As COVID-19 vaccine supplies gradually ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials began expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 22, opening community clinics for people aged 80 years and older. Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, has said the province's plan is to open another 10 clinics in March for 48,000 people who will be mailed a letter informing them how to book an appointment. Strang said the vaccination program will then expand to the next age group in descending order until everyone in the province is offered the chance to be immunized. The age groups will proceed in five-year blocks. Future community clinics are to be held March 8 in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro; March 15 in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth; and March 22 in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth. The province began its vaccination campaign with residents of long-term care homes, those who work directly with patients, those who are 80 and older, and those who are at risk for other reasons including First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island The province says the first phase of its vaccination drive, currently slated to last until March, targets residents and staff of long-term and community care, as well as health-care workers with direct patient contact at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure. Those 80 and older, adults in Indigenous communities, and truck drivers and other rotational workers are also included. The next phase, which is scheduled to begin in April, will target those above 70 and essential workers. The province intends to make the vaccine available to everyone in late summer and fall. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec The province's proposed order of priority for vaccination according to its website is those in residential and long-term care centres, workers in the health and social services network, followed by those in isolated and remote communities, people 80 years or older, and then the general population in 10-year increments. Health officials launched an online and telephone system for vaccine registrations on Feb. 25 and will begin vaccinating people aged 85 years and older in Montreal on March 1. Officials said that while residents across the province aged 85 and older can register for a vaccine, priority will be given to people in the greater Montreal area, which has the highest active COVID-19 case count in Quebec. On Feb. 26, officials opened registration for Montrealers as young as 80 years old. It has not yet been announced when the next age group can begin to register for vaccines. The province says the vaccination of children and pregnant women will be determined based on future studies of vaccine safety and efficacy in those populations. --- Ontario The province has mapped out a three-phase approach to its rollout. Phase 1, which is still ongoing, reserves shots for those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers, and people who live in congregate care settings. All Indigenous adults, people aged 80 and older and adults receiving chronic home care will be next in line. The province says it will begin vaccinations among the 80 and older age cohort starting the third week of March. Vaccinations will begin for people 75 and older starting April 15. The province will then move to offer shots to those 70 and older starting May 1; 65 and older starting June 1; and 60 and older the first week of July. Indigenous adults and patient-facing health-care workers will receive vaccinations as the province works through those age groups. The government is still finalizing the list of essential workers who will receive vaccinations in May if supply is available. The province has not detailed when people younger than 60 can expect to be vaccinated. Appointment bookings can be made online and by phone starting March 15 for those in eligible age cohorts. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. They say most people over 80, and First Nations individuals over 60, could be eligible in early March. The province plans to have all personal care home residents vaccinated with two doses by the end of February, and has started sending team to other congregate living settings such as group homes and shelters. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, say inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if new vaccines are approved and supplies are steady. The plan does not include a separate category for essential workers — something that Reimer says will be considered as vaccine supplies increase. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. When bookings opened to this age group Wednesday, the website was temporarily overwhelmed when more than 150,000 people tried to get access. Within a day, 100,000 appointments were booked. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. Some 28,000 seniors in long-term care have already been vaccinated. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia The first phase of B.C.'s immunization campaign launched in December and focused on health-care workers in hospitals, paramedics, residents and staff at long-term care homes, and remote Indigenous communities. The second phase set to wrap up in March includes people aged 80 and above, Indigenous elders 65 and up, Indigenous communities that didn't receive vaccine in the first phase, as well as more health-care workers and vulnerable populations living and working in certain congregate settings. The third phase of B.C.'s immunization campaign is set to start in April and last until June, reaching people between the ages of 60 and 79, along with those who are highly clinically vulnerable, such as cancer patients. B.C.'s plan for the general population is based on age, with the oldest residents first in line. --- Nunavut Nunavut's vaccination rollout is underway, with vaccine clinics for the general population scheduled or completed in all 25 communities. In Iqaluit, Nunavut's capital, a general vaccination clinic is underway for priority populations, including staff and residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. Starting March 1, the vaccine clinic will be extended to all adults in Iqaluit ages 45 and up. Nunavut still expects enough vaccines to immunize 75 per cent of its residents over the age of 18 by the end of March. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories says it has vaccinated 42 per cent of its adult population since its vaccine rollout began in early January. Vaccine clinics are either completed or underway in all 33 of the territory's communities. In Yellowknife, residents and staff in long-term care homes are being prioritized for the vaccine. Vaccination of Yellowknife's general population will begin in late March. The N.W.T. still expects to receive enough vaccines to inoculate 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An explosion struck an Israeli-owned cargo ship sailing out of the Middle East on Friday, an unexplained blast renewing concerns about ship security in the region amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The crew and vessel were safe, according to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British navy. The explosion in the Gulf of Oman forced the vessel to head to the nearest port. The incident recalled the summer of 2019, when the same site saw a series of suspected attacks that the U.S. Navy blamed on Iran, which Tehran denied. Meanwhile, as President Joe Biden tries to revive nuclear negotiations with Iran, he ordered overnight airstrikes on facilities in Syria belonging to a powerful Iranian-backed Iraqi armed group. Dryad Global, a maritime intelligence firm, identified the stricken vessel as the MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged roll-on, roll-off vehicle cargo ship. Another private security official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, similarly identified the ship as the Helios Ray. Satellite-tracking data from website MarineTraffic.com showed the Helios Ray had been nearly entering the Arabian Sea around 0600 GMT