On the day of his death we take a look back at the career of legendary Canadian actor Christopher Plummer, who criss-crossed seamlessly from stage to screen for more than six decades.
On the day of his death we take a look back at the career of legendary Canadian actor Christopher Plummer, who criss-crossed seamlessly from stage to screen for more than six decades.
In the opening moments of a Golden Globes night even more chaotic and confounding than usual, co-host Tina Fey raised a theoretical question: “Could this whole night have been an email?” Only the next three hours would tell. Well, sure, it could have been an email. But then you wouldn't have had Chadwick Boseman’s eloquent widow, bringing many to tears as she explained how she could never be as eloquent as her late husband. Or Jane Fonda, sharply calling out Hollywood for its lack of diversity on a night when her very hosts were under fire for exactly that. Or Chloé Zhao, making history as the first woman of Asian descent to win best director (and the first woman since 1984.) Or 98-year-old Norman Lear, giving the simplest explanation for his longevity: never living or laughing alone. Or Jodie Foster kissing her wife joyfully, eight years after very tentatively coming out on the same telecast. Of course, there were the usual confounding results and baffling snubs, compounded here by some epic Zoom fails. But then we had the kids and the dogs. And they were adorable. Next year, can we still have the kids and the dogs, please? Some key moments of the first and hopefully last virtual Globes night: AN OVERDUE RECKONING The evening began under a cloud of embarrassing revelations about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and its lack of inclusion, including the damaging fact that there are no Black members in the 87-person body. Fey and co-host Amy Poehler addressed it early: “Even with stupid things, inclusivity is important." Winners like Daniel Levy of “Schitt's Creek” and presenters like Sterling K. Brown referred to it. Jane Fonda made it a theme of her powerful speech accepting the Cecil B. DeMille award. And the HFPA made a hasty onstage pledge to change. “We recognize we have our own work to do,” said vice-president Helen Hoehne. “We must have Black journalists in our organization.” “I DON'T HAVE HIS WORDS” The best-actor award to Chadwick Boseman for “Ma Rainey's Black Bottom” had been expected. That did not dull the emotional impact of his victory. His widow, Taylor Simone Ledward, tearfully accepted in his honour, telling viewers that her husband, who died of colon cancer at 43 before the film was released, “would say something beautiful, something inspiring, something that would amplify that little voice inside of all of us that tells you you can. That tells you to keep going, that calls you back to what you are meant to be doing at this moment in history.” But, she said poignantly, “I don't have his words." Co-star Viola Davis could be seen weeping as Ledward spoke. She was not alone. PREDICTABLE ZOOM FAILS It was obvious there were going to be awkward Zoom fails. It started early, when the very first winner, Daniel Kaluuya for “Judas and the Black Messiah,” was on mute as he accepted his award, leaving presenter Laura Dern to apologize for technical difficulties. Thankfully, the problem was resolved in time for the actor to speak. Jason Sudeikis, whose charmingly rambling speech ("This is nuts!") and rumpled hoodie signalled he hadn't expected to win, finally realized he needed to “wrap this puppy up.” And winner Catherine O'Hara ("Schitt's Creek") had some perhaps unwelcome help from her husband, whose efforts to provide applause sounds and play-off music on his phone while she spoke lost something in translation, causing confusion on social media. Oh yes, and there were those conversations between nominees before commercials — did they know we heard them? KIDS AND PETS, STILL BRINGING JOY Still, the virtual acceptances from winners stuck at home had a huge silver lining: happy kids and cute pets. When Mark Ruffalo won for “I Know This Much is True,” two of his teens could not control their joy enough to stay out of the camera shot. Not to be outdone, the adorable young daughter of Lee Isaac Chung, writer-director of the Korean-American family drama “Minari,” sat in his lap and hugged him throughout his acceptance for best foreign language film. “She’s the reason I made this film,” said Chung. Winner Jodie Foster ("The Mauritanian") also had a family member in her lap: her dog. Also seen: Sarah Paulson's dog, and Emma Corrin's cat. LOVE FOR BORAT, SNUB FOR BAKALOVA ... AND EXPOSURE FOR GIULIANI Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova, breakout star of Amazon’s “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” had been widely expected to win, but lost out to Rosamund Pike ("I Care a Lot") who saluted Bakalova's bravery. In her movie, Pike said, “I had to swim up from a sinking car. I think I still would rather do that than have been in a room with Rudy Giuliani.” The former New York mayor's infamous cameo was also the butt of jokes from “Borat” star Sacha Baron Cohen, who called Giuliani “a fresh new talent who came from nowhere and turned out to be a comedy genius ... I mean, who could get more laughs from one unzipping?” Baron Cohen, who won for best actor in a comedy, also joked that Donald Trump was “contesting the result” of his win. A FIERY FONDA Did you expect anything less from Fonda? In her memorable DeMille award speech, the multiple Globe winner extolled the virtues of cinematic storytelling — “stories can change our hearts and our minds” — then pivoted to admonishing Hollywood. “There's a story we’ve been afraid to see and hear about ourselves,” she said, “a story about which voices we respect and elevate and which we tune out: a story about who’s offered a seat at the table and who’s kept out of the rooms where decisions are made.” She said the arts should not merely keep step with society, but lead the way. “Let's be leaders,” she said. ZHAO MAKES HISTORY When Zhao won best director for her haunting and elegant “Nomadland,” she was the first Asian American woman ever to win that award. But that wasn't the only way she made history: it was the first directing Globe for a woman in nearly 40 years, since Barbra Streisand won for “Yentl." Her film, a look at itinerant Americans, “at its core for me is a pilgrimage through grief and healing,” Zhao said. “For everyone who has gone through this difficult and beautiful journey at some point in their lives, we don’t say goodbye, we say: See you down the road.” With Zhao's win, the road widens for other female directors. ___ This story has been corrected to show that Norman Lear is 98, not 99. Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
Emma Corrin just won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Princess Diana.
