MLAs both new and re-elected will begin a two-week fall sitting Monday, which will likely be focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and the Saskatchewan Party government's election promises.Monday's sitting begins with the Speaker election at 10 a.m. CST and a speech from the throne delivered by Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty at 2 p.m.The speech will be debated and voted on in the days that follow.Following the Oct. 26 election, the governing Sask. Party enters the sitting with 48 members, while the NDP has 13.Pandemic responseWith the province experiencing a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over the past month, policy announcements by the government will likely be overshadowed by its response to the pandemic.The NDP opposition has asked for a three-week "circuit breaker" shutdown and a plan to compensate those affected.Moe said again last week he preferred targeted measures as opposed to anything that shut down portions of the economy.On Friday, the province's most recent set of restrictions went into effect, which includes suspension of sports, gathering limit restrictions and an expansion of the mask mandate.Election promisesAfter announcing his cabinet shuffle on Nov. 9, Premier Scott Moe said his government would use the sitting to introduce legislation, including bills, to keep its campaign promises.The Sask. Party made $849 million in promises during the October campaign, including: * A two-year home renovation tax credit. * A one-year 10 per cent SaskPower rebate. * A three-year tax reduction for small businesses. * Create 750 licensed home-based child care spaces. * Provide funding to kids living with autism up to the age of 12. * Cover the cost of glucose monitoring up to 18 years old. * Reduce seniors' ambulance costs by 50 per cent. * Increase the post-secondary Sask. Advantage scholarship to $750/ year.It also promised to bring back two programs cancelled in 2016, the active families benefit and the community rink grant. Speaker election The sitting will begin with the election of the Speaker. Saskatchewan Party MLA Mark Docherty has held the position since March 2018. He has put his name forward again and faces five of his caucus colleagues who are also vying for the position: Lisa Lambert, Hugh Nerlien, Greg Ottenbreit, Randy Weekes, and Nadine Wilson.The election will be conducted by secret ballot.The Sask. Party has 11 new MLAs, while the NDP has six.On Nov. 9, Moe shuffled his cabinet, with notable changes including Paul Merriman as Health Minister, Dustin Duncan as Education Minister, Lori Carr as Minister of Social Services and Gord Wyant as Minister of Justice.Finance Minister Donna Harpauer is the deputy premier and Nicole Sarauer is the NDP's deputy leader.All MLAs will have to wear a mask while inside the legislature. Plastic barriers have been erected between desks inside the chamber.
TOKYO — Organizers of the delayed Tokyo Olympics have declined to confirm widely circulated reports in Japan that the costs of the one-year postponement will be about $3 billion.The estimates have been published in the last several days by some of Japan’s top-circulation newspapers, the national broadcaster NHK, and the Japanese news agency Kyodo. All are citing similar figures and unidentified sources close to the games.“We are in the process of assessing the additional costs associated with the postponement of the games due to COVID-19 and therefore are not able to comment on any details at this time,” Tokyo organizers said Monday in a statement.The statement did not challenge any of the reports.The Tokyo Games are becoming very expensive.The official cost of putting on the Tokyo Olympics is $12.6 billion. However, a government audit last year said it was probably twice that much. All but $5.6 billion is public money.Tokyo said the games would cost $7.3 billion when it won the bid in 2013.The $3 billion for the delay only adds to the totals. A University of Oxford study published early this year — calculated before the postponement — said Tokyo was the most expensive Summer Olympics on record and the meter is still running.The Yomiuri newspaper and Kyodo on Sunday detailed added costs of 200 billion yen, about $2 billion, to renegotiate venues leases, pay staff salaries, and cover other operational expenditure.NHK and the Asahi newspaper on Monday said another 100 billion yen, about $1 billion, was needed for countermeasures against COVID-19. This could include the cost of vaccines, rapid testing, and countless precautions to guard against the coronavirus.The reported cost of the delay because of the pandemic is in line with repeated estimates of between $2 billion and $3 billion in Japan over the last several months.The organizers, the Tokyo metro government and the Japanese national government are expected to explain added costs in December and detail how they will be shared.Organizers in October said they had found cost-savings of about $280 million by simplifying and cutting some frills from next year’s postponed games. This was about 2% of the official costs.The International Olympic Committee has said it would chip in about $650 million to cover some of the costs of the delay, but has offered few public details.The Switzerland-based IOC is heavily dependent on revenue from selling broadcast rights, which account for almost three-quarters of its income.The unprecedented postponement has put financial pressure on the IOC, national Olympic committees, and international sports federations that heavily rely on the IOC for sustenance.The IOC and organizers have been campaigning over the last several months to convince sponsors and a skeptical Japanese public that the Olympics can be held safely in the middle of a pandemic.Domestic sponsors in Japan have paid a record of $3.3 billion to organizers, but there are reports of some balking at further payments during the pandemic-caused economic slide.The Olympics are to open on July 23, 2021, followed by the Paralympics on Aug. 24. They involve 15,400 athletes and ten of thousands of officials, judges, staff, VIPs, sponsors as well as media and broadcasters.Kyodo reported last week that the Japanese government may require visitors from abroad to have private health insurance to cover costs from any COVID-19 complications.IOC President Thomas Bach, who was in Tokyo a few week ago, has said a vaccine and improved rapid testing would help pull off the Olympics. But he cautioned they are not “silver bullets.”Athletes are expected to be closely monitored, held in quarantine-like conditions, discouraged from sightseeing and encouraged to leave as soon as they finish competing.Some fans are expected at the events, but it is unclear if many fans from abroad will be allowed to attend.Japan has controlled COVID-19 relatively well, but has seen a spike over the last several weeks in Tokyo and elsewhere. Tokyo set a one-day record for new infections on Friday with 570. About 2,000 deaths in Japan have been attributed to COVID-19.___More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_SportsStephen Wade, The Associated Press
SURREY, B.C. — Surrey RCMP say a man is dead following a shooting in Fleetwood Sunday evening. They say officers responded to a shooting call around 7:40 p.m. in front of a shopping complex at the corner of 152 Street and Fraser Highway. They say paramedics also attended and provided aid to a wounded man, but he died at the scene. Investigators say the victim is known to police and that they believe he was targeted. No names or suspect information was immediately released. The Mounties say they're assisting the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team with the case and are asking anyone who witnessed the incident or has pertinent video surveillance or dash-cam video to contact them. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020. The Canadian Press
