Speedy Sir: Lewis Hamilton knighted in year-end royal honors; 'Gilligan's Island' star Dawn Wells dies, COVID-19 cited; Trebek's last new 'Jeopardy!' episodes airing with a tribute. (Dec. 31)
Speedy Sir: Lewis Hamilton knighted in year-end royal honors; 'Gilligan's Island' star Dawn Wells dies, COVID-19 cited; Trebek's last new 'Jeopardy!' episodes airing with a tribute. (Dec. 31)
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.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday the new English variant of COVID-19 may be associated with a higher level of mortality although he said evidence showed that both vaccines being used in the country are effective against it. Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said the evidence about mortality levels was "not yet strong", and came from a "series of different bits of information", stressing there was great uncertainty around the data. He said that once people reached hospital, there was no greater risk, but there were signs that people who had the UK variant were at more risk overall.
Thursday's Games NHL Montreal 7 Vancouver 3 Winnipeg 4 Ottawa 1 N.Y. Islanders 4 New Jersey 1 Tampa Bay 3 Columbus 2 (OT) Boston 5 Philadelphia 4 (SO) Los Angeles 4 Colorado 2 Florida at Carolina -- postponed --- NBA L.A. Lakers 113 Milwaukee 106 New York 119 Golden State 104 Utah 129 New Orleans 118 --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published January 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
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
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
MOSCOW — The return to Russia from Germany by opposition leader Alexei Navalny was marked by chaos and popular outrage, and it ended, almost predictably, with his arrest. The Jan. 17 flight from Berlin, where Navalny spent nearly five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning, carried him and his wife, along with a group of journalists documenting the journey. But the plane was diverted from its intended airport in Moscow to another one in the capital in what was seen as an apparent attempt to foil a welcome from crowds awaiting him. Authorities also took him into custody immediately, sparking outrage at home and abroad. Some Western countries threatened sanctions and his team called for nationwide demonstrations Saturday. Navalny had prepared his own surprise for his return: A video expose alleging that a lavish “palace” was built for President Vladimir Putin on the Black Sea through an elaborate corruption scheme. His team posted it on YouTube on Tuesday, and within 48 hours, it had gotten over 42 million views. Navalny faces years in prison from a previous conviction he claims was politically motivated, while political commentators say there are no good options for the Kremlin. The AP looks at his long standoff with authorities: WHO IS ALEXEI NAVALNY? Navalny, 44, is an anti-corruption campaigner and the Kremlin’s fiercest critic. He has outlasted many opposition figures and is undeterred by incessant attempts to stop his work. He has released scores of damning reports exposing corruption in Putin’s Russia. He has been a galvanizing figure in mass protests, including unprecedented 2011-12 demonstrations sparked by reports of widespread rigging of a parliamentary election. Navalny was convicted twice on criminal charges: embezzlement and later fraud. He received suspended sentences of five years and 3 1/2 years. He denounced the convictions as politically motivated, and the European Court of Human Rights disputed both convictions. Navalny sought to challenge Putin in the 2018 election, but was barred from running by one of his convictions. Nevertheless, he drew crowds of supporters almost everywhere he went in the country. Frequently arrested, he has served multiple stints in jail for charges relating to leading protests. In 2017, an attacker threw a green antiseptic liquid in his face, damaging his sight. He also was hospitalized in 2019 after a suspected poisoning while in jail. None of that has stopped him. In August 2020, he fell ill while on a domestic flight in Siberia, and the pilot landed quickly in Omsk, where he was hospitalized. His supporters managed to have him flown to Berlin, where he lay in a coma for over two weeks and was diagnosed as having been poisoned by a Soviet-era nerve agent — an allegation the Kremlin denied. After he recovered, Navalny released a recording of a phone call he said he made to a man he alleged was a member of Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, who purportedly poisoned him. The FSB dismissed the recording as a fake, but it still shocked many at home and abroad. Navalny vowed to return to Russia and continue his work, while authorities threatened him with arrest. WHY DID NAVALNY RETURN AT ALL? Navalny said he didn’t leave Russia by choice, but rather “ended up in Germany in an intensive care box.” He said he never considered the possibility of staying abroad. “It doesn’t seem right to me that Alexei Navalny calls for a revolution from Berlin,” he explained in an interview in October, referring to himself in the third person. “If I’m doing something, I want to share the risks with people who work in my office.” Analysts say it would have been impossible for Navalny to remain relevant as an opposition leader outside Russia. “Remaining abroad, becoming a political emigre, would mean death to a public politician,” said Masha Lipman, an independent political analyst. Nikolai Petrov, a senior research fellow in Chatham House’s Russia and Eurasia Program, echoed her sentiment, saying: “Active, bright people who could initiate some real actions and take part in elections ... while in the country, once abroad, end up cut off from the real connection to the people.” WHY IS NAVALNY NOW FACING PRISON? His suspended sentence from the 2014 conviction carried a probationary period that was to expire in December 2020. Authorities said Navalny was subject to regular in-person check-ins with law enforcement officers. During the final days of Navalny's probation period, Russia’s prison service put him on a wanted list, accusing him of not appearing for these checks, including when he was convalescing in Germany. Officials have petitioned the court to have him serve the full 3 1/2-year sentence. After his return, Navalny was placed in custody for 30 days, with a hearing to review his sentence scheduled for Feb. 2. Earlier this month, Russia’s Investigative Committee opened another criminal probe against him on fraud charges, alleging he embezzled donations to his Foundation for Fighting Corruption. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison. DOES NAVALNY THREATEN THE KREMLIN? Putin never calls Navalny by name, and state-run media depict him as an unimportant blogger. But he has managed to spread his reach far outside Moscow through his widely popular YouTube accounts, including the one this week that featured the allegations about the massive Black Sea estate. His infrastructure of regional offices set up nationwide in 2017 has helped him challenge the government by mobilizing voters. In 2018, Navalny launched a project called Smart Voting that is designed to promote candidates who are most likely to defeat those from the Kremlin’s dominant United Russia party. In 2019, the project helped opposition candidates win 20 of 45 seats on the Moscow city council, and regional elections last year saw United Russia lose its majority in legislatures in three cities. Navalny has promised to use the strategy during this year’s parliamentary election, which will determine who controls the State Duma in 2024. That’s when Putin’s current term expires and he is expected to seek re-election, thanks to constitutional reforms last year. Analysts believe Navalny is capable of influencing this key vote, reason enough to want him out of the picture. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Analysts say Navalny’s return was a significant blow to Putin’s image and left the Kremlin with a dilemma. Putin has mostly worked from his residence during the coronavirus outbreak, and the widespread perception that he has stayed away from the public doesn’t compare well to Navalny’s bold comeback to the country where he was poisoned and faced arrest, said Chatham House’s Petrov. “It doesn’t matter whether people support Navalny or not; they see these two images, and Putin loses,” he said. Commentators say there is no good choice for the Kremlin: Imprisoning Navalny for a long time will make him a martyr and could lead to mass protests, while letting him go threatens the parliamentary election. So far, the crackdown has only helped Navalny, “and now, even thinking loyalists are, if not on his side, certainly not on the side of poisoners and persecutors,” Alexander Baunov of the Moscow Carnegie Center wrote in a recent article. All eyes are on what happens at Saturday’s planned protests, Petrov said. In 2013, Navalny was quickly released from prison following a five-year sentence from embezzlement conviction after a large crowd gathered near the Kremlin. Putin’s government has since become much tougher on dissent, so it is unlikely that mass protests will prompt Navalny’s immediate release, Petrov said. But the Kremlin still fears that a harsh move may destabilize the situation, and the scale of the rallies could indicate how the public would react to Navalny being imprisoned for a long time. ___ Associated Press journalist Kostya Manenkov contributed. Daria Litvinova, The Associated Press
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Parts of Newfoundland and Labrador are marking the end of the first week of the provincial election campaign with a massive snowstorm. Though some candidates were out knocking on doors Thursday morning, by late afternoon it was difficult to see across the street in St. John's with all the blowing snow. Liberal Leader and incumbent Premier Andrew Furey made it back to St. John's before the storm hit after a few days of campaigning in western and central Newfoundland. Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie is in Clarenville, where 60 km/h winds blew overnight Thursday. As of Thursday evening, it was unclear whether NDP Leader Alison Coffin would make it back to St. John's from campaigning in Labrador, where another storm was swirling over the north coast. The snowstorm also marks the one-year anniversary of the record-breaking blizzard, now dubbed "Snowmageddon," which dumped more than 70 centimetres on the capital city and prompted officials to enforce a state of emergency for more than a week. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — Tyler Toffoli continued to run amok over the Canucks Thursday, tallying two goals and an assist as the Montreal Canadiens dominated Vancouver 7-3. The three points added to the hat trick Toffoli scored against the Canucks — his former team — in Vancouver’s 6-5 shootout win over Montreal on Wednesday. Joel Armia had two goals and two assists, and Josh Anderson, Jake Evans and Ben Chiarot each scored for the Canadiens (3-0-2) Thursday. Vancouver (2-4-0) got a pair of goals from Bo Horvat, one from Brandon Sutter and a pair of assists from Tyler Myers, who took a five-minute major for a checking to the head on Armia late in the third period to go along with three minors for a total of 11 minutes in penalties. Montreal goalie Jake Allen registered 14 saves and captured the 150th win of his NHL career. Thatcher Demko stopped 35-of-42 shots for the Canucks. The Canadiens sealed the score with 1:05 left on the clock when Chiarot's rocket from the blue line beat Demko. The goal was Montreal's only power-play marker on the night, despite having the man advantage nine times. Sutter temporarily put a dent in the Canadiens' lead 4:56 into the third period with a nifty backhand that hit the cross bar before dropping into the net, making the score 6-3. But the Canucks had already fallen apart over the course of 94 seconds in the second frame. Toffoli scored Montreal's second short-handed goal of the night, putting a shot behind Demko 1:13 in. Vancouver battled through much of the frame before crumbling around the 15-minute mark. J.T. Miller took a shot from the blue line that Allen turned away with his pads. Nick Suzuki stole the rebound and sprinted down the ice alone. Demko stopped Suzuki's shot but Anderson was lying in wait at the side of the net to bat the rebound out of the air and into the Canucks goal. Just nine seconds later the Canadiens struck again when Paul Byron whipped a pass across the crease to Evans, who buried it. Armia struck next, scoring with a backhand shot from the slot to put Montreal up 6-2. Vancouver challenged the play for goalie interference but after a review, officials upheld the call on the ice. It was the second flurry of scoring action on the night. The two sides also combined for four goals in the first eight minutes of the game. The Canadiens were first on the board after Brogan Rafferty was caught trying to clear the puck from behind the Canucks' net. It was picked off his stick and a battle ensued in front of the crease. Toffoli came away with it and snapped a shot past Demko to open the scoring 1:54 into the first frame. It took Vancouver less than 90 seconds to respond. Myers took a long shot from the top of the face-off circle and Horvat deflected it in to knot the score at 1-1. A Canucks power play took a turn for the worse after Jonathan Drouin was called for holding 3:55 into the first period. Vancouver defenceman Nate Schmidt gave the puck away deep inside his own zone, where it was picked up by Toffoli. He dished it off to Armia and the right-winger fired it past Demko for Montreal's first short-handed marker of the night. Horvat tied the game at 2-2, beating Allen with a one-timer from the point on a power play before the midway mark of the first period. Vancouver’s veteran defenceman Alex Edler and Travis Hamonic were injured Wednesday's outing and missed Thursday’s game. Hamonic was placed on injured reserve Thursday. The lack of blue line depth was apparent in the second half of the back-to-back, with the Canucks dressing Rafferty, Olli Juolevi and Jalen Chatfield — a trio that had played a total of seven NHL games. Chatfield suffered an upper-body injury midway through the first period and did not return. The Habs and Canucks will close out their three-game series at Rogers Arena on Saturday. NOTE: All five of Toffoli's goals this season have come against Vancouver. The 28-year-old centre signed with Montreal in free agency after play 10 regular-season games with the Canucks last year. … The Canadiens fared better on the Canucks' power play than their own, scoring two short-handed markers and capitalized on just one man advantage. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press
