LOS ANGELES — Tiger Woods was seriously injured Tuesday when his SUV crashed into a median, rolled over and ended up on its side on a steep roadway in suburban Los Angeles known for wrecks, authorities said. The golf superstar had to be pulled out through the windshield, and his agent said he was undergoing leg surgery. Woods was alone in the SUV when it crashed into a raised median shortly before 7:15 a.m., crossed two oncoming lanes and rolled several times, authorities said at a news conference. No other cars were involved. The 45-year-old was alert and able to communicate as firefighters pried open the front windshield to get him out. The airbags deployed, and the inside of the car stayed basically intact and that “gave him a cushion to survive the crash,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said. Both of his legs were seriously injured, county Fire Chief Daryl Osby said. They said there was no immediate evidence that Woods was impaired. Authorities said they checked for any odor of alcohol or other signs he was under the influence of a substance and did not find any. They did not say how fast he was driving. The crash happened on a sweeping, downhill stretch of a two-lane road through upscale Los Angeles suburbs. Sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, who was the first to arrive at the wreck, told reporters that he sometimes catches people topping 80 mph in the 45 mph zone and has seen fatal crashes there. “I will say that it’s very fortunate that Mr. Woods was able to come out of this alive,” Gonzalez said. Woods was in Los Angeles over the weekend as the tournament host of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club, where he presented the trophy on Sunday. He was to spend Monday and Tuesday filming with Discovery-owned GOLFTV, with whom he has an endorsement. A tweet Monday showed Woods in a cart smiling with comedian David Spade. According to Golf Digest, also owned by Discovery, the TV shoot was on-course lessons for celebrities, such as Spade and Dwyane Wade, at Rolling Hills Country Club. Woods, a 15-time major champion who shares with Sam Snead the PGA Tour record of 82 career victories, has been recovering from Dec. 23 surgery on his lower back. It was his fifth back surgery and first since his lower spine was fused in April 2017, allowing him to stage a remarkable comeback that culminated with his fifth Masters title in 2019. He has carried the sport since his record-setting Masters victory in 1997 when he was 21, winning at the most prolific rate in modern PGA Tour history. He is singularly responsible for TV ratings spiking, which has led to enormous increases in prize money during his career. Even at 45, he remains the biggest draw in the sport. The SUV he was driving Tuesday had tournament logos on the side door, indicating it was a courtesy car for players at the Genesis Invitational. Tournament director Mike Antolini did not immediately respond to a text message, though it is not unusual for players to keep courtesy cars a few days after the event. Woods feared he would never play again until the 2017 fusion surgery. He returned to win the Tour Championship to close out the 2018 season and won the Masters in April 2019 for the fifth time. He last played Dec. 20 in the PNC Championship in Orlando, Florida, an unofficial event where players are paired with parents or children. He played with his son, Charlie, who is now 12. Woods also has a 13-year-old daughter. During the Sunday telecast on CBS from the golf tournament, Woods was asked about playing the Masters on April 8-11 and said, “God, I hope so.” He said he was feeling a little stiff and had one more test to see if he was ready for more activities. He was not sure when he would play again. Athletes from Mike Tyson to Magic Johnson and others offered hopes that Woods would make a quick recovery. “I’m sick to my stomach,” Justin Thomas, the No. 3 golf player in the world, said from the Workday Championship in Bradenton, Florida. “It hurts to see one of my closest friends get in an accident. Man, I just hope he’s all right.” Crews used a crane to lift the damaged SUV out of the hillside brush. The vehicle was placed upright on the street and sheriff’s investigators inspected it and took photos. Then it was loaded onto a flatbed truck and hauled away Tuesday afternoon. This is the third time Woods has been involved in a car investigation. The most notorious was the early morning after Thanksgiving in 2009, when his SUV ran over a fire hydrant and hit a tree. That was the start of shocking revelations that he had been cheating on his wife with multiple women. Woods lost major corporate sponsorships, went to a rehabilitation clinic in Mississippi and did not return to golf for five months. In May 2017, Florida police found him asleep behind the wheel of a car parked awkwardly on the side of the road. He was arrested on a DUI charge and said later he had an unexpected reaction to prescription medicine for his back pain. Woods later pleaded guilty to reckless driving and checked into a clinic to get help with prescription medication and a sleep disorder. Woods has not won since the Zozo Championship in Japan in fall 2019, and he has reduced his playing schedule in recent years because of injuries. The surgery Tuesday would be his 10th. He has had four previous surgeries on his left knee, including a major reconstruction after he won the 2008 U.S. Open, and five surgeries on his back. ___ Ferguson reported from Jacksonville, Florida. Stefanie Dazio And Doug Ferguson, The Associated Press
ATLANTA — Fueled by Black turnout, Democrats scored stunning wins in Georgia in the presidential and U.S. Senate races. Now, Republicans are trying to make sure it doesn't happen again. GOP lawmakers in the once reliably red state are rolling out an aggressive slate of voting legislation that critics argue is tailored to curtail the power of Black voters and undo years of work by Stacey Abrams and others to increase engagement among people of colour, including Latino and Asian American communities. The proposals are similar to those pushed by Republicans in other battleground states: adding barriers to mail-in and early voting, major factors in helping Joe Biden win Georgia's 16 Electoral College votes and Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff take the two Senate seats that gave Democrats control of the chamber. But one aspect of their plans, a proposal to eliminate early voting on Sundays, seems specifically targeted at a traditional get-out-the-vote campaign used by Black churches, referred to as “souls to the polls." It's led many to suggest Republicans are trying to stop a successful effort to boost Black voter turnout in Georgia, where they make up about a third of the population and have faced a dark history of attempts to silence their voices in elections. “It's a new form of voter suppression, the Klan in three-piece suits rather than white hoods,” said the Rev. Timothy McDonald III of the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta, which has participated in souls to the polls events. “They know the power of the Black vote, and their goal is to suppress that power.” In previous elections, souls to the polls campaigns were festive, with vehicles and people parading to election offices during early voting windows. Churches would sometimes playfully compete to see which could bring the most voters, said McDonald, who described the GOP legislation as “spiteful.” In Georgia and elsewhere, Republicans say proposals to tighten voting access are meant to bolster confidence in elections, though they have been some of the loudest proponents of meritless claims that the election was fraudulent. The Brennan Center for Justice, a public policy group, has counted 165 bills in 33 states this year meant to limit access to voting. In Georgia, Republicans control state government and have introduced dozens of legislative measures that would restrict voting access. GOP state Rep. Barry Fleming is chief sponsor of a wide-ranging proposal that would ban Sunday early voting, require a photo ID for absentee voting, limit the time when an absentee ballot could be requested, restrict where ballot drop boxes could be placed and curb the use of mobile voting units, among other changes. In committee hearings, Fleming has cast the legislation as “an attempt to restore the confidence of our public in our election system.” He didn’t respond to an email or phone message requesting comment. Nse Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project that Abrams founded in 2014, called the GOP measures a backlash “to our multiracial, multilingual progressive majority that is winning elections." Biden beat former President Donald Trump by roughly 12,000 votes, becoming the first Democrat to win a presidential contest in Georgia since 1992. Biden received nearly double the number of absentee votes as Trump in a state that became a major target of Trump’s baseless claims of fraud. Biden's win there was confirmed in three separate counts, including one by hand. "These measures, in our opinion, are not based on any objective, data-driven, evidence-based assessment of the issue but solely with the intention to undermine Black voters and other communities of concern,” said Democratic state Rep. Michael Smith, chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus Policy Committee. Because Republicans control both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office, at least some form of their proposals are likely to become law. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, also a Republican, has called for a photo ID requirement for absentee voting but has yet to back a specific proposal. His office said it was still reviewing the legislation. Republicans are trying to limit ways to vote that have been wildly popular. After states expanded access to mail-in and early voting during the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 70% of all ballots cast nationwide came before Election Day. An estimated 108 million people voted by mail, early in person or by dropping off absentee ballots. In Georgia, over 4 million voters cast early or absentee ballots. “They realize if they continue to allow individuals to vote by mail, it is going to be an uphill battle for Republicans to win at the polls and maintain their position,” Democratic state Rep. Debra Bazemore said. At the federal level, Democrats are pushing for a sweeping overhaul of how Americans vote. House Democrats are expected to vote next week on a measure that would establish federal election standards like early voting periods, same-day voter registration and other policies that Republicans have dismissed as federal overreach. And they are expected to introduce another bill to restore a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that had triggered federal scrutiny of election changes in certain states and counties with histories of discrimination. Georgia was among the states that previously had to get approval for voting changes. “If left to their own devices, Republicans will try to limit the ability of minority voters to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” said U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat co-sponsoring the bill on federal election standards. “It's open season on voting rights in Georgia,” he said. ___ Izaguirre reported from Lindenhurst, New York. ___ Associated Press coverage of voting rights receives support in part from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The AP is solely responsible for this content. Anthony Izaguirre And Ben Nadler, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is moving slowly but surely toward reengaging with the Palestinians after a near total absence of official contact during former President Donald Trump’s four years in office. As American officials plan steps to restore direct ties with the Palestinian leadership, Biden’s national security team is taking steps to restore relations that had been severed while Trump pursued a Mideast policy focused largely around Israel, America's closest partner in the region. On Tuesday, for the second time in two days, Biden's administration categorically embraced a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something that Trump had been purposefully vague about while slashing aid to the Palestinians and taking steps to support Israel’s claims to land that the Palestinians want for an independent state. The State Department said Tuesday that a U.S. delegation attended a meeting of a Norwegian-run committee that serves as a clearinghouse for assistance to the Palestinians. Although little-known outside foreign policy circles, the so-called Ad Hoc Liaison Committee has been influential in the peace process since Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords in 1993. “During the discussion, the United States reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to advancing prosperity, security, and freedom for both Israelis and Palestinians and to preserve the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution in which Israel lives in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state,” the State Department said in a statement. “The United States underscored the commitment to supporting economic and humanitarian assistance and the need to see progress on outstanding projects that will improve the lives of the Palestinian people, while urging all parties to avoid unilateral steps that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve,” it said. U.S. participation in the meeting followed a Monday call between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israel’s foreign minister in which Blinken stressed that the new U.S. administration unambiguously supports a two-state solution. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is close to Trump, has eschewed the two-state solution. Biden spoke to Netanyahu last week for the first time as president after a delay that many found suspicious and suggestive of a major realignment in U.S. policy. Blinken, however, has spoken to Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi twice amid ongoing concern in Israel about Biden's intentions in the region, particularly his desire to reenter the Iran nuclear deal. In Monday's call, Blinken “emphasized the Biden administration’s belief that the two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable and democratic Palestinian state,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. The Trump administration had presented its own version of a two-state peace plan, though it would have required significant Palestinian concessions on territory and sovereignty. The Palestinians, however, rejected it out of hand and accused the U.S. of no longer being an honest peace broker after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, moved the U.S. embassy to the city from Tel Aviv, cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority, closed the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington and rescinded a long-standing legal opinion that Israeli settlement activity is illegitimate under international law, Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — A federal judge has ordered the wife of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to remain temporarily jailed after she was arrested and accused of helping her husband run his multibillion-dollar cartel and plotting his audacious escape from a Mexican prison in 2015. Emma Coronel Aispuro, a 31-year-old former beauty queen, appeared by video conference for an initial court appearance before a federal magistrate judge in Washington, D.C. The judge's order came after Coronel's attorney, Jeffrey Licthman, said he would consent to her temporary detention after her arrest at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather explained the charges to Coronel, who spoke to the judge through a Spanish interpreter. She said prosecutors had provided sufficient reason to keep Coronel behind bars for now and noted that her attorney had consented to the temporary detention. Prosecutor Anthony Nardozzi said the U.S. government believed that Coronel should remain jailed, arguing that she “worked closely with the command-and-control structure” of the Sinaloa cartel, particularly with her husband. Nardozzi said she conspired to distribute large quantities of drugs, knowing that they would be illegally smuggled into the U.S. Nardozzi said Coronel had access to criminal associates, including other members of the cartel, and “financial means to generate a serious risk of flight.” If convicted, she could face more than 10 years in prison. Her arrest was the latest twist in the bloody, multinational saga involving Guzman, the longtime head of the Sinaloa drug cartel. Guzman, whose two dramatic prison escapes in Mexico fed into a legend that he and his family were all but untouchable, was extradited to the United States in 2017 and is serving life in prison. And now his wife, with whom he has two young daughters, has been charged with helping him run his criminal empire. In a single-count criminal complaint, Coronel was charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana in the U.S. The Justice Department also accused her of helping her husband escape from a Mexican prison in 2015 and participating in the planning of a second prison escape before Guzman was extradited to the U.S. As Mexico’s most powerful drug lord, Guzman ran a cartel responsible for smuggling mountains of cocaine and other drugs into the United States during his 25-year reign, prosecutors said in recent court papers. They also said his “army of sicarios,” or “hit men,” was under orders to kidnap, torture and kill anyone who got in his way. His prison breaks became the stuff of legend and raised serious questions about whether Mexico's justice system was capable of holding him accountable. In one case, he escaped through an entry under the shower in his cell to a milelong (1.6-kilometre-long) lighted tunnel with a motorcycle on rails. The planning for the escape was extensive, prosecutors say, with his wife playing a key role. Court papers charge that Coronel worked with Guzman’s sons and a witness, who is now co-operating with the U.S. government, to organize the construction of the underground tunnel that Guzman used to escape from the Altiplano prison to prevent his extradition to the U.S. The plot included purchasing a piece of land near the prison, firearms and an armoured truck and smuggling him a GPS watch so they could “pinpoint his exact whereabouts so as to construct the tunnel with an entry point accessible to him,” the court papers say. Guzman was sentenced to life behind bars in 2019. Coronel, who was a beauty queen in her teens, regularly attended Guzman’s trial, even when testimony implicated her in his prison breaks. The two, separated in age by more than 30 years, have been together since at least 2007, and their twin daughters were born in 2011. Her father, Ines Coronel Barreras, was arrested in 2013 with one of his sons and several other men in a warehouse with hundreds of pounds of marijuana across the border from Douglas, Arizona. Months earlier, the U.S. Treasury had announced financial sanctions against her father for his alleged drug trafficking. After Guzman was rearrested following his escape, Coronel lobbied the Mexican government to improve her husband’s prison conditions. And after he was convicted in 2019, she moved to launch a clothing line in his name. Mike Vigil, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s former chief of international operations, said Coronel “has been involved in the drug trade since she was a little girl. She knows the inner workings of the Sinaloa cartel.” He said she could be willing to co-operate. “She has a huge motivation, and that is her twins,” Vigil said. ___ Associated Press writers Christopher Sherman and Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report. Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
