Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino addressed possible backlash from China after announcing on Thursday that Canada was creating new and expedited immigration pathways for those living in Hong Kong.
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino addressed possible backlash from China after announcing on Thursday that Canada was creating new and expedited immigration pathways for those living in Hong Kong.
WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Venezuela's opposition is discussing scaling back the interim government of opposition leader Juan Guaido that has won diplomatic recognition by dozens of countries that disavowed President Nicolas Maduro, nine legislators told Reuters. Guaido, the leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled parliament, in 2019 called Maduro a usurper following his disputed re-election and assumed a parallel presidency based on articles of the constitution that make the head of the National Assembly next in line to rule the country. Guaido's lawmaker allies have said they will continue to insist that they are legitimate parliamentarians after Jan. 5, arguing that their constitutional mandate remains intact because Sunday's vote is rigged.
With a fresh layer of snow on the ground, many in the community are anxiously awaiting the start of the 2020 ski season. “Skiing, like other activities, such as snowshoeing and hiking, can be a safe way for individuals and families to exercise during the winter months,” said Dr. Ian Arra, the medical officer of health for the Grey Bruce Health Unit (GBHU). “Cross-country and alpine skiing are enjoyed at many locations across Grey and Bruce.” One of the largest draws for winter adventure in the area is, of course, Blue Mountain Resort. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, operations at the resort will look a little different this year. “This season, we will be prioritizing pass holder access to the mountain and limiting day-lift tickets. Guests cannot arrive at the resort and purchase a day-lift ticket – all tickets must be purchased online and the number of available day-lift tickets has been significantly reduced,” said Tara Lovell, manager of public relations for Blue Mountain Resort. She adds that the number of available day-lift tickets will be based on available terrain, skier-visit data and available indoor space at the resort’s three base lodges. “The most important thing for visitors to know is that this year more than any other, the need to plan ahead. Research current public health guidelines, go online to plan and pre-book their experiences before arriving at the resort,” Lovell added. According to Arra, the GBHU has actively been working with area ski clubs and resorts to assist in modifying operations in order to reduce the likelihood of close contact between people. “The biggest risk is likely to be through close contact with other individuals, especially if people are not wearing facial coverings. Any activity where there are crowds of people, especially closer than two metres, is a concern,” Arra said. In relation to the ski hill, GBHU has released the following ski-specific guidelines: For individuals, the health unit recommends: “When guests arrive at Blue, we encourage skiers and riders to come to the hill prepared to ski,” Lovell said. “Masks are required. In accordance with our local public health guidelines, masks or face coverings will be required without exception in the lift line and on the lifts.” But what about crossing county or health unit lines for a day on the slopes? For instance, the Town of Collingwood sits in the County of Simcoe under the umbrella of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU), which is currently in the Public Health Classification Level of stage three or zone orange. Yet, on the edge of Collingwood’s town limits sits the Blue Mountain Resort, which resides in Grey County and the GBHU, which is currently in stage two or the yellow zone. “The GBHU would advise people to keep up to date with current government requirements and guidelines. Currently, the province of Ontario is advising people in high-risk areas to not travel to areas of lower risk,” said Arra. Current provincial advice states travel from high-risk areas is to be restricted and should be for "essential purposes only." Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the SMDHU, recently voiced his concerns around allowing visitors into the area from other high-risk regions. “The province’s official advice is that residents from grey and red areas not travel. ... Recreational skiing, while a pleasure … is not essential,” he said, adding that he would go as far as “recommending” businesses adopt a policy to only serve customers from orange zones or lower. Gardner also recently issued a letter to all the municipalities in the region, which strongly recommended they prohibit access to their recreational facilities by anyone residing in a red or grey zone. He also recommends residents in Simcoe-Muskoka not travel to regions that are under yellow or green restrictions except for essential purposes such as work, school, or medical appointments. For now, according to Lovell, Blue Mountain Resort does not have any travel restrictions in place for those travelling from high-risk areas. “At this time, we have not put formal travel restrictions in place. We do strongly encourage all visitors to review and abide by their own local public health guidelines and any guests planning to visit Blue Mountain must review and be prepared to adhere to our Personal Responsibility Code,” Lovell said. For the ski resorts operating in Simcoe-Muskoka, the SMDHU released a letter to area resorts at the end of October outlining the public health requirements for the coming season. According to the SMDHU, ski and snow resorts are permitted to open in stage three but are subject to various operating requirements, such as: “Daily screening applies to members of the public, staff and volunteers who only attend outdoor settings at ski and snow resort facilities even if they do not go inside a resort building,” noted Gardner in the letter to area ski resorts. In addition, earlier today Garnder released an updated letter of instruction for businesses and organizations located in the County of Simcoe, District of Muskoka, City of Barrie, and the City of Orillia. The new letter provides further detail around the expectations of screening of employees; physical distancing and ramifications for close contacts of an employee diagnosed with COVID-19. For the ski industry, the largest takeaways in the directive will be the requirement to: * Appoint a compliance officer responsible for the implementation of a COVID-19 safety plan * Utilize physical barriers (such as plexiglass) where reasonably possible, in particular in environments where physical distancing cannot take place. Note that a face shield is not considered an adequate face covering - a face mask must also be worn * Ensure accurate and updated contact information for all employees * Minimize instances of more than one individual per vehicle for driving associated with work. The additional requirements will come into effect on Dec.5. Kelly Sinclair, part-owner and operator of Highlands Nordic, a cross-country ski