you have to know how to use some graphic design-y programs,” Hunter explained. “We were given a template to work within the edges and back and top sides. Why I chose the imagery I chose, which is Ojibwe florals, is because it's a holiday season, it's one of my favourite gifts to give, and one of the best gifts First Nations folks give their friends are beaded moccasins or gloves, so my hope for these boxes is when someone gets a box that they have that feeling of 'oh my god, beautiful box' but then 'what's inside?'” Being chosen by Purolator to be the representative for Ontario also carries added heft for Hunter. Knowing the boxes have the potential to wind up almost anywhere in the world, Hunter said that it was like a personal responsibility to answer Purolator's call for his art. “I'm a First Nations gay man from Red Lake, Ontario,” he explained. “When things like this come along you have an obligation to the people that are coming behind you to try and illuminate the path. So my goal with this is to show other First Nations kids and gay artists can have opportunities like this too and not be afraid of them. As well, to bring some visibility. I don't think First Nations culture is always put in the forefront in a mainstream way and Purolator has done a good job of asking not just me but other diverse people in Canada to come up with box designs.” Laurie Weston is the director of retail for Purolator who was on the team searching for artists to take part in the campaign. She noted that part of trying to find emerging artists to design a box was ensuring they were a good fit for both where they came from and the peoples and cultures they represented. “What's really interesting about this is we actually went grassroots and we scoured social media,” Weston explained. “We went through social media and we narrowed it down to the ones that we felt their artwork represented not only the province but their culture. I think with Patrick, we were so incredibly lucky he wanted to do this with us because I think his floral motif and his indigenous background and what it represents for Ontario is pretty special. So it resonated with us. So that's why we picked him.” In a year when the shipping company expects far more packages to be delivered over the holiday season – Weston said their busy season began in August this year, when it usually starts to pick up in November – the drive to showcase original Canadian art on special holiday boxes was to help spread that sense of community and Christmas spirit that might otherwise be hard to come by in 2020. “People are not able to travel, and what's happened with us is the increase in shopping online, but people are coming in and shipping packages to loved ones,” Weston explained. “They're not able to travel and see their loved ones this holiday season so we really wanted to share some of the Christmas spirit from a Canadian lens. Purolator does support small businesses and entrepreneurs, but this is a different evolution of that. We just really wanted to showcase these new artists.” As part of Purolator's partnership with Michaels craft stores, the companies are also holding a Design-A-Box Sweepstakes. Members of the public are encouraged to visit the Michaels website in order to download a box template they can then design, photograph and submit for the chance to win a $1,000 Michaels gift card and free shipping with Purolator for a year. Hunter has been doing his work professionally for the past six years, and in the near future he's also looking at moving out of Toronto to be a little bit closer to home, and begin producing more items in his line of houseware products. He noted the opportunity to be a part of Purolator's holiday campaign helped to confirm in his mind that pursuing the career path he did was a good choice and hopefully help to spread awareness of Indigenous artists even further abroad. “It makes me feel like I'm on the right path and I did choose a good career in graphic design,” he said. “To have [the art] put on these boxes in such a public way, it means a lot and I'm so thrilled just to be a part of the project, but then to have this kind of message of like 'hey, we're Indigenous people, we haven't gone anywhere, we're still here' I think it's great to illuminate the path for people to ask questions.” For more information on Purolator's holiday boxes visit their website and to take part in the Design-A-Box sweepstakes, visit the Michael's website. For more information on Patrick Hunter and his artwork, visit his website at patrickhunter.ca or follow him on Instagram @patrickhunter_artKen Kellar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times
Four men who were accused of fraud and corruption have been granted a stay of proceedings, after Court of Quebec Judge Joëlle Roy ruled their charter rights had been violated during the investigation.The decision affects four heads of engineering firms (Bernard Poulin, Dany Moreau, Kazimierz Olechnowicz, Normand Brousseau) and Robert Marcil, former director of roads and infrastructure for the City of Montreal.This is a blow to Quebec's anti-corruption unit, known by its French acronym UPAC, which carried out the investigation.In her 12-page decision, Roy echoed her 2019 ruling to grant a stay of proceedings to Frank Zampino, saying that for him and the other five accused, UPAC violated their charter rights when they recorded conversations between them and their lawyers.The five men and Zampino were all arrested by UPAC in September 2017 in connection with an alleged conspiracy that awarded municipal public contracts in exchange for money and political favours.Roy accused UPAC of "flagrant violations of the constitutional rights of the accused" and invalidated the original judge's authorization of the wiretaps.Roy said that she considers the UPAC investigation "flawed" and that "the evidence heard erodes the confidence in the rest of the investigation.""This is not a quick decision, made by a police officer in the heat of the moment. These are concerted, continuous acts involving several levels of decision-making," she wrote.She wrote that this represents one of the most "obvious cases in which a stay of proceedings is required."The Crown prosecutor has 30 days to appeal.
