With meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal
With meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal
WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers and conservative groups opposed President-elect Joe Biden's forthcoming immigration plan Tuesday as massive amnesty for people in the U.S. illegally, underscoring that the measure faces an uphill fight in a Congress that Democrats control just narrowly. In a further complication, several pro-immigration groups said they would press Biden to go even further and take steps such as immediate moratoriums on deportations, detentions and new arrests. Coupled with the discomfort an immigration push could cause for moderate Democrats, liberals' demands illustrated the pressures facing Biden as four years of President Donald Trump's restrictive and often harsh immigration policies come to an end. “It simply wouldn't have happened without us," Lorella Praeli, co-president of the liberal group Community Change, said of Biden's victory. “So we are now in a powerful position." Biden plans to introduce the legislation shortly after being inaugurated Wednesday, a move he hopes will spotlight his emphasis on an issue that's defied major congressional action since 1986. Its fate, as written, seemed in doubt. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who will become Senate majority leader this week, said Trump's impeachment trial, confirmation of Biden's Cabinet nominees and more COVID-19 relief will be the chamber's top initial priorities. “I look forward to working together with him" on the measure, Schumer said — a choice of words that might suggest changes could be needed for it to pass Congress. Biden's proposal would create an eight-year pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants, set up a processing program abroad for refugees seeking admission to the U.S. and push toward using technology to monitor the border. The measure was described by an official from Biden's transition team who described the plan on condition of anonymity. With an eye toward discouraging a surge of immigrants toward the U.S.-Mexico boundary, the package's route to citizenship would only apply to people already in the U.S. by this past Jan. 1. But it omits the traditional trade-off of dramatically enhanced border security that's helped attract some GOP support in the past, which drew criticism on Tuesday. “A mass amnesty with no safeguards and no strings attached is a nonstarter,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "There are many issues I think we can work co-operatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., often a central player in Senate immigration battles. “Total amnesty, no regard for the health or security of Americans, and zero enforcement," Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who like Rubio is a potential 2024 GOP presidential contender, said in a Monday tweet. That view was shared by Mark Krikorian, executive director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, which favours curbing immigration. “Past proposals at least accepted the concept of turning off the faucet and mopping up the overflow. This is nothing but mopping up and letting the faucet continue to run," Krikorian said. Rosemary Jenks, top lobbyist for NumbersUSA, which also wants to limit immigration, said the measure seems likely to fail in the Senate. It would need at least 10 Republicans to join all 50 Democrats to overcome a filibuster that would kill the measure. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said, “Moving an immigration reform bill won’t be easy, but I think it’s possible." He cited a 2013 massive overhaul that narrowly passed the Senate, only to die in the GOP-run House. Menendez and Rubio were part of a bipartisan “Gang of 8" senators that helped win Senate approval. Under Biden's legislation, those living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfil other requirements. From there, it’s a three-year path to naturalization if they pursue citizenship. For some immigrants, the process would be quicker. So-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status could qualify more immediately for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements. Biden is also expected to take swift executive actions, which require no congressional action, to reverse other Trump immigration actions. These include ending to the prohibition on arrivals from predominantly Muslim countries. The legislation represents Biden's bid to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of Trump's restrictive policies and mass deportations. It provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years. Biden allies and even some Republicans have identified immigration as a major issue where the new administration could find common ground with the GOP to avoid the stalemate that has vexed administrations of both parties for decades. That kind of major win, even if it involves compromise, could be critical for Biden. He'll be seeking legislative victories in a Congress where Republicans are certain to oppose other Biden priorities, like rolling back some of the GOP’s 2017 tax cuts and increasing federal spending. Democrats will control the 50-50 Senate with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote. Democrats currently control the House 222-211, with two vacancies. ___ Barrow reported from Wilmington, Delaware. AP writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego also contributed to this report. Alan Fram, Lisa Mascaro And Bill Barrow, The Associated Press
FREDERICTON — More than half of New Brunswick will move to the red level of the province's COVID-19 recovery plan at midnight tonight. Health officials are reporting 31 new cases of COVID-19 in the province today and one additional death. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell says the death of a person in their 80s at the Parkland Saint John long-term care facility brings to 13 the number of COVID-related deaths in the province. There are currently 316 active cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick. At the red level, gyms, salons and recreational facilities must close, and restaurants can only offer takeout or delivery. Premier Blaine Higgs says the province will consider imposing a lockdown with more stringent measures if the latest restrictions don't limit the spread of the virus. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
During their last council meeting of 2020, members of Meadow Lake city council passed their 2021 budget. The budget process in Meadow Lake started before the provincial election with town administrators getting operating and capital budget documents ready for discussion, said Mayor Merlin Seymour. Mayor and councillors agreed that due to the stress and challenges of COVID-19 they did not want to make 2021 more difficult for residents by increasing taxes on property owners. “Things are tough enough for everyone already. We just felt that keeping our taxes as they were, we may have to sharpen our pencils a little bit, which we did. Holding our taxes for our residents, that was a priority for us.” The city will once again be focusing on infrastructure maintenance with $1.8 million worth of improvements to water and sewer in the east part of the city as part of a 10-year disaster mitigation program. This year will see $950,000 go towards paving improvements throughout the city, $840,000 will go towards replacing underground utility infrastructure, and $300,000 will go towards improving city equipment. Replacing ageing infrastructure is a province-wide problem for all sizes of communities. Seymour said they are working to stay on top of it in Meadow Lake as well. “It's a long process and we're not the only municipality that has infrastructure problems. But we're trying to keep on top of it as best we can with funds that are available.” With this being a provincial assessment year, residents may see the changes in the value of their property which may change tax rates, but these changes will not be made by the city. The Long Term Care levy that was put in place in 2013 will remain for 2021, said City Manager Diana Burton. The levy is going towards the new long-term care facility with the city paying for 10 per cent of the total cost. Burton estimates that the levy will be in place for seven years until the city’s portion of the facility is paid off, she said. “We have just over $2 million in our reserve accounts and our capital contributions with 10 per cent of the capital cost of the new long term care facility is expected to be around $4 million. So we have about half of it saved up and we would have to get a loan for the remaining half.” Construction of the facility started in May 2020. Council passed the budget on Dec. 14 as part of their regular council meeting but discussion took place before the new council was elected in November. Seymour said the city administration worked hard to bring new councillors up to speed and answer any questions they had so they could be fully informed regarding the budget. Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says he won't shut down all restaurants and bars because a few are flouting COVID-19 rules. Instead, he says he's asking public-health officials to look at more enforcement measures, such as forcing rule breakers to close. Moe says "enough is enough" and is expressing frustration at a recent video that shows young people dancing without masks and mingling at a bar in Regina. Health officials are reporting another 309 COVID-19 infections and say six more residents have died. Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer says the province remains stuck at a daily average of around 300 new cases and hospitalizations are on the rise. Moe says he doesn't believe the province needs to introduce stricter public-health measures to stem the virus's spread, but people need to follow the rules already in place. There are 207 people in hospital, with 31 of them in intensive care. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2020 The Canadian Press
