Subdued Christmas Eve in Bethlehem
Subdued Christmas Eve in Bethlehem
PALM BEACH, Fla. — Donald Trump has lost his social media megaphone, the power of government and the unequivocal support of his party's elected leaders. But a week after leaving the White House in disgrace, a large-scale Republican defection that would ultimately purge him from the party appears unlikely. Many Republicans refuse to publicly defend Trump's role in sparking the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. But as the Senate prepares for an impeachment trial for Trump's incitement of the riot, few seem willing to hold the former president accountable. After House Republicans who backed his impeachment found themselves facing intense backlash — and Trump’s lieutenants signalled the same fate would meet others who joined them — Senate Republicans voted overwhelmingly Tuesday for an attempt to dismiss his second impeachment trial. Only five Republican senators rejected the challenge to the trial. Trump's conviction was considered a real possibility just days ago after lawmakers whose lives were threatened by the mob weighed the appropriate consequences — and the future of their party. But the Senate vote on Tuesday is a sign that while Trump may be held in low regard in Washington following the riots, a large swath of Republicans is leery of crossing his supporters, who remain the majority of the party’s voters. “The political winds within the Republican Party have blown in the opposite direction,” said Ralph Reed, chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a Trump ally. “Republicans have decided that even if one believes he made mistakes after the November election and on Jan. 6, the policies Trump championed and victories he won from judges to regulatory rollback to life to tax cuts were too great to allow the party to leave him on the battlefield.” The vote came after Trump, who decamped last week to his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, began wading back into politics between rounds of golf. He took an early step into the Arkansas governor’s race by endorsing former White House aide Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and backed Kelli Ward, an ally who won reelection as chair of Arizona’s Republican Party after his endorsement. At the same time, Trump’s team has given allies an informal blessing to campaign against the 10 House Republicans who voted in favour of impeachment. After Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer backed impeachment, Republican Tom Norton announced a primary challenge. Norton appeared on longtime Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast in a bid to raise campaign contributions. On Thursday, another Trump loyalist, Rep. Matt Gaetz, plans to travel to Wyoming to condemn home-state Rep. Liz Cheney, a House GOP leader who said after the Capitol riot that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. — a star with Trump’s loyal base —- has encouraged Gaetz on social media and embraced calls for Cheney’s removal from House leadership. Trump remains livid with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, who refused to support Trump's false charges that Georgia's elections were fraudulent. Kemp is up for reelection in 2022, and Trump has suggested former Rep. Doug Collins run against him. Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s decision not to seek reelection in 2022 opens the door for Rep. Jim Jordan, one of Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters, to seek the seat. Several other Republicans, some far less supportive of the former president, are also considering running. Trump’s continued involvement in national politics so soon after his departure marks a dramatic break from past presidents, who typically stepped out of the spotlight, at least temporarily. Former President Barack Obama was famously seen kitesurfing on vacation with billionaire Richard Branson shortly after he left office, and former President George W. Bush took up painting. Trump, who craves the media spotlight, was never expected to burrow out of public view. “We will be back in some form,” he told supporters at a farewell event before he left for Florida. But exactly what form that will take is a work in progress. Trump remains deeply popular among Republican voters and is sitting on a huge pot of cash — well over $50 million — that he could use to prop up primary challenges against Republicans who backed his impeachment or refused to support his failed efforts to challenge the election results using bogus allegations of mass voter fraud in states like Georgia. “POTUS told me after the election that he’s going to be very involved,” said Matt Schlapp, the chair of the American Conservative Union. “I think he’s going to stay engaged. He’s going to keep communicating. He’s going to keep expressing his opinions. I, for one, think that’s great, and I encouraged him to do that.” Aides say he also intends to dedicate himself to winning back the House and Senate for Republicans in 2022. But for now, they say their sights are on the trial. “We’re getting ready for an impeachment trial — that’s really the focus,” said Trump adviser Jason Miller. Trump aides have also spent recent days trying to assure Republicans that he is not currently planning to launch a third party — an idea he has floated — and will instead focus on using his clout in the Republican Party. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he received a call from Brian Jack, the former White House political director, on Saturday at home to assure him that Trump had no plans for defection. “The main reason for the call was to make sure I knew from him that he’s not starting a third party and if I would be helpful in squashing any rumours that he was starting a third party. And that his political activism or whatever role he would play going forward would be with the Republican Party, not as a third party,” Cramer said. The calls were first reported by Politico. But the stakes remain high for Trump, whose legacy is a point of fierce contention in a Republican Party that is grappling with its identity after losing the White House and both chambers of Congress. Just three weeks after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, Trump’s political standing among Republican leaders in Washington remains low. “I don’t know whether he incited it, but he was part of the problem, put it that way,” said Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a strong Trump supporter, when asked about the Capitol siege and the related impeachment trial. Tuberville did not say whether he would personally defend Trump in the trial, but he downplayed the prospect of negative consequences for those Republican senators who ultimately vote to convict him. “I don’t think there’ll be any repercussions,” Tuberville said. “People are going to vote how they feel anyway.” Trump maintains a strong base of support within the Republican National Committee and in state party leadership, but even there, Republican officials have dared to speak out against him in recent days in ways they did not before. In Arizona, Ward, who had Trump’s backing, was only narrowly reelected over the weekend, even as the party voted to censure a handful of Trump’s Republican critics, including former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain. At the same time, Trump’s prospective impeachment sparked a bitter feud within the RNC. In a private email exchange obtained by The Associated Press, RNC member Demetra DeMonte of Illinois proposed a resolution calling on every Republican senator to oppose what she called an “unconstitutional sham impeachment trial, motivated by a radical and reckless Democrat majority.” Bill Palatucci, a Republican committeeman from New Jersey, slapped back. “His act of insurrection was an attack on our very democracy and deserves impeachment,” Palatucci wrote. ___ Peoples reported from New York. Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington contributed to this report. Steve Peoples And Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
Tisdale town council is looking to change their zoning bylaws after a letter was sent to the council from a resident regarding potentially putting in a secondary suite at their home. During the Jan. 25 council meeting, the council discussed the possibility of allowing these suites for additional income for property owners, said Brad Hvidston, Tisdale’s administrator. The bylaw received its first reading during the meeting with the town hosting a public meeting in March to discuss the change further and allow the public to voice any concerns that they may have. There was little discussion going into the first reading of the bylaw with councillors not having many concerns regarding secondary suites at this time, Hvidston said. February might bring even more changes to the town’s zoning bylaws, he said, as the town will be taking a deeper look at their zoning and community plans. “We're just going to be starting our first meeting consultation process here in February. So we fully expected our whole zoning bylaws going to be redone by June or July for the whole town and the RM. We're doing it as a joint regional project with them.” The last time the zoning bylaw was examined by staff and council was 2005, Hvidston said, so it is time to have that deeper look and see that zones have been adhered to and that the current zones make sense. “We've done a ton of amendments to the zoning bylaw. Even just to follow the zoning bylaw now is getting tougher and tougher because you've got to follow up on all the amendments and changes.” Out buildings, like garages, shipping containers, and sheds, is one area that the town will definitely have to take a closer look at since that part of the zoning bylaw has faced many amendments over the years, Hvidston said. Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
