Venezuela's government is encouraging private firms to sign import and export deals with companies in Asia and the Middle East as part of an effort to limit the impact of U.S. sanctions, according to four sources with knowledge of the matter. The plan expands on President Nicolas Maduro's existing commercial relationships with allies such as Turkey and Iran, which have already been providing the cash-strapped government with food and fuel in exchange for gold.
This column is an opinion from Graham Thomson, an award-winning journalist who has covered Alberta politics for more than 30 years.Buried amidst the ongoing COVID confusion and controversy this week in Alberta came a bit of unusual news: the UCP government and NDP opposition agreed on something.It wasn't exactly a Kumbaya moment but the two battling political parties that have turned the legislature's daily question period into a form of trench warfare finally see eye-to-eye on an issue.They're both unhappy with the announcement on Monday from federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland involving much-anticipated changes to the fiscal stabilization program that provides money to provinces experiencing a significant drop in revenue year-over-year.Alberta, of course, has been experiencing chronic revenue drops year-over-year-over-year. Because of a series of bad years topped off by a COVID-19 pandemic, Alberta's revenue ride is less like a roller coaster and more like the Drop of Doom.The fiscal stabilization program wasn't designed for that kind of multi-billion-dollar collapse in revenues.In 2016, for example, the Alberta government under the NDP complained that it lost $6.5 billion in revenue because of low oil prices but only received $250 million from the stabilization program that was capped at $60 per provincial resident.After forming government in 2019, the United Conservative Party took up the fight and this year demanded $4 billion instead of the $266 million offered. Not only that, the UCP wanted the higher stabilization payments to be retroactive to 2015.On Monday, Freeland announced the cap is being hiked to $170 per capita, meaning the province is now entitled to receive $750 million this year. But the payments will not be retroactive."[I am] very disappointed that the caps weren't lifted entirely," said Finance Minister Travis Toews. "It really doesn't go far enough."For her part, NDP Leader Rachel Notley sounded like a clone of Toews: "I would continue to advocate for the removal of the cap and I would also suggest that this should be retroactive to when Alberta deserved a fair fiscal stabilization formula in the first place."But the fight to remove the cap completely has gone from difficult to impossible because of the pandemic.WATCH | Alberta politicians unhappy with federal stabilization changesThis year, every province will probably be applying for aid under the stabilization program. Ottawa, already neck-deep in pandemic debt, would be swamped with billions of new claims under a sky's-the-limit fiscal stabilization program.And, besides, premiers who had been supporting Jason Kenney's call for a capless program will likely be happy enough to receive almost triple the amount of money than was available under the old formula.Change of heartBut Kenney's disappointment with Ottawa on Monday shifted to satisfaction on Wednesday.He performed such a sudden change in direction he might need a neck brace for whiplash. But that's the kind loopy politics you get during a pandemic.On Monday, the issue was money.On Wednesday, it was a COVID-19 vaccine."We've been assured by the federal government that shipments will begin to arrive by Jan. 4 and continue to arrive in waves throughout the early part of next year," said Kenney, putting the kind of faith in the federal government apparently not shared by federal Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole.Setting a firm timeline for a vaccine rollout is not particularly risky for Kenney. If the plan works, great. Albertans might be happy enough that Kenney sees his approval ratings start to rise after a year of steady decline. If the vaccines don't arrive on time, Kenney can blame Ottawa yet again for Alberta's problems.Of course, a third scenario is Ottawa delivers the vaccine as promised but Alberta has trouble with the logistics of getting Albertans vaccinated.To that end, Kenney has called in the military — sort of. He has appointed Paul Wynnyk, the deputy minister of municipal affairs and a former general in the Canadian Forces, to lead the province's vaccine task force.In the meantime, as Alberta continues to lead the country in COVID cases, playing in the background is a plan to call on the federal government and Red Cross to set up emergency hospitals should the virus overwhelm our health-care system.Kenney is still trying to spin a positive tale out of the distressing pandemic reality, still trusting that Albertans will take personal responsibility to flatten the curve, still insisting there is "light at the end of the tunnel."But that light might just be a Red Cross truck coming with a field hospital to house Alberta's ever growing number of pandemic patients.
