The Mario Circuit theme song for Super Mario Kart is magnificently covered by the one man acapella performance. Enjoy!
No one will be surprised if Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell uses part of his news conference on Wednesday to scoff at the idea of the U.S. dollar losing its place as the world reserve currency.But even as he scoffs, the comments this week by strategists at global finance giant Goldman Sachs that "real concerns around the longevity of the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency have started to emerge," will certainly be in the minds of everyone listening to the Fed's latest plans.Predictions of the mighty U.S. dollar's fall from its place as the ultimate measure of value are nothing new."Gold bugs" — the slightly disrespectful term for people convinced the yellow metal is the only truly safe investment — roll out an attack on the U.S. dollar's safety every few years.Deposing king dollarThe euro has been an aspiring candidate, but has had many troubles of its own. Countries that don't get along with the U.S., including Iran, have complained about the absurdity of having to sell their oil to third parties priced in U.S. dollars.After the global financial meltdown of 2008, China's then central banker, Zhou Xiaochuan, criticized the use of a single country's currency for a world standard, calling it a historical anomaly."The crisis again calls for creative reform of the existing international monetary system toward an international reserve currency with a stable value, rule-based issuance and manageable supply," wrote Zhou.But the comments from New York bankers Goldman Sachs just as gold is hitting new highs and the greenback is hitting new lows are quite different from bellyaching from those who would like to take the dollar's place.Most people in finance will tell you, as financial specialist Kamal Smimou once told me, that dislodging the U.S. dollar from the key place it has held for 75 years since the Bretton Woods conference would be disruptive and costly.But the Goldman comments act as a warning of what might happen if the U.S. currency eventually becomes debased through too much government spending and too much borrowing at interest rates close to zero.Fear of debasement"The resulting expanded balance sheets and vast money creation spurs debasement fears," said the strategists' report.That puts Goldman in the inflationist camp, adding their voices to the idea that central banks will be afraid to raise interest rates even in the longer term.That's certainly the impression the central bank chair seemed to offer at his last news conference when, in his most quotable statement, he promised that higher rates were not on the cards."We're not thinking about raising rates," Powell said in June. "We're not even thinking about thinking about raising rates."Perhaps now the bank will at least have to start thinking about thinking about it, or at least explain what its strategy will be if the currency continues to fall or if inflation shows signs of perking up.Even the Canadian loonie has been on a tear against the U.S. dollar, perhaps a sign that even with the WE controversy in Ottawa, Canada is seen as a relatively stable country and a healthier economy than some.The Canadian dollar is up two cents against the U.S. currency in the last month. But as usual, that is deceptive. With most of our trade happening with the U.S., the loonie tends to rise and fall with the U.S dollar. The loonie continues to trade lower against the euro.The Goldman Sachs report is making lots of headlines and offers a little thrill of dread to those who are looking for an even more dire outcome from the current pandemic. But gold quite regularly rises in value during times of financial uncertainty and it tends to fall shortly after.Speculation not investmentWhen the U.S. economy starts chugging along again, gold will once again be expensive to hold and will still provide no investment return. The rule from the past is the only people who make money by buying gold are those who sell fairly quickly, before it plunges again.The fact is, Goldman's fearmongering may be playing into the hands of Powell and other central bankers. Research has shown that one of the biggest predictors of inflation is what people think inflation will be.Perhaps Powell and Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem would be pleased for people to think inflation is on the way back, thus offering a little more insurance that its evil twin, deflation, will be driven away for good.But with so many of our longstanding rules about what causes inflation seeming to be in abeyance, the potentially perilous consequences of the Goldman Sachs warning mean that it will be hard for central bankers to completely ignore.Follow Don on Twitter @Don Pittis
As the fight over physician pay escalates, Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro wants individual physicians to be legally required to publicly disclose their billings. Shandro tabled the amendment to Bill 30, the Health Statutes Amendment Act, in the legislature early Tuesday during a late-night session in the legislature.The amendments to the proposed bill would compel doctors to disclose "amounts payable" they receive for publicly funded health services."We want Albertans to have the facts on health care spending, including the $5.4 billion a year we spend on physician services — that's one-quarter of the health care budget and 10 per cent of the budget of the entire Government of Alberta," said spokesperson Steve Buick.The move would effectively create a sunshine list for Alberta practitioners, ensuring doctor's names and pay are posted online for the public to see, the same way high-paid public service employees are.B.C., Ontario, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland already disclose physician compensation, but Alberta will go further, Buick said."There is little transparency around payments to physicians, so we're going to give more information than any other province, including gross payments as well as number of days worked and numbers of patients and total visits, to give some basis for comparison of income relative to workload," he said.The new legislation, which was debated throughout the night, is being proposed following months of discord between the province and physicians after negotiations over a master agreement unravelled earlier this year. Shandro first threatened to make pay disclosure mandatory earlier this month following the release of a survey from the Alberta Medical Association suggesting 42 per cent of Alberta doctors are planning to leave the province due to changes in how they are paid. In response, Shandro denied that any doctor's exodus was imminent and told the AMA to "stop playing games." He said Albertans should "know the facts" about how well Alberta doctors are compensated compared to their Canadian counterparts. Some physicians have raised concerns about public disclosure of their billings because they say the figures don't accurately represent their take-home pay. Doctors pay for staff, clinics and equipment out of their fee-for-service billings, costs that are not accounted for in their billings. Buick said the province recognizes that payments to physicians are not the same as take-home income.Physicians' income reflects total billings, overhead expenses, hours worked, and taxes, he said.The move comes after the government terminated the master agreement with the AMA in February. At the time, the health minister said ending the agreement was a necessary move because the province was at an impasse with doctors over how to reduce costs and improve service in the $20.6-billion health system. If passed, Bill 30 would allow doctors who so desire to move away from the fee-for-service model, where they bill for each patient visit, and instead sign contracts and be paid salaries.The bill would cut approval times for private surgical facilities, allow the ministry to contract directly with doctors and allow private companies to take over the administrative functions of physician clinics. The AMA filed a lawsuit against the government in April, alleging Shandro's actions breached physicians' Charter rights. The province filed its statement of defence earlier this month.
