This devoted momma bear makes sure her mischievous cubs come safely from a tree. Amazing! @kirstenalyssa
This devoted momma bear makes sure her mischievous cubs come safely from a tree. Amazing! @kirstenalyssa
Ottawa will not license any Indigenous fishery in Atlantic Canada unless it operates within the commercial season, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said Wednesday, siding against Mi'kmaw bands in their ongoing dispute with commercial fishermen. The statement is a major development in the dispute over treaty rights-based fishing that sparked violence last fall when the Sipekne'katik band launched its own self-regulated 'moderate livelihood' lobster fishery. The fishery in St. Marys Bay in southwest Nova Scotia took place outside the commercial season, angering other fishermen who said it was both unfair and bad for conservation. "Seasons ensure that stocks are harvested sustainably and they are necessary for an orderly, predictable, and well-managed fishery," Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said in a statement, confirming a CBC News report earlier in the day. "In effort-based fisheries such as lobster, seasons are part of the overall management structure that conserves the resource, ensures there isn't overfishing, and distributes economic benefits across Atlantic Canada." WATCH | The history of the Mi'kmaw fishery: DFO indicated a willingness to discuss other details with affected First Nation communities. But Sipekne'katik Chief Mike Sack urged Mi'kmaw bands in Atlantic Canada to reject the federal government's position and told reporters his First Nation will continue to operate its fishery outside DFO seasons in 2021. "They're trying to divide and conquer and throw a carrot to a band or two and have them sign and just hurt everybody's case. So I hope that no other communities do sign. They don't take that low hanging fruit," he said. Sack restated his position that the treaty right was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada's Marshall decision, and accused DFO of trying to divide and conquer the Mi'kmaq. In 1999, the court affirmed the Mi'kmaw treaty right to fish in pursuit of a "moderate livelihood," but under federal government regulations for conservation. Ottawa spent half a billion dollars integrating Indigenous bands into the commercial fishery through licence buy-backs and training, but it never defined "moderate livelihood." Jordan cited part of the Marshall ruling to justify her authority. She noted the Supreme Court said "treaty rights are subject to regulation provided such regulation is shown by the Crown to be justified on conservation or other grounds of public importance." "That is what we are implementing," Jordan said in her statement. Bands that accept the DFO's position will receive a moderate livelihood licence allowing them to sell their catch in 2021. Under provincial rules, only fish products harvested under federal commercial licences can be purchased by shore processors. The federal government "will balance additional First Nations access through already available licences and a willing buyer-willing seller approach, protecting our stocks and preserving the industry for generations to come," Jordan's statement said. Sipekne'katik First Nation Chief Michael Sack, right, halted talks with the federal Fisheries Department in December after reaching an impasse.(Paul Withers/CBC) Mi'kmaw leaders and some academics have insisted the fishery in St. Marys Bay poses no risk to stocks because it is too small. It's a claim the commercial industry rejects. One organization representing commercial fishermen said the DFO has made public what it had been telling the industry in private. "This position needs to come from them and they need to come out publicly, more often," said Martin Mallet, executive director of the Maritime Fishermen's Union. Mallet said commercial fishermen expect the DFO to enforce its rules if bands operate out of season, including pulling traps and "potentially arresting individuals that are not keeping up with the law." A group representing harvesters in southwestern Nova Scotia said the government's position "can provide certainty" for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishermen. "However, lasting and consistent enforcement that is fair to all harvesters will be critical," the Unified Fisheries Conservation Alliance said in a statement. The ambiguity over moderate livelihood led to violence last year when several bands launched self-regulated lobster fisheries — all taking place outside of commercial lobster seasons. In October, two facilities storing Mi'kmaw catches were vandalized, including one that was later burned to the ground. Indigenous harvesters also said hundreds of their traps were pulled by non-Indigenous commercial fishermen. After tensions abated, the DFO pulled hundreds of Mi'kmaw traps out of the water, many bearing band moderate livelihood tags. On Wednesday, the DFO returned to Sipekne'katik more than 200 traps it had seized last fall. Sipekne'katik First Nation Chief Mike Sack, shown in October, said Wednesday his band will continue to operate its moderate livelihood fishery outside DFO seasons in 2021.(Pat Callaghan/CBC) When defending the self-regulated fisheries, the Mi'kmaq point to the huge number of commercial traps in the water compared to those from bands. The Nova Scotia Seafood Alliance, which represents shore buyers, said that is misleading. Stewart Lamont of Tangier Lobster said he accepts the treaty right but maintains the fisheries must take place within commercial seasons. "The lobster biomass is extremely vulnerable during certain months of the year, most particularly late July, August, September, October, when lobsters are going through their annual molt," said Lamont. "They're literally hungrier than normal. They've taken on a new shell. They are far more readily embraced into a trap." He said hauling lobster at that time is short-sighted. "By the same token, they are of far lesser quality. They tend to be soft and medium shell. It's not a premium product." MORE TOP STORIES
WASHINGTON — The Defence Department took more than three hours to dispatch the National Guard to the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol despite a frantic request for reinforcement from police, according to testimony Wednesday that added to the finger-pointing about the government response. Maj. Gen. William Walker, commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, told senators that the then-chief of the Capitol Police requested military support in a 1:49 p.m. call, but the Defence Department's approval for that support was not relayed to him until after 5 p.m., according to prepared testimony. Guard troops who had been waiting on buses were then rushed to the Capitol. That delay stood in contrast to the immediate approval for National Guard support granted in response to the civil unrest that roiled American cities last spring as an outgrowth of racial justice protests, Walker said. As local officials pleaded for help, Army officials raised concerns about the optics of a substantial National Guard presence at the Capitol, he said. “The Army senior leadership” expressed to officials on the call “that it would not be their best military advice to have uniformed Guardsmen on the Capitol,” Walker said. The Senate hearing is the second about what went wrong on Jan. 6, with national security officials face questions about missed intelligence and botched efforts to quickly gather National Guard troops that day as a violent mob laid siege to the U.S. Capitol. Even as Walker detailed the National Guard delay, another military official noted that local officials in Washington had said days earlier that no such support was needed. Senators were eager to grill officials from the Pentagon, the National Guard and the Justice and Homeland Security departments about their preparations for that day. Supporters of then-President Donald Trump had talked online, in some cases openly, about gathering in Washington that day and interrupting the electoral count. At a hearing last week, officials who were in charge of security at the Capitol blamed one another as well as federal law enforcement for their own lack of preparation as hundreds of rioters descended on the building, easily breached the security perimeter and eventually broke into the Capitol. Five people died as a result of the rioting. So far, lawmakers conducting investigations have focused on failed efforts to gather and share intelligence about the insurrectionists’ planning before Jan. 6 and on the deliberations among officials about whether and when to call National Guard troops to protect Congress. The officials at the hearing last week, including ousted Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, gave conflicting accounts of those negotiations. Robert Contee, the acting chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department, told senators he was “stunned” over the delayed response and said Sund was pleading with Army officials to deploy National Guard troops as the rioting rapidly escalated. Senate Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar, one