With meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal
With meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal
China's medical products regulator said on Thursday that it had approved two more COVID-19 vaccines for public use, raising the number of domestically produced vaccines that can be used in China to four. The two newly cleared vaccines are made by CanSino Biologics Inc (CanSinoBIO) and Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, an affiliate of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm). They join a vaccine from Sinovac Biotech approved earlier this month, and another from Sinopharm's Beijing unit approved last year.
(Walter Strong/CBC - image credit) Final arguments were heard in N.W.T Supreme Court last Friday in the trial of Chad Beck, who is accused of second-degree murder. In an agreed statement of facts, Beck fatally struck Cameron Sayine in the head with an axe two years ago, on July 1, in Fort Resolution. Sayine flew to the ground, resting by his friend's feet, when he was hit again in the back. He died as a result of the first blow, the court heard. Beck attempted to plead guilty for manslaughter, but the Crown rejected that offer. Beck's lawyer, Peter Harte, maintained that his client should be convicted of manslaughter, not second-degree murder. Death result of a sudden reaction, defence argues In court, Harte argued that the level of Beck's intoxication meant he was not of sound mind, and argued that Sayine had provoked Beck. According to the agreed statement of facts, Sayine had attacked Beck numerous times that day, resulting in a gash above his eyebrows in addition to bruises on his face. The pair had a history of violence. They'd known each other their entire lives, Beck testified in court on Feb. 17. He said they had even been best friends at one point, but that relationship soured after an altercation between the two when Sayine stole alcohol from Beck's grandmother. Beck ran after Sayine to retrieve what was stolen, but they fought instead. Things were never the same after that, Beck testified in court. During hi's testimony, Beck went on to describe a series of events where Sayine would "beat him up" and break in and enter his home. Harte argued that Beck had not intended to kill Sayine, but even if he had, it was because he was provoked. Sayine was described as a bully, whom Beck grew scared of. Harte told the court that Beck grabbed the axe upon entering the house for the purpose of scaring Sayine away, but then panicked, and swung at his head instead. In his testimony, Beck told the court, "I was thinking, what if sees me with an axe and hits me and takes it away. I just panicked. I swung the axe as a reaction." Crown prosecutor Jill Andrews told the court a “grizzly and horrible murder had taken place” in the cabin pictures pictured above, in Fort Resolution. It was a sudden reaction after a series of violent attacks, Harte said. Due to how much Beck had been drinking that day, Harte also argued that it was unclear whether Beck could connect bodily harm with death. When Beck testified, he said that he struck Sayine again because he did not think the first strike to the head had killed him. Harte told the court that Beck was a quiet guy, who respects his elders and does not like to get into fights. In other words, the nature of violence inflicted that day was out of character for Beck. But the Crown prosecutors told a different story. Crown says Beck intentionally struck Sayine Crown prosecutor Jill Andrews told the court that a "grizzly and horrible murder had taken place." She said Beck had intentionally struck Sayine with the axe after he grew tired of putting up with his bullying, and ensured that he stayed down, Andrews said. Sayine was a "nuisance" to Beck, she said. Instead of feeling remorse, Andrews argued Beck mutilated his body, when he struck Sayine several times after he was already dead, demonstrating he had "no respect for Sayine, in life and in death." Andrews questioned the defence's argument that Beck was too intoxicated to recognize that an axe would be lethal because Beck was able to recall the events that took place that day in detail. Also, Beck was able to wield the axe with no issues, showing that his motor skills were also intact. Beck also disposed of the axe, moved the body all the way down the property, and was coherent with police when he was eventually arrested, Andrews said. She argued that this showed he was self-aware, contradicting the defence's stance that he was significantly impaired, when he may have been just mildly intoxicated. Andrews assured the court that the Crown has proven Beck is guilty of second-degree murder without a reasonable doubt. Beck "killed his bully in the most unambiguous way," Andrews concluded. Justice Shannon Smallwood will announce her verdict on May 21, 2021.
CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Caster Semenya is going to the European Court of Human Rights to challenge “discriminatory” rules that prohibit her from competing in certain track events because of her high natural testosterone, her lawyers said Thursday. The two-time Olympic champion in the 800 metres has already lost two legal appeals against World Athletics' regulations that force her to medically lower her natural testosterone level if she wants to run in women's races from 400 metres to one mile. The South African's lawyers said there's been a “violation of her rights” and wants the human rights court to examine the rules. Semenya has one of a number of conditions known as differences of sex development. Although she has never publicly released details of her condition, World Athletics has controversially referred to her as “biologically male” in previous legal proceedings, a description that angered Semenya. Semenya has the typical male XY chromosome pattern and levels of testosterone that are much higher then the typical female range, World Athletics says. The track and field body says that gives her and other athletes like her an unfair advantage over other female runners. The 30-year-old Semenya was legally identified as female at birth and has identified as female her whole life. She says her testosterone is merely a genetic gift. The regulations have been fiercely criticized, mainly because of the “treatment” options World Athletics gives to allow affected athletes to compete. They have one of three options to lower their testosterone levels: Taking daily contraceptive pills, using hormone-blocking injections, or having surgery. “The regulations require these women to undergo humiliating and invasive physical examinations followed by harmful and experimental medical procedures if they wish to compete internationally in women’s events between 400m and one mile, the exact range in which Ms. Semenya specializes,” Semenya's lawyers said. World Athletics, which was then known as the IAAF, announced in 2018 it would introduce the rules. Semenya challenged them and lost at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2019. She also lost a second appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal last year. That second case will be central to her appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. “Caster asks the Court to find that Switzerland has failed in its positive obligations to protect her against the violation of her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights," her lawyers said. They said the track body's rules were “discriminatory attempts to restrict the ability of certain women to participate in female athletics competitions.” Because of her refusal to lower her natural testosterone, Semenya has been barred from running in the 800 since 2019, when she was the dominant runner in the world over two laps. She is currently not allowed to run her favourite race — the race she has won two Olympic golds and three world titles in — at any major event. Semenya is not the only athlete affected. Two other Olympic medallists from Africa, Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Margaret Wambui of Kenya, have said they are also bound by the rules. They also said they would refuse to undergo medical intervention to reduce their testosterone levels. “I hope the European court will put an end to the longstanding human rights violations by World Athletics against women athletes," Semenya said in a statement. "All we ask is to be allowed to run free, for once and for all." Semenya, Niyonsaba and Wambui finished 1-2-3 in the 800 metres at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, strengthening World Athletics' argument that their medical conditions gave them an athletic advantage over other women. It's unclear if the human rights court would be able to hear Semenya's case before the delayed Tokyo Olympics, which might be Semenya's last. The games are set to open on July 23. Previous sports cases that have gone to the European Court of Human Rights have taken years to be decided. ___ More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Gerald Imray, The Associated Press