TORONTO — The top doctor for one of Ontario's COVID-19 hot spots says paid sick days and relief for businesses could be built into the province's pandemic response system to help mitigate a third wave. Peel Region's Dr. Lawrence Loh says resistance to strict public health measures often stems from lack of relief. He says the province should consider looking at how support policies could be part of Ontario's tiered restrictions system, taking effect when regions are in certain categories. The government did not immediately respond to requests for comment but has previously said that it isn't looking to implement its own sick leave police because some relief is available through a federal benefit. Loh's suggestions came during a discussion hosted by the Ontario Medical Association that looked ahead to the next stage of the pandemic. The medical association has called for Ontario to tighten COVID-19 restrictions in light of more infectious variants spreading in the province. The group representing physicians has recommended banning indoor restaurant dining and other non-masked indoor activities for regions in the red tier of the province's pandemic system. Loh and his counterpart in Toronto sought to extend strict shutdown measures and a stay-at-home order for their regions last week, arguing the spread of variants and recent reopening of schools made it too risky to ease restrictions. The province granted their request, extending the strictest measures for those two regions, as well as North Bay, Ont., until March 8. The COVID-19 hot spot of York Region, however, saw restrictions ease as it was moved to the red, or second-strictest, tier of the province's pandemic response system. York's top doctor had sought the loosening of measures, saying his region was not seeing “explosive growth" of variants that were first detected in December. Dr. Karim Kurji said last week that there was a "reasonable handle" on variant cases, arguing the need for strong measures needed to be balanced with economic and mental wellbeing. The province's economic reopening began earlier this month. The government has said, however, that it has created an "emergency brake" measure that allows it to swiftly move regions into lockdown if cases spike. On Tuesday, the Opposition called for the government to clearly define what would trigger the use of that brake measure. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the government loosened public health restrictions too soon, without a clearly defined plan. Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca and Green party Leader Mike Schreiner also expressed confusion over the parameters of the measure. Health Minister Christine Elliott said the measure considers a public health unit’s increase in case numbers, variants of concern and health system capacity. She argued it was used when the province decided last week to keep Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay under the stay-at-home order for two more weeks. Ontario reported 975 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and 12 more deaths from the virus. The province said 16,252 COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered since the previous update, for a total of 585,707 doses total. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press
Les acériculteurs réunis au sein de l’Association des salles de réception et érablières du Québec (ASEQC) offrent désormais à travers le site « Ma cabane à la maison » le service de boîtes-repas à emporter et en appellent à la solidarité des Québécois. Plusieurs tenanciers de cabanes à sucre ont perdu de lourds investissements depuis l’année dernière et ont été contraints à la fermeture durant leurs seuls mois d’activités de l’année. Ceux qui ont survécu à ce jour ont proposé une plateforme couvrant 196 points de cueillette grâce à leurs boutiques et au partenariat du réseau Métro. Chaque cabane a préparé un menu composé de produits locaux à 90 % servis dans des emballages recyclables et fabriqués au Québec. « L’objectif est de sauver la tradition des sucres pour que nous puissions nous rassembler à nouveau dans ces lieux festifs, l’an prochain. Nos cabanes à sucre sont au bord de la faillite et si nous ne faisons rien, 75 % d’entre elles risquent de disparaître à tout jamais », a indiqué la présidente de l’Association des salles de réception et érablières du Québec (ASEQC) et copropriétaire du Chalet des Érables dans les Laurentides, Stéphanie Laurin. Les personnes qui ont commandé les boîtes gourmandes auront un bonus de spectacle web diffusé par des artistes comme le duo 2Frères, Daniel Boucher, Yves Lambert et Guylaine Tanguay qui ont décidé d’appuyer Ma cabane à la maison. L’agence de communication marketing Prospek a également été associée au projet ainsi que plusieurs autres entreprises et organisations comme les associations touristiques régionales (ATR), les Producteurs et productrices acéricoles du Québec et la Fédération des producteurs d’œufs du Québec. Soutien à l’achat local selon le député Yves Perron « Nos érablières participent à la poursuite de nos traditions québécoises et culturelles. Aujourd’hui, les cabanes à sucre se mobilisent afin de nous servir une offre renouvelée et adaptée et nous répondons présents », a déclaré le député de Berthier-Maskinonge par ailleurs porte-parole du Bloc en matière d’agriculture, d’agroalimentaire et de gestion de l’offre. Il a également encouragé la population « à profiter allègrement » de cette saison des sucres critique pour des érablières « laissées à elles-mêmes depuis le début de la pandémie. » Le Bloc avait proposé l’année dernière un programme adapté à cette activité difficilement admissible aux programmes d’aide fédéraux en raison de leurs spécificités. « Ce projet est une magnifique occasion d’encourager l’achat local, de soutenir nos érablières et de leur démontrer que nous voulons conserver cette tradition typiquement québécoise. N’hésitons pas à profiter de la saison des sucres cette année ! », a conclu Yves Perron. La fédération canadienne de l’entreprise indépendante (FCEI) quant à elle a exhorté la population à « sauver des PME qui font battre le cœur de la culture québécoise. » Les cabanes à sucre génèrent souvent des retombées de plus de 300 millions de dollars en plus de l’influence sur le tourisme selon un communiqué. Ma cabane à la maison pourrait en produire plus de 10 millions dans les régions du Québec en 8 semaines selon les estimations de l’ASEQC. Plus de 6 000 travailleurs et plusieurs chaines de production et de distribution sont affectés par la crise actuelle. Godlove Kamwa, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Canada Français
REGINA — Eleven months into the COVID-19 pandemic, silence fills Regina's airport. Empty check-in counters line one side of the terminal while the odd employee moves behind reception along a row of vehicle rental desks. There's no one on the staircase passengers use upon arriving in Saskatchewan's capital city. The number of flights scheduled to land on Monday: four. “It’s almost like a ghost town," said James Bogusz, CEO and president of the Regina Airport Authority. Canada's aviation industry has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, because of federal travel restrictions and public-health advice urging would-be travellers to stay home. Bogusz said he's concerned that any comeback in air travel could be hampered in Regina by service reductions to air-traffic control. Nav Canada, the non-profit body that runs the country's civil air navigation service, is reviewing airport towers in Regina and six other small Canadian cities. That has triggered concerns from local leaders about the effect on their airports and community businesses. “I don’t want a small town," said Bogusz. "I want my mid-size city airport back." The other airport towers under review are in St-Jean, Que., Windsor and Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario, Fort McMurray, Alta., Prince George, B.C., and Whitehorse, Yukon. At the heart of each review is whether air traffic at the airports warrants having a control tower as opposed to an advisory service for pilots. "We have to operate the right service, at the right place, at the right time," said Jonathan Bagg, Nav Canada's director of stakeholder and industry relations. "The COVID-19 pandemic does give us additional stimulus because of the financial environment; however, the studies are warranted regardless of COVID-19." He explained that an air traffic controller provides instructions to pilots during times including takeoff; an advisory service offers guidance through information that includes weather and runway conditions Bagg said the reviews will not compromise safety and Nav Canada is looking at air traffic numbers at the airports before the pandemic. Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens wants his city off the list because of its proximity to Detroit, which makes airspace more complicated. Dilkens, who also chairs the airport's board, questions how losing the airport's tower would affect attracting new airlines and routes. "Anything that causes them an additional level of concern that makes us less competitive — that’s our economic concern.” WestJet has said control towers don't influence its operations. Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah said losing towers "would have an impact on overall efficiencies as airline operations become significantly more complex." She cited possible delays at non-controlled sites and the need for additional fuel to cover delays or diversions to other airports. "These inefficiency factors all increase operating costs and can affect the overall commercial viability of routes." RJ Steenstra, president and CEO of the Fort McMurray Airport Authority, said closing its tower could affect future efforts to diversify tourism in the region. "German charter carriers will not fly to an airport that doesn’t have a tower," he said. “When so much of the industry is in flux, it’s not a good time to make a decision like this." Bagg said Nav Canada hopes to present by spring its recommendations for the seven towers to Transport Canada, which must give final approval. Six premiers have asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to delay a decision until after COVID-19 is under control enough so travel restrictions can be lifted. In a statement, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Transport Canada would do its own safety review of any proposed changes. Dilkens said it would be a mistake for Ottawa to ignore economic implications. The government has spent million of dollars improving Windsor's airport. Notices about layoffs were issued to air traffic controllers last month, raising concerns that closures have already been decided. "This has eroded our trust in the process," said Bogusz. Bagg said letters were sent because the collective agreement requires employees be notified that their jobs may be at risk. The layoffs are subject to the outcome of the reviews. The Canadian Air Traffic Control Association, which represents air traffic controllers, has said about 60 jobs would disappear if the seven towers were closed. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2020 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Security officials testifying at Congress' first hearing on the deadly siege of the Capitol cast blame and pointed fingers on Tuesday but also acknowledged they were woefully unprepared for the violence. Senators drilled down on the stunning security failure and missed warning signs as rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, in a misguided attempt to stop lawmakers from certifying President Joe Biden's election. Five people died in the attack, including a Capitol Police officer. The security officials lost their jobs, and Trump was impeached by the House on a charge of inciting the insurrection, the deadliest attack on Congress in 200 years. Trump was ultimately acquitted by the Senate. Here are some takeaways from the testimony: FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE Intelligence warnings of an armed uprising by extremist groups heading to the Capitol didn't rise to the level of alarm — or even get passed up the chain of command — in time for the Jan. 6 attack. Crucially, a key warning flare from the FBI field office in Norfolk, Virginia, of a “war” on the Capitol was sent the night before to the Capitol Police's intelligence division. But then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund testified that he only learned about it the day before Tuesday's hearing. Instead, Sund said he was bracing for demonstrations on par with other armed protests by mobs of Trump’s supporters in the nation's capital in November and December after the presidential election. “No entity, including the FBI, provided any intelligence indicating that there would be a co-ordinated violent attack on the United States Capitol by thousands of well-equipped armed insurrectionists,” he testified in written remarks about a conference call the day before the attack. The Democratic chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, said, “There was a failure to take this threat more seriously.” HE SAID, HE SAID As hundreds of rioters stormed the Capitol, breaking into the iconic building's windows and doors, sometimes in hand-to-hand combat with police, there are conflicting accounts from the security officials over what happened next. Sund, who had raised the idea of calling on the National Guard for backup days earlier, specifically recounted a 1:09 p.m. phone call he made to the then-sergeant-at-arms of the House, Paul Irving, his superior, requesting National Guard troops. Sund said he was told they would run it up the chain of command . Irving said he has no recollection of the conversation at that time and instead recalls a conversation nearly 20 minutes later. He said the 1:09 p.m. call does not show up on his cellphone log. As the riot escalated, Sund was “pleading” with Army officials for Guard troops in another phone call, testified Robert Contee III, the acting chief of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department, whose officers had arrived for backup. Contee said he was “stunned” at the delayed response from the military. Defence Department officials have said they offered National Guard troops days earlier but were rebuffed. Pentagon officials are scheduled to testify to the Senate next week. COMMON FACTS: ‘A PLANNED INSURRECTION’ At the start of the hearing, coming 10 days after Trump was acquitted by the Senate on the impeachment charge of inciting the insurrection, some common facts were agreed to. Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the chair of the Rules Committee, asked the security officials if there was any doubt the riot was a planned attack and carried out by white nationalist and extremist groups. None of the witnesses disputed the characterization of the facts of Jan. 6. Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin read an alternative account, of mostly peaceful protesters festive that day, that he encouraged colleagues to consider. But in closing, Klobuchar restated the testimony: “There was clear agreement this was a planned insurrection.” ONE OFFICER'S PERSONAL STORY The hearing opened with Capitol Police Capt. Carneysha Mendoza, a 19-year veteran of the force, delivering a compelling personal account of being called at home that day as she was spending time with her 10-year-old before the start of her shift. She rushed to the Capitol only to find “the worst of the worst” scene of her career. A former Army veteran, she recounted the deadly mayhem, fending off rioters inside the building’s stately Rotunda, inhaling gas and suffering chemical burns to her face she said still have not healed. Her Fitbit recorded four hours of sustained activity, she said. The next night and following day she spent at the hospital consoling the family of Officer Brian Sicknick, who died after the attack. “As an American, and as an Army veteran, it’s sad to see us attacked by our fellow citizens,” Mendoza told the senators. TRUMP'S SHADOW The former president was hardly a presence at the first hearing. Instead, senators largely set aside their sharply partisan ways to drill down on the facts of what happened that day — on how to prevent it from happening again. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., pointedly asked for the name of the commander in chief of the armed forces that day who was ultimately responsible for the military and security of the country. That drew out the former president's name. Among the senators on the panels are two of Trump's staunch allies who led the effort to overturn Biden's election victory — Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. ___ Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Michael Balsamo and Lolita Baldor in Washington and Nomaan Merchant in Houston contributed to this report. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Canada and Australia are banding together to ensure the revenues of web giants are shared more fairly with creators and media. A statement from Ottawa says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison have agreed to continue "co-ordinating efforts" to address online harm and ensure social media companies pay for journalism. The statement says the two leaders spoke Monday on a range of topics including the growing co-operation between Canada and Australia on the regulation of online platforms. The increasing alliance between the two countries on legislating internet giants to pay for news comes as Facebook backs down on its ban on Australians viewing and sharing news on its platform. The social media company announced Tuesday it would lift the ban, saying it had struck a deal with the Australian government on proposed legislation that would make digital giants pay for journalism. Facebook caused alarm with its sudden decision last week to block news on its platform across Australia after the House of Representatives passed the draft law. With files from The Associated Press. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. The Canadian Press
