Thousands of people protested across Poland for the second day in a row, despite coronavirus restrictions, in response to the top court banning almost all grounds for abortion in the largely Roman Catholic country.
Thousands of people protested across Poland for the second day in a row, despite coronavirus restrictions, in response to the top court banning almost all grounds for abortion in the largely Roman Catholic country.
ATLANTA — After weathering criticism for certifying President Donald Trump's narrow election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, Republican officials in Georgia are proposing additional requirements for the state's vote-by-mail process, despite no evidence of systemic fraud or irregularities. Two state Senate committees held hearings Thursday to begin a review of Georgia’s voting laws. Republicans are zeroing in on a plan to require a photo ID for ballots cast by mail. Voting rights activists and Democrats argue that the change isn't necessary and would disenfranchise voters. Biden beat Trump by just over 12,500 votes in Georgia, with Biden receiving nearly twice as many of the record number of absentee ballots as the Republican president, according to the secretary of state's office. A recount requested by Trump was wrapping up and wasn't expected to change the overall outcome. Trump, who for months has sowed unsubstantiated doubt about the integrity of mail-in votes, has also made baseless claims of widespread fraud in the presidential race in Georgia. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff have vehemently rebuffed those claims, stating unequivocally that there is no evidence of systemic errors or fraud in last month's election. Yet Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans who have been publicly lambasted by Trump, have joined the push to require a photo ID for absentee voting. “Voters casting their ballots in person must show a photo ID, and we should consider applying that same standard to mail-in balloting,” Kemp said in remarks streamed live online. Kemp faced accusations of voter suppression during his successful 2018 run for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, an election he oversaw as Georgia's previous secretary of state. He vehemently denied the allegations. Kemp faces reelection — and a possible rematch against Abrams — in 2022. Raffensperger also has suggested allowing state officials to intervene in counties that have systemic problems with administering elections and broadening the ways in which challenges can be posed to votes cast by residents who don’t live where they say. The photo ID idea has support among several members of the state legislature, including Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan. “I don't think there should be different standards for the same process,” Dugan said in an interview. Republican House Speaker David Ralston has been skeptical of voting by mail, telling a local news outlet in April that increased mail voting “will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia.” Political analysts have said that typically more Democrats than Republicans use mail-in ballots. Ralston later said he was not talking about his party losing an advantage but the potential for fraud. “We must do everything in our power to ensure votes are not stolen, cast fraudulently or plagued by administrative errors,” he said in a statement this week. Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said in an interview with The Associated Press that currently anyone who knows someone’s name, address and date of birth can request an absentee ballot on that person’s behalf. She said that while signature matches provide some security for mail-in ballots, the process should be shored up. One way to do that could be to require a person's driver's license number or a photocopy of a separate form of ID, she said. “We need to secure all avenues that we can of absentee ballots so we never have a candidate run around this state again saying the election was stolen because of absentee ballots,” she said. While Republicans seem ready to press forward with the photo ID requirement during the upcoming legislative session, Democrats and civil rights organizations are raising alarms. With no evidence of widespread fraud or other problems in the election, it doesn’t make sense to talk about measures that could ultimately prove to be barriers to voting, said Andrea Young, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. “What is the problem that you’re trying to solve?" she asked. “The rule should be first, ‘Do no harm’ when it comes to democracy, and whenever there are more restrictions being put on a process, you run the risk of disenfranchising Georgia citizens.” Young says adding a photo ID requirement for absentee voting would be harmful because “we know that these barriers have a different impact on African American voters, on younger voters and, in this instance, on seniors who have certainly earned the right” to vote. State Sen. Jen Jordan, an Atlanta Democrat, echoed Young’s concerns, saying Republicans were offering solutions in search of a problem. “What this says to me is that they just don’t want people voting," Jordan said. “And they specifically don’t want Democrats voting, or people that don’t support their chosen candidates voting, and they’re going to try to make it as hard as possible." Democrats and voting rights groups have for years sought to decrease rejections of absentee ballots in Georgia, arguing that minorities have been disproportionately affected. Absentee ballots are sometimes rejected because signatures on the outer envelope are deemed not to match signatures in the voter registration system, or because the envelope is not signed at all. An agreement signed in March to settle a lawsuit filed by the Democratic Party spells out a standard process that must be used statewide to judge the signatures. That agreement has been the subject of much of Trump's online ire, and he has incorrectly said it “makes it impossible to check & match signatures on ballots and envelopes.” Ben Nadler And Kate Brumback, The Associated Press
Before the Alberta government released its 2020 budget, Environment Minister Jason Nixon sent a confidential briefing to his fellow United Conservative MLAs, informing them that significant changes were in store for provincial parks. "The Government will also be announcing additional proposed long-term changes to the Alberta Park[s] system, including a list of 119 proposed deregulations and 45 proposed divestitures," reads the briefing note, dated Feb. 27. The note described these as "164 underutilized sites" and said the province would look for "alternate management approaches, including sale and/or transfer." It stressed how little these areas were used: "Sites identified for proposed removal are mainly very small and underutilized provincial recreation areas." Premier Jason Kenney said something similar when asked, during a Facebook live question-and-answer session on March 3, about the parks cuts: "We're only talking about small campsites and such that very few people visit on an annual basis." Since then, various groups have been trying to ascertain just how underused the government believes these sites to be, but little to no information has been made public. For two months, CBC News was in communication with the provincial government, seeking data on the camping registrations and revenue among the 164 sites on the list that have campgrounds. The province initially said it was gathering the information and that it would take some time to compile, but then ultimately refused to release it. Data for campsite registrations at 11 sites on the list, however, was recently obtained by another organization, The Council of Canadians, which shared the information with CBC News. The numbers suggest registrations at these sites is almost exactly on par with average registrations across all reservable campsites in the provincial system. Financial records from the remaining sites — those with first-come, first-served campgrounds — still has not been released. Where the data we have came from The Council of Canadians filed a freedom-of-information (FOIP) request in September, asking specifically for campground usage data at the sites on the list. It received a response in November with registration data for the sites with campgrounds that offer pre-registration, but not those with self-registration (also known as first-come, first-served campgrounds). When it heard CBC News had been seeking this info, it shared the data it received. The FOIP response included registration totals for 11 provincial parks and provincial recreation areas that offer individual campsites. (It also included data on group camping