In announcing a planned phone call on Friday between U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the White House's intended message was clear: Traditional allies are back in favour while despots, dictators and the killers of dissenters are on the outs. The way press secretary Jen Psaki announced the scheduled call with Trudeau was revealing, as it came in response to a question that had nothing at all to do with Canada's prime minister. She was asked about Vladimir Putin. Specifically, she was asked when Biden would speak with the Russian leader. Psaki replied that it wasn't an immediate priority. "[Biden's] first foreign leader call will be on Friday with Prime Minister Trudeau," she said. "I would expect his early calls will be with partners and allies. He feels it's important to rebuild those relationships." U.S. plans to investigate Russia Psaki elaborated on Putin in a separate news conference where she described Russia as "reckless" and "adversarial." She said Biden has tasked the intelligence community with reporting on a variety of alleged Russian transgressions: cyberattacks on U.S. companies, interference in U.S. politics, the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and Russian-paid bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Yet the goal of rebalancing relationships away from rivals toward like-minded countries has been tested already. Some Canadians, notably Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, want trade retaliation against the U.S. following the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline on Day 1 of the new administration. The decision undermines Canada's No. 1 export to the United States: oil. WATCH | The National's report on Keystone XL: Biden's foreign policy ambitions will keep being tested as international relationships undergo unwieldy twists on any given issue due to practical and political considerations. Here is what we already know about the Biden administration's approach to other countries after its first couple of days in office. The moves so far The administration will release a report on suspected Saudi government involvement in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, an issue the last administration showed little interest in pursuing. It is also threatening to cancel support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. It is willing to consider new NATO expansion on Russia's doorstep, into Georgia, and in fact is staunchly supportive of the international military alliance. And Biden has rejoined previous alliances the U.S. was either scheduled to exit (the World Health Organization) or had already left (the Paris climate accord). These activities are intended to signal a dramatic change in foreign policy from Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, who frequently bashed the leaders of democracies and international institutions while simultaneously cultivating friendly relationships with non-democratic leaders in the Middle East, Russia and North Korea. There will be contradictions in Biden's approach — as there were in Trump's. For example, while Trump often had kind words for dictators, he also sanctioned their countries on occasion, including Russia and China. Also, don't count on an ambitious foreign policy from Biden. Early on, the new administration will be busy juggling domestic crises, said Edward Alden, an expert on Canada-U.S. relations. "I think we are going to see an approach to alliances that looks a lot like [Barack] Obama's — engaged, respectful, but not overly ambitious," said Alden, a senior fellow at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. "The United States has enormous problems at home, and those are going to take priority for some time." Alden said he does expect some new international initiatives, such as more active co-operation on global vaccine distribution. Biden wants changes on Canada-U.S. pandemic travel On COVID-19, Biden also wants to immediately connect with Canada and Mexico to establish new rules within 14 days for pandemic-related travel safety measures. Alden also expects an attempt to rework and revive the international nuclear deal with Iran, and establish greater co-ordination with other countries in confronting China. For example, Biden has proposed a summit of democracies where countries can share ideas for countering autocracies. Biden's nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told his confirmation hearing this week that the last administration had a point in reorienting policy toward Beijing. "President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China," Blinken said. "The basic principle was the right one, and I think that's actually helpful to our foreign policy." He got into a testy exchange at that hearing with Sen. Rand Paul, a libertarian-minded Republican who favours a hands-off approach on foreign affairs. When Blinken said he was open to expanding NATO membership to Russia's neighbour Georgia, Paul called that a recipe for war with Russia. Blinken argued the opposite is true. After years of Russian incursions in non-NATO Georgia and Ukraine, recent evidence suggests Russia is most belligerent with countries outside NATO's shield, he said. Keystone XL: The early irritant Biden and Trudeau are expected to discuss new travel measures to control the spread of COVID-19, as well as Biden's decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline expansion that would run south from Alberta to Nebraska. So far, Trudeau has shown little desire to escalate the pipeline issue. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, on the other hand, has demanded retaliatory action, and some trade experts say potential legal avenues do exist. WATCH | Kenny on the fate of Keystone XL: But they're skeptical they will achieve much. Eric Miller of the Rideau Potomac Strategy Group, a cross-border consulting firm specializing in trade and government affairs, said the best that pipeline-backers can hope for is to sue the U.S. government for financial compensation for the cancelled project. He said the Alberta government and the project's developer, TC Energy, can try suing under the investor-state dispute chapter in the old NAFTA, which will remain in effect for two more years for existing investments. "[But] nothing is going to force the Biden administration to deliver the permit," Miller said. "One has to be clear that there is no world in which Joe Biden [retreats on this]." Canada-U.S. trade lawyer Dan Ujczo said he doubts complaints from Canada will make a difference. He said the most politically effective argument for the pipeline would come from Americans — from the companies and unions that would have serviced the project. The Ohio-based lawyer said challenges under U.S. laws, such as the Administrative Procedures Act, could potentially work, but he cautioned: "They're high hurdles."