Richmond’s Chimo Community Services is encouraging people to bundle up and help raise funds for their fifth annual Coldest Night of the Year event. Money raised will support people experiencing homelessness, hurt and hunger. The family-friendly walk is completely virtual this year and will take place from Feb. 6 to 20. People can walk alone, or with members of their bubbles, throughout the community—while joining together with thousands of other participants in 149 cities across Canada. The Richmond event will see people walking outdoors on a self-designed route of two or five kilometres. Participants who raise over $150, or youth participants who raise over $75, will receive a unique toque to stay warm during their walk. Chimo is hoping to raise $25,000 to support their services. An anticipated 100 walkers and 16 teams are expected to brave the cold weather. The local lead sponsor is Vancity Richmond, as well as other sponsors Turning Point Recovery and Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Chimo has been serving Richmond for 48 years, and funds raised during the Coldest Night of the Year event will benefit clients during a time of year known historically for low levels of giving. Participants can register for Chimo’s Coldest Night of the Year at cnoy.org/register Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel
WASHINGTON — Troops in riot gear lined the sidewalks, but there were no crowds. Armored vehicles and concrete barriers blocked empty streets. Miles of fencing cordoned off many of the nation's most familiar landmarks. Joe Biden was safely sworn in as president in a Washington on edge, two weeks after rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump besieged the Capitol. Law enforcement officials contended not only with the potential for outside threats but also with rising concerns about an insider attack. Officials monitored members of far-right extremist and militia groups, increasingly concerned about the risk they could stream into Washington and spark violent confrontations, a law enforcement official said. There were a few scattered arrests but no major protests or serious disruptions in the city during Biden's inauguration ceremony. As Biden put it in his address: “Here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.” After the deadly attack that killed five on Jan. 6, the Secret Service stepped up security for the inauguration early, essentially locking down the nation's capital. More than 25,000 troops and police were called to duty. The National Mall was closed. Checkpoints were set up at intersections. In the hours before the event, federal agents monitored “concerning online chatter,” which included an array of threats against elected officials and discussions about ways to infiltrate the inauguration, the official said. In right-wing online chat groups, believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory expressed disappointment that top Democrats were not arrested for sex trafficking and that Trump did not seize a second term. Twelve National Guard members were removed from the security operation a day earlier after vetting by the FBI, including two who had made extremist statements in posts or texts about Wednesday's event. Pentagon officials would not give details on the statements. The FBI vetted all 25,000 members in an extraordinary security effort in part over the presence of some ex-military in the riot. Two other U.S. officials told The Associated Press that all 12 were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or to have posted extremist views online. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe groups the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in. The officials told the AP they had all been removed because of “security liabilities.” The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, confirmed that Guard members had been removed and sent home, but said only two cases were related to inappropriate comments or texts related to the inauguration. He said the other 10 cases were for issues that may involve previous criminal behaviour or activities but were not directly related to the inaugural event. The FBI also warned law enforcement officials about the possibility that members of right-wing fringe groups could pose as National Guard troops, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the matter. Investigators in Washington were particularly worried that members of right-wing extremist groups and militias, like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, would descend on Washington to spark violence, the law enforcement officials said. Some of the groups are known to recruit former military personnel, to train extensively and to have frequented anti-government and political protests. In addition to the thousands of National Guard troops, hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies around the country were also brought into Washington. The increased security is likely to remain in the nation's capital for at least a few more days. ___ Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor in Washington and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, contributed to this report. Ben Fox, Colleen Long And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel and the governors of Germany’s 16 states agreed Tuesday to extend the country’s pandemic restrictions until mid-February amid concerns that new mutations of the coronavirus could trigger a fresh surge in cases. The country's infection rate has stabilized in recent days, indicating that existing restrictions may have been effective in bringing down the numbers. On Tuesday, Germany's disease control centre reported 11,369 newly confirmed infections and 989 deaths, for an overall death toll of 47,622. However, surging infections in Britain and Ireland, said to be caused by a more contagious virus variant, had German officials worried that the mutation could also spread quickly there too if measures weren't extended or even toughened, prompting Merkel and the governors to bring forward a meeting previously planned for next week. “All our efforts to contain the spread of the virus face a serious threat,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, citing the mutated version of the virus. In addition to extending the closure of restaurants, most stores and schools until Feb. 14, officials also agreed to require people to wear the more effective FFP2 or KN95 masks on public transport and stores. They also want to require employers to let staff work from home if possible to avoid office-driven infections. The governor of the eastern state of Saxony, which until recently had the highest rates on infection in the country, said it was important to drive the number of new cases down further. “We're currently seeing in Britain what happens when a mutation occurs, when the numbers explode," he told news channel n-tv. “We can't remain at this level.” Medical workers have been demanding an extension or toughening of the shutdown since many hospitals are still on edge, with intensive care wards overflowing in some areas. “The current measures on limiting social contacts seem to be showing an effect,” Susanne Johna, the head of the physicians' association Marburger Bund, told the dpa news agency, adding that the measures should continue to be upheld to further reduce new infections. “We urgently need further relief,” Johna said. ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic,https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Kirsten Grieshaber And Frank Jordans, The Associated Press
Specific details about workplace outbreaks of COVID-19 are not made public in most of Canada. Toronto is starting to make the information available, arguing that transparency increases accountability, but others wonder whether ‘naming and shaming’ does more harm than good.