A decision of the Halifax and West Community Council to turn down a commercial development in Hatchet Lake has been appealed to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.The owners of Hatchet Lake Plaza Ltd. applied to build a fast-food outlet along with a gas bar and convenience store on Prospect Road. The zoning allows for a restaurant and drive-thru but the owner needs municipal approval for a service station.Local residents have raised several concerns."We're on well water here and I know they keep trying to reassure us that there will be no danger to groundwater,'' said Beverley Volsky, who lives next door to the proposed development. "But I don't want to take the chance."Other submissions sent to a public hearing on Sept. 24 talked about noise, odours and increased traffic.A petition opposed to the project with 578 names was also submitted to the community council meeting. A number of residents questioned the need for another gas station."There's an Irving and a Petro-Canada less than five minutes from our location," said Volsky."I don't need a convenience store right behind my house. We have several along Prospect Road."HRM staff say there are no rules limiting the number of service stations within a particular area. They recommended approval of the proposed development, but the community council decided against it.According to minutes of the meeting, councillors said the proposal "does not reasonably carry out the intent of the Municipal Planning Strategy."They cited the potential environmental impact and the proximity to residential properties. Community council members also noted opposition from the community.Peter Rogers, the lawyer for the property owner, said his client decided to appeal because he believes the development is consistent with the planning rules in place at the time."Cases like this are supposed to be decided not by popularity or petitions of citizens," said Rogers. "They are supposed to be decided by the Municipal Planning Strategy itself."The UARB will hear arguments in the appeal on Wednesday.MORE TOP STORIES
WASHINGTON — The coronavirus vaccine inching toward approval in the U.S. is desperately anticipated by weary Americans longing for a path back to normal life. But criminals are waiting, too, ready to use that desperation to their advantage, federal investigators say.Homeland Security investigators are working with Pfizer, Moderna and dozens of other drug companies racing to complete and distribute the vaccine and treatments for the virus. The goal: to prepare for the scams that are coming, especially after the mess of criminal activity this year with phoney personal protective equipment, false cures and extortion schemes.“We're all very excited about the potential vaccine and treatments,” said Steve Francis, assistant director for global trade investigations with Homeland Security Investigations. “But I also caution against these criminal organizations and individuals that will try to exploit the American public."No vaccine has yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has approved the first treatment for COVID-19, the antiviral drug remdesivir. With vaccines and treatments both, it has warned about the potential for fraud.“The FDA is particularly concerned that these deceptive and misleading products might cause Americans to delay or stop appropriate medical treatment, leading to serious and life-threatening harm,” the agency said in a recent statement.The drug companies are to have safeguards and brand-protection features in place to help avoid fraud, but that may not be available until the second generation of vaccine because everything is operated on such an emergency basis, said Karen Gardner, chief marketing officer at SIPCA North America, a company that works as a bridge between the government, businesses and consumers. She said that makes it more important to educate health care providers on what the real thing looks like.“When you have anything in high demand and limited supply, there is going to be fraud,” she said. Desperation will drive people around normal channels.Meanwhile, investigators are learning about how the vaccine will be packaged and getting the message out to field agents, creating a mass database of information from more than 200 companies, so they can be prepared to spot fakes and crack down on dangerous fraud. They are monitoring tens of thousands of false websites and looking for evidence of fake cures sold online.Earlier this year as cases exploded, hospitals and governments grew short on masks, gloves and other protective gear. Scams grew, too. Tricksters preyed on unwitting citizens to hand over money for goods they'd never receive.Homeland Security Investigations started using its 7,000 agents in tandem with border, FDA and FBI officials to investigate scams, seize phoney products and arrest hundreds of people. The effort is headquartered at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, a government watchdog aimed at enforcement of its international trade laws and combating intellectual property theft.The agency has already analyzed more than 70,900 websites suspected as being involved in some type of COVID-19 fraud. Millions of fake or unapproved personal protective equipment products and antiviral pharmaceuticals were seized. Homeland Security Investigations made more than 1,600 seizures of products worth more than $27 million and made more than 185 arrests.Home test kits, for example, were only recently made available to the public in the past few weeks. But investigators seized tens of thousands of fake kits in the months before. On the dark web, scammers were selling domain names like “coronaprevention.org," attractive to counterfeiters. In the U.S. alone, more than 1,000 fake websites a day have been removed during the pandemic.A vaccine can’t come fast enough, as virus cases have topped 13 million in the U.S. and many cities have started restricting movement again as the country heads into winter. The pandemic has killed more than 1.4 million people worldwide, more than 266,000 of them in the U.S., according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. But Francis and other investigators are worried that desperation will make Americans more susceptible.If the FDA allows emergency use of a vaccine, there will be limited, rationed supplies before the end of the year.Gen. Gus Perna, in charge of the government’s efforts to distribute the vaccine, said on CBS’ “60 Minutes” the government was prepared to distribute the vaccine within 24 hours of approval. There’s a stockpile of the prospective vaccine itself plus kits of needles, syringes and alcohol swabs needed to give the dose. The secret stash is watched by armed guards.“We have taken extraordinary precaution in this area,” he said. "It’s such a commodity to us, we’re taking the full steps to make sure that the vaccine’s secure.”Who is first in line has yet to be decided. But Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the hope is that enough doses are available by the end of January to vaccinate adults over age 65, who are at the highest risk from the coronavirus, and health care workers. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-diseases expert, said it may take until spring or summer before anyone who is not high risk and wants a shot can get one.States already are gearing up for what is expected to be the biggest vaccination campaign in U.S. history. First the shots have to arrive where they’re needed, and Pfizer’s must be kept at ultra-cold temperatures — around minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 70 degrees Celsius. Moderna’s vaccine also starts off frozen, but the company said it can be thawed and kept in a regular refrigerator for 30 days, easing that concern.Governments in other countries and the World Health Organization, which aims to buy doses for poor nations, will have to decide separately if and when vaccines should be rolled out broadly.Meanwhile, Homeland Security investigators and others are trying to send the message now to the public before the vaccines are approved and begin distribution. They say people should only get a vaccine from an approved medical provider. They shouldn't respond to calls seeking personal information. And they shouldn't click on social media posts purporting to sell cures.“If it sounds too good to be true, it is," Francis said.Colleen Long, The Associated Press