reservations, but that has been excluded for the purpose of this analysis.) Some of the sites didn't have data for the full five years because they didn't offer pre-registration in the past. The total number of registrations across these sites increased each year, growing from 13,201 in 2016 to 15,892 last year. Then, in 2020, the camping numbers shot way up. Even though the data didn't yet include a full camping season, there were 25,331 registrations in the year-to-date tally. This sharp increase was seen across the provincial parks system amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and has been attributed to more Albertans exploring local recreation while travel options are limited. Alberta Parks said in September there had been a total of 265,624 reservations so far this year across all sites, compared with 175,128 the year before and 162,238 in 2018. Based on those figures, the 11 sites included in the FOIP data accounted for between nine and 10 per cent of total campsite registrations each year, which is on par for their relative size. There are 809 individual campsites at these 11 locations, which accounts for 9.2 per cent of the 8,774 total, reservable campsites listed by Alberta Parks. Numerous requests The Council of Canadians was not the only group trying to get information like this. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Association (CPAWS) filed a freedom-of-information request of its own in the spring, asking for the criteria the province used to decide which parks and recreation areas to include on the list. The documents it received in July contained no information on visitation. Not all of the 164 parks and provincial recreation areas on the list include campgrounds, but many do. In mid-September, CBC News asked for five years' worth of data on the usage of these campgrounds. Departmental staff with Alberta Parks said it would take some time to gather all the data but they were working on it. They said smaller campgrounds with self-registration (drop boxes where campers leave payments on the honour system) didn't have hard camping numbers, but financial records of the revenue did exist. After seven weeks, Alberta Parks staff sent an email to CBC News that included four years' worth of camping registration data for one provincial park — Gooseberry Lake in central Alberta, near the Saskatchewan border — and one year of financial data for another provincial recreation area — Smoky River South, near Grande Cache. Asked where the rest of the data was, the staff said that's all they were now able to provide. They referred further questions to the press secretary for Alberta Parks, Jess Sinclair. Sinclair did not return phone calls from CBC News seeking an explanation. Financial records for other campgrounds still not public When it comes to the sites on the list that have self-registration campgrounds, usage data has still not been made public, even though the environment minister seemed to recently confirm this data exists. During a "town hall" discussion hosted by the UCP caucus on Facebook Live, Nixon was asked how the government determined which parks are "underutilized" and he said it's something that Alberta Parks staff can track, even at self-registration sites, through revenue. "Not all of the parks in our park system have electronic booking systems, so they don't have the exact records on all the bookings in every campground yet. We're working towards that. But they do know how much income is coming in from sites," Nixon said. Lethbridge West MLA Shannon Phillips, who served as NDP environment minister in the previous government, also says this data exists. "When people go there and they self-register and they pay, that money doesn't go into the clouds," she said. "It goes to the Government of Alberta and that money is properly accounted for." Phillips said this revenue data was used, when she was minister, to make decisions about parks and public-recreation areas based on their usage. She said there's no reason she can think of to withhold this data from the public, other than a political motivation to avoid contradicting the government's initial claim that these sites are "underutilized." "The whole story seems to be crumbling," Phillips said. Changes in messaging The government's public communications about the parks has evolved over time, as it has engaged in a protracted political battle with the Opposition NDP and conservation organizations like CPAWS and the Alberta Environmental Network, which oppose the changes. A big part of that battle has centred around some of the language initially used in official communications and on the Alberta Parks website. Critics seized on the word "sale," for instance, but Nixon has repeatedly insisted the province has no intention to sell any parks land. Use of the word "sale" was "referring to the assets that may be in those areas," he explained in March. Recently, Nixon has also moved away from earlier language used when it comes to the sites being "underutilized." "The conversation we're having is less about whether a site is being fully used," he said during the Facebook Live town hall in November. "The conversation is about the best way to manage sites across our province." The provincial government has noted it already works with partner organizations to operate campgrounds at some sites and it continues to seek more partnerships with municipalities, First Nations and the private sector to take over campgrounds at other sites that are currently operated by Alberta Parks. Nixon has also said sites that lose their status in the parks system will continue to be protected as public land. Katie Morrison with CPAWS says the changes in the government's public-facing language don't amount to a change in policy. "It seems the government keeps changing their messaging to react to Albertans' concerns but without actually changing the plan to address Albertans' concerns," she said. She notes public land protections are not the same as those that come with a provincial park or provincial recreation area designation. She also wonders if the initial decision was actually informed by good data. "I think the fact that we and others have had such trouble getting this information indicates that it probably doesn't — or didn't — exist in a summarized form, which makes me think that they probably didn't use it or didn't have the information available to them at the time of making this decision," she said. Whether it was readily available to the government in February, Phillips said the financial records of the sites Nixon described as "underutilized" do exist and should eventually be made public, through subsequent FOIP requests or other means. She said it's "bizarre" that the province hasn't simply provided this information, to date. "I honestly cannot understand why this government withholds information that they know the public is going to eventually access," Phillips said. Government response CBC News asked the provincial government again on Wednesday about all this, with four specific questions: Why did Alberta Parks staff tell CBC News the department was working, for weeks, to gather up the five years' worth of data that had been requested in mid-September, only to then refuse to release it in November, and refer all questions as to why to the press secretary? The sites in the FOIP documents appear to show registrations that are virtually on par with the system-wide average, relative to the number of sites they have. So why were they included on the list of "164 underutilized sites," as the government initially described? Why was the campsite registration data provided under FOIP to a third party but not to CBC News, when both requests had been made around the same time (mid-September)? Why is the additional information on financial revenue at self-registration sites still not being provided? Sinclair, the press secretary to Nixon, replied with a short statement that didn't answer the questions. "When the decision was made to seek partnerships for some Alberta parks sites under a model that has existed since 1932, a number of considerations, including location, usage, and overall age of facilities were considered," she wrote. "As I've indicated before, these areas will continue to be accessible to Albertans for recreational enjoyment and they will continue to be protected."
Early next year, a Chinese businessman named Gan Xianbing will be sentenced in a Chicago courtroom for laundering just over $530,000 in Mexican cartel drug money. Gan, 50, was convicted in February of money laundering and operating an unlicensed money-transfer business that whisked cartel cash from U.S. drug sales offshore. Gan has maintained his innocence; his lawyers say he was entrapped by U.S. authorities.
