Security video played Wednesday during Donald Trump's impeachment trial shows a Capitol Police officer directing Sen. Mitt Romney away from the rioters who had breached the building.
Security video played Wednesday during Donald Trump's impeachment trial shows a Capitol Police officer directing Sen. Mitt Romney away from the rioters who had breached the building.
Filming a polar bear just inches from its nose, close enough to see its breath fog up the lens, was a career highlight for Jeff Thrasher. The CBC producer is part of the team behind Arctic Vets, a new show that follows the day-to-day operations at Assiniboine Park Conservancy in Winnipeg. "It was breathing warm air onto the lens. I was thinking, 'Wow, there's nothing between me and this polar bear,"' Thrasher said, who filmed the shot using a GoPro camera up in Churchill, Man. The show is also the first time cameras have been allowed in the Winnipeg facility, which houses Arctic animals like seals, polar bears and muskox. "I've filmed many, many things in my career and that's right up there," Thrasher said. There are 10 half-hour episodes in the new series that features expeditions to Manitoba's subarctic, emergency animal rescues and daily life at the conservancy. The first episode follows veterinarian Chris Enright to Churchill just as polar bears are starting to migrate up the coast of Hudson Bay. When a bear wanders too close to town, Enright works with the local Polar Bear Alert Team to catch it and lift it by helicopter to a safe distance away. In the same episode, back in Winnipeg, the team trims the hooves of resident 800-pound muskox, Chloe. Although being around Arctic animals is part of Enright's daily life, he hopes the show will help bring southern Canadians a little closer to the North. "This is our norm. But it's not the norm for a lot of people, so the show is a good opportunity to tell these stories," he said. "We have herds of caribou that rival migrating animals on the Serengeti, but people in the South don't necessarily know about that. And that's really unfortunate, because there's some incredible wildlife in the North." Enright also hopes the show will urge Canadians to think about protecting the country's Arctic ecosystems, which face the critical threat of climate change. "There's a lot of concern with the effects of climate change and over the next 50, 100 years what's going to happen. As southerners, there are things we can do to protect and conserve those ecosystems," he said. The COVID-19 pandemic also hit in the middle of filming, which Enright said prevented the team from travelling into Nunavut. Jackie Enberg, an animal care supervisor and Heather Penner, an animal care professional, are also featured in the show for their work with polar bears. "It's not just animal care or vet care, or conservation and research. It's all of it. We all have a great passion to educate and share and help inspire other people to make a difference, whether it's to make changes in your lives or just talk about," Penner said. Enberg said the bears featured in the show were rescued when they were a few years old. "They're here because they could not survive in the wild," Enberg said. "We just ultimately hope people will fall in love with polar bears as much as we have," Penner said. Arctic Vets airs Friday. Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem. By Emma Tranter in Iqaluit, Nunavut This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. --- This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship The Canadian Press
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. There are 852,269 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 852,269 confirmed cases (30,677 active, 799,830 resolved, 21,762 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 2,760 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 80.72 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,693 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,956. There were 40 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 367 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 52. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.14 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 57.26 per 100,000 people. There have been 23,880,652 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 955 confirmed cases (375 active, 576 resolved, four deaths). There were 15 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 71.82 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 244 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 35. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 183,360 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 115 confirmed cases (one active, 114 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 0.63 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of one new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 99,303 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,613 confirmed cases (20 active, 1,528 resolved, 65 deaths). There were three new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 2.04 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 16 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been 316,029 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,424 confirmed cases (76 active, 1,322 resolved, 26 deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 9.73 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There were zero new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.33 per 100,000 people. There have been 232,291 tests completed. _ Quebec: 283,666 confirmed cases (7,880 active, 265,456 resolved, 10,330 deaths). There were 739 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 91.9 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,479 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 783. There were 13 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 86 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.14 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 120.47 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,127,867 tests completed. _ Ontario: 295,119 confirmed cases (10,296 active, 277,939 resolved, 6,884 deaths). There were 975 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 69.88 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,383 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,055. There were 12 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 165 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 24. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.16 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 46.72 per 100,000 people. There have been 10,578,867 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 31,551 confirmed cases (1,212 active, 29,453 resolved, 886 deaths). There were 76 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 87.87 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 620 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 89. There were zero new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 11 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.11 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 64.24 per 100,000 people. There have been 521,439 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 27,923 confirmed cases (1,530 active, 26,017 resolved, 376 deaths). There were 126 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 129.81 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,094 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 156. There were four new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 19 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is three. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.23 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 31.9 per 100,000 people. There have been 560,268 tests completed. _ Alberta: 131,603 confirmed cases (4,516 active, 125,234 resolved, 1,853 deaths). There were 267 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 102.13 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,265 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 324. There were 10 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 62 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is nine. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.2 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 41.91 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,353,608 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 77,822 confirmed cases (4,733 active, 71,753 resolved, 1,336 deaths). There were 559 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 91.94 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,539 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 506. There was one new reported death Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 22 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is three. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.06 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 25.95 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,876,985 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,071 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (five active, 37 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 11.07 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of four new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 14,026 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 351 confirmed cases (33 active, 317 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 83.86 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 28 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,462 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
