Rambo the sweet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is showing everyone how good he listens. When he hears the music say stop, he quickly freezes until it’s time to move again. What an adorable and good boy!
Rambo the sweet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is showing everyone how good he listens. When he hears the music say stop, he quickly freezes until it’s time to move again. What an adorable and good boy!
WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
In an unusual year, it's more important than ever to celebrate the people who go above and beyond to help others. That was the message at the small ceremony that officially bestowed Fort Frances' citizen of the year Gabby Hanzuk with her recognition and plaque. The ceremony was held outside at the Rainy Lake Square in downtown Fort Frances due to restrictions on gathering indoors, allowing Hanzuk and some of her friends and supporters the ability and space to safely gather to celebrate the honour. Mayor June Caul was on hand to say a few words and to present Hanzuk with her plaque. Like she did when Hanzuk was announced as the recipient for this year's award, Caul began proceedings by reading from the nomination letter written by Dale Gill that was submitted to the Citizen of the Year committee for consideration. In the letter, Gill pointed to Hanzuk's decades of support of local initiatives like the Special Olympics, Meals on Wheels and Voyageur's Lions Club, among others, as deserving of recognition by the town. “Gabby is also on the board at volunteer bureau, and has volunteered in past to do the taxes for the low income,” Gill's letter read. “She also is a valuable volunteer at the Family Centre. Though Gabby's position for Meals on Wheels is a paid position, I feel that what she does there goes way above and beyond pay. She makes sure that our seniors who can't cook for themselves get a healthy meal every night, even if she has to deliver them by herself, not to mention every one of them get a Christmas goodie bag from her every Christmas. Along the Christmas line, Gabby has volunteered for the Community Christmas dinner for many years.” Speaking to the small gathering at the ceremony, Caul agreed with Gill's letter and acknowledged the work that Hanzuk does for the vulnerable populations in town. “If we didn't have volunteers like you to look after the less fortunate especially, there would be a lot less of a place for them to live here,” she said. “Not very many people have a heart as big as yours, that's for sure. So on behalf of the Town of Fort Frances, it's my pleasure to present this plaque to Gabby Hanzuk, Citizen of the Year 2020 in recognition of tremendous volunteer services to our community.” For all that she does in the community, Gabby stressed that she's still only one person and receives plenty of help from other volunteers and organizations in the region. “June mentioned it, she's been around with me a lot and so has my girlfriend Roz,” Hanzuk said. “Everybody, all the groups and all the places I've gone to and helped out, there's a lot of people that do it. I just happen to be the mouthy one, the one aggressive enough to just say, 'this is what's going to happen, we're going to do this.' You've got to love what you do because it's hard work. Sometimes it's hard work and dedication is key and there's a lot of that in this community. There are so many people that are amazing.” In addition to the people Hanzuk volunteers with, she also acknowledged the many individuals she's met while volunteering. She noted that they also make the work worth doing, though it can occasionally be difficult for reasons one might not expect. “You cannot put a price on all the wonderful people you get to meet and love and care about,” Hanzuk said, speaking particularly about her work with the Special Olympics. “There's also sad times too, when we lose one or two. I know a lot of our athletes are gone now that started in the beginning with us. I've danced at their weddings, some of them, and unfortunately have gone to funerals, but in the end you're a better person for knowing them all.” Caul shared some of her own experiences working with Hanzuk in different capacities, and said the dedication she displays in all the different ways she volunteers makes her more than deserving of the annual award. “For having done what she's done for over 30 years, the stamina it takes and doing stuff when she's not feeling well, she's still out there working as hard as she can,” Caul said. “I've been involved with the Christmas dinner for I believe 25 years now. She was there when I started working there, so she's been involved with that for a very long time. The volunteer bureau mentioned in the nomination, she's been a godsend to that board as well, because she's so giving, her heart is just so big and wonderful and she certainly deserves every accolade she ever gets.” Of the award itself, Hanzuk said she felt overwhelmed when she was told about the decision, as well as honoured by being recognized. “Disbelieving a little bit, but happy nonetheless,” Hanzuk said about being told she had been named Citizen of the Year. “The funny thing is when they called me I didn't say anything because I couldn't believe it. That's probably one of the first times that I was speechless. Anybody who knows me, they know. 'Oh my god, she didn't say something?'” A separate ceremony is being planned for Ray Calder, the other individual who was given special recognition at last week's council meeting for the volunteer work he did during the early COVID-19 pandemicKen Kellar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times
VIENNA — Austria will allow skiing to start on Dec. 24, but will limit the capacity of ski lifts and keep restaurants, bars and hotels largely closed until early January, officials said Wednesday. It also will require many people entering the country over the Christmas period to go into quarantine.Tough lockdown measures took effect Nov. 17 and are due to expire on Sunday. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said a limited curfew that has applied around the clock will be eased, and from Monday will apply only between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.Schools will be reopened next week, except for older students, as will nonessential shops, museums, libraries and some other businesses. But restaurants will remain closed for all but takeout and deliveries, as will bars, and hotels will remain closed except to business travellers.Austria has been hard hit by the resurgence of coronavirus infections in Europe, though its infection rate has declined over recent weeks. It currently is recording 335 new infections per 100,000 residents over seven days, down from around 600 last month — but still more than twice as many as in neighbouring Germany, which is in a milder partial shutdown.Kurz said that progress over recent weeks, and the expectation of more before Christmas, allows “cautious” reopening steps. But he said the tourism and catering sectors won’t start reopening until Jan. 7.That will effectively mean that, over the holiday season, skiing is possible in most cases only on day trips for those Austrian residents who live fairly close to the Alps. Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler said there will be mask-wearing and distancing requirements, and the capacity of cable cars will be limited.Kurz said that allowing skiing for locals but keeping the catering sector closed is “absolutely justified.”“Skiing is a sport that takes place in the open air, an individual sport, so epidemiologically it must be assessed differently from catering, where we know that there can time and again be infections,” he said.Kurz added that he, as a resident of eastern Austria, won't benefit but “for a large part of our population it will then be possible to go skiing at least for the day.”France and Germany, which has closed its ski resorts, are pushing for similar measures to be taken in other European countries, like Italy and Spain, for the Christmas season. Ski resorts are already open in neighbouring Switzerland, which has allowed skiing.Kurz rejected suggestions that Austria's limited reopening was a response to pressure from abroad.“We decide according to our infection situation, and our expectation is that we can push down our infections very, very strongly by Christmas,” he said.Austria also plans tougher border controls and quarantine rules in an effort to dissuade people from travelling abroad over the Christmas period. Austrian residents' summer trips to see relatives in the western Balkans, in particular, were blamed as a significant source of the resurgence of infections this fall.The quarantine rules will be imposed by mid-December and will apply “if you're coming from a country that exceeds a certain limit of infections,” Kurz said. Authorities set the limit at 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over 14 days, an infection rate which the vast majority of European countries currently surpass.The requirement will be for new arrivals to go into quarantine for 10 days, which they can cut short by taking a test after five days, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said.___Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.___Geir Moulson reported from Berlin.Geir Moulson And Philipp Jenne, The Associated Press
The County of Grande Prairie launched its newly redesigned website recently, intended to be more mobile-friendly and easier to navigate, according to county communications. The website serves as “a digital one-stop-shop for information about county programs, services and initiatives,” according to county communications. “Council approved the development of a new external website for the County of Grande Prairie to better meet the evolving needs of residents and the public,” said Allison Richels, county communications advisor. “The new website (will) ensure visitors to the site will have the best experience possible when engaging with the county online.” The previous version of the website was created in 2012 and a survey on a new design was open in January and February, she said. The survey drew a response from 90 people and an additional 10 participated in focus groups in March and April, Richels said. The focus groups discussed what the website should offer and how it should be organized. She said the feedback given had an influence in “every stage of the website development.” Users can continue to give feedback by scrolling to the bottom of the page at www.countygp.ab.ca, where “Website Feedback” can be clicked. To celebrate the website launch, the county is holding a ’Tis the Season contest now until noon Dec. 14 on the website. Residents of the county and the towns and village within it, the City of Grande Prairie and Greenview can enter by subscribing for events calendar updates and filling out their contact information. Four vouchers worth $100 will be awarded to those whose names are drawn, and Richels said these gift cards can be used at any business that accepts credit cards. Community groups can also enter by submitting an event to the county calendar, with two vouchers worth $150 available.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