Judy Havers says she used to like going outside, getting coffee at Boston Pizza, watching animals in the park and, most of all, feeding the feral cats she's nourished and taken comfort from for the last six years. That's all out of reach now. Havers, 60, is a resident of Providence Place, a Moose Jaw care home dealing with one of the many COVID-19 outbreaks hitting Saskatchewan's extended care homes.Havers is not infected, unlike four other residents and seven staff confirmed to have tested positive at the home, according to a statement management gave CBC News six days ago. "But we're all under lockdown," Havers said over the phone Wednesday from her single room, where she's been largely cooped up in her wheelchair for days.The isolation imposed by COVID-19 has taken a toll on her mental health, Havers says — quickened her already short temper, fed her depression, even given her the shakes because of how powerless she feels. "Sometimes I get really lonely because there isn't anybody to talk to," she said. "I find it very, very constricting being in the room all the time. "I miss going outside." 'Zero chance' of lower numbers by Christmas: profOn Tuesday, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe offered a ray of hope for care home residents and their families. Moe said people might be able to visit loved ones in care homes for two or three days during the holiday season, provided the rate of COVID-19 transmission decreases over the next two weeks and depending on the advice he receives from Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province's chief medical health officer."This is the goal," Moe said of Christmas visits, before adding another caveat. "People need to adhere to the measures that are in place [now]."Moe said care-home staff face the risk of transmission every day they go to work, but that they lessen that risk by wearing appropriate personal protective equipment and being cautious."The same may be true, potentially, for families that would want to visit in a long-term care," Moe said.He pointed to Quebec, where "there's going to be a little bit of a different standard so that families would be able to come together for those few days."Kyle Anderson, an assistant professor in the college of medicine at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, said it took Quebec about six weeks from the implementation of its new restrictions to start seeing active case numbers go down."There is zero chance Saskatchewan will have lower active case numbers on Christmas than we are right now, and right now we have seniors dying daily," he said."We need to commit to these measures, not look for ways to circumvent them."Anderson has been closely tracking the daily number of new COVID-19 cases. He created a video that shows the surge in cases among Saskatchewan seniors beginning in mid-November — right around the time outbreaks in care homes began, he said. "We need to keep our vulnerable safe for the next three or four months," Anderson said. "This might seem like too much to ask of us, and ask of them, after such a hard year, but we do the hard things now so we can enjoy the bountiful harvest at the end of the season. This is the Saskatchewan way."'I'm afraid it will spread'At Providence Place in Moose Jaw, Havers said that while it would be nice to see someone in person, she's wary of allowing visits again. She said some residents at her care home are worried about further COVID-19 spread."If it was too much of a risk for us, I'd just as soon not see anybody and stay safe," she said of Christmas visits. "I have some pre-existing conditions and I'm just really afraid of getting COVID in here. I'm afraid it will spread like it did in those homes back east."The day before Moe's comments, Health Minister Paul Merriman said people should plan to see their loved ones at Christmas. It's just a matter of whether they'll do that in person or virtually, he said. Merriman was asked if family members who test negative might be allowed to visit homes."The problem with a negative test is somebody can be negative, tested in the morning and could have picked it up on the way," he said. "We want to make sure that the individuals in that home are safe."> If it was too much of a risk for us, I'd just as soon not see anybody and stay safe. \- Judy HaversOn Thursday, Dr. Shahab said that every time the province relaxes restrictions, "you see a bit of a rebound" in cases.He said the province has seen outbreaks in many different settings, but that those in long-term care homes are the most "high risk out of all the outbreaks that we're seeing in terms of impact on residents and staff and families." Outings restricted for last 2 weeksHealth officials declared an outbreak at Providence Place on Nov. 18, according to an update sent to families that day.The day before, the Ministry of Health announced it was halting visits to all long-term care homes except for people visiting patients in end-of-life care. Providence Place said at the same time it was suspending all outings for its residents, a decision it would revisit in four weeks.Havers said she gets some fresh air because she still goes to a hospital three days a week for dialysis. She keeps in touch with a sister living in Nanaimo, B.C., via texts and FaceTime.But it's hard watching other people face the full brunt of restrictions, she said. "You see the residents [whose] family was here every day … giving them extra attention, washing them, talking to them, bringing them treats, whatever," she said. "Now, all of a sudden, even if they have dementia or Alzheimer's or something, I think they still realize that they're alone. It's not their fault, but I don't think they understand that."As of Thursday, the outbreak numbers at Providence Place were stable among staff and residents, said Georgia Hutchinson, the facility's executive director. "Our spiritual care, recreation and other redeployed staff are focusing on supporting and assisting our residents to cope with the effects of isolation in the outbreak," she said. "The SHA does provide mental health supports to our residents as they are required."On Tuesday, Moe was asked why he would get people's hopes up about visits given recent modelling from the Saskatchewan Health Authority that projects a continued rise in COVID-19 cases."It may not be possible," Moe said. "But is it my place to provide hope and to provide opportunity, to provide some targets for the people of the province to work towards between now and December the 25th? "I think it is."
SHEET HARBOUR – The Royal Canadian Legion Courcelette Branch 58 is hurting like other non-profit organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. During good times the legion was self-sufficient, sponsoring ongoing fundraisers – such as bingos, 50/50 draws, hall rentals, dances and darts – to cover operating costs and ongoing maintenance. After 10 months of an unprecedented pandemic affecting many aspects of the economy, legion members are looking at their budget and reaching out to the community for continued support. A member of the fundraising committee, Barby Cochrane has a message for residents who rely on the legion and the services it offers. “We need the community's help and support. When we open back up in two weeks, we need those who feel safe to come out on Friday night, even if it is just to have one drink or buy a strip of tickets [Chase the Ace]. We need those who cannot come out to reach out to us and we'll arrange to get tickets for you or you can support the 50/50 online,” says Cochrane. “Our numbers for Chase the Ace usually increase week by week, but this year they did not. We had our steady 30 or so participants weekly. “The legion is the only place in the community to gather and it would be a loss to the community, if we had to shut the doors permanently,” Cochrane tells The Journal in an email. “We'll continue to promote the 50/50. We'll hopefully get some of the Covid-19 relief funds from the government. Hopefully, we'll be able to open again after these two weeks, and we'll be able to start Chase the Ace again and community events. But, none of this will matter unless we get the support from our community,” Cochrane says. Past President Vance Thompson adds, “We have helped 25 different organizations within our community over the past few years with Chase the Ace – paying out more than $150,000. We also have a benevolent fund to help people in need – not only vets, but also community members…. The income is used to keep our aging hall going – roof repairs, plumbing repairs, new accessible washroom, new kitchen, new bar fridge, wheelchair ramps, general upkeep of exterior. All these help customers access the building and feel welcome.” Yearly dues are $40 per member, with the local legion receiving a small percentage of that income. Fundraising efforts are the main source of income, although the legion does rely heavily on grants. “We also support community groups, such as the Lions Club, Lily's Hill, GSAR, ATV club, HYGGE [Travel Club], the Sheet Harbour and Area Heritage Society and St. James Church by partnering with them for our Chase the Ace fundraiser,” Cochrane says. “In the past we have helped individual community members when we were able. We also provide rent free space to any and all fundraisers in the community. It is our way of contributing to the fundraiser.” The building is in need of a new roof. The expected expenditure will be in excess of $40,000. Cochrane says they have applied for grants to cover approximately $30,000, but the fundraising committee and legion members will need to work to raise the balance. “The pandemic has hit us hard,” Thompson says. “We had to close our hall in mid-March and we re-opened in mid-September – only now to be closed again for the next few weeks. All events and rentals we had going on are now cancelled until further notice.” There will be about $2,000 in lost income due to the cancellations. “Our membership is primarily made up of elderly residents who are now not able to visit our branch,” Cochrane says. “They cannot come out for Muffin Morning or Chase the Ace or bingo. The reduction in the number of people attending events has impacted our income substantially … yet the building must still be maintained and the expenses must still be paid.” The legion’s service officer supports veterans by providing a confidential service. The officer liaises with other organizations on behalf of the veteran to ensure that they receive everything to which they are entitled. “The branch provides a place for the veterans to gather, services to honour them, and a place where they can remember,” says Cochrane. “We support our veterans through our service officers and poppy campaign, helping them with any requirements they require. As for the community, the legion has always been there for them – even more now that we are the only hall open in the area,” Thompson says. The legion faces membership challenges as most branch members are elderly. “The legion won't continue to operate, if younger people in the community don't get involved. We have to hire maintenance, such as cleaning and sanitizing after events, and shoveling and snow clearing,” Cochrane says. Sometime after Dec. 7, a new Chase the Ace license will start and the Rafflebox 50/50 online draw will continue weekly. Bingo has been closed for the winter and the hall will be open to rentals or community fundraisers. Muffin Morning, dart league and pool will continue to be offered. “The government protocols allow half the normal allowance; 84 people can be accommodated downstairs, with 150 upstairs. Tables are arranged to allow for six-feet spacing. Masks are required and hand sanitizer is provided. We do have a sign-in procedure in case contact tracing is necessary,” says Cochrane.Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
Russia has revoked the residence permit of a U.S. human rights worker on national security grounds and ordered her to leave within two weeks, a spokeswoman for the organisation she heads said on Thursday. Vanessa Kogan, director of the Justice Initiative rights group, an organisation that provides legal assistance to rights victims, particularly from the turbulent North Caucasus region, has lived in Russia for 11 years, Ksenia Babich, the spokeswoman, told Reuters.