BERLIN — A former member of Syrian President Bashar Assad's secret police was convicted Wednesday by a German court of facilitating the torture of prisoners in a landmark ruling that human rights activists hope will set a precedent for other cases. Eyad Al-Gharib was convicted of accessory to crimes against humanity and sentenced by the Koblenz state court to 4 1/2 years in prison. It was the first time that a court outside Syria ruled in a case alleging Syrian government officials committed crimes against humanity. German prosecutors invoked the principle of universal jurisdiction for serious crimes to bring the case that involved victims and defendants who were in Germany. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the verdict represented a “historic juncture” that would send “real messages to all those who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Syrian people and gives hope to the victims and their families that right will prevail.” The group, which has documented the decade-long war, urged Syrian refugees in Europe to come forth with any evidence and documents to courts to help more such cases. Al-Gharib could have faced more than a decade behind bars, but judges took into account mitigating factors, including his testimony in court. The 44-year-old was accused of being part of a unit that arrested people following anti-government protests in the Syrian city of Douma and took them to a detention centre known as Al Khatib, or Branch 251, where they were tortured. Al-Gharib went on trial last year with Anwar Raslan, a more senior Syrian ex-official who is accused of overseeing the abuse of detainees at the same jail near Damascus. Raslan is accused of supervising the “systematic and brutal torture” of more than 4,000 prisoners between April 2011 and September 2012, resulting in the deaths of at least 58 people. During the trial, al-Gharib testified against Raslan, implicating him in more than 10 deaths of prisoners. A verdict in Raslan's case is expected later this year. The court also considered photographs of thousands of alleged victims of torture by the Syrian government. The images were smuggled out of Syria by a former police officer, who goes by the alias of Caesar. “Today’s verdict is the first time a court has confirmed that the acts of the Syrian government and its collaborators are crimes against humanity,” said Patrick Kroker, a lawyer with the European Center for constitutional and Human Rights, which represented multiple survivors at the trial. “Testimony by torture survivors and intelligence officers, as well as the Caesar photos, prove the scale and systemic nature of enforced disappearances, torture and sexual violence in Syria," he said. "The relevance of this evidence extends far beyond the proceedings in Koblenz.” Delivering the oral verdict, the presiding judge made it clear that al-Gharib's crimes were part of the Syrian government’s systematic abuses against its own population. Syrian officials did not testify during the 60-day trial. The court concluded that al-Gharib's unit, which was under Raslan's command, was involved in chasing down and detaining at least 30 people following a demonstration in Douma, and then bringing them to the detention centre where they were tortured. Al-Gharib, who had the rank of sergeant major until he defected, left Syria in 2013 and came to Germany in 2018. Both men were arrested a year later. Some rights groups have raised questions about the trial, noting that government defectors like Al-Gharib may not realize that statements they make during asylum applications may be used against them. Mohammad Al-Abdallah, director of the Washington-based Syria Justice and Accountability Center and a former prisoner in Syria, said Al-Gharib was a low-ranking officer with little value in the case against him. He suggested that putting defectors like Raslan and Al-Gharib in prison would please the Assad government, "because this will deter anyone else from defecting or joining the opposition or supplying information to human rights groups.” But Wassim Mukdad, a Syrian survivor and co-plaintiff in Raslan's trial, said while al-Gharib was "just one small cog in the vast Syrian torture apparatus” the verdict against him was important. “I hope it can shed light on all of the Assad regime’s crimes,” he said. "Only then will the trial really be a first step on this long road to justice for myself and other survivors.” The European Center for constitutional and Human Rights, which supports 29 survivors in the case against Raslan, of whom 14 are represented as co-plaintiffs in that case, is working to bring further cases against Syrian officials to trial in Germany, Austria, Sweden and Norway. ___ Sarah El Deeb in Beirut and David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report. Frank Jordans, The Associated Press
(Sarah MacMillan/CBC - image credit) Holland College is launching a new pilot project to help people who are, or were, a youth in care. The college will waive tuition and fees for prospective students who qualify, and if they don't meet the qualifications for their chosen program, they can access the college's adult education or GED programs to get those qualifications. To qualify for the pilot project, the student would need to have been in care for at least 24 months as a minor and must be a resident of P.E.I. There is no age limit. Holland College president Sandy MacDonald used to work with at-risk youth, and said some children in care sometimes have a difficult time transitioning to adulthood. "They drop out of school in greater numbers. They don't maximize their potential academically," he said. "So we thought that we were uniquely situated here at the college to help them with those transitions." MacDonald said he expects up to 10 people to enrol in the pilot project. "Our primary mandate and the reason our students come here is to find work and they want to find meaningful employment as soon after the graduation as possible," MacDonald said. "And we know that the way the labour market is in P.E.I. these days, that there will be opportunities for people on graduation." 'Community leadership' The program would be the first of its kind in the province, but not for the region. In Nova Scotia, Mount Saint Vincent University and the Nova Scotia Community College have recently announced programs to cover tuition for former youth in care, as has Memorial University in Newfoundland. "We have seen this take hold in other jurisdictions and we didn't want the young people in this province to be left behind," said P.E.I. Child and Youth Advocate Marvin Bernstein, who called the announcement "good news." "It's part of community leadership to step up to the plate and provide this kind of opportunity. Young people who've been in care and have gone through certain levels of adversity or disruptions in terms of their stability and life experience, through no fault of their own.… Can we give them a break? Can we give them an opportunity?" Bernstein said that from the perspective of equity and fairness, youth in care should have the same opportunities as their peers. Marvin Bernstein was sworn in as P.E.I.'s first child and youth advocate in July 2020. "History has shown us that, generally speaking, young people who've been in care don't access post-secondary education to the same degree. There's a lower percentage and they have poorer life outcomes. So this can change their life trajectory dramatically," he said. "They should have the right to pursue higher education, to reach their full potential, and when we encourage that kind of approach, society benefits because then we have contributing members of society." Bernstein said he'd also like to see UPEI follow suit. "It's kind of laying down the marker and perhaps challenging the other post-secondary institutions, UPEI, to do likewise, and then we will have more opportunities and more benefits, because right now with one institution, you've got a limited number of spaces," he said. "Can we open up other opportunities and other institutions?" Officials with the province said P.E.I. currently has 94 youth in care, six of which are graduating from high school this year. More from CBC News
Australia's Fortescue Metals Group has apologised to an Aboriginal group for clearing land on a heritage site while flouting a government condition for representatives of the community to be present when the damage took place. It is the week's second such incident, despite pressure on Australian iron ore miners to show they have improved practices to manage important sites after Rio Tinto destroyed two sacred rock shelters for a mine expansion last May. Fortescue had state government permission to clear the land in the Weelamurra Creek area registered as sacred to the Wintawari Guruma people, on condition that community elders were present to perform salvage and cultural rites, four documents reviewed by Reuters showed.
(Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press - image credit) There are a great many things Guita Hyman, 86, misses about the before times, but there are a few things in particular she is looking forward to seeing once she's vaccinated against COVID-19: her four children, nine grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren and her condo in Florida. The Montreal resident has been doing most things from home for months so is also looking forward to carrying out the mundane tasks of daily life in person. "It would be a relief to do my own shopping instead of doing it online," she said. "Just to touch the vegetables to see if they're ripe ... that would be fun." Hyman will be among the Quebecers born in 1936 or earlier who will be allowed to book a vaccination appointment as of Thursday. About 200,000 people in the province are aged 85 and older. The bulk of them live in the greater Montreal area, which will be a particular point of emphasis in the early stage of the mass vaccination campaign. Health-care workers wait for patients at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Montreal's Olympic Stadium on Tuesday. 'When I see it, I'll believe it' A majority of those who live in seniors' residences and nursing homes have already received their first dose of vaccine, Premier François Legault indicated at a press conference on Tuesday, and vaccinating the rest of the cohort is expected to take about two weeks. In some areas, such as the Capitale-Nationale region in Quebec City, officials have decided to lower the age bar to 80. While Hyman is "delighted" to be able to register for an appointment later this week, she still has some questions and concerns. Will there be enough operators to handle the call volume? Will they speak both English and French? How will seniors get to and from the vaccination centre? Many seniors, Hyman said, aren't as lucky as she is when it comes to having family close by to help drive her around. "I have a lot of acquaintances, friends, whose children are not in town and who will have a problem accessing a suitable or nearby station," she said. WATCH | Guita Hyman wonders about how seniors with mobility issues will get the shot: During his news conference Tuesday, Legault said that, for now, there are no plans to vaccinate people at home. There are also practical concerns about accessibility in the vaccination centres the province has set up. Will people have to stand in line? How crowded will the centres be? As Daphne Nahmiash, a retired gerontology professor put it, "this gives us a lot of hope ... but we still have a lot of questions." Selena Spector, 86, was even more blunt. "When I see it, I'll believe it," she said. "There's been so many hitches, and with everything that has gone wrong, I don't know who to believe." Not that Spector isn't keen to have her turn. She said the pandemic has taken its toll and she hopes this rollout will be as efficient as possible. "It feels like a lost year, and I haven't got that many more years [left]," she said. A burden lifted Nahmiash is 79, but her husband is in his eighties. Under the rules set forth by the government, anyone born in 1936 or before is eligible for vaccination, as is a companion or caregiver who is at least 70 and spends three days a week with them. Nahmiash said despite concerns about how the system will work, the announcement relieves a heavy burden. "It makes a very big difference to how we feel," she said. "All of us have been living with an underlying fear that every time we leave the house or every time somebody comes near the house, we're at risk. Most of us have chronic illnesses of some kind or another." And then there's the isolation, or as Spector framed it, the pandemic is "frankly, boring." As the vaccination campaign ramps up later this week and next, it holds out the promise of a far more interesting spring.
TORONTO — The National Film Board of Canada is creating two key positions and improving hiring practices as part of new measures it says are aimed at eliminating injustice and systemic racism not just in Canadian society, but also within the institution. The diversity, equity and inclusion changes come amid a racial reckoning that has many in Canada's screen industry calling for an increase in funding and representation for creators from Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour communities. The announcement also comes just over two months after the film board released its strategic plan for 2020-2023, which was delayed from July 2019 as the NFB further consulted with stakeholders who were concerned about the institution's spending priorities. The new initiatives include the creation of a director of diversity, equity and inclusion position, to be filled by a candidate from an underrepresented community. The senior role will oversee equity and anti-racist practices, and will be a member of the NFB’s executive committee. The NFB is also establishing a new director of Indigenous relations and community engagement position, which will involve forging closer ties with communities. That role will be filled by an Indigenous candidate and help improve Indigenous representation among film board employees, and advise on issues related to production and distribution of NFB works. "One of the reasons I feel it's so important to have those two people embedded with us in everything is that we are a white, white, white management committee," Claude Joli-Coeur, government film commissioner and NFB chairperson, said in an interview. Having a director of Indigenous relations and community engagement working closely with the top brass will also be greatly beneficial in situations like what the NFB is facing with the documentary "Inconvenient Indian," he said. The NFB co-production is on hold for distribution after a CBC News report questioned director Michelle Latimer's claims of Indigenous identity. Joli-Coeur said the NFB and producers are still "assessing all the different possibilities" for the film, noting "it's a very complicated situation" their Indigenous Advisory Committee is providing guidance on. "That's an illustration of why we need change, why we need more Indigenous colleagues, and why we need also a champion of Indigenous (projects) to help us to navigate in those very turbulent waters." The NFB says the new measures were designed with the input of many internal and external partners, and are in addition to the government agency's Indigenous Action Plan, now in its third year, as well as its plan for gender parity. The two new positions will work closely together, report directly to Joli-Coeur, and work with other decision-makers at the organization on a daily basis. They'll "have an important influence on anything" the NFB does, from the way it thinks to how it approaches things and finds solutions, he said. "They will also be our eyes on the floor, because I'm expecting that they will be deeply connected with all of our employees. Anything that we don't see that is kind of hidden or not on the spotlight that we're missing, will be brought to our attention." Other new measures announced Wednesday include a pledge to make the NFB staff "fully reflect Canadian society" by March 31, 2023. Figures based on voluntary declaration from the NFB's fiscal year 2019-2020 show that out of 365 full-time permanent employees, the NFB staff base includes: 211 women, 52 visible minorities, three Indigenous employees, and eight people with disabilities. The organization says it wants to ensure its slate of directors and producers always includes individuals from underrepresented communities. And it pledges that at least half of all new hires will be drawn from people in those groups — Indigenous, Black, racialized, and LGBTQ2+, and people with disabilities. "It's a transformation of the organization," said Joli-Coeur. "We want to set up goals that, within the next two years, will have an important impact on the fabric of our employees and how