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials in Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that vaccination rollout plans for the month included the province's first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some. Chief medical officer Heather Morrison has said people over the age of 80 will get a second dose based on their existing appointments. Going forward, she said, other residents will get a longer interval between their first and second doses, but she didn’t specific how long that will be. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. Quebec announced Tuesday it had reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. Health Minister Christian Dube said about 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the one first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube has said. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. She also says the province will soon share an updated vaccine plan that factors in expected shipments of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The province will do that after getting guidance from the federal government on potentially extending the time between first and second doses, like B.C. is doing, of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to four months, Elliott says She also says Ontario seniors won't receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine since there's limited data on its effectiveness in older populations. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. The province said this week that it may follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. The government says it hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. If that happens, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry says the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means some people will get their first shot sooner than planned. She says B.C. will focus its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among essential workers, first responders and younger people with more social interactions who would have to wait longer to receive their first doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. It's now possible that all adults could get their first shot by July, Henry says. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The Defence Department took more than three hours to dispatch the National Guard to the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol after a request for reinforcement from police, according to testimony Wednesday that added to the finger-pointing about the government response. Maj. Gen. William Walker, commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, will tell senators that the then-chief of the Capitol Police requested military support in a frantic 1:49 p.m. call, but the Defence Department's approval for that support was not relayed to him until after 5 p.m., according to prepared testimony. Guard troops who had been waiting on buses were then rushed to the Capitol. The Senate hearing is the second about what went wrong on Jan. 6, with national security officials expected to face questions about missed intelligence and botched efforts to quickly gather National Guard troops that day as a violent mob laid siege to the U.S. Capitol. Senators are eager to grill officials from the Pentagon, the National Guard and the Justice and Homeland Security departments about their preparations for Jan. 6. Supporters of then-President Donald Trump had talked online, in some cases openly, about gathering in Washington that day and interrupting the electoral count. At a hearing last week, officials who were in charge of security at the Capitol blamed one another as well as federal law enforcement for their own lack of preparation as hundreds of rioters descended on the building, easily breached the security perimeter and eventually broke into the Capitol. Five people died as a result of the rioting. So far, lawmakers conducting investigations have focused on failed efforts to gather and share intelligence about the insurrectionists’ planning before Jan. 6 and on the deliberations among officials about whether and when to call National Guard troops to protect Congress. The officials at the hearing last week, including ousted Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, gave conflicting accounts of those negotiations. Robert Contee, the acting chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department, told senators he was “stunned” over the delayed response and said Sund was pleading with Army officials to deploy National Guard troops as the rioting rapidly escalated. Senate Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar, one of two Democratic senators who will preside over Wednesday's hearing, said in an interview Tuesday that she believes every moment counted as the National Guard decision was delayed and police officers outside the Capitol were beaten and injured by the rioters. “Any minute that we lost, I need to know why,” Klobuchar said. The hearing comes as thousands of National Guard troops are still patrolling the fenced-in Capitol and as multiple committees across Congress are launching investigations into mistakes made on Jan. 6. The probes are largely focused on security missteps and the origins of the extremism that led hundreds of Trump supporters to break through the doors and windows of the Capitol, hunt for lawmakers and temporarily stop the counting of electoral votes. Congress has, for now, abandoned any examination of Trump’s role in the attack after the Senate acquitted him last month of inciting the riot by telling the supporters that morning to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat. As the Senate hears from the federal officials, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman will testify before a House panel that is also looking into how security failed. In a hearing last week before the same subcommittee, she conceded there were multiple levels of failures but denied that law enforcement failed to take seriously warnings of violence before the insurrection. In the Senate, Klobuchar said there is particular interest in hearing from Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, who was on the phone with Sund and the Department of the Army as the rioters first broke into the building. Contee, the D.C. police chief, was also on the call and told senators that the Army was initially reluctant to send troops. “While I certainly understand the importance of both planning and public perception — the factors cited by the staff on the call — these issues become secondary when you are watching your employees, vastly outnumbered by a mob, being physically assaulted,” Contee said. He said he had quickly deployed his own officers and he was “shocked” that the National Guard “could not — or would not — do the same." Contee said that Army staff said they were not refusing to send troops, but “did not like the optics of boots on the ground” at the Capitol. Also testifying at the joint hearing of the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees are Robert Salesses of the Defence Department, Melissa Smislova of the Department of Homeland Security and Jill Sanborn of the FBI, all officials who oversee aspects of intelligence and security operations. Lawmakers have grilled law enforcement officials about missed intelligence ahead of the attack, including a report from an FBI field office in Virginia that warned of online posts foreshadowing a “war” in Washington. Capitol Police leaders have said they were unaware of the report at the time, even though the FBI had forwarded it to the department. Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the report was disseminated though the FBI’s joint terrorism task force, discussed at a command post in Washington and posted on an internet portal available to other law enforcement agencies. Though the information was raw and unverified and appeared aspirational in nature, Wray said, it was specific and concerning enough that “the smartest thing to do, the most prudent thing to do, was just push it to the people who needed to get it.” “We did communicate that information in a timely fashion to the Capitol Police and (Metropolitan Police Department) in not one, not two, but three different ways,” Wray said, though he added that since the violence that ensued was “not an acceptable result,” the FBI was looking into what it could have done differently. Mary Clare Jalonick And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
