With Chris St. Clair.
With Chris St. Clair.
In announcing a planned phone call on Friday between U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the White House's intended message was clear: Traditional allies are back in favour while despots, dictators and the killers of dissenters are on the outs. The way press secretary Jen Psaki announced the scheduled call with Trudeau was revealing, as it came in response to a question that had nothing at all to do with Canada's prime minister. She was asked about Vladimir Putin. Specifically, she was asked when Biden would speak with the Russian leader. Psaki replied that it wasn't an immediate priority. "[Biden's] first foreign leader call will be on Friday with Prime Minister Trudeau," she said. "I would expect his early calls will be with partners and allies. He feels it's important to rebuild those relationships." U.S. plans to investigate Russia Psaki elaborated on Putin in a separate news conference where she described Russia as "reckless" and "adversarial." She said Biden has tasked the intelligence community with reporting on a variety of alleged Russian transgressions: cyberattacks on U.S. companies, interference in U.S. politics, the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and Russian-paid bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Yet the goal of rebalancing relationships away from rivals toward like-minded countries has been tested already. Some Canadians, notably Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, want trade retaliation against the U.S. following the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline on Day 1 of the new administration. The decision undermines Canada's No. 1 export to the United States: oil. WATCH | The National's report on Keystone XL: Biden's foreign policy ambitions will keep being tested as international relationships undergo unwieldy twists on any given issue due to practical and political considerations. Here is what we already know about the Biden administration's approach to other countries after its first couple of days in office. The moves so far The administration will release a report on suspected Saudi government involvement in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, an issue the last administration showed little interest in pursuing. It is also threatening to cancel support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. It is willing to consider new NATO expansion on Russia's doorstep, into Georgia, and in fact is staunchly supportive of the international military alliance. And Biden has rejoined previous alliances the U.S. was either scheduled to exit (the World Health Organization) or had already left (the Paris climate accord). These activities are intended to signal a dramatic change in foreign policy from Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, who frequently bashed the leaders of democracies and international institutions while simultaneously cultivating friendly relationships with non-democratic leaders in the Middle East, Russia and North Korea. There will be contradictions in Biden's approach — as there were in Trump's. For example, while Trump often had kind words for dictators, he also sanctioned their countries on occasion, including Russia and China. Also, don't count on an ambitious foreign policy from Biden. Early on, the new administration will be busy juggling domestic crises, said Edward Alden, an expert on Canada-U.S. relations. "I think we are going to see an approach to alliances that looks a lot like [Barack] Obama's — engaged, respectful, but not overly ambitious," said Alden, a senior fellow at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. "The United States has enormous problems at home, and those are going to take priority for some time." Alden said he does expect some new international initiatives, such as more active co-operation on global vaccine distribution. Biden wants changes on Canada-U.S. pandemic travel On COVID-19, Biden also wants to immediately connect with Canada and Mexico to establish new rules within 14 days for pandemic-related travel safety measures. Alden also expects an attempt to rework and revive the international nuclear deal with Iran, and establish greater co-ordination with other countries in confronting China. For example, Biden has proposed a summit of democracies where countries can share ideas for countering autocracies. Biden's nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told his confirmation hearing this week that the last administration had a point in reorienting policy toward Beijing. "President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China," Blinken said. "The basic principle was the right one, and I think that's actually helpful to our foreign policy." He got into a testy exchange at that hearing with Sen. Rand Paul, a libertarian-minded Republican who favours a hands-off approach on foreign affairs. When Blinken said he was open to expanding NATO membership to Russia's neighbour Georgia, Paul called that a recipe for war with Russia. Blinken argued the opposite is true. After years of Russian incursions in non-NATO Georgia and Ukraine, recent evidence suggests Russia is most belligerent with countries outside NATO's shield, he said. Keystone XL: The early irritant Biden and Trudeau are expected to discuss new travel measures to control the spread of COVID-19, as well as Biden's decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline expansion that would run south from Alberta to Nebraska. So far, Trudeau has shown little desire to escalate the pipeline issue. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, on the other hand, has demanded retaliatory action, and some trade experts say potential legal avenues do exist. WATCH | Kenny on the fate of Keystone XL: But they're skeptical they will achieve much. Eric Miller of the Rideau Potomac Strategy Group, a cross-border consulting firm specializing in trade and government affairs, said the best that pipeline-backers can hope for is to sue the U.S. government for financial compensation for the cancelled project. He said the Alberta government and the project's developer, TC Energy, can try suing under the investor-state dispute chapter in the old NAFTA, which will remain in effect for two more years for existing investments. "[But] nothing is going to force the Biden administration to deliver the permit," Miller said. "One has to be clear that there is no world in which Joe Biden [retreats on this]." Canada-U.S. trade lawyer Dan Ujczo said he doubts complaints from Canada will make a difference. He said the most politically effective argument for the pipeline would come from Americans — from the companies and unions that would have serviced the project. The Ohio-based lawyer said challenges under U.S. laws, such as the Administrative Procedures Act, could potentially work, but he cautioned: "They're high hurdles."
