The murder of school teacher, Samuel Paty, at the hands of an Islamist terrorist shocked France. But the repercussions of this crime and how it reflects European society have opened wounds that no one knows how to heal.
The murder of school teacher, Samuel Paty, at the hands of an Islamist terrorist shocked France. But the repercussions of this crime and how it reflects European society have opened wounds that no one knows how to heal.
In announcing a planned phone call on Friday between U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the White House's intended message was clear: Traditional allies are back in favour while despots, dictators and the killers of dissenters are on the outs. The way press secretary Jen Psaki announced the scheduled call with Trudeau was revealing, as it came in response to a question that had nothing at all to do with Canada's prime minister. She was asked about Vladimir Putin. Specifically, she was asked when Biden would speak with the Russian leader. Psaki replied that it wasn't an immediate priority. "[Biden's] first foreign leader call will be on Friday with Prime Minister Trudeau," she said. "I would expect his early calls will be with partners and allies. He feels it's important to rebuild those relationships." U.S. plans to investigate Russia Psaki elaborated on Putin in a separate news conference where she described Russia as "reckless" and "adversarial." She said Biden has tasked the intelligence community with reporting on a variety of alleged Russian transgressions: cyberattacks on U.S. companies, interference in U.S. politics, the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and Russian-paid bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Yet the goal of rebalancing relationships away from rivals toward like-minded countries has been tested already. Some Canadians, notably Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, want trade retaliation against the U.S. following the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline on Day 1 of the new administration. The decision undermines Canada's No. 1 export to the United States: oil. WATCH | The National's report on Keystone XL: Biden's foreign policy ambitions will keep being tested as international relationships undergo unwieldy twists on any given issue due to practical and political considerations. Here is what we already know about the Biden administration's approach to other countries after its first couple of days in office. The moves so far The administration will release a report on suspected Saudi government involvement in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, an issue the last administration showed little interest in pursuing. It is also threatening to cancel support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. It is willing to consider new NATO expansion on Russia's doorstep, into Georgia, and in fact is staunchly supportive of the international military alliance. And Biden has rejoined previous alliances the U.S. was either scheduled to exit (the World Health Organization) or had already left (the Paris climate accord). These activities are intended to signal a dramatic change in foreign policy from Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, who frequently bashed the leaders of democracies and international institutions while simultaneously cultivating friendly relationships with non-democratic leaders in the Middle East, Russia and North Korea. There will be contradictions in Biden's approach — as there were in Trump's. For example, while Trump often had kind words for dictators, he also sanctioned their countries on occasion, including Russia and China. Also, don't count on an ambitious foreign policy from Biden. Early on, the new administration will be busy juggling domestic crises, said Edward Alden, an expert on Canada-U.S. relations. "I think we are going to see an approach to alliances that looks a lot like [Barack] Obama's — engaged, respectful, but not overly ambitious," said Alden, a senior fellow at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. "The United States has enormous problems at home, and those are going to take priority for some time." Alden said he does expect some new international initiatives, such as more active co-operation on global vaccine distribution. Biden wants changes on Canada-U.S. pandemic travel On COVID-19, Biden also wants to immediately connect with Canada and Mexico to establish new rules within 14 days for pandemic-related travel safety measures. Alden also expects an attempt to rework and revive the international nuclear deal with Iran, and establish greater co-ordination with other countries in confronting China. For example, Biden has proposed a summit of democracies where countries can share ideas for countering autocracies. Biden's nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told his confirmation hearing this week that the last administration had a point in reorienting policy toward Beijing. "President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China," Blinken said. "The basic principle was the right one, and I think that's actually helpful to our foreign policy." He got into a testy exchange at that hearing with Sen. Rand Paul, a libertarian-minded Republican who favours a hands-off approach on foreign affairs. When Blinken said he was open to expanding NATO membership to Russia's neighbour Georgia, Paul called that a recipe for war with Russia. Blinken argued the opposite is true. After years of Russian incursions in non-NATO Georgia and Ukraine, recent evidence suggests Russia is most belligerent with countries outside NATO's shield, he said. Keystone XL: The early irritant Biden and Trudeau are expected to discuss new travel measures to control the spread of COVID-19, as well as Biden's decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline expansion that would run south from Alberta to Nebraska. So far, Trudeau has shown little desire to escalate the pipeline issue. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, on the other hand, has demanded retaliatory action, and some trade experts say potential legal avenues do exist. WATCH | Kenny on the fate of Keystone XL: But they're skeptical they will achieve much. Eric Miller of the Rideau Potomac Strategy Group, a cross-border consulting firm specializing in trade and government affairs, said the best that pipeline-backers can hope for is to sue the U.S. government for financial compensation for the cancelled project. He said the Alberta government and the project's developer, TC Energy, can try suing under the investor-state dispute chapter in the old NAFTA, which will remain in effect for two more years for existing investments. "[But] nothing is going to force the Biden administration to deliver the permit," Miller said. "One has to be clear that there is no world in which Joe Biden [retreats on this]." Canada-U.S. trade lawyer Dan Ujczo said he doubts complaints from Canada will make a difference. He said the most politically effective argument for the pipeline would come from Americans — from the companies and unions that would have serviced the project. The Ohio-based lawyer said challenges under U.S. laws, such as the Administrative Procedures Act, could potentially work, but he cautioned: "They're high hurdles."
Google and Facebook Inc have granted an Australian local government news provider status, drawing questions about the internet giants' efforts to curate news media. Bundaberg Council, a regional government, told Reuters a website it runs received classification as a Google "news source", making it the country's first local government with that accreditation. That means a council-funded website containing only public relations content gets priority in Google News searches about the agriculture hub of 100,000 people, accompanied by a "news source" tag.