It’s hard to say what is the more impressive feat — remotely landing a spacecraft on Mars, or a kid from Norfolk County landing a job at NASA. Christopher Heirwegh’s unlikely trajectory took him from a Simcoe Composite School physics class to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), where an instrument he helped design is scanning the surface of Mars for signs of ancient life. “It’s been a very exciting past couple of weeks, starting with the anticipation leading up to the landing, followed by the joy of knowing it made it successfully,” said Heirwegh, 39, a few days after watching the Mars rover Perseverance complete its 300 million-mile journey to the Red Planet on Feb. 18. As Perseverance floated down to the surface, Heirwegh was on the edge of his seat at his home in Pasadena, Calif. His wife, Meagan, and their six-year-old daughter, Harper, were by his side, with the rest of Heirwegh’s JPL team sharing in the suspense on a video call. “It hit me right at that moment before landing, around the parachute phase, that things are going to come in fast, and oh boy, if this doesn’t make it, where do we go from here?” Heirwegh said. “There was certainly some tension.” Perseverance’s thrusters soon kicked in to start its powered descent, and a sky crane took over to gently place the rover on Mars. While mission control filled with the cheers of relieved scientists, the Heirweghs tucked into celebratory shawarma and cake. Now that Perseverance is trundling around the Jezero crater, Heirwegh’s work has just begun. The physicist is keeping a close eye on PIXL, a high-tech X-ray machine that has been his sole professional focus since joining NASA in 2016. PIXL — the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry — is one of two instruments mounted on the lander’s robotic arm that will help answer the mission’s central question — has there been life on Mars? About the size of a lunch box, PIXL’s job is to scan Martian rocks for trace elements that could point to the presence of ancient life, while taking what Heirwegh describes as “super close-up pictures of rock and soil textures” that could reveal microbial evidence smaller than a grain of salt. PIXL has an X-ray tube at its heart, similar to what dentists use when photographing teeth. The scanner shoots pinpoint-sized X-ray beams into the rock, a process not unlike how artwork investigators chemically analyze paintings to detect forgeries. “We’re looking at things that tell us what the rock is made of, where the rock might have come from, if it was exposed to water, and also if it might have potentially harboured very primitive forms of life at one time,” Heirwegh explained. PIXL is best at finding evidence of inorganic material — heavier elements like calcium, lead and strontium — while another instrument on the rover, called SHERLOC, looks for “the building blocks of life,” lighter organic molecules like carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Together, they search for “biosignatures” suggestive of fossilized bacteria that may have called a Martian ocean home billions of years ago. “Our two instruments can each produce two-dimensional elemental maps,” Heirwegh said, likening each pinpoint of data collected to the pixels on a television that combine to form a clear picture. “We’re hoping we can eventually overlay the two maps so we can really get a good idea of what the rock is all about.” Reaching for the stars The grandson of tobacco farmers who immigrated to Norfolk County from Belgium, Heirwegh grew up enthralled by the stars in the night sky and the vastness of space. He never missed an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation — “mostly just the Rodenberry years,” he clarified — and pored over images of the solar system captured by the Voyager probes. “I found that pretty fascinating, and that kind of led me to what I do now,” he said. Mike and Laurie Heirwegh have followed their son’s career with pride. “Some of the stuff is way above what we understand. Christopher always keeps it as simple as possible for us,” Mike said with a laugh. Mike, a retired pharmacist and business owner, said his “studious” and “reserved” son excelled in a science-heavy course load at Simcoe Composite School. “Whitney, our daughter, said he had this microscope he got at Christmas and would project images up in his room and explain what was on the slides to her and her sister Danielle,” added Laurie, who owns a gift shop in Simcoe. Four years studying undergraduate science at McMaster University in Hamilton led to a master’s in medical physics at Mac, where Heirwegh first tried his hand at X-ray technology. He further studied X-ray fluorescence and radiation science while doing his PhD and post-doctoral fellowship in applied physics at the University of Guelph, which involved analyzing data collected by the Opportunity and Curiosity Mars rovers. That piqued NASA’s interest, creating a rare opportunity for a Canadian to join the Jet Propulsion Lab. “There were not too many people who were doing that,” Mike Heirwegh said. “To get a job like he’s doing in NASA, you have to be uniquely different than any American.” The family left their house in Guelph to make a new life in America, with Meagan Heirwegh, herself an accomplished academic, putting her career on hold so her husband could follow his dream. “She was extremely supportive of taking this step,” Heirwegh said. “That’s been a really key part of it, and something that helped me to have the courage to make such a drastic move.” While navigating the immigration process, Heirwegh got to work calibrating PIXL years ahead of its launch on Perseverance. Past Mars rovers have used X-ray fluorescence spectrometers, but PIXL is the first with an X-ray tube, a technological milestone Heirwegh finds “quite rewarding.” In the months ahead, Heirwegh and his fellow scientists will analyze the trove of scientific data Perseverance will transmit across space to the Jet Propulsion Lab, while making sure their high-tech scanner stays properly calibrated. To keep himself calibrated in what can be a high-pressure job, Heirwegh exercises every morning, and he and Meagan solve a Mensa puzzle together over breakfast. “It’s a nice way to jump-start the physical and mental gears,” he said. Heirwegh could not have known what the future held when he decided to leave Canada and boldly go to NASA to reach for the stars. But his parents say their son was destined to work on the Mars project. “I think the term ‘perseverance’ is very much like Christopher,” Mike said. “He persevered to get to where he is.” J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
