President Donald Trump returned to Washington on Thursday after he cut short his Florida vacation a day earlier than originally expected. (Dec. 31)
President Donald Trump returned to Washington on Thursday after he cut short his Florida vacation a day earlier than originally expected. (Dec. 31)
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
ÉMILIE PELLETIER Initiative de journalisme local — Le Droit La COVID-19 a emporté 89 Ontariens, mardi, portant le bilan total des décès causés par le virus à 5568 en province. La même journée, le décès de 60 résidents de foyers de soins de longue durée (FSLD) lié au coronavirus a été déclaré. La province a enregistré 2655 nouvelles infections à la COVID-19, mardi, portant le total du nombre de cas à 244 932 depuis le début de la pandémie. Mardi, 1598 Ontariens atteints du virus étaient hospitalisés, dont 395 aux soins intensifs. Parmi ces derniers, 296 étaient sous respirateur. Dans les FSLD, 137 résidents et 57 employés ont reçu un résultat positif à la COVID-19, mardi. Au cours de la dernière journée, 13 784 personnes ont roulé leur manche pour recevoir une dose du vaccin contre la COVID-19. Ce nombre risque de diminuer au cours des prochains jours en raison du manque d’approvisionnement de la compagnie pharmaceutique Pfizer. En tout, 237 918 doses du vaccin ont été administrées en Ontario, et 32 361 Ontariens ont maintenant reçu leurs deux doses nécessaires du vaccin.Émilie Pelletier, journaliste, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Droit
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.
The Nisga’a Lisims Government (NLG) has extended the local state of emergency for the Nass Valley following a unanimous decision from the NLG executive. The state of local emergency was first declared on Jan. 12, as COVID-19 cases continued to climb. The NLG has not yet released the new timeline or said when the extension is set to end. ALSO READ: Nisga’a Lisims Government declares state of local emergency “We should not visit other homes for any reason,” said a Jan. 20 NLG media release. “Doing so jeopardizes the health and well-being of all — especially our elderly population and those that are vulnerable due to other health conditions.” The local state of emergency restricts travel between Nisga’a villages, prohibits any gatherings, implements security monitoring and can result in fines for people found to be in contravention of provincial or Nisga’a orders. As of Jan. 20, there are 21 active COVID-19 cases in the Nisga’a Valley Health Authority, and there have been 90 positive tests since Dec. 28, 2020. Nineteen results are pending and 159 people have tested negative for COVID-19 out of 268 total tests. ALSO READ: Nisga’a Valley Health prepares to roll out COVID-19 vaccines The Nisga’a Valley Health Authority had been expecting to receive a shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine around the start of the week, but was notified Monday morning that the delivery would be delayed due to a province-wide disruption in shipments. READ MORE: B.C. turns to second doses of COVID-19 vaccine as supplies slow Ben Bogstie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Interior News
Tous les producteurs laitiers recevront une correspondance sur les modalités du deuxième paiement liées à leurs quotas de production, a annoncé la ministre de l’Agriculture et de l’Agroalimentaire, Marie-Claude Bibeau. Ils doivent au préalable s’inscrire au Programme de paiement direct auprès de la Commission canadienne du lait avant le 31 mars. Marie-Claude Bibeau a confirmé les paiements lors d’une rencontre avec des producteurs sous gestion de l’offre du Sud-Ouest de la Montérégie au Québec, et notamment de Vaudreuil, Hudson, Rigaud, Magog, Brome et Granby, en compagnie des députés Brenda Shanahan, Peter Schiefke et Lyne Besette des circonscriptions respectives de Châteauguay–Lacolle, de Vaudreuil–Soulanges et de Brome-Missisquoi. «La production laitière est un pilier de nos régions rurales… Nous continuerons à veiller à ce que nos producteurs sous gestion de l’offre disposent des outils nécessaires à leur réussite pour les générations à venir», a plaidé la ministre dans un communiqué. Les versements au titre de l’indemnisation «complète et équitable» des producteurs laitiers estimée à 1,75 milliard de dollars s’étendra sur une période de 4 ans et non plus 8 comme l’avait annoncé Ottawa en 2019. Le gouvernement fédéral a promis le 28 novembre dernier qu’ils recevront 468 millions de dollars en 2020-2021, 469 millions de dollars en 2021-2022 et 468 millions de dollars en 2022-2023. Ces producteurs sont indemnisés à la suite des concessions faites dans le cadre de l’Accord économique et commercial global entre le Canada et l’Union européenne (AECG) et de l’Accord de partenariat transpacifique global et progressiste (PTPGC). Ottawa a annoncé qu’il avait entamé des consultations auprès des représentants des industries du poulet, des œufs, du dindon et des œufs d’incubation sur l’élaboration de programmes de compensation sur dix ans, assortis d’un budget de 691 millions de dollars, que la ministre Bibeau a aussi annoncés en novembre 2020. «Les producteurs de Brome-Missisquoi s’attendent à ce que nous les appuyions, notamment avec les compensations pleines et entières annoncées en novembre. Nous sommes à leur écoute et nous continuons à travailler étroitement avec eux afin de leur offrir les meilleures conditions pour favoriser leur succès», a plaidé Mme Bessette. Entre décembre 2019 et janvier 2020, plus de 10 000 producteurs laitiers ont reçu un paiement en espèces, totalisant 345 millions de dollars. Godlove Kamwa, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Canada Français
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
Paramedics across B.C. responded to more calls to help someone who had an overdose in 2020 than any other year since record keeping began, according to dispatchers. B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) on Wednesday said they were called to 27,067 overdoses last year — an average of 74 calls every day, or one call around every 20 minutes. The total is up 12 per cent from 2019, according to a statement. "It's hard for every paramedic who goes to those scenes," wrote Pat Hussey, paramedic unit chief in Penticton, which saw an 87 per cent increase in calls last year. The sobering statistics are further confirmation the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the overdose crisis that has devastated the province for years. The overdose death toll for the year surpassed 1,500 in November, solidifying 2020 as a record-breaking year for lives lost due to a lethally toxic illicit drug supply. A drop in Vancouver BCEHS said every one of B.C.'s five health regions saw an increase in overdoses last year, except one: Vancouver Coastal Health saw calls drop slightly, by four per cent. The Downtown Eastside, which has historically seen more than 5,000 overdose calls in a year, saw about 760 fewer calls last year than the year before. A reason for the drop was not immediately confirmed by the service. Brad Cameron, a paramedic manager with BCEHS, said from anecdotal evidence and his own experience, one reason for the drop could be due to the higher availability of naloxone in the Downtown Eastside. "Pretty everybody down in that particular area knows of somebody who's got naloxone or who carries themselves. It's freely available among the safe consumption sites, harm reduction sites," Cameron said. He also noted that there appears to be greater awareness among drug users in the neighbourhood noting, for example, that many people were becoming more aware that they shouldn't be using opioids alone. "If somebody is with you when you're using and notice that you're going into respiratory distress or into arrest, they're there readily to give the naloxone and call 911 for the presence of an ambulance," he said. Dramatic increases outside Lower Mainland The increases in other rural communities were dramatic, relative to the population. There were 20 calls for an overdose in Fort Nelson, up 233 per cent from last year. Keremeos and Sechelt saw increases of 167 and 112 per cent, respectively. Terrace and Houston also saw double the number of calls compared to previous years. The BC Coroners Service said Wednesday it is not yet finished compiling monthly overdose statistics for December, nor has it finished the yearly data for 2020. Those numbers are expected in February. Even with incomplete annual data, the overdose crisis continues to be deadlier than the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. More than 1,540 people died of an overdose in 2020, compared to 1,090 people who died of COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the existing overdose emergency. The supply of illicit drugs bought and sold across the province became more toxic when the U.S.-Canada border closed in March and forced suppliers to find other sources. Toxicology findings show a larger number of those who died between April and November had extreme concentrations of fentanyl, compared with previous months, according to the coroners service. Public health measures to combat COVID-19 have also hindered access to key harm-reduction services like supervised consumption sites, meaning more people are using alone. More than half of illicit drug toxicity deaths last year — 55 per cent — happened in private residences. Hussey, the paramedic in Penticton, said overdose calls have become more complex with such a high level of drug toxicity. Overdoses require multiple doses of naloxone and patients often have breathing and neurological complications.
