With Matt di Nicolantonio.
With Matt di Nicolantonio.
WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Venezuela's opposition is discussing scaling back the interim government of opposition leader Juan Guaido that has won diplomatic recognition by dozens of countries that disavowed President Nicolas Maduro, nine legislators told Reuters. Guaido, the leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled parliament, in 2019 called Maduro a usurper following his disputed re-election and assumed a parallel presidency based on articles of the constitution that make the head of the National Assembly next in line to rule the country. Guaido's lawmaker allies have said they will continue to insist that they are legitimate parliamentarians after Jan. 5, arguing that their constitutional mandate remains intact because Sunday's vote is rigged.
As Vopak Development Canada’s proposed fuel storage facility and export terminal near Prince Rupert, B.C., enters its final public comment period, environmental groups say the project fails to address risks associated with marine and rail transport. If approved, the Vopak Pacific Canada facility would bring up to 240 rail cars carrying fuels like diesel, propane, methanol and gasoline through northwest B.C. every day. The fuels would be shipped on the CN rail network from sources in B.C. and Alberta to Ridley Island, an industrial site near Prince Rupert. The terminal would also bring up to 171 tankers to the Skeena River estuary annually. “Vopak brings the risk of a spill of highly toxic diesel oil and gasoline from train derailments, tanker accidents and spills at the offloading facility,” Greg Knox, executive director of SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, told The Narwhal. “Such spills are very difficult to clean up once they enter the river or marine environment.” Retired biologist Dawn Remington with Friends of Morice-Bulkley said the project poses a risk to communities along fuel transportation routes and not enough information about how these communities will be protected has been made available to the public. “We’re going to be a corridor for hazardous petroleum products. And if this is the case, I want it to be done safely,” Remington told The Narwhal, adding her concerns aren’t about trying to stop the project. Remington said the Vopak project presents an opportunity to address the risks of rail transportation associated with several projects in the region, including another proposed fuel export facility and one that’s already under construction. Vopak recently submitted its application for an environmental assessment certificate along with its report on the project’s potential environmental impacts to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. The public can now review and comment on those documents until Dec. 30. During the initial public comment period in 2018, members of the public and environmental groups asked that increased rail traffic associated with the Vopak project be included in the facility’s review. And during the First Nations consultation process, each of the six nations involved flagged increased rail traffic as an important issue that should be addressed as part of the environmental assessment. The B.C. Environmental Assessment Office said it would not include rail traffic in the assessment, deferring to Transport Canada, the federal agency responsible for regulating the rail network. “Concerns of potential spills from train derailments are not being assessed in the environmental assessment and are being completely ignored by CN, Vopak and the provincial and federal governments despite strong public concern,” Knox said. CN’s rail accidents have been steadily increasing, according to a 2019 Transportation Safety Board of Canada report. Last year, there were 169 accidents involving dangerous goods, like the ones that would be shipped to the Vopak facility. Eight of those accidents resulted in spills, twice as many as the previous year. In March, a train carrying coal and propane derailed near an elementary school east of Prince George, B.C., spilling coal into a creek and causing an emergency evacuation of the school. Other derailments in the region over the past few years have resulted in coal and wood pellets spilling into creeks and rivers. Remington has been working with communities along the rail corridor in northwest B.C. to formally request Transport Canada conduct a risk assessment of rail traffic in the region. Even though the potential for a rail accident resulting in an explosion or deadly spill is low, Remington worries a single event could have catastrophic effects. Propane — also referred to as liquified petroleum gas — is a highly-combustible fossil fuel captured as a by-product of fracking for natural gas. More propane travelling through the region means more risk, she said. “Risk is the probability of something happening times the severity of the consequences if it happens,” she explained. “So even if the probability is low, the consequences are enormous.” She stressed that without knowing the risks, the communities along the rail corridor aren’t equipped to deal with an emergency should one arise. “How do you evacuate this entire town if people have no idea?” The concern is shared along the transportation corridor, even in towns hundreds of kilometres from the proposed Vopak facility. In a recent public comment on the project, Jeanette Weir, from Hazelton, B.C., said the threat the export terminal poses to communities along rail lines has effectively been overlooked. “This project is completely ignoring the communities through which an enormous increase of rail transport of explosive dangerous goods is proposed. It should not be evaluated for the sole risks at the Prince Rupert storage facility because it will affect all of us living along the rail line.” In a document provided to First Nations outlining the potential effects of increased rail traffic, Vopak said the project would contribute to an incremental increase in the risks associated with rail transportation, including moose strikes, collisions and derailments. It also stressed that all regulations related to rail safety fall under the jurisdiction of Transport Canada. Public requests that the environmental impacts of marine traffic be included in the projects assessment were also denied by the Environmental Assessment Office, leading to lingering concerns the project will harm marine ecosystems. The proposed facility would include a number of holding tanks for fuel and a marine berth where tankers would be filled over 40-hour periods. Vopak would only be responsible for products during storage, unloading and loading. For nearly 50 years, a now-shuttered pulp mill near Ridley Island discharged contaminated materials into the marine environment, much of which is now sequestered in a layer of sediment on the ocean floor — including where Vopak would provide mooring for tankers. Although Vopak scrapped its initial plan to dredge up the contaminated sediment to make way for a permanent jetty, many worry the current plan to leave sediment — which contains highly toxic dioxins and furans as well as copper and arsenic — undisturbed is unrealistic. According to Luanne Roth, north coast campaigner for the T Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, the new plan was submitted after the initial public comment period, so any public concerns about the redesign have yet to be addressed. “Before, with the big dredge, all of that contaminated sediment would have been gone