A major spending scandal at the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) has led to some difficult questions of its board of directors, which includes Sun Peaks Mayor Al Raine and Area P Director Mel Rothenburger. In a major investigative series, Kamloops This Week (KTW) reporter Jessica Wallace detailed how the regional district’s former chief administrative officer put to use his tax-payer funded credit card. Over a five year period, Sukh Gill spent over $500,000 on the card. This included $174,000 on coffee shops and restaurants, with Gill charging money on the card an average of once every two days. Former staff and outgoing directors were treated to dinners and pricey parting gifts. A number of gift cards were also purchased and working meals at high-end restaurants were numerous. On Monday, March 1, current board chair Ken Gillis announced the TNRD will commission an investigation into the spending scandal, though the timeline and scope have yet to be determined. “On behalf of myself and the entire Board of Directors, I am here to say that we take full ownership and accountability for the lack of financial oversight on this matter,” said a media statement from Gillis. None of the spending was against policy, and the TNRD has stated publicly that the spending was not the reason for Gill’s departure in February of 2020. The regional district has not explained why he left and called his departure a retirement; it has been reported that he received a $500,000-plus severance and payout upon his departure. The spending scandal has drawn widespread condemnation, with Kris Sims, director of the British Columbia Chapter of the Canadian Taxpayer Federation, calling it one of the worst examples of government misspending she has seen. “This is one of the worst examples I’ve seen when it comes to expense accounts,” said Sims. Sims said it isn’t just the “big eye-popping” spends, such as an $8,000 spent at the Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler, B.C., but rather the “constant drip” of spending. “Like every other day, more or less, this person was eating and drinking and not paying for it themselves,” said Sims. Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality (SPMRM) is one of 11 member municipalities of the TNRD. Raine, who is one of 26 directors for the TNRD, has served on the board since 2010, and currently chairs the organization’s auditing committee, a position he held in 2013 and 2015 to 2017. The audit committee’s role is to approve of the hiring of an audit firm, meet with the auditor to review the plan for audits and then receive the end product. Like other TNRD staff and directors, Raine is mentioned in the reported spending. Raine appears on four line items over the five year period related to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Annual Conference in Halifax, N.S. in 2018. Raine declined comment for the story, instead directing Sun Peaks Independent News to speak with current TNRD board chair Gillis. Gillis said that while some of the spending highlighted in the KTW investigation was lavish, in other cases, it was justified, and that one must also keep in mind that Gill also often paid for required big-ticket items, such as hotel rooms for directors or working lunch meals for directors, on his credit card. “In mea culpa mode, we obviously should have had some means in place to have the CAO’s expenses reviewed, [which] we do have now,” said Gillis. Gillis added the board was not fully aware of the scale of spending that was taking place as CAO spending was not presented in one clear place for directors to see. Asked if some of the meals that he joined Gill and others at raised a red flag, Gillis said that they did, but they never translated into policy. “I thought [that] this is a bit extreme,” said Gillis, “And I mentioned it to Mr. Gill on one occasion, but he didn’t seem to be particularly concerned about it. You think well, I guess that this is the way things are done? “There were red flags raised on certain issues at certain times, but for some reason, [they] didn’t really seem to go anywhere.” In 2018, Gillis attended a dinner at Whistler’s high end Bearfoot Bistro during the Union of Municipalities Convention. The meal cost taxpayers $8,000 and has a flashpoint for outrage around the CAO spending. Gillis said that while wine may have flowed a bit too freely, the evening was a strong networking opportunity that brought together staff with local and provincial politicians. “It was a wonderful networking opportunity,” he said. “It gave us a great chance to become more familiar with the municipal councillors [and the] issues that they were dealing with at any given time.” Gillis added that while board members were discouraged from “badgering the MLA” with specific issues, they were able to make connections and get the ball rolling on important matters. Gillis said the organization has put in a number of measures to curb spending in recent months. This includes changing the TNRD’s hospitality policy to limit drinks to two (beer or wine) at events. The regional district has also created policies where the chair or vice-chair has to sign off on CAO expenses and staff are not allowed to expense alcohol. “We have made a requirement that all Visa receipts submitted must be accompanied and backed up by the invoice,” he said. “So in other words, you can’t just submit the little tab that comes off the machine at a restaurant, you have to have the restaurant bill attached to that.” Mel Rothenberger, director for Area P, which covers Sun Peaks, said that he would like to see the rules go even further. He noted that he pushed for a cash bar this summer when the board voted for the two-drink limit at events. Rothenburger was elected in 2014 and is tied to numerous meals out with Gill, including a $523 meal at the Boathouse Restaurant in downtown Vancouver in 2015. Rothenburger was also part of a 13-member party from the regional district who stayed at the Pan Pacific between three and five nights at $399 a night during a conference. The total cost of the accommodation for the party was $6,094.66. Asked about his presence at the dinners, Rothenburger said that he kept his orders to a reasonable amount. “I’ve always tried to be careful about my spending and my expenses tend to certainly be on the lower half of the list of the totals over the years,” he said. “Two years ago, for example, I made a motion which was successful that the cost for spouses not be paid, that we clarify that spouses are not eligible to be paid when they accompany directors to various events. That was approved that it was actually reinforced last year.” Rothenburger said that he would like the TNRD to take an “open book approach” to CAO and director spending in the future. “I think if we could produce a report with details of that spending, at least quarterly, maybe even monthly, if that’s possible, that would go a great distance towards restoring public confidence and also giving us a means to pay careful attention to that spending,” he said. Moving forward, Sims of the Canadian Taxpayer Federation said things will need to be different. She said that the incident highlights the need for a strong office of the Auditor General for local government, where staff can report misspending. “We don’t have a strong, effective municipal Auditor General,” she said. “And we don’t have a team of watchdogs keeping an eye on these books. Whistleblowers have next to nowhere to call, and when they get a sense that something is going wrong in their workplace, they’re scared for their jobs.” Overall, Sims said she hopes that the event does not turn people off local government. She added local government is among the most personal forms of government and while scandals like this can result in disillusionment, it is important for citizens to demand for change and better safeguards. Since the publication of the KTW report, one board member—-Area E Director Sally Watson—has gone on record saying that the board of directors was complicit in the CAO spending over the years. Sims added it’s important for all board members to speak up on the issue. “They owe it to the people to give an explanation,” she said. “And maybe they do have an explanation. Who knows? Maybe they honestly didn’t know. Maybe they were somehow being kept in the dark. If that’s true, just say so.” Joel Barde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sun Peaks Independent News Inc.