Ontario's police watchdog cleared an officer of wrongdoing in the shooting death of a man west of Toronto on Wednesday, saying there were no reasonable grounds to lay charges in the incident that took place last year. The Special Investigations Unit noted, however, that there were legitimate questions about the Peel Regional Police officer's conduct on the evening that Jamal Francique was shot in the head in Mississauga, Ont.Joseph Martino, the director of the Special Investigations Unit, said in a report that the officer told investigators he feared for his life when Francique drove at him during a botched arrest."Confronted by a vehicle that the subject officer had reason to believe was intentionally being driven in his direction, the officer's decision to disable its operating mind by shooting in the direction of the driver was not devoid of logic," Martino wrote.There were, however, aspects of the officer's conduct that raised questions, Martino said. "One may question, for example, the wisdom of the (subject officer) placing himself in the vicinity of a vehicle whose driver was evidently attempting to flee from police," Martino wrote. "There are those who would also take issue with shooting at a moving vehicle when the prospect of stopping the vehicle in its tracks is low and the risk of contributing to a dangerous situation on the roadway is real. On the other hand, one must be mindful of the fluid and dynamic nature of the incident."Police were investigating Francique for allegedly dealing drugs and possessing a firearm, the SIU said.Officers were unable to confirm if Francique had a gun or was dealing drugs, but decided to arrest him for allegedly breaching bail conditions, the SIU said.On Jan. 7, 2020, several plainclothes officers and their unmarked cars gathered near Francique's home in Mississauga, Ont., where they waited for him to get into his car.Around 5:45 p.m., the SIU said, Francique got into an Acura TSX and began to drive, but one officer was late blocking him in the driveway.A second unmarked police car came behind Francique and tried to hem him in, the SIU said, while other officers got out of the cars and rushed to the area, guns pointed at the young man. Francique accelerated toward a grassy area, the SIU said, and struck one car while one officer jumped out of the way. At that point another officer on foot fired his gun four times as Francique drove towards him, the SIU said. The Acura came to a halt 30 metres away after it hit a home. The SIU said officers did not approach the car for fears of a gun — which was later found in Francique's satchel — and waited until tactical officers arrived more than two hours later at 8:05 p.m.The tactical team then approached with a shield and smashed the rear windows."Mr. Francique was seated in the driver’s seat in obvious and acute medical distress," the SIU wrote. "He had suffered a gunshot wound to the left side of the head."Francique was taken to St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto and died three days later.Knia Singh, a lawyer representing Francique's family, criticized the SIU."The SIU has failed to serve Ontario's diverse community in a way that fosters confidence in the process," Singh said. "The public perception from affected communities, lawyers, and human rights organizations, is that the SIU is heavily biased in favour of police."- with files from John Chidley-Hill.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. Liam Casey, The Canadian 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
MONTREAL — Health authorities in Quebec have reported fewer than 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 for four consecutive days — almost two weeks since the imposition of a provincewide curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. Premier Francois Legault has suggested the drop in cases may be the result of the curfew, which he said he imposed to reduce COVID-19 transmission, especially to people older than 60. The measure will be in effect, he said, until at least Feb. 8. Health experts say it's too early to know for certain whether the curfew is behind the significant drop in new daily cases. But they differ on whether the drastic measure should start getting some credit. Benoit Masse, professor of public health at Universite de Montreal, said it's "very difficult to know" whether the curfew is working because that