Layer of snow cover the backyard.
Layer of snow cover the backyard.
WASHINGTON — Disputing President Donald Trump’s persistent, baseless claims, Attorney General William Barr declared the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.Barr's comments, in an interview Tuesday with the The Associated Press, contradict the concerted effort by Trump, his boss, to subvert the results of last month's voting and block President-elect Joe Biden from taking his place in the White House.Barr told the AP that U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”The comments, which drew immediate criticism from Trump attorneys, were especially notable coming from Barr, who has been one of the president's most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voting could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls and instead chose to vote by mail.More to Trump's liking, Barr revealed in the AP interview that in October he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel, giving the prosecutor the authority to continue to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe after Biden takes over and making it difficult to fire him. Biden hasn't said what he might do with the investigation, and his transition team didn't comment Tuesday.Trump has long railed against the investigation into whether his 2016 campaign was co-ordinating with Russia, but he and Republican allies had hoped the results would be delivered before the 2020 election and would help sway voters. So far, there has been only one criminal case, a guilty plea from a former FBI lawyer to a single false statement charge.Under federal regulations, a special counsel can be fired only by the attorney general and for specific reasons such as misconduct, dereliction of duty or conflict of interest. An attorney general must document such reasons in writing.Barr went to the White House Tuesday for a previously scheduled meeting that lasted about three hours.Trump didn't directly comment on the attorney general's remarks on the election. But his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his political campaign issued a scathing statement claiming that, "with all due respect to the Attorney General, there hasn’t been any semblance” of an investigation into the president's complaints.Other administration officials who have come out forcefully against Trump's allegations of voter-fraud evidence have been fired. But it's not clear whether Barr might suffer the same fate. He maintains a lofty position with Trump, and despite their differences the two see eye-to-eye on quite a lot.Still, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer quipped: “I guess he’s the next one to be fired.”Last month, Barr issued a directive to U.S. attorneys across the country allowing them to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities before the 2020 presidential election was certified, despite no evidence at that time of widespread fraud.That memorandum gave prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election was certified. Soon after it was issued, the department’s top elections crime official announced he would step aside from that position because of the memo.The Trump campaign team led by Giuliani has been alleging a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to dump millions of illegal votes into the system with no evidence. They have filed multiple lawsuits in battleground states alleging that partisan poll watchers didn’t have a clear enough view at polling sites in some locations and therefore something illegal must have happened. The claims have been repeatedly dismissed including by Republican judges who have ruled the suits lacked evidence.But local Republicans in some battleground states have followed Trump in making unsupported claims, prompting grave concerns over potential damage to American democracy.Trump himself continues to rail against the election in tweets and in interviews though his own administration has said the 2020 election was the most secure ever. He recently allowed his administration to begin the transition over to Biden, but he still refuses to admit he lost.The issues they've have pointed to are typical in every election: Problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.But they've gone further. Attorney Sidney Powell has spun fictional tales of election systems flipping votes, German servers storing U.S. voting information and election software created in Venezuela “at the direction of Hugo Chavez,” – the late Venezuelan president who died in 2013. Powell has since been removed from the legal team after an interview she gave where she threatened to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court filing.Barr didn't name Powell specifically but said: “There's been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results. And the DHS and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that.”In the campaign statement, Giuliani claimed there was “ample evidence of illegal voting in at least six states, which they have not examined.”“We have many witnesses swearing under oath they saw crimes being committed in connection with voter fraud. As far as we know, not a single one has been interviewed by the DOJ. The Justice Department also hasn’t audited any voting machines or used their subpoena powers to determine the truth,” he said.However, Barr said earlier that people were confusing the use of the federal criminal justice system with allegations that should be made in civil lawsuits. He said a remedy for many complaints would be a top-down audit by state or local officials, not the U.S. Justice Department.“There’s a growing tendency to use the criminal justice system as sort of a default fix-all," he said, but first there must be a basis to believe there is a crime to investigate.“Most claims of fraud are very particularized to a particular set of circumstances or actors or conduct. ... And those have been run down; they are being run down,” Barr said. “Some have been broad and potentially cover a few thousand votes. They have been followed up on."___Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government has signed a pay agreement that will allow nurses to be shifted to priority areas in the fight against COVID-19. It says the agreement with the Manitoba Nurses Union will allow nurses to be redeployed in personal care homes, intensive care units and designated COVID-19 units. Health Minister Cameron Friesen says it will allow for changes to work assignments, locations, schedules and shifts to support the changing needs of hospital patients and care home residents. He says nurses affected by these changes, including those already working in facilities dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks, will get extra pay. The agreement also establishes a COVID-19 northern allowance for staff redeployed to the north, as well as an allowance for current northern nurses who work in one community but pick up additional shifts elsewhere in the region. Union president Darlene Jackson says the deal will help keep nurses on the job and give them some security and recognition. "Nurses have played a critical role on the front line of Manitoba's pandemic response and they have stepped up to the challenge, working countless long hours to provide quality care for patients and residents," Jackson said Tuesday in a release. Friesen said the government’s top priority is ensuring patients and care home residents are provided with the best possible care. "Thousands of nurses working in personal care homes and hospitals across the province are making an enormous difference in our province's fight against COVID-19," he said in a release. "This agreement also recognizes many nurses on the front line of the COVID-19 response for their dedication, commitment and compassion at a critical time." Details of the agreement, which is to be in place for the duration of the pandemic, were not released. The union says it has 12,000 members and represents registered nurses, registered psychiatric nurses, licensed practical nurses, nurse practitioners and operating room technicians. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020 The Canadian Press
