WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Venezuela's opposition is discussing scaling back the interim government of opposition leader Juan Guaido that has won diplomatic recognition by dozens of countries that disavowed President Nicolas Maduro, nine legislators told Reuters. Guaido, the leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled parliament, in 2019 called Maduro a usurper following his disputed re-election and assumed a parallel presidency based on articles of the constitution that make the head of the National Assembly next in line to rule the country. Guaido's lawmaker allies have said they will continue to insist that they are legitimate parliamentarians after Jan. 5, arguing that their constitutional mandate remains intact because Sunday's vote is rigged.
People in Halifax will be able to order an Uber starting Thursday afternoon, and at least one other ride-hailing company is eyeing a launch in the city before the end of the year.Uber said in a news release that its smartphone app, which connects people looking for transportation with a driver, will go live for the Halifax region at 1 p.m. Thursday.However, the company encouraged residents to stick to public health guidelines and only use it for essential travel like getting to a doctor's appointment or pharmacy.Uber did not share any more information when asked about details by CBC, including how many drivers are active in Halifax, or how many have applied.A map of Uber's coverage area on its website shows that the urban core will be included, as well as more suburban and rural areas like Timberlea, Fall River and Eastern Passage. The company said its service area will expand as the number of drivers increases. Uber also said it's providing 2,000 free rides to front-line workers and families in need, through Partners for Care's Helping Healthcare Heroes program and Ronald McDonald House Charities Atlantic.Council cleared the way this fallUber's app puts the company in direct competition with members of the taxi industry, something that has sparked outcry in places like Toronto. Still, some people in Halifax have complained that the taxi industry in the municipality doesn't meet people's needs and there are often long delays in getting cabs at peak times. In September, Halifax council gave ride-hailing services like Uber the green light to operate in the municipality. They have stated they hoped to launch in the city before the end of 2020.The Canadian ride-hailing company Uride has yet to launch in Halifax, but its founder said it will be live by the end of the year.Cody Ruberto said the company has had over 700 people apply to be drivers, but could not immediately say how many had been accepted.In an email, Ruberto said he believes both Uber and Uride can operate in the same city since this is the case in many other areas. Halifax "deserves" this type of service, Ruberto said, and residents want choice. "Uride is a homegrown Canadian rideshare business, and we really care about the people here. Our goal is to provide reliable, safe affordable transportation, and we want to give back to the community any way we can," he wrote.Ruberto also noted they "rarely have price increases," which differs from Uber's model of surge pricing during busy times that he believes can turn people away."We do whatever we can to keep pricing affordable, while working to ensure reliable coverage," Ruberto said.MORE TOP STORIES
Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the priority list for the first COVID-19 vaccines is being refined because there won't be enough doses available in the first round to cover the initial groups recommended.
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 6, 2020 Jamie Thomas hopes his artistic talents are a hit for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, MO. The Barrie artist created a piece depicting baseball great Jackie Robinson called Breaking Barriers, that will be up for auction online to raise money for the museum. Thomas will be among participating artists from Asia, Europe, and North America who will be featured at www.nlbmart.com where their work will be prominently displayed by @Tagboard. Thomas will have his piece up for auction on eBay, with 42 per cent of sales going to the museum to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Negro League. Established in 1990, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) is a privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich history of African American baseball and its profound impact on the social advancement of America. The online event runs until Oct. 10. Amid a backdrop of renewed calls for social justice and equal rights throughout 2020, the NLBM has led a nation-wide celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the Negro Leagues. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
With a fresh layer of snow on the ground, many in the community are anxiously awaiting the start of the 2020 ski season. “Skiing, like other activities, such as snowshoeing and hiking, can be a safe way for individuals and families to exercise during the winter months,” said Dr. Ian Arra, the medical officer of health for the Grey Bruce Health Unit (GBHU). “Cross-country and alpine skiing are enjoyed at many locations across Grey and Bruce.” One of the largest draws for winter adventure in the area is, of course, Blue Mountain Resort. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, operations at the resort will look a little different this year. “This season, we will be prioritizing pass holder access to the mountain and limiting day-lift tickets. Guests cannot arrive at the resort and purchase a day-lift ticket – all tickets must be purchased online and the number of available day-lift tickets has been significantly reduced,” said Tara Lovell, manager of public relations for Blue Mountain Resort. She adds that the number of available day-lift tickets will be based on available terrain, skier-visit data and available indoor space at the resort’s three base lodges. “The most important thing for visitors to know is that this year more than any other, the need to plan ahead. Research current public health guidelines, go online to plan and pre-book their experiences before arriving at the resort,” Lovell added. According to Arra, the GBHU has actively been working with area ski clubs and resorts to assist in modifying operations in order to reduce the likelihood of close contact between people. “The biggest risk is likely to be through close contact with other individuals, especially if people are not wearing facial coverings. Any activity where there are crowds of people, especially closer than two metres, is a concern,” Arra said. In relation to the ski hill, GBHU has