facility located in the Niagara Escarpment just outside of Duntroon in the SMDHU district, says operations at her resort have also been adapted for COVID-19 safety protocols. “As a cross-country ski resort we operate a little differently than a downhill resort. The obvious part is that we don't have a chairlift, which is the biggest restriction for downhill skiing,” Sinclair said. In regards to limiting traffic from other high-risk areas in the province, Sinclair says the resort does not have a policy in place currently but will follow the guidelines provided by Simcoe-Muskoka and Clearview Township. “We have needed to hire some additional staff to accommodate the demand for cross-country skiing and to ensure our facility stays clean and welcoming. We are a hardworking team who are ready to adapt and take on any tasks,” she said. Sinclair notes that anyone looking to visit Highlands Nordic should come with knowledge of the current public health recommendations and as ski-ready as possible. “We are encouraging skiers to come ready to ski, limit their time inside as much as possible and embrace winter!” she said. As the ski season and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to progress, both the SMDHU and GBHU encourage the public to stay informed of the current public health recommendations and possible changes to the Public Health Classification Levels. “Follow public health advice, be respectful of club or resort instructions, wear a mask, watch your distance, wash your hands and be kind,” added Arra. — With files from Erika EngelJennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca
Nisga’a Nation declared a state of local emergency on Nov. 26 amid rising COVID-19 cases and an exposure in the Nisga’a Elementary Secondary School community. Six school aged children have tested positive for the virus. Other positive cases are linked to two family gatherings in Gitlaxt’aamiks (New Aiyansh). As of Dec. 2, Nisga’a Valley Health Authority (NVHA) has confirmed 34 positive COVID-19 tests. “We are all in this together,” said Eva Clayton, Nisga’a Lisims president in a media release. “We must follow all provincial and Nisga’a health orders to ensure we stop further spread of this serious virus.” Until Dec. 10, entrance to Gitlaxt’aamiks will only be allowed from 8:00 a.m. to midnight — security personnel are monitoring the entrance to the village and patrolling the village from midnight to 7:00 a.m. According to a Nov. 26 Gitlaxt’aamiks Village Government communique, family gatherings and house-parties are prohibited and all offices, churches, and the recreation centre are closed. Masks are mandatory in the village and visitors to Gitlaxt’aamiks are prohibited. The communique states that the majority of COVID-19 cases in the Nass Valley are in Gitlaxt’aamiks and that house parties continue to be a concern. READ MORE: Students at Nisga’a school test positive for COVID-19 “We are meeting regularly and undertaking comprehensive COVID-19 management action,” said Brandi Trudell-Davis, NVHA chief executive officer in the Nov. 26 release. “We look to our Nation, communities, families and individuals to actively take precautionary measures to stop the spread. We are all in this together and and it is the only way we will all get through this.” NVHA is working with the Northern Health Authority to monitor and trace COVID-19 cases.Ben Bogstie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Interior News
The owner of the Water Street Dinner Theatre in Saint John says he gave Public Health the names and numbers of the 120 guests and staff who were present for a Nov. 13 show, but he can't say whether that was a superspreader event. Roy Billingsley says he's aware that people are speculating that his was one of " two venues" that the chief medical officer of health has described as being the source of 80 per cent of the current active cases in the Saint John zone. "The timeline might suggest that we were involved," said Billingsley. "But I've received no confirmation of that." Billingsley said Public Health notified him on Nov. 18 about a potential public exposure at the theatre on the previous Friday evening. "I was told that myself and my staff had to isolate for 14 days," said Billingsley, who has since decided to close the venue indefinitely. He said about a dozen employees were working that night, and all were tested for the coronavirus but none tested positive.Billingsley said the business was complying with the strict protocols that were in place at the time and masks were mandatory except when customers were seated at their tables. The venue can accommodate 14 tables of 10 people each, with two metres of distance between the tables. As another precaution, customers were able to place their food orders online in advance of the show, he said.> I do take some comfort in knowing that we were following guidelines. We were playing by the rules. \- Roy Billingsley, Water Street Dinner Theatre ownerThere was an option to order drinks by texting the bartender, and diners could also order beverages in advance of the event.Those who decided to line up for drinks had to maintain the appropriate distance. "I guess I do take some comfort in knowing that we were following guidelines," Billingsley said. "We were playing by the rules. "It's unfortunate that somebody was identified as attending one of our productions having COVID-19. However, I think as long as business owners abide by the rules, anybody who lays blame is kind of foolish for doing so. We're all working within the guidelines, and I think people really need to be kind at this time."Owner not sure when dinner theatre will reopen CBC News asked Billingsley how his business has been faring since the start of the pandemic. He operates both the dinner theatre and a restaurant in the same building across from the cruise ship terminal He said the restaurant, Steamers, is a seasonal business that normally closes in November. This year he decided to close it in September. In March, Ottawa announced a ban on cruise ships in Canadian waters and later cancelled the season entirely. Billingsley said he doesn't know when he'll be able to safely open the theatre, especially since singing is part of the show. "It's been a bit of a roller-coaster," he said. "We've been very fortunate in our region that we haven't had to deal with the effects of COVID for very long … but it certainly takes a toll on you, financially and psychologically." On Nov. 20, when Dr. Jennifer Russell first mentioned the superspreader event in response to a question from CBC News, she said it involved "many" health-care workers. Billingsley said he didn't know about health-care workers attending the show but said many of the customers that night would have known each other.Russell brought up the subject again on Tuesday, without naming dates, times or locations of what she called the superspreader event. She said it occurred at two venues over the course of one evening in Saint John and was directly responsible for 60 confirmed cases in Zone 2. "Sixty people have contracted the respiratory disease from the event — 34 who attended and 26 others who were infected when they came into contact with attendees," said Russell. "This isn't about casting blame, it's really about a teaching moment."