NEW YORK — A New York judge on Thursday denied the National Rifle Association’s bid to throw out a state lawsuit that seeks to put the powerful gun advocacy group out of business. Judge Joel Cohen’s ruling will allow New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit to move ahead in state court in Manhattan, rather than dismissing it on technical grounds or moving it to federal court, as the NRA’s lawyers desired. James’ lawsuit, filed last August, seeks the NRA’s dissolution under state non-profit law over claims that top executives illegally diverted tens of millions of dollars for trips, no-show contracts and other expenditures. James is the state’s chief law enforcement officer and has regulatory power over non-profit organizations incorporated in the state, such as the NRA, Cohen said. “It would be inappropriate to find that the attorney couldn’t pursue her claims in state court just because one of the defendants wants to proceed in federal court,” Cohen said at a hearing held by video because of the coronavirus pandemic. Cohen also rejected the NRA’s arguments that James’ lawsuit was improperly filed in Manhattan and should’ve been filed in Albany, where the NRA’s incorporation paperwork lists an address. The NRA’s arguments for dismissing the case did not involve the merits of the case. The NRA has been incorporated in New York since 1871, though it is headquartered in Virginia and last week filed for bankruptcy protection in Texas in a bid to reincorporate in that state. The NRA, in announcing its bankruptcy filing last Friday, said it wanted to break free of a “corrupt political and regulatory environment in New York” and that it saw Texas as friendlier to its interests. The NRA’s lawyers said at a bankruptcy court hearing on Wednesday in Dallas that they wouldn’t use the Chapter 11 proceedings to halt the lawsuit. After Thursday’s ruling, they said they were ready to go ahead with the case, including a meeting with lawyers from James’ office on Friday and another hearing in March. In a letter to Cohen in advance of Thursday’s heading, NRA lawyer Sarah Rogers said the organization had no position on seeking to stay the case through bankruptcy, but that it reserved right to seek such orders from bankruptcy court in the future. Normally, a bankruptcy filing would halt all pending litigation. James’ office contends that its lawsuit is covered by an exemption involving a state’s regulatory powers and cannot be stopped by bankruptcy. Assistant New York Attorney General James Sheehan said he hoped to bring the case to trial by early 2022. In seeking to dismiss or move the state’s lawsuit to federal court, Rogers argued that many of its misspending and self-dealing allegations were also contained in pending lawsuits in federal court — a slate of cases she described as a “tangled nest of litigation.” Part of Rogers’ argument for moving the state lawsuit to federal court involved an error in the state’s original filing that she said altered the timeline of when it was filed. James’s office filed its lawsuit on Aug. 6, but later had to amend the complaint to include a part that was left. That same day, the NRA filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging James’ actions were motivated by hostility toward its political advocacy, including her comments in 2018 that the NRA is a “terrorist organization.” Rogers contended that because of the filing glitch James’ lawsuit should be considered a counterclaim to the NRA’s lawsuit and handled alongside of it in federal court. Cohen rejected that, saying Rogers was placing “far too much weight on a non-substantive error that was quickly fixed.” “The attorney general filed first,” he said. ___ Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak Michael R. Sisak, The Associated Press
WINNIPEG — Manitoba's auditor general says the provincial government is not retrieving the vast majority of overpayments it makes to doctors. Tyson Shtykalo examined fees that physicians across the province were paid for patient examinations, surgeries and other services over a five-year period. In a report released Thursday, Shtykalo said the Health Department's own auditing branch found $1 million in overbillings submitted by doctors, but only about $11,000 was collected — just over one per cent. The government seems to focus more on educating doctors to avoid future overbillings than retrieving the money, he said. The report says the fee-for-service system is complicated and some mistakes are to be expected when there are billions of dollars in payments over a five-year period. But the Health Department has the authority to withhold future payments as a way to collect money it is owed by physicians. "The (Health Services Insurance Act) provides the department with the authority to offset overpayments against future claims from the physician." Even when the province goes after an overpayment, reimbursements are negotiated, the report says. "We were told that the department starts by asking for 80 per cent of the amount owing and the physician suggests a much smaller amount. Eventually, an agreement is reached, resulting in a repayment lower than the original overbilled amount." The group that represents the province's doctors said it is committed to accurate billing. "The auditor general's report confirms the vast majority of physician billings — over 99.9 per cent — have not been found to be inaccurate or overbilled. Only an average of about $200,000 per year out of almost $1 billion in annual physician services has been flagged as potentially overbilled," Doctors Manitoba said in a written statement. The group also questioned one part of Shtykalo's findings. It said the $1-million figure for overbillings would include suspected cases that were later followed up and deemed correct. "While it's totally legitimate for provincial auditors to flag billing submissions as a potential overpayment, it's important to note that in many cases physicians provide additional documentation that backs up their billing submission and the matter is resolved." Shtykalo confirmed his figures refer to cases as they are initially flagged by Health Department auditors. His report makes six recommendations, including retrieving all overpayments, improving training for health department auditors, and doing more reviews of payments to physicians. The Health Department said it agrees with the recommendations. Many of the issues are addressed in a bill currently before the legislature, it said. "Legislative amendments contemplated in Bill 10 are fundamentally aligned with the recommendations made by the (auditor general's office) in its report," the department said in a written response that accompanies Shtykalo's report. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021 The Canadian Press