Mario Roy a réalisé un rêve lorsqu’il s’est porté acquéreur il y a deux ans d’une propriété à Milan dans la MRC du Granit. Il y rêvait depuis l’âge de 12 ans. Mais ce rêve s’est déjà transformé en cauchemar à cause d’un seul élément : l’absence totale d’internet. « Quand j’ai acheté, je pensais que ça viendrait vite l’internet, ils en parlaient tout le temps, mais là mon rêve se transforme en cauchemar, souligne M. Roy. Je suis familial au coton et je ne vois plus personne. » La pandémie et le confinement ont frappé fort pour Mario Roy qui a beaucoup de difficulté à garder le contact avec ses quatre petits-enfants qui habitent à Sherbrooke. « On ne peut pas voir personne. Un moment donné ça attaque le moral. Je ne peux même pas voir mes petits enfants », mentionne-t-il visiblement submergé par les émotions. M. Roy commence même à penser à vendre sa propriété. Rien du tout M. Roy a fait venir des représentants de diverses compagnies, mais rien n’y fait. Il ne peut pas avoir accès à internet. Il a lu avec scepticisme dans La Tribune que la compagnie Xplornet voulait obtenir une subvention gouvernementale pour brancher quelque 2000 foyers en Estrie. « Xplornet ne rentre pas du tout, j’ai fait venir trois représentants et ils ont tous essayé, déplore-t-il. Je suis trop creux pour la tour LTE et par satellite je devrais couper plusieurs arbres pour recevoir le signal. Je vais briser mon terrain si je fais ça. » La fibre optique se rend jusqu’à un poteau sur son terrain, mais la connexion jusqu’à la maison est hors de prix. « J’ai achalé Câble Axion pour qu’ils me branchent et ils m’ont dit que ça allait me coûter 20 000 $, j’ai dit non. » « Juste le minimum » Mario Roy n’est pas le seul citoyen de Milan dans cette situation. Ils sont près d’une centaine dans la petite municipalité à n’avoir pas accès à internet haute vitesse selon le maire Jacques Bergeron. « C’est Câble Axion qui passe dans le village et les gens ont un excellent service, mais dans les rangs débrouille-toi, mentionne-t-il. La vitesse n’est pas acceptable par satellite. Il y a des journées où la liaison avec le satellite ne se fait pas. Tu attends ton tour. En 2020, ça n’a pas de bon sens. » Certaines zones sont même dangereuses selon lui parce que même le cellulaire ne capte pas de signal. « Tu as un problème de sécurité, tu es blessé ou tu as eu un accident et tu n’es même pas capable d’entrer en communication d’urgence, déplore le maire. C’est vraiment pauvre comme service.» Mario Roy pense aussi que le manque de réseau peut être très dangereux, surtout lors des pannes de courant. « J’ai manqué d’électricité quatre jours l’an passé durant la grosse tempête, résume-t-il. Je n’avais pas d’internet, pas de cellulaire et pas de téléphone. Si je passe au feu, je regarde ma maison brûler. » Mario Roy a interpellé le député François Jacques à ce sujet et espère que sa situation ouvre les yeux de la classe politique. « Ils diffusent du 5G dans les villes tandis que dans les campagnes, ce n’est même pas branché, résume M. Bergeron. C’est frustrant et choquant. On veut juste le minimum.»Simon Roberge, Initiative de journalisme local, La Tribune
A police union on Thursday urged prosecutors to charge a Black music producer with resisting arrest, six days after President Emmanuel Macron said the arrest and beating of the man, which was caught on film, was unacceptable and shameful for France. The beating of Michel Zecler by police officers inside his music studio was captured on closed circuit television and mobile phone footage. It was circulated widely online and sparked new criticism over police violence in France.
All indoor adult team sports are now prohibited in B.C. and children's programs have returned to earlier, more restrictive guidelines. The changes come after travel by an old-timers' hockey team was linked to dozens of COVID-19 cases.