Nunavut's chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, warns Arviat needs to keep its tight restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Mussel growers on P.E.I. are excited about a new project that will help them selectively breed mussels to be more resistant to climate change. The $800,000 project was created by Genome Atlantic and $300,000 of that came from the Atlantic Fisheries Fund. Tiago Hori, director of research and development at Atlantic Aqua Farms in Vernon Bridge, P.E.I., told Island Morning's Laura Chapin that growers will look at which mussels have a higher degree of resistance to warming ocean temperatures. Then they can figure out which parts of the genome cause that trait. "We think that temperature resistance can be an important trait for mussels, if indeed the climate keeps changing towards hotter temperatures," said Hori. Warm waters big challenge P.E.I. provides 80 per cent of North America's mussels, in an industry that employs around 1,500 people. The biggest challenge for Island mussel farmers right now is water temperature, Hori said, because mussels are grown in shallow estuaries, where temperatures can increase quickly. "We are concerned that if the climate keeps warming, that we're starting to reach critical temperatures that might be lethal to the mussels and could lead to large losses of product," said Hori. Kristin Tweel, the director of sector innovation for Genome Atlantic, explained that selective breeding has been used for centuries. "Genomics simply allows us to identify a lot more quickly the traits that we're most interested in breeding, without making any artificial changes at a genetic level," said Tweel. Hoping to grow the industry Along with selecting mussels for their ability to survive warmer temperatures, Hori said another goal of the project is to use genomics to improve the growth of P.E.I. mussels. "If we can reduce the growth cycle, then we can increase growth but we also can increase efficiency," said Hori. "You could stay with the same target of production, but in a reduced number of leases. And that would lead to a huge increase in efficiency and a huge decrease in costs, because now … you're having to do less with management and all of that."> You want an animal that grows fast but that retains the characteristics that are essential to that product. — Tiago Hori, Atlantic Aqua Farms Would any of this selective breeding have an impact on the next bowl of P.E.I. mussels you may order in a restaurant? Hori confirms that the taste and texture of the mussels would still be a top priority. "When you breed an animal, you don't select for a trait … in a blind way. You select it based on that trait, but taking into consideration other things, like meat yield and taste," he said. "You want an animal that grows fast but that retains the characteristics that are essential to that product." Untapped aquaculture potential Hori also pointed out that because of climate change, we'll likely be eating more and more seafood in the years to come. "If you look at some of the estimates the UN has for the consumption of seafood in the next 20 years, there will be a significant increase in the amount of seafood required to provide seafood to the human population." Shellfish, Hori said, have a much smaller risk of having a negative impact on the environment because they consume organic matter."There is a lot of untapped aquaculture potential."More from CBC P.E.I.
Don’t travel over the upcoming holidays. But if you must, consider getting coronavirus tests before and after, U.S. health officials urged Wednesday.The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the best way to stay safe and protect others is to stay home.The agency also announced new guidelines that shorten recommended quarantines after close contact with someone infected with coronavirus. The agency said the risk in a shorter quarantine is small, but that the change makes following the guidance less of a hardship.The no-travel advice echoes recommendations for Thanksgiving but many Americans ignored it. With COVID-19 continuing to surge, the CDC added the testing option.“Cases are rising, hospitalizations are increasing , deaths are increasing. We need to try to bend the curve, stop this exponential increase,” the CDC's Dr. Henry Walke said during a briefing.He said any travel-related surge in cases from travel would likely be apparent about a week to 10 days after Thanksgiving.The virus has infected more than 13.5 million Americans and killed at least 270,000 since January.“The safest thing to do is to postpone holiday travel and stay home," said Dr. Cindy Friedman, another CDC official. "Travel volume was high over Thanksgiving,'' and even if small numbers were infected, that could result in ’’hundreds of thousands of new infections.”‘’Travel is a door-to-door experience that can spread virus during the journey and also into communities that travellers visit or live," she added.For those who decide to travel, COVID-19 tests should be considered one to three days before the trip and again three to five days afterward, the CDC said. The agency also recommended travellers reduce non-essential activities for a full week after they return or for 10 days if not tested afterward. And it emphasized the importance of continuing to follow precautions including masks, social distancing and frequent hand-washing.The revised quarantine guidance says people who have been in contact with someone infected with the virus can resume normal activity after 10 days, or seven days if they receive a negative test result. That’s down from the 14-day period recommended since the pandemic began.The change is based on extensive modeling by CDC and others, said the agency's Dr. John Brooks..___Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner at @LindseyTanner.___The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.Lindsey Tanner, The Associated Press
THUNDER BAY — Thunder Bay police will begin publishing the names of all drivers charged with impaired driving offences in order to deter individuals from getting behind the wheel impaired as the annual Festive RIDE program officially launched on Wednesday. The number of individuals charged with impaired driving offences have been ‘staggering’ so far this year, according to Thunder Bay Police Const. Mark Cattani with the traffic unit. “We are at a point now where we are essentially running out of options,” Cattani said during a virtual news conference. At the end of last year’s festive RIDE season, police reported a record of 204 individuals charged with impaired driving for the total year. “This was by far the greatest number we had ever seen,” Cattani said. “I am discouraged and unfortunately have to report that we are at 251 impaired drivers at this point without even having started the RIDE program.” Starting Wednesday, Dec. 2, police will begin publishing the names of people who are charged with impaired driving offences in hopes of deterring individuals from driving impaired, a practice that has been in place in several other police forces in Ontario. “There is a very clear need for enforcement,” Cattani said. “We are already beyond so far where we have already been any other year.” The OPP have named alleged drunk divers for years in news releases. During Wednesday’s news conference, police reported in the last 24 hours four individuals had been charged with impaired driving. Two who were drug-impaired and two under the influence of alcohol. “We feel this is probably one of the most effective ways as a supplement to the RIDE program itself to get impaired drivers off the road potentially,” Cattani said. The festive RIDE program runs from Dec. 2 to Jan. 1, 2021.Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
Junior and senior high school students switched back to online learning after new provincial COVID restrictions kicked in Monday. The restrictions announced last Tuesday and in place until Jan. 11 have local school divisions scrambling to prepare for transitions. Elementary school students were to remain on site until the Christmas break starts Dec. 18. In-person learning is not set to return until Jan. 11. “We certainly had a bit of experience with online learning in the spring, but we want to do a better job this time around,” said Karl Germann, Grande Prairie and District Catholic Schools (GPCSD) superintendent. “We’ve got a little more time to prepare and will ensure all our subjects are covered.” Peace Wapiti School Division (PWSD) said at-home learning will resume for all grades Jan. 4 to 8. “Given the information we have at this time conveyed to us by the Ministry of Education, the expectation is that all students who are enrolled in in-person classes will return to schools on Monday, Jan. 11,” said PWSD superintendent Bob Stewart. PWSD will use the website Google Classrooms as a learning platform, with paperwork packages also available to students who can’t access the Internet, according to the guidance to parents. For kindergarten to Grade 3, teachers are preparing work packages in advance of Christmas break, according to the guidance. The guidance states it’s expected students can complete their work in an average of one and a half to two hours per school day. For grades 4 to 6 in early January, it’s expected students will be able to complete their work in an average of two and a half to three hours per school day, according to PWSD. Teachers are expected to communicate with students using email and Google Meet, as well as to keep up regular contact with parents and guardians. PWSD is providing Chromebooks and other devices to students to facilitate at-home learning, said Angela Sears, communications officer. At Grande Prairie and District Catholic Schools, Germann said schools will continue to use Google Classroom but now also has software called Hapara. Hapara can keep students’ assignments organized and streamlines students’ workflow, he said. “If assignments are emailed, it’s easy to lose track of them, so we’re trying to use software … to make sure the lessons are as interesting as being in school,” Germann said. GPCSD is aiming to keep learning interactive, with not only webcast lessons but also videos, virtual activities and even having physical activities like exercises, he said. “An email is just text, but we know people learn more when they have a chance to break into groups, to chat, to problem solve,” he said. GPCSD has “re-deployed” its Chromebooks to grades 7 to 12 students who don’t have the necessary technology at home, Germann said. He also called on parents to drive home the message to their children that the at-home learning is “not a holiday.” School break in GPCSD begins after Dec. 18 and ends Jan. 4, when at-home learning begins again. At Valhalla Community School, kindergarten to Grade 6 students will continue with in-person learning until winter break begins Dec. 17, according to a letter sent to parents. Grades 7 to 9 students will be using Google Classroom in the meantime, according to Valhalla Community School’s letter. Diploma exams will be optional, including August 2021 diplomas, according to the Alberta government.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
Montreal Alouettes running back Shaquille Murray-Lawrence is used to psyching himself up to sprint down a field, evading a crush of muscled men the entire way. But mentally preparing for his latest venture required bracing for a whole new set of anxieties. As he readied himself to hop in a bobsled for the first time, Murray-Lawrence knew he'd be zipping down an icy track faster than cars are allowed to travel down most highways. “It was very nerve wracking," the 27-year-old Toronto native said of the run. "Once I got in the sled, it was just the longest 50 seconds of my life. I didn’t know if I was going to make it. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I couldn’t breathe. But when it’s over, I was like ‘Hey, man, I think I could do that again.’”And he has. Murrary-Lawrence, Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive back Jay Dearborn and B.C. Lions running back hopeful Kayden Johnson joined the national bobsled program after the CFL cancelled its 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the national development squad, the trio has been training at the ice house at Calgary's Canada Olympic Park. This week, the group moved to the sliding centre in Whistler, B.C., where they'll perfect their techniques on a full course. Built for the 2010 Olympics, the Whistler track is known as one of the fastest in the world. Dearborn still hasn't figured out how to explain what it's like to race down the ice."The feel of those forces going around the corner, or the speed that you’re going at … the biggest thing that I struggle with is how to describe what it’s like to have your whole being crushed by these forces going through each corner," he said. Just months ago, Dearborn "didn't know a thing" about the sport. A strength and conditioning coach at Carleton University put him in touch with a national recruiter last year, but it wasn't until March that the 26-year-old from Yarker, Ont., got into a sled for the first time. “I just knew the type of athletes it attracted and I knew I was pretty similar — a strong, explosive, fast athlete, that are pretty technically minded people," Dearborn said.Football and bobsled both require ample power and explosiveness, Murray-Lawrence said. "You've got to be very aggressive," he said. "You need so much speed, so much power in such a short amount of time."The sport has a delicate side, too, he added, because you also have to be a "ballerina or ninja" to seamlessly jump into the sled without rocking it as it hurtles down the track. Learning that balance of power and poise has been a long time coming for Murray-Lawrence. He was first recruited by the national bobsled team in 2017 while playing for the Lions.Then his life was upended by a hit-and-run crash that left Murray-Lawrence with a concussion and back injuries.It was about 700 days before he played another CFL game, joining the Alouettes late in the 2019 season. The campaign ended before Murray-Lawrence could firmly reestablish himself, though, and this year was supposed to be his big comeback. “Everything got put on hold. There was so much uncertainty," he said. "For me, the last two years has been about trying to prove myself.”When the CFL finally called off the 2020 season in August, it didn't take Murray-Lawrence long to turn his sights to bobsled. He spoke with former Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive back Dexter Janke and Olympian Jesse Lumsden, both of whom played in the CFL and competed in bobsled.“I’m just trying to be a sponge. I’m just trying to soak up as much knowledge and information that I can," he said.There's a lot of overlap in training for bobsled and football, said Kayden Johnson, a 24-year-old running back from Kerrobert, Sask., who was selected by the Lions in the seventh round of the 2020 draft.Because of the lost season, Johnson has yet to play a CFL game, but he believes his winter work will help his football career. “Bobsleigh has that mental toughness and that competitive aspect of all or nothing," he said. "You’ll always commit to going full speed. Even if you fail, you fail at full speed, that’s what they like to say here. You’re not afraid of the challenge or attacking the run.”For Dearborn, training to be a brakeman includes more sprinting than he was used to in the CFL. He and his coaches regularly watch video to dissect and perfect every detail and angle of his stride, the same way a runner might work with a sprinting coach.“I think it’s going to help my running," Dearborn said. "I should show up on that field a little faster than I was, so that’s really exciting.”In January, the three CFLers are set to take their new skills on the road as the Canadian bobsled team heads to Europe to compete. The bobsled and skeleton world championships are scheduled to take place in Germany at the beginning of February, and there's an Olympic test event slated for early March in Beijing. Knowing that the team is working towards the 2022 Olympics is exciting, said Murray-Lawrence. Competing on the world's biggest stage for your country instead of for a team that you've signed a contract with "holds a little bit more pride," he explained. “This is something I can carry with me forever, that I represented my country," he said. Johnson already knows the thrill of wearing the maple leaf of his chest, having represented Canada in decathlon at the Pan American junior championships, but he'd love to represent his country on the bobsled track in Beijing, too. “The Olympics has always been a dream of mine," said Johnson, who also competed in 60-metre hurdles at York University. "Olympics rings have always been something I’ve been chasing after.” All three athletes hope they can balance bobsled and football when the CFL finally returns. Murray-Lawrence believes he can do both sports for a long time, but adds that, with the current state of the world, little is certain right now."At any moment, this could all be shut down," he said. "So we’re just living in the moment right now. Embrace it, cherish it and have fun.”This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press
SIOUX LOOK — Sioux Lookout Ontario Provincial Police have released the name of a woman who died in a house fire last month as they continue to determine the cause of the fire. Clara Ash, 37, of Sioux Lookout has been identified as the individual who died in a house fire on Nov. 19. In a news release issued Wednesday, Dec. 2, police say the cause of death was smoke inhalation. Police responded at approximately 6 a.m. on Nov. 19 along with fire and emergency crews to an apartment on First Avenue in the municipality of Sioux Lookout. Two individuals were extracted from the building and neighbouring units were safely evacuated, according to a news release. A third deceased individual was located by firefighters. OPP continue to investigate the cause of the fire under the direction of the criminal investigations branch, the chief coroner, and the Ontario Fire Marshal. Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact OPP or their local police service.Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
When Billy Moore's friends speak about him, they often mention his love for fishing, his friendliness, work ethic and of course, his love for Elvis Presley — right down to the costume he'd wear to dress up like the star.Over the weekend, Moore died at the age of 69."He was one of our ambassadors, one of our hardest-working people in our community," said Gerry Kisoun, a friend of Moore's since childhood."He was always friendly. I don't know if he had a mean bone in his body. He just tried to do his best to entertain you the best that he could."Originally from Aklavik, Moore moved to Inuvik when it became a town. Moore, who is Gwich'in, had Down syndrome, and outlived the average life expectancy of 60 for those who have the disability."To be honest a lot of us kids that grew up with Billy, we didn't know what the heck Down syndrome was, and he was just our buddy," said Kisoun. "He worked and he was just another one of our citizens in our community."Moore lived for a long time at the Billy Moore Group Home, named after him, which provides services to adults with moderate disabilities. He later transferred to the Charlotte Vehus Group home.Kisoun said that Moore always liked to entertain and would sing Elvis Presley at most talent shows during the Muskrat Jamboree."A very entertaining guy. Not only at our spring jamboree but our Mad Trapper," said Kisoun. "He would perform for the people … He'd might show up with his Elvis Presley outfit and that was our Billy. And, by golly, he was here for a long time."Louie Goose, another childhood and lifelong friend, always shared a love for music with Moore."He would hit every venue in town that would have to do with music, he just loved music," said Goose. "We also loved Billy very much because he was unique, he was honest and he always was content with whatever was happening in his life and he touched us all with that."Goose moved to Aklavik when he was eight years old, and that's when he remembers first meeting Moore. He was affected by Moore's kindness, even as a kid."It was so refreshing just to have somebody to wave to me. And have him wave back," said Goose. "He was so,so friendly."It was a person who just made us feel like there was peace in the air."Goose also said unless it was Sunday when Moore would go to church, Moore would be working for the Town of Inuvik keeping the sidewalks clean.Working was something that everyone who knew Moore, knew he loved."Even before I worked for the Town of Inuvik, you would see Billy trudging down from the Billy Moore home … and Billy would clean the streets. He would either sweep or in the winter time he would shovel the snow and the ice," said Rick Campbell, director of public services for the Town of Invuik.Campbell said Moore was one of the first people he noticed when he and his family moved to Inuvik as a child, since he was always at the playground during the ball games. He said that Moore had a work ethic like no other."Billy was alway happy to go to work," laughs Campbell."They had a hard time if Billy wasn't feeling well, of stopping him from going to work … He really enjoyed working. If everyone was like that, things would be good … it's going to be very sad not to see him anymore."For Goose, he envisions Moore getting to meet and "probably impersonating" his favourite star."You're probably with Elvis."
’Tis the season of great Aubrey Plaza performances, apparently. The “Parks and Recreation” and “Legion” alum has been long overdue for a breakout film role, something fitting of her wide-ranging talent and more imaginative than just relying on her quirky deadpan and eye rolls.She’s been excellent before as a motivated teen in “The To Do List” and an empathetic social media stalker in “Ingrid Goes West” but the bigger studio comedies have largely failed her. Something finally clicked into place, though, and she has proven that she is on another level. And no, I’m not just talking about her effortlessly cool “Happiest Season” character, a side-player who became a social media favourite simply by existing.The movie is “ Black Bear,” a meta thriller about moviemaking, creativity and ego from writer-director Lawrence Michael Levine that debuted earlier this year at Sundance and is the kind of indie that can so easily get lost just because it is never going to be an Oscar contender. It also has the misfortune of being enormously tricky to describe coherently or satisfyingly: It essentially becomes a different movie halfway through. But even though it is purposefully disorienting and occasionally a little too heightened, it is never not interesting and keeps you rapt with its captivating performances, revealing dialogue and moody, lo-fi style.In the first section, Plaza plays Allison, an actor turned filmmaker who has decided to escape to a bed and breakfast in the woods on a lake to work on her next screenplay. Her movies, she says, are the small, unsuccessful ones that no one likes. And she quit acting because she was difficult or not pretty enough or, more likely, some other reason she would rather not admit to herself much less a stranger whose property she’s renting.The cabin is maintained by a young, pretty couple Gabe (Christopher Abbott), a musician, and Blair (Sarah Gadon), a dancer, who are expecting their first child. Their struggling artist life in Brooklyn was too expensive and unsuccessful to continue and they’re trying on the rustic life for a change. Although, like an unhappy couple who have been isolated for too long, the cracks are starting to show.The first act unravels like a play. The three have a long, wine-fueled dinner talking, bickering and provoking one another to the breaking point and beyond. Allison is sarcastic, evasive and quippy and finds herself allying with Gabe much to the distress of the much more direct and sincere Blair. Gabe is a very particular kind of millennial male whose artistic temperament, dismissive intellect and sensitive posturing make for a toxic combination — a theme which carries over into the second part of the film to explosive results. It’s cringey and enthralling as the three dig themselves into deeper and deeper holes and you begin to wish for any kind of release.Perhaps that’s part of the reason why “Black Bear” cuts to black and restarts with a different premise but similar themes. Gadon and Abbott are darkly excellent as they playfully skewer the worst kind of egos in their industry. And it’s here where Plaza, as actor Allison, gets some real showstopper moments within the stereotypical construct of a desperately insecure, jealous and dangerously method female lead. It’s reminiscent of and probably inspired by Gena Rowlands and puts Plaza in a different class.The film itself might not wrap up in any sort of tidy or satisfying way, but nothing leading up to the conclusion would lead you to expect something so basic.“Black Bear,” a Momentum Pictures release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “for language throughout, sexual content, drug use and some nudity.” Running time: 104 minutes. Three stars out of four.___MPAA Definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.___Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahrLindsey Bahr, The Associated Press
Homicide investigators say a fourth person has been charged in the Remembrance Day shooting of a man in Surrey, B.C., last year.Andrew Baldwin, 30, was killed Nov. 11, 2019, at a house in the 10700-block of 124 Street. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team announced Wednesday that Munroop Hayer has been charged with first-degree murder.Supt. Elija Rain with the Surrey RCMP said Hayer is well known to police in the Lower Mainland.Jordan Bottomley and Jagpal Hothi have already been charged with first-degree murder in the case.Jasman Basran, 21, was charged in May with being an accessory to murder.Baldwin was gunned down just weeks after his younger brother, 27-year-old Keith Baldwin, was shot and killed in Chilliwack, B.C. Both men were known to police.Sgt. Frank Jang with IHIT read a statement Wednesday from Baldwin's mother, Julie. "Andrew was a caring, giving person and his loyalty to his family, friends, loved ones and co-workers was unwavering," the note read. "We will all miss him, every moment of every day."