released the following ski-specific guidelines: For individuals, the health unit recommends: “When guests arrive at Blue, we encourage skiers and riders to come to the hill prepared to ski,” Lovell said. “Masks are required. In accordance with our local public health guidelines, masks or face coverings will be required without exception in the lift line and on the lifts.” But what about crossing county or health unit lines for a day on the slopes? For instance, the Town of Collingwood sits in the County of Simcoe under the umbrella of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU), which is currently in the Public Health Classification Level of stage three or zone orange. Yet, on the edge of Collingwood’s town limits sits the Blue Mountain Resort, which resides in Grey County and the GBHU, which is currently in stage two or the yellow zone. “The GBHU would advise people to keep up to date with current government requirements and guidelines. Currently, the province of Ontario is advising people in high-risk areas to not travel to areas of lower risk,” said Arra. Current provincial advice states travel from high-risk areas is to be restricted and should be for "essential purposes only." Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the SMDHU, recently voiced his concerns around allowing visitors into the area from other high-risk regions. “The province’s official advice is that residents from grey and red areas not travel. ... Recreational skiing, while a pleasure … is not essential,” he said, adding that he would go as far as “recommending” businesses adopt a policy to only serve customers from orange zones or lower. Gardner also recently issued a letter to all the municipalities in the region, which strongly recommended they prohibit access to their recreational facilities by anyone residing in a red or grey zone. He also recommends residents in Simcoe-Muskoka not travel to regions that are under yellow or green restrictions except for essential purposes such as work, school, or medical appointments. For now, according to Lovell, Blue Mountain Resort does not have any travel restrictions in place for those travelling from high-risk areas. “At this time, we have not put formal travel restrictions in place. We do strongly encourage all visitors to review and abide by their own local public health guidelines and any guests planning to visit Blue Mountain must review and be prepared to adhere to our Personal Responsibility Code,” Lovell said. For the ski resorts operating in Simcoe-Muskoka, the SMDHU released a letter to area resorts at the end of October outlining the public health requirements for the coming season. According to the SMDHU, ski and snow resorts are permitted to open in stage three but are subject to various operating requirements, such as: “Daily screening applies to members of the public, staff and volunteers who only attend outdoor settings at ski and snow resort facilities even if they do not go inside a resort building,” noted Gardner in the letter to area ski resorts. In addition, earlier today Garnder released an updated letter of instruction for businesses and organizations located in the County of Simcoe, District of Muskoka, City of Barrie, and the City of Orillia. The new letter provides further detail around the expectations of screening of employees; physical distancing and ramifications for close contacts of an employee diagnosed with COVID-19. For the ski industry, the largest takeaways in the directive will be the requirement to: * Appoint a compliance officer responsible for the implementation of a COVID-19 safety plan * Utilize physical barriers (such as plexiglass) where reasonably possible, in particular in environments where physical distancing cannot take place. Note that a face shield is not considered an adequate face covering - a face mask must also be worn * Ensure accurate and updated contact information for all employees * Minimize instances of more than one individual per vehicle for driving associated with work. The additional requirements will come into effect on Dec.5. Kelly Sinclair, part-owner and operator of Highlands Nordic, a cross-country ski facility located in the Niagara Escarpment just outside of Duntroon in the SMDHU district, says operations at her resort have also been adapted for COVID-19 safety protocols. “As a cross-country ski resort we operate a little differently than a downhill resort. The obvious part is that we don't have a chairlift, which is the biggest restriction for downhill skiing,” Sinclair said. In regards to limiting traffic from other high-risk areas in the province, Sinclair says the resort does not have a policy in place currently but will follow the guidelines provided by Simcoe-Muskoka and Clearview Township. “We have needed to hire some additional staff to accommodate the demand for cross-country skiing and to ensure our facility stays clean and welcoming. We are a hardworking team who are ready to adapt and take on any tasks,” she said. Sinclair notes that anyone looking to visit Highlands Nordic should come with knowledge of the current public health recommendations and as ski-ready as possible. “We are encouraging skiers to come ready to ski, limit their time inside as much as possible and embrace winter!” she said. As the ski season and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to progress, both the SMDHU and GBHU encourage the public to stay informed of the current public health recommendations and possible changes to the Public Health Classification Levels. “Follow public health advice, be respectful of club or resort instructions, wear a mask, watch your distance, wash your hands and be kind,” added Arra. — With files from Erika EngelJennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca
Families across the County of Grande Prairie can benefit from a diaper drive running now until Dec. 10, courtesy of county Regional Enforcement Services. During the campaign the county will collect disposable diapers and cash donations to assist residents in need during the Christmas season. The campaign marks the first diaper drive held by Regional Enforcement Services, but it will hopefully become an annual effort, said peace officer Lindsey Hennigar. “Being a mom of three, I know first-hand diapers are not cheap,” Hennigar said. “It touches every parent’s heart to think how worrisome it would for another parent to wonder, ‘Do I have enough diapers to change my child this day?’” Hennigar said she came up with the idea after considering how food banks have food drives and other organizations collect hygiene necessities and toys. She thought Regional Enforcement Services could fill a gap with a diaper drive, she said. “We’re a family-oriented department and we thought this would be a great way to help residents in need of diapers,” she said. “It’s our way of giving back to the community.” Disposable diapers, related products like wipes and diaper cream and cash donations can be made at numerous locations. These are the Beaverlodge, Wembley, Valhalla, Sexsmith, La Glace and Elmworth libraries, Clairmont’s Wellington Resource Centre, Hythe’s village office and Bezanson’s Knelsen Centre. Monetary donations can also be made online at www.countygp.ab.ca/diaperdrive. The diapers will then be distributed by the Sexsmith and Area Food Bank. While the Sexsmith Food Bank is distributing the donations, Hennigar said families in the west county can also benefit from the program. The drive began last Thursday and she said so far there’s been a lot of interest. During COVID people may not be able to easily access stores to purchase diapers to donate, but Hennigar said Regional Enforcement Services staff will buy some with the cash donations.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
As Vopak Development Canada’s proposed fuel storage facility and export terminal near Prince Rupert, B.C., enters its final public comment period, environmental groups say the project fails to address risks associated with marine and rail transport. If approved, the Vopak Pacific Canada facility would bring up to 240 rail cars carrying fuels like diesel, propane, methanol and gasoline through northwest B.C. every day. The fuels would be shipped on the CN rail network from sources in B.C. and Alberta to Ridley Island, an industrial site near Prince Rupert. The terminal would also bring up to 171 tankers to the Skeena River estuary annually. “Vopak brings the risk of a spill of highly toxic diesel oil and gasoline from train derailments, tanker accidents and spills at the offloading facility,” Greg Knox, executive director of SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, told The Narwhal. “Such spills are very difficult to clean up once they enter the river or marine environment.” Retired biologist Dawn Remington with Friends of Morice-Bulkley said the project poses a risk to communities along fuel transportation routes and not enough information about how these communities will be protected has been made available to the public. “We’re going to be a corridor for hazardous petroleum products. And if this is the case, I want it to be done safely,” Remington told The Narwhal, adding her concerns aren’t about trying to stop the project. Remington said the Vopak project presents an opportunity to address the risks of rail transportation associated with several projects in the region, including another proposed fuel export facility and one that’s already under construction. Vopak recently submitted its application for an environmental assessment certificate along with its report on the project’s potential environmental impacts to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. The public can now review and comment on those documents until Dec. 30. During the initial public comment period in 2018, members of the public and environmental groups asked that increased rail traffic associated with the Vopak project be included in the facility’s review. And during the First Nations consultation process, each of the six nations involved flagged increased rail traffic as an important issue that should be addressed as part of the environmental assessment. The B.C. Environmental Assessment Office said it would not include rail traffic in the assessment, deferring to Transport Canada, the federal agency responsible for regulating the rail network. “Concerns of potential spills from train derailments are not being assessed in the environmental assessment and are being completely ignored by CN, Vopak and the provincial and federal governments despite strong public concern,” Knox said. CN’s rail accidents have been steadily increasing, according to a 2019 Transportation Safety Board of Canada report. Last year, there were 169 accidents involving dangerous goods, like the ones that would be shipped to the Vopak facility. Eight of those accidents resulted in spills, twice as many as the previous year. In March, a train carrying coal and propane derailed near an elementary school east of Prince George, B.C., spilling coal into a creek and causing an emergency evacuation of the school. Other derailments in the region over the past few years have resulted in coal and wood pellets spilling into creeks and rivers. Remington has been working with communities along the rail corridor in northwest B.C. to formally request Transport Canada conduct a risk assessment of rail traffic in the region. Even though the potential for a rail accident resulting in an explosion or deadly spill is low, Remington worries a single event could have catastrophic effects. Propane — also referred to as liquified petroleum gas — is a highly-combustible fossil fuel captured as a by-product of fracking for natural gas. More propane travelling through the region means more risk, she said. “Risk is the probability of something happening times the severity of the consequences if it happens,” she explained. “So even if the probability is low, the consequences are enormous.” She stressed that without knowing the risks, the communities along the rail corridor aren’t equipped to deal with an emergency should one arise. “How do you evacuate this entire town if people have no idea?” The concern is shared along the transportation corridor, even in towns hundreds of kilometres from the proposed Vopak facility. In a recent public comment on the project, Jeanette Weir, from Hazelton, B.C., said the threat the export terminal poses to communities along rail lines has effectively been overlooked. “This project is completely ignoring the communities through which an enormous increase of rail transport of explosive dangerous goods is proposed. It should not be evaluated for the sole risks at the Prince Rupert storage facility because it will affect all of us living along the rail line.” In a document provided to First Nations outlining the potential effects of increased rail traffic, Vopak said the project would contribute to an incremental increase in the risks associated with rail transportation, including moose strikes, collisions and derailments. It also stressed that all regulations related to rail safety fall under the jurisdiction of Transport Canada. Public requests that the environmental impacts of marine traffic be included in the projects assessment were also denied by the Environmental Assessment Office, leading to lingering concerns the project will harm marine ecosystems. The proposed facility would include a number of holding tanks for fuel and a marine berth where tankers would be filled over 40-hour