Ontario’s Ministry of Education says the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) will not lose nearly $15.2 million due to a student enrolment decline as anticipated, reducing fears of a budget deficit that all but assured cuts to future student programming. Last week, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced a “stabilization fund” for schools facing budget shortfalls due to low student enrolment — something the HWDSB has advocated for in recent weeks. The funding is “to help alleviate some of the impacts of unexpected enrolment declines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic” and would “provide flexibility for school boards to address a range of unanticipated funding issues,” the province said. Though the province did not initially indicate how much of the funding shortfall it would cover, ministry spokesperson Caitlin Clark told The Spectator on Monday that the board would receive the funding it had lost due to enrolment decline. The HWDSB announced in late October that it would lose a whopping $15.2 million from the province’s Grants for Student Needs (GSN) program because it was short 1,756 students from what it had projected last spring. The shortfall was the primary contributor to a budget deficit that board staff have said could amount to $18 million by the end of the year. With the province agreeing to cover the lost $15.2 million, the board will now face a more manageable deficit of roughly $2.8 million. “This funding will positively contribute to the reduction of our budget deficit and mitigate the financial impact of the unexpected enrolment decrease we experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said HWDSB chair Alex Johnstone in a statement. “Staff will review these measures and share revised financial statements with trustees.” Early in November, in response to the initial funding shortfall, the HWDSB moved to surplus teachers and curb spending across the board in an effort to reduce its deficit by the end of the fiscal year. A report present at the board’s finance committee suggested the board could find savings by reducing teaching staff, self-contained classes, part-time educational assistants, school budgets, funding for governance and more. The board has not indicated if any of these cuts will be reinstated now that the province has agreed to foot the shortfall. Either way, the board will also be tasked with eliminating the remaining deficit in order to balance the budget by the end of the year — a task that is mandated by the province. Running a school board budget deficit is illegal, according to the Ontario Education Act, though Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government has relaxed the rules during the pandemic to allow school boards to run marginal deficits. The ministry said in October that it would accept budget deficits that comprise no more than two per cent of a board’s entire budget, which for the HWDSB is roughly $11.2 million. With an $18-million deficit, the board would exceed the two per cent threshold by approximately $6.8 million, but with a $2.8 million deficit the board would be well within the province’s limit. Jacob Lorinc, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
TORONTO — Ontario's hospitals are warning that the rising number of COVID-19 patients in their wards are making it increasingly tough to continue other procedures. The Ontario Hospital Association urged residents Wednesday to follow public health measures in an effort to help address capacity issues, particularly in intensive care units across the province. That came as the province reported 656 people in hospital due to COVID-19, including 183 in intensive care, and 106 people on ventilators. Health experts have previously said having more than 150 patients in intensive care could lead to cancelled surgeries. "Ontario hospitals are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain access to vital surgeries and procedures with COVID-19 cases rising," the hospital association said in a statement posted on social media. "Hospitals are doing everything they can, but they need your support. Help stop the spread by making better practical choices every day."The OHA has been warning of capacity issues for months as hospitals are pressed to fulfill all of their regular duties while also caring for COVID patients, running testing centres, and assisting some long-term care homes.Hospital capacity has been an issue in COVID-19 hot spots, such as Peel Region, for weeks, but those pressures have also spread to other areas. The Grand River Hospital in Waterloo Region paused elective surgeries this week after its intensive care unit reached capacity.In Windsor-Essex, the Windsor Regional Hospital said high patient numbers were challenging the entire regional health-care system and had made it necessary to impose strict visitor restrictions in an effort to reduce transmission of the virus. NDP Legislator Catherine Fife, who represents a Waterloo riding, pressed the government Wednesday for further resources to bolster hospitals."What is the premier going to do to ensure that our hospitals have the support they need to get through this crisis? Do it now, we're at the tipping point," she said. Health Minister Christine Elliott insisted that hospitals are not in crisis because the province has allocated money for new beds. She said while Ontario's numbers are nothing to brag about, the province is flattening the curve."Ontario is not in crisis right now," Elliott said. "You want to speak about who is in crisis ... we're taking a look at Alberta where they're doubling up patients in intensive care units. We're not doing that in Ontario."Liberal House Leader John Fraser slammed Elliott for the remark, and said the province should be focused on its response at home."What's she going to do next, compare us with South Dakota?" he said.Meanwhile, the province sent two dozen contact tracers to Windsor-Essex as the region grapples with numerous outbreaks of COVID-19. Earlier in the week, the region's top doctor warned that Windsor-Essex was "at risk of going into a lockdown.""Given the increasing case counts ... we will be on the verge of collapsing the public health capacity and also the acute care system capacity now that we have two outbreaks in the hospital system," said Dr. Wajid Ahmed.Elliott acknowledged the situation on Wednesday and said the province was working with the region. "We are aware that there is a considerable concern