The European Union hopes Joseph Biden's incoming administration will clarify the U.S. position on digital taxation within two months of taking office, a French Finance Ministry source said on Monday. The EU is considering going ahead with a bloc-wide tax on digital services offered by companies such as Google and Amazon if a global deal to rewrite rules for cross-border taxation is not reached by mid 2021. Efforts at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to update the rules for the era of digital commerce stalled this year.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Russia came under renewed pressure Monday to explain the nerve agent attack on opposition figure Alexei Navalny as the annual meeting of the global chemical weapons watchdog got underway amid measures aimed at reining in the spread of coronavirus.Navalny fell ill on Aug. 20 during a domestic flight in Russia, and was flown to Germany for treatment two days later. His allies accused the Kremlin of poisoning its fiercest opponent. Tests carried out by labs in Germany, France and Sweden and by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons established that Navalny was exposed to a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent.The organization's director-general, Fernando Arias, told Monday's meeting that according to the Chemical Weapons Convention, “the poisoning of an individual through the use of a nerve agent is a use of a chemical weapon.”A group of 56 nations issued a statement as the start of the annual meeting of the OPCW's member states urging Moscow to disclose “in a swift and transparent manner the circumstances of this chemical weapons attack.”Russia, which denies involvement in Navalny's poisoning, reacted bullishly in its written statement to the conference.“Instead of trying to look into what had happened, Germany and its allies resorted to megaphone diplomacy, unleashed a mass disinformation campaign against Russia and started to demand some ‘independent international investigation’ under the auspices of the OPCW,” Moscow's statement said.In October, Moscow asked for OPCW experts to visit Russia to provide “technical assistance” in its investigations. Arias said talks are underway to define “all the legal, technical, operational and logistical parameters in order for this visit to take place.”The European Union has imposed sanctions on six Russian officials and a state research institute over the poisoning. Moscow responded earlier this month by announcing that it had adopted sanctions against a number of German and French officials.The OPCW's annual meeting has been broken into two parts amid the coronavirus pandemic. Two days of talks this week will focus on approving the proposed 71.74 million euro ($86 million) annual budget for 2021. The second half of the meeting will take place next year.Mike Corder, The Associated Press
THE LATEST: * On Monday, health officials announced the deaths of 46 people from over the weekend and 2,364 new cases of COVID-19. * There are 8,855 people with active cases of the disease across B.C. * 316 patients are in hospital with COVID-19, including 75 in intensive care. * 441 people have died of the disease since the pandemic began. * A total of 10,139 people are under active public health monitoring and in self-isolation because of exposure to known COVID-19 cases. * There have been 33,238 confirmed cases in the province to date.B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Monday an unprecedented 46 deaths from COVID-19 over the weekend.A total of 2,364 new cases were added to B.C.'s total, however 277 of them were historical cases previously missed due to an error in data reporting by the Fraser Health region.There are now 8,855 people with active COVID-19 cases in B.C., 316 of whom are in hospital, including 75 in intensive care.The Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions continue to see the greatest spread of the disease, accounting for 73 per cent of the new cases announced Monday. However, 212 of the new cases over the weekend were located in the Interior Health region.Monday's update includes five new outbreaks in the health-care system. Currently, there are 57 active outbreaks in long-term care and assisted living and five in hospitals.Health officials have told British Columbians to pause all social interactions and be vigilant applying different layers of protection, including physical distancing, washing hands and using masks.Review of PHSA spendingA review into spending by the Provincial Health Services Authority has been ordered by B.C.'s Minister of Health Adrian Dix, following allegations of misspending.On Monday, CBC News reported how whistleblowers with intimate knowledge into PHSA operations have come forward with numerous concerns.They accuse B.C.'s central health authority of squandering $7 million on the purchase of unusable face masks from China; hundreds of thousands of dollars on unnecessary renovations to executive offices; and tens of thousands of dollars on high-end catered meals for executives and their staff."I appreciate these allegations being raised to me," Dix said in a statement to CBC News. "I have directed the deputy minister of health to assess PHSA's decisions and conduct ... and provide advice and recommendations to me." COVID-19 finesSeveral fines were issued in Vancouver over the weekend as people continued to violate provincial COVID-19 health orders.The Vancouver Police Department says it issued fines following health order violations at a pair of house parties, a birthday party and inside a limousine.In all instances, there were too many people from different households gathering together.Violation tickets ranged from $230 - $2,300.READ MORE:What's happening elsewhere in CanadaThere have now been more than 370,278 cases of COVID-19 in Canada.On Monday, the federal Liberal government announced it's preparing to spend up to $100 billion to kick start the post-pandemic economy as it stares down a record-high deficit projection of more than $381 billion for this fiscal year.In a long-awaited economic statement, tabled today, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said the government's immediate priority is to do "whatever it takes" to help Canadians and businesses stay safe and solvent.What are the symptoms of COVID-19?Common symptoms include: * Fever. * Cough. * Tiredness. * Shortness of breath. * Loss of taste or smell. * Headache.But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.What should I do if I feel sick?Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they're mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or other extreme symptoms should call 911.What can I do to protect myself? * Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean. * Keep your distance from people who are sick. * Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. * Wear a mask in indoor public spaces.More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
Louis-Joseph Couturier left the Gaspé on Nov. 14. He doesn't plan on returning home until he completes his goal of cycling all the way to Vancouver.The journey covers 5,250 kilometres. If he continues at his current pace — 100 km/day — he should arrive by mid-February or early March."I wake up usually at 4 a.m. to start cycling when it's still dark and traffic isn't too bad," he told Radio-Canada. At night, he pitches a tent wherever he can."If it wasn't for the pandemic, I would have tried to take advantage of people's hospitality along the route. But in the current crisis, I can't really do that," he said.Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 restrictions and the oncoming winter, Couturier felt his trip couldn't wait.Following the recent death of a friend and fellow cyclist, who died in a road accident, Couturier decided to embark on a journey to raise awareness about cyclist safety in Canadian cities."I realized my own vulnerability and wanted to make a difference," he said. "Each death of a cyclist on our roads is avoidable."Between eight and 11 cyclists are killed on Quebec roads every year, according to data from the SAAQ.Couturier is hoping his awareness campaign will help bring the public's attention to this issue."We made the choice to design our cities around cars. We can rethink this way of looking at our roads," he said.He also wants to raise $20,000 for the organization Vélo Fantôme (Ghost Bike), which erects a white bicycle in locations where cyclists are killed.
Students returned to Charlottetown Rural High School on Monday morning for the first time since they found out one of their peers had tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend.Norbert Carpenter, acting director of the Public Schools Branch, spoke with CBC News: Compass host Louise Martin about how that day went.Santa Claus began a series of drive-by tours of Charlottetown Monday night, accompanied by bright lights and sirens. The emergency operations centre is back up at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown in preparation for more COVID-19 cases.A Montague couple has adapted to ensure the weekly free meal offered at a local church is still on the table during the pandemic.Despite the pandemic, P.E.I. restaurants offering takeout and delivery registered some growth in September, according to Statistics Canada restaurant sales data.The P.E.I. Council of People with Disabilities is cautioning Islanders about making assumptions regarding people who don't wear masks.P.E.I. has seen a total of 72 cases, with no deaths and no hospitalizations.Nova Scotia reported 16 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, giving the province a total of 138 active cases.New Brunswick reported six new cases, bringing its number of active cases to 120.Also in the newsFurther resourcesMore from CBC P.E.I.