from the area,” she said. Now the issue is what happens to the sediment when tankers are mooring. “When the boats are docked, they’re docked by really powerful tugs, so there’s going to be really powerful propeller wash,” she said. The effects of propeller wash, the movement of water by ships’ engines, on the sediment have not been studied for the Vopak project, but they were when the Pacific Northwest LNG terminal was on the books for neighbouring Lelu Island. Roth said those studies estimated five centimetres of sediment would be resuspended every day. All of that toxic sediment would then be distributed by tides and currents within the surrounding marine ecosystem. Opposite Lelu Island, and within sight of the proposed Vopak project, is Flora Bank, which has been noted as a critical juvenile salmon habitat. Given the dramatic declines in Skeena salmon populations, the effects could be felt throughout the entire Skeena watershed. Roth said there may be solutions to the problem, but the absence of any mention of the effects of propeller wash in Vopak’s environmental effects evaluation is troubling, especially because the chemicals are known to have negative effects on human health, including increased risk of autism, cancer and diabetes. “There’s a tremendous amount of food gathering in the Skeena estuary, so it’s a really big concern,” she said. In an emailed statement, Vopak communications director, Stefany Cortes, told the Narwhal “the tugboat propulsion is focused higher in the water column and, therefore, is not expected to resuspend sediment during mooring.” Roth also raised concerns about the increased marine traffic and the potential for a catastrophic spill. As The Narwhal previously reported, many of Prince Rupert’s designated anchorages are situated in water that lies atop a thin layer of mud and sediment on smooth rock. In high winds — very common during fall and winter — a ship can drag its anchor and potentially end up smashing against coastal rocks. Even just one ship spilling its fuel, not to mention its cargo of fuel, would have catastrophic effects on the marine ecosystem. According to a T Buck Suzuki study, between 2004 and 2017, the Prince Rupert port had three times as many anchor-dragging incidents as the Port of Vancouver despite having 86 per cent less vessels. This works out to 2,360 per cent more incidents per visit. Roth said there were 29 incidents in Prince Rupert last winter. Earlier this year, T Buck Suzuki commissioned an independent report to assess the safety risks associated with anchoring in the Prince Rupert area. Prepared by Ivan Todorov, a master mariner and former senior officer on oil tankers, the report noted a need to ensure that “loading be delayed when storm/hurricane warnings have been issued in order to limit the need for anchoring laden tankers in poor holding ground.” Todorov added that the Vopak project should be subject to a formal risk assessment of grounding and collision incidents. The Prince Rupert Port Authority, which is responsible for federal lands and waters in the area and is the coordinator of the environmental assessment for the proposed project, recently commissioned an independent navigational risk assessment. But when The Narwhal asked to review the document, the port said it would not make the report available to the public. Port communications director Monika Cȏté told The Narwhal in an emailed statement that the port authority has strict policies and procedures in place for the movement and anchorage of ships coming and going from the Ridley Island Propane Export Terminal, of which Vopak is part owner, and similar policies and procedures would be implemented for the proposed facility. Those procedures include port-assigned pilots and tugboat assistance. “Procedures vary depending on vessel, cargo and terminal they are going to, and what is required to mitigate navigational risk,” she wrote. “Vopak-specific procedures will be determined through a multi-agency effort that includes vessel simulation trials.” She said it is uncommon for ships to remain at anchorage once they’re loaded. “In the very rare circumstance that a loaded vessel would move to anchorage, the tug would remain in attendance with the vessel while it is at anchor,” she wrote. Roth said if the port is not able to prevent fully loaded ships from anchoring during storm events, Vopak could contractually refuse to fill a tanker if extreme weather was in the forecast. “That’s something we’d really like them to address,” she said. In the new year, Vopak Development Canada will compile all of the comments received during the public comment period and submit them to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. The office will then consult with the province, the port authority, local First Nations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada and other stakeholders to resolve any outstanding issues. If no red flags are identified, the stakeholders will sign off on the project and a final decision will be made by provincial ministers. Vopak projects it will start construction in late 2021.Matt Simmons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
Homelessness in Hythe and the possibility of establishing a shelter in the village have become hot topics in the wake of this year’s economic downturn. The Village of Hythe is requesting feedback ahead of proposed virtual town hall to discuss the issue. “This is the first time to my knowledge that we’ve really experienced the issue, so we’re looking at options for how to deal with it,” said mayor Brian Peterson. No date has yet been set for a virtual meeting, said Leona Hanson, village chief administrative officer. Peterson said he doesn’t believe homelessness is widespread in Hythe, but it poses a great problem to those directly affected. “It’s a small-scale problem, but with large impacts to individuals,” he said. Peterson said he doesn’t believe the number of homeless residents exceeds a half dozen. There is a combination of causes of local housing instability; COVID, falling oil prices and their impact on the economy, he said. The former 7 Lakes Motel near Tags had provided long-term housing for many people and its closure earlier this year has contributed to the issue. Some of the former residents have found other accommodations, but others haven’t, Peterson said. Though rumours have been circulating on social media that the former motel will be re-purposed as a homeless shelter, nothing concrete has been received by the village, said Peterson. A number of concerned citizens have begun discussing how to address homelessness in Hythe, and the idea of re-purposing the motel has been suggested, he said. The group isn’t yet well-established and it hasn’t yet proposed a plan, Peterson said. If the former motel were to be converted into a shelter the village would need to approve that re-purposing through a development permit process, he said. Village CAO Hanson is working on a potential virtual town hall before a plan is advanced, Peterson said, adding the village isn’t considering funding a facility because it lacks the resources. Peterson said there’ve been no applications for a development permit yet, but the process has typically taken months. Homelessness is an urgent issue, but he said the process needs to ensure a good plan for a shelter is in place. “You need to do it right, and ask, ‘Is it the right place?’” Peterson said. “The shelter is a basic concept, but I need a lot more information than that.” He said he’s heard concerns from residents about having a shelter in the community, including whether the village can handle issues often associated with homelessness, mental health and addictions. “Those are valid concerns, and how do you deal with that and what resources are available?” Peterson said. “We certainly don’t have those resources available here today.” That said, some Hythe residents are already struggling with housing instability and mental health or addictions and Peterson said he’s not aware of anyone moving to Hythe to use the shelter. Other residents have expressed concerns about the rising crime they perceive would come with a shelter. Peterson said RCMP response times in Hythe are already an issue. “Adding extra stress to the system is not a good thing,” he said. Before the town hall, feedback is being accepted at 780-356-3888 or email@example.com and residents can also express interest in attending the meeting by using that email address.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