OTTAWA — Payments made to members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's family for appearing at WE events came under scrutiny Tuesday after the former chair of WE Charity's board of directors testified that the board was explicitly told speakers were not paid.Michelle Douglas, who resigned in March from the board of WE Charity, told the House of Commons finance committee Tuesday WE's board made direct inquiries about whether speakers at the organization's popular youth events known as "WE Days" were compensated.WE's executive director assured the board they were not paid, Douglas said."The WE Charity board always understood that speakers were not paid by the charity or the related organization to speak at WE Days. The board made direct inquiries on this issue," Douglas told the committee.Earlier this month, the WE organization confirmed it has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees to members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's family.Trudeau's mother Margaret Trudeau was paid about $250,000 for 28 speaking appearances at WE-related events between 2016 and 2020 and his brother Alexandre has been paid $32,000 for eight events, according to WE."I don't know the precise nature of what they were paid for, but if it was exclusively to speak on the WE Day stage, that would have surprised me," Douglas told the committee.After Douglas's appearance, Craig and Marc Kielburger told the committee Trudeau's wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau has participated in seven WE Days and received an average of $3,618 for each event, to cover her expenses. That works out to $25,326 in total.Margaret Trudeau's expenses totalled $167,944, they said, citing an average of $5,988 for each of her 28 events. Alexandre Trudeau's expenses averaged $2,447 each for his eight events, or $19,576.The WE organization had previously said that it covered Trudeau family members' travel costs but had not divulged these more detailed figures.The Kielburgers explained that these speakers were not paid directly for speaking at WE Days, but to compensate them for their time for participating in "auxiliary events" such as receptions, cocktail parties, breakfasts and book-signings that took place in and around WE Days.They acknowledged that not all speakers were offered this compensation, but said a small number of speakers, including members of the Trudeau family, were paid for these auxiliary events. They cited privacy for refusing to name other speakers paid for these appearances but said they would seek permission to reveal some soon.Opposition MPs raised a number of questions about why members of Trudeau's family in particular were asked to take part in paid WE events and whether other speakers had received similar remuneration.Margaret Trudeau was asked to share her work on mental health and Alexandre Trudeau was engaged to speak about his environmental activism and was a last-minute replacement for Margaret, the Kielburgers explained."By bringing in these types of educational speakers to events, it allows us to bring partners and sponsors to the table. This is part of our model, and it works really well," Craig Kielburger said.He also noted many other prominent politicians have attended WE events, including Laureen Harper, the wife of former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, who hosted a post-WE Day reception at 24 Sussex Drive.The WE co-founders disputed the suggestion they had close personal ties with the Trudeau family."I've never seen the prime minister or Sophie Gregoire Trudeau in a social setting. Neither of us have. We've never had a meal with them. We've never socialized with them," Craig Kielburger said.Meanwhile, the Kielburgers were also asked to address concerns voiced by Douglas about the status of WE Charity prior to entering into the now-aborted agreement with the federal government to administer the Canada Student Service Grant.Douglas says she resigned from the board of WE Charity in March after the organization began a series of mass layoffs but refused to provide financial justification to the board for them."I did not resign as a routine member or as part of a planned board transition. I resigned because I could not do my job, I could not discharge my governance duties," she said.After the COVID-19 health crisis hit in March, the WE Charity's executive team was "scrambling" to deal with the financial impacts of the pandemic, Douglas said, and began to lay off large numbers of staff.As the days went by, the numbers of job losses grew quickly into the hundreds, she said (the Kielburgers would later testify that WE Charity laid off about half its 390 employees).The board of directors convened an ad hoc committee to hold daily calls with the executive team for briefings and updates, and this committee was told the executive was running daily financial reports to inform its decision-making regarding its employees."Those reports were not shared with the board, despite our requests," Douglas said. "It was our view that you cannot fire hundreds of people without very strong, demonstrable evidence, and even then should explore mitigation measures to save jobs. Instead, the executive team were dismissing employees with great speed and in large numbers."After the board made a final demand for the reports to be produced immediately, Douglas said, Craig Kielburger called her up and asked her to resign.The Kielburgers acknowledged that they were forced to let go a number of their employees, but said the board was briefed a number of times on the status of the charity.The charity had decided to restructure its board in fall of 2019, but COVID-19 disrupted those plans, Craig Kielburger said. He says Douglas was offered a "transition time" of three months in March, but she chose to leave the company immediately.This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2020.Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press
Members of a Canadian Forces Naval Reserve base in Calgary say they're upset at how the Armed Forces readmitted a sailor identified by CBC News as the former administrator of a neo-Nazi forum.Four sailors at the HMCS Tecumseh Naval Reserve base reached out to CBC to speak out against the Royal Canadian Navy's decision to readmit Leading Seaman Boris Mihajlovic without, they say, reassuring them that he's no longer a threat.In December, CBC News identified Mihajlovic as Moonlord, one of the former administrators of Iron March, a notorious neo-Nazi hate forum that gave rise to the terror group Atomwaffen Division. The site closed down in 2017."The command team never acknowledged the situation. Even last year, they brought everyone together to address [CBC's] article, but they never said his name, they never said what he did. It was really on the down-low," said one sailor who spoke on condition of anonymity because they fear reprisals from their superiors.Reached by CBC at that time, Mihajlovic said he regretted his actions and he had taken steps to turn his life around. He sought counselling with Life After Hate, a group that helps extremists recover, and volunteered with an immigrant support organization.The navy placed him on suspension pending investigation in the wake of the CBC report. In early July, Mihajlovic was seen working on the base.Mihajlovic confirmed that he's back in the navy and that his return caused a disturbance, but declined to comment further.Navy video 'too little, too late,' sailor saysOn July 13, Cmdr. Joseph Banke sent a video statement to the base's staff explaining the decision to reinstate Mihajlovic. It's this video that upset the sailors, who say the navy's leadership was not transparent with Mihajlovic's reintegration and offered no reassurances that he was indeed rehabilitated."It's time now for us to be able to move forward. I believe in rehabilitation over retribution, and it's the time now for that member to come back and to work with us again," Banke said in the video, which was sent to CBC News by the concerned sailors."There are some of you that have felt very victimized by this. I hear you," Banke said. "We cannot counter hate with more hate. We need to build forward, together. We need to rehabilitate, together. We're going to support this member, together."At no point in the video did Banke name Mihajlovic.WATCH | Cmdr. Joseph Banke explains the decision to reinstate Mihajlovic:"That video was sent more than a week after the member had been reinstated in our unit. We felt that it was too little, too late, that maybe they should have warned us that this person was coming back," one of the sailors said.All four sailors who spoke with CBC News asked to remain anonymous.'It leaves a bad taste in my mouth'In an email, the navy said the decision to reinstate Mihajlovic was made on July 15 and that the commander informed the crew in a video immediately after the decision was made."When there is a possibility of saving the career of a member who has been rehabilitated, the RCN attempts to do so by using official administrative measures," said Capt. Christopher Daniel, public affairs officer for the navy. "In such cases, corrective measures such as ethics training could be necessary."Daniel declined to discuss further details of the investigation, citing privacy laws.However, the sailors who contacted CBC say that the video was sent on July 13, and that Mihajlovic had returned to his post before it was broadcast.The navy did not respond to followup questions about the contradictions between its official version and the sailors' accounts."It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I want to be able to tell [people of colour who work on the base] that this is not the type of place where we tolerate such nonsense, but now I can't," another sailor said."This has caused a stir like I have never seen in our unit."Another sailor, who identifies as a visible minority, said that Mihajlovic's presence made them feel unsafe."I have been contemplating leaving or switching over to the Army because I don't want to be around this guy or in this environment. It doesn't make me feel comfortable at all," the sailor said."If they don't do something, I'm out of here."'No perfect answer'The consternation caused by the seaman's return raises the question of what is the best way to reintegrate someone who espoused a violent ideology.Margaux Bennardi, the support and community engagement co-ordinator for the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence in Montreal, said that there is "no perfect answer," and cases are handled individually. But in this case, it would be important to give both the returning sailor and the other crew members resources to address their concerns."We would create a safe space where the other members could express their fears without being afraid of being judged," she said. This could be a person in the navy who would take their concerns seriously.For the former extremist, it would be important to create "protective factors" like giving him a new community and sense of belonging, and reducing "vulnerability factors" like being ostracized and stigmatized, she said."If you take this away, it can be counterproductive."Anti-hate groups reached by CBC News said that without a clear rebuke from the navy and a public apology from Mijahlovic, his reinstatement amounts to a slap on the wrist."He has never publicly divulged the full extent of his neo-Nazi involvement. He has never issued a full public apology for his actions and we have not seen him make amends for the harm he has done," Meyer H. May, executive director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, wrote in a statement on their website."We need to see him swear to make amends, and make those amends," Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, wrote on Twitter. "The Canadian Armed Forces has to allow him and encourage him to make that public apology in order to earn some measure of trust from the wider public in their decision to welcome him back."Three of the four sailors who spoke to CBC felt that Mihajlovic has no place within the Armed Forces, even if he has deradicalized. They said that the fact that Mihajlovic had been an active member of the naval reserves while he was administrator of Iron March has tainted the uniform."I think that's great [that he says he has turned his life around]. I hope he has, and I want to believe he has, because it would be horrible if he had to live his life with such anger and hate in his heart," a sailor said."Unfortunately, though I think he deserves a second chance at life, I don't believe he should put on the uniform."