The North Vancouver Island health region had just two new cases of COVID-19 in the second week of January. The first week of January showed three new cases, and the last week of 2020 had just one. The Local Health Area known as Vancouver Island North includes Woss, Zeballos and everything north. Confusingly, the larger Health Service Delivery Area, called North Vancouver Island, includes Campbell River, the Comox valley, Tahsis and Gold River. Vancouver Island West, encompassing Tahsis and Gold River, has not had a new case since it recorded two at the beginning of Dec. 2020. The Greater Campbell River area had three cases in the third week of January, four cases during Jan. 3-9, and four cases in the last week of 2020. Comox Valley, the most populous Local Health Area in the North Island, had nine new cases between Jan. 10-16, down from 18 in Jan. 3-9, and 21 cases in the last week of 2020. Updated Local Health Area data is published weekly. RELATED: B.C. Premier, health officials to discuss next steps in COVID immunization plan Zoë Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Island Gazette
Stephen Fisher, a former constable with the Orangeville Police Service (OPS) has been found not guilty of the two charges alleged against him, relating to the disclosure of a video conversation between two OPS officers. Appearing in court via Zoom on Friday (Jan. 15) for the fifth day of his trial, Fisher was acquitted by Justice Shannon McPherson following final submissions by the defence and crown attorneys. “Mr. Fisher, it is not my normal practice to give judgment without reasons, but in this case I am going to find you not guilty of both counts currently, as alleged against you. My reasons will follow it sometime in the future,” said Justice McPherson. Fisher was charged by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in December of 2018, after an investigation was made into the release of a video which contained a conversation between manager officers, Const. Andy May and Staff. Sgt. Dave McLagan, reportedly discussing and harassing other employees. Fisher was charged with disclosure of private communication and breach of trust by a police officer. Fisher’s trial began on Jan. 11 and saw testimonies from OPS officers including former OPS Const. Andy May, OPP Sgt. Dave McLagan, Sgt. Steve Phillips, Const. James Giovanetti, Special Const. Rick Stevens, and Fisher himself. Defense attorney Pamela Machado started her final submission by saying an internal policy of the Orangeville Police mandated reporting workplace violence and harassment – either in or outside the workplace, on or off duty to a direct supervisor. Machado noted that the policy did not account for what an officer must do when they can’t report up the chain of command. Machado argued that numerous conflicts of interest, made it so Fisher could not report up the chain of command, as per OPS policy. Const. Giovanetti in his testimony said that there was little separation between frontline members and upper management at OPS which made it uncomfortable for people to bring complaints forward due to fear of reprisal. “The evidence has also demonstrated the long contentious history of the Orangeville Police Service,” said Machado. “The toxic work environment, the history of harassment by Andy May and the failure of the executive to act, all of which created a necessity for Steven Fisher to disclose this recording.” Throughout the trial it was established that Fisher found the video recording of Const. May and Staff Sgt. McLagan, discussing and allegedly harassing other employees on a computer in the OPS monitor room. A publication ban is currently in place for the video and information derived from it. Machado in her submission noted that other employees of OPS had in the past made submissions of harassment against OPS supervisors with no outcome. “One area that has been entirely absent from the Crown’s case, is whether the content of the video did in fact amount to harassment,” said Machado. In her argument against the breach of trust by a police officer Machado said: “He testified, he did not disclose this video to anyone other than a law enforcement officer. He did not therefore breach the standard responsibility and conduct demanded, in fact, I would submit it is the opposite, as the public demands accountability and transparency from police.” Crown attorney Katie Beaudoin in her submission argued that the conversation between May and McLagan was a private communication based on four factors. “All [factors] lead to the conclusion that both May and McLagan had an expectation of privacy and were engaged in a private communication,” said Beaudoin. Beaudoin also argued that Fisher went outside his purpose of assisting a harassment complaint, by disclosing the entirety of the 40 minute video and that he breached an oath of confidentiality. “The oath of confidentiality requires police officers not to disclose any information obtained in the course of their duties as a police officer, unless authorized or required by law,” said Beaudoin. “I submit Const. Fisher breached his oath of confidentiality by disclosing Orangeville Police property where it was not authorized or required by law.” Justice McPherson asked Beaudoin to explain her conclusion that Fisher had breached his oath, as he had disclosed the property to another police officer. “My submission is he gives it to a civilian who happens to be a special constable,” said Beaudoin. Justice McPherson, at the conclusion of the Crown’s submissions, ruled Fisher not guilty of both counts – disclosure of private communication and breach of trust by a police officer. Paula Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shelburne Free Press