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus will reopen high schools, gyms, pools, dance academies and art galleries on March 1 in a further, incremental easing of the country’s second nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, the government said Thursday. Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said easing the six-week-old lockdown should proceed “slowly, cautiously and in a controlled manner.” He warned that the situation could easily get out of hand again as the country’s infection rate remains slightly above safety limits set by the European Union’s disease prevention agency. According to Ioannou, the number of infections now stands at 164.3 per 100,000 people. Middle school students are scheduled to return to classrooms March 8, Ioannou said, signalling the reopening of all schools after weeks of online instruction. Primary schools are already holding in-person classes. But the minister made it clear that twice-daily excursions requiring SMS approval and a 9:00pm-5:00am curfew will remain in effect. “We'll do without certain things for the next two or three months, some measures will carry on until there's (sufficient) vaccination coverage which is estimated to happen by June," Ioannou said. A ban on public gatherings also continues to apply despite growing public fatigue that culminated with thousands demonstrating last weekend in the capital to protest the restrictions, alleged police heavy-handedness and corruption. Police didn’t intervene in that protest, but used a water cannon, pepper spray and stun grenades to disperse a much smaller group of left-wing demonstrators a week earlier. One young woman required surgery for an eye injury following a blast from the water canon. The force’s actions triggered a public outcry and prompted a probe to determine whether riot police used disproportionate force. On Wednesday, Amnesty International urged Cypriot authorities to lift what it called “an unlawful and disproportionate blanket ban” on demonstrations. Amnesty International Greece and Cyprus official Kondylia Gogou said police made “unnecessary and excessive use of force" during the earlier protest. She said the violence was also part of a “deeply worrying pattern" in Cyprus where “human rights are coming under sustained attack." ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak The Associated Press
(Philippe Morin/CBC - image credit) Students in Whitehorse have been transforming the walls of their high school by adding colourful murals. It's the second year for the art project at F.H. Collins Secondary School. Twenty-six Grade 11 and 12 students in the elective arts class have been given themes such as the environment, music or mathematics. From there it's been their job to get creative. "We've been encouraged to cover the whole school, it's a multi-year project," said art teacher Haley Thiessen. The elements of student life, as painted on the school wall. Math mural Grade 12 student Zeke Dukart was painting a numerical mural near where math classes are taught. "We have the golden ratio on some kind of colour gradient, and different mathematical constants," he explained. At the bottom is a saying he attributed to Albert Einstein: "Mathematics is the poetry of logical ideas." Dukart says the project "makes the walls a lot less bland. This allows students to put something here that will be here a while." We the North: Ask students what they like and the Toronto Raptors are sure to get mentioned. Ocean life and a message about climate change Yooie Mak, in Grade 10, has worked on a big mural showing whales, fish and other ocean life as well as a big stopwatch. The message: Tick tock. Time is passing and earth's oceans are warming. "The stopwatch symbolizes how much time we have left to stop the issue," she said. Mak said she's happy with the result, as this is her first painting of this size. "I really love it. I think we've been trusting the process, we worked on it and I really like the outcome." Yooie Mak, right, and friend Emma Hamilton have been working on a mural showing ocean life with a message about climate change. Other murals show favourite sports teams and even celebrity chef and television host Guy Fieri. Ava Irving-Staley, in Grade 11, was working on something near the band room: a raven wearing a white-feathered trilby hat perched on a rainbow piano keyboard. "It's a nice pop of colour," she said. Kyruss Hodginson, in Grade 11, painted a big, snarling, ready-to-brawl Marvel Comics character, Wolverine. "I think it shows that the school is open to art and it makes it more vibrant and more alive," he said. The murals add 'a nice pop of colour' said Ava Irving-Staley in Grade 11. This raven, with feathered hat and rainbow keyboard, is being painted near the band room.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — The advocate general for European Union's highest court on Thursday urged the court to rule that Hungary violated the bloc's laws on asylum when it passed legislation narrowing the possibilities for asylum-seekers to receive international protection. The non-binding opinion from the European Court of Justice's Advocate General, Athanasios Rantos, states that the 2018 amendments to Hungary's asylum laws — which prohibited asylum-seekers who passed through safe countries en route to Hungary from receiving international protection — violated EU law. “By introducing that ground for inadmissibility, Hungary has failed to fulfil its obligations under the Procedures Directive,” Rantos wrote, referring to the EU's asylum protocols. Opinions by advocates general are often but not always followed by the European Court of Justice, which will make a final ruling on the case at a later date. The European Commission, the bloc's executive branch, brought the case before the court as part of an infringement procedure it launched against Hungary in 2018 over its non-compliance with asylum law. Rantos also advised the court to rule that a Hungarian law that cracks down on organizations and individuals that provide legal assistance to asylum-seekers violates EU law. The legislation, known as the “Stop Soros” law, was an amendment to Hungary’s criminal code that threatened aid workers and human rights advocates working with asylum-seekers with up to a year in prison. It was approved by the Hungarian parliament in 2018. The law was named after Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros, a pro-democracy advocate who has long been a target of the Hungarian government. Hungary's right-wing government has been a staunch opponent of immigration, and its treatment of migrants have brought it into frequent conflict with the rest of the 27-nation EU. Last year, the country closed its transit zones — enclosed areas along the southern border with Serbia used to hold asylum-seekers while their asylum requests were being decided — after the European court ruled they amounted to detention and thus violated EU law. Last month, the EU’s border control agency, Frontex, suspended operations in Hungary after the government in Budapest did not comply with a December ruling by the European court that ordered Hungary to grant protection to asylum-seekers as required by law and to stop returning them to Serbia. The country's prime minister, Viktor Orban, claims he is seeking to protect Hungary's conservative Christian identity and to defend Europe from immigration from the Mideast and Africa. ___ Follow AP’s global migration coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/migration Justin Spike, The Associated Press
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “Better Call Saul,” the prequel spinoff to the hugely successful series “Breaking Bad,” will begin production in New Mexico on its sixth and final season beginning in March. White Turtle Casting officials told the Albuquerque Journal that production will begin in the second week of March and the agency is looking for stand-ins for the series. Pre-production is currently underway, and the crew is being quarantined and tested for the upcoming start, the Journal reported Wednesday. Production originally was set for March 2020, but it was moved because of the pandemic. There will be 13 episodes in the final season, although no air date has been confirmed. “Better Call Saul” has been shot in New Mexico since 2015. The production has given nearly $178,000 to the state’s film programs. The Associated Press
This baby sea otter is in distress and lost after a storm in Cambria, California. It needed help and was rescued by the Marine Mammal Rescue Center located in Morro Bay, Ca.