President Donald Trump said it's "curious" that Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx enjoy high approval ratings as it relates to their handling of COVID-19 while he does not. "They're highly thought of but nobody likes me," he said Tuesday. (July 28)
OTTAWA — Active discussions are taking place to potentially pre-order COVID-19 vaccine doses for Canadians, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday.She said an independent vaccine task force is advising the government on options for Canada's choice of vaccine, including exploring the possibility of manufacturing a potential cure for COVID-19 at home.Tam was addressing concerns that Canadians will have to get in line behind other countries to wait for the COVID-19 vaccine.One senator and some health-care professionals are asking why Ottawa is delaying a decision on the $35-million pitch by Toronto-based Providence Therapeutics to begin human trials of a new, experimental vaccine technology that has been heavily funded in the United States.Providence says it could deliver five million doses of a vaccine to Canadians by mid-2021 if its trials bear fruit, but it can't move forward with testing or manufacturing without funding.At a media briefing in Ottawa, Tam said the task force is an independent body comprised of "people who have been experienced in the areas of vaccination, infectious disease but also in the area of vaccine development and that sort of industry knowledge."She said the task force reports to Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains."Their role is to provide advice," said Tam. "How the money is spent is up to the government itself."Conservative health critic Matt Jeneroux called on the Liberal government to end the delays."Under the Trudeau government's watch Canada is falling behind in its research and securing a successful vaccine when we should be at the forefront of this health crisis, not lagging behind because of red tape and over regulation," Jeneroux said."We expect the Trudeau government to provide a plan to tackle the delays slowing down Canada's researchers and to outline what their government is doing to purchase treatments and vaccines for Canadians."Providence's chief executive Brad Sorenson has told The Canadian Press he has yet to hear back from the government since late May after his company submitted its proposal in April, and after the government reached out to it as a possible vaccine-maker.Health-care professionals have also written to Bains to urge him make up his mind on the April proposal.Bains spokesman John Power has said he couldn't comment on specific proposals but said the evaluation process is ongoing."Our government is committed to working on all possible fronts to deliver safe and effective treatments and vaccines against COVID-19 to Canadians," Power added in a statement on Tuesday. Tam said Canada is trying to negotiate access to a vaccine through a series of international channels as well as looking at viable options at home."There's very active discussions with any promising candidate in terms of trying to get advanced purchasing agreements and those types of approaches done right now," she said. Those ongoing talks come as Canada has been experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks as more people circulate in warm summer months and with the provinces allowing more economic activity.Tam said the daily national case count, based on a seven-day average, rose across Canada this past week to 496 to 487. That was after it dropped to 273 in early July.Tam said the "worrisome" rise in COVID-19 infections may have been fuelled by larger-than-recommended Canada Day gatherings."The Canada Day long weekend may have resulted in some big parties in certain areas of the country. Those social gatherings have accelerated the cases," she said.Tam said as much as efforts are being made to "reopen the socioeconomic space as much as possible" there could be rollbacks if the infections continue to rise."If people don't collaborate and support this effort, things could be tightened up again," she said.Tam suggested she would be careful about dining at a restaurant."I haven't seen what the scene looks like, but I will probably be comfortable on the outside right now because outside is better than inside. But I would look carefully and see what on earth is going on inside the environment," she said."If it doesn't look good, then I'm not going to go in."This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2020.Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Daniel Levy once said he wanted "Schitt's Creek" to go out on a "nice, natural high."Tuesday's Emmy Award nominations helped cement that goal.The Canadian show about a formerly wealthy family living a more humble life in a small town is up for a whopping 15 Emmys for its sixth and final season, including best comedy series.Stars Eugene and Daniel Levy, Catherine O'Hara, and Annie Murphy are also nominated for their roles as the eccentric Rose clan in the Ontario-shot CBC series, which aired on Pop TV in the U.S."We got to do our last season and end it the way we wanted," O'Hara said in a phone interview from her Ontario cottage, minutes after the nominations were announced in a virtual presentation."Then people were trapped in their homes and had to watch it," laughed the Toronto-raised comedy star, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic that hit as the final season was airing."And lucky us, this is just a beautiful bonus to a great experience."O'Hara stars as dramatic matriarch and actress Moira, alongside Hamilton-raised Eugene Levy as placid patriarch and motel co-manager Johnny. Toronto-raised Daniel Levy plays their son and boutique shop owner David, while Murphy plays their publicist daughter Alexis.The Levys also co-created the series and share in the nomination for best comedy.The father-and-son duo announced in March 2019 that the show would end after season 6, noting it had reached its inevitable conclusion. The final episode aired this past April."We couldn't have asked for a better send-off," Murphy said Tuesday from Toronto, in a joint phone interview with O'Hara."I would do this show until the cows come home. But also, I think it's so rare that a show gets to finish on its own terms."Daniel Levy is also a contender in the Emmy categories of directing and writing.The show's other nominations include outstanding casting, contemporary costumes and contemporary hairstyling.Last year, the show got four Emmy nominations, including best comedy series, but didn't win."I'm so happy that the Emmanuelles have once again recognized our beautiful work," O'Hara said, slipping into Moira's unique transatlantic accent and old-fashioned vocabulary."Love this journey for us," said Murphy, citing Alexis's catchphrase.The characters are known for their high fashion, particularly Moira, who had a cherished collection of wigs she called her babies (or, as she pronounced them: "bey-beys").O'Hara said she was thrilled to see Emmys love for the hair and makeup team, who "worked so hard" with her for six years crafting Moira's look, especially her difficult "hair doughnut" in the series finale.O'Hara also praised the CBC for supporting the show and the Levys' vision from the beginning, before it became a cultural phenomenon."I say congratulations to them, because they did a beautiful job of making sure that Canadians knew the show existed, and then getting it out there in the world," O'Hara said."I'm just really happy for all the Canadians involved."O'Hara's pal and former "SCTV" castmate Martin Short of Hamilton is also