Although it might be at least another week before Aurora’s Community Energy Plan receives its final ratification from Council, local youth have given the goal to slash greenhouse gas emissions and find efficiencies an enthusiastic thumbs-up. Council, meeting at the Committee level, gave its tentative approval to the Town’s draft Community Energy Plan, one which identifies sources of emissions and proposes solutions, all with a goal of cutting emissions down by 80 per cent from 2018 levels by 2050. Before the official debates could even get under way, however, three elementary students stepped up to have their voices heard on the issue. And their message was clear: it’s time to get moving to improve the environment. “I have always loved the environment and the older I get the more I see what climate change is doing to our planet,” said Alexandra L. “I love our community and I would love to help as much as I can. Because I realize what is happening to our earth, I would like to change the environmental impact we’re having on our plants and animals. “This is a huge step in the right direction and hopefully in the future we will be able to see the change it has made. I am well aware of what is happening to our earth and humans are the cause. We are also noticing how it is already impacting ecosystems, some more than others, and communities play a huge role in these impacts. Luckily, just as we are the problem, we can also be part of the solution.” By taking these steps towards sustainability, we will be on the road towards healthier lives, she said. “By activating this plan, it can also create job opportunities for citizens as we need people to create these electric car stations and solar panels,” she said. “It can be extremely beneficial financially for you and the community as well. I don’t see how there could be any downsides to this plan and I really hope it becomes a reality as it will impact the environment in the most positive way possible. I can finish growing up in this community in the years to come by watching how this plan evolves to create a better world.” Students Valerie S. and Sumaya C. offered similar viewpoints, presenting together, albeit separately, during last week’s Committee meeting held over Zoom. “The next years are the last we can really make a difference,” said Valerie. “The plan will help the community of Aurora to develop an eco-friendly environment which can really help us in the future. We think the ideas in this plan…are beneficial and can be put to great use by our Town.” Added Sumaya: “We think that becoming more sustainable is immensely important. Becoming more sustainable and eco-friendly would be more cost-effective and could help save money in our community. We could use that money for more eco-friendly and sustainable changes throughout the Town or [for] new programs in the future.” Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
A strong negative reaction from members of the public to an off-leash dog park being included in designs for a new greenspace on Hartwell Way could prompt a re-think to the Town’s policies on rec spaces for four-legged friends. Last week, Council received revised plans for the proposed park in Aurora’s northeast, a new design which includes naturalized features and, in response to a community survey, no off-leash dog park. Council received initial concepts for the park in March of 2020. At the time, two designs were on the table which they directed be put out to the public, particularly residents in the homes within a short walking distance to the land in question, and that consultation process began last fall. According to a report from Sara Tienkamp, Aurora’s Manager of Parks and Fleet, approximately 720 letters were delivered to residents within a 500-metre radius of the land. The letters directed residents to take a look at the concept plans and weigh in on them virtually through the Town’s Engage Aurora platform. Out of these 720 letters, the Town got 178 responses and while the overall feedback was positive, it was a very different story for the dog park. Posed with the question, “Do you agree with the proposal to have a small, fenced dog run in this park?” 119 respondents said they disagreed with this component of the plan, with 40 saying they agreed, 11 voting for “somewhat agreed” and just two residents falling into the “somewhat disagree” camp. Just two respondents said they neither agreed nor disagreed. “Residents were concerned about the potential for noise from barking, security of dogs, odours and inappropriateness of an off-leash park in a residential area,” said Ms. Tienkamp. “As such, staff have removed the amenity from the design plans and the area will be programmed as an open space turf area for residents to utilize for recreation. “Staff have standing direction from Council to incorporate off-leash components in park design. Resident feedback on park design where off-leash parks have been included in design continues to be met with strong opposition. It is recommended that staff continue to pursue off-leash park opportunities but not as a part of park design where lands are located within a residential neighbourhood with bordering homes.” Conversely, a proposal to include a community garden in the area received a much warmer reception. In previous neighbourhood-adjacent parks, plans to include community gardens have received push-back from residents, who have cited odour, aesthetics and the potential to attract pests among their concerns. This case, however, might be an exception. “Community gardens have been suggested in other new park design/retrofits and unfortunately have not been well-received by the public; however, the respondents to the public consultation for this park were very pleased with the natural aesthetic of the design and inclusion of a community garden with raised accessible plots for gardening,” said Ms. Tienkamp. “In addition, residents expressed a strong interest in assisting with the administration of the community garden. “As such, the community gardens will remain part of the park design and staff will work to engage a group partner for the governance of the plots by creating an administration model similar to the York Region Food Network’s management plan for the current Aurora Community Garden.” Reviewing the report at last Tuesday’s General Committee meeting, lawmakers said that further work is needed to indentify appropriate locations for off-leash amenities. “I understand the rescinding of incorporating the dog park areas,” said Councillor Rachel Gilliland. “I certainly wouldn’t want to eliminate all options or opportunities to have dog parks located in alternative areas.” Asking staff whether there would be any further efforts to identify appropriate locations, Al Downey, Aurora’s Director of Operations, said the last Council was provided with a list of criteria for dog parks and potential locations. “The direction was that there was no direction coming from that,” said Mr. Downey. “Council had not asked us to identify any particular area. I would be more than happy to reintroduce that to Council. I think dog parks have to be looked at separately. It is an issue people would like to see them [but] they don’t necessarily want to see them in their neighbourhood but [close to] their neighbourhood. “We looked at hydro corridors and some of those areas [as potential locations] and those are somewhat problematic because they are not our lands [and] would take some negotiations, but I will do my very best to look at those reports and see if I can get that to Council as soon as possible.” Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