Moderna Inc. says it will ask U.S. and European regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine as new study results confirm the shots offer strong protection. (Nov. 30)
This column is an opinion from Max Fawcett, a freelance writer and the former editor of Alberta Oil magazine.Political courage seems to be in short supply these days, whether it's Republicans in the United States refusing to acknowledge the reality of Donald Trump's election defeat or provincial leaders here in Canada avoiding the more stringent measures that are needed to flatten the latest COVID-19 curve.But when it comes to political cowardice, few acts can top the decision by Calgary's city council to punt on a proposed reduction to residential speed limits — one that would almost certainly save lives and money.Rather than doing the obvious (something that Edmonton's city council voted 9-3 in favour of), council will revisit the issue in February, when they'll decide whether to put it to the public in a plebiscite in the fall. Holding a plebiscite on something like reducing speed limits in residential neighbourhoods is a bit like asking voters to cast a ballot on whether puppies are adorable or babies smell good.According to a report from the City of Calgary, reducing the speed limit in residential neighbourhoods from 50 km/h to 40 km/h would prevent approximately 300 collisions a year, as well as avoid $8 million in societal costs that range from property damage and hospital bills to loss of work due to injury.And none of these figures can account for the cost of losing a loved one — say, a young child — in an accident that didn't have to happen.You might think, given these realities, that a plebiscite would be a waste of everyone's time. Politicians are elected to make decisions and they don't come much easier than this one.But what if seeking the consent of Calgarians isn't really the point of the plebiscite?Weaponizing direct democracyAfter all, as University of Alberta political science professor Jared Wesley argued in a recent Alberta Views dialogue with Ted Morton, direct democracy is often weaponized for entirely undemocratic purposes."At best," he wrote, "referendums allow elected officials to shirk their responsibility to negotiate and define the common good. At worst, they allow politicians to manipulate the public to achieve much narrower partisan, regional or ideological ends."But even if Calgary city council finds its courage in February and actually votes on the proposed reduction to residential speed limits, next fall's municipal election could still have an assortment of plebiscites on provincial matters, such as an Alberta police force and the province's place in the federal equalization program.Some local officials are already sounding the alarm about the impact that those plebiscites could have on municipal elections across the province."It would just drown us out," said Barry Morishita, the mayor of Brooks and the President of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, in a June 2020 CBC story. "There is no other way to put it."That doesn't seem like an accident. After all, for a government that seems to view everything through the lens of combat, and which has found its most effective opposition coming from municipal leaders, particularly the ones in major cities like Edmonton and Calgary, this seems like a logical fight to pick.While directly attacking those leaders could potentially backfire, encouraging people to turn out and vote against federal government programs — even ones they don't completely understand — seems far more likely to succeed.And being able to pursue this political agenda under the guise of supporting direct democracy does have a certain Machiavellian brilliance to it. Then again, Machiavelli would warn about the risk of being hoisted by your own petard.While holding provincial plebiscites in a municipal election may serve the UCP's near-term political interests, that format may not be nearly as constructive when it comes to the looming conversation about potential new revenue measures.Finance Minister Travis Toews has repeatedly indicated that, once his government is done cutting costs and slashing the salaries of doctors, nurses, and other public servants, it will turn its attention to the revenue side of the equation — and potentially a provincial sales tax."I think it will be important to review the province's revenue structure to determine if it's the appropriate, the most efficient structure that we can have," he said during a recent appearance at an Edmonton Chamber of Commerce event.But as Jason Kenney said in a letter to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation earlier this year, any move to implement a sales tax will have to be approved by the voters in a plebiscite."As long as I am premier," he wrote, "Albertans will have the final say through a fair referendum vote on whether a hypothetical sales tax should be introduced."And given how enthusiastically conservatives have salted that particular political field in the past, it's hard to imagine anything ever growing there — even if the province suddenly needs that harvest to survive. The problem with plebiscitesIndeed, even in a comparatively pro-tax place like Metro Vancouver, a 2015 plebiscite that asked voters whether they'd be willing to pay an additional 0.5 per cent sales tax to fund new transit infrastructure failed miserably.Despite having the backing of a large group of local mayors and the tepid support of both provincial parties, the "No" side won convincingly, carrying 61.7 per cent of the vote to the "Yes" side's 38.4 per cent. Therein lies the problem with plebiscites, and the politicians that turn to them most enthusiastically.Yes, they allow elected officials to avoid having to make certain decisions on the public's behalf, especially ones that might not be immediately popular. But they also box those same politicians into a much smaller political space, one where they've set an expectation that anything even vaguely controversial will get put directly to voters. For some elected officials, constraining the range of a given government's policy space and ambition might be a good thing. But for a public that is contending with everything from climate change to the economic fallout from COVID-19, to say nothing of a failing state to our south, those sorts of constraints could do far more harm than good in the future. Right now, we need leaders who are willing to actually lead — and take the political risks that come with that.When Calgarians go to the polls next fall, they should remember that. And if there are pointless plebiscites about things like residential speed limits on the ballot, maybe they'll serve as a useful (and unintentional) reminder to that effect.This column is an opinion. For more information about our commentary section, please read our FAQ.
At least two people were injured Sunday night during three separate shootings in Montreal's Rivière-des-Prairies neighbourhood.Montreal police say it's still unclear whether the three incidents, which happened in the course of an hour, are related.Around 9:30 p.m., a 58-year-old man was shot at a home near the corner of 63e Avenue and Perras Boulevard. Police say the man had just gotten out of his car, which was parked in his driveway, when another car pulled up and someone started shooting.The victim was conscious on his way to the hospital. The suspects fled the scene.About 10 minutes later, someone walking through a residential parking lot opened fire on a man sitting in a parked car on Jean-Rainaud Avenue.The victim fled the scene in the car. Police have no information about the victim's status.And then at 10:20 p.m., another man was shot while standing on a second-floor balcony at a home on Armand-Bombardier Boulevard, near Jean-Vincent Avenue. Police say they believe the shooter was standing in the building's courtyard at the time.The victim was taken to hospital and is expected to survive. Police spokesperson Const. Raphaël Bergeron said in all three cases, there is no information about the suspects. A fourth shooting occurred earlier in the evening in Montréal-Nord. Around 5:30 p.m., police received a call about shots fired near the corner of Lapierre Avenue and Pascal Street.When they arrived, they found bullet casings but no suspects or victims.An hour later, a man showed up at an unspecified hospital with what appeared to be gunshot wounds, but it is unclear whether he was involved in the incident in Montréal-Nord.Police issued a statement Monday evening, saying they would increase their presence and visibility in the area over the next 24 hours.