Regina– On Jan. 18, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum lifted a state-wide mandatory mask order, with the state having brought its COVID-19 new case numbers down to a level lower than Saskatchewan’s. That state, which had among the worst COVID-19 numbers for the entire United States for the previous three months, has remarkably turned things around. On Jan. 21, Manitoba also announced a slight easing it its public health restrictions, restrictions that were much more severe than Saskatchewan. Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister tweeted on that day, “Today is a day of hope and optimism. We’re announcing a few modest changes to our #COVID19MB restrictions that will allow increased personal connections and economic activity while ensuring we continue #ProtectingManitobans.” Manitoba will now allow two visitors to a household, 10 people plus the officiant at a funeral, and retail establishments to sell items beyond what was considered “essential.” These neighbouring jurisdictions were able to do so as they had both brought down their new COVID-19 cases down considerably. On North Dakota’s day of lifting its mask mandate, they say just 69 new cases, and by Jan. 21, their seven-day average of new cases was 147. On Nov. 14, 2020, North Dakota’s seven-day average peaked at 1,389.1. On Jan. 21, Manitoba’s seven-day average was 163. On Jan. 13 they had 90 new cases, and on Jan. 19, they had 111 new cases. For the past three weeks, both saw their seven-day averages less than 200, and generally around 160 to 170. Saskatchewan Saskatchewan, however, has had nearly double that over the last two weeks. From Jan. 10 to Jan. 21, Saskatchewan’s seven-day average of new cases hovered between 289.1 and 317.6. On Jan. 21, it was 286.1, with 227 new cases reported that day, and a record number of deaths for one day, at 13. Premier Scott Moe said in a Facebook post on Jan. 21, “Sadly, we are reporting that thirteen Saskatchewan residents who tested positive for COVID-19 have died. I would like to extend my condolences to the friends and family of each of these individuals. “While Saskatchewan’s case numbers continue to decrease and we continue to deliver the vaccine at a high rate, reporting the highest number of deaths in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic is a somber reminder of the need to reduce the spread of this deadly virus by following all public health orders and guidelines that are in place.” At the regular COVID-19 briefing on Jan. 19 in the Legislature, both Premier Scott Moe and chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab were asked about what North Dakota is doing better than Saskatchewan, and if they should be removing their mask mandate. Shahab said he’s been following North Dakota, which is similar in some ways to Saskatchewan, with a fairly rural population. He noted, “They were in dire straits by the end of October, early November.” “That's the lesson; that when there's high compliance with all the public health measures, things change very quickly. And I think that's the main lesson from North Dakota, but also, we’ve seen that in Saskatchewan. We've seen that in our neighboring provinces. High compliance through public health measures, restrictions, but also the high compliance by all of us, dramatically changes the course of the pandemic. So, that's what we saw in mid-December. That's really what we want to see right now,” Shahab said. Moe said of the measures implemented south of the border a few months ago, “Apparently they have been effective. There’s obviously been mass adherence to the measures that Governor (Doug) Burgum had put in place. “I’ve talked to Governor Burgum a number of times throughout this pandemic, with respect to some of the challenges that we've seen, north and south of the border, and their numbers have come down markedly. And that is through people doing the right thing, and taking their individual responsibility very, very seriously.” He added that the last time he checked, North Dakota was in excess of 5 per cent of its population having been vaccinated. “In fact, I think it's a few months ago, we were talking about North Dakota, having the highest per capita rate of COVID infections in North America. I believe if they're now leading North America on the vaccination rates, or are very close to it. And so, they have had a very robust ambitious and aggressive vaccination program. I know in one day they had over 300 vaccination sites operating in North Dakota. So they've been very ambitious, with respect to procuring vaccines and making them available to North Dakotas, and I think that speaks to the importance of us having access to a large number of vaccines, as soon as possible, ultimately, finding our way through this COVID-19 pandemic and finding our way back to some degree of normal in our communities.” Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
WASHINGTON — Testing wristbands are in. Mask-wearing is mandatory. Desks are socially distanced. The clearest sign that there's a new boss at the White House is the deference being paid to coronavirus public health guidlines. It’s a striking contrast to Donald Trump’s White House, which was the epicenter of no less than three separate outbreaks of COVID-19, their true scale not fully known because aides refused to discuss cases publicly. While the Trump administration was known for flouting safety recommendations, the Biden team has made a point of abiding by the same strict guidelines they’re urging Americans to follow to stem the spread of the virus. It’s part of an overall effort from President Joe Biden to lead by example on the coronavirus pandemic, an ethos carried over from his campaign and transition. “One of the great tragedies of the Trump administration was a refusal to recognize that many Americans model the behaviour of our leadership," said Ben LaBolt, a former press secretary to President Barack Obama who worked on the Biden transition. “The Biden administration understands the powerful message that adhering to their own guidelines and modeling the best public health behaviour sends, and knows that that’s the best path to climbing out of this until we can get a shot in the arm of every American.” To that end, most of Biden’s White House staff is working from home, co-ordinating with colleagues by email or phone. While the White House aims to have more people working onsite next week, officials intend to operate with substantially reduced staffing for the duration of the pandemic. When hundreds of administration staffers were sworn in by Biden on Wednesday, the ceremony was virtual, with the president looking out at team members displayed in boxes on video screens. The emphasis on adhering to public safety guidelines touches matters both big and small in the White House. Jeffrey Wexler is the White House director of COVID-19 operations, overseeing the implementation of safety guidelines throughout the administration, a role he also served during the transition and campaign. During her first press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki suggested those working in the office would receive daily testing and N95 masks would be mandatory. Indeed, Biden's new federal mask mandate executive order requires that federal employees, contractors and others in federal buildings and on federal lands wear masks and adhere to social distancing requirements. The executive order allows for agency heads to make “case-by-case exceptions" — like, for instance, Psaki's. She wears one until she steps up to the podium for briefings. Officials in close contact with Biden wear wristbands to signify they have been tested that day. Every event with the president is carefully choreographed to maintain distancing, with strips of paper taped to the carpet to show the likes of Vice-President Kamala Harris and Dr. Anthony Fauci where to stand when Biden is delivering an address. When Biden met with his COVID team in the State Dining Room on Thursday, the five people in the room sat at individual tables placed at least six feet apart and four others