periods. Vopak would only be responsible for products during storage, unloading and loading. For nearly 50 years, a now-shuttered pulp mill near Ridley Island discharged contaminated materials into the marine environment, much of which is now sequestered in a layer of sediment on the ocean floor — including where Vopak would provide mooring for tankers. Although Vopak scrapped its initial plan to dredge up the contaminated sediment to make way for a permanent jetty, many worry the current plan to leave sediment — which contains highly toxic dioxins and furans as well as copper and arsenic — undisturbed is unrealistic. According to Luanne Roth, north coast campaigner for the T Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, the new plan was submitted after the initial public comment period, so any public concerns about the redesign have yet to be addressed. “Before, with the big dredge, all of that contaminated sediment would have been gone from the area,” she said. Now the issue is what happens to the sediment when tankers are mooring. “When the boats are docked, they’re docked by really powerful tugs, so there’s going to be really powerful propeller wash,” she said. The effects of propeller wash, the movement of water by ships’ engines, on the sediment have not been studied for the Vopak project, but they were when the Pacific Northwest LNG terminal was on the books for neighbouring Lelu Island. Roth said those studies estimated five centimetres of sediment would be resuspended every day. All of that toxic sediment would then be distributed by tides and currents within the surrounding marine ecosystem. Opposite Lelu Island, and within sight of the proposed Vopak project, is Flora Bank, which has been noted as a critical juvenile salmon habitat. Given the dramatic declines in Skeena salmon populations, the effects could be felt throughout the entire Skeena watershed. Roth said there may be solutions to the problem, but the absence of any mention of the effects of propeller wash in Vopak’s environmental effects evaluation is troubling, especially because the chemicals are known to have negative effects on human health, including increased risk of autism, cancer and diabetes. “There’s a tremendous amount of food gathering in the Skeena estuary, so it’s a really big concern,” she said. In an emailed statement, Vopak communications director, Stefany Cortes, told the Narwhal “the tugboat propulsion is focused higher in the water column and, therefore, is not expected to resuspend sediment during mooring.” Roth also raised concerns about the increased marine traffic and the potential for a catastrophic spill. As The Narwhal previously reported, many of Prince Rupert’s designated anchorages are situated in water that lies atop a thin layer of mud and sediment on smooth rock. In high winds — very common during fall and winter — a ship can drag its anchor and potentially end up smashing against coastal rocks. Even just one ship spilling its fuel, not to mention its cargo of fuel, would have catastrophic effects on the marine ecosystem. According to a T Buck Suzuki study, between 2004 and 2017, the Prince Rupert port had three times as many anchor-dragging incidents as the Port of Vancouver despite having 86 per cent less vessels. This works out to 2,360 per cent more incidents per visit. Roth said there were 29 incidents in Prince Rupert last winter. Earlier this year, T Buck Suzuki commissioned an independent report to assess the safety risks associated with anchoring in the Prince Rupert area. Prepared by Ivan Todorov, a master mariner and former senior officer on oil tankers, the report noted a need to ensure that “loading be delayed when storm/hurricane warnings have been issued in order to limit the need for anchoring laden tankers in poor holding ground.” Todorov added that the Vopak project should be subject to a formal risk assessment of grounding and collision incidents. The Prince Rupert Port Authority, which is responsible for federal lands and waters in the area and is the coordinator of the environmental assessment for the proposed project, recently commissioned an independent navigational risk assessment. But when The Narwhal asked to review the document, the port said it would not make the report available to the public. Port communications director Monika Cȏté told The Narwhal in an emailed statement that the port authority has strict policies and procedures in place for the movement and anchorage of ships coming and going from the Ridley Island Propane Export Terminal, of which Vopak is part owner, and similar policies and procedures would be implemented for the proposed facility. Those procedures include port-assigned pilots and tugboat assistance. “Procedures vary depending on vessel, cargo and terminal they are going to, and what is required to mitigate navigational risk,” she wrote. “Vopak-specific procedures will be determined through a multi-agency effort that includes vessel simulation trials.” She said it is uncommon for ships to remain at anchorage once they’re loaded. “In the very rare circumstance that a loaded vessel would move to anchorage, the tug would remain in attendance with the vessel while it is at anchor,” she wrote. Roth said if the port is not able to prevent fully loaded ships from anchoring during storm events, Vopak could contractually refuse to fill a tanker if extreme weather was in the forecast. “That’s something we’d really like them to address,” she said. In the new year, Vopak Development Canada will compile all of the comments received during the public comment period and submit them to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. The office will then consult with the province, the port authority, local First Nations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada and other stakeholders to resolve any outstanding issues. If no red flags are identified, the stakeholders will sign off on the project and a final decision will be made by provincial ministers. Vopak projects it will start construction in late 2021.Matt Simmons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