Fossil fuel production around the world must start winding down now, dropping by six per cent per year for the next decade to avoid the more extreme consequences of the climate emergency, according to a major new study backed by the United Nations. Instead, governments around the world, including Canada, expect to go in the opposite direction — producing more coal, oil or natural gas “far in excess of the levels consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature limits,” states the 2020 Production Gap report, released Wednesday. Researchers working in collaboration with the UN’s Environment Program looked at publicly available energy strategies of eight major fossil fuel-producing countries that collectively account for 60 per cent of the global fossil fuel supply. They found a planned average annual increase of about two per cent per year to carbon-intensive energy production. Such production levels would result in more than double, or 120 per cent more, high-carbon fuels by 2030 than would be consistent with holding global heating below 2 C above pre-industrial levels. “Governments are altogether still planning on producing far too many fossil fuels,” said Ploy Pattanun Achakulwisut, a scientist with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and the corresponding author of the report’s chapter on the production gap. This includes Canada, which expects its crude oil and natural gas production to keep steadily climbing over the next two decades, even as the federal Liberal government commits to net-zero emissions nationwide by 2050 and promises to increase the stringency of its 2030 emissions target. Canadian crude oil production isn’t expected to peak until at least 2039, and natural gas production isn’t expected to peak until 2040, according to projections from the federal energy regulator that were released last week. Wednesday’s report cites Canadian projections showing 6.4 million barrels of oil per day and 187 billion cubic metres of natural gas by 2030. Julia Levin, climate and energy program manager at Environmental Defence, said the report sounds the alarm over the disconnect between the climate commitments of countries and their plans for their energy sectors. As a wealthy nation, said Levin, with expertise in renewable energy and clean technology, Canada has the ability to start down a path of a managed decline of fossil fuel production, while ensuring such a transition is just and equitable for workers in the sector. “It will require courage and leadership from our elected leaders to start having honest conversations about what achieving zero emissions really means, and to stop dancing around an obvious truth: That we must transition off of fossil fuels,” she said. Canada is one of four countries examined in the report, along with Australia, the United States and Russia, that are forecasting increases in their oil and gas production. The eight countries studied also include China, India, Indonesia and Norway. The researchers — who also hailed from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and European think tank E3G — said the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown measures meant to stop the spread of the virus did take a bite out of fossil fuel production, but not nearly enough to stave off harsher climate disruptions. They said preliminary estimates suggest global fossil fuel production will drop by seven per cent in 2020, relative to last year. Coal will drop by eight per cent, oil will drop by seven per cent and natural gas will drop by three per cent. Pre-COVID-19 energy plans, as well as government stimulus and recovery measures, however, could “prompt a return to pre-COVID production trajectories that lock in severe climate disruption.” “To date, governments have committed far more COVID-19 funds to fossil fuels than to clean energy,” the report states. “As of November 2020, G20 governments had committed US$233 billion to activities that support fossil fuel production and consumption, as compared with US$146 billion to renewable energy, energy efficiency, and low-carbon alternatives.” One very important fossil fuel player is missing from the report: The researchers could not find data from Saudi Arabia. But the state-controlled fossil fuel giant Saudi Aramco has indicated in a Reuters story that it will ramp up production as soon as demand returns “before a shift to cleaner energy makes crude all but worthless.” The federal government gets credit in the report for committing $1.7 billion towards cleaning up orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells, and for launching a methane emissions reduction program. Canada, with its carbon pricing system, is also one of several governments that have introduced reforms and limits to fossil fuel consumption. It is also one of three countries to have set up bodies that are helping design policies to facilitate a “just transition” away from fossil fuels. Meanwhile, Alberta is also noted for contributing $180 million to its Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction system, meant to help large industrial emitters cut their pollution. Michael Lazarus, director of SEI’s U.S. centre and co-ordinating lead author of the report, noted that even though Canadian oil production is forecasted to continue to rise, the Canada Energy Regulator had “substantially ramped down” the projections in its latest report. “I think we may begin to see other countries starting to do the same,” he said. “But the point is they need to be encouraged to do so. It doesn’t necessarily come automatically.” Canada is also listed as a “leading provider of fossil fuel producer subsidies” and Alberta’s equity and loan guarantees for the Keystone XL pipeline are also singled out. Carl Meyer / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National ObserverCarl Meyer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
BERLIN — The U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs voted Wednesday to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from a category of the world's most dangerous drugs, which could impact the global medical marijuana industry.The Vienna-based U.N. agency said in a statement that it had voted 27-25, with one abstention, to follow the World Health Organization's recommendation to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs, where it was listed with heroin and several other opioids.The drugs that are on Schedule IV are a subset of those on Schedule I of the convention, which already requires the highest levels of international control. The agency voted to leave cannabis and cannabis resin on the list of Schedule I drugs, which also include cocaine, Fentanyl, morphine, Methadone, opium and oxycodone, the opiate painkiller sold as OxyContin,Wednesday's vote therefore does not clear U.N. member nations to legalize marijuana under the international drug control system. Canada and Uruguay have legalized the sale and use of cannabis for recreational purposes, but many countries around the world have decriminalized marijuana possession.The schedules weigh a drug's medical utility versus the possible harm that it might cause, and experts say that taking cannabis off the strictest schedule could lead, however, to the loosening of international controls on medical marijuana.The Associated Press