What happens to the state of business in a city when it loses its largest storefront in the downtown core even earlier than expected? It’s a question being mulled by commerce stakeholders and retail experts, along with the provincial and municipal government, as the COVID-19 pandemic forces the Hudson’s Bay Company to close its downtown Winnipeg location two months earlier than previously announced. “In light of recent restrictions on non-essential retail by the Government of Manitoba, we have made the decision to close this location,” said HBC in a statement to the Free Press Tuesday. “We remain committed to working with partners to find opportunities for this historic location that will have a positive impact on the community.” The iconic Canadian departmental shopping chain had announced in October it would be shuttering the Winnipeg store permanently in February due to a “change in consumer behaviour.” But by late Monday, a “closed” sign could be seen outside the mammoth, 650,000-square-foot store on Portage Avenue and Memorial Boulevard — one of the original six stores for the 350-year-old retailer before it expanded across North America. Now, industry decision-makers and onlookers are scratching their heads about what comes next for the vacant building which has more square footage than almost all other buildings in the city. For some, it’s prime real estate smack dab at the heart of a city that’s presenting an “opportunity” for future growth. While for others, it’s a growing concern about the “sad state of affairs” for brick-and-mortar stores. For almost all of them, however, a mixed-use occupancy that combines residential and commercial aspects appears to be the most sensible direction for the building. “It’s definitely an important moment in time where we can truly shape what comes next for all our businesses in the provincial hub,” said Kate Fenske, chief executive officer of Downtown Winnipeg BIZ. “Of course, this closure does have an impact on several businesses nearby because of their proximity to that space and that’s something we need to prevent from escalating.” Citing statistics from a study conducted by the advocacy and marketing group last week, Fenske said while business is deteriorating downtown, investment in the area continues to rise and so does the possibility of new residents moving in. Upcoming capital projects underway have a combined construction value of nearly $1 billion, according to Downtown Winnipeg BIZ numbers, including the $400-million redevelopment of the Portage Place mall right across from the Bay planned for March, 2021. And at least 18,000 people are expected to call the downtown core their home in the next two years. “While it’s in no way surprising that the Bay chose to close, and it’s sad they’re closing even earlier than planned,” said Fenske in an interview. “How we go from here needs to use all that momentum that we still have going on here and use it for the future.” Lisa Hutcheson, managing partner at retail consulting firm J.C. Williams Group in Toronto, said that’s easier said than done. “Retail shopping definitely works in clusters, I mean that’s the whole concept behind having a mall to begin with — to have several stores conveniently in one place,” she said Tuesday. “But now the real question is, where do we go from here when that concept has itself become outdated and is causing closures like this? That’s difficult to answer.” Hutcheson believes the novel coronavirus “only magnified and worsened the inevitable,” given the overall lack of foot traffic in suburban-style malls and an evolving shift to online commerce seen well before the pandemic. “I do still think that if we found a good blend of mixed-use purpose for the building, it would be of great value,” she said. “It’s just that that’s the type of project which is pretty difficult to convince someone to take on right now.” Last year a company-wide valuation of HBC’s real estate holdings valued the downtown Winnipeg building at precisely $0. Over the years, the company has closed some of the store’s six floors along with its basement, consolidating stock on just two levels. Dayna Spiring, president of Economic Development Winnipeg, said her conversations with the province and the city have given her ample reason to be optimistic. “There’s so much potential here, it’s hard not to be hopeful about what can be done with that space especially with consultation from the community at large,” she said. “The opportunity is massive.” In statements to the Free Press, provincial and municipal spokespersons said both government levels are open to hearing development proposals in the future that “include an adaptive re-use of the building and conservation of the character-defining elements.” A city spokesperson said the mayor is “currently engaged in outreach with community stakeholders in this regard.” But Spiring said she doesn’t believe the building will ever remain the way it is right now. “You’re likely looking at getting rid of the guts and almost a complete reimagination of the space for it to be successful,” she added. “We just have to get through this pandemic first to make those kind of decisions.” Hudson’s Bay Co. continues to serve Winnipeggers at its Polo Park and St. Vital locations, as well as online at thebay.com.Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
PAUVERTÉ. Plus de 800 000 personnes n’arrivent pas à couvrir leurs besoins de base au Québec et la crise de la COVID-19 ne fait qu’exacerber leurs difficultés déplore le Collectif pour un Québec sans pauvreté. En compagnie du Front commun des personnes assistées sociales du Québec (FCPASQ) et du Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU), cet organisme demande au du ministre du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale, Jean Boulet de garantir à ces personnes, le plus rapidement possible, ce qui devrait être considéré comme un minimum au Québec : la couverture des besoins de base tels que définis par la Mesure du panier de consommation (MPC). «En partant, les engagements du gouvernement québécois envers les personnes les plus mal prises, les personnes assistées sociales, sont minimalistes. Donner moins que le minimum reconnu, c’est compromettre la santé et la dignité des gens. Dans ces circonstances, le refus du gouvernement d’utiliser la MPC révisée est proprement indécent car il représente un important manque à gagner pour des personnes à qui l’essentiel manque déjà. Pourquoi le gouvernement cautionne-t-il ainsi l’appauvrissement des gens ?», questionne Virginie Larivière, porte-parole du Collectif pour un Québec sans pauvreté qui a, une nouvelle fois, dénoncé «le refus du gouvernement du Québec d’accorder la moindre aide financière aux personnes en situation de pauvreté depuis le début de la crise». «Tout ce qui est annoncé pour les personnes les plus mal prises, ce sont les maigres engagements du plan de lutte contre la pauvreté qui sont d‘amener les personnes à l’Aide sociale à 55,1 % et les personnes à la Solidarité sociale à 77,6 % de la MPC. Cela leur donnera à peine 10 $ d’augmentation par mois à compter du 1er janvier 2021», indique-t-on. De plus, les trois organisations ont dénoncé le refus du gouvernement de tenir compte de la révision de la MPC que Statistique Canada a dévoilée en février dernier puis officialisée au mois de septembre. Rappelons que, pour une personne vivant seule à Montréal, le seuil de la MPC vient de passer de 17 820 $ par an à 20 080 $ (pour 2018). Cela signifie, par exemple, que les personnes au programme d’Aide sociale couvrent dorénavant moins de 50 % de leurs besoins de base. Finalement, les porte-parole ont demandé au gouvernement de s’engager à garantir aux personnes en situation de pauvreté, le plus rapidement possible, ce qui devrait être considéré comme un minimum: la couverture des besoins de base tels que définis par la MPC. «D’ailleurs, c’est la cible que vise le gouvernement pour les personnes avec des contraintes à l’emploi de longue durée qui seront admissibles au programme de Revenu de base en 2023. La MPC représente le minimum requis pour espérer vivre en santé et tout le monde devrait y avoir droit», conclut-on. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
As COVID-19 cases rise, Delhi grapples with getting its residents to follow health guidelines and with concerns that worsening air pollution contributes to the pandemic.