TORONTO — The Ontario Medical Association has released a white paper outlining fears that rising COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions could limit drug supplies in coming weeks. OMA president Dr. Samantha Hill said chronic drug shortages have worsened during the pandemic and may become more serious if hospitals are overwhelmed. That includes essential and critical care medications propofol, ketamine, succinylcholine, fentanyl, and midazolam. "Drug shortages can be catastrophic for patients, causing treatment delays, increased suffering, financial burden and an increased risk of overdose and underdose," Hill said Tuesday in a release. China and India supply most of the active pharmaceutical ingredients used in North America. The OMA is urging all levels of government to work towards a long-term goal of increasing the country's ability to manufacture and stockpile essential drugs. A coalition of Canada's doctors, pharmacists and citizens raised similar warnings in August, noting many in-demand drugs are used to treat COVID-19 and are also used in operating rooms, emergency departments and palliative care settings. The Critical Drugs Coalition warned of possible shortages in the event of a winter surge of COVID-19, and now that the second wave has strained health-care systems in several hotspots, the OMA suggested we're nearing the precipice of rationing drugs. Dr. Bjug Borgundvaag of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians said the pandemic has especially increased demand for steroids, antibiotics and drugs used for sedation, pain, and blood pressure. "Drug supply so far is still OK but it's very unpredictable," said Borgundvaag, director of the Schwartz/Reisman Emergency Medicine Institute at the Sinai Health System. "The pharmaceutical companies do not have the capacity to suddenly double or triple drug manufacturing, and it's very hard to anticipate something like this where the demand can go up to three or four times normal use." Uncertainty over more infectious COVID-19 variants further complicates the difficulty in predicting ICU demands, he added. Borgundvaag said doctors were doing what they could to conserve medication and lobby pharmaceutical manufacturers for greater drug allotments. The OMA warned that drug shortages can seriously affect patient care and "force health-care providers to make very difficult choices." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
A hallway fire that ousted dozens of people from their homes late Sunday is considered suspicious, say RCMP, and an investigation is ongoing. The fire started in the second floor hallway of Town Park Apartments C-block at around 11:30 p.m on Jan. 17. It quickly engulfed the hallway, pumping heat and smoke through the building. A mattress was found on fire in the hallway, but officials would not confirm whether it was intentionally set alight. Andrew Dawson lives on the second floor with his wife and uncle. Earlier that night he says someone pulled the fire alarm, and shortly after the building manager sorted that out, the smoke detector went off. “I usually don’t react because they’re so sensitive, they go off all the time. You open your shower and steam will set it off,” he said. But that night for some reason he went to check, and found an actual fire. Dawson ran down the hallway banging on doors, yelling for people to get out. Outside, he found his wife, uncle and uncle’s girlfriend at the window trying to climb down with blankets. Dawson could see it billowing out the neighbour’s window, who had left their hallway door open. “I started screaming, jump, I’ll catch you just jump, I was pleading,” he said. They dropped while he tried to break their fall. A handful of other residents jumped out of second floor windows when they found the hallway exit blocked by smoke, including Dawson’s sister, who broke her leg. A dog, Dex, also broke its forepaw when he was thrown out of the building. READ MORE: Apartment fire in Port Hardy forces residents to jump from building to save their lives It could be months before residents are allowed back inside. Parallel 50 Realty and Property Management is working with insurance adjusters to assess the damage to the 15 suites, but it won’t be quick. “You’ve got a building that just had extensive smoke damage. You have to make sure it’s safe before we can even determine how much work needs to be done,” said Parallel 50 CEO Dale Mailman. Emergency Support Services (ESS) was called in the early hours of Jan. 18, to coordinate housing the tenants in the interim. They have 25 people in hotels, three are in hospital, and a few others had family or friends to stay with. The automatic 72-hour ESS support period has already been extended for another three days. After that, no one can say yet what will happen, but Port Hardy ESS volunteer Susan Bjarnason said no one will be left stranded. Port Hardy Fire Rescue crews doused the fire quickly. It was short-lived due to lack of fuel and oxygen in the hall, but was hot and intense with smoke. Crews were on scene for over three hours ventilating and securing the building. All six Port Hardy fire trucks were on site with over 30 firefighters. A truck with five crew from Port McNeill also came as back up. BC Ambulance Services, Port Hardy RCMP and BC Hydro crews were all on scene as well. If anyone has knowledge of this incident or any other or who is responsible, please contact the Port Hardy RCMP at 250-949-6335. If you wish to remain anonymous, please call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or visit their web site at www.crimestoppers.ca. Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Zoë Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Island Gazette