nominated for an Emmy — for best guest actor in a drama series for his creepy role in the Apple TV Plus series "The Morning Show."Other Canadian Emmy nominees this year include Ottawa-raised Sandra Oh for lead actress in a drama series for "Killing Eve," which airs on CTV Drama Channel and streams on Crave in Canada, and BBC America.This is Oh's third Emmy nomination for playing an MI5 operative caught up in a mind game with a female assassin, played by Jodie Comer, who is also nominated in the same category."Full Frontal with Samantha Bee," which is hosted by the titular Toronto-born comedian and airs on TBS and CTV Comedy Channel, has nominations including best variety talk series.Hamilton-born Luke Kirby is up for guest actor in a comedy series for Amazon Prime Video's "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." Last year he won the Emmy for the same role of comedian Lenny Bruce.Montreal native Antoni Porowski, who offers cooking advice in the inspirational Netflix lifestyle series "Queer Eye," is nominated for co-hosting the reality program along with the so-called Fab Five.Another Canadian contender in that category is entrepreneur Kevin O'Leary along with the other investors in the ABC business-pitch series "Shark Tank."Murphy said she planned to celebrate the nominations by finishing the pancakes and bacon she'd laid out for breakfast, while O'Hara planned to take a dip."I'll go jump in the lake. I already have half my bathing suit on," she said with a laugh. "It is the lower part and I'm wearing a shirt. I am dressed."Such could also be the attire for a virtual Emmy Awards, if they're presented remotely due to the pandemic Sept. 20 on ABC."I'll just continue my thing of getting dressed from the waist-up and nothing will change," said Murphy. "I look forward to it."This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2020.Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
The graduating class of 2020 has not had an easy year. And now, as deadlines loom closer for final decisions on post-secondary education, many of them are wrestling with some hard choices. Is it best to opt for a local school where they won't be exposed to dormitory life? Or is it best to attend their top school of choice, regardless of the pandemic?Is it time for a gap year?Anthony Russell, 18, is still deciding between Mount Royal University in Calgary and his original first choice, the University of Alberta."I paid a deposit for MRU because I wasn't sure if I was going to be accepted into U of A," Russell told The Homestretch."But now that I am accepted, and with the pandemic going on, all the classes are online. So now I'm trying to figure out and decide if there's really any point in leaving Calgary to go into a dorm room, to take an online class, when I can just stay at home and then save a few dollars at the same time."Russell says either way, he will attend university this fall."It is an exciting experience moving on to the next level in our education," he said. "Yes, the pandemic is a serious thing, but universities are taking the proper precautionary measures to keep everybody safe. So it's not really a thought in my mind that I need to take a year off because of the situation at the time that we are in right now."As for that gap year, Dana Prather, 19, already took it. Now, she's anxious to get started with her university education at her school of choice, McGill University in Montreal."It's definitely a healthy mix of apprehensive and very excited," Prather said. "I mean, it's definitely a super exciting time for someone to be moving on to university. But with everything going on in the world and especially moving out to Quebec, it's definitely a little nerve-wracking right now."Plans to live on campusPrather is leaving in three weeks for McGill. She plans to live on campus."I'm living in upper res, which is one of the traditional style dormitories at McGill. And there aren't any roommates because of the COVID situation. So I do feel a bit better about that," she said. "But the dining hall and the bathrooms are shared."Prather says she is keeping an open mind as the university's COVID plans come together, and that she thinks that is likely the same for all schools."From a lot of the emails and a lot of the updates we've been receiving — and I think a lot of my friends have been receiving from other universities — is that they're really just trying to play it by ear," she said. "As we've seen with the pandemic, things change so quickly and so drastically that it's really hard to tell and understand what everything is going to be like in the fall.""It's definitely concerning."The class of 2020 will be hit particularly hard by the economic effects of COVID-19, according to a Statistics Canada study released today. The unemployment rate for those aged 15-24 hit a historical high of 29.4 per cent in May. Lucrative summer jobs have been lost or cancelled during COVID, but the study suggests the cumulative earnings losses from the first five years after graduation will also be significant."Students belonging to this year's class of high school, college and bachelor's degree graduates could lose from $23,000 to $44,000 over the next five years if this year's annual youth unemployment rate reaches 28.0 per cent," the study says. "This is equivalent to $4,600 to $8,800 per year."Gap year popularRussell says he supports many of his friends who have chosen to take a gap year and see how things evolve."My friends, most of them now … are wanting to take a year off," he said. "They think it is the best time to take a year off because classes aren't going to be as they usually would be. So they think taking a year off would be beneficial to them."But for Russell, who will be studying law, crime and justice, he says not going this year would mean losing his dormitory spot, if and when residences are reopened in Alberta."We've been talking about it pretty much every day for the past few days, since I've been accepted," he said. "I can still go to the U of A without having to go to the dorms and everything because it is going to be an online class," he said. "If I don't take my dorm now, it won't be guaranteed for me later on. So later on I would have to find new accommodation."It's just one of the issues Russell is grappling with as the days tick by."The conversation is basically should I just bite the bullet and go, so I have some security where I need to stay for the next few years."Russell has to make the decision in the next week or two."It's been stressful. My mom will come into my room with another reason I should stay or why I should go, at obscene hours of the day, sometimes at night."It's just really nerve-racking."Meanwhile, McGill has a high number of American students, which Prather says concerns her but not enough to deter her choice of school."I think the attitude that we've seen a lot of the American states take on in terms of social distancing and some of the mask thing is a bit concerning," she said. "But given that McGill is such a great university and such a great chance to further my education, that's definitely my priority."Prather says her parents are nervous but support her choice to go to McGill, where she will study the cognitive sciences."It's definitely a really nerve-racking time for them, especially going to Quebec, where the numbers are so high and we've seen a lot of the worst hit areas be in Montreal and around Quebec."But they're definitely excited about me continuing that educational journey," she said. "And really not letting this pandemic be the thing that holds that back."With files from The Homestretch.