A pre-trial conference will be held next month for a man charged in connection with a downtown stabbing death last summer. Last week, lawyers for the Crown and defence set March 8 for a pre-trial conference that will determine the length of a forthcoming preliminary inquiry in the case of Jason Holm. Holm, 37, is charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of 39-year-old Paul Samuel Whitten, who was stabbed to death on Aug. 1, 2020. Police said they were called to a home on Clarke Street in the West End, where Whitten was found with serious injuries. He later died and Holm was arrested a short time later. The Independent Investigations Office, B.C.’s arm’s-length police watchdog, is looking into the circumstances that led to Whitten’s death because Mounties had been looking for Holm before Whitten was killed. “On July 31, Kamloops RCMP received a call from a woman who was concerned about the mental health of a male relative,” the IIO said in a news release issued last summer. “Officers visited the man’s home, but reported being unable to locate him.” A preliminary inquiry lasting at least a week is expected, as it will also address issues with some of the witnesses raised by the defence, Crown prosecutor Tim Livingston told court. Holm had been expected to attend court via video conference last week to elect a mode of trial, but he refused to leave his cell. Michael Potestio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week
NICE, France — The doctor slid a miniature camera into the patient’s right nostril, making her whole nose glow red with its bright miniature light. “Tickles a bit, eh?” he asked as he rummaged around her nasal passages, the discomfort causing tears to well in her eyes and roll down her cheeks. The patient, Gabriella Forgione, wasn't complaining. The 25-year-old pharmacy worker was happy to be prodded and poked at the hospital in Nice, in southern France, to advance her increasingly pressing quest to recover her sense of smell. Along with her sense of taste, it suddenly vanished when she fell ill with COVID-19 in November, and neither has returned. Being deprived of the pleasures of food and the scents of things that she loves are proving tough on her body and mind. Shorn of odours both good and bad, Forgione is losing weight and self-confidence. “Sometimes I ask myself, ’Do I stink?'" she confessed. “Normally, I wear perfume and like for things to smell nice. Not being able to smell bothers me greatly.” A year into the coronavirus pandemic, doctors and researchers are still striving to better understand and treat the accompanying epidemic of COVID-19-related anosmia — loss of smell — draining much of the joy of life from an increasing number of sensorially frustrated longer-term sufferers like Forgione. Even specialist doctors say there is much about the condition they still don't know and they are learning as they go along in their diagnoses and treatments. Impairment and alteration of smell have become so common with COVID-19 that some researchers suggest that simple odor tests could be used to track coronavirus infections in countries with few laboratories. For most people, the olfactory problems are temporary, often improving on their own in weeks. But a small minority are complaining of persistent dysfunction long after other COVID-19 symptoms have disappeared. Some have reported continued total or partial loss of smell six months after infection. The longest, some doctors say, are now approaching a full year. Researchers working on the vexing disability say they are optimistic that most will eventually recover but fear some will not. Some doctors are concerned that growing numbers of smell-deprived patients, many of them young, could be more prone to depression and other difficulties and weigh on strained health systems. “They are losing colour in their lives,” said Dr. Thomas Hummel, who heads the smell and taste outpatients clinic at University Hospital in Dresden, Germany. “These people will survive and they'll be successful in their lives, in their professions,” Hummel added. “But their lives will be much poorer.” At the Face and Neck University Institute in Nice, Dr. Clair Vandersteen wafted tube after tube of odours under Forgione's nose after he had rooted around in her nostrils with his camera. “Do you perceive any smell? Nothing? Zero? OK,” he asked, as she repeatedly and apologetically responded with negatives. Only the last tube provoked an unequivocal reaction. “Urgh! Oh, that stinks," Forgione yelped. “Fish!” Test complete, Vandersteen delivered his diagnosis. “You need an enormous amount of an odor to be able to smell something,” he told her. “You haven’t completely lost your sense of smell but nor is it good.” He sent her away with homework: six months of olfactory rehab. Twice daily, choose two or three scented things, like a sprig of lavender or jars of fragrances, and smell them for two to three minutes, he ordered. “If you smell something, great. If not, no problem. Try again, concentrating hard on picturing the lavender, a beautiful purple bloom," he said. “You have to persevere." Losing the sense of smell can be more than a mere inconvenience. Smoke from a spreading fire, a gas leak, or the stink of rotten food can all pass dangerously unnoticed. Fumes from a used diaper, dog's dirt on a shoe or sweaty armpits can be embarrassingly ignored. And as poets have long known, scents and emotions are often like lovers entwined. Evan Cesa used to relish meal times. Now they're a chore. A fish dinner in September that suddenly seemed flavourless first flagged to the 18-year-old sports student that COVID-19 had attacked his senses. Foodstuffs became mere textures, with only residual hints of sweet and saltiness. Five months later, breakfasting on chocolate cookies before classes, Cesa still chewed without joy, as though swallowing cardboard. “Eating no longer has any purpose for me," he said. "It is just a waste of time.” Cesa is among the anosmia sufferers being studied by researchers in Nice who, before the pandemic, had been using scents in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. They also used comforting fragrances to treat post-traumatic stress among children after a truck terror attack in Nice in 2016, when a driver plowed through holiday crowds, killing 86 people. The researchers are now turning their expertise to COVID-19, teaming up with perfumers from the nearby fragrance-producing town of Grasse. Perfumer Aude Galouye worked on the fragrant waxes that were wafted under Cesa's nose to measure his olfactory impairment, with scents at varying concentrations. “The sense of smell is a sense that is fundamentally forgotten," Galouye said. "We don’t realize the effect it has on our lives except, obviously, when we no longer have it.” The examinations on Cesa and other patients also include language and attention tests. The Nice researchers are exploring whether olfactory complaints are linked to COVID-related cognitive difficulties, including problems with concentrating. Cesa stumbled by picking the word “ship” when “kayak” was the obvious choice on one test. “That is completely unexpected," said Magali Payne, a speech therapist on the team at the Côte d’Azur University's CoBTeK lab. “This young man shouldn’t be experiencing linguistic problems.” “We have to keep digging,” she said. “We are finding things out as we see patients.” Cesa longs to have his senses restored, to celebrate the taste of pasta in carbonara sauce, his favourite dish, and a run through the fragrant wonders of the great outdoors. “One might think that it is not important to be able to smell nature, trees, forests," he said. “But when you lose the sense of smell, you realize how truly lucky we are to be able to smell these things.” ___ Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak John Leicester, The Associated Press
THUNDER BAY — A new website launched this week features various services and tools to support victims and survivors of local human trafficking, says the co-chair of the Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking. Thunder Bay has been identified as one of the top six hubs in Ontario for human trafficking says Kristal Carlson, human trafficking youth and transition worker at Thunder Bay Counselling and co-chair of the Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking. “This crime is rampant in Thunder Bay,” she said Monday, Feb. 22. The website was created to provide victims and survivors of human trafficking with access to free services and to also spread awareness and education in the community about the crime. “The Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking created the website to help community members, potential survivors and business people alike to be able to acknowledge, identify and potentially intervene if they should see human trafficking in young peoples’ lives,” Carlson said, adding the crime is often under-reported. For women, only one in 10 will report and for men only one in 20 will report to police, Carlson said. “It is such an under-reported crime so any sex-based crime we know that only six per cent will ever end in conviction so it is really hard to convince people to come forward when there is not the likelihood that something will happen,” she said. And while groups such as the Thunder Bay Coalition