Brandon Sun readers requested specific questions be asked about COVID-19: QUESTION: Dr. Roussin keeps saying there hasn’t been much spread in schools. It’s always a very vague response. Are there actual statistics related to school transmission? MANITOBA HEALTH: Case and contact investigations amongst school-aged children are followed up extensively by medical officers of health and public health nurses. To date, these investigations have revealed very little transmission within schools. It should be noted that there are over 200,000 students enrolled in schools across Manitoba and to date, there have been under 1,500 infections in children 18 and under. This amounts to cases in less than 0.75 per cent in school-aged children in Manitoba. If there was extensive transmission within schools, we would expect to see a higher proportion infected amongst children; overall, the proportion infected in Manitoba since March is approximately 1.2 per cent, or almost twice that of the proportion in school-aged children. QUESTION: Do you keep numbers on how many people have tested positive for COVID but have not needed medical treatment? Or what percentage of positive people have to be admitted to hospital? DR. BRENT ROUSSIN: We know how many total hospital admissions we have and we know duration of stay on average. We keep all those severe outcome issues. We’ve had 1,092 total hospitalizations, and 204 total ICU admissions. And it depends on what you mean by no medical treatment. The total minus that is the ones that haven’t needed admission. Having no medical treatment … whether they’ve attended a physician for outpatient care — no. We wouldn’t have a way of tracking that. Do you have a question about something in your community? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Readers Ask. Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Forge FC lost a heartbreaker to Haiti's Arcahaie FC in Scotiabank Champions League quarterfinal play Tuesday, conceding a cheap goal on a goalkeeping blunder in regulation time and then losing a penalty shootout.The win earned Arcahaie a berth in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League, alongside the confederation's elite club teams, while moving it into the final four of the CONCACAF League — a 22-team feeder competition that sends six teams to the top-tier CONCACAF tournament.Forge, the Canadian Premier League champion, has a chance to make the Champions League via a do-or-die play-in match next week.Guerry Romondt saved Forge's first two penalties — from Daniel Krutzen and Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson. Arcahaie substitute Ose Charles converted the decisive kick in the 4-2 shootout win.The game was knotted at 1-1 after regulation time with Forge dominating play. but unable to get the go-ahead goal."Obviously this is one that stings," said Forge coach Bobby Smyrniotis."We've played two games in the last 2 1/2 months. This is the third one," he added. "So there's some kind of rhythm that's not going to be there. And the toughest thing to do in this game is score goals." Forge looked in complete control up 1-0 early in the second half but conceded the tying goal in the 59th minute on a mistake by Triston Henry. He delayed playing a back pass from Kwame Awuah and his scuffed clearance attempt deflected in off onrushing Arcahaie forward Kervens Jolicoeur."That's something maybe that's going to happen once in his career," Smyrniotis said."This one kind of stings but he's fantastic. He's goalkeeper of the year in the Canadian Premier League for a reason. It's unfortunate that this comes at this moment but we've got to look past it," he added.After the tying goal the game was delayed by a hole in the Arcahaie goal netting, requiring several zip-ties to close the gap.Krutzen opened the scoring in first-half stoppage time from the penalty spot after David Choiniere was taken down in the box by Hantz Anacius. Romondt dove the right way but Krutzen's shot found the corner.Krutzen also converted a penalty — in second-half stoppage-time — to give Forge a 2-1 win over Panama's Tauro FC in the round of 16.The 24-year-old Belgian defender rattled a free kick off the Arcahaie crossbar in the 49th minute as Forge tormented the Haitians with set pieces.The four CONCACAF League quarterfinal winners qualify directly for the Champions League while the losing quarterfinalists compete in single-leg play-in games, with the two winners also qualifying.Arcahaie advances to play either Costa Rica's Deportivo Saprissa or Honduras' Club Deportivo Marathon, who played in a later game Tuesday, in the January COBCACAF League semifinal. Saprissa won the CONCACAF League last year.Forge will play the Saprissa-Marathon loser next week in the play-in match.Regulation time ended with Forge driving at the Arcahaie goal but unable to get the go-ahead goal. It was the same for the seven minutes of stoppage time with Arcahaie players going down like bowling-pins, delaying play.Tuesday's game went ahead despite one Forge staff member and two Arcahaie players testing positive for COVID-19 ahead of kickoff.CONCACAF said all three had been isolated. All other players and staff tested negative.Smyrniotis made two changes to his starting 11 with Johnny Grant returning from suspension to take over from Kadell Thomas and fellow midfielder Paolo Sabak replacing Elimane Cisse.Forge pressed from the opening kickoff while the Haitians looked to counter-attack. Choiniere almost scored for Forge in the opening minute but couldn't get a boot to a low ball sent across the front of goal by Grant.Forge dominated possession but could not translate it into scoring chance. And the Haitian side began to grow more comfortable on the ball as the deadlock continued.Romondt was called into action twice late in the first half, punching away Forge free kicks. Mo Babouli thought he had scored on the stroke off halftime, heading in another free kick, but was flagged offside.While Arcahaie was the home side, the game was played in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo at the more suitable Estadio Olimpico Felix Sanchez.The Haitians advanced Nov. 5 with a 3-1 round-of-16 win over Waterhouse FC in Kingston, Jamaica. Forge dispatched Tauro two days earlier in Panama City.The Canadian side then returned home, serving the mandated 14-day quarantine. Forge arrived in the Dominican on Nov 21, training in Punta Cana before making the 170-kilometre trip to the capital on Monday.Arcahaie moved into the round of 16 when Belize's Verdes FC pulled out of their Oct. 20 preliminary-round match due to positive COVID-19 tests. That match was also scheduled for Santo Domingo.Forge defeated El Salvador's CD Municipal Limeno 2-1 in San Salvador on Oct. 22 in preliminary-round play.Forge, thanks to its triumph in the Island Games in Charlottetown during the summer, will also have another chance to qualify for the main CONCACAF club competition when it takes on Toronto FC in final of the Canadian Championship scheduled for the first quarter of 2021.Forge exited the CONCACAF League in the round of 16 last year, beaten 4-2 on aggregate by Honduras's Olimpia. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020The Canadian Press
Meggie Fontaine de Uashat a reçu cet honneur, de la part d’une personne de son entourage. Elle est l’heureuse maman de la petite Uapukuniss, âgée de 5 mois. Elle n’a toutefois pas eu la chance de bénéficier de cette magnifique avancée, car sa communauté ne fait pas partie du Regroupement Mamit Innuat. Elle a dû faire des démarches supplémentaires, mais le plus important était de pouvoir avoir la garde de sa petite fleur. Une personne proche de Meggie a appris, l’an dernier, qu’elle était enceinte. Ayant déjà ses enfants et ne souhaitant pas pour autant se faire avorter, elle a demandé à son amie si elle désirait adopter son enfant, selon des coutumes autochtones, existant depuis des millénaires, et reconnues depuis 2018 par le Code civil du Québec. Elle a même pu assister à l’accouchement, et a coupé le cordon ombilical. Le Regroupement Mamit Innuat (RMI) servira d’autorité compétente pour les communautés d’Ekuanitshit, d’Unamen Shipu et de Pakua Shipu. Les demandes doivent respecter la coutume de la communauté, l’intérêt de l’enfant et le consentement de toutes les personnes impliquées. Il pourra s’agir également d’une alternative intéressante pour la Direction de la protection de la jeunesse. « À titre d’autorité compétente, nous serons en mesure de récupérer une douzaine de dossiers en attente à la DPJ et de migrer vers une démarche qui permet de mieux répondre aux réalités actuelles des familles et surtout des enfants innus. Il s’agit d’un grand pas vers l’autodétermination des communautés et nous en sommes très fiers ! » partage Marie-Michèle Savard, Gestionnaire de projet au secteur Services sociaux du RMI.Karine Lachance, Initiative de journalisme local, Ma Côte-Nord