EDMONTON — Capt. James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise, in violation of Starfleet’s Prime Directive, is questioning the intelligence of Alberta-based life forms over their COVID-19 contact tracing app.William Shatner, the Canadian who played the iconic commander in "Star Trek" has taken to Twitter to urge Alberta use the federal app.Shatner writes, “you just need to get Alberta on board,” adding that the province cannot go its own way in a world interconnected by travel.Shatner writes Alberta’s approach is, “bizarre and dangerous,” but also says “what do I know? I’m just an actor.”Premier Jason Kenney’s government has avoided signing onto the federal app, saying it’s not as effective because Alberta’s app is connected to contact tracing rather than simply delivering notifications of close contacts.Alberta’s app has tracked down just a handful of cases in six months, but the government says the program will be more effective as more people sign on.The Prime Directive in "Star Trek" was a top-down direction to avoid interference in alien cultures -- a directive the two-fisted Kirk and crew repeatedly violated as they beamed up, beamed down and otherwise finger-wagged their way through the galaxy on a five-year mission.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — Refugee advocates are criticizing Canada's decision to resume deportations before the country irons out the details of a program to grant permanent residency to asylum-seekers who have been working in the health-care system during the COVID-19 pandemic. Frantz Andre, who advocates on behalf of asylum seekers, says the decision has heightened the feelings of insecurity among the essential workers dubbed "guardian angels" by Quebec Premier Francois Legault. The Canada Border Services Agency confirmed it resumed deportations as of Nov. 30, after halting most removals in March due to the pandemic. The agency clarified that it would not be deporting people who are likely to qualify for permanent residency under a federal program announced in August to grant a path to residency for people working in the health-care sector or in long-term care or assisted living facilities. "The CBSA would like to clarify that the agency will not be removing those who may be eligible to qualify for permanent residency under the guardian angels public policy," the agency wrote in an email Tuesday. Advocates estimate that hundreds of asylum-seekers have been working in long-term care homes in Quebec, which bore the brunt of the first wave of COVID-19 this spring. Andre notes that the final details of the program have yet to be made public, leading many of the so-called guardian angels to fear they may yet be deported. "So, we’re starting (deportations) three weeks before Christmas, when the program and the details of this special program for the asylum-seekers or orderlies cannot be announced," he said. "I call this criminal. This is not right." Andre said the initial elation over the announcement of the program has faded, leaving many asylum-seekers feeling fearful and unsure if they'll qualify. He says some workers who could have been eligible have given up and decided to return home; others have contemplated suicide. Wilner Cayo, the president of a group that advocates for asylum-seekers and visible minorities, notes that even asylum-seekers working in long-term care — the exact group targeted by the program — are not sure they'll qualify because there are other criteria to meet, including having been issued a work permit and having a certain amount of experience and hours worked. He said the uncertainty is causing people "enormous anxiety." "When they take such a long time and the rules are not clear, we don’t know what to expect," he said in a phone interview. Quebec has a large degree of control over immigration criteria for the province, and it will select the applicants who qualify under the federal program and wish to reside in Quebec. In an email, a spokesperson for the Quebec Immigration Department said the program is expected to come into effect over the winter, and the details of how it will apply in Quebec will be announced "shortly." Cayo said the program also does not address the situation of other essential workers, including security guards and cleaning staff in care homes, truck drivers and those working in food production. "These people sacrificed for Quebec, sacrificed for Canada," he said. "When many people were staying home, these people went out to work." Their contribution has shown they are not a burden to Canada, but a gift, he added. Andre believes the deportation order should be suspended until it becomes clear who exactly is eligible for the guardian angels program. But in his opinion, all the asylum-seekers who have been in the country since the pandemic began deserve to stay. "I think they all have contributed economically, to saving lives, and Canada is better thanks to these people," he said. In its email, the CBSA defended its decision to deport, noting that the "timely removal of failed claimants plays a critical role in supporting the integrity of Canada’s asylum system." Removals to some regions remain suspended, including the Gaza Strip, Syria, Mali, Venezuela, Haiti, Afghanistan and Iraq. The agency also said the volume of deportations is expected to be reduced for some time, and that claimants will continue to have access to all the appeals and recourses available under the law. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020 Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
President Donald Trump's threat to veto a defense bill if it does not repeal legal protections for social media companies faced stiff bipartisan opposition on Wednesday, setting the stage for a confrontation with lawmakers scrambling to pass the massive bill by year-end. Unusually, members of Trump's Republican Party broke from the president to join Democrats in objecting to his threat to veto the annual National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, a $740 billion annual bill setting policy for the Pentagon, if it does not include a measure eliminating a federal law - known as Section 230 - protecting tech companies such as Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc. Lawmakers announced on Wednesday that congressional negotiators had completed the conference report on the fiscal year 2021 NDAA, a compromise between separate versions of the bill passed earlier this year by the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-majority House of Representatives.