NEW YORK — The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame said Tuesday that it plans to have a live induction of its 36th class on Oct. 30 in Cleveland — before an actual audience! The induction ceremony will take place in the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, home of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and tickets will be available to the general public. “We are optimistic and hopeful for the ceremony,” said Greg Harris, president and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Inductees will be announced in May. Nominees include Jay-Z, the Foo Fighters, Mary J. Blige, The Go-Go's, Devo and Carole King. Currently, Ohio permits crowds of up to 25% capacity at the arena for Cavaliers games. The hall is hopeful that the percentage will increase by the time of the induction, but promised to follow best health practices. It will be the sixth time the induction ceremony will be held in Cleveland, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. For the past decade, the hall has invited fans to buy tickets for the speeches and live performances, instead of just an audience of industry insiders. Harris said a fall induction ceremony, moved from the spring last year because of COVID, will become permanent. He seemed wistful at a news conference as he played a clip of past ceremonies, to the sound of Prince's performance of “Let's Go Crazy” from his induction. “Watching that footage makes me realize how much we miss live music,” he said. The Associated Press
Having spent a year living under the added pressure of COVID, many British Columbians are extremely keen for a vacation. Yet that’s not easy (or for that matter, allowed) under current provincial restrictions and recommendations. As a way to generate revenue during this difficult period, local hotels are filling the gap, offering reduced room rates and packages aimed people who live in the Kamloops region. The idea is for people to enjoy a “staycation”—that is, a vacation in one’s own backyard. Over at the Thompson Hotel and Conference Centre, there has been a big push to attract families looking for a safe environment to spend some quality time. In December, the independently owned hotel transformed one of its conference rooms into a small movie theatre. As part of a package deal, families can book this theatre. Families are also given the opportunity to book time at the hotel pool and games room. Pav Moore, co-owner and operations manager at the Thompson, said that families are loving the opportunity to do something novel and fun in a way that ensures their health and safety. “They’re loving that they can enjoy some time with their family, not cooped up in their homes, but not feel like they’re putting themselves at risk,” said Moore. Moore said that the theatre is an excellent draw, with guests invited to select from an in-house selection of films or bring their own if they prefer. She added that the package has gotten lots of buzz by word-of mouth and through social media posts. The hotel is also offering a package called Dinner and Dance. It includes a dance instruction session with an instructor from Let’s Move Dance Studio. Moore said that the packages are largely sold out, but there is some availability mid-week for March. Over at the Delta Hotels Kamloops, staff cooked up a sexy package in honour of Valentine’s Day. But instead of relegating it to the week of the 14th, they’ve offered the package throughout the month. Aptly named the Couples Escape Package (because at this point, who doesn’t need to escape) the package includes a one night accomodation in a king guestroom or one bedroom suite, Prosecco, a mini charcuterie board, a $75 gift certificate for Cordo Resto & Bar and an in-room movie. But the pièce de résistance has been the opportunity for couples to have a chance to enjoy the hotel’s rooftop jacuzzi all by themselves. Due to the popularity of the promotion, the hotel has extended the package until the end of March. The hotel is also offering a family-focussed package geared at families, beginning in March. It includes a night’s accommodation in a two-queen guest room or family suite, a $75 room dine-in credit or gift card for Cordo Resto Bar, a guaranteed rooftop pool and jacuzzi reservation and an in-room movie and snack pack. With provincial restrictions in place, hotel staff are making the best of it, offering fun ways to relax close to home. “Our target area right now is within Kamloops and about 50 kilometers outside of the Kamloops market for the next couple of months,” said Darcia Ball, marketing director of the hotel. For a full list of good travel deals, the good people over at Tourism Kamloops have put out a handy resource list to check out. Joel Barde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sun Peaks Independent News Inc.
It's clear that when girls and young women are at the forefront of major social justice movements, the old structures of patriarchy and misogyny can be challenged and hopefully dismantled.
Pedal power is coming to Mitchell’s Bay after council officially awarded a contract for the construction of a bike lane. On Monday, Chatham-Kent council awarded Armstrong Paving and Materials Group Ltd. with a $291,290.73 contract for the project. North Kent Coun. Jamie McGrail said the Mitchell's Bay Area Association has been working hard to get this project off the ground and completed for months. The association also contributed $25,000 toward the project. “They're excited that hopefully come June or July, we invite everybody to come down to Mitchell's Bay and take advantage of this new trail, because it really does complete an awesome trail system that's already here,” she said. The bike lane will be constructed along Bay Line which is the only roadway leading into the waterfront community. The 1.5 metre-wide paved shoulder will extend west from Winter Line Road to Dover Beach Park and connect to Memorial Park and Trail, the South Lakeshore Trail, and surrounding residential neighbourhoods. The route has been identified as a key connector for The Great Trail – a cross-Canada 24,000-kilometre system of greenways, waterways, and roadways – and the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail. “Both of these national and provincially promoted routes are identified on the respective organizations’ mapping as a key connection. This route is also identified in the Chatham-Kent trails master plan through the implementation plan,” reads a report to council. Public consultation also took place with only one opposition expressed toward the project. Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice
Another GTA region has begun inoculating seniors 80 years of age and older. Shallima Maharaj has the story.