Northern Health has released COVID-19 exposure notices for Uplands Elementary School and Centennial Christian School in Terrace. The exposure at Uplands Elementary School occurred Jan. 19 to Jan. 21, and Centennial Christian School’s exposure took place on Jan. 20 and Jan. 21, according to Northern Health’s list of public exposures and outbreaks. There have been numerous COVID-19 exposure notices for Terrace schools issued by Northern Health since Nov. 2020, and nearly all Terrace schools have had at least one exposure notice. Ben Bogstie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Interior News
VANCOUVER — British Columbia's public safety minister says an improved online estimator tool will help drivers see how much they'll save under changes coming to the Insurance Corporation of B.C. Mike Farnworth says the tool allows drivers to estimate their savings once a new model of delivering auto insurance comes into effect at the Crown corporation on May 1. He says most customers will save an average of 20 per cent or $400 a year and will also be eligible for a one-time refund. The new insurance model will limit the ability of those hurt in a crash to sue at-fault drivers or the auto insurer, squeezing legal costs out of the system and saving ICBC an estimated $1.5 billion. Liberal Opposition critic Mike Morris says B.C. drivers are not fooled by the new online tool, which illustrates supposed rate reductions in the future, while the insurance corporation is saving millions now as a result of the pandemic. Farnworth says the public will hear about one-time rebates due to COVID-19 "very soon," but Morris says until the cheques are in the mail, it's just the NDP "kicking empty promises down the road." “This is just another example of the John Horgan NDP failing to get people the relief they need," Morris says in a statement. Farnworth told a news conference Tuesday that he's looked at different options for a COVID-19 rebate and it still needs to go through the cabinet Treasury Board process, but it is coming soon. Attorney General David Eby called ICBC's financial situation a "dumpster fire" after the NDP took power in 2017 and the government has introduced a series of measures to douse the flames. The government is calling the new insurance model "enhanced care" and the online estimator tool can be found on ICBC's website. "For some time, we've been talking about changes at ICBC and how they're going to help make people's auto insurance premiums, and in turn their lives, more affordable," Farnworth says. "Today, the rubber hits the road." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
Dr. Jeannette Armstrong is the associate professor in Indigenous Studies at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan (UBCO) campus. Armstrong was one of three speakers discussing systemic racism in science in a conversations on Indigenous knowledge in academia. Indigenous people still face systemic racism, and their voices are often left unheard, said Ananya Mukherjee Reed, provost and vice-president of UBCO during her opening remarks of the Jan. 20 webinar. During the two-hour discussion, three Indigenous leaders and researchers discussed some of the differences and misunderstandings of Indigenous knowledge and western science, as well as the impacts of what they framed “environmental racism.” Armstrong, who shared a Syilx Okanagan perspective, spoke alongside Aaron Prosper from Eskasoni First Nation, and Elder Albert Marshall from the Mi’kmaw Nation. “In these times of climate change, societal disease and diseases, we need Indigenous knowledge,” said Armstrong. As Canada Research Chair in Okanagan Indigenous Knowledge and Philosophy, Armstrong has been recognized for her award-winning literary work on education, ecology and Indigenous rights. Indigenous knowledge remains overlooked in academia, particularly in science, because unlike a western scientific method, Indigenous knowledge is not evidence-based, according to Armstrong. Indigenous knowledge is focused on a holistic perspective incorporating traditional knowledge and lived experiences, she says. “A general definition of Indigenous knowledge consists of those beliefs, assumptions, and understandings of non-western people developed through long-term associations with a specific place,” Armstrong told participants during the event. “Therefore, Indigenous knowledge is considered the second tier of knowledge, that is, below science. This is racist.” According to Prosper, Indigenous knowledge has been misused or co-opted within the scientific field. “Indigenous people had knowledge prior to Western scientific knowledge, in terms of traditional medicine,” said Prosper, who studies Indigenous Health and Indigenous Ethics & Research Methodologies. “In my personal opinion, there is a significant issue within the scientific field when it comes to racism, systemic racism.” Prosper feels Indigenous knowledge, and Indigenous information or data should be valued the same as Western scientific knowledge. “Usually what you see done is an Elder getting interviewed, getting traditional knowledge taken out, and then the researcher collects the data as a western methodology, to interpret that data, which makes it incorrect,” Prosper explained. Marshall believes two-eyed seeing is the transformative change society needs to understand and incorporate Indigenous knowledge. “Being Indigenous, I see everything through my Indigenous lens,” said Marshall, who says ‘two-eyed seeing’ means a worldview which reconciles and incorporates Indigenous ways of knowing and western scientific ways of knowing. “To see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledge, and to see from the other eye with the strengths of Western science knowledge and to use both of these eyes together, is two-eyed seeing.” Indigenous knowledge systems can offer society solutions for living in balance with the environment, the speakers stressed. According to Armstrong, the Syilx Okanagan people view the land as a dynamic system, and their sole purpose is to protect the tmxwulaxw (land) and tmixw (all living lifeforms). “In the Syilx view, the human duty is to perceive how the tmixw are regenerating themselves and how therefore the human must move forward in unity with them,” she said. “Immersion in the knowledge of tmixw allows us to view its reality and makes it possible for the aliveness of each separate life form.” During the webinar, environmental racism was discussed. “In the context of environmental racism, the government had been failing to shut down treatment plants in Indigenous communities,” Prosper told participants. The Pictou Landing First Nation community in Nova Scotia is east of Boat Harbour and is utilized for traditional fishing and hunting. “This place is a significant importance to the Pictou Landing First Nation community,” he said. According to Prosper, Boat Harbour has been receiving wastewater effluent from the industry, and the government has neglected health concerns from the Indigenous people living there. The government told the community that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to make a change, he says. “The government told the people, there’s no evidence of this effluent that we’re putting into boat harbour is affecting the health of the people,” says Prosper. “If our environment is not healthy, how can we be healthy?” said Marshall. Marshall said Indigenous Peoples need to amplify our voices, to protect the environment for future generations. People cannot live in silence, he says, allowing the government to continuously destroy the land. “The government needs to be held accountable because all they do is compromise the ecological entirety of the area, and they compromise the system,” Marshall says. “I was taught, while you stay here on earth, you have to be mindful for the next generations. Most importantly, the future generations will have the same opportunity as we had, of being able to sustain themselves in a healthy environment.” Armstrong is committed to pursuing an alternative academic approach to Indigenous environmental knowledge in her research and study. She has created a methodology that she says may assist as a model in Indigenous Peoples’ struggle to include Indigenous knowledge in the academy. “I am developing better access to Indigenous knowledge through Indigenous oral literature situated as the knowledge documentation system of the Syilx peoples,” Armstrong explains. Marshall is working on cultural understandings and healing of our human responsibilities to care for all creatures and our Earth Mother through two-eyed seeing. “These essentials of the web of life should be protected under the charter of human rights because they constitute to me, a climate emergency,” says Marshall. In response, Prosper is committed to approaching his research mindfully. “How do Indigenous communities consent to