Trudeau urges Canadians to keep others safe this Christmas: In The News for Dec. 24

·7 min read

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Dec. 24 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

The way has been cleared for U.S. biotech firm Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine to start arriving in the country.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed news of Health Canada's approval of the vaccine on Wednesday as he also announced that more doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine will arrive next month than was previously expected.

Between the early doses already in the country, and the shipments now scheduled, Canada should have at least 1.2 million doses from Pfizer and Moderna delivered by Jan. 31, Trudeau said.

Trudeau warned a long road lies ahead until enough doses arrive from the two companies next year to vaccinate 30 million people.

The prime minister also issued a final plea before Christmas for Canadians to avoid attending or hosting large gatherings to prevent a post-holiday surge in COVID-19 cases.

“Our country has been through difficult Christmases before. There have been times when our grandparents or parents couldn't be with family or had to put traditions on hold,” said Trudeau.

"Well this Christmas, it's our turn. It's up to us to protect each other. It's up to us to pull together to hold on and to know however dark the winter may be, spring is coming and better days will be back."

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Also this ...

A former frigate captain who oversaw part of Canada’s humanitarian response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010 will be the country's next chief of the defence staff.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the appointment of Vice-Admiral Art McDonald on Wednesday, ending months of speculation about who would succeed Gen. Jonathan Vance as Canada’s top military commander.

McDonald, who commanded the country’s Pacific fleet, will be the first naval officer to serve as the permanent defence chief since 1993.

A change of command ceremony is planned for the week of Jan. 11, when McDonald will formally take over from Vance.

Wednesday’s announcement followed months of speculation around who would succeed Vance.

Much of the speculation had revolved around whether Trudeau would appoint Canada’s first-ever female chief of the defence staff by tapping Lt.-Gen. Christine Whitecross for the job.

Not only was Whitecross the highest-ranking woman to have served in uniform, she also led the military’s early efforts to crack down on sexual misconduct in the ranks following the launch of Operation Honour in 2015.

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

House Democrats were planning to test the loyalty of Republicans to U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday over a massive COVID-19 relief and government funding package.

Trump has demanded bigger aid cheques for Americans on the proposal from Congress, forcing Republicans traditionally wary of such spending into an uncomfortable test of allegiance.

The Democrats also favour $2,000 cheques in a Christmas Eve vote.

The president's last-minute objection could derail critical legislation amid a raging pandemic and deep economic uncertainty. His attacks risk a federal government shutdown by early next week.

"Just when you think you have seen it all," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote Wednesday in a letter to colleagues.

“The entire country knows that it is urgent for the president to sign this bill, both to provide the coronavirus relief and to keep government open.”

Republicans led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have resisted $2,000 cheques as too costly. They have not said if they will block the vote.

The president's objections are setting up a defining showdown with his own Republican Party in his final days in office.

The president is pushing to increase direct payments for most Americans from $600 to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for couples.

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

Jean-Francoisis is a retired metal worker who hasn't been able to leave his nursing home in eastern France to visit his daughter or sister since the pandemic struck.

The 74-year-old thinks it's been two months since he last stuck his nose outside at all, as nursing homes across France shielded their vulnerable residents from another nationwide surge of virus infections and deaths.

Yet freedom now beckons.

Until Jan. 3, France is springing nursing home residents for the holidays. The aim is to alleviate some of the mental suffering and solitude of the pandemic by allowing multi-generation family reunions.

The three-week window of relaxed rules also allows visits to care homes with COVID-19 cases and to residents who are infected. Visits were previously allowed only in homes with no infections.

Jean-Francois' daughter wants him to join them around the Christmas tree. But he would rather stay put, as the risk of infection unnerves him.

“I’m very scared,” he said.

The year-end gift of freedom also comes with strings attached: Residents face a government-mandated week of solitary confinement in their rooms when they return. Jean-Francois doesn't relish that prospect. But he is also mindful of not hurting his daughter's feelings, which is why he didn't want to be identified by his full name in explaining his preference to spend the holidays apart.

“Family is sacred,” he said in a phone interview. “But to then spend a week in total confinement in my room is a big thing.”

“A week isn’t very long," he added, "but it’s extremely long for us.”

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On this day in 1814 ...

The War of 1812 officially ended as the United States and Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent in Belgium. Because of a military stalemate, it was agreed to restore prewar boundaries. However, because of the slowness of communications at that time, both countries fought the "Battle of New Orleans" the following month.

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In entertainment ...

The Documentary Organization of Canada says filmmaker Michelle Latimer has agreed to return an award it presented to her earlier this month.

The organization says it requested Latimer relinquish its BMO-DOC Vanguard Award after her claims of Indigenous identity were called into question last week.

The DOC Institute bestows its Vanguard award on a mid-career filmmaker who "embodies creativity, social consciousness and leadership." The award included $40,000 of in-kind production services and a $1,000 cash prize.

As recently as a few weeks ago, Latimer was regarded as one of this year's breakout Canadian filmmakers, partly on the rise of "Inconvenient Indian," a documentary that won two awards at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

But a recent CBC investigation challenged Latimer's claims she was of Algonquin, Metis, and French heritage, from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg and Maniwaki area in Quebec, and raised issues over her self-identification.

The filmmaker has said she "made a mistake'' in naming Kitigan Zibi as her family's community before verifying the linkage.

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ICYMI ...

In Peru, you can’t drive your car on Christmas.

In Lebanon, you can go to a nightclub, but you can’t dance.

How many people can you share a Christmas meal with? France recommends no more than six, in Chile it’s 15, and in Brazil it’s as many as you want. Meanwhile, Italy’s colour-coded holiday COVID-19 rules change almost every day for the next two weeks.

Countries around the world are trying to find the right formulas to keep their people safe for Christmas, especially as new virus variants prompt renewed travel bans and fuel resurgent infections.

In Britain, it was meant to be a time when families across the U.K. could enjoy something like a normal Christmas despite the pandemic. Authorities planned to relax restrictions, allowing up to three households to mix in the days around Dec. 25.

But the emergence of a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus changed that.

The four nations of the U.K. – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – are all in various states of shutdown and have ditched their Christmas plans. No indoor mixing of households is allowed in London and southeast England.

South Korea is clamping down on private social gatherings of five or more people and closing tourist spots from Christmas Eve through at least Jan. 3.

National parks and coastal tourist sites, where thousands travel to watch the sun rise on the new year, will close in South Korea. So will churches and skiing, sledding and skating venues.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 24, 2020

The Canadian Press