In the Kennebecasis Bay, just north of Saint John, three small islands make up what are known as The Brothers, the only reserve land in the southern part of New Brunswick.Some believe that the three islands may be an important key to the Wolastoqiyik reasserting their rights over the land and could play a role to strengthen a recently filed title claim to the Wolastoq, its lands and watersheds."I feel very strongly that it is an important component of the title case," said Patrick Polchies, a council member of Kingsclear First Nation."If we really think about the title claim, for instance, we need to express our territory, I think sometimes by occupation. And even if it's seasonal, it's important. We need to get out to these places and make sure that people understand that it is within living memory of coming to this region."Little is known today about the islands and their history, though a handful of people have memories of visiting them when they were young.Wayne Brooks remembers visiting The Brothers as a youth in the 1970s on camping trips organized by his father and Harold Sappier, the late chief of St. Mary's First Nation."Well, back in the day, like, my dad would always talk about it, and Harold," Brooks recalled. "We've got to start using it, because if not, somebody is going to try to take it over. So, as a community, Harold decided that we'll use it, we'll take kids there for camping trips."Brooks said as he grew older, he brought his sons to the islands when they were young to keep that connection.Though the islands are uninhabited today, they were once used as seasonal campgrounds for hunting and fishing by Simon, Andrew, Jim, Ed and Joseph Paul. The brothers would travel down the river from Quebec and stay on the islands.The islands would later be granted to the "Malicite Tribe of Indians of the River Saint John" in 1838 by Sir John Harvey, the lieutenant-governor, for use of the Paul brothers.Today, Indian and Goat islands are registered to Kingsclear, Madawaska, Tobique and Woodstock, though a spokesperson for the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick said there are plans to have St. Mary's and Oromocto added to the shared ownership.But uncertainty surrounds the title of Burnt Island. In the 1920s, a copper mine was staked on the island. Because of this mineral claim, when the province transferred the administration of reserve lands to the federal government in 1959, Burnt Island was not included in the transfer.There's still evidence of the mine today. Bobby Ring owns a local boat business in Brothers Cove and recalls ferrying Sappier and the youth of St. Mary's First Nation to the islands in the 1970s. He also routinely took a man who staked a claim to copper on Burnt Island. "Burnt Island, it's real close," Ring said. "On the outer face of the island there's a beach that's real rocky. You get out and you walk about 25 or 30 feet up the beach and to your left you'll see a hole full of bushes and trees. That's a copper mine."Ring's son, Geodie, runs the boat maintenance business today. It's on the shore directly across from the islands, just beside the Royal Kennebecasis Yacht Club.Geodie Ring said the islands are mostly frequented by boaters or kayakers now."A lot of people that just are new to the area, they'll all buy that Walmart or Canadian Tire canoe or kayak and they'll paddle out," Ring said.He said a lot of people, including locals, have no idea any of the three Islands are reserve land. That doesn't surprise Rachel Bryant, a University of New Brunswick professor and colonial historian. She wrote a blog in the summer about the islands, in hopes of raising public awareness about them in the local area."Saint John is not often thought of as Indigenous land. When it is discussed, it is discussed in the past tense," Bryant said. "I'm interested in reminding people of whose land it is."Bryant said there is a term that may explain why locals speak of the area as if it isn't unceded Wolastoqey territory."There's a phenomenon in colonial studies and it's called unwitnessing," Bryant said. "If material or something that you encounter, it doesn't fit within your understanding, or within a collective understanding of history or of place, then that material can't lodge permanently in a collective consciousness." When Bryant published her blog, she heard from people who had visited and had no idea the islands were reserve land. Polchies said it's time to change that. He conducted an informal archeological survey of The Brothers islands in 1990s that didn't turn up anything of interest. But he thinks it's time for more thorough and formal archeological work. "There are a lot of places in the province that we probably need to be looking at to understand where we were on the land," he said. "And particularly now."There's a title claim before the courts, for the entire expanse of our territory, so The Brothers are an interesting component of it."
Prince Wong was still in her mother's womb when the Chinese government reclaimed control over Hong Kong from the British in the summer of 1997. For her 23rd birthday this year, Wong posted a photo of herself on Instagram wearing a pastel-striped paper hat trimmed with pink pompoms. On a recent day, Wong spun a gold ring on her finger in continuous circles as she spoke quietly about the past year of her life.
When looking at the daily updates and numbers of COVID-19 cases in Alberta, there's a theme that's easy to spot — Calgary's northeast has a serious problem. Calgary-Upper NE is one of 132 "local geographic areas" (or LGAs) that the province uses in reporting COVID-19 cases. It covers the bulk of the northeast quadrant, including newer communities that sit north of McKnight Boulevard, as well as a portion that stretches down to where 16th Avenue N.E. meets Deerfoot Trail. Around 115,000 people call the upper northeast area of Calgary home. The number of active COVID-19 cases there surpassed 1,000 last week, a number not seen anywhere else in the province at any time during the pandemic. As of Sunday, there were 1,194 cases. That's double the numbers seen earlier in the month. For many weeks now, the northeast has secured the unenviable position of being the number one spot in Alberta for active cases. So what's driving such extreme numbers in one part of the city? On the front lines People who live and work in the northeast say there are many reasons that make their communities easy pickings for a virus that thrives on density and easy opportunities for transmission. Those opportunities vary from residents working public-facing, low-income jobs with no opportunity to work from home, to a culture of large, multi-generational households in densely populated neighbourhoods. "It is a concern. Many people in this part of the city are working multiple jobs on the front lines and they're in contact with a lot of people," said Ward 5 Coun. George Chahal. "There's a higher risk to exposure, but I think everybody's doing their best to ensure they're being safe, but more importantly keeping others safe. "Social distancing and wearing masks is important, but we've still got a lot of work to do." Many said they thought the types of jobs worked by those living in the northeast could represent the number one factor behind the high COVID-19 numbers. "The biggest reason is the majority of people are immigrants and newcomers and they are doing blue-collar jobs," said Dan Sidhu, a realtor with his own weekly Punjabi radio show who has called the northeast home for 25 years. "Lots of people work at places like Cargill and Lilydale or furniture factories. They're doing housekeeping and cleaning jobs around the city. There are also transport workers, truckers and taxi drivers." Sidhu said many people in the northeast don't have the luxury of working from home and are more exposed in their day-to-day lives. "We have to go out to work to make our living and pay our bills. We don't have much choice," Sidhu said. Multi-family households In addition to employment, there are also large multi-family households made up of South Asian immigrant families that settle around each other in northeast communities. "The majority of families here are joint families. Seniors live with them, mother-in-laws and father-in-laws, mothers and fathers and children. You can easily have six or seven family members," said Sidhu, adding that COVID-19 spreads to a greater number of people once it finds its way into a family setting. Others talk quietly about the possibility that some cultural factors unique to South Asian communities could give COVID-19 more opportunities to take hold. Some of those factors mentioned include: a stigma in the community around being sick and telling others. a deeply embedded culture of hospitality. meal sharing and inviting guests into the home. a tradition of large family gatherings and events like weddings and birthdays along with a busy calendar of religious events. in some cases, language barriers limiting information around best practices when it comes to health measures. Languages spoken commonly in the home in the northeast include Punjabi and Urdu. Filipino families speak Tagalog along with others who speak Spanish and Vietnamese at home. Some can't communicate in English at all. Worried about being blamed Some residents said they are worried about being stigmatized, criticized and blamed for the rising number of cases from people in other parts of the city and province. A few said they're embarrassed by the high case numbers and say they are victims of circumstance, and do not want to be blamed for personal negligence or for not taking