Vital, critical, indispensable, crucial and necessary … all words the Grey-Bruce Medical Officer of Health (MOH) is using to describe the province’s current stay-at-home order. “People ask the question, is it necessary? We're doing really well in Grey-Bruce. Yes, we're doing really well, but it is very necessary,” said Dr. Ian Arra, MOH for the Grey Bruce Health Unit (GBHU) during a virtual town hall event hosted by Bruce Power on Wednesday evening. “The Premier said it best, you can look at the regulations and all the complexity of it. But it is simple – just stay home,” Arra said. “When you do this, just remember it's painful but it is saving lives.” Arra is asking the public to look at the current order in a positive light, as it has alleviated the concern of individuals travelling into Grey County from other high-risk, red-zone areas. He said in December the health unit had placed a lot of focus on how individuals from neighbouring communities that were experiencing high COVID case numbers had been moving into the county. “All that planning and communication was not necessary anymore when the province issued the lockdown. It has definitely balanced that equation that would be increasing the risk in our area,” he said. According to Arra, case numbers in recent weeks have remained relatively favourable, despite the health unit seeing a surge in cases following the holidays. “I'm very proud of the community, proud to be part of this community, that the surge was not larger than what it was over the past few weeks,” Arra said, adding that the case numbers have now begun to taper down. “The past week has been averaging around three or four cases per day, which is a success,” he said. As of Jan. 20, there have been 657 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Grey and Bruce counties. Currently, there are 30 active cases and two individuals being hospitalized. According to Arra, early December is believed to have been the peak of the second wave of COVID in Grey-Bruce. However, Arra is asking the public to remain cognizant that the province has been seeing a large number of cases reported every day since the holiday. “We've seen 3,000 cases per day and they're going to translate into higher admission to the hospital, to the ICU, and unfortunately, in deaths,” he said. “People might say, well, in Grey-Bruce we have only two cases in the hospital. But, again, we're not on an island. And our [healthcare] system is built to support universality.” He explained that as the provincial healthcare system continues to be strained, the impacts will trickle down to other regions, adding that the province has already begun transferring patients between hospitals. “We need all of us to stay this course until the vaccine is in enough arms to make this pandemic nonexistent,” he said. “This is not going to end tomorrow. It's going to end in a few weeks and a few months and we need to stay the course.” Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca
It's going to be an odd curling season, all jammed into a few months in one location in Calgary, with many curlers across the country unable to train beforehand because of COVID-19 lockdowns. Two P.E.I. curlers on their way to national championships feel lucky that they are able to get on the ice. "I'm fortunate here because I'm in Prince Edward Island so the curling clubs are open aside from the two-week shutdown we had in December," said Alison Griffin, who will curl for Team Nunavut at the Scotties. "I'm able to practise almost daily and I play in a couple of leagues. Two of my teammates are also in provinces or territories where they're able to be on the ice. We're pretty fortunate. Some teams are struggling with the lockdown to get on the ice." That's the situation for Adam Casey's team. He's with Team Manitoba for the Brier and his teammates are in that province. The rinks are closed there. "We've been so fortunate that I've been able to get out and throw," said Casey. In fact, he said, with no competing his practice has been more focused, which is not to say he likes it this way. "You miss the competition," he said, but he had to think carefully about whether he was ready to make the commitment to participate. "There was a ton of, just, uncertainty about whether it would go ahead.… And obviously there's the family side of it with the two-week isolation side of it and a young daughter at home. It puts a lot of stress on the family life, but excited to be able to curl." Alone time The bubble will open with the Tournament of Hearts at the end of February. Griffin will travel there and self-isolate for two weeks on her return. She feels fortunate that she has the flexibility to do that. She said she will miss a lot of the activities that normally go on around the tournament. "No fans, no fan experience, no HeartStop Lounge, no family there," said Griffin. "It might be a lot of alone time." Casey is facing two trips into the bubble: one for the Brier in early March and one for two grand slam tournaments at the end of the season. More from CBC P.E.I.