As an extreme year for hurricanes, wildfires and heat waves comes to an end, the head of the United Nations challenged world leaders to make 2021 the year that humanity ends its “war on nature” and commits to a future free of planet-warming carbon pollution.With new reports highlighting 2020’s record-breaking weather and growing fossil fuels extraction that triggers global warming, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivered yet another urgent appeal to curb climate change. It was tinged with optimism but delivered dire warnings, as the UN gears up for a Dec. 12 virtual climate summit in France on the 5th anniversary of the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement.“The state of the planet is broken,” Guterres said in a speech at Columbia University. “Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal.”“Apocalyptic fires and floods, cyclones and hurricanes are increasingly the new normal,” he said.In a report, the World Meteorological Organization said this year is set to end about 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the last half of the 1800s, which scientists use as a baseline for warming caused by heat-trapping gases from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas. Most trapped heat goes into the world’s seas, and ocean temperatures now are at record levels. It also means 2020 will go down as one of the three hottest years on record.“There is at least a one-in-five chance of it temporarily exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2024,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said. The Paris climate accord set a goal of not exceeding 1.5-degree (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warming since pre-industrial times.A new analysis by Climate Action Tracker scientists who monitor carbon pollution and pledges to cut them said public commitments to emission cuts, if kept, would limit warming to about 2.6 degrees Celsius (4.7 degrees Fahrenheit) and possibly as low as 2.1 degrees Celsius.Guterres saw hope in promises by more than 100 countries that by mid-century they will not be adding more heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere than trees and technology can remove, along with shorter term pollution cuts. China and U.S. President-elect Joe Biden have pledged net zero carbon emissions.“I firmly believe that 2021 can be a new kind of leap year — the year of a quantum leap towards carbon neutrality,” Guterres said.But he said the two U.N. reports Wednesday “spell out how close we are to climate catastrophe.”When countries spend trillions of dollars to recover from the pandemic-triggered economic slowdown, Guterres said they must to do so in a way that emphasizes clean energy.Nations should stop funding and subsidizing fossil fuels, he said. And countries need to fulfil their Paris promise to spend $100 billion annually to help poorer countries develop cleaner energy.Guterres said there’s no way the world can curb the climate change “without U.S. leadership” and urged students and other Americans to do “everything you can” to get their governments to curb emissions more quickly.One of the new reports found countries would need to cut production of oil, coal and natural gas by 6% each year by 2030 to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Instead, a review of eight major fossil-fuel producing nations showed they plan to increase production by 2% annually. That means twice the amount of carbon-based fuel would come onto the market than feasible to keep the Paris goal within reach.Governments in the Group of 20 major and emerging economies have so far committed more money to prop up fossil fuel sectors than to boost the rollout of renewable energy, the report found.Co-author Ivetta Gerasimchuk of the International Institute for Sustainable Development said investing in oil, coal and gas no longer makes economic sense because renewable energy is becoming cheaper than fossil fuels. But, she said, “We see that instead of governments letting these fossil fuel projects die they resurrect them from the dead.”The WMO’s report found global warming is worsening in all seven key climate indicators, but the problem is increasing human suffering in an already bad year.“In 2020, over 50 million people have been doubly hit: by climate-related disasters (floods, droughts and storms) and the COVID-19 pandemic,’’ the report said. ”Countries in Central America are suffering from the triple-impact of hurricanes Eta and Iota, COVID-19 and pre-existing humanitarian crises.”Among the dozens of extremes the report highlighted:\-- A record 30 Atlantic named tropical storms and hurricanes.\--Death Valley, California, hit 129.9 degrees (54.4 degrees Celsius), the hottest the world has seen in 80 years.\--Record wildfires struck California and Colorado in the western United States, following a major fire season and record heat in Australia.\--The Arctic had record wildfires and a prolonged heat wave culminating in a 100-degree mark (38 degrees Celsius) in Siberia in June.\--Record low Arctic sea ice was reported for April and August and the yearly minimum, in September, was the second lowest on record.\--More than 2,000 people died in record summer rains and flooding in Pakistan and surrounding nations.While these events can’t solely be blamed on climate change, “these are the types of events scientists fear will increase due to climate change,” said Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald, who wasn’t part of the report.“Human activities are at the root of our descent towards chaos,” Guterres said. “But that means human action can solve it.”___Follow AP’s climate coverage at https://www.apnews.com/Climate___Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears . Follow Frank Jordans on Twitter at @wirereporter .___The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.Seth Borenstein And Frank Jordans, The Associated Press
As Vopak Development Canada’s proposed fuel storage facility and export terminal near Prince Rupert, B.C., enters its final public comment period, environmental groups say the project fails to address risks associated with marine and rail transport. If approved, the Vopak Pacific Canada facility would bring up to 240 rail cars carrying fuels like diesel, propane, methanol and gasoline through northwest B.C. every day. The fuels would be shipped on the CN rail network from sources in B.C. and Alberta to Ridley Island, an industrial site near Prince Rupert. The terminal would also bring up to 171 tankers to the Skeena River estuary annually. “Vopak brings the risk of a spill of highly toxic diesel oil and gasoline from train derailments, tanker accidents and spills at the offloading facility,” Greg Knox, executive director of SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, told The Narwhal. “Such spills are very difficult to clean up once they enter the river or marine environment.” Retired biologist Dawn Remington with Friends of Morice-Bulkley said the project poses a risk to communities along fuel transportation routes and not enough information about how these communities will be protected has been made available to the public. “We’re going to be a corridor for hazardous petroleum products. And if this is the case, I want it to be done safely,” Remington told The Narwhal, adding her concerns aren’t about trying to stop the project. Remington said the Vopak project presents an opportunity to address the risks of rail transportation associated with several projects in the region, including another proposed fuel export facility and one that’s already under construction. Vopak recently submitted its application for an environmental assessment certificate along with its report on the project’s potential environmental impacts to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. The public can now review and comment on those documents until Dec. 30. During the initial public comment period in 2018, members of the public and environmental groups asked that increased rail traffic associated with the Vopak project be included in the facility’s review. And during the First Nations consultation process, each of the six nations involved flagged increased rail traffic as an important issue that should be addressed as part of the environmental assessment. The B.C. Environmental Assessment Office said it would not include rail traffic in the assessment, deferring to Transport Canada, the federal agency responsible for regulating the rail network. “Concerns of potential spills from train derailments are not being assessed in the environmental assessment and are being completely ignored by CN, Vopak and the provincial and federal governments despite strong public concern,” Knox said. CN’s rail accidents have been steadily increasing, according to a 2019 Transportation Safety Board of Canada report. Last year, there were 169 accidents involving dangerous goods, like the ones that would be shipped to the Vopak facility. Eight of those accidents resulted in spills, twice as many as the previous year. In March, a train carrying coal and propane derailed near an elementary school east of Prince George, B.C., spilling coal into a creek and causing an emergency evacuation of the school. Other derailments in the region over the past few years have resulted in coal and wood pellets spilling into creeks and rivers. Remington has been working with communities along the rail corridor in northwest B.C. to formally request Transport