To End Human Trafficking exist to support victims of the crime, it is important to note they do not classify themselves as a “rescuing people” group, Carlson said. “We support individuals to move forward when they are ready in the way that is going to best suit them in their current situation,” she said. Last year alone, through various programs across the Coalition more than 60 people were successful in leaving their current situation, Carlson said. The creators of the new website also hope to address misconceptions around human traffickers that are often presented in media and movies. “Human trafficking, more times than not, is somebody being exploited by the person they identify as their boyfriend, their best friend or somebody that they know so that happens in more than 85 per cent of cases,” she said. The other most common form of trafficking is the exploitation of young people by family members, extended family members, caretakers or guardians. “More times than not it’s happening by the person they believe to be their boyfriend, girlfriend or best friend,” Carlson said. The website also teaches individuals how to identify signs and risk factors of human trafficking. “We also want to raise the education in the city of Thunder bay because we are identified as one of the top six hubs in the province of Ontario and Ontario makes up two-thirds of all human trafficking that takes place in our country,” Carlson said. Carlson also points out that coming forward doesn’t mean individuals have to report to the police. “The Thunder Bay Police have started to do some really amazing work in being able to meet survivors exactly where they are at and not needing to move forward with charges but to support them for when they are ready to do that if they are ever ready to do that,” she said. “We just want [survivors] to know they are not alone and that there are people to support you no matter where you are, whether you are currently at risk, entrenched, or you looking to exit, there are people here to support you.” For more information, visit Thunder Bay Coalition’s new website by clicking here. Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
WASHINGTON — Health secretary nominee Xavier Becerra told senators Tuesday that confronting the coronavirus pandemic will be his first priority if confirmed, but he also pledged to expand health insurance, rein in prescription drug costs and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in medical care. “To meet this moment, we need strong federal leadership," Becerra said at the first of two hearings on his nomination. “I understand the enormous challenges before us and our solemn responsibility to faithfully steward this agency that touches almost every aspect of our lives.” Becerra now serves as California's attorney general and previously represented the Los Angeles area for more than 20 years in the U.S. House. A liberal politician-lawyer, he faces opposition from many GOP senators, who question his support for abortion rights and government-run health insurance, along with his lack of a clinical background. However, in the past 25 years, only one medical doctor has led the Department of Health and Human Services in a permanent capacity. Appearing before the Senate health committee, Becerra seconded President Joe Biden’s goals of 100 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days, increased coronavirus testing, ramped-up DNA mapping of the virus to track worrisome mutations and reopening schools and businesses. On health insurance, he pledged to work to expand the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, though in the past he's supported a government-run system like Sen. Bernie Sanders' “Medicare for All” idea. He said he would act to lower drug prices, particularly the cost of insulin. It's a goal that has bipartisan backing. Republican Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana noted that Becerra seems to have no drug industry support, adding, “I think I know why.” Although leading Republicans are portraying Becerra as unfit, Democrats seem unfazed about his prospects, accusing the GOP of playing politics despite the urgency of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Following Tuesday's appearance before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Becerra will be questioned Wednesday by the Finance Committee, which will vote on sending his nomination to the Senate floor. If confirmed, he'd be the first Latino to head HHS, a $1.4 trillion agency with a broad portfolio that includes health insurance programs, drug safety and approvals, advanced medical research and the welfare of children. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the ranking Republican on the health committee, left no doubt that Becerra faces tough scrutiny. “I’m not sold yet,” Burr said at Tuesday's hearing, looking straight at the nominee. “I'm not sure that you have the necessary experience or skills to do this job at this moment.” Burr questioned whether Becerra respects the role of private companies in the health care system, particularly innovative pharmaceutical firms. But other Republican senators sidestepped ideological confrontation and asked questions that centred on home state concerns. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., made a reference to “when” Becerra is confirmed, not “if.” And Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she would encourage him to visit her state early. Becerra sought to soften his image as an enemy of drug companies. “We need the pharmaceutical industry in America to always feel like we’ve got their back to innovate,” he told Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. “COVID is a perfect example of how we can come up with a vaccine, but we have to make sure that we’re getting our dollar's worth.” And he also credited the Trump administration for its shepherding of two highly effective coronavirus vaccines. “There are a lot of people to thank, but without the work that the previous administration did, we would certainly not be here,” he told Braun. Although Becerra, 63, is politically liberal, his style is low-key and oriented toward problem solving. Still, Republican opposition has grown louder ahead of his nomination hearings. On Monday, Sens. John Kennedy of Louisiana and Tom Cotton of Arkansas released a letter in which they asked Biden to withdraw the nomination, calling Becerra “unfit for any position of public trust.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has called him “famously partisan.” Opponents of abortion rights had signalled from the beginning that they would fight the nomination, and the political group Heritage Action for America launched a cable and digital ad campaign against Becerra. Democrats are shrugging it off. Republicans are “just flailing around,” Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden of Oregon said Monday. In many ways, Becerra was California’s early face of opposition to the Trump administration. He was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to replace Kamala Harris as state attorney general in early 2017. Over four years, he filed 124 lawsuits, challenging the Trump administration on immigration, environmental and health care policies. His litigiousness and vocal resistance to Trump’s policies could allow Republicans to paint him as an overly partisan figure. California took pride in viewing itself as the resistance to Trump, and Becerra embodied that ethos. Lack of medical experience doesn't disqualify a nominee for HHS secretary, though it can be a plus. Recent Senate-confirmed secretaries have included one doctor but also a pharmaceutical executive, a White House budget director and three governors. ___ Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne contributed to this report from Sacramento, Calif. Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, The Associated Press
(Kate Dubinski/CBC News - image credit) Beginning March 1, second dose COVID-19 vaccination clinics in Yellowknife will be open to residents who received their first dose between Jan. 23 and 30. In a Tuesday email to media, the N.W.T. Health and Social Services Authority said it added appointments to the Yellowknife vaccine clinic to include this group. Until now, second doses had only been available to people who had received their dose between Jan. 7 and 22. "This now means that [Yellowknife] vaccination appointments are open to anyone who got their first shot before Jan. 30th and priority groups," the email said. The health authority is asking residents to book their appointment online and if they're unable to do so, they can call public health at 767-9120. Clinics schedule in remote communities finalized The email also said the health authority finalized a schedule for vaccine clinics in all of the territory's communities. The latest vaccine clinics in communities outside of Yellowknife are open to residents who are getting their second dose and to any resident who is 18 and older wishing to get their first dose. The communities that were included in the schedule Tuesday are: Fort Resolution, on March 4 and 5; Fort Liard, on March 4, 5 and 6 at the community hall; Norman Wells, on March 2, 3 and 4; Fort Good Hope, on March 8 and 9. "If anything changes it will be documented in it in the update notes," read the email. "[T]his ... should allow all residents who received a first dose to plan for their second and many residents in remote communities to get a second chance at a first dose."