regarding public health resources in Windsor-Essex," she said. "There is some more significant community transmission there, which is why we've been putting further restrictions in that area."The region entered the red level of the province's tiered, colour-coded pandemic response framework on Monday -- just two weeks after advancing from the green level to yellow, and then to orange. The red level is one short of a lockdown.As of Wednesday, there were 17 active outbreaks in the region, Ahmed said, noting that the public health unit was sending regular updates to the province.Of particular concern, he noted, is the impact on schools, with two elementary schools currently closed due to outbreaks.At one school, 29 students and nine staff tested positive for the virus. "When you have more background cases in the community, it does pose risk inside the school system," Ahmed said, adding that more schools could be forced to close. The Windsor-Essex Public Health unit recorded 41 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, along with two new deaths. The province as a whole, meanwhile, reported 1,723 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, and 35 new deaths due to the virus.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. Shawn Jeffords and Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
Internal U.S. Census Bureau documents indicate that it will be unable to meet a year-end deadline for handing in data used for allocating congressional seats as it deals with irregularities found in the numbers-crunching phase of the count, according to a Wednesday letter from the chair of the U.S. House committee that oversees the bureau.The letter from Democratic U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross accuses Republican President Donald Trump's administration of “a dangerous pattern of obstruction" in withholding documents about state population totals required to reallocate seats in the House.Maloney wrote that the Commerce Department — which oversees the Census Bureau — missed a Nov. 24 deadline to give the documents to the committee. However, the committee has received internal bureau documents from an unnamed source that indicate that addressing the data anomalies “impacts overall end date by 20 days” and anticipates that the population count will not be complete until between Jan. 26 and Feb. 6, the letter said.Those dates are significant because they would come after the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20, likely leaving crucial decisions about the apportionment of congressional districts in the hands of a Democratic administration.Maloney threatened a subpoena if “a full and unredacted set” of the requested documents are not given to the committee by Dec. 9. The Commerce Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.“By blocking the production of the full set of documents requested by the Committee last month, the Trump Administration is preventing Congress from verifying the scope of these anomalies, their impact on the accuracy of the Census, and the time professionals at the Census Bureau need to fix them,” the letter said. “Your failure to co-operate with the Committee’s investigation appears to be part of a dangerous pattern of obstruction with the Census.”Missing the Dec. 31 deadline for turning in the apportionment numbers would be a blow to Trump’s unprecedented efforts to exclude people in the country illegally from being counted in the numbers used to determine how many congressional seats each state gets and how $1.5 trillion in federal spending is distributed.Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Census Bureau switched its deadline for wrapping up the once-a-decade head count of every U.S. resident from the end of July to the end of October. It also extended the deadline for turning in apportionment numbers from the end of December to the end of next April, giving bureau statisticians five months to crunch the numbers.However, in late July and early August, officials at the Commerce Department announced field operations would finish at the end of September and the apportionment numbers would stick to a congressionally-mandated deadline of Dec. 31.The Census Bureau already was facing a shortened schedule of two and a half months for processing the data collected during the 2020 census — about half the time originally planned. The bureau has not officially said what the anomalies were or publicly stated if there would be a new deadline for the apportionment numbers.In a Nov. 19 statement, Census Bureau Director Steve Dillingham said processing anomalies have occurred in past censuses and he was directing the bureau to use all resources available to resolve the issues as quickly as possible.One of the internal documents cited by Maloney is a Nov. 19 presentation for senior bureau officials that describes 13 anomalies that affect more than 900,000 census records. They include a problem related to duplicate non-response follow-up records in every state, a data error from the count of group quarters that affects more than 16,000 records, and a coding error affecting about 46,000 records in nine states.The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this week in a case about Trump’s move to exclude people living in the country illegally from the population count.Federal courts in California, Maryland and New York have ruled that Trump’s plan violates the Constitution, which provides that “representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State.” A fourth court, in Washington, D.C., held this past week that a similar challenge to the administration plan was premature, an argument that also has been made to the high courtAdrian Sainz, The Associated Press