Federal officials today explained how they plan to roll out millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses in the coming weeks as Ottawa launches its mass inoculation campaign.The initial supply of the doses will be limited — just three million Canadians are expected to get shots in the first three months of 2021. Millions more doses are expected to arrive as the supply chain stabilizes.One of the principal challenges facing the immunization effort is the distribution of vaccines that must be kept at very low temperatures – well below those that a standard commercial refrigerator can offer.The Pfizer vaccine, which is expected to get the green light from Health Canada as early as this month, needs to be kept at approximately -80 degrees Celsius to remain stable. The Moderna product, another vaccine that uses groundbreaking messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, must be kept at -20 degrees Celsius.Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, a former NATO commander in Iraq, is leading vaccination logistics and operations at a new national operations centre in the Public Health Agency of Canada.While the country is facing unprecedented "logistical complexities," he said, the military and its partners will be ready to deploy vaccines as soon as they are approved in Canada.Fortin said the national operations centre isn't waiting for Health Canada's sign-off to begin preparations. The Pfizer product will be delivered by that company directly to provincial and territorial distribution points as early as the end of the month.The federal government already has secured the cold storage required for this product. All of the provinces have indicated where the Pfizer-specific fridges should be placed and 14 distribution points nationwide will be ready to receive the vaccine starting on Dec. 14, Fortin said.WATCH: Six million doses to arrive in Canada in the first three months of 2021A senior official, speaking to CBC News on a not-for-attribution basis, said Alberta, B.C., Ontario and Quebec will get two such delivery sites each, with one in each of the other provinces. A plan for the territories is still being finalized, the official said.The shots likely will be distributed on a per capita basis, the official said, much like how federally procured personal protective equipment has been issued to those jurisdictions throughout this pandemic. Some observers have said provinces dealing with higher caseloads should get priority access to vaccine shots at first.Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said Thursday a per-capita distribution plan will disadvantage his hard-hit province. He also raised concerns about Ottawa's plan to take the lead on inoculating Indigenous people. "This hurts Manitobans, to put it mildly," he told reporters.Eventually, there will be 205 "points of issue" locations across the country where health care professionals can administer the vaccine, Fortin said. It will be up to the provinces and territories to specify where and when individual Canadians will be inoculated.WATCH: Maj.-Gen. Fortin says simulation tests will be held at vaccine distribution sitesFortin said at least one "dry run" has been executed so far, with more planned in the days ahead, to ensure things run smoothly once this vaccine hits our shores from manufacturing hubs in the U.S. and abroad. These practice runs will ensure officials are comfortable with what Fortin called the "very unique requirements" of this Pfizer vaccine.Preparing for the worstFortin said he's actively planning for multiple worst-case scenarios, such as bad weather, cyber attacks and fires at distribution hubs. IBM, the information technology company, said in a blog post published on Thursday that it had uncovered "a global phishing campaign" targeting the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine distribution mission, Operation Warp Speed."We're very much executing a whole-of-nation approach. The size and scope and scale of this problem is unprecedented and there's a number of factors at play," Fortin said."I like the idea of being ready before the Christmas timeframe, so we are certain to be ready when it comes in January."The general said his team is in daily contact with Pfizer and the company is "comfortable" with the plan that Canada has crafted. Pfizer has said it won't ship product to a country that isn't ready to receive a vaccine that is so temperature-sensitive.Pfizer review 'progressing really well': Health CanadaDr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada, said Thursday that the regulatory review of Pfizer's vaccine is "progressing really well" and her department has the "majority of information" it needs from the company to certify that it's safe and effective.In an interview with CBC's Power & Politics, Sharma said the final approval could come in the next 7 to 10 days. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to meet on Dec. 10 to decide on an emergency use authorization (EUA) for that shot and Sharma said Canada is following a similar timeline.Canada has placed orders with Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for 20 million doses of the two-dose vaccine, with options for millions more in the months to follow. The company has reported its vaccine was 95 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 among clinical trial participants who had no evidence of prior infection.Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada's deputy chief public health officer, said Canadians shouldn't be fixated on the exact date when Pfizer gets the nod from Canadians regulators."I think we shouldn't be so obsessive with the actual delivery of the vaccines themselves, the dates and so on. I think what's really important is the fact we're planning, preparing, doing exercises," he said."We're doing the dry runs, the soft launch so that once the vaccine technically arrives, everyone will be comfortable, we'll be trained to actually utilize the vaccine." The Moderna vaccine, which is expected to secure regulatory approvals after the Pfizer product, will be imported into Canada by the federal government, largely through private shipping companies. Ottawa will in turn divide up the product for the provinces and territories.The government is now finalizing "end mile" contracts with logistics firms — the companies that will transport the Moderna vaccines to centres where Canadians can go for a shot.On Monday, the Massachusetts-based company applied to the FDA for its EUA for the American marketplace. Data from the company's final clinical trial are encouraging, demonstrating the vaccine is 94.1 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 and 100 per cent effective at preventing severe cases of the disease.Two other companies, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson's pharmaceutical division, Janssen, have also submitted their vaccines for regulatory approval. Sharma said those companies still need to submit "large chunks of information" before a final decision can be made.Njoo said the federal government is now refining who is best suited to get an early dose of a vaccine — early guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) suggests seniors in long-term care homes and frontline health care workers will be among the first to get a shot.Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole and his party's health critic Michelle Rempel Garner held a news conference this morning to discuss an opposition day motion that will call on the government to release its plan by Dec. 16.O'Toole accused the government of failing to provide Canadians with a plan and a timeframe for vaccine distribution."Without a concrete timeline for vaccines, businesses won't have the confidence to reinvest in their operations and rehire Canadians who have been laid off during the pandemic," he said."Without a reliable timeline, or details, provinces have the impossible task of establishing complex supply chains with no lead time."The motion calls for a status update on: * How each type of vaccine will be safely delivered, stored and distributed to Canadians. * The date on which each vaccine type will be first deployed in Canada and the rate of vaccinations anticipated by month. * Any planned federal guidance with respect to the deployment of the vaccine by priority group, such as front-line health workers and seniors. * The plan to distribute the vaccine to Indigenous communities, members of the Canadian Armed Forces and veterans.
