A swan splashes in the water in Toronto, ON.
A swan splashes in the water in Toronto, ON.
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took their oaths of office on Wednesday using Bibles that are laden with personal meaning, writing new chapters in a long-running American tradition — and one that appears nowhere in the law. The Constitution does not require the use of a specific text for swearing-in ceremonies and specifies only the wording of the president’s oath. That wording does not include the phrase “so help me God,” but every modern president has appended it to their oaths and most have chosen symbolically significant Bibles for their inaugurations. That includes Biden, who used the same family Bible he has used twice when swearing in as vice-president and seven times as senator from Delaware. The book, several inches thick, and which his late son Beau also used when swearing in as Delaware attorney general, has been a “family heirloom” since 1893 and “every important date is in there,” Biden told late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert last month. “Why is your Bible bigger than mine? Do you have more Jesus than I do?” quipped Colbert, who like Biden is a practicing Catholic. Biden’s use of his family Bible underscores the prominent role his faith has played in his personal and professional lives — and will continue to do so as he becomes the second Catholic president in U.S. history. He follows in a tradition of many other presidents who used family-owned scriptures to take their oaths, including Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Some have had their Bibles opened to personally relevant passages during their ceremonies. Bill Clinton, for example, chose Isaiah 58:12 — which urges the devout to be a “repairer of the breach” — for his second inauguration after a first term marked by political schisms with conservatives. Others took their oaths on closed Bibles, like John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, who in 1961 used his family’s century-old tome with a large cross on the front, similar to Biden’s. The tradition of using a Bible dates as far back as the presidency itself, with the holy book used by George Washington later appearing on exhibit at the Smithsonian on loan from the Masonic lodge that provided it in 1789. Washington’s Bible was later used for the oaths by Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. But not every president has used a Bible. Theodore Roosevelt took his 1901 oath without one after the death of William McKinley, while John Quincy Adams used a law book in 1825, according to his own account. Some have employed multiple Bibles during their ceremonies: Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump chose to use, along with others, the copy that Abraham Lincoln was sworn in on in 1861. Harris did the same for her vice-presidential oath, using a Bible owned by a close family friend and one that belonged to the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Harris has spoken of her admiration of Marshall, a fellow Howard University graduate and trailblazer in government as the high court’s first African American justice. “When I raise my right hand and take the oath of office tomorrow, I carry with me two heroes who’d speak up for the voiceless and help those in need,” Harris tweeted Tuesday, referring to Marshall and friend Regina Shelton, whose Bible she swore on when becoming attorney general of California and later senator. Harris, who attended both Baptist and Hindu services as a child, worships in the Baptist faith as an adult. While U.S. lawmakers have typically used Bibles for their oaths, some have chosen alternatives that reflect their religious diversity. Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, in 2007 used a Qur’an that belonged to Thomas Jefferson, prompting objections from some Christian conservatives. Jefferson’s Qur’an made a return in 2019 at the oath for Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chose a Hebrew Bible in 2005 to reflect her Jewish faith. Newly elected Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff, who is also Jewish and who swears in Wednesday, used Hebrew scripture belonging to Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, an ally of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement. Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, opted for the Bhagavad Gita in 2013 after becoming the first Hindu elected to Congress. And Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., the only member of the current Congress who identifies as “religiously unaffiliated,” took her oath on the Constitution in 2018. ___ Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content. Elana Schor, The Associated Press
Curiosity about a free newspaper in his mailbox turned into surprise when former St. John's mayor Dennis O'Keefe found his name printed inside — in a story that said he, along with the mayor of Calgary and other officials, was a target of interest for the Chinese Communist Party. "I couldn't believe it," said O'Keefe outside his St. John's home while holding a recent copy of the Epoch Times, which was distributed this month for free to households in the region. "I mean, I've had a lot of surprises in my life, believe me. But this one really takes the cake." The article said O'Keefe's name was found in a 2019 document that came from the Foreign Affairs Office in Daqing, a city in northeastern China. The paper said it obtained the document that included names "spanning a wide range of sectors and countries in which the Chinese regime seeks to cultivate talent." O'Keefe retired as mayor before the 2017 municipal election. "It's just inexplicable," said O'Keefe who called the article "terribly misleading," and said nobody from the Epoch Times contacted him for comment. The Epoch Times has been distributing free copies of its paper throughout Canada over the course of the last year in an effort to grow subscribers. The newspaper has often been controversial for publishing articles that promote unfounded conspiracy theories, some of them embraced by alt-right groups, and many of them about China. The newspaper has, for instance, promoted the belief that the novel coronavirus was produced in a lab in China, and that the American deep state stole November's presidential election from Donald Trump. What is the Epoch Times? The Epoch Times started 20 years ago in what the paper called a "response to communist repression and censorship in China." The paper is headquartered in New York and says it operates in 22 languages in 36 countries. Simon van Zuylen-Wood, a New York based journalist who recently did a deep dive on the paper's embrace of Donald Trump for The Atlantic magazine, said the paper has found favour with the conspiratorial strains of the American right wing. His Atlantic article was called "MAGA-land's Favorite Newspaper," with the subhead, "How the Epoch Times became a pro-Trump propaganda machine in an age of plague and insurrection." In a phone interview with CBC News, Zuylen-Wood called the Epoch Times a fast-growing newspaper that changed tack in the Trump era. He said what makes it unique is that it's backed and run by members of the Falun Gong sect — a spiritual movement that was persecuted and banned by the Chinese government in the late 1990s. The paper's connection to the Falun Gong has been widely reported in mainstream publications, including CBC News. When Trump ran for president, the paper saw that for "the first time in decades a major party's presidential nominee was running an overtly protectionist campaign, with China in his crosshairs." He wrote the "Falun Gong came to see Trump as a kind of killer angel, summoned from heaven to smite the Chinese government." The article goes on to say "The Epoch Times ramped up its spending on Facebook ads and hitched its wagon to the 45th president." That hitch has also proven lucrative. Van Zuylen-Wood said the paper's revenues have quadrupled in the last four years. The paper also has a large online presence. A recent NBC News report said the Epoch Times now has one of the biggest social media followings of any news outlet. Van Zuylen-Wood says the paper has become one the "leading purveyors of content suggesting that the American election was stolen." He noted it also prints recipes, lifestyle stories and wellness tips. "So it's a strange mix of pedestrian and often kind of irrelevant news and then sort of hard right, often sort of conspiratorially laced content," he said. 'Utter nonsense' concerns resident That mix is what worries Lesley Burgess about the paper she found in her St. John's mailbox recently. She is among those who have voiced their concerns on social media about the paper and its content. "It has all these kinds of health and lifestyle stories woven in with all of this misinformation, basically," said Burgess. She said she had heard about the paper before but it wasn't until she looked through that she realized there was "utter nonsense" everywhere. CBC's request for comment from the Epoch Times has gone unanswered. "If you don't know any better, you might think this is a run-of-the-mill paper. And I think that's really dangerous," Burgess said. Kurt Phillips, a board member with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, has been following the subscription drive of the Epoch Times. He said the paper's content is of concern because it keeps disseminating disinformation about conspiracy theories on the far right such as "Spygate" and QAnon. Phillips said he's seeing stories from the paper shared in some mainstream conservative circles, which has the potential to radicalize people with misinformation. "It is contributing to an ever-growing divide between reality and a fictionalized version of the world that is especially dehumanizing and dangerous," he said. Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