VIENNA — Austria will allow skiing to start on Dec. 24, but will limit the capacity of ski lifts and keep restaurants, bars and hotels largely closed until early January, officials said Wednesday. It also will require many people entering the country over the Christmas period to go into quarantine.Tough lockdown measures took effect Nov. 17 and are due to expire on Sunday. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said a limited curfew that has applied around the clock will be eased, and from Monday will apply only between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.Schools will be reopened next week, except for older students, as will nonessential shops, museums, libraries and some other businesses. But restaurants will remain closed for all but takeout and deliveries, as will bars, and hotels will remain closed except to business travellers.Austria has been hard hit by the resurgence of coronavirus infections in Europe, though its infection rate has declined over recent weeks. It currently is recording 335 new infections per 100,000 residents over seven days, down from around 600 last month — but still more than twice as many as in neighbouring Germany, which is in a milder partial shutdown.Kurz said that progress over recent weeks, and the expectation of more before Christmas, allows “cautious” reopening steps. But he said the tourism and catering sectors won’t start reopening until Jan. 7.That will effectively mean that, over the holiday season, skiing is possible in most cases only on day trips for those Austrian residents who live fairly close to the Alps. Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler said there will be mask-wearing and distancing requirements, and the capacity of cable cars will be limited.Kurz said that allowing skiing for locals but keeping the catering sector closed is “absolutely justified.”“Skiing is a sport that takes place in the open air, an individual sport, so epidemiologically it must be assessed differently from catering, where we know that there can time and again be infections,” he said.Kurz added that he, as a resident of eastern Austria, won't benefit but “for a large part of our population it will then be possible to go skiing at least for the day.”France and Germany, which has closed its ski resorts, are pushing for similar measures to be taken in other European countries, like Italy and Spain, for the Christmas season. Ski resorts are already open in neighbouring Switzerland, which has allowed skiing.Kurz rejected suggestions that Austria's limited reopening was a response to pressure from abroad.“We decide according to our infection situation, and our expectation is that we can push down our infections very, very strongly by Christmas,” he said.Austria also plans tougher border controls and quarantine rules in an effort to dissuade people from travelling abroad over the Christmas period. Austrian residents' summer trips to see relatives in the western Balkans, in particular, were blamed as a significant source of the resurgence of infections this fall.The quarantine rules will be imposed by mid-December and will apply “if you're coming from a country that exceeds a certain limit of infections,” Kurz said. Authorities set the limit at 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over 14 days, an infection rate which the vast majority of European countries currently surpass.The requirement will be for new arrivals to go into quarantine for 10 days, which they can cut short by taking a test after five days, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said.___Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.___Geir Moulson reported from Berlin.Geir Moulson And Philipp Jenne, The Associated Press
Saint-Tite – L'entreprise Albert Veillette & Fils pourrait entamer des procédures judiciaires contre la Ville de Baie-Comeau, elle qui se retrouve plongée dans une controverse impliquant son célèbre «Steak à Veillette», pendant que le maire de la municipalité de la Côte-Nord tenterait de protéger ses commerces locaux. Des commerçants de l'endroit ont dénoncé, lors d'une récente séance du conseil municipal, que l'institution mauricienne vienne leur faire concurrence de façon déloyale chez eux. Citant le fait qu'ils sont des payeurs de taxes, en opposition à Albert Veillette & Fils, ces commerçants ont demandé au maire de défendre leurs intérêts. Lorsqu'interpellé, Yves Montigny a répondu du tac au tac. «C'est un produit acheté dans une chaudière, qui a été attendri par une machine, qu'on doit cuire bien cuit comme une semelle de botte pour être sûr de ne pas s'empoisonner.» Des commentaires qui ont touché droit au cœur le copropriétaire de la boucherie de Saint-Tite, Gilles Veillette. «C'est inconcevable qu'un maire dise ça. C'est discriminatoire : il utilise son pouvoir pour avoir une influence sur le commercial. C'est tout à son honneur de vouloir protéger les commerces de Baie-Comeau, mais c'est la manière qui dérange», tranche-t-il. L'homme d'affaires se défend : la présence de l'entreprise à Baie-Comeau visait à effectuer la livraison de marchandise en ligne et non à faire de la sollicitation. «Ils ont un règlement avec lequel ils veulent nous obliger à aller livrer aux maisons. Avant, c'était l'inverse, ils ne voulaient pas qu'on aille aux portes. On ne fait pas de vente sur place, on fait juste de la livraison. C'est un non-sens que le maire décide de la façon dont on va livrer. Le maire utilise son pouvoir discrétionnaire. Notre présence peut déranger certains commerces, mais tout ce que je veux, c'est gagner ma vie», exprime M. Veillette. «C'est triste, parce que je n'aime pas être mêlé à ces tempêtes-là. On a du plaisir à faire notre travail. C'est sûr et certain qu'on va se défendre.» Le copropriétaire aurait tenté de joindre l'administration municipale, sans succès. «Je veux parler personnellement au maire. C'est un homme que je ne connais même pas. Si je n'ai pas de réponse de la Ville, on n'aura pas le choix d'y aller avec nos avocats. On étudie présentement quelles mesures seraient appropriées», confie-t-il. La Ville de Baie-Comeau n'a pas retourné nos appels. Toutefois, le porte-parole de la municipalité, Mathieu Pineault, a affirmé à TVA Nouvelles que les propos du maire avaient «peut-être été loin», mais qu'il était «normal qu'un maire encourage l'achat local» chez lui.Marc-André Pelletier, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Nouvelliste
