Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says if people don’t keep following COVID-19 restrictions, all the sacrifices made so far will be for nothing. Trudeau says the best thing people can do for those they love is not showing up to give them a hug.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says if people don’t keep following COVID-19 restrictions, all the sacrifices made so far will be for nothing. Trudeau says the best thing people can do for those they love is not showing up to give them a hug.
While Ontario and Quebec are the epicentres of COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada, people in First Nations are being hit the hardest in Western Canada, where they make up half the number of hospitalizations in some provinces. The rising curve is alarming federal officials, who urged the provinces during a press conference in Ottawa on Wednesday to continue prioritizing Indigenous populations as they roll out vaccines. "So what we're saying to Canadians, to Indigenous Peoples, is now is not the time to let down your guard," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said. "This is not the time to ease public health restrictions." As of Jan. 19, Indigenous Services Canada was reporting 5,571 active cases on reserves — most of them in Prairie provinces: British Columbia: 580 Alberta: 1,312 Saskatchewan: 1,196 Manitoba: 2,241 Ontario: 93 Quebec: 144 Atlantic: 5 Indigenous Services Canada has reported 13,873 confirmed COVID-19 cases on reserves since last March. More than 90 per cent are in Western Canada: British Columbia: 1,348 Alberta: 4,459 Saskatchewan: 3,525 Manitoba: 3,643 Ontario: 428 Quebec: 462 Atlantic: 8 First Nation leaders and health experts say there are several reasons why infections are increasing in First Nations in Western Canada, including overcrowding, gatherings, people letting their guard down, relaxed restrictions and people driving in and out of communities with road access for goods and work. Lack of housing With COVID-19 caseloads rising all across Canada, the pandemic is emerging in places where it wasn't before, said Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist at Temerty Faculty of Medicine and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "It's quite concerning that COVID is starting to break into these communities," Banerji said. "They've held the forts for so long." Banerji researched respiratory infections in Inuit communities for over two decades. She said the main risk factors facing First Nations are poor access to health care services, underlying ailments, food insecurity, poverty and overcrowding. Banerji said she fears that when people get sick in First Nations, they can't find places to self-isolate. Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair of Opaskwayak Cree Nation, 628 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, said his community needs 600 more houses. "When you have people living under one roof, anywhere from six to as high as 14 members living under one roof on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, you can see how quickly that spread can happen," Sinclair said. "We're second-class citizens living in Third World conditions in a first world country." Opaskwayak Cree Nation has had success in preventing and controlling outbreaks by enforcing curfews and monitoring who enters and leaves the community with border patrols paid for by Indigenous Services Canada. The highest funding requests the department has seen for the Indigenous Community Support Fund — which was created to help communities fight COVID-19 — have been for perimeter security, said Valerie Gideon, associate deputy minister of Indigenous Services. Close to 350 First Nations across the country have closed their borders to non-essential travel, she added. But even with the added layer of security in some places, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says 50 per cent of all active COVID cases in Manitoba are First Nations members. Call for stricter provincial measures Relaxed provincial measures are also being blamed for the rise in First Nations cases. The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan is calling on the province to close bars and liquor establishments. "We believe alcohol in the bars is a contributing factor," said FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt, who recently recovered from COVID-19. "When you're on alcohol, you're more likely to lose your inhibitions, share drinks and not keep those social distance practices in practices and in check." Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs' Organization in Manitoba is urging the provincial and federal governments to enforce tougher rules to limit travel. Daniels said he thinks caseloads are rising because of people going back and forth from First Nations to urban areas. "I think until COVID is completely wiped out, they should be taking the strongest approach possible," Daniels said. Daniels said nearly 80 per cent of the 34 Anishnaabe and Dakota communities he represents are trying to control the spread of COVID-19. Concern for loss of elders Dr. Shannon McDonald, acting chief medical officer at the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia, said there isn't enough rapid testing available to test everyone who needs to travel to B.C. First Nations, and some tests can't detect infections in their first few days. "It only takes one person to come in and spend time with people in the community," McDonald said. McDonald fears the pandemic could take a particularly heavy toll on First Nations communties. "I always worry about our elders," McDonald said. "Our elders are our knowledge-keepers, our language holders and they are the human libraries, culturally. So communities are very sensitive to that, but individuals who are choosing not to adhere to public health advice are putting those individuals at risk and I really worry about that." Lawrence Latender, a member of Dauphin River First Nation, has felt first-hand the impact of COVID-19 during an outbreak in his community 250 kilometres north of Winnipeg. He recently lost seven neighbours and friends to the virus, including two aunts and an uncle. "I don't know if I had time to really grieve because it's one thing after the other," Latender said. "It's like you're focused on one death and then you're, well ... 'OK now I got to focus on this one. Ok, this one is gone, now I got to focus on this one.'" Letander, his wife and two young sons also tested positive, but have since recovered. Indigenous Services Canada says that, so far, there have been 120 COVID-19 deaths in First Nations. But with 169 Indigenous communities now administering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and more doses on the way, there's hope the chain of transmission will break.