Friday before it suddenly turned around and began heading back toward the Strait of Hormuz. It was coming from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and still listed Singapore as its destination on its tracker. Israel’s Channel 13, in an unsourced report, said the assessment in Israel is that Iran was behind the blast. Israeli officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Iranian government did not comment on the blast Friday. The blast comes as Tehran increasingly breaches its 2015 nuclear accord with world powers to create leverage over Washington. Iran is seeking to pressure Biden to grant the sanctions relief it received under the deal that former President Donald Trump abandoned nearly three years ago. Iran also has blamed Israel for a recent series of attacks, including a mysterious explosion last summer that destroyed an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at its Natanz nuclear facility and the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top Iranian scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program two decades ago. Capt. Ranjith Raja of the data firm Refinitiv told the AP that the Israeli-owned vessel had left the Persian Gulf Thursday bound for Singapore. On Friday at 0230 GMT, the vessel stopped for at least nine hours east of a main Omani port before making a 360-degree turn and sailing toward Dubai, likely for damage assessment and repairs, he said. The vessel came loaded with cargo from Europe. It discharged vehicles at several ports in the region, Raja added, including in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, with its last port of call at Dammam. While details of the explosion remained unclear, two American defence officials told the AP that the ship had sustained two holes on its port side and two holes on its starboard side just above the waterline in the blast. The officials said it remained unclear what caused the holes. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss unreleased information on the incidents. A United Nations ship database identified the vessel’s owners as a Tel Aviv-based firm called Ray Shipping Ltd. Calls to Ray Shipping rang unanswered Friday. Abraham Ungar, 74, who goes by “Rami,” is the founder of Ray Shipping Ltd., and is known as one of the richest men in Israel. He made his fortune in shipping and construction. According to the Nikola Y. Vaptsarov Naval Academy, where Ungar provides support and maritime training, he owns dozens of car-carrying ships and employs thousands of engineers. The U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said it was “aware and monitoring” the situation. The U.S. Maritime Administration, an agency of the Transportation Department, issued a warning to commercial shippers early Saturday acknowledging the explosion and urging ships to “exercise caution when transiting” the Gulf of Oman. While the circumstances of the explosion remain unclear, Dryad Global said it was very possible the blast stemmed from “asymmetric activity by Iranian military." As Iran seeks to pressure the United States to lift sanctions, the country may seek “to exercise forceful diplomacy through military means,” Dryad reported. In the tense summer of 2019, the U.S. military blamed Iran for explosions on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most strategic shipping lanes. The U.S. also had attributed a series of other suspected attacks to Iran, including the use of limpet mines — designed to be attached magnetically to a ship’s hull — to cripple four oil tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah. Since the killing of Fakhrizadeh, the Iranian nuclear scientist, last November, Israeli officials have raised alarms about potential Iranian retaliation, including through its regional proxies like Lebanon's Hezbollah and Yemen's Houthi rebels. Over the years, Iran has been linked to attacks on Israeli and Jewish civilian targets in Latin America, Europe and Asia. Israel has not commented on its alleged role in the scientist's killing. Friday's incident also follows normalization deals between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. The agreements, met with scathing criticism from Iran, solidified an emerging regional alliance against the Islamic Republic. __ Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman in Tel Aviv, Israel, Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report. Jon Gambrell And Isabel Debre, The Associated Press
HOUSTON — President Joe Biden heard firsthand from Texans clobbered by this month's brutal winter weather on Friday and pledged to stick with them “for the long haul” as he made his first trip to a major disaster area since he took office. Biden was briefed by emergency officials and thanked workers for doing “God's work.” He promised the federal government will be there for Texans as they try to recover, not just from the historic storm but also the public health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “When a crisis hits our states, like the one that hit Texas, it’s not a Republican or Democrat that’s hurting," Biden said. “It's our fellow Americans that are hurting and it's out job to help everyone in need." With tens of thousands of Houston area residents without safe water, local officials told Biden that many are still struggling. While he was briefed, first lady Jill Biden joined an assembly line of volunteers packing boxes of quick oats, juice, and other food at the Houston Food Bank, where he arrived later. The president's first stop was the Harris County Emergency Operations Center for a briefing from acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton and state and local emergency management officials. Texas was hit particularly hard by the Valentine's weekend storm that battered multiple states. Unusually frigid conditions led to widespread power outages and frozen pipes that burst and flooded homes. Millions of residents lost heat and running water. At least 40 people in Texas died as a result of the storm and, although the weather has returned to more normal temperatures, more than 1 million residents are still under orders to boil water before drinking it. “The president has made very clear to us that in crises like this, it is our duty to organize prompt and competent federal support to American citizens, and we have to ensure that bureaucracy and politics do not stand in the way,” said Homeland Security Adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall, who accompanied Biden to Houston. Biden was joined for much of his visit by Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. John Cornyn, both Republicans, four Democratic Houston-area members of Congress and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. The president also stopped by a mass coronavirus vaccination centre at NRG Stadium that is run by the federal government. Biden on Thursday commemorated the 50 millionth COVID-19 vaccination since he took office, halfway toward his goal of 100 million shots by his 100th day in office. That celebration followed a moment of silence to mark the passage earlier this week of 500,000 U.S. deaths blamed on the disease. Democrat Biden suggested that he and Republicans Abbott and Cornyn could find common cause in getting Americans vaccinated as quickly as possible. “We disagree on plenty of things,” Biden said. “There’s nothing wrong with that, but there are plenty of things we can work on together. And one of them is represented right here today, the effort to speed up vaccinations." Texas' other U.S. senator, Ted Cruz, an ally of former President Donald Trump and one of a handful of GOP lawmakers who had objected to Congress certifying Biden’s victory, was in Florida Friday addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference. Cruz, who has been criticized for taking his family to Cancun, Mexico, while millions of Texans shivered in unheated homes, later said the trip was a mistake, but he made light of the controversy on Friday. “Orlando is awesome,” he said to laughs and hoots. “It’s not as nice as Cancun. But’s nice.” At the peak of the storm, more than 1.4 million residents were without power and 3.5 million were under boil-water notices in the nation's third largest county. Post-storm debate in Texas has centred on the state maintaining its own electrical grid and its lack of better storm preparation, including weatherization of key infrastructure. Some state officials initially blamed the blackouts on renewable energy even though Texas relies heavily on oil and gas. In Washington, Biden's climate adviser said the deadly winter storm was a “wake-up call” for the United States to build energy systems that can withstand extreme weather linked to climate change. “We need systems of energy that are reliable and resilient,” Gina McCarthy said in an interview with The Associated Press. The White House said Biden's purpose in visiting was to support, not scold. Biden was bent on asking Texans "what do you need, how can I help you more," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “And what can we get more for you from the federal government.” Biden has declared a major disaster in Texas and asked federal agencies to identify additional resources to aid the recovery. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent emergency generators, bottled water, ready-to-eat meals and blankets. Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said in an interview that he didn't know what more the federal government could do to help because the failures were at the state level. But Henry, a Republican who is the highest county official in the suburban Houston county, said that if Biden “thinks it's important to visit, then come on down.” Biden wanted to make the trip last week, but said at the time that he held back because he didn’t want his presence and entourage to detract from the recovery effort. Houston also was the destination for Trump's first presidential visit to a disaster area in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic flooding that August. Trump, who is not known for displays of empathy, did not meet with storm victims on the visit. He returned four days later and urged people who had relocated to a shelter to “have a good time.” —- Associated Press writers Juan Lozano in Houston, Aamer Madhani in Chicago, and Jill Colvin and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed reporting. Darlene Superville, The Associated Press
ROLLING HILLS ESTATES, Calif. — With short, sure strokes of a flathead axe, firefighter Cole Gomoll methodically chopped along the edge of the SUV’s broken windshield as golf icon Tiger Woods — tangled up in his seatbelt and covered in a sheet to avoid shards of glass — waited in shock inside the mangled wreck. When Gomoll had cut a long, continuous line to the end of the glass, he and another Los Angeles County firefighter peeled back the windshield. The 6-lb (2.7-kilogram), 36-inch-long (91-centimetre-long) axe went down, and the backboard was swapped in. Within minutes, the ambulance had raced away, bound for the trauma centre with its famous patient in the back. It would be hours before the news broke around the world but for Gomoll and the other nine members of Fire Station 106 in Rolling Hills Estates, California, Tuesday’s call — initially reported as a traffic collision with a person trapped — lasted just 12 minutes. “He’s just another patient," Gomoll told The Associated Press on Friday at Fire Station 106. The 106’s firefighters, from Gomoll up to Battalion Chief Dean Douty, stressed that anyone in Woods’ dire situation would have received the same care from them. “I didn’t know who was inside the car,” Capt. Joe Peña said, until a sheriff’s deputy told him. And anyone else would get the same privacy, too — the firefighters declined to recount the athlete’s conversations and condition at the scene to preserve patient confidentiality. “His identity really didn’t matter in what we do,” Capt. Jeane Barrett said. Even so, those minutes marked a milestone in Gomoll’s career: It was the first time the 23-year-old Marine Corps veteran had performed an extrication like that in the field. Gomoll joined the fire station, located about a mile (1.6 kilometres) away from the crash site, in August as a probationary firefighter. Just three weeks ago, he’d practiced similar moves with one of his superiors, Barrett. “We’ve trained for stuff like this,” Gomoll said. Woods was transferred from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center on Thursday to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for “continuing orthopedic care and recovery,” hospital officials said. He had shattered the tibia and fibula bones of his lower right leg in multiple locations. Those injuries were stabilized with a rod in the tibia during a long surgery. Additional injuries to the bones in the foot and ankle required screws and pins. Woods had been driving a 2021 Genesis SUV on a downhill stretch of road known for wrecks when he struck a raised median in a coastal Los Angeles suburb, crossed into oncoming lanes and flipped several times. The crash was the latest setback for Woods, who has won 15 major championships and a record-tying 82 victories on the PGA Tour. He is among the world’s most recognizable sports figures, and at 45, even with a reduced schedule from nine previous surgeries, remains golf’s biggest draw. He was in Los Angeles last weekend as the tournament host of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club. Monday and Tuesday had been set aside for him to give golf tips to celebrities on Discovery-owned GOLFTV. The Los Angeles County sheriff has called the crash “purely an accident” and says drugs and alcohol did not appear to be a factor. Everyone says Woods is lucky to be alive — and “if nothing else, it’s a good PSA for wearing a seatbelt,” Barrett added. The first responders did, however, correct previous reports that said they’d used the Jaws of Life and a pry bar called a halligan tool to free the celebrity. Barrett, a 25-year fire service veteran, and her fellow firefighters know the dangers of the eponymous rolling hills in the area and have cut many drivers out of their twisted cars. They initially had three plans for Woods’ SUV: First, try the axe on the windshield. If that didn’t work, see if going through the sunroof was a possibility. A third option would be to cut the entire roof off. The firefighters and paramedics spoke to Woods — who introduced himself as “Tiger" — throughout, reassuring him through a hole in the windshield that he’d soon be free. “You can tell he was in pain,” firefighter Sally Ortega said, but he was still responding to their questions and clearly anxious to get out. “Luckily, our first plan was the one that worked,” Barrett said. As the ambulance pulled away, Barrett surveyed the SUV to see what lessons her crew might be able to apply to save a future driver. “No car is ever crumpled in the same way,” she said. The firefighters later debriefed together around their station’s kitchen table, then ate salads for lunch in a nearby park — savoring the last of the quiet as the news finally made its way around the world. Stefanie Dazio, The Associated Press
ST. LOUIS — Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh has been buried in a private cemetery in St. Louis, his family announced Friday. Limbaugh's widow, Kathryn, and his family said a private ceremony with close family and friends was held Wednesday, but they did not say where he was buried. The family said additional celebrations of Limbaugh's life are planned in the future, both virtually and in his hometown of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, The Southeast Missourian reported. Limbaugh died Feb. 17, a year after announcing he had lung cancer. The fiery Limbaugh was a leading voice of the Republican party and conservative movement for decades with a daily radio show that was broadcast on more than 600 U.S. stations for more than 30 years. The Associated Press
