Orange and blue sunset in Nova Scotia.
Orange and blue sunset in Nova Scotia.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Fresh off another rejection in Pennsylvania's courts, Republicans on Thursday again asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the battleground state, while the state's lawyers say fatal flaws in the original case mean justices are highly unlikely to grant it. Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of northwestern Pennsylvania and the other plaintiffs are asking the high court to prevent the state from certifying any contests from the Nov. 3 election, and undo any certifications already made, such as Biden’s victory, while its lawsuit is considered. They maintain that Pennsylvania’s expansive vote-by-mail law is unconstitutional because it required a constitutional amendment to authorize its provisions. However, in a sign that the case is likely too late to affect the election, Justice Samuel Alito ordered the state's lawyers to respond by Dec. 9, a day after what is known as the safe harbour deadline. That means that Congress cannot challenge any electors named by this date in accordance with state law. Biden beat President Donald Trump by more than 80,000 votes in Pennsylvania, a state Trump had won in 2016. Most mail-in ballots were submitted by Democrats. Pennsylvania's Supreme Court threw out the case Saturday. Kelly's lawyers sought an injunction Tuesday in the U.S. Supreme Court, then withdrew it while they asked the state's high court to halt any certifications until the U.S. Supreme Court acts. The state's justices refused Thursday, and Kelly's lawyers promptly refiled the case in the U.S. Supreme Court. In the state’s courts, justices cited the law’s 180-day time limit on filing legal challenges to its provisions, as well as the staggering demand that an entire election be overturned retroactively. In addition to challenging the state's mail-in voting law, Kelly’s lawyers question whether the state's justices violated their clients' constitutional rights by throwing out the case on the basis of time limits and barring them from refiling it on the same grounds. Lawyers for Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said in court filings that Kelly's lawyers never before argued that the U.S. Constitution provides a basis for their claims, making it “highly unlikely” the U.S. Supreme Court will grant what they are seeking. In the underlying lawsuit, Kelly and the other Republican plaintiffs had sought to either throw out the 2.5 million mail-in ballots submitted under the law or to wipe out the election results and direct the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to pick Pennsylvania’s presidential electors. ___ Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/timelywriter Marc Levy, The Associated Press
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on Friday a resolution to a bitter dispute with Qatar seemed "within reach" after Kuwait announced progress towards ending a row that Washington says hampers a united Gulf front against Iran. The United States and Kuwait have worked to end the dispute, during which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have imposed a diplomatic, trade and travel embargo on Qatar since mid-2017.
Not content to let the global pandemic get in the way of safe and festive fun, more than 500 carloads of Aurora residents descended upon the Aurora Family Leisure Complex on Saturday night for a Santa Under the Stars parade that was an Aurora first. Rather than travelling down Yonge Street to greet the young and the young at heart, in what has become his storied local tradition, Santa Claus parked his sleigh at the Complex (AFLC) and invited revellers to come to him in the Town’s first “stationary” Christmas parade. More than 20 community groups and local leaders decorated floats and found their place alongside Santa as vehicles came in from Industrial Parkway North and St. John’s Sideroad to do a one-way circuit around the AFLC’s tiered parking lot to pass dazzling displays of holiday cheer. For Sheryl Thomas of Marquee Theatrical Productions, whose group is represented in the parade year in and year out, the present challenge presented a new opportunity. Rather than having a few seconds in front of the thousands that normally line Yonge Street, budding theatre artists had something of a captive audience and used it to their best advantage. “This has been 100 per cent positive,” said Ms. Thomas at the start of the parade. “The only disadvantage is we had too many volunteers and we had to cut back. How often does that happen? We had such a great response from people who are just dying to be part of something for the community.” Volunteers came not just from theatre schools, but local companies as well who stepped up to help them execute their vision, including Priestly Demolition who donated the flatbed for their float – transformed into a capsule stage production of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. “Anything is possible,” said Ms. Thomas. “We’re going to come through this COVID thing and nothing can really get you down. There’s always a way to get through it.” This was a sentiment shared by Amal Mukhlis of Aurora Early Learning Centre, whose youngsters put on their creative caps to put together their own spin on the Grinch. “Our children did everything – they the boxes, they painted them, they did a theme of something they are very fond at the Centre, and that is the Grinch and Whoville,” said Ms. Muklis. “They put everything together. Unfortunately, they can’t be a part of it today, but they will be joining us in waving hello to us. This is something we are very proud of because the children took charge. It is something very authentic and it came from their heads.” Creative muscles were also being flexed by members of the Dynamic Dance Company, who have participated in the last three parades. In the previous two years, they secured honours for the Best Decorated Float, but the stationary aspect of the parade promoted some crafty thinking. “Doing it this year was definitely different because we had to think about the fact it is not a moving object because the cars are coming and we only had to decorate the front,” said Natalie Silia. “Normally we have our entire studio here dancing with us, but unfortunately we can’t so we’re Instagramming to show everybody. “We love being a part of the community, we love our dancers having that community feel and feeling like they are giving back with the holiday spirit. Especially this year in all years, I feel we definitely need the holiday spirit.” Also participating in the parade were Mayor Tom Mrakas and members of Council and, representing the Province, Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill MPP Michael Parsa, who donned a “Shop Local” mask to drive home an issue close to the hearts of so many local businesses struggling due to the pandemic. “People need this, we all need it,” said Mr. Parsa of having the parade continue in the community. “It is nice to get out and see people again – it is nice to see people again! This has been a tough year for all our small businesses. Please, as much as you can, get out there and support them. We hope everyone does that [after the parade] and throughout the holidays as well.”Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020.There are 396,270 confirmed cases in Canada._ Canada: 396,270 confirmed cases (69,255 active, 314,608 resolved, 12,407 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.There were 6,495 new cases Thursday from 86,875 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 7.5 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 43,173 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,168.There were 82 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 608 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 87. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.23 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.01 per 100,000 people. There have been 11,739,689 tests completed._ Newfoundland and Labrador: 340 confirmed cases (29 active, 307 resolved, four deaths).There were zero new cases Thursday from 420 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 13 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 63,583 tests completed._ Prince Edward Island: 73 confirmed cases (five active, 68 resolved, zero deaths).There was one new case Thursday from 584 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.17 per cent. Over the past seven days, there has been three new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 61,621 tests completed._ Nova Scotia: 1,343 confirmed cases (119 active, 1,159 resolved, 65 deaths).There were 11 new cases Thursday from 1,300 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.85 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 86 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 12.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people. There have been 150,559 tests completed._ New Brunswick: 520 confirmed cases (111 active, 402 resolved, seven deaths).There were six new cases Thursday from 1,179 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.51 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 55 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is eight.