THE LATEST: * New restrictions mean indoor and outdoor adult team sports are banned, kids' sports limited. * Patients from northern B.C. are being sent to Victoria for treatment as hospitals reach capacity. * Health officials announced 694 new cases Thursday, as well as 12 more deaths. * There are now 9,103 active cases of COVID-19 across B.C. * 325 patients are in hospital, with 80 in intensive care. * 481 people have died of the disease since the pandemic began.B.C.'s COVID-19 caseload continues to grow while the daily death toll keeps hitting double digits as the second wave of the pandemic shows no sign of slowing down.On Thursday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 694 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 more deaths. There are 325 patients in hospital with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, a slight dip from Wednesday. Eighty are in intensive care.Henry reminded the public to stay strong and follow public health orders, saying it's the decisions we make individually that will determine our ability to bend the curve back down.COVID-19 patients from northern B.C. are now being sent to Victoria as a spike in cases there pushes the health care system in the Northern Health region to its limits.Upward of 20 per cent of B.C.'s critical care patients are from the north, despite the region holding only six per cent of the provincial population. In response to growing concerns, health officials have announced a ban on all indoor and outdoor adult team sports as well as new limitations on children's sports, and updated the restrictions for group fitness activities.A full list of suspended adult indoor and outdoor sports, along with update information on the rules for fitness can be found here.Meanwhile, Henry said she's cheered by news of vaccine approval in the United Kingdom, but she's encouraging British Columbians to double down on safety measures until the shot is available here. She said she expects vaccines to be available to some in the coming weeks.The province now has 9,103 active cases out of 35,422 to date. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 481 people have died of COVID-19.There are 10,849 people in isolation across the province who are being actively monitored by public health workers.Public health orders remain in place, banning all public and community events and limiting social interactions to people within your immediate household. Those orders will be reviewed on Monday.READ MORE:What's happening elsewhere in CanadaAs of Thursday morning, there have been 393,070 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, with 68,292 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 12,369.As the situation in Alberta continues to worsen, the province has reached out to the federal government and the Canadian Red Cross to ask for field hospitals to offset the strain on the health-care system.Hospitals in Quebec are filling up as well, and doctors say they're worried Christmas gatherings could push them over the edge.What are the symptoms of COVID-19?Common symptoms include: * Fever. * Cough. * Tiredness. * Shortness of breath. * Loss of taste or smell. * Headache.But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.What should I do if I feel sick?Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they're mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or other extreme symptoms should call 911.What can I do to protect myself? * Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean. * Keep your distance from people who are sick. * Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. * Wear a mask in indoor public spaces.More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
WASHINGTON — In the modern twist on old-fashioned war games, the U.S. military dispatched cyber fighters to Estonia this fall to help the small Baltic nation search out and block potential cyber threats from Russia. The goal was not only to help a NATO partner long targeted by its powerful neighbour but also to gain insight on Russian tactics that could be used against the U.S. and its elections. The U.S. Cyber Command operation occurred in Estonia from late September to early November, officials from both countries disclosed this week, just as the U.S. was working to safeguard its election systems from foreign interference and to keep coronavirus research from the prying reach of hackers in countries including Russia and China. Estonian officials say they found nothing malicious during the operation. The mission, an effort analogous to two nations working jointly in a military operation on land or sea, represents an evolution in cyber tactics by U.S. forces who had long been more accustomed to reacting to threats but are now doing more — including in foreign countries — to glean advance insight into malicious activity and to stop attacks before they reach their targets. The Defence Department has worked to highlight that more aggressive “hunt forward” strategy in recent years, particularly after Russia interfered through hacking and covert social media campaigns in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. American officials were on high alert for similar interference in 2020 but described no major problems on Nov. 3. “When we look at the threats that we face, from Russia or other adversaries, it really is all about the partnerships and our ability to expand really the scope, scale and pace of operations in order to make it more difficult for adversaries to execute operations either in the United States, Estonia or other places,” Brig. Gen. William Hartman, commander of the Cyber National Mission Force, said in a conference call with a small group of reporters this week. Estonia, a former Soviet republic, was in some ways a natural fit for a partnership with Cyber Command because in years past it has been a cyber target of nearby Russia, including crippling attacks on government networks in 2007. Estonian officials say they have since strengthened their cyber defences, created a cybersecurity strategy and developed their own cyber command, which like the U.S. version is part of the country’s military. While nothing malicious was found on the networks during the exercise, “what we did learn is how the U.S. conducts these kinds of operations, which is definitely useful for us because there are a lot of kind of capability developments that we are doing right now,” said Mihkel Tikk, deputy commander of Estonia’s Cyber Command. Tikk added: “In some areas, it is wise to learn from others than having to reinvent the wheel.” Hartman declined to discuss specifics of the operation but said the networks in Estonia were “very well defended.” “I don’t want anyone to leave here with the impression that Estonian networks were full of adversary activity from a broad range of nation states” because that is not the case, he added. Gen. Paul Nakasone, the commander of Cyber Command and the director of the National Security Agency, has hinted at a more aggressive, proactive federal government approach to cyber threats. In an August piece for Foreign Affairs magazine, for instance, Nakasone wrote that U.S cyber fighters have moved away from a “reactive, defensive posture” and are increasingly engaging in combat with foreign adversaries online. Cyber Command has worked in past years with countries including Montenegro and North Macedonia on similar missions. Estonian officials say they believe the partnership could be a deterrent to countries such as Russia. “These kinds of operations, I think, they will continue,” said Undersecretary of Defence Margus Matt. But, he added, “I don’t know how much we will speak of them publicly.” U.S. officials say they think the risks of a proactive approach — a country could regard such an operation as a provocation toward a broader international cyber conflict — are outweighed by the benefits. “We believe that inaction in cyberspace contributes to escalation more than reasonable action in cyberspace,” said Thomas Wingfield, deputy assistant secretary of defence for cyber policy. Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
Sauvetage A.G. Maurice-Centre-du-Québec lance une vaste campagne de recrutement pour répondre aux urgences dans la région. Sauvetage A.G. est une entreprise sans but lucratif qui se spécialise dans le sauvetage hors route et la recherche de personnes. L’équipe de la Mauricie–Centre-du-Québec est normalement constituée d’une quinzaine de bénévoles. Parmi eux, Alain Richard, directeur de division. Il est membre de cette section depuis 2010, et d’autres antennes de l’organisation depuis 2001. M. Richard est aussi pompier pour le service incendie de la Ville de Bécancour.«On est tous des bénévoles purs et durs indépendamment du poste qu’on occupe. On le fait par passion et dévouement», précise Alain Richard. Des interventions hors route L’antenne Maurice-Centre-du-Québec de sauvetage A.G. est déployée chaque année sur une douzaine d’incidents. Elle a aussi une entente contractuelle avec la MRC de Bécancour. Pompiers, ambulanciers et policiers font appel à ses services. «On est une des nombreuses ressources qui peuvent répondre aux appels» sur les sentiers de VTT, de motoneige, équestres, pédestres, partout où les ambulances ne peuvent se rendre. «On a un protocole avec la centrale 911 en Beauce» et dès que la situation l’impose, «on se met en branle pour se rendre au point de rencontre» afin de mener des évacuations médicales et des sauvetages. Les équipes ont récemment été déployées sur les lieux d’un accident équestre et la SQ a fait appel à ses services pour extraire un corps retrouvé en bordure du fleuve. «Ce ne sont pas toujours des cas agréables», de dire M. Richard. «Le parc de la rivière Gentilly est un endroit propice aux accidents» étant donné qu’il est plus fréquenté qu’avant. «Et le circuit de motocross de Sainte-Sophie-de-Lévrard est un bon fournisseur d’appels qui impliquent des incidents parfois graves». Sauvetage A.G. Mauricie–Centre-du-Québec se spécialise aussi depuis peu dans la recherche de victimes de noyades. «On a suffisamment d’équipements pour répondre à tous les besoins», nous dit M. Richard: «un pick-up avec un côte-à-côte Polaris Ranger monté sur chenilles à l’année et modifié un peu comme une ambulance, deux motoneiges et deux VTT». Le bateau personnel de M. Richard est aussi mis à contribution de temps à autre. «Je suis un ancien de la garde côtière auxiliaire. Je continue à faire de la recherche avec mon chien». L’ensemble des divisions disposent aussi de drones et d’ambulances. Formation Les nouveaux bénévoles de Sauvetage A.G. sont formés gratuitement par les équipes en place. Ces formations sont ventilées sur une période de douze mois, à raison de trois heures par mois environ. «On a des gens qui rentrent et qui quittent. On a eu plusieurs étudiants en soins préhospitaliers d’urgence du Cégep de Shawinigan. On essaie de maintenir une équipe d’une quinzaine de membres actifs et disponibles. En ce moment, on est huit». Les personnes intéressées peuvent entrer en contact avec Sauvetage A.G. via son site internet ou sa page Facebook. L’organisation compte sept divisions au Québec. Boris Chassagne, Initiative de journalisme local, La Voix du Sud