The TPD Boutique has reopened on Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB) land making it the third cannabis shop within one square kilometre near the Canco Gas Station on Highway 97 just outside of Oliver. Owner of TPD, Christopher Dawe, said his shop was closed last year to get in line with requirements from the OIB. “(The OIB) had some prerequisites and safety concerns that they wanted me to satiate before I opened. So, what essentially happened was, I built the place last year, and then I was under the impression that we were allowed to open and then I realized that we had just a couple of hoops to jump through. And then with the COVID and everything, it was just a more lengthy process,” Dawe said. Those hoops included getting in line with federal legislation on lab testing and packaging, Dawe said. Dawe reopened his shop recently with OIB elders in attendance for the ribbon cutting. The OIB adopted the Osoyoos Indian Band Cannabis Bylaw, with two Indigenous Bloom stores opening on OIB land last year. TPD Boutique is the first shop to open under the OIB’s regulatory framework since. The OIB was very particular about safety of the product as well as the packaging and being in line with federal legislation, Dawe said. “Through the OIB program, we just have a little more leniency as to where we can acquire our products from. So, through the government program, you can only acquire your products from a government LP, which is a legal provider. Through the Indigenous cannabis bylaw act, I'm able to acquire my products through any of the previously legislated cannabis enrolment programs.” This means Dawe is able to work with local growers who he says have been producing cannabis in the Okanagan and Similkameen for some time for medicinal use before recreational cannabis was legalized in 2018. One of three cannabis shops in the small area, with an Indigenous Bloom location close by, and Nimbus Cannabis across the highway, Dawe does not feel there are too many cannabis shops concentrated in one area. “I feel as though we should have as many shops as the market allows for and ultimately the market will determine the right amount of shops. I think that's how the free market works for the most part,” Dawe said. Mike Lane, senior vice president of regulatory compliance for Indigenous Bloom, previously told the Times-Chronicle the Indigenous Bloom stores are not federally regulated, but their product mimics and/or exceeds federal and provincial standards. “Every single product, whether it’s a strain of dried flower, an edible, a concentrate, a rub, etc., is tested by an independent third-party laboratory licensed by Health Canada for analytical testing under the Federal Cannabis Regulations,” Lane said in early 2020. As of yet, there has not been a negotiation between the Government of Canada and First Nations for tax collection or sharing. “Until that’s done, we can’t charge taxes,” Lane previously told the Times-Chronicle. Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle
Like so much this past year, the inaugural celebration will be like no other: pared down, distanced, much of it virtual. But for actor Christopher Jackson — the original George Washington in Broadway's “Hamilton" — performing in a virtual “ball” is a way of participating in an essential rite of American democracy. “I’m glad to play a part in it,” says Jackson, who will perform at the quadrennial ball for the Creative Coalition, a fundraiser for arts education and one of the more prominent unofficial events surrounding Joe Biden’s inauguration. “It’s a great honour, and I’m very grateful that we have allowed our system to continue to work in the way it was intended.” Jackson -- not to mention former co-star and “Hamilton” creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda -- joins a slew of celebrities descending on Washington, virtually or in person, for entertainment surrounding the inauguration of Biden and Kamala Harris. Although the festivities have been radically scaled down due to the raging coronavirus pandemic and security threats, a steady stream of A-list names have signed on, headlined by Lady Gaga singing the national anthem on the West Front of the Capitol, with Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks contributing musical performances. Other top-tier performers will be part of “Celebrating America,” a 90-minute, multi-network evening broadcast hosted by Tom Hanks that officially takes the place of the usual multiple inaugural balls. Miranda will contribute a classical recitation, joining musicians like Bruce Springsteen, John Legend, Demi Lovato, Foo Fighters, Justin Timberlake and Bon Jovi. Hosts Kerry Washington and Eva Longoria will be joined by basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, chef Jose Andres, labour leader Dolores Huerta and Kim Ng, the first female general manager in MLB history. The inaugural committee has made sure to blend this high-powered list with ordinary Americans and inspiring stories. Segments will include tributes to a UPS driver, a kindergarten teacher and Sandra Lindsey, the first American to receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside a clinical trial. The proceedings will be carried by ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, MSNBC and PBS as well as the committee’s social media channels and streaming partners. Fox News will not carry the broadcast. Beyond that event, there’s also a virtual “Parade Across America” on inauguration afternoon, hosted by actor Tony Goldwyn with appearances by Jon Stewart, Earth Wind & Fire and the New Radicals — reuniting after more than two decades — among many others. There’s also star power on display Tuesday evening at the virtual “Latino Inaugural 2021,” hosted by Longoria and including Broadway and screen star (and EGOT winner) Rita Moreno, Edward James Olmos, and Miranda again, saluting Puerto Rico with his father, Luis Miranda. The show honours members of Latino communities keeping the country running during the pandemic as front-line workers. In a normal year, there would be a wealth of sideline events, parties and concerts around Washington. One of the higher-profile events is the Creative Coalition's ball, going all virtual this year, Along with Jackson, KT Tunstall will perform. Host Judy Gold will kick off with a comedy set, also featuring comedians Randy Rainbow, Michael Ian Black and Wendi McLendon-Covey. More than two dozen members of Congress are set to join celebrity guests like Ted Danson, Lea DeLaria, Jason Alexander, Yvette Nicole Brown, Ellen Burstyn, Alyssa Milano and others. Jackson, who spoke in an interview late last week while planning his performance, said he would not be appearing as George Washington -- but history was on the actor’s mind nonetheless, given the unique circumstances of this inauguration. “We put ourselves in a perilous position,” he said of recent events roiling the country. “So the idea that this inauguration is happening is testament to the resolute dedication that our public servants have to making this thing work.” He said he was also eager to shine a spotlight on arts education, the coalition’s core mission, noting that as a kid growing up in southern Illinois, he depended on resources like an early-morning band class at school, where he’d begin each day playing the trumpet. “There was a time when I went through a lot of bad emotional passages as a kid,” Jackson said. “Had