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Despite the month of December just barely underway, St. Marys residents are already planning to do something special for members of the community. Rachael O'Neill and Joe Robson said they were chatting recently about how difficult this year has been and what they could do to give back and make this holiday season a bit more jolly for their fellow residents. That was when they came up with the idea of a free Christmas dinner for those in need. The duo has teamed up with Gordy's to deliver a limited number of free dinners on Christmas Eve to St. Marys residents. Please remember that quantities are limited and this is meant only for people truly in need. If you or someone you know is in need, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or, for those who don't email, you can send your request to Box no. 9, N4X 1A9, in St. Marys. Donations will also be accepted via e-transfer or can be picked up by O'Neill. When submitting the name of yourself or someone else to receive a free Christmas Eve dinner, make sure to include the following information: • Name • Address • Phone number and email address (if applicable)Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
JERUSALEM — Israel took a major step toward plunging into its fourth national election in under two years on Wednesday as lawmakers — supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main coalition partner — passed a preliminary proposal to dissolve parliament. The 61-54 vote came just seven months after the coalition took office following three inconclusive elections in just over a year. Netanyahu's Likud party and Defence Minister Benny Gantz's Blue and White said they were seeking national unity to confront the coronavirus crisis. But since then, the rivals have been locked in infighting. The vote gave only preliminary approval to ending the alliance and forcing a new election early next year. The legislation now heads to a committee before parliament as a whole takes up final approval, perhaps as soon as next week. In the meantime, Gantz and Netanyahu are expected to continue negotiations in a last-ditch attempt to preserve their troubled alliance. By joining the opposition in Wednesday's vote, Gantz’s party voiced its dissatisfaction with Netanyahu, accusing him of putting his own personal interests ahead of those of the country. Netanyahu is on trial for a series of corruption charges, and Gantz accuses the prime minister of hindering key governmental work, including the passage of a national budget, in hopes of stalling or overturning the legal proceedings against him. Gantz and other critics believe Netanyahu is ultimately hoping to see a friendlier parliament elected next year that will give him immunity from prosecution. Opposition leader Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party sponsored the bill to trigger new elections, accused the government of gross mishandling of the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout. He said the one thing all citizens share is “the feeling that they lost control over their lives.” The government still has not yet passed a budget for 2020, a result of the deep divisions produced by its power-sharing agreement. The lack of budget has caused severe hardships and cutbacks for Israelis at a time when unemployment is estimated at over 20% because of the pandemic. In a nationally broadcast news conference Wednesday evening, Netanyahu delivered a mixed message, calling on Gantz to remain in the government but also sounding very much like a politician on the campaign trail. Netanyahu began his address by claiming credit for leading the battle against the coronavirus, forging diplomatic agreements with Gulf Arab countries and protecting Israel against its enemies in the region. He derisively referred to Gantz's party as “an opposition within the coalition" and skirted around questions about passing the budget or honouring the rotation agreement with Gantz. “In dramatic times like these, we don’t need to go to elections. The people of Israel want unity, not ballots. It wants vaccines, and not campaign ads,” he said. "The only way we can defeat corona is defeating it together. We need to put politics aside.” Gantz, meanwhile, released a video blaming Netanyahu for the political paralysis and economic damage resulting from the pandemic. “We all know the truth. You know the truth,” Gantz said in the video. “If there was no trial, there would be a budget. If there was no trial, there would be a functioning government. There would be unity.” Israel has gone through two nationwide lockdowns since March, and officials are already warning that rising infections could result in a return to strict restrictions that were only recently lifted. If a budget for 2020 isn’t passed by Dec. 23, Israeli law stipulates an automatic dissolution of parliament and new elections three months later in late March. Under the coalition deal, Netanyahu is to serve as prime minister until November 2021, with the job rotating to Gantz for 18 months after that. The only way Netanyahu can hold onto his seat and get out of that agreement is if a budget doesn’t pass and new elections are held. There were no indications that either side is interested in preserving their partnership for the long run. Instead, the battle is expected to be over when the election will be held. Although Gantz's party has plummeted in opinion polls, he appears to have concluded that elections are inevitable and the sooner they are held, the better. By pushing for an election early next year, he seems to be banking that Netanyahu will be punished by voters for a still-raging pandemic, a struggling economy and the resumption of his corruption trial. Starting in February, Netanyahu's corruption trial is scheduled to kick into high gear, with a string of witnesses testifying against him. The prime minister expected to be a frequent visitor to the courtroom. Netanyahu, on the other hand, is expected to try to drag out budget talks to delay elections until the summer in hopes that a vaccine will arrive and the economy will begin to recover. If he can put together a hardline coalition at that time, he might finally be positioned to push through an immunity bill or appoint new judicial officials to freeze or overturn his case. “Over the last two years, the only question you need to ask is not what is best for the country and not what is best for this or that party, but what is in the best interest of Benjamin Netanyahu," Gayil Tashir, a political scientist at Hebrew University, told reporters. She said it looks like Netanyahu thinks it is his best interest to hold an election next summer. One wild card in any Israeli election will be the administration of President-elect Joe Biden. Netanyahu has had a close relationship with President Donald Trump after clashing with President Barack Obama for the previous eight years. Israeli officials fear that Biden, who was Obama's vice-president, will return to the policies of that era, especially renewing possible diplomatic engagement with archenemy Iran. Tashir said this would be a “big issue” in the next Israeli campaign. “Netanyahu is going to put forward an argument which says 'I’m the only Israeli leader who can actually stand up against a Biden administration,'" she said. Ilan Ben Zion, The Associated Press
Investigators from the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) are headed to Naujaat, Nunavut, to look into why a Calm Air cargo plane went off the runway in that community last week.No injuries were reported in the incident.In a statement posted to Calm Air International's Facebook page last Thursday, the company said one of its cargo planes left the runway that afternoon.It said crew members were receiving medical evaluations, but did not offer any other details about the incident.A report earlier this week from Transport Canada's Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System (CADORS) said there were three people on board, and the aircraft "sustained significant damage."In a news release on Wednesday, the TSB said it was deploying a team of investigators to Naujaat, to "gather information and assess the occurrence."