research when they were exposed to these unethical experiments, whether be in the residential school or within their own communities?” Prosper asked the group. “We have to be mindful when engaging with Indigenous communities.” “Even the most adverse individuals are still dealing with various issues as a result of their experience with colonialism, and they are still trying to reconcile that.” Prosper acknowledges that little progress in the scientific field has been made, but a lot of work needs to be done. “Yes, we’ve been a lot done within 100 years. Have we done a great job? I don’t think so,” explained Prosper. “I think it’s going to take another hundred years to see a difference.” This event is the second of three examining racism in science, specifically from Indigenous perspectives, with the final one, planned for the spring, will explore Black scientists’ views. Editor’s note: Jeannette Armstrong is reporter Athena Bonneau’s grandmother. At IndigiNews, we take journalistic independence seriously, adhering to the Canadian Association of Journalists Ethics Guidelines. Due to Armstrong’s role at UBCO and participant in the webinar as an elder and knowledge keeper, we felt it was important to include her perspective in this piece. Athena Bonneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats are preparing to push ahead quickly on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package even if it means using procedural tools to pass the legislation on their own, leaving Republicans behind. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told senators to be ready to vote as soon as next week on a budget reconciliation package that would lay the groundwork for swift passage. Coming so soon in Biden's administration, the action provides a first test of Republican opposition to the White House priorities as well as to the new president's promise of a “unity” agenda. “The work must move forward, preferably with our Republican colleagues, but without them if we must," Schumer said after a private meeting of Democratic senators. "Time is of the essence to address this crisis. We're keeping all options open on the table.” Unwilling to wait for Republicans who argue Biden's price tag is too high and his priorities too wide-ranging, Democrats are flexing their newfound power as they take control of the Senate alongside the House and White House. It is the first time in a decade the party has held the full sweep of power in Washington, and Democrats say they have no time to waste trying to broker compromises with Republicans that may, or may not, happen. They have watched Republicans use similar procedural tools to advance their priorities, most recently the Trump administration’s GOP tax cuts. The fast-moving events days into the new majority on Capitol Hill come as the White House continued meeting privately with groups of Republican and Democratic lawmakers in hopes of striking a bipartisan agreement. Biden's COVID-19 aid package includes money for vaccine distribution, school reopenings and $1,400 direct payments to households and gradually boosts the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years. The next steps remain highly fluid. The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus of more than 50 House lawmakers met virtually Tuesday with top administration officials on the virus aid and economic recovery package. And the dozen senators emerging from a lengthy private meeting with the White House on Sunday evening are talking on their own to try to craft a more targeted bill. The bipartisan senators assembled privately again Monday evening. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters earlier Tuesday that Biden is still looking to negotiate on an aid package, while putting a priority on acting swiftly before aid lapses in March. “He laid out his big package, his big vision of what it should look like, and people are giving their feedback,” Psaki said. "He’s happy to have those discussions and fully expects it’s not going to look exactly the same on the other end.” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who led a bipartisan effort for the last $900 billion relief package, is working again with the senators on crafting an alternative package that she has said would be more focused on money for vaccine distribution and tailored economic assistance to the neediest Americans. Collins said Tuesday that the White House made good on its commitment to deliver a more detailed accounting of the proposed expenditure. But she said the group is still waiting for data on how much funding remains unallocated from past relief measures that, by her tally, totals a whopping $1.8 trillion still unspent. Congress has approved some $4 trillion in emergency aid since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year, a stunning outlay and the largest rescue package in the nation's history. Senators from both parties who joined the White House call over the weekend agreed the priority needs to be standing up the country's faltering vaccine distribution system. With the death toll climbing, and new strains of the virus threatening more trouble ahead, ensuring vaccinations appears to be crucial to stemming the COVID-19 crisis. Several senators from both parties also said they want the $1,400 direct checks to be more targeted to those in need. They also want an accounting of what remains from previously approved aid bills. But Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and the incoming Budget Committee chair, said he is already working on the budget package for next week and expanding it to include Biden's proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years. Raising the wage is a long-running Democratic priority that would essentially double the current $7.25 hourly wage set the last time the party was in control in the Obama administration. Advocates say the pay raise would boost millions of full-time workers from poverty. “There is a consensus,” Sanders told reporters at the Capitol. “If Republicans are not prepared to come on board, that’s fine. We’re not going to wait. We’re going forward soon and aggressively.” Lisa Mascaro And Josh Boak, The Associated Press
Some Tiny council members want some serious action being taken against big corporations that threaten the township's water supply. "We need to stop playing by the rules," said Coun. Gibb Wishart, addressing the question to appeal or not to appeal in the case of the renewal of the permit to take water (PTTW) for the Teedon Pit. "The reason the dump (Site 41) got stopped is that an old couple got arrested; First Nations were there and set up camp, nobody played by the rules. "I think if we play the game the ministry...," he was saying, when Mayor George Cornell cut him off to remind him that even at that time the council played by the rules. Even though Cornell was cautious about siding an appeal process in the matter, Coun. Tony Mintoff spoke his mind clearly. "Anything I’ve heard is overwhelmingly against any kind of operation there," he said. "I encourage council to put their concerns ahead of the province’s unwillingness to allow municipalities to decide what’s best for them within their boundary. "As members of council, it’s our obligation to represent the interests of our residents," added Mintoff. "My suggestion would be we clearly appeal every step." Another member of council, however, was a bit cautious about going the appeal route. "Maybe," said Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma.said, "the right course of action would be to break out some of our concerns around the EBR (Environmental Bill of Rights) process reform and how we work with the MOECP (Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks) in future to make sure the municipality and adjacent landowners are notified of big decisions like this one. "Maybe this goes back to our flaws in the first appeal or commenting process with regards to monitoring water quality." Walma also suggested that if the council does plan on appealing the renewal, it should hold further discussions in-camera. "We have a community member that has made significant upgrades and worked with the township on our comments to date," he added. "There was no need for them to install that many wells. They could have gotten away with a lot less. I think that’s something we want to maintain. It’s a good working relationship so in the future we can share our concerns with them. I think going the legal route potentially cuts those options down." The discussion came forth after council had heard the united plea -- save our water --- from various residents of Tiny and beyond that made deputations to elected officials at Tuesday's special council meeting. Council had convened a special session after it became aware of the Jan. 14 decision by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks to renew a 10-year PTTW for CRH Canada Group Inc., which operates the aggregate quarry. "The approval of the water taking permit may compromise the quality of this water," said Tiny resident Bonnie Pauzé. "As elected officials, we, the taxpayers are putting it all on your shoulder to stop this potential disaster. Every single voter drinks water. Do we want to go down in history as heroes that protected and saved one of the world's purest aquifers? Please don't disappoint us. We need you to step up to the plate. Protect the water." Similar