Actor Eddie Hassell, best known for his roles in the 2010 Oscar-nominated film “The Kids Are All Right” and the NBC TV show “Surface,” has died after being shot in Texas, Hassell’s manager tells Variety. He was 30.
Actor Eddie Hassell, best known for his roles in the 2010 Oscar-nominated film “The Kids Are All Right” and the NBC TV show “Surface,” has died after being shot in Texas, Hassell’s manager tells Variety. He was 30.
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
Yukon confirmed one new case of COVID-19 in Whitehorse on Thursday.In an update posted to the territorial government's website Thursday afternoon, the one case was added to Yukon's case count which is now at 51.The government did not issue any additional potential public exposure notices.The territory now has 11 active cases of COVID-19, with 39 recovered and one death.On Wednesday, the territorial government announced three new cases.The territorial government posted two updates to its website Wednesday to say Yukon's new total case count is 50, with 20 active cases.Case 48 and 49 from Dec. 1, are in Whitehorse and are linked to a previous case.Case 50 is from Dec. 2, is in Whitehorse and is currently under investigation. Officials also sent a release identifying two new possible locations of exposure on Wednesday.Health authorities say anyone at Winter Long Brewing Co. on Friday, Nov. 27 between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m., or at Whiskey Jacks Pub & Grill on Wednesday, Nov. 25 between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. should contact the COVID-19 Testing and Assessment Centre at 867-393-3083 to arrange for testing, if they are experiencing symptoms.
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
Have you already started your holiday baking? Have your favourite go-to holiday cookie recipe at the ready? Think your favourite snowballs can go toe to toe with another family’s gingerbread person? There’s only one way to find out. Submit your recipe online and see what Aurora’s baking. The Town has put out a call for cookie recipes “close to your heart” ahead of the holiday season and the compilation of a digital Holiday Cookie Book that brings together the best of what our community has to offer. “The holiday season is approaching and it is time to dust off your holiday cookbooks and baking apron!” says the Town. “From the safety and comfort of your own home, help us share your favourite holiday baking tradition with the Aurora community. Participate in this free initiative by submitting your favourite holiday cookie recipe to be featured in Aurora’s Holiday Cookie Book posted on the Town’s website. “[Through] December 13, residents can visit aurora.ca/cookiebook to submit their favourite family recipe, including an ingredients list, step-by-step instructions, a few sentences about why the recipe is meaningful to you and an optional photo of your creation. Once submissions are collected, all submitted recipes will be put together in one easy to follow cookbook you can keep with you…for years to come.” For more information, visit the link above, or call Franco De Marco, Aurora’s Recreation Supervisor, at 905-727-3123 x3526.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
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
A fellow councillor's negative opinions about staff and peers are indicative of confrontational and unnecessary hostility, says complainant. Coun. Jon Main told MidlandToday people are missing the point by focusing on Bill Gordon's 'snowflake comment' that was part of a series of communications and dialogue shared with the integrity commissioner. Main said he just rolled his eyes at Gordon's 'lame and corny' snowball comment directed at him. "At the end of the day, we were discussing an issue we both agreed on," he added. And even though it did happen earlier in the year, Main said he wasn't 'sitting' on information or gathering evidence to present to the integrity commissioner. "We went in communication with the integrity commissioner in summer," he said. "The complaint would have been filed in the middle of summer and we've been discussing it this fall." Providing context to the dialogue, Main said it was a back-and-forth exchange about responding to the pandemic and what council and the town were going to do. It was spurred by a warning from him, cautioning Gordon to be careful about communicating to all of council. "We're not supposed to be discussing issues with each other over email because of closed door policies and all," said Main. "We were talking about what's the best way of bringing information forward. It was a simple exchange of information and it kind of spiralled and clearly crosses a line." But he said he would like to bring attention to the fact that it's part of a larger pattern of disrespectful of conduct from councillor to councillor. And a second matter of concern: disrespect in council and staff relations. It's indicative of a personality, confrontational and unnecessary hostility. "This isn't a Main vs. Gordon issue," said Main. "This is really a Gordon vs. code of conduct issue." And, he added, it certainly isn't (that) he, Coun. Jim Downer, and Deputy Mayor Mike Ross are out to get Gordon. "There's no animosity between us," said Main. "We're really just trying to work with our colleague to make him step up his game so we don't see these code of conduct lapses and issues." Another key point that he said residents need to realize is that of undue influence on town staff. "I don't have any instances of that happening before," Main said, talking about the one set of circumstances quoted in the report. "I think this incident is quite important to review to make sure we follow the rules around council roles and responsibilities and staff responsibilities and make sure we don't cross the