measure was one of several restrictions imposed to reduce spread. Primary schools had been closed for an extended winter break and only reopened Jan. 11, he said. High schools, meanwhile, reopened Monday. Government data indicates schools have been tied to more than 20 per cent of non-active outbreaks in the province. Quebecers also got a "rude awakening," Masse said, when earlier this month officials reported more than 3,100 cases in a single day, sparking public warnings from doctors who said hospitals were on the verge of rationing care. Those warnings may have shocked Quebecers into reducing their contacts, Masse explained. "It's certain that also had an enormous impact on Quebec." But, he added, the curfew may have also played a role in shocking Quebecers into reducing their contacts. Roxane Borges Da Silva, a public health professor at Universite de Montreal who was one of the experts calling for a curfew in early January, said the measure may be having the desired effect. She said a new study by researchers at the Aix-Marseille University in France indicates that a partial lockdown coupled with a curfew reduced transmission in that country among people aged 20 to 60. That study, "An Early Assessment of Curfew and Second COVID-19 Lock-down on Virus Propagation in France," which has not yet been peer reviewed, found that the acceleration of viral spread among people older than 60 "decreased notably with curfew measures." But even with the decline in the number of new cases, Masse said it's too early to say whether the trend will continue. It's also too early, he said, to declare victory. Quebec reported 1,502 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and 66 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including 10 that occurred in the preceding 24 hours. Health officials said hospitalizations dropped by 33, to 1,467, and 216 people were in intensive care, a rise of four. The majority of the new cases were reported in Montreal and neighbouring regions. Officials reported 629 cases in Montreal, 199 in the Monteregie region and 148 in Laval. No other region in Quebec had more than 100 reported cases Wednesday. Quebec has reported 247,236 COVID-19 infections and 9,208 deaths linked to the virus since the start of the pandemic. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, b2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press
Homicide detectives investigating the shooting death of a 49-year-old man in west Edmonton do not believe the victim was the intended target. Dion William McCallum was found inside a home early Sunday, suffering from a gunshot wound. He died of his injuries in hospital. "This incident was not targeted and Mr. McCallum was at home with a family member at the time of the incident," Staff Sgt. Brenda Dalziel said during a news conference Wednesday. The family member with McCallum was not injured in the shooting, Dalziel said. Police found McCallum inside after being called to the home near 105th Avenue and 157th Street around 6:15 a.m. An autopsy Tuesday confirmed he died from the wound and confirmed the case as a homicide. "It is alarming to find out, through our investigation, to see that this this particular incident, there is no reason for us to believe that Mr. McCallum was targeted at this time," Dalziel said. "And so for that reason, we hope that members of the Glenwood community will reach out to the police and speak to us with any information they might have from early that morning." Dalziel urged anyone with surveillance video, such as doorbell cameras or dashcam video, to contact investigators. She also asked that anyone who saw any suspicious activity or vehicles in the area around 5:45 a.m. Sunday to call police. She said police don't have any descriptions of a possible suspect or suspects. They're hopeful that public tips can shed light on the case. "It's quite a quiet community, so on a Sunday morning at 5:45 in the morning, there's really not a lot of activity out here," she said. "And so if anyone saw anything, we'd like them to come forward." Dalziel said McCallum's death is part of a concerning trend in firearms crime. Dalziel said Edmonton police investigated 158 shooting events in 2020, 10 of which were fatal. "Year to date, we've already had eight firearms shooting incidents in the city of Edmonton," she said. "And public safety in the city of Edmonton is the priority."