it not been for the outlet the arts created for me, I don’t know where I would be today." He noted that support for the arts is ever more urgent given how the pandemic has decimated the arts industry. Actor Tim Daly, the coalition’s president, said that despite optimism for the new administration’s approach to arts funding, it’s still an uphill battle in the United States. “I feel there’s going to have to be a really long and powerful effort by the Creative Coalition and other organizations to finally try and make federal, local and state governments understand the importance of the arts," he said, adding that the arts, besides being a driver of the economy, "is part of our spirit. It’s how we teach empathy and kindness.” Daly said he has mixed feelings as he approaches this very unique inauguration. “This is going to be the strangest (celebration) ever,” he said. “It’s virtual, and the celebration will in some ways be very muted. But in some ways, very meaningful. In a way this year is more important than any other, because our democracy has been under threat.” The coalition’s ball will include breakout rooms where guests can mingle, and even simultaneous hand-delivered meals in multiple cities. But there’s still no way to replace an in-person experience, Daly acknowledged. “There’s nothing that takes the place of human interaction,” the actor said. “I’d be lying or dishonest if I said this was better. But we’re doing the best we can -- and it’s better than nothing.” Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny returned home from Germany to challenge President Vladimir Putin and now faces the possibility of years of hard labour because of it. His supporters are also confronting the existential question of how his political movement will survive with him sidelined, in all likelihood for a very long time after he was detained in Moscow on Sunday. "Russia will continue with our struggle for freedom, becoming the Russia we are all dreaming of," said a 33-year-old woman who called herself by the nickname Hotaru. She went to meet Navalny at the airport where he was originally scheduled to land dressed in a traditional red and blue Russian folk dress. She said using her last name would make her a target as Russian police are using any excuse to arrest Navalny's supporters and smother his political influence. Indeed, at the airport that day, more than 70 people were taken into custody. In St. Petersburg on Tuesday, one supporter claimed he was arrested for the simple act of clapping his hands in support of Navalny. WATCH | Navalny is arrested after he returns to Moscow: Russian media reports also say flight attendants who posed for selfies with Navalny on his flight back to Moscow are being investigated by police. The young woman in the colourful dress also shared a basket filled with Russian blini, or pancakes. "Pancakes for our president," she said, insisting that the vision of a "new life for Russia" with Navalny in charge will continue to energize his supporters whether he's in jail or not. Navalny, 44, is a lawyer who has built up a countrywide political organization fighting corruption in Russia's government. Banned from running for office His videos focusing on the extravagant spending and lifestyles of Russia's most prominent figures, including former president Dmitry Medvedev, have been viewed by tens of millions of people. Even today, with Navlany behind bars, his anti-corruption foundation released a nearly two-hour video billed as an investigation into Putin, which focused on what it claims is the president's $1.35-billion US mansion on the Black Sea. The Kremlin has repeatedly banned Navalny and his candidates from running for elected office. Still, opinion polls suggest he has only single-digit support and the notion of Navalny replacing Putin has rarely seemed more fanciful than it does now, with the Kremlin pulling out vast resources to try to mute his influence. Navalny had been recuperating in Germany after an assassination attempt while he was campaigning in Siberia last August. He accuses Putin of ordering the hit using the Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent and having it carried out by members of Russia's secret police. An extensive investigation by journalists with the collective Bellingcat uncovered flight manifests, addresses and phone logs that all pointed to the existence of a secret nerve agent program run by the FSB (Russian Federal Security Service) designed to eliminate the Kremlin's enemies. Russian authorities have repeatedly denied any such program exists and warned Navalny that he could be arrested for treason just for accusing Putin of the crime. Navalny chose to board the plane Sunday in Berlin and return to Moscow anyway. A few moments after stepping off the plane, he stopped and explained to the media that he never considered living the life of a political exile outside Russia. "It was never a question, not for a single second. It shows that we need to fight here because, my God ... some ugly thieves are in power." No intention of giving up his fight In an earlier Instagram post, he said he only ended up in Germany because he arrived there in intensive care after "they tried to kill me." He said he never had any intention of giving up his fight against Putin. Russia's prison service, however, clearly indicated that if he returned, Navalny should not expect to be a free man for long. It published an order for his detention, claiming he violated parole terms from a suspended sentence on a 2014 embezzlement conviction — a case that the European Court of Human Rights said was politically motivated. In anticipation of his arrival, police told his supporters not to come out to greet him and if they did, there would be mass arrests. Throngs of riot squad police were deployed at Vnukovo airport, where he was supposed to land, to drive home the point. Nonetheless, hundreds if not thousands of people braved the –20 C temperatures and transportation officials finally diverted his aircraft north to Moscow's main airport, Sheremetyevo. As Navalny waited at passport control, police made their move, putting him under arrest. He kissed his wife, Yulia, goodbye, and was taken into custody, becoming what human rights group Amnesty International called a "prisoner of conscience." Makeshift court Less than 18 hours later, as he waited in a cell, Navalny was told he was going to meet with his lawyer, but instead was taken into a room in the police station that had been turned into a makeshift court. With only invited Kremlin-friendly media present, he was ordered held for 30 days in jail for violating the terms of the probation, even as he reprimanded the judge for taking part in a sham proceeding. He will appear in court again Jan. 29 to deal with the alleged parole violation but his legal team has said they expect more charges will follow. Last month, Russian investigators opened a "fraud" investigation, claiming he misused money from his foundation. 