The elephants are counted using a computer algorithm trained to identify the creatures against a variety of backdrops.View on euronews
OTTAWA — It will likely be another year before a federal review of the government's key transparency law is complete. Newly released terms of reference for the government study of the Access to Information Act say a report will be submitted to the Treasury Board president by Jan. 31 of next year. The review, announced last June, has prompted skepticism from open-government advocates who point to a pile of reports done over the years on reforming the access law. The law, introduced in 1983, allows people who pay $5 to ask for a range of federal documents, but it has been widely criticized as antiquated and poorly administered. Ken Rubin, a longtime user of the access law, says putting the government in charge of reviewing its own secrecy and delay problems was never a good idea. He says the Liberals should either present a new transparency bill before the next general election or let Parliament and the public figure out how to improve access to federal records. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
Retirement home residents in Simcoe Muskoka will begin receiving the Pfizer-BoNTech vac-cine after the provincial government determined the vaccine can be safely transported to Long Term Care and retirement homes in the Region. The immunization program began on Monday, January 11, in Barrie, at Victoria Village Manor. Resident Pat Sinclair, a former nurse, became the region’s first long-term resident to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. “I’m thrilled to be able to do this. I’m hoping it gives me and my family that feeling of we’re okay, we’re going to be okay. We’ll get through this,” said Ms. Sinclair.“ COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on both the residents and em-ployees in long-term care and being able to offer the protection this vaccine provides to those who are the most vulnerable is a critical milestone,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, Medical Officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. (SMDHU) “We are hoping everyone who opts for the vaccine within our LTC and RH communities to have received it over the next two weeks.” The pilot immuniza-tion program began with 111 residents from Victoria Village Manor and 67 residents at Oak Terrace Long-Term Care Home in Orillia receiving the vaccine. Supply of the vaccine remains limited and at this time is being offered by appointment only to pri-ority groups identified by the provincial government, including residents, staff and essentialcare-givers from congregate living settings as well as prioritized hospital workers. Staff at all four Simcoe County long term care homes, including Simcoe Village and Manor in Beeton, have already starting receiving the vaccine after attending inoculation sites in Barrie. Of the 1.000 care givers who work at the facilities, about half had already received the vaccine as of Friday, January 15. A spokesperson for the County of Simcoe confirmed residents at Simcoe Manor started receiving the vaccine on January 16. Vaccinations are not mandatory for residents, however they are given information to help them make an informed decision. Some residents are considered at risk when it comes to receiving the vaccination due to other health related issues.As additional vaccines are approved by Health Canada, and as part of Ontario’s three phase immunization plan, vaccine dis-tribution will be expanded to other priority groups and then to the general public Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
Chef Jenni Lessard wants everyone to know that COVID-19 is nothing to joke about. The former executive chef at Saskatoon's Wanuskewin Heritage Park woke up with swollen red eyes and a tickle in her throat on New Year's Day. After that, things started to go downhill. "Over the course of a few days, the symptoms got progressively worse and there were more of them," she said. "I was thinking I was positive because the day before the test and then continuing on from that I had lost all smell and taste." As a chef, Lessard depends on her taste and smell considerably more than the average person. "It was terrifying," she said. "I found myself making little bargains like, 'OK, if I can get my taste and smell back, I wouldn't mind if I had this other symptom.'" While she could breathe through her nose, she had a lot of difficulty picking up subtleties in flavours. "I could pick up an onion and take a bite of it and it could have been an apple," she said. "I couldn't smell my shampoo in the shower. If the house was on fire, I wouldn't be able to smell the smoke. It was just really, really difficult." To make things worse, Lessard ended up in hospital for several days after she started to get chest pain and shortness of breath. "We went to the ER. You go in and you have to kind of yell, 'I'm COVID positive,' which is a fun experience," she said. "And they put me right in the room, did a chest X-ray right in the room and saw the start of a bit of pneumonia and got me some treatment." Three weeks after her first symptoms, Lessard is feeling better, but estimates her taste and smell has only returned by 75 per cent. I've had a spinal tumour and I've been barbed by a stingray and I've had two kids. So I know a little bit about pain. But this was brutal. - Jessi Lessard "There are a lot of people that don't seem to get their taste and smell back for a few months," she said. "And if they do, it can almost be really distorted. So citrus might smell like diesel, and that would not be a good combination for a chef." Lessard has no idea how she contracted COVID-19, as no one in her regular circle has tested positive. She said people should keep on following social distancing rules to avoid getting her symptoms. "This was definitely the sickest I've been," she said. "And I've had a spinal tumour and I've been barbed by a stingray and I've had two kids. So I know a little bit about pain. But this was brutal."