wires." Main said prior to lodging the complaint, he had approach Gordon peer about his communication style. "From my communication, I've said it in the nicest way possible to soften his approach and offered constructive criticism on how to go about raising issues and who to contact (for town-related matters)," said Main. "Those suggestions and advice have not been heeded or appreciated." Ross played to a similar tune. "Coun. Main reached out to Coun. Gordon and was pretty much told to go away and (Gordon said), 'I'll do politics my way and you do it yours way,'" he said in a conversation with MidlandToday. "I give Coun. Main credit for doing that. I was surprised by Coun. Gordon's response." Ross added that in his opinion, Gordon could be one of the best councillors the town has. "But unfortunately, he doesn't want to follow the rules," he said. "I have no idea why not. Maybe he's upset due to the fact that council of the day took him to court around the Midland Police Services Board. I would hope that isn't it, but he's said it in the past that it was his motivation to get on council." And it's not a question of Ross against Gordon, said the deputy mayor. "It's the code of conduct we all agreed to follow," he elaborated. "Unfortunately, things have happened that it's not been followed or adhered to. We all want to work together." And where there are no conversations between the two included in the report, Ross said, he felt he had to back up his colleagues. Addressing Gordon's suspicions around monetary sanctions, Main said, that wasn't up to him alone, adding he wasn't thinking of going that route anyway. "I think people need to understand what a reprimand is," he said. "Financial sanction isn't the end-all and be-all of the integrity commissioner's report. The reprimand is really the only tool that council now has to censure somebody for misconduct. "We're not looking to recall somebody or have anyone impeached or a special election called. This is basically saying we all agreed to this certain set of rules and we want to make sure everyone follows it. We are paid to agree or to disagree. The community expects us to work collaboratively and put all differences aside." Ross was in the same corner. "I'm not looking to push for monetary sanctions," he said. "I just want him to realize he's breaking the rules that were set out for all of us to follow. Be respectful to others, that's all I'm looking for. It breaks my heart that it came to this." The code of conduct, Ross said, are rules all elected officials agreed to follow. But why even have a code of conduct then? To that, Ross said he didn't have an answer. "I try go the other way and avoid being on social media," he added. "I do not want to be in a position that anything like this would happen. I don't want to be engaged with constituents there. If you want to talk to me, give me a call. I conduct town business that way. I think social media and the rest of it is so easy to get away with comments people won't say to you to your face." Both said they want the matter to end on a hopeful note with all of council working together on common goals for the betterment of the town. The matter will be discussed at council's Wednesday meeting.Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
QUEBEC — An all-party committee is recommending the Quebec government make the fight against the sexual exploitation of minors a priority.The report released Thursday by a group of 13 members of the legislature makes 58 recommendations to the government aimed at targeting pimps and customers and protecting young victims.It notes that the vast majority of the victims are girls, and some are only 12 or 13 years old.The committee, which studied the issue for 18 months, recommends that the province give police more money to fight the problem so they can track down abusive clients.The report recommends that clients convicted of buying sex from minors should have their names included on the national sex offender registry. It also calls on Quebec to ask Ottawa for changes to the Criminal Code, so pimps who exploit minors are required to serve sentences consecutively.The committee found exploitation is a lucrative business, with pimps pulling in up to $300,000 a year, while the girls themselves earn nothing.It estimates there are some 600 establishments in Quebec where a man seeking sexual services from a teen could find them, particularly in large cities, at businesses in the sex industry such as strip clubs, massage parlours and escort agencies.The report recommends the girls be officially recognized as victims of crime so they would have access to compensation that could help them from relapsing into prostitution.It also advocates for better training for those who work with youth, such as teachers and nurses, so they can identify a teen who has would up in the sex trade or could be at risk.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.The Canadian 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