Memorial University will delay the beginning of its virtual winter 2021 semester, while the College of the North Atlantic is pushing on with its plan to bring 50 per cent of students back to the classroom in January.In a news release issued Wednesday, MUN says the beginning of the winter semester will be pushed back five days, with online classes set to begin Jan. 11.The move will affect the St. John's and Grenfell campuses along with the Marine Institute, except for Marine Institute diploma of technology and technical certificate students who face a different academic schedule.The new date also doesn't apply to medical, nursing or engineering students, who will return on Jan. 6.Provost Mark Abrahams said he hopes the delay will help reduce stress for students and give teachers more time to prepare for the upcoming semester."I know that right now many of you are exhausted and feeling strain," Abrahams wrote. "I heard concerns during our employee town hall in late November, and received comments along the same vein from students."'The right direction'The delay to the start of the winter semester is being welcomed by some students, including Jasper Pritchard. "I think it's a good step in the right direction," he told CBC News on Wednesday. He says the year so far has been a struggle, noting it's been a big adjustment moving to online learning and he isn't doing as well as he had hoped academically. But, if there is a bright spot, Pritchard said it's been most of the professors. "The profs have been super helpful … and as much as they've been struggling, they've been very open and honest with us, and I think when we have had struggles most of my profs have been really, really forthcoming with trying to help us out," he said. The announcement marks the second time the school has delayed a return as a result of the pandemic, as the school altered the plan to bring some non-academic staff back to campus last month due to rising COVID-19 cases.In an email to CBC News, MUN says that delay will continue through the holiday break with a decision pending in the new year. The plan to keep students learning online during the winter semester will also continue, with the school hoping to bring some students back to campus in the spring semester.CNA welcoming half of students backMeanwhile, the College of the North Atlantic is starting 2021 with a very different plan — and will welcome back over half its student body for in-person learning this winter, barring changes to public health orders.According to an email to CBC News, the school's academic learning plan will see about 50 per cent of students on campus in the next semester, including programs in the schools of engineering technology, health sciences and industrial trades.40 per cent of students will remain online, with seven per cent of students receiving a combination of in-person and online classes.As part of the return to in-person classes, a mask or face shield will be required on all campuses with COVID-19 screening protocols at all entrances. Access to facilities will be limited, with use of buildings by outside groups not permitted for the time being.Campuses with residences will be limited to single occupancy with enhanced cleaning and visitor restrictions in place."As long as conditions permit, we look forward to welcoming more of our students back to our campuses in the new year and will continue to work closely with the Department of Health and Community Services and Chief Medical Officer of Health to ensure our procedures are as up to date as possible when it comes to public health guidelines," CNA spokesperson Michelle Barry wrote.While CNA is moving ahead with bringing students back to campus, MUN says it is not considering the idea as the two schools can't be compared in terms of campus density."It is not feasible at this time for us to bring more than 50 [per cent] of our students to our campuses," the school said in an email.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
For the last three years, members of the Lighthouse Fellowship Baptist church have hosted professional development day events geared towards children in junior kindergarten through Grade 4. Restrictions in place because of the pandemic presented committee members Laura Connell, Vanje Watson, Jessica Kelly, Hannah Coolidge and Pastor Gordon with the challenge of how to provide a fun and meaningful experience for children while maintaining everyone’s safety. “We thought, we do Zoom church services, so why not do a Zoom PD day?” said Connell, who has been at the helm of the project. The result of their planning and efforts came together on Nov. 27, when 98 children, who had all pre-registered for the party, enjoyed a free, entertaining and engaging morning of activities, crafts, story time and games, from the comfort and safety of their own homes. The committee arranged for each child who pre-registered for the party to pick up a gift and party bag - drive-through style to prevent close contact -filled with activities including a nativity story book, activities, crafts, games and an advent book. The activities were thoughtful and promoted kindness and charity. Connell tells of one activity that encouraged children to be aware of how good life is, and use a checklist of how many good things they enjoy, and donate a nickel or dime for each item checked. The money could then be used as a donation to a favourite charity. “We are so very blessed,” said Connell. “We have so much.” The bags even included a Christmas DVD, popcorn, hot chocolate and candy cane, to be enjoyed with family members after the party. Connell worked behind the scenes, purchasing items and coordinating registrations. When she reached out to the church congregation for support, she found everyone was on board and wanted to do their part. “(We have) a whole crew that volunteered and a bigger group that donated,” said Connell. “There were many, many people involved.” The party was set up Zoom-style, but the participating children were seen only by the camera man, John Reeve, to protect the privacy of the children. Reeve, who owns Reeve Technologies, volunteered his expertise and time to facilitate the meeting. At 10 a.m., the programming began, and for the next 90 minutes, under the lead of Watson, Connell and Kelly, children were invited to explore the items in their gift bags, make puppets, play bingo, take part in a scavenger hunt and win prizes. Watson, who brought her own two girls with her to take part while she was on stage, brought lots of energy and positivity to the presentation. She spoke to Zoom attendees as though they were all in the same room. “I love working with kids and I love sharing the real meaning of Christmas,” said Watson. “We felt this was a great opportunity to build hope in families and the community. It’s been hard times and Jesus is our hope.” While organizing the event meant a lot of work, Connell was happy to commit the time to share holiday joy with the community. “We are doing this for the community kids, because we want to share the true meaning of Christmas,” said Connell. “Jesus being born as our Saviour is the reason we celebrate Christmas.” Connell said that depending on the restrictions associated with the pandemic, they will likely continue to hold future professional development day camps. She and her colleagues are passionate about sharing their faith and supporting the community. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent
More small- and medium-sized businesses will be able to apply for a provincial grant under a recently extended program. Applications for the small and medium enterprise (SME) relaunch grant were due last week but a second round of applications will now be available until March 31, according to the Alberta government. “A lot of our small- and medium-sized businesses have taken advantage of (the grant),” said Larry Gibson, Grande Prairie and District Chamber of Commerce chairperson. Gibson said the chamber has heard from approximately a half-dozen businesses that have applied since the program was introduced in June, including a couple near Clairmont. The SME relaunch grant benefits businesses, co-operatives and non-profits that have experienced significant revenue loss during the pandemic. The SME grant is for 15 per cent of the business’ pre-COVID monthly revenue, or a maximum of $5,000, said Justin Brattinga, Jobs, Economy and Innovation department press secretary. “Five thousand dollars doesn’t go far these days, but it is a helpful program when you’re looking at added expenses,” Gibson said. “Most of the (local businesses) are using the grant to offset some of the extra costs, in plexiglass shields, the masks and sanitization.” Gibson said Grande Prairie-area businesses that have shown interest in the grant represent a variety of sectors, including retail, small manufacturing organizations and the restaurant and hospitality industries. To qualify, a business must have fewer than 500 employees and be affected by provincial restrictions, or have revenue losses of 40 per cent, according to the Alberta government. Initially, the SME grant required the business to have revenue losses of 50 per cent, a threshold lowered to 40 per cent retroactively to March, Brattinga said. The lowered threshold will enable thousands of more businesses across the province to benefit, he said. The chamber observed many small- and medium-sized businesses experience losses in the range of 40 and 50 per cent between April and May, Gibson said. The new funding is available to businesses in enhanced-status areas of the province, such as the city and county of Grande Prairie and the municipalities within the county.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 2, 2020 Recycling company Geep is in a legal battle with Apple Inc. over the tech giant’s claim that the Barrie-based company allegedly stole and resold nearly 100,000 iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches it was supposed to destroy. According to a report in the Financial Post, Apple has filed a lawsuit demanding $31 million in damages and any proceeds from the resale of goods. In September 2019, Geep Canada merged with the Shift Group of Companies to form Quantum Lifecycle Partners, which has a large recycling plant on John Street in Barrie. Quantum is not named in the lawsuit. The Financial Post also reports that Geep has denied all wrongdoing and filed a third-party suit claiming employees stole the Apple devices without its knowledge. Apple’s lawsuit claims 11,766 pounds of Apple devices left Geep’s premises without being destroyed. These allegedly misappropriated devices were then subsequently sold at a significantly higher price than other recycled materials, the lawsuit claims. None of the allegations have been proven in court. Quantum Lifecycle Partners (formerly Geep) has no comment because the case is before the courts. Apple hired Geep in 2014 to destroy its old products and ensure they didn’t end up in landfills. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
BERLIN — The U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs voted Wednesday to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from a category of the world's most dangerous drugs, which could impact the global medical marijuana industry. The Vienna-based U.N. agency said in a statement that it had voted 27-25, with one abstention, to follow the World Health Organization's recommendation to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs, where it was listed with heroin and several other opioids. The drugs that are on Schedule IV are a subset of those on Schedule I of the convention, which already requires the highest levels of international control. The agency voted to leave cannabis and cannabis resin on the list of Schedule I drugs, which also include cocaine, Fentanyl, morphine, Methadone, opium and oxycodone, the opiate painkiller sold as OxyContin, Wednesday's vote therefore does not clear U.N. member nations to legalize marijuana under the international drug control system. Canada and Uruguay have legalized the sale and use of cannabis for recreational purposes, but many countries around the world have decriminalized marijuana possession. The schedules weigh a drug's medical utility versus the possible harm that it might cause, and experts say that taking cannabis off the strictest schedule could lead, however, to the loosening of international controls on medical marijuana. The Associated Press
VAUGHAN, Ont. — CannTrust Holdings Inc. is staging a comeback more than a year after its licences were suspended for illegally growing thousands of kilograms of dried cannabis in unlicensed rooms.The Vaughan, Ont., cannabis firm announced Wednesday that it will reintroduce two recreational brands, Liiv and Synr.g, to the Canadian market this month."We're confident that when the customers come back and try our products again, then they'll remember how good and how consistent and high quality they are," CEO Greg Guyatt said in an interview."We think we will win them back."That task may not be easy.CannTrust remains under Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act protection as it deals with multiple class action lawsuits and other litigation.The cases were filed after Health Canada discovered illicit cultivation at CannTrust's Pelham, Ont., greenhouse and seized cannabis from unlicensed rooms in the summer of 2019.Health Canada launched an investigation into the matter, while CannTrust dismissed chief executive Peter Aceto and board chairman Eric Paul departed the company.The company's licences for growing and processing cannabis were suspended at the time, but earlier this year, Health Canada reinstated those linked to CannTrust's Fenwick and Vaughan facilities.Guyatt is confident those problems are behind the company. "It's been a long journey, many hours and a lot of effort from everybody," he said.CannTrust spent the last 18 months going through a comprehensive remediation program focused on compliance and simplifying the business.It took a deep dive through its data and analyzed which customers it should target and what brands would