The 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce joined many in its network in urging the provincial government to address key economic points of pain on Friday. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), along with its network of local chambers across the province, released its pre-budget submission to the provincial government. The submission released ahead of Ontario's 2021 budget focuses on three themes: Recovery, growth and modernization. A major part of the submission calls on the government to offer relief to small businesses and municipalities that lasts beyond a short-term timeline. "We want to hear recovery; we don't want band-aids anymore," said Amy Kirkland, executive director of the 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce. "We want to continue to make sure that small businesses and small-medium sized businesses are very well taken care of," added Kirkland. "We want to see everybody recover and we need the support of our government officials in order to do that." Targeted funding towards the hardest-hit sectors is established as a key request early in the submission to the government. "The number one affected industry by COVID-19 is tourism," said Kirkland. She added that is one reason why the pandemic has hit the areas of Gananoque and the Thousand Islands hard, as they rely on tourism through boaters and summer travellers for a portion of revenue. The submission acts as a messaging piece for chambers and districts across the province, bringing in a large variety of recommendations and requests. Population areas as large as Toronto to smaller towns like Gananoque are represented. "With Ontario's economy expected to enter a period of recovery this year as vaccines are distributed and businesses begin to reopen, resources need to be focused on where they will have the greatest impact," said Rocco Rossi, president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, in a statement. “Resources should be targeted towards the sectors and communities that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, including industries requiring face-to-face contact, small businesses, municipal governments, as well as women, lower-income, racialized, elderly, new immigrant, and younger Ontarians," added Rossi. Recommendations under the growth section that would directly support the area include accelerating broadband expansion and supporting farmers and producers with online sales. "We need to not only support tourism but also the agriculture sector as well," said Kirkland. Under the recovery section of the submission, the OCC also argues that the government must minimize the economic impacts of business closures. One of the methods the chambers are asking for beyond physical distancing is through testing. Prioritizing rapid testing and contact tracing would facilitate more targeted decisions regarding business restrictions. Kirkland also said that better distribution of the vaccine would greatly help businesses. "We need a solid plan moving forward to get out to a post-COVID environment," said Kirkland. Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy’s office confirmed that the provincial budget will be presented no later than March 31, but no exact date has been announced. With regards to the OCC submission, ministry spokesman Scott Blodgett said: "The Ministry of Finance does not speculate as to what may or may not be in the forthcoming budget." Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
(Émilie Vast/CBC - image credit) Alberta finance officials are pushing back against a proposal in a private members' bill that would add members representing public sector plans to the board of the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo). Shannon Phillips, the NDP MLA for Lethbridge-West, presented Bill 208, Alberta Investment Management Corporation Amendment Act, 2020, to the Standing Committee on Private Bills and Private Members' Public Bills on Friday. The bill proposes adding four members representing the Alberta Teachers Retirement Fund, Special Forces Pension Plan , Local Authorities Pension Plan and Public Sector Pension Plan to AIMCo's 11-person board. Since taking office nearly two years ago, the current United Conservative government has compelled the pension funds to use AIMCo as their investment manager. MLAs have been inundated with phone calls, emails and letters about this issue, Phillips said. Adding representation from the four largest public sector pensions to the AIMCo board would help ease those worries, she said. "Those funds then deserve a better window over governance at AIMCo and input into how they make investment decisions and ultimately how they serve their clients," she told the committee. AIMCo is an investment firm owned by the provincial government. Management came under fire last year after losing $2.1 billion from a bet on market volatility. Managers of the four pensions, which provide retirement income for teachers, provincial and local government workers, health care workers and municipal police officers have expressed concern that AIMCo would mishandle their funds. Lowell Epp, assistant deputy minister for Treasury Risk and Management for the Alberta government, rejected Phillips' proposal in his presentation to the committee. He says a 15-member board is unwieldy and would be less productive than a smaller board. He also suggested the proposed new members would represent the interests of their individual pension plans and not AIMCo as a whole. "Representative boards frequently take a combative approach to decision making rather than a much more productive, consensus-based approach," he said. Epp said each public sector pension retains control over their investment policies. UCP MLAs, who make up the majority on the committee, echoed some of Epp's concerns. Referendum question The Alberta government has the power to issue investment directives to AIMCo. Bill 208 would remove that provision from existing legislation. Concerns have been raised that the UCP government could order AIMCo to invest funds in oil and gas projects. Phillips said the power has never been used, so it shouldn't be a problem to remove it. "Removing that section of the act is a very simple solution to some of the concerns that have been raised by the public," she said. The government is currently studying the feasibility of leaving the Canada Pension Plan and creating an Alberta Pension Plan in its place, a measure recommended by the Fair Deal Panel last year. Bill 208 proposes asking Albertans in a referendum whether they want to switch to a provincial pension plan and if they want AIMCo to manage the fund. Epp, in his presentation, said early evidence suggests a provincial pension plan could be beneficial, but that no decisions have been made on who would manage the funds. MLAs on the committee agreed to hear stakeholder presentations on Phillips' bill before deciding whether to send it back to the legislative assembly for additional debate.
Historically, Indigenous Peoples have been mistreated in Canada’s education system, in residential and day schools — experiences that are well-documented in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)’s final report. It is the government’s fiduciary duty to take measures to repair this broken relationship. In the TRC’s 94 calls to action, calls 6-12 have to do with education. It calls on the government to remove barriers to Indigenous students’ academic success. Through changes to curriculum, cultural supports, nutrition, tuition and transportation, here are five things that federal and provincial governments are doing to respond to these calls. The B.C. government created an Indigenous Education Resource Inventory to help incorporate Indigenous knowledge and perspectives into classrooms, in partnership with the B.C. Teachers Federation, Métis Nation British Columbia and the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC). FNESC is also working to develop Indigenous-led curriculum, including the creation of an Authentic First Peoples Resource Guide. In the 2019-20 school year, the B.C. government collaborated with Indigenous communities to create a formal process to incorporate community input into how educational services are delivered, writes a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education in an email to Indiginews. According to the ministry, funding to support Indigenous students in the Greater Victoria School District 61 