With Chris St. Clair.
With Chris St. Clair.
WASHINGTON — The patter of paws is being heard in the White House again following the arrival of President Joe Biden's dogs Champ and Major. The two German shepherds are the first pets to live at the executive mansion since the Obama administration. Major burst onto the national scene late last year after Biden, then president-elect, broke his right foot while playing with the dog at their home in Wilmington, Delaware. The Bidens adopted Major in 2018 from the Delaware Humane Association. Champ joined the family after the 2008 presidential election that made Joe Biden vice-president. The dogs moved into the White House on Sunday, following Biden's inauguration last week. “The first family wanted to get settled before bringing the dogs down to Washington from Delaware,” said Michael LaRosa, spokesperson for first lady Jill Biden. “Champ is enjoying his new dog bed by the fireplace and Major loved running around on the South Lawn.” The dogs were heard barking outside near the Oval Office on Monday as Biden signed an executive order lifting the previous administration's ban on transgender people serving in the military. Last week, the Delaware Humane Association cosponsored an “indoguration” virtual fundraiser to celebrate Major's journey from shelter pup to first dog. More than $200,000 was raised. Major is the first shelter dog to ever live in the White House and “barking proof that every dog can live the American dream," the association said. The Bidens had promised to bring the dogs with them to the White House. They plan to add a cat, though no update on the feline's arrival was shared on Monday. White House press secretary Jen Psaki predicted, while on video answering questions from members of the public, that the cat will “dominate the internet” when it arrives. Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, a self-described germaphobe, does not own any pets and had none with him at the White House. Just like they do for ordinary people, pets owned by the most powerful people in the world provide their owners with comfort, entertainment, occasional drama and generally good PR. “Pets have played an important role in the White House throughout the decades, not only by providing companionship to the presidents and their families, but also by humanizing and softening their political images,” said Jennifer Pickens, author of a book about pets at the White House. Pets also serve as ambassadors to the White House, she said. Pickens added that she hoped the Bidens' decision to bring a rescue dog to the White House might inspire others to adopt. President Theodore Roosevelt had Skip, who is described by the White House Historical Association as a “short-legged Black and Tan mongrel terrier brought home from a Colorado bear hunt.” Warren G. Harding had Laddie Boy, who sat in on meetings and had his own Cabinet chair. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had his beloved terrier Fala. At night, Fala slept in a special chair at the foot of the president’s bed. More recently, George H.W. Bush’s English springer spaniel Millie was featured on “The Simpsons” and starred in a bestseller, “Millie’s Book: As dictated to Barbara Bush.” Hillary Clinton followed Bush’s lead with a children’s book about family dog Buddy and cat Socks: “Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets.” When he declared victory in the 2008 presidential race, Barack Obama told his daughters: “You have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House.” Several months later, Bo joined the family, a gift from Sen. Ted Kennedy. A few years later, fellow Portuguese water dog Sunny arrived. Among the stranger White House pets was Calvin Coolidge and first lady Grace Coolidge’s raccoon Rebecca. She was given to the Coolidge family by a supporter who suggested the raccoon be served for Thanksgiving dinner, according to the White House Historical Association. But instead she got an embroidered collar with the title “White House Raccoon” and entertained children at the White House Easter Egg Roll. Some notable pets belonged to first kids, including Amy Carter’s Siamese cat, Misty Malarky Ying Yang, and Caroline Kennedy’s pony Macaroni. The Kennedy family had a veritable menagerie, complete with dogs, cats, birds, hamsters and a rabbit named Zsa Zsa. President Harry Truman famously said that “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog” — and many successors have followed Truman's advice. The first President Bush once said, “There is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog to help you get through the rough spots.” ___ Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report. Darlene Superville, The Associated Press
Armed and ready to go, Taiwan air force jets screamed into the sky on Tuesday in a drill to simulate a war scenario, showing its fleet's battle readiness after dozens of Chinese warplanes flew into the island's air defence zone over the weekend. Taiwan, claimed by China as its territory, has been on edge since the large-scale incursion by Chinese fighters and nuclear-capable bombers into the southwestern part of its air defence identification zone on Saturday and Sunday, which coincided with a U.S. carrier group entering the South China Sea. The base in the southern city of Tainan, home to F-CK-1 Ching-kuo Indigenous Defence Fighters (IDF), frequently scrambles jets to intercept China's air force.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Sarah Sanders, Donald Trump's former chief spokeswoman, announced she's running for Arkansas governor at a time other Republicans are distancing themselves from the former president facing an impeachment charge that he incited the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol. But the former White House press secretary, who left the job in 2019 to return to her home state, ran the other direction with an announcement Monday that embraced Trump as much as his rhetoric. “With the radical left now in control of Washington, your governor is your last line of defence,” Sanders said in a nearly eight-minute video announcing her 2022 bid that prominently featured pictures of the president as well as some of his favourite targets. Trump, who publicly encouraged Sanders to run, wasted no time putting his seal of approval on her bid. The former president on Monday night backed Sanders' candidacy — his first official, public endorsement since leaving office — and called her a “warrior who will always fight for the people of Arkansas and do what is right, not what is politically correct." The daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sanders is the most high-profile Trump official to seek major office and is doing so less than a week after the tumultuous end of his presidency. Her candidacy could showcase just how much of a hold Trump still has on the GOP. “Trump is simply not a liability here,” said Janine Parry, a political scientist at the University of Arkansas. “At least for the time being, we’re in a state where he remains an asset.” That’s even as the Senate is preparing for an impeachment trial over the Jan. 6 insurrection by Trump supporters that was aimed at halting the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell rebuked the president last week, saying he “provoked” the siege. Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters days before Biden’s inauguration he wanted Trump’s administration to end, though he also opposed the president’s impeachment. Sanders’ announcement makes a brief reference to the Capitol siege that left five dead, equating it with violence that occurred at some protests last year over racial injustice and the 2017 shooting at a congressional baseball practice that injured U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise and four others. “This is not who we are as Americans,” Sanders said in the video, but not mentioning Trump’s role in encouraging his supporters who stormed the Capitol. She joins a Republican primary that already includes two statewide elected leaders, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. The three are running to succeed Hutchinson, who is unable to run next year due to term limits. No Democrats have announced a bid to run for the seat. Griffin and Rutledge had already spent months positioning themselves ahead of Sanders’ entry by lining up endorsements, raising money and trying to stake their claims as the most conservative candidate. Griffin has called for the outright elimination of the state’s income tax, while Rutledge signed on to Texas’ ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the result of the presidential election. Following the riot, Griffin and Rutledge issued statements condemning the storming of the Capitol but not addressing Trump’s role in stirring up his backers. Combined, the two have raised more than $2.8 million for the race. Griffin on Monday criticized Sanders for promising in her video to cut off funding to so-called sanctuary cities that violate immigration laws. He noted a 2019 measure Hutchinson signed into law already does just that by cutting off funding to cities that don’t co-operate with immigration authorities. “It sounds like she needs to catch up on what’s been going on in Arkansas,” Griffin said in a statement. Rutledge, meanwhile, said in a statement the race was about “who has a proven record and not merely rhetoric.” The race could also get even more crowded. Republican State Sen. Jim Hendren, a nephew of Hutchinson’s, is considering a run for the seat and said he hoped to make a decision within the next three weeks. “Right now we have three announced candidates but they all do represent the far right part of the Republican Party,” said Hendren, who has been much more willing to criticize Trump and hasn’t ruled out an independent bid. “The question I have to decide is, is there room for a more pragmatic, centrist type of approach?” Sanders was already well known in Arkansas politics, going back to when she appeared in ads for her father’s campaign. She managed Sen. John Boozman’s 2010 election and worked as an adviser to Sen. Tom Cotton’s in 2014. During Sanders’ nearly two-year tenure at the White House, daily televised briefings led by the press secretary ended after Sanders repeatedly sparred with reporters who aggressively questioned her. She faced questions about her credibility, but she also earned reporters’ respect working behind the scenes to develop relationships with the media. She remains an unknown on many issues and wasn’t made available for interviews Monday, though she staked out some positions in her introductory video that include reducing the state’s income tax. Her introductory video indicates she’s leaning more on her time with Trump, with it featuring images of or calling out those who frequently drew his ire including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and CNN. Republicans hold a firm grip on Arkansas, with the GOP holding all statewide and federal seats. They also hold a majority in both chambers of the Legislature. Trump in November won the state by nearly 28 percentage points, one of the biggest margins in his ultimate loss to Biden. State Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray on Monday called the GOP primary a “race to the bottom.” But national party leaders indicated Sanders’ candidacy may draw more resources and attention to a long-shot race that will coincide with 2022 congressional midterm elections. “As we close the book on a dark chapter in our history, we must make sure Trump’s brand of politics stays in the past," Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison tweeted. “Now, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is running on his record." Hutchinson, who has remained generally popular since taking office in 2015, said he didn't plan on endorsing anyone at this time in the race. “I am a voter, so I will follow the campaign with interest, but I have a job to do for the next two years, and I will devote my energies to bring Arkansas out of the pandemic and to revitalize our economy," he said in a statement. ___ Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo Andrew Demillo, The Associated Press
A local mental health non-profit is looking to raise $1 million as the COVID-19 pandemic heightens demand for mental health services. Claudia den Boer, CEO of the Windsor-Essex County chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association, said aspects of the pandemic including social isolation and school closures are having an impact on the mental well-being of many. "People are just having a hard time coping and some are losing hope," she told host Tony Doucette on CBC Radio's Windsor Morning Monday. The organization has seen about a 25 per cent increase in people saying that they've contemplated suicide, she said, a number den Boer suspects could be higher given that stigma is considerable barrier to people seeking help. "This data is based on the conversations that we're having through our programs and services, and with individuals who are reaching out," she said. Just in the last week, den Boer said she's heard of at least four people who died by suicide locally. "We really believe that prevention and promotion (of mental health) can make a difference," she said. The organization's million-dollar fundraising drive will largely support prevention and mental health promotion activities, including at workplaces, den Boer said. "We really are looking forward to being able to bring a number of more people to come and serve and deliver programs at workplaces," she said.\ It fund-raises every year but is aiming higher this year, which is also the year the branch is celebrating its 50th year serving the community.. She said demand has risen, and she expects it to continue to grow as we come out of the pandemic. 44% of Ontarians saw mental health deteriorate: survey Recent surveys suggest many are struggling with mental health due to COVID-19. Last month, the CMHA released a survey that found 44 per cent of Ontarians said their mental health had deteriorated since the coronavirus pandemic started. A national survey from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto found 24 per cent of participants reported feeling anxiety and nearly 22 per cent felt depressed. Where to reach out if you need support The Ontario government has a list of resources available for those struggling with mental health and addictions. The Canadian Mental Health Association's Windsor-Essex crisis line is (519) 973- 4435.
With shops boarded up and riot police out in force, it was relatively calm in Dutch cities on Tuesday night after three days of violence during which nearly 500 people were detained. In several cities, including the capital Amsterdam, some businesses closed early and emergency ordinances were in place to give law enforcement greater powers to respond to the rioting, which was prompted by a nighttime curfew to curb the spread of the coronavirus. On Tuesday when the 9 p.m. curfew went into effect, rowdy crowds of youths gathered in Amsterdam and Hilversum, but were broken up without incident.