messages were presented by others as well. "Our water needs are being undermined for the sake of a global business," said Erik Schomann, another Tiny resident. "The cost business analysis as I have been able to tell is incomplete. There was no announcement regarding the permit, no civilian insight." Even residents of Guelph had joined in the fight. "Matters of groundwater protection are of extreme concern to people across the province," said Karen Rathwell. "The community is asking for a pause; time to study this phenomenon. Once the overburden is scraped away and the digging eats away through the layers of protection, the groundwater is exposed to pollution." According to the township's legal counsel, Sarah Hahn, if the township decides to appeal, it has to clear a two-part test to seek leave to appeal. "First, you look at whether granting of the permit or any conditions within are unreasonable," she said, explaining that this means, "No reasonable person having regard for law and policies have issued the permit. It’s a pretty high test to have to reach. Secondly, could it result to significant harm to the environment. "It’s not a will, it’s a could, so I think there’s some grounds there," added Hahn. "The test for reasonableness is quite high. Having some evidence that what the ministry did was unreasonable is certainly something we would want to put forward if an appeal was brought." The township said they were satisfied with the conclusion drawn by the professional hydrogeologist, who said the ministry had addressed the municipality's concerns laid out in a 2018 letter to the ministry. "Staff’s opinion is that we rely on our experts and in this case it’s Burnside," said Shawn Persaud, director of planning and development. "Based on their letter, we recommend the township not file an appeal relative to the permit to take water." In his Jan. 25 letter, Dave Hopkins, senior hydrogeologist with R. J. Burnside and Associates Ltd., states that ministry has met and addressed the requests laid out by the township in 2018. "The new PTTW has a much more robust monitoring program than the original PTTW and addresses the Township’s request for additional wells," reads his conclusion. "The monitoring program will be completed, and the annual report is to be prepared by a qualified person (P. Geo. or equivalent). "The Permit requires that an annual report documenting the monitoring well results be submitted to the MECP (MOECP). This will allow the MECP to evaluate the impacts of pumping and make any necessary additions to the monitoring program/permitted rates as required. The PTTW also requires the monitoring of specific domestic wells, which is unusual. "Residents, who feel that their wells may have been impacted, may wish to contact CRH to have their well added to the monitoring program. It is Burnside’s opinion, that all of the Township comments have been addressed by the MECP and the conditions included in the new PTTW." Wishart, however, felt all concerns had not been addressed. "I think the major issue that the township is up against the wall with is that we’re talking about water quality, not the serviceability of a gravel pit," he said. "The province doesn’t seem to address that at all. They dance around saying that the various authorities, namely the gravel pit operators, operate within the guidelines that they’re given. "They’ve answered all the questions we had, but we’re talking about water quality and the potential," added Wishart. "We have no proof at all. All we have is the wish they not take away the filtering medium between the sky and the water." Based on that, he asked, does the province even want to hear us if we conclude that they’re not answering our questions? Mintoff didn't seem to think so. "The MOECP didn’t inform us," he said, "and gave us only 15 days to prepare with documented support, so clearly in their mind they didn’t want an appeal. I think they gave us scant time to prepare for these appeals because they’re not welcoming." Mintoff said he would like to see council adopt the two principles that it doesn’t support the taking of aggregate or washing it in an environmentally sensitive area. Further, he said, the municipality also asked that no further licences be issued until a water study by Dr. John Cherry, professor emeritus at University of Waterloo, has produced its findings. "One of the basic risk management principles is to weigh the risks and rewards," said Mintoff. "In my opinion, CRH gets all the rewards and the township and residents assume all the risks. If their experts are wrong, what are the consequences and who is going to live with them? I don’t think it’s going to be CRH." He said he was tired of hearing that ministries are understaffed or under-resourced and don’t have the wherewithal to operate effectively. "They cannot be, in my opinion, entrusted to protect our most valuable resource," said Mintoff. "We need to err on the side of caution. There’s nothing in it for us, only serious potential for impact on water quality and other environmental components." He also offered a somewhat long-term solution to the situation. "Perhaps it’s time for us to offer the purchase of these specific properties at fair market value and once rehabilitated by the current owners, we could create public-private partnerships to use this land to create more affordable housing," said Mintoff. "And if they choose to decline our offer, then we should look at the practicality of the legal feasibility of expropriating that property in order to do so." Unable to decide whether to appeal or not, council moved into an in-camera session around other matters, promising to reconvene at 1 p.m. Wednesday to further discuss the issue. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
When Isak Vaillancourt first began thinking of his short documentary, a project he would create with his team and the support of the guest curator of Up Here 6, Ra’anaa Brown, the global conversation on race had never been louder. At the time, it was shouting names like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. “People were suddenly realizing the urgency and validity of this movement,” said Vaillancourt. “Having difficult conversations in regards to their own complicity with systematic racism and their privilege. With the short documentary, I wanted to capture this unique moment in time from the perspectives of three Black community members here in Sudbury.” In the opening shots of the film, an introduction reads: “Black communities are having conversations about race that never make it to mainstream media. The collective consciousness rarely lends itself to amplify these voices.” With his documentary, Vaillancourt wanted to add new voices to the conversation. Not his, however: he decided to amplify the voices of three Black women in Sudbury and the struggles, racism and challenges to their own identity they have faced. And he called it, Amplify. Vaillancourt, a multimedia content producer and activist, is also from the area. He grew up in Chelmsford with his twin sister and younger brother, the children of a Franco-Ontarian father and a mother who found her way to Canada after leaving Somalia in 1991 to escape the civil war. He wanted to show that despite many believing that there are no issues with racism in Sudbury, the reality is quite the contrary. “It’s important to realize that racism and discrimination exist in Sudbury, as much as we like to pretend that Canada is a nation of cultural tolerance.” To him, the medium of a short documentary was the perfect choice to showcase his message. “We decided that a short documentary would be the perfect platform to shed light on the inequalities and discrimination that affects the lives of many racialized individuals here in Sudbury,” said Vaillancourt. “This project would not have been possible without the continuous support from the amazing team at Up Here. Behind the scenes, I worked very closely with my cinematographer, Shawn Kosmerly, and my editor, Riley McEwen, to bring this project to life.” The documentary itself focuses on the lived experiences of the three Black women it features: Josephine Suorineni-Zaghe, Shana Calixte and Sonia Ekiyor-Katimi, and their thoughts in relation to the current political climate, racial inequality and social justice. It is an opportunity for them to describe the challenges they have had to overcome and to educate those that perhaps have never had to consider the prejudice, both subtle and overt, that Sudburians of colour face. It is a chance to understand that if you have not experienced something directly, rather than deny or deflect, you should defer. “We as a society need to learn how to defer to people with lived experiences when speaking on issues that affect them directly,” said Vaillancourt. But also cautions, “Keep in mind that, amplifying Black, Indigenous, and POC (people of colour) voices does not mean placing the heavy burden on marginalized communities to educate you on the ways they’ve been oppressed. It’s the act of listening, self-reflection and continuous learning. It’s a commitment.” As the film lives on, Vaillancourt hopes viewers will find ways to show this commitment by getting involved locally. He quotes Josephine Suorineni-Zaghe from the film and says “Build up the movement locally. Be there for Black children. Be there for Black girls and Black boys. Be there for the Black LGBTQ+ community and when you do have that interaction, you do see the immediate change.” He also notes the many grassroots organisations that can benefit from more community involvement. “Within the City of Greater Sudbury, there has been a growing culture of community care and mutual aid all in the face of hatred,” he said. “This has not been cultivated by city officials but rather grassroot community groups such as Black Lives Matter - Sudbury, Sudbury Pride, Myth and Mirrors, SWANS Sudbury and The Sudbury Workers Education and Advocacy Centre (SWEAC) just to name a few. I encourage viewers to take the extra step and learn more about how they can uplift these organizations and the important work they're doing.” The video is currently hosted by Up Here 6, and it is also available with French-language subtitles. For now, not only is Vaillancourt submitting this film to festivals, but he is currently working on multimedia projects that highlight “the amazing and diverse communities we have here in Sudbury.” For more of Vaillancourt’s work, you can visit his website at IsakVail.ca. You can watch the documentary below. Jenny Lamothe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