NEW YORK — Christmas is still a few weeks away, but Mariah Carey is already orchestrating her dinner menu.“I do my father’s linguini with white clam sauce every Christmas Eve,” says the legendary songstress. “Then we do that traditional, more of a Southern-style Christmas dinner.”But is the woman known for her grandeur nearly as much as her 19 No. 1 hits really going to sweat over a hot stove?“I do so with the help of several sous-chefs,” Carey said with a laugh, before noting like many families around the world, she’ll scale back Christmas slightly due to the coronavirus pandemic. “I am going to have to have maybe one person helping me and then we’ll figure it out. We’re making it through the holidays.”Helping others get in the holiday spirit is part of the legacy of her iconic holiday tune, “All I Want For Christmas is You.” But the Christmas chanteuse will soon gift the world with a new present: the Apple TV+ event “Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special.” Carey hopes to provide some Christmas cheer during a time some may need it more than ever.“(Apple TV+) was able to help realize this dream of really doing something special and spectacular and not having … a regular concert,” said Carey. “During COVID, people made magic happen with this … it feels like another very big, historic kind of a moment.”After “All I Want for Christmas” historically hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 during its 25th anniversary last year, Carey says the idea of a special was sparked just a couple of months later.Starring Carey and narrated by actor-comedian Tiffany Haddish, the production centres around a holiday cheer crisis, with Santa’s friend Mariah coming to save the day. Premiering Friday, performers include Ariana Grande, Snoop Dogg, Misty Copeland, Jennifer Hudson, Billy Eichner and more. Carey's nine-year-old twins, son Moroccan and daughter Monroe, also join in the festivities.“Magical Christmas Special” is another example of diverse, family-friendly holiday programming that hasn’t always been allotted by Hollywood. But productions like this, along with others such as the John Legend-produced “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey,” signals a promising shift. It’s of particular significance this year after the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery sparked global social justice protests, attempting to force America to again reckon with its racist history.“Representation was really not there very much growing up, and I think that contributed to the way that I felt because I always loved Christmas,” 50-year-old Carey said. “As a kid, if I had to select one holiday, of course I’m going with Christmas. So, I tried to make it inclusive and I think everybody involved with the project did.”If the “Magical Christmas Special” wasn’t benevolent enough, the five-time Grammy winner is also releasing a companion soundtrack with new song interpretations. And while the pandemic has halted a number of projects, 2020 has been busy for Carey: In September she released her candid memoir “The Meaning of Mariah Carey,” which debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times list of non-fiction bestsellers. And later that week she dropped “The Rarities,” an album filled with unreleased songs and B-side cuts.Carey said though she's grateful for her awesome year, she has one Christmas wish — especially during a time when political partisanship in America is as fractured as anyone can remember.“I would hope that we can feel less divided. It’s really sad, but it’s not new — it’s just more in people’s face right now,” said Carey. “All I can do in my own little way is do what I’m doing right now with music and specifically with this Christmas special, because … it’s a gift to me. I’m thankful this has happened — this is probably the biggest gift I’ve had for Christmas in years.”_____Follow Associated Press entertainment journalist Gary Gerard Hamilton at twitter.com/GaryGHamiltonGary Gerard Hamilton, The Associated Press
As the death toll from illicit drug overdoses continues to mount unabated in B.C., advocates want more specialized services and harm reduction measures to help protect young people. Another 162 fatalities occurred in October due to toxic drug supply, for a total of 1,386 deaths in 2020, according to the BC Coroners Service's most recent figures. Of those killed this year by the overdose crisis, 19 per cent, or 269 deaths, were young people aged 29 years old or younger, with 14 of the dead under the age of 19, the coroners service figures show. Kali Sedgemore, a youth outreach worker and peer harm reduction advocate in Vancouver, said the ongoing public health emergency is in its fifth year, and COVID-19 is only exacerbating the harms. “We don’t even have time to grieve because we know we will hear about another (death) the next day,” Sedgemore said. The dangers of the toxic illicit drug supply are being compounded as people following pandemic protocols use illicit drugs alone and as harm reduction services have been reduced, or wait times have increased at overdose prevention sites (OPS) during the pandemic, Sedgemore added. Youth do not make up the largest number of fatalities, but all overdose deaths are largely unnecessary and preventable, Sedgemore said. In 2020, 70 per cent of those who have died from the toxic drug supply fall between the ages of 30 and 59, and males account for 80 per cent of the deaths to date. Most overdose fatalities involved people dying alone indoors. One immediate way to reduce the harms from toxic illicit drugs to youth is to provide harm reduction and OPS services dedicated strictly to their demographic, Sedgemore said. “Youth are vulnerable to manipulation by adults,” Sedgemore said, adding young people are at risk of being exploited sexually or for money or other reasons. Specialized harm reduction services are already hard to come by in urban areas such as Vancouver but are even more scarce in smaller communities and rural areas, Sedgemore said, noting they originally came from a small community from the northern part of Vancouver Island. Plus, young people — especially those under the age of 18 — are often deterred from using harm reduction services or supplies by providers due to their age, or can come under increased scrutiny from staff at these locations, they said. Both of these situations make youth uncomfortable, Sedgemore said. It’s also critical that medical professionals, social workers or other service providers don’t push youth into treatment before they are ready, Sedgemore stressed. Doing so only puts youth at increased risk, forcing them to be more secretive about any illicit drug use and increasing the unwillingness to use harm reduction services or call emergency services in case of an overdose. Research shows abstinence education, or the "just say no to drugs" approach, is not as effective as talking openly about illicit drugs, the associated risks and, if youth should choose to use them, how to do it safely, Sedgemore said. However, there is also the need for more youth treatment beds and shorter wait-lists for youth seeking help, Sedgemore said, especially closer to their own communities. “I don’t think it’s great sending a youth away from their own hometown and the people youth are used to seeing every day.” The B.C. government plans to double the number of treatment beds for youth aged 12 to 24 who are struggling with substance use. A total of 60 young people under the age of 24 lost their lives to fentanyl poisoning from toxic street drugs from January to June 2020, according to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. The province committed $36 million to create another 123 treatment beds for young people, in addition to 20 beds recently established at a new youth facility in the Fraser Valley. Prior to the recent announcements, B.C. had 103 treatment beds for youth. The new beds are part of a broader continuum of care the B.C. government is planning for young people that will include culturally