WASHINGTON — Easing off a stalemate, the Senate moved forward Tuesday with a power-sharing agreement in the evenly-split chamber after Republican leader Mitch McConnell backed off his demand that Senate Democrats preserve the procedural tool known as the filibuster. The stand-off between McConnell and new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had all but ground the Senate to a halt in the early days of the Democratic majority and threatened President Joe Biden's agenda. Schumer refused to meet McConnell's demands. “I'm glad we're finally able to get the Senate up and running,” Schumer said Tuesday as he opened the chamber. “My only regret is it took so long because we have a great deal we need to accomplish.” While the crisis appeared to have resolved, for now, the debate over the filibuster — the procedural tool that requires a 60-vote threshold to advance most legislation — is far from over. Progressive Democrats see the tool as an outdated relic that can be used by the minority Republican Party under McConnell to derail Biden's agenda, and they want to do away with it. They point to the way the filibuster was wielded during the 20th century to stall civil rights legislation, and warn of a repeat. Democrats control 50 votes in the split chamber, with Vice-President Kamala Harris as a tie-breaking vote, and Biden's allies would typically need Republican senators to reach the 60-vote threshold to advance Democratic priorities on COVID-19 relief, immigration or other issues. Even as he dropped his demand, McConnell warned Tuesday of all the ways the Senate business could still be tied in knots if Democrats try to press on with plans to pursue changes to the filibuster. “They would guarantee themselves immediate chaos,” McConnell warned. “Destroying the filibuster would drain comity and consent from this body to a degree that would be unparalleled in living memory.” Usually a routine matter, the organizing resolution for the chamber became a power play by McConnell once Democrats swept to control after the Jan. 5 special election in Georgia and the new senators took the oath of office after Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20. McConnell had been holding up the organizing agreement, which divides up committee assignments and other resources, as he tried to extract a promise from Schumer of no changes to the filibuster. Schumer would not meet the Republican leader's demands, but McConnell said late Monday he had essentially accomplished his goal after two Democratic senators said they would not agree to end the filibuster. Without their votes, Schumer would be unable to change the rules. “With these assurances, I look forward to moving ahead with a power-sharing agreement modeled on that precedent,” McConnell said in a statement. He was referring to West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema who have expressed reservations about doing away with the tool. Schumer's office said the Republican leader had no choice but to set aside his demands. “We’re glad Sen. McConnell threw in the towel and gave up on his ridiculous demand," said Justin Goodman, a spokesman for the Democratic leader. "We look forward to organizing the Senate under Democratic control and start getting big, bold things done for the American people.” But the debate over the filibuster, which has increasingly become weaponized as a tool to thwart the opposite party’s agenda, is far from over. A decade ago, then-Democratic majority leader Harry Reid ended the 60-vote threshold to confirm some judicial and executive branch nominees during the Obama administration that were being blocked by Republicans. Reid told The Associated Press recently that Biden should waste little time testing Republican’s willingness to work with him before eliminating the filibuster. He gave it three weeks. McConnell during the last administration upped the ante, and did away with the 60-vote threshold to confirm President Donald Trump's three nominees to the Supreme Court. He wanted to prevent Schumer from taking it to the next level and ending the filibuster for legislation. The details of the rest of the organizing resolution are expected to proceed largely as they did the last time the Senate was evenly divided, in 2001, with any immediate changes to the filibuster, at this stage, appearing to be off the table. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
Cape Breton Regional Municipality's elected representatives have not met in the civic centre's council chamber since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, and it's unclear when that will change. They were scheduled to meet in person today, but the recently renovated chamber was unable to overcome public health restrictions. Mayor Amanda McDougall said she was more than disappointed when Nova Scotia's chief public health officer and the Emergency Management Office rejected the municipality's plan to meet at city hall. "I was a little angry. I won't lie," she said. "It's hard when you see staff do such a tremendous job of planning and looking at chambers. We've also put some financial investment into the council chambers as well, so you want to be able to use that." Council met in person recently at the Centre 200 arena, where councillors were able to spread out at a safe distance. For the most part, however, CBRM council meetings have been online since last year. John MacKinnon, deputy chief administrative officer, said staff have been working hard to get councillors back inside the civic centre. "We looked at the possibility of being able to have them in different locations within the council chamber, but because of the horseshoe shape of the council chamber, it was almost impossible to be able to create a setup that would provide enough social distancing to allow it to happen," he said. Staff recently installed plastic shields between seats and thought that would work. But according to the rules, public meetings cannot exceed 10 people — even with distancing — despite low numbers of new infections in the province. "We used our own staff to do the installation and I think we did a pretty darn good job so hopefully, once things get lifted a little, [meetings] will be in the council chamber," said MacKinnon. As of Monday, there were 15 active cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia. No new cases were announced Monday. MacKinnon said the renovations, which cost about $2,000, will likely help whenever restrictions on gathering limits ease. For now, council will simply go back to meeting online until restrictions are lifted, said McDougall. "We can do our jobs and do our jobs well from anywhere, but being in this room, it's a significant part of that title of being a councillor and making decisions for the community," she said. "Being eager to get back into council chambers is for me a personal thing, and I know for the new councillors as well, they're eager to get in here and actually be able to use the technology instead of using pens and paper ... but we'll get here soon enough." MORE TOP STORIES
WASHINGTON — These suspects weren't exactly in hiding. “THIS IS ME,” one man posted on Instagram with a hand emoji pointing to himself in a picture of the violent mob descending on the U.S. Capitol. “Sooo we’ve stormed Capitol Hill lol,” one woman texted someone while inside the building. “I just wanted to incriminate myself a little lol,” another wrote on Facebook about a selfie he took inside during the Jan. 6 riot. In dozens of cases, supporters of President Donald Trump downright flaunted their activity on social media on the day of the deadly insurrection. Some, apparently realizing they were in trouble with the law, deleted their accounts only to discover their friends and family members had already taken screenshots of their selfies, videos and comments and sent them to the FBI. Their total lack of concern over getting caught and their friends' willingness to turn them in has helped authorities charge about 150 people as of Monday with federal crimes. But even with the help from the rioters themselves, investigators must still work rigorously to link the images to the vandalism and suspects to the acts on Jan. 6 in order to prove their case in court. And because so few were arrested at the scene, the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service have been forced to send agents to track suspects down. “Just because you’ve left the D.C. region, you can still expect a knock on the door if we find out that you were part of criminal activity inside the Capitol,” Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington office, said earlier this month. “Bottom line — the FBI is not sparing any resources in this investigation.” In the last few weeks, the FBI has received over 200,000 photos and video tips related to the riot. Investigators have put up billboards in several states with photos of wanted rioters. Working on tips from co-workers, acquaintances and friends, agents have tracked down driver’s license photos to match their faces with those captured on camera in the building. In some cases, authorities got records from Facebook or Twitter to connect their social media accounts to their email addresses or phone numbers. In others, agents used records from license plate readers to confirm their travels. More than 800 are believed to have made their way into the Capitol, although it's likely not everyone will be tracked down and charged with a crime. Federal prosecutors are focusing on the most critical cases and the most egregious examples of wrongdoing. And they must weigh manpower, cost and evidence when charging rioters. A special group of prosecutors is examining whether to bring sedition charges