Rappelons qu’en 2010 la Ville de Sept-Îles a vendu une vingtaine de terrains sur les rues Roméo-Vachon, Joséphat-Méthot et Comeau qui ont été endommagés par un affaissement du sol. Par la suite, une cinquantaine de maisons ont été suivies de près, afin de voir si leurs structures ne seraient pas endommagées également par un tel affaissement. Maître Luc Dion, du cabinet Besnier, Dion et Rondeau est mandaté afin de coordonner les expertises finales. Le directeur général de la Ville Patrick Gwilliam mentionne qu’un expert en sol est prêt à se prononcer et s’engager professionnellement afin de dire que ces maisons ne bougeront plus dans le futur. Il y aura tout de même certaines vérifications, mais le tout semblerait très positif. Certains terrains ont été surveillés lors de ces expertises, et à la lumière de ces années de suivi, quelques-uns pourraient être vendus prochainement.Karine Lachance, Initiative de journalisme local, Ma Côte-Nord
Newly minted Regina University MLA Aleana Young asked her first question in question period on Dec. 1, focusing on supporting small business owners during the COVID-19 pandemic. The New Democratic Party MLA is critic for economy, jobs, SaskBuilds and SaskPower. “Things are grim for many of our province’s small business owners, the heartbeat of the economy, and unfortunately, they're currently living in a worst of both worlds scenario. Businesses are being told to stay open, yet their customers are being urged to stay home,” Young said. “While this month should be the busiest for most retailers, the government has concocted a recipe for economic disaster that shuts many out from federal support. Not only are businesses shuttering and people losing their jobs, this government seems to believe its own spin that they haven't effectively shut down the economy. How many businesses, and how long does this government believe they can operate that 50 per cent, at 30 per cent, or at 25 per cent capacity, and for how long? What is this government's plan to help Saskatchewan small businesses?” In reply, Minister of Trade and Export Development Jeremy Harrison said, “The reality is that this government has stepped up with the most comprehensive supports for small business of any jurisdiction in the entire country. “We worked incredibly closely with our business community, through all facets of the pandemic. We came forward with the Small Business Emergency Payment early on in the pandemic, to support small businesses. Sixty-five hundred small businesses took advantage of that program, over $30 million distributed through that process. We then came forward with the Tourism Sector Support Program, which was the benchmark for supporting the tourism and hospitality industries in the entire country. Over $35 million allocated to that program, over 450 businesses supported directly and designed very closely in consultation with the leadership from that industry. The results have been positive. We've seen the lowest unemployment rate in the entire country, by a significant margin. We've seen merchandise exports leading the country in growth. We're going to be continuing and have been continuing to work very, very closely with our business community, and I would encourage the member opposite to stay tuned.” Young campaigned in the election during her last month of pregnancy, and gave birth to a daughter just days before election day. She won her seat in one of the closest races in the election, defeating incumbent cabinet minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor. Young has had her newborn daughter with her in the house at times. Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
BEIJING — A Chinese spacecraft sent to return lunar rocks to Earth collected its first samples Wednesday after landing on the moon, the government announced, adding to a string of successes for Beijing's increasingly ambitious space program.The Chang’e 5 probe touched down shortly after 11 p.m. (1500 GMT) on Tuesday after descending from an orbiter, the China National Space Administration said. It released images of the barren scene at the landing site showing the lander's shadow.“Chang'e has collected moon samples,” the agency said in a statement carried by the official Xinhua News Agency. It said the probe also had successfully unfolded solar panels that will power it.The probe, launched Nov. 24 from the tropical southern island of Hainan, is the latest venture by a Chinese space program that sent its first astronaut into orbit in 2003, has a spacecraft en route to Mars and aims eventually to land a human on the moon.Plans call for the lander to spend about two days drilling into the lunar surface and collecting 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of rocks and debris. The top stage of the probe will be launched back into lunar orbit to transfer the samples to a capsule for return to Earth, where it is to land in China's northern grasslands in mid-December.If it succeeds, it will be the first time scientists have obtained fresh samples of lunar rocks since a Soviet probe in the 1970s. Those samples are expected to be made available to scientists from other nations, although its unclear how much access NASA will have, given tight U.S. government restrictions on space co-operation with China.From the rocks and debris, scientists hope to learn more about the moon, including its precise age, as well as increased knowledge about other bodies in our solar system. Collecting samples, including from asteroids, is an increasing focus of many space programs and China's mastery of the technology once again places it among the leading nations operating in space.American and Russian space officials congratulated the Chinese program.“Congratulations to China on the successful landing of Chang’e 5. This is no easy task," wrote NASA’s science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, on Twitter."When the samples collected on the Moon are returned to Earth, we hope everyone will benefit from being able to study this precious cargo that could advance the international science community.”The most recent return of lunar rocks to Earth was carried out in 1976 by Luna 24, a Soviet robot probe.U.S. astronauts brought back 842 pounds (382 kilograms) of lunar samples from 1969 to 1972, some of which is still being analyzed and experimented on.The Chang'e 5 flight is China's third successful lunar landing. Its predecessor, Chang'e 4, was the first probe to land on the moon's little-explored far side.Chinese space program officials have said they envision future crewed missions along with robotic ones, including possibly a permanent research base. No timeline or other details have been announced.The latest flight includes collaboration with the European Space Agency, which is helping to monitor the mission.China's space program has proceeded more cautiously than the U.S.-Soviet space race of the 1960s, which was marked by fatalities and launch failures.In 2003, China became the third country to send an astronaut into orbit on its own after the Soviet Union and the United States. It also launched a crewed space station.China, along with neighbours Japan and India, also has joined the growing race to explore Mars. The Tianwen 1 probe launched in July is on its way to the red planet carrying a lander and a rover to search for water.Joe McDonald, The Associated Press