CHICAGO — Elizabeth Shelby had her inauguration outfit planned weeks in advance: blue jeans, a Kamala Harris sweatshirt, a green coat, and pink Chuck Taylors as an homage to her sorority’s colours and Vice-President Harris’ signature shoe. And pearls, just like the ones Harris wore when she graduated from Howard University, was sworn into Congress, and was sworn in as the first woman, first Black and South Asian person, and first Alpha Kappa Alpha member to serve as vice-president. Shelby, a member of the Alpha Psi chapter of AKA, had hoped to wear her pearls at the inauguration in Washington, D.C. Instead, she donned them at home in Nashville, Tennessee. Following the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, AKA, the oldest sorority of the historically Black fraternities and sororities that make up the Divine Nine, called off inauguration events and urged members to stay home. So countless AKA members celebrated the historic moment in their living rooms, on Twitter and on Zoom calls. “I wanted to help show Kamala that her sisters are behind her always,” Shelby said. “I wanted her to look out and see a sea of pink and green and know that this is her moment.” After the Capitol insurrection, Shelby cancelled her plane tickets and hotel reservation. The rioting robbed many AKAs of their feeling of safety at the inauguration and beyond, she said, and many members have been telling each other to stop wearing their letters in public for safety reasons. But Shelby said that didn't stop her from celebrating at a Zoom viewing party with her local graduate chapter. “I’m not going to let this take the joy out of this moment,” she said. Harris, the daughter of an Indian mother and Jamaican father, joined AKA in 1986 at Howard University, one of the country’s oldest historically Black colleges and universities. When she accepted the Democratic vice-presidential nomination in August, she thanked AKA, saying, “Family is my beloved Alpha Kappa Alpha.” Soon after, donations in increments of $19.08, marking the year, 1908, when the sorority was founded, started flowing in to a Biden-Harris campaign fundraising committee. Alpha Kappa Alpha declared on Twitter that Jan. 20 would be Soror Kamala D. Harris Day, and encouraged members to share photos of their celebrations with the hashtag #KamalaHarrisDay. Andrea Morgan, who became an AKA the same year Harris did, posted photos of her pink sweater and pearls on Twitter with the hashtag, which she told the AP “makes us feel closer together even when we're far apart." “If we were able to be there in person, I don’t think you’d be able to look anywhere without seeing pink and green,” said Genita Harris of the Delta Omega Omega chapter in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. "Now on social media, this is a showing of our solidarity, of our love and support for our soror.” She said group chats with her sorority sisters were “going bananas” during a historic moment for the sisterhood and for HBCUs. “It’s been the same story of white men for centuries," she said. “Now a new story is being written, and it’s our story.” AKA soror Josclynn Brandon booked her plane tickets to D.C. the day Biden announced Harris as his running mate in August. When the 2020 presidential election was called, CNN was playing on her phone on the dashboard of her car. She pulled over and cried. “I knew then that I was going to see Kamala Harris make history,” she said. “It confirmed that Black women and women of colour are so much more capable than some people believe us to be.” Brandon made plans to be in D.C. from Jan. 13-21 to celebrate the sorority’s Founders’ Day on Jan. 15, as well as Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the inauguration, all in the same city where AKA was founded. After the Jan. 6 insurrection, she, too, cancelled her trip. “It did rob me of my feeling of safety while going to D.C., and it robbed me of the moment of seeing a Black woman and sorority sister become VP right in front of me,” she said. “But it took away so much more than just me going to D.C. It takes away from this celebration and robs our incoming administration of the full celebration they deserved.” Brandon watched Harris' swearing-in from her home in Indianapolis while wearing a sweatshirt with a photo of Harris from college and the words, “The Vice-President is my sorority sister.” “I’m still going to celebrate,” she said. “I’m not going to let that group’s action take away this moment. I don’t want to let them win.” Shelby grew up hearing young Black boys say they wanted to be president after Barack Obama made history as the country’s first Black president. Now, she hopes Black girls will have those dreams too. “It’s a historic moment,” she said. “To see not only a woman but a woman of colour and member of the Divine Nine become vice-president is something I never even dreamed of happening as a little girl growing up in America.” “There is a pride I can’t put into words,” she continued. “It is such a joy to see her rise to this place in our country. It is such a joy to know that she is one of us, that she represents us. She is truly our ancestors’ wildest dreams.” ___ Associated Press writer Cheyanne Mumphrey in Phoenix contributed. Fernando is a member of the AP's Race and Ethnicity team. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/christinetfern. Christine Fernando, The Associated Press
President Joe Biden is hiring a group of national security veterans with deep cyber expertise, drawing praise from former defense officials and investigators as the U.S. government works to recover from one of the biggest hacks of its agencies attributed to Russian spies. "It is great to see the priority that the new administration is giving to cyber," said Suzanne Spaulding, director of the Defending Democratic Institutions project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Cybersecurity was demoted as a policy field under the Trump administration.