(Submitted by The Front Yard Flower Co. - image credit) Flower vendors are worried B.C.'s COVID-19 rules for farmers' markets could lead to greenhouses full of blooms going to waste. Farmers' markets are considered an essential service and have been allowed to continue operating throughout the pandemic. However, non-food vendors like potters, jewelry and soap makers and flower sellers are excluded from in-person sales. This rule was lifted for a time last summer before being reinstated in December. Flower farmers plan months ahead, ordering seeds and growing plants throughout the winter, said Rachel Ryall, who owns River and Sea Flowers in Ladner. "We planted the current flowers that will be blooming over the next month back in September and October, assuming things would be alright to sell them again," Ryall said. "I can't stop them from flowering. They're coming." Rose Dykstra, owner of The Front Yard Flower Co. in Richmond, says it was never clear why non-food vendors were excluded from selling in farmers' markets. She has started a petition urging non-food vendors be allowed back. She has sold her flowers at the Vancouver Farmers Market for years and says the market has maintained strict rules throughout the pandemic to keep visitors and vendors safe. Spring flowers like tulips, narcissus, ranunculus and anemones will be ready soon and she's worried about lost sales and wasted blooms — she says she's not equipped for large-scale delivery across the Lower Mainland. "I feel like maybe we've been forgotten, because we're not vegetable farmers, we're kind of a smaller segment of vendors," Dykstra said. Rose Dykstra, owner of The Front Yard Flower Co. in Richmond, says it was never clear why non-food vendors were excluded from selling in farmers' markets. She has started a petition asking that non-food vendors be allowed back. Laura Smit, executive director of Vancouver Farmers Market, says although she is grateful the province has permitted markets to continue operating, it's never been made clear why non-food vendors aren't allowed. The farmers' market has been working since December to bring back non-food vendors, and she says if the rule is not overturned, it will have a big impact on the bottom line for flower vendors in particular. "Their product is absolutely seasonal," Smit said. "It's not something that is shelf-stable and can sit around to be sold later on in August. Literally the spring time is when these flower farmers are planning for, preparing for, and they don't understand why they can't come to market and we don't either." Spring flowers like tulips, narcissus, ranunculus and anemones will be ready soon and Rose Dykstra is worried about lost sales and wasted blooms if she can't bring them to the market. In an email to CBC News, the B.C. Ministry of Health said the rule is in an effort to keep the risk of COVID-19 transmission down, and added that non-food vendors can do online sales and pick-up orders. "The reason that food vendors are allowed is that farmers' markets are essential food and agriculture service providers," a spokesperson said. "The B.C. government will continue to listen to feedback from the community and stakeholders and adjust our response to support businesses as needed." Soap also not allowed — during a pandemic It's not just flower farmers who are concerned. Shea Hogan hopes he will be able to sell his natural bar soap at farmers' markets again this spring. The owner of PoCo Soap Co. says farmers' markets used to be a big part of his business and a way to build relationships with customers. He says it's ironic that, as a non-food vendor, he can't sell soap in a pandemic. He believes buying items from an outdoor farmers' market is among the safest ways to shop. "It was frustrating because other than being arbitrary and general, we're being told to wash our hands with soap and water," Hogan said. "And as a maker and seller of soap, to not be allowed to sell soap somewhere seems ... extra weird."
(Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit) It was a stern test for Quebec's new COVID-19 vaccination booking platform, with bookings between 8 a.m. and noon sometimes reaching rates of 12.5 per second, but Health Minister Christian Dubé says it passed. There were glitches along the way, as one might expect, and Dubé said they'll be fixed in short order. For example, some people booking appointments for relatives who were born in 1936 or earlier, and who themselves qualify for a vaccine because they are at least 70 and spend at least three days a week in the company of their elder, couldn't reserve the same day. The issue, he continued, is ensuring the vaccine supply matches the number of appointments. So if a person accompanying an elder has an appointment booked, the dose has already been set aside even if their own appointment is a day or two later. Dubé also said the problem in the reservation system will be fixed overnight. "As long as you have an appointment, we will be able to vaccinate you at the same time," Dubé said. By day's end, the ministry reported having booked just over 98,000 appointments. The health minister also announced the government signed a deal with major pharmacy chains on Thursday morning. They will help expand the vaccination effort in the coming weeks using a similar system to the influenza vaccine last fall, the first time Quebec turned to local pharmacies on a large scale. That program distributed roughly 1.2 million vaccines between the end of September and the beginning of December. "It was very successful … so that's good news," Dubé said. In addition, he said, the province is in the midst of concluding agreements with large employers in sectors such as manufacturing and import/export so that vaccination programs can be established in-house. "That way companies with 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 employees can vaccinate them, and not just employees but the family of those employees and, in some regions, the general public," he said. The challenge is to get 12 million doses into the arms of Quebecers over the next 15 to 20 weeks, he said. The province also plans to introduce so-called "immunity passports" at some point, which will allow people to prove they've been vaccinated and make it simpler to travel and perhaps even open some sectors of the economy. Though the program is still in the planning stages, Dubé likened it to a similar effort in 2009, when the province issued a paper record of vaccination against the H1N1 avian influenza. Only this time, it will be digital. "Many [companies] would like to be the first to open their doors to people who have proof of vaccination," he said. Dubé jokingly suggested "I probably went too far" in discussing an idea that isn't yet fully formed, and the opposition Québec Solidaire MNA Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois quickly agreed with him. "I'm surprised at the casualness with which the Health Minister is launching a debate on such an ethically sensitive subject … it's not trivial or insignificant. The potentially discriminatory effects of a vaccine passport are considerable," he said. "It's not just about taking a plane or eating in a restaurant, it raises serious questions about access to housing or the ability to work." Dubé said that with larger-than-expected deliveries slated for the coming weeks, the province should be able to vaccinate 700,000 people in the month of March. That includes providing second doses for those who have been vaccinated between December and February beginning the week of March 15. He also urged Quebecers to exercise caution during next week's March break, and to observe public health measures. "We are one month away from having a large number of people vaccinated … so let's be prudent," he said. Most Quebecers eligible to get the vaccine will have to wait until at least Monday to get the vaccine, but the regional health board in Laval was ready to go having set up sites like one in the Quartier Laval shopping centre in the Chomedey district, so they began booking appointments as of noon Thursday. "We were eager to start as soon as possible," Laval Public Health Director Jean-Pierre Trépanier told CBC Montreal Daybreak host Sean Henry. "All these shopping centres have been rented for a while, workers were hired and then we were waiting for the vaccines, and now they're available." Trépanier expected about 400 people to get their shots today, with the daily total expected to go up with more time slots becoming available. Up until now, vaccine doses have only been given out to residents in long-term care homes, private seniors' residences and health-care workers. More than three months have passed since the first doses were given out. "We've been working very hard for the last year," Trépanier. "We are going to recall every event that happened in that period, and so of course, this is [very meaningful] for me and, of course, for all of my colleagues, and probably a lot more in the population." For now, only Quebecers born in 1936 or before are eligible, and although they can book their appointments by phone at 1-877-644-4545, the government is strongly encouraging them to reserve their spot online at quebec.ca/covidvaccine. Some exceptions are being made: people born no later than 1951 to get the vaccine if they live with someone who's already eligible, or if they are their primary caregiver. Since the province began administering COVID-19 vaccines on Dec. 14, about 380,000 Quebecers have gotten shots, accounting for about four per cent of the population.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece's prime minister on Thursday promised sweeping changes to the country's laws and labour regulations to combat sexual abuse and misconduct in the wake of an assault allegation made by Olympic sailing champion Sofia Bekatorou that has prompted more cases and triggered a nationwide debate. Speaking in parliament, conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the government will introduce tougher sentencing guidelines, propose changes to statute-of-limitation rules for cases involving minors, and create a dedicated government agency to deal with abuse claims in workplaces and organized youth activities. Multiple cases of alleged sexual misconduct and abuse have been made public since former Olympian Bekatorou alleged she was sexually assaulted by a national sailing federation official in 1998. The people coming forward with accusations include other athletes, current and former university students, and stage actors. Mitsotakis said reports that unaccompanied minors were vulnerable to abuse at migrant camps on Greek islands also motivated him to take action. “There were children at the camps...and in Greek cities that were being exploited for sex for 5 and 10 euros ($6-12),” the prime minister told lawmakers. He noted that children and teenagers travelling alone no longer live at the island camps or are held in police cells for protection but have supervised, separate living quarters. The reports include a 51-page document from the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University in 2017 that said, citing camp informants, there were serious indications of child abuse at Greek migrant camps. Separately Thursday, a former director of Greece’s National Theatre appeared before a public prosecutor to respond to child abuse allegations. The 56-year-old suspect, who denies any wrongdoing, was arrested Saturday and remains in police custody. Opposition parties have demanded that Mitsotakis replace his culture minister over the alleged scandal. A government official told the AP Thursday that new sentencing guidelines and details of the proposed legal changes would be announced “in the coming days.” ___ Follow Gatopoulos at https://twitter.com/dgatopoulos Derek Gatopoulos, The Associated Press
ROME — Italy paid tribute Thursday to its ambassador to Congo and his bodyguard who were killed in an attack on a U.N. convoy, honouring them with a state funeral and prayers for peace in Congo and all nations “torn by war and violence.” Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the pope’s vicar for Rome, presided over the solemn funeral at the Santa Maria degli Angeli basilica that was attended by Premier Mario Draghi, top lawmakers, representatives of the armed forces and relatives of the young men. Ambassador Luca Attanasio and Carabiniere paramilitary officer Vittorio Iacovacci were killed Monday north of Goma when an armed group stopped them as they travelled in a two-car convoy to a World Food Program school feeding project. WFP's Congolese driver, Moustapha Milambo, was also killed in the attack. Italy has formally asked the U.N. for an inquiry into what happened amid questions about whether the U.N. security arrangements were sufficient for the mission. In his eulogy, De Donatis decried the “stupid and ferocious” attack and said it was right that Italy, Congo and the community of nations weep over such violence that “tore Luca and Vittorio from this world." “Let us pray together that today is a day in which the prayer for peace in Congo and in all nations torn by various forms of war and violence is raised to heaven," he said. He denounced how so many Congolese feel the constant threat of danger from rebel groups “knocking at their door,” saying the country had been “cruelly devastated by violence that sees their children die every day.” But he praised the men for working for peace and looking out for others “even at the cost of their own lives.” “If this the fate of peace workers, what will be the fate of the rest of us?” he asked. The funeral, carried live on state RAI television, featured masked Carabinieri officers as pallbearers and altar servers, with a military band performing Chopin’s haunting “Funeral March” as the flag-draped coffins were carried in and out of the basilica. After the service, the socially-distanced crowd applauded as the two hearses pulled out of the piazza carrying the coffins for burial, flanked by a police escort. Attanasio is survived by his wife and three young daughters, at least one of whom attended the funeral, as well as his parents and siblings. Iacovacci is survived by his fiancee and other family members. Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press
Coinbase, the biggest U.S. cryptocurrency exchange, moved a step closer to listing on the Nasdaq with a filing on Thursday to go public, revealing that it had swung into profit last year as bitcoin surged. Approval from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for a listing would represent a landmark victory for cryptocurrency advocates, vying for mainstream endorsement for a sector which has struggled to win the trust of mainstream investors, regulators and the general public. It would pave the way for the highest-profile share listing of a company whose business is primarily focused around the trading of cryptocurrencies, and could also be seen as a tacit regulatory approval of assets traded on its platform.