In the Spring of 2019, Town Council decided to develop a Recreation Strategic Plan to identify strategic priorities. As a result of that Plan, at its Planning Meeting of September 22, 2020, Council directed its Administrative Officers to allocate $1 million of capital spending in the 2021 CY budget to the construction of a community Recreation Facility. Since that time, the Facility, and its financing, have occupied a prominent line item on Council’s Agendas; however, as of this reporting, it would seem that progress toward the end objective is halting and confused at best. It would also seem that by the tone of their comments and their body language Councillors are feeling frustrated and a lack of collegiality is creeping into the proceedings. It is apparent that factions have developed. Part of the frustration can be attributed to the fact the pace of decision-making is proceeding so slowly and part of that, it would seem, can be attributed to the fact there has been no one individual who has been charged with complete oversight of the project. Council can be blamed for not providing direction in that regard. The result is well-intentioned individuals have been providing volunteer advice and consultation independent of Town officials; in fact, it could be said that they are working at odds with one another. Put another way, the old adage that “there are too many hands in the soup” may apply. Volunteers have focussed on using local contractors providing less-than-market costs. Administration has been concerned, among other things, with liability, insurance etc. and have been uncertain about building design. The result of this organizational confusion is that there is still much uncertainty concerning such fundamental issues as costs, conceptual drawings, site layout, building code compliance, occupancy and partner participation. It is anticipated that the County of Cardston and the Westwind School Division will make significant contributions to the project but both organizations are loathe to declare their respective commitments until the Town has indicated its final decision. Similarly, delays imperil public fundraising efforts which are best conducted near year end to take advantage of tax credits. The Town has enlisted the services of a professional engineer who will address some of the fundamentals listed above. It is hoped that this will serve to expedite some of the decision making which is necessary for further progress. In the meantime, Council will have to provide its direction on the building’s features and uses which heretofore seem to have been driven by interested third parties. Before committing to construction, Council has pledged to conduct a survey to gauge the degree of public support for the Project and its long term implications. To conduct such a survey without all necessary details would be ill-advised but Council has begun to formulate the questions which it would contain. William Hill, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temple City Star
OTTAWA — Federal Liberals are accusing the Conservatives of thumbing their noses at a looming court deadline by filibustering a bill to expand access to medical assistance in dying.Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez made the accusation Thursday as Bill C-7 inched closer to passing the House of Commons.MPs voted 213-103 to accept the bill as amended by the Commons justice committee. Only Conservatives, including leader Erin O'Toole, voted against it.However, 16 Conservatives joined Liberal, Bloc Quebecois, New Democrat, Green and Independent MPs in support of the committee's report on the bill.The government had hoped to have a final vote on the bill last Monday, in order to give the Senate time to deal with it before the court-imposed Dec. 18 deadline.It is now at least a week behind schedule due to Conservatives talking out the clock during debate on the committee report.Shortly after Thursday's vote, Rodriguez announced that final debate on the bill will begin Friday. If the Conservatives allow debate to wrap up Friday, that would pave the way for a final vote on Monday, leaving just two weeks for the Senate to consider the bill before the deadline.However, the Conservatives have shown no sign so far of letting the bill come to a final vote that quickly.Indeed, O'Toole shrugged off the deadline earlier Thursday, contending that "protecting the most vulnerable is more important than a court's timeline."The bill is meant to bring the law into compliance with a Quebec Superior Court ruling last fall which struck down a provision allowing assisted dying only for Canadians whose natural death was reasonably foreseeable.It would make it easier for those near death to receive an assisted death but would set up more restrictive conditions for those not near death.The court ruling was prompted by individuals with disabilities fighting for their right to end their suffering with medical help. But disability rights groups have condemned the bill, contending that it sends a message that the lives of people with disabilities are not worth living.O'Toole and most of his MPs have echoed the concerns of those groups, arguing that the bill does not provide adequate safeguards to protect vulnerable individuals from being pressured — either directly or indirectly by a lack of disability supports — into ending their lives prematurely.Rodriguez has not so far threatened to impose closure to cut off debate on the bill. He listed Thursday a number of other bills the government would like to move on next week "if the Conservatives stop filibustering" C-7 — implying that progress on them will be impeded if the filibuster continues."We're in this position because our Conservative friends are continuing to block the adoption of this important bill," Rodriguez told the Commons."I have the impression that they don't care about the deadline imposed by the Superior Court of Quebec, which is quite regrettable."Conservative House leader Gerard Deltell countered that it's the government's own fault if the court deadline is missed. He argued that it would have had 25 additional days to debate C-7 had Prime Minister Justin Trudeau not prorogued Parliament in August for six weeks.Two amendments proposed by the Conservatives were defeated Thursday. One would have restored the required 10-day reflection period, which the bill proposes dropping for people who are near death. The other would have increased the proposed 90-day period for assessing requests for assisted dying from individuals not near death to 120 days.While the NDP is supporting the bill, two New Democrats wrote Thursday to Justice Minister David Lametti and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough with a proposal they argued would help calm the fears of disability rights groups.Daniel Blaikie and Randall Garrison proposed a $2,200-per-month benefit for people with disabilities who currently qualify for federal or provincial income support."Swift action on this proposal would be a sign to Canadians with disabilities that your government will not put them in the impossible position they rightly fear: having to choose either a life of poverty and suffering or a premature death," they wrote.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