Amazon won't be forced to immediately restore web service to Parler after a federal judge ruled Thursday against a plea to reinstate the fast-growing social media app, which is favoured by followers of former President Donald Trump. U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein in Seattle said she wasn't dismissing Parler's “substantive underlying claims” against Amazon, but said it had fallen short in demonstrating the need for an injunction forcing it back online. Amazon kicked Parler off its web-hosting service on Jan. 11. In court filings, it said the suspension was a “last resort" to block Parler from harbouring violent plans to disrupt the presidential transition. The Seattle tech giant said Parler had shown an “unwillingness and inability” to remove a slew of dangerous posts that called for the rape, torture and assassination of politicians, tech executives and many others. The social media app, a magnet for the far right, sued to get back online, arguing that Amazon Web Services had breached its contract and abused its market power. It said Trump was likely on the brink of joining the platform, following a wave of his followers who flocked to the app after Twitter and Facebook expelled Trump after the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. Rothstein said she rejected “any suggestion that the public interest favours requiring AWS to host the incendiary speech that the record shows some of Parler’s users have engaged in.” She also faulted Parler for providing ”only faint and factually inaccurate speculation” about Amazon and Twitter colluding with one another to shut Parler down. Parler said Thursday it was disappointed by the ruling but remains confident it will “ultimately prevail in the main case,” which it says will have “broad implications for our pluralistic society.” Amazon said it welcomed the ruling and emphasized that “this was not a case about free speech,” a point also underscored by the judge. Parler CEO John Matze had asserted in a court filing that Parler’s abrupt shutdown was motivated at least partly by “a desire to deny President Trump a platform on any large social-media service.” Matze said Trump had contemplated joining the network as early as October under a pseudonym. The Trump administration last week declined to comment on whether he had planned to join. Amazon denied its move to pull the plug on Parler had anything to do with political animus. It claimed that Parler had breached its business agreement “by hosting content advocating violence and failing to timely take that content down.” Parler was formed in May 2018, according to Nevada business records, with what co-founder Rebekah Mercer, a prominent Trump backer and conservative donor, later described as the goal of creating “a neutral platform for free speech” away from “the tyranny and hubris of our tech overlords.” Amazon said the company signed up for its cloud computing services about a month later, thereby agreeing to its rules against dangerous content. Matze told the court that Parler has “no tolerance for inciting violence or lawbreaking” and has relied on volunteer “jurors” to flag problem posts and vote on whether they should be removed. More recently, he said the company informed Amazon it would soon begin using artificial intelligence to automatically pre-screen posts for inappropriate content, as bigger social media companies do. Amazon last week revealed a trove of incendiary and violent posts that it had reported to Parler over the past several weeks. They included explicit calls to harm high-profile political and business leaders and broader groups of people, such as schoolteachers and Black Lives Matter activists. Google and Apple were the first tech giants to take action against Parler in the days after the deadly Capitol riot. Both companies temporarily banned the smartphone app from their app stores. But people who had already downloaded the Parler app were still able to use it until Amazon Web Services pulled the plug on the website. Parler has kept its website online by maintaining its internet registration through Epik, a U.S. company owned by libertarian businessman Rob Monster. Epik has previously hosted 8chan, an online message board known for trafficking in hate speech. Parler is currently hosted by DDoS-Guard, a company whose owners are based in Russia, public records show. DDoS-Guard did not respond to emails seeking comment on its business with Parler or on published reports that its customers have included Russian government agencies. Parler said Thursday it is still working to revive its platform. Although its website is back, it hasn’t restored its app or social network. Matze has said it will be difficult to restore service because the site had been so dependent on Amazon engineering, and Amazon’s action has turned off other potential vendors. The case has offered a rare window into Amazon’s influence over the workings of the internet. Parler argued in its lawsuit that Amazon violated antitrust laws by colluding with Twitter, which also uses some Amazon cloud computing services, to quash the upstart social media app. Rothstein, who was appointed to the Seattle-based court by Democratic President Jimmy Carter, said Parler presented “dwindlingly slight” evidence of antitrust violations and no evidence that Amazon and Twitter “acted together intentionally — or even at all — in restraint of trade.” ___ AP Technology Writer Frank Bajak contributed to this report from Boston. Matt O'Brien, The Associated Press
An additional $50 million in provincial funding is being earmarked for K-12 school capital projects, ranging from roof replacements to ventilation system upgrades, Manitoba’s education minister announced Thursday. Combined with a prior 2020 budget commitment of $160 million, the sum will both help facilities get much-needed upgrades and bring the province closer to its goal of opening 20 new schools in 10 years, Education Minister Cliff Cullen told reporters. “We must continue Manitoba’s ongoing investment in school infrastructure for the longevity of our schools and to improve accessibility for all students,” he said during a news conference. Cullen said investments will be made into multi-year projects already underway, purchasing future school sites, upgrading mechanical systems in schools, structural projects, and building new portable classrooms across Manitoba. Of the $210 million in total funding for infrastructure projects, $76 million has been allocated for existing projects and $61 million for new schools. Six new schools have opened, two are going to tender in the spring, and design will start on four projects during the 2021-22 school year, Cullen said. New schools are expected to be built in the Division scolaire franco-manitobaine and the Brandon, Louis Riel, River East Transcona, Seven Oaks, and Pembina Trails school divisions in the coming years. The province plans to spend $64 million on 84 renewal projects. That sum is broken down into: $10 million for access projects, such as elevator and wheelchair lift installations; $21 million for mechanical system upgrades for infrastructure, such as boilers and ventilation systems; $16 million for roof replacements; and $16 million to fix structural problems with aging foundations, walls and historic entrance stonework. The remaining $8 million is for building portable classrooms that can be moved wherever needed. Following the announcement, NDP education critic Nello Altomare called on the province to make “a real” investment in schools. “Now more than ever, kids deserve a quality education system that helps them succeed despite the pandemic. The Pallister government can continue to make promises, but the reality is they would rather underspend than help kids,” Altomare, MLA for Transcona, said in a statement. Last year, for the third year in a row, public schools received a $6.6-million boost in funding, totalling $1.33 billion — an approximately 0.5 per cent increase. Critics voiced concerns about the operating funding allocations — which are typically announced in late January — not keeping up with inflation and the province hamstringing divisions by capping education property tax increases to a maximum of two per cent. Also on the education file, Manitoba Education confirmed Thursday it is calling off spring senior provincial exams for the second year in a row. The province previously cancelled Grade 12 winter exams, citing learning disruptions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re still expecting that teachers will be evaluating Grade 12 students, whether that be some form of exam or testing,” Cullen said, adding the decision was made to ease the burden on students and teachers this year. The minister added Manitobans can expect an announcement on the teacher COVID-19 rapid-testing pilot in the coming days. Sixty rapid tests had been completed, as of Thursday afternoon. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Nearly a year into the pandemic, economists believe it’s abundantly clear that COVID-19 has psychologically and materially transformed Canada’s consumer behaviour. But with lockdowns and restrictions still in effect across much of the country, business experts say the dust has yet to settle around these “tectonic shifts” in the state of commerce. That means for retailers — big and small; local or national — preparing a pathway to adapt beyond the pandemic remains a muddy prospect. A new report by fintech firm PayBright released this week suggests the key to navigating future strategies for businesses is to use concrete data about where potential customers and clients stand in 2021. Surveying over 2,500 people from coast to coast, the 24-page study points to statistics that show how Canadians are approaching, and not approaching, their future shopping habits. Trends indicate significant changes have been seen in the “5 Ps” of consumer behaviour: products, payments, planning, place and psychology. “If 2020 was a year of disruption and uncertainty for Canadians, this will certainly be the year of building safety, security, and long-term solutions,” said Wayne Pommen, senior vice-president of Affirm Holdings Inc., which owns PayBright on Wednesday. “This is especially crucial as Canadians gain access to vaccines and look ahead to living in a post-pandemic world.” Findings in the report show shoppers are becoming increasingly discerning about where and how they spend their money. Around 55 per cent said they now read several product reviews before making a purchase, and 38 per cent said they prefer to spend more money to purchase premium brands or products to avoid lower-quality items that do not last. Around 52 per cent also said they are likely to avoid doing business with a brand that does not align with their ethics and values. On top of that, the pandemic has caused people to hold back on their overall spending. While 49 per cent anticipated no significant change to their planned 2021 budget, 36 per cent predicted a decrease and only 3 per cent said they would increase their spending. From an age perspective, those most likely to experience a decrease in their 2021 budget are those in the 18-24 and 35-44 age ranges. In terms of clothing and basics (such as groceries or pharmaceuticals), only about 10 per cent of respondents said they would spend more in those categories. But 43 per cent said they’ll be spending less on clothing versus only 22 per cent for basics. Authors of the report believe retailers with basics in their catalogue should emphasize essential products both in-store and online, citing a rise in earnings for supermarket chains who have done this such as Loblaw who have done this. They also said stores should ramp up on their reviews because fewer of them could mean less likelihood of making a sale. Deals and sales, however, will continue to be significant drivers behind consumer purchases in 2021, they added, noting personal protection is almost just as important when it comes to in-store purchases. “Frankly though, no matter what time period you compare this to, we haven’t seen trends like this ever before,” said Sylvain Charlebois, a leading supply chain expert who’s a professor at Dalhousie University. “COVID’s legacy is concerning because it’s pretty much changed everything.” From skyrocketing e-commerce as businesses quickly moved online, to the lasting trends predicted for in-store shopping such as sanitization stations and social-distancing measures, Charlebois explained how none of those changes would have ever happened without the pandemic. “Even if everyone does get vaccinated, people are just generally very risk-averse now,” he said. “That’s a massive psychological shift which translates to the fact that businesses will also not be taking risks by eliminating these measures anytime soon.” Dan Pontefract, a strategist who consults for large companies like Salesforce and TD Bank, said businesses will need to get creative and unique with their solutions. “And it has to happen fast,” he said, “or they probably won’t survive.” Pontefract said those ideas could range from pairing up to compete with larger chains to creating ads “that have chutzpah and can actually make fun of the big guys.” He also said creating the “perfect COVID shopping experience is incredibly important,” whereby customers can seamlessly be moved from shopping in-person to shopping online. “Ultimately, it’s all about the consumer,” said Pontefract. “And for better for worse, what we do know is that they’re the ones making these trends go all over the place — so they’re the ones you should follow.” Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Elected president of the Métis Nation B.C., Clara Morin Dal Col, has been suspended from her position amid escalating tension within its leadership. Nine members of the board voted to suspend her from her role as president in an unexpected meeting on Monday, tapping vice-president Lissa Dawn Smith to step in as acting president. Tension between Dal Col and board members has been playing out publicly for weeks, with waves of reactions from Métis people in B.C. throughout the turmoil. There are more than 21,000 registered citizens with Métis Nation B.C. which has 11 board members, including Dal Col. Some citizens have publicly taken sides, while others are expressing confusion and concern. Many are calling for more transparency around the events that led up to Dal Col's suspension after it was publicly announced on Tuesday. "This was not a decision taken lightly by the board," read a public statement released by Métis Nation B.C. on Tuesday. The specific reasons for the suspension were unclear in the statement — beyond broad allegations that Dal Col had contravened the oath of office and breached policies and procedures. The statement said, "the board was left with no other option but to issue a suspension." Métis National Council calls suspension a 'shocking coup' Leadership of the Manitoba Métis Federation and Métis National Council published a joint press release about Dal Col's suspension on Thursday, characterizing the board's actions as a "shocking coup." "This is a black eye for democracy," wrote Métis National Council president Clément Chartier. "We are disgusted by this underhanded attempt to eliminate a rightfully elected leader." The press release also stated that the federation and national council will not recognize Smith as the Métis Nation B.C. president. The mandate and direction of the national council flows from regionally elected leadership from the Métis governing bodies in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. There is ongoing tension and disagreement around the standing of the Métis Nation of Ontario at the national council. Public statements from Métis Nation B.C. and Dal Col in the lead-up to her suspension show that dispute over the status of the Ontario organization is among many points of disagreement between board members and Dal Col. Daniel Fontaine, CEO of Métis Nation B.C., was limited in what he would say about the suspension citing due process and Dal Col's right to appeal. "For us as public servants working at Métis Nation, our role is really to make sure that due process is undertaken. We want to make sure that all of our bylaws, our constitution, everything is properly adhered to," he said. "I'm confident that the process is unfolding as it should and we'll see what happens." When asked about the statement put out by the Manitoba Métis Federation and the National Council, Fontaine said he anticipates the board will issue a response soon. Dal Col was first elected president of the Métis Nation B.C. in 2016 and re-elected in 2020, securing 48 per cent of the votes cast for three candidates. Dal Col was not available for an interview prior to publishing.