serving Esquimalt, Oak Bay, Victoria, View Royal and a portion of Saanich and Highlands, has increased from $1.7 million in 2016-17 to an estimated $2.3 million for 2021-22. The B.C. Ministry of Education funds a CommunityLINK (Learning Includes Nutrition and Knowledge) program which provides over $53 million province-wide annually for 60 school districts to support “vulnerable students” with services that include meal programs for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. While it’s commonly believed that all First Nations people have access to free post-secondary education in Canada, this isn’t true. However, there are many programs that the federal government has set in place to assist First Nations, such as the University and College Entrance Preparation Program (UCEPP), the Post-Secondary Student Support Program administered through Indigenous Services Canada, First Nations and Inuit Youth Employment Strategy, and bursaries that can be found by using the Indigenous Bursaries Search Tool. In B.C., youth aged 19-26 who have been through the child welfare system may be eligible for free tuition, under the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program. A 2018 BC Tripartite Agreement (BCTEA) between the federal and provincial governments, and signatory First Nations, supports and benefits both on-reserve and off-reserve students, including transportation services. “As part of the tripartite agreement, there is a $3.8 million federally-funded First Nation Student Transportation Fund for First Nations Students who attend B.C. public schools, which began in the 2019/20 school year,” writes a spokesperson for B.C.’s Ministry of Education in an email to IndigiNews. “This fund is used to reduce or eliminate rider fees, while also ensuring service improvements and cutting down the time students spend getting to and from school.” The federal government has also provided $1.7 million in one-time funding for buses for First Nations schools with a commitment to providing $1 million for buses annually. It has also boosted the annual budget for transportation costs for on-reserve students attending public schools by $1.3 million, according to the B.C. government. There is still much work to be done to support Indigenous students in B.C. “The Indian Act makes no provision for supporting culturally and linguistically relevant education or ‘quality’ education and makes no guarantees for adequate and sustainable funding,” according to a fact sheet by the Chiefs Assembly on Education from 2012. But there are ongoing efforts to restructure the educational system and First Nation across B.C. continue to advocate for better services for students. For example Local Education Agreements aim to “promote and achieve effective working relationships between First Nations and local boards of education,” according to the First Nations Education Steering Committee It’s important that there are safe, positive, respectful learning spaces within the education system, so that Indigenous students and families can have a say in the future of their education. It’s hopeful that the government seems to be committed to co-creating an action plan and looking for ways to increase shared decision-making. Katłįà (Catherine) Lafferty, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
VIDALIA, La. — The onetime lead singer for the now defunct rock and country band Bishop Gunn has been arrested in Louisiana on drug and traffic charges, authorities said. Travis McCready was arrested Thursday in Concordia Parish in the east-central part of the state. McCready, 33, of Natchez, Mississippi, was taken to the Concordia Parish Jail on charges of failure to dim the lights on his vehicle, expired vehicle tag and no proof of insurance as well as charges alleging possession of Schedule I, Schedule II and Schedule III drugs, authorities said. McCready, a resident of Natchez, Mississippi, where the band also had been based, was released on a $25,000 bond, The Natchez Democrat reported. It was unknown if McCready has an attorney who could speak on his behalf. The Bishop Gunn band broke up in February 2020, citing “internal issues." It suspended all future activity including tour dates and new music releases. With McCready as the group's lead singer, Bishop Gunn made it to the top of the Billboard Blues Album chart in 2018 with their debut album “Natchez.” At the height of its run, Bishop Gunn toured in Europe with Slash after playing two cruises with Kid Rock and received multiple accolades from Rolling Stone Magazine’s top country charts. Although the band has called it quits, McCready has performed solo in Natchez and elsewhere. The Associated Press
(CCO/Pixabay - image credit) The New Brunswick Medical Society is getting behind Health Canada in its efforts to reduce the amount of nicotine e-cigarette manufacturers are allowed to include in their products. In an interview, Dr. Jeff Steeves, president of the society, said the province has seen an alarming increase in the number of youth who've used the products. Doctors are worried that the amounts of nicotine in e-cigarettes is a contributing factor to their growing popularity among young people. "The statistics on how many kids have tried e-cigarettes have come from the Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drug Survey, which ... showed that there's sort of been a tripling of use in Grade 10 to 12 in the last four years." In the survey, 41 per cent of New Brunswick students in grades 7 to12 admitted to having tried vaping at least once in 2018 or 2019. Meanwhile, 27 per cent reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days. Last December, Health Canada announced it was pursuing regulations that would reduce the amount of allowed nicotine concentration in vaping products to 20 mg/ml. The current limit is 66 mg/ml, according to the department. In a news release Dec. 18, Health Canada said it was opening a 75-day public consultation on its proposed changes, which will end March 4. Dr. Jeff Steeves, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society. "The changes proposed today build on existing measures already taken by the Government of Canada to address the rise in youth vaping, including extensive public education campaigns and banning the advertising of vaping products in public spaces if the ads can be seen or heard by youth," the department said in the release. "Health Canada is also considering to further restrict flavours in vaping products, and require the vaping industry to provide information about their vaping products, including sales, ingredients, and research and development activities." Health Canada says the regulation would align the country with the European Union, as well as the provinces of British Columbia and Nova Scotia, which have imposed a 20 mg/ml limit on the concentration of vaping products that can be sold. Steeves said he thinks lowering the limit would result in fewer New Brunswick youth becoming addicted to nicotine. "It's the chemicals that are in them, the first nicotine, which is a stimulant," he said. "And so it does some good things in the short term — good things where you're going to have a little more energy, be a little more alert. Your memory and mood might be a bit better. However, it also increases your heart rate, increases your blood pressure and then you become habituated to it." From there, youth might transition to smoking cigarettes to feed their nicotine dependance, he said. He's also worried about the lesser-known effects of vaping, with a string of illnesses and deaths connected to certain e-cigarette products in recent years. "It's also been reported that smoking or vaping increase your risk of catching COVID and having a more serious outcome with COVID, so, you know, it's not innocuous." Steeves said he's encouraging New Brunswickers who also want to see the limit reduced to sign an online petition as part of the Protect Canadian Kids Campaign. The campaign is supported by the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Lung Association, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, and Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.