The United States and close ally Australia held high-level talks on China and agreed on the need to uphold a rules-based global order, but the Australian foreign minister stressed Canberra's relationship with Beijing was important and it had no intention of hurting it. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper held two days of talks in Washington with their Australian counterparts, who had flown around the world for the meetings despite the COVID-19 pandemic and face two weeks of quarantine on their return. At a joint news conference on Tuesday, Pompeo praised Australia for standing up to pressure from China and said Washington and Canberra would continue to work together to reassert the rule of law in the South China Sea, where China has been pressing its claims.
Toronto police are investigating after another noose was found hanging at a construction site — this time on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project.In a statement from Crosslinx Transit Solutions, the company overseeing the site, a spokesperson says a noose was found Tuesday near Dufferin Street and Eglinton Avenue West, the location where Fairbank Station, one of the stops on the light-rail route, is being built.Crosslinx says it is "disgusted by this hateful act" and quickly called police to investigate the matter."Crosslinx stands in solidarity to condemn all racist and discriminatory actions and is committed to providing a respectful and safe working environment that is free of discrimination," the statement continues.The company says it has turned over evidence to police for a criminal investigation and is looking to ensure that whomever is responsible for the "heinous" actions will be held to account. On top of possible criminal charges, Crosslinx says those responsible will also be banned from its work sites.4 nooses at 3 construction sites in JuneThis latest incident comes after four nooses were found at three different construction sites across the city in June. Two nooses were found on a site near Michael Garron Hospital by Black construction workers. A third was discovered at 81 Bay St., and another one at a site in Regent Park.Construction firms EllisDon and The Daniels Corporation individually managed the three sites where these incidents took place . Both companies said they were disgusted and launched their own internal investigations along with police. To date, all the incidents are still being investigated and there have been no arrests or charges. Chris Campbell, a member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, called these incidents "despicable," "horrific" and "demeaning." Campbell, a long-time worker and a representative for a carpenters' union, said racist incidents such as these have been happening for years. In response, community members across Toronto came out to show support for the city's Black community with posters and artwork last month. Posters that say "Shut down hate" and "Call out racism every time" were seen outside Michael Garron Hospital in East York, and Regent Park.Farheen Mahmood, who lives in Regent Park, told CBC News it was important for her to show her support, saying "this issue has been going on for so long — our Black communities need for us all to speak out." "It's time for us to end racism. We have to do better and now's the time. We can't wait.".
ROME — Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, who had COVID-19, said the pandemic lockdown made him feel “humiliated and offended” by depriving him of his freedom to come and go as he wanted.Bocelli spoke at a panel Monday in a Senate conference room, where he was introduced by right-wing opposition leader Matteo Salvini, who has railed against the government’s stringent measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak.The singer's announcement in May that he had recovered from the virus came weeks after his Easter Sunday performance in Milan's empty cathedral. At the time, Bocelli said that when he learned on March 10 that he had tested positive, just as the nation was going into lockdown, “I jumped into the pool, I felt well” and had only a slight fever. He apparently was referring to a private pool at his residence, as public gym pools were closed by then.Bocelli told the conference at the Senate that he resented not being able to leave his home even though he “committed no crime” and revealed, without providing details, that he violated that lockdown restriction.At the height of lockdown, Italians could only leave home to go to essential jobs, walk dogs or buy food or medicine.Dismayed, Health Ministry Undersecretary Pierpaolo Sileri on Tuesday said that perhaps Bocelli “wanted to express the inconvenience of every Italian who, because of lockdown, stayed home.”“I wouldn't have said those words, but I imagine he'll be able to explain it somehow,” Sileri added.The conference was held on the eve of Premier Giuseppe Conte's appearance in the Senate, set for later Tuesday, where he was expected to lay out his centre-left government's case for extending a state of emergency for the pandemic, which expires on July 31.The emergency status allowed Conte to bypass Parliament or even his Cabinet in decreeing a string of measures aimed at slowing the spread of the outbreak in the country where it first emerged in Europe, and would go on to claim more than 35,000 lives.Bocelli told the conference that at first his children told him to be careful about the virus when he first started having doubts about its severity, “but as time passed, I know lots of people, but I didn't know anyone who went into intensive care.”At the worst point of the outbreak, as many as 4,000 people were in intensive care in Italy, a country of 60 million, with several hundred virus-linked deaths on some days.Frances D'Emilio, The Associated Press
B.C.'s Independent Investigations Office is investigating the RCMP's role in two separate deaths in B.C.'s Okanagan region last week. On Saturday, Kelowna RCMP responded to a motor vehicle crash at the intersection of Richter Street and Clement Avenue at 1:40 a.m. A man left the scene on foot. Later that morning, at 7:45 a.m., he was found deceased.The man is described as approximately 175 cm tall, of average build, and was wearing long black pants, a black tank top, a three-quarter length black leather jacket and light blue running shoes. The police watchdog is asking anyone who saw, heard or has video of the motor vehicle incident, or saw the man, to contact investigators.The IIO is also investigating the death of a West Kelowna man. On July 16, RCMP attended a residence as part of an ongoing investigation. A man left the house the following day, prompting his family to contact police because they were concerned for his welfare. Police found the man's body four days later, on July 20.The BC Coroners Service is conducting an independent investigation to determine how, where, when and by what means he came to his death.In both cases, the IIO will investigate to determine what role, if any, the officers' actions or inaction may have played in the deaths.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard launched missiles Tuesday targeting a mock aircraft carrier in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a drill that included such a barrage of fire the U.S. military temporarily put two regional bases in the Mideast on alert amid tensions between the two countries.The drill — and the American response to it — underlined the lingering threat of military conflict between Iran and the U.S. after a series of escalating incidents last year led to an American drone strike killing a top Iranian general in Baghdad. Tehran responded to that strike by firing ballistic missiles that wounded dozens of American forces in Iraq.While the coronavirus pandemic has engulfed both Iran and the U.S. for months, there has been a growing confrontation as America argues to extend a yearslong U.N. weapons embargo on Tehran that is due to expire in October. A recent incident over Syria involving an American jet fighter approaching an Iranian passenger plane also has renewed tensions.Iranian commandos fast-roped down from a helicopter onto the replica in the footage aired Tuesday from the exercise called “Great Prophet 14." Anti-aircraft guns opened fire on a target drone near the port city of Bandar Abbas.State television footage also showed a variety of missiles being fired from fast boats, trucks, mobile launchers and a helicopter, some targeting the fake carrier. A commander said the Guard, a force answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, planned to fire “long-range ballistic missiles” as well during the drill that will continue Wednesday.Ballistic missile fire detected from the drill resulted in American troops being put on alert at Al-Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Al-Udeid Air Base, the forward headquarters of the U.S. military's Central Command in Qatar, the military said. Troops sought cover during that time.“The incident lasted for a matter of minutes and an all clear was declared after the threat ... had passed,” said U.S. Army Maj. Beth Riordan, a Central Command spokeswoman.Both bases are hundreds of kilometres (miles) away from where Iran put the replica aircraft carrier.Al-Dhafra also is temporarily home to five French-built Rafale fighter jets on their way to India for that country's air force.Other footage from the exercise aired by state television showed fast boats encircling the mock-up, kicking up white waves in their wake. While Iran's naval forces are dwarfed by the U.S. Navy, its commanders practice so-called “swarm” tactics aimed at overwhelming the U.S. carriers that pass through the strait on their way in and out of the Persian Gulf.It wasn't immediately clear if all the footage was from Tuesday, as one overhead surveillance image that appeared to be shot by a drone bore Monday's date. The exercise had been expected as satellite photos released Monday showed the fake carrier being moved into place by a tugboat.A black-and-white satellite photo taken Tuesday by Colorado-based firm Maxar Technologies showed damage to the replica's bow and several of its fake jet fighters.