A Seismic shift occurred Wednesday, as U.S. President Joe Biden took the oath of office and stood before the American people, and the world, and vowed the climate crisis was among his top priorities for the nation. “A cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear,” Biden said in his inaugural address. “We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again. Not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s. We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example.” After four years of slashed environmental regulations, inaction on climate change and the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement under former president Donald Trump, the gap between the two approaches to the existential threat is enormous. “It represents a tectonic shift globally, in terms of how we decide, as humanity, to respond to climate change. And I think one of the most significant parts of this is that the American government has now realigned itself with science,” said Ian Mauro, executive director of the University of Winnipeg-based Prairie Climate Centre. That move towards embracing science and fact-based approaches applies not just to climate change but also the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. “And so, as a foundation for moving forward, we will be using evidence. And evidence indicates that this is a problem that requires absolutely enormous amounts of effort, strategy and resources devoted to solving the issue of climate change.” Mauro points out this shift effectively means, overnight, the U.S. has leapfrogged Canada in terms of climate goals and progressive rhetoric. On his first day as president, Biden took two notable actions in the climate file: the U.S. rejoined the Paris Agreement and revoked permits for the Keystone XL pipeline. Keystone XL was intended to move 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the oilsands in northern Alberta to Nebraska, where it would connect to a previously-built pipeline and carry oil to the Gulf Coast. Jane McDonald, executive vice-president for Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development, previously served as a policy adviser to Liberal MP Catherine McKenna, when McKenna was Canada’s minister of environment and climate change. From McDonald’s perspective, a lot of media attention has been focused on the loss of the pipeline and potential drawbacks of the Biden presidency on the Canadian economy. What she hopes to see more of moving forward is a recognition of how much this could instead benefit Canada’s green economy. “Biden’s platform talked about a shared strategy around the shift to electric vehicles, about increasing cross-border electricity — which is definitely in Canada’s interest. He talks about environmental spending, that means a much bigger market for Canada’s clean-tech companies. So there are a lot of places here that we can engage, and where there are market opportunities to get moving on with our largest trading partner,” McDonald said. Despite the fact Canada has moved forward on the climate file in the last four years, meaningful progress is difficult when your largest trading partner isn’t at the table, she added. Manitoba Minister of Conservation and Climate Sarah Guillemard echoed McDonald’s focus on the opportunities created under the new U.S. administration. “I look forward to working toward common objectives in our efforts to address climate change, as well as creating opportunities for economic growth in green technologies,” she said Wednesday in a statement to the Free Press. Sarah Lawrynuik, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci is back. In truth, the nation’s leading infectious-diseases expert never really went away. But after enduring nearly a year of darts and undermining comments from former President Donald Trump, Fauci now speaks with the authority of the White House again. He called it “liberating” Thursday to be backed by a science-friendly administration that has embraced his recommendations to battle COVID-19. “One of the new things in this administration is, If you don’t know the answer, don’t guess,” Fauci said in one pointed observation during a White House briefing. “Just say you don’t know the answer.” Fauci’s highly visible schedule on Thursday, the first full day of President Joe Biden’s term, underscored the new administration's confidence in the doctor but also the urgency of the moment. His day began with a 4 a.m. virtual meeting with officials of the World Health Organization, which is based in Switzerland, and stretched past a 4 p.m. appearance at the lectern in the White House briefing room. The breakneck pace showcased the urgent need to combat a pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans and reached its deadliest phase just as the new president comes to office. Fauci made clear that he believed the new administration would not trade in the mixed messages that so often came from the Trump White House, where scientific fact was often obscured by the president’s political agenda. “The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know and what the science is ... it is something of a liberating feeling,” Fauci told reporters. White House press secretary Jen Psaki had invited Fauci to take the podium first at her daily briefing. While choosing his words carefully, Fauci acknowledged that it had been difficult at times to work for Trump, who repeatedly played down the severity of the pandemic, refused to consistently promote mask-wearing and often touted unproven scientific remedies, including a malaria drug and even injecting disinfectant. “It was very clear that there were things that were said, be it regarding things like hydroxychloroquine and other things, that really was uncomfortable because they were not based in scientific fact,” Fauci said. He added that he took “no pleasure” in having to contradict the president, a move that often drew Trump’s wrath. Biden, during his presidential campaign, pledged to making Fauci his chief medical adviser when he took office, and the 80-year-old scientist was immediately in motion. Fauci was up well before dawn Thursday for the virtual meeting with WHO, which Biden had rejoined the previous day after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the group out of anger over how it dealt with China in the early days of the pandemic. Fauci told the group that the United States would join its effort to deliver coronavirus vaccines to poor countries. In the afternoon, the doctor stood alongside Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris in the White House as they unveiled a series of executive orders aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, which is killing more than 4,000 Americans a day, as well as bolstering the nation’s sluggish vaccine distribution program. Fauci had chatted amiably with reporters while awaiting the tardy new president. He acknowledged it was a long day and said that while he’d prefer to go for a run, he planned to powerwalk a few miles Thursday evening. It was all a stark contrast after being kept on a tight leash by the Trump administration. Their West Wing press shop had tightly controlled Fauci’s media appearances — and blocked most of them. The doctor went from being a constant presence in the briefing room during the first weeks of the pandemic to largely being banished as Trump grew jealous of the doctor's positive press and resentful of Fauci's willingness to contradict him. Moreover, Trump frequently undermined Fauci’s credibility, falsely insisting that the pandemic was nearly over. The president regularly referenced Fauci's early skepticism about the effectiveness of masks for ordinary Americans, a position that Fauci quickly abandoned in the face of more evidence. And he even made fun of Fauci's first pitch at a Washington Nationals game. The president's attacks on Fauci — and his dismissiveness of the science — handicapped medical professionals trying to get Americans to take the virus seriously. “There was clear political influence on the message of the pandemic. It became political to say that the pandemic was devastating our community because it was interpreted as a judgement on Trump,” said Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious-diseases physician and a professor