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.9 per 100,000 people. There have been 103,791 tests completed._ Quebec: 146,532 confirmed cases (13,198 active, 126,179 resolved, 7,155 deaths).There were 1,470 new cases Thursday from 11,594 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 13 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 9,638 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,377.There were 30 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 208 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 30. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.35 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 84.33 per 100,000 people. There have been 2,215,810 tests completed._ Ontario: 121,746 confirmed cases (14,795 active, 103,239 resolved, 3,712 deaths).There were 1,824 new cases Thursday from 51,144 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 3.6 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12,385 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,769.There were 14 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 137 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 20. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 25.48 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,197,157 tests completed._ Manitoba: 17,751 confirmed cases (9,130 active, 8,268 resolved, 353 deaths).There were 367 new cases Thursday from 2,804 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 13 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,463 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 352.There were 11 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 87 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.91 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 25.78 per 100,000 people. There have been 354,449 tests completed._ Saskatchewan: 9,244 confirmed cases (4,017 active, 5,173 resolved, 54 deaths).There were 262 new cases Thursday from 1,696 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 15 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,882 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 269.There was one new reported death Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 14 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.17 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 4.6 per 100,000 people. There have been 265,300 tests completed._ Alberta: 63,023 confirmed cases (17,743 active, 44,705 resolved, 575 deaths).There were 1,854 new cases Thursday from 8,049 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 23 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 11,145 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,592.There were 14 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 65 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is nine. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.21 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 13.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,495,622 tests completed._ British Columbia: 35,422 confirmed cases (10,013 active, 24,928 resolved, 481 deaths).There were 694 new cases Thursday from 7,929 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 8.8 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,449 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 778.There were 12 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 97 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 14. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.27 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 9.48 per 100,000 people. There have been 815,367 tests completed._ Yukon: 50 confirmed cases (20 active, 29 resolved, one deaths).There was one new case Thursday from 89 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 1.1 per cent. Over the past seven days, there has been 11 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 5,488 tests completed._ Northwest Territories: 15 confirmed cases (zero active, 15 resolved, zero deaths).There were zero new cases Thursday from 48 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 6,482 tests completed._ Nunavut: 198 confirmed cases (75 active, 123 resolved, zero deaths).There were five new cases Thursday from 39 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 13 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 43 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is six.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 4,384 tests completed.This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Dec. 3, 2020. The Canadian Press
A fellow councillor's negative opinions about staff and peers are indicative of confrontational and unnecessary hostility, says complainant. Coun. Jon Main told MidlandToday people are missing the point by focusing on Bill Gordon's 'snowflake comment' that was part of a series of communications and dialogue shared with the integrity commissioner. Main said he just rolled his eyes at Gordon's 'lame and corny' snowball comment directed at him. "At the end of the day, we were discussing an issue we both agreed on," he added. And even though it did happen earlier in the year, Main said he wasn't 'sitting' on information or gathering evidence to present to the integrity commissioner. "We went in communication with the integrity commissioner in summer," he said. "The complaint would have been filed in the middle of summer and we've been discussing it this fall." Providing context to the dialogue, Main said it was a back-and-forth exchange about responding to the pandemic and what council and the town were going to do. It was spurred by a warning from him, cautioning Gordon to be careful about communicating to all of council. "We're not supposed to be discussing issues with each other over email because of closed door policies and all," said Main. "We were talking about what's the best way of bringing information forward. It was a simple exchange of information and it kind of spiralled and clearly crosses a line." But he said he would like to bring attention to the fact that it's part of a larger pattern of disrespectful of conduct from councillor to councillor. And a second matter of concern: disrespect in council and staff relations. It's indicative of a personality, confrontational and unnecessary hostility. "This isn't a Main vs. Gordon issue," said Main. "This is really a Gordon vs. code of conduct issue." And, he added, it certainly isn't (that) he, Coun. Jim Downer, and Deputy Mayor Mike Ross are out to get Gordon. "There's no animosity between us," said Main. "We're really just trying to work with our colleague to make him step up his game so we don't see these code of conduct lapses and issues." Another key point that he said residents need to realize is that of undue influence on town staff. "I don't have any instances of that happening before," Main said, talking about the one set of circumstances quoted in the report. "I think this incident is quite important to review to make sure we follow the rules around council roles and responsibilities and staff responsibilities and make sure we don't cross the wires." Main said prior to lodging the complaint, he had approach Gordon peer about his communication style. "From my communication, I've said it in the nicest way possible to soften his approach and offered constructive criticism on how to go about raising issues and who to contact (for town-related matters)," said Main. "Those suggestions and advice have not been heeded or appreciated." Ross played to a similar tune. "Coun. Main reached out to Coun. Gordon and was pretty much told to go away and (Gordon said), 'I'll do politics my way and you do it yours way,'" he said in a conversation with MidlandToday. "I give Coun. Main credit for doing that. I was surprised by Coun. Gordon's response." Ross added that in his opinion, Gordon could be one of the best councillors the town has. "But unfortunately, he doesn't want to follow the rules," he said. "I have no idea why not. Maybe he's upset due to the fact that council of the day took him to court around the Midland Police Services Board. I would hope that isn't it, but he's said it in the past that it was his motivation to get on council." And it's not a question of Ross against Gordon, said the deputy mayor. "It's the code of conduct we all agreed to follow," he elaborated. "Unfortunately, things have happened that it's not been followed or adhered to. We all want to work together." And where there are no conversations between the two included in the report, Ross said, he felt he had to back up his colleagues. Addressing Gordon's suspicions around monetary sanctions, Main said, that wasn't up to him alone, adding he wasn't thinking of going that route anyway. "I think people need to understand what a reprimand is," he said. "Financial sanction isn't the end-all and be-all of the integrity commissioner's report. The reprimand is really the only tool that council now has to censure somebody for misconduct. "We're not looking to recall somebody or have anyone impeached or a special election called. This is basically saying we all agreed to this certain set of rules and we want to make sure everyone follows it. We are paid to agree or to disagree. The community expects us to work collaboratively and put all differences aside." Ross was in the same corner. "I'm not looking to push for monetary sanctions," he said. "I just want him to realize he's breaking the rules that were set out for all of us to follow. Be respectful to others, that's all I'm looking for. It breaks my heart that it came to this." The code of conduct, Ross said, are rules all elected officials agreed to follow. But why even have a code of conduct then? To that, Ross said he didn't have an answer. "I try go the other way and avoid being on social media," he added. "I do not want to be in a position that anything like this would happen. I don't want to be engaged with constituents there. If you want to talk to me, give me a call. I conduct town business that way. I think social media and the rest of it is so easy to get away with comments people won't say to you to your face." Both said they want the matter to end on a hopeful note with all of council working together on common goals for the betterment of the town. The matter will be discussed at council's Wednesday meeting.Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