Queen’s Park is set to appoint a third party to investigate allegations of anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination at the Peel Children’s Aid Society (CAS). The office of Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women's Issues, confirmed to The Pointer that the wheels are in motion to facilitate an operational review. “In October last year, the ministry became aware of a report regarding anti-Black racism towards staff at Peel CAS,” Hannah Anderson, director of communications for Dunlop’s office, told The Pointer. “The report raised concerns about the society’s leadership and workplace culture. Since receiving a copy of the report, the ministry has been working closely with the society to understand their plans to address these concerns.” The move comes after a report last year written for the union, CUPE 4914, described a culture of fear within the organization, where Black staff, who described their marginalization, raised concerns over the impacts of systemic discrimination within Peel CAS. It is an organization responsible for providing care to some of Peel’s most vulnerable residents, in a region that is overwhelmingly non-white. Recent findings of widespread anti-Black racism were particularly disturbing for an organization that in 2019 was duty-bound to look after a large number of Black children – 39 out of 189 children in care at Peel CAS were Black, according to data provided by the organization in December. That was 21 percent of all children in the organization’s care a little over a year ago. The fear of widespread discrimination running through an organization that has to work with schools, police and, ultimately, families in the community, to ensure potentially traumatic decisions are made with the utmost of care and consideration, in a framework grounded in equity and safety, has now led to the Province’s intervention. In the union report, staff describe a divide between management and leadership. The CUPE 4914 document references nepotism within the organization and says Black staff see senior leadership as “untrustworthy” when handling their concerns. The report articulates management “has no picture of what is happening to or being experienced by Black staff.” After positioning itself as a leader and making anti-oppression a primary goal, some think the current leadership is dining out on past success, when a former employee led a range of progressive initiatives. “As much as Peel is part of a very diverse environment and culture and the agency has done a lot of work in previous years to support diversity, equity and inclusion, a lot of that stopped,” one staff member told The Pointer last year. Employees asked to not be identified. “We did the great work, we became great leaders and we stopped the things that made us leaders.” When Peel CAS was contacted by The Pointer last year about the concerns raised by staff and the union report, it did not respond to questions about the Province's One Vision One Voice initiative, which addresses the over-representation of Black children in Ontario's child-welfare system and the range of discriminatory attitudes within institutions such as education and policing that often lead to over-reporting on Black children. The lack of concern around these potentially destructive biases raised questions about whether the agency is aware of best practices in the sector to minimize the potentially harmful impact of systemic, institutionalized stereotypes and other attitudes entrenched within referring organizations. A failure to root out referrals based on racial prejudice lands hardest on Black frontline staff, employees told The Pointer in December. Unable to decline work from a manager, they find themselves aligned with police or principals in a situation they may not think merits child-protection services. Without open communication between managers and frontline workers — a professional environment where everyone feels they can speak their mind — staff can find themselves stuck. “We [Peel CAS] are not actively challenging the school board and the police, we are kind of just going along with them,” one staff member said. “We’re going along with the nonsense, so we are part of the problem. We pretend we are good for the community and then we don’t understand why the community can’t stand us. But we are aligned with the same processes that oppress them.” It can have a serious impact on people’s mental health. “You need your management to be behind you because, at the end of the day, we’re not decision making staff,” one of the employees added. “We need people in decision making positions who can help us. I cannot just push back against the principal without my supervisor’s support. Half the time, it’s me stuck between the school board and my supervisor.” To begin to solve the problem, staff and the authors of the CUPE 4914 report asked for clear policies to be put in place. The alarming union report was produced after a series of conversations facilitated by Breakthrough Counselling and Wellness, which focused on the experiences of Black staff. Concerns raised by staff during those meetings were aggregated and compiled, alongside recommendations and analysis to complete the report. The recommendations in the CUPE 4914 report were wide-ranging and included an audit of the organization by a third party, a review that would go beyond the interviews undertaken by Breakthrough Counselling and Wellness. At the end of 2020, senior leaders at Peel CAS said they would use the report as “a guide” but staff and union representatives feared they would commission their own favourable report that risked erasing the blunt assessments captured in the disturbing CUPE 4914 document. Unable to come to a solution together, and with little trust on either side, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services will now step in. The government will appoint a third party to review Peel CAS for workplace issues, policies and practices that may contribute to systemic racism within the organization. It will also assess if Peel CAS remains in compliance with its legislated duties to children in the region. The Province’s move has been acknowledged and welcomed by Peel CAS’ directors, who appear to have read the findings in CUPE 4914’s report differently. “We became aware of staff experiences related to systemic racism and anti-Black racism in our workplace and have recognized that we are not immune from systemic bias and racism,” Juliet Jackson, president of the board of directors, wrote in a statement. She did not allude to the serious concerns about senior leadership raised by staff and echoed by the Province. Rav Bains, CEO of Peel CAS, who has authority over senior leadership and staff, has not released a public statement. When the union work around issues of systemic discrimination was launched, Bains and senior staff at Peel CAS said they were also launching their own review, and claimed their move was done independently and