Muskoka Climate change co-ordinator Kevin Boyle said the district’s goal of reducing its corporate and community emissions by 50 per cent in the next 10 years was no certainty. Boyle spoke to an audience of 37 at the Environment Haliburton! (EH) enviro-café Jan. 12 to discuss “A New Leaf: Muskoka’s Climate Strategy” and its creation. The strategy’s goal is significantly greater than Haliburton County’s corporate plan to reduce its emissions by 30 per cent from 2018 levels by 2030. Boyle doubted the goal would have been reached without the advocacy efforts of Climate Action Muskoka (CAM), who demanded it. “You see them every Friday on the corner. That momentum really builds,” Boyle said. “While that is an ambitious target, that shouldn’t be seen as an ambitious target. That is what the science tells us we should do. That should be seen as the baseline.” Boyle highlighted the years of effort that went into building the climate strategy passed Dec. 21, which also includes a net-zero emissions target by 2050. He said action is needed to address climate change and took pride in Muskoka’s efforts. “I am very happy despite how confusing the process was - and it was - where we got to and how much support the council has for it and how much support the community has for it,” Boyle said. “It brings strong policy leadership and firm targets which put climate action at the forefront of all decision-making,” CAM spokesperson Melinda Zytaruk said in a press release. The County of Haliburton passed its corporate climate change mitigation plan in September. The County is still working on adaptation and community plans. Boyle complimented the County for getting all its lower-tier townships on board with the overarching plan but said he could not celebrate if Muskoka went for a lower target, given scientific consensus about the need for greater reductions. “I would rather fail at meeting 50 per cent but try, rather than set something lower. In saying that, I’m not criticizing other governments that haven’t set that target. Maybe they could set that target and blow beyond it,” Boyle said. Canada’s formal goal is to reach a 30 per cent reduction of 2005 levels by 2030, though the federal government has said it will exceed that. Ontario’s climate action plan aims to reduce its emissions by 37 per cent by 2030 from 1990 levels. Boyle said Muskoka's goal will require community buy-in, given 98 per cent of the district’s emissions are from community-based sources. “You need buy-in from everybody. So, you really want everyone at the table when you’re developing those reduction strategies,” he said. EH! vice-president Terry Moore said the presentation had takeaways for the organization for when the County begins its community planning. “It’s a lot of encouragement,” Moore said. “Some really good ideas and lessons for us.” Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health’s (WDGPH) roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine will be seeing impacts with pause in production lines at Pfizer’s facility. WDGPH announced on Monday (Jan. 18) that they would be making changes to their vaccine program in response to the recent announcement from Pfizer that some production lines at their facility in Belgium are working to increase their overall capacity. Public Health, in a press release, said that the pausing in production will be felt in Ontario and affect deliveries to Guelph for a short period. WDG Public Health will be continuing to move forward with the vaccine supply that they have on hand, but will be making changes to the vaccination clinic; with rescheduling of appointments unavoidable. Those who will be affected by the pause will be contacted directly. Residents, staff, and essential caregivers in long term care and retirement homes will continue to be prioritized for vaccinations. Individuals who have already received the vaccine will be able to get their second does, although for some it will be delayed. Public Health said that the delay in the second dose will not affect individuals developing immunity to the second dose. “Everyone wants to see vaccines arrive as quickly as possible to the region,” said Dr. Nicola Mercer, Medical Officer of Health and CEO of Wellington-Dufferin- Guelph Public Health. “This delay is only temporary and will allow the manufacturer the ability to provide increased vaccine to Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph in the coming weeks. As an agency, our commitment remains, vaccinating as many people as quickly as possible according to the provincial schedule.” For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine visit www.wdgpublichealth.ca/vaccine. Paula Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shelburne Free Press
CALGARY — An industry analyst says Western Canada's oil producers will likely cope better in the short term with Joe Biden's cancelling of the Keystone XL presidential permit this week than they did with the same move by ex-president Barack Obama in 2015. But Phil Skolnick, a New York-based analyst for Eight Capital, agrees with other observers that the end of the pipeline will stifle new investment and production growth in the Canadian oilpatch for years to come. Shortly after being inaugurated on Wednesday, U.S. President Biden, who was Obama's vice-president, fulfilled a campaign promise and took away the pipeline permit that former president Donald Trump returned to builder TC Energy Corp. in 2019. Skolnick says the difference between now and 2015 is that producers are looking forward to opening two other export pipelines -- Line 3 and Trans Mountain -- that together provide nearly one million barrels a day of export capacity. Richard Masson, an executive fellow and energy expert at the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy, agrees the two remaining pipelines will provide enough capacity to allow oil production to grow into the second half of this decade. But he says uncertainty about capacity beyond that point makes it impossible for producers to make decisions about new multibillion-dollar oilsands projects, which could take five years or more to plan and build. Canadian Energy Pipeline Association CEO Chris Bloomer, meanwhile, says excess space in the oil transport system is vital going forward to provide optionality, energy security and stable pricing for producers. Earlier Thursday, TC Energy Corp. said it planned to eliminate more than 1,000 construction jobs related to its decision to halt work on its Keystone XL pipeline expansion project. The company had previously warned that blocking the project would lead to thousands of job losses. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:TRP) The Canadian Press