“Our policies to protect the vital interests of the dear nation of Iran are defensive, in the sense that we will not invade any country from the beginning, but we are completely aggressive in tactics and operations," Gen. Hossein Salami, the head of the Guard, was quoted as saying. “What was shown today at this exercise at the level of aerospace and naval forces was all offensive.”State TV footage also showed Guard scuba forces underwater, followed by a cutaway to a blast hole just above the waterline on the replica carrier.That appeared to be a not-so-subtle reminder of U.S. accusations last year that Iran planted limpet mines on passing oil tankers near the strait, which exploded on the vessels in the same area. Iran has repeatedly denied the actions, though footage captured by the American military showed Guard members remove an unexploded mine from one vessel.The replica used in the drill resembles the Nimitz-class carriers that the U.S. Navy routinely sails into the Persian Gulf from the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the waterway through which 20% of all oil traded in the world passes. The USS Nimitz, the namesake of the class, just entered Mideast waters late last week from the Indian Ocean, likely to replace the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Arabian Sea.It remains unclear when or if the Nimitz will pass through the Strait of Hormuz or not during its time in the Mideast. The USS Abraham Lincoln, deployed last year as tensions initially spiked, spent months in the Arabian Sea before heading through the strait. The Eisenhower came through the strait early last week.To Iran, which shares the strait with Oman, the American naval presence is akin to Iranian forces sailing into the Gulf of Mexico near the coast of Florida. But the U.S. Navy stresses the strait is an international waterway crucial to global shipping and energy supplies. Even as America now relies less on Mideast oil, a major disruption in the region could see prices rapidly rise.Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet that patrols the Mideast, said officials were aware of an Iranian exercise she described as "attempting to intimidate and coerce.”“While we are always watchful of this type of irresponsible and reckless behaviour by Iran in the vicinity of busy international waterways, this exercise has not disrupted coalition operations in the area nor had any impacts to the free flow of commerce in the Strait of Hormuz and surrounding waters,” Rebarich said.___Associated Press journalists Amir Vahdat and Mohammad Nasiri in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press
After soaring in the polls for months thanks to the government's handling of the pandemic, support for the federal Liberals is now taking a hit from the WE Charity controversy.But that outbreak-induced polling surge has provided Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a bit of a cushion — one that likely would still win him an election if one were held today.That may not be the case for very long if the Liberals can't arrest their slide in the polls, however.After COVID-19 shut the country down, the Liberals saw their support increase significantly. It rose from just under 30 per cent in early March to over 40 per cent at the beginning of June, according to the CBC's Poll Tracker.Since then, the Liberals have been dropping.Four different pollsters have conducted surveys since July 13, when Trudeau first apologized for his failure to recuse himself from the decision to award the WE Charity the contract for a summer student grant program. They've all recorded drops in Liberal support.Compared to surveys conducted before July 3 — when the government announced it was dropping its partnership with WE and the ethics commissioner said he was looking into the matter — Abacus Data put the Liberals down four percentage points in its latest poll. The Innovative Research Group (IRG) had the Liberals down just a single point, while EKOS Research recorded the Liberals slipping six points.The most recent survey, by Léger, put the Liberals down five points since the end of June — ending a remarkably steady stream of polls showing the Liberals hovering around the 40 per cent mark.On average, these four pollsters have put the Liberals down four points compared to pre-WE polling. The Conservatives, New Democrats and Bloc Québécois each have averaged a gain of one point.The Poll Tracker — which is designed to react more slowly to new trends outside of the urgency of an election campaign — has the Liberals down 2.3 points since their peak in early June.Trudeau's own personal ratings have taken a bigger hit. According to Nanos Research's rolling four-week poll, Trudeau is the preferred choice as prime minister of 34 per cent of Canadians. That's down seven points from mid-June. The Angus Reid Institute (ARI), which pegged Trudeau's approval rating at 55 per cent in May, now puts it at 44 per cent.It's clear that the WE controversy is at the root of this drop in support for both Trudeau and the Liberals. Among those polled by IRG who said they had read, heard or seen something about the prime minister in recent days, 72 per cent pointed to the WE controversy — and among those people, 66 per cent said it gave them a less favourable impression of Trudeau, compared to just five per cent who said it improved their image of him.Liberals, Trudeau still better off than before the pandemicWhile these shifts in public opinion are significant, they nevertheless leave the Liberals in a better position now than they were before the COVID-19 outbreak.In early March, the Poll Tracker put the Liberals two percentage points behind the Conservatives in national support. The Poll Tracker currently puts the Liberal lead over the Conservatives at 10 points. Even the worst recent poll for the Liberals still gave them a lead of three points.With a 10-point lead, the Liberals would be favoured to win a majority government. But even if that lead was reduced to three points, the party likely would still win a bigger minority government than the one it currently has (the Liberals lost the popular vote by 1.3 percentage points last October, after all).Trudeau's own approval had fallen to 33 per cent in ARI's polling in February. It was 35 per cent just before the last election. While the prime minister's latest result of 44 per cent approval is the outcome of a big reduction over the last few weeks, it's a number Trudeau would have been lucky to get last fall.Conservatives not benefiting from Liberal slideThe reason that the picture for the Liberals is rosier than it otherwise might be is that the governing party's main opponent is not taking advantage of its current troubles.The Conservatives have the same level of support in the Poll Tracker now that they did when the Liberals were at their pandemic peak. No national poll has awarded them more than 31 per cent support among decided voters in over three months.Regionally, the party is trailing the Liberals by double digits in the key battlegrounds of Ontario and British Columbia and has less support in Quebec than it did last fall.The Conservatives' current lack of a permanent leader undoubtedly is a handicap. Andrew Scheer, who announced in December he would resign once his replacement was chosen, has only become less popular since losing the election in October.But it's not a given that his replacement will be better placed to capitalize on Liberal woes. Polling by Léger in June found that former cabinet minister Peter MacKay scored no better than a generic Conservative leader. Ontario MP Erin O'Toole, the other front-runner in the party's leadership race, did worse.The latest survey from IRG found that fewer than 20 per cent of respondents held a favourable view of the two Conservative front-runners. Polls suggest Derek Sloan and Leslyn Lewis, the other two contestants, remain largely unknown to voters.First, do no (more) harmIf the Liberals halt their slide in the polls, they could end the summer in a relatively decent position — perhaps a better one than they could reasonably have expected to be in at the beginning of 2020.But how likely is it that the party can stop the bleeding?According to ARI, just 29 per cent of Canadians see the WE controversy as "overblown" and just 12 per cent believe it is a "simple mistake or error in judgment." The rest are split over whether it was criminal or merely unethical.How that opinion splits is important, though. It is predominantly Conservative supporters who see the government's actions as possibly criminal, while it's mostly Liberals and New Democrats who see it as unethical (but not criminal) or a simple mistake.ARI found that Trudeau's approval ratings have taken the steepest dive among NDP and Conservative voters. But they are still higher among these groups than they were before the pandemic.Because of the political capital the Liberals have built up through their handling of COVID-19, the party has a chance to weather this storm. While the Conservatives remain stagnant, the Liberal base is enough to win an election. The supporters they've picked up in the last few months — the ones they have not lost because of the WE controversy over the last few weeks — give them some wiggle room.But the pandemic is also far from over and Canadians' views of the federal government's handling of the emergency are dimming. Léger found satisfaction with the government's management of the crisis is down six percentage points since the end of June to 73 per cent. Satisfaction with provincial and municipal handling of the outbreak has dropped just three points over that time.And more political fallout from the WE controversy is likely; Trudeau will testify at committee on Thursday and the Bloc has announced it might try to force an election in the fall if Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau do not resign.Still, despite the hits they've taken, the Liberals would be the favourites to win a snap vote now. But they'll lose that edge if the hits keep coming.