'No immediate threat of a mass revolt' Political observers say there's nothing to prevent Putin from treating his nemesis as harshly as he wants. "There is no immediate threat of a mass revolt," said Moscow-based political scientist Ekaterina Schulmann, noting that aside from Navalny's followers, Russians en masse are unlikely to take to the streets in his cause. She said most people are indifferent or do not want to get involved. "At the moment, Putin can get away with almost anything." Putin and senior Russian officials contort their language to avoid uttering Navalny's name, using terms such as "the Berlin patient" instead. State TV rarely makes mention of him. As Navany's plane was landing, more than five million people were watching Russian-language live feeds of the event on the internet, whereas Kremlin-controlled television news ignored his arrival completely. Nonetheless, Schulmann said the Kremlin has been only partially successful at marginalizing Navalny and his decision to return to Russia has cemented his status as the second-most important political figure in the country. "There is Putin, and there is the anti-Putin, which is him," said Schulmann. "He has voluntarily returned to the country that will imprison him. "This is a very brave action. He is acquiring a certain type of moral authority as a person who has demonstrated that he is a person who is ready to suffer for his convictions." Navalny's fate has been compared to that of former billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Once one of Russia's richest men, Khodorkovsky oversaw a vast oil empire but ran afoul of Putin in the early 2000s, lost his businesses and was sentenced to a hard labour camp before being pardoned. Unlike Khodorkovsky, however, who now lives in the United Kingdom and wages his ongoing fight against Putin from London, Navalny left a safe life in the West to return to Moscow. Moscow-based lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant was the lead counsel for Khodorkovsky during his trial almost two decades ago. "It's absolutely unfair," he told CBC News of Navalny's treatment by Russia's judicial system, noting that his first "court" appearance at the converted police station broke every rule of jurisprudence. "There is no rule of law — it's just repression to delete the main opposition guy from public life." Klyuvgant said Navalny's legal situation is worse than what he faced, but he said the only option for his lawyers is to build a case for his release that is grounded in law, even if the scales of justice are tilted against him. "Don't expect innocence — maybe parole or a pardon or a decrease in prison terms," he said. Even though he's behind bars, Navalny has so far managed to stay connected with his supporters by recording short video blogs during breaks in the court proceedings. He has called for mass protests in cities across the country on Saturday. "There's nothing these thieves in their bunkers fear more than people on the streets," Navalny said in a video posted by his press secretary.
Trapped for months in Southwestern Ontario by COVID-19 travel restrictions in their Caribbean homeland, some migrant farmworkers from Trinidad and Tobago will finally fly home Friday. But many are opting to stay put, hoping to avoid a catch-22: not being able to return to Canada to work in the spring when the next growing season begins. “It’s been a really long ordeal . . . some people have been waiting for months,” said Ken Forth, president of Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services, a non-profit that helps co-ordinate processing requests for foreign seasonal workers. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to be stranded here.” Ongoing COVID-19 travel woes with the border-locked Caribbean nation stranded nearly 400 Trinidadian migrant workers in Ontario late last year. A flight home is set for Friday, with more workers having received travel exemptions required by Trinidad and Tobago that before were few and far between. Schuyler Farms near Simcoe employs about 100 Trinidadian workers, and until this week, few had made it home. Owner Brett Schuyler said 18 of his workers — all those who want to — will be on this week’s flight back. “It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “Everyone just has to get their (COVID-19) tests done, have a negative result, and it should all come together, which I’m very glad for.” Trinidad requires workers to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of their flight. Schuyler said the workers were left in limbo for months, awaiting word from Trinidad on flights home and whether they'd get travel exemptions. But despite the option to head home, about 70 Trinidadian workers at Schuyler Farmers are staying put. “Some of the reasoning behind the group that stayed is out of fear of not getting back to Canada,” Schuyler said. “Last spring, people that were set to come up in March didn’t end up coming until July. This fall, people trying to get home, there are huge delays again.” Canada’s new requirement that incoming travellers show a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of their flight also could be a “potential hurdle” for returning workers, Schuyler said. Last month, Ontario extended health-care coverage and provided financial aid to the stranded migrant workers. Immigrant, Refugees and Citizenship Canada enacted a temporary public policy, in effect until Feb. 21, to let stranded workers apply for temporary status, get a six-month open work permit and be eligible for employment insurance. Forth couldn't estimate how many Trinidadian migrant workers were still stranded in Ontario as of late January, as small numbers have flown out since December. After Friday's flight to Trinidad and Tobago, only one more will be needed to get the rest of those who want to go, back home, he said. No date has been confirmed for that flight. “At the first of December, there was no light at the end of the tunnel, now they will get home,” Forth said. “I feel for the people too because the unknown was the big problem.” email@example.com Twitter.com/MaxatLFPress Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