against the rioters, which carry up to 20 years in prison. One trio was charged with conspiracy; most have been charged with crimes like unlawful entry and disorderly conduct. Many rioters posted selfies inside the Capitol to their social media accounts, gave interviews to news outlets describing their experience and readily admitted when questioned by federal investigators that they were there. One man created a Facebook album titled “Who’s House? OUR HOUSE” filled with photos of himself and others on Capitol grounds, officials said. “They might have thought, like so many people that work with Trump, that if the president tells me to do it, it’s not breaking the law,” said Michael Gerhardt, an expert on impeachment and professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law. Others made blunders, like a Houston police officer, who denied he went into the Capitol, then agreed to let agents look at the pictures on his phone. Inside his deleted photos folder were pictures and videos, including selfies he took inside the building, authorities said. Another man was wearing a court-ordered GPS monitor after a burglary conviction that tracked his every movement inside the building. A retired firefighter from Long Island, New York, texted a video of himself in the Capitol rotunda to his girlfriend’s brother, saying he was “at the tip of the spear,” officials said. The brother happened to be a federal agent with the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, who turned the video over to the FBI. A lawyer for the man, Thomas Fee, said he “was not part of any attempt to take over the U.S. Capitol” and that “the allegation is that he merely walked through an open door into the Capitol — nothing more." Another man who was inside the Capitol was willing to rat out another rioter who stole House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern and emailed the video to an FBI agent, even signing his own name to it. “Hello Nice FBI Lady,” he wrote, “Here are the links to the videos. Looks like Podium Guy is in one of them, less the podium. Let me know if you need anything else.” In another case, a man was on a flight leaving D.C. two days after the riot when he kept shouting “Trump 2020!” and was kicked off. An airport police officer saw the man get off the plane and the man was booked on another flight. Forty-five minutes later, the officer was watching a video on Instagram and recognized the man in a group of rioters. The man, who was wearing the same shirt as the day he stormed the Capitol, was arrested at the airport, authorities said. Even defence attorneys have acknowledged that the evidence poses a problem for them. “I’m not a magician,” said an attorney for the man seen in a photo carrying Pelosi's lectern. “We’ve got a photograph of our client in what appears to be inside a federal building or inside the Capitol with government property,” he told reporters. Police at the Capitol planned only for a free-speech demonstration and were overwhelmed by the mob that broke through and roamed the halls of the Capitol for hours as lawmakers were sent into hiding. Five people died in the melee, including a Capitol police officer who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher. Trump was impeached after the riot on a charge of “inciting violence against the government of the United States.” Opening arguments will begin the week of Feb. 8. He is the first president to be twice impeached and the first to face a trial after leaving office. Unlike criminal cases, impeachment trials do not have specific evidence rules so anything said and done that day can be used. And several of the people charged have said in interviews with reporters or federal agents that they were simply listening to the president when they marched to the Capitol. ___ Richer reported from Boston. Michael Balsamo, Alanna Durkin Richer And Colleen Long, The Associated Press
After Michelle LaFontaine delivered her stillborn twins, Elora and Joseph, at nearly 21 weeks, she was unspeakably bereft. She needed time off to grieve and recover from the birth, and her employer at the time helped her cobble together bereavement leave, sick time and vacation time. "There's a lot of grief work to be done in the early days following the loss of your baby that, you know, having to focus on work is often something that families can't even contemplate doing in the first few weeks," said LaFontaine, who lives in Whitby, Ont. She returned to work after three weeks, but it wasn't until later that she — and her employer — learned she had actually been eligible for more paid time off through federal maternity benefits. LaFontaine said when she did go back to her job, which involved working with families, she asked to be assigned a different caseload so she wouldn't have to face questions from her 45 clients about why she was no longer pregnant. Her employer told her that wasn't possible. "Ultimately, the message that I received was it was coming down to the bottom line that their needs as an organization would trump my needs as a bereaved mother," she said. A researcher at Cape Breton University is studying the experiences of people like LaFontaine who have returned to work full time after suffering a miscarriage or stillbirth. Stephanie Gilbert, an assistant professor of organizational management at the Shannon School of Business at CBU, is researching how workplaces support employees who have suffered a pregnancy loss, and how those supports — or lack thereof — affect pregnant people and their partners. Along with Jennifer Dimoff at the University of Ottawa and Jacquelyn Brady at San José State University, Gilbert plans to interview people and their partners about what challenges they faced after their pregnancy loss and how the miscarriage or stillbirth affected the employee's sense of identity and attitude toward work. The team of researchers is inviting Canadians or Americans who have lost a pregnancy and returned to full-time work within the last five years to take part in the study. Lack of studies Gilbert said there have been virtually no studies on the topic of pregnancy loss and employment. "There's a huge need for more on this because, you know, pregnancy loss is incredibly common," she said. Miscarriage — the loss of a baby up to 20 weeks' gestation — is estimated to occur in 15 to 20 per cent of pregnancies, while approximately eight out of 1,000 pregnancies end in stillbirth, when a baby dies at or after 20 weeks' gestation. In Canada, employees who lose a baby at or after 20 weeks are eligible for maternity benefits. But miscarriages are a "grey area" for employers, Gilbert said. While some employers offer sick days, short-term disability or bereavement leave to help an employee recover, there are no federal regulations providing paid time off for earlier losses. "So the supports offered, I'm guessing, vary wildly between organizations," Gilbert said. Reaction of employers varies LaFontaine left her job after her loss in 2005 and now works as the program manager for Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre's Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network, which supports families in Ontario who have had a miscarriage or stillbirth. She would like to see the government offer bereavement leave specifically designated for pregnancy and infant loss — and one that is not based on the length of the pregnancy. "Grief is not tied to the weeks of gestation, but tied to the attachment that the family has already experienced to the baby," LaFontaine said. She said based on what she hears from families she works with, some employers try their hardest to be supportive and accommodate the needs of people who have had a stillbirth or miscarriage, sometimes even making a donation to a pregnancy loss organization in the baby's name. But others are not as helpful or compassionate. "[Some families] were kind of told, like, 'You should be over it by now,'" LaFontaine said. Getting support can be tricky for people who miscarry in their first trimester, since many have not even disclosed their pregnancy to their employer yet. Employees who work part-time jobs or who lack job security may also not feel comfortable sharing their situation with their employer. Compassion, support are crucial Supporting grief-stricken employees is key to their well-being, Gilbert said. Through her previous research on grief, Gilbert found that employers can help their workers by allowing them to work from home or have flexible working hours, by acknowledging the employee's loss rather than avoiding the topic,+ and by being compassionate and empathetic. Gilbert said supporting grief-stricken employees helps not only their well-being, but also their productivity, as grieving people can have trouble sleeping, focusing, making decisions and interacting socially. "So there's a lot of implications for organizations in terms of work outcomes and a business case to be made for supporting people who have gone through loss," Gilbert said. MORE TOP STORIES