At the almost empty "Wall Street" bar and restaurant in Tokyo's Kayabacho financial district, three groups of patrons dine quietly at tables separated by partitions. The sedate scene is a far cry from the area's heyday 30 years ago when traders flush from big wins on the nearby Tokyo Stock Exchange routinely crowded the restaurant's bar, downing glasses of premium whiskey. Even though Japanese stocks are scaling giddy heights not seen since the asset inflation bubble of the late 1980s and early 1990s, bars and restaurants in the financial district aren't along for the ride.
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Jihadis linked to the Islamic State group attacked the northeastern Nigerian town of Dikwa and humanitarian posts there, security officials said. The attack in Borno state that began late Monday night came about 48 hours after the governor of Borno state, Babagana Zulum, visited the community along with other officials, to distribute cash and food to displaced families there. The assailants arrived in trucks and motorcycles, surrounding residents and people staying at a camp for people who are displaced within Nigeria, residents said. The member representing Dikwa at the Borno state House of Assembly, Zakariya Dikwa, said they burned down the police station, the primary health centre and attacked humanitarian offices and left with their vehicles. “The attack was massive because the Boko Haram fighters went there with over 13 gun trucks — all of which had their bodies pasted with mud,” he said. The military later confirmed the fighters are with Boko Haram offshoot The Islamic State of West Africa Province, known as ISWAP. It said in a statement Tuesday that the military had routed the jihadis from Dikwa with heavy bombardment and firepower. The jihadis tried to invade the town after hearing of the food distribution. The U.N. co-ordinator of humanitarian affairs in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, also confirmed an attack on humanitarian facilities in Dikwa, saying several aid facilities were directly targeted, in a statement released by the UNOCHA office in Nigeria. “The attack started last night and, as information is still coming through, I am outraged to hear the premises of several aid agencies and a hospital were reportedly set ablaze or sustained damage,” he said. “I strongly condemn the attack and am deeply concerned about the safety and security of civilians in Dikwa, including internally displaced people inside and outside camps and thousands of people who had returned to the community to rebuild their lives after years in displacement.” The attack “will affect the support provided to nearly 100,000 people who are desperately in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic risks spreading in Borno State,” he said. ISWAP split from Boko Haram in 2016 and has become a threat in the region. Nigeria has been fighting the more than 10-year Boko Haram insurgency that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions. Haruna Umar, The Associated Press
CHARLOTTETOWN — Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison says all people over 80 will get their second dose based on existing appointments, but after that the interval between doses will be extended. She says having everyone over 16 partially vaccinated by July would bring "the finish line" into much sharper focus. Morrison reported four new cases of COVID-19 in the province today involving three men and one woman, all in their 20s. There are now 22 active cases on the Island, and there have been a total of 136 cases since the onset of the pandemic. Morrison said test results from the National Microbiology Laboratory have confirmed that two earlier COVID-19 cases involving two women in Charlottetown are linked to the more transmissible variant first identified in the United Kingdom. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
ALGIERS, Algeria — Hundreds of students restarted their weekly Tuesday protest marches that were called off last spring because of the coronavirus. The march came eight days after the Hirak pro-democracy movement reappeared in streets around the country to mark its second anniversary and days after the weekly Friday marches restarted. Hirak's peaceful protests helped force long-time President Abdelaziz Bouteflika from office in 2019. His successor, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, has promised reform of the system marked by corruption under Bouteflika and with the shadow of the army ever-present. “Civilian state and not a military state,” one group of students cried out, hoisting high a banner reading “We don't go home until the demands of Hirak are met.” Police watched, their vans blocking some streets, as marchers detoured around security forces, moving through winding streets at the bottom of Algiers' famed Casbah toward the imposing central post office, the traditional rallying point for the Hirak. Demonstrators sang and waved flags with no incidents reported. The Associated Press
ROME — In more farcical scenes in Serie A, bemused Lazio players walked onto the Stadio Olimpico pitch — with some even taking selfies — despite knowing that their Torino opponents were self-isolating hundreds of miles away in Turin on Tuesday. A coronavirus outbreak forced Torino players and staff into self-isolation that doesn't end until midnight Tuesday, hours after the scheduled kickoff against Lazio in Rome. Nevertheless, Lazio followed its usual matchday routine and the club announced the starting lineup on social media. The players walked around the field and some snapped selfies as they waited until 45 minutes after kickoff, when the match could be officially called off. Serie A’s governing body held an emergency meeting earlier in the day but voted not to postpone the match. “You can’t defend the league and its integrity by ignoring objective reality,” Torino president Urbano Cairo said when asked if he expected that decision. "We can’t move from Turin, that’s glaringly obvious. "I expect things to be done logically, if you add one plus one you shouldn’t have to do a thousand steps to get to two.” The decision saw a repeat of the scenes around the Juventus-Napoli match last October when the Bianconeri followed their regular matchday routine and went out onto the field despite knowing their opponent had not left Naples. Napoli was handed a 3-0 loss by the Italian league and docked one point but eventually had that overturned on appeal by the Italian Olympic Committee — after several failed attempts in other courts — and the match will be rescheduled. Cairo said the club will also fight its case through the courts if it is handed a 3-0 loss by the league's disciplinary commission. “Now we’ll see what will happen. It’s obvious we’ll appeal. We will do all the appeals possible," he said. Torino’s match against Sassuolo last Friday was postponed until March 17. That decision was announced the day before the match, two days after the local health authority in Turin ordered the temporary closure of the club’s training ground and instructed all the players and coaching staff to self-isolate. Eight Torino players and two staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. The more contagious variant that emerged in England has been identified in some cases. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s choice to head the Securities and Exchange Commission told Congress on Tuesday that the agency should address how to protect investors who use online stock-trading platforms with flashy tech gimmicks that entice them to trade more. Gary Gensler, who was a chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission during the Obama administration, testified by video for his confirmation hearing by the Senate Banking Committee. He was asked about the roiling stock-trading drama involving GameStop shares that has spurred clamour for tighter regulation of Wall Street. The trading frenzy in shares of the struggling video-game retailer lifted their price 1,600% in January, though they later fell back to earth after days of wild price swings. “At the core it’s about protecting investors,” Gensler said. Among the issues to be examined, he said, is the use of “behavioural” technology in stock-trading apps. “What does it mean when you have behavioural prompts to get investors to do more transactions? We’re going to have to study that and think about it,” Gensler told the panel. The GameStop episode prompted lawmakers to raise concern about the business model of Robinhood, the online trading platform that hosted a wave of trading in GameStop. Critics have accused Robinhood of trying to lure young people with little or no experience trading stocks by including features on its trading platform that resemble gaming apps — like showering users' screens with virtual confetti when they make a trade. Lawmakers have asked whether Robinhood is doing enough to communicate the risks to its users. Robinhood offers commission-free trading, but critics say customers pay another, hidden price because Robinhood provides their data on buying and selling to Wall Street firms. If confirmed to the SEC post, Gensler said, he would work to strengthen transparency and accountability in the markets. That will enable people “to invest with confidence and be protected from fraud and manipulation,” he said. “It means promoting efficiency and competition, so our markets operate with lower costs to companies and higher returns to investors. ... And above all, it means making sure our markets serve the needs of working families.” Democratic senators urged Gensler to take up requiring corporations to fully disclose their climate change risks and political spending, and punishing companies for violations of securities laws. “That means upgrading climate-risk disclosure requirements that are out of date, punishing misconduct and enforcing the protections on the books,” said the committee chair, Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat. “And it means working with other agencies — the banking regulators — to head off growing problems before they become emergencies that hurt the economy. We’ve seen what happens when markets don’t have real safeguards, and most people are left to fend for themselves — just look at the electricity market in Texas.” Gensler has experience as a tough markets regulator during the 2008-09 financial crisis as CFTC chair. More recently, he has been in academics. Biden’s selection of Gensler to lead the SEC signals a goal of turning the Wall Street watchdog agency toward an activist role after a deregulatory stretch during the Trump administration. Gensler was a leader and adviser of Biden’s presidential transition team responsible for the Federal Reserve, banking issues and securities regulation. No evident opposition to his confirmation to the SEC post has emerged, and approval by the full Senate is expected. Several Republican senators used Tuesday’s hearing, though, to argue against the imposition of new regulations in the financial markets, at the risk of stifling innovation and improperly expanding the government’s authority. The GameStop episode has bolstered political momentum toward tighter regulation of the securities markets, though Republican lawmakers and regulators generally will oppose new rules. Possible avenues for new rules that have been raised include requiring market players to disclose short-selling positions and restricting arrangements of payment for order flow — a common practice in which Wall Street trading firms pay companies like Robinhood to send them their customers’ orders for execution. The GameStop turbulence shows that “the SEC too often stands by while the stock market functions as a casino ... with tilted roulette tables,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Jay Clayton, a former Wall Street lawyer who headed the SEC during the Trump administration, presided over a deregulatory push to soften rules affecting Wall Street and the financial markets, as President Donald Trump pledged when he took office. Rules under the Dodd-Frank law that tightened the reins on banks and Wall Street in the wake of the financial crisis and the Great Recession were relaxed. Clayton also eased rules for smaller companies raising capital in the market. Gensler comes armed with receptiveness to new financial technologies and cryptocurrency. As a professor of economics and management at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, he has focused research and teaching on public policy as well as digital currencies and blockchain, the global running ledgers of digital currency transactions. With a background of having worked for nearly 20 years at Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street powerhouse investment bank, Gensler surprised many by being a tough regulator of big banks as head of the CFTC. He imposed oversight on the $400 trillion worldwide market for the complex financial instruments that helped spark the 2008-09 crisis. Gensler pushed for stricter regulations that big banks and financial firms had lobbied against, and he wasn’t afraid to take positions that clashed with the Obama administration. Marcy Gordon, The Associated Press
Dr. Seuss Enterprises released a statement that the company will stop the sale and publication of six books that "portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong."
