Year in review: A look at news events in January 2020

·19 min read

A look at news events in January 2020:

02 - The U.S. Pentagon announced a military airstrike at Baghdad's International Airport killed a top-ranking member of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard. It happened at the direction of President Donald Trump, who tweeted an image of the American flag as the news broke. The U.S. Defence Department said Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani "was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.'' Iran's supreme leader vowed there would be harsh retaliation.

03 - Australia launched one of the largest evacuations in its history, as more than 200 wildfires burned across the country. The Victoria state government ordered as many as 140,000 permanent residents and tens of thousands more vacationers to leave the region before fires closed roads and trapped them.

04 - An outbreak of a mysterious infectious disease in a mainland China city revived memories of the SARS epidemic. At least 44 people were infected in the city of Wuhan, and five possible cases of the viral pneumonia had been reported in Hong Kong, prompting authorities there to activate a newly created "serious response" level. The city's health department has added an additional thermal imaging system at the airport to check the body temperature of arriving passengers.

04 - Canada's defence minister said a Canadian-led NATO training mission in Iraq had been temporarily suspended in the wake of the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Harjit Sajjan confirmed a statement released by NATO earlier in the day, which said the security of personnel must be a top priority.

05 - Canada was back on top at the world junior hockey championship. Akil Thomas scored with 3:58 left in the third period to cap a furious comeback and secure a 4-3 victory over Russia for gold at the tournament in Ostrava, Czech Republic. It was Canada's 18th title at the annual under-20 tournament, but first on European soil since 2008.

05 - The Golden Globe for best drama picture went to "1917," the epic about a First World War mission from director Sam Mendes that was filmed to look like a single continuous shot. The Golden Globe for best picture, musical or comedy went to "Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood."

05 - Walter Learning, the founder of Theatre New Brunswick and a key figure in Canadian theatre, died at 81. Learning, who was born in Quidi Vidi, N.L., died in Fredericton. In 2018, he was made a member of the Order of New Brunswick. In June 2019, he was appointed to the Order of Canada.

06 - A new case was brought against disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein on the eve of jury selection for his New York trial. He was charged with raping one woman and sexually assaulting another in separate incidents in Los Angeles in 2013.

06 - The Montreal Alouettes' ownership saga ended when the CFL announced during a news conference in Montreal that businessmen Sid Spiegel and Gary Stern of Toronto-based Crawford Steel were the new owners of the franchise. The announcement culminated months of speculation regarding the Alouettes' ownership situation. The CFL had owned the Alouettes since May, when American businessman Bob Wetenhall sold the club to the league.

07 - The sixth and final season of the beloved Canadian comedy series "Schitt's Creek" premiered on CBC. Daniel Levy, the co-creator and star, said he felt it was the best season yet.

07 - Canada followed the lead of Germany and other allies and temporarily relocated some soldiers from Iraq to Kuwait. Canada had about 500 soldiers in Iraq, most of whom were there to help train local forces to fight the Islamic State group. Chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance said the decision to withdraw an unspecified number of troops was to ensure their safety and security.

07 - No Canadian Armed Forces troops were reported to have been hurt by the Iranian missiles that hit targets in Iraq amid an increasingly volatile standoff between the United States and Iran.

08 - Officials in South Korea said a Chinese woman may have brought back an unidentified form of viral pneumonia that had sickened dozens in mainland China and Hong Kong. The 36-year-old woman, who worked for a South Korean company, was diagnosed with pneumonia following two business trips to China in December. The disease had sent 59 people to hospital in the Chinese city of Wuhan and seven were in critical condition.

08 - Iran launched its most direct assault on America since the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, firing 22 ballistic missiles at an airbase near Baghdad and American troops in the city of Irbil. Iranian state TV said the missiles were revenge for the U.S. killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani. There were no reports of American or Iraqi casualties.

08 - At least 57 Canadians and dozens more who were on their way to Canadian destinations were among the 176 people killed when a Ukrainian passenger plane en route to Kyiv crashed minutes after takeoff from Tehran's main airport. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada would work with its international partners to thoroughly investigate the cause of the crash.

08 - Prince Harry and his wife Meghan stepped back as senior royals, and said they would work to become financially independent. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex said they plan to balance their time between the U.K. and North America and focus on their charitable endeavours.