NEW YORK — CBS has placed two top executives on administrative leave as it investigates charges of a hostile work environment for women and minorities at news operations in some of its largest individual stations. Peter Dunn, president of the CBS Television Stations, and David Friend, senior vice-president for news at the stations, are on leave pending the results of an external investigation. “CBS is committed to a diverse, inclusive and respectful workplace where all voices are heard, claims are investigated and appropriate action is taken where necessary,” the network said in a statement. The accusations were outlined over the weekend in an investigation by the Los Angeles Times and a subsequent meeting between CBS and the National Association of Black Journalists. Since 2009, Dunn has been head of stations owned and operated by CBS in big cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago and others. The Times said Dunn had referred to a Black male news anchor in Philadelphia as “just a jive guy." One executive at the station quit because she couldn't tolerate the culture and another has filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relates Commission alleging he was fired for co-operating with an internal review of his bosses, the Times reported. The NABJ has said CBS stations lag in maintaining diverse staffs, saying New York's WCBS-TV had only one female Black full-time reporter and went five years without a male Black reporter. “This is toxic. There's no other way to put it,” said Ken Lemon, the NABJ's vice-president of broadcast, on Tuesday. Since the story was published, Lemon said he had talked to at least five other people with new experiences to tell about the working atmosphere at CBS. He said the NABJ is optimistic about the steps CBS has taken. David Bauder, The Associated Press
Police in the Northwest Territories are warning people not to use illicit drugs after two noxious substances were found in drugs seized in Yellowknife.RCMP say they seized crack cocaine, powder cocaine and tablets on Nov. 27 at a residence in the city.A Health Canada analysis of the drugs found two toxic substances not found before in the territory. Those substances are: Adinazolam, a type of tranquillizer that is listed under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act; and, 5-MeO-DBT, a psychedelic drug that is not controlled.Yellowknife RCMP Insp. Dyson Smith says he's concerned those who already use illicit drugs in the territory could be harmed by the substances.The RCMP says it's working with the government to address the potential impacts."RCMP always warn against illicit drug use, however, with the presence of two new substances in drugs seized in a Northwest Territories community, the danger of illicit drug use has increased," police said in a news release Tuesday.Dr. Andy Delli Pizzi, deputy chief public health officer, says there is concern the two substances could cause unexpected reactions or contain other contaminants like opioids."People who use street or illicit drugs should always do so with others present and have a plan to respond to an overdose. The plan should include having naloxone present and calling 911 for help with any overdose," Pizzi said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021 The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Tuesday rescinded a Trump-era memo that established a “zero tolerance” enforcement policy for migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, which resulted in thousands of family separations. Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson issued the new memo to federal prosecutors across the nation, saying the department would return to its longstanding previous policy and instructing prosecutors to act on the merits of individual cases. “Consistent with this longstanding principle of making individualized assessments in criminal cases, I am rescinding — effective immediately — the policy directive,” Wilkinson wrote. Wilkinson said the department’s principles have “long emphasized that decisions about bringing criminal charges should involve not only a determination that a federal offence has been committed and that the admissible evidence will probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction, but should also take into account other individualized factors, including personal circumstances and criminal history, the seriousness of the offence, and the probable sentence or other consequences that would result from a conviction.” The “zero tolerance” policy meant that any adult caught crossing the border illegally would be prosecuted for illegal entry. Because children cannot be jailed with their family members, families were separated and children were taken into custody by Health and Human Services, which manages unaccompanied children at the border. While the rescinding of “zero tolerance” is in part symbolic, it undoes the Trump administration’s massively unpopular policy responsible for the separation of more than 5,500 children from their parents at the U.S-Mexico border. Most families have not been prosecuted under zero tolerance since 2018, when the separations were halted, though separations have continued on a smaller scale. Practically, the ending of the policy will affect mostly single men who have entered the country illegally. Prosecutions had dropped sharply after the Trump administration declared a pandemic-related health emergency that allows them to immediately expel Mexicans and many Central Americans without applying immigration laws. “While policies may change, our mission always remains the same: to seek justice under the law," Wilkinson wrote in the memo, which was obtained by The Associated Press. President Joe Biden has issued an executive order to undo some of Trump’s restrictive policies, but the previous administration has so altered the immigration landscape that it will take quite a while to untangle all the major changes. Some of the parents separated from their children were deported. Advocates for the families have called on Biden to allow those families to reunite in the United States. Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, along with Trump and other top leaders in his administration, were bent on curbing immigration. The “zero tolerance” policy was one of several increasingly restrictive policies aimed at discouraging migrants from coming to the Southern border. Trump’s administration also vastly reduced the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. and all but halted asylum at the border, through a combination of executive orders and regulation changes. The policy was a disaster; there was no system created to reunite children with their families. A report from the Justice Department’s inspector general, released earlier this month, found that the policy led to a $227 million funding shortfall. Children suffered lasting emotional damage from the separations, and the policy was criticized as grossly inhumane by world leaders. The policy began April 6, 2018, under an executive order that was issued without warning to other federal agencies that would have to manage the policy, including the U.S. Marshals Service and Health and Human Services. It was halted June 20, 2018. A federal judge ordered the families to be reunited. The watchdog report also found that Sessions and other top officials knew the children would be separated under the policy and encouraged it. Justice officials ignored concerns from staff about the rollout and did not bother to set up a system to track families in order to reunite them. Some children are still separated. ___ Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report. ___ Follow Balsamo and Long on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1 and https://twitter.com/ctlong1. Michael Balsamo And Colleen Long, The Associated Press
Out of 99 new positive cases discovered in the Simcoe Muskoka Region, health officials say 97 are linked to a long-term care home in Barrie and all of those people are likely affected by the fast-spreading U.K. variant. There are concerns the highly contagious strain of the virus is more widespread than initially thought. Miranda Anthistle has the details.