proactively. Speaking to The Pointer late last year in response to the CUPE 4914 report’s revelations about the organization he runs, Bains admitted failings and claimed steps had been taken to address them. But he could not name any. He acknowledged systemic issues that needed to be addressed without offering a detailed understanding or explicit plans to address the situation. Staff told The Pointer late last year that a number of progressive actions by former employee Kike Ojo-Thompson, who spearheaded a range of effective initiatives to eradicate systemic barriers, were sidelined by Bains shortly after she left the organization in 2015. In December, some members of CUPE 4914 expressed concern Peel CAS was trying to also sideline their report by commissioning a more favourable investigation of their own. “Unfortunately, Peel CAS statements regarding their commitment to tackle anti-Black racism are performative, corporate, unilateral and reflect their consistent top-down approach,” the union said at the time. “It's self serving at best and there is a large discrepancy between the information Peel CAS relays to the media/public about their commitments and action plans and how they try to suppress, silence and control the Black voices internally.” Bains disagreed. He did not directly answer a question about a specific recommendation in the union report (to review senior staff performance with an equity lens) and if it would be followed, but said a new report would “not replace anything”. Chima Nsitem, Peel CAS director of diversity, equity and inclusion, said the report senior staff planned “is going to be used as a guide”. In a 55-minute interview with The Pointer in December, confronted with the findings of the union report and experiences of staff, Bains and Nsitem admitted shortcomings but also deflected many questions: they acknowledged the organization has work to do, but said they’re not alone on this front. Achievements were lauded alongside an acceptance that work is incomplete. “Bullying, racism, anti-Black racism have no place in our organization,” Bains said in December. “Does that mean we don’t have more work to do? Like every institution, there’s more work to do, including the media, including all the other systems. So we’ve said that up front.” The union report highlighted concerns raised by staff that leadership consistently deny any problems around systemic racism or other forms of discrimination within the organization. “We don’t want to give you the impression of either being defensive or somehow we’ve got a perfect system or that we have everything buttoned down,” Bains said. “I think that would be a mistake for us. There’s always work to be done.” He did not lay out what this work would be or provide any details of a specific strategy to address the issues raised in the union report. Under Bains’ leadership, a watchdog group (the Board Diversity Monitoring Committee) was disbanded and allyship sessions, designed to help non-Black staff to understand their role in fighting anti-Black racism, were discontinued. Bains defended dissolving the committee and suspending the allyship programs, which Peel CAS has promised to bring back. He said they were “thoughtful” and “gentle” decisions, designed to “integrate diversity and equity into everything we do”. The union has been steadfast in its assessment of Bains and his leadership, describing his claims of being an ally as “performative”. Now, the Province is stepping in. But concerns have already been expressed about who will do the third-party review under the guidance of the ministry. A spokesperson for Peel CAS did not respond to specific questions, including who requested the external review, if a vendor had been selected or how long they expect the process to take. “It is important that the review be allowed to run its course,” the spokesperson said. Information provided by Queen’s Park suggests a deadlock between union and senior leadership led the government to step in. “As the society and the union have been unable to reach an agreement on the path forward, the ministry is now proceeding with an operational review,” Anderson explained. “We want to work with both parties and have them actively engaging in the process. This is key to meaningful, sustainable change. Ensuring all voices are heard is critical to an open and transparent process.” No timeline is yet available for the work. A final decision on which organization will complete the review has not been made. One organization already armed with experience in this area is Agree Incorporated, the group that completed a review of York CAS at the end of 2020. The review, announced after significant public backlash over reports detailing widespread problems within York CAS, came to several damning conclusions. “Based on its findings, Agree Inc. recommended that a new leadership direction and approach must be put in place quickly, and that actions must be taken to create engagement toward a better workplace culture that is respectful, healthy and collaborative,” the report said. The review of York CAS was conducted over roughly three months. The process was announced by the ministry on July 31 and then a vendor was selected, with Agree Inc. publishing its findings on November 13 last year. “We welcome the review and are confident that the results will lay the foundation for ongoing organizational improvement and development,” Jackson wrote on behalf of the Peel CAS board. “We recognize the need to work together to chart a path forward and believe that an independent process that is transparent and open is a critical element to that undertaking.” The Province confirmed a timeline will be published when a private-sector organization has been selected to conduct the investigation of Peel CAS. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
(Dave Irish/CBC - image credit) Lionel Desmond struggled to transition to civilian life, at times reporting that he drank upward of 70 beers a week and ate fewer than 600 calories a day, the first psychologist who saw him after leaving the military testified Thursday. Dr. Mathieu Murgatroyd first met the veteran in June 2015. Desmond spent about a year in his care at the Occupational Stress Injury Clinic in Fredericton, a Veterans Affairs facility geared toward rehabilitating veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. But Murgatroyd testified that he and Desmond accomplished little in terms of therapy. Instead, the psychologist said he felt he sometimes took on the role of a case manager. In part, that's because Desmond was grappling with other issues: finding purpose outside the military, ongoing conflict in his marriage and isolation from his family. He also told his psychologist at one point that his financial situation was so poor that he might have to go to the food bank. CBC reporter Laura Fraser is live blogging the hearing: A stressful transition Those concerns are not unique to soldiers once they retire from the Canadian Forces, the