NEW YORK — The dramatic conclusion to “The Undoing,” HBO's whodunit starring Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman, proved how it's still possible to bring people together in today's fragmented television world.Three million people tuned in Sunday to find out who really killed the girlfriend of Grant's adulterous character in one of three showings on HBO and on the streaming service HBO Max, the Nielsen company said.That's likely to be a fraction of who eventually sees it, given how television is consumed today. The premiere of the six-episode series was seen by 1.4 million people the night it first aired, and by now has been seen by 9 million and counting.“It's a good example of how you can still have a water-cooler hit,” said Casey Bloys, HBO Programming president. “I will always point to good acting, writing and directing. It was a good story.”It was the most-watched night for HBO since the finale of “Big Little Lies” last year, which also featured Kidman and creator David E. Kelley.HBO also said it was the first time in network history that each episode of a series was seen by more people than the previous one, a powerful signal of how people were drawn into the mystery.“The Undoing” has generated more conversation on social media than any other new scripted television series this year, Nielsen said. Coupled with the streaming-only series “The Flight Attendant,” HBO Max had its biggest week since the service was launched.“The Undoing” was always designed as a limited series, but it attracted the type of interest that would make any television executive naturally wonder if the story could be extended in some way.“I don't know,” Bloys said. “I do think these things are lightning in a bottle. It could always be difficult to try that again.”But he pointed to the network's productive relationship with Kidman and Kelley.“We'll find something great to do,” he said. “Who knows what it will be?”In other ratings news, CNN finished November with its most-watched month in the network's 40-year history, showing growth in the aftermath of the election compared to rivals Fox News Channel and MSNBC.NBC was the top-rated broadcast network in prime time for Thanksgiving week, averaging 3.64 million viewers. CBS had 3.55 million, ABC had 2.4 million, Fox had 1.6 million, Ion Television had 930,000, Univision had 890,000 and Telemundo had 530,000.ESPN was the most-watched cable network, averaging 2.95 million viewers. Hallmark hit 2.53 million, Fox News Channel had 2 million, MSNBC had 1.59 million and CNN had 1.41 million.ABC's “World News Tonight” led the evening news ratings race with an average of 9.5 million viewers. NBC's “Nightly News” had 8.8 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 6.3 million.For the week of Nov. 23-29, the 20 most-watched programs in prime time, their networks and viewerships:1\. NFL Football: Chicago at Green Bay, NBC, 16.48 million.2\. “60 Minutes,” CBS, 13.78 million.3\. “NFL Pregame” (Sunday), NBC, 13.32 million.4\. NFL Football: L.A. Rams at Tampa Bay, ESPN, 13.14 million.5\. “The Masked Singer,” Fox, 11.42 million.6\. “NFL Post-Game” (Sunday), Fox, 11.11 million.7\. “Football Night in America” (Sunday, 7:55 p.m.) NBC, 10.78 million.8\. “NCIS,” CBS, 10.16 million.9\. “FBI,” CBS, 8.4 million.10\. “Football Night in America” (Sunday, 7:30 p.m.), NBC, 7.38 million.11\. “The Voice” (Monday), NBC, 7.08 million.12\. “The Voice” (Tuesday) NBC, 7.07 million.13\. “Dancing With the Stars,” ABC, 6.42 million.14\. “Monday Night Kickoff,” ESPN, 6.22 million.15\. “I Can See Your Voice,” Fox, 6.07 million.16\. “FBI: Most Wanted,” CBS, 5.66 million.17\. “The Neighborhood,” CBS, 5.46 million.18\. “Bob Hearts Abishola,” CBS, 4.9 million.19\. “Bull,” CBS, 4.68 million.20\. “The Bachelorette,” ABC, 4.49 million.David Bauder, The Associated Press
HALIFAX — Nova Scotia reported 17 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and New Brunswick reported six as the stream of cases from ongoing outbreaks continued in both provinces.Health officials in Nova Scotia said 16 of the cases identified were in Halifax, including one at St. Margaret's Bay Elementary school that was reported late Tuesday. The other case was in the province's northern health zone and was related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada.The province's total number of active cases is 127.In New Brunswick, health officials reported six new cases of COVID-19. The Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton and Edmundston regions each had one case, while there were two in the Bathurst region. There are now 119 active cases in the province.During an online news conference Wednesday, Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill said St. Margaret's Bay Elementary was closed for cleaning and would remain closed on Thursday because of a scheduled professional development day.He said a decision on reopening would be made later this week."That is yet to be determined because the investigation hasn't been completed," he said.Churchill also said it was likely that students at two schools in Cole Harbour that were closed after cases were identified last week would return to classes on Monday.The minister, who announced a further $14.3 million in funding to help support schools during the pandemic, was asked his thoughts on the fact there have only been five cases identified to date in the school system.He credited good guidance from the provincial public health department and said Nova Scotians have followed that advice."I think our teachers, principals, support staff, our cleaners, our students should be proud," Churchill told reporters. "It seems at this point that the majority of people are doing their part to make a difference and protect people from the virus."Still, he said talks were ongoing about the possibility of extending the upcoming Christmas break if needed.The money announced for schools on Wednesday is from a federal fund announced in August, and Churchill said it would go toward a range of programs and initiatives to help keep schools safe. He said $3.8 million would be used to boost school water supplies through the purchase of 950 touch-free water-filling stations, while $2.7 million would be used to ensure maintenance and inspections of school ventilation systems."This is above and beyond the (ventilation) assessments that have been done and the regular assessments," he said. "If any issues crop up, this funding will allow us to deploy resources very quickly to deal with any maintenance issues."Another $1.5 million would be used to purchase additional personal protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitizer for students and staff, while $4.1 million would go toward new online math and literacy programs. Money would also go toward school food programs, including $500,000 to meet increased demand for the existing school healthy eating program, and $1 million to support an emergency food fund that can be accessed if at-home learning is needed.The announcement followed one last month that will see $21.5 million in federal relief money used to purchase 32,000 new computers for students and to upgrade servers and Wi-Fi systems in schools.Meanwhile, one new case of COVID-19 was reported by Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday, bringing its number of active cases to 30. Health officials said the case was related to travel and involved a man between 20 and 39 years old in the eastern part of the province.In Prince Edward Island, the government announced that those with lower incomes can now get free face masks at all food bank locations across the province. The province said it had collaborated with the P.E.I. Association of Food Banks to distribute three-ply, non-medical reusable masksSince Nov. 20, non-medical masks or face coverings have been mandatory in all public spaces on the Island.