The closure of the City Centre Inn and Suites in Saskatoon due to numerous health and safety violations led to many people losing their home and now it's shining a light on Saskatoon's housing market.The City of Saskatoon's affordable housing situation will be examined in a Canada-wide research project, including a University of Saskatchewan research team partnering with researchers across the country, to look at just how affordable housing programs affect vulnerable people and their families."I think people may have been surprised at their [some of the tenants'] reluctance to leave these conditions," said Isobel Findlay, co-director of the Community-University Institute for Social Research at the U of S."That tells us a lot about the importance of stable housing. People want a place to call home. People need a place to call home in order to participate fully in society."Findlay and her research colleagues will study how different forms of affordable rental housing impact the lives of marginalized people by looking at those in greatest need, and which types of programs — like cash benefits or rent supplements — create the best outcomes for those who need to access them. Saskatoon's homelessness problemThe $1.3-million study examines rental housing programs in three regions: Atlantic Canada, Ottawa and the prairies — with Saskatoon as a major focus.Aside from the closure of the former Northwoods Inn and Suites, Saskatoon has a history and geography which makes the city interesting for the study. "We have been leading the Point-In-Time (PiT) Homelessness Counts since 2008," said Findlay. According to 2018 PiT Count data, 85.5% of those reporting homelessness in Saskatoon self-identified as Indigenous."And so there's a very real need to understand what's going on," said Findlay. More than 50 per cent of people reporting homelessness in Saskatoon went through the child welfare system, she added."We need to understand the decades of disinvestment in affordable housing that led to mass homelessness as a phenomenon."Canada's National Housing Strategy, which was announced in 2017, is a more recent attempt to combat homelessness.According to the government of Canada, the 10-year plan costs $55+ billion and aims to cut chronic homelessness by 50% as well as remove 530,000 families from housing need. Province and city in charge of inspectionsWhile the five-year-study can't provide immediate solutions, the need for a change in the inspection system became clear when details of the living conditions at the City Centre Inn and Suites were published. "Their [the Saskatoon Fire Department's] job is not to be public health inspectors but to look at fire code issues," said Mayor Charlie Clark in an interview on Tuesday."As they went and inspected the site on some of these fire code issues, they also identified many public health concerns." Saskatoon's assistant fire chief Yvonne Raymer said on Monday motels require an annual fire inspection. The last one at the place on Idylwyld Drive North took place in January 2019. "At that time the fire department didn't determine that a full closure was necessary," said Clark. "Over time the things didn't get better, they got worse, and we got to the point where a full closure was necessary. And this is not something taken lightly because it means displacing all of the people living there out of their homes."Regarding provincial inspections, motels and hotels are no longer licensed under the Public Accommodation Regulations and, as unlicensed facilities, only get inspected in response to complaints as well as on a follow-up basis, according to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health.Motel inspected dozens of timesSaskatchewan public health officials have been attempting to work with management of the motel for several years in order to provide safe housing, the agency wrote in a statement.It said 27 inspections were made since 2015. The SHA did not say when it last inspected the City Centre Inn and Suites. The Ministry of Social Services also provided a statement, saying they don't have the mandate to inspect housing units in the private market, noting that "like every other adult citizen across our province, income assistance clients are free to make their own decisions on where to live and use their shelter benefit to support that choice."Clark said there needs to be the right level of inspections and accountability measures in place by the provincial government to ensure housing conditions are safe."There's an opportunity … when the provincial government is providing social assistance to also make sure that having landlords providing housing to people that's being funded by these provincial supplements to make sure that that housing is safe."A provincial program used to provide money for the Saskatoon Fire Department to inspect rental accommodations until it was cut in 2016. "We had a stronger partnership [with the province] in place up until 2016," said Clark. "This is a sign of what happens when we don't have the proper capacity to do this. I believe it's time where we ... rebuild partnerships like this." More affordable housing requiredThe city is interested in helping support the development of more affordable housing, the mayor said, noting that there is more demand out there right now.After finding mostly temporary homes for the former tenants of the City Centre Inn and Suites last week, the challenge is now to help people get into long-term homes.Out of 119 individuals connecting with support teams last Thursday, 74 are currently served through an Income Assistance Program, the Ministry of Social Services said in a written statement.Findlay hopes the nation-wide study will help bring awareness to the public about the issues of homelessness and affordable housing."Unsafe conditions, people living in precarious conditions, this cost us all dearly because they can't participate fully."