joined by Zoom to keep numbers down. Plexiglass barriers have been set up at some desks that are in open areas, but nearly all staff who are already working in the building have enclosed offices. The Biden team already had a robust contact tracing program set up during the transition, which it's keeping around for any possible exposures. Staffers also were issued laptops with wallpaper displays that offer a list of COVID symptoms and a directive to “call the White House medical unit” if they have experienced any of them. The Trump White House was another story altogether. After one virus scare in May, the White House mandated mask-wearing, with a memo from chief of staff Mark Meadows requiring their use in shared workspaces and meetings. Simple surgical masks were placed at the entrance to the West Wing. But after only a few days of moderate compliance, mask-wearing fell away almost entirely, as Trump made it clear to aides he did not like the visual of people around him wearing masks — let alone wearing one himself. Trump’s White House reduced staffing capacity during the earliest days of the pandemic, but by late spring, when Trump was intent on projecting that the country was “reopening” from pandemic lockdowns — and the U.S. was at roughly 80,000 deaths — aides quickly resumed normal operations. That provided ideal conditions for the spread of an airborne virus. It was only after Trump himself tested positive that some aides began staggering their work schedules to provide enhanced distancing and contingencies in case someone tested positive. Those working for the new administration welcome the stricter guidelines now, but they do pose some potential complications as the Biden team builds out its operation. Karen Finney, who was a spokeswoman in the Clinton White House, said the first challenge may simply be creating a cohesiveness and camaraderie when some new staffers are brought on board without ever having worked in the same room. “When you sit in the same office as everyone, it’s just a different dynamic," she said. “There's a sense of, ‘We’ve got each other's backs, we're going to be working together on this.'” Finney added that most of the staff are used to working remotely at this point, so it's not necessarily a new challenge. But she allowed that the national COVID response itself could be somewhat hamstrung by the COVID requirements at the White House. “Having to co-ordinate between limited staff in the office, those working remotely, along with governors, mayors, their staff, those on the Hill — it’s a challenge,” she said. “They’ve had the time to think through how to do some of this, but look, it’s going to be a work in progress." Alexandra Jaffe And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
CAMEROON, Cameroon — The first-ever treaty to ban nuclear weapons entered into force on Friday, hailed as a historic step to rid the world of its deadliest weapons but strongly opposed by the world's nuclear-armed nations. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is now part of international law, culminating a decades-long campaign aimed at preventing a repetition of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. But getting all nations to ratify the treaty requiring them to never own such weapons seems daunting, if not impossible, in the current global climate. When the treaty was approved by the U.N. General Assembly in July 2017, more than 120 approved it. But none of the nine countries known or believed to possess nuclear weapons — the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel — supported it and neither did the 30-nation NATO alliance. Japan, the world's only country to suffer nuclear attacks, also does not support the treaty, even though the aged survivors of the bombings in 1945 strongly push for it to do so. Japan on its own renounces use and possession of nuclear weapons, but the government has said pursuing a treaty ban is not realistic with nuclear and non-nuclear states so sharply divided over it. Nonetheless, Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning coalition whose work helped spearhead the treaty, called it “a really big day for international law, for the United Nations and for survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” The treaty received its 50th ratification on Oct. 24, triggering a 90-day period before its entry into force on Jan. 22. As of Thursday, Fihn told The Associated Press that 61 countries had ratified the treaty, with another ratification possible on Friday, and “from Friday, nuclear weapons will be banned by international law” in all those countries. The treaty requires that all ratifying countries “never under any circumstances ... develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” It also bans any transfer or use of nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices — and the threat to use such weapons — and requires parties to promote the treaty to other countries. Fihn said the treaty is “really, really significant” because it will now be a key legal instrument, along with the Geneva Conventions on conduct toward civilians and soldiers during war and the conventions banning chemical and biological weapons and land mines. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the treaty demonstrated support for multilateral approaches to nuclear disarmament. “Nuclear weapons pose growing dangers and the world needs urgent action to ensure their elimination and prevent the catastrophic human and environmental consequences any use would cause,” he said in a video message. “The elimination of nuclear weapons remains the highest disarmament priority of the United Nations.” But not for the nuclear powers. As the treaty was approaching the 50 ratifications needed to trigger its entry into force, the Trump administration wrote a letter to countries that signed it saying they made “a strategic error” and urging them to rescind their ratification. The letter said the treaty “turns back the clock on verification and disarmament" and would endanger the half-century-old Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, considered the cornerstone of nonproliferation efforts. Fihn countered at the time that a ban could not undermine nonproliferation since it was "the end goal of the Nonproliferation Treaty.” Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said the treaty’s arrival was a historic step forward in efforts to free the world of nuclear weapons and “hopefully will compel renewed action by nuclear-weapon states to fulfil their commitment to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.” Fihn said in an interview that the campaign sees strong public support for the treaty in NATO countries and growing political pressure, citing Belgium and Spain. “We will not stop until we get everyone on board,” she said. It will also be campaigning for divestment — pressuring financial institutions to stop giving capital to between 30 and 40 companies involved in nuclear weapons and missile production including Airbus, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press