The Nova Scotia Police Review Board is looking into claims from convicted murderer Christopher Garnier's family that accuse Cape Breton Regional Police officers of conducting an illegal arrest and seizure of evidence in 2017. Garnier was taken into custody for breaching bail conditions after failing to present himself to the municipal force at his mother's basement door in Millville, N.S. during a compliance check His mother, Kim Edmunds, said she does not believe police were at her home as they have stated. "I honestly don't think they were," Edmunds told members of the board's three-person panel. "When somebody knocks on the door, it wakes me up." Alleged breach In February 2017, while awaiting trial for murder, Garnier took a trip to Cape Breton, where his mother lives. He was allowed to live at his father's house in Bedford or at his mother's residence in Millville as part of his bail conditions. Garnier was to submit to regular compliance checks from either members of the CBRP and Halifax Regional Police. Before his trip, Garnier called a Halifax police answering service to advise he was going to stay at his mom's place, although he did not leave his cell phone number with the service at that time. A CBRP officer testified under oath at a bail revocation hearing that he went to the Millville home in the early morning hours of Feb. 18, 2017, but Garnier did not present himself at the door. A Supreme Court judge later ruled Garnier did not intentionally breach his conditions, as he was likely asleep. That same year, Garnier was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of off-duty Truro police officer Catherine Campbell. Complaint launched Christopher Garnier's father, Vincent Garnier, is representing himself as a complainant at the police hearing into the actions of four officers. The men accused of misconduct are Const. Steve Campbell, Const. Gary Fraser, Const. Dennis McQueen and Const. Troy Walker. Each officer is represented by a lawyer, while a member of Cape Breton Regional Municipality's legal team is acting on behalf of the police organization. "We'll dig deep into the practices of the [CBRP] which I believe violate the constitution, violate the charter and violate aspects of the criminal code. Those are the informations I would like to bring forth over the next two weeks," Vincent Garnier said during a break in the proceedings. "The police, without a warrant, and without any consent of the property owners, accessed private property, walked into a private residence and placed a person under arrest." The board heard that photographs of the property were taken without the knowledge of the homeowner. Hearing continues Vincent Garnier said his family incurred more than $35,000 in legal fees as a result alleged breach. After his son's arrest, he filed a complaint with CBRP. An internal investigation found that if a breach had occurred, it was only minor. Members of the police review board, Hon. Simon J. MacDonald, Stephen Johnson and chair Jean McKenna are hearing arguments on both sides of the case at a Sydney hotel. Police will have a chance to explain their actions on the weekend in question once Vincent Garnier finishes calling witnesses. In total, 14 people are expected to testify at the hearing that is slated to run over two weeks. So far, the board has heard from Christopher Garnier's mother and stepmother, his uncle, and his former common-law partner. MORE TOP STORIES
Port Alberni, BC - The West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni is set to undergo a $6.25-million emergency department redevelopment in March. The 2,626 square-foot expansion will include the addition of three new patient exam beds, extra space for those awaiting test results, a private room for people in need of emergency mental health care, improvements to the triage and admitting areas, along with two separate entrances for ambulances and the public. Not only will the increase of clinical space reduce wait times, it will also offer more privacy and security for patients. “Currently, patients who are agitated or violent and need emergency mental heath care are located in an assessment room near the waiting area,” said Island Health. “A seclusion room will provide security and privacy for those patients and for people in the waiting area.” When the hospital was built in 2001, the emergency department was designed to meet the needs of the region’s population at that time, which was around 12,000 patients annually, said Chris Francey, business director of the West Coast General Hospital Foundation. Now, it receives over twice as many patient visitations. Mid-Island Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne said that over 25,000 patients visited the emergency department in 2019-20. Along with Port Alberni, the emergency department serves the surrounding communities, such as Tofino, Ucluelet and Bamfield. "Expanding and improving the emergency department at West Coast General Hospital is critical not just for Port Alberni, but all of the West Coast communities,” said Francey, in a release. Project costs are being shared between the province, which is providing $2.55-million, the West Coast General Hospital Foundation, which is putting forward $2-million and the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional Hospital District, which is contributing $1.7-million. “Upgrades are needed so the hospital can continue this high level of care for people for decades to come," said Health Minister Adrian Dix. According to Island Health, the redevelopment will not require an increase in staff to meet patient care needs. “West Coast General Hospital is an important part of the community and region,” said Osborne. "It's great to see action being taken to upgrade the emergency department, which will improve patient privacy and make it easier for larger family groups to accompany their loved ones." Melissa Renwick, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Ha-Shilth-Sa
MANCHESTER, England — Bernardo Silva finally broke Aston Villa’s resistance by scoring off Manchester City’s 36th effort at goal before Ilkay Gundogan’s penalty sealed a 2-0 victory on Wednesday that extended the winning run of the Premier League’s form team to six matches. An end-to-end match in which City lost Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker to injuries looked to be heading for a draw, despite the home team’s dominance, when Silva received a pass from Rodri and smashed home a shot from the edge of the area in the 79th minute. The goal was contentious because Rodri was returning from an offside position when he dispossessed Villa defender Tyrone Mings before releasing Silva. No offside was given, though, with the officials seemingly feeling a new phase of play had started when Mings controlled the ball on his chest before being picked off by Rodri. Villa manager Dean Smith was sent off for protesting against the awarding of a goal he described as “farcical” and “pathetic.” “I said to the fourth official, David Coote, ‘Did you get juggling balls for Christmas?’" Smith said, explaining when he was shown a red card by referee Jonathan Moss. “I don’t think any other manager would get sent off for that.” Gundogan wrapped up the win in the 90th minute by converting a spot kick after Matty Cash raised his hand to block a goalbound header from Gabriel Jesus. City moved above Leicester to the top of the league, although Manchester United can reclaim first place by beating Fulham later Wednesday. It was Villa’s first league match since Jan. 1, after which there was a coronavirus outbreak in the squad that led to the training ground being closed. Villa reported that nine players contracted COVID-19 in that period but Smith was able to field a full-strength lineup against City, with the squad only back in training since Sunday. Villa, however, was on the back foot for the entire match, which was played in driving rain, only holding on thanks to a series of last-ditch blocks and some fine goalkeeping from Emi Martinez. City is in its best form of the season, having won nine straight games in all competitions. Pep Guardiola's team in unbeaten in 15. “No one else has won five, six in a row but it’s still the first leg of the season," Guardiola said. "A lot of games to do but the important thing is that the feeling is good.” Walker was substituted with an apparent leg muscle injury in the 27th minute, while De Bruyne hobbled off in the 59th shortly after being fouled by Jack Grealish. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris showcased American designers at their inauguration Wednesday, and Harris gave a nod to women's suffrage and Shirley Chisholm in pearls and purple. Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush also donned hues of purple. Harris has cited Chisholm, a Democrat from New York, as an inspiration for her career. Chisholm was the first Black woman elected to Congress and the first Black major-party candidate to run for U.S. president. Pearls had a strong fashion showing, in line with a social media campaign. Nobody in attendance did them quite like Jennifer Lopez — from earrings to bracelets — as she sang “This Land is Your Land.” Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, wore a pearl necklace owned by Chisholm. It was a gift from Chisholm's goddaughter. “Because of Shirley Chisholm, I am,” Lee, who is Black, posted on Twitter. “Because of Shirley Chisholm, Vice-President Harris is.” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders drew fashion praise on social media for his cozy, comfortable inauguration wear: His signature beige parka and a pair of knit patterned mittens. Jill Biden wore an ocean-blue wool tweed coat over a dress by American designer Alexandra O’Neill of the Markarian label. The new first lady's matching coat and dress set included a velvet collar and cuffs on the coat, and a chiffon bodice and scalloped skirt on the dress. The neckline of the dress is embellished with Swarovski pearls and crystals. The same crystals adorn the coat. The outfit was handcrafted in New York City's Garment District and hand-finished by O'Neill in her studio in Manhattan's West Village, according to a company statement. Aides said Harris was dressed in Christopher John Rogers and Sergio Hudson. Both are Black designers, Rogers from Louisiana and Hudson from South Carolina. Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, wore a Ralph Lauren suit. Michelle Obama, a fashion icon, drew huge praise from fans on social media for her belted pantsuit in plum, also by Hudson. Joe Biden wore a navy blue suit and overcoat by Ralph Lauren. It was a change from Brooks Brothers, the oldest U.S. clothier at 202. The brand has outfitted 41 of the 46 American Presidents, including Barack Obama during his inauguration in 2009. Brooks Brothers fell on hard financial times last year, when it filed for bankruptcy protection and announced a planned sale. Ralph Lauren has a history of nonpartisan dressing, including moments with Michelle Obama and outgoing first lady Melania Trump. Joe Biden wore Polo shirts, emblazoned with the label’s pony and polo player logo, to take both of his COVID-19 vaccinations on television. Véronique Hyland, fashion features director for Elle magazine, noted the wins for young American designers. “They chose a diverse group of talents — Christopher John Rogers, Pyer Moss’ Kerby Jean-Raymond, Markarian’s Alexandra O’Neill and Jonathan Cohen — to be a part of this historic moment," she said. “It made for a meaningful statement at this particular time, when all small businesses, including fashion businesses, are in need of support and spotlighting.” Harris’ choice to wear pieces by Black designers “felt particularly significant in light of her triply historic title as the first female, Black and Asian American vice-president of our country,” Hyland added. Another inauguration fashion star on Twitter was Nikolas Ajagu, the husband of Harris' sister, Meena Harris. Sharp-eyed sneakerheads noted his Air Dior Jordan 1 shoes. Harris' stepdaughter, Emma Emhoff, also schooled some of the older folks in her embellished Shetland Miu Miu coat in a pied de poule pattern and large brown button at the neck. The pointed white collar took the wind a time or two. Leanne Italie, The Associated Press
European leaders described the 46th President's inauguration speech as "inspiring" and said it was time to bring "conviction and common sense" to help rejuvenate their relationship with the US.View on euronews
Après l’annonce d’une aide financière de Québec pour lancer les travaux du chantier de construction du Port de Contrecoeur, la semaine dernière, on apprend maintenant l’identité des entreprises qualifiées en vue de décrocher ce lucratif contrat. Trois consortiums se feront la lutte dans le cadre d’un appel d’offres. Par voie de communiqué, l'Administration portuaire de Montréal (APM) a annoncé, mercredi, que trois consortiums ont été retenus à la suite d’un appel de qualification. Les trois groupes s’identifient sous les noms Ancre Contrecoeur, CAP Contrecoeur et Kiewit-Pomerleau. Derrière Ancre Contrecoeur, on retrouve un partenariat des entreprises Dragados Canada et AECOM Consultants. Sous CAP Contrecoeur, ce sont Eurovia Québec Grands projets, Janin Atlas, Soletanche Bachy International, VINCI Infrastructure Canada, GHD Consultants, COWI North America et CH2M Hill Canada qui se sont associées. Finalement, le groupe Kiewit-Pomerleau est composé des entreprises Construction Kiewit et Pomerleau ainsi que CIMA+, Englobe, Hatch et Solmatech. D’après le communiqué de l’APM, cinq dossiers ont été reçus et trois ont été retenus. Ces consortiums seront donc invités à participer à l’appel d’offres pour la conception et la construction du futur terminal de Contrecoeur. En entrevue à La Presse Canadienne, la vice-présidente affaires publiques de l'APM, Sophie Roux, a affirmé que l'appel d'offres devrait être lancé «dans les prochains mois» sans pouvoir donner plus de précision. La semaine dernière, le ministre des Transports, François Bonnardel, et la ministre responsable de la région de Montréal, Chantal Rouleau, ont dévoilé une aide financière de 55 millions $ pour appuyer la phase de démarrage du projet. Le chantier n’a cependant pas encore obtenu le feu vert du ministère fédéral de l'Environnement, alors que des inquiétudes persistent au sujet de l'impact sur certaines espèces menacées, dont le chevalier cuivré. Dans l’éventualité où l'APM reçoit l'approbation nécessaire, les travaux devraient débuter dès l'automne, avait fait savoir le président-directeur général Martin Imbleau. Sophie Roux a réitéré, mercredi, que les démarches progressent dans le but de lancer les travaux dès que le gouvernement fédéral donnera son accord final. «On est sur un échéancier critique, a-t-elle soutenu. Nous savons qu'avec nos installations portuaires en manutention de conteneurs sur l'île de Montréal, nous opérons à quasi pleine capacité présentement.» L'APM plaide donc l'urgence d'agir pour bonifier sa capacité d'accueil de conteneurs. À la fin de l'ensemble des travaux, que l'on prévoit pour 2024, le terminal devrait être en mesure d'accueillir 1,15 million de conteneurs afin de permettre au port de Montréal de poursuivre sa croissance. D'après les projections du gouvernement, le terminal devrait permettre la création de 1000 emplois lorsqu'il sera en pleine opération. La facture totale du projet est estimée entre 750 millions $ et 950 millions $.Ugo Giguère, Initiative de journalisme local, La Presse Canadienne
ATHENS, Greece — Lawmakers in Greece Wednesday overwhelmingly approved legislation to extend the country's territorial waters along its western coastline from six to 12 nautical miles. In the 284-0 vote, representatives of four opposition parties backed the centre-right government, while members of the Greek Communist Party abstained. Although the move does not directly affect an ongoing maritime boundary dispute with Turkey to the east, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told parliament that Greece was adopting a more assertive foreign policy. “It's a clear message to those who are trying to deprive our country of this right,” Mitsotakis said. Greece’s western coastline faces Italy and borders Albania at its northern tip. But the expansion is aimed at underscoring the country’s right to implement the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which set the 12-mile limit in 1982. Greece and Turkey, neighbours and NATO allies, are at odds over sea boundaries and mineral rights in the Aegean Sea and eastern Mediterranean in a dispute that caused a tense military standoff last year. Under pressure from western allies, Turkey and Greece will resume talks aimed at reducing tensions on Jan. 25, restarting a process that was suspended five years ago. Turkey says an extension of Greece’s territorial waters eastward would be considered an act of war, arguing that Greek islands would effectively block its access to the Aegean. The longstanding dispute between the two countries has been fueled by the discovery of large offshore gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean in recent years. Greece has signed recent agreements with Italy and Egypt for the delineation of maritime exploration rights and is in talks with Albania to take a maritime boundary dispute to an international court. The Associated Press