WASHINGTON — Three new senators were sworn into office after President Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines late Wednesday, overcoming Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member. It's traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president’s administration. On Thursday, the new Senate majority leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he hoped Biden's nominees for the departments of Defence, Homeland Security, State and Treasury could also be swiftly confirmed. “To leave these seats vacant does a disservice to America,” Schumer said at the Capitol. Schumer introduced all six new Democratic senators — the “majority makers” — who he said represent an “expanding Democratic majority." Four are from the West and two from the South. They are a diverse group bringing several firsts to the Senate, along with Schumer's rise as the first Jewish majority leader of the Senate. The three who joined on Wednesday — Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Alex Padilla of California — took the oath of office from Kamala Harris, a former California senator who is first woman to be vice-president, and the first Black woman and Asian-American to hold that office. Warnock, a pastor from the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, is the first Black senator from Georgia. Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, is Jewish and also the now youngest member of the Senate, at 33. They won run-off elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans, to lock the majority for Democrats. Padilla, a the son of immigrants from Mexico, becomes his state's first Latino senator, tapped by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term. They join a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote. “Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.” Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump. Congress is being called on to consider Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID recovery package, to distribute vaccines and shore up an economy as more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus. At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of Trump, charged by the House of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College tally and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will need to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees. Yet as Washington looks to turn the page from Trump to the Biden administration, Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is not relinquishing power without a fight. Haines' nomination was temporarily blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., as he sought information about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is holding back the Homeland Security nominee, Alejandro Mayorkas, over Biden's proposed immigration changes. McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands, chiefly to preserve the Senate filibuster — the procedural tool often used by the minority party to block bills under rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation. At her first White House briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s desire to have his Cabinet confirmed and in place is “front and centre for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place Thursday or Friday. Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the COVID relief package, but left the details of the upcoming impeachment trial to Congress. The Senate can “multitask,” she said. That’s a tall order for a Senate under normal circumstances, but even more so now in the post-Trump era, with Republicans badly split between their loyalties to the defeated president and wealthy donors who are distancing themselves from Republicans who back Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is expected to soon transmit to the Senate the House-passed article of impeachment against Trump, charged with incitement of insurrection, a step that will launch the Senate impeachment trial. Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate. It’s an arcane fight McConnell has inserted into what has traditionally been a more routine organizing resolution over committee assignments and staffing resources, but a power play by the outgoing Republican leader grabbing at tools that can be used to block Biden’s agenda. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s priorities, but not all rank-and-file Senate Democrats are on board. Schumer has not agreed to any changes but McConnell is taking no chances. For now, it will take unanimous consent among senators to toggle between conducting votes on legislative business and serving as jurors in the impeachment trial. The House last week impeached Trump for having sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight like hell” during the tally of Electoral College votes to overturn Biden’s election. __ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. ___ This story has been updated to correct that Sen. Tom Cotton represents Arkansas, not Oklahoma. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
As 2020 drew to a close, Bess Legault harvested the final bulbs of garlic from her leased farm along the Peace River in northern B.C. and walked away. In a few months' time, the land will be underwater, submerged by the contentious Site C dam. The $10.7-billion project — on hold pending the results of two international reports on the site's geotechnical viability — has been a flashpoint of controversy in recent years. Ranchers, Indigenous leaders, and environmental groups decry the project as unnecessary, environmentally harmful, and a threat to B.C.'s food security. Legault, who is now in the midst of taking over a farm just outside the Peace River Valley, said she has heard from farmers in the area who are “heartbroken” about the potential repercussions of Site C. Namely, the more than 3,500 hectares of agricultural land that would be flooded if the hydroelectric project goes through. “In full production, the deep alluvial soils and unique microclimate of the Peace Valley have the capacity to meet the nutritional needs of over one million people a year, forever,” said Legault, a first-generation farmer and women's president of the National Farmers Union. “Bringing Site C to completion would flood one of B.C.'s last vestiges of prime farmland just when we need it the most.” The organization recently sent a letter to B.C Agriculture Minister Lana Popham asking her to oppose the project. Popham has been a strong advocate for improving B.C.'s agricultural capacity and local food security throughout her time in office. Popham's office declined to comment on the issue, and instead forwarded the request to the Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon, which said in a statement that the Horgan government “inherited a project with significant cost pressures and risks, and we were left to manage it in the best interests of British Columbians.” Premier John Horgan made a statement on Jan. 14 saying that the government will make a decision about the project once it has received two new expert reports on the geotechnical safety of Site C. Meanwhile, Legault is waiting to see if the letter will get Popham’s attention. “I have a lot of respect for Lana Popham,” she said. “The picture that I painted through that letter to Lana, is to (ask her) to be the guiding light