NEW YORK — A photographer who was shoved by a man who then came at him with a metal pole during a trip on the Staten Island ferry on Friday was able to get out of harm's way when New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang intervened. Spencer Platt, a photographer with Getty Images, said he was on the top deck of the boat heading toward Staten Island around 11 a.m., talking on the phone after taking some photos of Yang, who was headed to campaign events. Platt said when he turned around, the man was “just right in my face, like an inch away." The man pushed him, sending him down onto a bench, and Platt said he saw he was carrying some kind of metal rod. “He immediately lifts that up, comes at me and has it raised over me," he said. The photographer got the attention of Yang and his campaign, who were inside, and he said they came out, with Yang in the lead. “He came out ... and he just kind of yelled, the guy turned around, and that allowed me to just kind of bolt out of there," Platt said. “I think most people would have the same impulse I had - to try and do anything that you can to protect somebody who might be threatened or endangered," Yang said in a statement. "I got up and tried to intervene as quickly as I could. I’m glad that when he turned he saw me and recognized me, and the situation deescalated quickly.” Platt told some New York Police Department officers who were on the boat and who then went to keep an eye on the man. The NYPD said no arrest was made. The Associated Press
Chief executives of the nation's largest passenger and cargo airlines met with key Biden administration officials Friday to talk about reducing emissions from airplanes and push incentives for lower-carbon aviation fuels. The White House said the meeting with climate adviser Gina McCarthy and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also touched on economic policy and curbing the spread of COVID-19 — travel has been a vector for the virus. But industry officials said emissions dominated the discussion. United Airlines said CEO Scott Kirby asked administration officials to support incentives for sustainable aviation fuel and technology to remove carbon from the atmosphere. In December, United said it invested an undisclosed amount in a carbon-capture company partly owned by Occidental Petroleum. A United Nations aviation group has concluded that biofuels will remain a tiny source of aviation fuel for several years. Some environmentalists would prefer the Biden administration to impose tougher emissions standards on aircraft rather than create breaks for biofuels. “Biofuels are false solutions that don’t decarbonize air travel,” said Clare Lakewood, a climate-law official with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Real action on aircraft emissions requires phasing out dirty, aging aircraft, maximizing operational efficiencies and funding the rapid development of electrification.” Airplanes account for a small portion of emissions that cause climate change — about 2% to 3% — but their share has been growing rapidly and is expected to roughly triple by mid-century with the global growth in travel. The airline trade group says U.S. carriers have more than doubled the fuel efficiency of their fleets since 1978 and plan further reductions in carbon emissions. But the independent International Council on Clean Transportation says passenger traffic is growing nearly four times faster than fuel efficiency, leading to a 33% increase in emissions between 2013 and 2019. The U.S. accounts for about 23% of aircraft carbon-dioxide emissions, followed by Europe at 19% and China at 13%, the transportation group's researchers estimated. The White House said McCarthy, Buttigieg and economic adviser Brian Deese were “grateful and optimistic” to hear the airline CEOs talk about current and future efforts to combat climate change. Nicholas Calio, president of the trade group Airlines for America, said the exchange was positive. “Airlines are ready, willing and able partners, and we want to be part of the solution" to climate change, Calio said in a statement. “We stand ready to work in partnership with the Biden administration.” David Koenig, The Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS — Prosecutors in New Orleans moved Friday to have convictions overturned for 22 people found guilty of felonies by non-unanimous juries, and to review hundreds of other such convictions obtained under a law with roots in the Jim Crow era. District Attorney Jason Williams, who took office last month after running on a reform platform, announced the move at a news conference outside the criminal courthouse in New Orleans. He was flanked by his staff, criminal justice advocates and Archbishop Gregory Aymond. Emily Maw, head of the civil rights division of Williams' office, said five cases being vacated are being reviewed to see whether charges ever should have been filed. Seventeen are being re-prosecuted. However, 16 of the defendants have agreed to plead guilty as charged or to lesser charges, seeking reduction of sentences that would likely have kept them behind bars for life. “This doesn't mean that 22 people walked out onto the streets today,” Williams stressed. Until January 2019, felony convictions in Louisiana could be obtained with a 10-2 or 11-1 jury vote under laws that opponents said were aimed at making sure Black jurors' votes could be negated in cases against Black defendants. Oregon was the only other state with a similar law. Voters approved a constitutional amendment that outlawed non-unanimous verdicts beginning in 2019, a vote that followed a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of stories in The Advocate analyzing the origins of the law and the racial disparities in verdicts. And, last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that non-unanimous verdicts were unconstitutional. But the Supreme Court’s decision in April affected only future cases and cases in which the defendants' appeals had not been exhausted. That left an estimated 1,600 cases in Louisiana unaffected. Advocates estimate more than 300 of them are in New Orleans. Pending before the high court now is the question of whether the decision should be made retroactive. Williams opted not to wait for that decision. Williams' dubbed his initiative “the DA's Jim Crow Jury Project" and said it is aimed at “repairing 120 plus years of injustice by methodically and efficiently reviewing all applications to the court of cases where persons were convicted by a non-unanimous jury.” Civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, praised the move. Jamila Johnson, of the Promise of Justice Initiative, said her organization represented many of the clients in Friday's court proceedings. “It was incredibly moving,” she said, describing the case of one man who agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter — he had been convicted of murder in a non-unanimous verdict in 1974 — in a deal that made him instantly eligible for release from the state prison. The Promise of Justice Initiative said in a news release that it will reach out to crime victims who might be affected by the revisiting of some convictions. “While it is absolutely necessary to dismantle this intentionally racist practice of non-unanimous juries, it will have a huge impact on those who assumed the legal process was over,” Katie Hunter-Lowery, of the PJI said in a news release. "We invite survivors and victims’ loved ones to contact us at and we invite city and state leaders to allocate more funding and resources directly to impacted communities.” Kevin McGill, The Associated Press
Canada now has given the green light to three COVID-19 vaccines, with Oxford-AstraZeneca's shot being approved on Friday. Mike Le Couteur explains when the doses will arrive in Canada, how many, and how the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab compares to the other shots.
State television announced that Myanmar's U.N. envoy had been fired for betraying the country, a day after he urged the United Nations to use "any means necessary" to reverse the Feb. 1 coup that ousted elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army seized power and detained Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership, alleging fraud in a November election her party won in a landslide. The coup, which stalled Myanmar's progress toward democracy, has brought hundreds of thousands of protesters onto the streets and drawn condemnation from Western countries, with some imposing limited sanctions.
Richard Gray is warning Indigenous communities against signing confidentiality agreements with the government as they reclaim authority over their child welfare systems under Bill C-92 — also known as the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families. Gray is the social services manager with the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission (FNQLHSSC), which monitors and provides oversight to ensure Indigenous groups and communities have access to “culturally-appropriate and preventive health and social services programs,” according to their website. “This is a huge problem and we can’t allow the feds to utilize these confidentiality agreements in negotiations or discussions,” he said at a virtual gathering focused on the implementation of the Act, hosted on Feb. 9 by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). The Act establishes a framework for First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities to exercise their authority and create their own child welfare laws. Through the Act, Indigenous governing bodies can either notify the federal government of their intent to establish their own laws, or they can request to “enter into a tripartite coordination agreement with [Indigenous Services Canada] and relevant provincial or territorial governments” — as previously reported by IndigiNews. Gray says he knows of at least one instance where a confidentiality agreement was signed as part of a coordination agreement — between Wabaseemoong Independent Nations, Canada and the province of Ontario. He says he’s worried that confidentiality agreements could “really put a damper on our ability to share information and to give strategies and to advise and counsel First Nations communities that are interested in following this road.” “Canada will have all the information, and once again, First Nations are left stuck on their own.” ‘Stuck on their own’ Since the Bill came into force on Jan. 1, 2020, nine Nations have sent notice and 17 Nations have requested to enter into coordination agreements discussions, according to Indigenous Services Canada (ISC). In an interview with IndigiNews, Gray says the practice of signing confidentiality agreements is “almost a bit of a contradictory approach” because the government is “supposed to be working with the First Nations at a national level and regional level to support the implementation of coordination agreements.” “If you sign one of these things, you can’t share any information with the AFN [and] you can’t share any information with a First Nations community about things that are happening in terms of your coordination agreement discussion,” he says. As part of the Act’s development, the AFN and ISC signed a protocol agreement in June of 2020. The agreement established a structure to support the implementation of Bill C-92, according to a news release by the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) and FNQLHSSC. “This agreement is a crucial step that should allow First Nations to develop effective long-term plans. This protocol ensures that Canada will work with our governments, but that the implementation of Bill C-92 will be led by First Nations,” says Ghislain Picard, regional chief of the AFNQL. But for Gray, not being able to share how nations are doing at coordination tables puts them at a disadvantage. He says that the federal government knows everything that nations are sharing while the nations themselves, if they sign a confidentiality agreement, cannot speak with each other on how they are working to exercise jurisdiction. “Collectively, this is something that affects First Nations all across Canada. Why would we get into these processes where we’re hiding our discussions? Or not showing any transparency about how we’re going to work with our communities?” asks Gray. “First Nations are going to try to get the best deals possible,” he says. “I think that one of the ways to achieve that is by sharing as much information as possible amongst First Nations.” Gray says he wants the federal and provincial governments to respect this, “rather than trying to impose their processes on us.” “We’ve got to break these cycles or these patterns that [Indigenous Services Canada] uses and open up new processes and new ways of doing things to help one another.” IndigiNews followed up with both Indigenous Services Canada and Wabaseemoong Child Welfare Authority for comment, but did not receive a response by the time this article was published. The virtual gathering is part of a series on sharing best practices for implementing the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, also known as Bill C-92. Anyone can register to attend and there is no cost. The next session is March 2, 2021. Anna McKenzie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
Senior officials from Europe have urged the World Bank's management to expand its climate change strategy to exclude investments in oil- and coal-related projects around the world, and gradually phase out investment in natural gas projects, according to three sources familiar with the matter. In the six-page letter dated Wednesday, World Bank executive directors representing major European shareholder countries and Canada, welcomed moves by the Bank to ensure its lending supports efforts to reduce carbon emissions. But they urged the Bank - the biggest provider of climate finance to the developing world - to go even further.
(Glenbow Archives - image credit) The Federal Building plaza, with views of the Alberta Legislature, has a new name: the Violet King Henry Plaza. The Calgary native became Canada's first Black female lawyer in 1954. Many who protested in Edmonton as part of the Black Lives Matter movement, in response to George Floyd's death last summer, would have walked past the plaza, or through it, on their way to the Legislature. Now, it serves as a reminder of a woman who stood up to adversity to follow her dreams against all odds, carving a path for others. Nicole Dodd is one of the founders of the AB Anti-Racism EDU Committee, a group campaigning for Black Canadian history and anti-racism coursework to be included in Alberta's K-12 curriculum. Violet King Henry's family were pillars in Calgary's Black community, said Dodd. Her brother, Ted King, was an activist and the president of the Alberta Association for the Advancement of Coloured People. These types of renamings matter, said Dodd. They deepen Alberta's understanding of its Black history and the people who helped build this province. "She's a local Calgarian … she was born and raised in Alberta, educated in Alberta and achieved this incredible success against all the odds," said Dodd. Violet King, right, stands beside her family as her brother, Ted, arrives back in Calgary in 1946. At the University of Alberta, King Henry was recognized alongside Peter Lougheed with an Executive "A" gold ring at Colour Night, the annual celebration of student contributions to the university. "That's just to show the calibre of person that Violet King was. She was highly engaged in her university life and she demonstrated significant leadership qualities," Dodd said. Dodd added she hopes this is the beginning of more landmarks and monuments to commemorate racialized Albertans. The minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women, Leela Aheer, unveiled the new plaza name on Friday, days before the end of Black History Month. She stood in front of the podium, addressing King Henry's living daughter directly. "I just want to remember this moment, this moment in time," Aheer said. "You know, she was tenacious and she was strong and she never backed down. This is a legacy that all of us need to understand to be able to move forward, to truly do the work that needs to be done to make sure Alberta is the most caring and loving and welcoming space in the world." Justice Minister and Solicitor General Kaycee Madu said Violet King Henry carved a path for Black lawyers, and spent her career fighting for the rights of her fellow citizens. "Violet King Henry's courage and perseverance stand as an example to us all," Madu said. "With every event, festival and gathering held at Violet King Henry Plaza, we will be keeping her extraordinary legacy alive." For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