resonate with them. "I'm very confident that the company's back on track," said Guyatt."So now the attention changes from the remediation and relaunch into the actual relaunch execution phase right now and getting those products back in the hands of consumers."So far, CannTrust's strategy is to focus first on Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. Once CannTrust has established a consistent supply of cannabis in those provinces, it will expand to other markets and introduce new products in 2021. It is also promising its full line of medical products will return in the near future and that it will enter the nearly year-old cannabis 2.0 market that has focused on edibles, vapes and topicals.Unlike CannTrust initial entry into the cannabis market, these launches will include addressing a new challenge: COVID-19.Measures meant to quell the pandemic have created a patchwork of policies that have left cannabis retailers open in some cities, but temporarily closed or operating through curbside pickup in others.Postal delivery is taking longer in most provinces for cannabis orders made online.While pot companies saw a surge in sales in the early days of the pandemic, executives now say those spikes are dissipating and they're having to get creative to reach first-time or casual cannabis users.Guyatt admits these are not ideal circumstances for a comeback."Obviously the market has changed and we've been out of the market for some time, but we're going to continue to work hard to educate and inform our customers and patients about our products," he said.He believes consumers will grow to love CannTrust again and that being late to cannabis 2.0 won't be a downfall.Getting into such products after competitors allows CannTrust to quickly adjust to new demands in the market and learn from mistakes other cannabis companies made, he said."Now we're able to look at the market and look at what's worked and what's not worked and really tailor our product much more specifically to ensure that we can win."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press
Schools across Nova Scotia will be getting new touchless water stations and extra school supplies, as well as money to test drive new online math, language and literacy programs.Teachers, students and staff will also receive new face masks and have access to more personal protective equipment as part of a spending spree to use up almost all of the almost $48 million promised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last August.Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill laid out his department's shopping list during a virtual news conference Wednesday from the Tri-County Regional Centre of Education office in Yarmouth."Today I am pleased to announce the province is providing $14.3 million to our students and staff for well-being and learning," he told reporters.That spending includes: * $4.1M to pilot new online math and literacy programs * $3.8M for 950 touchless water stations in every school * $2.7M for additional inspections to ventilation systems and needed repairs * $1.5M for breakfast and lunch programs or for food deliveries if schools are closed * $1.5M for personal protective equipment * $700,00 to move furniture and supplies if students need to change schools as part of blended learningIn August, Trudeau announced the creation of a $2 billion Safe Return to Class Fund. Nova Scotia was promised almost $48 million from the fund to "ensure a safe return to school and (to) protect the health of students and staff."The Nova Scotia government has announced where all but $6 million of that money has been or will be spent. Churchill is holding back the remaining money in case it's needed down the road."We do have approximately six million left that we're going to deploy in areas that we believe are necessary moving forward, but we don't just want to spend it all," he said. "There's nothing to spend it on."We want to respond to issues that are emerging as challenges that we want to deal with, and having some additional resources in place to do that, I think is a wise thing to do."On Nov. 23, Churchill announced the purchase of 32,000 Chromebooks to go home with students if they are forced to move to online learning. That $21.5 million expenditure is from the fund. So too is the $5.5 million announced Nov. 3 to hire cleaning staff and buy supplies so that school gyms could reopen to community groups and sports teams.Although the province was ready Wednesday to announce the purchase of 950 water stations, Churchill was unable to provide a timeline for when they might be installed."That's going to be managed at the regional level so I don't have a schedule on which schools are going to be done (and) when, but the work on this will commence immediately," he said.The $1.5 million earmarked for school breakfast and lunch programs will be used to meet the increased demand for both programs, as well as for food hampers or to but grocery gift cards if students are sent home again if COVID infection rates warrant the closure of schools.Deanna Rawding, principal at West Northfield Elementary School near Bridgewater, said her school has seen an increase in demand for both its free breakfasts and its equity meal program, which offers a free lunch to students who cannot afford to pay for it."I've seen an increase in need ... because we had some families that lost jobs due to COVID or were unable to get the hours they needed to support their family," said Rawding.She said the extra funds to be able to continue to help those students would make a difference in the classroom."That makes them feel good and that makes them better learners throughout the day," she said.MORE TOP STORIES
Homicide investigators say a fourth person has been charged in the Remembrance Day shooting of a man in Surrey, B.C., last year.Andrew Baldwin, 30, was killed Nov. 11, 2019, at a house in the 10700-block of 124 Street. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team announced Wednesday that Munroop Hayer has been charged with first-degree murder.Supt. Elija Rain with the Surrey RCMP said Hayer is well known to police in the Lower Mainland.Jordan Bottomley and Jagpal Hothi have already been charged with first-degree murder in the case.Jasman Basran, 21, was charged in May with being an accessory to murder.Baldwin was gunned down just weeks after his younger brother, 27-year-old Keith Baldwin, was shot and killed in Chilliwack, B.C. Both men were known to police.Sgt. Frank Jang with IHIT read a statement Wednesday from Baldwin's mother, Julie. "Andrew was a caring, giving person and his loyalty to his family, friends, loved ones and co-workers was unwavering," the note read. "We will all miss him, every moment of every day."