on what we need to see happen in agriculture in Canada.” Cloe Logan / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer Cloe Logan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Cenovus Energy has partnered with Lac La Biche’s Portage College for a basic home construction and maintenance program to residents of Conklin, Janvier, the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation and three other communities in the Cenovus Indigenous housing initiative. The six-month course teaches people how to build and maintain homes locally. Students develop entry-level construction skills that can be used towards a trade certification. The program begins recruiting students in upcoming weeks. “This program will benefit our community lots,” said Shirley Tremblay, president of Conklin Métis Local 193. “It builds capacity and will give them the knowledge of carpentry or plumbing that they would need to pursue their education.” Tremblay said the program will be taught in the community and students can work directly with instructors as houses are built. Portage College spokesperson Jaime Davies said students will build a “legacy building” for their communities during the program. This could include a gazebo, greenhouse or workshop. “The communities have been involved in the design of the training program from the beginning,” said Davies in an email. “They provide input into what training would most benefit the, how training could best be delivered and what would help make the program successful.” The program is part of a broader $50 million, five-year project to build about 200 new homes in Indigenous communities facing a housing crisis. There is the potential to stretch the project to 10 years and a $100 million commitment. The other communities in the program are Heart Lake First Nation and Beaver Lake Cree Nation, both near Lac La Biche; and Cold Lake First Nations. Cenovus said the company reviewed multiple program proposals from local colleges, but did not confirm which colleges reached out. Keyano College would not confirm if they made a proposal to Cenovus. “Portage College was chosen because their proposal met the needs of our communities and the expectations we have for the training program,” said Cenovus spokesperson Sonja Franklin. “They have a long history of working with Indigenous communities to deliver quality training programs.” email@example.com Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today
TAMPA, Fla. — Kendrick Nunn poured in 28 points and the short-handed Miami Heat beat Toronto 111-102 to end the Raptors' three-game winning streak on Wednesday. Fred VanVleet had 24 points and nine assists to top the Raptors (5-9), while Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby had 18 points apiece. Terence Davis scored 16 points off the bench. Canadian Kelly Olynyk had 15 points for the Heat (6-7), who were missing Jimmy Butler and Avery Bradley do to health and safety protocols around COVID-19. The Raptors were coming off a 116-93 victory over the Dallas Mavericks, their best performance this season and a hopeful sign they'd turned a corner on their early troubles. But on Wednesday, they trailed the Heat by 11 in the first half of a back-and-forth game that saw 11 lead changes through the first three quarters. The Heat led 88-83 to start the fourth. Chris Boucher's cutting layup cut the difference to three points early in the quarter, but Miami replied with an 8-0 run capped by a fadeaway bucket from Bam Adebayo that had the Heat back up by 11 with 6:58 to play. Siakam's jumper with 5:17 to play ended an almost six-minute stretch without a basket for the Raptors. VanVleet's three less than a minute later slashed the difference to nine points. But the Raptors couldn't maintain any momentum, and back-to-back three-pointers by Goran Dragic and Andre Iguodala had Miami back up by 15 points. Davis, who connected on all four of his three-point attempts, scored from distance with 1:27 to play to make it a 10-point game, but the Raptors never threatened over the dying seconds. Toronto's sluggish finish has been a worrisome trend this season for a team that was once one of the league's best teams down the stretch. Kyle Lowry scored Toronto's first seven points, but an Iguodala three-pointer and dunk punctuated an 18-6 Heat run late in the quarter, and Miami led 29-23 to start the second. The Raptors picked up the pace in the second, and Anunoby's pair of threes were part of a 9-0 Raptors run that sliced Miami's lead to two points. Toronto went into the halftime break up 58-56. The Raptors host Miami again on Friday, then play back-to-back games at Indiana. The NBA's two-game series model is a way to limit travel and exposure to COVID-19 this season. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2020. The Canadian Press
Parks Canada issued a statement Wednesday that it is willing to meet with members of the Kawartha Nishnawbe First Nation community who have put up a blockade to stop construction to replace the Burleigh Falls Dam. On Jan. 13, members of the first nation community established a blockade, putting a halt to the repair work being done to the dam — which is owned by Parks Canada — because no consultation was made with the nearby community prior to the start of construction. According to Parks Canada’s statement written by David Britton, director of Ontario Waterways, the dam at Lock 28 of the Trent-Severn Waterway is one dam in a chain of dams and an integral part of the water management structure of central Ontario. “Engineering inspections in recent years have identified the declining condition of the Burleigh Falls Dam. A significant void at the base of the dam undermines the dam’s structural integrity, and is cause for concern regarding both public safety, and the protection of properties and species, including an important Walleye fishery,” Britton wrote. “Concrete strength inspections have showed deterioration beyond what is deemed acceptable. These factors indicate that the dam is at or nearing the end of its useful life, and requires a major intervention. Parks Canada is proceeding with a full replacement of the dam, following the current phase of construction that will first stabilize the existing dam.” The protesters have said they do not dispute that the dam needs to be replaced but they wanted to be consulted before the construction began. Britton said the federal government is committed to working to advance reconciliation and renew the relationships with Indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, collaboration and partnership. “Parks Canada has offered to meet with the Kawartha Nishnawbe on the Burleigh Falls Dam replacement project both in 2016 and more recently to understand their concerns regarding the potential impacts of the project. Parks Canada remains available to do so and hopes to connect in a meaningful way through this process,” Britton wrote. Parks Canada has met with Curve Lake First Nation and the other Williams Treaties First Nations on the first phase of the project and has arranged mitigation measures, including on-site monitors, to address their concerns, Britton added. “Parks Canada continues to meet with Curve Lake First Nation and the other Williams Treaties First Nations on the upcoming phases of work for the Burleigh Falls dam replacement project and are working together to develop fisheries monitoring and mitigation