FREDERICTON — New Brunswick is at a "tipping point" as health officials try to control the spread of COVID-19, chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell said Thursday. Officials are giving time to see if present health orders are working, she said, adding that they won't hesitate to move the province into another tight lockdown if necessary. "We know that once the doubling time shortens to the point where you're doubling every day, that's exponential growth and we definitely don't want to see that," Russell said. "We definitely are at a tipping point." Russell said the number of new infections in the Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton zones appear stable after officials moved those regions to the red pandemic-alert level. The Campbellton, Bathurst and Miramichi zones will remain at the orange level, she said, adding that her biggest concern is the Edmundston region, which shares a border with Quebec. "The situation in (Edmundston) remains gravely concerning," Russell said. "The outbreak has spread into workplaces and adult residential facilities, which is deeply worrying." Health officials reported 32 new cases Thursday, bringing the province's active reported case count to 324. Of the new cases, 19 were identified in the Edmundston area. New Brunswick's case rate is about 132 cases per 100,000 people. Premier Blaine Higgs said the Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton zones could move back to the orange level sooner rather than later. "If we continue to focus on protecting each other, we could move these zones to orange in a mater of days, not weeks or months," he said. University of Toronto professor Dr. David Fisman said New Brunswick's current situation is similar to where Manitoba was last fall, right before cases rose sharply after months of relatively few infections. “I have been suggesting to people that New Brunswick is on a knife edge right now and can go either way,” Fisman said in an email Thursday. Manitoba, which once had some of the lowest infection rates in the country, quickly became a cautionary tale as cases rose by several hundred each day by mid-November. Fisman said certain factors have preceded big waves in places that previously had a low case count, including the spread of COVID-19 in schools, meat-packing facilities, long-term care homes and among highly mobile young people. Dalhousie University immunology professor David Kelvin said reducing viral transmission among the young is key to controlling the virus, because cases in youth are often asymptomatic. Kelvin said in an email Thursday that strategies such as pop-up rapid testing may help identify hot spots among young people. He added, however, that more research may be needed to see what lies behind the New Brunswick case increases in order to project where trend is headed. “It could be New Brunswick is in the early stages and will continue on the exponential increase in cases,” he said, though there is also the possibility the numbers have plateaued as social events from the holiday season have subsided, he added. Fisman said he found the province's interventions "lagging," adding that shifting between various pandemic-alert levels isn't ideal when faced with a sharp increase in cases. "I think when you are hanging on to de facto COVID-free status, it is worth pulling out the stops and having a short, hard lockdown … the whole enchilada," Fisman said. "It is significant short-term pain, but as Manitoba showed, the cost of allowing things to spiral is far more painful." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. — By Danielle Edwards in Halifax and with files from Michael Tutton. — — — This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
La Sûreté du Québec demande l’aide de la population dans le but de retrouver le conducteur d’une camionnette qui aurait provoqué un accident, dimanche dernier, à Waterville, et qui aurait fui les lieux. Selon le communiqué publié par la SQ, jeudi après-midi, le conducteur recherché aurait eu un comportement dangereux alors qu’il circulait sur la route 147 dans le secteur du golf Milby, à Waterville, en Estrie. D’après le récit des événements fourni par les policiers, les faits se seraient produits vers 10 h 15, dimanche dernier. Le conducteur, au volant d’une camionnette blanche de type «pick up», modèle F150, circulait en direction nord vers Sherbrooke lorsqu’il aurait effectué «un dépassement illégal en empiétant sur la voie en sens inverse». «Cette manœuvre a provoqué la perte de contrôle d’un premier véhicule qui circulait en direction sud et ce dernier est entré en collision avec un second véhicule qui circulait en direction nord», peut-on lire dans le communiqué de la SQ. Les deux conductrices impliquées dans la collision ont subi des blessures qui ont nécessité leur transport à l’hôpital. L’individu en cause pourrait être accusé de conduite dangereuse causant des lésions. Les enquêteurs demandent à toute personne détenant de l’information permettant d’identifier le véhicule ou son conducteur de communiquer avec la Centrale de l’information criminelle au 1 800 659-4264.Ugo Giguère, Initiative de journalisme local, La Presse Canadienne
CALGARY — A Calgary man who killed his daughter and seriously injured her best friend in a drunk-driving crash is appealing his conviction and sentence. Michael Shaun Bomford was found guilty last January of dangerous driving causing death and bodily harm, as well as causing the 2016 crash while impaired. He was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison. Bomford has filed an appeal that claims the sentence was excessive and unreasonable in the circumstances. He also suggests the trial judge erred by ruling hearsay text messages admissible at trial. Bomford is serving his sentence at the Drumheller Institution in Alberta. Court heard Bomford had three times the legal limit of alcohol in his system when he took his 17-year-old daughter, Meghan, and her friend, Kelsey Nelson, to get police checks so that they could become junior ringette coaches. His daughter did not survive the crash, while Nelson suffered a severe brain injury and has no recollection of it. Bomford's trial heard that he lost control of his Jeep while driving 112 km/h in an 80 km/h zone. The Jeep rolled into the median and all three occupants were thrown out of the vehicle. (CTV Calgary) This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2020. The Canadian Press
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa asked the U.S. House on Thursday to dismiss an election contest filed by her Democratic challenger that argues the six-vote race was wrongly decided. Miller-Meeks argued in a legal motion that the Democratic-controlled chamber should not consider Rita Hart's appeal because Hart did not contest the outcome under Iowa law. Longstanding House precedent in prior cases calls for contestants to take that step first, her lawyer Alan Ostergren argued. "Rita Hart should have raised her claims before a neutral panel of Iowa judges rather than before a political process controlled by her own party,” Ostergren said. After a recount, Iowa's canvassing board certified Miller-Meeks as the vote winner in Iowa's 2nd District with a tally of 196,964 to 196,958 — the closest congressional race nationwide in decades. Hart declined to challenge the result under Iowa law, saying it did not allow enough time to conduct additional recount proceedings. The law would have required a panel of judges to rule on challenges within days. Instead, Hart filed a contest in December directly to the House under a 1969 law that spells out