TORONTO — Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment's giant kitchen is open again.MLSE and its partners, who combined to donate 500,000 meals to front-line workers and community agencies from April to June, are reintroducing the 'Bringing Toronto Back to its Feet" program.Starting this week, the goal is to distribute more than 130,000 meals in early December.Scotiabank Arena will again be used to assemble the meals, which can be stored and frozen. They will later be distributed to community agencies and families who are struggling. MLSE’s chefs and food and beverage staff, along with other company employees, will prepare the meals for distribution.MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum. calls this holiday season "one of the most challenging that we have known."“This program will play a small part in helping our neighbours enjoy their holiday season as we all look forward to a better year ahead in 2021,” he said in a statement.Solidarity Kitchens, created by La Tablee des Chefs and financially supported by the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada emergency fund, has given grants to Canadian initiatives, including Bringing Toronto Back To Its Feet, with a goal of creating two million meals for those in need across the country.“As the pandemic continues to impact our communities and we approach the holiday season, there is no better time to come together to support those in need and we want to thank everyone who is helping to make a return of this important program possible, including MLSE’s ownership group and our founding corporate partners,” said MLSE president and CEO Michael Friisdahl.Second Harvest, the largest food rescue organization in Canada, along with a network of local suppliers and sponsors, are supplying fresh ingredients daily to the MLSE team.The chefs will then turn those supplies, along with other food purchased or donated to the program, into ready-to-heat meals meeting a variety of dietary needs. The meals will delivered five days a week.The meal donation program sees MLSE chefs spread out in Scotiabank Arena kitchens, physically distanced as they cook using giant 120-litre pots. Routes have been set up in the arena to control the flow of traffic and food, from the loading dock to kitchen to meal assembly line.The chefs stay in the kitchen. Others take the food from the kitchen to an open space in the arena to be assembled and packaged into meals. Earlier this year, that was the arena floor. This time, the meals are being put together in the concourse.Once cooked, the food is cooled in fridges, then assembled quickly and covered, wrapped and refrigerated again to await distribution and reheating.At its peak, the MLSE-led program produced 13,000 meals per day, providing meals to more than 75 community agencies and front-line health-care workers and their families at 25 hospitals and health-care facilities in the Greater Toronto Area.“We have heard first-hand about the incredible impact these prepared meals have on the lives of people struggling with hunger and limited access to food programs,” said Lori Nikkel, CEO of Second Harvest. MLSE is working with food hygiene experts and Toronto Public Health to ensure the safety of the meals and of the people preparing them.MLSE owns the Toronto Maple Leafs, Raptors, Argonauts, Marlies and Toronto FC.\---Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Seven classrooms have been shut down at Diamond Trail Public School in Welland after an individual there tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. “As part of COVID-19 case management and infection control protocol, students and staff who had close contact with the individual are being contacted and told by NRPH (Niagara Region Public Health) to stay home and self-isolate,” District School Board of Niagara said in a news release. Whether the individual who contracted the coronavirus is a student or staff member was not publicly known Wednesday. “The preventative COVID-19 practices that Diamond Trail has been following since the beginning of school, such as wearing PPE, physical distancing, maintaining hand hygiene, and doing the daily health screening, will continue,” DSBN said. The same day DSBN reported the case at Diamond Trail, Niagara Catholic District School Board confirmed that the case count at St. Martin Catholic Elementary school in Stevensville had climbed to double digits. The province’s database is indicating that three of the school’s10 cases have been resolved. Of the remaining cases, four have been identified as students and three as staff. The Niagara Catholic website indicated these seven cases are the only active cases for the board. An outbreak was declared at St. Martin on Nov. 19. For DSBN, there are seven active cases from six schools; two at Prince Philip and one case at Martha Cullimore in Niagara Falls, two cases at Eden High School in St. Catharines, one at Port Colborne High School and one at Diamond Trail. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.orgSean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
Changes to the diabetes strategy on P.E.I. announced last week are not enough, say a local advocate and Diabetes Canada.The province increased the number of test strips it will provide every month and raised the age for insulin pump coverage from 18 to 25."This is too small a step," said Brooks Roche, who has been lobbying the government for changes."More needs to be done."Roche said he has been using a glucose monitor connected to an insulin pump for about a year and a half, and it is difficult to describe the difference it has made in his life."The sense of security and the sense of being able to participate and contribute and not to live such an intense sense of anxiety about, can I do what my peers are doing, can I live a day that's a little bit spontaneous," he said.Fiscal and social senseIt is not just about the difference in one person's life, both Roche and Diabetes Canada argue.Providing coverage for people of all ages makes both fiscal and social sense. The complications that can result from diabetes that is not effectively managed can be expensive for the health care system."We need to support them in maintaining their health. It's good for short-term health care cost avoidance and long-term health-care cost avoidance," said Kim Hanson, director of federal affairs for Diabetes Canada.Cutting people off at age 25 is particularly harsh, said Hanson, particularly for people with Type 1 diabetes who will have to manage the disease for their entire lives."Think about the position many folks are in when they turn 25 in our country," she said."They're not in a position to be able to fork four-, five-, six-thousand dollars for diabetes devices every single year."Many private insurance plans cover the insulin pumps, but Roche said it is not right that people should have to rely on that."It hurts me to know that there are folks out there that would benefit so, so much from this technology, who are unable to access it," he said."We absolutely cannot continue tying access to proper treatment to the privilege of having employment."CBC News asked Health PEI for more details about the strategy, and how much adding more resources would cost. The agency has not yet provided that information.More from CBC P.E.I.
The Grand Chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) said he was "disappointed" to hear the federal government acknowledge it would not meet the deadline it set for itself to end all long-term boil water advisories in First Nations.The announcement was made on Wednesday by federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller, who instead announced more than $1.5 billion in long-term funding to help build "a sustainable system that ensures that First Nation communities have access to safe drinking water now and for generations to come."Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler welcomed the announcement of more money for long-term solutions, but said the announcement still doesn't address the needs of people today."It's disheartening for our communities, including Neskantaga [First Nation]. You know, their members are still here in Thunder Bay at a hotel. We don't know when the repatriation process will begin. And it's not just Neskantaga in NAN territory. We have a total of  boil water advisories impacting communities, including my own community of Muskrat Dam since 2004," said Fiddler."So it's something that we've been living with for a long time now."It was during the 2015 federal election that Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau promised to end all boil water advisories on First Nations within five years — which later translated to March 2021. The government even created a website page to track their progress.But during a briefing on Wednesday, senior officials with Indigenous Services Canada said they expect 22 First Nations will still be under a boil water advisory beyond the spring of 2021.The federal minister added the goal of March 2021 "was made to drive forward actions to address drinking water issues and … this approach has worked.""Over 600 water and wastewater projects have been initiated in First Nations communities; 97 long-term drinking water advisories were lifted and importantly, 171 long-term advisories were prevented [by resolving the issues before a short-term advisory turned into a long-term one]," Miller said.He added that the long-term funding will help end all boil water advisories, cover ongoing maintenance costs and improve the training and retention of water plant operators in communities.Fiddler said moving forward, the federal government must commit to doing this work in close collaboration with First Nations."We will feel a bit more comfortable about all this when we see all these commitments in writing and a commitment to work with us in a way that reflects true partnership."