plans,” he wrote. Originally the Trent-Severn Waterway had planned to rehabilitate the dam, but could not find a contractor that could do the work, so a decision was made to replace the dam. Parks Canada plans to complete the work by 2024. Kawartha Nishnawbe members could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Marissa Lentz is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Avril Haines as director of national intelligence, giving President Joe Biden the first member of his Cabinet and placing the first woman in charge of the nearly two-decade old agency. Haines, a former deputy director of the CIA and deputy national security adviser in the Obama administration, was confirmed with an overwhelming 84-10 vote, signalling a bipartisan desire for confirming Biden's national security nominees and installing strong leadership after four turbulent years for the intelligence community. Former President Donald Trump spent much of his presidency criticizing intelligence officials, doubting them and installing loyalist leaders — retribution for a probe into his ties to Russia that began before he was elected. In her confirmation hearing Tuesday, Haines made clear she intends to end the Trump administration's practice of pressuring officials to shape their analysis to the president’s liking. “When it comes to intelligence, there is simply no place for politics — ever,” she told the Senate Intelligence Committee. Haines said she sees the job as speaking “truth to power” and delivering accurate and apolitical intelligence even if it was uncomfortable or inconvenient for the administration. She said China would be a major focus. Suspicious of leaks and backstabbing, Trump nominated and installed close allies to head the agency in his final year, further battering morale and creating suspicion within the community and in Congress, where leaders in both parties suspected they were not always getting the intelligence they were legally entitled to receive. “The last four years have been hard on the intelligence community,” said Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the new chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee after Democrats took the majority on Wednesday. Warner said Haines is “clear eyed” and “the right woman to repair this damage.” Warner said Haines “will support the men and women of the IC, and protect them from political pressure. She will insist that they tell us their best analysis and not shy away from telling decision-makers that their cherished beliefs are wrong.” Haines also won support from the committee’s top Republican, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who said he looks forward to working with her. “Our adversaries will not stand by and wait for the new administration to staff critical positions,” Rubio said. The Senate was able to vote quickly on the nomination and bypass a committee vote, just hours after Biden’s inauguration, when Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton dropped his objection to the nomination Wednesday evening. Cotton had said he did not want the Senate to move forward on her nomination until he had assurances from her that she would not re-open investigations into Bush-era interrogation programs, citing comments she made at the hearing. He said Wednesday evening that Haines had clarified that she “had no intention to open up those investigations and expose operations officers inside the CIA to criminal prosecution.” Mary Clare Jalonick And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
As they often did during nicer weather, Wayne and Michael Cherrington were preparing to sit and sip wine from the enclosed balcony of their fourth-storey suite, one night in October 2018. But their peaceful evening tradition was interrupted by tragedy. "My God Wayne, she doesn't see them, she's going to hit them," Michael, 78, remembers calling out in the moments before a vehicle hit 85-year-old Doreen French and her daughter in the parking lot of the Heritage Park Towers housing complex in south Edmonton. French died 12 days later in hospital. Marion Rickett-Beebee, a nurse who assisted clients in the apartment complex, is accused of careless driving under the provincial Traffic Safety Act. She is not facing criminal charges. The Cherringtons appeared remotely during the second day of the trial on Wednesday, testifying back-to-back about the events of Oct. 18, 2018. They say they saw French and her daughter, Patricia Wilton, walk toward the south tower on the roadway of the parking lot. A barricade and pipes were blocking part of the sidewalk at the time. Wilton said during her testimony Tuesday they were walking to visit a friend in the south tower. They stepped onto the parking lot road to avoid the obstacle — that's when they were hit by an SUV. Wilton said she suffered a number of injuries, including a broken right femur and a fractured vertebrae. The Cherringtons said the black SUV did not slow down prior to impact. "I remember that very distinctly" Wayne, 79, said. "That was my first reaction, to look at the back of that vehicle and see if the brake lights were going to come on. "They didn't." 'I turned away' Defence lawyer Darin Slaferek questioned the couple's recollection during cross-examination, referring to the shock of the event, the amount of time that had passed, and conversations since between them. He pointed out the black SUV must have hit the brakes at some point. Wayne said he did not see the actual moment of impact. "I turned away," he said. Slaferek also challenged Michael on her assertion that she could see the driver looking at the passenger's seat and not the road prior to impact, referring to photos taken from her fourth storey suite and the partially-tinted windows on the vehicle. At one point he asked whether Michael was trying to help her deceased friend and her daughter. "I'm trying to tell you what I saw the best I can," said Michael, who said there are many details of the day she cannot recount. "The only thing I can totally and completely remember … is when the car hit those two girls." The trial is set to continue for the rest of the week.
Warren Woods, a longtime Regina sports broadcaster, has died at the age of 66 after battling COVID-19. His death was confirmed by his family, who issued a statement Wednesday evening. "Woodsy," as he was affectionately called by family and friends, died at 3:25 p.m. on Wednesday due to complications from the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. The statement says he died with his two children, Nicole and Chris, by his side. "They wish to express their immense gratitude to the doctors, nurses, and specialists on the medical intensive care unit and Unit 3E at Regina General Hospital for all their attention and care," the family said. Woods was in the ICU battling COVID-19 after being diagnosed in November. A GoFundMe page set up to help with his recovery has raised over $64,000. In a statement, Nicole and Chris said they are grateful for the outpouring of support their dad received from across the country over the last seven weeks. "It's comforting for them to know how many people cared about their dad," the statement said. Woods's career spanned over 30 years. Prior to working at CJME radio, he worked at STV and Global. Journalists, colleagues and friends shared an outpouring of support on social media Wednesday after news of his death broke.