No matter how you look at it, Christmas 2020 is not going to be one you will soon forget. But, as the holidays get ever-closer, Aurora is looking to sprinkle a little extra magic with the annual Aurora’s Christmas Market – re-imagined to reflect our new reality. This year’s free Christmas Market, which will be held at Town Park for the first time, will be spread over six nights, featuring dozens of vendors, artisans and activities both in-person and virtually. Festive vendors, artisans and chefs from across York Region will showcase holiday décor, toys, jewellery and clothes, art, baked goods and more during this physically-distant experience, open to no more than 25 Market-goers in any one time slot between 5 – 9.30 p.m. “The planning for the Market has taken on many different layouts, as well as locations,” says Shelley Ware, Special Events Coordinator for the Town of Aurora. “Due to the ongoing changes within our circumstances, which are beyond our control, the Market has been scaled down from what the original version was. The objective of the Market, for those who are able to register and attend, is to be able to provide an experience that enables people to get lost in the magic of the environment and just take 45 minutes to forget what we’re dealing with on the bigger picture and to actually feel the spirit of the season.” Imparting that spirit of the season will be a number of holiday-themed huts which will house each vendor, with thousands of Christmas lights strung from hut to hut across the pathway bisecting Town Park, which will make for an impressive sight. Organizers are aiming to have 40 different in-person vendors throughout the course of the multi-evening Market, with new vendors each Market day. In addition to the complement of in-person vendors, a total of 70 vendors will also be participating in the virtual market, which will be organized by product and service. Each in-person market will offer 12 or 13 vendors at a time, but all 70 vendors will be online for a full seven days. “I have to say our online components are pretty cool,” says Ms. Ware. “One of the event plans was to house the activities in the park. Those activities we have put online and the park activities are going to be showcasing the vendors that we have, which I have got to say are such high quality this year. Some of our virtual programming, we have Mrs. Claus doing some baking demos so kids can learn how to make Santa’s favourite cookies. We actually have a D-I-Y festive gnome that you can make for your own front porch. We have a full kit prepared with greenery and everything of that nature, as well as a step by step guide for making it. We’re even going to have a workshop on how to make the most of this holiday season and still make it a memorable one. This is in addition to online children’s games and activities. “Whether they come in-person or take part online, we want people to leave with a re-set of their personal energy and a re-set in their ability to look for the blessings that are still around us. Obviously, the holidays are going to look very different, but that just means we have to look at the holidays differently because there are still ways of making them special and memorable – mind you, no one is going to forget the Christmas of 2020. “While they walk through the Market, they get to take a time out of worry or whatever they’re focusing with and be able to literally feel what those lights give them and the atmosphere. Just that Hallmark feeling that Aurora’s small-town charm can deliver, especially at an event like this. Whether it is virtual or in person, is really supporting our local small businesses and the entrepreneurs [and] this is a time for them to shine.” For more information on the Aurora Christmas Market, which runs from Friday, December 4 – Sunday, December 6, from 5 – 9.30 p.m., and again from Friday, December 11 to Sunday, December 13 at the same time, visit aurora.ca/Christmasmarket. There, you can register for your preferred time slots and learn more about how to access the online market and roster of activities.Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
MADISON, Wis. — A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear President Donald Trump’s lawsuit attempting to overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in the battleground state, sidestepping a decision on the merits of the claims and instead ruling that the case must first wind its way through lower courts.In another blow to Trump, two dissenting conservative justices questioned whether disqualifying more than 221,000 ballots as Trump wanted would be the proper remedy to the errors he alleged.The defeat on a 4-3 ruling was the latest in a string of losses for Trump’s post-election lawsuits. Judges in multiple battleground states have rejected his claims of fraud or irregularities.Trump asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in the state’s two biggest Democratic counties, alleging irregularities in the way absentee ballots were administered. His lawsuit echoed claims that were earlier rejected by election officials in those counties during a recount that barely affected Biden’s winning margin of about 20,700 votes.Trump’s attorney Jim Troupis said he would immediately file the case in circuit court and expected to be back before the Supreme Court “very soon.”“It was clear from their writings that the court recognizes the seriousness of these issues, and we look forward to taking the next step,” he said in a statement. Trump's team made the filing late Thursday evening.In asking the conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case directly, Trump had argued that there wasn’t enough time to wage the legal battle by starting with a lower court, given the looming Dec. 14 date when presidential electors cast their votes.Swing Justice Brian Hagedorn joined three liberal justices in denying the petition without weighing in on Trump's allegations. Hagedorn said the law was clear that Trump must start his lawsuit in lower courts where factual disputes can be worked out.“We do well as a judicial body to abide by time-tested judicial norms, even — and maybe especially — in high profile cases,” Hagedorn wrote. “Following this law is not disregarding our duty, as some of my colleagues suggest. It is following the law.”Trump filed a similar lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday.Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, in a dissent where she was joined by Justice Annette Ziegler, said she would have taken the case and referred it to lower courts for factual findings, which could then be reported back to the Supreme Court for a ruling.But she also questioned whether disqualifying ballots was appropriate, saying that "may be out of reach for a number of reasons.”Conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley wrote that the court “forsakes its duty” by not determining whether elections officials complied with the law and the inaction will undermine the public's confidence in elections. Allowing the elections commission to make the law governing elections would be a “death blow to democracy,” she wrote.“While some will either celebrate or decry the court's inaction based upon the impact on their preferred candidate, the importance of this case transcends the results of this particular election,” she wrote in a dissent joined by Roggensack and Ziegler. “The majority's failure to act leaves an indelible stain on our most recent election.”Democratic Gov. Tony Evers praised the decision.“I was frankly amazed that it was not unanimous," Evers said.Trump's lawsuit challenged procedures that have been in place for years and never been found to be illegal.He claimed there were thousands of absentee ballots without a written application on file. He argued that the electronic log created when a voter requests a ballot online — the way the vast majority are requested — doesn’t meet the letter of the law.He also challenged ballots where election clerks filled in missing address information on the certification envelope where the ballot is inserted — a practice that has long been accepted and that the state elections commission told clerks was OK.Trump also challenged absentee ballots where voters declared themselves to be “indefinitely confined,” a status that exempts them from having to show photo identification to cast a ballot, and one that was used much more heavily this year due to the pandemic. The Wisconsin Supreme Court in March ruled that it was up to individual voters to determine their status.Roggensack, the chief justice, appointed Reserve Judge Stephen Simanek of Racine County to hear the case at the circuit court level. Simanek retired in 2010.The court late Thursday also declined to hear a lawsuit brought by a Wisconsin resident, Dean Mueller, that argued that ballots placed in drop boxes are illegal and must not be counted. The court's brief order included a single line noting Roggensack, Ziegler and Bradley all dissented with the denial.One other lawsuit filed by conservatives is still pending with the court seeking to invalidate ballots. In federal court, there is Trump’s lawsuit and another one with similar claims from Sidney Powell, a conservative attorney who was removed from Trump’s legal team.Wisconsin this week certified Biden’s victory, setting the stage for a Democratic slate of electors chosen earlier to cast the state’s 10 electoral votes for him.Scott Bauer, The Associated Press