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA, Kan. — The federal government is expected to introduce a bill Thursday aimed at ensuring the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.The bill is expected to echo a private member's bill passed by the House of Commons two years ago, during the last Parliament.That bill, introduced by former NDP MP Romeo Saganash, stalled in the Senate, where Conservative senators argued it could have unintended legal and economic consequences.It died when Parliament was dissolved for last fall's election.In the Liberal platform, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to reintroduce it as a government bill.Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says the bill is of "immense real and symbolic value" to Indigenous people in Canada.It will set out a number of principles "as to what inherent rights Indigenous Peoples have and the federal government's corresponding responsibility, which will be difficult … to implement changes into their laws," Miller told a news conference Wednesday."Those principles are a guiding light into what is expected of us as human beings," he said.Once passed, Miller predicted there will be "an immense amount of work" to be done to harmonize federal laws with those principles.In particular, it will necessitate a lot of work to "get out from under the Indian Act and move towards self-determination."The UN's General Assembly passed the declaration in 2007. Canada initially voted against it but eventually endorsed it in 2010.The declaration affirms the rights of Indigenous Peoples to self-determination and to their language, culture and traditional lands. It also sets "minimum standards for the survival and well-being" of Indigenous Peoples.It also spells out the need for free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous Peoples on anything that infringes on their lands or rights.That provision proved particularly controversial among Conservative senators during debate on Saganash's bill. They expressed concern that it would mean giving Indigenous people a veto over natural resource developments.At the time, Justice Department officials assured senators that Saganash's bill would do nothing to alter Canada's legal framework. They said it would simply reinforce a long-standing principle that international standards can be used to interpret domestic laws.Saganash's bill consisted of just six clauses, one of which asserted that it would not diminish or extinguish existing constitutional or treaty rights of Indigenous Peoples.Among other things, Conservative senators wanted to amend that to specify that nothing in the bill would have the effect of increasing or expanding such rights.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.The Canadian Press
COVID-19. En prévision de la période achalandée du magasinage des Fêtes, un resserrement des mesures entrera en vigueur dans les commerces à compter du 4 décembre, afin de limiter les risques de transmission du virus et d'assurer le bon déroulement des activités dans le respect des consignes sanitaires. Les commerçants devront, entre autres, réduire le nombre maximal de clients pouvant se trouver dans leur établissement. «L'achalandage du temps des Fêtes est bien commencé dans nos commerces. Nous magasinons pour nos êtres chers, et c'est tout à fait normal. Cependant, vu la croissance du nombre d'hospitalisations et la courbe des cas qui ne fléchit pas, nous avons décidé de resserrer les mesures préventives en place afin de limiter autant que possible les risques d'éclosion. Nos forces policières seront également plus présentes. J'invite nos citoyens à favoriser l'achat local et à investir dans nos entreprises d'ici, qui ont travaillé très fort au cours des derniers mois dans un contexte difficile. Il ne reste que quelques semaines avant Noël, alors si chacun y met du sien, nous pourrons peut-être passer des moments précieux avec nos proches», souligne Geneviève Guilbault, vice-première ministre et ministre de la Sécurité publique en précisant que la capacité d'accueil, calculée en fonction de la superficie de plancher accessible aux clients, devra être affichée bien à la vue. Également, en fonction de la superficie de plancher utilisable par les clients, les exploitants devront limiter l'accès aux lieux, contrôler le nombre de personnes à l'intérieur et prévoir des mesures de gestion de l'achalandage (p. ex. : marquage au sol, corridor de circulation à sens unique, gestion des files d'attente). Ils devront continuer de s'assurer du respect des consignes sanitaires par les clients et le personnel, notamment la distanciation de 2 mètres entre les personnes et le port du couvre-visage. Afin d'assurer la sécurité de tous, la présence d'employés de la Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail, de la santé publique et des corps policiers sera intensifiée dès ce vendredi. Enfin, des mesures limitant les rassemblements continueront de s'appliquer pour la période du jour de l'An. Dans ce contexte, les policiers assureront une plus grande présence sur le terrain et continueront d'être vigilants et d'intervenir au besoin, particulièrement les 31 décembre 2020 et 1er janvier 2021. Ils disposeront des pouvoirs nécessaires pour faire cesser les infractions à la Loi sur la santé publique. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