safe, youth-specific services in both rural and smaller city centres, the ministry stated. Building on its network of youth-specific mental health and substance use services, the province will develop eight new Foundry centres, for a total of 19 youth hubs. Foundry centres provide primary care, youth and family peer supports, walk-in counselling, mental health and substance use services and social services all under one roof. Steve Ayers, program manager for the Foundry located in Campbell River on Vancouver Island, agreed that youth benefit from specialized services and being in charge of any decisions about their drug or alcohol use. “If a counsellor is going to really be impactful, they have to let the client drive the process of making changes around substance use,” Ayers said. “The objective of substance use counselling is to help youth have a better life, and what are some concrete ways that might happen, depending on their choices of course,” he said. Many youth use substances to deal with trauma or anxiety, so alternate tools or strategies need to be developed to help young people deal with that suffering, he added. It’s dangerous to assume youth overdoses due to illicit drugs are only a big-city problem, Ayers said. “It’s absolutely a misconception,” he said, adding the issues that fuel youth substance use exist in every community across Canada. However, youth generally don’t tend to be as entrenched with illicit hard drugs as some other age demographics, especially in rural areas where supply might be limited, Ayers said. “If there’s no supply (of illicit drugs) kids will find other things to do to cope with what they are struggling with,” he said. However, kids and families in rural or remote communities such as the Discovery Islands or small communities across North Vancouver Island can face additional challenges or gaps in accessing supports, Ayers said. Many Foundry services are now available online to try to mitigate the challenges for youth living in more isolated communities who need support, especially with travel limitations due to the pandemic, he said. The youth hub also works with schools to meet with students during class time for those who have to bus in and out of Campbell River. Young people and their families just need to reach out and the Foundry will try to find a fix for any stumbling blocks to service, Ayers said. “We always seem to be able to find them and reach them with help,” he said. “Unless they're just not reaching out at all. And honestly, those are the people that we’re scared for most.” Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverRochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
South Peace communities are considering re-opening discussions to establish a regional handi-bus service. Wembley mayor Chris Turnmire sent out letters to councils in neighbouring municipalities inquiring about the interest in returning to the project, which was put on hold two years ago. “The focus was to identify opportunities to improve mobility options primarily for seniors and disabled residents to attend to basic needs, including medical and dental appointments,” Turnmire said. In 2017 Wembley applied to the Alberta Community Partnership program and won a grant of $67,500 to study the feasibility of a regional service. The town partnered with Beaverlodge, Sexsmith, Hythe and the city and county of Grande Prairie in the project, Turnmire said. Wembley and its partners then contracted Watt Consulting Group to conduct the study. Turnmire said $61,324 was spent on the study and the remainder was refunded to the Alberta government. In 2018 municipal councils decided to put the project on hold due to the launch of the County Connector, he said. The county-based transit service had space for wheelchairs but ended in August due to low ridership. “A regional handi-bus service would have a different focus,” Turnmire said. “This isn’t a money-making project; this is a service to individuals who may not have access to transportation to get to appointments or other places they need to go. “I suspect it’s going to have a cost attached to it, that each municipality would have to look at and (determine) what the proportional share would be.” In early November South Peace mayors and CAOs attended an intermunicipal meeting and the leaders discussed possibly renewing handi-bus talks, he said. None of the mayors rejected the idea outright and due to Wembley’s lead in the project two years ago, it was decided Turnmire would write a letter to all councils, he said. Early work completed In April 2018 Watt Consulting Group held an open house in Beaverlodge discussing plans for a regional handi-bus. The draft policy presented in 2018 called for a round trip running two days per week. Under the program, the bus would travel along the western and northern corridors connecting the city to each town and village, along with Clairmont, La Glace and Valhalla. Plans may change If the councils decide to re-open the possibility of a regional handi-bus, Turnmire said some of the 2018 plans for the service may change. The councils would establish a working group, with each appointing a councillor or staff member to re-examine the study, he said. Turnmire said with council meetings slowing down during December, he doesn’t expect the working group would be established until after the new year. Some of the municipalities have existing handi-bus services, and Turnmire said the working group would also have to consider how to avoid duplication of service and keep things efficient. COVID-19 poses another question as to how service will be affected if the health crisis is still ongoing, Turnmire added. During a recent regular meeting last week Sexsmith council approved Coun. Jonathan Siggelkow’s motion to express interest in the project. At Beaverlodge council’s last meeting Coun. Terry Dueck expressed interest in representing the town in the group. Mayor Gary Rycroft said joining the working group would allow for an exploration of various considerations. Coun. Judy Kokotilo-Bekkerus’ motion to express interest was carried.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
Schools across Nova Scotia will be getting new touchless water stations and extra school supplies, as well as money to test drive new online math, language and literacy programs.Teachers, students and staff will also receive new face masks and have access to more personal protective equipment as part of a spending spree to use up almost all of the almost $48 million promised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last August.Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill laid out his department's shopping list during a virtual news conference Wednesday from the Tri-County Regional Centre of Education office in Yarmouth."Today I am pleased to announce the province is providing $14.3 million to our students and staff for well-being and learning," he told reporters.That spending includes: * $4.1M to pilot new online math and literacy programs * $3.8M for 950 touchless water stations in every school * $2.7M for additional inspections to ventilation systems and needed repairs * $1.5M for breakfast and lunch programs or for food deliveries if schools are closed * $1.5M for personal protective equipment * $700,00 to move furniture and supplies if students need to change schools as part of blended learningIn August, Trudeau announced the creation of a $2 billion Safe Return to Class Fund. Nova Scotia was promised almost $48 million from the fund to "ensure a safe return to school and (to) protect the health of students and staff."The Nova Scotia government has announced where all but $6 million of that money has been or will be spent. Churchill is holding back the remaining money in case it's needed down the road."We do have approximately six million left that we're going to deploy in areas that we believe are necessary moving forward, but we don't just want to spend it all," he said. "There's nothing to spend it on."We want to respond to issues that are