After four years, U.S. President Donald Trump will be leaving office as President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into the position on Jan. 20, 2021. The weeks leading up to Trump’s departure have been tumultuous, with a siege on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, five federal executions, and 143 presidential pardons, just to name a few pivotal moments.Trump began the day by speaking to a crowd at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland before boarding Air Force One. He is traveling to his golf club, Mar-a-Lago, in Florida, and will not be attending Biden’s inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C.Supporters of the 45th U.S. President gathered in West Palm Beach, Fla. to greet Trump’s motorcade when it arrived in the city.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
Selon les plus récentes données transmises par le Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux (CISSS) du Bas-Saint-Laurent, cinq nouveaux cas de COVID-19 s’ajoutent au bilan quotidien du 18 janvier. On dénombre actuellement 52 cas actifs dans la région. Au KRTB, la situation dans la MRC de Kamouraska demeure stable avec six cas actifs. De son côté, la MRC de Rivière-du-Loup ajoute un nouveau cas à son bilan quotidien et chiffre son nombre de cas actifs à sept. La MRC de Témiscouata et celle des Basques ne dénombrent quant à elles aucun nouveau cas. À titre comparatif, la MRC de Rimouski-Neigette ajoute 4 nouveaux cas à son bilan quotidien et compte 32 cas actifs en date d’aujourd’hui. DONNÉES PAR MRC AU BAS-SAINT-LAURENT Kamouraska : 152 Rivière-du-Loup : 257 (+1) Témiscouata : 81 Les Basques : 28 Rimouski-Neigette : 580 (+4) La Mitis : 76 La Matanie : 206 La Matapédia : 48 Indéterminés : 6 Bas-Saint-Laurent : 1434 (+5) BILAN NATIONAL Les plus récentes données sur l'évolution de la COVID-19, au Québec, font état de 1 634* nouveaux cas pour la journée d'hier, pour un nombre total de 244 348 personnes infectées. Parmi celles-ci, 215 325 sont rétablies. Elles font également état de 32 nouveaux décès, pour un total de 9 087. De ces 32 décès, 9 sont survenus dans les 24 dernières heures et 23 entre le 11 et le 16 janvier. Le nombre total d'hospitalisations a augmenté de 31 par rapport à la veille, avec un cumul de 1 491. Parmi celles-ci, le nombre de personnes se trouvant aux soins intensifs a augmenté de 2, pour un total actuel de 217. Les prélèvements réalisés le 16 janvier s'élèvent à 26 831, pour un total de 5 451 826. Dominique Côté, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal Infodimanche
Amazon says it will open five facilities in Quebec that will create more than 1,000 jobs and speed up customer deliveries. The U.S. online retail giant says it will add two sorting centres and its first three delivery stations in the province. Its largest sorting centre in the province, a 520,000-square-foot facility — about the size of six Canadian football fields — will open this year in Coteau-du-Lac, about 60 kilometres west of Montreal. That will create at least 500 jobs. Another centre will open in Longueuil, on Montreal's South Shore. Amazon's first sorting centre in Quebec opened last year, creating 500 jobs. Three new delivery stations in 2021 and 2022 will employ hundreds. Two of the stations will be located in Laval and one in the Montreal suburb of Lachine. Delivery stations "power the last mile" of Amazon's order fulfilment process, the company says in a Tuesday announcement. Packages are transported to delivery stations from Amazon fulfilment and sorting centres, and then loaded into delivery vehicles. Amazon opened its first operations facility in Quebec in Lachine last summer, creating 300 full-time jobs. Amazon touts record as employer Jean-Francois Héroux, site leader for Amazon Canada, says in a statement that the company is eager to expand in Quebec "Our new facilities will help us meet our customers' growing demand for great products and faster delivery times while offering our Associates access to incredible career growth opportunities through on-the-job training and upskilling so they can reach their career aspirations," he says. In the statement, Amazon touts its record as an employer that provides competitive pay and benefits. Full-time employees' wages start at $16 per hour in Quebec, the company says, and workers can receive medical, vision and dental coverage, a group RRSP plan, stock awards and performance-based bonuses starting on day one. "Amazon prioritizes the safety and health of its employees to provide a safe workplace," the announcement says. "The company invested more than $10 billion to help keep employees safe and deliver products to customers throughout 2020." Workers concerned about safety However, not all workers in Canada agree with the level of safety. In April, CBC reported that many employees were concerned about the lack of physical distancing inside facilities as the company expanded in Ontario. Tim Bray, a former vice-president for Amazon, resigned in May after allegations that three Amazon employees were fired for voicing safety concerns. There were similar apprehensions out west in September when the company announced it was expanding there as well. The Warehouse Workers Centre, a Brampton, Ont.-based organization representing people in the warehouse and logistics sector, started a petition in 2020 that garnered hundreds of signatures claiming "Amazon is failing to protect our health." The petition alleged that Amazon, which employs tens of thousands of people in Canada and has fulfilment centres in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec, was refusing to give workers paid leave and not telling staff what their plans were if facilities were contaminated or suspected of being contaminated with COVID-19. In October, Amazon said nearly 20,000 of its workers have tested positive or been presumed positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.
A man in his 70s died Tuesday afternoon after being hit by a vehicle on Southwood Drive in Nepean, Ottawa police said on Twitter. Ottawa paramedics tell CBC they received a call to attend the crash at Southwood Drive and Thorson Avenue at 1:55 p.m. Tuesday. When crews arrived, the man was bleeding from his head. Workers tried to resuscitate him, but the man died before he could be transported to hospital, paramedics said. Southwood Drive between Baseline Road and Rector Avenue remains closed while Ottawa police examine the crash site. Police said their thoughts "are with the family at this time," and declined to provide further details about the crash.