MONTREAL — Students at Montreal's Westmount High School spent Wednesday morning watching a former graduate ascend to one of the highest political offices in the world, with Kamala Harris's new post as U.S. vice-president sending a message that nothing is beyond reach."When we stay in the same high school for five years, it can make the world seem quite small," Ava Oxilia, a Grade 10 student at the school, said in a video call organized by the board."To know that she was in a very similar place to a lot of our students here, and then she reached one of the highest positions in the U.S. government, it's just incredible to believe anyone of us could obtain such a high position."Harris, 56, moved briefly to Montreal at age 12, attending Face and later Westmount High School before graduating in 1981.It was in those halls that Wanda Kagan, a good friend to Harris during her time in Montreal, met the new U.S. vice-president and even ended up living with her for a time. How many people can say they bunked with a vice-president, Kagan asked with a laugh on Wednesday as she said she was elated for her friend.“Anyone can make history, but only a great woman can write history, and that’s what she’s going to do,” Kagan said in an interview.Kagan said the pair became close friends, two children from biracial families navigating a bigger high school. “We were just trying to find our way, fitting in, and we just fit in together,” she said.Kagan would confide in Harris during those school years that she was being abused at home, and Harris’s late mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, insisted she come live with them. “They just treated me like family. I just hung out with Kamala in her room listening to music, doing homework,” Kagan said. “They instilled a lot of my values that I carried on later in life.”After reconnecting in the mid-2000s, Kagan said Harris told her that helping her friend during their high school years inspired her legal career defending women and children from abuse.Kagan said she had no doubt Harris and her family helped shape her life. “But to know that I impacted hers was huge,” Kagan said. “She was a trailblazer back then, fighting for my rights, my dignity, my humanity.”The school has been paying close attention as Harris's political career took off, and on social media Wednesday it congratulated its illustrious alumna on her swearing-in as the 49th U.S. vice-president.Students streamed the inauguration during second period, with Grade 10 student A.J. Itovitch later describing the pride felt in seeing someone who walked the same halls rise to such heights."The energy has been absolutely palpable over the past few weeks at the school, and it's just so difficult to wrap our head around the fact that the 49th vice-president came ... right out of Montreal," the 15-year-old said. "We have been doing all we can just to take in all of this."Principal Demetra Droutsas said Harris's rise has been inspirational. "I want our students to really retain they should dream big, they should never limit themselves and they can do anything they set their minds to," she said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
Calgary– Before President Biden was even inaugurated, TC Energy let it be known they would be stopping work on the Keystone XL pipeline. In recent days, it has been widely expected that Biden would use an executive order in his first days in office to rescind the Presidential Permit for the pipeline. Approving that pipeline was one of outgoing-President Donald Trump’s first acts after he took office. Once Alberta announced it would contribute $1.5 billion to begin construction, plus billions more in load guarantees, one of the first acts of construction was the building of a 2.2 kilometre section of pipe that actually crossed the Canada-U.S. border, ensuring there would already be pipe in the ground if there were further difficulties. Work on several pumping stations has already begun, including at least one completion, and 145 kilometres of pipe are in the ground in Alberta. Major construction in southwest Saskatchewan was supposed to take place this year. In a press release the morning of Jan. 20, inauguration day, TC Energy “announced it is disappointed with the expected action to revoke the existing Presidential Permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. The decision would overturn an unprecedented, comprehensive regulatory process that lasted more than a decade and repeatedly concluded the pipeline would transport much needed energy in an environmentally responsible way while enhancing North American energy security. “The action would directly lead to the layoff of thousands of union workers and negatively impact ground-breaking industry commitments to use new renewable energy as well as historic equity partnerships with Indigenous communities. The release continued, “TC Energy will review the decision, assess its implications, and consider its options. However, as a result of the expected revocation of the Presidential Permit, advancement of the project will be suspended. The company will cease capitalizing costs, including interest during construction, effective Jan. 20, 2021, being the date of the decision, and will evaluate the carrying value of its investment in the pipeline, net of project recoveries. Absent intervening actions, these steps could result in a substantative, predominantly non-cash after-tax charge to earnings in first quarter 2021. TC Energy will also modify its previously announced financing plans as it would no longer expect to issue hybrid securities or common shares under its dividend reinvestment plan to partially fund the project. “Our base business continues to perform very well and, aside from Keystone XL, we are advancing $25 billion of secured capital projects along with a robust portfolio of other similarly high quality opportunities under development,” said François Poirier, TC Energy’s president and chief executive officer. “These initiatives are expected to generate growth in earnings and cash flow per share and support annual dividend increases of eight to ten per cent in 2021 and five to seven per cent thereafter.” The release concluded, “While today’s news is very disappointing, TC Energy is thankful to its customers, American and Canadian workers, our partners the Government of Alberta and Natural Law Energy, labor organizations, industry, the Government of Canada and the countless supporters of this important energy infrastructure project.” Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
A bacterial infection outbreak that had restricted visits to a unit of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital since the first week of January appears to be over. Officials said at the time that MRSA, or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, had been detected on Unit 3 of the Charlottetown hospital, leading to increased cleaning measures. As well, patients were being allowed only one visitor at a time, with exceptions made "for compassionate and end-of-life scenarios." That has changed, as of Wednesday afternoon. "Visitors are now permitted on the unit in accordance with the general visiting guidance during COVID-19," said a news release issued by Health PEI. That means they must "wear a mask, maintain physical distancing and complete hand hygiene." More from CBC P.E.I.
Sexsmith considered hiring an energy manager, a position to be shared with other small municipalities in the South Peace. According to the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre (MCCAC), the program would create an energy management plan, promote conservation and save money on energy. The project was proposed by energy consultant Larry Gibson as a possible partnership with Beaverlodge, Hythe, Wembley and the town and municipal district of Spirit River. The cost of having the position was estimated at $11,300 per year for one or two years and there could be MCCAC grant funding available, said CAO Rachel Wueschner. Wueschner said the town hasn’t recently received word from the other municipalities about whether they’ll go forward with the project. Beaverlodge CAO Jeff Johnston said Beaverlodge council has yet to discuss the proposal. Mayor Kate Potter said she thought the project could be positive for the town, but said she recognized most of council was skeptical due to the costs and the town’s tight budget. Coun. Isak Skjaveland’s motion to take no action was carried. Council also amended its Election Bylaw to govern how declared candidates can pay the $100 needed to enter October’s race. In mid-November council approved an election bylaw setting a fee for candidates in future municipal elections. The bylaw previously allowed payment by cash, certified cheque or money order. Wueschner recommended allowing debit and disallowing credit cards because of logistical difficulties, as the town’s debit machine doesn’t take credit cards. Councillors Skjaveland, Dennis Stredulinsky and Bruce Black’s motions to allow debit payments were carried. Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
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
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
VAUGHAN, Ont. — CannTrust Holdings Inc. says it will create a $50-million trust to settle claims from class action lawsuits filed after the company was found growing cannabis in unlicensed rooms two years ago. The Vaughan, Ont. business says the trust is part of a restructuring support agreement it reached with Canadian and American plaintiffs to sort out securities claims they made against CannTrust. The plaintiffs previously banned together as a consortium to file lawsuits complaining they lost millions of dollars after CannTrust allegedly made misrepresentations about having necessary licenses for growing. The plaintiffs discovered they had been misled in 2019 when Health Canada uncovered illicit cultivation at CannTrust’s Pelham, Ont., greenhouse, seized cannabis from the facility and stripped the company of its licenses, some of which it has since regained. CannTrust says its new agreement with plaintiffs will be part of a broader restructuring the company and its subsidiaries will undergo as they remain under Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act protection. The company says the agreement will resolve claims against CannTrust and lawsuit defendants including chief executive Greg Guyatt and other senior staff. "Today's announcement represents a significant milestone towards the resolution of substantially all of the civil litigation claims that were filed against CannTrust following the Company's non-compliance with certain Health Canada regulations," said Guyatt said in a statement. "Although much work remains to conclude the matters contemplated by the RSA, I am pleased that, in addition to relaunching our medical and recreational businesses, we are also making further tangible progress to exit from the CCAA and put CannTrust in a position to be a successful player in the cannabis industry." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. The Canadian Press
People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin says he's rethinking his role on an all-party COVID-19 committee because of inconsistent pandemic guidelines that he is finding hard to justify to New Brunswickers. Austin said the recent watering down of red-phase restrictions, and the lack of information being provided to opposition party leaders, causes him to question the value of the committee. "That is something that frankly I have thought about," he said. "At what point do you throw up your hands and walk away?" The Alliance leader said he's not ready to quit yet but his support for the committee is "waning." And he said that's in part because it's difficult for opposition parties to both have a role in recommendations and at the