at the Boston University School of Medicine. “It actively created enemies of the public health folks in a segment of the population.” Having Fauci return to a central role, Bhadelia said, is a sign “that science was being repressed and now back.” As his handling of the pandemic became the defining issue in the 2020 campaign, Trump insisted on portraying the virus as a thing of the past. He also mercilessly attacked Fauci, retweeting messages that called for the doctor’s dismissal and reveled in “Fire Fauci!” chants at some of his rallies. Trump sidelined Fauci but dared not dismiss him, after aides convinced him of the move’s political danger. But Fauci, who has now served under seven presidents, persevered, telling friends that he would keep his head down and aim to outlast Trump and the obfuscations of his administration. “Clarity of message is the most important thing the government can be doing right now; the single biggest disservice Trump did was constantly telling people that pandemic was about to be over,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, who has known Fauci for more than 20 years. In his return to the briefing room, Fauci joked with reporters, seemingly far more relaxed than at any point last year. And as he stepped off the stage, Psaki said she'd soon have him back. ___ Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press
Amazon Senior Vice President of Global Corporate Affairs Jay Carney, who announced the plan in a news conference with Washington Governor Jay Inslee, said a company executive will be working with Washington State's Vaccine Command Center. The clinic will be hosted in partnership with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico posted new one-day highs for the pandemic Thursday, with 22,339 newly confirmed coronavirus infections and 1,803 deaths from COVID-19 recorded for the previous 24 hours. The recent surge in cases has swamped hospitals. Mexico City is the country's epicenter of the pandemic, and its hospitals are at 89% capacity, while nationwide 61% of hospital beds are filled. The difficulty in finding space in hospitals has led many families to try to treat their relatives at home, which has created spot shortages of oxygen and tanks. That has been accompanied by a jump in prices as well as an uptick in thefts targeting oxygen tanks. The situation has also sparked home remedies, including home-made oxygen concentrators that officials warned are dangerous. One video circulating on Facebook shows a Mexican couple connecting a fish-tank air pump to a hose in an effort to boost the man's oxygen levels. The head of civil defence for the city of Puebla, Gustavo Ariza, issued a public warning against such improvised devices, noting they do not increase oxygen concentration and simply re-circulate air. “This is trickery. Please, people, don't do this," Ariza said. Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell joined in the warnings. “We are concerned that people might waste time in te hope that this would work, and over the course of hours or days, very few days, the person's condition worsens,” hel said. López-Gatell said the Mexican government is going to pass rules that would give priority to medicinal oxygen production over industrial uses to free up supplies. The government is also looking to buy oxygen tanks abroad. The Associated Press
The “Shop Local” movement is in full swing as we endure a second lockdown, but there’s another movement one resident says we should take to heart as well: grow local – at least when it comes to eggs. That was the message delivered to Council last week by local resident Darryl Moore. Mr. Moore, a long-time proponent of a being able to keep backyard hens in Aurora, said going down this road and adopting the necessary bylaws to make it happen could pave the way not only for home-raised food in the form of eggs, but also pets, companionship, and even educational opportunities. “These are small things, but they’re important,” said Mr. Moore. “I know I have autistic children and animals are a very good thing for them, and chickens work very well that way. As well, people are learning where their food comes from.” This is not the first time Council has considered a backyard hen program, but previous efforts have fallen on the issues of odour, noise, and potentially attracting predators into neighbourhoods. Mr. Moore tackled these issues point by point, contending that backyard hens have no greater impact than dogs, cats or other conventional pets when it comes to odour and any scents are easily mitigated. As for noise, roosters would be the main culprits and would fall outside of any backyard hen program. But the issue of predators, however, was less clear cut. “It depends on where you live,” said Mr. Moore. “Where I live on Victoria Street, wolves and coyotes are not a big issue. Next to a ravine, they might be. It is easy enough to fortify the coops so it is not a big issue and you fortify them as much as you need depending on the types of predators you can expect. Chickens are on the bottom of the food chain, so animals are going to want to eat them, but it is easy enough to take care of.” The impact of backyard hens on property values, he admitted, was harder to evaluate but research and conversations with realtors, he contended, indicate it is minimal. “The main issue is people’s perceptions,” he said. “Property value is a perception. It isn’t really there because there isn’t an issue – people often don’t notice the chickens. Everyone has the right to enjoy their property to the best they can and that is probably the thing that comes up: they don’t want the nuisance of a chicken next door. There’s a lot of interest in this Town for backyard hens and I am really hoping that given the experience other municipalities have had, including ones right next door, that we can move quickly and implement based on knowledge and come up with some pilot project to get started and then move from there.” If Aurora adopted a backyard hen program, they wouldn’t be reinventing the wheel. Similar programs have been piloted in the City of Toronto while the Town of Newmarket has incorporated provisions into their bylaws whereby all one has to do is apply for a permit with the Town, with some restrictions tied to yard size. Mr. Moore’s pitch received a mixed reception from Council. One lawmaker to signal their tentative support was Councillor Rachel Gilliland, who questioned the best method of getting a pilot project up and running. While the earliest a motion to do can be brought forward is February, she said there is much to consider. “It seems there is an appetite and other municipalities have taken that step,” she said. “Maybe there is some room to foster this idea and something we can implement here.” Less enthusiastic, however, was Councillor Harold Kim, who said he would not be able to support the idea “at this time.” “It is not because I don’t necessarily agree with your project, because it is certainly a noteworthy one…but this reminds me of when a couple of members of Council, including the then-mayor introduced the transparent garbage bags [initiative]. It was a very worthy project to move forward with, but do we have acceptance from the general community and the public? They have also inherited an intrinsic right to enjoy their property. Even though everything you say might be scientifically correct, it is about convincing everyone around you and that is a big problem and the challenge for me. I think it is just a matter of time. “It is about convincing our fellow neighbours and our community members to adopt it. It is not necessarily an overcoming [of] the fears of coyotes or salmonella…even though we have all the facts on the presentation. It is about convincing the general public. For those reasons, it is going to be challenging for me to sponsor it.” Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