Nisga’a Nation declared a state of local emergency on Nov. 26 amid rising COVID-19 cases and an exposure in the Nisga’a Elementary Secondary School community. Six school aged children have tested positive for the virus. Other positive cases are linked to two family gatherings in Gitlaxt’aamiks (New Aiyansh). As of Dec. 2, Nisga’a Valley Health Authority (NVHA) has confirmed 34 positive COVID-19 tests. “We are all in this together,” said Eva Clayton, Nisga’a Lisims president in a media release. “We must follow all provincial and Nisga’a health orders to ensure we stop further spread of this serious virus.” Until Dec. 10, entrance to Gitlaxt’aamiks will only be allowed from 8:00 a.m. to midnight — security personnel are monitoring the entrance to the village and patrolling the village from midnight to 7:00 a.m. According to a Nov. 26 Gitlaxt’aamiks Village Government communique, family gatherings and house-parties are prohibited and all offices, churches, and the recreation centre are closed. Masks are mandatory in the village and visitors to Gitlaxt’aamiks are prohibited. The communique states that the majority of COVID-19 cases in the Nass Valley are in Gitlaxt’aamiks and that house parties continue to be a concern. READ MORE: Students at Nisga’a school test positive for COVID-19 “We are meeting regularly and undertaking comprehensive COVID-19 management action,” said Brandi Trudell-Davis, NVHA chief executive officer in the Nov. 26 release. “We look to our Nation, communities, families and individuals to actively take precautionary measures to stop the spread. We are all in this together and and it is the only way we will all get through this.” NVHA is working with the Northern Health Authority to monitor and trace COVID-19 cases.Ben Bogstie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Interior News
EDMONTON — Capt. James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise, in violation of Starfleet’s Prime Directive, is questioning the intelligence of Alberta-based life forms over their COVID-19 contact tracing app. William Shatner, the Canadian who played the iconic commander in "Star Trek" has taken to Twitter to urge Alberta use the federal app. 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. The Prime Directive in "Star Trek" was a top-down direction to avoid interference in alien cultures -- a directive the two-fisted Kirk and crew repeatedly violated as they beamed up, beamed down and otherwise finger-wagged their way through the galaxy on a five-year mission. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. The Canadian Press
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is expanding its visitor ban to Regina hospitals on top of long-term care and personal care homes.The new restrictions come as Regina continues to see rising COVID-19 case numbers.The changes go into effect at 8 a.m. CST Thursday and will be reassessed in 14 days, SHA said.The SHA is limiting family presence and visitation to compassionate care only in all Regina SHA acute care facilities. Compassionate care reasons may include, but are not limited to, family or support persons during end-of-life care, major surgery, intensive care, pediatrics, and inpatients and outpatients with specific challenges."The decision to restrict family presence is not taken lightly. These measures are in place to keep you, your loved ones, and health-care workers safe," said the SHA in a press release. On Tuesday the province reported that Regina was the zone in the province with the most new cases, with 67. As of Tuesday, Regina had 26 people in hospital and another seven people in intensive care due to COVID-19.
Dentists travelling within the Northwest Territories to provide services are now back in operation in some communities as the territorial government, with support from Indigenous Services Canada, gave dental teams the green light to travel."Oral health and access to dentists is a critical part of overall health and wellness. I am pleased with the collaborative work across Government to resume these services," said Julie Green, Minister of Health and Social Services in a news release issued on Wednesday.All non-urgent services were suspended in mid-March due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and public health guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.Then, in mid-June, the Northwest Territories government relaxed guidelines to allow dentists to resume services "pending appropriate steps" — but some dentists said strict rules still prevented them from travelling into smaller communities to provide services.The following communities can start services, as their facilities "have met facility infrastructure dental care standards" and were given approval by the Chief Public Health Officer: * Fort Providence, N.W.T. * Sambaa K'e, N.W.T. * Fort Simpson, N.W.T. * Norman Wells, N.W.T. * Fort Resolution, N.W.T. * Aklavik, N.W.T.As well, visiting private dentists will now also be able to resume in Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Inuvik and Hay River, the release says.The rest of the communities that previously received visiting dental services will be able to be back in operation "when facility upgrades are complete, contracts are in place and facilities are inspected and meet COIVID-19 safety protocols," the release says.The government says the "necessary assessments" and required work is expected to continue throughout the coming year and that more updates will be given as more facilities in other communities are confirmed.The territory faced criticism after suspending services with many people saying it deepened the disparity in health care between larger centres and communities.The territory has been working with Indigenous Services Canada to resume the service.For now, Indigenous Services Canada will cover travel for people in communities to receive dental care until further notice, the release says.