Senior Health Canada officials said Thursday they could be just days away from approving a COVID-19 vaccine as many provinces reported increasing hospitalizations and Quebec cancelled plans to allow gatherings over the Christmas holidays.Chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma said final documents from the American drugmaker Pfizer are expected Friday. They are to include which production lots of the vaccine will be shipped to Canada and when. Sharma wouldn't put an exact date on approval or delivery, but said once the "key information" is delivered from Pfizer, she will be able to tell Canadians the news they have been longing to hear.Moderna's vaccine is expected to receive approval soon after. The supply will initially be limited to about three million people. Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said Thursday they are targeting priority groups that will most benefit from an earlier vaccine while reducing the spread of the virus.“In a country as geographically large and diverse as ours, we are facing some logistical complexities,” he said, including reaching remote communities and co-ordinating between various levels of government.The Canadian Armed Forces received formal orders last week to start planning for the distribution of COVID-19 in the most ambitious and complex vaccine rollout in the country’s history. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading the country's distribution effort, said the speed, scope and scale of this plan makes it unique. A planning directive for Operation Vector includes preparations on vaccine-storage facilities and notes the possibility of flying doses on short notice from Spain, Germany and the U.S.Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals and front-line workers during the second wave of the pandemic as they prepare for upcoming distribution of the vaccine. Premier Francois Legault announced Quebec will no longer go forward with a plan to permit multi-household gatherings of up to 10 people over four days during the holidays. Hospitalizations declined slightly in that province to 737, but the number of people in the intensive care unit remained unchanged at 99 on Thursday.Legault said it was not realistic to think the numbers will go down sufficiently by Christmas.Ontario reported 666 people were in hospital Thursday with COVID-19, with 195 in intensive care — a 34 per cent increase from the week before. There were 1,824 new cases and 14 more deaths due to the virus.Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said there is a team working with the federal government on vaccine distribution. “It’s still early day. We are going to start this process as soon as we can to make strides," he said. "Everything we do is a step in the right direction.”The seven-day rolling average of new cases nationally is 6,044.The Prairie provinces have been a hot spot for COVID-19 in recent weeks. Saskatchewan and Alberta recently brought in more restrictions, with the latter making a request to Ottawa and the Canadian Red Cross for field hospitals to help with the surge.Alberta recorded 1,854 new infections Thursday — a new daily record. There were 511 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 97 in intensive care.Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said the contact tracing system is struggling under the volume of new cases.Manitoba reported 367 new infections and 12 additional deaths. Premier Brian Pallister called for more clarity in Ottawa's vaccination rollout, specifically when it comes to how doses will distributed on First Nations.The premier also expressed frustration with people who still don't believe the novel coronavirus is a threat, even though more than 250 Manitobans died from the virus in November alone."If you don't think that COVID's real right now, you're an idiot," Pallister said.Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia's provincial health officer, announced 694 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 12 additional deaths as she outlined the early details of the province's plan for immunization.Seniors in long-term care homes and hospitals will be the first to get immunized, she said, but more details on the plan won't come out until next week.Henry said health-care workers are tired from the pandemic and it's important to get through the next few months before vaccines are available."We know that our long-term care homes, in particular, are most vulnerable, and we know right now it's the biggest challenge that we are facing," she said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.— With files from Mia RabsonKelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
Attorney General William Barr is coming under criticism from members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who are demanding a full review of the presidential election won by Joe Biden. (Dec. 3)
If you live in Vancouver's Strathcona neighbourhood, you've probably crossed paths with Annie. She's the elderly Chinese woman who has a big smile glued to her face and is quick to pick up your empties. "She was always walking around with a smile on her face ... I enjoyed her being in the neighborhood," said studio owner and resident Valerie Arntzen about the area just east of Chinatown. Annie, whose real name is Anhi Sy, doesn't speak much English. The 82-year-old moved to Canada in the 1970s and lives in social housing on Hastings Street. She was known for working hard to pick up cans and even leaving candies behind for people.But just a short while ago, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and is undergoing radiation treatment. When the community found out the news, it began rallying around her to raise money to support her during this difficult time. Andrew Dadson, a Vancouver-artist who has lived in Strathcona for nearly two decades, started an online fundraiser. He was hoping to raise $1,000, but so far more than $12,000 has come in. But in true Annie-fashion, she's doesn't want any of the fuss or the attention. But her impact on the community has everyone wanting to show their appreciation for her. "She is just really sweet about it. We knew she didn't have a ton of family so Strathcona became her family and social life and everything," said Dadson. He first met Sy 18 years ago, when he and friends would play soccer at MacLean Park every Sunday. "She has watched us have families and grow up and have children ... she has been a part of our lives for a while," said Dadson. After a while she would learn when the games were and would show up to collect the cans, then she would even come to people's homes after parties to collect the empties. Sometimes helping clean up while the party was going on. "She was just really sweet, bringing you candies, she never wanted anything but was always working hard collecting cans, she was just a real sweet lady around the neighbourhood," he said. He said she would refer to everyone as "handsome boy" and "beautiful lady" — even leaving notes at their doorsteps after collecting cans.Dadson would often help fix her cart. "She put so many miles on it, the wagon would break down. After a while, I bought her a new cart ... but she didn't want it. She said my cart is fine. So a new cart sat in my studio for a month, before her other cart was stolen and finally she came and said okay, I'll take your cart," he said. He says that cart, too, was worn down from Sy working so hard.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With coronavirus cases surging at a record pace, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new stay-at-home order Thursday and said if people don't comply the state's hospitals will be overwhelmed with infected patients.Newsom's latest effort to keep people from gathering with others from outside their households divides the state into five regions and links business closures and travel restrictions to hospital ICU capacity. When a region has fewer than 15% of its ICU beds available, new restrictions are imposed.Newsom said four regions — all but the San Francisco Bay area — could meet that threshold “within a day or two." A litany of changes would take effect, including closing hair salons, barber shops and movie theatres. Restaurants may only serve takeout and delivery, and playgrounds will be off-limits.Retailers and shopping centres would have to limit stores to 20% capacity during the busy holiday shopping season.The order takes effect Saturday and, once triggered, regions would have 24 hours to implement the rules, which stay in effect at least three weeks. The rules don't apply to public schools with in-person learning.