we work with creators and how we fulfill our mandate." Joli-Coeur's second and final term as commissioner is done at the end of November 2022. He said he's "preparing the ground" for his successors with specific target dates to help ensure goals are met and the NFB makes significant and lasting changes. "When I leave the organization, I want see already that change happening, and that's something that is achievable," he said, "and after that the ambition should be that we exceed that representation." Other new commitments include prioritizing recruitment of individuals (two out of three people) from the aforementioned underrepresented communities for all other management positions as the positions open, "until the NFB accurately reflects the composition of Canada's population." The film board also vows to ensure its programming equitably includes the voices of creators from those underrepresented communities, and that those groups are represented within the NFB's Creation and Innovation committees. To help find a wide range of people and companies of diverse backgrounds for contract work, the NFB plans to establish "a respectful, clear, convenient and transparent method of data collection." The NFB also pledges to: - Continue to highlight creators and promote works from diverse communities in the NFB's distribution and marketing activities, focusing on themes of social justice, equality, intersectionality, and immigration. - Put described video and subtitles on each new film. - Work with organizations representing equity-seeking groups to develop greater sensitivity and openness. - Create annual action plans with measurable targets for matters of diversity, equity and inclusion at the NFB. - Issue independent quarterly reports to the NFB’s executive committee and its board of trustees on issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion, unconscious bias and systemic racism at the NFB. - Also issue annual reports on these issues and the progress made. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
STONY PLAIN, Alta. — A pastor of an Edmonton-area church that has been allegedly holding Sunday services in violation of COVID-19 rules is to appear in court today. James Coates with GraceLife Church in Spruce Grove was arrested last week. RCMP have said he was remanded in custody after refusing to agree to bail conditions. The church has been holding services that officials say break public health regulations on attendance, masking and distancing. Police fined the church $1,200 in December and a closure order was issued in January. Coates was twice charged in February with violating the Public Health Act and violating a promise to abide by rules of his release, which is a Criminal Code offence. Coates has addressed the province's health restrictions in his sermons, telling worshippers that governments exist as instruments of God and there should be unfettered freedom of worship. An associate pastor of the church, Jacob Spenst, conducted last Sunday's service and told the congregation that messages of support have been pouring in for the jailed pastor. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
(Radio-Canada - image credit) Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government to make public all documents related to how his father handled the aftermath of the PQ's provincial election victory in 1976. In an interview with CBC News, St-Pierre Plamondon said his party will table a motion in Quebec's National Assembly calling for the documents to be turned over. "The demand we will make in the National Assembly through a motion will be specific to that event," he said. St-Pierre Plamondon's call comes after CBC News revealed the existence of once-secret U.S. State Department documents that shed new light on how Pierre Trudeau's government responded to the sovereignist PQ's rise to power in 1976. In a telegram dated Dec. 22, 1976, little more than a month after René Lévesque became premier, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Enders said Trudeau may be taking a more aggressive approach to dealing with the fledgling PQ government. Enders said Paul Desmarais, head of Power Corporation and one of Quebec's top business leaders, told him Trudeau had suggested that Desmarais "make it as tough as possible" for the PQ government by transferring jobs out of Quebec and increasing unemployment. Power Corporation says it didn't move jobs out of Quebec at the time. The State Department records were declassified several years ago and recently republished as part of the State Department's Foreign Relations of the United States series. Canadian federal cabinet minutes for the period have been made public — but it is not known how many other memos, letters, telegrams or other documents concerning that period remain behind closed doors. Pierre Trudeau turned over extensive records to Library and Archives Canada but much of that collection remains closed, with access granted only to researchers who have the permission of his estate. Assessments vary on how much weight to give the U.S. State Department documents. Jean-François Lisée, who scoured thousands of U.S government documents for his book In the Eye of the Eagle — and who went on to lead the PQ — said the documents are a bombshell that reveal how far Pierre Trudeau was prepared to go to counter the sovereignist government. Former Trudeau cabinet minister Marc Lalonde, meanwhile, said the ambassador's account of his conversation with Desmarais didn't agree with what the government was telling business leaders at the time, or with his own conversations with Desmarais. The U.S. State Department documents say Paul Desmarais told the U.S. ambassador Pierre Trudeau had suggested he make things tough for the new PQ government in 1976. Ted Johnson, a former Trudeau aide who went on to become an executive with Power Corporation, said he doesn't believe Trudeau would have suggested that Desmarais move jobs out of Quebec. "The idea that Pierre would have been suggesting that people engage in that kind of subterfuge — keep your framework but move things out — I can't imagine him ever suggesting that," said Johnson, who serves as vice-chair of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation. St-Pierre Plamondon, however, said he believes the telegram sent by Enders is an accurate account of what Desmarais said. "The human brain, the memory is not designed to have accurate memories of facts that happened 40 years ago," said the PQ leader. "That's why documents are more useful." Plamondon said the documents also cite specific unemployment figures. "That doesn't look like something that has been cited out of context — especially when it comes to American diplomacy, because Americans had no interest in the promotion in the independence of Quebec," he said. "They had no interest in inventing information." While some dismiss the documents as old history, St-Pierre Plamondon said they are typical of a political attitude toward Quebec that persists — a willingness to weaken Quebec's economy in the name of national unity. "Fear was a determinant factor in how the (federalists) won the two referendums and that fear is induced by measures like moving jobs away from Quebec (or), threatening to do so," he said. Bloc Québécois MP Stéphane Bergeron, who raised the issue in the House of Commons Tuesday, said he was "a bit scandalized but not really surprised" when he read the State Department documents. "For a number of years we have had indicators that the federal government deliberately doesn't favour — even goes so far as to disadvantage Quebec's economy," he said, adding the documents offer proof. Bergeron said the federal government's economic discrimination against Quebec has continued over the years in everything from shipbuilding to textiles, and in what he called Ottawa's failure to stand up strongly for the supply management system. Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at email@example.com.