psychologist said. In fact, Murgatroyd noted the usual stress of leaving the structure and camaraderie intrinsic to military life can worsen an underlying mental health issue. "We're talking about individuals that have several mental health issues and challenges, PTSD, depression ... which can lead to poor coping strategies," he testified. The inquiry seeks not to lay blame, but to examine the various institutions that came in contact with Desmond and his family before he fatally shot his wife, Shanna; his daughter, Aaliyah; and his mother, Brenda, before turning the gun on himself on Jan. 3, 2017 at a home in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S. Shanna Desmond worked as a registered nurse in Antigonish, N.S. Inquiry Judge Warren Zimmer is seeking answers about whether changes to public policy connected to those institutions can prevent future deaths. While the inquiry unfolding in Port Hawkesbury, N.S., is provincial in nature — and the mandate does not technically extend to the Canadian Forces or Veterans Affairs — the need for better support during a time of transition has surfaced in testimony from multiple witnesses at the second session. Inquiry counsel Shane Russell asked Murgatroyd on Thursday whether Desmond might have benefited from other supports to help him navigate the stress associated with the transition to civilian life, including a caseworker who could arrange marital counselling or check on the status of his pension and finances, or someone to drop by his home. The psychologist agreed that, in hindsight, that support would have been helpful. Lionel Desmond is seen with his mother, Brenda, and his daughter, Aaliyah. Other roadblocks to treatment But another roadblock to Desmond's treatment seemed to be that he just wasn't showing up. He split much of his time in the year after his release between his house in New Brunswick and his family home in Nova Scotia. The evidence underscores an issue faced by freshly released veterans: the potential for transience and the barriers that can create when accessing mental health services. In Desmond's case, after his first two appointments with Murgatroyd in July 2015 — when he reported having "homicidal thoughts without intent" — he cancelled his third visit over the phone, saying he was in Nova Scotia. They wouldn't see one another until October 2015. That pattern of intermittent visits continued until May 2016, when Desmond was accepted into an in-patient psychiatric program at Ste. Anne's Hospital in Quebec.
On sait que la relâche ne sera pas tout à fait comme les autres. C’est pourquoi l’administration contrecœuroise a entrepris de mettre sur pied une série d’activités destinées aux jeunes de la région. Question de garder leurs pieds, les mains et leurs méninges bien actifs durant cette semaine de pause annonciatrice du printemps. Programmées entre le 1er mars et le 5 avril prochains, ces activités sont regroupées sous quatre rubriques sur le site de la Ville: Les détectives, Le spa à la maison, Les amateurs de nature ainsi que Les Indécis. Le coût d’inscription est de 5 $ pour les résidents de Contrecœur. Chaque catégorie comprend des idées en lien avec la thématique proposée, que ce soit du bricolage, du sport, une expérience scientifique ou un atelier culinaire. Afin de concevoir les activités, les initiateurs du projet ont par ailleurs fait appel à divers partenaires incluant le Zoo de Granby. Les jeunes auront en effet l’occasion d’en apprendre davantage sur le bien-être animal en général et sur nos amis félins en particulier. Ils auront aussi la chance de participer à des activités virtuelles sur la glu galactique et la magie du papier avec Technoscience. Ou encore dépenser de l’énergie lors d’un entraînement familial avec l’entreprise locale KinéCible. Les fans d’humour auront également de quoi s’occuper durant la relâche. Ces derniers pourront en effet assister au spectacle virtuel de Vincent Fecteau. Le programme comprend par ailleurs des jeux-questionnaires sur des séries télé populaires organisées par La Dame de Cœur – Pub Ludique. Des ateliers de breakdance ou de dessin sont aussi offerts par les productions Katomix. Pour participer aux différentes activités proposées, les Contrecœurois doivent s’inscrire d’ici au 24 février sur le site de la Ville. Les places sont disponibles en quantité limitée. Durant la relâche, d’autres activités sont proposées aux familles ailleurs dans la MRC. Les jeunes et leurs parents peuvent notamment emprunter des patins, skis de fond, tubes à glisser et raquettes de 10 h à 17 h au parc Le Rocher à Saint-Amable. Le tout, afin de prendre l’air et se dégourdir les pattes le temps d’un agréable après-midi à l’extérieur. À Verchères, trois ateliers interactifs sont proposés aux jeunes de la municipalité. Le 2 mars, les enfants peuvent ainsi assister à l’atelier de magie de Magislain dès 9 h. Le lendemain à 10 h, à celui de dessin offert par Sheltoon. Le 4 mars à 9 h, les curieux peuvent pour leur part participer à l’atelier de Science en folie. Des activités sont également proposées sur le site de la Ville de Sainte-Julie, dont certaines dans le cadre des Julievernales. Les résidents de tous âges pourront donc profiter des patinoires, sentiers et jeux d’évasion s’ils ont envie de bouger. Ou encore bouquiner à la bibliothèque dont les heures d’ouverture sont disponibles sur le site de la Ville. Steve Martin, Initiative de journalisme local, La Relève
(Shane Ross/CBC - image credit) Snowy, windy weather that cancelled schools on Prince Edward Island Thursday will persist throughout the evening and into tomorrow in some areas, says CBC P.E.I. meteorologist Jay Scotland. See a full list of cancellations on Storm Centre. Winds kicked up Thursday afternoon across the Island, blowing around falling snow, reducing visibility on roads and leading to wind restrictions on Confederation Bridge, which have since been lifted. Some highways were covered or partly covered in snow. Plows, salters and sanders are out across the province. "My main concern tonight is blowing snow," Scotland said. "Flurries will persist over central and eastern areas tonight and, with northwest winds from 30 to 60 km/h or more, visibility may be reduced, particularly for exposed (rural) areas." Chilly Friday forecast Flurries will wrap up later tonight up west, he said, but may linger into the morning hours for central P.E.I. For eastern Kings, the flurries could persist into mid-afternoon Friday and northwest winds will remain quite strong — 25-50 km/h or more — with blowing snow possible. "My other concern is for icy patches on roads, sidewalks and walkways as today's warmer temperatures have left a lot of standing water on the ground," Scotland said. "Temperatures will drop big time tonight so watch for icy surfaces." Friday will be pretty sunny for much of the Island, but it will be chilly and the winds will be blustery so wind chill values below –20 in the morning and near –20 in the afternoon. More from CBC P.E.I.