the virus seriously enough. The northeast of the city is also where many newcomers and refugees settle in the days and weeks after arriving in Canada. It's where the cost of living is cheapest and where jobs and many vital supports exist, including the Centre for Newcomers. "We see a disproportionate number of newcomers working in industries where they'd have a much higher rate of being in contact with somebody that has COVID," said Anila Lee Yuen, CEO of the Centre for Newcomers. "They find jobs in retail, service industries, health-care and long-term care facilities and that [increases] the likelihood." Lee Yuen said newcomers tend to be around larger volumes of people, both at home and at work. "You've got people coming from cultures that are very collective in nature so the entire community is built around that," she said. "You have a more densely packed population, so even when people are adhering to the best possible safety protocols, there could still be issues." She said housing density and a reliance on transit and car sharing also need to be taken into account, along with larger family cohorts than other parts of the city. Language barriers can also make official information harder to access. "The ethno-cultural media and the settlement agencies and other agencies have done a wonderful job of getting that information out there, especially through social media," said Lee Yuen. "It does come translated from the government and it is widespread, but the bigger issue is people are confused about the rules and what they can and can't do. But that's in the general population too." Lee Yuen said the whole concept of cohorts and bubbles took time for many Albertans to understand, but for non-English speaking Albertans, it's even more challenging. Religion and worship Religion is a big part of the fabric of life in northeast Calgary's South Asian community, and with worship comes large gatherings. Throughout 2020, places of worship have been open with limited capacity, enhanced safety measures and at times closed altogether. Under the most recent measures announced by the provincial government on Saturday, churches, mosques, temples and other places of worship are allowed to operate at only one-third of their capacity with mandatory masking in place. Previously, the limit had been one-third of regular attendance. Major religious events and celebrations from Ramadan to Eid and Diwali have all looked a lot different this year. Some places of worship are now going above and beyond the requirements laid out by the province. "We're not even letting anyone sit. We're going even further in what we're doing in that they come, they pray and they go right away," said Amanpreet Singh Gill with the Dashmesh Culture Centre, a large gurdwara where thousands of northeast Sikhs go to pray. "We are trying our best and people are following it. We encourage everyone to be safe. Social interactions are dangerous and we encourage everyone to limit gatherings like weddings too." The centre is also taking prayers online for those staying away, streaming on social media. Mosques have been doing the same thing with live prayers, sermons and programs from local imams, who said Friday prayers are the only in-person worship being permitted. Prayers typically last less than 15 minutes. COVID-19 experiences More cases in the quadrant bring more stories and accounts from people who have had COVID-19. Jayanta Chowdhury contracted COVID-19 along with his family at a Christian prayer meeting in March that turned into a "superspreader" event, leading to at least 34 positive cases, all stemming from one overseas pastor from Singapore. Chowdhury spent nearly 50 days in hospital, 25 of them in a coma on a ventilator. Now he's hoping his story can help others do the right things. "Many people don't believe COVID is going to hurt them. They just think it's like a cough and a cold," said Chowdhury. "What is lacking in the northeast is people are not aware of the fact of how serious this is and how it will affect your life. They are not serious about it. They just think, 'I don't know anyone who is COVID-positive, so it won't happen to me.'" Chowdhury said he sees many people from the South Asian community not wearing masks in public or wearing them incorrectly. He's not alone, although some also point out that people make the same mistakes all over the city. Others regularly complain on social media about seeing the same thing in local stores and restaurants, along with a lack of proper physical distancing, evident in many photos posted online of gatherings and small events with people stood shoulder to shoulder, some wearing masks and others often not wearing one or wearing one incorrectly. The table may not display fully on mobile devices or small screens. In that case, you can also click here to open a standalone version in a new browser tab. "I went to a McDonald's in the northeast the other day. There were four men standing there chatting, no masks," Chowdhury said. "They wear their masks under their chin. But what about the people they are putting at risk? "Who's going to take care of them? In my case, my whole family was positive. Let's say the dad and mom dies, we don't have relatives to look after our kids. They don't understand the height and depth of the issue." Chowdhury said for more than a week he felt fine with no symptoms. He went to church, shopping malls and grocery stores, completely unaware he had contracted the virus. It wasn't until the ninth day that serious symptoms quickly started appearing and four of his group were hospitalized. One of the group died. "I walked into Peter Lougheed hospital and passed out. When I woke up I thought it was the same day. It had been 25 days and I had been on a ventilator," Chowdhury said. WATCH | COVID-19 survivor Jay Chowdhury, in an earlier interview in August, talks about how he's still recovering months after leaving hospital Chowdhury said he has good days and bad days as he continues to recover. He is back at work, but every day is an unknown. "It hurts when I see the community going to a grocery store, still picking up produce, sniffing it and putting it back. People could be carrying COVID home," he said. "Some people don't care about the community, they only think about themselves and what they believe." Seeking help and protection The community is increasingly looking to the provincial government for help and protection. Like everywhere else in the city, the majority of residents stick to the rules, but cases in the northeast continue to rise. Last week, Premier Jason Kenney appeared on the popular northeast South Asian-focused radio station RED FM, interviewed by host Rishi Nagar. Kenney acknowledged the problem with COVID-19 in the northeast, referencing big family gatherings as a particular concern. He spent time outlining news rules and guidelines, including enforcement. "Our research is clear that by far the single largest source of COVID-19 is private social functions and at-home gatherings," said Kenney, adding it wasn't about "pointing fingers." Kenney also commented on Alberta's continued snubbing of the federal contact tracing app. "Their app is not a contact tracing app," he told listeners. "All it does is to indicate if maybe you were in the vicinity of somebody with COVID at some point in the past two weeks with no additional information." Irfan Sabir, the NDP's lone MLA in the northeast representing the riding of Calgary-McCall, said the real problem in the northeast is the province's contact tracing system — which he said is completely overwhelmed and no longer functioning. "We have a government that doesn't know where 85 per cent of cases are coming from. We are left to rely on our observations and speculate," Sabir said. "Government is failing by not investing in contact tracing and not sharing recommendations from Dr. Hinshaw, not listening to Dr. Hinshaw." "They need to step up and take this seriously. Put in place evidence-based, data-based measures. It's long past due." Sabir said northeast residents were already feeling abandoned after a huge hailstorm devastated multiple communities in the summer, leaving thousands of homes with shredded siding, damaged roofs and broken windows — many of which are still unrepaired heading into winter with no meaningful financial help from the province, despite pleas from residents. "The government needs to step up and take this outbreak seriously and do everything they can to contain this spread," he said. Rajan Sawhney, Alberta's minister of community and social services and UCP MLA for Calgary-Northeast, said her government has provided some funding for community organizations to help combat the spread of COVID-19 by raising awareness of the risks among newcomer communities and seniors' groups. She addressed her constituents in Punjabi via a Facebook video over the weekend. "Clearly, we have to do more and it's going to be a multi-level government approach to this, to spread as much awareness as we can about the new measures introduced by the premier," Sawhney said. "It's important that we break those measures down step by step in different languages, and work with our community partners and faith-based institutions." Sawnhey said her main concern is northeast communities facing stigma and shaming as case numbers continue to climb. "There shouldn't be any finger pointing, blaming, stereotyping or shaming, or thinking that somehow residents in northeast Calgary are not as concerned about their health or about following these measures," said Sawnhey. "It's just a different dynamic, and a different way people live."