Today's announcement that B.C. will not impose an interprovincial travel ban went over just fine with one northern mayor. “It really doesn’t matter where folks come from,” Valemount Mayor Owen Torgerson said. “What matters is their behaviour once they are in Valemount.” So far, local residents and non-essential visitors are adhering to provincial health protocols, said Torgerson, whose village is about a 1.5-hour drive from Jasper, AB. Besides being a popular outdoor adventure tourist destination year round, the village of Valemount and surrounding communities in the Robson Valley are currently hosting up to 100 Trans Mountain workers, he said. “Much of current interprovincial travel is work-related and therefore cannot be restricted,” Premier John Horgan said, nixing a potential travel ban via press release this afternoon. “Public health officials tell us what is most important is for everyone to obey health orders, wherever they are, rather than imposing mobility rules,” Horgan said. “Therefore, we will not be imposing travel restrictions at this time.” Last week, Horgan said the provincial government would investigate the legal options of restricting travel after he heard from citizens concerned out-of-province visitors were spreading COVID-19 in B.C. British Columbians were frustrated at seeing other people travel out of the province and country over the holidays, while they stayed home, Horgan said on Jan. 14. “Canadians and British Columbians are making sacrifices and one of those sacrifices is staying close to home, not traveling to see loved ones, not going to tend to what would have been traditions or pressing matters,” Horgan said. “On the surface, it would seem an easy thing to do, just tell people not to come here,” he said, responding to media questions about imposing a ban. “That's not part and parcel of who we are as Canadians.” Getting a legal opinion would resolve the matter once and for all, Horgan said at the time. “People have been talking about (a travel ban) for months and months, and I think it's time we put it to bed finally,” he said. “Either we can do it, and this is how we would do it. Or we can't, and this is the reason why.” Today, the Premier said a ban was unworkable. The province can’t restrict interprovincial visitors unless they’re harming the health and safety of British Columbians during non-essential travel, he said. Instead, Horgan asked the other Premiers to send a united message to their citizens that now is not the time for non-essential travel. "We ask all British Columbians to stay close to home while vaccines become available," he said. "And to all Canadians outside of B.C., we look forward to your visit to our beautiful province when we can welcome you safely." Meanwhile, the issue may be revisited if there is an uptick in virus transmission linked to people involved in non-essential travel, Horgan said. Torgerson is comfortable with that. “So long as actual mandates are followed,” Torgerson said. “Layers of protection are what will get Valemount through this pandemic, and we expect this of all folks.” Fran@thegoatnews.ca / @FranYanor Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Rocky Mountain Goat
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
When Kerri Thompson was allowed to see her mother once again as an essential visitor to her assisted living residence, it was a lifeline for the family. Kerri’s mother, Joyce, was a regular visitor to the Alzheimer Society of York Region’s D.A.Y. program six days a week. Her visits to their Edward Street facility offered social interaction that was not only craved, but needed. She was busy, staying active and, in doing so, remained vital, engaged and interested. But, when COVID-19 forced the shut-down of the regular D.A.Y. programs and Joyce was largely confined to her room, Kerri saw Joyce begin a rapid decline. “My mom’s world was narrowing with COVID and now it’s literally one room,” says Kerri. “Each day, all she wants to do is do what she always loved to do, which is go for a walk. That one small pleasure and a sense of normalcy has been taken away. For her own health, she cannot leave her room and yet, for her mental health, all this is just devastating. She is losing her strength and her confidence to walk.” Kerri being deemed an essential visitor helped to a degree. Although her mother was still confined to her room, Kerri was allowed to visit after following all protocols, but four days after Joyce was out of lockdown, Kerri tested positive for COVID-19. Not being able to visit her mother as an essential visitor during that trying time was understandable and necessary, but no less difficult. While Kerri was sick with mild symptoms, Joyce, who tested negative, saw isolation set in even deeper. It goes without saying that COVID-19 is devastating, but “COVID-Alzheimer’s” is another thing altogether. “Thank God for the wisdom of the government officials and general managers at the respective retirement homes to understand that COVID is absolutely too isolating for seniors and that we had to do something different from what we did in March, April and May, which was to lock them in their rooms,” says Kerri. “For the people lucky enough to be on the first floor, they got to wave to their loved ones and all the rest, but others missed even that little glimmer of interaction. There were a lot of people trying to do the right things for the right reasons, but not looking at the total impact of keeping people alive. There’s more to it than that that we have to consider. It is a no-win situation. If just one person gets sick from this idea [of essential visitors] then the public is in an uproar.” By the time Kerri was first deemed an essential visitor, she had to re-learn the rules of the game. Not only were there new and strict screening measures, she couldn’t take her mother into common areas. Confined to their room, both Joyce and her daughter were required to mask up. They couldn’t hug, hold hands or otherwise touch. They could not eat or drink when they were together and they had to sit six feet apart. “But, the fact that we were able to be in the same room was wonderful,” says Kerri. “With my mum having Alzheimer’s, which is an isolating disease because they get lost in their own locked room in their mind, kind of being in that locked room physically too, I lost a lot of her. Her Alzheimer’s came on harder and faster, not to the fault of anybody, but just to the reality of a pandemic. She’s less interactive. She wouldn’t get as excited. It was just so long that she had done anything but stare at those four walls that there wasn’t that same amount of energy, desire and remembrance of some of the fun things she had done more recently while having Alzheimer’s. She even lost that.” Joyce was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease 18 months ago, but Kerri says the reality of the situation was her fight has been “twice as long as that.” It was a difficult but necessary decision to put her in an assisted living facility so she could get the help, care and safety that she needed. “I knew she was fraying around the edges, specifically because she had lost her sense of time,” Kerri shares. In a pandemic, that has been a mixed blessing. While Kerri says Joyce doesn’t have a concept of how long this pandemic has been going on, there is a huge negative in that every day there could be a disappointment in waking up and not fully understanding why you can’t leave your room or receive visitors. “At the first stages of this pandemic, I couldn’t even visit her. I was the person standing outside her window every single day, usually with my then-15-year-old son just waving to her. We weren’t even allowed to have the window open to try and communicate with her out of logical fear of the virus. Some days you would see her in tears and some days you saw a smile on her face, but you didn’t know what you were going to get. Every day I was distracted – never with her safety, because the retirement home does a great job – but it was more her happiness. “Sitting alone in her room has taken away the joy. She knows enough about what she is missing to say, ‘Kerri, sometimes I just want to scream.’ I get you, mom. Go ahead and I will scream with you. Please, we need the vaccine faster so mom can go to the Alzheimer Society of York Region D.A.Y. program and fight to keep what abilities she has.” Kerri’s quarantine ended on January 8 – 14 days are an “eternity” when it comes to Alzheimer’s, she says – and she can’t wait to be with her mother once again, but this difficult journey has only underscored that the isolation that is a by-product of COVID can have unintended consequences. “I have nothing but applause to give to the caregivers and management of the facility that my mom is at,” says Kerri. “To be honest, there isn’t a single thing that I truly think they could do differently, except one little thing that would make me and my mother happy is if I could bring her in the car and just drive her around. “We’re trying to be smart but at the end of the day the most important thing is their happiness in the last years of their life. Let them have meals together as opposed to going into these outbreak situations where everyone has to stay in their room and there are no activities. I am hoping once the vaccination moves through retirement homes, essential workers, that they can look ahead and say, ‘We have the vaccine. What did this allow us to do different from where we were a month or six months ago because to die of loneliness – that, to me, is the cruellest thing of all, when there are all these people around who are loving and caring and just can’t get access. That goes for the people who work in the retirement home: they are loving and caring and they are not allowed right now to do the activities, to give hugs, to hold people’s hands. They would if they could, but they dare not to.” Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison hit back at the search giant saying "we don't respond to threats" after Google said it would remove its services from the country.View on euronews
A Yellowknife immigration consultant allegedly told his Chinese client that if he purchased $1 million worth of shares of Fortune Minerals Ltd., the mining company would offer him a job and help him immigrate to the Northwest Territories. The accusation came out in a series of court documents filed by consultant Liang Chen and his former client, Shengtang Wang, who are suing each other after their business relationship fell apart. Wang is suing Chen and his B.C.-based immigration consultant company, C.L. Pacific Immigration Consulting Ltd., alleging he never returned a $50,000 deposit and owes him another $75,000 for breaching a currency exchange contract. Chen has since filed a statement of defence and counterclaim against Wang. While he does not dispute the claim that he breached the currency exchange contract, he laid out a series of his own claims, accusing Wang of slander and breaching a number of business contracts, totalling more than $1.7 million. He's also suing for more than $4.6 million in exemplary damages. None of the claims have been proven in court and no court date has been set. Chen has previously been sued by two other former clients, one in the N.W.T. and one in B.C. In court documents filed on Dec. 9, Chen says in 2016, Wang hired him to help apply to the territory's employer-driven stream of its nominee program, after a previous application he made to B.C.'s provincial nominee program failed. According to the government of the Northwest Territories website, the employer stream is designed to help companies who want to hire and nominate foreign nationals when there are no Canadians or Canadian permanent residents available. In a reply and defence to Chen's counterclaim dated Jan. 4, Wang alleges Chen told him if his wife purchased $1 million worth of shares in Fortune Minerals, a London, Ont., based company which operates in the N.W.T., then it would hire him as a skilled worker under the territory's employer stream. He claims Chen insisted he purchase the shares and promised he would receive a work permit from the government of Canada soon after doing so. Wang alleges that despite following Chen's instructions, his application to the employer stream was rejected. He claims Chen "negligently or fraudulently misrepresented the requirements for the employer program" to get him to agree to an alleged verbal agreement. That agreement, according to Chen's claim, would see him broker the deal to purchase shares of a publicly traded company in exchange for a stock commission, a claim Wang denies. In his court document, Chen writes that "Mr. Wang understands if he makes $1 million in share purchase of a PTC [publicly traded company], the company will support him for NTNP-ES [the Northwest Territories Nominee Program's Employer Stream]." Chen did not expressly say in his court documents he was the one who told Wang that the investment would result in support for the program, and Chen never named Fortune Minerals. However, Chen laid out the stock purchase in detail, claiming Wang purchased about $750,000 worth of shares through private placements, and another $250,000 worth of shares from "James William Jr., a previous PTC director." When reached by phone, Chen could not clarify if he meant James Williams Jr., a former director of Fortune Minerals, and declined to comment on the court case. Fortune Minerals also declined to comment on the story, saying in an email it would not be appropriate to comment or speculate on matters before the court. Calls to Williams Jr. were not returned. In his court filings, Chen notes that in March 2016, the PTC was experiencing difficulties with the market price per share trading near a five-year low, at around $0.05 a share, compared to its five-year high of $1.60, figures which line up with Fortune Minerals stock price. Chen also referenced a commitment by the government of the Northwest Territories to an unnamed infrastructure project that would greatly enhance the value of the share price. In Jan. 2016, the territorial government said it would file an application in March of that year for permits needed to build an all-weather road from Behchokǫ̀ to Whatì. The president of Fortune Minerals called the road essential to supply its NICO mine project, a cobalt, gold and bismuth mine about 50 kilometres northeast of Whatì. Third attempt at nominee program After Wang's application was rejected to the employee stream, he hired Chen to help him apply to the territory's business stream of the nominee program, the third time he retained Chen's services to help him immigrate to Canada. The agreement included a $50,000 "investment deposit" which would be returned to Wang if he received a work permit Wang was accepted into the program in January 2019, and opened NorthernSky Films, a 360° dome theater in Yellowknife. Chen claims he and Wang understood the deposit was intended to be used to compensate him for the work he carried out to get the business up and running, including sourcing equipment and contractors, providing advice on hiring staff, and finding potential customers like schools and travel agencies. Wang claims no such deal was in place. Alleged Copperhouse slander In early 2020, Chen alleges Wang went behind his back and spoke to his business partners at the Copperhouse Eatery and Lounge, spreading lies that he deceived his immigration clients, including two former servers who worked at the Yellowknife restaurant, and owed Chen hundreds of thousands of dollars. Chen claims the fallout led his partners at the Copperhouse to cut ties and buy him out, resulting in a loss of more than $500,000. He's also suing Wang to recover those funds. Wang denies making slanderous comments, and denies he contributed to any losses Chen suffered.