how congressional candidates can challenge elections that they believe were marred by serious irregularities. Hart's attorneys claim they have identified 22 votes that were wrongly excluded due to errors, including 18 for Hart that would change the outcome if counted. They also want the House to examine thousands of ballots marked by machines as undervotes and overvotes that weren't visually inspected during the recount. Miller-Meeks' filing agreed that Iowa law would have required a quick legal review but said that “was no excuse” for Hart's decision to skip it altogether. The 22 ballots that Hart claims were wrongly rejected involve interpretations of state law that should have been decided by Iowa judges, the filing said. Additional votes for Miller-Meeks may also have been rejected “in the ordinary course of election administration,” it said. Taking the extreme step of overturning a state-certified election would lead to a “parade of contests” in which losing candidates from the House majority's party will ask for intervention after close races, Ostergren warned. The House decided earlier this month to provisionally swear in Miller-Meeks, pending the outcome of Hart's challenge. The two candidates had been competing to replace seven-term Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack in the southeastern Iowa district that has trended Republican in recent years. The House Administration Committee will determine how to proceed, including whether to investigate or dismiss the case. A spokesman said it would closely review the filings from both campaigns, as required by law. Hart said that she was disappointed by Miller-Meeks' motion, saying at least 22 voters would be disenfranchised without additional proceedings. “It is crucial to me that this bipartisan review by the U.S. House is fair, and I hope our leaders will move swiftly to address this contest and ensure all votes are counted," she said. The Associated Press
A regional chief from the Assembly of First Nations says the practice of birth alerts may result in court action. “I have not out-ruled bringing forward a class action for all birth alerts that have been put in place, for the atrocities and the separation between mothers and children unnecessarily in the past,” said Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart. Hart was speaking at the AFN’S virtual gathering Jan. 19 to discuss An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families. That Act came into law Jan. 1, 2020. Section 14 of the Act ends the practise of birth alerts. It states, in part, “To the extent that providing a prenatal service that promotes preventive care is consistent with what will likely be in the best interests of an Indigenous child after he or she is born, the provision of that service is to be given priority over other services in order to prevent the apprehension of the child at the time of the child’s birth.” Birth alerts, according to the Manitoba Department of Children and Families, “are used as a mechanism to notify hospitals and other child and family services (CFS) agencies of the need for further assessment before a newborn is discharged to the care of a parent who has been assessed as ‘high risk’. Under this practice, a CFS agency issues the birth alert and Manitoba Families is responsible for the distribution of the alert.” Manitoba stopped issuing birth alerts as of July 1, 2020, six months after the federal Act came into force, announcing the practise would be “replaced with preventative and community-based supports for families.” For Ontario, the call came even later. The Ontario Ministry of Children and Women’s Issues made the announcement on July 14, 2020 that it would eliminate the birth alerts effective Oct. 15, 2020. “It has been reported the practice of birth alerts disproportionately affects racialized and marginalized mothers and families,” the Ontario government said in a news release. Ending the use of birth alerts was a recommendation from both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated the legacy of Indian residential schools, and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. “The birth alerts, in my respectful view as a law professor and someone who has worked in this field for a long time as a lawyer, they have never been legal in terms of taking your private information and pasting it into an entire healthcare system,” said Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who also spoke at the AFN virtual conference. She called birth alerts “one of the most traumatic, toxic, harmful experiences” a mother could have with her newborn baby ripped away from her. Turpel-Lafond pointed out that that experience with the healthcare system followed the mother, who often times was reluctant to seek health care and when she did she experienced discrimination because the birth alert was on her file. “I do see for … Indigenous women, even by the time they’re grandparents, their kids have (been) brought up, they still feel they cannot access needed health care and they are treated disrespectfully in the health care system. That is discrimination, the stain of discrimination,” she said. Turpel-Lafond said she is aware of some provinces and territories claiming they are phasing out birth alerts, but have not as of yet, which she called “unconscionable.” Indiginews reported on Jan. 15 that British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon officially cancelled the practice of birth alerts in 2019, but Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Quebec continue the practice of birth alerts. Neither Hart nor Turpel-Lafond offered any suggestions for remedies should a class action go ahead. However, Turpel-Lafond said there has to be consequences “because harm has been done.” Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
The elephants are counted using a computer algorithm trained to identify the creatures against a variety of backdrops.View on euronews
Some trails in Vancouver's Stanley Park have been shut down a second time after more reports of coyotes nipping at joggers. Park rangers have again closed trails near Brockton Oval — the same area restricted earlier this month — as officials investigate, according to the Vancouver Park Board. B.C. Conservation Officer Service Sgt. Simon Gravel said unlike previous incidents where people were actually bitten, no one has suffered injuries in the latest incidents. "We received multiple reports, the most recent yesterday, of very close encounters. We call them a near miss but there was no human injury," he said. "Those coyotes are chasing humans and seeking food. Every indication is that they have been fed and have learned that behaviour." Two coyotes were captured and killed by conservation officers within the past two weeks. Gravel said officials are certain they found the coyotes that had bitten people. People approached by a coyote are advised to make themselves appear as large as possible by waving arms, yelling and staying in place. Coyote sightings can be reported to 311.