Chinese retailer Suning.com said on Thursday shareholders plan to sell 20% to 25% of the company to unnamed buyers which might lead to a change in control as its parent seeks to raise cash. The company said it was notified of the stake sale by its founder Zhang Jindong and its parent Suning Appliance Group, who respectively hold a 20.96% and 19.88% stake in the firm. Suning.com's other shareholders include e-commerce giant Alibaba Group which bought a 19.99% stake as part of a strategic partnership in 2015.
Almost one year later, there has been little progress in the case against a man accused of holding a girl against her will at a remote northern Saskatchewan cabin. There have been numerous adjournments and delays in the case against Aaron Gardiner, 42, since his arrest in April 2020 because he has gone through about five lawyers. Gardiner has either fired the lawyers or they have withdrawn from representing him. He had another appearance scheduled in Meadow Lake Provincial Court Feb. 22 and the matter was adjourned to March 1. Gardiner remains in custody and is charged with unlawful confinement, assault, overcoming resistance, uttering threats, resisting arrest, possessing a firearm for a dangerous purpose, use of a firearm in commission of an indictable offence, proceeds of crime, and possession for the purpose of trafficking. Gardiner allegedly held a girl captive for four days at a remote cabin across from Île-à-la-Crosse Lake. A specialized RCMP tactical unit was flown to the isolated cabin by two military CH-146 Griffon helicopters to rescue the girl and arrest Gardiner. Three months after his arrest, police added more charges after more alleged victims came forward. In July 2020, police additionally charged Gardiner with four counts of sexual assault, three counts of forcible confinement, uttering threats, assault, reckless discharge of a firearm, use of a firearm in commission of an offence, obstruction and breach of an undertaking. The charges against Gardiner haven't been proven in court. Île-à-la-Crosse is about 380 kilometres north of Prince Albert. firstname.lastname@example.org Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
Après avoir omis d’appliquer sa propre Loi sur les espèces en péril (LEP) dans le dossier du chevalier cuivré en 2012, le gouvernement fédéral a corrigé la situation la semaine dernière. Mais parallèlement, Ottawa serait tout de même sur le point de donner son aval au projet d’agrandissement du terminal à conteneurs du Port de Montréal dans sa forme actuelle, et ce, malgré les risques que ce dernier pose pour la survie du poisson en danger d’extinction. Ciblé par une action légale intentée par des organismes voués à la protection de l’environnement, dont la Société pour la nature et les parcs du Canada (SNAP), Ottawa a publié vendredi un projet d’arrêté ministériel afin d’officialiser l’obligation de conserver intact l’habitat essentiel du chevalier cuivré. Ce dernier se limite à une portion du fleuve Saint-Laurent et de la rivière Richelieu. En vertu de la LEP, Ottawa aurait dû poser ce geste dans les 180 jours suivant le dépôt du texte définitif du programme de rétablissement du chevalier cuivré dans le registre public des espèces en péril, dépôt qui a eu lieu le 20 juin 2012. Une action concrète aurait donc dû être posée avant le 17 décembre 2012, mais pour une raison toujours inexpliquée, cette démarche n’a pas eu lieu plus tôt. Quoique tardive, une telle décision devrait, selon toute logique, avoir des conséquences sur l’agrandissement du terminal à conteneurs du Port de Montréal à Contrecœur. Or, les représentants fédéraux ont également annoncé « qu’on ne s’attend pas à ce qu’un promoteur de projet ait à supporter une charge administrative accrue à la suite d’un arrêté du conseil sur l’habitat essentiel », une remarque qui a de quoi laisser perplexe les électeurs préoccupés par la protection de l’environnement et la transparence de leurs représentants. Le gouvernement libéral a par ailleurs réitéré que le décret ne devrait pas avoir de répercussions considérables sur l’examen du projet présenté par l’Administration du Port de Montréal (APM) pour son terminal de Contrecœur. Rappelons que ce projet de plus de 750 millions de dollars a reçu l’appui du gouvernement fédéral via un investissement de 300 millions de dollars de la Banque de l’infrastructure du Canada. On peut donc se demander à ce stade comment l’administration Trudeau parviendra à respecter son engagement environnemental et sa promesse faite aux administrateurs du port. « Ça semble arrangé à l’avance avec le gars des vues », a affirmé Alain Branchaud, directeur général de la Société pour la nature et les parcs (SNAP) lors d’un entretien accordé à La Presse. Le décret couvre tout l’habitat essentiel. C’est solide, ça correspond à ce qu’on s’attend. Mais en même temps le gouvernement dit à l’avance qu’il va autoriser le projet de Contrecœur avant même qu’on lui ait fait la demande! » Le biologiste met par ailleurs en doute la validité du plan proposé afin de compenser la perte d’habitat du chevalier cuivré. « On dit qu’on va compenser, mais on n’a aucune expertise scientifique pour le chevalier cuivré, a poursuivi M. Branchaud. Ce n’est pas sérieux! On est dans une crise de biodiversité et on fait encore des niaiseries comme ça, ça n’a pas de bon sens. » Steve Martin, Initiative de journalisme local, La Relève