Public health officials insist COVID-19 transmission in schools is limited, but one epidemiologist questions the data — and lack thereof — being used to back that claim. Dr. Brent Roussin has yet to waver from his steadfast belief schools are safe places for K-12 students in Manitoba, despite a provincial test positivity rate that has reached upwards of 14 per cent in recent days. The chief provincial public health officer has repeatedly said, as he reiterated during a news conference Tuesday: “We’re not seeing a lot of transmission in schools.” Amy Greer, an epidemiologist at the University of Guelph, has heard similar rhetoric in Ontario since students returned to school this fall. She isn’t quite as confident as Roussin or the leadership in her home province. “We haven’t really looked,” said Greer, who researches the introduction, spread, dynamics and control of infectious diseases in populations. “If many, many children are asymptomatic, you’re not going to know. You can’t see them. You can’t see that you have an issue if many of those children are asymptomatic, unless you do more targeted surveillance and testing to see what’s actually happening in those classes that have had an exposure.” The general scientific consensus is children under 10 who become infected with SARS-CoV-2 are less likely to become severely ill and spread it to others in comparison to older patients. Early evidence suggested youth are also far less likely to become infected with the novel coronavirus, but growing research shows children are often asymptomatic and thus, infections may go under the radar. Among recent “red flags” for Greer are the results of a new study of common symptoms in children in Alberta, which was published last week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The authors analyzed the results of hundreds of children who underwent testing between April and September. Of the 1,987 who had a positive result, more than one-third reported being asymptomatic. That means 36 per cent of students who are infected pass a self-screening test and the preventative “half-measures” — Greer’s definition of the back-to-school approach, citing politicians’ decisions not to cap class sizes or upgrade ventilation systems, despite expert recommendations — are the last line of defence, she said. Meantime, Greer said there are many instances where adults contract the virus and it is difficult to attribute where they became infected. One explanation could be that an asymptomatic student brought the virus home and by the time a parent shows symptoms and the household gets tested, the student receives a negative result because they have recovered, she said. “I’m uncomfortable saying transmission (in schools) is low, because I don’t think we have the right data.” Last week, Ontario unveiled a voluntary testing program for asymptomatic students and staff in regions with high infection rates. A public school pilot in Thorncliffe Park, a Toronto neighbourhood that has a 16 per cent positivity rate, has since found four per cent of the school had COVID-19, including 18 students and one staff member. When pressed about whether Manitoba would follow suit, Roussin said Tuesday such an initiative would require more testing capacity, so the province has no immediate plans to implement a similar pilot. While Greer acknowledged the pilot will result in more data collection, she said contract tracers should ideally be following up with and ensuring all students and staff who have been exposed to the virus get tested, even if they feel healthy. The widespread testing of children for antibodies would also be helpful data to collect to understand how transmission is occurring in schools, she said. Caroline Colijn, an infectious disease modeller at Simon Fraser University, echoed Greer’s comments during a phone call from Burnaby, B.C. “I don’t think any scientist believes there’s a magic COVID eraser in schools.” She suggests investigators document the environments in which school clusters and outbreaks occur to determine what factors contribute to them. Colijn added it is key officials be transparent with families about what’s going on in schools, in order to maintain trust in the pandemic response. Upwards of 330 Manitoba schools have recorded a COVID-19 exposure to date, according to a spreadsheet compiled by an anonymous parent who draws from provincial data, news reports, and crowdsourcing. The spreadsheet has started to beat the province at making exposures public.Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
There are 383,468 confirmed cases in Canada._ Canada: 383,468 confirmed cases (66,369 active, 304,888 resolved, 12,211 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.There were 5,329 new cases Tuesday from 97,680 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 5.5 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 41,024 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 5,861.There were 81 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 593 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 85. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.23 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 32.49 per 100,000 people. There have been 11,573,322 tests completed._ Newfoundland and Labrador: 339 confirmed cases (33 active, 302 resolved, four deaths).There was one new case Tuesday from 324 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.31 per cent. Over the past seven days, there has been 16 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 62,844 tests completed._ Prince Edward Island: 72 confirmed cases (four active, 68 resolved, zero deaths).There were zero new cases Tuesday from 760 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of three new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 60,683 tests completed._ Nova Scotia: 1,315 confirmed cases (142 active, 1,108 resolved, 65 deaths).There were 10 new cases Tuesday from 3,165 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.32 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 88 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 13.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people. There have been 146,919 tests completed._ New Brunswick: 508 confirmed cases (116 active, 385 resolved, seven deaths).There were seven new cases Tuesday from 1,065 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.66 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 58 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is eight.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.9 per 100,000 people. There have been 101,550 tests completed._ Quebec: 143,548 confirmed cases (12,264 active, 124,200 resolved, 7,084 deaths).There were 1,177 new cases Tuesday from 8,376 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 14 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 9,218 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,317.There were 28 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 197 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 28. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.33 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 83.49 per 100,000 people. There have been 2,194,452 tests completed._ Ontario: 118,199 confirmed cases (14,524 active, 100,012 resolved, 3,663 deaths).There were 1,707 new cases Tuesday from 33,508 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 5.1 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 11,689 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,670.There were seven new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 144 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 21. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.14 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 25.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,103,234 tests completed._ Manitoba: 17,107 confirmed cases (9,066 active, 7,713 resolved, 328 deaths).There were 282 new cases Tuesday from 2,201 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 13 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,549 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 364.There were 16 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 80 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 11. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.83 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 23.95 per 100,000 people. There have been 349,309 tests completed._ Saskatchewan: 8,745 confirmed cases (3,819 active, 4,875 resolved, 51 deaths).There were 181 new cases Tuesday from 1,444 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 13 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,862 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 266.There were four new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 14 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.17 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 4.34 per 100,000 people. There have been 262,262 tests completed._ Alberta: 59,484 confirmed cases (16,628 active, 42,305 resolved, 551 deaths).There were 1,307 new cases Tuesday from 27,600 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 4.7 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 9,948 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,421.There were 10 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 59 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is eight. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.19 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 12.6 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,473,584 tests completed._ British Columbia: 33,894 confirmed cases (9,663 active, 23,774 resolved, 457 deaths).There were 656 new cases Tuesday from 18,967 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 3.5 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,546 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 792.There were 16 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 99 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 14. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.28 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 9.01 per 100,000 people. There have been 802,376 tests completed._ Yukon: 47 confirmed cases (17 active, 29 resolved, one deaths).There were zero new cases Tuesday from 170 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of nine new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 5,336 tests completed._ Northwest Territories: 15 confirmed cases (zero active, 15 resolved, zero deaths).There were zero new cases Tuesday from 42 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 6,397 tests completed._ Nunavut: 182 confirmed cases (93 active, 89 resolved, zero deaths).There was one new case Tuesday from 58 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 1.7 per cent. Over the past seven days, there has been 38 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is five.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 4,300 tests completed.This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Dec. 1, 2020. The Canadian Press
Cigar Lake uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan confirmed its first positive case of COVID-19 over the weekend. An employee tested positive for the virus on Saturday, and has been in isolation at the mine since November 22. “This is the first positive COVID case we have experienced at Cigar Lake. Contact tracing for the individual was completed through the Northern Population Health Unit,” Cameco spokesperson Jeff Hryhoriw told the Prince Albert Daily Herald on Monday. “Cigar Lake continues to operate safely, and we are monitoring the situation very closely. We recognize developments around the pandemic are fluid, and will move quickly to adjust our plans should circumstances warrant.” Hryhoriw said that Cameco has maintained steady communication with employees throughout the pandemic and since the positive case was confirmed, to keep everyone well-informed. “The health and safety of our workers, their families and communities is Cameco’s top priority, and that certainly isn’t changing,” Hryhoriw said. A Cameco employee who works underground on the production team at Cigar Lake, was informed of the positive case by the company. He said he hadn’t heard of anyone else experiencing symptoms since. “We do have one case here. I think the individual flew in about a week ago. The health and safety team on site had isolated that individual into a separate wing that they opened up for people with potential symptoms,” the employee told the Prince Albert Daily Herald on Sunday. “We have an abundance of masks, hand sanitizers and disinfectants. There are stations set up throughout the whole mine site. Cleaning staff is constantly wiping tables, chairs and doing all they can do to help keep us safe and protected here on site. Masks are required boarding the plane and everywhere we go throughout this whole mine site.” Cameco’s Cigar Lake mine reopened in September along with partner Orano Canada’s McClean Lake mill, where uranium from Cigar Lake is processed. McClean Lake saw its first case of the virus on Sept. 20 not long after restarting production. “It’s a difficult situation, but our employees are handling this calmly and with the common good in mind,” said Jim Corman, President and CEO of Orano Canada. “We will get through this challenge, with lessons learned, and it’s a good reminder of why COVID safety protocols must be respected.” Cross-contamination between the two operations has not been identified as an issue and no further cases have been announced at McClean Lake. The mine and mill had temporarily stopped producing uranium in March in order to mitigate risks associated with employees living in close quarters while flying in and out of vulnerable communities during the pandemic. Roughly 50 per cent of 320 employees and another 240 contractors at Cigar Lake are from communities in northern Saskatchewan “These realities would greatly compound the problems a COVID-19 outbreak would present, so we need to take every precaution to ensure we don’t inadvertently become a point of transmission into these communities,” Hryhoriw said in March. The active workforce at Cigar Lake dropped to 75 during the closure and was reduced from 160 to 50 at McClean Lake. Meanwhile uranium stocks climbed globally because of the halt in production. “While health and safety are the primary considerations for the timing of our Cigar Lake mine restart decision, there were also commercial considerations, including market-related factors and the impact on our cost structure,” Cameco president and CEO Tim Gitzel said in July, announcing plans to reopen. The mining giant reported a third quarter adjusted net loss of $78-million in November. “As expected, our results continue to be impacted by the pro-active operational decisions taken earlier this year,” Gitzel said. “We believe that the actions we have taken to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus are prudent and reflect our values – placing priority on the health and safety of our employees, their families and their communities. However, our decisions do come with near-term costs.” So far Hryhoriw said two others at Cigar Lake were found to be close contacts of the positive case. Both tested negative as of Tuesday morning. “We are following our Exposure Control Plan to prevent the risk of spread of infection to other personnel at Cigar Lake. This includes isolating the individual with a positive diagnosis in the designated isolation wing of the camp until public health authorities advise they can be released,” Hryhoriw said. “We also continue to follow the significant measures already in place at site, including screening for our inbound and outbound flights, and heightened controls on food service. We continue to stay in close contact with public health authorities and follow all government guidelines in order to limit the risk posed by COVID-19 across our facilities.” The employee who spoke to the Herald said that workers are being diligent to prevent the spread of the virus. “It’s up to the individuals here on site just to do their due diligence and to continue working together to make sure that we don’t experience an outbreak,” he said. Michael Bramadat-Willcock, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Northern Advocate
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is threatening to veto a defence policy bill unless it ends protections for internet companies that shield them from being held liable for material posted by their users.On Twitter Tuesday night, Trump took aim at Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which protects companies that can host trillions of messages from being sued into oblivion by anyone who feels wronged by something someone else has posted — whether their complaint is legitimate or not.Trump called Section 230 “a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity,” adding, “Therefore, if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill.”Trump has been waging war against social media companies for months, claiming they are biased against conservative voices.In October he signed an executive order directing executive branch agencies to ask independent rule-making agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, to study whether they can place new regulations on the companies.Since losing the presidential election, Trump has flooded social media with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. Twitter has tagged many such Trump tweets with the advisory, “This claim about election fraud is disputed.”Tuesday's veto threat is another potential roadblock for the passage of the annual defence policy measure, which is already being held up in Congress by a spat over military bases named for Confederate officers. The measure, which has passed for 59 years in a row on a bipartisan basis, guides Pentagon policy and cements decisions about troop levels, new weapons systems and military readiness, military personnel policy and other military goals.The Associated Press