The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs announced that snowmobiling will still allowed the current rules of the province-wide shutdown. The OFSC cited a section of the Stay-at-Home Order which states: “The following outdoor recreational amenities may open if they are in compliance with subsection (3) with the permitted uses listed in subsection 16 as ‘snowmobile, cross country ski, dog sledding, ice skating and snow shoe trails.’” OFSC trails will remain open as they are considered a “permitted recreational activity, allowable across the province, provided the participants comply with all other provincial and local public health unit directives.” Trail grooming operations are also allowed in the province. While trails are open, snowmobilers are limited as to which trails they can use. Feeder trails between public health regions will be closed to avoid having sledders moving between regions.In addition, you should only be rid-ing with those in your household in groups of five or less and only ride trails if they are in a yellow or green availability. The OFSC reminded riders that the information they provided refers only to riding the trails – not travelling with your trailer to to the trails, so questions about getting to the trails and travel restrictions should be directed to local law enforcement agencies such as municipalities and public health units across Ontario. Anyone found to be trailering a snowmobile to a starting point in another health district may find themselves subject to a fine. The Alliston Snowmobile Club hasn’t had a lot of luck getting on the trails this year. While other regions have open trails, the Alliston system still lacks enough snow so the tails have not been open and th Club’s website is requesting people stay off the trails until there is enough snow for a good base so they can be properly groomed Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin by Sir Frederick Banting and his assistant Charles Best. While the discovery of insulin has saved the lives of millions of people afflicted with diabetes, it is not a cure. Diabetes continues to take the lives of Canadi-ans and the rate of dia-betes is alarming. One in three Canadians are living with, or are at risk of developing diabetes. Currently, youth around 20 years-old have a 50 per cent chance of being diagnose with Type 2 dia-betes in their lifetime. The current COVID-19 pandemic is hindering care for some people with diabetes and placing people with the disease at three-times higher risk of dying from the virus if contracted. Diabetes Canada is launching a new fund-raising and awareness campaign called, “We Can’t Wait Another 100 Years to End Diabetes.”“ The discovery of insu-lin in Canada ranks among the leading achievements of medical research,” said Laura Syron, President and CEO of Diabetes Canada. “Although insulin has enabled an incredible change in life expectancy and quality of life for millions of people around the world, it isn’t a cure. It is a treatment. More than ever, the millions of Canadians with or at risk of diabetes need our support. We can’t wait another 100 years and we hope Canadians will support us and help to end diabetes.” Beginning in January 2021, the year long campaign will recognize the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize-winning scientific achievement by Sir Frederick Banting, Charles Best, and fellow scientists and co-discoveres of insulin, JJR Macleod and James Collip. While celebrating the milestone, the campaign aims to remind Canadians about the serious and sometimes deadly consequences of the disease which can lead to other chronic illnesses includ-ing blindness, heart attack and stroke, amputation and kidney failure. Through the campaign, Diabetes Canada will engage in a national conversation about the disease. Although this is the anniversary of an incredible discovery, Diabetes Canada says “insulin is not enough. It is the starting line, not the finish line for diabetes.” New Tecumseth has a special connection to Sir Frederick Banting. He was born on a farm in Alliston in 1891 and attended high school in the Town before leaving to attend school at the University of Toronto.T he Banting Homestead Heritage Park preserves this historic site. Diabetes Canada was started by Charles Best in 1940, and is dedicated to supporting people living with diabetes. None Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has moved quickly to remove a number of senior officials aligned with former President Donald Trump from the Voice of America and the agency that oversees all U.S.-funded international broadcasting. The actions address fears that the U.S. Agency for Global Media was being turned into a pro-Trump propaganda outlet. The agency announced Thursday that VOA’s director and his deputy had been removed from their positions and that the head of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting had resigned. The moves come just a day after President Joe Biden was sworn in and demanded the resignation of Trump’s hand-picked CEO of USAGM, Michael Pack. The agency said in a statement that VOA director Robert Reilly had been fired just weeks after having taken the job. He had been harshly criticized just last week for demoting a VOA White House correspondent who tried to ask former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a question after a town hall event. Two agency officials familiar with the matter said Reilly and his deputy, Elizabeth Robbins, were escorted from VOA's headquarters by security guards. The officials were not authorized to discuss personnel matters and spoke on condition of anonymity. In addition, Jeffrey Shapiro, who was just recently appointed to run Cuba-focused broadcasters Radio and TV Marti, resigned at the request of the new administration, they said. Pack, who appointed all three of those terminated on Thursday, resigned just hours after Biden was inaugurated. Soon after his resignation, the Biden White House announced that a veteran VOA journalist, Kelu