09 - Justin Trudeau said intelligence from multiple sources indicated an Iranian surface-to-air missile struck the Ukraine International Airlines flight, causing it to crash shortly after takeoff from Tehran. The prime minister said the strike might have been unintentional, and called on international partners to be involved in any probe, including a thorough and credible investigation of the crash scene.

10 - Newfoundland and Labrador's John Crosbie, an outspoken former federal cabinet minister, passed away at the age of 88. Crosbie's family confirmed he died following a period of declining health. Known as much for his sharp wit as for his politics, Crosbie ran for the party's leadership in 1983 but lost to Brian Mulroney. He later served as fisheries minister in Mulroney's cabinet, overseeing the closure of the commercial cod fishery in Atlantic Canada — a move that put thousands of people in his home province out of work.

10 - Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist for Canada’s iconic rock band Rush, died at the age of 67. Peart had retired from the band in 2015. A family statement said he died in Santa Monica, Calif., after battling brain cancer for more than three years. He was born in Hamilton, joining Rush in 1974. Peart, along with bandmates Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, were inducted into the Order of Canada in 1997.

11 - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said a military investigation concluded that missiles fired due to human error caused the crash of a Ukraine International Airlines plane. A military statement added the plane was mistaken for a hostile target after it turned toward a sensitive military centre of the Revolutionary Guard.

11 - Health authorities in the central Chinese city of Wuhan reported the first death from a new type of coronavirus.

12 - The Ontario government wrongly issued a provincewide emergency alert about an incident at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. Ontario Power Generation said the alert was sent in error and that there was no danger to the public or environment. It said an incident had been reported but there was no abnormal release of radioactivity from the station. The Pickering plant is scheduled to close in 2024.

13 - The Queen agreed to let Harry and Meghan move part time to Canada after a "constructive" royal summit. She said she would have preferred Harry and Meghan remain full-time royals but respects the couple's wish for an independent life.

13 - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he spoke to U.S. President Donald Trump about the need to de-escalate tensions with Iran. Trudeau said the victims of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 would be home in Canada with their families if the animosity between Washington and Iran had not been heightened.

14 - The Toronto Raptors were awarded the NBA's first-ever Team of the Year Award. The 2019 champions were recognized for their achievements across team business.

14 - The Iranian judiciary said arrests were made in its investigation into the missile strike that took down a Ukraine International Airlines jet. President Hassan Rouhani called for a special court to be set up to try those responsible for the plane shootdown. The moves came amid an upswell of anger and protests by Iranians over apparent attempts by senior officials to cover up the cause of the incident.

15 - The U.S. House of Representatives voted to send two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate for only the third impeachment trial in American history. Trump was accused of abusing his presidential power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, and for using military aid to the country as leverage. He was also charged with obstructing the congressional probe.

15 - Former Progressive Conservative party leader Peter MacKay announced his bid for the leadership of the Conservative party. When the old party merged with the Canadian Alliance in 2003, MacKay served in Stephen Harper's government. He held multiple cabinet posts over the course of Harper's three terms in office. MacKay had been pegged as a contender to take over the party for years, but left politics for the private sector in 2015.

15 - The director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies said the Earth is probably the hottest it has been in the past 11,500 years.

15 - Andrew Weaver, the former Green party leader in British Columbia who made history when he won a seat in the legislature, announced he was leaving the party to sit as an Independent so he could deal with some family health issues.

15 - Canadian professional wrestling legend Rocky (Soul Man) Johnson died at the age of 75. If his name rings a bell, that's because his son is even more famous — Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson, now one of the hottest stars in Hollywood. Rocky Johnson was born in Amherst, N.S., and made his pro wrestling debut in southern Ontario. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008.

16 - The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved the long-awaited U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement by a vote of 89-10.

16 - The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously against British Columbia's attempt to block the flow of heavy oil through an expanded Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta. The ruling gave the project the green light to proceed. B.C. Premier John Horgan said in a statement that his government would continue to protect the coast, environment and economy. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney expressed his gratitude for the court decision.

16 - Former prime minister Stephen Harper resigned as a director of the fundraising arm of the federal Conservative party, a post that would have required him to remain neutral in the party's leadership race. Sources said the decision to step aside from the Conservative Fund dated back months and was linked to Harper's concerns he occupies too large a role in the party's operations. Harper created the Conservative Fund following the 2003 merger of the Progressive Conservative party with the Canadian Alliance to raise and manage the party's money.