TORONTO — As a pediatrician with extensive experience working with marginalized groups, Anna Banerji believed herself more than equipped to advocate for her Inuk son when he began to display signs of deep depression.She recalls taking him to hospital and pleading with mental-health experts for help, but says her concerns were dismissed. Less than two weeks later in September 2018, Nathan killed himself.Banerji acknowledges many factors led to her son's death, but believes the health-care system failed to recognize specific racial, social and cultural aspects that contributed to his suicide.It's a blind spot she ascribes broadly to mainstream health-care, and had been one of the reasons she founded the biennial Indigenous Health Conference in 2014.The fourth edition launches Thursday as a three-day digital gathering focused on youth mental health, and will be dedicated to Nathan. Banerji says Indigenous-led solutions are key as the pandemic exacerbates mental health struggles, and especially as fresh accounts of racism in health-care this year repeat calls for change. "We see this all across Canada — Joyce Echaquan recorded it so we have documentation of her dying while they're calling her names," said Banerji, referencing the hospital death in September of an Atikamekw woman from Manawan in central Quebec."Joyce is one example, but there are so many examples that don't get documented and that's why it's really important that we document that because Joyce's story or my son's story are not unique."Speakers include Nunavut singer Susan Aglukark who will discuss child sexual abuse and its links to colonization, and Michèle Audette, commissioner of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, who will talk about systemic discrimination.Of course, youth will take centre stage. Youth panel moderator Joshua Stribbell, program coordinator of the Ottawa-based service provider Tungasuvvingat Inuit, says he's impressed with the topics younger participants plan to raise: a comparison of Indigenous and colonial approaches to mental health and a look at inter-generational determinants of health and resilience."What I love about them coming up with those two learning objectives is it's youth refusing ... to just talk about (being) youth," says the 30-year-old Stribbell, based in Toronto and a friend of Nathan's."Because no Indigenous youth is just Indigenous youth — they're part of a community and that community has intergenerational things that are continuing to happen and are always happening (and) they understand that they (are not) alone, that they heal together as a community."There is no shortage of troubling incidents to fuel discussion.While the spread of COVID-19 has highlighted and deepened racial disparities in health-care and social supports, it's also revealed the benefits of Indigenous-led public health measures that resulted in far fewer infections in many communities, Toronto doctors Allison Crawford and Lisa Richardson argued in an article for the CMAJ in September."At its foundation, Indigenous public health must be self-determined: adapted for the needs of specific nations and grounded in local Indigenous language, culture and ways of knowing; developed, implemented and led by Indigenous Peoples," they write.Such instances are rare. Earlier this week, former Saskatchewan judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond released a damning report detailing widespread systemic racism in British Columbia's health-care system, including extensive profiling of patients based on stereotypes about addictions.Banerji believes much the same can be said of health-care systems across the country, and "that's exactly why we do this conference.""We need to address some of those issues and try to educate people on the fact that this is real and it impacts people's lives, and can result in high rates of morbidity and mortality," says Banerji, an associate professor at the University of Toronto's Temerty Faculty of Medicine.In the case of her son, Banerji laments that experts appeared to discount the possible impact of tumultuous events in his young life. Nathan left Baffin Island as a baby when Banerji was asked by an adoptions official she knew through her work in the Arctic to adopt him and raise him in Toronto.Keen to keep Nathan connected to his culture and relatives in Clyde River, Banerji (who is of South Asian descent) brought him back several times to visit his parents, siblings, and grandparents. He was very proud of his culture, but Banerji says he grew disillusioned as he became aware of fractures in his birth family and social and economic problems in the community. As he approached his teen years, she says Nathan was shattered by news of his 14-year-old brother's death by suicide.She says these experiences all likely played a role in Nathan’s mental health and should have been given more weight."It's not overt discrimination, it's a lack of information. It's the omission where they just didn't understand inter-generational trauma that contributed to his death," says Banerji.Malcolm Ranta, executive director of the Ilisaqsivik Society, says an Inuit-focused approach makes an incredible difference in the health outcomes of the Baffin communities he serves.The Clyde River non-profit created a counsellor training program about 13 years ago to offer support in Inuktitut from locals who could better understand local issues. He says the program was accredited three years ago and he now hears regularly from residents thankful they can get help in Inuktitut from someone who better understands their pain."Three years ago if there was a suicide in a community the government would send in one white southern social worker or nurse to go be there to support that community for a period of time. Now, we can send in a team of four Inuit counsellors," says Ranta, participating as a delegate at this year's conference."We want Inuit to be part of the systems that impact their lives. Because we know there's going to be better health outcomes."Demand is "huge" he says, pointing to 26 crisis response calls in 2019. In February, he says Ilisaqsivik is launching a 28-day addiction treatment camp that will allow residents to avoid having to go south, such as to Toronto or Calgary, for care. Banerji says these are the solutions that can help address gaps in care across the country. Even as a physician and university professor, she says she still could not find adequate help for her son."The system failed even me with an Indigenous child," says Banerji."I can imagine how the system continues to fail Indigenous people that may not be in that position or may not be as well-resourced or may not be in a position of power as someone like me."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls on the federal government to ensure vaccines and critical medicines for Canadians can be manufactured within the country. He says the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that Canadians shouldn’t be forced to rely on importing vaccines from other countries.