When Stéphanie Chouinard and her husband, Sean, were looking to buy their first home in Toronto this year, they discussed how kids would fit into the picture — searching for a home near a French school, but also one that offered enough space. The couple had been living in a one-bedroom rental, and despite saving, recognized that some areas were out of reach. Their search narrowed in on East York, but even there, Chouinard said any “livable” houses or townhouses they saw were north of $800,000. So a federal program offering help to first-time home buyers, which capped purchase prices at around $505,000, wasn’t an option. “When we saw that program, we knew right away that this wasn’t going to be helping us at all,” said Chouinard. While their combined income was enough for a family-sized home — and high enough to also render them ineligible for the incentive — Chouinard believes the federal rules may have excluded other young families who were looking to have children in their first homes. “If you have a family or are planning to have a family in the near future, that program will very likely not be of much use to you,” she said. And though a federal economic update this week outlined changes to the program to come for Toronto in the spring, Chouinard believes families looking for something beyond a modest apartment will still be “very, very limited.” The federal program offers a shared-equity mortgage through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to reduce the amount that first-time buyers need to save for a down payment and lower monthly mortgage costs. Ottawa pays either five or 10 per cent of the price, and homeowners later pay back that same percentage of the home’s updated value. In its first year, fewer than 10,000 mortgages across Canada were approved through the program — despite a three-year goal of helping 100,000 families. Alberta and Quebec have seen the most uptake: from Feb. 1 to Sept. 1 this year, there were 712 mortgages approved and accepted in Edmonton, 378 in Calgary, and 55 in Airdrie, Alta., but just one in Vancouver, six in Victoria and 16 in Toronto. From Sept. 1, 2019 to Feb. 1, there were more than 4.5 times as many approved and accepted mortgages in Calgary than there were across the Greater Toronto Area. Montreal saw nearly seven times as many approved and accepted mortgages as the GTA in that time. The government has recognized since at least the last election that changes were likely needed for Canada’s hottest markets, and said this week they were coming in spring. Households earning up to $150,000 instead of $120,000 will soon qualify in Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria, and their purchases can total 4.5 times their income, instead of only four times. “It’s not going to get you a three-bedroom downtown or anything, but it’s more aligned with the Toronto housing market,” said Heather Tremain, CEO of the non-profit developer Options for Homes. She sees the changes as positive, but she urged Ottawa to dig deeper into why some may have resisted using it in its first year, including the fact it effectively requires the buyer to pay mortgage insurance, by keeping down payments below 20 per cent. Tremain believes some first-time buyers may have balked at that extra monthly cost, and pursued other options to try to reach that 20 per cent mark instead. She said she’d also heard concerns from lenders about the government sharing any home value appreciation. Paul Taylor, president and CEO of Mortgage Professionals Canada, echoed those concerns and added that some buyers may also struggle with the very idea of co-owning their homes. Though he believes the changes coming in the spring are a “net positive,” he also questioned whether the incentive would be as successful as the feds had projected. When asked by the Star about the first-year numbers for the program and several of the concerns in this story, a federal department of finance official reiterated in an email the rule changes planned for spring 2021. They would “make homeownership more affordable,” they wrote. Both Tremain and Ken Bowman of Meridian Credit Union backed the incremental approach that Ottawa seemed to be taking. “I don’t think frenetic change on something as important as a housing strategy is particularly inspiring,” Bowman said. Both speculated that the pandemic may have hindered uptake in 2020. But UBC professor Paul Kershaw, founder of the research and advocacy group Generation Squeeze, believes a fundamental shift is needed to address the challenges that first-time buyers face in big cities. While he believes the strategy is “well thought-out,” he urged more attention to the root causes of unaffordability. He pointed to a Generation Squeeze report last year, which found that it took a typical 25- to 34-year-old in the GTA 21 years to save up a 20 per cent payment for an average-priced home. If first-time buyers were getting older in the city, Kershaw said others may find themselves in the same situation as Chouinard. “They need to have enough space in that home so that they’re not using closets as a nursery,” he said. Diana Petramala, a senior economist with Ryerson University, said even with the updated rules, new buyers looking near downtown Toronto would be limited mostly to one-bedroom units, or older two-bedrooms. Buying a townhouse might be more possible, she said, in the outskirts — areas like Durham or Simcoe. While Chouinard and her husband were ultimately able to purchase a first home with three bedrooms within the city, it took a combined household income well above the cutoff for federal help and renting into their 30s to do so. Chouinard said a friend of hers recently left the city after nearly a decade, feeling it just wasn’t affordable; she suspects others are in the same boat. “It does eat away at the attractiveness of Toronto as a city for young professionals,” she said. Victoria Gibson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