Canada conduct a risk assessment of rail traffic in the region. Even though the potential for a rail accident resulting in an explosion or deadly spill is low, Remington worries a single event could have catastrophic effects. Propane — also referred to as liquified petroleum gas — is a highly-combustible fossil fuel captured as a by-product of fracking for natural gas. More propane travelling through the region means more risk, she said. “Risk is the probability of something happening times the severity of the consequences if it happens,” she explained. “So even if the probability is low, the consequences are enormous.” She stressed that without knowing the risks, the communities along the rail corridor aren’t equipped to deal with an emergency should one arise. “How do you evacuate this entire town if people have no idea?” The concern is shared along the transportation corridor, even in towns hundreds of kilometres from the proposed Vopak facility. In a recent public comment on the project, Jeanette Weir, from Hazelton, B.C., said the threat the export terminal poses to communities along rail lines has effectively been overlooked. “This project is completely ignoring the communities through which an enormous increase of rail transport of explosive dangerous goods is proposed. It should not be evaluated for the sole risks at the Prince Rupert storage facility because it will affect all of us living along the rail line.” In a document provided to First Nations outlining the potential effects of increased rail traffic, Vopak said the project would contribute to an incremental increase in the risks associated with rail transportation, including moose strikes, collisions and derailments. It also stressed that all regulations related to rail safety fall under the jurisdiction of Transport Canada. Public requests that the environmental impacts of marine traffic be included in the projects assessment were also denied by the Environmental Assessment Office, leading to lingering concerns the project will harm marine ecosystems. The proposed facility would include a number of holding tanks for fuel and a marine berth where tankers would be filled over 40-hour periods. Vopak would only be responsible for products during storage, unloading and loading. For nearly 50 years, a now-shuttered pulp mill near Ridley Island discharged contaminated materials into the marine environment, much of which is now sequestered in a layer of sediment on the ocean floor — including where Vopak would provide mooring for tankers. Although Vopak scrapped its initial plan to dredge up the contaminated sediment to make way for a permanent jetty, many worry the current plan to leave sediment — which contains highly toxic dioxins and furans as well as copper and arsenic — undisturbed is unrealistic. According to Luanne Roth, north coast campaigner for the T Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, the new plan was submitted after the initial public comment period, so any public concerns about the redesign have yet to be addressed. “Before, with the big dredge, all of that contaminated sediment would have been gone from the area,” she said. Now the issue is what happens to the sediment when tankers are mooring. “When the boats are docked, they’re docked by really powerful tugs, so there’s going to be really powerful propeller wash,” she said. The effects of propeller wash, the movement of water by ships’ engines, on the sediment have not been studied for the Vopak project, but they were when the Pacific Northwest LNG terminal was on the books for neighbouring Lelu Island. Roth said those studies estimated five centimetres of sediment would be resuspended every day. All of that toxic sediment would then be distributed by tides and currents within the surrounding marine ecosystem. Opposite Lelu Island, and within sight of the proposed Vopak project, is Flora Bank, which has been noted as a critical juvenile salmon habitat. Given the dramatic declines in Skeena salmon populations, the effects could be felt throughout the entire Skeena watershed. Roth said there may be solutions to the problem, but the absence of any mention of the effects of propeller wash in Vopak’s environmental effects evaluation is troubling, especially because the chemicals are known to have negative effects on human health, including increased risk of autism, cancer and diabetes. “There’s a tremendous amount of food gathering in the Skeena estuary, so it’s a really big concern,” she said. In an emailed statement, Vopak communications director, Stefany Cortes, told the Narwhal “the tugboat propulsion is focused higher in the water column and, therefore, is not expected to resuspend sediment during mooring.” Roth also raised concerns about the increased marine traffic and the potential for a catastrophic spill. As The Narwhal previously reported, many of Prince Rupert’s designated anchorages are situated in water that lies atop a thin layer of mud and sediment on smooth rock. In high winds — very common during fall and winter — a ship can drag its anchor and potentially end up smashing against coastal rocks. Even just one ship spilling its fuel, not to mention its cargo of fuel, would have catastrophic effects on the marine ecosystem. According to a T Buck Suzuki study, between 2004 and 2017, the Prince Rupert port had three times as many anchor-dragging incidents as the Port of Vancouver despite having 86 per cent less vessels. This works out to 2,360 per cent more incidents per visit. Roth said there were 29 incidents in Prince Rupert last winter. Earlier this year, T Buck Suzuki commissioned an independent report to assess the safety risks associated with anchoring in the Prince Rupert area. Prepared by Ivan Todorov, a master mariner and former senior officer on oil tankers, the report noted a need to ensure that “loading be delayed when storm/hurricane warnings have been issued in order to limit the need for anchoring laden tankers in poor holding ground.” Todorov added that the Vopak project should be subject to a formal risk assessment of grounding and collision incidents. The Prince Rupert Port Authority, which is responsible for federal lands and waters in the area and is the coordinator of the environmental assessment for the proposed project, recently commissioned an independent navigational risk assessment. But when The Narwhal asked to review the document, the port said it would not make the report available to the public. Port communications director Monika Cȏté told The Narwhal in an emailed statement that the port authority has strict policies and procedures in place for the movement and anchorage of ships coming and going from the Ridley Island Propane Export Terminal, of which Vopak is part owner, and similar policies and procedures would be implemented for the proposed facility. Those procedures include port-assigned pilots and tugboat assistance. “Procedures vary depending on vessel, cargo and terminal they are going to, and what is required to mitigate navigational risk,” she wrote. “Vopak-specific procedures will be determined through a multi-agency effort that includes vessel simulation trials.” She said it is uncommon for ships to remain at anchorage once they’re loaded. “In the very rare circumstance that a loaded vessel would move to anchorage, the tug would remain in attendance with the vessel while it is at anchor,” she wrote. Roth said if the port is not able to prevent fully loaded ships from anchoring during storm events, Vopak could contractually refuse to fill a tanker if extreme weather was in the forecast. “That’s something we’d really like them to address,” she said. In the new year, Vopak Development Canada will compile all of the comments received during the public comment period and submit them to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. The office will then consult with the province, the port authority, local First Nations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada and other stakeholders to resolve any outstanding issues. If no red flags are identified, the stakeholders will sign off on the project and a final decision will be made by provincial ministers. Vopak projects it will start construction in late 2021.Matt Simmons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday struggled with whether to require new trials for potentially thousands of prisoners who were convicted by non-unanimous juries before the court barred the practice earlier this year. The high court ruled 6-3 in April that juries in state criminal trials must be unanimous to convict a defendant. Previously, Louisiana and Oregon as well as the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico had allowed divided votes to result in convictions. In striking down the practice, the court said Louisiana and Oregon had originally adopted their rules for racially discriminatory reasons. Now, juries everywhere must vote unanimously to convict. But the Supreme Court's decision affected only future cases and cases in which the defendants were still appealing their convictions when the high court ruled. The question for the court now is whether the decision should be made retroactive. That would benefit prisoners convicted by non-unanimous juries whose cases were final before the court's ruling, but the states and federal government said it would also be incredibly burdensome. Several justices noted the very high bar past cases have set to making similar new rules retroactive while also suggesting this case might clear it. And the case did not seem to be one that would split the court along traditional liberal-conservative lines. “Why isn't unanimity basic?” Justice Stephen Breyer asked during arguments, which the court heard by phone because of the coronavirus pandemic. But Justice Samuel Alito expressed skepticism that the court should make this decision retroactive. He suggested the court has been hard pressed to find a similar case that should be made retroactive, comparing it to a “quest for an animal that was thought to have become extinct, like the Tasmanian tiger.” And Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted that the court has “a long line of cases ... where we have declined to apply a new rule retroactively” once cases have become final. Louisiana, Oregon and Puerto Rico could be forced to retry hundreds or thousands of people if the