LISBON, Portugal — With the moderate incumbent candidate widely seen as the sure winner of Sunday’s presidential election in Portugal, the most intriguing question for many Portuguese is how well a brash new populist challenger will fare in a ballot skewed by a surging COVID-19 pandemic. Mainstream populism, which has upended political assumptions elsewhere in Europe in recent years, is a novelty in Portugal. But that could change as taxpayers squeezed by the economic downturn, vexed by hefty bailouts for banks and galled by corruption look for somewhere to vent their anger. A significant political shift in Portugal could help add fresh momentum to a continental trend. Lawyer and former TV soccer pundit André Ventura leads a right-wing populist party called CHEGA! (ENOUGH!), founded in 2019. Nobody expects him to win on Sunday, as he is polling around 11% compared with more than 60% for incumbent Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. Even so, Ventura, 37, could conceivably place second among the seven candidates, drawing a level of support that until recently was unthinkable and sending a shudder through Portuguese politics. A recent surge in the COVID-19 pandemic that has placed Portugal among the worst-hit countries in the world for new daily infections and deaths has added an unpredictable ingredient into the contest, even though the head of state is not directly involved in organizing the country's response. A potentially low turnout as voters, especially the elderly, possibly shy away from busy polling stations could upset expectations and allow determined populist sympathizers to capture a bigger share of the ballot. Ventura's showing “is quite something for a new party,” says Marina Costa Lobo, a senior researcher at Lisbon University’s Institute for Social Sciences. “He has gained a lot of visibility, a lot of exposure.” Like other populists, Ventura portrays himself as leading common people against an entrenched and corrupt elite. French far-right populist Marine le Pen flew in for one of his campaign events in Lisbon. Ventura has participated in rallies in Italy held by Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing League party. Ventura occupies his party’s single seat in Portugal’s 230-seat parliament. But he punches above his weight by generating headlines. He is eloquent, happy to scrap in public and disdained by mainstream parties. His firebrand speeches have whipped up public support, especially on social media. He calls his supporters the “Portuguese Popular Army.” He has complained that “minorities are living at our expense” and questions recent liberalizing trends. He asked in parliament last year, “You can change sex at 16 but you can’t go to a bullfight! Doesn’t this country have things the wrong way round?” Ventura ticks the populist boxes. He wants heavier prison sentences, including currently disallowed life terms, for some crimes and chemical castration for convicted pedophiles and rapists before their release from prison. He opposes letting migrants, especially Muslims, into Europe and supports police demands for higher pay. He also wants to reduce the number of lawmakers in parliament and their salaries. Major scandals in recent years have provided grist for his cause. Corruption cases against a former prime minister and against the head of the country’s largest private bank, which went bankrupt, have fueled outrage and tainted Portugal’s two main parties, the centre-left Socialists and the centre-right Social Democrats. Taxpayers, meanwhile, shelled out more than 20 billion euros ($24 billion) to help banks between 2008 and 2019. That’s a substantial sum in one of the European Union’s smaller economies. The election frontrunner, incumbent Rebelo de Sousa, is the kind of target Ventura relishes: An establishment figure with a 46-year political career, including a stint as leader of the Social Democratic Party. Over his past five years as president, the gaunt 72-year-old has displayed the patrician bearing and cordial manner expected of a head of state. Though a president in Portugal has no legislative power, which lies with the government and parliament, the role carries considerable influence. But Rebelo de Sousa’s once cozy relationship with the head of what was Portugal’s biggest private bank, including luxury vacations spent together, and his long spell at the heart of power, have left him vulnerable to attacks from Ventura and the election’s five other candidates. Even so, Rebelo de Sousa has during his term kept his approval rating above 60% and is held in affection by many in this country of 10.3 million. He cultivates an image of man of the people: Portuguese capture photos of him standing alone in line with his groceries at the supermarket, having a shave at a barber’s shop and chatting with excited children on the beach near his house in Cascais, an old fishing town 30 kilometres (18 miles) west of Lisbon. His small security detail keeps a discreet distance. On Sunday, more Portuguese are likely to value those traits than Ventura’s pugnacity. Barry Hatton, The Associated Press
Charlottetown police are looking for the driver of an SUV they believe was involved in multiple hit and runs on Sunday afternoon. Two vehicles were stopped in the left turn lane on the Charlottetown bypass at St. Peters Road, waiting to turn north onto Route 2. The drivers told police a vehicle approached from the rear and attempted to go around them, colliding with both in the process. Another collision involving the same vehicle occurred minutes later, police said. The vehicle was traveling south on St. Peters Road and rear ended someone near the intersection of Francis Lane, then carried on and turned right onto Duncan Heights, police said. This accident happened around 4:20 p.m., according to a news release. Police located a silver SUV the next day that they believe was the vehicle involved, but they are still looking for the driver. Anyone with information on any of these incidents is asked to contact Charlottetown police at 902-629-4172 or P.E.I. Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. More from CBC P.E.I.