(WAHA Communications - image credit) The number of cases of COVID-19 in First Nations communities reached a grim new milestone over the weekend, surpassing 20,000 cases since the pandemic arrived in Canada over a year ago. According to the latest data from Indigenous Services Canada, the number of active cases on-reserve has been on the decline. There were 1,481 active cases as of Feb. 22. But new infections persist. Outbreaks have occurred primarily in the Prairies, the most reported in Alberta with 348 new cases on-reserve in the last week. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces will be deployed to Pimicikamak after visiting the First Nation in Manitoba last weekend to assess the COVID-19 outbreak there. Members of the Armed Forces are also assisting with outbreaks and vaccine distribution for Pauingassi First Nation in Manitoba, Fort Nelson First Nation in British Columbia, Hatchet Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan and Muskrat Dam Lake in Ontario according to a Feb. 17 update from Indigenous Services Canada. Since the pandemic began, there have been a total of 20,227 cases on-reserve. Fourteen people have died from the virus since last week, bringing the toll to 218. The total number of hospitalizations rose to 925. The number of First Nations people who have recovered from the disease is now at 18,528. Total cases in First Nations communities per region reported as of Feb. 22: British Columbia: 2,184 Alberta: 5,918 Saskatchewan: 5,477 Manitoba: 5,225 Ontario: 853 Quebec: 560 Atlantic: 10 Vaccinations As of Feb. 18, Indigenous Services Canada reported 433 First Nations and Inuit communities have vaccination plans underway. A total of 91,927 doses have been administered, representing a vaccination rate six times higher than Canada's general population. What are the symptoms of COVID-19? New or worsening cough. Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Temperature equal to or over 38 C. Feeling feverish. Chills. Fatigue or weakness. Muscle or body aches. New loss of smell or taste. Headache. Gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting). Feeling very unwell. If you think you may have COVID-19, please consult your local health department to book an appointment at a screening clinic. CBC Indigenous is looking to hear from First Nations, Métis, and Inuit who have contracted or lost a loved one to COVID-19. If you would like to share your story, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TORONTO — Advocates say migrant and undocumented workers should have access to COVID-19 vaccines.The Migrant Rights Network is calling on all levels of governments to guarantee that access.The group is expected to make the call in a news conference today along with doctors and labour leaders .They say they are concerned that thousands of migrant and undocumented workers will not get the vaccine because of their immigration status.The group says government vaccination plans do not include measures that would guarantee safe access to the shot for the workers.The Ontario government has not said if temporary foreign workers employed on the province's farms would have access to the COVID-19 vaccine.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
(CBC - image credit) Despite early signs of overheating in Canada's housing market, Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem so far has no plans to raise interest rates until the economy and employment are back on track following the slump caused by COVID-19. Speaking remotely to the combined Calgary and Edmonton chambers of commerce on Tuesday, Canada's top central banker said that the economy would continue to need monetary stimulus, likely until 2023, even though there are already signs it could be distorting the residential real estate market. "In that low-for-long world, there are risks that housing could get carried away, so that is something we will be looking at very carefully," Macklem said in response to a question from a member of the remote audience. Some observers have already expressed worries that the Canadian housing market is rising at an unsustainable pace, leaving critics — including some in the real estate industry — nervous of a boom, followed by a devastating bust once interest rates finally start to rise. Women and youth hardest hit But while Macklem also expressed concern, he said that even though the bank predicts the economy will begin to surge by the end of this year, high unemployment among Canada's most vulnerable groups means the economy will continue to need a helping hand. "Because women and youth hold so many of the jobs in the hardest-hit sectors, they have borne a disproportionate share of the job losses," Macklem told his audience, and he said that many of the jobs that have disappeared will not come back. Already, long-term unemployment — measured as people who want to work but have not found a job in more than 26 weeks — is currently holding at more than half a million people, a level not seen in the economy in 30 years. Macklem said failure to get those people into jobs will lead to what he called "labour market scarring." In other words, it would result in permanent damage to the Canadian workforce. He suggested that while the bank is holding rates at rock-bottom levels, in return employers in his audience need to contribute by helping to train the types of employees they needed. That applied especially in the digital economy. WATCH | COVID-19's unequal economic recession in Canada: Low-wage jobs were hit the hardest. Not only did technology-related employment not fall as far, but the demand for tech workers has bounced back to levels higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. And he said that employers must help create their own workforce in an economy that is increasingly digital and automated. "Technology is no longer a sector," Macklem said. "It's every sector." But he said that rebuilding the workforce and the economy in that new form will be a process of months and years, and he reiterated that there is little fear of inflation and thus rate hikes because there remains plenty of slack in the economy. Beware 'extrapolative expectations' But just as low rates have led to increased borrowing by businesses that has helped spur expansion and share prices, low mortgage rates have made it easier for prospective homeowners to bid up the price of houses. So far, Macklem said, the move toward bigger houses further away from city centres has not been speculation so much as the need for more working — and learning — space for employees who no longer have to commute to the office. Part of the evidence for that is that larger, more distant homes are rising in value, whereas inner-city properties are attracting fewer buyers and renters. Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem, speaking remotely to the combined Calgary and Edmonton chambers of commerce on Tuesday, said the bank would keep a close eye on the housing market and think about how to contain a housing bubble that could lead to future trouble. But there are signs that the practical motivation for rising prices may be changing to the kind of speculative frenzy seen in 2016 and 2017 that the government tried to quell with tax measures and stress tests some of which were relaxed last year. "What we get worried about is when we start to see extrapolative expectations, when we start to see people expecting the kind of unsustainable price rises we've seen recently go on indefinitely, and they're basing their decision on those kinds of assumptions," he warned. And while he did not describe what kind of actions he would take to stimulate jobs without overstimulating housing, Macklem said the bank would keep a close eye on the housing market and think about how to contain a housing bubble that could lead to future trouble. "When we see people starting to buy houses solely because they think prices are going to go up, that is a warning sign for us," he told the audience. "We are starting to see some early signs of excess exuberance." Follow Don Pittis on Twitter: @don_pittis
Human rights campaigners hope the landmark ruling will set a precedent for other cases.View on euronews
The deal with Revolution Acceleration Acquisition Corp is expected to provide Berkshire Grey about $413 million in cash, as the maker of logistics automation systems looks to take advantage of a surge in online shopping amid the COVID-19. Delaney, a former Congressman who launched his special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) in December, will join Berkshire Grey's board following the transaction.