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott is stepping down at the end of June, ending an 11-year tenure in which the conference landed a transformational billion dollar television deal but struggled to keep up with some of its Power Five peers when it came to revenue and exposure. Sports Business Journal first reported the news Wednesday night and a person with knowledge of what was being called a mutual decision between the 56-year-old Scott and university presidents who make up the league’s executive committee confirmed it to AP. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because an official statement from the conference was expected later Wednesday night. Scott’s current contract was set to expire June 2022, but he will not seek a new deal and instead finish out this academic to assist with the transition to his successor. Under Scott, the Pac-10 became the Pac-12 by adding Colorado and Utah to the conference in 2011 and created a football championship game. The additions helped the conference secure a 12-year $3 billion media rights deal with Fox and ESPN that set the standard in the college sports market at the time. Ralph D. Russo, The Associated Press
Hamilton’s public school board is asking the province for pandemic pay for educators supporting students learning in the city’s schools. “Educational assistants and teachers are providing direct care and in-person instruction for students who are not able to follow COVID-19 health and safety protocols, such as wearing masks or physically distancing,” Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) chair Dawn Danko wrote in a Jan. 19 letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Doug Ford and Mayor Fred Eisenberger. The letter calls on the Ontario government to administer an additional payment for education workers who have been “attending in-person at a physical school” in Hamilton — many since Jan. 4 — “in recognition of the elevated risk to staff performing the essential work of supporting students with significant special needs during the lockdown and remote period.” Temporary pandemic pay was initiated by the Ontario government last spring to provide financial support offered to “eligible front line and support workers,” including health-care and long-term-care staff. The program ended in mid-August. As of Jan. 14, there were approximately 330 staff supporting students learning in-person at public schools in Hamilton. On Jan. 15, the Catholic board told The Spectator that approximately 360 educators were working in schools. Chair Pat Daly said the Catholic board, through the Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA), has advocated for “additional funding and support” since March, but pandemic pay isn’t something that has been requested. Susan Lucek, president of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE) Local 527, which mainly represents educational assistants, said the HWDSB’s request is “a step in the right direction.” “We are happy that somebody is finally listening,” she said. But, Lucek said, pandemic pay isn’t enough to address members’ health and safety concerns. “Schools should be closed for everybody at this time,” Lucek said. “Everybody should be remote, even though it’s not ideal for parents, students or educators.” In an email to The Spectator, Daryl Jerome, president of the local bargaining unit for the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), said the letter penned by Danko “was certainly welcomed.” “However, I would have hoped for more of an emphasis on just how unsafe our membership is when delivering curriculum to students who cannot social distance or wear masks and some who require hands-on supports,” he said, adding that approximately 80 members are currently working in schools. Not included in the request are principals, vice-principals, administrators and custodial staff. “They typically are a step removed, they’re not working directly with the students,” Danko told The Spectator. Danko said “it seemed that a focused request would likely be more successful.” Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
BEIJING — The U.S.'s accusation of genocide against China touches on a hot-button human rights issue between China and the West. In one of his final acts as secretary of state, Mike Pompeo declared Tuesday that China’s policies against Muslims in its Xinjiang region constitute “crimes against humanity” and “genocide.” The same day, British lawmakers narrowly rejected a proposal aimed at China that would have barred trade deals with any country deemed to be committing genocide. The far western region of Xinjiang is home to the predominantly Muslim Uighur ethnic group. China denies human rights violations and says its actions in Xinjiang are necessary to counter a separatist and terrorist threat. ___ WHY IS CHINA ACCUSED OF GENOCIDE? Pompeo cited forced birth control among Uighurs, which an Associated Press investigation documented last year, and forced labour, which has been linked by AP reporting to products imported to the U.S., including clothing, cameras and computer monitors. “I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state,” Pompeo said in a written statement, using an alternative spelling for Uighurs. ___ WHAT IS CHINA'S RESPONSE? China strongly defends its human rights record and policies in Xinjiang, saying its constitution and laws treat all citizens equally. It denies imposing coercive birth control measures or forced labour, saying those behind the allegations are lying in an effort to smear China’s reputation and impede its development. Xu Guixiang, a deputy spokesperson for the Xinjiang branch of the ruling Communist Party, told reporters last week that birth control decisions were made of the person’s own free will and that “no organization or individual can interfere.” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Wednesday called Pompeo a “doomsday clown” and said his designation of China as a perpetrator of genocide and crimes against humanity was merely “a piece of wastepaper.” ___ WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? The genocide designation does not trigger any immediate repercussions, but requires the U.S. to take it into account in formulating policy toward China. It puts pressure on President Joe Biden to maintain a tough line against China. He and members of his national security team have expressed support for such a designation in the past. Antony Blinken, Biden’s choice to be secretary of state, said Tuesday that the Trump administration was right to take a tougher stance on China, but that it had approached the matter poorly by alienating U.S. allies and not fully standing up for human rights elsewhere. ___ HOW WILL CHINA RESPOND? China may wish to avoid an early skirmish with the Biden administration, saving its invective for Pompeo and calibrating its response based on the possibility of tensions easing now after they flared under Donald Trump. As with most sensitive issues, China has heavily restricted foreign media access to Xinjiang and sought to limit any domestic discussion to official pronouncements. Still, the “parting shot" from the Trump administration will likely further stress the relationship in the near term, said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China. He said the already slim chances of reducing China-U.S. tensions have been further limited in the coming weeks and months. ___ WHAT HAPPENED IN LONDON? Lawmakers rejected by a 319-308 vote an amendment to a post-Brexit trade bill that would have forced the British government to revoke bilateral trade agreements with a country if the High Court of England found that it had perpetrated genocide. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab last week called the amendment “well-meaning” but ineffective and counter productive. A significant number of rebel Conservatives backed the proposal, as did Jewish, Muslim and Christian community leaders. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to continue facing vocal calls within his Conservative party for a stronger and more coherent policy on China over its alleged rights abuses and violations of international norms. The Associated Press
Two salmon farming operations have applied to the Federal Court of Canada in Vancouver for a judicial review of a decision made by Fisheries Minster Bernadette Jordan to phase out fish farms on B.C.'s Discovery Islands. The decision, released on Dec. 17, 2020, states all 19 farms have to be free of fish by June 30, 2022, when their renewed 18-month licences expire and that no new fish can be brought in. At the time, Jordan said her decision was a result of consultations she had with seven First Nations: the Homalco, Klahoose, K'ómoks, Kwaikah, Tla'amin, We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum. "We heard overwhelmingly from First Nations in the area that they do not want these fish farms there," she said. "They feel that they should have a say in their territorial waters, and I absolutely agree with them." Mowi Canada West, and Cermaq Canada, both salmon farming operators in the area located near Campbell River, have applied for the judicial review. In its statement, Mowi Canada West said the decision was "made without consultation of the industry, one week before Christmas." It also outlined the consequences of the decision, including the loss of almost a third of its business, the culling of several million young fish currently in hatcheries and significant job losses in coastal communities. In a statement, Cermaq Canada said it too would have to make labour cuts and put a significant number of fish at risk. It added, however, that its request focuses only on the conduct of DFO and the minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, and that it "respects the opinions and the rights of the First Nations in the Discovery Islands region."
Newfoundland and Labrador’s Department of Health is asking anyone who travelled on the Blue Puttees ferry to or from Nova Scotia and Port aux Basques between Dec. 29 and Jan. 16 to call 811 to arrange for COVID-19 testing. The request comes on the heels of a crewmember testing positive for the disease. Marine Atlantic said Wednesday it’s the first such case it has had to deal with since the pandemic began. “We have been in contact with public health officials in Nova Scotia and with Marine Atlantic occupational health and safety, and are co-ordinating a response,” Newfoundland's chief medical officer of health told reporters. “We’d like to indicate that the risk is low for these people, but we are doing this out of an abundance of caution,” Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said. Testing can also be arranged by completing the online assessment tool at covidassessment.nichi.nl.ca. Fitzgerald would give no further details about the case because of privacy concerns. However, a Marine Atlantic spokesperson said it’s clear the crewmember contracted the disease on board because he only developed symptoms after leaving his two-week shift. The incubation window for COVID-19 is 14 days. Fitzpatrick said the risk is low for passengers because there are less spaces for people to intermingle on board. “Marine Atlantic certainly has put a lot of protocols in place since the beginning of the pandemic to reduce the amount of interaction that their staff and the passengers will have,” she said. “They’ve certainly got masking protocols and all of that as well, and they’ve reduced common spaces.” When contacted, the Marine Atlantic spokesperson didn’t have specific details on the number of passengers who have travelled on the ferry during the timeframe in question, but said it would be in the hundreds. He said on one recent crossing, there were about 10 regular passengers and 50 commercial passengers, but those numbers vary day by day. The Public Health Authority in Nova Scotia has already started contact tracing of crewmembers, although Fitzgerald said any contact tracing that involves this province will be conducted by local public health officials. Crewmembers must self-isolate on the ferry after the testing. With the Blue Puttees moored indefinitely, Marine Atlantic cancelled its morning crossing from North Sydney, N.S., to Port aux Basques and Wednesday evening’s crossing from Newfoundland to Cape Breton. The company says the MV Highlanders will remain in service, and the MV Atlantic Vision is currently being prepared to enter service should it be required in the days ahead. The Atlantic Vision has been moored in North Sidney on standby, but it may take up to 48 hours to establish a crew and get it into service. Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
ORLANDO, Fla. — Two Florida men, including a self-described organizer for the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, were arrested Wednesday on charges of taking part in the siege of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month, authorities said. Joseph Biggs, 37, was arrested in central Florida and faces charges of obstructing an official proceeding before Congress, entering a restricted on the groups of the U.S. Capitol and disorderly conduct. According to an arrest affidavit, Biggs was part of a crowd on Jan. 6 that overwhelmed Capitol Police officers who were manning a metal barrier on the steps of the Capitol. The mob entered the building as lawmakers were certifying President Joe Biden’s election win. Biggs appeared to be wearing a walkie-talkie during the storming of the Capitol, but he told FBI agents that he had no knowledge about the planning of the destructive riot and didn’t know who organized it, the affidavit said. Ahead of the riot, Biggs told followers of his on the social media app Parler to dress in black to resemble the far-left antifa movement, according to the affidavit. Biggs had organized a 2019 rally in Portland, Oregon, in which more than 1,000 far-right protesters