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Monday Jan. 26, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 23,498 new vaccinations administered for a total of 839,949 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 2,216.267 per 100,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 1,122,450 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 74.83 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 3,258 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 8,549 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 16.326 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 16,500 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 51.81 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,423 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 6,525 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 41.134 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 9,225 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 70.73 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 3,483 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 11,083 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 11.357 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 28,850 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 38.42 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 3,821 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 14,257 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 18.277 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 21,675 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 65.78 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 1,960 new vaccinations administered for a total of 220,715 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 25.795 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 238,100 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 92.7 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 5,537 new vaccinations administered for a total of 286,110 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 19.478 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 411,650 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 810 new vaccinations administered for a total of 29,751 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 21.606 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 55,650 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 4.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 53.46 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 314 new vaccinations administered for a total of 33,353 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 28.286 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 32,725 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 101.9 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 406 new vaccinations administered for a total of 99,453 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 22.592 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 122,725 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 81.04 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 9,284 new vaccinations administered for a total of 119,850 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 23.355 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 144,550 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 82.91 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting 222 new vaccinations administered for a total of 3,952 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 94.702 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 14,400 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 35 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 27.44 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,893 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 41.956 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 14,400 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 32 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 13.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 636 new vaccinations administered for a total of 4,458 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 115.116 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 12,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 31 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 37.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The Trudeau Liberals are eyeing changes to the law governing public service hiring to help make federal departments and agencies more diverse. They also plan to do further research on the makeup of the federal public service and will try to hire more senior leaders with varied backgrounds. Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos and his parliamentary secretary, Greg Fergus, are spelling out the priorities today to foster greater diversity, inclusion and accessibility in the public service. The government says while there has been some progress for Black Canadians, Indigenous Peoples and others who face racial discrimination in the workplace, too many public servants continue to face obstacles. The Treasury Board Secretariat has begun discussions about the framework for recruitment in the public service and is specifically looking at "possible amendments" to the Public Service Employment Act. The act is intended to ensure federal hiring is fair, transparent and representative. The move would complement a review of the Employment Equity Act planned by Labour Minister Filomena Tassi. The government recently released data that provides more detail about the composition of the public service. Duclos and Fergus say the annual public service employee survey will help the government identify more precisely where gaps remain and what is needed to improve representation. The government plans to increase diversity through promotion and recruitment, including introduction of the Mentorship Plus Program to allow departments to offer mentoring and sponsorship opportunities to high-potential employees who might currently face barriers. The government says although progress will take time, the public service can be a model of inclusion for employers across the country and around the world. "In time, we will build a public service that is the true reflection of our pluralism and diversity," Duclos said in a statement. Just last week, Privy Council Clerk Ian Shugart issued a call to action on anti-racism, equity and inclusion in the public service, setting out federal expectations for current leaders. The government has also launched the Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, supported by a budget of $12 million, to create an ongoing discussion about change. "There is much to do before all public servants can feel they truly belong in a public service that values inclusiveness and differences," Fergus said. "Outlining these key areas of focus is a key step in taking concrete action." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press
Britain will announce on Tuesday whether it will bring in mandatory quarantine in hotels for some or all arrivals, the country's coronavirus vaccination minister said as he warned the public not to book summer vacations. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he was looking at the option of introducing quarantine hotels for those coming to Britain to prevent the risk of "vaccine-busting" new coronavirus variants entering the country. Nadhim Zahawi, the minister responsible for the rollout of the United Kingdom's COVID-19 vaccination programme, said details would come later on Tuesday.
TORONTO — The pandemic has its prints all over Canada's winter TV season. While some shows affected by lockdowns last March were able to resume production in the summer and air in the fall, many were held up by restrictions, a lack of COVID-19 insurance, and the development of expensive health and safety protocols with officials and unions. The result is a January and February slate packed with new programming shot over the past few months with much testing, distancing, sanitization and personal protective equipment. The Canadian Press spoke with talent behind some Canadian shows about production challenges, and how positive cases were dealt with on set. "KIM'S CONVENIENCE" ON SHOOTING UNDER DURESS Star Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, who plays patriarch Appa on the family sitcom, says the pandemic pushed the start of production on the new season in Toronto from last May to September. Writers modified some storylines and used fewer guest actors, while the whole team was "fastidious" about their COVID protocols. Away from the set, everyone limited their contact to those in their immediate household, realizing that "like dominoes, if one goes, everything sort of goes." "Mission accomplished," Lee says. "We shot season five under duress, the worst circumstances, but we didn't have one case, knock on wood." Simu Liu, who plays Appa's son Jung, was in Australia shooting Marvel's upcoming film "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" when the pandemic hit and couldn't get back to Toronto to shoot "Kim's Convenience" until near the end of production. The protocols made the shooting process "very piecemeal" and put pressure on the cast to "nail a scene and move on" so they could stay on schedule, Lee says. "Otherwise, it's like a big train wreck: one delay at the beginning makes it a mess at the end. So that was really difficult to do." Lee cites a host of other challenges, including the safety risk of acting without a mask, and not being able to communicate as well while wearing PPE during rehearsals. But he was happy to be working and it all made him "appreciate that much more the professionalism and the quality of the crews." "Every step of the way, I felt safe," Lee says. "Personally, I felt safer on set than anywhere else outside of my home." (Fifth season debuted Jan. 19 on CBC) --- "CORONER" ON INTIMATE SCENES Masks are already a common sight on this show about a coroner in Toronto, but even more so in the new season as it's set during the COVID-19 pandemic. Showrunner Morwyn Brebner says when the pandemic hit, they'd already done a month's worth of writing but realized they would have to "reinvent the season" to address the new reality. "A few of us were really concerned: 'Will we not have a problem with COVID by the time we start to air it? Will it feel a little bit like old news?' Ha! Were