court’s decision were to be made retroactive, Louisiana has said. And several justices pressed the lawyers before them on how many people might need to be retried, with one lawyer saying it could be 1,000 to 1,600 in Louisiana alone. The Trump administration, for its part, has sided with the states and told the court that applying the decision retroactively would be “massively disruptive” in both Louisiana and Oregon and may mean “the release of violent offenders who cannot practically be retried.” The court's ruling in April produced an unusual lineup of justices, with liberals and conservatives on both sides of the decision. That’s because a key part of the case was whether to overrule a 1972 decision, and overturning precedent is a particularly charged issue on the court. This time around, it seemed votes could shift. Justice Elena Kagan, who was in dissent last time, siding against the inmate challenging a non-unanimous jury, seemed nonetheless sympathetic to the idea that the decision should be made retroactive, saying at one point: “How could it be that a rule like that does not have retroactive effect?” The case before the justices involves Louisiana prisoner Thedrick Edwards. A jury convicted Edwards of rape and multiple counts of armed robbery and kidnapping. The jury divided 10-2 on most of the robbery charges and 11-1 on the remaining charges. Edwards, who had confessed to police, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Edwards, who is Black, has argued among other things that prosecutors intentionally kept Black jurors off the case; the lone Black juror on the case voted to acquit him. Jessica Gresko, The Associated Press
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is confirming that potato wart fungus has been found in soil from two fields on a farm in Queens County, Prince Edward Island.In an email to CBC News, CFIA said the potato wart was found on October 16, 2020, in soil that was being collected for routine export testing. It said there are approximately 20 hectares, in the two fields combined, on the farm where the fungus was found. The agency has not indicated where exactly the farm is located, other than specifying it was Queens County.Investigation continuesFollowing the detection, CFIA said it took immediate action to secure the farm and prevent potential spread. Potato wart poses no risk to humans or food safety, but it can be a serious disease for the infected potatoes, which become disfigured, making them unmarketable.It also prevents tuber production and can affect export markets.CFIA said potato wart can remain dormant in a field for more than 20 years. It is spread through the movement of infested tubers, soil and farm equipment.CFIA indicated it has sampled material from the fields affected to determine the possible sources of the fungus.Testing of the source fields that supplied the seed potatoes for the positive fields in 2020 has also been completed, and they are negative for potato wart. The agency said the testing of other samples continues, as does the investigation.CFIA said no seed potatoes from the 2020 harvest have been shipped from this farm, and it has prohibited movement of seed potatoes or soil from this farm to other locations.The CFIA has identified the fields where the potatoes produced in previous years were planted, and has conducted soil sampling there as well.Export suspendedIn a notice to producers in November, CFIA reported that "to address concerns raised by the United States, the export of seed potatoes originating from P.E.I. and destined to the United States has been suspended, as of Friday, November 20, 2020." It noted that this suspension does not apply to tablestock potatoes or potatoes for processing.CFIA said there have been no changes in inter-provincial movement of seed potatoes originating from P.E.I.The National Potato Council represents U.S. potato growers and supply chain partners.In response to the CFIA announcement, the council's CEO Kam Quarles released a statement about the situation on P.E.I."The National Potato Council supports CFIA's immediate action to stop all P.E.I. seed shipments into the United States and are working with our state potato organizations to inform U.S. growers who may be intending to source seed from P.E.I. for the upcoming year," the statement said. "We have been advised that no seed from the identified areas has been shipped to the United States in four years. However, we are working closely with USDA to monitor recipients of seed in years-past out of an abundance of caution."We are in communication with APHIS regarding CFIA's ongoing survey work to comprehensively determine the level of threat within Canada and are also urging CFIA to prohibit all domestic seed shipments out of P.E.I. to prevent spread within Canada until they can confirm no other farms have been jeopardized."CFIA said in its statement to CBC News that "the government of Canada will continue to work closely with the P.E.I. potato industry, the government of Prince Edward Island and the United States to resolve this trade disruption as quickly as possible."Other discoveriesIn 2000, potato wart shut down trade between P.E.I. and the United States, when it was first found on the Island. Since then, new protocols have been introduced for monitoring and controlling the spread of potato wart, and there have been no trade issues after subsequent discoveries of the fungus, including in 2012 and 2014.The border closure in 2000 cost P.E.I. potato farmers $22 million in sales.When reached for comment, the P.E.I. Potato Board referred all questions to CFIA.A spokesperson for the P.E.I. Department of Agriculture and Land said that because there is an ongoing investigation by CFIA, it won't be commenting on this case.According to the department, about 15 per cent of the potatoes grown on P.E.I. are used for seed, and about 80 per cent of that seed is used on Island farms.It said seed exports account for two per cent of P.E.I.'s international potato exports.The U.S. was the single biggest international buyer. In 2019, they bought $3.1 million worth of seed potatoes from P.E.I., out of $4.5 million exported.More from CBC P.E.I.
OTTAWA — The Liberals have officially started the clock toward a key vote that will determine the fate of billions of dollars in new pandemic-related aid — and the minority government.The federal government introduced a bill in the House of Commons Wednesday that would enact spending measures proposed in this week's fall economic statement.The Liberals will make passage of the legislation a confidence vote, meaning the minority government could fall and trigger an election if it doesn't garner the necessary support.Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said his party would carefully read the bill to make sure it does what the government claims.Monday's update outlined just over $25 billion in new spending to top up and expand existing programs and create new, targeted support for hard-hit industries.The Liberals are also promising $1,200 per child under six for families earning up to $120,000, and $600 for families earning over that amount. The first payment is supposed to happen right after the bill passes, but the government is only suggesting it needs to introduce the legislation, not pass it, before MPs go on a winter break, Poilievre said."The government needs to tell us how it plans to make that payment if it doesn't have the legislation passed," he said after a morning caucus meeting.The economic statement also noted the deficit was on track to hit $381.6 billion this fiscal year, but warned the figure could close in on $400 billion if public health restrictions are extended or expanded in the coming weeks.The federal debt is set to push past $1.2 trillion, with more on the way in the coming years before accounting for the government's proposed three-year stimulus fund the Liberals say will be between $70 billion and $100 billion.Credit rating agency DBRS Morningstar, in an analysis Wednesday, said the cost of extra spending and debt could be worth it to avoid long-term scarring to the economy, which could take the form of people permanently out of jobs and more businesses closing for good.The agency added that the government will have to "recalibrate public finances" to keep deficits from becoming permanent. That won't be easy with a long list of policy promises, the agency said, pointing to a national child-care system, reform of the employment insurance system, green infrastructure spending and demands from provinces for increased health-care transfers."Given the medium-term fiscal outlook, there is limited space to fund sizable increases in permanent spending in a sustainable way without also raising revenues," the report said. "The government will face difficult fiscal (and political) choices as it prepares the 2021 Budget."A majority of MPs in the House of Commons on Wednesday backed a Bloc Quebecois motion that called on the federal government to increase its share of health-care spending before the end of the year.The vote isn’t binding on the government.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.The Canadian Press