Key Lake, Sask., is often recorded as the coldest place in Canada on specific days, despite it not being as far north as some other communities. Key Lake is about 570 kilometres north of Saskatoon. David Philips, senior climatologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada, said there are two major factors that contribute to Key Lake consistently registering as the coldest place in Canada when it comes to daily temperatures. "The first is topography," Phillips said in an interview with CBC Saskatchewan's The Afternoon Edition. "Wherever the thermometers are housed might be in a little bit of a dip." According to Phillips, because cold is air heavy and dense, it descends and remains in low spots. This means if the weather is being tracked in a low spot the temperatures might be a bit colder. He also mentioned that a soil difference could be responsible. "Key Lake has sandy soil and sandy soil is notorious for having wide ranges of temperature. During the day it can really warm up but at night it cools down." Phillips said that on average, more northern places like Colin's Bay and Uranium City are colder than Key Lake. "There are singular moments when Key Lake is the weather superlative of a cold pole in Canada, but on average it doesn't really come out that way." On the other end of the spectrum, Maple Creek, Sask., often records very warm winter temperatures compared to the towns around it. Maple Creek is about 350 kilometres southwest of Regina, close to the Alberta border. Phillips said Maple Creek is deserving of the title "Miami of the North" primarily because of Chinook winds. "Because Maple Creek is so close to the Saskatchewan-Albertan border, those Chinook winds can blow right across the prairies." These winds warm up the air in the area. The tables turn in the summer, however, with Maple Creek often having cooler summers than the rest of the province. "Sometimes the cold air will push in and dam up against the Cypress mountains and flow back into places like Maple Creek," Phillips said. "It has that oddity of being the warmest spot and at night be the coolest spot."
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin held their first phone conversation as counterparts Tuesday in a phone call that underscored troubled relations and the delicate balance between the former Cold War foes. According to the White House, Biden raised concerns about the arrest of opposition figure Alexei Navalny, Russia’s alleged involvement in a massive cyber espionage campaign and reports of Russian bounties on American troops in Afghanistan. The Kremlin, meanwhile, focused on Putin’s response to Biden’s proposal to extend the last remaining U.S.-Russia arms control treaty. While the readouts from the two capitals emphasized different elements, they both suggested that U.S-Russia relations will be guided, at least at the beginning of the Biden administration, by a desire to do no harm but also no urgency to repair existing damage. The two presidents agreed to have their teams work urgently to complete a five-year extension of the New START nuclear weapons treaty that expires next month. Former President Donald Trump's administration had withdrawn from two arms control treaties with Russia and had been prepared to let New START lapse. Unlike his immediate predecessors, including Trump who was enamoured of Putin and frequently undercut his own administration's tough stance on Russia, Biden has not held out hope for a “reset” in relations. Instead he he's indicated he wants to manage differences without necessarily resolving them or improving ties. And, with a heavy domestic agenda and looming decisions needed on Iran and China, a direct confrontation with Russia is not likely something he seeks. Although the leaders agreed to work together to extend New START before it expires on Feb. 5 and to look at other areas of potential strategic co-operation, the White House said Biden was firm on U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, while Russia is supporting separatists in the country's east. Biden also raised the SolarWinds cyberhack, which has been attributed to Russia. reports of Russian bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan, interference in the 2020 U.S. election, the poisoning of Navalny and the weekend crackdown on Navalny's supporters. “President Biden made clear that the United States will act firmly in defence of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies,” the White House said. Biden told Putin in the phone call, first reported by The Associated Press, that the U.S, would defend itself and take action, which could include further sanctions, to ensure that Moscow does not act with impunity, officials said. Moscow had reached out last week to request the call, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter but not authorized to discuss it publicly. Biden agreed, but he wanted first to prepare with his staff and speak with European allies, including the a leaders of Britain, France and Germany, which he did. Before he spoke to Putin, Biden also called NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg to pledge U.S. commitment to the decades-old alliance founded as a bulwark against Russian aggression. The Kremlin's readout of the call did not address the most contentious issues between the countries, though it said the leaders also discussed other “acute issues on the bilateral and international agenda.” It described the talk as “frank and businesslike” — often a diplomatic way of referring to tense discussions. It also said Putin congratulated Biden on becoming president and “noted that normalization of ties between Russia and the United States would serve the interests of both countries." Among the issues the Kremlin said were discussed were the coronavirus pandemic, the Iran nuclear agreement, Ukraine and issues related to trade and the economy. The call came as Putin considers the aftermath of pro-Navalny protests that took place in more than 100 Russian cities over the weekend. Biden’s team has already reacted strongly to the crackdown on the protests, in which more than 3,700 people were arrested across Russia, including more than 1,400 in Moscow. More protests are planned for the coming weekend. Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner and Putin’s best-known critic, was arrested Jan. 17 as he returned to Russia from Germany, where he had spent nearly five months recovering from nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Biden has previously condemned the use of chemical weapons. Russian authorities deny the accusations. Just from the public accounts, Biden's discussion with Putin appeared diametrically opposed to Trump's. Trump had seemed to seek Putin's approval, frequently casting doubt on Russian interference in the 2016 elections, including when he stood next to Putin at their 2018 summit in Helsinki. He also downplayed Russia’s involvement in the hack of federal government agencies last year and the allegations that Russia offered the Taliban bounties. Still, despite that conciliatory approach, Trump's administration toed a tough line against Moscow, imposing sanctions on the country, Russian companies and business leaders for issues ranging from Ukraine to energy supplies and attacks on dissidents. Biden, in his call with Putin, broke sharply with Trump by declaring that he knew that Russia attempted to interfere with both the 2016 and 2020 U.S. elections. ___ Associated Press writer Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report. Matthew Lee And Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press
The accused in a fatal 2016 shooting at a ByWard Market nightclub says he only fired his gun in self-defence after another drug dealer tried to take over his sale. Mustafa Ahmed, 32, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Omar Rashid-Ghader, who was 33 at the time of his killing. On Tuesday, Ahmed told court about the confrontation that led to Rashid-Ghader's death. I was terrified. I was only trying to save my own life. - Mustafa Ahmed "I was terrified. I was only trying to save my own life," Ahmed testified from behind Plexiglas at the Elgin Street courthouse. The proceedings are being made available to the public via Zoom. Ahmed said he was arranging a drug deal at the bar of the Sentral Nightclub at Dalhousie and Clarence streets just after 3 a.m. on Aug. 14, 2016. He said Rashid-Ghader's associates approached him to try to get involved in the deal, which would've meant Ahmed wouldn't make any money. Shooter startled Ahmed said he was startled when Rashid-Ghader, also known as "Esco," appeared behind him at the bar and began trying to get involved as well. Ahmed said he was then struck by what he thought was the butt of a gun, which video evidence has shown was actually a bottle. He said he didn't know whether Rashid-Ghader still had the weapon as he continued to beat Ahmed on the floor. He said he knew that Rashid-Ghader, from whom he had previously picked up drugs, carried weapons such as guns, baseball bats, bricks and machetes, so Ahmed said he was worried he'd end up in hospital or dead. Ahmed testified that the bouncers at the club hadn't checked him for weapons, so he had no reason to believe they had checked Rashid-Ghader, either. Ahmed said he only fired after he had been slammed into the floor and hit repeatedly. He said Rashid-Ghader tried to wrestle control of the gun from him, and didn't let up until after the second shot was fired. Bullet pierced victim's heart Noting that one of the bullets went through Rashid-Ghader's heart, Ahmed's defence lawyer Solomon Friedman asked his client if he had aimed his weapon with that intention. "My thoughts were focused on getting myself out of that situation. I fired in his general direction," Ahmed responded. "I didn't aim for his head, I didn't aim for his heart." Ahmed said he didn't know Rashid-Ghader was dead when he left the club. Once Ahmed heard he was wanted for second-degree murder, he disposed of the bloodied shirt he'd worn that night, fled to Toronto and got rid of the gun he'd used that night. "I didn't murder him," Ahmed recalled thinking at the time. "I just think in my head, [the police are] not going to believe my side of the story.... I was just defending myself." Court heard Ahmed had previously been shot, and that's why he started carrying a gun. The trial resumes Thursday with cross-examination.