OTTAWA — Conservatives were torn Tuesday over a decision by party leader Erin O'Toole to try to expel an MP from their ranks over a donation from a known white nationalist. The party's 121 MPs are set to vote via secret ballot Wednesday morning on whether Derek Sloan ought to be removed, with a simple majority required to oust him. While Sloan has courted his fair share of controversy for months, the idea he should be booted from caucus specifically because of a donation he said he had not realized he'd received wasn't sitting well with some MPs and party supporters. And the move prompted immediate backlash from some anti-abortion groups, who had been firmly in Sloan's corner during the leadership race he lost to O'Toole almost six months ago. The group Right Now urged backers to contact MPs to voice their displeasure. "We feel that this an attempt to discourage pro-lifers from engaging within the Conservative Party of Canada, specifically at the upcoming policy convention," Right Now's email said. "If those officials in the Conservative Party of Canada who do not share our values were not threatened by us taking our rightful and democratic place within the party, then they would not attempt such a brazen and obviously desperate effort such as this." The controversy over the $131 donated by Paul Fromm, a longtime political activist with links to neo-Nazi causes, erupted late Monday. O'Toole declared the donation — made under the name "Frederick P. Fromm" — meant Sloan could no longer be a Conservative MP, citing an intolerance for racism within the party. O'Toole promptly kick-started the process of getting him removed from the Conservative caucus. Some MPs publicly voiced their approval on social media, but privately concerns were immediately raised about the bar O'Toole was setting. The party prides itself on collecting donations from hundreds of thousands of grassroots supporters. Vetting them all against an unclear standard would be challenging, if not outright impossible. Sloan was first elected as the MP for the Ontario riding of Hastings-Lennox and Addington in 2019 and stunned many of his fellow MPs by running to lead the party not long after. He has sparked several controversies during his relatively short political life. He's been accused of racism for questioning the loyalty of the country's chief public health officer, a charge he denied. He's also suggested being LGBTQ is not a matter of science and compared a ban on therapy designed to force a person to change their gender or sexual identity to child abuse. During the leadership race, O'Toole told MPs Sloan ought not be kicked out of caucus over the remarks he made about Dr. Theresa Tam, even buying ads on social media trumpeting that position. The fact a donation would be the thing that finally turned O'Toole against Sloan raised some eyebrows. "That he plays silly-bugger word games that homosexuality is a choice should have disqualified him. But kicking him out over a donation from a racist who disguised his identity? So many good reasons to kick him out. Not sure this is one," wrote longtime Conservative operative and strategist Chisholm Pothier on Twitter. "Glad he’s gone. But ends justifying the means is easy, principled politics is hard." The Liberals had been calling for months for O'Toole to eject Sloan, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that he was pleased O'Toole was showing leadership. "Political parties need to remain vigilant, particularly in the wake of what we see in the United States, from the infiltration or the active presence of fringe or extremist or violent or unacceptable or intolerant elements," Trudeau said at a news conference. "And that's something that we constantly need to work towards as all politicians in Canada." Trudeau, however, did not address whether Fromm's organizations would also see money they received in COVID-19 supports clawed back as well. Fromm has been connected to Holocaust-deniers and other white nationalist groups for years. Sloan cited Fromm's use of his first name in making the donation in saying he was unaware of the source of the funds. Fromm also holds a membership in the Conservative party, voted in the leadership race, and had registered for a virtual convention the party is holding in March, none of which had raised red flags before Monday's revelation. Late Tuesday, the party said Fromm's membership would be revoked and he would not be allowed to participate in the convention. In an interview, Fromm said he's never met Sloan, and while Sloan's policies did appeal to him, he argued that to suggest his money, membership or desire to participate in the convention taints Sloan or the party is ridiculous. "I think basically, somebody is out to get Sloan and are prepared to use just about anything," he said. O'Toole won the leadership last year thanks in part to Sloan's supporters, whom he'd courted. Ever since, he has faced questions about how he'll broaden the appeal of the party, given the strength of its social-conservative wing. That faction was already gearing up to try to play an outsized role at the party's policy convention in March, organizing to advance several socially conservative positions through policy motions and ensuring they had enough delegates to make them pass. Their efforts were spurred on by Sloan, who had been pushing people to sign up as delegates, a move viewed within caucus as challenging O'Toole. Sloan has said he'll fight efforts to expel him. He noted he told the party to return Fromm's donation as soon as he was made aware of it, and wasn't sure what more he could have done. He declined to say what he was hoping to achieve at the convention, saying he is now focused on what he called the fight of his life. "O'Toole ran a leadership campaign on fighting cancel culture and promoting a big-tent version of the Conservative party," Sloan said. "And I hope that he has not jettisoned that in favour of perceived short-term political gain." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press
CALGARY — A Crown prosecutor says he will be seeking an adult sentence for an accused teen if he is convicted in a Calgary police officer's death. Doug Taylor made the comment at the start of a bail hearing Tuesday for the 18-year-old. The accused was 17 when he was charged earlier this month with first-degree murder in the death of Sgt. Andrew Harnett, so cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The officer was hit and dragged while attempting to stop an SUV with plates that didn't match on New Year's Eve. Paramedics and fellow officers tried to revive him, but he died in hospital nearly an hour later. Police allege the youth was driving the vehicle and a 19-year-old, who also faces a charge of first-degree murder, was a passenger. "I, of course on behalf of the attorney general, have just filed a notice of intention by the attorney general to apply for an adult sentence," Taylor told court. An adult sentence for a young offender convicted of first-degree murder is life in prison with no parole eligibility for 10 years. Taylor said the Crown is also opposing the young man's release from custody. The co-accused in the case, Amir Abdulrahman is to appear in court Feb. 4. His lawyer, Balfour Der, has said he intends to seek bail on Feb. 12. Court documents indicate that, at the time Harnett was killed, Adbulrahman was wanted on outstanding warrants on several charges, including assault and failing to appear in court. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021 — Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press