emerging as challenges that we want to deal with, and having some additional resources in place to do that, I think is a wise thing to do."On Nov. 23, Churchill announced the purchase of 32,000 Chromebooks to go home with students if they are forced to move to online learning. That $21.5 million expenditure is from the fund. So too is the $5.5 million announced Nov. 3 to hire cleaning staff and buy supplies so that school gyms could reopen to community groups and sports teams.Although the province was ready Wednesday to announce the purchase of 950 water stations, Churchill was unable to provide a timeline for when they might be installed."That's going to be managed at the regional level so I don't have a schedule on which schools are going to be done (and) when, but the work on this will commence immediately," he said.The $1.5 million earmarked for school breakfast and lunch programs will be used to meet the increased demand for both programs, as well as for food hampers or to but grocery gift cards if students are sent home again if COVID infection rates warrant the closure of schools.Deanna Rawding, principal at West Northfield Elementary School near Bridgewater, said her school has seen an increase in demand for both its free breakfasts and its equity meal program, which offers a free lunch to students who cannot afford to pay for it."I've seen an increase in need ... because we had some families that lost jobs due to COVID or were unable to get the hours they needed to support their family," said Rawding.She said the extra funds to be able to continue to help those students would make a difference in the classroom."That makes them feel good and that makes them better learners throughout the day," she said.MORE TOP STORIES
Montreal Alouettes running back Shaquille Murray-Lawrence is used to psyching himself up to sprint down a field, evading a crush of muscled men the entire way. But mentally preparing for his latest venture required bracing for a whole new set of anxieties. As he readied himself to hop in a bobsled for the first time, Murray-Lawrence knew he'd be zipping down an icy track faster than cars are allowed to travel down most highways. “It was very nerve wracking," the 27-year-old Toronto native said of the run. "Once I got in the sled, it was just the longest 50 seconds of my life. I didn’t know if I was going to make it. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I couldn’t breathe. But when it’s over, I was like ‘Hey, man, I think I could do that again.’”And he has. Murrary-Lawrence, Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive back Jay Dearborn and B.C. Lions running back hopeful Kayden Johnson joined the national bobsled program after the CFL cancelled its 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the national development squad, the trio has been training at the ice house at Calgary's Canada Olympic Park. This week, the group moved to the sliding centre in Whistler, B.C., where they'll perfect their techniques on a full course. Built for the 2010 Olympics, the Whistler track is known as one of the fastest in the world. Dearborn still hasn't figured out how to explain what it's like to race down the ice."The feel of those forces going around the corner, or the speed that you’re going at … the biggest thing that I struggle with is how to describe what it’s like to have your whole being crushed by these forces going through each corner," he said. Just months ago, Dearborn "didn't know a thing" about the sport. A strength and conditioning coach at Carleton University put him in touch with a national recruiter last year, but it wasn't until March that the 26-year-old from Yarker, Ont., got into a sled for the first time. “I just knew the type of athletes it attracted and I knew I was pretty similar — a strong, explosive, fast athlete, that are pretty technically minded people," Dearborn said.Football and bobsled both require ample power and explosiveness, Murray-Lawrence said. "You've got to be very aggressive," he said. "You need so much speed, so much power in such a short amount of time."The sport has a delicate side, too, he added, because you also have to be a "ballerina or ninja" to seamlessly jump into the sled without rocking it as it hurtles down the track. Learning that balance of power and poise has been a long time coming for Murray-Lawrence. He was first recruited by the national bobsled team in 2017 while playing for the Lions.Then his life was upended by a hit-and-run crash that left Murray-Lawrence with a concussion and back injuries.It was about 700 days before he played another CFL game, joining the Alouettes late in the 2019 season. The campaign ended before Murray-Lawrence could firmly reestablish himself, though, and this year was supposed to be his big comeback. “Everything got put on hold. There was so much uncertainty," he said. "For me, the last two years has been about trying to prove myself.”When the CFL finally called off the 2020 season in August, it didn't take Murray-Lawrence long to turn his sights to bobsled. He spoke with former Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive back Dexter Janke and Olympian Jesse Lumsden, both of whom played in the CFL and competed in bobsled.“I’m just trying to be a sponge. I’m just trying to soak up as much knowledge and information that I can," he said.There's a lot of overlap in training for bobsled and football, said Kayden Johnson, a 24-year-old running back from Kerrobert, Sask., who was selected by the Lions in the seventh round of the 2020 draft.Because of the lost season, Johnson has yet to play a CFL game, but he believes his winter work will help his football career. “Bobsleigh has that mental toughness and that competitive aspect of all or nothing," he said. "You’ll always commit to going full speed. Even if you fail, you fail at full speed, that’s what they like to say here. You’re not afraid of the challenge or attacking the run.”For Dearborn, training to be a brakeman includes more sprinting than he was used to in the CFL. He and his coaches regularly watch video to dissect and perfect every detail and angle of his stride, the same way a runner might work with a sprinting coach.“I think it’s going to help my running," Dearborn said. "I should show up on that field a little faster than I was, so that’s really exciting.”In January, the three CFLers are set to take their new skills on the road as the Canadian bobsled team heads to Europe to compete. The bobsled and skeleton world championships are scheduled to take place in Germany at the beginning of February, and there's an Olympic test event slated for early March in Beijing. Knowing that the team is working towards the 2022 Olympics is exciting, said Murray-Lawrence. Competing on the world's biggest stage for your country instead of for a team that you've signed a contract with "holds a little bit more pride," he explained. “This is something I can carry with me forever, that I represented my country," he said. Johnson already knows the thrill of wearing the maple leaf of his chest, having represented Canada in decathlon at the Pan American junior championships, but he'd love to represent his country on the bobsled track in Beijing, too. “The Olympics has always been a dream of mine," said Johnson, who also competed in 60-metre hurdles at York University. "Olympics rings have always been something I’ve been chasing after.” All three athletes hope they can balance bobsled and football when the CFL finally returns. Murray-Lawrence believes he can do both sports for a long time, but adds that, with the current state of the world, little is certain right now."At any moment, this could all be shut down," he said. "So we’re just living in the moment right now. Embrace it, cherish it and have fun.”This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 2, 2020 An OPP report outlining the opioid epidemic paints a grim picture of the continuing crisis across the province, with a 36 per cent increase in overdose-related deaths last year. According to the