As the scale of the pandemic revealed itself in March, one small town in Newfoundland created a community-led meals-on-wheels to support its seniors.
MONTREAL — Quebec plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions in some regions as of Feb. 8 if the situation in the province continues to improve, Premier Francois Legault said Tuesday. Legault said the average number of new cases in the province has declined in recent weeks — something he credits to government measures that include a nighttime curfew. The premier said he would announce more details next week, but he said the Montreal region was likely to be kept under a higher tier of restrictions than other areas of the province. The government has introduced a series of measures aimed at curbing COVID-19 in recent weeks, including closing non-essential businesses, requiring those who can to work from home and imposing an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. The curfew was originally set to expire Feb. 8, but Legault implied that Quebec's biggest city should be prepared to endure strict measures for longer. "Everyone sees the situation is much different in greater Montreal than what we're living in the rest of Quebec," Legault told reporters. In the last few weeks, the average number of new cases in the province has gone down, from an average of about 2,500 a day to about 1,500, Legault said. But he said hospitalizations are still too high, especially in Montreal. Currently, there are more than 1,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the city, and more than half of surgeries are delayed, he said. Health Minister Christian Dube said the decision for each region would be based on a combination of factors, including case numbers, hospitalizations and outbreaks. He did not rule out roadblocks or other measures to stop people from travelling between regions to take advantage of softer rules, but said a balance will need to be found to ensure people can still travel for necessary reasons and that police aren't overworked. Horacio Arruda, the province's director of public health, said the situation in the province remains "unstable" and the progress made in recent weeks could easily be derailed by the spread of a new variant or a population that eases off on following public health directives. "We can’t think in the next weeks, 'That's it, we’ll go back to normal,'" he said. "That’s the most dangerous thing that threatens us." Citing the danger posed by new variants, Legault expressed frustration with the federal government's failure to announce any new concrete restrictions for travellers, such as mandatory quarantine in supervised hotels or banning non-essential trips altogether. "We're in a little bit the same situation as the beginning of March of last year, where we have a little bit of trouble with Mr. Trudeau for him to act quickly to prevent travellers from coming to infect the population of Quebec," Legault said. Arruda said he was also considering imposing restrictions on interprovincial travel, with his counterparts in other provinces, in order, he said, to limit the spread of the new variants, one of which has already begun to circulate in Ontario. "There is federal, provincial and territorial discussion on that issue, especially in the context of the new strains," he said. Arruda said limiting travel inside the country was more difficult than sealing external borders, but that the restrictions imposed by the Atlantic provinces prove it's not impossible. Quebec reported 1,166 new cases of COVID-19 and 57 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus on Tuesday, including four that occurred in the past 24 hours. Health officials said Tuesday that hospitalizations rose by three, to 1,324, following six consecutive days of decreases in the number of COVID-related patients. The number of people in intensive care remained stable at 217. Officials said they administered 5,927 doses of vaccine Monday and said they had used all but 13,221 of the doses received thus far. Dube said the province passed the milestone of vaccinating 225,000 people — about two weeks ahead of schedule — but that the ongoing delay in shipments from manufacturer Pfizer would inevitably cause slowdowns. Quebec has reported a total of 256,002 infections and 9,577 deaths linked to the virus. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan 26, 2021. Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
DENVER — The Vatican has cleared a retired U.S. bishop of multiple allegations he sexually abused minors and teenagers, rejecting lay experts' determination that a half-dozen claims were credible and instead slapping him on the wrist for what it called “flagrant" imprudent behaviour. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith exonerated retired Cheyenne, Wyoming Bishop Joseph Hart of seven accusations of abuse and determined that five others couldn’t be proven “with moral certitude.” Two other cases involving boys who were 16 and 17 couldn’t be prosecuted because the Catholic Church didn’t consider them minors at the time of the alleged abuse, the diocese reported Monday. A 13th allegation wasn’t addressed in the decree. Hart, 89, had long maintained his innocence and denied all allegations of misconduct. His attorney, Thomas Jubin, said multiple allegations against Hart were “specious,” with some based on second- and third-hand information, and with some accusers emphasizing that Hart didn't physically touch them. “Despite this, Bishop Hart asks me to convey that he continues to pray for all involved in this case so that they may find peace and healing. He now asks, and I ask, too, that he may now be afforded peace in the twilight of this life as he prepares to meet his God in the next,” Jubin said in a statement. The Vatican decision clearly disappointed Hart’s successor, Bishop Steven Biegler, who stressed that the Vatican’s findings didn’t mean Hart was innocent, just that the Holy See determined that the high burden of proof hadn’t been met. “Today, I want the survivors to know that I support and believe you” Biegler said in a statement. “I understand that this announcement will not bring closure to the survivors, their family members, Bishop Hart and all those affected.” It also disappointed Darrel Hunter, who said he and his two brothers were abused by Hart after he was assigned to worked at Guardian Angels Catholic Church in Kansas City near their home in the 1950s. Hunter, 73, of Prairie Village, Kan., said he did not expect the Vatican to punish Hart but he was concerned about how it treated those who came forward to say they had been abused. He said he did not understand how Vatican officials could discount their allegations, particularly because many alleged victims live hundreds of miles apart and did not have any connection besides Hart. He said he had not heard of any victims being interviewed as part of the Vatican’s investigation, which made the “moral certitude” conclusion like a slap in the face to victims. “It’s like they said ’We’re not going to talk to you but we’re pretty sure what you’re saying didn’t happen,” said Hunter. In Cheyenne, Biegler has previously stood by the findings of his review board, which determined a half-dozen claims were credible. And his diocesan statement noted the qualifications of its members: “law enforcement; school administration; a doctor of psychology; a pediatrician; a psychotherapist, who treats sexually abused children; and a judge, who was a criminal prosecutor for 13 years involving crimes against children, primarily child sexual abuse.” On the other hand, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or CDF, relies on the judgment of priests and bishop canon lawyers, and ultimately the pope. The Vatican for decades has been criticized by victims’ groups for giving bishops a pass when they have been accused of sexual abuse themselves or of covering it up. A few exceptions have been made in recent years, most famously in the case of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was defrocked after the CDF determined he had abused minors as well as adults, including during confession — essentially the same allegations against Hart. As a result, the sentence showed the arbitrary nature of Vatican’s canonical sex abuse deliberations and judgments, which aren't public. Hart’s previous diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph reached court settlements years ago with at least 10 victims. But Wyoming