NEW DELHI — A chilly breeze whirls through New Delhi in the mornings and the sun is partly obscured by toxic haze, a marker of another winter in the Indian capital. But along the city's borders, this year is visibly and viscerally different.The perpetually busy arterial highways that connect most northern Indian towns to this city of 29 million people now pulse to the cries of “Inquilab Zindabad” — “Long live the revolution.” Tens and thousands of farmers with distinctive, colorful turbans and long, flowing beards have descended upon the city's borders, choking highways in giant demonstrations against new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation.For more than a week, they’ve marched toward the capital on their tractors and trucks like an army, pushing aside concrete police barricades while braving tear gas, batons and water cannons. Now, on the outskirts of New Delhi, they are hunkered down with food and fuel supplies that can last weeks and threatening to besiege the capital if Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government doesn't meet their demands to abolish the laws.“Modi wants to sell our lands to corporates,” said one of them, Kaljeet Singh, 31, who travelled from Ludhiana city in Punjab, some 310 kilometres (190 miles) north of New Delhi. “He can’t decide for millions of those who for generations have given their blood and sweat to the land they regard as more precious than their lives.”At night, the farmers sleep in trailers and under trucks, curling themselves in blankets to brave the winter chill. During the day, they sit huddled in groups in their vehicles, surrounded by mounds of rice, lentils and vegetables that are prepared into meals at hundreds of makeshift soup kitchens, in enormous pots stirred with wooden spoons the size of canoe paddles.Anmol Singh, 33, who supports his family of six by farming, said the new laws were part of a larger plan to hand over the farmers' land to big corporations and make them landless.“Modi wants the poor farmer to die of hunger so that he can fill the stomachs of his rich friends,” he said. “We are here to fight his brutal decrees peacefully.”He paused, then reconsidered: “Actually, let him and his ministers take us on. We will give them a bloody nose.”Many of the protesting farmers hail from northern Punjab and Haryana, two of the largest agricultural states in India. An overwhelming majority of them are Sikhs. They fear the laws passed in September will lead the government to stop buying grain at minimum guaranteed prices and result in exploitation by corporations who will push down prices. Many activists and farming experts support their demand for a minimum guaranteed price for their crops.The new rules will also eliminate agents who act as middlemen between the farmers and the government-regulated wholesale markets. Farmers say agents are a vital cog of the farm economy and their main line of credit, providing quick funds for fuel, fertilizers and even loans in case of family emergencies.The laws have compounded existing resentment from farmers, who often complain of being ignored by the government in their push for better crop prices, additional loan waivers and irrigation systems to guarantee water during dry spells.The government has argued the laws bring about necessary reform that will allow farmers to market their produce and boost production through private investment. But farmers say they were never consulted.With nearly 60% of the Indian population depending on agriculture for their livelihoods, the growing farmer rebellion has rattled Modi’s administration and allies. His leaders have scrambled to contain the protests, which are fast resembling last year’s scenes when a contentious new citizenship law that discriminated against Muslims led to demonstrations that culminated in violence.Those demonstrations were much bigger in scale, but the farmers' rumblings are growing fast and gaining widespread support of ordinary citizens who have started joining them in large numbers.Modi and his allies have tried to allay farmers’ fears about the new laws while dismissing their concerns. Some of his party leaders have called the farmers “misguided” and “anti-national,” a label often given to those who criticize Modi or his policies.The government is holding talks with the farmers to persuade them to end their protests, but they have dug in their heels.On Friday, a group of 35 leaders of the farmers called for a nationwide shutdown on Tuesday and said the protests would continue until the laws are revoked.Farmer Kulwant Singh, 72, said that when he left his home in Haryana for the protests, he gave his wife a garland of flowers for two possible scenarios.“Either I return victorious and she places it around my neck in celebration, or I die here revolting and the same garland is put on my body when it reaches home,” Singh said.Such passions run deep among the protesters who have found social, economic and generational barriers tumbling during the demonstrations.Singh isn't the only one from his family who travelled to New Delhi for what he called “Qilah Fatehi," an Urdu term that translates to “laying a siege.” His son and grandson also accompanied him.“It's a fight for my generation too,” said Amrinder Singh, 16.As demonstrations grow, the protesters have also started to drive a political message home.Not satisfied with Modi's federal policies, many of which have attracted widescale resentment from his critics and minorities, protesting farmers say it's time he stops what they call his “dictatorial behaviour.”“India is in a recession. There are hardly any jobs and our country's secular fabric is in tatters,” said Gurpreet Singh, 26, a biotechnology student who comes from a farming family. “At a time when India needs a healing touch, Modi is coming up with divisive, controversial laws. This is unacceptable and defies our constitutional values.”Modi's second term in power since May 2019 has been marked by several convulsions. The economy has tanked, social strife widened, protests have erupted against discriminatory laws and his government has been questioned over its response to the pandemic.The farmer protests present a new challenge for the government.The protesters' desire to stand up to Modi and his policies extends to a sexagenarian farmer couple who drove 250 kilometres (155 miles) from Chandigarh city in a hatchback Sunday to participate in the demonstrations.Dharam Singh Sandhu, 67, and Vimaljeet Kaur, 66, are spending nights in their car parked near the protest site. In the morning, they share breakfast at a makeshift soup kitchen. The latter part of the day is spent taking part in the demonstrations.“Our land is our mother. If we can’t protect it then we have no right to live," Sandhu said about the protests.His wife spoke passionately of a larger purpose as she made her way to the protest site through a stream of vehicles honking incessantly to get past congested traffic.“Our country is like a bunch of flowers, but Modi wants it to be of the same colour. He has no right to do that. I am here to protest against that mindset," Kaur said.As Kaur walked hand in hand with her husband, a great cry emerged from one of the vehicles: “Inquilab Zindabad.”The crowd turned and followed their gaze toward a young man with a black beard who held up his fist through the car's window.The protesters, including Kaur, roared back: “Inquilab Zindabad!"Sheikh Saaliq, The Associated Press