we wrong," adds lead director/executive producer Adrienne Mitchell. The writing team penned the new scripts together via video conferencing, limiting the amount of stand-ins and background performers on set. Shooting began in the fall with protocols including daily temperature checks and weekly COVID testing. Departments worked different shifts to limit the amount of people in spaces, which made shooting more time-consuming. Filming took place outside where possible. Actors not in the key cast were distanced from the stars when shooting scenes indoors. With so much separation on set, scenes of intimacy "felt really significant," says Brebner. Eye acting and body movement become more important in scenes where the characters wore masks. "You start to shoot a little looser so you can see body language, because body language adds a lot of information," Mitchell says. While the production had "a few issues" with COVID-19 cases, "they weren't on set and they were easily contact-traced," says Mitchell, noting they didn't have to shut down. "We have had no community spread, and what we had was very little." (Third season debuts Feb. 3 on CBC) --- "HEARTLAND" ON CHANGING THE SCRIPT Star Amber Marshall says the storylines for the new season of the Alberta-shot family ranch story were already written depicting spring and summer vistas when the pandemic hit. When filming was pushed from last April to September, writers had to alter scripts to reflect the fall and winter seasons that would be seen onscreen instead. "There were a lot of things that sprung up on us, even throughout shooting, such as we had certain actors written into certain stories and then they weren't able to travel (to set)," Marshall says. "So of course there this mad scramble of, 'How are we going to continue this story without that character here?'" The "Heartland" set inherently allows for distancing, since many scenes are filmed outdoors. For indoor shoots, each department was put into a certain "zone" that would only work with each other. Producer Tom Cox says COVID didn't ever reach the set. (14th season debuted Jan. 10 on CBC) --- "PRETTY HARD CASES" ON WORKING WITH A SKELETON CREW Catherine Lang, COVID supervisor for the new buddy-cop series in Toronto, says she and the producers pored over scripts to try to minimize risky contact between actors. They also checked with the cast on whether they were comfortable in various scenarios, and held daily morning safety meetings with the whole team. The crew and the cast were "very onside" with their COVID protocols, "because nobody wanted to shut down." "We had debriefs with our department heads just last week, and everyone said that they actually felt safer at work than they did out in public," says Lang. "We had no incident of anyone contracting COVID-19 in our workplace," she adds, noting there were two positive cases that were contracted outside production, caught through testing and had no community spread. Stars Adrienne C. Moore and Meredith MacNeill say the hardest thing was not being able to see people's faces while putting together a brand-new show, especially crew members, whom they view as their collaborators. Moore says she tried to have special moments with the crew and express her gratitude to them, while everyone worked as a team. "In those morning meetings, if there was a problem, if somebody was afraid of something or wanted to do something, no one was afraid to talk about it," says MacNeill. (Debuts Feb. 3, on CBC) --- "PRIVATE EYES" ON DEALING WITH POSITIVE CASES Producer Alex Jordan says the pandemic interrupted the prep period for season 4 of the private-detective show in March and they couldn't start production until August. Filming took place in studio for the first couple of weeks to ensure protocols were solid before shooting outside, which was limited to as many single locations as possible and with fewer background performers. Each department was podded together and had their own bathrooms. Town hall meetings took place in a parking lot. "Our COVID team grew from a handful to a small army," Jordan says, rhyming off a long list of team members specifically dedicated to the protocols, including two medics. The stars and crew who worked directly with actors were known as "the red zone" and tested for COVID more frequently. "Through the testing we caught five positives, but we had no community spread and none reached the floor (of production)," Jordan says, noting they suspected two of the positive cases were a result of viral shedding from people who'd had COVID a while ago and had been cleared by government to return to work. Insurance-wise, "Private Eyes" was considered an "at-risk production," meaning if the show had to shut down, all of those costs would have been on production company eOne. "Entertainment One was very nervous, I was stressed out for the entire shoot until the very last day," Jordan says. "It was probably the hardest thing I've ever done." But they "had zero shutdowns" during the whole production, he adds. "It was nail-biting but we did it." (Fourth season airing on Global) This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
A giant mass of rubbish that clogged a dam has finally been cleaned up in Bulgaria. Nearly 600 tonnes of garbage and debris were removed from the Iskar river near the capital Sofia.View on euronews
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued fresh clinical advice on Tuesday for treating COVID-19 patients, including those displaying persistent symptoms after recovery, and also said it advised using low-dose anti-coagulants to prevent blood clots. "The other things in the guidance that are new are that COVID-19 patients at home should have the use of pulse oximetry, that's measuring the oxygen levels, so you can identify whether somewhat at home is deteriorating and would be better off having hospital care," WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told a U.N. briefing in Geneva.
Automotive technology firm Veoneer and U.S. chip giant Qualcomm have signed a collaboration deal to develop a software and chip platform for advanced driver assistance systems, Veoneer said on Tuesday. Veoneer, which also makes radars and vision systems, said it had formed Arriver, a dedicated software unit for the development of the complete perception and drive policy software stack. "Today's agreement with Qualcomm Technologies and the creation of Arriver are key milestones in Veoneer's development," Veoneer CEO Jan Carlson said in a statement.
Residents of Ottawa's Trump Avenue could soon have a new address, but unlike the erstwhile U.S. president, they're not going anywhere. Trump Avenue is a quiet street of brown brick single-family homes fronted by wide driveways, nestled in the city's Central Park neighbourhood, just off Merivale Road. On Saturday, the city began consulting with residents "to ascertain their level of support to rename their street," according to an email from the office of their city councillor, Riley Brockington, who also delivered notices to each home on the street. According to Brockington, the consultation "follows a number of recent and some older requests to my office" to drop Donald Trump's name, which was adopted long before the New York real estate mogul and reality TV star entered politics, and is in keeping with the neighbourhood's Manhattan theme. "For years that I've been in office there have been movements to get the street renamed," Brockington told CBC. "Most recently during the tenure of the last president, that movement has gathered some steam." WATCH | What the city councillor has been hearing: Councillor feared 'ramifications' Brockington said he decided to wait until after Trump left the White House to make a move. "Frankly, I was worried that there might be some ramifications against Canada if word got out that in Canada's national capital they wanted to take his name off a street sign," he explained. He doesn't deserve the honour of a street name. - Bonnie Bowering, Trump Avenue resident If residents agree to a change, Brockington says a working group will be formed to come up with a new street name, which may or may not conform to the neighbourhood's Manhattan theme. That's only the start, however: the newly proposed name must be vetted by all the street's residents, then a formal application process begins. City council needs to sign off, then utilities, emergency services and a host of other interested parties must be formally notified. Brockington believes the process will take about six months. Good riddance, residents say For Kaylee Brooks, who's lived on Trump Avenue for about two and half years, it can't come soon enough. "At first it seemed like a silly joke, but then the more you live here and the more news that came out about Trump, it was upsetting," Brooks said. "No one wants to be associated with his name, especially right now, and it would mean the world to me to change it ... because I don't want my official documents to say 'Trump Avenue' when I apply for things." WATCH | An upsetting few years on Trump Avenue: Bonnie Bowering, who's called Trump Avenue home since 2008, agreed. "Up until ... this past election, it was sort of a source of humour," Bowering said. "But now it's not funny anymore." Bowering said she's gotten used to store clerks smirking when she gives her address, but now the name has taken on a much more sinister tone. "Now he has undermined the whole democratic process ... and he has incited an insurrection," she said. "Now his status has changed, and I don't think Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, should be honouring him or his name in any way, shape or form. "He doesn't deserve the honour of a street name."