Within the East Kootenay and Kootenay-Boundary regions of southeastern B.C., there are 21 recognized harm reduction sites and a total of 95 Take Home Naloxone Kit sites. The Shuswap Indian Band’s (SIB) health unit received approval to become a safer sex and drug use supplies distribution centre as a designated harm reduction site through the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) for the District of Invermere (DOI) in 2018. The SIB has continued to maintain the credentials to offer the program to Indigenous communities, as well as to provide support for individuals from all nations in the Columbia Valley community, for safer sex and drug use supplies through a regional partnership with the Interior Health Authority (IHA) and the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA). The goal of the safer sex program is to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STI) caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites that can be transmitted to another person during sex or intimate contact through raising awareness with education and supplies. The harm reduction aspects of the program aims to raise awareness about safe usage of drug use supplies and addictions through a science-based approach in an effort to reduce the risk of opioid overdoses in the Kootenays as well as within the province. During the month of December 2020, the SIB reported a surge in requests for Take Home Naloxone Kits in the Columbia Valley with a total of 13 kits being distributed over the holidays as opposed to its usual requests from the community for about eight kits. “On average, we hand out six-to-eight kits per month,” said Danielle Armstrong, SIB health director. “In December, we saw a big increase. Around 13. It was a little bit higher because we had family members coming in from out of town.” As a result of the uptick, here are some resources about the supplies available and what you can expect to learn about the harm reduction site offered at SIB’s health unit. Take Home Naloxone Kits With the mixtures of fentanyl and benzodiazepines becoming increasingly common due to travel restrictions, the continued risks of opioid overdoses from toxic drug supplies have encompassed communities throughout the province. The SIB has joined forces with IHA and the FNHA to provide Take Home Naloxone Kits and training for life-saving training for anyone interested in recognizing the symptoms of an opioid overdose and responding to emergencies for those at-risk. “Naloxone is a medication that reduces an opioid overdose,” said Jennifer Driscoll, Interior Health Authority regional harm reduction coordinator located in the Kimberley Health Centre. “The drug supply is increasingly toxic, so just as an example today (Jan. 8, 2020), we just put out five or six drug overdose alerts because of drug checking services had picked up (mixtures of fentanyl and benzodiazepines), which means the risk of an overdose are much higher… we’re really pushing the message of staying with the person (for a buddy system).” The main goal of the Take Home Naloxone Kit program is to reduce opioid overdoses and to encourage behavioural changes in consumption of illicit substances. First Nations have the opportunity to access nasal response kits through the FNHA since 2018. However, the BCCDC Take Home Naloxone Kit program began in 2012 in an effort to mitigate the risks of a toxic drug supply fuelling an overdose epidemic in B.C. communities. Driscoll added that 145 kits were shipped to the Windermere health services area in 2020. Armstrong added that individuals with a status card could access free kits from any pharmacy, including at Pharmasave or Lambert-Kipp Pharmacy. In addition, the East Kootenay Addiction Services and the SIB provide nasal and needle kits at no-cost. The Aboriginal Response Working Group through IHA, which is composed of Indigenous stakeholders from across the region, have recently developed a label that’s fixed onto the kits with a statement to let people know that they’re not alone with a 1-800-number to get help for mental health and substance use resources. Needles kits come with three doses of naloxone as opposed to nasal kits which contain two doses. “The kits are great,” said Armstrong. “They’re set up just beautifully. There’s new gloves, new needles, there’s instructions in each kit and anybody can administer them. If you can read and follow the instructions, it’s good to go.” The SIB’s safer sex and harm reduction site is open between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. mountain time from Monday to Friday each week. Those interested in picking up supplies may visit the back door of the SIB health unit during operational hours and knock for supplies, or for the needle exchange collection service. “It’s also really important to know that all Interior Health centres accept used sharps,” said Driscoll. Armstrong added, “You can exchange old needles for new needles, or you can get it without the exchange too. We try to keep 40 (kits) on hand at any given time.” Fentanyl Test Strips It’s essential to check unregulated drug supplies for fentanyl to encourage users to make informed decisions. Armstrong stocks and distributes Fentanyl Test Strips from the SIB Health Centre, with Driscoll’s support for others within the Kootenay regions, while offering 1-1 private training about how to use the safety program effectively. “Even if it shows up as negative, it does not mean fentanyl is not present,” said Driscoll, noting that Fentanyl Test Strips will not give users information about quantity or quality in their test group. In fact, Driscoll explained some fentanyl analogs cannot be detected with test strips. “They will detect if fentanyl but they can’t detect all fentanyl analogs, so even if it tests negative, it doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t have fentanyl in it,” clarified Driscoll. Armstrong added there had been at least three individuals who have returned to the SIB health centre with stories about positive Fentanyl Test Strips where users opted out of using their stashes and changing their behaviour in an effort to stay safe. “I’ve had three different people come back saying the strips have detected fentanyl in them and they chose not to use those drugs,” said Armstrong. “They were very grateful to have those strips and make an informed choice.” The duo encourages users to use the buddy system, to download the Lifeguard App on your phone and to test drive your substances gradually to minimize the risks of drug use. In order to find a harm reduction site in B.C. if you’re travelling, please