Les habitants des treize municipalités ainsi que des territoires non organisés de la MRC du Fjord-du-Saguenay peuvent désormais être rejoints via un nouveau système d’alerte et de notifications de masse en cas de sinistre. Le préfet de la MRC du Fjord-du-Saguenay, Gérald Savard, en a fait l’annonce, jeudi matin, quelques heures avant la tenue d’un test général. Selon les explications fournies par voie de communiqué, le nouveau système permettra aux services responsables de la gestion des urgences d’expédier gratuitement des messages par téléphone, messages textes ou courriels en cas d’urgence. Des avis d’intérêt public comme des avis d’ébullition, fermetures de rues, bris de ponceaux, évacuations, inondations, incendies de forêt ou autres situations d’urgence figurent dans la panoplie de messages possibles. Le nouveau système a été mis en place afin de répondre au règlement du ministère de la Sécurité publique portant sur les procédures d’alerte et de mobilisation en cas de sinistre. Pour bénéficier du service, les citoyens doivent cependant être inscrits via le lien sur la page d’accueil du site Internet de chaque municipalité. Jeudi après-midi, un premier test a été effectué auprès de l’ensemble des citoyens des municipalités et territoires. Ceux qui ne l’ont pas reçu sont priés de procéder à leur inscription.Denis Villeneuve, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Quotidien
Ontario reported another 1,780 cases of COVID-19 and 25 more deaths from the illness on Friday, as the provincial government announced the members of its vaccine distribution task force.The province also said three more regions are moving into new levels of the province's colour-coded restrictions framework for at least 28 days. York Region continued to avoid being placed in lockdown despite being among the hardest hit regions after Toronto and Peel.As of Monday, Middlesex-London and Thunder Bay will be in the orange "restrict" tier, while the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit will move into the yellow "protect" category."Over the last seven days we have seen the trends in key public health indicators continue to go in the wrong direction in these three regions," said Minister of Health Christine Elliott in a news release.The new cases reported Friday include 633 in Toronto, 433 in Peel Region, 152 in York Region and 94 in Durham Region. Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were: * Windsor-Essex: 68 * Halton Region: 51 * Hamilton: 43 * Simcoe Muskoka: 41 * Waterloo Region: 40 * Middlesex-London: 39 * Ottawa: 36 * Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 25 * Niagara Region: 21 * Southwestern: 20 * Thunder Bay: 13 * Brant County: 11 * Huron Perth: 10Also included in today's new cases are 129 that are school-related: 102 students and 27 staff members. Some 776 of Ontario's 4,828 publicly-funded schools, or about 16 per cent, currently have at least one case of COVID-19, while eight schools are currently closed because of the illness.(Note: All of the figures used for new cases in this story are found on the Ontario health ministry's COVID-19 dashboard or in its daily epidemiologic summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit because local units report figures at different times.)Given today's figures, the seven-day average of new daily cases dropped slightly to 1,759.There are currently 14,997 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 provincewide, the most at any point since the outbreak began in late January.They come as Ontario's network of labs processed 56,001 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a test positivity rate of 3.6 per cent. Another 62,400 tests are in the queue waiting to be completed. Moreover, the number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of the illness climbed to 674. Of those, 207 are being treated in intensive care, though an internal Critical Care Services Ontario report puts the current total at 214 as of Friday morning. Some 116 are on ventilators.The 25 additional deaths pushes the province's official toll to 3,737. Vaccine task force members announcedMeanwhile, the province has appointed nine people to its vaccine panel, including the province's top coroner.The panel, headed by retired chief of national defence staff Rick Hillier, will oversee distribution of the vaccine when available.Health Minister Christine Elliott said it will be up to the panel to ensure effective and ethical delivery of a vaccine.WATCH | Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a member of the vaccine task force, details his priorities:Key tasks include delivery, logistics and administration, clinical guidance as well as public education and outreach.The panel includes Chief Coroner Dr. Dirk Huyer, former Toronto police chief Mark Saunders, and Linda Hasenfratz, head of car parts giant Linamar.LTC commission recommends annual inspectionsOntario's Long-Term Care Commission released its second interim report Friday morning, making seven more recommendations to the Progressive Conservative government. The interim report, which comes amid surging cases, notes 100 homes have seen an outbreak in the last six weeks, with 300 more deaths.Among them is a call to reintroduce comprehensive annual inspections, known as Resident Quality Inspections (RQI), which were eliminated by the province in the fall of 2018. The process required a minimum of one thorough, unannounced inspection each year. Only 27 homes were inspected last year, far fewer than in previous years, the report states. Inspectors looked at only 11 of the province's 670 nursing homes proactively from March 1 after the pandemic hit to Oct. 15.Inspectors issue mandatory orders only in "extreme circumstances," the report says, noting only 21 were handed out between January 2019 and August 2020. Fines or prosecutions are "rarely applied," resulting in a "lack of urgency" from home operators to address violations.CBC Marketplace reported in September that an analysis commissioned by the Ministry of Long-Term Care in 2015 concluded that RQIs were up to five times more effective than other types of inspections.In a statement, Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton didn't specifically mention the issue of inspections but said the government has already moved to address many of the commission's ongoing recommendations."We have invested over $750 million to protect residents, caregivers, and staff in long-term care homes during the pandemic, and we will continue to act on the commissioners' recommendations to protect our most valuable.