16 - Past and present politicians from across the political spectrum attended John Crosbie’s state funeral at the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in St. John's, N.L. His son, Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie, delivered the opening tribute.

17 - The mother of Canadian pop sensation Celine Dion died at the age of 92. Therese Dion, commonly known as "Maman Dion," died at home surrounded by family. Therese Dion was a notable television personality in Quebec with her own cooking show, and also founded a children's education charity in 2006.

18 - Newfoundland and Labrador was hit with what Environment Canada called a record snowfall of 76.2 centimetres. That number broke a previous record of 68.4 centimetres that fell on April 5, 1999. The storm forced the closure of the airport in St. John's, and thousands of residents reported they had lost power.

18 - Six major airports in Canada and the U.S. took precautionary measures involving travellers from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, telling them to inform a border service officer if they were experiencing flu-like symptoms.

18 - Buckingham Palace gave an unprecedented blessing to Harry and Meghan for their so-called royal resignations. The palace said they would no longer be called "royal highness" or receive public funds. A statement said they would also repay some 2.4 million pounds of taxpayers' money that was spent renovating their home near Windsor Castle.

19 - Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne pressured the government of Iran to live up to its promise to allow outside experts to examine the flight recorders of the Ukrainian airliner Iran shot down. Champagne said the consensus of the countries who lost citizens on Jan. 8 was that the recorders should be examined in either France or Ukraine.

19 - China reported a sharp rise in the number of people affected in a pneumonia outbreak caused by a new coronavirus, including the first cases in the capital. Canada bolstered screening of airline passengers from central China for anyone with flu-like symptoms. The Public Health Agency of Canada said the additional measures were implemented at international airports in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. The U.S. became the fifth country to report seeing the illness, following China, Thailand, Japan and South Korea.

19 - Prince Harry said he felt ''great sadness'' but found ''no other option'' to cutting almost all of his royal ties in a bid to live a more peaceful life. Harry framed the decision to leave as his own, made on behalf of his wife Meghan and their young son, Archie. Harry said he and Meghan hoped to continue serving the Queen, the Commonwealth and his military associations after stepping down from royal duties.

19 - Bong Joon Ho's Korean film "Parasite" became the first foreign language film to take top honours from the Screen Actors Guild.

20 - China marked the first human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus after two people caught the virus from family members. The outbreak came at a time when China was entering its busiest travel period, when millions board trains and planes for the Lunar New Year holidays.

20 - Hundreds of military personnel arrived in eastern Newfoundland to help with snow removal after an “unprecedented” storm all but buried coastal areas. The military was also on hand to help continue the search for 26-year-old Joshua Wall, who left his home in Roaches Line at the height of the storm to walk through the woods to a friend's home in nearby Marysvale.

21 - Celebrated Canadian artist Gordon Smith died at the age of 100. The English-born Smith came to Winnipeg in 1933 and had his first professional exhibition in 1938. He taught at the University of British Columbia until 1982, and with his late wife founded the Gordon and Marion Smith Foundation for Young Artists.

21 - A Canadian scientist was inducted into the U.S. National Inventors Hall of Fame for inventing the automatic tourniquet system that is used in surgeries all over the world. James McEwen was born in Winnipeg but now lives in British Columbia. The system that helps limit blood flow during surgery is used in about 20,000 surgeries daily and is credited with significantly improving surgical safety.

22 - Canada's Larry Walker headed to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Walker, from Maple Ridge, B.C., received 76.6 per cent of the vote by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America in his 10th and final year on the ballot, narrowly surpassing the 75 per cent required for induction.

23 - The U.S. Senate approved the rules for President Donald Trump's impeachment trial in a party-line vote. Those rules largely mirror the ones used for the trial for president Bill Clinton in 1999. The Democrats failed to win over any Republicans on their arguments for issuing subpoenas for documents.

23 - Monty Python's Terry Jones, who faced a long battle with a rare form of dementia, died at the age of 77. His family said it was a long, extremely brave, but always good-humoured battle. Jones, Eric Idle, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman and Terry Gilliam formed Monty Python's Flying Circus in the late ‘60s and revolutionized British comedy.

25 - The co-creator of the beloved Canadian teen series “Degrassi'' died at the age of 76. An obituary on the website of Cole Harbour Funeral Home and Crematorium in Nova Scotia said Christopher (Kit) Hood died suddenly at his home in West Lawrencetown. He and former teacher Linda Schuyler founded the Toronto-based production company Playing With Time in 1976, which produced the Canadian TV series “The Kids of Degrassi Street,” “Degrassi Junior High'' and “Degrassi High.''