Armanti Edwards is a receiver by trade but a quarterback at heart. The 32-year-old American continues to prepare for his first CFL season with the Edmonton Football Club after the league cancelled the 2020 campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But before coming to Canada, the five-foot-11, 183-pound Edwards was a standout college quarterback — including being at the helm for one of the most famous upsets in NCAA history.Edwards remains convinced he could've played the position professionally."If it was up to me I'd be playing quarterback but I'm the employee, not the employer.," Edwards said during a telephone interview Tuesday. "There's no doubt in my mind I could, otherwise I wouldn't have been playing the position to begin with."My quarterback days are long gone now . . . I've moved on. Obviously at the beginning of my professional career it was very disappointing because that's the position I played since I was six years old and was one of the reasons why I was in love with the game."Edwards enjoyed a successful tenure at Appalachian State, leading the North Carolina school to its second and third straight Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division 1-AA) titles in 2006 and 2007. In the latter year, Edwards led the Mountaineers to a stunning 34-32 upset of Michigan, passing for 227 yards and three TDs while rushing for 62 yards and a touchdown before more than 109,000 fans at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.Edwards became the first player to win the Walter Payton Award — given annually to the FCS's top offensive performer — in consecutive years (2008-09) and twice overall. He started 49-of-51 college games, passing for 10,392 yards with 74 touchdowns and 33 interceptions while rushing for 4,361 yards (5.8-yard average) and 65 TDs.Edwards was taken in the third round, No. 89 overall, of the 2010 NFL draft by Carolina. But he had twice as many catches (six for 131 yards) as pass attempts (three, completing two for 11 yards) ) over four seasons with the Panthers and Cleveland Browns before being among the Chicago Bears' final 2014 cuts.Edwards was out of football until 2016 when he joined the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders as a receiver. He was dealt to Toronto the following year and spent three seasons with the Argonauts — winning a Grey Cup in 2017 and registering career highs in catches (69), yards (1,014) and touchdowns (seven) in 2019 — before signing with Edmonton as a free agent.Based upon his background and experience at quarterback, Edwards wasn't the least bit surprised Sunday when receiver Kendall Hinton struggled mightily in his first NFL start at QB for the Denver Broncos.Denver activated Hinton, a rookie, from the practice roster hours before its 31-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Hinton, who played quarterback at Wake Forest before switching to receiver in his senior season, was pressed into action after all four of Denver's quarterbacks went on the reserve/COVID-19 list.Predictably, Hinton had trouble, finishing 1-of-9 passing for 13 yards with two interceptions."There's a lot of hard work and preparation that goes into it," Edwards said. "It takes all of training camp and sometimes even a few games into the season for a starting quarterback to get into sync with everything and everyone."All season you have a quarterback working with his receivers, the running backs and offensive line and now you've got a guy back there who hasn't played the position all season? That's pretty hard."In his younger days, Edwards looked up to former NFL star Michael Vick, a fellow left-hander who routinely made big plays with his arm and legs. At six feet and 215 pounds, Vick was bigger than Edwards. Often in pro football, players are judged more for their physical traits than playing ability."It's all an eye test, that's what today's game is all about," Edwards said. "It's not about what you've done on film, to me personally."And although Edwards said making the transition to receiver wasn't easy, he credits the CFL for reigniting his love for the game."Before I decided to go across the border, I'd pretty much hung up my cleats," Edwards said. "But I didn't want to end my career like that so coming to Canada rekindled that love."I was given the opportunity to actually play the position of receiver in games and that's what helped me to continue to grow."While the cancellation of the '20 CFL season wasn't ideal, it has provided Edwards some benefits. He's had the chance to heal physically and spend time with his wife and their two children (a 15-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son)."At this point and time in my career, I'm in my 30s so I pretty much know how my body responds and I listen to my body," he said. "It's been a blessing to be able to sit down and let my body heal and enjoy my family."But I'm looking forward to getting to Edmonton and playing with a guy like (quarterback) Trevor Harris who's been on playoff and Grey Cup-contending teams before. I know what's at stake and the opportunity we have and that's what I'm looking forward to, (winning) a Grey Cup ring."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press
St. Albert added 93 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, bringing the city’s active total case count to 290. Fifty-eight more people have recovered from the disease. Some 501 people have recovered from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic and the city has seen a total of 794 new cases. In Sturgeon County, there are 99 active cases and Morinville has 42 active cases. Local numbers are rising along with numbers across the province as Alberta now has the highest per capita amount of infections of all provinces in the country. Over the weekend, Alberta broke the 1,700 mark for new daily cases, with a total of more than 5,000 cases being reported in the past three days. On Saturday, the province hit 1,731 new cases and on Sunday another 1,608 cases were announced. On Monday, the province announced another 1,733 new cases, the highest single-day case climb yet. The province conducted 20,500 tests, with 8.4 per cent coming back positive. There are currently 16,454 active cases with 453 people in the hospital and 96 in intensive care. There have been eight deaths reported in the past 24 hours. “My thoughts are with anyone who knew and loved these individuals,” Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said. Online learning began for Grade 7 to 12 students across the province Monday and will last until mid-January. Most of the new measures announced last week went into effect Friday. Hinshaw said the province won’t see the impact of these measures for at least two weeks. “There is a lag time between actions and results,” Hinshaw said. The top doctors said she is alarmed by the case rise over the weekend and said all Albertans must do their best to bend the curve. “Each of us must remain more vigilant than ever. We need to bend the curve and lower the number of active cases now to protect each other and the health system,” Hinshaw said.Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette
On Tuesday Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty announced that the annual New Year’s Day Celebration at Government House would be postponed. “To help slow the spread of COVID-19 and to support public health guidelines, we’ve decided to postpone our New Year’s Day celebration” the Lieutenant Governor said in a release. “We will monitor the evolving situation and consider hosting a safe event at a later date.” The Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan hosted the first New Year’s Day celebration in 1884. The tradition continued until the early 1970s. The event was rejuvenated in 1985 and has been held continuously for the past 35 years. Although the Jan. 1 event will not proceed, you can still visit virtually historic Government House while it is beautifully decorated for the season. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