OTTAWA — A quick look at Canada's November employment (numbers from the previous month in brackets):Unemployment rate: 8.5 per cent (8.9)Employment rate: 59.5 per cent (59.4)Participation rate: 65.1 per cent (65.2)Number unemployed: 1,735,200 (1,816,800)Number working: 18,615,600 (18,553,500)Youth (15-24 years) unemployment rate: 17.4 per cent (18.8)Men (25 plus) unemployment rate: 7.4 per cent (7.8)Women (25 plus) unemployment rate: 6.8 per cent (6.8)This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020 and was generated automatically.The Canadian Press
WELLINGTON COUNTY – A newly-announced mobile addictions services van in Wellington County aims to bridge healthcare gaps in rural areas of the county. Stonehenge Therapeutic Community recently got $900,000 in funding from Ontario Health to enhance their addiction services. Kristen Kerr, executive director of Stonehenge Therapeutic Community, said about a third of this is going toward a project to serve the needs of rural Wellington County residents who face substance use issues. They are expanding their Rapid Access Addiction Clinics (RAAC), where there is only one in Wellington County, with a mobile van that can address issues with transportation, a common gap in health services in the county. “These clinics offer specialized medical addiction services and that can be hard to access when you live in a rural community,” Kerr said. “Sometimes it can be quite a long geographic distance to get to a clinic that is stationary. We have four existing clinics but most of them are far from Harriston for example.” Kerr said another issue in rural areas when accessing addiction services relates to anonymity. The thought is In a smaller community, people who are using such services can be more easily identified by other residents. The van itself will act as a mobile medical clinic that is staffed with a nurse practitioner. “It will be able to go to more central or accessible locations so that folks from the rural areas can more easily access the clinic,” Kerr said. The nurse practitioner can provide medicine services, addictions counselling and referrals. Kerr said they are working out the fine details with their rural healthcare partners such as precisely where the van will go in the county and therefore couldn’t say exactly where it will be making stops. Some of the funding is also going toward enhancing supportive housing they have in Guelph for those who face substance-use issues and have some level of involvement in the justice system. Kerr said the van concept was created from feedback about barriers clients face in rural areas and they will continue to listen and learn how they can improve. “I think listening to those who need to access service and listening to the voice of people with lived experience is key to knowing what more we need to do,” Kerr said. Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com
Lawyers fought the latest round of a 16-year legal battle by video conference in the province’s top court on Tuesday and Wednesday. The long-running dispute between Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (PBCN) and the Saskatchewan government aims to find whether 600 flooded acres of land near Southend is a reserve. The debate centres on whether to uphold Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Dan Konkin’s 2019 decision finding the land was never properly designated as a reserve. That decision also tossed out PBCN’s claim that the flooding meant the province and SaskPower were trespassing on the land. This week, PBCN and the federal government argued it is a reserve — a finding that would throw out the lower court’s decision and help the First Nation’s legal counsel press for compensation based off the trespassing claim. “The important thing here is the ownership of (roughly) 10,000 acres of land is at stake,” said Thomas Berger, a prominent British Columbia lawyer who has long served as PBCN’s counsel on the case. The Saskatchewan government and SaskPower argued to uphold the 2019 decision, saying the reserve was never properly designated. The Ministry of Justice declined to comment on a matter before the courts. One part of the dispute centres on a surveyor’s actions almost a century ago. When the surveyor was tasked with finding Barren Lands band members at Southend in 1929, he found members of PBCN. PBCN argued he took steps to create a reserve there. A 1981 federal government cabinet order and the land’s inclusion in the 1992 Saskatchewan Treaty Land Entitlement Framework Agreement confirmed that designation, PBCN’s factum said. In an interview, Berger said the province’s position on its status was a reversal because “25 years later, they said, ‘we made a mistake.’ ” Saskatchewan legal counsel Mitch McAdam said that’s not necessarily the case. In a factum, he wrote that the surveyor’s “instructions were crystal clear — to survey a reserve at Southend for Barren Lands — and he carried those instructions out ‘to a T.’ ” However, McAdam said the survey was flawed and incomplete. He said the government also never confirmed it as a reserve, meaning the land passed to Saskatchewan under the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement in 1930. That brings into question who owns the land that Whitesand Dam floods as it controls Reindeer River’s flow into the nearby Island Falls hydroelectric power station. Berger says his clients are owed their “fair share” of compensation for the flooding, but that partly depends on how the court sides on the question of the land’s reserve status. “If Peter Ballantyne has no interest in the (land), in other words, the (land) is not Indian reserve land, (and) Peter Ballantyne has no claim in trespass,” the SaskPower factum noted. Berger expects to hear the top court’s decision sometime in 2021. NoneNick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix
MADRID — Spain’s armed forces chief has dismissed as ‘’not representative” leaked chats by retired military officers allegedly talking about shooting political adversaries and praising late dictator Gen. Francisco Franco.In a statement Friday, Air Force Gen. Miguel Villarroya Vilalta also said the remarks by the retired military members “damage the image of the Spanish Armed Forces and only confuse public opinion.’’The messages from a private Whatsapp group were published recently by Spain’s Infolibre news website. They reportedly were posted by members of the General Air Force Academy class that started training in 1963, when Franco still ruled the country.Some of them were among dozens of retired officers who wrote King Felipe VI last month to criticize Spain’s left-wing coalition government. The letters to the monarch included some of the language used by far-right politicians and expressed discontent with the “social-communist” government led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and its deals with separatist parties in parliament.The royal palace has not commented on the letter.It is not clear how many people were involved in the chats.Spain’s defence minister Thursday asked prosecutors to investigate, saying both the letters and the chats were “reprehensible.”The country’s leading conservative opposition Popular party has refrained from condemning the comments while its ally, the far-right VOX party, has said it identifies with the ex-military members.Villarroya said the Spanish armed forces did not look to the past and were “always in (the) service of the Spanish people and the constitution.”According to Infolibre, one of the WhatsApp chat participants, while discussing activists advocating for the northeastern Catalonia region’s independence from Spain, wrote: “There is no other choice but to start shooting 26 million (expletive).”Another group chat member referred to Franco, who helped lead a military rebellion that led to Spain’s 1936-39 Civil War and then became the country’s dictator, as “the Irreplaceable.”The armed forces were a backbone of Franco’s regime until the dictator died in 1975. Spain’s peaceful transition to democracy didn’t lead to a widespread purge in the military ranks as happened in other countries emerging from authoritarian regimes.In 1981, a coup d’état bid by a few members of a paramilitary police force ended when then-King Juan Carlos I, Felipe’s father, condemned the plot on national television.____Associated Press writer Aritz Parra contributed to this report.CiaráN Giles, The Associated Press
The Humboldt Special Olympics Floor Hockey Team took home the Special Olympics Canada Team of the Year Award. TSN hosted the award ceremony on Facebook Live on Dec. 3 with athletes and coaches sending in their thank you videos for the ceremony. The team has been collecting the hardware over the last two years with a bronze medal win during the 2019 Special Olympics Ontario Invitational youth games in Toronto and another bronze win at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Thunder Bay 2020. Floor hockey has been part of the Humboldt Special Olympics sporting list for the last 16 years. Ever since the team lost fellow teammate, Brody Hinz, in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, the team has played to honour him, said Vic Rauter, a TSN announcer, during the ceremony. “Since the loss of their friend and teammate, the Special Olympics Humboldt Broncos floor hockey team have been on a mission to honour those lost and those who were affected.” This award comes on the cusp of two provincial awards in October, another team award for the floor hockey team and a coaching award from coach Brain Reifferscheid. Reifferscheid said the award was unexpected and the coaches and players are pretty happy and proud and excited and humbled by the honour, he said. The provincial award was enough of a surprise for the team to wrap their heads around and celebrate but it was not long after before they were contacted by Special Olympics Canada about their national award. This will be the second year in a row that a Humboldt Special Olympics athlete or team has received a national award from Special Olympics Canada, with Tianna Zimmerman from Englefeld taking home Athlete of the Year during the 2019 award ceremony as well as the provincial honour that same year, just like the floor hockey team. This two year stretch at both the national and provincial level said a lot about the Special Olympics Humboldt, Reifferscheid said. “We've got a group of athletes that are very sports-minded and committed to achieving high goals. It also says something about the Special Olympics Humboldt organization, all the volunteers and coaches and all the sports. Everyone has a piece of contributing to helping athletes be successful.” On behalf of the Humboldt Special Olympics floor hockey team, they are honoured to receive this award, Reifferscheid said.Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
ROUYN-NORANDA-Une adolescente de 14 ans a perdu la vie en milieu de soirée jeudi, après avoir été heurtée par un véhicule sur le boulevard Saguenay, à Rouyn-Noranda. Les circonstances exactes de l’accident ne sont pas encore connues. «Nous avons parlé aux personnes impliquées dans la collision, et l’enquête se poursuit, indique la Sgt. Nancy Fournier, du service des communications de la Sûreté du Québec. Des enquêteurs et des experts en reconstitution ont travaillé toute la soirée et toute la nuit pour tenter d’en savoir plus.» L’accident est survenu dans le secteur Noranda-Nord, à l’angle du boulevard Saguenay et du chemin England. «Il s’agit d’un secteur où la limite de vitesse passe de 70 km/h à 90 km/h, en direction de La Sarre, souligne la Sgt. Fournier. Pour le moment, il est trop tôt pour dévoiler l’identité de la jeune victime, puisque nous devons aviser les proches de son décès. Ce que nous pouvons dire pour le moment, c’est que ni l’alcool, ni la drogue ne sont en cause.» La passagère du véhicule a dû être transportée à l’hôpital, après avoir subi un violent choc nerveux.Michel Ducas, Initiative de journalisme local, La Presse Canadienne
Après une longue saga, voilà que les communautés innues de Uashat mak Mani-utenam et Matimekush-Lac John ont signé une entente de réconciliation et de collaboration avec la Compagnie minière IOC. Depuis 2010, de nombreuses négociations ont eu lieu entre la minière et les deux communautés. Une poursuite judiciaire avait même été entamée contre IOC. Au cœur du litige se trouvait l’exploitation du Nitassinan (territoire ancestral traditionnel des Innus) qui a été exploité sans le consentement des Innus. L'entente qui a été ratifiée aujourd'hui prévoit notamment que l'entreprise minière fournira des paiements financiers, des avantages en matière d’emploi et des opportunités d’affaires aux communautés innues ainsi qu’une meilleure collaboration sur le plan environnemental. L’entente prévoit également que IOC présente des excuses. Les deux communautés se sont engagées à retirer les poursuites judiciaires qui avaient été intentées contre la compagnie. Cet accord a été baptisé « Ussiniun », ce qui signifie « renouveau » en langue innue. « Cette entente marque le début