Impacts and Strategies report, 1,163 Ontarians lost their lives due to opioid-related causes from January to September 2019. The report estimates one Ontario resident dies from opioids every 4.7 hours. "There are no excuses in today's environment for these harmful drugs to be distributed through our communities,” OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique said in a media release. “We will continue to pursue those who are knowingly trafficking harmful opioids, such as fentanyl, and we will hold them responsible for their actions.” From 2017 to 2019, investigators laid charges in 16 overdose-related death investigations across the province. A total of 134 charges were laid against 31 persons, including, manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death, and unlawfully causing bodily harm. OPP officers are mandated to conduct a thorough investigation of overdose incidents, focusing on the protection of victims and the pursuit of drug traffickers. OPP officers have saved more than 100 lives by using naloxone to reverse the immediate effects of an opioid overdose. The Good Samaritan Act allows users to call 911 without fear of criminal charges for simple possession of a narcotic. The OPP analysis of the opioid situation in the jurisdictions the service covers, including much of Simcoe County, shows a significant increase in the harmful effects of the crisis. Barrie police and South Simcoe police are the only municipal police services in the county. The report shows: • Fentanyl was identified in 106 samples in 2012, and rose to 2,729 samples in 2018, representing an increase of more than 2,400 per cent. • The OPP responded to 897 overdose occurrences in 2017; 1,381 in 2018; and 1,625 in 2019. This represents an 81 per cent increase over a three-year period. • For the reporting period of 2017-2019, 19 per cent of all overdose-related occurrences in OPP jurisdictions have been fatal, with that percentage consistent through all three years. To find out more about the dangers of fentanyl and short-term antidotes, visit www.facethefentanyl.ca Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
YEREVAN, Armenia — Thousands of demonstrators rallied in Armenia's capital Wednesday to continue to pressure the ex-Soviet nation's prime minister to resign over a peace deal with neighbouring Azerbaijan that domestic critics see as a betrayal of national interests. The Russia-brokered agreement took effect on Nov. 10 and followed 44 days of fierce fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, during which the Azerbaijani army routed Armenian forces and wedged deep into the separatist territory. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has defended the deal as a painful but necessary move that prevented Azerbaijan from overrunning the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region. Some 4,000 protesters marched across downtown Yerevan Wednesday chanting “Nikol, you traitor!” and “Nikol, go away!” Police detained scores of demonstrators at a smaller protest on Tuesday, but didn't interfere with the larger rally. Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994. That conflict left not only Nagorno-Karabakh itself but large chunks of surrounding lands in Armenian hands. The peace agreement Pashinyan signed saw the return to Azerbaijan of a significant part of Nagorno-Karabakh. It also obliged Armenia to hand over all of the regions it held outside the separatist region. Azerbaijan completed reclaiming those territories on Tuesday when it took over the Lachin region located between the Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. Russia deployed nearly 2,000 peacekeepers for at least five years to monitor the peace deal and to facilitate the return of refugees. The Russian troops will also ensure safe transit between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia across the Lachin region. Speaking Wednesday during a video call with the leaders of nations that are part of the Moscow-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization, which includes Armenia, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Pashinyan for his personal courage in making “painful but necessary decisions” to end the fighting. Pashinyan, in his turn, thanked Putin for mediating the peace deal and hailed the Russian peacekeepers as “the guarantors of peace and security in the region." Armenian opposition leaders hold Pashinyan responsible for failing to negotiate an earlier end to the hostilities at terms that could have been more beneficial for Armenia. However, Artur Vanetsyan, the former head of the National Security Service who leads the Homeland opposition party, has emphasized that the opposition wasn’t pushing for the annulment of the peace deal. “The current authorities that have suffered a complete failure must step down immediately and allow other political forces to try to at least improve the situation,” Vanetsyan said. “Pashinyan’s resignation would offer a chance to save our dignity.” The peace agreement has been celebrated as a triumph in Azerbaijan, where President Ilham Aliyev on Wednesday declared a new national holiday, dubbed Victory Day, to mark the day of the deal's signing. “The Azerbaijani people's will and determination, the country's economic power, the creation of a modern army and the national unity were the key factors behind our victory,” Aliyev said in his decree. Armenia’s Health Ministry said Wednesday that at least 2,718 Armenian servicemen were killed in the 44 days of fighting. Azerbaijan’s government said 94 Azerbaijani civilians were killed and more than 400 were wounded but refused to reveal the nation’s military losses. ___ Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Aida Sultanova in London contributed to this report. Avet Demourian, The Associated Press
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 2, 2020 Recycling company Geep is in a legal battle with Apple Inc. over the tech giant’s claim that the Barrie-based company allegedly stole and resold nearly 100,000 iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches it was supposed to destroy. According to a report in the Financial Post, Apple has filed a lawsuit demanding $31 million in damages and any proceeds from the resale of goods. In September 2019, Geep Canada merged with the Shift Group of Companies to form Quantum Lifecycle Partners, which has a large recycling plant on John Street in Barrie. Quantum is not named in the lawsuit. The Financial Post also reports that Geep has denied all wrongdoing and filed a third-party suit claiming employees stole the Apple devices without its knowledge. Apple’s lawsuit claims 11,766 pounds of Apple devices left Geep’s premises without being destroyed. These allegedly misappropriated devices were then subsequently sold at a significantly higher price than other recycled materials, the lawsuit claims. None of the allegations have been proven in court. Quantum Lifecycle Partners (formerly Geep) has no comment because the case is before the courts. Apple hired Geep in 2014 to destroy its old products and ensure they didn’t end up in landfills. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