As the death toll from illicit drug overdoses continues to mount unabated in B.C., advocates want more specialized services and harm reduction measures to help protect young people. Another 162 fatalities occurred in October due to toxic drug supply, for a total of 1,386 deaths in 2020, according to the BC Coroners Service's most recent figures. Of those killed this year by the overdose crisis, 19 per cent, or 269 deaths, were young people aged 29 years old or younger, with 14 of the dead under the age of 19, the coroners service figures show. Kali Sedgemore, a youth outreach worker and peer harm reduction advocate in Vancouver, said the ongoing public health emergency is in its fifth year, and COVID-19 is only exacerbating the harms. “We don’t even have time to grieve because we know we will hear about another (death) the next day,” Sedgemore said. The dangers of the toxic illicit drug supply are being compounded as people following pandemic protocols use illicit drugs alone and as harm reduction services have been reduced, or wait times have increased at overdose prevention sites (OPS) during the pandemic, Sedgemore added. Youth do not make up the largest number of fatalities, but all overdose deaths are largely unnecessary and preventable, Sedgemore said. In 2020, 70 per cent of those who have died from the toxic drug supply fall between the ages of 30 and 59, and males account for 80 per cent of the deaths to date. Most overdose fatalities involved people dying alone indoors. One immediate way to reduce the harms from toxic illicit drugs to youth is to provide harm reduction and OPS services dedicated strictly to their demographic, Sedgemore said. “Youth are vulnerable to manipulation by adults,” Sedgemore said, adding young people are at risk of being exploited sexually or for money or other reasons. Specialized harm reduction services are already hard to come by in urban areas such as Vancouver but are even more scarce in smaller communities and rural areas, Sedgemore said, noting they originally came from a small community from the northern part of Vancouver Island. Plus, young people — especially those under the age of 18 — are often deterred from using harm reduction services or supplies by providers due to their age, or can come under increased scrutiny from staff at these locations, they said. Both of these situations make youth uncomfortable, Sedgemore said. It’s also critical that medical professionals, social workers or other service providers don’t push youth into treatment before they are ready, Sedgemore stressed. Doing so only puts youth at increased risk, forcing them to be more secretive about any illicit drug use and increasing the unwillingness to use harm reduction services or call emergency services in case of an overdose. Research shows abstinence education, or the "just say no to drugs" approach, is not as effective as talking openly about illicit drugs, the associated risks and, if youth should choose to use them, how to do it safely, Sedgemore said. However, there is also the need for more youth treatment beds and shorter wait-lists for youth seeking help, Sedgemore said, especially closer to their own communities. “I don’t think it’s great sending a youth away from their own hometown and the people youth are used to seeing every day.” The B.C. government plans to double the number of treatment beds for youth aged 12 to 24 who are struggling with substance use. A total of 60 young people under the age of 24 lost their lives to fentanyl poisoning from toxic street drugs from January to June 2020, according to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. The province committed $36 million to create another 123 treatment beds for young people, in addition to 20 beds recently established at a new youth facility in the Fraser Valley. Prior to the recent announcements, B.C. had 103 treatment beds for youth. The new beds are part of a broader continuum of care the B.C. government is planning for young people that will include culturally safe, youth-specific services in both rural and smaller city centres, the ministry stated. Building on its network of youth-specific mental health and substance use services, the province will develop eight new Foundry centres, for a total of 19 youth hubs. Foundry centres provide primary care, youth and family peer supports, walk-in counselling, mental health and substance use services and social services all under one roof. Steve Ayers, program manager for the Foundry located in Campbell River on Vancouver Island, agreed that youth benefit from specialized services and being in charge of any decisions about their drug or alcohol use. “If a counsellor is going to really be impactful, they have to let the client drive the process of making changes around substance use,” Ayers said. “The objective of substance use counselling is to help youth have a better life, and what are some concrete ways that might happen, depending on their choices of course,” he said. Many youth use substances to deal with trauma or anxiety, so alternate tools or strategies need to be developed to help young people deal with that suffering, he added. It’s dangerous to assume youth overdoses due to illicit drugs are only a big-city problem, Ayers said. “It’s absolutely a misconception,” he said, adding the issues that fuel youth substance use exist in every community across Canada. However, youth generally don’t tend to be as entrenched with illicit hard drugs as some other age demographics, especially in rural areas where supply might be limited, Ayers said. “If there’s no supply (of illicit drugs) kids will find other things to do to cope with what they are struggling with,” he said. However, kids and families in rural or remote communities such as the Discovery Islands or small communities across North Vancouver Island can face additional challenges or gaps in accessing supports, Ayers said. Many Foundry services are now available online to try to mitigate the challenges for youth living in more isolated communities who need support, especially with travel limitations due to the pandemic, he said. The youth hub also works with schools to meet with students during class time for those who have to bus in and out of Campbell River. Young people and their families just need to reach out and the Foundry will try to find a fix for any stumbling blocks to service, Ayers said. “We always seem to be able to find them and reach them with help,” he said. “Unless they're just not reaching out at all. And honestly, those are the people that we’re scared for most.” Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverRochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Midland Coun. Bill Gordon has found his way onto the 'wall of shame' --- again. This time, the elected official is being brought to the stand for inappropriate decorum, messaging that amounts to abuse, bullying or intimidation, and interfering in the operations of the town, thereby, undermining staff's capability in the field, an integrity commissioner's report found "This is just proving my whole weaponization of the code of conduct argument," Gordon said, adding he wasn't shocked by the move. "They didn't speak to me about any of this. "I'm not arguing any of these things didn't happen. I take full responsibility for it. But taken without context, anything can be found to be insulting and inflammatory." The three complainants this time are Deputy Mayor Mike Ross and councillors Jim Downer and Jon Main. However, in the integrity commissioner's report, which will be discussed at next week's council meeting, only an exchange between Main and Gordon has been mentioned. The report says that in the email exchange with Main, Gordon said, "Please don’t mistake my assertiveness for aggression. I have little to no personal respect for many of you or a couple of our senior team. I come by that honestly and have the bills to prove it. "I have to work with you and have managed to keep most of my contempt for many of you at bay preferring to simply ignore the public attacks on my integrity and carry on with my work despite everything that’s gone on this term." In a second exchange between the two, Gordon calls Main a 'snowflake.' The report says, in a Facebook direct message, Gordon said, "That is far from bullying Jon. Don’t be such a snowflake. The truth may not be a defence in the CoC [Code of Conduct] – which is absurd – but I will do politics my way just as you do it your way. "We are polar opposites it seems. That is actually quite healthy for democracy. As for decorum I think I toe that line with grace and dignity considering the despicable way you treat me. I have no respect for most of you as a result. Should not be a shock to you." Moreover, Gordon has also been accused of interfering with the operational aspects of the town staff's responsibility by asserting 'influence' on a developer responsible for clean up on Taylor Drive. The report details that, on Aug. 28, 2020, the developer emailed Gordon that following their discussion and for the developer to avoid a notice of motion, the developer would undertake grass cutting on the town parkette as a courtesy to the town and Taylor Drive clients/homeowners. Further, the developer also promised, relocation of masonry materials and reduction in the slope of stockpiled sand. In the report, Gordon defends his intervention with the developer as simply availing himself of the process. He denies that he engaged in any threats or intimidation, but merely pointed out that the town might be compelled to draw on the letter of credit to rectify performance issues. In a conversation with MidlandToday, Gordon said he wasn't willing to divulge his entire defence. "I don't want to give a statement because it gives them 'yeah, but...' arguments," he said. "The reason I don't want to do that in this case is because they didn't recommend any monetary sanctions, which I'm kind of shocked about. What I suspect to happen is that the three complainants, especially Jon Main, will be argue for monetary sanctions. I want to let that happen organically." Addressing the snowflake comment, Gordon said, it was during a private Twitter back and forth that occurred in March. "(Main) sat on it all this time and decided to advance it now," he said. "Basically, they were just collecting evidence." Gordon adds that if he had been approached about the issue 'like adults' there would definitely not have been this conflict. "I can only speak for Jon, because I never said this to Mike Ross or Jim Downer," he said. "If he'd contacted me or even during that interaction we had, I would have apologized and told him what I'd actually been meaning to say instead of the word snowflake." Gordon said he uses the word snowflake because it's a quicker way of spelling out someone who is indecisive or can't handle pressure and make decisions. As for interfering with the operational side of the corporation of the Town of Midland, he said, at its core, that's what people expect from their councillors. "They can come to them with whatever their tale of woe is...if they're having an issue with a lack of performance by the town," said Gordon. "Your elected official doesn't have a lot of influence. The only influence, which I promised during my Zoom chat, is that I would bring it forward to council as a notice of motion." And this is where it gets sticky, he added. "I didn't reach out to the developer," said Gordon. "The developer watched my Zoom meeting and called me to say if we do these things, would you bring the notice of motion to council. And why would I, if they were doing what was being asked?" He said he welcomed the integrity commissioner's report and findings and looked forward to speaking to council. "For me, the real tell is which councillors will argue that simply scolding me publicly and putting me on the wall of shame is not enough and they want to see their pound of flesh," Gordon said.Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