An emergency homeless shelter in North Battleford is closing its doors. The North Battleford Lighthouse emergency shelter program is being forced to close after losing about $500,000 from the Provincial Métis Housing Corporation — the bulk of its funding, noted Don Windels, executive director of Lighthouse Supported Living. "It's not an easy decision," Windels said. The shelter is set to close on April 1. Windels said he has approached the province and federal government for funding, but there have been no takers so far. He added that the closure isn't a slight against PMHC, which he described as supportive of the shelter. The service has retained its smaller donors, but they don't provide enough money to keep it open, Windels said. The emergency shelter, which is open 24 hours a day, has a maximum capacity of about 37 people, but it provides food for many more than that, he said. Those long hours also make it more difficult to pay staff and keep the service open, he added. The closure also affects roughly nine long-term transitional housing units, Windels said. The Lighthouse's other supportive and transitional housing programs won't be affected. The closure comes roughly seven years after community leaders first expressed interest in opening The Lighthouse in North Battleford. After buying the Reclaim Outreach Centre and undergoing months of renovations, The Lighthouse opened its services in January 2015. Windels said he hopes to either find new funding partners or hand the shelter over to another organization. Meanwhile, the closure will affect a vulnerable homeless population in the midst of the pandemic. "The province needs to come up with a housing strategy that includes shelters. And shelters need to be funded properly," he said. "Because it's really difficult to have a quality program without funds." Pointing to the overdose crisis and the pandemic, NDP Leader Ryan Meili called on the province to provide the money that would keep it open. In a prepared statement, he said it's unacceptable to "allow the crucial work the North Battleford Lighthouse does in service of the most vulnerable to be shut down due to lack of funding." Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix
WASHINGTON — Saudi Arabia's crown prince likely approved the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, according to a newly declassified U.S. intelligence report released Friday that instantly ratcheted up pressure on the Biden administration to hold the kingdom accountable for a murder that drew worldwide outrage. The intelligence findings were long known to many U.S. officials and, even as they remained classified, had been reported with varying degrees of precision. But the public rebuke of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is still a touchstone in U.S-Saudi relations. It leaves no doubt that as the prince continues in his powerful role and likely ascends to the throne, Americans will forever associate him with the brutal killing of a journalist who promoted democracy and human rights. Yet even as the Biden administration released the findings, it appeared determined to preserve the Saudi relationship by avoiding direct punishment of the prince himself despite demands from some congressional Democrats and Khashoggi allies for significant and targeted sanctions. Questioned by reporters, Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended the approach. “What we’ve done by the actions we’ve taken is not to rupture the relationship but to recalibrate it to be more in line with our interests and our values," he said. “I think that we have to understand as well that this is bigger than any one person.” The conclusion that the prince approved an operation to kill or capture Khashoggi was based on his decision-making role inside the kingdom, the involvement of a key adviser and members of his protective detail and his past support for violently silencing dissidents abroad, according to the report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Though intelligence officials stopped short of saying the prince ordered the October 2018 murder, the four-page document described him as having “absolute control” over the kingdom’s intelligence organizations and said it would have been highly unlikely for an operation like the killing to have been carried out without his approval. Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry responded by saying the kingdom “categorically rejects the offensive and incorrect assessment in the report pertaining to the kingdom’s leadership.” Shortly after the findings were released, the State Department announced a new policy, called the “Khashoggi Ban,” that will allow the U.S. to deny visas to people who harm, threaten or spy on journalists on behalf of a foreign government. It also said it would impose visa restrictions on 76 Saudi individuals who have engaged or threatened dissidents overseas. The State Department declined to comment on who would be affected, citing the confidentiality of visa records. But a person familiar with the matter said the prince was not targeted. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. The Treasury Department also announced sanctions against a former Saudi intelligence official, Ahmad Hassan Mohammed al Asiri, who U.S. officials say was the operation's ringleader. Democrats in Congress praised the administration for releasing the report — the Trump administration had refused to do so — but urged it to take more aggressive actions, including against the prince. Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, urged the Biden administration to consider punishing the prince, who he says has the blood of an American journalist on his hands. “The President should not meet with the Crown Prince, or talk with him, and the Administration should consider sanctions on assets in the Saudi Public Investment Fund he controls that have any link to the crime,” Schiff said in a statement. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, called for consequences for the prince — such as sanctions — as well as for the Saudi kingdom as a whole. Rights activists said the lack of any punitive measures would signal impunity for the prince and other autocrats. Without sanctions, “it’s a joke,” said Tawwakol Karman, a Nobel Peace Price winner from neighbouring Yemen and friend of Khashoggi's. While Biden had pledged as a candidate to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” over the killing, he appeared to take a milder tone during a call Thursday with Saudi King Salman. A White House summary of the conversation made no mention of the killing and said instead that the men had discussed the countries’ long-standing partnership. The kingdom’s state-run Saudi Press Agency similarly did not mention Khashoggi’s killing in its report about the call, focusing on regional issues like Iran and the war in Yemen. White House press secretary Jen Psaki has told reporters that the administration intends to “recalibrate" the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia. Biden previously ordered an end to U.S. support for the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen and said he would stop the sale of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia but has given few details of his plans. Though the Biden administration's relationship with Riyadh is likely to be more adversarial than that of Donald Trump's, the reality is that Riyadh's oil reserves and status as a counterbalance to Iran in the Middle East have long made it a strategic — if difficult — ally. The broad outlines of the killing have long been known. The document released Friday says a 15-member Saudi team, including seven members of the prince's elite personal protective team, arrived in Istanbul, though it says it's unclear how far in advance Saudi officials had decided to harm him. Khashoggi had gone to the Saudi consulate to pick up documents needed for his wedding. Once inside, he died at the hands of more than a dozen Saudi security and intelligence officials and others who had assembled ahead of his arrival. Surveillance cameras had tracked his route and those of his alleged killers in Istanbul in the hours before his killing. A Turkish bug planted at the consulate reportedly captured the sound of a forensic saw, operated by a Saudi colonel who was also a forensics expert, dismembering Khashoggi’s body within an hour of his entering the building. The whereabouts of his remains remain unknown. The prince, an ambitious 35-year-old who has rapidly consolidated power since his father became king in 2015, said in 2019 that he took “full responsibility” for the killing since it happened on his watch, but denied ordering it. Saudi officials have said Khashoggi’s killing was the work of rogue Saudi security and intelligence officials. Saudi Arabian courts last year announced they had sentenced eight Saudi nationals to prison in Khashoggi’s killing. They were not identified. ___ Madhani reported from Chicago. Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Ben Fox in Washington and Ellen Knickmeyer in Oklahoma City contributed to this report. Eric Tucker And Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press