25 - Canada reported its first “presumptive'' case of the new coronavirus. Ontario's associate medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, said a man in his 50s was in hospital in Toronto. Another official said the man had come home from Wuhan, China, where the virus outbreak originated. Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliot said she wanted to assure all Ontarians that the system of detecting and treating the virus is working.

26 - Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant died along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others when their helicopter went down in Calabasas, Calif., due to bad weather. The NBA legend was 41 years old. Bryant won five championship rings with the Lakers, was selected to 18 all-star games, and finished third in all-time scoring behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone.

26 – Canadians Drake, Shawn Mendes, Jessie Reyez and the Indigenous singing group Northern Cree were all shut out of the Grammys. Billie Eilish took home six Grammys in total, including album of the year for ''When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?'' and record of the year for ''Bad Guy.'' The 18-year-old was the first artist to sweep the top awards since Christopher Cross did it back in 1981.

26 - The U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, China, was evacuated as the virus outbreak continued to spread throughout China. France said it had also considered closing down its consulate and that it was working on arranging a bus service to help French citizens leave Wuhan.

27 - The National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg confirmed Canada's first case of the new coronavirus. At the time of the confirmation, the man was in quarantine in Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital. Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health, said the testing process was being repeated for the man's wife.

27 - Ontario MP Erin O'Toole officially launched his campaign for the Conservative party leadership with a video posted online. The video showed O'Toole walking with Parliament Hill in the background as he promised to stand up for workers and unite the party.

27 - Federal prosecutors in New York formally asked to talk to Prince Andrew as part of their criminal investigation into his friend Jeffrey Epstein. Although Andrew said he was willing to help law enforcement, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said that so far, the prince had provided zero co-operation. Virginia Roberts Giuffre claimed she had several sexual encounters with the prince at Epstein's behest, starting when she was 17. Epstein killed himself in his jail cell in the summer of 2019, while he was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

29 - The European Parliament overwhelmingly approved the departure terms of the United Kingdom from the European Union. The withdrawal agreement ended Britain's 47-year membership in the bloc. Legislators mixed warm words with harsh warnings to Britain not to seek too many advantages during upcoming trade talks.

29 - Canadian soccer star Christine Sinclair made history when she scored two goals in a match against St. Kitts and Nevis at the CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Championship at HEB Park in south Texas. The 36-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., notched goals 184 and 185 to pass retired American Abby Wambach and become the world's all-time leading goal-scorer.

30 - Hereditary chiefs and supporters of a B.C. First Nation filed a new complaint with a civilian body that handles reports of misconduct against the RCMP. Wet'suwet'en chiefs and advocacy groups alleged the Mounties acted unlawfully and improperly by setting up a checkpoint outside a Coastal GasLink pipeline work site in northern B.C. The RCMP said the checkpoint was a measured response that reflected the need to prevent further escalation of the situation.

30 - Russia announced it was keeping its land border with China closed to guard against the outbreak. The closure of the more than 4,000-kilometre border followed similar steps taken by Mongolia and North Korea. Russian authorities said the closure that began over the Lunar New Year holiday would be extended until March 1. Meanwhile, health officials in the U.S. reported the first case in the country of person-to-person spread of the virus.

30 - The World Health Organization declared a global health emergency over the new coronavirus, because of the possible spread of the disease to other countries. Director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus added that the decision was not a vote of non-confidence in China, and that the WHO continued to have confidence in China's capacity to control the outbreak.

30 - Lawyers for a woman who said U.S. President Donald Trump raped her in the 1990s asked for a sample of his DNA. The lawyers for advice columnist E. Jean Carroll said they want to determine whether Trump's genetic material is on a dress she says she wore during the encounter. Carroll filed a defamation suit against Trump in November after the president said she was lying about the alleged attack.

31 - Thousands of Brexit supporters cheered and celebrated outside Britain's Parliament as the United Kingdom made its official departure from the European Union. Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it a ''moment of real national renewal and change.''

31 - The United States declared a public health emergency because of the novel coronavirus. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also announced that President Donald Trump would temporarily bar foreign nationals believed to be a risk for transmitting the virus from entering the U.S.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 31, 2020.

The Canadian Press