In the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak that has already killed four residents, a family member of a resident at Amberwood Suites said staff there did everything they possibly could have to protect residents’ lives. Linda Vlach is the daughter of 94-year-old Amberwood resident Gertrude Phillips, who is doing well right now after coming through her own bout with the virus and having to isolate herself. Vlach said she credits her mom's survival with the intense level of care at the home. "I felt really that Amberwood did everything they possibly could,” she said. “Once it was found out there were positive cases in the building, they just flat out ordered in all the PPE (personal protective equipment) they would need.” Vlach said rolling PPE carts were set up outside each suite so that staff and care givers could get fresh equipment every time they went into a room. Vlach said she is not worried for her mom's safety. She said Amberwood has been especially careful about the virus right from the beginning, and that with so many people being asymptomatic, it was the kind of thing that could have happened anywhere. Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD) revealed earlier this month that an outbreak was discovered at the home Jan. 5. As several days passed, PHSD revealed that five staff members and 33 residents of the home were also infected. Several of those who tested positive were transferred to Health Sciences North. Several others were put into self-isolation in their suites. On Jan. 15, PHSD reported one resident had died. On Jan. 18, PHSD reported two more residents had died. Then on Jan. 19, PHSD reported a fourth Amberwood resident had died. Vlach said her mother was one of the residents who had tested positive and was put into isolation. It was an uncertain time for her family, but her mother seemed to adjust well, she said. "Well she is very much a social creature. She is one of the gals that likes to be out for everything, the exercises, or the bingos or anything that was going on. She was always there early, with bells on," Vlach said. "It was almost bizarre for my mom to hear she had tested positive. So we all braced ourselves and expected the worst, maybe. Then for her to have no symptoms; you know she is just baffled by it. At her age, she is diabetic. She has a heart condition. She just managed to be asymptomatic and come through it all." Vlach said as much as residents had to endure complete isolation, she said it has also been difficult for the staff at Amberwood. "I think it has been very hard on the staff,” she said. “I think for them it has been devastating. I think it is very hard really on the staff not just to have lost people they probably feel were friends, I think it is very hard on them going to work everyday to have to worry about COVID itself.” She said that the lockdown has changed the entire atmosphere at the home, but it is something that is so necessary. "It has changed dramatically the way the building functions, you know, as far as people not being able to get together, to people not being able to leave or to go out to things they would normally go out to," Vlach said. She added that she is the only family caregiver that was approved for her mother, as per provincial rules. She had to undergo in-house training and COVID-19 testing for that role. Although there are five siblings in her family, Vlach is the only child allowed to actually go and see her mother on a daily basis. "Yes, they have closed off any visitation in the suites themselves. For family members to go in they were able to visit on the outside patio as long as the weather allowed, or the inside private dining room. And those spaces were sanitized and controlled as far as how many people were allowed in," she explained. That is no longer allowed, but Vlach said her mom is still able to use the phone to stay in contact with family members. "She has plenty of activities in her suite. She has always kept herself busy and with lots to do. She has DVDs and music and digital photo screens, and reading. Once she realized the building was in lockdown and isolation in the suites, she just settled in and made herself comfortable. We have a big family too so we all keep in touch with her, with lots of phone calls and things that perk her day up." In the meantime, the lockdown continues, said Vlach. She said staff and management at the home are doing all they can to make things comfortable, but there's no mistaking the seriousness of the situation. A screener is posted at the main door. Masking is mandatory. Things have even changed at meal time, said Vlach. No one sits four to a table. People sit alone and eat by themselves. "Yes, it's hard, but they felt it was important, and it certainly increased the workload on the staff," said Vlach. "I don't have any concerns. It is certainly so unfortunate that this happened in the building, this outbreak. People lost their lives. That's so tragic. This is devastating for the families," said Vlach. "But today if you ask my mom, she will say, I couldn't be in a better place. I feel safe here." Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
In shaping Peel’s 20-year outlook, the Region’s Strategic Plan tagline sets the tone, and establishes the pillars, for its vision: “Living, thriving and leading”. That was five years ago. Today, the word “surviving” would be more apt. Councillors in the pandemic hotspot are about to debate the 2021 budget in a region with Ontario’s highest cumulative per capita novel coronavirus infection rate. In Mississauga and Brampton, each City Council says it is poised to weather the financial challenges of collapsed revenue during the pandemic. The Region is opting for “temporary resources” to support the community through the crisis, according to budget documents released on January 14. The recommendations translate to a tax increase for Peel’s portion of the 2021 property bill, which is blended with each municipality’s share and the Province’s education levy. Staff are proposing a 1.3 percent increase in property taxes, compared to the 3.6 percent hike seen in the 2020 budget. This represents an extra $11.30 per $100,000 of assessed value for a residential property. Increasing the utility rate by a proposed 5.5 percent – lower than the 2020 hike of 7.2 percent, but about three times the rate of inflation in Ontario – will mean the average household can expect to pay about $43 more this year, and about $111 more for small businesses. It follows a worrisome trend of dramatic utility-rate increases in Peel over the last decade. Including 2010, the utility rate in Peel has risen annually by the following percentages: 5, 9.1, 6, 7, 7, 7, 9, 5, 6.5, 6.5, 7.2. The Region’s utility rate was a topic of discussion during debate over the 2020 budget. “We need to get a better handle on smoothing those utilities rate increases going forward...we just have not been really consistent,” Mississauga and Regional Councillor Pat Saito said. Referring to the past 15 years of regional budgets, she added that “there were years where we reduced the rate, there were years where it was zero and then a year later we skyrocket it to 7 or 8 percent.” Her Mississauga colleagues Karen Ras and Chris Fonseca echoed Saito’s sentiment, asking for a fixed or variable utility increase to be put in place for future years. In response to the request, Region of Peel’s former commissioner of public works, Andrew Farr (who now works for Halton Region) said a team was working to review the utility rate and was looking to adopt a more structured, long-term strategy in time for the 2022 budget. The new interim commissioner, Andrea Warren, who moved over from Peel Housing, will now lead any efforts to better manage the utility-rate supported budget. With $2.7 billion in projected operating costs and $1 billion in capital expenditures, the overall proposed Peel Region budget addresses the challenges of a hyper-growth area. As the Region adapts to its rapidly growing population (about 20,000 newcomers per year) it also has to manage services for its aging residents. Budget deliberations are scheduled to begin on January 28 and will run until mid-February. Funding for affordable housing in Peel has become a race against the clock. The Region’s COVID-19 emergency funding for homelessness supports ends in March. With the average length of shelter stays on the rise, staff are recommending a $2.7 million request in the operating budget as part of its Emergency Shelter Operation, which would see the addition of 60 new shelter beds. Staff are also asking for $120 million in the capital budget to fund the Housing Master Plan, which was previously criticized for being “significantly and disproportionately” backed by the Region compared to what was described as inadequate contributions from the provincial and federal governments. The Housing Master Plan also includes $10.8 million in loans for state-of-good-repair projects and $1.8 million for technology licenses. The lack of certainty around provincial funding for certain programs, including adult day services, has pushed the Region to allot program funding for seniors at a time when programs that tend to their well-being are underfunded, the budget states. These services include physiotherapy, nursing care, reading and gardening groups, medication supports, transportation and a range of other functions critical to the well-being of seniors, and many are carried out in long-term care settings. The tragedy that has unfolded across Ontario’s senior-living sector during the pandemic has highlighted the chronic lack of funding and attention to support the elderly. Regional Staff recorded more than 7,000 contacts with seniors virtually since the beginning of the pandemic. At the same time, the wait list for these services has grown by 22 percent. The Region operates five publicly funded long-term care facilities in Peel: Tall Pines and Peel Manor in Brampton; Malton Village and Sheridan Villa in Mississauga; and Davis Centre in Caledon. This year’s proposed budget for the Region’s long-term care needs is $41.7 million, up about $1.5 million from 2020, when the provincial government increased its funding by $700,000. Capital projects for 2021 are being allotted about $5 million, for repairs including driveway repaving, upgrading elevators and fire prevention. A popular paramedicine program, introduced as a pilot project at several Peel Living seniors’ buildings, was made permanent last year and will be provincially-funded to the tune of $132,000. The program was designed to reduce calls to paramedics and push the border of care outside the emergency room and into the community, when possible, through preventative approaches. Other strikethroughs in the budget indicating provincial funding cuts have forced staff to reallocate money to support vital programs, including supplementing $1.8 million in the Region’s operating budget to replace provincial employment support funding for agency grants. The Region is also continuing to invest in its 2018 strategy to combat human-trafficking, funding $600,000 for its second of a three-year program to assist victims. The Region’s paramedic service is slated to receive about $19.5 million in capital funding toward a new reporting station, as well as $4.6 million for state-of-good-repair projects and $2.3 million to replace 15 ambulances. The proposed operating budget will absorb another $1.3 million to support an increase in 911 call volumes and $300,000 to create mental health programming for frontline workers, many of whom deal with a range of challenges. Public health funding from the Province, to the tune of $3.3 million, will support 64 school-focused nurses until July 2021. With school closures and mandatory online learning still in place, it’s unclear whether the funding will be put on hold or reallocated in the community. The three Conservation Authorities whose watershed jurisdiction includes Peel (Credit Valley, Halton and Toronto and Region) which are at risk of having their work curtailed by the Ford government, are asking for a combined $45.3 million from the Region of Peel in 2021, including about $4.9 million for capital projects designated for flood forecasting, infrastructure upgrades, invasive species programs such as the containment of the Emerald Ash Borer infestation (which has devastated Peel’s tree canopy over the past decade) and at the conservation agencies themselves. The largest share of the total would go to Credit Valley, $25.2 million; $19.5 million would go to TRCA; and Halton would get just $496,000, as it only has a small piece of its watershed in Peel. The total represents a 2.6 percent increase compared to what Peel Region gave the agencies last year. Calls for Peel’s “fair share” in funding from higher levels of government reflect the needs in a chronically under-resourced region that is outpacing growth in any other part of the province. Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown has highlighted the need for more money to support healthcare in the city, and Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie is promising to fight for vaccine allocations commensurate with the city’s higher per capita rate of infection. Read More: Police budget balances fight against increasingly complex crime and calls for new funding model Email: email@example.com Twitter: @LaVjosa COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Vjosa Isai, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
WASHINGTON — Three new senators were sworn into office Wednesday after President Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines. Senators worked into the evening and overcame some Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member, in what's traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president's administration. Haines, a former CIA deputy director, will become a core member of Biden’s security team, overseeing the agencies that make up the nation’s intelligence community. She was confirmed 84-10. The new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged colleagues to turn the spirit of the new president’s call for unity into action. “President Biden, we heard you loud and clear,” Schumer said in his first speech as majority leader. “We have a lengthy agenda. And we need to get it done together.” Vice-President Kamala Harris drew applause as she entered the chamber to deliver the oath of office to the new Democratic senators — Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla — just hours after taking her own oath at the Capitol alongside Biden. The three Democrats join a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote. Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, and Warnock, a pastor from the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, won run-off elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans. Padilla was tapped by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term. “Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.” Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump. Congress is being called on to consider Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID recovery package, to distribute vaccines and shore up an economy as more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus. At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of Trump, charged by the House of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College tally and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will need to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees. To “restore the soul” of the country, Biden said in his inaugural speech, requires “unity.” Yet as Washington looks to turn the page from Trump to the Biden administration, Republican leader Mitch McConnell is not relinquishing power without a fight. Haines' nomination was temporarily blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Okla., as he sought information about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is holding back the Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas over Biden's proposed immigration changes. And McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands, chiefly to preserve the Senate filibuster — the procedural tool often used by the minority party to block bills under rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation. McConnell, in his first speech as the minority party leader, said the election results with narrow Democratic control of the House and Senate showed that Americans “intentionally entrusted both political parties with significant power.” The Republican leader said he looked forward working with the new president “wherever possible.” At her first White House briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s desire to have his Cabinet confirmed and in place is “front and centre for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place Thursday or Friday. Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the COVID relief package, but left the details of the upcoming impeachment trial to Congress. The Senate can “multitask,” she said. That’s a tall order for a Senate under normal circumstances, but even more so now in the post-Trump era, with Republicans badly split between their loyalties to the defeated president and wealthy donors who are distancing themselves from Republicans who back Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to soon transmit to the Senate the House-passed article of impeachment against Trump, charged with incitement of insurrection, a step that will launch the Senate impeachment trial. Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate. It’s an arcane fight McConnell has inserted into what has traditionally been a more routine organizing resolution over committee assignments and staffing resources, but a power play by the outgoing Republican leader grabbing at tools that can be used to block Biden’s agenda. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s priorities, but not all rank-and-file Senate Democrats are on board. Schumer has not agreed to any changes but McConnell is taking no chances. For now, it will take unanimous consent among senators to toggle between conducting votes on legislative business and serving as jurors in the impeachment trial. The House last week impeached Trump for having sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight like hell” during the tally of Electoral College votes to overturn Biden’s election. __ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany — American teenager Matthew Hoppe scored for the third consecutive Bundesliga game but couldn’t prevent Schalke from slumping to a 2-1 loss to fellow struggler Cologne on Wednesday. Jan Thielmann struck in the third minute of injury time for Cologne to end its five-game run without a win and leave the relegation zone. Schalke remains in last place with seven points at the halfway stage of the season. The 19-year-old Hoppe grabbed his fifth goal of 2021 in the 57th minute, nipping in to sweep home the equalizer after Amine Harit combined with Suat Serdar. Hoppe is the third American to score in three consecutive German league games after Eric Wynalda with Saarbrücken in 1992 and Clint Mathis with Hannover in 2004. He already has more goals this year than compatriot Weston McKennie managed as Schalke’s top scorer with three in 2020. Hoppe started up front for Schalke despite the club re-signing veteran Dutch striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar from Ajax the day before. A calf problem prevented the 37-year-old forward making his second Schalke debut. Cologne defender Rafael Czichos scored in the 31st after the home team failed to properly clear a corner. It was Cologne’s first goal in six games. Kingsley Ehizibue almost made it 2-0 shortly afterward but was blocked at close range by Schalke goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
The COVID-19 pandemic has been rough for many local businesses, with some entrepreneurs contemplating whether they can get through 2021. For others, it’s been a different story: Sales remained stable, or even grew. Businesses negatively affected include hair salons and personal services which were shuttered in mid-December. The order forcing the closures of these businesses lifted a few days ahead of the planned review Jan. 21, and personal services were allowed to re-open Monday. Callie Balderston, Beaverlodge and District Chamber of Commerce president, welcomed the Alberta government’s decision last week to reverse the closures. “Hopefully that is a telltale for what’s to come - more and more businesses can get up and running,” Balderston said. While hardware and grocery stores have been busy, restaurants have taken a hit and the government disallowed in-person dining in mid-December. Anna’s Pizza in Beaverlodge had closed its dining area long before, focusing on takeout since last March, said co-owner Wael Ammar. Ammar said Anna’s is doing the best it can. The closure of the diner, which could hold up to 50 people, caused “disturbance to the business.” “We had busy lunches we were depending on, which now we don’t have,” he said. Keeping dine-in service wasn’t financially viable, and Ammar said he didn’t want to risk exposing employees or customers to the virus. Currently, Anna’s has two full-time and one-part-time staff members; usually there are three and four respectively, Ammar said. He said he doesn’t oppose current restrictions because he supports their purpose. “They’re tough, but I think they’re necessary in order to get past this pandemic,” Ammar said. In comparison, Robyn Young, co-owner of Sexsmith’s Hippy Strings, said the business catering to knitters and crocheters is faring as well as it typically would at this time of year. “We’re lucky enough to have products people are using right now - they’re stuck at home and this gives them something to do,” Young said. Yarn, needles and kits have been popular items during the pandemic, she said. Customers are still able to come into the store without an appointment, but the restrictions have meant a limit of six at a time, she said. She said it was unlikely before the pandemic that Hippy Strings would have more than six customers at a time anyway. Young said Hippy Strings doesn’t have any issue with current restrictions, and even during the lockdown last spring the store could rely on its online offerings and deliveries. The store actually saw its business pick up during the lockdown, as she said January and February are slow months for Hippy Strings. Others stuck at home have turned their attention to renovations - something Del Wiebe, Beaverlodge Home Building Centre store manager, said has helped business. “People have been doing more work at home, and being insde those four walls, they’re seeing things they want to do,” Wiebe said. The most popular product is paint. Decking, fencing and roofing supplies have also been strong sellers, he said Traffic into the store doubled starting in April and continuing though the summer, Wiebe said. The store is also large enough that staff haven’t needed to enforce the 15 per cent capacity limit, he added. In January business has dropped a little but there’s been “a steady stream of walk-in,” he said. He believes locals have begun to contemplate the lengthy nature of the pandemic and whether they have the budget for more renos. Beaverlodge’s cannabis store Level 420 is on the “right” side of the pandemic as her sales have increased, said owner Dawn Jolin. “We’ve definitely seen an increase in business,” Jolin said. During the lockdown last spring sales didn’t increase dramatically, but as the pandemic wore on, Jolin said people began “looking for other things to pass the time” Space restrictions haven’t been a consideraton since the capacity limit has never been exceeded. “The mask mandate is kind of a pain because it’s hard to hear what people are saying,” she said. Last spring the Alberta government designated cannabis retail as an essential service. “As an independent businessowner, if we had not been considered essential, I probably would have lost my business,” Jolin said. She said the supports changes to restrictions to see hair salons and personal services re-open, more to benefit neighbouring businesses than Level 420. Liquor stores were also declared essential last spring and Robyn Wadsworth, manager of Sexsmith’s What Ales You, said business is good. Wadsworth said she can’t be certain why the business is performing well but speculated the pandemic may be a factor. “Everybody is staying home and the only thing they have to do is drink,” she said. The restrictions have had little impact on What Ales You, but the limited capacity of five customers at a time has meant there have been more lineups outside the door, she said. Lineups happen about once a week at most, Wadsworth said. That said, it was rare to have more than five customers in the store at a time before the pandemic, and the reduced capacity hasn’t been a problem, she said. Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
COMMUNAUTÉ. C’est finalement un montant de 40 235 $ qui aura été amassé via Gofundme afin de créer une bourse d’études pour Jacob, le fils de l’urgentologue Karine Dion. «Je suis vraiment émue. Je pensais faire une petite campagne pour mon hôpital, mais c’est tout le Québec qui est solidaire pour aider Jacob et honorer la mémoire Karine», constate avec reconnaissance la Dre Geneviève Simard-Racine qui s’était d’abord fixé un objectif de 10 000 $ à recueillir pour créer une bourse d’études pour le fils de son amie. «Il y a eu aussi le 13 janvier, en soirée, un parcours commémoratif dans l’hôpital de Granby. Nos gens pouvaient se recueillir et déposer une étoile dans un cadre. Il y avait également un livre qui sera remis à David, le conjoint de Karine, où l’on pouvait laisser un mot», rapporte-t-elle. À son tour, la Dre Simard-Racine a invité «les aidants à accepter de se faire aider». Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
OTTAWA — The economy will go in reverse for the first quarter of 2021, the Bank of Canada said Wednesday as it kept its key interest rate on hold, warning the hardest-hit workers will be hammered again on a path to a recovery that rests on the rollout of vaccines.Workers in high-contact service industries will carry the burden of a new round of lockdowns, which the central bank warned will exacerbate the pandemic’s uneven effects on the labour market.The longer restrictions remain in place, the more difficult it may be for these workers to find new jobs since the majority move to a new job but in the same industry. Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem said in his opening remarks at a late-morning news conference that the first-quarter decline could be worse than expected if restrictions are tightened or extended.The central bank kept its key rate on hold at 0.25 per cent on Wednesday, citing near-term weakness and the "protracted nature of the recovery" in its reasoning.The short-term pain is expected to give way to a brighter outlook for the medium-term with vaccines rolling out sooner than the central bank expected.Still, the bank said in its updated economic outlook, a full recovery from COVID-19 will take some time. Nor does the Bank of Canada see inflation returning to its two per cent target until 2023, one year longer than previously forecast, and the bank's key rate is likely to stay low until then.Overall, there is reason to be more optimistic about the economy in the medium-term, but it will still need extraordinary help from governments and the central bank to get there, Macklem said.The bank’s latest monetary policy report, which lays out its expectations for economic growth and inflation, forecast that COVID-19 caused the economy to contract by 5.5 per cent last year.Despite an upswing over the summer and fall that may have spared the country from a worst-case economic scenario, the drive to a recovery will hit a pothole over the first three months of 2021.The bank forecasts real gross domestic product to contract at an annual pace of 2.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2021, before improving thereafter if severe restrictions start easing in February.The bank expects growth of four per cent overall for 2021, then 4.8 per cent next year, and 2.5 per cent in 2023.Trevin Stratton, chief economist at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, was more dour on lockdowns, saying the group doesn't expect them to ease until well into March."During this period, we need to provide the right kind of support to individual Canadians and to businesses to get them through the lockdowns, recognizing that neither group is in the same financial position as it was in March 2020," he said in a statement.For the central bank, that help could come through ramping up its bond-buying to force down interest rates, or a small cut to its key policy rate among options Macklem mentioned Wednesday.Keeping the door open to such a "micro" rate change is a shift in tone, as Macklem has previously said the current 0.25 rate is as low as it would go.The bank said the path for the economy will be like riding a roller-coaster as resurgence in COVID-19, or new, more virulent strains, weigh down a recovery in one quarter before leading to strong upswing in the next.Inflation may be equally rocky.Gasoline prices, which have weighed down the consumer price index during the pandemic, will by March be “well above their lows of a year earlier,” the bank’s report said. That should significantly bump inflation, the report said, possibly to two per cent in the second quarter.The bump will even out over the rest of the year. The bank forecasts inflation for 2021 at 1.6 per cent, then 1.7 per cent in 2022 and 2.1 per cent in 2023.Statistics Canada reported Wednesday the annual pace of inflation cooled in December to 0.7 per cent compared with 1.0 per cent in November. The agency also reported that the average last month of Canada's three measures for core inflation, which are considered better gauges of underlying price pressures and closely tracked by the Bank of Canada, was 1.57 per cent.The central bank’s lookahead rests on efforts to vaccinate Canadians by the end of the year without any hiccups in that timeline, which would mean broad immunity six months sooner than the bank previously assumed."It's going to be very important that Canada get the vaccines, we get them distributed to Canadians and that Canadians take the vaccine," Macklem said.A shorter timeline for vaccinations should mean less scarring overall for the economy in the form of fewer bankruptcies and fewer workers out of jobs for long stretches, which makes it more difficult for them to get back into the labour force.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. Jordan Press, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the first quarter decline in real gross domestic product was 2.9 per cent.
TORONTO — Canadians tuned in Wednesday with a mixture of relief and optimism to watch the swearing in of Joe Biden as U.S. president amid concerns about potential violence south of the border and the omnipresent threat of COVID-19.Given the pandemic, most in-person viewing gatherings of the pageantry gave way to virtual events, with some expressing joy at the lifting of what they saw as the dark cloud of Donald Trump's presidency."Watching as I always do, but this one seems more significant," said Nicole Caron, a former provincial civil servant in Ottawa. "It returns to America the values that hold true for many democracies, with a focus on inclusivity and that everyone has a hand in moving forward, together."While Biden was the main attraction on stage in a heavily patrolled Washington, D.C., many Canadians focused on his newly minted second-in-command, Kamala Harris.At home with her daughter in Montreal, Wanda Kagan watched Harris, her best friend from high school, get sworn in as vice-president. Harris lived briefly in Montreal before graduating in 1981. Kagan, who met Harris at Westmount High School, called the inauguration a special moment, despite the disappointment of not being able to go to Washington.“It’s not the way you’d like to watch it when you were invited to the most historic day of your friend's life," Kagan said. “Anyone can make history but only a great woman can write history and that’s what she’s going to do."Calgary mother Gabriela Gonzalez grew teary watching the inauguration. It was exciting, she said, that young people everywhere, especially girls like her almost three-year-old daughter and children of colour, could see Harris and realize they, too, can achieve big things."I'm excited for my daughter to see that it's important for women and young girls to be involved in the political process," Gonzalez said. "They do have a role to play and they can have a seat at the table."The pandemic placed limits on the size of the mask-wearing crowd that would typically gather in the U.S. capital for the grand inauguration ceremony. So did the lingering threat of violence after Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 in a futile bid to stop the transition of power, egged on by the former president himself.Thousands of National Guard troops were deployed ahead of the event, further stoking anxiety among Americans and concerned observers. Acknowledging the fractures in his inaugural speech, Biden called for unity and urged his country to "start afresh."Rael Wienburg, a photographer and videographer in London, Ont., who said he was watching a "huge moment," called Biden's speech classy."Finally, a speech by a president with a vision to help bring a divided nation together," Wienburg said. "I'm feeling very positive and emotional after a tumultuous year of horrific and unfortunate times."For Jane and David Schlosberg in Dartmouth, N.S., the inauguration was a moment of cautious optimism.“You try not to be cynical and look forward to a better time,” Jane Schlosberg said as she watched the ceremony.In Owen Sound, Ont., Sergei Lozowski listened to the ceremony via radio."I want to hear official word that the leadership of our closest ally is not a deranged reality TV personality," he said.Others across Canada watched with roommates and in workplaces as they observed pandemic guidelines.Mary-Ellen Unan called it more significant than ever that citizens of North America watched the U.S. handover of power. "In a world where we are all affected by the policies of the American government, too many people still feel disenfranchised," Unan said from Toronto. "The swearing in to the highest office in the world is ceremonial, but it also marks a major change for the future."-With files from Danielle Edwards in Halifax; Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal; Fakiha Baig in Edmonton.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
CALGARY — The lawyer for a teen charged with first-degree murder in the hit-and-run death of a Calgary police officer says it will likely be a difficult case because of the high level of scrutiny it is already generating. Kaysi Fagan spoke to reporters at the conclusion of a two-day bail hearing Wednesday for her client, who was 17 at the time Sgt. Andrew Harnett was killed on Dec. 31 and cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Police have said Harnett was hit and dragged while attempting to stop an SUV after noticing its plates didn't match its registration. They allege the accused youth was driving the vehicle and a 19-year-old man, also charged with first-degree murder, was a passenger. "Certainly any time there's a death, whether it be an officer or a member of the public, certainly it's more difficult. The exposure's greater, the attention is greater, scrutiny is greater," Fagan said. She said the fact that Harnett was a police officer, killed in the line of duty, will add to the divisiveness when it eventually goes to trial. "When the police kill someone it takes a year to investigate it, maybe there's charges laid, maybe there aren't. Here's we've got a first-degree murder charge laid against a youth within 12 hours. So I think it's a bit of a double standard," Fagan said. "Certainly the fact an officer was killed here is concerning to the public and obviously it's going to be very divisive." Youth court Judge Steve Lipton has reserved his decision on bail for the teen suspect until Jan. 28. Crown Prosecutor Doug Taylor is opposed to his release. "The young person ought to be detained for both the safety and the protection of the public, and to maintain confidence in the administration of justice," Taylor said. He told court Tuesday that the Crown will seek an adult sentence for the youth if he's convicted. That would mean life in prison with no eligibility of parole for 10 years. The co-accused in the case, Amir Abdulrahman, is to appear in court on Feb. 4. His lawyer, Balfour Der, has said he intends to seek bail on Feb. 12. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021 — Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