“The bottom line is if we don’t act now our hospital system will be overwhelmed,” Newsom said during an online news conference from his home, where he has quarantined with his family for the past two weeks after his children were exposed to the virus. “This is the most challenging moment since the beginning of this pandemic.”The announcement was a gut punch for retailers and restaurants counting on the shopping season to boost a dismal year.“The loss of revenue many small businesses will experience as a result of this latest shutdown could be catastrophic,” said Allan Zaremberg, California Chamber of Commerce president and CEO.The new rules are the Newsom administration's latest attempt to control a virus that is spreading at rates that astonished health experts. In the last month, the state has pulled the “emergency brake” by imposing restrictions in 52 of the state's 58 counties, including asking people not to leave the state and implementing an overnight curfew.The curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. had little impact, Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's top public health officer, acknowledged Thursday. He said data shows people have not curtailed trips outside their homes during the period that is only supposed to be for essential trips.“We of course had hoped and wanted to see more from that already, but we haven't,” he said.Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles Fielding School of Public Health, said such a broad shutdown wouldn’t be necessary if the state had better data on where people are contracting the virus.“We do not have adequate data to know where transmissions are occurring and that reflects a failure of public health,” he said.Better understanding the data could, for example, show the state if transmissions are occurring at grocery stores, barber shops or restaurants and better target interventions. Klausner likened the current approach to shutting down food production, restaurants and grocery stores because of a salmonella outbreak.“That’s not the way we traditionally work in public health,” he said.California imposed the nation's first statewide stay-at-home order in March. It was open-ended and much more aggressive — all but essential businesses were closed.The order was widely praised by public health experts, but it came with a heavy cost: California lost 2.6 million jobs in March and April, overwhelming the state with claims for unemployment benefits.Since then, California has gotten 44% of those jobs back in a modest recovery as new cases fell dramatically after large gatherings ceased, and people wore masks and distanced in public.But by fall people were congregating more as cooler weather drove them inside, where the virus flourishes. A new wave of cases that began in late October has dwarfed anything the state had seen. California is now averaging nearly 15,000 newly reported cases daily.Unlike in March, when the pandemic was in its infancy and people were more willing to follow rules, the latest mandate will be met by a frustrated population entering its 10th month of restrictions. Some counties have bucked the rules, following cues from state and local elected officials who have criticized the governor for going too far.Shannon Grove, Republican leader in the state Senate, criticized Newsom on Thursday for continuing “to disrupt life as we know it without releasing the full data behind his decisions.”“And to be clear, it’s not just about the numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations he runs through in his almost-daily press conferences, but the data and facts about the toll his shutdown orders are taking on Californians’ mental health, on our children’s education, including the achievement gap, on domestic violence and child abuse rates,” she said.In San Luis Obispo, hairstylist Amy Lovece said she was angry because “salons are not the problem.”“I just go between home and work. I don’t go to parties or bars and I just want to keep working,” she said.California’s virus hospitalizations have nearly quadrupled since mid-October and now stand at 8,240, including 1,890 in intensive care units. California Hospital Association President and CEO Carmela Coyle said 80% of ICU beds in the state are occupied.“Hospitals are doing everything possible to address this crush of acute care needs but are challenged by a lack of needed critical care nurses, worldwide shortages of personal protective equipment and testing supplies,” Coyle said, adding hospitals support the governor's new restrictionsNewsom acknowledged the difficulty in following the rules. But he urged people to stay vigilant, promising the worst is almost over.“There is light at the end of the tunnel. We are a few months away form truly seeing real progress with the vaccine,” Newsom said. “We do not anticipate having to do this again but we really all need to step up. We need to meet this moment head on.”Adam Beam And Kathleen Ronayne, The Associated Press
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — Police in Abbotsford, B.C., say a federal inmate is back in custody following a brief escape. They say in a statement that they responded to a report of shots fired Thursday just before 3 p.m. Police say Correctional Service Canada officers were escorting a federal offender to a medical appointment when he escaped. Police say that while officers tried to apprehend the offender, a correctional officer shot a gun but no one was injured. They say the inmate, who was not identified, was found with the help of police, police dogs and an RCMP helicopter. Police say the public is not at risk and major crime detectives are investigating. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Three former presidents say they'd be willing to take a coronavirus vaccine publicly, once one becomes available, to encourage all Americans to get inoculated against a disease that has already killed more than 275,000 people nationwide. Former President Barack Obama said during an episode of SiriusXM’s “The Joe Madison Show" airing Thursday, “I promise you that when it’s been made for people who are less at risk, I will be taking it.” “I may end up taking it on TV or having it filmed," Obama added, “just so that people know that I trust this science.” That may not be possible for a while. The Food and Drug Administration will consider authorizing emergency use of two vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna later this month, but current estimates project that no more than 20 million doses of each vaccine will be available by the end of this year. Each product also requires two doses, meaning shots will be rationed in the early stages. Health care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line, according to the influential Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. That encompasses about 24 million people out of a U.S. population of around 330 million. Still, former President Bill Clinton would “definitely” be willing to get a vaccine, as soon as one is "available to him, based on the priorities determined by public health officials,” spokesman Angel Ureña said. "And he will do it in a public setting if it will help urge all Americans to do the same,” Ureña said in a statement Thursday. Ureña declined to say whether Clinton's team has been in touch with other former presidents about perhaps setting up a joint public immunization session, whenever that might be possible. Former President George W. Bush's chief of staff, Freddy Ford, told CNN that Bush recently asked him to meet with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response co-ordinator, to let them "know that, when the time is right, he wants to do what he can to help encourage his fellow citizens to get vaccinated.” “First, the vaccines need to be deemed safe and administered to the priority populations," Ford told the network. "Then, President Bush will get in line for his, and will gladly do so on camera." The only other living former president, Jimmy Carter, who at 96 is the oldest ex-president in U.S. history, also encouraged people to get vaccinated, but stopped short of pledging to do so himself in public. “Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, said today that they are in full support of COVID-19 vaccine efforts and encourage everyone who is eligible to get immunized as soon as it becomes available in their communities,” the Carter Center said in a statement. The voice of support comes as the U.S. recorded more than 3,100 COVID-19 deaths in a single day, far outpacing the record set last spring. The number of Americans hospitalized with the virus also has eclipsed 100,000 for the first time. President Donald Trump was asked this summer if he would consider being the first to take the vaccine to send a message that it was safe. The president said that going first could also lead to accusations that he was being selfish, but that he would take it if recommended to do so. “I would absolutely, if they wanted me to, if they thought it was right. I would take it first or I would take it last,” Trump said during a July interview with Fox News. “You know that if I take it first, I will be, either way, I lose on that one, right?” Making Trump among the first to get the vaccine could indeed be