of two Democratic senators who will preside over Wednesday's hearing, said in an interview Tuesday that she believes every moment counted as the National Guard decision was delayed and police officers outside the Capitol were beaten and injured by the rioters. “Any minute that we lost, I need to know why,” Klobuchar said. The hearing comes as thousands of National Guard troops are still patrolling the fenced-in Capitol and as multiple committees across Congress are launching investigations into mistakes made on Jan. 6. The probes are largely focused on security missteps and the origins of the extremism that led hundreds of Trump supporters to break through the doors and windows of the Capitol, hunt for lawmakers and temporarily stop the counting of electoral votes. Congress has, for now, abandoned any examination of Trump’s role in the attack after the Senate acquitted him last month of inciting the riot by telling the supporters that morning to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat. As the Senate hears from the federal officials, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman will testify before a House panel that is also looking into how security failed. In a hearing last week before the same subcommittee, she conceded there were multiple levels of failures but denied that law enforcement failed to take seriously warnings of violence before the insurrection. In the Senate, Klobuchar said there is particular interest in hearing from Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, who was on the phone with Sund and the Department of the Army as the rioters first broke into the building. Contee, the D.C. police chief, was also on the call and told senators that the Army was initially reluctant to send troops. “While I certainly understand the importance of both planning and public perception — the factors cited by the staff on the call — these issues become secondary when you are watching your employees, vastly outnumbered by a mob, being physically assaulted,” Contee said. He said he had quickly deployed his own officers and he was “shocked” that the National Guard “could not — or would not — do the same." Contee said that Army staff said they were not refusing to send troops, but “did not like the optics of boots on the ground” at the Capitol. Also testifying at the joint hearing of the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees are Robert Salesses of the Defence Department, Melissa Smislova of the Department of Homeland Security and Jill Sanborn of the FBI, all officials who oversee aspects of intelligence and security operations. Lawmakers have grilled law enforcement officials about missed intelligence ahead of the attack, including a report from an FBI field office in Virginia that warned of online posts foreshadowing a “war” in Washington. Capitol Police leaders have said they were unaware of the report at the time, even though the FBI had forwarded it to the department. Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the report was disseminated though the FBI’s joint terrorism task force, discussed at a command post in Washington and posted on an internet portal available to other law enforcement agencies. Though the information was raw and unverified and appeared aspirational in nature, Wray said, it was specific and concerning enough that “the smartest thing to do, the most prudent thing to do, was just push it to the people who needed to get it.” Mary Clare Jalonick And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials in Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that vaccination rollout plans for the month included the province's first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some. Chief medical officer Heather Morrison has said people over the age of 80 will get a second dose based on their existing appointments. Going forward, she said, other residents will get a longer interval between their first and second doses, but she didn’t specific how long that will be. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. Quebec announced Tuesday it had reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. Health Minister Christian Dube said about 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the one first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube has said. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. She also says the province will soon share an updated vaccine plan that factors in expected shipments of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The province will do that after getting guidance from the federal government on potentially extending the time between first and second doses, like B.C. is doing, of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to four months, Elliott says She also says Ontario seniors won't receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine since there's limited data on its effectiveness in older populations. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. The province said this week that it may follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. The government says it hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. If that happens, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry says the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means some people will get their first shot sooner than planned. She says B.C. will focus its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among essential workers, first responders and younger people with more social interactions who would have to wait longer to receive their first doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. It's now possible that all adults could get their first shot by July, Henry says. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
CALGARY — A Calgary man has admitted to slitting his girlfriend's throat and, days later, stabbing to death his mother and stepfather. Crown prosecutor Shane Parker said Tuesday that Dustin Duthie, 27, pleaded guilty to the second-degree murders of Taylor Toller and Shawn Boshuk and the first-degree murder of Alan Pennylegion. An agreed statement of facts said Toller, Duthie's girlfriend of five years, was last seen on video footage from outside her condo unit about 4 a.m. on July 26, 2018. Duthie was captured on video leaving the condo alone about an hour later. Police found Toller, 24, five days later with her throat slit and "tucked into her bed as if she was asleep." The agreed statement of facts mentions a torn-up note in which Duthie explains why he killed Toller, but the document does not detail the note's contents. On the same day Toller was found, Duthie stabbed Boshuk, his mother, six times in their home and covered her with a plastic sheet, the statement said. Boshuk had messaged Toller's grandmother a day earlier, concerned about how her son would react to police contacting him about Toller's disappearance. The statement said Pennylegion witnessed Duthie cleaning his mother's blood in the kitchen and Duthie attacked his stepfather, stabbing him eight times. Duthie and his stepfather had a tense relationship at the time and Duthie had threatened violence against Pennylegion over the years, the statement said. One of Duthie's pit bulls was stabbed but survived with surgery. Pennylegion's pet dog, Odie, found with his owner in the main floor bathroom, was also stabbed and died. The statement said Duthie shaved his head, showered, and changed his clothes after killing his mother and stepfather. About 10:50 a.m. on July 31, he called 911 and confessed to the killings. The document said he was "contemplating 'suicide-by-cop.'" A sentencing date has not yet been set. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021 The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — British Columbia health officials say their plan to delay the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to four months is based on scientific evidence and real-world experience, as Ontario and Alberta consider following the province's lead. Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer, responded Tuesday to criticism from Canada's chief science adviser. Henry said the decision was made in the context of limited supply and based on strong local and international data. "This makes sense for us, knowing that it is a critical time right now with the limited amount of vaccines that we have in the coming weeks, to be able to provide that protection ... to everybody here," Henry said at a COVID-19 briefing. "That is why we made the decision that we did." Chief science adviser Mona Nemer told the CBC on Monday that B.C.'s plan amounts to a "population-level experiment" and that the data provided so far by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech is based on an interval of three to four weeks between doses. Henry said the manufacturers structured their clinical trials that way to get the vaccines to market as quickly as possible, but research in B.C., Quebec, Israel and the United Kingdom has shown that first doses are highly effective. The B.C. Centre for Disease Control examined the effects of a single dose on long-term care residents and health-care workers and found that it reduced the risk of the virus by up to 90 per cent within two to three weeks, Henry said. "It is a little bit unfortunate that the national science adviser ... obviously was not involved in some of these discussions and decision-making and perhaps did not understand the context that this decision was made in," Henry said. Dr. Danuta Skowronski, a B.C. Centre for Disease Control epidemiology lead whose work underpinned the province's plan, said Pfizer-BioNTech underestimated the efficacy of its first dose in its submissions to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Skowronski said the company included data from the first two weeks after trial participants received the shot, a time when vaccines typically aren't effective. When she and her colleagues adjusted the data, they found it was 92 per cent effective, similar to the Moderna vaccine. She said B.C.'s plan was based on the basic principles of vaccine science. The protection from a first dose of vaccine does not suddenly disappear, it gradually wanes over time, and scientists are typically more concerned about providing a second dose too soon rather than too late, she said. "I think if the public had a chance to hear and to understand that, they would say, 'OK, this is not messing around. This is really managing risk in a way that maximizes protection to as many Canadians as possible.'" B.C. has administered 283,182 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to date, including more than 86,000 second doses. The province reported 438 new cases of the virus on Tuesday and two more deaths, pushing the death toll in B.C. to 1,365. Henry said she expects a statement soon from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization aligning with the province's decision, while Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday she wanted to wait for such a recommendation. Elliott said extending the interval between doses would allow the province to get some level of protection to more people. "This would be a considerable change," she said. "With the variants of concern out there, this could make a significant difference for Ontario in reducing hospitalizations and deaths. So, we are anxiously awaiting NACI's review of this to determine what they have to say in their recommendations." Dr. Shelley Deeks, vice-chair of the national committee, said in an email the group is expected to issue a statement on extending the dose interval on Wednesday, but she did not confirm it would align with B.C.'s plan. Alberta's health minister said a committee of COVID-19 experts is analyzing emerging data and a decision on whether to follow B.C.’s lead is coming. "There's fantastic evidence that's coming out," Tyler Shandro said Tuesday. "What the exact period of time (between doses) is going to be is still to be decided. We'll be announcing it soon, but we will be looking at having that length of time between first and second extended." Alberto Martin, a University of Toronto immunology professor, said there is "obviously some concern" about B.C.'s plan because he is not aware of any clinical trial that examined a four-month gap between Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna doses. However, he said difficult times — when the vaccine supply is so limited — require drastic measures. "It's a difficult decision to make. I don't know whether I'd like to be in that position, but I think it's understandable why they're doing this." Daniel Coombs, a University of British Columbia mathematician who has done COVID-19 modelling, said Nemer was right that B.C. was conducting an "experiment," but it seemed to be a necessary one. He added that the province may also be anticipating the approval of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which only requires one shot. Michael Houghton, director of the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute at the University of Alberta, said the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine data shows that one shot conveys 76 per cent protection for the next 12 weeks. Houghton said he is more concerned about extending the dose interval to 16 weeks for the other two approved vaccines. "These make vaccinologists nervous since, usually, we use in the real world what was tested in the clinic, but given the vaccine shortage, perhaps desperate times warrant such calculated gambles." — With files from Holly McKenzie-Sutter in Toronto and Sylvia Strojek in Edmonton. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Laura Dhillon Kane, The Canadian Press
TOPEKA, Kan. — Former Congressman Steve Watkins of Kansas has entered a diversion program to avoid trial over allegations that he voted illegally in a 2019 municipal election. Watkins, a Republican from Topeka who served only one term in the U.S. House, was facing three felony charges. He was accused of listing a postal box at a UPS store as his home on a state registration form when he was living temporarily at his parents' home. He was also charged with lying to a detective who investigated the case. The Shawnee County district attorney filed the charges just weeks before the August 2020 primary, and Watkins lost to now-Rep. Jake LaTurner. “I regret the error in my voter registration paperwork that led to these charges. I fully co-operated from the beginning and had no intent to deceive any one, at any time. I am glad to resolve the ordeal,” Watkins said in a statement Tuesday. Watkins acknowledged he lied to the detective when he said he did not vote in the Topeka City Council election, The Kansas City Star reported. Under the diversion agreement entered into Monday, Watkins' prosecution will be deferred for six months. If he meets the terms of the agreement, the case will be dropped by September. The Associated Press
Late last week the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the Good Spirit School Division's application for leave to appeal the Theodore school case to the court, ending 16 years of legal back and forth on whether non-Catholic students can receive provincial funding to attend Catholic schools. The ruling now means that funding non-Catholic students to attend Catholic schools is allowed. “The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the application for leave. So what that means is that the Court of Appeal, the unanimous Court of Appeal decision in Saskatchewan is law of the land in Saskatchewan. Practically speaking it means that nothing is really changing in education as far as Catholic education goes,” Tom Fortosky Executive Director Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association (SCSBA) said. “We are grateful, we are relieved we don't have to carry on with this case anymore and we just want to get back to doing what we do best and that's educating children,” he added. The ruling means that the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal decision from April 2017 stands as the ruling in the case. Good Spirit has now exhausted all of their legal options in the case. “I am sure you are as happy and relieved by this decision as I am,” Prince Albert Catholic Division board chair Suzanne Stubbs said in a letter published at the division's website last week. “Even though the Government of Saskatchewan assured us they would do whatever is necessary to protect your choice for your child’s education, this decision definitively confirms what we have said and believed all along: as parents, you know what is best for your children and you should be able to choose Catholic, faith-based education if that is what you want—no matter your reason, faith background or tradition,” The case has a long and winding history in the province. “The facts that gave rise to the case started in 2003, the lawsuit started in 2005 so it has been 16 years and in education terms that's more than one person going through school starting from Kindergarten,” Fortosky said. The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled in March, 2020 that provincial funding for non-Catholic students in Catholic schools was acceptable. This unanimous decision overturned a 2017 trial decision, where Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Donald Layh declared that the funding violates “the state’s duty of religious neutrality,” which contradicts the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He explained that the decision means that Catholic education can continue as it always has by offering a distinctly Catholic education to all those who choose it for their children. The case concerns what is now known as St. Theodore Catholic School in Theodore, located 40 kilometres from Yorkton. In 2003 the public division made the decision to close what was then Theodore School and the local Catholic community petitioned to form a new Catholic Division and eventually purchased the school and opened it under a new name. The then-Yorkdale School Division (now part of Good Spirit) planned to bus students to Springside. The Good Spirit School Division launched a lawsuit in 2005 claiming the school was only created to prevent students from being bused to Springside. The case was taken to the Supreme Court by Public Schools of Saskatchewan in 2020. The Supreme Court’s decision also means the provincial government does not have to follow through on a promise to use the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause to protect the funding. The cost of funding the appeal was supported by many large and small donors and the SCSBA began fundraising when the appeal process began, Fortosky said. “We were very pleased with the support that we got. We were getting small donations from people who supported what we do in Catholic education. We had some donors like the Knights of Columbus who gave significant amounts, there was some large ones, but for the most part we had just a wide ranging support given to us for the appeal piece, so that was very gratifying to see.” “A significant amount of time and money has been spent on this court case, and we are pleased that we can all refocus our energy and resources on our students and families to build upon the exemplary model of education we have in this province,” Stubbs said. In the letter, Stubbs noted that if there was questions of concerns to contact her or any of the trustees on the board of education. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