Regina– Ambulance fees are going down for Saskatchewan senior citizens, the fulfillment of a Saskatchewan Party campaign promise in this past fall’s election. Seniors and Rural and Remote Health Minister Everett Hindley said in a ministerial statement in the Legislature on Dec. 2, “Starting on December 14, our government will further support Saskatchewan seniors aged 65 and older by reducing their ambulance fees from $275 per trip to $135 per trip. “That is a reduction of more than 50 per cent. In addition, seniors will now receive full coverage for all inter-facility transfers between hospitals health centres, integrated health centres, mental health and addiction centres, and special care homes. As we know seniors tend to need ambulance services more frequently and that many seniors live on fixed incomes. Seniors will receive financial relief through this reduction in their personal health care costs for the service. Having the ability to discharge or transfer patients to a facility closer to their home community, without concern about their ability to pay, will improve patient flow between our health care centres. “This investment by our government is expected to cost $2.2 million for this fiscal year and $6.6 million annually. These costs were accounted for and the Minister of Finance’s recently released mid year update. Our government values seniors in this province. We're working to provide them with quality, affordable health care.” To be eligible for SCAAP coverage, patients must be age 65 or over, hold a valid Saskatchewan health card and not have insured coverage by any other government service such as Health Canada, Workers Compensation (WCB) or Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI), according to a government release. In response, New Democratic Party Seniors Critic Matt Love said, “Certainly, we welcome any effort to make life more affordable for seniors, particularly those who might be ill and in need of an ambulance. We recognize this as a small step in the right direction. But ultimately, this is a drop in the bucket towards reforming the most unsupported and expensive ambulance system in the country. “Eliminating fees for seniors being transferred between health facilities makes sense. But what this government should be doing is eliminating interhospital transfer fees entirely. No other province in the country charges patients to transfer them within the health system. This issue was identified by this government's first EMS (emergency medical services) review in 2008, and again, the review conducted in 2018. We know the community paramedicine program has been successful in keeping seniors in their homes and out of the hospital. And we wonder why these changes do not expand access to these services? We also know there's been a long-standing practice of excluding First Nations seniors from provincial senior subsidy programs, and anticipate hearing whether these benefits will be extended to First Nations as well. Today's announcement does nothing to address the long-standing issues of short staffing in long term care much more as needed, including minimum care standards,” Love concluded.Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
Community centres across the South Peace have partially closed due to three-week COVID restrictions that came into effect for enhanced-status areas last Friday. The Beaverlodge Community Centre and multi-purpose room are both closed, said Tina Letendre, Beaverlodge acting chief administrative officer. The Christmas Festival hasn’t been booked at the centre this year and that means lost revenue of approximately $1,800, she said. “We’re unable to do the Christmas Festival this year with the COVID restric- tions,” said Alysha Martin, Beaverlodge Daycare Society executive director. She said last year the festival was held at St. Mary School, which is also closed for private rentals. Letendre said most other lost rental revenue at the community centre will be “very minimal,” or about $143 in November. Planned private rentals were cancelled and postponed, with Letendre saying birthday parties, fitness classes and meetings were the most common rentals. Both the Sexsmith Community Centre and civic centre have been affected by the restrictions. Dennis Stredulinsky, an Elks member who manages bookings for the civic centre, said the centre is largely shut down. Shannon Municipal Library remains open at reduced capacity, but the Sexsmith Tumbling Club has postponed group classes in favour of Zoom classes and one-to-one appointments, he said. The civic centre had booked one church service in December, but that has been postponed until next year, he said. The Elks won’t be meeting at the civic centre again until possibly January, and that might be by phone, Stredu- linsky said. Council had also been meeting at the civic centre in recent months but moved to the community centre two weeks ago. The Sexsmith Community Centre is also mostly closed, said Beth Endresen. Council meetings will still take place there but two private parties and a yoga session had to be cancelled, she said. There won’t be much lost revenue for December, as typically the space is donated to the Sexsmith Christmas hamper campaign, Endresen said. The centre is commonly used for yoga and fitness classes, playschool and family rentals, as well as annual general meetings, she said. Endresen said the “primary user” is the Lighthouse Seventh Day Adventist Church, which holds services Saturdays. Under COVID restrictions the services will continue with one-third attendance, she said. The Hythe Community Centre is “basically closed to public access,” but Montana’s Hair Salon, the food bank and South Peace Rural Community Learning are open by appointment, said facilities manager Candy Robertson. Appointments aren’t necessary for the thrift store but the north access should be used, Robertson said. The Demmitt Community Centre is also closed, said Teresa von Tiesenhausen, a Demmitt Cultural Society volunteer board member. Von Tiesenhausen said the society had to cancel yoga classes, which have been running with a cap of 15, as well as the annual community Christmas party. Typically at this time of year the hall would see activity like dances, documentary nights, workshops and the Borderline Culture Series concerts, she said. The Saskatoon Lake Community Hall is closed as well, said Teri Ondrick, hall manager. Girl Guides, 4-H and other community group meetings and Christmas parties had to be cancelled, along with many rentals over the upcoming weeks, she said.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
ISLAMABAD — The U.S. envoy who brokered the ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban said Wednesday the two sides have overcome a three-month impasse and agreed on rules and procedures for the negotiations.The development is significant as it means the warring sides are getting closer to actually starting to negotiate the issues that could end decades of fighting in Afghanistan and determine the country's post-war future. But first they must decide on the agenda for the negotiations, which is the next step.In a series of tweets, U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said there was a signed document and urged both the Taliban and the government to get down to the business of negotiating a “political roadmap and a cease-fire.”The three-page document lays out the rules and procedures for the negotiations, which are taking place in Qatar where the Taliban have long maintained a political office.Afghans “now expect rapid progress on a political roadmap and a ceasefire. We understand their desire and we support them,” Khalilzad tweeted.A cease-fire, rights of women and minorities, and constitutional amendments are expected to top the agenda. But the list is likely to be long and contentious, with issues such as safety guarantees for thousands of Taliban fighters who disarm, as well as for disbanding the heavily armed militias loyal to Kabul warlords, many of them allied either with the government or opposition politicians.U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who on Feb. 29 signed a Taliban-U.S. deal that paves the way for withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, welcomed the agreement.“As negotiations on a political roadmap and permanent ceasefire begin, we will also work hard with all sides in pursuit of a serious reduction of violence,” he said.Khalilzad’s announcement was not unexpected — last month, the Taliban said the rules and procedures were settled and the U.S. said last week it was all but wrapped up. But then the Afghan government said it had concerns with the some of the words in the preamble that set off accusations that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was holding up the deal. His spokesman denied this.There were no details about the document, but Taliban spokesman Mohammed Naeem said the two sides have appointed a committee to hammer out the agenda items.Since the Afghan-Taliban talks started in September, violence has spiked significantly. The Taliban have staged deadly attacks on Afghan forces while keeping their promise not to attack U.S. and NATO troops. The attacks have drawn a mighty retaliation by the Afghan air force, backed by U.S. warplanes. International rights groups have warned both sides to avoid inflicting civilian casualties.In Washington, U.S. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military’s plan for reducing American troop levels in Afghanistan to 2,500 by mid-January has been approved by the acting secretary of defence, Christopher Miller. Milley declined to discuss the plan beyond saying that the smaller U.S. force would operate from “a couple of larger bases,” along with several smaller ones, in order to continue its current missions of combatting extremist groups like al-Qaida and training and advising Afghan defence forces.Milley asserted that the U.S. has achieved “a modicum of success” in Afghanistan after more than 19 years of war, given that there has not been a repeat of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. homeland. Noting that President Donald Trump made the decision to reduce the U.S. force to 2,500, Milley said, “What comes after that, that will be up to a new administration; we’ll find that out on the 20th of January and beyond.”In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the breakthrough on the Afghan-Taliban talks, amid uncertainty over the alliance's future in Afghanistan and urged for rapid progress on cease-fire and establishing a political road map.“You can discuss whether it is a big or a small step, but the important thing is that it’s the first step,” Stoltenberg said, after chairing a videoconference of NATO foreign ministers. “It’s the first time actually that the Taliban and the Afghan government are able to sign a document agreeing on the framework, the modalities, for negotiations addressing a long-term, peaceful solution.”NATO has roughly 11,000 troops in Afghanistan, but under the U.S.-Taliban deal, all foreign troops would leave the country by May 1 if conditions allow. Stoltenberg has said that NATO faces a “difficult dilemma” over what to do.A decision on its future in Afghanistan, where NATO has led international security efforts since 2003 in the hope of keeping extremist groups at bay, is expected to be made in February after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.The Taliban today control or hold sway over nearly half of Afghanistan and are at their strongest since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled their regime over sheltering al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden.Many Afghans, particularly in larger urban areas fear a return of their repressive regime that harshly punished those who defied their strict Islamic edicts. Unlike when they ruled, the Taliban now say they will allow girls to go to school and women to work and hold public office, though they will not allow a woman to become president or a chief justice of Afghanistan's Supreme Court.___Associated Press writers Robert Burns and Ken Guggenheim in Washington, Tameem Akhgar in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.Kathy Gannon, The Associated Press
Purolator has teamed up with emerging Canadian artists to help spread a little holiday cheer this year. The shipping company has selected 13 artists from across the country – one from each province and territory – to design a unique and festive shipping box that will be made available at Purolator shipping centres and Michaels craft stores for anyone looking to send a little extra cheer along with their gifts to their friends and families this holiday season. With the country boasting a population of more than 37 million people, choosing one artist from each province and territory in Canada could have proved to be quite daunting, but Patrick Hunter, a Two Spirit Ojibwe artist, said he thinks the online community he has already amassed helped to secure him the spot as Ontario's representative. “I have a pretty nice following of people on Instagram, and I think that's how they reached out when they were trying to find diverse artists to be a part of this project,” Hunter explained. “It was a quick turnaround to get the project off the ground, I think we started in November or the end of October, but with really cool emails like that, 'Purolator wants to work with you on such-and-such,' it's a pretty quick response. I think it took me all of ten seconds to say 'yes, I'm in.'” While he is currently working out of Toronto, Hunter is originally from Red Lake. His art in the Woodland style takes inspiration from his hometown and the work of famed Woodland artist Norval Morrisseau, and he brought the same sensibilities he brings to his painting to the art he was inspired to create for Purolator's box, along with his own wishes for the holiday season. “It's all digital artwork, so you have to know how to use some graphic design-y programs,” Hunter explained. “We were given a template to work within the edges and back and top sides. Why I chose the imagery I chose, which is Ojibwe florals, is because it's a holiday season, it's one of my favourite gifts to give, and one of the best gifts First Nations folks give their friends are beaded moccasins or gloves, so my hope for these boxes is when someone gets a box that they have that feeling of 'oh my god, beautiful box' but then 'what's inside?'” Being chosen by Purolator to be the representative for Ontario also carries added heft for Hunter. Knowing the boxes have the potential to wind up almost anywhere in the world, Hunter said that it was like a personal responsibility to answer Purolator's call for his art. “I'm a First Nations gay man from Red Lake, Ontario,” he explained. “When things like this come along you have an obligation to the people that are coming behind you to try and illuminate the path. So my goal with this is to show other First Nations kids and gay artists can have opportunities like this too and not be afraid of them. As well, to bring some visibility. I don't think First Nations culture is always put in the forefront in a mainstream way and Purolator has done a good job of asking not just me but other diverse people in Canada to come up with box designs.” Laurie Weston is the director of retail for Purolator who was on the team searching for artists to take part in the campaign. She noted that part of trying to find emerging artists to design a box was ensuring they were a good fit for both where they came from and the peoples and cultures they represented. “What's really interesting about this is we actually went grassroots and we scoured social media,” Weston explained. “We went through social media and we narrowed it down to the ones that we felt their artwork represented not only the province but their culture. I think with Patrick, we were so incredibly lucky he wanted to do this with us because I think his floral motif and his indigenous background and what it represents for Ontario is pretty special. So it resonated with us. So that's why we picked him.” In a year when the shipping company expects far more packages to be delivered over the holiday season – Weston said their busy season began in August this year, when it usually starts to pick up in November – the drive to showcase original Canadian art on special holiday boxes was to help spread that sense of community and Christmas spirit that might otherwise be hard to come by in 2020. “People are not able to travel, and what's happened with us is the increase in shopping online, but people are coming in and shipping packages to loved ones,” Weston explained. “They're not able to travel and see their loved ones this holiday season so we really wanted to share some of the Christmas spirit from a Canadian lens. Purolator does support small businesses and entrepreneurs, but this is a different evolution of that. We just really wanted to showcase these new artists.” As part of Purolator's partnership with Michaels craft stores, the companies are also holding a Design-A-Box Sweepstakes. Members of the public are encouraged to visit the Michaels website in order to download a box template they can then design, photograph and submit for the chance to win a $1,000 Michaels gift card and free shipping with Purolator for a year. Hunter has been doing his work professionally for the past six years, and in the near future he's also looking at moving out of Toronto to be a little bit closer to home, and begin producing more items in his line of houseware products. He noted the opportunity to be a part of Purolator's holiday campaign helped to confirm in his mind that pursuing the career path he did was a good choice and hopefully help to spread awareness of Indigenous artists even further abroad. “It makes me feel like I'm on the right path and I did choose a good career in graphic design,” he said. “To have [the art] put on these boxes in such a public way, it means a lot and I'm so thrilled just to be a part of the project, but then to have this kind of message of like 'hey, we're Indigenous people, we haven't gone anywhere, we're still here' I think it's great to illuminate the path for people to ask questions.” For more information on Purolator's holiday boxes visit their website and to take part in the Design-A-Box sweepstakes, visit the Michael's website. For more information on Patrick Hunter and his artwork, visit his website at patrickhunter.ca or follow him on Instagram @patrickhunter_artKen Kellar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times
TORONTO — Canada's main stock index rose with help from energy sector while the loonie hit a two-year high. The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 61.28 points to 17,358.21. In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 59.87 points at 29,883.79. The S&P 500 index was up 6.56 points at 3,669.01, while the Nasdaq composite was down 5.74 points at 12,349.37. Hurting U.S. markets was Salesforce.com Inc., whose shares dropped 8.7 per cent on the S&P 500 and the Dow, after it agreed to buy workplace messaging app Slack Technologies Inc. for US$27.7 billion."Obviously, it was not very well-received by the market in general, so it's having a negative effect on the markets," said Michael Currie, vice-president and investment adviser at TD Wealth.With U.S. markets generally flat, investors focused largely on the U.K. becoming the first country to green light Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine."The big talk seems to be all about the U.K. getting ready to do the vaccine next week … faster than a lot of people expected and it's having an effect on pretty much everything," Currie said in an interview.Approval by the large G7 country reinforces the belief that it has a very good chance of passing in other major countries, he said.Vaccine optimism helped to lift oil prices despite negatives from dissent among OPEC plus Russia about extending supply cuts and a surprise buildup in U.S. oil inventories."Oil prices are up a little bit because they figure if this vaccine works then we'll get back to normal quicker and the economy will get back on track," Currie said.The January crude oil contract was up 73 cents at US$45.28 per barrel and the January natural gas contract was down 10 cents at US$2.78 per mmBTU. The energy sector gained two per cent on the day with Canada's large producers Vermilion Energy Inc., Husky Energy Inc. and Cenovus Energy Inc. seeing their share prices climb 5.6, 4.8 and 4.2 per cent, respectively.The Canadian dollar reached its highest level since October 2018 on the back of weakness from the U.S. greenback. It traded for 77.32 cents US compared with 77.21 cents US on Tuesday. Gold also rose because of the inflationary impact of a stimulus package after U.S. Democratic leaders were supportive of a bipartisan US$900-billion stimulus proposal.Although initially smaller than expected, the fiscal package is viewed as a basis for negotiations on a larger deal once Republicans concede that Joe Biden beat President Donald Trump, said Currie.The February gold contract was up US$11.30 at US$1,830.20 an ounce and the March copper contract was up 0.4 of a cent at US$3.49 a pound. That helped the materials sector to rise slightly.Health care gained 3.6 per cent on the TSX with Aurora Cannabis Inc. increasing 11.3 per cent. And technology got a lift from a 10.4 per cent increase in Lightspeed POS shares following its second U.S. acquisition in a month.Financials was also up even as shares of National Bank and Royal Bank fell 1.1 per cent and 0.6 per cent, respectively, after reporting quarterly results."Coming on the heels of very good reports out of Scotia and BMO, (it was) a little bit disappointing."