controversial, given that he tested positive for the virus so recently. Vaccine trials excluded volunteers who had diagnosed infections — including those who had gotten treatment for the virus, which Trump had in October. Still, Trump is promoting the vaccine. At the ceremony for the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, which was taped Monday and streamed Thursday evening, Trump said, "It is truly a Christmas miracle, one of the great achievements medically, they say, ever in history.” During a Thursday roundtable in Memphis, Tennessee, with Vice-President Mike Pence, Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the U.S. must restore national trust in immunizations. “There’s been a great deal of challenge over the years of this growing concern of what I call ‘vaccine hesitancy,'" Redfield said. "It’s really sad as an infectious disease physician to see many people choose to leave vaccination on the shelf for themselves, their family and the community.” Asked if he’d personally be taking a vaccine, Pence gave a thumbs up and replied, “Absolutely.” President-elect Joe Biden said months ago that he'd take “a vaccine tomorrow” as soon as doing so was possible. Biden told CNN during an interview Thursday that he too would be happy to get his vaccine publicly to encourage people to follow suit. “People have lost faith in the ability of the vaccine to work," Biden said. "Already the numbers are really staggeringly low, and it matters what the president and vice-president do.” That follows Biden's warning on Wednesday that the spread of the coronavirus pandemic over the next two months could kill as many as 250,000 more people, though he didn't offer details to back up such a bleak assessment. “You cannot be travelling during these holidays,” Biden told the public "as much as you want to.” ___ Associated Press Writers Kevin Freking and Darlene Superville in Washington and Adrian Sainz in Memphis contributed to this report. __ This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of Birx. Will Weissert, The Associated Press
York Region residents will not get to vote for who leads Regional Council in the next municipal election. Regional Council, on a vote of 14 – 6, rejected a motion tabled this past February which would have seen the Regional Chair, a position currently occupied by former Whitchurch-Stouffville mayor Wayne Emmerson, directly elected by residents. Instead, the position will continue to be filled through a vote around the Regional Council table, around which Mayor Tom Mrakas is Aurora’s sole representative. Mayor Mrakas was joined by Newmarket Mayor John Taylor in voting in favour of change, alongside Regional Councillors Don Hamilton (Markham), Jim Jones (Markham), Joe Li (Markham), and Joe DiPaola (Richmond Hill). The question, as posed at Aurora Council last week, is now what? York Region has a long history of considering how the Chair should be elected. The most recent series of proposed changes stemmed from a Private Member’s Bill brought forward at Queen’s Park in 2016 from Newmarket-Aurora’s then-MPP Chris Ballard which, following its passage, would have mandated a direct election for York Region. This directive, however, was struck down by the incumbent Provincial government in 2018, leaving Regional Council to decide its own path forward. “Regional Council can, after holding at least one public meeting, pass a bylaw to change the manner of electing the Regional Chair to a Region-wide election,” said Bruce Macgregor, CAO of the Region of York, in a memo to members when they last looked at this matter in February. “Before the bylaw comes into effect it must receive a ‘triple majority’ which occurs when: the bylaw receives the support of the majority of votes on Regional Council; a majority of the councils of all local municipalities pass resolutions consenting to the bylaw; and the total number of electors in the local municipalities that have passed resolutions consenting to the bylaw form a majority of all the electors in York Region.” Aurora Council previously voiced its support of electing the Regional Chair in both 2016 and 2018. Had any change been in the air at the Region, a decision would have needed to be confirmed by December 21, 2021 in order for it to be part of the 2022 Municipal Election. Since its establishment in 1970, the Regional Chair was been appointed in different ways. In the beginning, the Province of Ontario appointed the Chair for two two-year terms. This method changed at the inaugural meeting of Regional Council where the Chair was elected by members around the table. “Four of the six Chairs of York Region were members of a lower-tier council at the time of their appointment,” noted Mr. Macgregor. “The other two Chairs had recently completed terms on the council of a lower-tier municipality.” “Council had the authority to determine whether or not the appointed Chair must also hold office on a local municipal Council. Through inherited provisions from the long ago repealed Regional Municipality of York Act, it has been the practice in York Region for the appointed Chair to resign their seat at the local level. However, Council can enact a requirement for the Chair to retain their local office. This change can be implemented without a ‘triple majority.’” As Aurora Council previously signalled its support for electing the Regional chair, the matter was raised at last week’s meeting. “Which way do you think I voted?” asked Mayor Tom Mrakas when pressed by Councillor Michael Thompson whether he voted the same way as he did when the matter was last up for debate at Town Hall. “I believe the Regional Chair should be an elected position. I voted in favour of having it become an elected position. It is unfortunate it didn’t happen that way. “We’ll see if the Province decides to put it in place for the next election on their own.”Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
EDMONTON — As Alberta recorded another daily record of COVID-19 cases Thursday, its chief medical officer of health warned that rural areas are feeling the effects.“While infection rates in Edmonton and Calgary make up the majority of cases in the province, we’re seeing increased spread in many rural communities,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw Hinshaw said.“COVID-19 is not a Calgary problem or Edmonton problem. This is a provincial problem within the context of a global problem.“Our overall active case rates prove that COVID-19 doesn’t care where you live or what your postal code is.“It only takes one case entering a community to cause significant spread.”Alberta has been straining under soaring numbers of COVID-19 and currently leads the country in per-capita case rates.It set a single-day record Thursday with 1,854 new cases, even more than in Ontario.There were 511 Albertans in hospital, 97 of them in intensive care. A total of 575 Albertans have died.The case surge has overwhelmed the contact tracing system and strained the health system. The province is now reassigning staff, space and patients to cope and has begun making contingency plans to bring in field hospitals if necessary.Last week, Premier Jason Kenney introduced new health restrictions.However, some of the key restrictions on businesses and attendance at worship services don’t apply to some rural and remote areas with low infection rates.Also, while Calgary, Edmonton and other municipalities have mandated masks in indoor public spaces, Kenney has refused to follow the lead of all other Canadian provinces to make it provincewide.About 16 per cent of the 17,743 active cases are outside the Calgary and Edmonton health zones.Opposition NDP health critic David Shepherd said if COVID does not respect postal codes, why has the United Conservative government issued half-hearted and varying levels of health restrictions based on geography while refusing to impose a provincewide mask mandate?Shepherd said Kenney is playing politics with the health rules and Albertans are suffering as a result.“Jason Kenney is more concerned about his own political fortunes and concerned about the anti-mask fringe extremists that we know exist in his own caucus and in his own political party and political base,” Shepherd said in an interview.“He is more concerned about satisfying them and losing political capital than he is about showing leadership to protect Albertans.”Kenney has said a provincewide mask bylaw is unnecessary and the health rules are a measured and targeted way to keep Albertans safe while keeping jobs and the economy going.He has also said 90 per cent of Albertans are already under some kind of municipal mask bylaw. During a Nov. 26 Facebook town hall discussion he questioned whether rural residents working and living remotely would even follow it.“Imagine you got a couple of guys working in a big barn way up in the M.D. of Opportunity, hundreds of kilometres away from the closest COVID hot zone,” said Kenney. “Do you really think those guys are going to put on a mask because I ask them to or tell them to?”Kenney said one of his rural caucus members told him some of his constituents would be reflexively rebellious if told to mask up: “He said, ‘You know a lot of these folks who are (masking up) now, they would take it off the moment the government tells them to wear it.’”Provincewide there is a ban on gatherings in homes beyond those who live under the same roof. Outdoor gatherings are capped at 10 people. And students in grades 7 through 12 are learning virtually at home through the Christmas holidays.In areas with high caseloads, there are new restrictions on retailers, businesses, restaurants and entertainment options like casinos.Those restrictions don’t apply to low-case areas, which include some rural regions in north and central Alberta.