Tackling internet disinformation and COP26 retreat: In The News for Nov. 12

·10 min read

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Nov. 12 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

OTTAWA — Hate speech, disinformation and online extremism can't be allowed to prevent people from enjoying the freedom that cyberspace offers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday at an international discussion on the internet.

"There is no doubt: the digital space has incredible power for good. But from disinformation on vaccines to online extremism, we’ve also seen the threat it can pose to our democratic values, systems and our citizens," Trudeau said via video link from Ottawa to the Paris Peace Forum.

"We can't allow the benefits of the digital space to come at the expense of people's rights or safety."

The forum bills itself as an effort to revitalize global institutions, and is focusing this year on the vast inequalities exposed by the pandemic.

In-person attendees included the host, French President Emmanuel Macron, U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris, and Canada's industry minister, Francois-Philippe Champagne, who is also attending a conference on artificial intelligence in the French capital.

Harris said the U.S. is committed to working with its allies to eliminate online terrorist content.

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Also this ...

Nova Scotia is planning to vaccinate thousands of mink against COVID-19 as it bolsters funding for breeders, but British Columbia says more research is needed to determine if immunization is an option as it phases out its mink industry.

The Agriculture Department in Nova Scotia says it's offering 54-thousand doses of vaccine as part of a trial starting soon on five farms, based on advice from veterinarians and medical experts.

The department says the province will help pay for the vaccination program, with half the money coming from the federal government as part of previously announced funding for the agricultural sector.

The B-C government has announced it's banning mink farming because it's a health hazard, citing COVID-19 outbreaks on three of nine farms in the province.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has granted permission to import an experimental mink vaccine for emergency use from the United States following discussions with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the provinces and the mink industry.

While B-C is winding down its mink farming operations, Nova Scotia is enhancing the sector by funding licensed breeders in a program to help the industry create market access and adopt animal care standards.

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And this...

TORONTO — Police say a woman who was severely hurt in the 2018 Toronto van attack has died of her injuries in hospital.

Toronto police say in a release that Amaresh Tesfamariam, who was 65, died on Oct. 28.

She had been in hospital since April 23, 2018, after Alek Minassian drove a rental van down the sidewalk of Yonge Street killing 10 people and injuring another 16.

Minassian was convicted in March of 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder but has not been sentenced.

Toronto police say Tesfamariam's death is now considered a homicide but Minassian will not face another murder charge.

Const. David Hopkinson, a police spokesman, said the charge can't be upgraded to first-degree murder because too much time has elapsed since she was injured.

"It is my understanding that a new charge will not be laid," Hopkinson said. "But the judge will consider that there is a new victim in sentencing."

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

BRUNSWICK, Georgia — An attorney for one of three white men standing trial in the death of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia says he doesn't want “any more Black pastors” in the courtroom.

Lawyer Kevin Gough made the comment to the trial judge Thursday, a day after the Rev. Al Sharpton sat in back of the courtroom with Arbery's parents.

Gough said he feared Sharpton's presence could influence the jury.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley said he barely noticed Sharpton in court.

Gough represents William “Roddie” Bryan, who along with father and son Greg and Travis McMichael is charged with murder in Arbery's death last year.

The 25-year-old Black man was chased and fatally shot after being spotted running in their neighborhood.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

GLASGOW, Scotland — Negotiators at the U.N. climate talks in Glasgow appeared to be backing away from a call to end all use of coal and phase out fossil fuel subsidies completely.

The latest draft proposals from the meeting’s chair released Friday call on countries to accelerate “the phaseout of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels.”

A previous proposal Wednesday had been stronger, calling on countries to “accelerate the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuel.” The changes, if agreed, could give countries loopholes to continue burning coal and subsidize fossil fuels.

While the chair’s proposal is likely to undergo further negotiation at the talks, due to end Friday, the change in wording suggested a shift away from unconditional demands that some fossil fuel exporting nations have objected to.

The question of how to address the continued use of fossil fuels responsible for much of global warming has been one of the key sticking points at the two-week talks.

Scientists agree it is necessary to end their use as soon as possible to meet the 2015 Paris accord's ambitious goal of capping global arming at 1.5 degrees Celsius. But explicitly including such a call in the overarching declaration is politically sensitive, including for countries, such as Saudi Arabia, that fear oil and gas may be targeted next.

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Also this ...

WARSAW, Poland — Thousands have marched in Warsaw to mark Poland’s Independence Day, led by far-right groups calling for strong borders, while its troops blocked hundreds of new attempts by migrants to enter the country illegally from neighboring Belarus.