Declining numbers of cases and positive tests for COVID-19 in Alberta show that restrictions put in place last year have been effective, the province's top doctor says. Alberta reported 21 more COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday and 669 new cases of the illness. Laboratories conducted about 14,900 tests over the past 24 hours putting the positivity rate at about 4.5 per cent. "It's very encouraging to see our positivity rate steadily declining since the peak in December," Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday at a news conference. "And I would say that the data that we have indicates that the restrictions put in place in November and December have achieved, so far, their intended outcome." It's critical that the province maintain enough restrictions to continue to drive those numbers down, Hinshaw said, given the high number of people still being treated in hospitals. "We need to build on our collective success by going slowly toward allowing some additional activities and not experiencing a rebound if we open too quickly," she said. Hospitalizations remain high Hospitals in the province are treating 744 patients for the disease, including 124 in ICU beds. "It is important to remember that it is the number of people currently in hospital that I am providing, not all those who have ever needed hospital care since the spring," Hinshaw said. "To put this into context, over the last 10 years, we have had an average of just over 1,500 total hospital admissions for influenza annually. For COVID-19, the comparable number comes from less than a year of data. More than 5,000 people have needed hospital care since the pandemic began for COVID-19 in Alberta." A total of 5,086 people with COVID-19 have been treated in hospitals since the pandemic began last March. That represents about 4.3 per cent of the total cases, which now sits at 118,436. Of those, 106,387 were listed as recovered and 10,565 were active. Of the patients hospitalized with the illness so far, 816 have ended up in ICU beds. Far greater toll on older people Slightly more than one per cent of all people infected have died. Alberta Health data shows the illness has taken a far greater toll on older people. To date, 1,265 of the 1,484 reported deaths (85 per cent) have been people aged 70 and older. A total of 109,089 people under the age of 70 have contracted the illness. In all, 218 of them have died, a rate of .0.19 per cent. To date, 9,347 people aged 70 or older have become sick. In all, 1,265 of them have died, a rate of 13.5 per cent. Older people also have a much higher chance of ending up in hospital. Those in their 20s who contract the illness have about a one in 100 chance of being hospitalized. Those aged 60 and older have about one in six chance. Here's a breakdown by age of those who have been infected, and those who had symptoms serious enough to require hospitalization. Under one, 644 cases, 34 hospitalized, 10 in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 5.3 per cent) one to four, 3,671 cases, 14 hospitalized, two in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 0.4 per cent) five to nine, 5,094 cases, eight hospitalized, two in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 0.2 per cent) 10 to 19, 13,606 cases, 68 hospitalized, nine in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 0.5 per cent) 20 to 29, 22,025 cases, 241 hospitalized, 25 in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 1.1 per cent) 30 to 39, 22,470 cases, 388 hospitalized, 40 in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 1.7 per cent) 40 to 49, 18,678 cases, 489 hospitalized, 92 in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 2.6 per cent) 50 to 59, 14,075 cases, 721 hospitalized, 164 in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 5.1 per cent) 60 to 69, 8,788 cases, 879 hospitalized, 239 in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 10.0 per cent) 70 to 79, 4,370 cases, 952 hospitalized, 172 in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 21.8 per cent) 80+, 4,977 cases, 1,291 hospitalized, 60 in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 25.9 per cent) A total of 95,243 doses of vaccine have been administered in the province.
Conservative MPs today voted to expel Derek Sloan from caucus after the eastern Ontario MP accepted a donation from a notorious white nationalist. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole initiated the ouster earlier this week after news emerged that Paul Fromm — whose ties to white supremacist and neo-Nazi causes have long been documented — had contributed $131 to Sloan's leadership campaign. Sloan fought against the vote, saying he was unaware of the source of the donation because Fromm used his full name, Frederick P. Fromm. Conservatives voted by secret ballot today, with the majority of MPs voting to remove Sloan from their benches. In a statement issued this afternoon, O'Toole called the donation the "last straw." "The Conservative caucus voted to remove Derek Sloan not because of one specific event, but because of a pattern of destructive behaviour involving multiple incidents and disrespect towards the Conservative team for over a year," he said. "These actions have been a consistent distraction from our efforts to grow the party and focus on the work we need to do. Events of the past week were simply the last straw and led to our caucus making the decision it did today." News of Fromm's contribution was first reported by PressProgress, a non-profit news website funded by the left-leaning Broadbent Institute. Sloan, who was elected in 2019 to represent the riding of Hastings—Lennox and Addington, argued his team couldn't vet every donation to his leadership campaign last year. He also accused O'Toole of hypocrisy, pointing out that Fromm was accepted as a member of the party and voted in its 2020 leadership election without raising any red flags with party officials. In a statement to CBC News earlier this week, Conservative Party director of communications Cory Hann said it was Sloan's campaign that sold the party membership to Fromm. He said the party would be revoking Fromm's membership and returning the funds. Controversial player in party Sloan pushed back on that argument, saying new members who signed up for memberships through a leadership campaign website like his were directed to the party's main website. Fromm, who founded the Canadian Association for Free Expression and Citizens for Foreign Aid Reform, has appeared at far-right protests, has spoken regularly on the white nationalist radio show Stormfront and is the subject of a Hamilton police investigation into claims that he shared the New Zealand mosque shooter's manifesto on his organization's website. Sloan has been a polarizing figure in Canadian politics, generating controversy with his socially conservative views on LGBTQ rights. He alarmed members of his own party in April when he posted a message and video on Facebook and Twitter claiming Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam had "failed Canadians" during the pandemic and asking if she works "for Canada or for China." Today's move marks a shift in position for O'Toole. During the leadership race, he took out a Facebook ad to defend Sloan's place in the party. But in recent days, O'Toole has said he wants to build a more inclusive Conservative Party. Just hours before the donation news broke, he released a lengthy statement saying there is "no place for the far right" in the party and pushing back at Liberal attempts to link his party to Trump-style politics. In a Facebook post this afternoon, Sloan — who will now sit in the house as an independent — urged his supporters to keep their party memberships and delegation spots ahead of the Conservative policy convention planned for March. "The CPC belongs to you, the grassroots of the party. I encourage you to use your voice, to stand up, and represent true conservative values with this convention," he wrote. 'They will regret this' In a subsequent Facebook video, Sloan used even more forceful language and took aim at O'Toole and the Conservative Party. He compared his situation to that of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott — two former Liberal cabinet ministers who were removed from that caucus after breaking with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the SNC-Lavalin affair. "It shows an absolute cowardice, an absolute failure to address the real issues that animates much of our base," Sloan said. "This was the worst mistake they ever made and they will regret this. I'm positive of it." O'Toole stressed in his own statement that he did not vote to expel Sloan because he's a social conservative. "We have members of Parliament of deep compassion and unmatched character, who like many Canadians, draw strength from their faith," he said. "The Conservative Party is a big tent that is reflective of all Canadians. People of all backgrounds have a place in our party."