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — Metro Vancouver's transit authority is confirming that it was the target of a ransomware attack on part of its information technology systems. Ransomware is a type of malicious software that disables part of a computer system or access to data until a ransom is paid. TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond says in a statement that the transit authority is conducting a comprehensive forensic investigation to determine how the incident occurred and what information may have been affected. Desmond offers assurance to customers that TransLink does not store fare payment data and uses a secure third-party payment processor for all fare transactions, so TransLink doesn't have access to that information. He says the transit authority took immediate steps to isolate and shut down key software and systems to contain the threat upon detection and is now working to resume normal operations. Customers can once again use credit and debit cards at Compass vending machines and tap-to-pay fare gates, features that were put on hold for several days. Customers who recently purchased monthly passes or stored value will soon see the credit loaded on their Compass Card, the statement says. It says all transit services continue to operate regularly and no transit safety systems are affected. "We are sharing as much as we can at this point considering this is an active investigation," Desmond says in the statement. "We will provide further updates as more information becomes available." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020. The Canadian Press
Clayton Dixon has always had a sweet tooth – with a particular penchant for the sometimes creamy, sometimes dark, always satisfying confections that come out of traditional chocolateries. It was a love he balanced for many years with a career in finance, but, as he approached his 50th birthday, he decided it was now or never to live his dream and bring his sugary vision to the masses, starting in Aurora. Mr. Dixon, a resident of Whitchurch-Stouffville recently opened Chocolate & Company, a chocolate and gelato shop on Yonge Street and Brookland, which operates on the simple philosophy of “quality, decadence, all made on site.” “We wanted something better than what we could find,” says Dixon. “After doing cooking classes in my early 20s, I started playing around about 12 years ago, taking what I thought I could do a bit more seriously. I started practicing, built a little hobby kitchen in the basement and went from there.” From the basement, he decided he wanted to build something for the ground-up. But what? He knew what he had in mind: a chocolate that was more than a chocolate; a chocolate that was a dessert unto itself. At first, he envisioned an industrial kitchen to make his hand-made chocolate which would then, in turn, be sold to restaurants and retail shops. But, as he approached his milestone birthday, he decided he wanted to bring his dream confections directly to customers. “Welcome to my midlife crisis,” he joked, opening his door to The Auroran on Friday morning. “I wanted to sell to restaurants, but it just didn’t fit with what I wanted. I wanted a retail storefront because it would give me much more feedback from customers on what they really want. I take the approach almost like a two-bite brownie; two bites for a really luxurious dessert, something you can have with coffee or a glass of wine. It is not a pastry, but pure chocolate.” The ingredients, he says, are the best of the best. Although he does not roast his cocoa beans himself, he sources his chocolate – the obvious starting point – from Belgium and France. Then come the flourishes: pure hazelnut paste for the nutty confections, real raspberries, mango and more if you like your chocolate on the fruiter side of things, and hand-blended milk and dark chocolates for the perfect flavour balance. “I strive for something different, that extra level of decadence,” he says, noting that he and his daughter are often engaged in a battle over milk and dark chocolate, with his daughter a big fan of the former and dad veering more towards the dark side. “Now that I have opened to the retail market, I am bringing more milk chocolate into my recipes, so my daughter is happier!” As we get closer and closer to the holiday season, particularly during this challenging time, businesses and advocates are doubling down on their efforts to underscore the importance of shopping local. Chocolate & Company is no exception as they offer an array of flavours to suit every taste, with boxes of as few as two treats to as many as 27. “There’s a very strong Support Local base now because of COVID, but I think Support Local has been going on for quite some time, just extra-focused right now,” says Dixon. “People have [asked me] about starting a business at a tough time, but it is the whole Magic 8-Ball thing. I’m not really reinventing the wheel here, but I just figure the first six months are going to be tough anyway, and I am focused…on the store. It was meant to be and I kept being pulled in this direction. “I want to take the level of quality as high as I can take it. That is very important to me.” For more information, visit www.chocolateandcompany.ca.Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
When Alaina Tom became pregnant with her first child at 19 years old, it lit a passion within her for birthing. Initially, she thought she would go to the hospital to give birth. But after a negative experience with a doctor, she began talking with Elders who told her that they gave birth at home. “I began talking to Elders in the area and heard that we’re the first generation to go to the hospital,” she says. She was also told that her grandmother gave birth at home, she says that is when, “Something clicked.” She decided to birth at home in her community of Tsalalh, just outside of Lillooet, B.C. She’s been an advocate for traditional birthing ever since. “Ever since then, it just lit that light inside of me to learn more. And so I did everything I could to do it traditionally,” Tom says. After her first birth, she began researching everything she could by talking with Elders, women and midwifery training for home birth and unassisted birth. She went on to have three more children at home without the presence of midwives or doctors and says all of her children were “born free.” “I just started this love for birth,” says Tom. While unassisted or ‘free births,’ where children are born at home without the presence of a medical professional, can be controversial, Tom wants birthing parents to know that they have options. After having her first unassisted birth of her first child, in 2001, Tom says that other women started reaching out to her. “Women just started coming to me after they heard that,” says Tom, women told her “I heard you gave birth at home, I need your help.” Now with 20 years of supporting women giving birth, she says there have been challenges and hurdles. Many women have expressed to her that they felt the Western hospital approach to birthing was scary or intimidating. “You know so many women have come to me saying it was scary. It was painful, I felt rushed. I didn’t feel special and it just breaks my heart,” she says. She says that in the beginning, she would just talk to women, creating relationships, and then she did an online training, three professional trainings, and in-person training to build her “confidence in the medical environment.” While she says that the medical community is more open now, 20 years ago she received more backlash. Before she says she was told that birthing at home was, “very unsafe” and that she was putting her baby in danger. “I felt really unsafe and unsupported,” Tom says. Despite the obstacles, she continued to study and believes that home birth can be safe, powerful, peaceful and loving. She has spent these years working with women to instill confidence in them. Her focus is on letting women know that traditional birthing is another option. Rather than calling herself a doula, she prefers to call herself a traditional birth keeper. “I just say traditional birth keeper,” says Tom. “It’s more like a support person, a knowledge keeper, I don’t do anything medical. I’ve attended several unassisted home births where I just educate the mom on how to take care of her placenta and how to tie her own cord.” Through Tom’s lifelong work she shares the juxtaposition between traditional birth and a Western approach in hospital. She is referring to the organized chaos in many hospitals, where many doctors and nurses, bring intensity and speed into the birth experience. “I find that so many times when I go to a hospital birth, there’s a whole lot of bright lights and panic and nurses walking around quickly and even yelling….’Breathe, get up, put your chin to your chest, and push, push!’” she explains. According to a recent study published in the journal Reproductive Health, in the U.S. one in six women experienced, “being shouted at, scolded, or threatened; and