Chao, would head USAGM on an interim basis. Pack created a furor when he took over the agency last year and fired the boards of all the outlets under his control along with the leadership of the individual broadcast networks. The actions were criticized as threatening the broadcasters’ prized editorial independence. The moves raised fears that Pack, a conservative filmmaker and former associate of Trump’s onetime political strategist Steve Bannon, intended to turn venerable U.S. media outlets into pro-Trump propaganda machines. His further actions did little to ease those concerns. Indeed, just on Tuesday he appointed new conservative members to the boards of Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks. Biden had been expected to make major changes to the agency’s structure and management, and Pack’s early departure signalled that those would be coming sooner rather than later. Though many presidential appointees resign when a new administration comes in, Pack was not required to do so. His three-year position was created by Congress and was not limited by the length of a particular administration. VOA was founded during World War II and its congressional charter requires it to present independent news and information to international audiences. Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
Officials in Leamington say they hope the purchase of school land will bring badly needed affordable housing to the region, according to a news release on Wednesday. The use of the two parcels of property — and whether the existing school buildings will stay — has yet to be determined but the municipality said the purchase was made to encourage affordable housing and support "other identified strategic long-term goals." "Not every community has an opportunity like this one to see the beginning of a resolution to the housing crisis that is a national problem, not just ours," said Mayor Hilda MacDonald. She said future development will create "better housing opportunities for Leamington residents and for newcomers who have been unable to settle here due to the lack of affordable properties." The land is located at 125 Talbot St. W. (former site of Leamington District Secondary School) and 134 Mill St. (former site of Mill Street Public School). The municipality said it will provide more details as plans develop. More from CBC Windsor
For 17-year-old Ethan Turpin, a high school student and aspiring welder, co-op has been a pandemic saving grace. “He came home with a sense of confidence, of achievement, and things that he wouldn't be able to get anywhere else because he's not allowed to go anywhere,” said Linda Stenhouse, his grandmother. Ethan is enrolled in a co-operative education program at Waterdown District High School, completing his placement at Flamboro Technical Services, a fabrication and millwrighting company. Stenhouse said he has been invited back for another term. “He went from failing grades and ended up being an honour student,” she said. “We likened it to the fact that he was in the co-op program.” The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) says about half of its students are able to continue with co-op placements — both in person and virtual — amid a provincewide stay-at-home order announced by the Ontario government on Jan. 12. The board has been offering in-person co-op placements since Oct. 21, “after a pause to ensure that student safety was considered, and appropriate protocols were in place,” HWDSB spokesperson Shawn McKillop said in an email to The Spectator. In cases where an in-person placement is not possible, staff will determine whether or not the student can continue virtually or present “alternate learning opportunities” in order to meet curriculum expectations. “There are some community placements that have been unable to place a student given the recent provincial state of emergency stay-at-home order,” he said. “Horse-crazy” Meghan Wahl said she found out last week she would not be going back to her placement at Halton Equine Veterinary Services, where she cleaned stalls, filled water buckets and observed procedures. “That was kind of hard because Meg had to say bye to everyone, like, then,” her mother, Nicolle Wahl, said. Meghan was given the “green light” to begin a co-op placement at the horse vet in October. “It was the vet part, the technical, hands-on seeing treatments and stuff, that was really interesting,” she said. Her mother said masking and physical distancing — where possible — were required at the vet clinic. “The fact that it was in a medical setting was the reason why both my husband and I felt comfortable with sending Meg,” she said. “That definitely made us feel reassured that she was in a safe environment.” Abbie Boyko’s son, a grade 12 student with the HWDSB, landed a part-time job at his co-op placement, the auto department at the Canadian Tire on Barton Street, before his placement ended when the province further tightened restrictions. “It's very disappointing because it's a great opportunity for students,” Boyko said. “He's just lucky that he did well in his co-op that they've hired him on.” She said co-op is valuable for high school students, particularly those who are graduating. “Not every child is going to go on to college or university, they're going to be out in the (workforce),” she said. Students in the Catholic board, which paused in-person co-ops after winter break to “do some consulting,” were offered the option to go back to in-person placements last week after feedback from co-op teachers. “They felt it was very important to continue with that provision, should the parents and the students still want it,” said Sandie Pizzuti, superintendent of education for the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board (HWCDSB). The board has added more requirements, including face shields, a revised consent form, repeated COVID-19 training and additional workplace evaluation. The board expects to have approximately 730 students in co-op this school year — about two-thirds of last year’s enrolment. Pizzuti said she understands the concerns some families may have over the decision to return to in-person placements. “But what we needed to do was listen to what our co-op teachers were telling us based on student voice and student input," she said. “And we felt that for those who really wanted to get back to their workplace — and in the case where we felt their workplace was very, very safe — that we would still provide the opportunity because we want them to have a very meaningful, relevant experience.” Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