THUNDER BAY — A Thunder Bay dentist is facing several allegations of professional misconduct in connection to criminal charges he pleaded guilty to more than two years ago in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario served Dr. James Mao with two notices of a discipline hearing on Feb. 12, 2020, in connection to the following allegations: In an interview with Tbnewswatch.com, Mao stated he is upset the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario is considering further penalties and worried about the possible loss or suspension of his dental licence. One of the complainants has also filed a civil lawsuit against him related to the charges, Mao said. "It's gotten me very, very quite upset and losing faith in the system," Mao said. The college alleges Mao contravened the Public Hospitals Act with respect to dental care to the public when he pleaded guilty to two counts of assault with a weapon on May 18, 2018. Mao said on two separate occasions he was training staff on how to suction a patient's mouth after the dentist administers anesthesia through a needle. During each incident, Mao said the dental assistants who were in training were having trouble learning the technique. "Long story short, they still didn't get it so I said 'How about I administer some anesthetic in your mouth so you experience the awful taste of it so you can appreciate what the patient is going through?'" Mao said. According to a notice of hearing published on the RCDSO's website, the charges stem from an Aug. 12, 2015 incident where Mao threatened an unnamed individual, identified in the notice as “Person A”, a patient and staff member, with a hypodermic needle. In or about the summer of 2014, Mao threatened another individual, “Person B”, a staff member at his dental practice with a hypodermic needle. Further, it is alleged Mao committed professional misconduct in 2018 after he was found guilty of the offences which are relevant to his suitability to practice. The college also alleges Mao abused a patient, Person A, when he threatened her with a hypodermic needle loaded with lidocaine solution after he felt that she had not performed her dental assisting duties correctly. “[Mao] caused Person A additional physical and emotional harm after [he] threatened her with a needle as she had to undergo treatment for exposure to possible HIV infection,” the notice reads. “The side effects of which are extremely unpleasant because she did not know whether the needle had touched her and she did not know whether it was sterile.” Additionally, Mao is accused of engaging in disgraceful, dishonourable, unprofessional, and unethical behaviour in relation to both Person A and Person B. “[Mao] called Person B, a staff member, inappropriate and offensive names such as “monkey” and “idiot”,” the report says. The notice states Mao was verbally abusive toward staff members, one of whom was also a patient, Person A. Furthermore, it is alleged Mao committed professional misconduct by providing the college with inaccurate information in a letter dated May 2016 in which he denied threatening staff with a needle. He pleaded guilty to the offence two years later. If the panel finds Mao committed professional misconduct, they could make an order to revoke or suspend his certificate of registration, impose specified terms, limitations or conditions, require him to appear before the panel to be reprimanded, require him to pay a fine of up to $35,000 to the ministry of finance or any combination of the above. Discipline hearing dates for Mao have been scheduled for May 4 and May 5, according to the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario. Under the legislation, the RCDSO is required to conduct its own investigation into a dentist's conduct and a notice of hearing can only be issued following a thorough investigation and decision of the college's screening committee. The length of an investigation can vary depending on a number of factors, a spokesperson with the college said in an emailed statement. For the full notice of hearing, visit here. Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
(Yoskri Mimouna/Radio-Canada - image credit) In the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government spent at least $61 million to help public servants adapt to working from home, according to an analysis by Radio-Canada. The amount is likely higher because some departments including Global Affairs Canada haven't released their spending figures. According to Radio-Canada, the majority of the money that has been reported was used to equip workers with computers and office furniture needed to work from home. The spending doesn't include salaries. As one example, the Department of National Defence provided employees with 960 chairs, 9,896 laptops, 33,000 VPN connections and 110,000 accounts for Microsoft Office 365. The department also allowed each employee to spend $300 on smaller office items. By comparison, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a Crown corporation, granted its employees a monthly allowance of $80. "What worries us the most is whether there were duplicate or triplicate expenses," Renaud Brossard, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation's director for Quebec, told Radio-Canada in a French-language interview. Brossard is concerned some of that money might have been spent on items that could have been picked up from the office, and said the government needs to keep tabs on all that equipment once the pandemic is over and workers return to their cubicles. Resources stretched thin: unions But Geneviève Tellier, a professor of political studies at the University of Ottawa, cautioned taxpayers to be understanding in these exceptional circumstances. "It is possible that there were mistakes, that we paid too much," Tellier said in French. But according to unions representing federal public servants, even with all the costs, resources for teleworkers are still stretched thin. "We are experiencing technical problems, such as VPNs failing," said the Public Service Alliance of Canada's Alex Silas. Stéphane Aubry of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) said some departments "have not provided much equipment" to their employees. According to PIPSC, some 200,000 federal public servants are working from home during the pandemic. According to Radio-Canada's analysis, the government has also spent more than $26 million on safety measures for workplaces that have continued to function throughout the pandemic. The costs included installing signs and Plexiglas shields.
A video obtained by Global News has gone viral showing the busy inside of a HomeSense in Vaughan, Ont. Taken on the first day York Region re-opened retail at 50 per cent capacity, the apparent lack of social distancing in the store has led to physicians voicing their concerns, and warnings over the province’s regional approach to relaxing restrictions. Miranda Anthistle has the details.
(Maggie MacPherson/CBC - image credit) The Vancouver School Board has until Friday to tell the B.C. Ministry of Education how it will increase hours of in-class learning for high school students — a plan that failed to materialize from a board meeting Monday night. In a Feb. 12 letter to VSB superintendent Suzanne Hoffman provided to CBC News, Deputy Minister Scott MacDonald urged the district to "further review" its high school program and maximize in-person and online learning with teacher supervision, especially for students in Grades 8 and 9. It came after many parents voiced their frustration over the lack of in-person instruction in Vancouver schools compared to other districts in B.C. "The ministry has conducted a review of education delivery across all 60 school districts and the Vancouver School Board is one of a few that are providing less than 75 per cent of their instruction at the secondary school level in person," the letter read. The district was given a deadline of Feb. 26 to tell the ministry how it plans to maximize in-class learning. But those plans are still in the works. "I don't have a timeline for you," VSB chair Carmen Cho told CBC's The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn on Tuesday morning. At Monday's meeting, Cho said, the board directed Hoffman to look at progress data for students, such as grades, and determine how to move forward based on that evidence. "Any decisions that we make are going to be based on the data that we receive, so it would be presumptive of me to say what we will be doing," said Cho. Parents say more is needed The ministry letter notes that a survey by the Vancouver School District Parent Advisory Council found nearly 75 per cent of parents are asking for more in-person instruction. A group of parents complained to the board in January about the lack of in-person instruction. They said their kids were only getting about one-third the instructional time secondary students in other districts were receiving. The VSB made some changes to secondary school schedules to increase instructional hours as of Feb. 4. Grade 8 students now attend their remote class twice a week in-person, go to a one-week rotation of remote and in-person classes, and will have three interactive learning opportunities per week for remote classes, with increased social interaction. Corrine Hohl, the parent of a Grade 8 student in Vancouver, said she's disappointed with the few hours of in-class instructional time her son is receiving. Hohl told CBC that a typical day at at Kitsilano Secondary for her son means leaving the house just after 8 a.m. for a morning French class and 30 thirty minutes of physical education. "He came home in the late morning before 11 and he had been home on the couch since then," she said. Another Vancouver parent, Nathan Hume, said total in-class hours for Grade 8 students is currently 10.75 hours per week, and this is upsetting when it's compared to every other district in the province. "Grades 8-9 are back everywhere else full time," he said. While Cho did not provide a timeline for when students would get more in-person classes, she did say the issue is a top priority for the board. Tap here to watch a livestream of the Vancouver School Board's Feb. 22 meeting.
OTTAWA — The Trudeau government has agreed with the Senate that Canadians suffering solely from grievous and irremediable mental illnesses should be entitled to receive medical assistance in dying — but not for another two years.The two-year interlude is six months longer than what was proposed by senators.It is one of a number of changes to Bill C-7 proposed by the government in response to amendments approved last week by the Senate. The government has rejected another Senate amendment that would have allowed people who fear being diagnosed with dementia or other competence-eroding conditions to make advance requests for an assisted death.It has also rejected one other amendment and modified two others in a motion that was debated Tuesday in the House of Commons."I believe that C-7 is one important and prudent step in ensuring greater respect for the autonomy of a broader category of Canadians who are suffering intolerably," Justice Minister David Lametti told the Commons, expressing hope that the Senate will accept the government's "reasonable" proposals.Bloc Québécois MP Luc Thériault said his party will support the minority Liberal government's response, assuring it will pass.While the Bloc would have liked to go further to expand access to assisted dying, he said the bill does make some important progress on that front."It is very important to keep moving forward," Thériault told the Commons.Once approved by the Commons, the bill will go back to the Senate, where senators will have to decide whether to accept the verdict of the elected chamber or dig in their heels.Bill C-7 would expand access to assisted dying to intolerably suffering individuals who are not approaching the natural end of their lives, bringing the law into compliance with a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling.As originally drafted, the bill would have imposed a blanket ban on assisted dying for people suffering solely from mental illnesses.A strong majority of senators argued that the exclusion was unconstitutional, violating the right to equal treatment under the law, regardless of physical or mental disability, as guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.They voted to impose an 18-month time limit on the mental illness exclusion, which the government now wants to extend to two years.Lametti said he still believes the exclusion is constitutional and he "does not believe we are entirely ready" to safely provide assisted dying for people with mental illnesses. Nevertheless, he said the government has heard the concerns of Canadians who fear the exclusion may never be lifted and will, therefore, support a two-year sunset clause."We think 24 months is still an ambitious timeline to implement such an important change in Canada's MAID (medical assistance in dying) policy but it still provides a fixed timeline in the relatively near future," Lametti said.During the two-year interlude, the government is also proposing to have an expert panel conduct an independent review of the issue and, within one year, recommend the "protocols, guidance and safeguards" that should apply to requests for assisted dying from people with a mental illness.Until the exclusion is lifted, senators had wanted to clarify that it does not apply to people with neurocognitive disorders like Alzheimer's disease. However, the government has rejected that amendment.In rejecting advance requests, the government motion argues that the Senate amendment on that issue "goes beyond the scope of the bill" and requires "significant consultation and study," including a "careful examination of safeguards."Lametti said he knows many Canadians will be disappointed by the government's rejection of that amendment. But he said the issue should be examined during the legally required five-year parliamentary review of the assisted dying law, which was supposed to have begun last June but has yet to materialize.The government has agreed, however, to a modified version of a Senate amendment to finally get that review underway within 30 days of Bill C-7 receiving royal assent. The government is proposing the creation of a joint Commons-Senate committee to review the assisted-dying regime, including issues related to mature minors, advance requests, mental illness, the state of palliative care in Canada and the protection of Canadians with disabilities. The committee would be required to report back, with any recommended changes, within one year.The government has also agreed to a modified version of another Senate amendment to require the collection of race-based data on who is requesting and receiving medical assistance in dying.It is proposing to expand that to include data on people with disabilities and to specify that the information be used to determine if there is "the presence of any inequality — including systemic inequality — or disadvantage based on race, Indigenous identity, disability or other characteristics."That is in response to the strenuous opposition to Bill C-7 from disability rights advocates who maintain the bill sends the message that life with a disability is a fate worse than death. They've also argued that Black, racialized and Indigenous people with disabilities, already marginalized and facing systemic discrimination in the health system, could be induced to end their lives prematurely due to poverty and a lack of support services.Some critics have also raised concerns about unequal access to assisted dying for marginalized people, rural Canadians and Indigenous people in remote communities.The government's response did not satisfy either the Conservatives, who largely opposed the original bill, or the New Democrats, who object in principle to the unelected Senate making substantive changes to legislation passed by the Commons.NDP MP Charlie Angus criticized the "unelected and unaccountable Senate" for expanding assisted dying to "people who are depressed."Conservative MP Michael Barrett moved an amendment to the government motion, that would delete the proposed sunset clause on the mental illness exclusion.He further slammed the government for ignoring the concerns of disability rights advocates and signalled that his party will not go along with the government's "fevered rush" to pass what he called a "deeply flawed" bill."That's why we're here today, to stand up for them and be the voice that this government cannot ignore," Barrett said.The government is hoping to have the bill passed by both parliamentary chambers by Friday to meet the thrice-extended court-imposed deadline for bringing the law into compliance with the 2019 ruling.But with the Conservatives signalling that they may drag out debate on the Senate amendments, the government will ask the court on Thursday to give it one more month — until March 26.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
(Shane MacKichan - image credit) A B.C. RCMP officer will not be charged in connection with a rollover crash after an attempted traffic stop in Surrey, B.C., last month. The Crown said it would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer, who has not been identified, committed a crime in relation to the crash on Jan. 7. The officer tried to pull over a suspected impaired driver along 140 Avenue around 9:30 p.m. The officer was in an unmarked vehicle and turned on their lights and sirens, but the driver did not stop. The driver instead drove through an intersection, with the officer in pursuit. The driver ultimately lost control and flipped multiple times near 160 Street, according to an initial statement from RCMP. They were hospitalized with critical injuries, including a spinal cord injury. A car flipped multiple times before ending up in the ditch along 104 Avenue in Surrey, B.C., on Jan. 7, 2020. The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. was called in due to the seriousness of the driver's injuries. In a report to Crown, the IIO said its team believed there "were reasonable grounds to believe the officer may have committed offences." The Crown weighed charges against the officer for running red lights and breaking the speed limit while following the driver. The IIO in its statement points out, that for officers engaged in the lawful execution of their duties, the Motor Vehicle Act provides an exemption from compliance with traffic controls, unless their driving is deemed a danger to the public. But on Tuesday, the Crown said the available evidence doesn't meet the charge assessment standard. In making decisions on charge approval, the Crown weighs whether there is a substantial likelihood of conviction and, if so, whether prosecution is in the public interest. In this case, the Crown said it would only be able to prosecute the officer for running a fresh red light during the pursuit without coming to a full stop and without sirens on but said the public interest bar wasn't met because the breach is minor and likely wouldn't lead to a sentence.