New legislation that goes into effect in Alberta Tuesday means some impaired drivers will be slapped with stiff fines, rather than a criminal court trial. The UCP government has implemented legislation related to Bill 21 that includes changes to how impaired drivers are penalized and how things are handled during roadside stops. "The big takeaway is if you're a first time offender, they're not going to be putting you into the criminal justice system," said Const. Dan Kurz with the Calgary Police Service. "You'll be staying within the provincial transportation system." Kurz said for most first-time impaired drivers, the new rules can mean an immediate $1,000 fine, a 30-day vehicle seizure and mandatory impaired driving education, as well as existing measures such as a licence suspension. Criminal and repeat offenders will still face potential criminal charges and other penalties under the new legislation. "If we have cases where there's repeat offenders, if there's collisions, there's personal injury, there's minors in the vehicle, those are aggravating factors that basically say that driver is not eligible for the program," Kurz said. "And so they'll be diverted to the criminal side." The biggest change, Kurz said, is for first-time and non-criminal offenders. "So if you get pulled over and the officer deems you to be eligible to go into the provincial system, what will happen is you'll just get a piece of paper that has your information at the top of it, as well as a QR code," Kurz said, adding that offenders can then log into the Alberta Safe Roads system and address their file immediately, rather than waiting months to deal with it in court. "You can set up an appointment with an adjudicator right on your phone ... you can deal with your file, you can contest the file, you can request time to pay," Kurz said. "So all of that has been taken outside the court. The courts are overworked, they're overburdened. So this is a way to divert a lot of people out of the criminal justice system." The province says allowing police to issue tickets on the spot and impound vehicles for up to a month is a way to administer strict penalties, while freeing up court time and police resources. "Impaired driving files are very, very demanding on police resources. So even if it's just a simple impaired driving file, we've got to tie up maybe two police cars, a few different officers to do breath testing, to deal with tow trucks," Kurz said. "And then we have to deal with the offender for a number of hours, submit paperwork. And then when it comes time to court, we could spend hours in court. I've spent two days in court for a simple impaired driving file. So with this new program, we'll be able to deal with this stuff right at the roadside." But the move has sparked concern among criminal defence lawyers like Ian Savage in Calgary, who calls the new legislation alarming. Savage specializes in impaired driving cases, and says the right to a trial is essential in a democracy. "One would expect that you have the right to fight your case of appropriate circumstance and face your accuser. No, not under this legislation," Savage told the Calgary Eyeopener. "There's an adjudication process. The adjudicators by law are employees of the Government of Alberta. You cannot challenge your accuser so it's a bit of a farce." Savage says the Canadian legal system is based on the presumption of innocence — and that this legislation takes away that presumption. "It's now a presumption of guilt and not only that, your right to contest charges is removed," Savage said. "You're not allowed to subpoena the police officer to any adjudication hearing or cross-examine them. So essentially under their noses, we have become — and I hate to use drastic language — a fascist state." The province says people can pay fines, request more time to pay or request a review of their case online through SafeRoads Alberta. They can also seek judicial review in court. "The point here is that we fought hard from the Magna Carta forward in order to have this presumption of innocence in our legal system," Savage said. "And now the government, under the cover of COVID, under the cover of saving dollars, is taking that away from us in the areas in which people would most commonly come into conflict with the law — and people are just not aware that this is going on." Lowered stats in B.C. Transport Minister Ric McIver says similar measures have lowered impaired driving statistics in B.C. He added that repeat offenders will not be getting away with fines. "You won't be going home with your driver's license and you won't be going home with your vehicle, your vehicle will be seized for up to 30 days, you will get a fine up to $2,000, you'll have to go through a mandatory education program," McIvor said of repeat offenders. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has applauded the option for police to impound vehicles on the spot. "The immediate roadside sanction program option for certain impaired driving offenders provides a way to get them off the roads quickly, while ensuring they still face strong consequences for their actions," said MADD CEO Andrew Murie in an emailed statement. "Most importantly, these programs save lives. Similar measures introduced in British Columbia have helped reduce alcohol-related crash deaths by 50 per cent. That is hundreds of lives saved."
The Calgary Police Service is still committed to reallocate money to support other crisis response services despite city council's decision to pull from its rainy-day funds instead of the police budget. Police Chief Mark Neufeld had supported giving up $8 million from the 2021 police budget, as long as the funds reallocated lead directly to a drop in call volumes for police officers.Instead, on Thursday council pulled that money from its fiscal stability fund to go toward the community safety framework, which is intended to address gaps in crisis services, outreach services and emergency response, as well as gaps in racially and culturally appropriate services. "Regardless of the source of the funding, the approval of the framework and the commitment of dollars to do that important work is a real win," Neufeld told the Calgary Police Commission during its Tuesday meeting. "But let me be equally clear — CPS proposed initially to reallocate funds to do this work, and we remain completely committed to doing the work."Neufeld didn't specifically say how much money would be committed to the framework, but said more details would be available at the January 2021 police commission meeting. Anti-racism work underwayDeputy chief Katie McLellan also gave an update on CPS' anti-racism work, which is being built out of the city's public hearings on the topic earlier this year. Police had identified six priorities the service is focusing on: * Building a framework with dedicated internal resources to create an anti-racism strategy. CPS dedicated two staff to full-time work leading its anti-racism action committee. * Allocating money to a new call response delivery model, with short term actions including increase support networks, court diversion options and improving crisis triage and working with other agencies. * Conducting an independent review of its school resource officer program, with the report expected by the third quarter of next year. * Evaluating the body-worn camera program, including a look at complaints and use of force incidents. * Developing practices to collect, categorize and report disaggregated race-based data — both relating to citizens and CPS employees. * Researching and implementing an equity, inclusion and diversity tool for CPS policies, practices and reporting — training on that tool is expected to start early next year. "We have lots of things going on … I am optimistic but recognize there's many balls in the air and we need to have that balance, and take time to be thorough and engage and listen to lessons learned," McLellan said. McLellan also presented an update on the service's Indigenous road map, which is focused on addressing calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls calls for justice. Some of the work that's been completed since last year includes the hiring of an Indigenous strategic engagement coordinator, developing and delivering training to create awareness of different ways to respond to administration of justice offences that see Indigenous people over-represented in the carceral system, and participation in the development of the Calgary Indigenous Court.Commissioner Heather Campbell said police have been able to put together a bit of a "dream team" for their anti-racism work, from Indigenous liaison experts to the committee's two leads, and asked what work still needs to be done. "We recognize the need to include members from the community so they bring that objective, different lens to us. In the interim, we really haven't built what we're looking for," McLellan said, adding that they'll be seeking additional subject matter experts and community engagement in the long-term. "We're building the bones and the framework of the plan but the strategy will be longer term."Commissioner Marilyn North Peigan pointed out that the Indigenous court is a "guilty" court, meaning that someone has to plead guilty to enter the system. She said she'd like to see more work happening with diversion and education — something McLellan said is one of the main goals the team is striving toward.