being ignored, refused, or receiving no response to requests for help.” The rates were higher for women of colour. In a Feb. 2019 study, Changing Childbirth in B.C., by The Birthplace Lab at the University of British Columbia found that “18 per cent of women reported that their care provider did not tell them about different options for care (46 per cent of OB patients and 5 per cent of midwifery clients).” It also found that “one in seven women were not given enough time to thoroughly consider their options (37 per cent of OB patients and 4 per cent of midwifery clients).” Tom explains that many people first experience trauma when they are born. “Birthing doesn’t have to be heavy breathing and screaming at mothers in the hospitals,” she says. “Birth can be beautiful, and birth can be gentle, and birth can be very loving and calm and peaceful.” One of the cultural components that Tom shares is the interweaving ceremony throughout the birthing process. “That’s the main thing is that it can be a beautiful, peaceful ceremony,” she says. “I really want to empower women about home birth as well, that it’s safe and it’s beautiful and it’s not as scary as people make it seem.” Even just to bring a braid of sweetgrass or just to have some drumming playing.” As Tom, a mother of four raises her children traditionally in St’át’imc Territory she hopes to see more people coming together, and uplifting each other. “I would like all of the birthing people and all the families to unite and to come together and to support one another in a positive, uplifting way and to go back to treating birth as a ceremony,” she says. For expecting mothers Tom encourages women to talk to their Elders just like she did when she first started on her birthing journey. “Encourage them to talk to their Elders and to sing their songs and to use their medicines and to know that they aren’t alone and that our ancestors survived for…hundreds of thousands of years without the aid of a doctor,” she says, “You can have the birth you dream of,” says Tom. “When we just surround each other with love then birth doesn’t have to be a scary thing because it works. We know that because we’re here and our ancestors knew what they were doing.”Chehala Leonard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
WASHINGTON — A former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to altering an email during the Russia investigation “made a grievous mistake” but should be spared prison time and given probation instead, his attorneys said in a sentencing memorandum Thursday. Kevin Clinesmith admitted in August to having altered an email that was being used in support of an FBI application to monitor the communications of a former Trump campaign aide, Carter Page. Clinesmith's lawyers said that although he believed the information he wrote was accurate, he knowingly doctored the email by stating that Page was “not a source” for the CIA. “By altering a colleague’s email, he cut a corner in a job that required far better of him. He failed to live up to the FBI’s and his own high standards of conduct,” his lawyers wrote. “And he committed a crime.” They said it was “an aberration in a life otherwise characterized by hard work, determination, and dedication to the service of others.” Clinesmith was charged as part of U.S. Attorney John Durham's investigation into the 2016 probe of Russian election interference and possible ties to Donald Trump's presidential campaign. The Justice Department disclosed this week that Attorney General William Barr had appointed Durham as special counsel, a manoeuvr designed to ensure that he is not fired by the incoming Biden administration before he completes his work. The prosecution is the only one brought by Durham despite Trump's claims of sweeping misconduct inside the FBI and intelligence community, and the allegations against him do not implicate anyone else at the bureau. The sentencing range for Clinesminth is zero to 6 months in prison. In their own sentencing memorandum, Durham and his prosecutors requested a sentence between the middle and high end of those guidelines. “As a licensed attorney and an officer of the Court, the defendant took an oath, was bound by professional and ethical obligations, and should have been well-aware of this duty of candour,” Durham's team wrote. They also said it was “plausible” that Clinesmith's political views affected his behaviour, noting that he had written the phrase “Viva le resistance” to an FBI colleague the day after the 2016 election. The case involving Clinesmith concerns applications that the FBI submitted to the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to eavesdrop on Page, a former national security adviser to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, on suspicion that Page was a Russian agent. At the time, the FBI was investigating whether the campaign had co-ordinated with Russia to tip the election, and Page's past contacts with Russians was a concern for the FBI. The handling of those applications has been the subject of scrutiny. A Justice Department inspector general's report last year that detailed Clinesmith's conduct also noted significant errors and omissions in each of the four applications. Page last week sued multiple FBI officials, including Clinesmith, over the warrant applications. In 2017, as the FBI was seeking to renew its surveillance of Page, an agent working on the case instructed Clinesmith to ask the CIA whether Page had ever been a source for the intelligence agency. Page had been saying in media interviews that he had previously assisted U.S. intelligence agencies, and the FBI was trying to determine if those statements were true. Any relationship Page had had with the CIA could have been important to disclose to the surveillance court to the extent that it could have helped explain contacts Page had with Russians, including whether they were done at the behest of the U.S government. “While Kevin cannot remember precisely how he arrived at his incorrect understanding,” the lawyers wrote, Clinesmith was under the impression that Page was a subsource, rather than a direct source, for the CIA. He altered an email he had received from the CIA, inserting the words “and not a source” to reflect his understanding of Page's relationship with the agency, and forwarded it to the FBI colleague involved in the case, his lawyers said. In fact, Page had been an “operational contact” for the CIA between 2008 and 2013, meaning someone who provides information to the agency acquired as part of ordinary activities but is not tasked with doing so. Clinesmith's lawyers say he never intended to deceive anyone, noting that he had also sent the original CIA email, unaltered and in its entirety, to an FBI case agent involved in preparing the warrant application. _____ Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
TORONTO — Canadian pop star Shawn Mendes says the much buzzed-about shower scene that opens his new Netflix documentary was a result of great trust between himself and the director.The singer-songwriter from Pickering, Ont., did a Q-and-A with director Grant Singer via video conference Thursday for members of the media to promote the "Shawn Mendes: In Wonder" film.Mendes said Singer spent a lot of time building their relationship and making him comfortable with having a camera around before filming.He said by the time they shot the hotel-room shower scene, which shows Mendes from the waist up and has generated a lot of chatter online, they had developed a good friendship."Grant, I've been asked so many times about the shower scene and how I felt about doing a shower scene," Mendes said, explaining that the deeper they got into filmmaking, the more they wanted to make it "vulnerable and raw" and develop a sense of closeness."If you were filming me for another year, it would have been like waking up in bed with me in the morning and being like, 'So how did you sleep?'" he added with a laugh.Singer noted they shot the scene on a day when Mendes was on vocal rest."It was like, the door was open and it just felt by that point we had this trust where you knew you were being filmed and there was something that, if it wasn't appropriate for me to be filming, I wasn't going to be in the room," he said."Also keep in mind, when we were shooting that, we didn't know it was going to make it into the documentary. We were just shooting. It just happened to resonate thematically because that was the day where you lost your voice, or the day after. So it narratively played a part and why it's in the movie."Mendes, who releases his fourth album "Wonder" on Friday, allowed Singer to follow him around on tour and in his personal life in the film. Cameras capture him in his childhood home in Pickering, east of Toronto, where he first got the world's attention performing in short videos on the now-defunct Vine platform. The 22-year-old, of course, has gone on to megafame with hits including "In My Blood," "Stitches," "Treat You Better" and "If I can't Have You.""In Wonder" also shows Mendes with his family and his girlfriend, fellow singer Camila Cabello, with whom he made the 2019 hit "Senorita.""As an artist, it's very easy to believe people want to take advantage of you and play into the sides of you that media wants to eat up," Mendes said. "But I know Grant and I know how he is about art."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press