and anti-fascist counter-demonstrators faced off. The Proud Boys are a neofascist group known for engaging in violent clashes at political rallies. During a September presidential debate, Trump had urged them to “stand back and stand by” when asked to condemn them by a moderator. An online court docket did not indicate whether Biggs has an attorney who could comment. Jesus Rivera, 37, also was arrested Wednesday in Pensacola. He faces charges of knowingly entering a restricted building, intent to impede government business, disorderly conduct and demonstrating in the Capitol buildings. Rivera uploaded a video to Facebook showing himself in the U.S. Capitol crypt, authorities said. The five-minute video ends with Rivera starting to climb out a window at the Capitol, according to an arrest affidavit. An online court docket also did not list an attorney for Rivera. The cases are being handled by federal prosecutors in the District of Columbia. More than a half-dozen other Floridians have been charged in relation to the Capitol assault. Associated Press, The Associated Press
VICTORIA — British Columbia's provincial health officer and health minister say the province's COVID-19 case count is "trending in the right direction."Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix say public restrictions will ease if the number of COVID-19 cases continue to drop.The province reported 500 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.There have been a total of 62,412 cases since the pandemic began and there are 4,345 active cases.There have also been 14 new deaths, bringing to 1,104 the number of COVID-19 related fatalities since March. Henry and Dix say in a joint statement that 98,125 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered.Dix told a news conference on Tuesday that the province was still on track to begin administering second doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. The Canadian Press
SAN DIEGO — For the opening salvo of his presidency, few expected Joe Biden to be so far-reaching on immigration. A raft of executive orders signed Wednesday undoes many of his predecessor’s hallmark initiatives, such as halting work on a border wall with Mexico, lifting a travel ban on people from several predominantly Muslim countries and reversing plans to exclude people in the country illegally from the 2020 census. Six of Biden's 17 orders, memorandums and proclamations deal with immigration. He ordered efforts to preserve Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program known as DACA that has shielded hundreds of thousands of people who came to the U.S. as children from deportation since it was introduced in 2012. He also extended temporary legal status to Liberians who fled civil war and the Ebola outbreak to June 2022. But that's just the beginning. Biden’s most ambitious proposal, unveiled Wednesday, is an immigration bill that would give legal status and a path to citizenship to anyone in the United States before Jan. 1 — an estimated 11 million people — and reduce the time that family members must wait outside the United States for green cards. Taken together, Biden's plans represent a sharp U-turn after four years of relentless strikes against immigration, captured most vividly by the separation of thousands of children from their parents under a “zero tolerance” policy on illegal border crossings. Former President Donald Trump's administration also took hundreds of other steps to enhance enforcement, limit eligibility for asylum and cut legal immigration. Biden's package dispels any belief that his policies would resemble those of former President Barack Obama, who promised a sweeping bill his first year in office but waited five years while logging more than 2 million deportations. Eager to avoid a rush on the border, Biden aides signalled that it will take time to unwind some of Trump's border policies, which include making asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for hearings in U.S. immigration court. The Homeland Security Department said that on Thursday it would stop sending asylum-seekers back to Mexico to wait for hearings but that people already returned should stay put for now. It "will take months to be fully up and running in terms of being able to do the kind of asylum processing that we want to be able to do,” Jake Sullivan, Biden's national security advisor, told reporters. The administration has been mum on a 100-day moratorium on deportations that Biden promised, though he is revoking one of Trump's earliest executive orders making anyone in the country illegally a priority for deportations. Susan Rice, head of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said any moratorium would come from the Homeland Security, not the president. Despite the deliberative pace in some areas, Biden's moves left pro-immigration advocates overjoyed. Greisa Martinez Rosas, executive director of United We Dream, called the legislation “the most progressive legalization bill in history.” “We made it,” she said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters. "We made this day happen." It is even more striking because immigration got scarce mention during the campaign, and the issue has divided Republicans and Democrats, even within their own parties. Legislative efforts failed in 2007 and 2013. More favourable attitudes toward immigration — especially among Democrats — may weigh in Biden’s favour. A Gallup survey last year found that 34% of those polled supported more immigration, up from 21% in 2016 and higher than any time since Gallup began asking the question in 1965. Seven in 10 voters said they preferred offering immigrants in the U.S. illegally a chance to apply for legal status, compared with about 3 in 10 who thought they should be deported to the country they came from, according to AP VoteCast. The survey of more than 110,000 voters in November showed 9 in 10 Biden voters but just about half of Trump voters were in favour of a path to legal status. Under the bill, most people would wait eight years for citizenship but those enrolled in DACA, those with temporary protective status for fleeing strife-torn countries and farmworkers would wait three years. The bill also offers development aid to Central America, reduces the 1.2 million-case backlog in immigration courts and provides more visas for underrepresented countries and crime victims. The proposal would let eligible family members wait in the United States for green cards by granting temporary status until their petitions are processed — a population that Kerri Talbot of advocacy group Immigration Hub estimates at 4 million. Unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens who have been waiting outside the country for more than six years are just getting their numbers called this month. Waits are even longer for some nationalities. Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from Mexico have been waiting outside the United States since August 1996. The bill faces an enormous test in Congress. Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said Wednesday that he would lead the Senate effort. Skeptics will note that Ronald Regan's 1986 amnesty for nearly 3 million immigrants preceded large numbers of new arrivals and say to expect more of the same. In a taste of what's to come, Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, described the bill as having “open borders: Total amnesty, no regard for the health and security of Americans, and zero enforcement.” To be clear, enforcement has expanded exponentially since the mid-1990s and will remain. Biden's bill calls for more technology at land crossings, airports and seaports and authorizes the Homeland Security secretary to consider other steps. Biden warned advocates last week that they should not hold him to passage within 100 days, said Domingo Garcia of the League of United Latin American Citizens, who was on a call with the president. “Today we celebrate," Carlos Guevara of pro-immigration group UnidosUS said Wednesday. "Tomorrow we roll up our sleeves and get to work.” ___ Associated Press writers Mike Schneider in Orlando, Florida, and Hannah Fingerhut in Washington contributed to this report. Elliot Spagat, The Associated Press
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LOS ANGELES — An unprecedented impeachment hearing failed to keep TV viewers from settling back into familiar, escapist habits last week. NFL and college football and sturdy drama franchises including the “Chicago” shows on NBC and the “NCIS” group on CBS were among the week's ratings winners, according to Nielsen figures out Wednesday. The second impeachment of now-former President Donald Trump drew viewers to news shows, but not in the numbers that tuned in the prior week to bear witness to rioting inside the U.S. Capitol and gave CNN get its biggest single-day audience ever. CNN had last Wednesday's most-watched impeachment hearing coverage and again claimed the weekly lead among cable news channels. CBS' news magazine “60 Minutes,” which included reports on the Capitol attack and security measures for President Joe Biden's inauguration, was the week's top non-sports broadcast despite competition from a NFL divisional playoff game. That contest, between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints was the week's No. 1 program. It helped make Fox the most-watched network with an average 9.1 million viewers, followed by NBC with 6.4 million. CBS had 4.1 million, ABC had 3.5 million, Univision had 1.3 million, Telemundo had 1 million and Ion Television had 940,000. ESPN was the most-watched cable network in prime-time, averaging 3.2 million for the week. CNN had 3.1 million, MSNBC had 2.7 million and HGTV had 1.1 million. ABC’s “World News Tonight” topped the evening news ratings contest, averaging 10.3 million viewers. NBC’s “Nightly News” had 8.5 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 6.3 million. For the week of Jan. 11-17, the 20 most-watched programs in prime time, their networks and viewership: 1. NFC Playoff: Tampa Bay at New Orleans, Fox, 35.5 million. 2. NFL Playoff: Baltimore at Buffalo, NBC, 26.2 million. 3. College football championship: Ohio State at Alabama, ESPN, 18.5 million. 4. NFL Pregame, NBC, 18.3 million. 5. NFC Postgame, Fox, 18 million. 6. College football pregame, ESPN, 12.8 million. 7. “60 Minutes,” CBS, 10.57 million. 8. “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune,” ABC. 7.8 million. 9. “Chicago Med,” NBC, 7.6 million. 10. “Chicago Fire,” NBC, 7.3 million. 11. “Chicago PD,” NBC, 6.6 million. 12. “Great North,” Fox, 6.1 million. 13. “NCIS: Los Angeles,” CBS, 5.6 million. 14. “Magnum P.I.,” CBS, 5.5 million. 15. “This Is Us,” NBC, 5.46 million. 16. “The Chase,” ABC, 5.45 million. 17. “NCIS,” CBS, 5.2 million. 18. “NCIS: New Orleans,” CBS, 5.1 million. 19. “MacGyver,” CBS, 5 million. 20. “The Price is Right,” CBS, 4.9 million. Lynn Elber, The Associated Press
A federally-funded environmental monitoring institute could be in Fort Chipewyan’s future as the Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN) pushes for a local research hub. In late December, Parks Canada announced $59.9 million during the next three years to fund conservation efforts in Wood Buffalo National Park. MCFN expects some funding to support the creation of the Delta Institute, an environmental research and monitoring group that leadership has been planning for more than three years. “This place could really be an example of how Indigenous knowledge and Western science could work together,” said Melody Lepine, director of government and industry relations for MCFN. “It’s about collaboration and showing that we want to protect our delta.” Fort Chipewyan is home to the Peace-Athabasca Delta, the largest freshwater inland river delta in North America. Lepine said the delta attracts scientists and researchers from all over the world. The Delta Institute would be based in Fort Chipewyan and have smaller field stations across the delta. This would give scientists visiting the community a home base for research trips. Youth and elders could also be brought to field stations for educational trips. Lepine hopes this will make it easier for Fort Chipewyan residents to learn about monitoring and research projects in the Peace-Athabasca Delta. Scientists and researchers will often come to Fort Chipewyan to study the delta, but won’t always share their findings locally, said Lepine. The Delta Institute requires scientists and researchers to collaborate with community knowledge holders in their studies. This would help preserve research for future generations. “They collect their data and they often go back to their academic world,” said Lepine. “What was that study about? How can we use those results in protecting and managing the delta?” Much of the research Fort Chipewyan’s leaders want to preserve include interviews with elders and knowledge holders. For MCFN, preserving Indigenous cultural knowledge is as important as studying Western science. “We are going to make sure those worldviews are balanced,” said Lepine. “Strong preservations of knowledge can be shared to manage very complex issues such as managing ecosystem health, conservation and wildlife management.” Since 2014, MCFN and the UNESCO World Heritage Committee have asked the federal government to help reverse the deterioration of the Peace-Athabasca Delta, which has seen water levels drop for years. The Delta Institute has not yet been approved, but Lepine said Parks Canada is enthusiastic about the project and potential roles in conservation efforts. “The Cree, Dene and Métis people were in that delta long before it became a World Heritage Site and long before it became a national park,” she said. “The institute would be an important instrument to reflect the sacredness of this place.” email@example.com Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today