During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alex Doyle was doing his best to follow public health orders and keep himself and his young family free of infection. But last November, Doyle ended up back in Manitoba's Stony Mountain Institution north of Winnipeg after violating parole conditions for a drug trafficking and break and enter conviction. And that's where he may have inadvertently become a superspreader in Canada's worst outbreak so far in a federal penitentiary. Doyle's story, and the experiences of other Stony Mountain inmates who became infected, is part of the testimony being gathered in a class-action lawsuit against the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) on behalf of federal prisoners across the country. There have been more than 1,500 cases of COVID-19 in the federal prison system and more than 5,000 in the correctional system overall, according to University of Ottawa criminology professor Justin Piché, who has been tracking COVID-19 cases in Canadian prisons since the beginning of the pandemic. "The whole range, everyone was mad at me like it's my fault and it wasn't my fault," Doyle, 33, said of his experience in a series of telephone interviews with CBC News. Doyle arrived at Stony Mountain on Nov. 6. He was segregated in an isolation cell known by inmates as the hole. He was tested for COVID-19 nearly a week later and when it came back negative, he was moved to another area of the prison where he said one of the inmates had already tested positive for COVID-19. The first inmate at Stony Mountain tested positive on Nov. 10. Four days later, public health officials declared an outbreak. Inmates were locked down. They were allowed only 30 minutes out of their cells each day — just enough time for a quick shower and maybe a call home, if the lineups weren't too long. On Nov. 20, when his 14-day quarantine was up, Doyle said he was moved to yet another medium security unit. Despite having a cough, he wasn't immediately tested for COVID-19, he said. It was a Friday and Doyle said he was told he would have to wait until Monday. During that weekend, Doyle said he socialized with other inmates during the 30 minutes they were allowed outside of their cells. They were all wearing masks, but in close quarters. "I thought I was good because [penitentiary staff] cleared me to come here and, you know, I was talking to my friends and stuff. That's probably how it got passed around," he said. Two days later, Doyle said his test came back positive. But by then, he said, he may have directly infected at least three people, and they, in turn, infected others. Les Bisson is one of the men who claimed to have developed symptoms within days. He started coughing up blood and had problems breathing, he said. His COVID-19 test on Dec. 2 came back positive. "I literally thought I was going to die a month ago. I sat there, looking at pictures, thinking how I'll never be able to be a father to my kids again," Bisson, 40, said with a break in his voice. He is serving eight years for drug trafficking. "We thought that was just on our range. Now, I know that that's happened on at least two of the ranges.… If it was once, it would be an accident. But to do something over and over and over again, you can't say that's an accident." 'I feel like they failed miserably' At its worst, nearly half of the 744 inmates at Stony Mountain had COVID-19, making it the largest outbreak at any federally run correctional facility in Canada. Piché found all of the infections reported by CSC at Stony in December were linked to the medium-security section of the institution, with more than 75 per cent of those prisoners infected. In December, an inmate died of COVID-19 complications, one of four deaths so far in prisons across the country. CBC News spoke with eight inmates over the past several weeks who said they believe the outbreak may have been caused by Stony Mountain relaxing the 14-day quarantine rules for new inmates and not testing frequently enough. "I feel like they failed miserably. Our range was green, which means no COVID, and they moved a COVID-positive inmate to our range," said 30-year-old Grayson Wesley, who is serving an eight-year sentence for unlawful confinement. Wesley said he was infected at the end of November and sent to hospital because he couldn't breathe. He still has trouble with his memory and worries about getting sick again, he said. "There's a new COVID variant out there. If that comes into the jail, it's going to spread like wildfire," he said. Mike Bourget also started feeling symptoms shortly after Doyle arrived on his unit, but said he wasn't tested for three days. When the results came back, he was positive. "My symptoms were not that bad, not compared to my fellow inmates here.... It is more of the mental aspect right now," said Bourget, who is serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. "My emotions and anxiety is like a roller-coaster." No officials at Stony Mountain were available for an interview, but a spokesperson for the CSC said inmates and staff are tested regularly, even those who are asymptomatic. "All inmates at Stony Mountain Institution were tested as they left isolation cells and before they were moved to a different range," Kelly Dae Dash wrote in an email to CBC News. "All inmates that tested positive for COVID-19 were immediately moved to a separate area of the institution which operated under single cell movement and was specifically designated for COVID-19 cases." Throughout the outbreak, inmates have also had wellness checks by health services staff. Oldest prison in Canada Part of the challenge in containing the virus is the age and layout of the institution. Of the four federal prisons built in the 19th century, Stony Mountain is the only one still operating. The minimum and maximum-security units are the newer areas of the institution. Cells have a door with a tiny window that separates an inmate from the hallway. However, in the original and oldest part of the facility, the medium security units have only bars that open onto a long hallway. It makes physical distancing difficult and there is constant air flow between cells. "These essentially operate as three distinct sites within a shared penitentiary reserve, which is why the outbreak was able to be contained to the original, stand-alone Stony Mountain Institution," Piché said. Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert is of the same vintage and layout, and has had similar problems with COVID-19. There have been 247 cases and one death, although there are currently only seven active cases. Inmates in SaskPen's medium security units say they were putting blankets on the bars of their cells, but the correctional officers removed them. "They've ripped down all of our curtains and everything that would protect us from the airborne virus from the guys out there ... sick on the unit," Bronson Gordon, 36, said in a phone call several weeks ago with prisoner advocate Sherri Maier, who shared a recording of the conversation with CBC News in Saskatchewan. Gordon is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder. He said they asked the guard how long they'd have to live under such conditions, without access to mental health services or elders. "But he was just like, 'All you guys are going to be locked down 23½ hours for a ... long time, because until you guys have no COVID-19 on the unit, this unit is going to be run like this,'" Gordon told Maier. Gordon was recently sent to a maximum security unit after a confrontation with a guard. He said conditions there are significantly better because it's a newer part of the prison and cells have doors with windows instead of bars. The CSC said it is looking into Gordon's allegations. Class-action lawsuit alleges negligence Inmates at federal institutions including Stony Mountain and SaskPen are now preparing written statements for a class-action lawsuit launched initially on behalf of an inmate at Mission Institution east of Vancouver. That lawsuit has since expanded to include the whole country except for Quebec, which operates under a different civil law system. A certification hearing is scheduled in Vancouver for January 2022. "Prisoners who are known to have COVID are put with prisoners who don't have COVID. That's by definition negligent," said Jeffrey Hartman, one of the lawyers involved in the suit. Hartman says there is no question the federal government has failed in its duty to protect inmates despite having adequate time to prepare for the second wave. Those systemic failures resulted in loss of life, widespread illness and unprecedented restrictions of inmates' rights, he said. A similar class-action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of inmates at Joliette Institution for Women north of Montreal. There are also two lawsuits launched by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society, alleging the federal government violated prisoners' charter rights by locking them down for so long as part of COVID-19 restrictions. None of the allegations in any of the lawsuits has been proven in court. Lockdown lifted Meanwhile, range representatives from Stony Mountain's inmate welfare committee said they were called to a meeting last week with senior prison management. They were told that with no active COVID-19 cases right now, some of the lockdown restrictions are being lifted. "The point of the meeting wasn't to apologize," said Mulata Ibrahim, 35, a unit rep who is serving a seven-year sentence for drug trafficking. "It was that they're trying to move forward and saying, 'What can we do now to make it easier for you guys?'" After the meeting, inmates started receiving food three times a day instead of just two, and many were able to go outside for the first time in months, Ibrahim said. In a statement, the CSC said it has put in place extensive infection prevention and control measures in its 43 institutions. They include: Mandatory mask-wearing for inmates and staff. Physical distancing measures. Active health screening of anyone entering institutions. Increased and enhanced cleaning and disinfection at sites. Training 250 employees to conduct contact tracing. Carrying out significant testing among inmates and staff, including asymptomatic individuals. The CSC has also completed its first phase of 600 COVID-19 vaccinations, which includes an unknown number of older, medically vulnerable inmates at Stony Mountain. The department had no comment on the class-action lawsuits.
EDMONTON — Critics are asking why Alberta Environment has been sitting on years worth of data about pollution from coal mines while the government considers a dramatic expansion of the industry. "It raises some important questions about our ability to trust what's going on," said New Democrat environment critic Marlin Schmidt. "The fact (Alberta Environment) hasn't reported publicly is extremely concerning." On Monday, The Canadian Press reported on analysis of coal mine contamination in the Gregg and McLeod Rivers and Luscar Creek near Jasper, Alta., dating back to the 1990s. It found toxic levels of selenium many times over the amount considered safe for aquatic life. The Gregg and Luscar Creek mines closed in the early 2000s. Selenium levels from both declined, at best, only gradually over more than 15 years of remediation. In the case of the Cheviot mine on the McLeod River, levels gradually grew between 2005 and 2017. The operation closed last June. The data also shows the provincial government knew about the levels for at least 15 years and did not report anything after 2006. The information was available in raw form, but Schmidt said it isn't enough to simply collect information. "There are numbers and then there are the numbers that the stories tell. That's the piece that's missing." The New Democrats were in power for four of those years. Schmidt said sitting on the information is worse now because Alberta is going through a wrenching debate over the present government's plans to expand the industry by opening up the Rocky Mountains to open-pit, mountaintop coal mines -- an option that did not exist under the NDP. "This data's relevance is more important now," he said. Alberta Environment has pointed out that the raw data has always been public. Spokesman John Muir promised the province would soon release its own report on water downstream of coal mines. Lack of action shows that monitoring often promised by industry and government as new projects are considered isn't enough, said Katie Morrison of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. "On those rivers we're seeing that monitoring hasn't been enough to actually control selenium. We just continue to promise monitoring. We didn't see action to bring those selenium numbers down." A 2006 provincial report found that selenium was already harming fish. As well, a 2005 published study co-authored by provincial scientists found rainbow trout were suffering facial and skeletal deformities from selenium. The province has recently sold about 1.4 million hectares of coal exploration leases. Hundreds of drill sites and kilometres of new roads have already been permitted on previously unmined mountainsides. One new coal mine, Benga Mining's Grassy Mountain project in the Crowsnest Pass in southwestern Alberta, is before a joint federal-provincial review. The information on the old coal mines shows what's at issue for new ones, said Morrison. "Those stakes are really high. (Selenium release) has been happening other places and they have not been able to get the selenium under control." Benga says a new method should allow the mine to treat 99 per cent of its selenium. As well, the mine has been designed to minimize contact between water and selenium-bearing rocks, the company says. Morrison said that treatment is still unproven. She said if its efficiency falls to even 90 per cent, selenium levels in nearby streams will cross thresholds safe for aquatic life. Morrison said her group produced expert testimony at the Benga hearings suggesting the company doesn't have a convincing long-term plan for controlling selenium long into the future. "We have not seen that technology work at the scale that we'll need it to or with the amount of selenium we're likely to see." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021 -- Follow @row1960 on Twitter Bob Weber, The Canadian Press
The Iranian and Panamanian-flagged vessels seized by Indonesian authorities for suspected illegal oil transfers are making their way to dock at Batam island in the country's Riau Islands Province for further investigation, a Indonesia coast guard spokesman told Reuters. The two supertankers, with crew members from Iran and China, were seized on Sunday in Indonesian waters near Kalimantan island. The MT Horse, owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company and MT Freya, managed by Shanghai Future Ship Management Co, had a total of 61 crew members onboard.