CHICAGO — An Illinois man was ordered held without bond Thursday for allegedly threatening the lives of President Joe Biden and other Democrats before this week's inauguration. U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Fuentes rejected a defence argument that there was no evidence Louis Capriotti had any real plan to act on the threat. Capriotti, 45, of Chicago Heights faces a federal charge of transmitting a threat in interstate commerce. In rejecting bail for Capriotti, Fuentes said it was concerning Capriotti continued to make threats of violence to members of Congress even after the FBI told him a year ago to stop making threats. “Threats hurt people,” Fuentes said at the end of a nearly 90-minute hearing. “They terrorize people. They make people afraid. There’s an argument to be made that’s what they’re intended to do in the first place.” During the hearing, prosecutors played an excerpt of the Dec. 29 call at the heart of the criminal complaint, left on the voicemail of an unidentified New Jersey congressman. The message was peppered with obscenities. “If they think that Joe Biden is going to put his hand on the Bible and walk into that (expletive) White House on January 20th, they’re sadly (expletive) mistaken,” a man alleged to be Capriotti can be heard saying. A similar threat was made concerning now Vice-President Kamala Harris. The arrest of Capriotti came less than a week after supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol to stop Congress from ratifying the electoral vote for Biden, leading to the deaths of a police officer and four others. Capriotti’s lawyer, Jack Corfman, argued home detention would be sufficient to ensure the safety of the community, especially since Biden's and Harris' inaugurations passed and “went smoothly.” Assistant U.S. Attorney William Dunn disagreed, saying Capriotti has a long history of ignoring court orders and only needs a phone to continue his campaign of harassment. The Associated Press
NEW YORK — A lawyers' group filed an ethics complaint against Rudy Giuliani with New York's courts, calling for him to be investigated and his law license suspended over his work promoting former President Donald Trump's false allegations over the 2020 election. Lawyers Defending American Democracy, which includes former judges and federal attorneys among its members, sent the complaint on Wednesday to the Attorney Grievance Committee of the state's court system saying Giuliani had violated the rules of professional conduct. “Giuliani has spearheaded a nationwide public campaign to convince the public and the courts of massive voter fraud and a stolen presidential election," the complaint said. The complaint called for the committee to investigate Giuliani's conduct, including his comments at a rally before rioters stormed into the U.S. Capitol, and to suspend his law license immediately while any investigation is being done. A message was left with the committee seeking comment. An investigation would be the first step in a process that could lead to a disbarment. Another complaint against Giuliani was filed earlier in January by New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Democrat, who asked that disbarring Giuliani be taken up for consideration. The New York State Bar Association separately has opened an inquiry into whether he should be expelled from that organization, which is a voluntary membership organization. An email seeking comment was sent to Giuliani's representative. The New York Times reported that on his radio show on Thursday, Giuliani said “the whole purpose of this is to disbar me from my exercising my right of free speech and defending my client, because they can’t fathom the fact that maybe, just maybe, they may be wrong." The Associated Press
As the vaccine rolls out in long-term care homes across the country, some provinces, including British Columbia, are also prioritizing essential caregivers for a shot to benefit residents and staff. But there’s some inconsistency about who qualifies as essential.
Surrounded by snow and ice — with sleet starting to fall — Ellen Lamont had all the teaching tools she could ever want to explain the states of matter to her elementary students this week. “What happens to our masks when we breathe outside?” Lamont asked her Grade 4/5 immersion students, each one seated in a homemade snow seat in their outdoor classroom, during a natural sciences lesson taught in French. She told them what they first exhale is a gas that condenses on their face coverings, and if they are outside long enough in the cold, that liquid may freeze and turn into a solid. Lamont could never have predicted she would be using personal protective equipment to conduct a lesson, nor she would ever be teaching in what her students have come to affectionately call “snow class” (classe de neige). The first-year teacher said she has taken all the pivots required during the COVID-19 pandemic in stride — and that’s how Laura Secord School’s snow class came to be. On Rupert DePape’s first day back after the holiday break, the fifth grader said he came across a sign posted near the designated school door for his class. The 10-year-old followed Lamont’s written instructions, and instead of entering the Wolseley area school as usual, built himself a snow chair. “We’re stuck in our seat, and have to stay far apart, and can’t really talk much (this year). Outside, it’s a lot more flexible with all the things you can do,” said Rupert, whose favourite subjects are history and math; the latter of which is taught outside, unless the wind chill makes the temperature feel -28 C or colder. While noting snow class can get “a bit chilly,” he said it’s superior to in-class learning, because all of the students can learn together and move freely. Lamont and David Seburn, an educational assistant, have been overseeing a duplex classroom, with Grade 4s in one room and Grade 5s in another, since Manitoba schools entered a restricted level (code orange) on the province’s pandemic response system. “I thought to myself, ‘It would be so nice — if just for this morning, we could all be outside so I could deliver this material once, altogether,’” Lamont said, recalling the moment she first decided to hold class outdoors Jan. 4. Engagement levels immediately spiked and students were more focused when they returned to their indoor classrooms to do pen-and-paper activities, she said. The success of an initial outdoor period has led to daily snow class lessons, which involve physical activity and the use of natural manipulatives, such as tree branches and ice cubes. Community members have donated Christmas trees, food colouring and a tree stump to decorate the space. The students also went on a nature walk to find items to make ice art with to spruce up the space. “To immerse children in nature and to create a love and reverence of nature is very important for this generation so we have kids that care about the environment and will protect it as they grow older,” said Seburn, an educational assistant and forest school practitioner-in-training who is currently enrolled in a course at the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada. It’s not only easier to engage students outdoors, he said, but also safer, at present. Lauren Phillips said she is incredibly appreciative of how her children’s teachers, at both Laura Secord and River Heights School, have put emphasis on the importance of fresh air this year, in recognition COVID-19 can be transmitted through aerosols. “There’s this notion of schools being safe, but schools aren’t safe if the behaviours aren’t safe,” Phillips said. While her seventh grader’s teacher keeps the windows open during the school day, she said her son is ecstatic about snow class with Lamont. “Most people say school sucks, but I don’t really get why,” said Callie Neek, a fourth grader in the class. The nine-year-old said she would much rather be in school than at home, so she can see her friends and learn outside. As long as students are getting something out of it, Lamont said snow class will continue throughout the school year. “They’ve been so adaptive, so flexible, so willing to happily go along with whatever we’re doing and show up and try their best,” the Winnipeg teacher said. “They have really truly amazed me.” One of her students has suggested the class collect more stumps, so they can continue to learn outside when the snow melts. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigned on Thursday after a scathing review about a toxic workplace at Rideau Hall. The review followed CBC reporting into allegations of workplace harassment and bullying in the Governor General’s office.