(Vahid Salemi/The Associated Press - image credit) The rulings of a court in a rural corner of northeastern Iran have brought together a Who's Who of Canada's legal profession to denounce the mistreatment of members of a religious minority who are being driven from their homes. One former prime minister — Brian Mulroney — three former attorneys-general (including Jody Wilson-Raybould and Irwin Cotler) and four former Supreme Court justices are among those who signed their names to a letter calling for justice for the Baha'i residents of the village of Ivel, where 27 families were recently evicted from their homes. The letter was also signed by several former provincial Supreme Court and appeals court judges and professors of law. Cotler said it was the "punitive and predatory" nature of Iranian court rulings against the Baha'i that struck a chord with Canada's jurists, along with the judges' use of openly discriminatory arguments. The Iranian courts' claim that they were following Islamic law in confiscating property from non-believers has been rejected by many Muslim groups outside Iran, including the Canadian Council of Imams. "I think that what was so outrageous here was the judicial complicity, brazenly acknowledging that they were engaged in this persecution based solely on what they called 'the perverse sect of Bahaism,' which is known to all the signatories to be a peaceful religious minority," said Cotler. "I might add that in this legal process, the Baha'is' counsel were not allowed to see any evidence against them, not allowed to adduce any evidence, not permitted to make any representations. In other words, [the ruling was] not only an abandonment of due process, [it] adds to the entire shocking legal and judicial complicity in this." Crimes of faith Cotler said Ivel's Baha'is have suffered years of official persecution. "There've been a series of home raids, assaults, confiscations, arrests, imprisonment," he said. "In 2020 we saw an alarming new chapter — two courts sanctioning the confiscation of their property based on religious belief." The confiscation was carried out by members of a state-affiliated organization called Execution of Imam Khomeini's Order (EIKO) that answers directly to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The U.S. Treasury Department accuses EIKO of controlling "large swaths of the Iranian economy, including assets expropriated from political dissidents and religious minorities, to the benefit of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and senior Iranian government officials." The Canadian letter is addressed to Iran's chief justice, Ebrahim Raisi, who is in charge of Iran's investigation into the destruction of Flight PS752 with 176 people on board. Raisi is often touted as a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corp fired two surface-to-air missiles at Flight PS752 killing all 176 people onboard on Jan, 8, 2020. Iran's Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi is in charge of Iran's investigation of the aircraft's destruction. A history of persecution "The Baha'is have been persecuted since the inception of their faith in Iran in the 19th century," said Winnipeg Baha'i Payam Towfigh. He said that persecution caused him to leave Iran for Canada, while his parents already had been exiled internally in the country because of local hostilities. "Right after they got married in the 1940s, they moved to a village close to Ivel named Damghan, which had a number of Baha'is there," he said. But local mullahs incited the village's Muslim population against the "heretics" living among them, he said. "A few of the Baha'i were murdered. My father ended up in jail because of the Baha'i belief that he had," he said. "After a year or two they had to leave at night because some of their neighbours told them there were rumours they were going to come and burn their house down. So they had to leave town in the night." Since the Islamic Revolution, said Towfigh, the persecution has become national and organized. "It's no longer just local religious leaders inciting the population against the Baha'i," he said. "Now it's systematic and it's the leader of the country." He said the estimated 300,000 Baha'is across Iran have watched their situation grow worse. "Over the last couple of years, Baha'is have lost their shops, their stores, they've been kicked out of their homes," he said. "Government agents feel very comfortable coming to their homes at night and just taking them away to jail. "What really we are worried about is that this is a test case that could now be replicated and copied around Iran." Change of heart unlikely While Cotler said he believes the letter to Iran from some of the best-known legal minds in Canada "is unprecedented," he's "not sure that Chief Justice Raisi will pay attention." With little hope of a change of heart by the Islamic Republic regime, Cotler said the letter-writers intend to pursue their case in international courts and to call on the Canadian government to use Magnitisky sanctions to punish those who have benefited from the expropriations. Foreign Minister Marc Garneau has tweeted about the evictions, but the Trudeau government — which doesn't have diplomatic relations with Iran — has taken no substantive actions. Canada has used Magnitsky sanctions against Russia, Venezuela, South Sudan and Myanmar, but no Iranian official has been subjected to the measure. The U.S. Treasury Department, meanwhile, has sanctioned Raisi as an individual. Towfigh said he has no illusions about the letter changing hearts and minds within the regime. "I am certain that they will dismiss it," he said. "From what I've seen in the past, that will be the posture they will have." But he said it's still a worthwhile effort, for two reasons. "The more important one is the effect on the Baha'i who are in Iran right now, when they see and hear that they are not forgotten," he said. "Because the authorities — not only in Iran but under all of these despotic governments — want to remind oppressed individuals that everyone has forgotten about you, you may as well give up, change your religion. So this brings hope and reminds people that the world has not forgotten about them. "Secondly, Iran may dismiss this but they are still mindful of their image in the world. Prominent people bringing this up in the United Nations — I personally believe it does have an effect on their behaviour."