d’une nouvelle relation avec IOC, basée sur le respect et le partenariat. Les compensations et les retombées pour nos membres nous permettront de prendre encore plus en main le développement de notre communauté. Le respect démontré par IOC nous permettra de tourner la page sur un historique de conflits et de regarder l’avenir avec optimisme », a affirmé le Chef de Uashat mak Mani-utenam. De son côté, le président et chef de la direction de IOC, Clayton Walker, a déclaré : « Cette entente à long terme est une étape importante qui nous permet d'avancer ensemble et de construire des relations solides basées sur le respect, la confiance et les avantages mutuels. Nous nous engageons à travailler en collaboration avec les communautés de Uashat mak Mani-utenam et de Matimekush-Lac John afin de concrétiser les nombreux avantages de cette entente pour toutes les parties concernées. » L'entente qui a été acceptée en août par les deux communautés innues a par la suite été présentée aux membres de chacune des communautés. Un référendum a été effectué dans la communauté de Matimekush-Lac John pour approuver l'entente et l'option du oui l'a emportée à 83%.Vincent Berrouard, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Nord-Côtier
TORONTO — Ontario's police watchdog is investigating after police shot and injured a man in the west end of Toronto. The Special Investigations Unit says the shooting happened Thursday afternoon after 4 p.m. A news release says witnesses had reported a screaming man holding a sharp object in Etobicoke. Toronto police officers arrived at the scene and the agency says one of them shot the man. The 30-year-old was taken to a hospital with serious injuries. Four investigators and two forensic investigators are assigned to the case and the watchdog has identified one subject officer and one witness officer. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020. The Canadian Press
Northumberland Paramedics recently recognized fellow Canadian first responders who were killed in the line of duty. Fallen civilian and military paramedics were honoured at a service hosted Dec. 2 by Northumberland Paramedics. The service kicked off a three-day tour through the county of the Paramedic Memorial Bell, which is a monument recognizing those who have died. “We have gathered on this solemn occasion to recognize the men and women who, while serving as military or civilian paramedics, lost their lives in the line of duty,” said Northumberland Paramedics Chief Susan Brown. “Northumberland Paramedics (is) privileged to host the Paramedic Memorial Bell this week – a tribute to these individuals. By reading each name inscribed on the bell, we bear witness to the ultimate sacrifice made by these first responders while serving their community -- honouring individuals who are gone but never forgotten.” Co-ordinated by the Paramedic Memorial Foundation, the bell travels through communities each year as part of an ongoing effort to raise awareness and funds for the construction of a stationary national monument to memorialize fallen paramedics. The bell sits atop a three-tiered wooden base, where the 51 names of those being honoured are engraved onto small plates, dating as recent as this year and going back to 1980. The Paramedic Memorial Bell is typically part of the Paramedic Memorial Ride tour, which is an inter-provincial cycling journey. With this year’s rides cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, organizers have arranged for the bell to travel between paramedic services across Ontario for local ceremonies. The tour started in Windsor in June and will continue moving through eastern Ontario and onwards to Ottawa for a closing ceremony on Parliament Hill. “As this monument makes stops across Ontario on its journey to Ottawa this year, let it be a reminder of the individuals who responded to the call of duty despite significant personal risk,” said county warden Bob Sanderson. “And let us express our gratitude for the paramedics who continue to carry the torch and deliver the vital pre-hospital health care that keeps our community safe, strong and healthy.” The Paramedic Memorial Bell will be received Dec. 4 in several Northumberland communities by local officials. Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Northumberland News
Canada added more jobs than expected in November, Statistics Canada data showed on Friday, though the pace of growth slowed and the numbers reflect labor conditions before more lockdowns were imposed later in the month. Canada added 62,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate fell to 8.5%, beating analyst predictions of a gain of 20,000 jobs and for the unemployment rate to remain at 8.9%. "Canada's labor market continued to outrun COVID in November," said Royce Mendes, senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets.
Check out how much fun this gorilla baby is having at the Kansas City Zoo. Cuteness overload!
Chatham-Kent is looking to learn more about the experiences of residents who are immigrants as part of efforts to make the region more welcoming and grow the population.For the first time, the municipality is conducting an online survey to assess how welcome immigrants feel in the community.As Audrey Ansell, Chatham-Kent's manager of community attraction and promotion, explained on Windsor Morning, the project is an important one for the municipality, which has been focused on immigration for more than a decade."It's really important that we understand the experiences of immigrants in our community ... whether they arrived 45 years ago, or four years ago," she told host Tony Doucette on Friday."We want to be able to build on Chatham-Kent as Canada's first welcoming community," Ansell said, referring to a 2016 designation from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.The survey questions are based on the 17 characteristics of a welcoming community, such as access to housing, employment, transportation and opportunities for community engagement, Ansell explained. The survey also asks about experiences with discrimination."We're asking immigrant newcomers in Chatham-Kent to rate our community based on those factors," she said.According to the 2016 Census, 8,630 residents of the municipality are immigrants out of a population of just over 102,000.The 30-question survey is being offered in five languages, though speakers of additional languages who want to complete the survey can reach out to the Chatham-Kent Local Immigration Partnership. The survey is open until Dec. 28.