At least 2752 people came out to vote for chief and council at the recent blood tribe election last Thursday. Incumbent Roy Fox won with 628 votes, only 22% of the vote compared to the 20% of runner up Vernon Joseph Chief Moon Jr, making it a fairly even race with vote distribution quite spread between many candidates. Twelve Councillors were also elected on Thursday, with less of a spread of votes amongst the 88 candidates. The most well-liked candidate was Traveller Plaited Hair, who took the lead with a total of 931 votes, far ahead of the next favourite, Clarence Black Water who won his seat with 584 votes. The other 10 councillors who have been elected received between 397 to 582 votes each. Of the 12 incumbent councillors who ran, only 3 were re-elected: Dorothy First Rider, Martin Heavy Head, and Marcel Weasel Head. New councillors include Traveller Plaited Hair, Clarence Blackwater, Piinaakoyim Tailfeathers, Floyd Big Head, Mickey Day Rider, Winston Day Chief, Diandra Bruised Head, Richard Red Crow, and Maria Russell. Former councillors Lance Tailfeathers, Tim Tailfeathers, Floyd Big Head, Kyla Crow, Joanne Lemieux, Robin Little Bear, Kirby Many Fingers, Hank Shade, and Franklyn White Quills did not get enough votes to remain in their seats this term. Polls were extended one hour at all polling locations due to an overwhelming turnout. The swearing in ceremony took place at 11am on December 2 and was live-streamed on the Blood Tribe website. There were so many interested voters that the polls at each station had to be extended for an hour to 8pm. Even then voters had to be turned away so that the vote could be counted. Police were called to an off-reserve voting station in Lethbridge where security guards had been worried that those being turned away at 8 were getting aggressive. Once the bylaw was read out-loud to the crowd and it was explained that the polls were not being shut down early, the crowd dispersed without incident. Elizabeth Thompson-Christensen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temple City Star
Mayor John Tory is backing up plan to tax Toronto properties that are vacant for more than six months. Well the move would generate millions of dollars, the spirits of it is to increase vacancy and affordability. Matthew Bingley reports.
EDMONTON — The three Prairie provinces have become the epicentre of COVID-19's second wave in Canada — surpassing Ontario and Quebec, the two most populous provinces that were initially the hardest hit.Some infectious disease experts say the exponential growth in cases on the Prairies can be linked to pandemic fatigue and a reluctance by politicians to impose stricter health measures in the fall."Ten infections in Manitoba means something completely different than 10 infections in Toronto or New York City," said Dr. Kelly MacDonald, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Manitoba."Our rates didn't look like a problem for quite a long time when they probably were," said MacDonald, who added that there has been "a complete lack of appreciation for the case per unit of population."Since the fall, the spread of COVID-19 has increased everywhere, but daily case numbers on the Prairies have been matching areas with about double the population. The three provinces have about 6.7 million residents combined and reported a total of 2,480 new cases on Thursday. Alberta alone reported 1,854 new infections. Ontario, with a population of about 14.5 million, reported 1,824 cases. Quebec, which has almost two million more people than all three Prairie provinces, had 1,470 new infections.When the first wave of the pandemic hit Canada in the spring, Ontario and Quebec were particularly affected. Now, the infection rate per capita is highest in Alberta, followed by Manitoba and Saskatchewan.On Wednesday, Ontario's health minister singled out Alberta."You want to speak about who is in crisis. Have you taken a look at Alberta, where they're doubling up patients in intensive care units? We're not doing that in Ontario," said Christine Elliot.A spokesman for federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said she spoke Wednesday night with Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro about the surge in cases and offered federal resources.It's a major turnaround since April when Premier Jason Kenney, standing in front of a wall of personal protective equipment, touted the success of his province's COVID-19 response and announced Alberta was sending supplies to Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.Last week, Kenney announced tighter restrictions after mounting pressure from public health experts. The measures ban indoor social gatherings and some students are back at home learning online. Bars, restaurants and places of worship remain open.Dr. James Talbot, a professor of public health at the University of Alberta, said there is a reluctance by the United Conservative government to impose another lockdown, even though contact tracing has become impossible with the jump in infections."There are a number of things that interfere with our ability to bring this under control," said Talbot, who is also a former chief medical health officer in the province.COVID-19 fatigue has descended along with colder weather preventing people from meeting outside as much, he said."Another part of it is we have inconsistent regulations," said Talbot, pointing to bars and restaurants being open, while people cannot have guests over. "When people think something is unfair or illogical, then they just make decisions not to follow the rules that are out there," he said. "Until you regain their confidence, the situation is going to continue to get worse."In Saskatchewan, team sports are suspended and home gatherings are limited to five people. Manitoba was the first Prairie province to impose stricter health measures two weeks ago when it had the highest per capita infection rate in the country. Businesses can't sell non-essential items and gatherings in homes are banned.MacDonald said those restrictions were brought in when case rates were expanding exponentially, so "you can slightly level them off, but you are not going to drop the rate of infection very rapidly."Talbot suggested it's not too late to turn the numbers around and save as many lives as possible. But he added restrictions need to stay in place until Canada distributes a COVID-19 vaccine in the new year."This isn't personal. This isn't about criticizing anyone," he said. "If we all do our part and if we are effective, the virus will let us know by infecting fewer people two weeks from now."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press
Police have issued a Canada-wide warrant for a high-risk offender who is at large and suspected to be in the Calgary area.Police say Louis Henry Bear, 42, failed to return to his halfway house Wednesday.Bear has a lengthy history that includes convictions for attempted murder, weapons, forcible confinement, criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving.He is described as five feet five inches tall and about 170 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.Bear was previously convicted in the hit-and run deaths of Grant Liu, 26, and Brian Suh, 29, both of Calgary. The two men were standing beside parked cars outside the Whiskey nightclub on Aug. 4, 2007, when Bear ran into them with a stolen vehicle.Police ask that anyone who does spot Bear should not approach him but call police immediately.Anyone with information on the suspect is asked to contact police at 403-266-1234 or provide the tip anonymously through Crime Stoppers.
November 24th - Alberta entered a second state of public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The targeted restrictions implemented by the provincial government means new rules for social gatherings, worship services, businesses, and schools. Local town, village, and county councils are once again facing decisions on how to adapt their meetings to reduce transmission while balancing the need to be open and transparent to the public who should be able to attend. Technically it is not against restrictions for a council to meet in person, but there has been an ask from the province that everyone do their part to reduce possible contacts. Ten municipalities in the area have responded to questions regarding how their council meetings will proceed during this unique time, and various approaches are being implemented by the different councils. Village Councils of Glenwood and Hillspring do not have the capacity to change meetings over to virtual sessions easily and instead have decided to simply restrict the number of attendees to be in accordance with Alberta Health Services guidelines. There are a maximum of ten individuals allowed to be present, most of those seats being taken by council and administration with only a few spots left for interested residents. Masks are required when coming and going but can be taken off once situated six feet away from others in the room. The meetings in these municipalities have been moved from council chambers into the community centres to accommodate physical distancing guidelines. Hillspring and Glenwood council meetings, like most municipalities, do not typically have a large turnout so their respective administrations believe that there will not be a big issue having to turn people away who would like to attend. The towns of Cardston, Magrath, and Fort Macleod have also opted to continue in person meetings using the same mask and physical distancing tools as the villages, but are attempting to improve virtual access through technology. Fort Macleod and Magrath are still looking into their options for virtual meetings and improving their procedure bylaw to allow for them, whereas Cardston already has been recording and posting videos to YouTube a few days later. Cardston councillors are given the option to attend virtually and some have already taken this option in order to limit their exposure. Cardston, Magrath, and Fort Macleod also do not tend to have large attendance at regular council and committee meetings, so these measures of social distancing and masks should not be an issue unless there is an abnormal amount of residents wishing to attend. Stirling, Cardston County, and Raymond are relying more heavily on virtual meetings. Stirling began doing zoom meetings back when the first shutdown happened in the Spring and slowly transitioned back to in person meetings with physical distancing measures in place. Councillors have at times opted to access meetings virtually and the village of Stirling is open to allowing remote access to residents who request this due to the pandemic. Cardston County is meeting in person, but because of the dimensions of their room residents who show up to attend live will be able to access the meeting via zoom in a different room in the building that allows for proper social distancing. Raymond has completely restricted public access to their meetings. While the councillors are attending in person, residents may only access through live streaming. Over the last few months some committee meetings had still allowed for public access but that has been tightened up due to the latest restrictions announced by the province. Pincher Creek and Coalhurst have both gone completely virtual with their meetings. Coalhurst uses the Star Leaf platform and citizens can dial in by phone to access the meeting while councillors and delegates are able to view in real time. Pincher Creek Council has opted to use the GoToMeeting platform which allows them to have a dedicated url that residents can use to access meetings, including budget deliberations and Committees of the Whole. At first Pincher Creek was using a mixed system where some residents could access in person, but once those spots were filled in chambers everyone else had to access remotely. Economic Development officer Marie Everts noticed that the mixed meetings were harder to navigate than moving things completely in person or online. Pincher Creek began to move meetings online when COVID first hit in the spring and made sure each councillor was set up with a laptop, headphones, and training if needed. Everts says “It’s amazing how quickly people can adapt” referencing councillors who had a steep learning curve in the beginning. And isn’t adaptation one of the biggest themes of these unprecedented times? Elizabeth Thompson-Christensen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temple City Star
Three women’s groups in the Downtown Eastside are calling for the immediate creation of a task force to end violence against women in the neighbourhood. The call comes after Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham wrote about a video which appeared to show a man sexually assaulting a semi-conscious woman in daylight on the sidewalk at Main and Hastings streets, while cars and pedestrians pass by. The Vancouver Police Department says it is investigating the footage. It’s not the only shocking incident in the neighbourhood. In April, when COVID-19 restrictions had closed many drop-in spaces and public bathrooms, a woman spent hours in a porta-potty in labour. No one apparently noticed she was in distress, and the baby did not survive. In May, a woman was held for hours in a tent in an Oppenheimer Park camp and repeatedly assaulted. Janice Abbott, the CEO of Atira Women’s Resource Society, said the woman had been “held captive in that tent for 15 hours screaming,” but no one did anything to help her. “That’s how normalized it is.” WISH, a non-profit that supports sex workers, said a street-based sex worker called the organization’s bad date line last week after she heard a woman screaming in a car while other people walked by. WISH, Atira and the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre are calling for an immediate emergency response to the escalating violence against women in the Downtown Eastside. “We want to see it happen right away,” said Alice Kendall, the executive director of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre. “We want to see a crisis response, the same way that COVID has created a national, provincial, municipal kind of co-ordinated response to ensure that all of the aspects of COVID are addressed, the economy as well as health.” COVID-19 restrictions have reduced the number of spaces people in the Downtown Eastside can go to get warm and sheltered. Especially when it comes to spaces that are safe for women. Back in April, Kendall asked the City of Vancouver for help in creating a safe outdoor space as COVID-19 measures reduced capacity in the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre. But it took eight months before the centre got permits and help from the city to set up a patio space that’s still smaller than it sought. This fall WISH opened Canada’s first shelter for sex workers, and efforts have been made to set up bathroom trailers in the Downtown Eastside. City facilities like the Carnegie Community Centre and the Evelyne Saller Centre also recently opened more drop-in spaces. The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre also opened a new space at 398 Powell St. But all the drop-in centres and shelters are full, while street homelessness has increased. “We have the drop-in open, but it’s at capacity,” Kendall said. “We have 398 Powell St. open, it’s at capacity. The shelter spaces are open, but they’re at capacity. We know that hundreds of women every day that used to come to the centre are not coming.” WISH, Atira and the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre are calling for an immediate improvement in conditions. But they also want governments to adopt recommendations from other reports like Red Women Rising and the federal Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. “Gendered violence continues, even within our own programs, because there are so few choices available for women and gender-diverse women in terms of housing, employment, income security, safe, appropriate services and other opportunities that allow women to keep themselves safe,” Abbott said in a press release.Jen St. Denis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
Human interactions are the leading cause of untimely death among B.C.’s killer whales, a new study suggests. A team of marine mammal and orca specialists analyzed pathology reports of 52 killer whales stranded in Hawaii and the northeast Pacific, including the southern resident killer whales regularly spotted off the B.C. coast, finding the animals face a variety of threats, but the reemerging theme was human-caused in every age class. “In British Columbia, we lost nine southern resident killer whales — two adults, two subadults and one calf died from trauma. One was a confirmed propeller strike, with one adult and two subadults from suspected ship strikes,” said lead author Stephen Raverty, a veterinarian pathologist with the BC Ministry of Agriculture and adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia stated in a press release. “One of these iconic species passed away from an infection secondary to satellite tagging. Another death was due to natural causes and the other two undetermined. Half of the southern killer whale deaths identified in this study were caused by human interactions.” The study was based on orca deaths between 2004 and 2013, led by the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, and coordinated through the SeaDoc Society, a Washington-based program of the University of California. Raverty and coauthor Dr John Ford are adjunct professions at UBC’s Institute of Oceans and Fisheries and Department of Zoology, respectively. The report may offer one of the most comprehensive looks yet at the multitude of human and environmental threats affecting killer whales, and help inform strategies to better protect them. While human interactions play a key role, the researchers cautioned the findings indicate an understanding of each threat is critical for conserving orca populations. “The results from systematic necropsies of dead killer whales in this review is unique and will establish critical baseline information to assess future mitigation efforts,” Raverty said. “This work contributes to a better understanding of the impacts that ongoing human activities and environmental events have on killer whales.” Overall, of the 52 whales studied, the cause of death was determined for 42 per cent. Other causes include sepsis following a halibut hook injury, starvation from a congenital facial deformity, infectious disease and nutritional deficiencies. “Nobody likes to think we’re directly harming animals,” said co-author and SeaDoc Society Director Joe Gaydos. “But it’s important to realize that we’re not just indirectly hurting them from things like lack of salmon, vessel disturbance or legacy toxins. It’s also vessel strikes and fish hooks. That humans are directly killing killer whales across all age classes is significant; it says we can do a better job.” Quinn Bender, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Rupert Northern View
WATERLOO REGION — In a cold living room with just a few pieces of furniture, Francois and his family sit anxiously reading a response from Immigration Canada. After almost seven years of laying roots here, their application for permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds has been denied. As undocumented people they are not eligible for support from local immigration service providers and have no protections as essential low-wage workers. Living in a Kitchener neighbourhood that has been hit hard by the second wave of the pandemic, Francois and his family face constant stress. “If we get the virus,” Francois trailed off, pressing his temples. “I really don’t want to get sick.” Without a Social Insurance Number, Francois is not able to access the Canada Recovery Benefit, and must pay upfront for health care. Francois said that he and his wife endure chronic back pain, and are not able to afford to go to a walk-in clinic. The Record has chosen not to use Francois’ last name. The family didn’t plan on being undocumented when they first arrived in Canada. Their precarious position comes after a string of broken promises from an employer who said they would help Francois and his family get permanent residency, but didn’t. “We are here but we aren’t visible,” Francois says. “No one cares about us.” Francois and his family are just part of the many undocumented people navigating a system that doesn’t track them well, and those lost in its maze feel doesn’t care about them. It is unknown how many undocumented people might be living here, according to Tara Bedard, executive director of Waterloo Region Immigration Partnership. “We do not have very good or really any data on this for the region,” Bedard wrote in an email. Francois, a fluent French speaker from East Africa, came to Canada in March 2014 under the temporary foreign worker (TFW) program to work at a plant, first in Quebec and then in Kitchener. He said he brought his family with him because recruiters and the Kitchener-based company that hired him made a verbal promise to assist with his application for permanent residency. He said that promise was not fulfilled. He’s not willing to name the company, as he is worried about creating trouble for his friends who still work there. “If you’re drowning, you don’t want your friends to drown,” Francois said. Melanie Grant, a licensed immigration consultant and founder of Canadian Connection Immigration, said that TFWs like Francois who are hired for low-skilled positions run into these kind of problems at the end of their permits. Grant said that while most TFWs do not plan to overstay, they are told, as Francois was, that if they stay they can get their papers. “But when they actually pursue that option, it doesn’t happen and they lose out on the period to leave.” Grant said Francois did all the right things, including applying for an extension on his work permit. However, the person who initially submitted their extension mistakenly changed their status to ‘visitors’, which only permits them to stay in Canada for six months. By the time Grant met Francois to explain that a study or work permit would have given them more time, it was already too late; the window to apply for these permits had closed. Francois was able to get some information and support from the Working Centre, YMCA, and the KW Multicultural Centre. But it can be challenging for local immigration service providers to work with people who don’t fit the eligibility criteria for services they are funded to provide. Francois and his family’s last resort was to ask to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Their application was rejected by Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada. One of the categories Immigration evaluates to establish ties to the community is employment. For the last four years Francois, who was trained as a machinist, has been working as a line cook or dishwasher in kitchens. His wife is a housekeeper for a family in Waterloo. His daughter, recently graduated from high school and found work cleaning for a local construction company. Francois and his wife were reprimanded for working without a valid permit and were criticized for lacking tax assessments or pay stubs to show for their work. Immigration said their inability to provide evidence of an extensive employment history weighed heavily against them. Francois said when he was honest with prospective employers about being undocumented, he would get paid $9 to $10 an hour, “because they know they can get away with it.” He learned to keep his status hidden and to ask only to be paid in cash. “Here even dogs are treated better than us,” Francois said. As they continue to apply for permanent residency, the family fears the government will find them and force them to leave. “At this point, if they were to be detained, the next course of action would be removal,” Grant said. Jenna Hennebry, associate director of the International Migration Research Centre at Wilfrid Laurier University, said that the TFW program’s shifting rules and complicated paperwork create conditions for some employers to exploit vulnerable workers. “Having to juggle different administrative systems is something that employers aren’t keen on, and they say it becomes a kind of administrative barrier.” Hennebry said that because relationships between local companies and recruiters who facilitate the flow of TFWs into the country are not well regulated in Ontario, there is no guarantee that incentives and promises made to TFWs will be honoured. Francois said that he and his family are regular church goers and volunteer with the Working Centre. He said he is always willing to help his network of neighbours and friends. “Whether that is moving, painting, making food, whatever it is, if my community needs me for help I will be there,” Francois said. Although there was acknowledgement of the family’s social ties in Canada, the Immigration decision argued that “relationships are not bound by geographical locations” and that Francois and his family could “maintain their friendships via alternate means such as telephone, Skype, or emails.” Hennebry said that the TFW program’s deepest flaw is how it reduces people to just workers. “These are people that have relationships and family members and connections to communities that are part of the substance and fabric of our communities.” While our region has become increasingly aware of migrant farmers, Hennebry said there is a gap in knowledge about TFWs like Francois in other industries, and undocumented workers are missing in the data completely. She said that while the system that supports permanent residents and refugee families works well, it reflects an outdated understanding of how people are coming into the country. “Now most people come here as students, or they come here as temporary foreign workers. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in Canada, more than the numbers of permanent resident entries. Yet, when they’re stuck in limbo, we have no services to support them.” Francois wants to stay in Canada, as he said it offers a better, safer future for his kids. “Back home we don’t have many opportunities, here there are so many more possibilities,” he said. His oldest daughter has been admitted to York University, the only Canadian university that offers young people without legal status an opportunity to study and earn a degree. Drawing on her own experiences, she hopes to pursue a career in law and human rights. Hennebry said that immigration service providers should be given more support to help people without status clear administrative hurdles instead of criminalizing them through detention and deportation orders. “I think that there needs to be a broader conversation about how the temporary foreign worker program and the international student system links up with our permanent migration system, because currently it does not.” Fitsum Areguy’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Email email@example.com Twitter @fitsumareguyFitsum Areguy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Waterloo Region Record
Aunt Leah's Place is struggling to find enough volunteers to staff its Christmas tree lots in Metro Vancouver as many people choose to stay home during the pandemic.Aunt Leah's Christmas lots are a social enterprise where all the funds raised support programs for children and youth connected to the foster care system including housing, food security, education and employment resources."A lot of our returning volunteers feel more comfortable staying home this year," said Hope Rayson, volunteer coordinator.Leading up to the holiday season, the charity was concerned business would be down at its three lots this year due to the pandemic.But fortunately, Rayson says business is up 500 per cent. "We could just really use a hand to help support foster youth, moms and babies this holiday season," she said.This year, Rayson says volunteers are paired with customers — in a COVID-friendly way — to help them pick out a tree, measure it and even help them carry it to their vehicles.Rayson says the tree lot is an outdoor activity, but everyone is still required to wear a mask in the lot. They are also maintaining a maximum limit of customers allowed in the lot at any point.In 2019, the Christmas tree lots raised more than half a million dollars for the charity."That's why it is so critical for our organization," said Rayson.