visit Toward the Heart to search for centres closest to you at: towardtheheart.com/site-finder and be mindful of the hours of operations amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more about the safer sex program, please visit the Smart Sex Resource at: smartsexresource.com/ for details. In fact, Driscoll explained some fentanyl analogs cannot be detected with test strips. “They will detect if fentanyl but they can’t detect all fentanyl analogs, so even if it tests negative, it doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t have fentanyl in it,” clarified Driscoll. Armstrong added there had been at least three individuals who have returned to the SIB health centre with stories about positive Fentanyl Test Strips where users opted out of using their stashes and changing their behaviour in an effort to stay safe. “I’ve had three different people come back saying the strips have detected fentanyl in them and they chose not to use those drugs,” said Armstrong. “They were very grateful to have those strips and make an informed choice.” The duo encourages users to use the buddy system, to download the Lifeguard App on your phone and to test drive your substances gradually to minimize the risks of drug use. In order to find a harm reduction site in B.C. if you’re travelling, please visit Toward the Heart to search for centres closest to you at: towardtheheart.com/site-finder and be mindful of the hours of operations amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more about the safer sex program, please visit the Smart Sex Resource at: smartsexresource.com/ for details. Breanne Massey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer
TIRANA, Albania — Albania on Thursday expelled a Russian diplomat for allegedly not respecting the country’s virus lockdown rules. An Albanian foreign ministry statement declared Alexey Krivosheev “person non grata,” asking him to leave the country within 72 hours. The ministry said that since April last year there were continuous violations from the diplomat. It said Albanian authorities first contacted the ambassador but the diplomat still persisted in breaking pandemic restrictions. “A repeated challenging of the protective rules and steps on the pandemic, and disregarding of the concern of the Albanian state institutions related to that, cannot be justified and tolerated any more,” the statement said. The ministry did not provide details on the alleged violations, or give the post of the diplomat. Albania has set an overnight curfew, mandatory use of masks indoor and outdoors and social distancing. “We hope that such a decision ... at such a very challenging time for the globe, will be well understood from the Russian side as a necessary step to protect the health and security" of everyone in Albania, the ministry statement added. Albania resumed diplomatic ties with Moscow in 1991, 30 years after the country's then-communist regime severed previously close relations with Russia. The Associated Press
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa asked the U.S. House on Thursday to dismiss an election contest filed by her Democratic challenger that argues the six-vote race was wrongly decided. Miller-Meeks argued in a legal motion that the Democratic-controlled chamber should not consider Rita Hart's appeal because Hart did not contest the outcome under Iowa law. Longstanding House precedent in prior cases calls for contestants to take that step first, her lawyer Alan Ostergren argued. "Rita Hart should have raised her claims before a neutral panel of Iowa judges rather than before a political process controlled by her own party,” Ostergren said. After a recount, Iowa's canvassing board certified Miller-Meeks as the vote winner in Iowa's 2nd District with a tally of 196,964 to 196,958 — the closest congressional race nationwide in decades. Hart declined to challenge the result under Iowa law, saying it did not allow enough time to conduct additional recount proceedings. The law would have required a panel of judges to rule on challenges within days. Instead, Hart filed a contest in December directly to the House under a 1969 law that spells out how congressional candidates can challenge elections that they believe were marred by serious irregularities. Hart's attorneys claim they have identified 22 votes that were wrongly excluded due to errors, including 18 for Hart that would change the outcome if counted. They also want the House to examine thousands of ballots marked by machines as undervotes and overvotes that weren't visually inspected during the recount. Miller-Meeks' filing agreed that Iowa law would have required a quick legal review but said that “was no excuse” for Hart's decision to skip it altogether. The 22 ballots that Hart claims were wrongly rejected involve interpretations of state law that should have been decided by Iowa judges, the filing said. Additional votes for Miller-Meeks may also have been rejected “in the ordinary course of election administration,” it said. Taking the extreme step of overturning a state-certified election would lead to a “parade of contests” in which losing candidates from the House majority's party will ask for intervention after close races, Ostergren warned. The House decided earlier this month to provisionally swear in Miller-Meeks, pending the outcome of Hart's challenge. The two candidates had been competing to replace seven-term Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack in the southeastern Iowa district that has trended Republican in recent years. The House Administration Committee will determine how to proceed, including whether to investigate or dismiss the case. A spokesman said it would closely review the filings from both campaigns, as required by law. Hart said that she was disappointed by Miller-Meeks' motion, saying at least 22 voters would be disenfranchised without additional proceedings. “It is crucial to me that this bipartisan review by the U.S. House is fair, and I hope our leaders will move swiftly to address this contest and ensure all votes are counted," she said. The Associated Press