You can hear panic in Sharise Sutherland-Kayseas's voice. She speaks quickly as she tells her mother, Dina, that she feels complaints she's filed with Pine Grove Correctional Centre staff are going nowhere. She hasn't been able to connect with her lawyer or the Elizabeth Fry Society, which advocates for female inmates, she says. Sutherland-Kayseas has been in the Saskatchewan provincial facility, just north of Prince Albert, for almost two years, awaiting trial on a first-degree murder charge from 2019. Her mother worries for her well-being, because Sharise hasn't consumed any solid food for more than two weeks in protest of the conditions at the facility. She is one of two inmates at the facility taking part in the hunger strike, which the provincial government calls a "tray refusal." "They're asking for support — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually," Dina Kayseas said in a phone interview. "They need that genuine, real support." Dina says her daughter was recently refused a visit with a medical professional, as she is alleged to have not complied with the orders of a guard, which resulted in her being restrained and brought back to her cell. But Kayseas says her daughter told her was just "trying to catch her breath," as she's been fatigued since she stopped consuming solid food. "She was trying to get help," Kayseas said. In her experience, fasting can quickly take a toll on a person's overall well-being. "It's like you're walking in two worlds," she said. Even if they're prisoners behind bars, still they're human. - Dina Kayseas "Sometimes I cry," she said, noting she regularly smudges and prays for her daughter. "I worry. I don't know if she's going to die sometimes. It seems like they don't care." Kayseas feels what's happening in Pine Grove is a continuation of Canada's colonial foundation, which has seen Indigenous people systemically oppressed and assimilated for centuries. "It's like Indigenous women incarcerated in Saskatchewan are like flies, house flies ... getting swat," she said. "They're sitting there and they're waiting to die." As a worried mother, she's calling for better support and conditions for Indigenous inmates. While they may be accused or convicted of committing crimes, they still deserve compassion, she says. "It's not right to treat an Indigenous woman, or an Indigenous person, the way they're being treated," she said. "Even if they're prisoners behind bars, still they're human." A petition has been filed calling for the resignation of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety Minister Christine Tell, as a result of the province's handling of COVID-19 in its correctional facilities, with several demonstrations and protests held in recent weeks. But concerns about the province's correctional facilities have been ongoing for years. In 2015, inmates at the Saskatoon Provincial Correctional Centre detailed concerns about what they called "inhumane conditions." At the time, that included issues around overcrowding, quality of food and overall conditions, as reported by the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. All inmates treated fairly: ministry In a conference call on Thursday, Noel Busse, executive director of communications with Saskatchewan's Ministry of Corrections, said the province is doing everything it can to safely support inmates at the facility, including offering cultural resources and access to elders. "The ministry works to ensure that everyone in the correctional system is treated fairly," he said, noting that is part of the staff code of conduct. "We specifically made it a priority to ensure that correctional staff are equipped to interact with First Nation and Métis offenders in a way that's culturally informed." Busse says staff go through an induction training program and are provided workshops on the importance of traditional practices like sweat lodge ceremonies and knowledge keeping within Indigenous cultures, as well as learning about treaties and Indigenous history and culture. I've never had it be this be difficult, or have these kinds of limitations imposed on us. - Patti Tait, Elizabeth Fry Society The province has introduced extensive cleaning measures at the facility, he said, with nurses checking on inmates on a daily basis. Those on hunger strikes get increased monitoring and checks, Busse said. "We're able to facilitate medical and psychiatric services virtually when required, and in the event that an offender requires health services beyond what's available at the correctional facility, we'll make sure that's provided." Communication breakdown: Elizabeth Fry Society But the interim executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society, who is also the organization's cultural co-ordinator and knowledge keeper, has concerns about what's happening at the facility. Patti Tait says the pandemic has affected the support the organization can offer inmates in provincial facilities, as outside visitors aren't allowed. Tait says while she understands the provincial government is trying to keep those inmates safe, they need to find a balance to ensure they're supported through the pandemic. "It's very upsetting that our normal processes that we have always engaged in — which would be visiting Pine Grove every two weeks, seeing all the young women on their units, having them voice their concerns and taking those concerns back to administration — is being really undermined by the restrictions that COVID has imposed on us." She worries without those visits, oversight around ensuring human rights are being respected overall may go "by the wayside." Tait says Elizabeth Fry has been notified about the issues Sutherland-Kayseas has raised and have been trying to get in touch with the facility, but her staff have had a difficult time getting through. She said she's also heard inmates are having trouble connecting with their lawyers or support organizations like Elizabeth Fry. In more than 30 years in advocacy work, "I've never had it be this be difficult, or have these kinds of limitations imposed on us," she said, adding the organization has been able to work with federal facilities to maintain access at some of the prisons run by Correctional Service Canada. Correctional staff work on a daily basis to ensure the safety of the facility, the inmates and the public - Noel Busse, Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety "I'm struggling with the provincial system and the fact there seems to have been a breakdown in — not only [in] our ability to come and go, but also in our ability to contact the women." Tait says the majority of inmates at the facility have not actually been convicted of any crime, but instead are waiting for their case to work through the judicial process. As a result, they don't have access to the same programming or supports as people who have been convicted. "That means they do nothing, and they have no one coming in from the outside," she said. Ministry works to protect public, inmates: spokesperson Busse, the ministry spokesperson, noted inmates may have their phone call privileges restricted due to behaviour inside the facility, but said they still have the ability to call legal counsel, as well as organizations like the Elizabeth Fry Society, the Saskatchewan ombudsman and the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission. He also said he was not aware the Elizabeth Fry Society was willing to go into the facility to offer supports, even with COVID-19 restrictions in place, but noted those restrictions are in effect as a safety measure across the province. Busse stressed that while the pandemic has been difficult for both inmates and staff at the facility, the government of Saskatchewan is working to address the concerns behind the tray refusal and protect those who are incarcerated, even if there are challenges. "These disagreements happen and … they sometimes make their way into the media, and inmates aren't satisfied with steps that have been taken or the repercussions that result from specific actions," said Busse. But that "doesn't mean the ministry doesn't care about the people in our care," he said. "Correctional staff work on a daily basis to ensure the safety of the facility, the inmates and the public."
Indigenous Advisory Committee members want to raise awareness about significant Indigenous days. At the Timmins committee's next meeting in March, members will discuss what Indigenous recognition days are out there and will put together statements to formally recognize the important dates in Indigenous culture and history. Some of the mentioned days and events included Orange Shirt Day, Treaties Recognition Week, Louis Riel Day, Rock Your Mocs, National Indigenous History Month and more. “There are so many different recognition days. We’re missing on an opportunity to highlight some really good information and just share about Indigenous culture,” said the committee’s interim chair Kristin Murray. “I’m pretty excited about those recognition days because there are a lot of days we might not know about that do exist.” Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com