TORONTO — Some of the Toronto van attack victims and their families are nervously waiting to learn the fate of the man whose deadly rampage three years ago changed their lives forever.On Wednesday morning, live on YouTube, Justice Anne Molloy will deliver her verdict in the case of Alek Minassian, who deliberately drove a rented van down a crowded Toronto sidewalk on April 23, 2018, killing 10 pedestrians and injured 16 others."I've been anxious for months, much more so than I thought I'd be," said Catherine Riddell, 70, who was out for a walk when Minassian's van hit her from behind.Minassian has admitted to planning and carrying out the attack, but pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. The 28-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., argued at trial that he should be found not criminally responsible for his actions due to autism spectrum disorder. The trial will turn on Minassian's mindset at the time."He's a mass killer who has autism, that's it," said Riddell, who suffered a fractured spine and broken ribs, scapula and pelvis in the attack. She also suffered a minor brain injury and internal bleeding."I'm really nervous," said Robert Forsyth, whose aunt, Betty Forsyth, 94, was killed by Minassian when she was out for a walk on an unusually warm and sunny April day. "He's got to be guilty, right?"Betty Forsyth, Ji Hun Kim, So He Chung, Geraldine Brady, Chul Min Kang, Anne Marie Victoria D'Amico, Munir Najjar, Dorothy Marie Sewell, Andrea Bradden and Beutis Renuka Amarasingha died in the attack.The seven-week trial that started in November focused on the inner workings of Minassian's mind. The prosecution opened with a painstakingly detailed examination of how all 26 people were killed or hurt.The trial heard that after weeks of planning, Minassian sat in the driver's seat of his rental van at the intersection of Yonge Street and Finch Avenue in the north end of the city around 1:30 p.m.When the light turned green, he floored it, hopped the curb and hit a group of pedestrians, killing two. He drove for about two kilometres on and off the sidewalk as he killed and maimed unsuspecting pedestrians along the way. Minassian only stopped when one of his victims spilled their drink on his windshield and he worried he'd crash. On a side street he hopped out of the van and tried to get killed by police, "suicide by cop" being part of his plan. Minassian tried to fool an approaching police officer by pulling his wallet, pretending it was a gun, but it didn't work."I'm a murdering piece of shit," Minassian told the booking officer shortly thereafter.Several hours later Minassian told a detective he committed the attack as retribution against society because he was a lonely virgin who believed women wouldn't have sex with him. Later, he told various assessors that the so-called "incel" motive was a ruse, designed to increase his notoriety. He was still a lonely virgin, however, that part was true.He went on to tell different doctors different reasons for his attack. He said he had "extreme anxiety" over a new job he was about to start. He also wanted to "set a world record" for kills in order to be atop an online leaderboard of mass killers.If he accomplished that, then he wouldn't be viewed as a failure, he told a forensic psychiatrist. Minassian also told them he had a strong desire to commit a mass killing and was infatuated with an American mass murderer.The central question at trial was whether Minassian knew what he did was morally wrong. The legal test in this case focuses on whether he had the capacity at the time to make a rational choice.The defence's star witness, American-based forensic psychiatrist Dr. Alexander Westphal, testified that Minassian's autism left him without the ability to develop empathy.Minassian's lawyer, Boris Bytensky, said that lack of empathy left him incapable of rational choice, and, ultimately, to know what he did was morally wrong. The prosecution argued Minassian knew what he did was wrong, in part because he told many of his assessors he knew killing 10 people that day was morally wrong.Minassian had a decade-long fixation on mass school shootings, the Crown pointed out. That fixation morphed into fantasies of committing a mass shooting at his own high school, where he was picked on.But he never followed through, in part, because he did not know how to get a gun. "There's no evidence he ever lost the fact of the wrongness of his actions," said Crown attorney Joe Callaghan.The prosecution's key witness, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Percy Wright, said Minassian had some empathy and knew what he did was wrong, thereby did not qualify for the test that he was not criminally responsible for his actions.Renowned forensic psychiatrist, Dr. John Bradford, who has evaluated some of the country's most notorious killers, said Minassian did not meet the test to be found not criminally responsible.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
The BC Coroners Service says 165 people died of a suspected illicit drug overdose in January, marking the largest-ever number of lives lost due to illicit drugs in the first month of a calendar year. The figure represents an increase of 104 per cent from the number of deaths in the same month last year, and a seven per cent increase over the number of deaths in December 2020. It also equates to more than five deaths every day of the month. "These figures are heartbreaking, both in scale and for the number of families who are grieving the loss of a loved one," said Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe. Nearly one in five deaths — 18 per cent, the highest level to date — involved an "extreme" concentration of fentanyl. The coroner also said etizolam, an unlicensed type of benzodiazepine, was found in nearly half of samples tested in B.C. There were 14 deaths in which carfentanil was detected, the largest monthly figure involving the more lethal analogue of fentanyl since May 2019. "We're particularly concerned about the toxicity of the drugs detected in many of the deaths recorded in January," Lapointe said in a statement. "The findings suggest that the already unstable drug supply in B.C. is becoming even deadlier, underscoring the urgent need for supervised consumption options, prescribing for safe supply, and accessible treatment and recovery services." The highest rates of deadly overdoses, by health authority, were in the Northern Health and Vancouver Coastal Health areas. There were 71 deaths for every 100,000 people in the north, and 52 for every 100,000 in the Vancouver area. 2020 was deadliest year on record Last year was the deadliest year ever for overdoses in B.C. In 2020, 1,716 people died due to illicit drug use — a 74 per cent increase over 2019, when 984 people died. It means more people died of drug overdoses last year than car crashes, homicides, suicides and prescription drug-related deaths combined. Decades of criminalization, an increasingly toxic illicit drug market and a lack of timely access to treatment and recovery services contributed to the deaths of thousands of British Columbians, Lapointe said in her annual report. A memorial in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside is pictured on Feb. 11.(Ben Nelms/CBC) The illicit drug supply in the province has only become more toxic and dangerous during the COVID-19 pandemic, as borders remain closed and more drugs are manufactured or altered locally. B.C. Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson said the pandemic has pushed people further into isolation, compounding the effects of stigma that drives people to use drugs alone. Public health restrictions, first introduced in March and tightened since November, mean fewer people are visiting overdose prevention sites, where staff can intervene to reverse an overdose. More than half of deadly overdoses in January happened inside a home. Men accounted for 83 per cent of the deaths. Premier John Horgan and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart have written letters to the federal government asking for an exemption that would allow for the decriminalization of drug possession for personal use. Malcolmson said B.C. is working to add more treatment and recovery options, more services and supports, and to work with the federal government on decriminalization.