OTTAWA — Canada's chief public health officer says new COVID-19 cases are starting to tick back up after a month-long decline, giving urgency to the question of who should receive doses of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine due to arrive in Canada Wednesday. The "moderate increase" at the national level noted by Dr. Theresa Tam is in keeping with models forecasting a spike in cases over the next two months unless stricter public health measures are imposed to combat more contagious strains of the virus. “The concern is that we will soon see an impact on hospitalization, critical care and mortality trends," Tam said Tuesday. Canada saw 2,933 new cases on average over the past week, a figure similar to last Friday's numbers that revealed week-over-week increases of between eight and 14 per cent in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. The uptick comes as provinces figure out how to allocate their various vaccines, especially as Canada receives 500,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced at the Serum Institute of India. About 445,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are also arriving this week, said Procurement Minister Anita Anand. Guidance on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has caused some confusion. Health Canada authorized its use last week for all adults but the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends it not be administered to people 65 and over. The advisory committee cites concern over limited data from clinical trials for older patients. Health Canada also acknowledges that issue. But the advisory panel, which recommends how vaccines should be used, says the limitation means seniors should take priority for the two greenlighted mRNA vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — where dearth of data is not an issue. Alberta's health minister said Monday the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca's vaccine to anyone over 65. British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Prince Edward Island are on similar courses, though details on who will get those jabs is not always clear. "With clinical testing of AstraZeneca limited to those under 65, we will need to adjust our plan to look at a parallel track for some of these more flexible vaccines in order to cast the widest net possible," the B.C. health ministry said in an email. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C. will use the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to target younger people who have more social interactions and who would have to wait much longer for the other vaccines. Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott characterized Oxford-AstraZeneca as "very versatile " because it lacks the same cold-storage requirements as the two other vaccines in use in Canada. It won't go to seniors, but she said shots might be administered in correctional facilities for that reason. P.E.I. will target AstraZeneca at "healthy younger individuals who are working in certain front-line, essential services," said Dr. Heather Morrison, the province's chief medical officer of health. Health officials in Quebec and New Brunswick say they await further advice from health authorities and are taking time to examine how to deploy the latest vaccine. Nova Scotia's chief medical health officer Dr. Robert Strang said the province has yet to give an answer to Ottawa "about whether we actually want to take the vaccine." All provinces must provide a response by midday Thursday, he said. Two experts say essential workers who are more likely to contract and transmit COVID-19 should be prioritized for immunization with the Oxford-AstraZeneca doses. Caroline Colijn, a COVID-19 modeller and mathematician at Simon Fraser University, and Horacio Bach, an adjunct professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia, also say the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could be better promoted by provincial health officials as a strong alternative to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Oxford-AstraZeneca reported their vaccine is about 62 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 while Pifzer-BioNTech and Moderna have said the efficacy of their vaccines is about 95 per cent. But Colijn and Bach say the fact there have been no hospitalizations from severe illness and no deaths among those receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine needs to be underscored because people awaiting immunization seem to be fixated on the higher efficacy data for the first two vaccines approved in Canada. "If the AstraZeneca vaccine will prevent you from getting really sick that's still a win for you," Colijn said. "I see this huge, huge benefit of vaccinating young people, particularly people with high contact, essential workers, sooner." No province has been spared from the increase in new variants circulating across the country, though several continue to ease anti-pandemic restrictions. Modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada projected a steep surge in new cases starting late last month — and reaching 20,000 new cases a day before May — if public health measures weren't tightened. Since that Feb. 19 forecast, restrictions in many regions have loosened as Canadians return to restaurants, cinemas and hair salons. But Tam said Canada is gaining ground on "the vaccine-versus-variants leg of this marathon" every day. "Canada is prepared, and Canada remains on track," she said. Provinces have now reported 1,257 cases of the B.1.1.7 mutation that was first identified in the United Kingdom, 99 cases of the B. 220.127.116.11 strain first identified in South Africa, and three of the P. 1 variant first identified in Brazil. There have been 870,033 cases of COVID-19 in Canada and 22,017 deaths as of Monday night. There were 30,430 active cases across Canada, with an average of 42 deaths reported daily over the past week. Provinces are also figuring out whether to stick to the original injection schedules or extend the interval between doses beyond three or four weeks. The national advisory committee is expected to update its recommendations this week. Ontario is waiting for that guidance, while B.C. is pushing ahead with its plan to prolong the interval to four months. Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer, said Monday the decision was based on local and international evidence that shows the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines provides "miraculous" 90 per cent protection from the virus. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. — With files from Camille Bains, Kevin Bissett, Laura Dhillon Kane and Holly McKenzie-Sutter. Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Channing Phillips, a Justice Department official during the Obama administration, will return as acting U.S. attorney in the nation’s capital, a Justice Department official told The Associated Press on Tuesday. Phillips will assume the role Wednesday leading the largest U.S. attorney’s office in the country, which has been historically responsible for some of the most significant and politically sensitive cases the Justice Department brings in the U.S. In recent weeks, prosecutors in the office have brought nearly 300 federal cases following the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Hundreds of other people are still being sought by investigators. The office was involved in some of the most tumultuous and controversial decisions made by the Justice Department under President Donald Trump, including a decision by then-Attorney General William Barr to reverse the sentencing recommendation by career prosecutors in the case against Trump ally Roger Stone. The outgoing acting U.S. attorney, Michael Sherwin, will remain in Washington for a “brief period” to help ensure a smooth transition overseeing the riot investigation and the prosecutions, the Justice Department official said. Sherwin, who for years worked as a career federal prosecutor on drug trafficking, white-collar and top national security cases, will later return to the U.S. attorney’s office in southern Florida, the official said. The official could not publicly discuss the personnel matter and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. Phillips served as U.S. attorney in Washington beginning in October 2015 and was a longtime Justice Department official, having been a senior counsellor to the attorney general and deputy associate attorney general. Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