Manitoba students from Grade 7 to 12 will shift to remote learning for two weeks following the winter break as part of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, Manitoba's education minister says.The two-week remote-learning period, starting Jan. 4 and continuing to Jan. 15, will be mandatory for students in grades 7 to 12, and will also be an option for kindergarten to Grade 6 students if families want to keep younger kids at home, Minister Kelvin Goertzen said at a Wednesday news conference."These decisions, we know have various impacts," he said."They're not made lightly … but they are made in consultation with public health and with the understanding that we believe, and still believe, that the best place for students to learn is in the classroom where it is safe to do so."In a news release announcing the shift, the province said the preventative measure is focused on grades 7 to 12 because older students tend to have more contacts, and so have a higher likelihood of transmitting the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. In addition, the province said those students are more amenable to online learning. The mandatory shift to remote learning for Grade 7-12 students will keep close to half of the province's student body at home, the province said.Manitoba is currently under a strict lockdown barring visitors to homes. Stores are also prohibiting the purchase of non-essential items due to the high COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations.On Wednesday, the province reported there are 351 people in hospital, including 51 in intensive care, marking yet another new record.Previously, health officials acknowledged the province was mulling the possibility of extending the winter break to offset some transmission that may have occurred over the holiday, but Goertzen said students need to keep up their education."We want to keep students learning … whether that's remotely or in the classroom, the key is we don't want the education of our young students to stop."School safety an issue, critics sayCritics are worried not enough is being done to ensure the safety of Manitoba schools."Whether schools are safe or not, we don't actually know," said Dougald Lamont, the leader of the Manitoba Liberals. "We're not actually doing the testing and the contact tracing to be able to tell whether there's transmission in schools or not."The education critic for the Manitoba NDP, Nello Altomare, said the province should implement asymptomatic testing in schools."Right now it's all based on data that's incomplete." Goertzen said the decision to begin remote learning after the scheduled break was made to allow some time to shift to remote learning, and also to ensure COVID-19 numbers don't spike after the return to school."We have seen traditionally in other places, and in Manitoba … that the COVID-19 numbers can go up over the break. This provides, from a public health perspective, some additional assurance just to see what those numbers are looking like," he said.Province not sure if shift will continue after 2 weeks Goertzen couldn't say with certainty if the remote-learning period will continue after the two weeks are over."Making predictions during a pandemic has proven not to be a good business to be in," he said."But our priority is to have schools operating."Regardless, there will be supports for teachers and students during this period, the province said.Deputy education minister Dana Rudy said the previously announced resource centre to support remote learning will be in place by Jan. 4 to assist students with their studies while they're at home.The province said they were in the process of hiring up to 140 people who will be employed to support teachers delivering remote learning by providing learning programs, professional development opportunities, instructional coaching and technology supports.Early last month, about 500 teachers signed a letter saying they're at a breaking point and desperate for more staff in schools.WATCH | Manitoba education officials announce two-week remote-learning period:
Pro wrestling trailblazer Pat Patterson has died at the age of 79.WWE announced the passing of the Hall of Famer on Wednesday morning.Born Pierre Clermont in Montreal, Patterson rose to prominence as a wrestler in the Pacific Northwest and San Francisco territories during the 1960s and 1970s before moving to the New York-based World Wrestling Federation in 1979.He was the first-ever intercontinental champion for the WWF — now known as WWE — before transitioning to a behind-the-scenes role in the 1980s.Patterson worked with wrestlers to help them develop the narrative beats of their matches and specialized in coming up with memorable finales."Pat Patterson was the Yoda to my Luke," said former WWE champion Chris Jericho, who is from Winnipeg, in an Instagram post. "He taught me 90% of what I know about putting together a wrestling match."Beyond that he was a confidant, a mentor, collaborator, a sounding board, an oracle, a prophet, a genius, a comedian, a singer and most importantly.... a friend."Sami Zayn, who is also from Montreal, tweeted about how Patterson had looked out for him when he first signed with WWE."NO ONE was a bigger supporter, advocate, or believer in me than Pat Patterson," said Zayn. "NO ONE went to bat for me more often than him. I feel lucky to have had him in my life."Patterson was also the inventor of the Royal Rumble, a signature event on the WWE schedule that was first held in Hamilton in 1988.He rose to on-screen prominence again in the late 1990s, playing the role of a bumbling but villainous "stooge" to WWE owner Vince McMahon along with friend Gerald Brisco."I can count on one hand the people who had the deepest understanding of great psychology in pro wrestling, and perhaps Pat was the greatest ever," said Calgary's Bret (The Hitman) Hart in a lengthy Instagram post. "His ultimate contribution can never be properly measured, but to those who know, Pat will always stand the tallest."Patterson legally changed his name to Pat Patterson in 2008.Patterson was openly gay, having come out in the 1970s, but his sexual orientation was never directly acknowledged on television until 2014 when he spoke about it on a WWE-produced reality TV show. Louie Dondero, Patterson's longtime partner of 40 years, died of a heart attack in 1998.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.The Canadian Press
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his government’s plan for COVID-19 vaccine approval and distribution in Question Period Wednesday, while facing questions from Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole over the failed vaccine collaboration with China’s CanSino Biologics. He said although the deal with CanSino fell through the government secured “the broadest range” of vaccine potentials.
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 9, 2020 Two Simcoe County teenagers are charged after a woman was robbed at gunpoint in Orillia Oct. 5. Orillia OPP officers responded to a 911 call about a robbery outside an Atherley Road business at about 11 p.m. but were unable to track down the suspects at the time. Following further investigation, police identified the suspects and arrested them in Port McNicoll. Officers seized a replica Glock handgun, and two prohibited knives, one doubling as brass knuckles. Police allege a female suspect ordered the victim to hand over her money and cellphone while a male suspect pointed a handgun at her. An 18-year-old Midland man and an 18-year-old Tay Township man are charged with robbery using a firearm, robbery using violence and uttering threats. Both suspects were held in custody for a bail hearing. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
Shoppers hoping to pick up a unique Christmas gift or two at the Victoria Park Gallery may be able to finish their shopping, after finding the Gallery closed for the past two weeks. Ruth Nicholson, a member of the Gallery, said that many of her colleagues, some of who are seniors, became very concerned as the number of COVID cases began to climb. Because the Gallery is not considered an essential service, the group opted to close for two weeks. “We are all retired and need to stay away from it,” said Nicholson. While the doors are closed to the public, there is renovation work taking place, updating the bathrooms and electrical systems. Once the work is done, members will do a thorough cleaning before reopening. “Christmas is a big season,” said Nicholson. “The plan right now is to open on the second of Dec. and stay open until Christmas Eve.” Nicholson said the Gallery may extend its hours to allow for more shopping. Once open, the Gallery, as in past months, will maintain strict cleaning procedures and follow all other recommendations from Public Health. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent