Trump pardon plan and Shatner pushes COVID-19 app support: In The News for Dec. 3

·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. 3 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

The Liberal government is set to introduce long-awaited legislation today to enshrine the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canadian law.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during the 2019 election campaign to introduce such a bill, developed with Indigenous people, by the end of this year.

The bill is expected to echo a private member's bill introduced by former NDP MP Romeo Saganash, which the House of Commons passed two years ago.

That bill stalled in the Senate, where Conservative senators argued it could have unintended legal and economic consequences, and then died when Parliament dissolved.

The UN declaration, which Canada endorsed in 2010, affirms the rights of Indigenous Peoples to self-determination and to their language, culture and traditional lands.

It also spells out the need for free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous Peoples on anything that infringes on their lands or rights.

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Also this ...

The trial of a teen boy accused of sexually assaulting two fellow students at a renowned Toronto high school is set to continue today.

The teen has pleaded not guilty to two counts each of gang sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon in connection with two incidents at St. Michael's College School in the fall of 2018.

Earlier this week, court viewed part of a video in which one of the complainants, also a teen boy, told police about an October 2018 incident in the school's locker room.

In the video, the complainant recalled hearing a group of students laugh as they held back his arms and sexually assaulted him with a broom handle after football practice.

The role of the accused was not specified in the portion of the video played in court, and the complainant did not mention him by name in that part of the footage.

More of the video is expected to be shown in today's hearing, which is taking place in court and over video conference.

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

Advocates and lawyers anticipate a flurry of clemency action from U.S. President Donald Trump in the coming weeks that could test the limits of presidential pardon power.

Trump is said to be considering a slew of pardons and commutations before he leaves office, including potentially members of his family, former aides and even himself. While it is not unusual for presidents to sign controversial pardons on their way out the door, Trump has made clear that he has no qualms about intervening in the cases of friends and allies whom he believes have been treated unfairly, including his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

The list of potential candidates is long and colourful: Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, imprisoned for financial crimes as part of the Russia investigation; George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, just like Flynn; Joseph Maldonado-Passage, a.k.a. “Joe Exotic," who starred in the Netflix series “Tiger King”; and former contractors convicted in a Baghdad firefight that killed more than a dozen civilians, including women and children.

Trump, long worried about potential legal exposure after he leaves office, has expressed worry to confidants in recent weeks that he, his family or his business might be targeted by president-elect Joe Biden’s Justice Department, although Biden has made clear he won't be part of any such decisions.

Nonetheless, Trump has had informal conversations with allies about how he might be able to protect his family, though he has not taken any steps to do so. His adult children haven't requested pardons nor do they feel they need them, according to people familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private matters.

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

Nearly 100 world leaders and several dozen ministers are slated to speak at the UN General Assembly’s special session starting Thursday on the response to COVID-19 and the best path to recovery from the pandemic which has claimed 1.5 million lives, shattered economies, and left tens of millions of people unemployed in countries rich and poor.

Assembly President Volkan Bozkir said when he took the reins of the 193-member world body in September that it would have been better to hold the high-level meeting in June. Nonetheless, he said Wednesday it "provides a historic moment for us to come together to beat COVID-19."

"With news of multiple vaccines on the cusp of approval, and with trillions of dollars flowing into global recovery efforts, the international community has a unique opportunity to do this right," he said. "The world is looking to the UN for leadership. This is a test for multilateralism."

When financial markets collapsed and the world faced its last great crisis in 2008, major powers worked together to restore the global economy, but the COVID-19 pandemic has been striking for the opposite response: no leader, no united action to stop the pandemic that has circled the globe.

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On this day in 1970 ...

The "October Crisis" ended when British Trade Commissioner James Cross was released by his FLQ kidnappers in Montreal. Cross was seized from his home in October, and another FLQ cell later kidnapped and murdered Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte on Oct. 17.

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In entertainment ...

William Shatner, the Canadian who played the iconic commander Capt. James T. Kirk in "Star Trek," has taken to Twitter to urge Alberta use the federal COVID-19 app rather than its own.

Shatner writes, “you just need to get Alberta on board,” adding that the province cannot go its own way in a world interconnected by travel.

Shatner writes Alberta’s approach is, “bizarre and dangerous,” but also says “what do I know? I’m just an actor.”

Premier Jason Kenney’s government has avoided signing onto the federal app, saying it’s not as effective because Alberta’s app is connected to contact tracing rather than simply delivering notifications of close contacts.

Alberta’s app has tracked down just a handful of cases in six months, but the government says the program will be more effective as more people sign on.

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ICYMI ...

Former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams is accusing the City of St. John's of taking Christmas away from the residents of a subdivision he developed on the city's outskirts.

Williams says that just as he did last year, he recently installed a 10-metre Christmas tree in the centre of a traffic roundabout in the Galway subdivision, which was developed by his company DewCor.

But this year, he says the city took issue with the tree, requiring that he take out an insurance policy and asking him to keep it unlit due to traffic concerns.

In a statement emailed Wednesday, city staff in the transportation engineering department say they're open to considering other locations for the tree in Galway that don't interfere with an intersection.

Kevin Breen, the St. John's city manager says the tree went up last year without a permit.

Meanwhile, the neighbouring city of Mount Pearl has offered to give the tree a proper home with lights, and Williams says the tree will be delivered there within the next two days.

"All's well that ends well," Williams said in an interview. "It's going to the neighbouring city of Mount Pearl, and to be quite honest with you, if Galway could be part of Mount Pearl, that would be my choice."

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020

The Canadian Press