This year's march was overshadowed by events on the border, where thousands of riot police and troops are turning back migrants, many from the Middle East, who are trying to enter the European Union from Belarus.

Makeshift camps have sprung up in forests on the Belarusian side near a crossing at the Polish town of Kuznica, and with temperatures falling and access to the frontier restricted, there are fears of a humanitarian crisis.

EU officials have accused Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko of using the migrants as pawns in a “hybrid attack” to retaliate for sanctions imposed on his authoritarian regime for a harsh internal crackdown on dissent.

With the EU weighing more sanctions on Belarus, Lukashenko threatened to cut off Russian natural gas supplies to Europe that pass through a pipeline in his country. “I would recommend the Poles, Lithuanians and other brainless people to think before they talk,” he said.

Poland has largely gotten support on the border issue from Europe, facing only mild criticism for pushing the migrants back.

The problem “is not Poland," said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. "The problem is Lukashenko and Belarus and its regime, and so Poland has earned our European solidarity in this situation.”

But Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said it was “shocking” to see Europe’s inability to properly handle such a relatively low number of migrants at the Poland-Belarus border.

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On this day in 1992 ...

Canada's Inuit accepted a $580 million federal land claim settlement giving them control over a large part of the eastern Arctic and paving the way for the creation of a third northern territory to be called Nunavut, which came into creation on April 1, 1999.

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In entertainment ...

VANCOUVER — Stó:lō writer Lee Maracle, who championed the stories of Indigenous women to change the face of Canadian literature, has died.

Family friend Michaela Washburn said the acclaimed author, poet and teacher died Thursday at a hospital in Vancouver at age 71.

Maracle believed that Indigenous writers, particularly Indigenous women, were left “last” in Canada, so she spent her career trying to write them into the centre of their own narratives.

"Although I'm grateful for an opportunity to speak, I am still aware of how irrelevant you have made us in order to believe in your pursuit of religious freedom, raison d'être, that masks colonialism," Maracle said in her 2020 Margaret Laurence lecture, wrestling with how the prestigious speaking series has silenced voices like hers.

Peers and admirers flooded social media with tributes to Maracle's writing, activism and mentorship, with many hailing her as a foremother of Indigenous feminist literature.

Maracle, a member of the Stó:lō Nation in southwestern B.C., was born on July 2, 1950, to a Métis mother and Salish father. She was raised in North Vancouver and studied at Simon Fraser University.

She became one of the first Indigenous authors to be published in Canada with 1975's "Bobbi Lee: Indian Rebel," detailing her itinerant journey toward political consciousness.

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Also this ...

LOS ANGELES — Members of a union representing film and television crews begin voting today on a tentative contract with Hollywood producers.

Bread-and-butter issues of wages are important, but longtime concerns about dangers for film and TV workers have taken on increased urgency with the recent tragedy on the "Rust'' set.

Some members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees point to the now-closed New Mexico set where cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot as a factor in their vote.

Crew member Brandy Tannahill says her vote decision is bolstered by the shooting and recent labor actions, such as the strikes at John Deere and Kellogg. She has decided to vote no.

According to the union, core safety and economic issues are addressed in the proposed agreements covering workers on film and TV productions.

The bargaining committees of all 36 local unions have unanimously recommended ratification. Electronic voting concludes Sunday and the result is expected Monday.

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ICYMI ...

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In 1972, Big Bird lined up on "Sesame Street" to receive a measles vaccine as part of a campaign to get more youngsters inoculated against the disease.

But when the same iconic children’s character tweeted last weekend he had been vaccinated against COVID-19, conservative politicians immediately pushed back, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz who grilled Big Bird for what he called “government propaganda.”

This latest fallout marked a new contentious flashpoint that’s plagued previous rollouts of the vaccine, just as the shot becomes available to children between the ages of five and 11.

“My wing is feeling a little sore, but it’ll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy,” Big Bird tweeted.

“Sesame Street” has long faced grumbles from conservatives unhappy with its connections to U.S. public broadcasting, which receives federal funding. Yet this latest fallout marked a new contentious flashpoint that has plagued previous rollouts of the vaccine, just as the shot becomes available to children between the ages of 5 and 11.

“What Big Bird is doing is part of a long tradition. But what’s different now, of course, is that everything is political and everything is contentious," said Thomas Doherty, an American studies professor at Brandeis University. “Something that we all wanted a year ago, the vaccine, is now this matter of great contention.”

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 12, 2021

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version had an incorrect headline.

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