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Australia’s prime minister said Monday that a Chinese official’s tweet showing a fake image of an Australian soldier appearing to slit a child’s throat was “truly repugnant” and merits an apology. China said there would be no apology. The incident is further souring already tense relations between the two nations. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was seeking an apology from the Chinese government after Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, posted the graphic image that shows a grinning soldier holding a bloodied knife to the throat of a veiled child, who is holding a lamb. Zhao wrote a caption with the tweet saying: “Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, & call for holding them accountable.” He was referring to a disturbing report by Australia’s military earlier this month which found evidence that elite Australian troops unlawfully killed 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers and civilians during the conflict in Afghanistan. It recommended that 19 soldiers be referred to federal police for criminal investigation. Asked about the issue at a daily briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying cast blame on the Australian side. “What Australia should do is to reflect deeply, bring the perpetrators to justice, make a formal apology to the Afghan people, and solemnly promise to the international community that they will never commit such terrible crimes again,” Hua said. Morrison said Zhao's tweet was “utterly outrageous” and a terrible slur against Australia's military. It “is truly repugnant. It is deeply offensive to every Australian, every Australian who has served in that uniform,” he told reporters in Canberra. “The Chinese government should be totally ashamed of this post. It diminishes them in the world’s eyes.” Morrison said his government had contacted Twitter asking it to take the post down. The post had a warning tag on it by Monday afternoon but could still be viewed. Zhao's account comes with a Twitter label stating that it's a Chinese government account. Despite China blocking Twitter and other U.S. social media platforms within the county, Chinese diplomats and state media have established a strong presence on them. Zhao was criticized by the U.S. in March after tweeting a conspiracy theory that U.S. soldiers may have brought the coronavirus to China. He is considered a leading representative of China’s high-pitched new strain of assertive foreign relations. Morrison acknowledged there were tensions between China and Australia. “But this is not how you deal with them," he said. “Australia has patiently sought to address the tensions that exist in our relationship in a mature way, in a responsible way, by seeking engagement at both leader and ministerial level.” The rift between the two nations has grown since the Australian government called for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. China has since imposed tariffs and other restrictions on a number of Australian exports. Nick Perry, The Associated Press
If there's one thing Sheila Levy-Bencheton took for granted, it's that the safety deposit box her father rented from a big bank was secure. That's until her dad passed away in 2017 at age 103.The Toronto woman went to TD Canada Trust to empty the box a few months later, and discovered the bank had already done it years ago — forcing it open by drilling the lock then emptying the contents.The bank drilled open and emptied thousands of safety deposit boxes across the country in 2012 in an effort to get rid of those no longer being used or paid for. It says its policies require the contents to be set aside for safe keeping.But Levy-Bencheton says she's still missing her family's most valued possessions and fighting for compensation. And she's not the only one. Go Public also spoke to an Edmonton man who lost thousands of dollars' worth of irreplaceable 22-karat gold jewelry, who says the bank did the same thing to him."Once it is gone, it's gone," said Suraj Khatiwada.Both he and Levy-Bencheton say they can't believe the bank would open the boxes and remove their possessions."The reason you have a safety deposit box is to specifically put things in a very safe place and not to be tampered with. This was clearly tampered with," Levy-Bencheton said.Missing, she says, is her mother's diamond ring, an 18-karat gold watch bought in 1947, gold and silver coins and thousands of dollars in cash. Those are the items her father — still lucid in his older age — told her he'd stashed at the bank for safe keeping.She's not sure exactly how much cash, but says her father kept it there because her parents were Holocaust survivors, so were always anxious about having easy access to money and valuables in case they needed to run."That's the kind of mentality they lived with," she said.WATCH | Safety deposit boxes emptied:But instead of getting cash and jewelry, the bank handed Levy-Bencheton a pile of paperwork and receipts, a few silver dollar coins and an empty ring box, saying that's all that was in there.Experts say banks operate safety deposit boxes as a side business, with few rules except those they set for themselves."It's called the safety deposit box, but really it's just a contract that has all sorts of provisions in it to protect the banks from liability," said Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, an advocacy group for corporate responsibility and law reform.Levy-Bencheton says TD's rules mean it didn't need to prove anything.She asked for the bank's records showing who had accessed the box before it was drilled open, and for a copy of the registered letter the bank said it sent her father before opening it. The bank didn't have either, she says."It made me suspicious," Levy-Bencheton said. "God knows what happened there."TD tells Go Public the family's box was opened by accident, as part of a "network wide reconciliation process" — one of the 16,000 boxes it drilled open in 2012 for reasons including overdue rent, lost keys or where "required by law." The bank says it has one million boxes across the country and the need to drill them open is rare.Levy-Bencheton fought for more than a year to get any compensation.At first, a bank manager told her the box never existed, but she says that "didn't feel right" since the family had two sets of keys and her dad had told her all about it. So, on a whim, a family member called TD customer service about a week later and asked again."And within five minutes, he got back in the line. He said, 'Yeah, it was here [but] it was drilled in 2012,'" said Levy-Bencheton. "I couldn't believe it."When the family asked why it had been given two different stories, the bank said the manager "was newer to the role and not as resourceful" as the employee on the phone.The bank said there would be no compensation since the family couldn't prove what was in the box and the bank didn't have any records.Instead it offered $250 as a "goodwill gesture."Levy-Bencheton turned the offer down and then moved her complaint up to TD's ombudsman.That went nowhere. Three complaint levels later, in October 2018, the private national mediation company that handles TD complaints — ADR Chambers — said there was a 50-50 chance valuables and cash were missing.After doing a loose accounting, the company found the jewelry was worth about $8,400, and recommended TD to pay Levy-Bencheton and her family half that amount. ADR has been criticized for being biased toward the banks it investigates because they pay fees for its service.Levy-Bencheton turned down the offer, saying it doesn't begin to cover the family's losses. She also wants the bank to have to pay a hefty penalty."We really don't know how much was in there [but] it was more than that for sure," she said."It really caused us a lot of aggravation. We've lost a lot of sentimental things and the only language the bank knows is money … so we have to hit them where it hurts."The family has hired paralegal George Berger to help get answers from TD — and maybe file a lawsuit."They refused to provide information about what exactly happened," Berger said.'Once it is gone, it's gone'Suraj Khatiwada of Edmonton is still missing his wife's 22-karat gold wedding bangles, necklace and wedding ring after TD Canada Trust also "inadvertently" opened his safety deposit box without his permission.He says it happened sometime between 2015, the last time he opened the box himself, and 2017, when he discovered the bank had drilled the lock. After months of back and forth and an investigation by the bank's ombudsman, TD apologized and awarded him $12,000 for the missing jewelry. He says he didn't have any proof, but did provide photos of the