The city's plan to buy a prime tract of Little Italy property is nearly a done deal after a council committee unanimously approved the purchase late Tuesday at a price that's a fraction of the land's estimated commercial value. The $2.87-million acquisition could be a game-changer for the inner-city neighbourhood, which is starved for green space, since the property is largely earmarked for a large new park and a recreation centre expansion. The 2.55 hectares of land at 1010 Somerset St. is bounded by Somerset Street W. to the north, the Trillium Line tracks to the west, Oak Street to the south and Plant Recreation Centre and the adjacent Plouffe Park to the east. It's part of a former federal warehouse complex, originally built in the 1940s as a munitions and equipment depot. The warehouse was demolished in 2015 and the federal government declared the land surplus. The southern part of the warehouse land — a tract known as 933 Gladstone Ave. — was sold in 2019 to Ottawa Community Housing, the city's social housing agency, for $7 million, as the planned site of a mixed-income community dubbed Gladstone Village. It will combine affordable and subsidized housing with market-value housing. The city was able to negotiation a deal to purchase 2.55 hectares of land next to Plant Recreation Centre and Plouffe Park to extend public amenities to the future Gladstone Village to the south. (Leah Hansen/CBC) Now, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) is selling the city the adjacent northern portion at a cut-rate price so it can be integrated into the Gladstone Village concept. How city got a $22M discount PSPC originally set the purchase price at $25 million, based on market appraisals and assuming the land, near a future LRT Phase 2 station, was going to be used only for a straight-ahead residential development. But the federal government offers discounts if the land's future use aligns with its policy priorities. In this case, the government ended up applying seven price adjustments. They covered everything from the fact that most of the land would go to public uses — including a one-hectare public park and a community centre expansion — to the environmentally sustainable development plan. The discounted price also credited the city's plan to address reconciliation by involving the Algonquins of Ontario, who will help provide Indigenous employment and economic development opportunities, as well as space for Algonquin artists. As well, the city saved $2 million by buying the land "as is," meaning the municipality is responsible for any future soil clean-up. All in all, PSPC knocked $14 million off the price, leaving the city with a price tag of $11 million. The Plant Recreation Centre is one of the city's most over-subscribed facilities. The new land will allow the rec centre to be expanded. (Francis Ferland/CBC) That left the city needing to convince Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. that the land qualified for future discounts under a program that encourages using surplus federal property for affordable housing. The land itself isn't earmarked for housing, but the city convinced CMHC that it would be used to support the affordable housing in Gladstone Village. In the end, CMHC agreed, but the city had to commit to also build 300 residential units at 1010 Somerset St. by 2038, half of them affordable. The combination was enough to shave another $8.25 million off the purchase price, in the form of a "forgivable mortgage" from CMHC. Taking various taxes and fees into account, that leaves the city $2.87 million to pay. It will use $1.82 million from the city-wide park fund and $1 million from the Somerset ward park fund, with the rest from the municipality's real estate office budget. Full council and the federal Treasury Board must still approve the sale.
The union representing workers at a Red Deer slaughterhouse is calling for its potential reopening this week to be delayed, saying in an open letter that employees do not feel safe after a deadly outbreak of COVID-19. Alberta Health Services (AHS) declared an outbreak at the Olymel Red Deer Food Processing Plant on Nov. 17, and by the end of February it had been linked to at least 500 cases and three reported deaths. The plant temporarily closed more than two weeks ago, and nearly three weeks after the first death related to the outbreak — Darwin Doloque, a 35-year-old permanent resident who immigrated to Canada from the Philippines. A few weeks later, Henry De Leon, 50, died, followed by a third woman in her 60s. In a letter obtained by CBC News, plant manager Rob Ackerblade informed employees on Feb. 28 that if a March 1 inspection by AHS and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) should be successful, gradual reopening dates for the Olymel plant could be March 3 for the slaughterhouse and March 4 for the cutting room. "The purpose of this memo is to inform you of a potential upcoming and gradual reopening of the facility subject to the recommendation of the health authorities [AHS]," Ackerblade said. However, Olymel spokesperson Richard Vigneault told Radio-Canada that there is no set date to reopen the plant, as the company is still waiting for a green light from AHS. He said some training will get underway Wednesday for employees regarding the reopening plan and the measures that will be in place. UFCW Local 401 president Thomas Hesse said in an open letter of his own on Monday that the union conducted a survey of employees ahead of the plant's potential reopening, and found "definitive trends" had emerged among responses. "These results make a few things clear: Olymel workers still do not feel safe at the plant, they do not trust either Olymel or government officials to keep them safe," Hesse wrote in part. Union requests 'action items' before reopening More than 75 per cent of nearly 600 employees surveyed said that they feel nervous or scared to return to work, while 75 per cent also indicated they do not fully trust Olymel to keep them safe, the letter said. Meanwhile, more than 80 per cent of respondents said they are unsure the plant is safe, while more than 50 per cent of respondents indicated they do not fully trust government officials to keep them safe. The union's letter listed more than 20 "action items" that it said should be fulfilled before reopening is considered, in order to regain the confidence of employees and ensure their safety. The list included the installation of barriers, additional staff to clean and sanitize the space, and full compensation for employees during the time the plant was closed. The union also noted that plant management appeared to be preparing to reopen before recommendations and conclusions were made by those tasked with reviewing the plant's safety, and called this "disturbing." "How can anyone possibly be ready to deem the plant safe for reopening before those bodies have provided their findings?" Hesse wrote. 'Consequences will be on your conscience' CBC News asked Alberta Health for confirmation that the plant was intending to open, and what safety measures had been put in place since the outbreak. A government spokesperson advised CBC News to direct questions to the plant's management and union representatives, but said AHS is working with the plant. "AHS continues to work in partnership with Olymel management, union representatives and community partners in responding to the outbreak and ensuring that staff have the supports they and their family require," the statement said. For its part, Ackerblade said in his letter that the Olymel plant would not reopen until the AHS inspection was completed and a recommendation was issued. "These gradual and potential reopening dates will be valid only if the AHS inspection comes up with a positive reopening recommendation," Ackerblade's letter said. He also told employees in the letter that additional measures have been put in place to make the plant safer. "Olymel has reviewed and adjusted many of the health measures put in place since the start of the pandemic, even adding more spaces to further promote social distancing," he said. "A possible reopening also means that supervisors and staff assigned to overseeing the application of protective measures should receive an update in their training in this regard." But Hesse concluded his letter by stating the consequences "somewhat bluntly," he said, of failing to secure the plant's safety. "Please know that unless you can guarantee no one else will become ill and no one else will die, the rushed reopening of Olymel's Red Deer plant and the resulting consequences will be on your conscience – and yours alone."
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the decision to delay second doses of COVID-19 vaccine by four months is based on scientific evidence combined with real-world data from the province’s immunization campaign that began in late December.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina senators Tuesday added a firing squad to the electric chair as alternatives if the state can't execute condemned inmates by way of lethal injection. The Senate then approved the bill on a key 32-11 vote with several Democrats joining Republicans in the proposal which would allow South Carolina to restart executions after nearly 10 years. The state can't put anyone to death now because its supply of lethal injection drugs expired and it has not been able to buy any more. Currently, inmates can choose between the electric chair and lethal injection and since the drugs are not available, they pick the method that can't be done. The Senate bill keeps lethal injection if the state has the drugs, but requires prison officials to use the electric chair if it does not. An inmate could choose a firing squad if they prefer. The House is considering a similar bill without the firing squad option, but it could also consider the Senate version after a procedural vote by senators finalizes the bill later this week. South Carolina still uses the electric chair first powered up in 1912 after taking over the death penalty from counties, which usually used hanging. It is just one of nine states that maintains an electric chair. It would become just the fourth state to allow a firing squad with Utah, Oklahoma and Mississippi, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster asked for lawmakers to give him any way to restart executions since a few inmates have exhausted their appeals but their death sentences can’t be carried out. A Republican and a Democrat, both former prosecutors, proposed adding the firing squad. The Democratic former prosecutor said it is evident in a Republican dominated state like South Carolina where the GOP gained extra seats in November that the death penalty can't be abolished like Virginia did last month. “The death penalty is going to stay the law here for a while. If it is going to remain, it ought to be humane," said state Sen. Dick Harpootlian, who said hanging is brutal and often leads to decapitation and in electrocution, the condemned “are burned to death.” Since the last execution was carried out in May 2011, South Carolina’s death row has dropped from about 60 inmates to 37 as of now because of natural deaths and prisoners winning appeals and being resentenced to life without parole. Prosecutors have sent just three new inmates to death row in the past decade. The Republican former prosecutor, Sen. Greg Hembree, said Tuesday was not the time to debate whether the death penalty was right or wrong. But several Democrats said the moral aspect of putting someone to death could not be removed from discussions over the method. They also asked senators how they could justify having a debate over putting people to death this week when last month they passed a bill outlawing most abortions in South Carolina, which is now tied up in court. Democratic Sen. Kevin Johnson brought up George Stinney, the youngest person executed in the U.S. in the 20th century. He was 14 when he was sent to South Carolina's electric chair after a one-day trial in 1944 for killing two white girls. A judge threw out the Black teen’s conviction in 2014 . Newspaper stories reported that witnesses said the straps to keep him in the electric chair didn’t fit around his small frame. Johnson drives by a memorial to Stinney each time he comes to Columbia from Manning. “You think it was bad to abort a baby? Think how much worse it is to kill a person who when all is said and done is innocent," Johnson said. Only one senator in the chamber has seen an execution. Hembree, the co-sponsor of the firing squad proposal, tried nearly a dozen death penalty cases as a prosecutor and watched one of the men he condemned to death die by lethal injection. “There’s nothing pleasant about any of those forms. They are gruesome, they are sad and tragic in a way," Hembree said. “Justice is not always a happy place. But it is justice.” ___ Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP. Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press
It was a special day of giving back for an elementary class from 150 Mile House this week. One by one, each student of the Grade 2 class placed their self-assembled gift bags on a trolley for the housekeeping staff of Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake Monday, March 1. Each of the 20 bags were filled with a ceramic egg cooker, key chain, bracelet, lotion and balms along with treats such as a canned drink and mints. A handmade thank you card by students was also included. Teacher Kirsty Bowers said their act of kindness followed an in-class lesson last month in which students discussed who they believed are essential community members during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Obviously, the hospital came up,” Bowers said. “So we talked about the nurses, doctors and housekeeping at the hospital and the students decided that they wanted to give back to the housekeeping staff.” A fundraising goal of $400 was set for the class to purchase ceramic egg cookers, which can be used to make on-the-go, individual-sized meals. One student had even donated his birthday money to the cause with others raising funds through bottle returns. The treats in each bag were donated by students with the keychains made by Bowers. Small business owners including Alaina Lipsett, Cher Sytsma, Kim Wogberg and Cindy Witte helped add their touch by donating hundreds of dollars in locally made product. “It’s so nice that the kids thought of the housekeepers,” said housekeeping staff member Pam White, who was outside to receive her gift. “This has been a team effort for all CMH staff and we’re proud to do our part.” Bowers hopes the students’ gesture reminds others of kindness during a time that has been difficult and stressful for all. After the delivery, the students enjoyed the rest of their morning at Scout Island before heading back via school bus which was paid for by the 150 Mile Elementary PAC. Care packages were prepared and delivered to CMH nurses earlier this year by 150 Mile elementary parent Kirsten Rebagliati who had hoped others would do the same. “Right before you got here, I was bawling my face off, so I guess that sums it up,” she said. Rebecca Dyok, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Williams Lake Tribune
VANCOUVER — The British Columbia government says the provincial health officer has to strike a balance between curbing the spread of COVID-19 and religious practice, which may at times affect certain rights under the Canadian charter. Lawyer Gareth Morley told the B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday that Dr. Bonnie Henry is using "non-pharmaceutical interventions" to ensure the population remains healthy until vaccines are prevalent. Morley, who works for the legal services branch of the Attorney General Ministry, said it is agreed that the province is in the middle of a pandemic. "And measures taken to protect public health, to protect lives, to protect people from serious illness, and to protect the ability of the health-care system itself to respond, that those are the sorts of measures that can limit charter rights, including freedom of religion." Henry has a duty under the Constitution to "proportionally and reasonably" limit freedoms by preventing the gathering of people to ensure their health and safety, Morley said. Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson asked who decides whether the limits are proportional or reasonable, adding that he wants to understand how the provincial health officer is making her decisions. "Aren't the churches entitled to know why if you go to the bar and watch a hockey game for an hour or two, you can't sit in a church for an hour or two? It is a point I struggle with." Hinkson said he understands Henry has a difficult job, but she hasn't explained why or how she is making the decisions. "If she chooses not to share her thought process with the court, there's no oversight," he said. Morley said the decisions are made after careful review by health officials and experts. So balancing religious rights and protecting people from an "out-of-control epidemic" is a matter of judgment, he said, adding that Henry met with religious leaders and health officials while making her decisions. Earlier Tuesday, a lawyer for several British Columbia churches told the court the province's COVID-19 restrictions substantially interfere with their right to freedom of religion. Paul Jaffe argued religion is far more than belief, thoughts and opinions — rather, it's the "actual practice" of those things in ways that are an important part of the faith. "There couldn't be, I say, a more substantial interference with religious freedom than to prohibit them from gathering to worship — absolutely integral to their faith," he said. Hinkson said there are no COVID-19 restrictions on people's religious freedoms and it's the safety of those who are gathering that is at issue. Jaffe said church is as much a part of people's lives as school, gyms and shopping. He repeated an earlier argument to the court, saying the orders do not prohibit outdoor assemblies over matters of public interest or controversy. Religion is a matter of public interest, but there is a restriction on gatherings, he said. "In my submission, it's entirely arbitrary," he said. "And for some reason stereotyping of churches in a way which presents them with some kind of risk." Jaffe works with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a Calgary-based legal advocacy group that's also asking the court to dismiss tickets of up to $2,300 each for alleged violations of the orders. His clients — which include the Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley, Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford and the Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack — have been careful to adopt safety protocols similar to those approved by Henry in places that remain open. A separate petition was filed Tuesday by representatives of 10 other churches that are part of the Canadian Reformed Churches, which has about 3,000 members. The group wants the court to quash the provincial health officer's restrictions that forbid in-person services. The Roman Catholic archbishop of Vancouver is challenging the restrictions in court as well, filing a petition on Friday arguing the orders are unconstitutional. The petition seeks an exemption to allow religious gatherings including mass, weddings and baptisms. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Hina Alam, The Canadian Press
CAMEROON, Cameroon — The United States demanded Tuesday that the status of tens of thousands of civilians detained in Syria during the country’s 10-year conflict be made public, and that the bodies of those who died be returned to their loved ones. U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield made the demand at an informal high-level U.N. General Assembly meeting on human rights in Syria where she denounced the “brutality” and “untold suffering” caused by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime and the “appalling atrocities” it has committed. “The Assad regime continues to imprison tens of thousands of innocent Syrians -- women and children, the elderly, doctors and providers, journalists, human rights defenders,” she said. “At least 14,000 Syrians have been reportedly tortured and tens of thousands forcibly disappeared.” Her demand for the status of detainees and return of bodies “with the time, place and cause of death” follows Monday’s release of a new report by the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria which said the Syrian government arbitrarily arrested and detained individuals and committed “war crimes and crimes against humanity in the context of detention.” Other parties in the conflict also committed crimes by unlawfully and arbitrarily depriving individuals of their liberty, it said. Since Syria’s conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests that led to a civil war, rival groups have been blamed for atrocities. They run jails where wide violations are reported against detainees. The Syrian conflict has killed nearly half a million people, displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million, including 5 million who are refugees abroad. Large parts of Syria are destroyed and tens of thousands still live in tent settlements. Thomas-Greenfield said “the United States stands with the Syrian people, Syrian civil society, and a wide group of international partners in demanding accountability and supporting a political solution” set out in a Security Council resolution adopted in December 2015 which unanimously endorsed a road map to peace in Syria adopted in Geneva on June 30, 2012. It was approved by representatives of the United Nations, Arab League, European Union, Turkey and all five permanent Security Council members — the U.S., Russia, China, France and Britain. The roadmap calls for a Syrian-led political process starting with the establishment of a transitional governing body, followed by the drafting of a new constitution and ending with U.N.-supervised elections. In late January, U.N. special envoy Geir Pedersen expressed disappointment that five rounds of talks failed to lead to the start of drafting a new constitution, hinting that the Syrian government delegation was to blame for the lack of progress. Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen said a political resolution must be in line with the 2015 resolution, “but this political solution can only be reached if Russia in particular puts pressure on the regime to agree to a real political solution.” He called vetoes by Russia and China of a U.N. resolution that would have kept more than one border crossing point for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria “inhumane.” And he said “it remains very disappointing that Russia blocked the International Criminal Court” from investigating possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, stressing that accountability is key to reconciliation. Russian Senior Counselor Stepan Kuzmenkov, whose country is Syria’s most important ally, dismissed the “unverified accusations, lies and conjecture” about the country’s human rights. He said it was “a pity” that speakers didn’t talk about the real problems that Syria and its government have been dealing with -- fighting against “terrorist groups” especially in northwest Idlib and “the illegal occupation of its territory by the United States and the violation of its natural resources.” “Today’s meeting has nothing to do with international co-operation in the promotion and protection of human rights,” Kuzmenkov said. “Accordingly, the discussion imposed on us cannot help stabilize the situation in Syria or international efforts to find a settlement in that country.” Mazen Darwish, president of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, called for a nationwide cease-fire and an urgent meeting under the aegis of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of all countries concerned by the Syrian conflict to draw up a roadmap to implement the 2015 Security Council resolution “in its entirety.“ He told the assembly by video link there must also be an end to the death penalty, a list and inspection of all detention sites and detainees, and the release of all those arbitrarily detained, “first and foremost" women, children, the sick and elderly. “There cannot be lasting peace in Syria without transitional justice,” Darwish stressed. “Äny attempt to achieve a political agreement which guarantees the interest of warlords, disregarding the grievances of victims that simply want justice will ultimately only lead to a new war for revenge,” he warned. Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press
A Hong Kong court on Wednesday adjourned for a third day the bail hearing of 47 pro-democracy activists charged with conspiracy to commit subversion, a case that has exacerbated international concern over freedoms in the financial hub. The marathon bail proceedings have gone on late into the night for three consecutive days, causing five of the defendants to fall ill and seek medical assistance. Local media footage showed the defendants dressed in the same clothes for four days since they were formally charged on Sunday, some looking exhausted.