Parry Sound-Almaguin hunters say they feel targeted by a federal firearm ban that came into effect in May, but they don’t believe it influenced the recent hunting season. Bruce Hatt, a member of the Parry Sound Hunters and Anglers Association, said that the association supports safe hunting, gun handling and shooting sports. “The regulations that are out (now), do not do anything for safe hunting, they do not do anything for crime — they do not do anything for anybody, honestly,” said Hatt. “The guns they’re banning are as dangerous as the people that are using them.” On May 1, 2020, the federal government prohibited nine types of “assault-style” firearms as well as placed new restrictions on muzzle energy, which determines the damage a bullet can do, and the bore diameter, which is the calibre of gun. “If you’re a safe gun handler, there’s no reason those guns should be banned — there’s no justification for it,” he said. Asked if the new firearms ban had any effect on the recent hunting season, Hatt replied, “No, I don’t think so.” “Most of the guns that were banned are target rifles used for recreational shooting — the guys I hunt with use the same rifles they’ve used for the last 20 years,” he said. However, the pandemic did impact the hunting season, according to Hatt. “We have people from all over the province come to our camp. A lot of people decided not to come; a lot of us stayed in different locations, met in the morning and social distanced in the field, which was easy to do,” he explained. “But it did impact it — there was a lot people that opted out.” In Sundridge, the Eagle Lake Gun Club has been operating for over 60 years and has over 550 members. Peter Turnbull manages membership for the club and has been hunting in Almaguin for years. He said that in the Parry Sound-Muskoka region, the federal gun ban doesn’t have a big impact; however, the issue, according to Turnbull, is it doesn’t target the right group of people. “There’s about 2.3 million people that are lawfully licensed to have firearms — we’re not the problem,” said Turnbull. “We go through extensive training just to be able to have that privilege.” The firearms ban didn’t affect the hunting season in his opinion, as he said not many hunters would consider hunting with the calibre of rifles listed in the prohibition. “For the most part, the AR-15 are .223 calibre, which isn’t suitable for bear hunting or any big game,” he said. “But there are cases in places, especially up in the far north, where people are using stuff like that.” Echoing Hatt’s sentiments regarding the pandemic’s effect on the 2020 hunting season, Turnbull said there were less hunters at his camp. For both Hatt and Turbull, the emphasis is on the safe handling of guns. “We have to go through courses to get firearms, it’s very regulated, it’s very safe,” said Hatt. STORY BEHIND THE STORY: After seeing a release about a recent federal firearms ban, our reporter wanted to find out if hunters in the Parry Sound, Almaguin region found the firearms ban to alter the hunting season. With the pandemic entering the second wave during the hunting season, she thought it was important to find out if hunting had seen a decline. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
BRUSSELS — A senior legal adviser said Thursday that the European Union’s top court should reject Hungary’s attempts to overturn a European Parliament action aimed at holding the country to account for what lawmakers consider to be a breach of the bloc’s values.Advocate General Michal Bobek recommended that the European Court of Justice “dismiss Hungary’s action as unfounded.” Advocates General routinely provide legal guidance to the ECJ. Their opinions aren't binding on the Luxembourg-based court, but are followed in most cases.The EU parliament launched a procedure in 2018 to force Hungary’s EU partners to sanction the government in Budapest over concerns about the country’s constitutional and electoral systems, the independence of its judiciary, corruption and conflicts of interest, as well as fundamental rights concerns.The “Article 7” procedure was contained in a resolution that was adopted in a 448-197 vote, while 48 lawmakers abstained. Hungary argued that had the abstentions been taken into account, the vote wouldn't have achieved the required two-thirds majority.In Bobek’s opinion, a person who abstains from a vote asks to be counted as neither in favour nor against a proposition, and to be treated as if they weren't voting at all. He also said that EU lawmakers had been informed more than a day before the poll that abstentions wouldn't be counted as votes cast.It’s the first time the parliament has launched such a procedure. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, has also taken similar action against Hungary. If four-fifths of Hungary’s 26 EU partners agree “there is a clear risk of a serious breach” of the bloc’s values, Budapest could lose its voting rights.The EU’s treaty says the bloc “is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.”The Associated Press
The traffic of tourism in Muskoka's winter has always paled in comparison to the traffic in the summer. This year, Darren Scott, owner of the Muskoka Stay n’ Play Tours in Bala, said he’s getting ready for his busiest winter yet. “With all this craziness going on, I’ve had business like no tomorrow,” he said. That “craziness” is, of course, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. Scott said he’s had many calls this fall from people planning their winter getaways for Muskoka in lieu of their normal travelling plans abroad before the pandemic. In the District of Muskoka's survey published Nov. 12, 17 per cent of respondents said they’re hoping to be in Muskoka more often during the weekends in the winter months, meaning a 5,000 to 7,000 population increase. Norah Fountain, the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce's executive director, said while the chamber isn’t encouraging people to travel to Muskoka until the situation is safe, they are expecting a busier winter tourism season with more seasonal residents planning to stay. Overall, provided there's no major changes for the worse with the pandemic in Ontario, Muskoka Lakes and the district at large could see a surge in support of the winter tourism industry. At the Stay n’ Play Tours, Scott’s most popular winter activities are guided snowmobile tours and ice-fishing, usually done on Bala Bay once the water freezes over in the winter. He starts up business around Christmas time, running activities until March break, weather permitting. Scott has been in business for eight years and said local winter activities like these are becoming a bigger thing. “I’ve noticed an influx in people wanting to come up here, and a lot of them are, for the first time,” he said. This year, he’s estimated around 85 per cent of the clientele booking snowmobile tours or ice-fishing expeditions are from the city, while 15 per cent of them are locals. “I’m finding now people are not wanting to travel on planes anywhere. They’re not travelling abroad like they normally would," he said. However, he’s concerned about what this tourism could mean for the spread of the virus: he’s taking a number of precautions to maintain physical distancing, hygiene and cleanliness this winter. “In the past, I’ve booked groups of 30, 40 people. That won’t be the case this year. I want to keep everybody safe and still have a good time,” he said. He’s also sanitizing snowmobile helmets after use and plans to host single touring groups at a time instead of three to four at a time. “I’ve had to spend a little bit more money in prep to do with COVID and change up how my operation is going to be this winter,” he said. For people staying at the cottage, Fountain said there’s an opportunity for people to “rediscover” their own backyard. “If you’re up at the cottage, we hope you’re staying there,” she said. “And while you’re here, there are things to do.” Zahraa Hmood is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering the municipalities of Muskoka Lakes, Lake of Bays and Georgian Bay. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.Zahraa Hmood, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com