jewelry to the bank.At the time the bank promised to investigate, but has yet to explain how the items went missing. "That is a very unfortunate thing … we cannot replace the sentimental value of those things," said Khatiwada, who immigrated from Nepal in 2010. "In Western culture, the wedding ring is very valuable. But in our culture, it's the necklace and also the ring. We have a special ring ceremony, so they are not replaceable."TD spokesperson Carla Hindman says the bank has protocols for forcing open safety deposit boxes including, "ensuring at least two employees, one of whom must be a manager, are always present as they [staff] remove, catalogue, package and securely store the contents." But she didn't say if those rules were followed in the two cases Go Public looked at.Banks have been reprimanded for not taking enough care with safety deposit boxes.In 2002, a B.C. court awarded a woman more than $20,000 in damages after TD drilled hers open, having wrongly concluded her rental was in arrears.And in 2001 and 2006, Canada's privacy commissioner broadly criticized banks for inaccurate record-keeping and for breaking privacy rules related to boxes being opened.The commissioner didn't name which bank or banks were involved in those complaints. Conacher, at Democracy Watch, says bank customers are forced to fight these long battles because rules for how banks manage safety deposit boxes are not part of Canada's Bank Act and are largely unregulated.He says the lack of government rules makes it hard for Canadians to get fair compensation when banks mishandle boxes.Provincial estate laws do mention safety deposit boxes but are limited to how beneficiaries gain access after someone dies."If [something] goes missing, then not only do you have a contract that protects the bank, but you also have the burden of proof to prove that the bank has not handled that box properly."That's a really big hurdle for any consumer to try and climb over to get accountability," Conacher said. He's calling on the federal government to update the Bank Act to include safety deposit boxes.Go Public asked the Department of Finance if Ottawa plans to make changes. In a statement, it would only say it regularly reviews laws, "to ensure that Canadians have the protections they need."Unlike regular bank deposits, Conacher says, the contents of safety deposit boxes aren't insured by financial institutions, so owners need to insure valuables themselves as part of home insurance policies and to regularly document what's inside with photos and witnesses.Both Levy-Bencheton and Khatiwada say, after their experiences, they're done with safety deposit boxes.Khatiwada says he still has an account with TD which includes the use of a deposit box, but he told Go Public it's sitting empty."I lost my trust," he said.Submit your story ideasGo Public is an investigative news segment on CBC-TV, radio and the web.We tell your stories, shed light on wrongdoing, and hold the powers that be accountable.If you have a story in the public interest, or if you're an insider with information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, contact information and a brief summary.All emails are confidential until you decide to Go Public. 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A prominent Canadian forecaster says the country's residents could experience everything from winter wonderlands to spring-like spells in the months ahead. The Weather Network says cooler Pacific Ocean temperatures off the coast of South America, also known as "La Niña," will create a strong jet stream separating warm southern air masses from their colder northern counterparts. Chief Meteorologist Chris Scott says this means most Canadians can brace for a wildly variable winter with major departures from seasonal norms. In British Columbia and the Prairies, for instance, Scott says forecasters are calling for above-average snowfall levels and temperatures below seasonal norms. He says major swings in both temperatures and precipitation levels are on tap for Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, with stretches of both extreme cold and unusually mild air forecast alongside a mix of storms and dry spells.Scott says Newfoundland and Labrador and northern Canada are slated to buck the trend, with the eastern-most province set to experience a more typical winter while colder than average conditions are expected across all three territories. But Scott said the long-term patterns may not be evident at first, since the December forecast is calling for conditions that defy the overall forecasts. In broad strokes, he predicted an overall milder month for western Canada with more wintry conditions likely in Ontario and points east. "It's going to be quite a winter," Scott said in a telephone interview. "A lot of extremes within the given regions. And if you're talking to your friends or family back east or out west, you're probably going to have a very different experience from week to week as the weather changes across the country."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020. The Canadian Press
BANGKOK — Five leaders of Thailand’s pro-democracy movement reported to police Monday to acknowledge charges that they defamed the king, the most serious of many offences of which they stand accused.The five are part of the student-led movement that for several months has been campaigning for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and his government to step down, the constitution to be amended to make it more democratic and the monarchy be reformed to make it more accountable.The demand about the monarchy is the most radical and controversial, because by tradition the institution has been considered untouchable, the bedrock element of Thai nationalism. It is considered taboo to publicly criticize the monarch, and insulting or defaming key royals is punishable by up to 15 years in prison under a lese majeste law known as Article 112.The protest movement has nevertheless emphasized reform of the monarchy as a key demand, and made it the theme of several of its protest rallies, which have attracted thousands of people. They believe the king holds too much power in what is supposed to be a democratic constitutional monarchy."When people criticize the monarchy and they listen, people will consider them open-minded. But if they use 112 to shut our mouths, not only Thai people but also the world will know they are afraid of the truth,” Parit Chiwarak said to reporters ahead of reporting to police. “This won’t stop our movement. On the contrary, it will make more people join us.”Article 112 is controversial, because anyone — not just royals or authorities — can lodge a complaint, so it in the past had been used as a weapon in political vendettas. But it had not been employed for the past three years, after King Maha Vajiralongkorn informed the government that he did not wish to see it used. The king has not publicly commented on the law since then.But after a protest last week included crude chants and graffiti that could be considered derogatory of the king, Prayuth declared that the protesters had gone too far and could now expect to be prosecuted for their actions, including with charges under Article 112. While protest leaders have faced dozens of charges over the past few months, they have generally been freed on bail, and none have yet come to trial.Despite Prayuth’s threat, protest leaders have continued to include strong criticisms of the monarchy at rallies.The other four who reported Monday to Bangkok’s Chana Songkhram police station were Arnon Nampha, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Panupong Jadnok and Patiphan Luecha. Patiphan, a traditional folk singer also known as Patiwat Saraiyaem, served 2 1/2 years in prison after being arrested under Article 112 in 2014.Most of the protest leaders face multiple charges already, ranging from blocking traffic to sedition, which is punishable by up to seven years in prison.Anon, a lawyer, said he was indifferent about being charged under Article 112, because it is an “unjust law.”“If we speak the truth and they stop us with 112, it reflects how abnormal this law and this country are,” he said.Also reporting to police Monday were Benjamaporn Nivas and Lopnaphat Wangsit, leaders of the mockingly self-named Bad Students group of secondary school students, which seeks major reforms in education and supports the broader aims of the pro-democracy movement as well.They are accused of violating a state of emergency decree that was briefly in effect in October by taking part in a rally in central Bangkok.___Associated Press journalists Chalida Ekvitthayavechnukul and Grant Peck contributed to this report.Tassanee Vejpongsa, The Associated Press