Texas on Tuesday became the biggest state to lift its mask rule, joining a rapidly growing movement by governors and other leaders across the U.S. to loosen COVID-19 restrictions despite pleas from health officials not to let their guard down yet. The Lone Star State will also do away with limits on the number of diners who can be served indoors, said Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who made the announcement at a restaurant in Lubbock. The governors of Michigan, Mississippi and Louisiana likewise eased up on bars, restaurants and other businesses Tuesday, as did the mayor of San Francisco. “Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility,” said Abbott, speaking from a crowded dining room where many of those surrounding him were not wearing masks. “It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed." A year into the crisis, politicians and ordinary Americans alike have grown tired of rules meant to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed over a half-million people in the United States. Some places are lifting infection control measures; in other places, people are ignoring them. Top health officials, including the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have responded by begging people repeatedly not to risk another deadly wave of contagion just when the nation is making progress in vaccinating people and victory over the outbreak is in sight. U.S. cases have plunged more than 70% over the past two months from an average of nearly 250,000 new infections a day, while average deaths per day have plummeted about 40% since mid-January. But the two curves have levelled off abruptly in the past several days and have even risen slightly, and the numbers are still running at alarmingly high levels, with an average of about 2,000 deaths and 68,000 cases per day. Health officials are increasingly worried about virus mutations. “We stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned on Monday. Even so, many Americans are sick of the shutdowns that have damaged their livelihoods and are eager to socialize again. An Indianapolis-area bar was filled with maskless patrons over the weekend. In Southern California, people waited in lines that snaked through a parking lot on a recent weekday afternoon for the chance to shop and eat at Downtown Disney, part of Disneyland. (The theme park's rides remain closed.) And Florida is getting ready to welcome students on spring break. “People want to stay safe, but at the same time, the fatigue has hit,” said Ryan Luke, who is organizing a weekend rally in Eagle, Idaho, to encourage people to patronize businesses that don’t require masks. "We just want to live a quasi-normal life.” Michael Junge argued against a mask mandate when officials in the Missouri tourist town of Branson passed one and said he hasn’t enforced it in his Lost Boys Barber Company. He said he is sick of it. “I think the whole thing is a joke honestly,” he said. “They originally said that this was going to go for a month and they have pushed it out to indefinitely. ... It should have been done a long time ago.” In San Francisco, an upbeat Mayor London Breed announced that California gave the green light to indoor dining and the reopening of movie theatres and gyms. “You can enjoy your city, right here, right now,” she said from Fisherman’s Wharf, one of the city's biggest tourist attractions. She added: “We are not where we need to be yet, but we’re getting there, San Francisco.” Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said he is getting rid of most mask mandates and lifting most other restrictions, including limits on seating in restaurants, starting Wednesday. “The governor’s office is getting out of the business of telling people what they can and cannot do,” the Republican said. Florida, which is getting ready for spring break travellers to flock to its sunny beaches, is considered to be in an “active outbreak,” along with Texas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and South Carolina, according to the data-tracking website CovidActNow. Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis made it clear during his annual State of the State address Tuesday that he welcomes more visitors to Florida in his drive to keep the state’s economy thriving. Florida municipalities can impose their own mask rules and curfews, restrict beach access and place some limits on bars and restaurants, but some have virtually no such measures in place. Miami Beach will require masks indoors and out and restrict the number of people allowed on the beach as well as in bars and restaurants. “If you want to party without restrictions, then go somewhere else. Go to Vegas,” Miami Beach City Manager Raul Aguila said during a recent virtual meeting. “We will be taking a zero-tolerance attitude towards that behaviour.” In Michigan, a group called All Business Is Essential has resisted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s virus policies, and many people are ignoring mask requirements and other measures, said group leader Erik Kiilunen. “At some point you’ve got to look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘Do I want a zero-risk life?’” he said. “It’s become a farce, really. People have quit living for a year, at what price?” “I think everybody wants things to get back the way they were,” said Aubrey D. Jenkins, the fire chief in Columbia, South Carolina, whose department issues dozens of $100 citations every weekend to bar-goers who refuse to wear masks or keep their distance. “But we still have to be real cautious.” ___ Associated Press writers Brendan Farrington in Tallahasee, Florida; Anila Yoganathan in Tucker, Georgia; Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi; John Flesher in Traverse City, Michigan; Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas; Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho; Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in Washington; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Janie Har in San Francisco; and David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, contributed to this story. Paul J. Weber And Tammy Webber, The Associated Press
A well-established detox centre in Penticton, B.C., is now in limbo after the Interior Health authority decided to take over substance use counselling services itself. Founded in 1975, the Pathways Addictions Resource Centre wrote in a statement Tuesday that after May 31, the health authority will take over all addictions services from the centre and other contractors across South Okanagan. Executive director Daryl Meyers says she learned about Interior Health's decision in early February. She doesn't know how the centre could remain open after Interior Health withdraws its funding that makes up over 90 per cent of the non-profit's budget. "It came as quite a shock to both myself and the staff, considering we're in two pandemics [COVID-19 and drug overdoses] and that we have been in Penticton for 47 years offering addiction services," Meyers said to Chris Walker, the host of CBC's Daybreak South. Every year Pathways provides a range of services to about 1,000 clients, including counselling and drug-use prevention education at schools. Meyers says it could be challenging for her clients to transition to recovery services provided by Interior Health, for which they may have to wait longer. "As soon as someone comes to our office, we get to see them right away. They see a counsellor right away and then they are connected with a counsellor within two weeks," she said. "We're connected with a myriad of other organizations and resources in the community, so we're able to get people out to connect with all the other things that they may need on their road to recovery." In a written statement to CBC News, Interior Health says there will be no decrease in services given to people with addiction issues after it takes over the services. It says it has "significantly improved the substance use services offered directly by Interior Health" because of increased funding from the provincial government over the last two years. The statement also says the change will allow it to spread resources across the Southern Okanagan Meyers says her organization will meet with Interior Health Thursday, while in the meantime seeking help from elsewhere. "We're going to talk with other organizations. We're going to look at different funding streams. We're going to see how we can change up a bit of our service and be able to hopefully rally the community to stand behind us and want to see us stay open," she said. According to the latest report by B.C. Coroners Service, Interior Health records the third highest drug toxicity death rate after Northern Health and Vancouver Coastal Health. Tap the link below to hear Daryl Meyers's interview on Daybreak South:
MEMBERTOU — Elders in Membertou First Nation began streaming through the doors of the Membertou Entertainment Centre Tuesday morning, physically distanced of course, to receive their first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Senator Dan Christmas was the first to roll up his sleeves for the injection as part of the community's vaccine rollout. He says some people think the vaccine is for themselves but really, it's for others. "If you become infected and then begin to transmit the virus, you hurt not just yourself, but your family and your community, and the elders, so I tell people, get the vaccine." The federal government has identified Indigenous communities among groups that are particularly vulnerable to the virus, and has prioritized those communities as part of the Canadian immunization efforts. According to the most recent data, more than 100,000 doses have been administered in First Nations communities at a rate six times higher than the rest of the country. Madelaine O'Reilly says just over 180 on-reserve community members aged 55 and older will be immunized over two days. She is a registered nurse and the co-ordinator of the Membertou Wellness Home. She says it will be a relief to have the elders vaccinated. "They are our language keepers and our knowledge keepers, so we need to protect them." O'Reilly and the rest of the health-care workers at the wellness home received both doses of the vaccine early in the new year in order to give them to the rest of the community. She says staff were trained to handle and administer the Pfizer vaccine over the last few weeks. The medication is kept frozen and must be thawed for at least 30 minutes before it's used, and can sit for up to seven hours at room temperature. Appointments for the shots were made weeks ago to ensure that there would be enough doses for everyone that wanted one. O'Reilly says that by the end of this month, after the second doses are administered, the majority of elders in Membertou will be immune to the virus. Chief Terry Paul was second in line for the day's appointments and sat enthusiastically for his shot. He says the community has not had any cases of COVID-19 and he wants to keep it that way. "I just want to hand it to the community for following the rules and the guidelines ... I think everyone should take (the vaccine) and we should all work together in defeating this (pandemic)." Paul says he doesn't know yet when the immunizations will be available to the rest of the community, but he says he's hoping everyone that wants a shot will be vaccinated by early summer. Wagmatcook First Nation is also immunizing people aged 55 and older this week and Eskasoni First Nation is taking appointments now for its vaccine clinic starting on March 8. Ardelle Reynolds, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cape Breton Post