criminal prosecutors also decided last year not to proceed with charging Hart. Anne Barrett Doyle, of the online resource BishopAccountability.org, said the Vatican ruling was “heartbreaking and disgraceful" and showed that church law is biased in favour of priests and bishops. “Defenders of canon law might point to the punishment of ex-cardinal McCarrick as evidence that the system works. But for every McCarrick, there are five Harts: bishops who retain their titles and pensions in the face of multiple allegations," she said in an email, adding that the ruling calls into question Pope Francis' vow to hold bishops accountable. In its decree, the CDF rebuked Hart “for his flagrant lack of prudence as a priest and bishop for being alone with minors in his private residence and on various trips which could have been potential occasions endangering the ‘obligation to observe continence’ and that would ‘give rise to scandal among the faithful,'” the diocese said. Hart was also rebuked for failing to observe previous Vatican restrictions prohibiting him from having contact with minors and seminarians and from participating in public engagements, the diocese said, adding that those restrictions remain in place. Jubin, Hart's lawyer, criticized Biegler for what he said was “grandstanding” and trying to disregard due process by trying to convict Hart in the “court of public opinion.” The Associated Press has learned that the CDF had tasked the investigation into Hart to Indianapolis Bishop Charles Thompson, who made headlines in 2019 when he ordered two Catholic high schools to fire teachers in same-sex marriages. After one Jesuit school refused, the Vatican temporarily suspended Thompson's order rescinding the school's Catholic recognition. The CDF under its current leadership seems to follow recommendations from local bishops who investigate sex crimes, while it used to take a more proactive role in sanctioning and defrocking accused clerics. Hart was a priest in Kansas City, Missouri, for 21 years before moving to Wyoming, where he served as auxiliary and then full bishop from 1976 until his retirement in 2001. The first known allegations against Hart dated to the early 1960s and were made in the late 1980s. At least six men came forward in the past few years to say Hart abused them in Wyoming. ___ Winfield reported from Rome. Associated Press writer Margaret Stafford in Liberty, Mo. also contributed to this report. Nicole Winfield And Colleen Slevin, The Associated Press
Another milestone for The Great One. Wayne Gretzky turned 60 Tuesday. It's a number the Hockey Hall of Famer knows well. The NHL notes that the former Edmonton Oiler, Los Angeles King, St. Louis Blue and New York Ranger scored 60 hat tricks (50 during the regular season and 10 in the playoffs) during an NHL career that stretched from 1979 to 1999. No. 99 also recorded a point in 60 consecutive regular-season games from March 13, 1983, to Jan. 27, 1984 (one day after his 23rd birthday), during which he recorded 70 goals and 111 assists for 181 points. The run began with a nine-game point streak to end the 1982-83 campaign (9-19—28) and continued with a 51-game stretch to start the 1983-84 season (61-92—153), which remains the longest point streak in NHL history. Gretzky also holds NHL records for fewest games to 60 goals in a season (49 games played in 1981-82), 60 assists in a season (32 games played in 1985-86) and 60 assists in a career (56 games played). The native of Brantford, Ont., retired with 894 goals and 1,963 assists for 2,857 points in 1,487 regular-season games. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021 The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Ontario must take urgent action to address the rising number of COVID-19 deaths in long-term care, a group of over 200 doctors, researchers and advocates said Tuesday, calling the situation a "humanitarian crisis." In a letter to Premier Doug Ford's government, the group said the province does not appear to have learned from deadly nursing-home outbreaks during the first wave of the pandemic, which led to almost 2,000 deaths. Instead, staffing shortages, poor infection control, and a delayed response to outbreaks continue to occur in the homes with deadly consequences, the group wrote. "Due to the Ontario government's inaction ... LTC residents are at high risk of death from COVID-19," the letter said. "In many circumstances, residents are also left without basic care, hygiene, food and water. This is a human rights violation." The group recommended a series of sweeping changes across the sector to help save lives as the pandemic continues. Among them are calls to immediately bolster staffing, legislate a minimum standard of daily care for residents, and provide unrestricted access to family caregivers with personal protective equipment. Vivian Stamatopoulos, an associate professor at Ontario Tech University specializing in family caregiving and one of the group's organizers, said the situation in long-term care is dire. "What is happening here is a humanitarian crisis," she said. "The rights of these residents ... are violated with impunity by being locked away from their loved ones in spite of the directives which supposedly gives them uninterrupted access." In addition to its recommendations, the group also wants the province to begin the process of removing for-profit long-term care providers from the sector. "Any home operator that does not comply with staffing ratios, infection control protocols, or commits any other major infraction which harms the residents should immediately and permanently lose their license and face a harsh penalty," the group said. The group also wants immediate military assistance where nursing-home staffing has "collapsed." Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday that military assistance has not currently been requested, as it was last year, because many nursing home have established partnerships with local hospitals. "Hospitals are standing forward and helping the long-term care homes that are having problems, both in terms of supplying staff, as well as supplying PPE and whatever else they need," she said. Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton said the province has learned lessons from the pandemic's first wave and made changes. "The current number of resident and staff cases, as well as outbreaks, remain my top concern," she said in a statement. "We are confident that our measures, such as regular surveillance testing, universal masking, temporary pandemic pay for staff, an eight-weeks supply of PPE and emergency replenishments, strong local partnership including with hospitals and numerous emergency measures are stabilizing the sector." Provincial figures show that 3,462 long-term care residents have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, Ford called on the federal government on Tuesday to bolster travel restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 variants. Ford said those restrictions should include mandatory testing at airports for all incoming international travellers. He also said Canada should temporarily ban direct flights from countries where new variants are detected. "For the federal government, please get mandatory testing," Ford said. "It's absolutely critical to protect our borders." A voluntary screening program at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport began Jan. 6 and has tested more than 6,800 travellers. The province said of those tests, 146 people have tested positive for COVID-19. The government said Tuesday that 1.8 per cent of all COVID-19 cases are related to international travel. As of Jan. 7, under new federal rules, air travellers coming to Canada must take a pre-arrival COVID-19 test. Dozens of flights have nonetheless arrived since that date with passengers on board who later tested positive for the novel coronavirus. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said new travel restrictions were on the way and urged all Canadians to cancel any non-essential trips they have planned in the coming weeks. What shape those new rules might take remains up for discussion, he said. "The bad choices of a few will never be allowed to put everyone else in danger," Trudeau said. Ontario reported 1,740 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 63 more deaths linked to the virus. — with files from Stephanie Levitz This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press