In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Feb. 24 ... What we are watching in Canada ... Joe Biden granted Justin Trudeau at least one of the items atop his wish list as they met for the first time as president and prime minister. Biden pledged to help get two Canadians out of a Chinese prison, saying "humans being aren't bargaining chips." Strenuous expressions of presidential dismay were nowhere to be seen during the final two years of Donald Trump's tenure as Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor languished behind bars. That all changed yesterday as Biden and Trudeau -- one in Washington, D.C., the other in Ottawa -- wrapped up a warm and comprehensive, if virtual, summit meeting. It was Biden's first since taking office. Spavor and Kovrig were detained in China in an apparent act of retaliation after Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in December 2018 on American charges of violating sanctions on Iran. They have remained in custody ever since. Biden offered no hints about how the White House might help secure their release. --- Also this ... TORONTO -- CTV says it made an "error" by placing an "offensive image" of actress Delta Burke in blackface among its TV program highlights for Black History Month. A spokesman for the broadcaster says the blackface picture, taken from an episode of 1980s hit "Designing Women," is one that "should not have been used in any context." CTV has since removed the blackface image as well as the full episode of "Designing Women." The photo was part of a rotation of images in the CTV Throwback section of its mobile app that directed viewers to popular Black-led sitcoms on the streaming service from decades past, including "The Jeffersons," "Good Times" and "Sanford and Son." Sandwiched between those images was a still photo from "Designing Women," which featured the blackface-wearing Burke alongside her Black co-star Meshach Taylor. It was taken from a 1989 episode titled "The Rowdy Girls," which revolves around the sitcom's stars being booked to perform at a talent show as Motown legends the Supremes. The group debates whether to play their parts in blackface and ultimately concludes it's not the best decision. However, Burke's character doesn't get the message and shows up with her face painted anyway to sing alongside her friends. "Designing Women," set in Georgia, often grappled with the rapidly changing social issues of the U.S. South, such as race and sexuality, in a way that would be considered outdated by today's standards. --- What we are watching in the U.S. ... In a career filled with remarkable comebacks, Tiger Woods faces his toughest recovery of all. Woods was driving through a sweeping, downhill stretch of road through coastal suburbs of Los Angeles when his SUV struck a sign, crossed over a raised median and two oncoming lanes before it toppled down an embankment, coming to a halt on its side. The crash caused “significant” injuries all down his right leg that featured rods, pins and screws during what was described as a “long surgical procedure” at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Anish Mahajan, the chief medical officer, said Woods shattered tibia and fibula bones on his right leg in multiple locations. Those were stabilized by a rod in the tibia. He said a combination of screws and pins were used to stabilize additional injuries in the ankle and foot. A statement on his Twitter account said he was awake, responsive and recovering. The single-car crash was the latest setback for Woods, who at times has looked unstoppable on the golf course with his 15 major championships and record-tying 82 victories on the PGA Tour. After four back surgeries that kept him out of golf for the better part of two years, he won the Masters in April 2019 for the fifth time, a victory that ranks among the great comebacks in the sport. Now it’s no longer a matter of when he plays again — the Masters is seven weeks away — but if he plays again. No charges were filed, and police said there was no evidence he was impaired. --- What we are watching in the rest of the world ... Regional diplomatic efforts to resolve Myanmar’s political crisis have gathered pace, as protests continued in Yangon and other cities in the Southeast Asian country calling for restoration of the civilian elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Indonesia's foreign minister visited Thailand on Wednesday as part of her efforts to co-ordinate a regional response to the Feb. 1 coup. A Thai official said Myanmar’s new foreign minister was also in the Thai capital. Elsewhere, more than 130 civil society groups and other organizations concerned about the military takeover have called for a global arms embargo on Myanmar. --- On this day in 1986 ... Tommy Douglas, remembered as the father of medicare, died at age 81. As Saskatchewan premier from 1944-61, he implemented Canada's first public hospital insurance program. In 1962, a year after Douglas became the federal NDP leader, Saskatchewan introduced North America's first socialized health plan. --- In sports ... The return of elite domestic curling competition after a nearly 12-month absence saw a significant drop in Canadian viewership. Numeris ratings for the opening weekend of the Canadian women's curling championship in Calgary were down 17 per cent from the same time period in the 2020 competition. An average audience of 331,000 viewers tuned in on the opening weekend of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, TSN says. That compared to an average audience of 398,000 viewers who watched the opening weekend of last year's Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask. Play began Friday night with the preliminary round opener in a bubble setting at Markin MacPhail Centre. The 18-team competition continues through Sunday. Ratings included viewers from all TSN platforms, including online and mobile. The highest-rated weekend draw was a Sunday night game between Alberta's Laura Walker and Ontario's Rachel Homan. That matchup between undefeated skips pulled in an average of 427,000 viewers. --- ICYMI ... One of the world's better known fans of mystery novels, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is now writing one. Clinton is teaming up with her friend, the Canadian novelist Louise Penny, on “State of Terror,” which has a plot that might occur to someone of Clinton's background. It features a “novice” secretary of state, working in the administration of a rival politician, tries to solve a wave of terrorist attacks. The novel comes out Oct. 12, and will be jointly released by Clinton's publisher, Simon & Schuster, and Penny's, St. Martin's Press. “Writing a thriller with Louise is a dream come true," Clinton, who has expressed admiration for Penny and other mystery writers in the past, says in a statement "I’ve relished every one of her books and their characters as well as her friendship. Now we’re joining our experiences to explore the complex world of high stakes diplomacy and treachery. All is not as it first appears.” Penny, an award-winning author from Quebec whose novels include “The Cruelest Month” and “The Brutal Telling,” says that she could not “say yes fast enough” to the chance of working with Clinton. “What an incredible experience, to get inside the State Department. Inside the White House. Inside the mind of the Secretary of State as high stake crises explode," she said. "Before we started, we talked about her time as Secretary of State. What was her worst nightmare? ‘State of Terror’ is the answer.” Fiction writing and worst-case scenarios have become a favourite pastime for Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton. He collaborated with James Patterson on the million-selling cyber thriller “The President is Missing,” and on a new novel, “The President's Daughter,” which comes out in June. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021 The Canadian Press
The social network's commitment to the news industry follows Google's $1 billion investment last year, as technology giants come under scrutiny over their business model as well as the proliferation of misinformation on their platform. Facebook on Tuesday restored Australian news pages, ending an unprecedented week-long blackout after wringing concessions from the government over a proposed law that will require tech giants to pay traditional media companies for their content. The brief blackout shocked the global news industry, which has already seen its business model upended by the tech giants.