If you are planning to go for a skate on the outdoor rink in Tottenham, plan on waiting in line. Because of the new situation with lockdown across the province, the Town has had to make adjustments to its facilities. This includes the number of people allowed to gather at both indoor and outdoor facilities and during outdoor activities. As a result, the outdoor ice pad at the Tottenham Com-munity & Fitness Centre has changed the allowable number of people on the ice at one time, as well as the length of time individual skate can stay on the ice. The ice pad will remain open for skating only. A maximum of five skaters will be allowed on the rink at any given time and masks must be worn at all times when on the ice. A time limit of 30 minutes will be in place for each skater, rather than the previous 55 minutes, to allow access for more people. There was a plan to create outdoor ice rinks at the Fairgrounds in Beeton and at Doner Park in Alliston. However, the weather has not provided the proper temperatures to start flooding, and with new public directives regarding the number of people allowed to gather, and the effort to have people stay home, it was decided to pause any effort to create those rinks. In addition, the indoor ice surfaces at the New Tecums-eth Recreation Centre and the Tottenham Community Centre will be removed to reduce the costs associated with maintaining an ice surface that can’t be used. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
A weekly entertainment series was recently launched by Gonez Media Inc. to feature national news coverage focused on serving Canadians from diverse backgrounds. The Brandon Gonez Show began airing 20-minute episodes at 8 p.m. eastern standard time featuring national issues on YouTube every Sunday, which began on Jan. 17. “This has never been done in this country before, and I’m so excited to have such a strong team who’ve put their blood, sweat, and tears into building The Brandon Gonez Show,” said Gonez, host of the show in a recent press release. “But most importantly, I am excited for people to finally have a show where they see themselves reflected, laugh, and get the news and entertainment they need. I am so humbled to see the support from my fellow Canadians.” Gonez, along with his partners Moët Hennessy, Uber and Seneca College, remain optimistic the nation may benefit from feel-good news coverage about ongoing discourse that reflects what’s happening in Canada in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and ongoing discourse about race and racism. Gonez hails from Toronto and has experience working for CP24 and CTV as a reporter. “We have had tremendous interest from national and global brands; the excitement around this groundbreaking show has been rewarding to witness,” said Dakota Rae, vice president of sales, partnerships and operations at Gonez Media Inc., in a recent press release. “Partners who have signed on for season one of The Brandon Gonez Show will get a pulse of the people and exclusive insight into what topics Canadians find important. The show will be a massive success and become a staple in Canadian culture.” His first season features 10 episodes, and Gonez welcomes all ages and backgrounds. The host’s goal is to provide news coverage that you can consume with open and honest dialogue. To learn more about the show, please visit: brandongonezshow.com or follow #TheBGShow on Instagram, Twitter or TikTok. Breanne Massey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer
TORONTO — Experts at a leading children's hospital say schools need to ramp up COVID-19 testing and masking in order to have all kids return to the classroom as soon as possible. The guidance comes a day after Ontario said it would permit just seven public health units in southern Ontario resume in-person learning Monday, while students in hot-spot regions will continue with online learning until at least Feb. 10. They join others in northern regions that returned to class last week, but areas including Toronto and Peel were deemed too-high risk to return to class. The new guidelines, led by experts at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, urge COVID-19 tests for all staff and students exposed to a confirmed case, while indoor masking be made mandatory for all those Grade 1 and up. The report's co-author Dr. Ronald Cohn says the current protocol is that testing is only required for those who display symptoms. He also stresses the social and mental-health needs of young children, recommending kindergartners be cohorted so they can play and interact with their peers. Cohn, president and CEO, SickKids, said schools closures should be "as time-limited as possible." "It is therefore imperative that bundled measures of infection prevention and control and a robust testing strategy are in place," he said Thursday in a release. The report also cautions against rapid tests using molecular or antigen tests because of their lower sensitivity and less effectiveness with asymptomatic cases. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — Quebec Premier Francois Legault says critics of the provincewide curfew who say homeless people should be exempted are trying to divide Quebecers. The premier was responding to calls from all three opposition parties, the mayor of Montreal and the federal Indigenous Services Minister, who said the homeless shouldn't be included in the health order requiring people stay home between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. Their calls followed the death of a homeless man who was found frozen in a portable toilet Sunday morning. Legault told reporters Thursday he was saddened by the death of Raphael Andre. But, he added, Montreal police know the city's homeless population "very well" and won't give fines to that community "for fun." "I've asked the opposition and many people to give me one example of a police officer who took a bad decision and they cannot answer that, so it's working well," he said, regarding the curfew. The premier said everyone wants to help the homeless, adding that those who had criticized his government are trying to sow division in society. "I find it very unfortunate to see certain people try to divide us, trying to say that there are good guys and bad guys, that there are some who care for the homeless and some that don’t care. We all want to help the homeless, it’s complex and it’s not the time to divide us, it’s the time to work together,” he said. Legault has said the province has sufficient overnight shelter beds to accommodate the homeless during the curfew, which is scheduled to be in effect until at least Feb. 9. Quebec, however, recently announced it was adding 262 shelter beds in the Montreal area — including 150 beds in a soccer stadium for homeless people with COVID-19 who don't need to be hospitalized. The curfew is working, Legault said, citing the fact that the province's infection rate has been lower over the past ten days compared with the beginning of January, before the curfew. Legault didn't rule out extending the curfew, particularly in the Montreal area. Meanwhile, Health