Known Terror Squad gang member Kevin George Ackegan pleaded guilty in Prince Albert Provincial Court to weapons and drug-related charges avoiding a trial. Forty-year-old Ackegan was arrested by Prince Albert RCMP Integrated Crime Reduction Team during a traffic stop on Feb. 26, 2020. When police searched the vehicle they found two firearms, ammunition, a machete, a knife, bear spray, hydromorphone, methamphetamine, and Gabapentin pills. They also found U.S., Jamaican and Canadian currency. On Nov. 30 Ackegan changed his plea from not guilty to guilty. Before Ackegan’s trial, his lawyer Dale Blenner-Hassett, filed a Charter application asking the court to exclude the evidence seized during the traffic stop. Blenner-Hasset challenged whether the arresting officer had a reasonable belief that an offence was being committed. The court heard that the arresting police officer was working for the RCMP Integrated Crime Reduction Team that investigates gangs, guns and drugs. At about 8 a.m. on Feb. 26, 2020, the officer got a call from a source that told him Ackegan was in possession of guns and told him where he was in Prince Albert. The officer had used the source on eight previous occasions. The officer testified that the source has a criminal record. The court heard that the arresting officer also knew Ackegan. He had charged Ackegan previously in 2017 with breaching his parole by associating with known gang members and at the time of that arrest, Ackegan was a member of the street gang Terror Squad. On Feb. 26, 2020, when the officer received the information about Ackegan, he conducted surveillance at a residence on the 800 block of 14 Street West in Prince Albert. Another officer testified that he watched the residence for about three hours and at about 11:20 a.m. Ackegan came out of the residence and started loading several bags into the back seat and trunk of a vehicle. A woman was driving the vehicle and Ackegan was the passenger. Both officers testified that in their experience, guns could be concealed in bags. The officer who took the call from the informant testified that he conducted a CPIC inquiry on Ackegan, which confirmed he was prohibited from possessing firearms. The woman and Ackegan drove a few blocks before stopping at another residence. At this point the officers made a traffic stop and arrested Ackegan. One of the officers drove the vehicle to the police station where it was searched and police found guns in the bags, ammunition, drugs, and a cell phone. Crown Prosecutor Andreanne Dube argued that the search of the vehicle was justified as a search incidental to the lawful arrest of Ackegan. During cross-examination, Blenner-Hassett asked one of the officers the identity of the confidential informant. Judge H. M. Harradence, however, said the informant’s identity shouldn’t be disclosed and the court must ensure confidentiality is maintained. Judge Harradence dismissed the defence’s Charter application to have the evidence thrown out. He said he accepted that the arresting officer had information from a source that the accused was in possession of guns and that the information was current and firsthand because the source actually saw what was reported. Judge Harradence said there was some indication of past credibility of information from the source, three hours of surveillance that corroborated Ackegan was at the residence and was loading bags into the trunk and back seat of the vehicle. Judge Harradence also said that police testified they have investigative experience that guns have been concealed in bags and the arresting officer had personal knowledge of Ackegan’s history with illegal firearms and association with known gang members. “I find a number of factors persuasive of a strong connection between Ackegan and the illegal possession of firearms,” said Judge Harradence. Judge Harradence ruled that Ackegan’s rights weren’t violated. “In these circumstances, I find that the arrest and search of this accused and the vehicle was reasonable and lawful.” Ackegan will be sentenced in Prince Albert Provincial Court on Feb. 2. Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
GUYSBOROUGH – There’s nothing like the smell of a fresh cut Christmas tree. But if you don’t get one soon, you might not get one at all. The first thing on your Christmas shopping list this year should be the tree, according to the buzz on the lot at the Northeastern Christmas Tree Association (NECTA). Norman MacIsaac, the association’s manager of marketing, told The Journal last week that they will soon stop shipping because they are getting low on trees. And, while the association ships to the United States and doesn’t sell locally – when they can’t find enough trees to ship, that indicates a shortage in supply across the entire market. The NETCA, located on South River Lake Rd. near Goshen, procures trees for the U.S. market mainly from growers in Guysborough, Antigonish and Pictou counties. The association has 100 members and markets trees for approximately 60 of those members. This year, MacIsaac said, there is a big demand for trees,but not much of a supply. But that, according to him, has nothing to do with the pandemic; it’s due to competition and the plight that faces most of the agricultural sector – the demographic involved in the industry. “The average age of the grower is between 65 and 70 years old; people are getting out of it.” And the competition, that’s coming from below the border. “There are buyers from the U.S. coming in offering more money in some cases,” said MacIsaac. The draw for U.S. buyers is profit, of course. MacIsaac told The Journal that “prices are going up definitely; probably about 10 per cent more than last year and last year was probably about 10 per cent more than the year before.” The actual price per tree varies based on size and grade,but MacIsaac said, “If you’re dealing with premiums, you’ll get a pretty good dollar for them … a 7-8-foot tree of the highest grade would probably get $18 or more [wholesale].” MacIsaac said he isn’t seeing any difference in the tree business this year as far as COVID-19 is concerned, but he does expect it will be a good year for retailers. “I think there is going to be a big demand because people are going to be stuck in their homes because they can’t travel. Retailers are going to do really well, I think.” And he’s not the only one who’s predicting a good season. All over North America the Christmas tree market is booming. Shirley Brennan, the executive director of the Canadian Christmas Tree Growers Association told Global News, “People realize ‘I’m not going away for Christmas this year, so I am going to get a real tree.’ Families want a tradition and want to embrace this holiday season because they missed so much this year because of COVID.” While the pandemic might be making you rethink your holiday traditions, it might make you rethink your career choices as well. If that’s the case, here’s some potential advice from MacIsaac. “There are some young people in it, and they are going to reap the benefits of the low supply. They are doing a lot of planting and a lot of grooming. I think they are going to be set up pretty good. Any younger people that manage a Christmas tree farm properly will do well.”Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal