WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Antony Blinken as America’s top diplomat, tasked with carrying out President Joe Biden’s commitment to reverse the Trump administration’s “America First” doctrine that weakened international alliances. Senators voted 78-22 to approve Blinken, a longtime Biden confidant, as the nation’s 71st secretary of state, succeeding Mike Pompeo. The position is the most senior Cabinet position, with the secretary fourth in the line of presidential succession. Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration. He has pledged to be a leading force in the administration’s bid to reframe the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which President Donald Trump questioned longtime alliances. He is expected to start work on Wednesday after being sworn in, according to State Department officials. “American leadership still matters,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at his Jan. 19 confirmation hearing. “The reality is, the world simply does not organize itself. When we’re not engaged, when we’re not leading, then one of two things is likely to happen. Either some other country tries to take our place, but not in a way that’s likely to advance our interests and values, or maybe just as bad, no one does and then you have chaos.” Blinken vowed that the Biden administration would approach the world with both humility and confidence, saying “we have a great deal of work to do at home to enhance our standing abroad.” Despite promising renewed American leadership and an emphasis on shoring up strained ties with allies in Europe and Asia, Blinken told lawmakers that he agreed with many of Trump’s foreign policy initiatives. He backed the so-called Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and several Arab states, and a tough stance on China over human rights and its assertiveness in the South China Sea. He did, however, signal that the Biden administration is interested in bringing Iran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew in 2018. Trump's secretaries of state nominees met with significant opposition from Democrats. Trump’s first nominee for the job, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, was approved by a 56 to 43 vote and served only 13 months before Trump fired him in tweet. His successor, Pompeo, was confirmed in a 57-42 vote. Opposition to Blinken centred on Iran policy and concerns among conservatives that he will abandon Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. Blinken inherits a deeply demoralized and depleted career workforce at the State Department. Neither Tillerson nor Pompeo offered strong resistance to the Trump administration’s attempts to gut the agency, which were thwarted only by congressional intervention. Although the department escaped proposed cuts of more than 30% of its budget for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of departures from its senior and rising mid-level ranks, Many diplomats opted to retire or leave the foreign service given limited prospects for advancement under an administration that they believed didn't value their expertise. A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School and a longtime Democratic foreign policy presence, Blinken has aligned himself with numerous former senior national security officials who have called for a major reinvestment in American diplomacy and renewed emphasis on global engagement. Blinken served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration before becoming staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel. In the early years of the Obama administration, Blinken returned to the NSC and was then-Vice-President Biden’s national security adviser before he moved to the State Department to serve as deputy to Secretary of State John Kerry, who is now serving as special envoy for climate change. Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
WARSAW, Poland — A Polish man who has been at the centre of an international life-support dispute has died at a British hospital, officials said. The middle-aged man, identified only as R.S., was repeatedly put on and off life support treatment during weeks of wrangling at British and European courts over whether continuing the treatment was in his best interests. Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk told reporters Tuesday evening that the man died. He said Poland’s authorities have been taking every effort to save his life. Poland’s government took steps last week to bring him to the country for specialized treatment. The man, a British resident for years, was hospitalized in a coma in Plymouth, England, on Nov. 6 after suffering cardiac arrest. Doctors said his brain had been severely and permanently damaged. The man’s wife and children said he should be allowed to die, but his mother, sisters and niece argued that the man’s Roman Catholic faith meant he wouldn’t have wanted his life terminated. Polish news agency PAP said Tuesday it has been informed by family members that the man died after his condition deteriorated Monday night. The Associated Press
A concrete plan to save the McKelvie Creek valley from logging is finally underway after the village of Tahsis and Western Forest Products (WFP) signed a Letter of Understanding (LOU). As part of the agreement, the forestry company has established new wildlife and old-growth reserves in the McKelvie Creek area within WFP’s Tree Farm Licence 19. By doing so the company has committed to Tahsis’ community objective of ‘no harvesting’ within the McKelvie area. Apart from being the community’s source of drinking water, McKelvie watershed is also home to old-growths, and an important habitat for the threatened Marbled Murrelet. The last intact watershed in the Tahsis region, McKelvie has been at risk of logging for years under TFL 19. The LOU brings to rest a long haul by Tahsis to “completely preserve” the watershed. Since 2018 Tahsis has been opposing all harvesting within the McKelvie watershed. In 2019, Tahsis council passed a resolution which called for its preservation and a request was made to the province to remove the watershed from TFL 19 altogether. Last year, although McKelvie Creek was among the nine old-growth forest areas where the province deferred logging, Tahsis still felt this was a temporary fix and that they were running against borrowed time. READ MORE: B.C. suspends some old-growth logging, consults communities Which is why this agreement is being considered a huge win for the community. Tahsis mayor Martin Davis who was at the helm of negotiating the deal said that WFP agreed to include several areas that the village mapped out to be preserved. Some of these areas contain sensitive ecosystems, karst limestone landscapes, and/or culturally significant areas for First Nations, said Davis. “The areas we had negotiated for are the large blocks to the northeast and northwest of Tahsis, as well as the areas along Tahsis Inlet and the bits around Weymer Park which is to the southeast of town,” he said. In future, the village is also looking at establishing a community forest in the surrounding crown land with hopes of setting up a small scale, village-run, sustainable logging operation, said Davis. In an email statement, WFP spokesperson Babita Khunkhun said that they are “pleased” that the ongoing discussions with Tahsis council have resulted in the LOU endorsing a draft plan that balances community interests in conservation and forestry activity in TFL 19. Tahsis falls within the traditional territories of the Mowachaht/ Muchalaht First Nation (MMFN). The draft prepared and agreed to by both parties will be reviewed by MMFN before it is submitted to the province for legal establishment through the Land Act and Forest and Range Practices Act. The forest management plan for the area, which proposes new wildlife and old forest reserves in the McKelvie, requires discussion with Indigenous groups to reflect their interests and is subject to government approval, said Khunkhun and added, the plan may be refined based on this engagement. “WFP will manage TFL 19 and continue to work collaboratively with the local Indigenous communities and the Tahsis Village Council on this important initiative,” she said. Binny Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Campbell River Mirror
At approximately 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021, officers of the Lennox & Addington (L&A) County Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) were on patrol and observed a vehicle being operated in a dangerous manner, travelling at a high rate of speed 401 Westbound, west of Deseronto Road. According to a release from OPP, police stopped the vehicle and arrested the driver for dangerous operation, and all three occupants were arrested for Possession of a Schedule I Substance. OPP say the vehicle was seized, along with break in tools and stolen property including identity documents, fraudulent cheques and personal documents. L&A County OPP have charged: Vikramjit Singh, age 31, of no fixed address with: - Dangerous Operation of a motor vehicle; - Six counts of Possession of Credit Card; - Possession of Break in Instruments; - Possession of Property Obtained by Crime; - Fourteen Counts of Possession of a Forged document; - Possession of Instrument for forgery; - Twenty seven counts of Possession of identity Document; - Possession of a Schedule I Substance - Heroin; and, - Stunt Driving. Rajwinder Singh Chauhan, age 27, and Preetam Rattan, age 26, both of no fixed address are charged with: - Six Counts of Possession of Credit Card; - Possession of Break in Instruments; - Possession of Property Obtained by Crime; - Possession of a Forged document; - Possession of Instrument for forgery; - Possession of identity Document; and, - Possession of a Schedule I Substance - Heroin . Rattan received a further charge of Fail to Comply with release order. All accused persons were held for a bail hearing and appeared in the Ontario Court of Justice in Greater Napanee on January 24, 2021. Jessica Foley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, kingstonist.com
Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, as the province closely watches a small outbreak in a nearby French territory. St-Pierre-Miquelon, situated just off the Burin Peninsula, has reported seven cases of COVID-19 in recent days, all related to an outbreak at the prefecture's hospital. Authorities there said Tuesday afternoon they have registered 203 close contacts of those positive cases, all of whom are undergoing testing. The territory has closed its bars, restaurants and cultural centres to stem the outbreak. Prior to those seven active cases, the islands had registered 16 cases of COVID-19 since March, all of whom recovered. An Eastern Health spokesperson told CBC Tuesday it has contracts in place with health officials on the French islands that allow residents to receive COVID-19 care in Eastern Health facilities, if needed. Eastern Health has not yet received any requests from St-Pierre-Miquelon for physician support, medical equipment or supplies, the spokesperson said. The health authority also clarified that it could not send doctors to treat patients in the French territory itself because they would not be licensed to practise in that jurisdiction. St-Pierre-Miquelon residents with medical appointments in Newfoundland are permitted to enter the province, but must self-isolate. The Department of Health told CBC that it has limited those entries to urgent appointments only. Patients and caregivers must self-isolate, aside from attending their medical appointments, the department said. In a meeting Monday, the department said the prefecture agreed not to send any close contacts of the positive cases to Newfoundland. Eastern Health said over the last fiscal year, patients from St-Pierre-Miquelon made 1,495 trips to Newfoundland and Labrador to see specialists, including ophthalmologists, neurosurgeons and oncologists. Meanwhile, the number of active cases in Newfoundland and Labrador fell to three on Tuesday, with one person in hospital. Two people have recovered since Monday's update, and 78,477 people have been tested since March. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
FCSS Hosts Free Tax Clinic in Swan Hills Beginning in March, Swan Hills Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) will be offering a free tax clinic to assist eligible individuals to complete their 2020 income tax return. FCSS provides this service all year round and can assist with returns from up to two years ago but can not complete returns for deceased individuals. This service is offered as part of the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP), a cooperative partnership between the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and community organizations that began in 1971. To qualify for the CVITP, individuals have to have a modest income and a simple tax situation. According to the information on the CRA website, eligible individuals for this program include: · Indigenous Peoples · Newcomers and refugees · Persons with disabilities · Seniors · Youth/Students · Homeless and housing insecure individuals · Individuals with a modest income The information on the CRA website defines a simple tax situation as one where the individual has no income, or if they derive their income from: · Employment · Pension · Benefits (Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, Disability Insurance, Employment Insurance, and Social Assistance) · Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) · Support Payments · Scholarships, Fellowships, Bursaries, or Grants · Interest (under $1000) More information about free tax clinics offered through the CVITP is available at www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/community-volunteer-income-tax-program.html. Swan Hills FCSS’s tax clinic will be available by appointment. Two appointments will be necessary to complete an individual’s tax return. The first appointment will take about 15 minutes to go through the individual’s tax documents and collect any required information to complete the individual’s tax return. The second appointment, also about 15 minutes, will be for the individual to pick up and sign their completed tax return. Last year, Swan Hills FCSS completed 38 income tax returns for their free tax clinic clients. Please contact Swan Hills FCSS for more information or to make an appointment at (780) 333-4119. Visit the Swan Hills FCSS Facebook page for the latest news about their programs and services. Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette
CALGARY — Enerplus Corp. is increasing its bets on the Bakken light oil region in North Dakota with the purchase of a private rival for US$465 million, despite a legal fight that could shut down a major oil pipeline there. The Calgary-based company said Tuesday it has agreed to buy Bruin E&P HoldCo, LLC, which has current production of about 24,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. “With immediately adjacent acreage offering strong operational synergies, Bruin’s assets are highly complementary to our existing tier 1 position in the Bakken," said Enerplus CEO Ian Dundas in a statement. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment about a federal appeal court decision Tuesday to uphold the ruling of a district judge who last year ordered a full environmental impact review of the Dakota Access oil pipeline. Following a complaint by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the district judge ruled last spring that the review conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the 1,886-kilometre pipeline that straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border was incomplete. He ordered the pipeline shut down, but that order was reversed. The ruling Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is a setback for the pipeline but also does not require it to stop operating or be emptied of oil while the environmental review is done. In its news release, Enerplus said it expects to achieve an average 2021 Bakken oil price that's discounted by about US$3.25 per barrel below benchmark West Texas Intermediate, an improvement credited to better pipeline access compared with 2020, when the discount was expected to be US$5 per barrel. "In the event DAPL (Dakota Access) is required to cease operations, Enerplus expects Bakken oil price differentials to widen reflecting rail economics ... (to) US$6 per barrel below WTI, assuming 10 months of wider differentials if DAPL cannot operate," it said. The Dakota Access pipeline was the subject of months of sometimes violent protests in 2016 and 2017 during its construction. The tribe continued its legal challenges against the pipeline even after it began carrying oil from North Dakota across South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois in June 2017. Enerplus reported fourth-quarter production of 86,200 boe/d on Tuesday and said that is expected to rise to an average of about 106,000 boe/d in 2021 on capital spending of between C$335 million and C$385 million if the Bruin deal goes through by early March as expected. Enerplus says it will fund the purchase of Bruin with a new US$400-million term loan and a C$115-million equity financing. It says it will not assume any of Bruin's debt. It says most of Bruin's production and development prospects are located in the Fort Berthold area near Enerplus's main property. The company produces oil in Canada, but most of its output comes from the U.S., with oil and gas wells in North Dakota and Montana and natural gas production in the northeastern United States. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:ERF) Dan Healing, The Canadian Press
MOSCOW — The Kremlin said Tuesday that Russia and the United States exchanged documents to extend the New START nuclear treaty. Both sides will now complete the necessary formalities in the coming days, the Kremlin said. Lawmakers in the Kremlin-controlled parliament said it would complete the necessary moves to extend the pact this week. THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below. A senior Russian diplomat said Tuesday that Moscow and Washington were making quick progress to negotiate an extension of their last remaining nuclear arms control treaty. Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden has proposed a five-year extension of the New START treaty that is set to expire on Feb. 5, and the Kremlin quickly welcomed the offer. Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian ambassador at the international organizations in Vienna, said that Russia and the U.S. “are making remarkable and speedy progress” on the pact's extension. “There are reasons to expect that the relevant agreement can become a reality very soon,” he tweeted. Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the Russian parliament's upper house, also said Monday that “the treaty must be preserved," adding that "we are now on the verge of that decision to be made and published.” The treaty, signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance. Biden indicated during the campaign that he favoured the preservation of the New START treaty, which was negotiated during his tenure as U.S. vice-president. Russia has long proposed to prolong the pact without any conditions or changes, but the Trump administration waited until last year to start talks and made the extension contingent on a set of demands. The talks stalled, and months of bargaining have failed to narrow differences. The negotiations were also marred by tensions between Russia and the United States, which have been fueled by the Ukrainian crisis, Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other irritants. After both Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019, New START is the only remaining nuclear arms control deal between the two countries. Earlier this month, Russia also announced that it would follow the U.S. to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty, which allowed surveillance flights over military facilities to help build trust and transparency between Russia and the West. While Russia always offered to extend New START for five years — a possibility that was envisaged by the pact at the time it was signed — Trump charged that it put the U.S. at a disadvantage and initially insisted that China be added to the treaty, an idea that Beijing bluntly dismissed. Trump’s administration then proposed to extend New START for just one year and also sought to expand it to include limits on battlefield nuclear weapons. Vladimir Isachenkov, The Associated Press
A bail hearing for a man who was wanted by police for about eight months was adjourned again in North Battleford Provincial Court. The show cause hearing for Johnathan Swiftwolfe, 24, on Jan. 25 was adjourned to Jan. 28. Swiftwolfe was wanted on 35 charges, including assault, uttering threats, weapons-related offences, and flight from police. While police were searching for him in 2020, they issued a media release saying they were concerned about the safety of Moosomin First Nation residents while Swiftwolfe was at large. He was located after several RCMP detachments worked together to find him. When police arrested him on Highway 40 near Sweet Grass First Nation on Dec. 6, 2020, they found a loaded firearm in the vehicle that was within his reach. Cassandra Fox, 24, was with Swiftwolfe and also arrested. At the time, she was wanted on warrants for assault with a weapon and failure to comply with a release order. She was scheduled to enter a plea and election in North Battleford Provincial Court on Jan. 6, 2021, but failed to appear and a warrant for her arrest was issued. The charges against Swiftwolfe and Fox haven’t been proven in court. Moosomin First Nation is about 22 kilometres north of North Battleford. Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
The Ontario government may have temporarily paused the demolition on several heritage buildings in downtown Toronto, but a challenge to stop the work won’t be easy. Matthew Bingley looks into the powers of minister’s zoning orders and why a court challenge may not be enough to save the heritage buildings.
The N.W.T. Housing Corporation is introducing a program to help more residents become homeowners. A lease-to-own policy will "support expanding homeownership through either the conversion of our homeownership renting portfolio or through the sale of public housing," the corporation said in a news release. The territorial government said that would mean providing the opportunity for people to purchase a range of 221 homes currently offered for rent. The program will be available to "all income-earning families" who live in detached public housing and can afford to maintain and operate their own home, the corporation said. “We must look for creative ways to address housing needs while creating opportunities for residents to become homeowners where possible,” housing minister Paulie Chinna was quoted as saying. “The units will be in good condition and healthy and safe to occupy. New homeowners will have full access to the N.W.T. Housing Corporation's repair programs, including access to building supplies and services from local housing organizations in communities where they are not available.” The corporation said it was in the process of advising tenants whether they are eligible. Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio
NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. — A jersey, puck and stick signed by hockey legend Wayne Gretzky are among Ontario museum items up for auction.The 42-year-old a Guinness World Records Museum in Niagara Falls permanently closed in September.Ripley Auctions says memorabilia up for bids includes artifacts, sculpted characters, displays and exhibits.The online auction is scheduled for Feb. 12.Ripley says the museum featured visits and performances from record holders and people attempting to break records.The museum operated as a franchisee of the Guinness World Records book.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021.This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
Short-seller Andrew Left does not usually smoke. Left, who has built a reputation by targeting companies he thinks are overvalued, is as convinced as ever that videogame retailer GameStop is a dying business whose stock price will fall sharply someday. GameStop did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says after the last four years, he's confident Canada can safely navigate the perils of Joe Biden’s new protectionist Buy American regime. Trudeau says it's worth remembering that Canada survived former president Donald Trump’s persistent attacks on NAFTA and Canadian steel and aluminum exporters. And he says his federal Liberal government is far more closely aligned with the current White House than it ever was with Biden's "extremely protectionist" predecessor. But Trudeau refused to say if Canada faces a tougher fight than in 2010, when it secured an exception to then-president Barack Obama's version of similar procurement rules. Conservative MP Tracy Gray, the party's international trade critic, says Biden's plan to prioritize U.S. suppliers will jeopardize North America's economic recovery. Gray says she plans to press Trudeau in the House of Commons to push back hard on the U.S., especially after last week's Day 1 decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline expansion. "Over the past four years, we faced an American administration that was both unpredictable and extremely protectionist, and we were able every step of the way to stand up for Canadian interests," Trudeau said. "We were there to be able to advocate for Canada's interests, and I can tell you we will continue to be effective in advocating for Canada's interests with this new administration." The latest Buy American strategy is the second potential blow to Canada's economic fortunes to land in less than a week. On his first day in the White House, Biden rescinded the presidential permit for Keystone XL, a controversial cross-border link between the Alberta oilsands and refineries and ports on the U.S. Gulf Coast. "Expressing concern and disappointment on important issues to Canadian businesses and workers is simply not enough," Gray said in a statement. "Canada and U.S. trade are closely tied — but this Buy American plan puts our mutual economic recovery at risk." In announcing the new rules Monday, Biden warned that waivers would be granted only under "very limited circumstances." The aim of the policy, a cornerstone of Biden's successful election campaign, was to win over the same protectionist blue-collar workers who helped elect Donald Trump in 2016. The idea is to make sure American manufacturers, workers and suppliers reap the rewards of U.S. government spending, including an estimated $600 billion a year in procurement contracts. Monday's executive order will set a higher threshold for what qualifies as U.S.-made, establish more stringent oversight tools and enforce the rules more rigidly. It also sets up a "Made in America" office attached to the White House to police the use of waivers — the exceptions that allow Canadian contractors, manufacturers and suppliers access to a lucrative and often essential source of business. That office will "review waivers to make sure they are only used in very limited circumstances — for example, when there's an overwhelming national security, humanitarian or emergency need here in America," Biden said. "This hasn't happened before. It will happen now." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
“Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause,” by Ty Seidule (St. Martin’s Press) Few authors can say they have lived their story with quite the same authority as Ty Seidule, retired U.S. Army brigadier general and professor emeritus of history at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, and lived a life of white privilege provided by de-facto segregation. He revered Robert E. Lee. Now, with the vigour of a prosecutor, Seidule dismantles the near-sacred beliefs among many Southerners that the Civil War was a noble cause to preserve a way of life that benefitted everyone. Robert Edward Lee personified the myths of a romantic era, a righteous cause and contented slaves who were better off than they had been in Africa. Seidule’s book is particularly timely given the recent raid on the Capitol by hundreds of mostly white believers in an assortment of old and new myths. At least two of those who broke into the Capitol carried Confederate flags. Seidule finished his book before the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, which made his research and writing even more soul-wrenching. In the Civil War, he writes, “the United States fought against a rebel force that would not accept the results of a democratic election and chose armed rebellion.” Lee, still memorialized in scores of monuments, roads, counties and historical markers, was a traitor, Seidule writes, abandoning his oath of allegiance to the United States to lead the fight to preserve slavery. Does something endemic in the American character render us susceptible to accepting beliefs unsupported by even feeble evidence? That’s a question for another book; Seidule has offered clear and compelling evidence, to our shame as a nation, that many of us remain unwilling to confront an American past that includes slavery, lynchings and embedded segregation that endures today. Seidule’s book still has some chapters to be written — probably soon. Embedded in the 2021 military budget are directives to change the names of Army bases named for confederates. And for whom should those based be renamed? Seidule has thought that out too. In a Washington Post essay in June 2020, he recommends, among others, Vernon Baker, a Black lieutenant and Medal of Honor winner for his World War II heroism, and Charles Young, the third Black graduate of West Point. Young was forced to retire because then-President Woodrow Wilson didn’t want a Black man leading white troops. The monuments and confederate names elsewhere also must go, Seidule writes, observing that otherwise they serve the same purpose as lynchings — to enforce white supremacy. Seidule has written an extraordinary and courageous book, a confessional of America’s great sins of slavery and racial oppression, a call to confront our wrongs, reject our mythologized racist past and resolve to create a just future for all. Jeff Rowe, The Associated Press
Merritt residents will have the opportunity to put their chef hat on with a new COVID-safe, virtual cooking class that focuses on healthy eating. The program began in Lillooet, and was coordinated and hosted by the Better Living Centre (BLC) a Seventh-day Adventist Church. “The BLC has a Health Ministries department that works toward educating and empowering the community toward making positive, healthful lifestyle habits,” said Mary Coursey, BLC member. “They have done this for several years within Lillooet in various way, one of which was in-person community cooking classes.” These were an initiative of Vanessa Richards, a fellow BLC member. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person classes were halted. “With some inspiration we came up with the idea to continue this arm of our community outreach by having virtual classes through Zoom,” explained Coursey. “In order to help make the classes more interactive, I wanted to put together a meal kit so that participants could cook along with us during the class and enjoy a healthy meal at the end. We tested this back in September 2020 with some funding from a Neighbourhood Small Grant through the Vancouver Foundation. We had about 16 participants for that class along with lots of positive feedback.” Richards came up with the idea of expanding the program to Merritt through Lillooet’s sister church here. Local Merrittonian Marvel Strutt has agreed to coordinate, put together and deliver the kits for the participants here. Those who wish to take part must register by Jan. 27. A plant-based meal kit with gluten-free options will be delivered on Jan. 29 and the class will take place on Sunday, Jan. 31 at 5pm. There is no cost, and participants will join in on Zoom and be given step-by-step directions to make falafels, caesar salad and tasty banana bites. To RSVP for this event, you are invited to contact Marvel Strutt at 250-378-3536 or by email at email@example.com. Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald
It was a bit chilly as Dave Vettese, his son Matteo and daughter Maya were dashing around an ice rink Tuesday afternoon. The young family was one of many laughing joyously as all six skating ponds opened up at the Island Lake Conservation Area for the season. “Outdoor skating on a natural lake or pond is different from a man-made rink in terms of that skating may not always be available,” said Sandy Camplin of Credit Valley Conservation (CVC). “If we get warmer weather or certain precipitation, snow can build up and create slush around the rinks.” Crews have to monitor the conditions of the ice surface, plow snow off and ensure there’s no flooding. Three rinks are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, while three other ones are open for a $20 reservation. To book, visit the conservation authority’s website at CVC.ca or call 905-877-1120. No same-day reservations can be made. “We’re asking people limit their time to an hour if there is anybody waiting for a rink because there is only the five people limit,” said Camplin. “If you are at the rink with someone outside of your household, we ask you to wear a mask while on the rink as well, because you can’t guarantee your proximity if someone happens to skate by you.” The authority planned to have another surprise in store, but weather conditions have not been favourable. “We are working on a skating trail around our new natural playground, but winter has not been super co-operative to us this year with the lack of snow,” said Camplin. “That is still under construction right now. Hockey is not allowed, at this time, as all municipalities in the province remained under lockdown. “That can change depending on what the province says with certain advisories and recommendations,” said Camplin. “We’re following everything the government has put in place." Residents are able to leave their home to skate on the pond as exercise is considered essential by the provincial government. Joshua Santos, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Orangeville Banner
TORONTO — A former senior civil servant accused of embezzling $11 million in Ontario COVID-19 relief money betrayed his own family, according to his wife and two sons. In sworn affidavits, the wife of Sanjay Madan and their two adult sons disavow any knowledge of his alleged scheme, which is now the subject of an unproven civil action against them all. According to his affidavit, Chinmaya Madan said he became suspicious of his father around June last year after discovering unexplained money in his bank accounts, some of which he didn't know existed. Only after repeated questioning did his father admit to having "diverted" money and promise to return it, the affidavit states. "I felt betrayed by my father," Chinmaya Madan said in the document filed in Superior Court. "I was and remain absolutely shocked by the allegations." The Ontario government's unproven civil claim names Sanjay Madan, who had a senior IT role and helped develop a computer application for the COVID-19 benefit for families with children. Also named are his sons Chinmaya Madan and Ujjal Madan, and his wife of 28 years, Shalini Madan. The claim alleges the Madan family, who all worked for the government in information technology, defrauded the province of at least $11 million. No criminal charges have been filed. The claim asserts the family and others illegally issued and deposited cheques under the program aimed at defraying the cost of children learning at home. The province alleges the Madans opened hundreds of accounts at the Bank of Montreal between April and May 2020, then deposited around 10,000 cheques made out to fictitious applicants. Sanjay Madan had always been "controlling and secretive" about money and managed the family's finances, his wife said in her court filing. However, the actions alleged against him were totally out of character, she said, adding she learned of 1,074 Canadian bank accounts in her name, only three of which she said she had opened. "I am at a complete loss to understand why Sanjay would risk everything in the manner he did. We needed nothing. It all makes no sense to me," Shalini Madan says. "The Sanjay the plaintiff describes is like a completely different person than the man who is my husband and the father of our children." In a statement Tuesday, the Madan family's lawyer called the wife and children "victims not villains." "The Sanjay Madan who is alleged to have behaved so inappropriately is not the man they have known," Christopher Du Vernet said. "They are still struggling to understand what prompted him to act as he did, and especially to have used his own family when doing so." The children claim they were the victims of identity theft. They say in their court filings that they believed their father was returning the "diverted" money and was making things right, but also say they wonder if he was just stringing them along. Du Vernet said last week Sanjay Madan had returned more than the $11 million the government alleges he misappropriated. He said his client "deeply regrets" his actions and was awaiting results of medical opinions on his mental health. His family, Du Vernet said, could only conclude Sanjay Madan had long suffered from a mental disorder that profoundly distorted his judgment. "Mr. Madan’s wife and children are learning that Mr. Madan has actually had two sides to him: the dedicated husband and father they saw, and the miscreant they never saw." The lawyer also said none of Sanjay Madan's family had spent any of the money he allegedly took. In his affidavit, Ujjawal Madan said he never had any reason to suspect any wrongdoing by his father. "As long as I have known him, he has been a conservative spender," he said. The government, which fired Madan in November, has a court order freezing the family's assets, which included properties in Toronto. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — British Columbia's public safety minister says a Vancouver couple accused of flying to Yukon to get a COVID-19 vaccine is one of the most "despicable" things he's heard in a long time. Mike Farnworth says the alleged actions of former Great Canadian Gaming Corp. CEO Rodney Baker and his wife Ekaterina Baker show a "complete lack of any sort of ethical or moral compass." Tickets filed in a Whitehorse court show the 55-year-old man and his 32-year-old wife were each charged with failing to self-isolate for 14 days and failing to act in a manner consistent with their declarations upon arriving in Yukon. The allegations against them have not been proven in court and the tickets indicate the couple can challenge them. Ekaterina Baker did not immediately respond to calls and emails requesting comment while Rodney Baker did not immediately return a request for comment sent to Great Canadian Gaming, which accepted his resignation Sunday. Farnworth said the couple paid a "pretty high price," with Rodney Baker losing what the minister described as a "$10-million-a-year job." An information circular published by Great Canadian Gaming in March 2020 says Baker earned a total of about $6.7 million in compensation from the company in 2019. The tickets were issued on Thursday under Yukon's Civil Emergency Measures Act and both people face fines of $1,000, plus fees. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
A parking commissionaire who told an Arab business owner to come back when she's learned English will no longer be working with the city of Saint John, or any city until a further investigation is done. Saint John Mayor Don Darling said the commissionaire, who's employed by the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires through a third-party contract, will "no longer have any role with the city." The Canadian Corps of Commissionaires confirmed the man will not be reassigned while the organization conducts an internal investigation. However, the target of his racist comment didn't want to see him lose his job. On Monday morning, the commissionaire was writing a ticket for Yamama Zein Alabdin, who was parked in a loading zone. She tried to explain that she was unloading supplies for her Syrian restaurant, Mashawi Zein, on Germain Street and would move the car shortly, but he still wrote her the $100 ticket. As she continued trying to communicate with him in English and French, she said the commissionaire said, "Come back when you learn English" and walked away. The incident gained attention after a witness posted about it on social media. On Tuesday evening, Zein Alabdin said she is upset that someone would lose their job because of what happened to her. "I am the one affected and I forgive him," she said in Arabic. "There are millions of unemployed people, I don't want them to increase even by one because of me." She said she started working in Saint John "to make the community better." "I feel conflicted and frustrated when someone loses work because of me." Mishelle Carson-Roy, the co-owner of a store across the street, said she was nearby and heard the exchange. She wrote a letter to the parking commission and posted it in Twitter because the city's website has been down because of a cyberattack. The tweet garnered a response from many people, including Darling. In an interview Monday, Zein Alabdin said she wasn't expecting people's response to Carson-Roy's letter and was thankful the city reversed the ticket. However, she said she didn't want to see the commissionaire fired or punished. "What happened was shared everywhere, but I don't want him to be hurt by this," she said. "I came to Canada in search of safety, and I don't want to see anyone be harmed." City asked for removal Saint John spokesperson Lisa Caissie said the city takes "acts of racism and discrimination very seriously." She said as a result of an investigation started Monday, the Parking Commission told The Canadian Corps of Commissionaires the contracted employee "can no longer perform duties on behalf of the City of Saint John." The Corps complied, and is now conducting its own investigation, according to Bob Ferguson, CEO of the New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island division. He said any additional actions will be decided by the outcomes of that investigation. "The comments made by the commissionaire are unacceptable by any measure," he said in an email.