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. Companies in this story: (TSX:VET, TSX:HSE, TSX:CVE, TSX:NA, TSX:RY, TSX:ACB, TSX:LSPD, TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X) Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press
Leave the snow boots, parkas and glove warmers in the closet, the 2021 Sundance Film Festival is coming down from the mountain and straight to your living room. Organizers on Wednesday said that this year they will premiere over 70 films on a custom online platform during the seven day event. There will also be some socially distanced screening opportunities around the country. The festival, which is normally held in Park City, Utah, has been preparing for various scenarios for months as the pandemic has raged on. Festival director Tabitha Jackson said that this model, “Gives us the opportunity to reach new audiences, safely, where they are.” Over the course of the festival, feature films will premiere throughout the day at a dedicated time followed by a live Q&A. Ticketholders will have a three-hour window to watch. Second screenings will be available for 24 hours two days later. The rollout, organizers said, is designed to “preserve the energy of a Festival.” There will also be limited screenings at venues across the county, including Birmingham, Alabama’s Sidewalk Drive-In, Pasadena, California’s Rose Bowl, Denver's Sie Film Center and Columbus, Ohio’s Gateway Film Center. “At the heart of all this is a belief in the power of coming together, and the desire to preserve what makes a festival unique -- a collaborative spirit, a collective energy, and a celebration of the art, artists, and ideas that leave us changed,” Jackson said. The 2021 Sundance Film Festival runs from January 28 through February 3, and tickets will be available for purchase for the general public beginning Jan. 7. The 2021 slate will be revealed in the coming weeks. Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press
Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the priority list for the first COVID-19 vaccines is being refined because there won't be enough doses available in the first round to cover the initial groups recommended.
The Dehcho First Nations is bringing back a familiar face to its executive team.Michael Nadli, who served as grand chief during the beginning of the Dehcho Process, was named as the First Nations' new chief negotiator according to a news release on Wednesday.The Dehcho process is a land, resource and self-government project. It began in 1999 and since 2019 has focused on self-government.The Dehcho First Nations call Nadli, a fluent speaker of Dene Zhatié, a "champion for Dene rights.""Michael ... is no stranger to the issues and challenges in negotiations," said Grand Chief Gladys Norwegian in a statement."Through his past roles in leadership and ability to speak our language, he has a strong connection to our culture and elders."Before his new role with Dehcho First Nations, Nadli was "helping build capacity in his home community" with the Deh Gáh Got'ıę First Nation (Fort Providence), the release says.He also served two terms as Deh Cho MLA from 2011 to 2019, was CEO of the Dehcho Land Use Planning Committee from 2007 to 2011, and was grand chief of the Dehcho First Nations from 1997 to 2003.His time in the public spotlight has not been without controversy. Nadli spent time in jail in 2015, when he served eight days of a 45-day sentence after being convicted of assault after breaking his wife's wrist. He had a similar conviction in 2004, when he pleaded guilty to a charge of assault against his spouse and was put on probation."I feel I can be a positive asset to the Dehcho First Nations," Nadli said in a written statement on Wednesday."At a deeper level my work is driven by a passion for justice and fairness. Negotiations is a common day occurrence."
The recommended quarantine time for close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case is being reduced by up to a week in the United States, but while some of Canada's health experts say a similar approach could be useful here, others aren't so sure.The U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Wednesday it had shortened the recommended length of quarantine after exposure from 14 days to 10 — or seven days with a negative test result.Health Canada was still recommending a 14-day quarantine period as of Wednesday, but Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist at McMaster University, says cutting that time in half would be beneficial."It would be super important for the sake of incentivizing people to actually quarantine after exposure," he said. "And there's a lot of different things that could theoretically open up — getting health-care workers back to work, getting kids back to school — a lot of ways where this could ease the burden of potential exposure in society."The CDC had previously said the incubation period for the COVID virus could extend to 14 days, but the organization now says most people become infectious and develop symptoms between four and five days after exposure.Chagla says the 14-day window was likely inspired from SARS data, where the incubation period was longer.While isolation and quarantine are sometimes used interchangeably, Chagla says there's a difference in the terms. Isolation is for those who have tested positive, while quarantine is for people who may or may not actually have the virus, like close contacts of positive cases or those travelling into Canada. Isolation recommendations for positive cases vary, but are typically 10 days after symptom onset. Ashleigh Tuite, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, says a change in quarantine guidance reflects our evolving understanding of COVID-19."If you're exposed, it takes a couple days for you to become infectious, so (seven to 10 days) should be enough to tell whether you've got the virus," Tuite said. "But of course, that's assuming your experience is reflective of the typical course of infection."The key to the CDC's new guidance for Tuite is having the option to end quarantine at seven days with a negative test result. She suspects that's in place to stop people who have the virus but no symptoms from ending the quarantine period too early. A positive test at Day 7 would mean that person should continue to isolate, Tuite said, while a negative result would mean they could safely end quarantine, knowing enough time has passed since exposure to confidently assume they won't still get sick.Dr. Don Sheppard, the founder and director of the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4), says the CDC's plan makes sense scientifically, but there would be logistical issues in testing every COVID contact in Canada who wanted to end their quarantine at Day 7."It's impossible to do that," he said. "It's either 14 days of proper isolation, or it's seven days with a negative test, and right now our system cannot offer seven days plus testing to the public at large."Testing capacity does exist in certain situations, Sheppard said, like for health-care workers and other front-line staff that need a quicker quarantine to get back to work. He cautioned, however, that taking a test on Day 7 still means isolating for an extra day or two while awaiting results.Quarantine also needs to be done solo in order to work, Sheppard added, warning that the CDC guidance isn't meant as a loophole for holiday gatherings if your family isolates together for seven days before an event.He used an example of military recruits in the U.S. who were told to quarantine for 14 days before reporting to camp. A handful of positive tests (0.9 per cent) were caught upon arrival, suggesting true quarantine hadn't been followed. Those recruits were sent home while the rest underwent another group quarantine. When tested again two weeks later, the positivity rate had grown to 1.3 per cent."Why? Because there were people incubating and they turned positive. And those people infected others in their groups," Sheppard said. "So if you don't do strict, single-person isolation, you don't actually break the cycle of transmission, you just pass it around in your group."Tuite says that further illustrates the usefulness of a shortened quarantine period. A mother with young children, or someone who shares a small apartment with another person will find it harder to properly quarantine for longer periods, she said, as will someone who can't afford to take a full two weeks off work."It really comes down to having the means to do it," she said. "Can you survive for two weeks if you're not getting income? Can you isolate in a household with multiple people? "We need to have support in place so that people can quarantine, and that doesn't change whether it's for a week or 14 days. But it becomes much more challenging when it's for longer periods." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press