(Mackenzie Scott/CBC - image credit) Although Pink Shirt Day is this coming Friday, that didn't stop some students who are out of school this week in Ulukhaktok, N.W.T., to celebrate the day a little early. Last Friday, students at Helen Kalvak Elihakvik School posted reminders to be kind throughout the community in honour of the day that is celebrated nationally with people wearing pink shirts to show they are against bullying. "The kids have come up with some great ideas and some great positive words and blurbs and quotes to be put out there. Together we've all created some pink ice bricks, put some posts in them, so these positivity signs spread kindness throughout all of Ulukhaktok," said Sandra Summers, a teacher at Helen Kalvak Elihakvik School who, along with her fellow teachers, is on professional development this week. Two students from Helen Kalvak Elihakvik School in Ulukhaktok, N.W.T. show the signs they made to celebrate Pink Shirt Day. Each sign the students made were in English and Inuinnaqtun and included phrases of kindness. Summers and Kathy Blouin both teach kids in composite classes of grades two to four. Pink Shirt Day started in Nova Scotia in 2007 with one small act of kindness. For the teachers, it was important that the kids be educated about the day and celebrated it even though they aren't in school. "It fits in really well with our health unit right now with mental health and emotional well being ... our goal is to bring kindness to these kids and then for these kids to then go on and spread kindness throughout the community." 'Our words are powerful' The pink signs were written in both English and Inuinnaqtun and included phrases like "throw kindness around like confetti" and "kindness is among us." Students worked on it throughout the week, and posted them throughout the community on Friday with help of the RCMP. "So ideally, when somebody when someone walks into the Co-op or the Northern [store], they are going to see one of the signs and it will make their day," said Summers. Eight-year-old Sarah Joss said she had fun making the sign but was really looking forward to "bringing kindness around the town." "Our words are powerful, they can make people sad or happy." With bright smiles, the kids delivered the messages with their classmates and teachers. "The biggest thing we want them to take from this is we want to inspire them to inspire others," said Summers. "We want to let them know if they are in a tough situation that they can always choose kindness."
The largest outflow on record for Cathie Wood's ARK fund was not enough to stop the firm from increasing its bet on Tesla Inc after the electric carmaker's stock closed below $700 for the first time this year on Tuesday. Wood, whose $26.6 billion ARK Innovation exchange-traded fund (ETF) was the top-performing actively managed U.S. equity fund tracked by Morningstar last year, bought $171 million of Tesla shares, pushing its weight to about 10% of the fund. The sell-off triggered heavy trading, with $5 billion of ARK Innovation shares changing hands on Tuesday - more than double the previous session's volume.
(CBC - image credit) New Brunswick's auditor general took a dispute over her authority to dig into the books of the body in charge of billions of dollars in New Brunswick government employee pension funds directly to MLAs Tuesday, a forum that has worked well for her in the past. Kim Adair-MacPherson told MLAs in her report to the legislature's public accounts committee she has been refused full access to the financial records of Vestcor to review its pay and performance, and requested their intervention to avoid a court fight with the body. "In our view, the Auditor General Act, as it stands, grants the Auditor General authority to audit Vestcor," said Adair-MacPherson in her report. "To prevent future disagreements over access, however, we propose a regulation be added to the Auditor General Act to explicitly list Vestcor as an auditable entity." Vestcor is the Fredericton-based organization set up to manage what is now $18 billion in New Brunswick government pensions and other funds. It's jointly owned by the province's two largest public pension funds serving civil servants and teachers, but also oversees the retirement plans of hospital workers, nurses, Crown corporation employees, provincial court judges, MLAs and other groups. Vestcor also manages other investment accounts, including University of New Brunswick endowment funds and nuclear waste and decommissioning funds for NB Power. It used to be a Crown agency but was given its independence in 2016, in part, so it could market its expertise and manage funds for other out-of-province public bodies. So far none have signed on, something the auditor general suggested should also be looked into. She said she also has an interest in reviewing other issues, like how six-figure bonus payments to Vestcor executives are earned and calculated and how its investment strategy is performing. In 2019, Vestcor paid its top three executives a combined $2.63 million, most of that in bonus and incentive pay. Vestcor president John Sinclair earned $1.26 million in 2019, most of that from $882,721 in bonus pay. In a statement posted on its website Vestcor disputed the Auditor General's contention she has the authority to review the body's operations. "Our analysis and advice have indicated that the Auditor General should be much more limited with respect to access to Vestcor related information than what had been requested, " read the statement. "We therefore have had to respectfully decline these requests to ensure we can continue to fulfill our contractual and other commitments to our clients." In addition to wanting the province to order Vestcor to accept the authority of her office, Adair-MacPherson encouraged MLAs to call the body before the public accounts committee to ask their own questions about its operations. "We're now five years later and some of the things [MLAs] were told have not panned out the way that they were led to believe," Adair-MacPherson told reporters. "Decision makers have to agree that they want this entity subject to audit." People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin made a motion for Vestcor to appear before the public accounts committee to answer questions. In her report, Adair-MacPherson reproduced letters back and forth between her office and Vestcor trying to arrange a review of materials the body claimed it is not required to disclose. She said the effort dragged on for weeks and stalled the audit of the province's books until she could trust the valuation of pension assets the province was reporting in its own financial statements. She said New Brunswick's comptroller had to hire an outside auditor for $30,000 to deal with the matter. "It was in my view ridiculous the hurdles we had to go through to get to the point to finalize the statements," she said. Vestcor recently upgraded its accommodations by moving its operations into two floors of a new office tower on Carleton Street, Fredericton's so called "sexiest building." People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin made a motion to summon the body to answer questions. The committee is scheduled to vote on the matter Wednesday. It's not the first time Adair-MacPherson has used her appearance in front of MLAs to ask for help. 'It's a simple fix,' says AG In 2018, she told MLAs her office was underfunded and required a $1-million budget increase to properly do its job. It was a plea political parties immediately added to their election platforms that year and which the Higgs government delivered in its first post-election budget. On Tuesday, she said she hoped taking her dispute with Vestcor to MLAs would generate support and another swift response. "It's a simple fix. It's an easy clarification of the Auditor General Act," she said. "It's my attempt to resolve the issue once and for all."