OTTAWA — Canada's war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has quietly entered a new phase, resulting in plans to keep fewer troops in the Middle East even after the COVID-19 pandemic passes.The Canadian Armed Forces has had up to 850 troops in the region in recent years, including hundreds of military trainers who have been teaching the basics of soldiering to Iraqi forces as part of the global fight against ISIL.The military recalled about half the contingent to Canada in March as COVID-19 spread around the globe, forcing a halt to many military activities. The expectation at the time was that most would return once the threat receded.But Brig.-Gen. Michael Wright, who as commander of Joint Task Force Impact oversees most of the Canadian military's anti-ISIL efforts, says that won't be the case after allied commanders determined the Iraqi military is now largely able to fight the militant group on its own."For Canada and a number of the other nations, some of the soldiers that were retrograded in March will not be coming back because there is no longer a requirement for them to do the more hands-on, tactical-level tasks that they were performing," Wright said in an interview this week. The decision means the first permanent reduction in the Canadian military's footprint since special forces soldiers arrived in October 2014 to help stop ISIL from taking control of Iraq and Syria.While Canada's mission evolved numerous times in the intervening years as the focus shifted from stopping ISIL to taking back what territory it had captured to training local forces on how to fight the group and prevent it from reconstituting, it remained largely the same size.Canada isn't alone in drawing down its forces in Iraq; the U.S.-led coalition handed over a major base to the Iraqi military last week, the latest such facility to have changed hands as various countries have started to withdraw from the region.The overall reduction doesn't just coincide with COVID-19, but follows a dramatic increase in tensions between the U.S. and Iraq earlier this year after an American airstrike killed a prominent Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, near the Baghdad airport in January.Iran retaliated by launching a ballistic missile attack against two U.S. military bases in Iraq, including one used by Canadian special forces, while some Iraqi officials called for all foreign troops to leave the country. There has also been a spike in attacks by pro-Iranian militias in Iraq.It also follows a report by the U.S. Defense Department's top watchdog last fall that the Iraqi military “has not changed its level of reliance on coalition forces for the last nine months and that Iraqi commanders continue to request coalition assets instead of utilizing their own systems.”Coalition officials have played down any connection between recent events in Iraq and the shrinking international troop presence, which Wright echoed when asked by The Canadian Press about Canada's decision to reduce its troop presence in the country.Wright added that the Canadian military will continue high-level training with senior Iraqi commanders while special forces are still helping root out local ISIL cells in northern Iraq. Smaller teams also remain active in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan and Kuwait.A Canadian general will also continue to command a NATO training force in the country until later this year, Wright said, when control will be handed over to Denmark."There is still very much a requirement to work at the higher levels, to work at the operational level and the strategic level," he said. "But for the low-level tactical training, that is no longer required. Which should be the normal progression for any capacity-building mission."The next major shakeup is expected next year as current mission mandate is slated to expire at the end of March. Wright said he expects the federal government to discuss and determine Canada's next steps for the region later this year.In the meantime, Wright said some Canadian troops who were pulled from Iraq in March due to COVID-19 have started to flow back into the country while talks are underway with Jordanian and Lebanese authorities about the resumption of training in those countries.As for ISIL, Wright described the group as having become a "low-level insurgency" despite concerns late last year that the militants had been allowed to regroup in Syria."Is there still a threat? Yes," Wright said. "But they tried to play up through media that they were increasing their tempo in May and June, and all evidence points to the contrary."This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2020.Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Ontario reported just 76 new cases of COVID-19 today, which is the lowest day-over-day increase in cases since late March.The total number of cases now stands at 38,986, which includes 34,741 cases marked as resolved and 2,769 deaths.The province reported one new death related to the novel coronavirus on Wednesday.There were also 174 cases newly marked as resolved.Health Minister Christine Elliott says the number of people in hospital, in intensive care and on a ventilator all dropped.She adds the province was able to complete more than 27,000 tests the previous day.The numbers come as the province announced that more businesses and public spaces in Toronto and nearby Peel Region will be able to reopen on Friday as those areas join most of Ontario in Stage 3 of the government's COVID-19 recovery plan.But the province said the Windsor-Essex region, which has been grappling with outbreaks on farms, will remain in Stage 2 for the time being.In a release issued Wednesday morning, the province said it will continue to monitor the situation in Windsor-Essex and provide assistance through measures such as on-farm testing.The three areas had been held back in Stage 2 because officials said they wanted more data before giving the green light for a broader reopening.Twenty-four of Ontario's 34 public health units were allowed to enter Stage 3 on July 17, with another seven joining them on July 24.In Stage 3, nearly all businesses and public spaces can reopen, with health measures in place, and people can gather in larger groups."While more restaurants, theatres and businesses can hang up their Open for Business sign, we're asking everyone to follow public health advice and act responsibly," Premier Doug Ford said in a statement."We have made tremendous progress that allows us to return to something a little closer to our normal lives this summer, but we are not out of the woods yet. This virus is still among us and we have to be extra cautious to avoid sparking a surge or an outbreak. I strongly urge everyone to continue following public health protocols."Two cities in Stage 3, Ottawa and Sudbury, have seen new cases of COVID-19 emerge in recent days, but Ford said Tuesday there are no plans to roll back the reopening in any areas.This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2020The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Canada's chief public health officer says discrimination against Hutterites will not help build trust as some colonies across the Prairies experience outbreaks of COVID-19."The surrounding communities or the rest of the population should not stigmatize these communities," Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday. "It does not help with any of the response."There are outbreaks in Hutterite colonies in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Some have been linked to a funeral in southern Alberta for three teens who drowned last month. It drew mourners from all three provinces.Nearly two dozen new cases were identified on Hutterite colonies in Saskatchewan on Monday.Premier Scott Moe described the outbreak as severe. But he pointed out that the increasing numbers show Hutterites are taking the right steps and getting tested. He also warned against stigmatizing colony members.Hutterites are communal, Anabaptist communities. There are about 50,000 members in more than 520 colonies in Canada and the United States.The Hutterite way of life can make colonies vulnerable to spread of the novel coronavirus since members eat, worship and do many other activities together.Many colonies have rapidly responded to COVID-19 outbreaks to keep themselves and neighbouring communities safe by mass producing masks or restricting travel in and out.However, there have been increasing reports of Hutterites facing discrimination when they leave the colony. Members in all three provinces have shared stories of being denied service and turned away from stores.Paul Waldner from the CanAm Hutterite Colony in southwest Manitoba sent a letter to Premier Brian Pallister and Health Minister Cameron Friesen last week that said identifying colonies where there are COVID-19 cases has led to cultural and religious profiling. Waldner said he will file a human rights complaint if the practice continues.Manitoba is no longer identifying colonies where members have tested positive.Outbreaks in Hutterite communities are complex, Tam said. The federal government is providing epidemiological support and is prepared to help with increased testing and rapid response teams if needed.Tam said one of the most important aspects of the pandemic response is having public support of health measures. She acknowledged that more work needs to be done in certain communities."COVID-19 does not discriminate," she said. "This virus can affect any one of us."So it's systems and society that discriminate and not the virus itself."This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2020— By Kelly Geraldine Malone in WinnipegThe Canadian Press
The Philippines has taken a big step towards tapping nuclear power, its energy minister said on Wednesday, after President Rodrigo Duterte created an inter-agency panel to study the adoption of a national nuclear energy policy. As power demand soars in what has for years been among the world's fastest-growing economies, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi has been passionately advocating use of nuclear power, despite public concern over safety in a country hit frequently by natural disasters. Nuclear power is seen as a potential answer to the Philippines' twin problems of precarious supply and Southeast Asia's highest electricity costs, but Duterte has yet to express full support for Cusi's proposal.
A Brampton, Ontario man is facing fines for trying to throw a covert backyard party with 200 guests, personal security and valet. Video by Shibani Gokhale