Ralentie par la pandémie de COVID-19, qui a causé une baisse de 3 % des heures travaillées en 2020, l’industrie de la construction au Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean devrait rebondir de 9 % en 2021, soutenue par les investissements publics. Comme le veut la pratique, la Commission de la construction du Québec (CCQ) vient de publier son bilan 2020 et les perspectives de la prochaine année pour cette industrie qui compte 170 000 travailleurs à travers la province, dont 6000 au Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. Selon les prévisions publiées, les travailleurs oeuvrant dans le secteur des chantiers électriques devraient profiter de l’année 2021 avec l’accélération de la construction de la nouvelle ligne Micoua-Saguenay d’Hydro-Québec, un projet d’une valeur de 793 M$ qui doit être complété en 2022. L’ensemble du projet sera partagé avec la Côte-Nord, qui a subi une baisse de 28 % des heures travaillées en 2020. La CCQ ajoute à la liste la réfection de la centrale d’Isle-Maligne par Rio Tinto, au coût de 160 M$, d’ici 2026, ainsi que la réfection du centre de cuisson d’anodes avec un investissement de 209 M$. La construction du parc éolien Val-Éo figure également parmi les chantiers liés à la production d’électricité. Il y a lieu de croire que certains travailleurs de la région profiteront de la réouverture du chantier Romaine 4, sur la Basse-Côte-Nord, ralenti dans la dernière année par des problèmes de sécurité. La CCQ prédit une hausse de 28 % des heures travaillées. La réfection de la Centrale Rapide-Blanc, en Mauricie, sera également une source d’activités pour les travailleurs de la région, alors qu’un entrepreneur du Lac-Saint-Jean vient d’y décrocher un contrat de 12 M$. Dans le secteur résidentiel, l’année 2021 pourrait être marquée par l’ouverture de trois chantiers de maisons des aînés ainsi que par le début de la construction du stade de soccer intérieur de Jonquière. Le démarrage des grands projets se fait attendre alors que Métaux BlackRock est toujours à la recherche de financement pour pouvoir lancer la construction d’une mine de ferrovanadium et d’une usine à Grande-Anse, bien que l’entreprise ait tous les permis en main pour lancer la construction. Il en va de même pour le projet d’exploitation d’apatite d’Arianne Phosphate. Résidentiel Les données publiées pour la construction résidentielle n’incluent pas de prévisions régionales, mais la CCQ indique que ce secteur terminera 2020 avec 51 550 mises en chantier, une hausse de 7 % comparativement à 2019. Un total de 32 millions d’heures travaillées figure au tableau, en baisse de 3 %. La CCQ prédit une baisse de 3 % en 2021 avec 47 000 habitations construites et 31 millions d’heures travaillées. La baisse du nombre d’entrées de résidants non permanents, qui était en forte croissance ces dernières années, et la crise sanitaire expliquent la baisse anticipée. Industriel Selon les chiffres publiés, l’année 2020 aura été plutôt éprouvante pour le secteur industriel. L’activité allait déjà en ralentissant depuis le milieu de 2019, et le secteur peine à reprendre sa vitesse de croisière depuis la réouverture des chantiers. Le volume de travail s’établira à 9,5 millions d’heures travaillées, en baisse de 17 % par rapport à 2019. Ce sera le plus faible niveau d’activité généré par le secteur depuis le milieu des années 1990. La fermeture des chantiers de la fin mars au début mai explique en grande partie ces faibles résultats. De plus, l’incertitude entourant la pandémie a entraîné l’annulation ou le report de divers projets, comme c’est le cas des travaux prévus par Valero à Lévis, qui sont repoussés à une date indéterminée. Institutionnel Le secteur institutionnel et commercial a été ralenti dans sa forte impulsion amorcée en 2018, et perdra 10 % en 2021, avec un volume de 88,0 millions d’heures travaillées, toujours selon ce qui est avancé par la CCQ. Loin d’être une catastrophe dans les circonstances, ce niveau se révèle être celui qui a été atteint il y a deux ans seulement. En 2021, le secteur reprendra graduellement du poil de la bête, même si l’incertitude risque d’être encore présente. Du côté du commercial, la confiance est ébranlée et différents acteurs privés pourraient repousser leurs projets.Denis Villeneuve, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Quotidien
ROME — Qatar's foreign minister said Friday that his country remains committed to the creation of a Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem, and that progress on that front would need to be “at the core” of any agreement to normalize relations with Israel. “Right now, I don't see that the normalization of Qatar and Israel is going to to add value to the Palestinian people,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said at Italy’s annual Mediterranean Dialogue. There was speculation that Qatar — which already co-operates with Israel in providing aid to the Gaza Strip — might be the next Arab country to normalize relations after the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan established diplomatic ties with Israel earlier this year. But the foreign minister said Qatar remains committed to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, in which Arab countries would recognize Israel in exchange for its withdrawal from territories occupied in the 1967 war and the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem. The foreign minister noted that his country has a “working relationship” with Israel to provide aid to Gaza, where the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. “But for the full normalization, I believe that the (Palestinian issue) needs to be at the core of any agreement of normalization between Qatar and Israel,” he said. The wealthy Gulf country's aid to Gaza has provided a lifeline to the territory, which has been under a crippling Israeli and Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power. It has also been a key element in a shaky, informal truce that has prevented any major outbreaks of fighting in recent years. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars — the most recent in 2014 — as well as countless smaller skirmishes. The normalization agreements with Israel, brokered by the United States, were widely seen as a breakthrough in Mideast diplomacy. But the Palestinians condemned the agreements as a betrayal because they marked a major erosion in Arab support for their cause, a key source of leverage in any future peace talks. The Associated Press