Une pétition pour soutenir les ainés Si la Covid-19 frappe particulièrement fort chez les ainés, ces derniers font aussi partie des victimes collatérales de la pandémie. En effet, les 65 ans et plus, qui forment 25 % de la population du Bas-Saint-Laurent, souffrent de l’isolement et de la précarité financière induits par les périodes de confinement. Ce jeudi, trois organismes se sont joints aux deux députés fédéraux Maxime Blanchette-Joncas et Kristina Michaud pour lancer une pétition demandant au gouvernement fédéral d’assurer un meilleur soutien aux personnes âgées. Car si Ottawa n’a pas été avare d’aides financières en tout genre dans la dernière année, les ainés font figure de grands oubliés : ils n’ont eu droit qu’à une aide ponctuelle de 500 $ en mars 2020, loin des milliards dépensés en PCU… Cette différence de traitement alimente un « profond sentiment d’injustice », selon M. Blanchette-Joncas, d’autant plus que les personnes âgées doivent composer avec des frais supplémentaires, qu’il s’agisse d’inflation ou de coûts de livraison. Augmenter le revenu des ainés est donc une priorité, ainsi que le martèle le président régional du Réseau FADOQ Gilles Noël : « Nous demandons que le gouvernement mette en œuvre sa promesse électorale faite lors de l’élection de 2019 en rehaussant minimalement de 10% le montant des prestations de la Sécurité de la vieillesse. » Le bénévolat en déroute Du côté de la Table de concertation des ainés du Bas-Saint-Laurent, on souligne l’urgence de briser l’isolement des 65 ans et plus. « Le gouvernement du Canada doit innover afin de mettre en place un réseau d’aide et de soutien direct aux ainés », explique la vice-présidente Kathleen Bouffard. Il devient difficile de trouver des bénévoles (la majorité ayant plus de 70 ans) pour faire des livraisons ou accompagner quelqu’un devant se rendre à l’hôpital pour passer des examens, et il faudrait donc former des travailleurs de milieu pour aller à la rencontre des personnes vivant seules, qui se sentent de plus en plus abandonnées. De son côté, le président du Carrefour 50 + Richard Rancourt alerte sur la situation des organismes qui font vivre les villages : ceux-ci sont portés à bout de bras par des retraités, et leurs revenus s’effondrent suite à la baisse de leur membership. M. Rancourt aimerait que le gouvernement pense à implanter des mesures de compensation pour assumer les coûts fixes, comme cela a été fait dans d’autres secteurs. La remise en route post-pandémie ne se fera pas d’elle-même, ajoute-t-il : « La culture de la peur s’est installée, il va falloir remotiver tout l’engagement bénévole de nos ainés. » Il sera alors probablement nécessaire d’avoir recours à des professionnels en animation, ce qui aura un coût. Internet haute vitesse et transferts en santé exigées Deux autres revendications plus universelles permettraient également d’améliorer le sort des ainés : tout d’abord, l’amélioration de la connexion au réseau internet haute vitesse, qui pourrait permettre de reconnecter les personnes seules au reste du monde si elles sont en mesure d’utiliser les outils web. Le Bas-Saint-Laurent est la région la moins bien branchée au Québec, souligne le député Blanchette-Joncas. La pétition demande également d’indexer les transferts en santé de 6 %. L’autre députée bloquiste de la région, Kristina Michaud, rappelle que pour « chaque [tranche de] 100 $ dépensé[e] par le gouvernement fédéral depuis le début de la pandémie, seulement 33 cents sont allés dans le réseau de la santé du Québec. » La pétition sera déposée à la Chambre des communes si elle atteint plus de 500 signatures d’ici le 20 mars.Rémy Bourdillon, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Mouton Noir
Premier François Legault says if the federal government doesn't want to ban non-essential flights then it should force those returning home from vacation to quarantine in a hotel, at their own expense, for two weeks. At a news conference Thursday, Legault said cracking down on travel abroad will help reduce the possibility of bringing new, more infectious variants of the coronavirus back to the province from resorts where people congregate from all over the world. The current system of checking up on people with automated calls simply isn't enough, he said, raising concern March break will lead to another surge in cases. "Right now, the quarantine for these people is not a big enough guarantee for the protection of Quebecers," the premier said. Legault said hotel quarantining worked in New Zealand and could be effective here. He said there is plenty of room in hotels, and that the RCMP or Quebec provincial police could help enforce the quarantine. The daily number of infections has been on the decline in Quebec for the past 10 days, though Legault said it's too early to lift restrictions, given that hospitalizations remain high, at just under 1,500. Legault is scheduled to speak with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later Thursday. Earlier this week, Trudeau urged Canadians travelling for pleasure to cancel their plans but said there are limits to what Ottawa can do to stop them, given constitutional guarantees on the freedom of movement. "Our measures have been very strong, but we're always open to strengthening them as necessary," Trudeau said, when asked if the government would consider a ban on international travel. "We're always looking at various measures as they are effective elsewhere in the world."