Minister Christian Dube told reporters nearly 100 per cent of long-term care residents in Quebec have received a first dose of vaccine. Quebec, however, is sticking to its plan to delay administering second doses up to 90 days from the first dose, he added. Public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda said he's aware of reports from Israel suggesting one dose provides significantly less protection than the two doses required by vaccine manufacturers. He said he's waiting to read scientific papers on the efficacy of a single dose before the province changes course. Legault repeated his call for the federal government to ban non-essential flights to Canada. If Ottawa refuses, the premier said he'd like to see travellers forced to quarantine for two weeks in hotels — at their own expense — where they can be monitored by police. Legault said he's particularly worried that people travelling to resorts in warm destinations could catch the highly contagious COVID-19 variants and bring them back to the province. Quebec reported 1,624 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday and 66 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including 22 that occurred in the past 24 hours. Health officials said hospitalizations dropped by 14, to 1,453, and the number of people in intensive care remained stable at 216. Quebec has reported a total of 248,860 cases of COVID-19 and 9,273 deaths linked to the virus. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press
CALGARY — A Calgary man who killed his daughter and seriously injured her best friend in a drunk-driving crash is appealing his conviction and sentence. Michael Shaun Bomford was found guilty last January of dangerous driving causing death and bodily harm, as well as causing the 2016 crash while impaired. He was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison. Bomford has filed an appeal that claims the sentence was excessive and unreasonable in the circumstances. He also suggests the trial judge erred by ruling hearsay text messages admissible at trial. Bomford is serving his sentence at the Drumheller Institution in Alberta. Court heard Bomford had three times the legal limit of alcohol in his system when he took his 17-year-old daughter, Meghan, and her friend, Kelsey Nelson, to get police checks so that they could become junior ringette coaches. His daughter did not survive the crash, while Nelson suffered a severe brain injury and has no recollection of it. Bomford's trial heard that he lost control of his Jeep while driving 112 km/h in an 80 km/h zone. The Jeep rolled into the median and all three occupants were thrown out of the vehicle. (CTV Calgary) This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2020. The Canadian Press
A Bedford, N.S., man is facing three sexual assault charges in relation to incidents that occurred in student housing at Dalhousie University in 2019. Halifax police say they have charged Michael James Allain, 20, with two counts of sexual assault involving one woman and a third count involving a different woman. The alleged assaults occurred in September and October 2019 and were reported to police in February and March 2020. Police say Allain was acquainted with both women, but did not provide further information in order to protect the identity of the women. MORE TOP STORIES
The Toronto Raptors once prided themselves on being among the best finishers in the league, and a team that was rarely outworked. But poor finishes and sluggish play has become an annoying trend with the new-look Raptors, and while an excellent all-around 116-93 victory over Dallas on Monday was a hopeful step in the right direction, the Raptors fell back into bad habits in Wednesday's 111-102 loss to Miami. "There's been some stretches where maybe we're not getting to the paint enough, not getting to the rim enough, or not getting to the foul line or stretches where we miss shots . . . you've got to be able to play through those moments," coach Nick Nurse said after Thursday's practice in Tampa. The Raptors' shooting plunged to 28.6 per cent in the fourth quarter on Wednesday. They hit just three of 12 three-point attempts as the game slipped out of their hands. Their offence sputtered against Miami's zone defence. "The ball is getting a bit stagnant when teams are going to zone. So I think we’ve got to get the ball moving," Nurse said. "We worked on it a lot today and we’re going to figure out a way to attack the zone, because most games when the other team is going zone that’s when we struggle. We’ve got to figure it out." Since the NBA has implemented two-game series this season to cut down on travel and exposure amid COVID-19, Toronto hosts Miami again on Friday. The status of Pascal Siakam for the rematch is unknown. The all-star forward, who has found his form over the past few games after a slow start to the season, took an awkward fall after a dunk against Miami. He walked gingerly to the bench, then revealed he's had a sore groin for awhile. "Just a little scary fall," Siakam said after the game. "My groin’s been bothering me for a little bit, so that was definitely unfortunate." He didn't practise Thursday. "I don’t know what the outcome is for his status for (Friday) but he is a little sore," Nurse said. Siakam, who's averaged 18.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists this season, finished with 18 points against Miami. Playing Miami again so soon, meanwhile, might be a good thing. "It’s definitely a good chance to try to correct what you messed up on and try to win the next game," forward OG Anunoby said. It's an opportunity for retaliation, said centre Chris Boucher. "I didn’t feel like I had a good game so it just gives me a chance to play this team again and figure out a way to get better," Boucher said. "They’re a great team so somehow, some way it’s good for us to play them again and figure out if we can change some of the things we messed up and see the adjustments we can make to beat them. "So I kind of like it . . . you get a second chance to see what you can do and try to help the team another way, because (Wednesday) was not it at all." Boucher saw his franchise-tying record of six straight games of 15-plus points off the bench end against Miami. The Raptors (5-9) have another back-to-back series coming up. They play at Indiana on Sunday and Monday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
Russia has ordered TikTok and other social networks to restrict online calls for nationwide protests in support of detained Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.View on euronews