same oppose COVID-19 policies they disagree with. "I'm honoured to be on the committee, and to be able to speak and to be a part of the discussion that happens … but at the same time, as opposition parties we have to have the flexibility to speak when we don't agree." He is also questioning whether moving four health zones to the red phase of restrictions this week was necessary. "I think we should have stuck it out in orange for a bit longer and see where we can go from there." Premier Blaine Higgs struck the all-party committee last March, the same week the first case of COVID-19 appeared in New Brunswick. It includes Higgs, key ministers and the leaders of the three opposition parties in the legislature. I was under the understanding that red meant lockdown, that there was no extra lockdown. - Kris Austin, People's Alliance leader Higgs had a minority government at the time and the committee was a way for the government to present a unified public health message to New Brunswickers that would not be undermined by partisan bickering. The premier kept the committee in place even after he won a majority in last September's election and told CBC News he hopes Austin won't break from the consensus. "It's important that we stay together as a team in our cabinet committee," he said. "This is no time after a successful 10 months to have diverse opinions in the public." But Austin said he's increasingly disenchanted with how the body works and is calling for "a real reset of this committee to determine how it's going to be done better." It has no decision-making power but gives feedback and advice on various COVID-19 measures. Only the actual Progressive Conservative cabinet has the power to approve pandemic measures. Higgs says though that the three opposition parties are getting "all the information" that he is given as premier by Public Health officials. "There's nothing new or different from what I'm presented." Consensus not always reached This isn't the first time cracks have appeared in the consensus. Last spring Green Party Leader David Coon broke ranks with Higgs over restrictions on temporary foreign workers that were later rescinded. At the time, Coon complained that the confidentiality oath taken by him and the other party leaders prevented him from discussing publicly what concerns he raised about the decision in the committee. And this week Liberal Leader Roger Melanson said the committee was given little notice of the change to red-phase rules to allow schools to stay open, a shift that Education Minister Dominic Cardy said had been in the works for some time. Austin said he supports schools staying open but questioned why the red-phase rules were being changed now. Consistency is the key to giving New Brunswickers confidence in COVID-19 measures, he said. But now the government is talking for the first time this week about a new, stricter lockdown phase beyond red. "I was under the understanding that red meant lockdown, that there was no extra lockdown. But now red seems to be another version of orange. Schools are remaining open, and yet we're targeting churches and hair salons." Among other rules in the red phase, only drive-in religious services are allowed, salons, gyms and entertainment centres must close, and restaurants are not allowed to provide in-housing dining. Higgs said keeping schools open is the only change to the red rules and described it as "a bridge" between red and orange restrictions. "The challenge becomes that we're all a bit frustrated with where we are now .. and how far do we go to shut this down?" The Alliance leader said he gets calls from New Brunswickers asking him, as a member of the committee, to explain certain decisions, but without "relevant, specific information" it's often hard to justify them. Austin's riding is part of Zone 3, which saw one new case on Tuesday when it was put in the red phase. The zone had a single new case again Wednesday. "People can't grasp that," he said, and it's made more difficult when he isn't even told where in the zone — which stretches from Minto and Chipman all the way to Perth-Andover and Plaster Rock — the cases are located. Higgs says he understands Austin is getting pushback and believes it's a reflection of rising case numbers. "In two weeks time, if this absolutely turns around, everybody's going to be thankful we made the moves we did. And if it doesn't turn around, people are going be saying 'do more.'"
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